Friday, December 21, 2012


Punjab governor: Gilani’s cousin poised to replace Khosa?

The Express Tribune
The meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari and former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani at Bilawal House on Thursday revived speculation that the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has decided to bring about political and administrative changes in Punjab. Reportedly, the PPP leadership decided to remove Punjab Governor Latif Khosa and appoint Makhdoom Syed Ahmed Mehmood – a Pakistan Muslim League-Functional MPA hailing from Rahim Yar Khan and a first cousin of former premier Gilani – in his stead. While no leader from the ruling party confirmed the move, official sources say that Mehmood, who met President Zardari at Bilawal House on Thursday along with Gilani, will take oath tomorrow (Saturday) in Lahore. According to them, PPP’s defeat in the recent by-polls in Punjab has irked the party leadership enough to take the decision. During the meeting, Gilani reportedly briefed President Zardari about Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s victory in the by-polls. Sources say the former premier held PPP’s lackluster campaign responsible for the rival party’s victory. They added that in addition to appointing Mehmood as the new Punjab Governor on Gilani’s recommendation, the President also decided to make the former premier responsible for the PPP’s campaign for upcoming elections. When contacted, the Bilawal House spokesperson claimed he knew nothing about any such decision, adding that he became aware of such reports through the media himself. Despite repeated attempts, Presidential Spokesperson Farhatullah Babar and Political Secretary Rukhsana Bangash could not be contacted for confirmation. If appointed, Mehmood will be the third governor of Punjab appointed during the incumbent government’s tenure. Soon after Salman Taseer’s assassination in 2011, Latif Khosa took over the governor’s office. He was previously the attorney general of Pakistan.

NRA Speech Was PR Disaster

Wayne LaPierre Speech Was A Total Public Relations Disaster, Say PR Experts Public relations experts who have experience working with the gun industry expressed horror on Friday afternoon at the National Rifle Association's response to the Newtown, Conn., shootings. The group's executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, struck a scolding tone on Friday, blaming the video game industry and media for exposing youth to a culture of violence, and calling for armed police or security guards in schools: "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," LaPierre said.

Public relations professionals reached by The Huffington Post said the timing of his message, which broke a week of silence in the wake of the tragic murder of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, could be an irredeemable mistake for the group. “It was worse than if the NRA had not spoken at all,” said Gene Grabowski, executive vice president of Levick Strategic Communications, a Washington, D.C.-based issues management firm that has worked with firearms manufacturers. "The same message about the culture in another time and place might have made sense, but in context of tragedy, it seemed mean-spirited, cold and misguided." Grabowski also said the NRA made a mistake by remaining silent on its social media channels last week. After the Sandy Hook tragedy, the organization stopped activity on all of its Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts. The NRA is under close scrutiny this week as the Sandy Hook shooting renews the political and social debate over gun-control laws. The organization is one of the nation's most powerful lobby groups, but its extreme policy positions don't jibe with all gun owners, many of whom support tighter gun-control laws, according to a survey from a prominent Republican pollster in July. "They have come out too aggressively," said Jonathan Bernstein, president of Los Angeles-based Bernstein Crisis Management. "[I'm] not even sure they have listened to their own members." The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Melody Queen Noor Jahan to be remembered on 23rd December

The 12th Death Anniversary of Melody Queen Noor Jehan is being observed on 23rd December (Sunday)

