Thursday, December 27, 2012
http://gulfnews.comSaudi women who refused to leave a hall where men were seated at a literary club have defended their action as “the right thing to do”.
By David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times
Unlike most women in Afghanistan, Sourya Saleh knows how to drive — but she's taken the wheel only with her brother beside her, out of respect for tradition. Her friend Masooma Hussaini is still learning. Both young women, though, are experts in a more demanding mode of travel: They've flown 204 hours each as pilots of military helicopters. The first female chopper pilots in Afghanistan since the Soviets trained a woman as a pilot in the 1980s, these two young Afghans are pioneers in a land where a resurgent Taliban is determined to deny girls the right to an education, and violence against women is on the rise. After 18 months of military helicopter training in the United States, 2nd Lt. Saleh and 2nd Lt. Hussaini have returned home as two polished, confident Afghan air force pilots. But they don't have uniforms, flight suits or an assignment. They haven't even seen a helicopter, much less flown one. Since returning here Oct. 28, they've spent their days at home with their families, reading, watching TV, shopping and helping with housework. A superior says their paperwork is "under review." "It seems we've been put on a very long vacation," Saleh said in nearly perfect English, honed by months in Texas and Alabama with American women who were also training to be military pilots. Saleh, 20, and Hussaini, 21, refuse to believe that the Afghan military has abandoned them. They prefer to believe that the country's nascent air force is just slow and bureaucratic, and that they'll be flying and serving their country soon. "I fought too hard for the right to fight for my country — I'm not going to stay home and wait," Hussaini said, picking at a chicken kebab in the women's section of a restaurant near her home in Kabul. "To not fly now after all we've accomplished for women would mean that everything we've fought for would be wasted." The pilots' imposed idleness elicits painful memories of their childhoods, when the Taliban government forced young women to stay at home, cooking and cleaning. Hussaini and Saleh were educated in secret, illegal girls' schools until the Taliban regime fell in 2001. "Things are much better now for Afghanistan, but there are still problems for women," Hussaini said. "Not everyone tells the truth about the situation. It's hard to know the truth." Hussaini is poised and forthright, with expressive eyes and a round face framed by a black head scarf. Saleh is more reserved, but speaks quietly and confidently, her smooth face lightly dusted with makeup beneath her head scarf. The two women dress modestly, with stylish Western-style winter coats, boots and handbags. Both are ethnic Hazara, a Shiite Muslim minority that has experienced persecution by Afghanistan's Sunni Muslim majority. In a country where burkas are still common, especially in the countryside, the two pilots are portraits of modernity set against a backdrop of harsh patriarchal domination. Afghanistan's women's affairs minister reported last month that "extreme or brutal violence against women" is on the rise, with 3,500 reported cases in the first six months of the year. "In Afghanistan, women cannot raise their voices," Saleh said. "We wanted a way to raise our voices for all women, and flying for our country does that." This month, two women who did raise their voices were assassinated. A high school girl was shot by gunmen on her first day as a polio vaccination volunteer, and a provincial director of women's affairs was gunned down four months after her predecessor was killed by a car bomb. Sexism is deeply embedded in Afghan society. Schoolgirls have been poisoned or doused with acid, and young women have been beaten and killed by male relatives for refusing arranged marriages to older men. Women who work outside the home are often threatened, or condemned as morally deficient. The Afghan military was slow to accept women, but it has admitted them in recent years under Western pressure. Today, about 350 women are in the Afghan military, according to NATO, almost all of them in administrative or support jobs. An Afghan army spokesman, Gen. Mohammed Zahir Azimi, put the number at nearly 1,000 — in an army of 187,000. In this environment, the accomplishments of Hussaini and Saleh are remarkable, especially because both come from conservative families with no history of military service. They didn't know each other when they enlisted three years ago after seeing TV ads in Kabul seeking women for the military. They were two Afghan girls who had never been away from home. The women graduated from officers' candidate school in Kabul, then took English classes. They received instruction in English and military technical language at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. At Ft. Rucker, Ala., they learned to fly U.S. Army OH-58 Kiowa Warrior scout helicopters. They are combat qualified, having passed courses in basic war skills and basic combat skills — "my favorite part," Saleh said. They didn't actually fire the Kiowa's air-to-air missiles, but performed combat simulations so that they know how to launch the weapons. Two other Afghan women flunked the U.S. pilot's course, they said. Saleh and Hussaini passed, and graduated in an elaborate ceremony attended by American military officers, and by soldiers and pilots from other nations. They expected a similar ceremony when they returned to Afghanistan in October, they said, but there was nothing. Only their families were on hand to greet them. When they asked to meet their Afghan air force commanders, they said, they were put off. They were not even told how many helicopters the Afghan air force has available. "Last week, they told us to come this week," Hussaini said. "This week, they told us to come next week. That's the way it's been. It's very frustrating." They did manage to meet Afghanistan's only other female helicopter pilot, the colonel who was trained in the '80s. Three other women have begun training as military pilots in Afghanistan, they said, two to fly helicopters and one to fly planes. Hussaini and Saleh are glad to be back with their families, but they miss the United States: the open culture, the free expression, the friendships with American female pilots, the food. (They keep up with American friends via Facebook and email.) They fell in love with pizza, Southern fried seafood and Mexican food — "just like Afghan food, only spicier," Saleh said. On Dec. 8, six weeks after returning home, Hussaini and Saleh were invited to the Afghan military air base in Kabul to finally meet their commander. (Their only other visit to the base was two weeks earlier, for a German TV interview.) The commander welcomed them and told them that he hoped to have an assignment for them in the future, they