Saturday, January 5, 2013


INDIA: 21-year-old woman found stripped, dead in Noida

A 21-year-old woman, who had been missing since Friday night, was found stripped and dead near her house in Noida today. The police have registered a case of rape and murder against two persons in connection with the incident. The victim, a resident of Chotpur colony, left office - she worked at an export house located in Sector 65 in Noida - at around 9 pm and headed home with four of her female colleagues, according to the police. After reaching outside her colony, the victim's colleagues went their separate ways while she proceeded towards her house. When she did not return till 10 pm, worried family members began a frantic search for her and also approached the cops. But they allege that the police did not take the matter seriously and refused to lodge a missing person complaint. Her body was finally found this morning - stripped of all her clothing - on the roadside near Pushta area in Sector 63, with injury marks all over her body.

Indian rape victim's father says he wants her named

The father of an Indian woman whose brutal rape and torture provoked international outrage said in an interview published on Sunday that he wanted her name to be made public so she could be an inspiration to other victims of sexual assault. The 23-year-old physiotherapy student died on December 28 in a Singapore hospital, two weeks after a gang rape on a bus in New Delhi that ignited street protests across India and prompted promises from the government for tougher punishments for offenders. "We want the world to know her real name," the woman's father told Britain's Sunday People newspaper. "My daughter didn't do anything wrong, she died while protecting herself," he added. "I am proud of her. Revealing her name will give courage to other women who have survived these attacks. They will find strength from my daughter." The paper named the father and his daughter, saying that the father had given his permission, but added that it would not publish a photo of her at the family's request. The father had already called for new legislation on sex crimes to be named in honor of his daughter. Reuters has opted not to identify the victim because Indian authorities have banned the media from doing so. Five men have been charged with her gang rape and murder and will appear in a New Delhi court on Monday.

Jews lived in Afghanistan 1000 years ago

Israel's National Library in Jerusalem has acquired 29 documents from Afghanistan providing evidence that Jews lived in the area some 1,000 years ago, the Israeli Ha'aretz daily reported on Friday. The documents, part of a larger cache, include fragments of religious commentaries and letters in Hebrew, Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Persian and Muslim Arabic. They were reportedly found in a cave in eastern Afghanistan, near the Iranian and Uzbeki borders - an area which is now a Taliban stronghold. "This is an extremely important finding, being a unique testimony, both in nature and in volume, of the cultural history of a Jewish community in an area which in the 11th century included highly important political, cultural and economical centres," the library said on its website. "To this day we have not seen Jewish findings of such magnitude and importance from this area. Everything indicates that the findings are authentic." The National Library did not say how much it had paid for the documents, nor how they were acquired. According to Ha'aretz, One Jerusalem antiquities dealer who obtained a small part of the cache offered it for sale to the National Library. The negotiations continued for more than a year, and the documents arrived in Israel last week. The National Library said it places the utmost importance in having all the documents in the cache form part of its collection, and "the present purchase is a first step in this direction."