Human rights paradox makes the US very helpless

U.S. President Barack Obama came to Newtown, Connecticut on Dec. 16, to participate in the vigil in remembrance for the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. In a speech, he expressed the will to use the power in hand in the effort to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents. Although Obama made the promise of "change", he did not specify how to deal with the gun control. Neither has the White House convened any emergency meeting for this problem. Since the victims were mostly children six to seven years old, this major shooting tragedy in the United States draws great grief around the world and leads to a new round of debate on gun control. Currently, the United States Constitution guarantees the right of gun ownership, leaving gun control with no rules to follow. The United States again showed deep perplex and frustration in the face of the grievous murder. The legal basis for gun ownership provided by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States cannot be shaken. Brutal murders under the aegis of the sign of "human rights" are still a very tangled paradox for the American society. The gun owners think that the way to solve gun violence cases is to possess more guns, and that the crucial point in the shooting case is human and not guns. Statistics show that since 1950, except in individual cases, shooting cases with more than three casualties in the United States and Europe all took place in fatalities where guns are forbidden, such as schools. Intriguingly, the murderer Adam Lanza in this shooting case used the gun which his mother Nancy Lanza, a gun enthusiast collected. Weighed by their political interests, the politicians in Washington do not even dare to debate the issue of gun control any more. Victims in the shooting massacre were mostly children, which greatly shocked the American society. Even so, some plans under consideration are only subtle changes such as to restart a prohibition on the sale of assault rifles expired in 2004 and the prohibition on the sales of high-capacity magazines similar to that the murderer used this time. The eradication of the tragedy is but a wishful thinking. While groaning for the too many similar events the United States has experienced, the U.S. President made the gesture that "meaningful action must be taken, regardless of political persuasion" and that there must be "changes". Such gesture seems void after all. The argument whether the tragedy is caused by gun or by human will continue, but eventually the matter will be let rest. When the hot discussion gradually calm down, the blood pool drawn by any other burst of gunfire will again set off a round of waves, unable to change the helplessness of the United States.

Hamid Karzai welcomes Britain's Afghan troop withdrawal
President Hamid Karzai has welcomed the announcement that Britain will pull thousands of troops out of Afghanistan next year, saying his country was ready to take over security responsibilities. Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday said that he will withdraw almost half of the country's 9,000 troops from Afghanistan next year as Nato hands over to Afghan forces. The announcement comes as Nato prepares for a full security handover at the end of 2014, despite fears that a civil war could follow, and amid a spike in "insider attacks" on foreign troops by Afghans in uniform. Karzai said the decision was "well-timed" and insisted his war-scarred nation was ready to take charge of its own security. "The president ... welcoming the announcement said: 'the Afghan national forces are ready to provide the security and defend their country'," a statement from Karzai's office said. "The decision by Britain is a well-timed decision."Cameron said the withdrawal of around 3,800 British troops by the end of 2013 was possible "because of the success of our forces and the Afghan National Security Forces". There are currently more than 9,000 British troops serving in Afghanistan with the Nato force – the second largest force in the country after the United States. Britain has lost 438 troops in Afghanistan since the operation to topple the Taliban began in October 2001 following the 9/11 attacks. Most British troops are stationed in southern Helmand province, one of the toughest battlegrounds against the Taliban.

Afghanistan remains 'deeply challenged country
British Prime Minister David Cameron has said that the country's troops have paid a 'very heavy price' fighting the Taliban, but Afghanistan remains 'a deeply challenged country'. "We have paid a very heavy price but I think the reason for coming here in the first place, which was to stop Afghanistan becoming a haven for terror ... I think it was the right decision," Cameron said. He insisted British and coalition military action had made Afghanistan safer and less able to harbour terrorists. Paying a secret visit to troops in Helmand, where he attended the Royal Marines' carol service, Cameron acknowledged the scale of the task facing Afghans as coalition forces withdraw. On Wednesday, he announced that 3,800 of the 9,000 British troops in Afghanistan would return home by the end of next year. According to the Telegraph, Cameron flew secretly to Afghanistan on Thursday to meet troops at Camp Price, a forward base, 20 miles east of Camp Bastion, Britain's operational HQ. Speaking to reporters during the day, Cameron said he believed Afghan forces were acquiring the 'capability' to control the country. He conceded that Afghanistan was still a "deeply challenged country", adding that it was still "a far better place" than when the campaign began in 2001. The Prime Minister disclosed that he was seeing fewer terrorist threats crossing his desk from the region than in previous years. "Far fewer come from this part of the world than was the case when we first came to Afghanistan," he said. The Afghan forces were doing "better than expected," he said, enabling British troops to come home. "This is withdrawal, this is draw-down based on success, not on failure. We are confident it can be done while making sure Afghanistan does not return to become a haven of terrorism, which is why we came here in the first place," he added.

