Saturday, January 12, 2013

Pakistan in throes of genocidal ideology

The ethnic cleansing in Pakistan has reached an alarming point, with over 120 Shia people killed and several severely wounded in the recent bombings across the country. The families of the victims decline to bury the bodies of their loved ones unless they hear at least a word of condemnation from the Pakistani government. In spite of a salvo of ethnic killings in the country, the government turns a blind eye to the tragedy and refuses to take any measures whatsoever in curtailing the inhumane trend. The reason may be tracked down to the fact that militancy has been implicitly backed by government-affiliated organizations such as ISI and the intelligence agencies for the past two decades. There is a purported claim that the ISI is not in the least affiliated to the government and that it operates out of its own volition in eliminating the Shia population which forms at least one-fourth of the population. Human rights activists said on Thursday that the police and the security forces had failed to protect the vulnerable community. “The callousness and indifference of the authorities offers a damning indictment of the state, its military and security agencies,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, the Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch. The assassination attempts initially included the Shia elites such as doctors, professors, engineers, and lawyers. However, in recent months, the appalling assassinations have come to encompass any Shia gathering regardless of their social ranks. Unfortunately, the Pakistani government has constantly tried to put a lid on these crimes, attribute them to sectarian violence and refuse to arrest the guilty parties. As usual, the West has chosen the ‘wise’ policy of media blackout on the inhumane issue. And if there is, the Western media tries to depict the tragedy in the light of a sectarian violence between the Sunnis and the Shias. Their choice of words in this regard well attests to their deliberate manipulation and misreporting of this horrific incident which springs from nothing but blind ignorance and prejudice. In a BBC report, the network said, “Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi said it carried out the deadliest of Thursday's attacks killing at least 85”, sought to attribute it to sectarianism and shrewdly avoided siding with the victims or condemning the terrorist attack. The epicenters of these Shia killings include Quetta, Gilgit-Baltistan, Parachinar, lower Punjab and several regions in North West. Recent months however have witnessed Shia killings in large cities such as Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi and Rawalpindi. The root causes of religious extremism in Pakistan are traceable to the time when the US government sought to oust Soviet forces from Afghanistan. In those days, the ISI was heavily mobilized by the US and funded by the Saudi Wahhabis to achieve this goal. No wonder, the only countries that recognized the Taliban with the green light of Washington were Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and United Arab Emirates. A prominent Harvard researcher Nawaf E. Obaid says a former high-ranking Pakistani civil servant with close ties to his country's intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), told him that "the US provided the weapons and the know-how; the Saudis provided the funds; and we provided the training camps and operations bases for the mujahidin in the early 1980s, then for the Taliban." According to Obaid, the Saudi political Mogul Sheikh Mohamed bin Jubier, who is known to be the `exporter' of the Wahhabi creed in the world, was a strong advocate of aiding the Taliban." Henry Kissinger writes that although the US and the Taliban had nothing in common, they shared a common enemy and that made them allies. Michael Semple of the Kennedy School of Government also says they shared a common enemy with the United States and both the Carter and Reagan administrations gave the Mujahadeen USD3 billion in military aid to fight the Soviets. After the exit of the Soviet forces from Afghanistan, the US government decided to continue using these forces in a new direction, a direction which could pave the way for political inequilibrium and religious extremism in Pakistan in particular and in the region in general. In the meantime, a large number of Shia groups reacted strongly to this new-fledged radicalism which threatened to hurl the country deeper into chaos and commotion. Instead, the US government discerned a strong necessity to curb this fighting force. Therefore, it embarked on a series of complicated and comprehensive plans: to smother this political and intellectual resistance. In the course of time, the US started strengthening radical groups such as al-Qaeda, Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Sepah Sehabeh, Jundallah and other fledgling extremists in Pakistan. All this was accomplished with the help of Saudi Arabi and some Arab states in an effort to promote religious extremism and counter the burgeoning influence of Iran in the region. The assassinations in Pakistan are in fact products of that twisted ill-defined mentality systematically promoted and funded by the US and its puppet Arab regimes. No matter what labels we use to describe the tragedy, the fact is that what is happening in Pakistan to the Shia minority is an ugly truth, an indelible human stain and an act of genocidal ideology the bitter memory of which will rankle in the minds for many years to come.