Hebrew treasure found in Afghanistan
A trove of ancient manuscripts in Hebrew characters rescued from caves in a Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan is providing the first physical evidence of a Jewish community that thrived there a thousand years ago.
Israel's National Library unveiled the cache of documents that run the gamut of life experiences, including biblical commentaries, personal letters and financial records. Researchers say the "Afghan Genizah" marks the greatest such archive found since the "Cairo Genizah" was discovered in an Egyptian synagogue more than 100 years ago, a depository of medieval manuscripts considered to be among the most valuable collections of historical documents ever found. Genizah, a Hebrew term that loosely translates as "storage," refers to a storeroom adjacent to a synagogue or Jewish cemetery where Hebrew-language books and papers are kept. Under Jewish law, it is forbidden to throw away writings containing the formal names of God, so they are either buried or stashed away.
'We had nothing of this'
The Afghan collection gives an unprecedented look into the lives of Jews in ancient Persia in the 11th century. The paper manuscripts, preserved over the centuries by the dry, shady conditions of the caves, include writings in Hebrew, Aramaic, Judea-Arabic and the unique Judeo-Persian language from that era, which was written in Hebrew letters. "It was the Yiddish of Persian Jews," said Haggai Ben-Shammai, the library's academic director. He said the documents included mentions of distinctly Jewish names and evidence of their commercial activities along the "Silk Road" connecting Europe and the East. The obscure Judeo-Persian language, along with carbon-dating technology, helped verify the authenticity of the collection, he said. "We've had many historical sources on Jewish settlements in that area," he said. "This is the first time that we have a large collection of manuscripts that represents the culture of the Jews that lived there." The documents are believed to have come from caves in the northeast region of modern-day Afghanistan, once at the outer reaches of the Persian empire. In recent years, the same caves have served as hideouts for Taliban insurgents. It remains unclear how the ancient manuscripts emerged. Ben-Shammai said the library was contacted by antiquities dealers. Last month, the library bought 29 out of hundreds of the documents believed to be floating around the world. The library refused to say how much it paid for the collection.
'They actually existed'
Ben-Shammai said it was too early to compare the new findings with the ones discovered in the late 1800s in Cairo's Ben Ezra Synagogue, built in the ninth century. The Cairo documents included thousands of documents Jews stored there for more than 1,000 years. Ben-Shammai said that it would take a long time to sift through the new findings but that they were already significant because no other Hebrew writings had even been found so far from the Holy Land. He said the Jewish community in the region at the time lived largely like others in the Muslim world, as a "tolerated minority" that was treated better than under Christian rule. Afghanistan's Jewish community numbered as many as 40,000 in the late 19th century, after Persian Jews fled forced conversion. By the mid-20th century, only about 5,000 remained, and most emigrated after Israel's creation in 1948. A lone Jewish man remains in Afghanistan, while 25,000 Jews live in Iran -- Israel's bitter enemy. The library promises the documents will be digitized and uploaded to its website. Aviad Stollman, curator of the library's Judaica collection, said much more would be gleaned after research on the papers, but already it tells a story of a previously little known community. "First we can verify that they actually existed -- that is the most important point," he said. "And of course their interests. They were not interested only in commerce and liturgy; they were interested also in the Talmud and the Bible. They were Jews living a thousand years ago in this place. I think that is the most exciting part."

Poverty growing in Saudi Arabia

Despite being one of the world’s richest countries, millions of people in Saudi Arabia live in poverty, a new report say. Job-growth and welfare programs in Saudi Arabia have failed to keep pace with a booming population that has soared from 6 million in 1970 to 28 million today, according to the report published by the Washingtonpost and the Guardian. The report criticized Saudi royals for being more concerned with their wealth and the country’s image than with helping the poor. “The state hides the poor very well,” the report quoted Rosie Bsheer, a Saudi scholar who has written extensively on development and poverty. “The elite don’t see the suffering of the poor. People are hungry.” Media reports and private estimates suggest that between 2 million and 4 million of the country’s native Saudis live under the country’s poverty line, the report added. The report added that in Saudi Arabia, “poverty and anger over corruption continue to grow. Vast sums of money end up in the pockets of the royal family through a web of nepotism, corruption and cozy government contracts, according to Saudi and US analysts.” Most of the poor families in the Kingdom are “stateless” people who are not officially recognized as Saudi citizens, even though they were born in the country. “The United Nations estimates that there are 70,000 stateless people in Saudi Arabia, most of them descended from nomadic tribes whose traditional territory included parts of several countries,” the report added. This is while, Forbes magazine estimates Abdullah’s personal fortune at $18 billion, making him the world’s third-richest royal, behind the rulers of Thailand and Brunei. Saudi Arabia is the world's largest oil exporter, with the black gold accounting for 90 percent of the country's exports.