Afghanistan's Neighbors Prepare For Post-2014

In the coming year, Afghanistan will continue to prepare to take over its security as international combat troops work to complete their pullout, set for 2014. As this happens, China, Iran and Pakistan are increasingly focused on the future of their war-torn neighbor. The Afghan army has been preparing to take over the country’s security as NATO’s 2014 deadline to withdraw all combat troops moves a year closer. But even with 300,000 national security forces now hired, Afghanistan still faces a challenge from the Taliban, al-Qaida and Haqqani networks. Political analyst Imtiaz Gul says Afghanistan’s neighbors, including Pakistan, have launched efforts to create a level of political stability there in the face of shared threats. “I think Pakistan, as well as several other countries, have changed the goal posts, have changed the outlook on Afghanistan," he said. "And they realize they really need to get on board, join hands to fix the situation in Afghanistan as much as possible to avoid instability in their own territory.” Over the past year, Afghanistan’s allies met in Chicago and elsewhere to pledge at least four billion dollars in aid and lay out a vision of the country through the next decade. But the outgoing U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman, told VOA pledges are just one step. “It only matters if people are meeting their commitments now and we can really support an Afghanistan - secure, stable, prosperous - inside a secure, stable prosperous region,” he said. Investor countries like China could exert more diplomatic weight and economic influence in the region as the U.S. pulls out. Analyst Andrew Smalls of the German Marshall Fund told VOA in Beijing that China's friendly relations with Pakistan are key. “One reason why the Afghans were particularly keen to have the Chinese come in and be investors, is that they are one of the only countries that Pakistan trusts. So what it means in practice is a lot of the different parties, including the Taliban, may be more willing to give Chinese projects a break than most other investors in the country," Smalls stated. "And also, of course, that China may be willing to use its influence over Pakistan, and then Pakistan’s influence over the Taliban, to give those projects a break that other investments in the country may not have.” Iran, to the west of Afghanistan, has already cultivated strong cultural and commercial ties with its neighbor. What Iran does with that influence is critical, according to former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Karl Inderfurth. “But the question is whether or not Iran can become a part of a group of countries, a regional approach that will work to prevent Afghanistan sliding back to the Taliban era and moving forward to a more democratic progressive approach toward the country and its relations with its neighbors,” Inderfurth added. How Afghanistan, its neighbors and allies cooperate on all these issues will help determine the future of that country.

AFGHANISTAN: Accelerated ‘lawlessness’ endangers more Afghan women

In Afghanistan, this year’s observance of International Human Rights Day, December 10, began with the murder of a rights advocate. An unknown gunman shot and killed Najia Sediqi, acting head of the Afghan government’s Department of Women’s Affairs in the eastern province of Laghman, as she traveled to work that morning. Sediqi’s murder is appalling, but not surprising. Sediqi had held her post only a few months following the murder of her predecessor, Hanifa Safi. Safi was killed on July 13, when an improvised explosive device attached to her car was remotely detonated. Safi’s husband and daughter and six other civilians were wounded. No one has claimed responsibility for Safi’s murder, nor for Sediqi’s. There have been no arrests in either case. The murders of Sediqi and Safi are more than just a measure of Afghanistan’s ongoing slide toward lawlessness and violence that is likely to accelerate as the international community draws down its support in concert with the departure of international combat troops by the end of 2014. They are also highly symbolic attacks on the tentative progress toward women’s rights, embodied by the Department of Women’s Affairs offices, since the U.S. invasion toppled the repressive Taliban regime in 2001. Each of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces has a Women’s Affairs office. These offices, outposts of the Ministry in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, are the front line in the Afghan government’s effort to advance women’s rights – and to fight violence against women. The overall effort by the Afghan government to promote women’s rights has fallen far short of what it should, but no one can question the challenges that the staff of the DoWA office face, working every day to help women in often insecure provinces in a country where many view women’s rights as an affront to Islam and to national sovereignty. Under these desperately difficult working conditions, some Women’s Affairs officials show exceptional courage and compassion. For example, Human Rights Watch has heard of cases where, in provinces with no shelter for women fleeing violence (there are only 14 such shelters in all of Afghanistan) Women’s Affairs staff members have protected battered women in the staffers’ own homes, at great personal risk. They have their work cut out for them. The roll call of Afghan women and girls who have been victims of targeted violence just this year is far too long to recount. But a few cases tell the story of many more women and girls: Anisa, 22, was a student and polio vaccination campaign volunteer shot to death in Kapisa Province in December; Giseena, 15, was killed and nearly beheaded in November in Kunduz Province by a rejected suitor and his friend; Mah Gul, 25, was murdered by throat slashing in October in Herat Province, allegedly for refusing her in-laws’ demand to become a prostitute; Sabira, 15, was lashed 101 times in September in Ghazni Province for immorality after reporting that she had been raped; Benafsha, 22, an actress, was murdered in Kabul in August; Najiba, 22, was killed in June by her husband in a public execution in Parwan, which was filmed and watched around the world. There are many more cases, including some investigated by Human Rights Watch. Friba, 35, who is deaf and mute, was raped in April or May in Parwan Province, and has tried to kill herself repeatedly, while also being threatened with “honor” killing by her family. Rabia was burned to death in Kunar Province in August, in what her in-laws say was an accident but her parents believe was murder. Masoma, a teenager, was executed in September in Herat Province after running away to escape forced marriage; the man she ran away with was also killed. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission reports that 4,000 cases of violence against women occurred in April through October of this year, an increase of about 1,000 cases over the same period in 2011. When President Hamid Karzai signed Afghanistan’s Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women in 2009, for the first time, many forms of abuse of women were made a crime. However, enforcement by police and prosecutors has been desperately lacking. Foreign support for women’s rights in Afghanistan is also on the wane. International engagement in Afghanistan is declining sharply, with cuts in assistance already under way. Foreign aid, including for essential services for women and girls, is likely to decline dramatically in the years ahead. With increasing rates of violence, declining international interest, and a national government unwilling to make protecting women a priority, the reality is sinking in that guarding the slow-but-important gains in women’s rights in Afghanistan will only get harder in the years ahead. Gains in women’s rights have been an undeniable, if fragile, victory over the last decade. As Afghan women face an increasingly dangerous future, there has never been a more important moment for the United States and other countries that have been so closely engaged in Afghanistan for the last 11 years to lay out solid commitments for how they will support Afghan women in the hard years ahead.