said. But there was nothing yet. They were not issued military uniforms, much less flight suits. They were told to call him in a couple of days. "We'll see," Saleh said afterward, shrugging. "We've heard a lot of promises." Col. Mohammed Bahadur Raiskhail, an Air Force public affairs officer, said the pilots are reservists and cannot be issued uniforms until they are assigned to an active-duty unit. He blamed bureaucracy at the notoriously sclerotic Ministry of Defense for the delay. Like any military, he said, there are time-consuming procedures that must be followed. In the case of the two young pilots, he said, "The fruit is not yet ripe." The military is eager to show off its new female pilots, Raiskhail assured the two women, especially after the U.S. paid to train them. They sat, arms folded, on a couch in the colonel's office. They were seated next to two Afghan women in smart green military uniforms, which only underscored their civilian clothes. Saleh and Hussaini bristled when the colonel suggested that the three other women training as pilots in Afghanistan had progressed ahead of them. "No," Hussaini told him. "We're ahead of them. We're the first for this air force." Raiskhail smiled. "They are brave; they are showing the world what young women can do," he said. "They've opened the door. Some day, we hope to have women commanders." The two pilots listened, but they did not seem encouraged. They stared straight ahead as the colonel spoke. Finally they mentioned that their piloting skills were atrophying by the day. The colonel, a pilot himself, agreed that one must fly almost daily to keep skills sharp. There was one more thing: The two women were trained on American helicopters. The tiny Afghan air force (Raiskhail would not reveal the number of aircraft; the website GlobalSecurity.org calls Afghan air force capabilities "extremely limited") relies largely on Russian-made helicopters. That would require several more months of training before the women could fly on active duty, the colonel said. "But I cannot say when," he said. The two pilots were free to go. It was a sunny day, ideal flying weather. But there was nothing for them on this base. They went back into the sunlit city to hail a cab ride home, where once more they would wait.
http://www.commentarymagazine.comIn this New York Times op-ed, Bahraini human-rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja makes a powerful case that the US cannot simply overlook the repression taking place in this small Gulf state with which we are closely allied. She has personal credibility because of what she and her family have been through. She writes: My father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, was beaten unconscious in my apartment in front of my family, as a report last year by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry documented. He was then taken away with my husband and brother-in-law; they were all tortured. My husband was released in January, and my brother-in-law was released after a six-month sentence in late 2011; my father was sentenced to life in prison. He staged four hunger strikes; the longest lasted 110 days and almost cost him his life. (He was force-fed at a military hospital.) She herself was arrested and jailed earlier this month, charged with the “crime” of inciting hatred against the government. Yet, as she notes, U.S. protests over such clear violations of human rights have been negligible. This is understandable, because Bahrain is the home of the Fifth Fleet and a close military ally. There are also fears that the Bahraini opposition, mainly Shiite in a country ruled by a Sunni royal family, is a stalking horse for Iranian influence. That, at any rate, is what the Bahrain government would like us to believe; but from everything I saw during a brief visit to Bahrain earlier this year, most of the opposition, while undeniably Shiite, is fairly moderate and not interested in creating an Iranian-style theocracy. Ironically what is most likely to drive them into Iran’s arms is if the Bahrain government continues its policy of repression in cooperation with the Saudis. It is hard for the U.S. to apply pressure to Bahrain by cutting off arms sales (as Zainab Al-Khawaja suggests) or at least making them conditional on human-rights improvements. But it is also a step we need to seriously consider, lest we repeat the mistake we made with Egypt where we gave unconditional backing to another pro-American dictator, acting under the illusion that he could stave off the people’s demands indefinitely. He couldn’t, and, because we didn’t press Mubarak for reform, instead we got a revolution. That would be the worst possible outcome in Bahrain. Instead, we need to push for the royal family to turn their country into a constitutional monarchy, reserving some power over the armed forces while ceding most authority to the people’s elected representatives. That is the only long-term formula for stability in Bahrain and indeed throughout the Gulf.
abna.comWe have learned that the specially trained military unit, named Fahud Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, has been operating in Bahrain to help the kingdom’s forces silence ongoing demonstrations against the decades-long rule of the Al Khalifa royal family. The unit is reportedly under the control of Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry and was founded when Nayef was serving as the kingdom’s interior minister. The Saudi forces were deployed to Bahrain in mid-March 2011, to help the Manama regime launch brutal crackdowns on peaceful protests. Saudi forces have also reportedly used Bahraini police uniforms when cracking down on protesters. The Fahud unit is also regarded as a full army, which is in charge of torturing prisoners in tens of detention centers across the country. It is now controlled by Nayef’s son, Mohammad bin Nayef Abdul Aziz, who was appointed as the country's Interior Minister last month. The Fahud unit was has been used by Saudi Arabia to crack down on protesters due to its notorious reputation in the region. The unit is also involved in the arrest, murder and suppression of people in the Qatif region of Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province, which has been rocked by anti-regime protests since last year. The uprising in Bahrain began in mid-February 2011. Dozens of people have lost their lives in the crackdown, and the security forces have arrested hundreds, including rights activists, doctors and nurses. Saudi Arabia has been also facing a rise in protests against arbitrary detentions and widespread demands for the release of political prisoners. According to the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, there are about 30,000 political prisoners in the kingdom. Saudi Arabia has also been rocked by anti-regime protests since February 2011 with demonstrators holding numerous protests in different parts of the country, mainly in the oil-rich Eastern Province.