Assad to give speech Sunday

Syrian president to speak about latest developments in Syria in first speech since June. Syrian President Bashar Assad will deliver a speech on Sunday in a rare address to the nation, state media said, as rebels fighting to topple his embattled regime pressed ahead with an offensive on the capital. The official SANA news agency said in a brief statement Saturday that Assad will speak about the latest developments in Syria. The speech would be the first by the leader since June, and comes amid intense fighting between government troops and rebels on the outskirts of Damascus.Assad has rarely spoken in public since the uprising against him began in March 2011. In each of his previous speeches and interviews, the president has dug in his heels even as Western powers have moved to boost the opposition in Syria's civil war. In his last public comments, Assad vowed in an interview with Russia Today on Nov. 8 that he would "live and die in Syria." The rebels are trying to push through the government's heavy defenses in Damascus, prompting the regime to unleash a withering assault on the suburbs that has included intense barrages by artillery and warplanes. Diplomatic efforts to end the Syrian crisis have failed so far to bring an end to the bloodshed, although the international community continues to push for a peaceful settlement. On Saturday, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal told reporters after a meeting with his Egyptian counterpart in Riyadh that there should be an immediate end to the bloodshed in Syria and called for a peaceful political transition. Meanwhile the violence continued unabated Saturday. Rebels and government troops clashed in suburbs south of Damascus, including Harasta and Daraya, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Fighting in Daraya alone left 10 dead, including six rebels, according to the Observatory, which relies on reports by activists on the ground. The army dispatched fresh reinforcements to Daraya, part of an offensive aimed at dislodging rebels from the district, located just a few kilometers (miles) from a strategic military air base west of the capital, the Observatory said. Regaining control of Daraya would provide a boost to the regime's defense of Damascus. Government troops also arrested several residents in raids in the suburb of Qatana, the Observatory said. Fighting was also heavy in the central province of Hama, Idlib, and in the southern part of the country, in Daraa, the birthplace of the Syrian uprising. Besides the deaths in Daraya, 35 people were killed around the country, the group said. There was also fighting on the road to the Damascus International Airport, which has not been functioning since last month when clashes first erupted on the airport road, and international airlines have yet to resume flights to the capital. Airport officials have said the facility is open, but have not said which flights are operating. On Saturday, SANA denied reports that Minister Mohammed al-Shaar had died, saying the minister is "in good health and recovering." State media also said Syrian journalist Suheil al-Ali who worked for the Dunya pro-government television station died Friday of wounds sustained in a shooting attack in the suburbs of Damascus four days ago. The SANA state news agency blamed a "terrorist," the term the government uses for those trying to topple Assad. In Tehran, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad discussed the conflict and ways to end it with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, Iranian State TV said. Also on Saturday, an Arab League official said the group's foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting in the coming days in Cairo to discuss ways to assist Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

Egypt: Opposition calls for 25 January protests
Opposition groups are calling for nationwide protests against the constitution and President Mohamed Morsy on 25 January, the second anniversary of the revolution. National Salvation Front spokesperson Khaled Dawoud said the front calls on all Egyptians to take to the streets that day. “We are protesting for the correction of this constitution that [Morsy] issued unilaterally,” Dawoud told Daily News Egypt. The NSF is calling for protests to reject the newly adopted constitution and said it refuses to participate in the dialogue the presidency is holding because it is “for show.” Spokesperson Hussein Abdel Ghany said in a press conference last week: “The front calls on the Egyptian people to go out in protest during the second anniversary of the 25 January revolution. The front will remain united as a patriotic entity containing opposition forces that are against tyranny in the name of religion.” He added that the NSF rejects the current Shura Council as unrepresentative and criticised the method of “rewarding supporters” by appointing them to seats in the upper house of parliament. The Kefaya movement is also participating in the protests. They reiterated in a statement that they are not calling for the removal of Morsy, however, and that they are protesting against his policies and the government. The Independence Current will also participate in the scheduled protests. Their official spokesperson Nabil Zaki said in a press conference that neither the constitution nor the Shura Council that has been recently entrusted with legislative power, are representative. He advised the youth participating in the protests to maintain peaceful methods due to the presence of “several groups trying to discredit” them.