U.S: Paying $8.00 For Gallon of Milk???

Either scripts and active content are not permitted to run or Adobe Flash Player version10.0.0 or greater is not installed.

Get Adobe Flash Player

Obama on fiscal cliff talks: "This is not a contest"

President Barack Obama urges lawmakers to reach agreement on averting tax hikes on the middle class, saying he was ready and willing to do what it takes to get a deal by Jan. 1.

The NRA’s insane idea about more guns in schools

Absurd, unbelievable, tragic, obscene — I grope for words to describe the National Rifle Association’s proposal for how the nation should respond to last week’s slaughter in Newtown: More guns in the schools. The idea is so insane that as far as I’m concerned — and, I hope, as far as a still-grieving nation is concerned — the NRA has forfeited the right to be taken seriously on matters of public policy. Newtown is still burying six-year-olds and Wayne LaPierre, the organization’s chief, wants more freaking guns in the schools. Wow.
LaPierre’s rationale, that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” led to his suggestion that there be “armed police officers in every school in this nation.” Where to begin? Let’s assume, for the moment, that we decide to pay the multi-billion-dollar cost of placing one gun-toting officer in every school. What would the officer’s orders be? Shoot anyone who looks suspicious? If not, the officer would wait until an assailant — someone like Adam Lanza — displayed a gun or started firing. What sort of arsenal, and itchy trigger finger, would the officer need to be certain of shooting the assailant before the assailant shot the officer? How many twitchy, furtive, suspicious-looking UPS deliverymen would be tragically cut down in error?
So I guess there could be multiple officers in each school. For a glimpse of that dystopian future, recall the shooting a few months ago outside the Empire State Building. A gunman began firing, uniformed NYPD officers responded, they tried to take the gunman down — and nine innocent bystanders were wounded, all by police gunfire. Now imagine that sort of thing happening in a school, and think how many children would be killed by errant shots from police officers’ weapons. Now consider the profile of these mass shooters, such as Adam Lanza. These disturbed young men are meticulous in planning their unspeakable crimes. Does it occur to the NRA that if a would-be shooter knew there would be armed police officers at the school (or movie theater, or grocery store), he might be sure to wear body armor? So will the school cops wear body armor, too? Do we require students to wear uniforms of Kevlar too? The NRA will never, ever admit that the problem is too many guns, not too few. As Post columnist Fareed Zakaria pointed out so eloquently in his recent column, there is mental illness in all industrialized countries. There are violent video games in all those countries, too. But we’re the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. This may be the word I’ve been looking for: evil.