The public beheading of a woman by her brother in Kolkata highlights a surge in so-called 'honour killings'.
Editorial: daily timesDecember 27, 2012 was the fifth death anniversary of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. As the nation mourned the brutal assassination of one of its most popular politicians, the Pakistan People’s Party’s leadership gathered at her mausoleum in Garhi Khuda Buksh to commemorate her life and struggle. The impact of her death not only changed the political scenario of the country, it also brought into sharp focus the extent to which the forces of extremism had become uncontrollable, particularly post-9/11 and General Pervez Musharraf’s mishandling of Pakistan’s role of an ally in the war on terror. Ms Bhutto on her return to Pakistan in October 2007 was a vocal opponent of the Taliban’s presence in her homeland and she declared an open war on the militant group, who after their hugely unpopular policies in Afghanistan were trying to form a stronghold in the tribal and border areas of Pakistan. The attack on Ms Bhutto’s welcome rally on October 18, 2007, which killed almost 200 people, was the first indication of how blood-tainted the future could be in a country still reeling from the losses incurred for being an ‘ally’ in a war in the neighbouring country and the utter mismanagement of the Laal Masjid incident. What transpired between October and December 2007 is anybody’s guess, but the tragic incident of Ms Bhutto’s murder on December 27 was a singular event that changed the face of Pakistan’s political structure in an overnight storm, the aftermath of which was the almost complete defeat of the PML-Q, Musharraf’s King’s party, in the February 2008 elections. The nation voted for the PPP while mourning Ms Bhutto and the party formed the government in the Centre with the full endorsement of all parties for the PPP candidate Yousaf Raza Gilani’s election as the leader of the house. Later, in September 2008, President Asif Ali Zardari was elected unanimously by the electoral college of both houses of parliament and the four provincial Assemblies. Five years later, the Benazir Bhutto murder case still remains unsolved. It is a matter of great concern for many supporters of the PPP and Pakistanis in general that the most prominent assassination in the history of Pakistan remains a mystery. What should have been the single most important investigation after the PPP government’s swearing in in March 2008 has remained incomplete and inconclusive. General Musharraf may have been behind the murder, as the PPP seems to have concluded belatedly, but the fact that no comprehensive investigation ever took place that would formulate an airtight case against the former general shows the ineptitude of the investigating agencies working under the incumbent government. On Thursday, when Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in his laudatory-cum-entry-into-politics address pointed a finger at the judiciary, protesting against its failure to take any substantial step vis-à-vis the investigation of Ms Bhutto’s assassination, the Chairperson needed to take into consideration the simple fact that the main responsibility of uncovering the details of Benazir Bhutto’s murder lies not with any court but the law-enforcement agencies working on the case. Interpol, on the Pakistan government’s request, may have helped with the investigation, but it would not do anything to extradite General Musharraf from the place of his present domicile and present him to a Pakistani court without persuasive evidence. The slogans for justice will all be in vain if there is no closure to this case. The best tribute to Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto on her fifth death anniversary would be the full and thorough investigation of her assassination. That is what her political successor, Bilawal, must demand of the government of his party. For her three children, Bilawal, Bakhtawar and Aseefa, the pain of the loss of their beloved mother may be lessened somewhat if her killers are brought to justice, and not a moment too soon.