Rising Violence Against Egyptian Women Worries Rights Activists

Women played a major role in the revolution that brought down Egypt's old government. But nearly two years on, many say they have seen little reward. In terms of physical security, activists say the plight of women is getting worse. "There have been so many cases of mobbing, of sexual assault and recently also gang rape cases," notes Heba Morayef, the Egypt director of Human Rights Watch. "And the response to that of course has been zero response from the government,” she adds. Activists say efforts to get the government to help women have failed. Psychologist Farah Shash of the Nadim Center in Cairo works with victims of sexual violence. "Whenever we discuss women’s issues in the parliament or public debate, they would say it is not a priority, that we don’t believe that women protection and participation is a priority, with what is going on now with the revolution and the political system and so on,” Shash explains. While women's rights were shaky under the old system, legal experts say the nation's new constitution, passed amid controversy last month, further erodes civil guarantees. "Many of the lines in the constitution -- they didn't try to say things specifically for women to defend their rights,” complains a young woman who was among many to take to the streets to protest out of concern. In addition to passing protective laws, rights groups say it will take an overhaul of an education system that portrays women in subservient roles, an economy that leaves many young people jobless and a society that tends to blame the victim for the assault. Some civic groups are offering women protection at rallies and other vulnerable areas. Psychologist Shash says the trend may help raise awareness, but the thinking behind it is misguided. "Women cannot move with human shields all the time in the Egyptian street," notes Shash. "We need to know that the system is protecting us. We need to know that men do not see us as sexual objects walking on the street.” The growing number of cases where “protectors” have attacked suspects is a worrying development, rights advocates say. "This new license that's been given to private citizens to become involved in violence is an even more dangerous one," Morayef says. "Because you see a weakening of the role of the state and honestly this opens the door to vigilantism moving forward.” While rights groups view the Islamist government with a wary eye, they argue it is in everyone's interests, including the leaders', to take a greater role and step up security for women.

VIDEO:President Obama :Weekly Address...Jan 5, 2013

Once called 'terror network,' Al Jazeera America dares to enter U.S. cable market

When Al Jazeera becomes a major U.S. cable channel, as it plans, some Americans are likely to click past it, recalling the alleged anti-American tone by the pan-Arab network during the Iraq war a decade ago. "My guess is that when people hear about Al Jazeera, they will not be paying attention to the news quality or correspondents," said media analyst Stuart Fischoff, a retired professor at California State University at Los Angeles. "They will just hear Qatar, and say it's an Arab country and it's full of terrorists and ... therefore bias in the news," he said. The Qatari government owns Al Jazeera. Others, however, may find any past political slants overshadowed by a newscast striving toward U.S. standards. Viewers may be curious just to hear Al Jazeera America, which will have access to millions of U.S. homes now that the traditional Arabic-language network this week acquired Current TV, once owned by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and others. "I think it's a very, very well-done news network," said media expert and former White House correspondent Porter Bibb of Mediatech Capital Partners in New York, where he listens to a related network, Al Jazeera English, now available in a tiny fraction of U.S. markets. Al Jazeera English also is live-streamed at no cost online and provides insight into what the bigger, new Al Jazeera America will look like, he said. The emergence of Al Jazeera as a major U.S. cable network has resurrected debate about past accusations of anti-American bias during the Iraq invasion under President George W. Bush. The Bush administration excoriated the Arab peninsula's network for broadcasting Osama bin Laden videos. Today, evidence of U.S. antipathy at the Arabic network has dissipated significantly, though not entirely, several analysts say. "It has obviously been demonized by our politicians for almost a decade," said Rory O'Connor, a former CBS News producer and a media expert. He noted how an Al Jazeera cameraman was detained for six years at the U.S. Navy prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But Al Jazeera's current English broadcast is "excellent," without the bias alleged by U.S. politicians, said O'Connor, author of the blog and a contributor to Al Jazeera's website. He disputed conservatives' portrayal of Al Jazeera as a "terror network" and propaganda outlet. Other analysts, however, say Al Jazeera continues to telecast content that they deem to be anti-American. "Surely they will be careful in the beginning. They will try to prove that they are a professional channel that's objective," said Yigal Carmon, president of the Middle East Media Research Institute, which has gathered several Al Jazeera video clips in recent years that the institute says show anti-American bias. Carmon is a former chief counterterrorism adviser to Israeli Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Yitzhak Shamir. "It's much less anti-American than in the past, and the English (broadcast) is a soft version" of the Arabic telecast, Carmon continued. "But this is the government of Qatar. It's to discuss the government of Qatar. It's a policy arm of the ruler of Qatar." Spokesmen for Al Jazeera couldn't be reached by CNN for comment. In language that will surely be open for debate once Al Jazeera America enters U.S. homes, Carmon used strong words in describing the Qatari government. "Qatar, after all, is a dictatorship, and in a dictatorship, they use media as an arm of foreign policy, be it Arab or Muslim foreign policy or an international one," he said. The Qatari government's decision to bring Al Jazeera into American homes is a provocative political maneuver -- as well as an emerging business strategy now being pursued by other government-sponsored networks, experts said. "Can I note the unusual nature or essential weirdness of a former vice president of the United States selling his network to an Arab-based network that is owned by a foreign government?" said media expert Howard Kurtz, host of the weekly CNN program "Reliable Sources." Al Jazeera has always been regarded as something of a vanity venture by the wealthy emir of Qatar, which is home to the world's third largest gas reserve and is spending billions of dollars on its public image profile by sponsoring sports events at home and in Europe, experts said. "Al Jazeera has been trying and failing for years to get on television here in the United States," media writer Brian Stelter of New York Times told CNN. "For the most part, Al Jazeera is buying this for the real estate because it's beachfront real estate." Bibb, of Mediatech Capital Partners, referred to how Al Jazeera reportedly paid $500 million to acquire Current TV, whose access to 60 million households is now expected to be largely transferred to Al Jazeera America. "If you have bottomless pockets, it doesn't make any difference what you pay or how you go forward," Bibb said. "I think the assumed price of $500 million is absurd for what they got. On the other hand, it makes no difference to the emir of Qatar because it's chump change to him." But one cable company has balked at carrying Al Jazeera America: Time Warner Cable stopped carrying Current TV upon the announcement of the Al Jazeera deal. A Time Warner Cable spokeswoman said that past bias allegations against Al Jazeera didn't factor into the firm's decision. Analysts agreed, saying the company could be leveraging Al Jazeera America, seeking to get a per-subscriber payment for the cable firm in exchange for carrying the channel. "This has nothing to do with politics. We treat Al Jazeera like any other network," said a Time Warner Cable spokeswoman. "We will look to gauge our customer interest in Al Jazeera America and assess whether it is a good value for our customers." Al Jazeera America isn't an isolated phenomenon. Another government-sponsored media outlet that has ventured into U.S. broadcasting is China's CCTV America, launched last year. "The Chinese have about a similar coverage of the U.S. media market as Al Jazeera does right now," Bibb said. "They are using a soft diplomacy and no one is saying it's a propaganda outlet. Their approach is very thoughtful, but it's all China and that's what people are hungry for." Bibb wondered why Al Jazeera America would plan to produce 60% of its content in the United States, as it has said, when Al Jazeera has increasingly become renowned for its coverage of the Middle East, especially during the recent Arab Spring revolutions. Politics aside, Al Jazeera America will find American audiences to be tough customers. The Arab royal-family-owned network will be entering a tumultuous, fragmented marketplace for news programming where the top-ranked cable news shows garner ratings only in the hundreds of thousands at any one time, not millions, analysts said. Furthermore, access to 60 million homes doesn't guarantee that many people will be watching the program, analysts said. International newscasts in particular can also be a hard sell, experts said. "A lot will depend on how much appetite there is in the American market for international news. A lot of these organizations have cut back on that," Kurtz said. Carriers "are getting hate mail from some viewers who don't want to see it on their cable lineup," the New York TImes' Stelter said about Al Jazeera. "But money can change a lot of these problems and they have a lot of it."