Tear gas in Alexandria, Egypt, as constitution protesters and supporters clash

Fiscal Cliff Countdown Inches Closer to Deadline

Obama nominates Kerry as secretary of state

US President has named Massachusetts senator as his nominee to succeed Hillary Clinton.
US President Barack Obama has nominated Senator John Kerry, a veteran foreign policy hand and former presidential candidate, as his next secretary of state. The announcement on the appointment of the Vietnam war veteran who will succeed Hillary Clinton as the top US diplomat was made on Friday. Kerry, the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to win easy confirmation from his colleagues in the chamber, and is a well known figure on the world stage. The Massachusetts senator has rehabilitated his career since narrowly losing the 2004 presidential race to president George W Bush, after a campaign that included savage attacks on his career as a swift boat commander in Vietnam. Kerry's appointment was seen as almost a certainty after UN ambassador Susan Rice pulled out of the running for the job, over Republican attacks on her role in the aftermath of the assault on the US consulate in Benghazi. The Massachusetts senator played an important role in Obama's political career, notably by selecting him to give the keynote speech in the 2004 Democratic convention, at which the then unknown Illinois legislator came onto the political scene. Kerry also played Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in mock debates staged by the president's team ahead of Obama's successful re-election effort in November. "This is an easy one for the Obama administration," said Al Jazeera's Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington. "Kerry is a five-term senator and has pretty much been vetted already." Clinton has said she wished to step down after Obama begins his second term in office next month and her replacement is confirmed.

Under pressure: Tribes flay restrictions over polio standoff

People of the Wazir and Dawar tribes in North Waziristan on Thursday complained that recent restrictions placed on them had deprived them of their basic rights. On December 17, North Waziristan’s Political Agent Siraj Ahmad Khan acted upon the directives of Additional Chief Secretary of Fata Tashfeen Khan and asked officials to discontinue all benefits given to both tribes until they agree to vaccinate their children against polio. Around 0.5 million people are said to have been affected by the decision which was taken after a grand jirga convened by the political administration failed to convince the people to be a part of the immunisation drive. The people belong to Mir Ali, Shawal, Speen Wam, Razmak, Dossali, Garhyo, Miranshah, Data Khel and Ghulam Khan areas. Security forces are currently engaged in vaccinating and providing treatment to women and children suffering from thalassemia, hepatitis B and C, and cancer. Locals questioned why the government has only placed the curbs over their reservations regarding anti-polio vaccines. They said their children were confronted with other problems because the political agent has stopped verifying documents for passports and domiciles. “Our children cannot take admission in schools of Peshawar, DI Khan and other parts of the country after the restrictions,” complained one tribesman. “People intending to travel abroad cannot do so after these restrictions.” On June 15, a senior Taliban commander in North Waziristan, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, banned anti-polio drives in the agency until drone attacks were stopped. He also said that anyone who did not obey these orders would be “held responsible for their actions.” On June 25, days after the Taliban announced their ban on polio vaccinations in North Waziristan, the Mullah Nazir group in Wana, South Waziristan also banned polio vaccinations in their agency. In a pamphlet distributed in Wana, they said Dr Shakil Afridi was the doctor who helped the CIA hunt down Osama bin Laden by conducting a fake polio vaccination programme in Abbottabad and requested parents in the agency to avoid polio vaccinations until drone strikes are stopped.

‘Al-Qaeda involved in deadly Peshawar airport attack, threaten more attacks’
An al-Qaeda group was involved in one of the most deadly attacks on Peshawar airport, which killed at least 19 people including 10 militants and injured several others, security sources said on Friday. According to the sources, Badar Mansoor group, an al-Qaeda group of Punjabi-origin people, sent 10 fighters to attacks the airport. Qari Hammad of the group planned the attack. Hammad also threatened more attacks on the airport just after the attack concluded. Speaking from the unidentified location, Hammad threatened to send 10 more suicide bombers to launch an assault on the airport again within weeks. “The attack was planned in North Waziristan and Khyber agency,” they said adding that a Corolla car having fake number plate was used in the attack. It is to be mentioned here that on February 10, 2012, US missiles killed the most senior Pakistani in al Qaeda, Badar Mansoor in North Waziristan, an area bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Peshawar on the brink