bilawal speech - 27th December 2012 by Malik_Jee On Thursday Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the 24-year-old only son of Benazir Bhutto and the heir to one of the most powerful, famous and controversial political dynasties in the world, made his formal debut in the turbulent and often lethal world of Pakistani politics at an emotional rally in a small village which is his family's ancestral home in the south of the country. "Bilawal has arrived. This was a huge step. It was make or break for him," said Nadeem F Paracha, a well-known columnist with Dawn newspaper after the speech. Less than three years ago, Bhutto junior was studying history and politics at Christ Church college, Oxford, a target for tabloid journalists but few others. Now he is probably the most high-profile target in a country hit by wave after wave of extremist violence. Bhutto spoke of the sacrifices made by members of his family, workers of the Pakistan People's party (PPP), and others such as Shia Muslims shot dead in ongoing sectarian violence and Malala Yusafzai, the 15-year-old schoolgirl and activist for girls' education who was shot and badly injured by militants in October and is now recovering in a British hospital. "How long you will go on killing innocent people? … if one Malala will be killed, thousands will replace her. One Benazir was killed; thousands have replaced her," Bhutto told the crowds. Observers noted that Bhutto's Urdu, the national language which he has had to hastily learn since his return to Pakistan to take up his political heritage, was, if still accented, much improved. "He does not believe in being the anointed prince. He wants to earn the respect of the party workers and of the people of Pakistan," said Farnahaz Ispahani, a former PPP member of parliament and a confidant of the Bhutto family. More than 5,000 police had been deployed to protect the event. Helicopters hovered overhead.Though only able to contest elections in September after his 25th birthday, Bhutto's presence will nonetheless be a powerful boost in campaigning over the coming months. "Bilawal grew up with his mother as his father was in jail for a long time. He went with her to rallies and was with her in top-level meetings. His beliefs – in pluralism, democracy, human rights – mirror hers," said Ispahani.Benazir Bhutto died when leaving a political rally in the northern city of Rawalpindi while campaigning for elections in 2007 after nearly 10 years in exile. Her killers have never been conclusively identified, though most experts and intelligence services believe Islamic extremists were responsible. The PPP won the postponed polls held after her assassination to gain power. Party officials told the Guardian on Thursday that Bilawal, who was educated at private English-medium schools in Pakistan and in Dubai after his mother went into self-imposed exile in 1999, would contest his mother's parliamentary seat when he was old enough. Last year Fauzia Wahab, a presidential aide and Bhutto family friend, said Bilawal carried "a heavy burden" as he "had the Bhutto genes". Benazir Bhutto's father, Zulfiqar, rode to power on an anti-poverty platform before being deposed and eventually executed in prison by the military dictator Muhammed Zia-ul-Haq in 1979. Both he and his daughter are routinely referred to as "shaheed" or "martyred" in Pakistan. Bhutto told the crowd on Thursday that the PPP stood for "food, clothes and shelter" for the common man, purposefully using a slogan from his grandfather's campaigns. Bhutto, who friends say reads history avidly, also appeared well aware of the potential cost of his new role. "The PPP is not just a political party. This is our life," he said.
Addressing a mammoth gathering on the occasion of 5th martyrdom anniversary of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh‚ the President said all arrangements have been completed to hold free‚ fair and transparent electionsPresident Asif Ali Zardari has assured that elections will be held on time at all costs. Addressing a mammoth gathering on the occasion of 5th martyrdom anniversary of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh on Thursday‚ he said the political parties should not have any concerns about the holding of next general elections. We will ensure transparent elections the way we ousted a dictator. He said all arrangements have been completed to hold free‚ fair and transparent elections. For this very purpose‚ we have put in place an independent election commission besides legislation has also been done to install a consensus caretaker setup. Under this legislation‚ the government and the opposition parties will hold negotiations for a joint candidate for the slot of the caretaker prime minister. This caretaker setup will remain in power for two or three months with the mandate of only holding elections. President Zardari said his party has never committed any excess against anybody nor will it allow commit excesses against anybody. He said we introduced politics of reconciliation to address all the problems. Following the martyrdom of Benazir Bhutto‚ there was a threat of civil war but we raised the slogan of 'Pakistan Khapay' [Long Live Pakistan] and strengthened the parliament. We took revenge of the martyrdom of Benazir Bhutto by strengthening the parliament and democracy. The president said Pakistan People's Party has always pursued the politics of principles. He said Asghar Khan case has exposed the real faces of our opponents. History will continue to unmask their faces in future as well. He said we did not take revenge from anybody but left it to the history to do the same. President Zardari said the present PPP government gave full independence to all sections of the society including the media. There was no political prisoner in the present government except PPP's own leader Hamid Saeed Kazmi. We have always demonstrated tolerance and harmony because it is the best course to silence the opponent forces. President Zardari said we will take along all the political forces. He said reconciliation policy was started by Madar-e-Jamhooriat Nusrat Bhutto when Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was in jail and she took along all the political forces on board to wage struggle against dictator General Ziaul Haq. The President said we have given a new criteria of tolerance and the coming political forces will have to meet this criteria. He said the time will prove that we have done the right job. He said all the political forces want to save democracy. He said there are political forces in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa‚ Balochistan and Punjab other than PPP who are determined to take forward democracy. He said we will not allow to run Egypt like model in Pakistan. He invited all political forces to contest elections.