Polio: Virus confirmed in infant from Lakki Marwat

The Express Tribune
The National Institute of Health in Islamabad confirmed a fresh case of polio in an 11-month-old child, increasing the number of cases in the country to 58. The report issued from the Prime Minister’s Polio Monitoring and Coordination Cell said that the virus has been found in an infant, Muhammad Shehzad, resident of Mohallah Michan Khel, union council City-2, Lakki Marwat. This is the third case to be reported in the district. According to the report, the stool sample of the child was collected on November 30, 2012 and the diagnosis made on January 3. Therefore, this case will be recorded in last year’s data and not as the first case of this year. The report further states that the child only received one polio vaccine dose through Short Interval Activities (SIA) as he had missed vaccination during the earlier campaign. SIA is an approach to administer two successive doses within a period of two weeks and is usually carried out later, for children who missed the earlier campaigns. “All the vaccination rounds were conducted using vaccine containing component against type-1 poliovirus” the report says. It adds that Independent Monitoring Board of Global Polio Eradication assessed 95% of the Union Councils as vaccinated; however, evaluation by the local cell records a higher percentage. Technical focal person for Polio Eradication Cell at the Chief Minister Secretariat, Dr Imtiaz Ali Shah told The Express Tribune, “The affected child has received seven doses, not in routine campaigns but in SIAs and the area where he lives is not included in the high-risk councils but there are other reasons of contracting the virus.” He added there was a chance that the child was malnourished, had diarrhoea and low immunity levels and the water in his area is contaminated. “In these conditions the vaccine will not save the child from contracting the crippling disease” Dr Shah said. There are now 58 cases in the country, 27 are from K-P, 20 from FATA, four each in Balochistan and Sindh, two in Punjab and one in Gilgit-Baltistan. KP govt to set up Polio Control Room in PDMA office The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has decided to establish a Chief Secretary Polio Control Room in the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) office to provide information and monitor related activities. According to an official notification, Mohammad Zubair will be the designated in-charge of the newly created control room. The office will collect data from all districts during the preparatory phase of polio campaigns and record its activities. The post-campaign assessment result of the entire province will be relayed to the chief secretary and secretary health of K-P.