By Imtiaz Gul
Peshawar is in the eye of the storm. Regardless of whether the orchestrators belong to Al Qaeda or Taliban, they have demonstrated that the old plan of laying siege around greater Peshawar is still very much in place. Back in early 2009, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had upstaged the entire security apparatus in and around the provincial capital, triggering fears of an impending siege of the city. "The deadly string of attacks throughout 2009 - on the average a suicide bombing or ambushes every 36 hours - had upset the civilian and the military apparatus to the extent that the ISI and the Peshawar Corps officials had begun playing with the idea of creating a security ring to protect the main town of Peshawar," a former intelligence official had told me then. Recounting one of the meetings attended by all security agencies and the military, the official had expressed his displeasure over what he called the "defeatist mindset" of the military institutions. I asked the proponents of the security ring around Peshawar how they would stop militants if they converged on the city from three sides - ie Khyber, Darra Adamkhel, and Charsadda/Shabqaddar/ Orakzai - in large numbers; and whether we would then wait for them to attack us, he had said. This, said the official, I asked being conscious of the fact that the TTP and other militant outfits have already infiltrated the greater Peshawar region and those "sleeper cells" would in fact provide the social cover in case of a physical invasion of the city. n December 15, we probably witnessed glimpses of such a commando attack - a combination of rockets as a means of distraction, followed by a physical, multi-pronged heavy-armed assault on the premise that houses both the commercial airport and the aviation base of the Pakistan Army. For several hours, city residents shivered in anger, grief and fear, followed next morning with a renewed wave of violence in the form of a shoot-out between police and the five suspects, who it appeared were linked to the raiders of the airport and had managed to slip through the security cordon in the dark of the night. In the end, police and military commandos of the Quick Reaction Force (QRF), which is part of the 11th Corps, put down all ten assailants but not before they had terrorized the entire city, and also exposed the serious preemptive security lacunas that continue to beset responses and question the security establishment's state of preparedness. Military and civilian officials associated with the investigation tell us that the dramatic attacks probably were part of a strategy that would first surprise the security cordons on ground and then activate their assets within the city to mount a rebellion against the state through occupation of strategic locations such as hospitals, airport, and key police stations besides numerous hostage-takings.Officials often dismiss such a scenario, arguing the presence of the entire 11th Corps, backed up by the Frontier Corps, and several thousand police will not allow such an eventuality. Terrorists may disrupt life and security arrangements but cannot hold on for long, they insist. Theoretically this argument holds water. Also, realistically a few hundred terrorists cannot take-over the entire city. But the events between December 15 and 19 - several attacks including the one on the airport, one near the military academy in Risalpur, and several on polio vaccinators in three cities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa - clearly underscore a stark reality that stares the entire security apparatus in the face. The terrorists are on the loose, many of them nestled inside or around the periphery of Peshawar (where scores of TTP and like-minded terrorists had descended after the Swat and South Waziristan operations in 2009). The airport attack bore the hallmarks of yet another shocking commando raid, reminiscent of the strikes on PNS Mehran Base (May 22, 2011), the GHQ (Oct 20, 2009), the Parade Lane Mosque (Dec 4, 2009), and Kamra airbase (Aug 16, 2012). It left the city of Peshawar in a state of shock and fear, and also raised many questions as to how several layers of preemptive security ie intelligence (both civilian and military) as well as multi-layered physical protective barriers comprising the political administration of tribal regions, Frontier Corps, Frontier Constabulary, and Levies failed in preempting such a brazen raid? Apparently a contingency plan for such an eventuality was missing and hence the chaos on roads leading to and around the areas under attack. People have also begun asking whether the army and the paramilitary are supposed to only protect the Peshawar Cantonment area and whether the police alone can handle a region surrounded by FATA and PATA and the Frontier Regions? Senior police officials believe that the aberrations such as PATA must be abolished. Terrorists, criminals, proclaimed offenders and anti-state elements all use these regions for shelter, training and planning. Strangely, the 2002 Police Order extends to PATA but practically the policing there remains dismal. That is why you find scores of smuggled vehicles and other goods in the PATA areas. Akbar Khan Hoti, the outspoken Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police chief, believes abolition of PATA regions can hopefully help curtail, if not eliminate, crime and terrorism. We also need additional human and material resources. Currently, the strength of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police stands at around 68,000, backed up by some 10,000 contract employees (largely retired army personnel). The second major handicap is the absence of quality training and the equipment required for it. The police, we are told, is acquiring heavy arms to fight the heavily-armed terrorists but training on these weapons is an expensive business. Every single round for a heavy machine gun costs several thousand rupees. The heavy cost-factor essentially limits the training opportunities, say officials. While the authorities may be focusing more on the supply side of the issue ie improving human resources and acquiring modern heavy arms aside, the demand side, ie a comprehensive counter-terror strategy, still remains an elusive goal. Civilian and military officials insist they have a policy but they perhaps confuse training and equipment procurement with a strategy. The response to attacks on several police and strategic installations so far suggests that while the forces manage to kill the attackers, they lack the preemptive capabilities as well as the ability to catch some terrorists alive. How long would the forces need to devise means and develop capabilities to get to the core of terrorists or get them alive when confronting them?