With just five days left before the year-end “fiscal cliff” and pessimism mounting that a deal to avert it can be reached, President Obama returned to Washington on Thursday in an effort to jump-start talks after placing late-night calls to Congress’s four top leaders. Obama made calls from Hawaii late Wednesday to Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said. Obama was seeking an update on the state of fiscal cliff talks before departing on an overnight flight back to Washington, Brundage said. The White House provided no details about the conversations. The House is in recess pending action in the Senate, which convened Thursday amid a sense of gloom about chances for a deal to avert more than $500 billion in spending cuts and tax hikes set to hit in January. McConnell “is happy to review what the president has in mind, but to date, the Senate Democrat majority has not put forward a plan,” a spokesman for the Republican leader said. “When they do, members on both sides of the aisle will review the legislation and make decisions on how best to proceed.” Obama landed aboard Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews late Thursday morning Eastern time. Earlier, Reid opened the Senate’s session with a scathing floor speech castigating Republican leaders in the House for not calling their members back to Washington to restart negotiations. He called the chances of going over the cliff increasingly likely. Reid accused Boehner of putting a higher priority on keeping his job as leader of the House than on securing the nation’s economy. He said the only “escape hatch” out of the stalemate would be for Boehner to allow the House the vote on a measure adopted by the Senate over the summer to extend tax cuts for families making less than $250,000 a year. Boehner has said the Senate must move first, and he has asked Democrats to take up a bill passed by the House in August to extend the rate cuts for Americans at all income levels. He has put the House on 48 hours notice to return to Washington but has indicated he has no plans to ask members to return without Senate action. “Nothing can move forward in regards to our budget crisis unless Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell are willing to participate in coming up with a bipartisan plan,” Reid said. “So far, they are radio silent.” As a result, Reid said, the nation is increasingly unlikely to forestall tax hikes on nearly every American and deep automatic spending cuts on Jan. 1 — provisions that Congress approved in 2011 as a way to force compromise on a deficit-reduction deal. “It looks like that’s where we’re headed,” the Senate Democratic leader said. Reid said Boehner will not bring up the Senate’s bill because he knows it would pass on the votes of Democrats and a handful of Republicans. He charged that the House is now run as Boehner’s own “dictatorship.” “If we go over the cliff, we’ll be left with the knowledge that it could have been prevented with a single vote in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives,” he said. In response, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said: “Senator Reid should talk less and legislate more.... The House has already passed legislation to avoid the entire fiscal cliff. Senate Democrats have not.” He referred to the bill that the House passed in August to extend tax cuts for all income levels and to a bill passed in May that would avert part of the automatic spending cuts set to hit the military next month by shifting those cuts to domestic programs. House leaders have said the Senate bill that Reid wants the House to take up is not viable because measures that deal with revenue must, by law, originate in the House. Instead, the House leaders want the Senate to send back an amended version of the House legislation. Senate Democrats say the House leaders have the ability to waive the requirement that revenue measures originate in the House. If anything, hope for success appeared to have dimmed over the Christmas holiday. The House last week abdicated responsibility for resolving the crisis, leaving all eyes on the Senate. But senior aides in both parties said Wednesday Reid and McConnell had not met or even spoken since leaving town for the weekend. After failing to persuade their fellow Republicans last week to let taxes rise on income over $1 million, GOP leaders offered no guidance on the shape of a package the House could ultimately accept. “The House will take . . . action on whatever the Senate can pass, but the Senate first must act,” the leaders said in a joint statement. The White House, meanwhile, was working with Reid on an alternative package that would keep Obama’s vow to let taxes rise on income over $250,000. Top Senate aides said their approach also would protect millions of middle-class Americans from having to pay the costly alternative minimum tax for the first time and would keep benefits flowing to 2 million unemployed workers who otherwise would be cut off in January. The measure also could delay deep spending cuts set to strike at the Pentagon and other federal agencies next month. But aides said the scope of the package depends on negotiations with Senate Republicans, and the talks had yet to get off the ground. Unless the House and the Senate can agree on a way to avoid the fiscal cliff, economists fear that the more than $500 billion in automatic tax increases and spending cuts could spark a new recession. Financial markets, already unsettled by the prospect of dramatic tax increases and spending reductions, may also face a new battle over the limit on federal borrowing. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner announced Wednesday that the debt will hit the $16.4 trillion cap on Dec. 31, leaving roughly two months for Congress to raise it or default on the nation’s obligations.
The militants blew up a boys’ school in Mushtarzai village in the limits of Badaber Police Station on Wednesday, sources said. The sources said that explosive devices planted by militants at the Government Primary School for Boys in Mushtarzai went off and destroyed the building. However, no casualty was reported in the incident. The police rushed to the spot and started search operation but no arrest was made. Meanwhile, the police foiled a terror bid and defused an IED)planted near a gridstation on the Canal Road on Wednesday. A police official said that militants had planted an IED near the Board Bazaar. The rbomb disposal unit officials defused the IED, he added.
The Express TribuneOver 24,000 children in Pakistan die of Pneumonia every year that is caused by a bacterium called Streptococcus Pneumonia, revealed a report by Unicef officials on Thursday. Unicef officials Dr Tariq Iqbal and Dr Aurangzaib Kamal revealed facts about Pneumonia at a workshop held to introduce a newly launched Pneumococcal Vaccine (PCV10). The workshop was jointly organised by Unicef, the government of Balochistan and Society of Social Development. “According to a survey report compiled from the data of government and private hospitals, about 663,000 Pneumonia cases are reported every year in Pakistan and over 24,000 children suffering from Pneumonia out of the total number of these cases die of the disease,” the officials said. They added that the maternal mortality rate at the national level is 272 out of every 100,000 and the child mortality rate is 94 out of every 100,000. They further stated that the annual maternal mortality rate in Balochistan stands at 785 out of every 100,000 and the child mortality rate at 89 out of every 100,000. The officials announced that Unicef, in collaboration with the provincial government, was going to introduce Pneumococcal Vaccine (PCV10) in January 2013.