Multiple explosions rock Karachi

Three explosions struck central locations in the city including a grenade attack on a police van and a remote controlled bomb blast outside the office of a political party leader, Geo News reported on Saturday. According to police, a remote-controlled bomb containing two to three kilograms of explosives was planted outside the office of a political leader in Orangi. Three wheel carts were damaged but no casualties were reported. Another bomb targeted a police van in Mawaach Goth area of Baldia town. According to Deputy Instructor General (DIG) West Asif Ejaz Sheikh, a hand grenade was hurled at a police van that injured two personnel. He further said that the police have arrested two accused possessing two hand grenades and two TT pistols after the blast. Earlier in the morning, unidentified miscreants hurled crackers at a medical store in Metroville area of SITE and fled from the scene. The crackers caused a blast that was also heard in far off areas. The blast completely destroyed medical store and adjacent two shops, and caused a minor crater at the site. The medical store belonged to a local leader of a political party and has been ambushed earlier as well. Police is investigating the incident.

Two Charity Workers Shot Dead In Pakistan
Reports from northwestern Pakistan say unknown gunmen have shot dead two charity workers involved in an education project in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. Police said Zakir Hussain, head of the education wing of the Al-Khidmat Foundation in Charsadda district, was attacked with his driver Khadim Shah in the Utmanzai area on January 4. The two gunmen escaped on a motorcycle after the attack. The Al-Khidmat Foundation is the welfare wing of the hard-line Jamaat-e Islami party. On January 1, gunmen shot dead seven Pakistani aid workers in the northwestern Swabi district. Those killings were believed to be linked to the recent killings of polio vaccination workers. Pakistan has been battling a homegrown Taliban militancy for years. It also suffers from routine attacks blamed on various hardline Islamist factions. Meanwhile, reports say seven unidentified, bullet-riddled bodies have been found near the village of Sarobi in North Waziristan, one of seven tribal districts and a known base for Al-Qaeda-linked militants. Residents reportedly found the bodies dumped near a highway. Officials were still trying to confirm the reports. This is the second time in a week that bodies have reportedly been dumped in the same district. On December 31, nine bodies were recovered in the Mir Ali area. No one has claimed responsibility for the killings. A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban claimed those bodies were Taliban fighters who had recently been captured by security forces fighting militants in the area.