Malala asks Pakistan not to rename college for her

A 15-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban for promoting girls' education has urged Pakistan to reverse a decision to rename a college in her honor to avert militant attacks on students, an official said Friday. Malala Yousafzai, who became a symbol of youth resistance to the Taliban, made the request after students broke into the school, tore down Malala's pictures and boycotted classes in her home town of Mingora. They said renaming the college endangered their lives. Senior government official Kamran Rehman said Malala called him from London, where she was being treated for critical wounds from the attack on October 9. The Taliban said it targeted her for promoting education for secular girls. Malala's case won worldwide recognition for the struggle for women's rights in Pakistan and Taliban have vowed to target her again. Pakistani Taliban have a strong presence in the country's tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. A bomb ripped through the office of a local militant commander Maulvi Abbas in Wana, a main town in the South Waziristan tribal region in the northwest, killing him and three of his guards, two intelligence officials said Friday. Abbas was an associate of Hakimullah Mehsud, the head of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan militant group, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters. It was unclear who had planted the bomb. The attack came weeks after a suicide bomber in the same town attacked Maulvi Nazir, a prominent militant commander who is believed to have a nonaggression pact with the army. Nazir was wounded in the attack, and seven of his men were killed. Since then there has been tension between followers of Nazir and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan in the region.

Pakistan: Children’s free education

The Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2012 that President Asif Ali Zardari signed on Wednesday as an act of parliament, is a landmark law that mandates free education to children between five and 16 years of age. Parliament has also called upon provinces to soon enact similar laws to ensure access to quality free education for all children of school-going age. The milestone legislation meets the most basic need of the national life where poverty forces parents to send their children to work. This is bound to broaden the base of education in Pakistan and also promises an end to child labour, The act has come at a time when national education is all but a sham and a host of steps are needed to pull it to the real direction. National resource allocation is the top issue because this is not sufficient in catering the need of free education up to secondary school. The government is presently earmarking a mere 1.7 per cent of the GDP for education whereas about six per cent allocation is a conservative estimate to make a meaningful start. The availability of teachers, particularly science teachers, is also a fundamental issue. All public educational institutions have about half of the required teaching staff. With only 50 per cent teaching staff available and that, too, needing training, realizing the ultimate objective will be extremely difficult. The new enactment also tends to bring private schools under a stricterdiscipline but mere allocation of 10 per cent quota for poor children in private schools of their areas, is no answer. Strengthening of public education will be vital area that cannot be addressed by mere cosmetic steps. The government, in fact, needs to develop a basic educational structure that addresses all the impending difficulties and this can be developed with the help of hundreds of studies made before. Literacy in Pakistan has recently seen a boost to 37 per cent, yet illiteracy is one of the highest in the world. Provinces will have to obviously share the major burden in enhancing education and its quality. But all of them have since abdicated their role to the greedy private sector which fleeces the middle class in the name of quality education which, for them, means English medium instructions that continues to create huge flaws in the system with the promotion of a class-based education that has destroyed ethos of Pakistan. What is really needed is to lend the schools run by provincial or local governments credence that parents prefer them over private schools. Education for all is certainly a striking inspiration but it is also a social dilemma and this has always to be kept in mind.