Radio PakistanAddressing a mammoth public gathering at Ghari Khuda Bukhsh‚ PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the PPP brought democracy to this country and it is fully resolved to defend it. Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has declared that the party would continue its struggle for welfare of the masses till provision of basic necessities of life to every citizen. Addressing a mammoth gathering at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh on the occasion of 5th martyrdom anniversary of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto on Thursday‚ he said the party has laid foundations of a system to provide employment to every youth‚ educate every child and ensure best possible medical care for every citizen. He said "Roti‚ Kapra aur Makan" has been and will remain the slogan of the PPP. Bilawal Bhutto said the PPP brought democracy to this country and it is fully resolved to defend it. He said Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto laid down their lives for the rights of the people and the party would never deviate from their mission come what may. The PPP Chairman said today Parliament is sovereign and power lies with the people and not with an individual. 1973 Constitution has been restored to its original form and powers have been devolved to the provinces. He said the country is now on its path to reach its cherished destination under the leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari. Bilawal Bhutto said his mother Shaheed Benazir had a dream to empower women and the present PPP Government has taken a number of initiatives including Benazir Income Support Programme and legislation for the purpose. He pointed out that under BISP a beginning has been made towards fulfillment of the goal of 'Roti‚ Kapra aur Makan' for every citizen. BISP is also taking care of needs of the poor to earn his livelihood through Waseela-e-Haq and Waseela-e-Rozgar. Bilawal said BISP is also fulfilling needs of the poor about education‚ training and health. He pointed out that the PPP Government faced enormous challenges due to global recession and terrorism but despite that our economy is standing firmly on its feet. Exports crossed 25 billion dollar mark this year‚ foreign exchange reserves stand at 14 billion dollar‚ KSE index has gone beyond 16‚000 points and inflation has come down from 25 to just 9 percent. He said Pakistan was wheat importing country but now is wheat exporting country. Bilawal Bhutto said all this is just a beginning and the PPP is committed to ameliorate the lot of the people. He said the PPP manifesto emphasizes that people are fountainhead of power and that is why the party is focusing on them. He said the PPP also sought an apology from people of Balochistan and decided that resources of the province would be exploited by the province and not the federation. He urged people of Balochistan to reject the negative mindset and not to leave Pakistan to such elements. The PPP Chairperson said the PPP believes in independent judiciary and has accepted all its verdicts. He asked the Supreme Court to decide the presidential reference in Bhutto case at the earliest. He also pointed out that after availability of Joint Investigation Team and UN reports in Shaheed Benazir Bhutto martyrdom case‚ the judiciary should also bring the culprits to book. Bilawal Bhutto said the PPP believes in taking all political forces along and reconciliation is its weapon. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the so called flag bearers of democracy tried to hinder the way of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. Our opponents have still not learnt any lesson from the past and they are still working to derail democracy in the country. However‚ they will not be allowed to succeed in their designs. He said the caravan of Pakistan People's Party will continue its march for the welfare and well being of the people and strengthening of democracy. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that blood of Benazir Bhutto is running in his veins and pledged that Pakistan People's Party will neither allow any dictator to snatch rights of the people nor the terrorists to terrorize the people. He assured that his party will continue to follow the mission of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He said the PPP is not only the name of a political party but also it is a life for the people. He said Shaheed Benazir Bhutto lives in our hearts and we will work for the accomplishment of its vision for Pakistan. -------- Addressing the public meeting‚ the former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that those who are hatching conspiracies against Peoples Party will fail in their designs. Enumerating achievements of PPP led government he said that under the leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari the PPP government achieved many goals like giving rights to the provinces‚ renaming Khyber Pakhtunkhwa‚ reforms in FATA rules and political freedom in the country. He said PPP is the heir of martyrs as Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed had said after Karsaz blast that she is the heir of these martyrs who sacrificed their lives for democracy in the country. The PPP leader Jehangir Badar said that Shaheed Benazir Bhutto courageously resisted the dictatorship and succeeded in restoring democracy in the country.He said that we would continue to work for fulfilling mission of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto.He asked the PPP workers to utilize their energy for winning the forthcoming general elections by the party. The PPP leader Raza Rabbani said that Shaheed Benazir Bhutto still rules over the hearts of the Pakistani people.He said Shaheed Zulifkar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto did not compromise on their principles.He said the PPP government has abolished anti labour laws. Referring to long march and tsunami ultimatums given by some political parties in the country the PPP stalwart Senator Aitzaz Ahsan said that PPP believes on ballots‚ not on swords. He said that the mindset which was behind the murder of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto played the same role in the murder of Bashir Ahmad Bilour. PPP leader Aftab Shaban Mirani said Shaheed Benazir Bhutto was not just politician but a states-woman who had a long term vision for Pakistan. President PPP Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa‚ Anwar Saifullah Khan said that Shaheed Benazir Bhutto is living in our hearts and we can never forget her. Chief Minister Gilgit-Baltistan Syed Mehdi Shah said that we renew our pledge to resist conspiracies against democracy. Addressing the public meeting‚ Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah said Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto laid down their lives for the rights of the people and supremacy of the Constitution. He said in line with the philosophy of Shaheed leaders‚ Sindh Government has provided jobs to over one hundred thousand youth and more would be provided if return to power again. He said the huge gathering is reflective of love of the people for Bhutto family. ----- PPP workers from Islamabad‚ Rawalpindi and adjoining areas today held a function at the place of martyrdom of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto at Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi. The speakers paid glowing tributes to Shaheed Benazir Bhutto for her services. Quran Khawani was also held at Liaquat Bagh this morning. PPP leaders and workers organised gathering at local level in all the four provinces‚ Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir where Quran khawani and fateha khawani was held for Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. ----------- Radio Pakistan is airing special audio/video marathon transmission titled "Zinda Hey Bibi" live from Larkana to mark the anniversary which will continue till eight tonight. It is being relayed on all the networks of Radio Pakistan including FM-93‚ Medium Wave‚ FM-94‚ FM-101 and NBS and website radio.gov.pk.