Balochistan’s First Female Deputy Speaker

The Baloch Hal
The election of Dr. Fozia Marri as the first ever Deputy Speaker of the Balochistan Assembly is one of the best decisions the current government has made during its five-year term. No matter how much of a cosmetic measure it may look, the appointment of a female member on such an important position holds much significance for a backward province like Balochistan. This is more important for the political empowerment of women given the current composition of the Balochistan Assembly which is dominated by conservative tribal chiefs and orthodox religious leaders. It is remarkable to see the new Speaker from the the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (J.U.I.), which has often voiced opposition to women’s participation in politics, work with a female Deputy Speaker. Expecting some immediate change in the state of women’s rights in Balochistan with the appointment of Dr. Marri as the Deputy Speaker is utterly unrealistic. Cynics may describe her election as a mere symbolic action taken by the government to pose as an advocate of women’s rights. Such “symbolic decisions” are not a bad idea as long as they inspire young girls from the backward region to have a dream to hold a high public office in a heavily male-dominated institution, province. Women’s development has not been the top priority of the Pakistan People’s Party-led coalition government in Balochistan. Women in the province enjoy less freedom and fewer opportunities than the women in the rest of Pakistan. Their issues range from access to education, health facilities to more serious challenges such as child marriages, honor killings and barter of girls among rival tribes. It is the government’s responsibility to create a climate in which women feel secure and confident to come out of their homes to attain education and opt for various career paths. This is indeed a very slow and challenging process but it is impossible to achieve equal rights for women until they, not the male members of the society, start defining women’s rights, interests and needs. Few women in Balochistan are blessed to have obtained higher education and found excellent employment opportunities. These women indeed owe a great responsibility to their compatriots elsewhere in the province. They should stand up, even more prominently than the male members of the society, for the rights of the women. It is unfortunate that the seats reserved for women in the Balochistan Assembly are often ‘distributed’ among the spouses or relatives of powerful politicians. Several members of the current assembly also represent that breed of politicians who have come out of a system hit by nepotism and favoritism. More unfortunate is the fact that these women also did not sufficiently play their role to battle for women’s rights. Either the indifferent attitude of the current female members should change or these faces have to be replaced with women who are known for their political sagacity rather than the family they come from. Dr. Marri is left with too little time to serve on his revered position as the next general elections are fast approaching. But whatever time she has to perform her duty, we truly hope that she will remain an example of a confident and committed female legislator of Balochistan. She should end her term with a note that women in Balochistan are capable of delivering on highly demanding positions. Also, with the Balochistan High Court’s rejection of former Speaker Mohammad Aslam Bhootani’s application against his removal, the constitutional crisis seems to be over. Chief Minister Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani says he sympathizes with Mr. Bhootani over his failure to oust the provincial government. It is too early to say that Bhootani would let his dismissal go away. He will hopefully move the Supreme Court against the no-trust motion passed against him. A new crisis will emerge only if the Supreme Court opposes the removal of the former Speaker and the appointment of a new one.

India, Pakistan unite to bowl out polio

The Hindu
In an innovative move towards polio eradication, the Indian and Pakistan cricket teams, though fierce rivals on the field, will be united in their mission to “bowl out polio” when they clash for the third One-Day International in New Delhi on Sunday. “We need to ensure a world free of polio paralysis for children. We need to win against polio, to ‘Bowl Out Polio’,” said Pakistani cricket stars Yonous Khan and Imran Farhat, who on Saturday administered polio drops to children in New Delhi and joined the appeal for eradication of the debilitating disease. The two teams will wear ribbons with ‘Bowl Out Polio’ when they play the One Day International on Sunday. The electronic periphery boards at the Ferozshah Kotla grounds will flash the message of “Bowl Out Polio”. A hundred children will also be at the stands wearing yellow jackets with messages against polio. The cards for ‘4s’ and ‘6s’ waved by the crowds will also have the message “Bowl Out Polio”, a Unicef statement said. The Board of Cricket Control in India and the Pakistan Cricket Board have extended full support to the polio eradication messages at the match. While Pakistan is among the remaining three countries in the world still fighting the disease, India’s battle against polio will continue until polio is eradicated globally. The event comes a week ahead of India’s polio milestone anniversary. On January 13, India completes two years without reporting any case of polio, an unprecedented progress for a country which until 2009 contributed majorly to the global polio case count. This is the third time that India and Pakistan teams have got together to advocate for polio eradication. Globally, polio cases have declined to record low levels. In 2012, as on December 26, 215 polio cases were reported compared to 605 cases in the same period 2011. Three countries remain endemic to polio — Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. Polio is a disease which cripples for life, has no cure, but can be prevented by repeatedly taking oral polio vaccine, said the statement.

The War on Pakistan’s Aid Workers

The murders of charity and aid workers in Pakistan has dealt a devastating blow to a national campaign to wipe out polio and other deadly diseases. On Tuesday, assassins ambushed and killed seven Pakistani teachers and health workers, six of them women, as they returned home from work at a children’s community center in the Swabi district of the northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. They were affiliated with a private Pakistani aid group, Support With Working Solution, that runs health and education projects in Pakistan’s poor and lawless tribal region. On Wednesday, there were reports that local police had promised extra protection for aid workers who are planning to conduct a polio vaccination campaign on Saturday in Peshawar and other cities in northwest Pakistan. That move is clearly necessary, though far from sufficient. The federal authorities need to make sure that the killers are brought to justice and make clear that murdering health workers is a terrorist act against the nation itself. This week’s slaughter followed a series of attacks across the country last month that killed nine Pakistani health workers involved in a polio vaccination drive. Most of those victims also were women, earning about $2 a day and critical in campaigns to persuade families to participate in immunization programs. No one has claimed responsibility for the most recent attack, but suspicions point to the Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups that have opposed the vaccination drives, calling them a cover for government or international spies, or part of a plot to sterilize Muslim children. Those conspiracy theories intensified when the Central Intelligence Agency used a vaccination team, led by a Pakistani doctor, to visit Osama bin Laden’s house in 2011. The vaccination programs are essential to the protection of Pakistan’s citizens. After a two-decades-long global vaccination campaign, the world is on the verge of eradicating polio. Only in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria is the disease still endemic. In 2011, Pakistan counted 198 new infections, the highest in the world. Without safety for health workers, this scourge will never be eradicated.

Pakistan police criticised after mob killing

Mutilation and killing of man suspected of burning the Quran raise questions over police's ability to protect detainees. Pakistani police is facing criticism after a man in custody was killed by a mob of vigilantes in Sindh province last month for allegedly desecrating the Quran. The man was dragged out of his prison cell while still in custody at a police station in Sita village. He was then dropped from the second floor of a building before his body was set alight. Seven police officials have been suspended for being unable to protect the man. The officers say the lynch mob overpowered them after storming the police station. People had invited the man, who looked like a traveller, to spend the night in the local mosque. They say they woke to find he had burnt pages of the Quran and that they saw him as he was trying to burn more. There have been similar cases of vigilante justice in the past in other parts of Pakistan. Leading human rights activists have condemned the attacks and the continued failure of authorities to bring people to justice. Zahid Hussain, a journalist and author in Islamabad, blamed the increase in vigilante attacks on "the collapse of our judicial and law enforcement systems as well as a rise in extremism". "There is hardly any training for police and they are not recruited on merit. Instead they are used for political purpose," he told Al Jazeera. "Hardline clerics are also misusing the blasphemy law. We have seen many instances where just on accusation, just on suspicion, people have been killed. Even in some cases, those people who have been acquitted by the court were shot down."

Salman Taseer remembered

The second death anniversary of former Punjab governor Salman Taseer was observed on Friday. Memorial services were held in different cities for the deceased. Taseer was gunned down by his body guard, Mumtaz Qadri, two years ago in Islamabad for his statement regarding the blasphemy law. He was 26th governor of Punjab and was appointed in General (r) Pervez Musharraf era. His son, Shahbaz Taseer, was kidnapped on August 26, 2011 and has still not been recovered. Taseer was remembered as a liberal politician.

Mehmood Achakzai emerges as a strong candidate for caretaker PM

Speaking at Dunya News’ program ‘Qeun’ on Saturday, popular leader Mehmood Achakzai has said that he is ready to accept any office for the supremacy of constitution and consolidation of democracy in the country. Homework for caretaker setup ahead of forthcoming general election is underway while most of the political parties are favouring Milli Awami Party chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai as caretaker prime minister. He said some elements in the government had discussed the issue of caretaker government with him but he did not take it serious. Now he is ready to shoulder any responsibility for the sake of masses and the country, said the cool minded leader. He stressed that he was in favour of such a caretaker government which may be able to consolidate and strengthen the democratic caravan without any interruption. He vowed that the he would turn the entire country into Tehrir Squire if anyone ties to derail the democratic setup.

Shahzeb Khan murder: Police arrest prime suspect Siraj Talpur

The Express Tribune
Police arrested Siraj Talpur – one of the suspects in Shahzeb Khan’s murder case – on Saturday from Naushahro Feroze, Express News reported. The other suspect, Shahrukh Jatoi, is still at large. The car from which Shahzeb was shot at was also recovered. Shahzeb was shot dead near his home in Defence last week. A popular student and son of DSP Aurangzaib, Shahzeb’s murder created an uproar in civil society. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on January 1 took suo motu notice of the murder and ordered for a report to be presented in court. Background Shahzeb was killed allegedly by Shahrukh Jatoi near Mubarak Masjid in DHA on December 25. The killing resulted from a small argument he had with Talpur, when the latter’s servant verbally harassed his sister. Talpur and his friend, Jatoi, allegedly followed Shahzeb, even after the issue was settled, and shot him dead.