Slain former premier Benazir Bhutto’s fifth death anniversary was observed across the country on Thursday. The Muslim world’s first female prime minister, Benazir, was assassinated in a bombing on 27 December, 2007 at the end of a rally in Rawalpindi. A large public gathering was organised at Garhi Khuda Bux where President Asif Ali Zardari and his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari gave speeches. Bilawal formally began his political career with his speech. Zardari assured that free and fair elections will be held in the country, while Bilawal criticised the judiciary for not bringing his mother’s killers to justice. In other places across the country, people held vigils to pay tribute to Benazir.
RFE/RL: Let's talk about your career in journalism and some of the history you've witnessed in Pakistan and Afghanistan since the 1980s. For a start, could you tell us why you got involved in journalism?Christina Lamb: Yes, I was always interested in writing. I loved to write. But I was also interested in seeing the world and going to different places, and it seemed like a great way of doing that. It's also a wonderful excuse. I'm a very curious person, and being a journalist you can always ask people questions anywhere about anything. So it enabled me to do that.
RFE/RL: One of your first interviews was with Benazir Bhutto in 1987 when she was living in exile in London -- before she was elected to her first term as Pakistan's prime minister. How did that come about and how did it impact your life?Lamb: Benazir Bhutto had a huge influence on my life because when I started out, when I left university, I worked on the "Financial Times" as an intern. One day, the foreign editor couldn't go to a lunch of South Asian politicians that he was supposed to be going to. I was very interested in India. I'd written a thesis on Kashmir. And so he said to me, "Why don't you go to this lunch?" I sat at this lunch next to somebody who was secretary-general of the Pakistan People's Party, which was Benazir's party. He said to me, "Would you like to interview Benazir?" She was living in exile in London in the Barbican Center at the time. So, of course, I said yes. I went to interview her and it was actually when she'd just announced her engagement to [Pakistan's current president] Asif Zardari. So the flat was full of bouquets of flowers and it also made it very topical. Of course, I was very fascinated by her. She was an incredibly impressive, very courageous woman -- and we got on very well. She then went back to Pakistan and I went to work for a TV company in the U.K. A few months later, I came home from work -- a really miserable day in Birmingham, cold, wet, dark -- and there was this invitation on my mat written in gold script to her wedding in Karachi. Of course I went to that. It was my first time to go to Pakistan, and was a most amazing introduction because her wedding went on for a week, 10 days. It was a huge event. Very colorful, like something out of the Arabian Knights but also very political because at that time, she'd gone back to try to take on the dictator General Zia [ul Haq]. And so every night, after all the ceremonial parts of the wedding, there would be gatherings of her and her political colleagues discussing how to try and topple this dictator. So it was absolutely fascinating. As soon as I got back to the UK, I gave in my notice at the job I had been doing and went back to live in Pakistan.
RFE/RL: In 1998, after Bhutto's second government was dismissed amid corruption allegations and her party had been defeated in elections, she went into self-imposed exile in Dubai. But she returned to Pakistan in October 2007 to run again for prime minister. You were actually on the campaign bus with her on the day she returned to Karachi and was targeted by a double bombing that the authorities blamed on the Taliban. Can you describe what happened that day? Also, before she was assassinated on December 27, 2007, did she speak to you about who she thought was trying to kill her?Lamb: Before she went back, I met her in London when she was announcing her return and she was talking about the fact that there had been these assassination threats. But I don't think that she really thought that anything was going to happen to her. She hadn't been in Pakistan then for 8 and 1/2 years, and it had totally changed in that time. I mean, I used to travel with her during elections sometimes back in the 1980s and 1990s, and then the biggest threat was somebody kind of jostling you. There was no idea that anybody was going to be blown up or anything like that. But in the time that she had been away, of course, suicide bombs had become very frequent in Pakistan. There were more victims there than anywhere. So when we arrived in Pakistan and got on the truck, we started driving, and there were thousands and thousands of people and it was an open-top truck. The route that they'd chosen went under bridges and through areas where there were all these people on tops of buildings. It felt incredibly exposed. I said to the head of security on the truck, "How can you possibly protect her?" And he said it was in God's hands -- which, frankly, didn't seem that reassuring. The things that they'd been provided -- jammers, for example, to try and make sure nobody could set off a bomb through mobile phones -- were not working. So there were concerns from the start. And we were on that vehicle for hours and hours. We left at about two [in the afternoon] and it got to late night, and it was dark. And the street lights kept going off, which made her very wary that something was going on. But it was still a huge shock when the bombs actually happened because the atmosphere was actually really lively. She was ecstatic, actually, to be back. It was what she loved doing -- being among the people. Then she'd gone downstairs to prepare for this speech that she would give when we arrived at [Muhammad Ali] Jinnah's mausoleum, which was where we were headed. Suddenly, there was this sound and we were all thrown to the ground. There was a small bomb, or a grenade maybe even, to start with. And then, as people started to get up, there was a huge blast and we were all thrown to the ground and there was orange flame everywhere. There were, I think, 15 of us on top of the bus. Three people [on the bus] were killed. The rest of us were lucky. And then, she was taken out and taken straight to her old house. I then, with some of the other people, joined her there a bit later. She was obviously incredibly shaken and I talked to her a lot -- into the early hours of the morning. She, I think up to that point really, had never imagined something like that would happen. But she was then in a very difficult situation because it was quite clear whoever had done that was not going to stop at that. They would try and kill her again and again. She felt she couldn't leave. If she went back to Dubai where she'd been living, it would look like she was running away. And she'd gone back to try and be prime minister again. So she continued campaigning. But she did talk about who she thought had been behind it. She never bought the official line that it was one of the Pakistani Taliban -- Baitullah Mehsud -- because, first of all, he denied it. And they don't tend to deny things. They usually claim things. But secondly, she just felt very strongly that the "establishment," as she called it, the people in the military -- and particularly in the ISI, the military intelligence who had always been against her -- were the people who were really behind it. And she actually named several individuals.
RFE/RL: In "The Sewing Circles of Herat" -- you spoke with Afghan women about their lives under the Taliban, but also about their expectations the day after the Taliban fled that city. You also wrote an article for "The Sunday Times" in early 2007 saying Afghanistan "can still be saved." What do you think now about the hopes of those Afghan women? Have they been disappointed? Also, do you still think Afghanistan can be saved from extremism or descending back into civil war after the withdrawal of foreign troops?Lamb: Obviously I'm very worried, with the withdrawal of troops coming over the next year, that women in particular -- the rights that they have achieved since the Taliban have gone -- will be lost. It's not great, the situation for women. But things are a lot better than they were. There are lots of girls going to school. There are women going to work. We've also seen a lot of assassinations of women in public positions. So they are taking a risk when they do anything. But it does feel like once the NATO troops leave or draw down to less than 10,000, it will be very, very hard for those women to be protected. We're already seeing that some of the old warlords from the 1980s when I first used to go to Afghanistan are now talking about rearming and trying to take over their areas -- whether it's Ismail Khan in Herat or [Muhammad] Fahim and Atta [Muhammad Noor] in the north. There's a lot of concern that Afghanistan will revert to some kind of a civil war where different areas are run by different people. Everything really hinges on the ANA -- the Afghan National Army -- and whether they really are in a position to take over the security of the country. And that is a big unknown. I mean, there was a report [recently] in the Pentagon saying that only one of 23 ANA brigades are actually capable of operating on their own without NATO's support. That obviously isn't very encouraging. Also, there are lots of these insider attacks where soldiers within the ANA have killed American or NATO soldiers. So that does leave some doubts about which side they are actually on and whether once the bulk of the NATO troops have gone, will they still stay in the ANA or will they switch over to the Taliban. I think in the south, where the Taliban are strongest, and in the east, you may well see ANA people deciding that the Taliban are there for the long term and that they're better off switching over to them. But it's still quite unknown because we don't know. I mean, the Americans are suggesting they'll have less than 9,000 troops after the end of 2014. We still don't know if there will be air support for the ANA. If they don't have air support, I think it will be extremely difficult for them to really secure their country. It's difficult to be optimistic, frankly, about what is likely to happen there -- sadly.
RFE/RL: After 20 years as a correspondent covering the world's conflicts, what is your perspective like now as "The Sunday Times" bureau chief in Washington? Are you itching to get back out in the field?Lamb: I've been in Washington for nearly 3 and 1/2 years and it has actually been fascinating because almost all my career covering conflict has been largely covering things that were the result of decisions made in Washington. And I think it is extremely difficult, often, to understand those decisions. Frankly, they can often be quite baffling if you are in these places. Once you actually come here and see how things operate, and how much domestic politics decides everything -- I mean, it's kind of obvious. But until you actually live here, you don't quite appreciate it. And the fact that there are elections to Congress every two years, so, you know, domestic politics really plays a huge part in decision making. It's been very interesting to come and see the debate from this end; to hear the different parts -- the White House, the State Department, the military, the different perspectives on what they all think they are trying to achieve in these various places. And of course, to be here during the Arab Spring and how that really changed all calculations in the regions. I was talking to somebody very senior at the State Department on the Middle East the other day who was saying that in the past you knew how different actors in the region would react to certain things. And now, they just have no idea, really, who is going to do what. It's been a time of great turmoil. So yes, I am itching to go back to covering those kind of things. And I will be leaving here at the end of the year to go back to covering it. Well, in particular, I wanted to cover the withdrawal from Afghanistan. But also, following developments in Pakistan and Iran and whatever happens in Syria and in the rest of the region.