Ruthless adulteration of milk & food in Pakistan

Ali Ashraf Khan
The reporters of a TV programme ‘Sareyaam’ aired on ARY News have raided few secret locations in the very late hours of night in interior of Punjab exposing the methods applied by dairy business people in the adulteration process of milk provided to multinational companies which have monopolized a major portion of the milk market in Pakistan. The programme was showing how poisonous ingredients including urea, vanaspati ghee and colour removing chemicals were mixed together to formulate a dangerous liquid, filled in packets and sold as milk. Multinational milk marketing companies procure milk from different vendors who have few cows and buffalos producing 15 to 20 liter per cattle of milk daily but supplying 100 times more ‘milk’ to the procurement agents daily causing health hazards of serious nature, which can be seen in increasing number of multiple disease as a slow poisoning of the nation. What actually is happening in every village from where milk is supplied to these big companies is what I learnt few year back from reliable people knowing this game that if some one has capacity of 100 liter of milk they mix it with 2000 liter of water, add 1 to 2 bags of urea and vanaspati ghee of a particular brand that is made from animal fat, when this is mixed together a yellow coloured fluid of 2100 liter is available in which they mix some chemical that is used in nail removers locally called ‘rangkat’ which can damage human body, that helps to turn this yellow liquid into white and is supplied as milk to be further processed, packed with brand name and marketed on a highly exorbitant price to poor consumers who have no other alternate or choice. No government functionary has ever bothered to test and analyze to find out milk purity and its ingredients. I remember distinctly an incident that occurred when a Chinese company supplied one most popular brand of infant milk in large quantity to the USA, there it was tested and found that the milk for infants supplied by China had in its ingredients melamine powder, which is harmful, so the entire consignment was returned back under protest. Back home in China a high powered inquiry was initiated against this company and I had seen on Chinese media that when it was found true and the supplier company admitted mixing melamine powder in the famous infant milk brand, the Chief Executive of this company was shot point blank no second appeal or inquiry. One thing is good in China that if corruption is proved the punishment for the corrupt is instant execution of death penalty. No plea bargain that rules the roost in eradication of corruption in Pakistan by National Accountability Bureau, a term that can easily be called corruption in itself. Why this is so, the simple answer is that there is no commitment of the leadership to wage serious war against corruption. Similar reports have been shown in the years before showing the adulteration of different food items including milk but so far nothing has been done or changed. FIRs have been registered but we still have to wait for a powerful constitutional investigation authority, free from executive control that can then expose culprits to be punished which would make an improvement in food production security possible. Food adulteration is not a new issue at all. Some of us may still remember a discussion in the late1970s about ice cream. When the multinational Walls started intruding into the Pakistani market, they bought over all their competitors including Polka and others, so as to monopolize and control prices. Their ice cream was made not of milk but from vegetable oil. A court case was launched by Yummy ice cream against Walls saying that according to Pakistani specification ice cream has to contain milk and not vegetable oil while the Lahore High Court acknowledged this reasoning and gave a verdict against Wall’s ice cream and the superior court also upheld this verdict. The strange but the verdict was never implemented during last few decades and until today Wall’s is selling its products in our country as ice cream. What else can be expected in a state that has used its authority not so much to improve the living conditions of its citizens but rather to suit the whims of its ruling elite. By now the state has undermined its institutions to such an extent that it is at the verge of collapse. That has not only to do with the security situation which is of comparatively recent making but with the missing respect of the nation for laws in this country and the incapability or unwillingness of the state to implement and enforce laws or any other decision which is surely closely related to the menace of corruption also. The adulteration of food items and especially of milk is harming the health of our population in general and of our children in particular. Drinking water is another area where free for all is going on. It was in 1980s that World Health Organization reports started that water supplied to Karachi city is contaminated and random samples were taken at different points of the supply pipeline Dhabeji to Karachi by the help of plasma mass spectrometer, which abundantly found not only bacteria but pipeline itself infected with germs that were causing jaundice; so multinational companies jumped into cash this situation to promote mineral water culture, bottled water use became so popular that everywhere in Pakistan people are buying expensive water instead of government supplying tap water, but soon it turned out that even this bottled water is not safe for drinking. There are reports in the USA that the plastic bottles used in ½ and 1 liter pack are highly injurious in extreme hot weather like Pakistan has, in the USA they have discouraged it but in Pakistan people carry these bottles more as a fashion. In late the 1990s my friend used to import container loads of bottled water from the UAE to be supplied to five-star hotels meaning that our bottling plants were not up to their standard of purity. Now in the ongoing melee drama multinational companies have perhaps outsourced procurement and supply in different areas, where private individuals are filling such water in their rented premises into bottles of known companies and are selling them to consumers, which is not properly purified under reverse osmosis system. Will somebody please take care of this fraud that is spreading kidney problems to people who are forced to drink water outside their homes while on work? We also know that adulteration in drugs, imported grocery items and vegetables infected with dangerous insecticide spray has made the lives of our population already difficult and the media have not exposed these because of their own vested interest in advertisement income from these companies responsible of promoting health hazards. That is even more serious in view of the fact that a large section of our population is deprived of health-care system. But apart from the detrimental influence on public health food, milk and water adulteration is further undermining the trust of the people in the state which is a sign of its failing and alternative models such as Islamic state will gain more popularity. Though one can doubt that all the pious Pakistanis who are busy in food adulteration under this government and then go to pilgrimage for a whitewash would stop doing so if not a strict control and evenly strict punishment is introduced by state and its institutions. There is right now a hype going on with regard to the new savior who recently landed in our country and who is using the craving of Pakistani people for a better life for his career promotion. He had been an MNA under Musharraf regime through 2002 elections, when flour (ata) was 6 rupees a kg which is now 41, milk was 18 now 100, daal masor 15 kg now 120, rice 20 kg now 120 and so on and no voice was ever raised against the WTO sponsored dark horses by Dr. Qadri. There is a fear that this bad situation in the country will enable him to create anarchy and destruction in the country that would suit nobody here but only people sitting outside the country.

Who is calling the shots in Afghanistan?

Obama: US war in Afghanistan winding down

With the war in Afghanistan winding down after 11 years, President Barack Obama says the time is right for U.S. forces to let Afghans do their own fighting. In his radio and Internet address Saturday, Obama says U.S. forces will shift to a support role as Afghan soldiers take the lead in defending their country. Obama met Friday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the White House and agreed that U.S. troops will go home in larger numbers starting this spring — several months ahead of schedule. He says "America's war in Afghanistan will be over" by the end of 2014. In the Republican address, freshman Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska says that with the fiscal cliff averted, Congress and the president must focus on cutting "out-of-control" government spending.

US condemns 'senseless and inhumane attacks in Pakistan

The Express Tribune
The United States has condemned the “senseless and inhumane” extremist attacks in Pakistan after a day of bomb blasts that killed 126 people and sparked angry protests by the Shia. Two suicide bombers killed 92 people and wounded 121 when they targeted a crowded snooker club in Quetta Thursday, in an area dominated by Shias from the Hazara ethnic minority. US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Friday said Washington offered “the families of those killed in these brutal attacks in Quetta, in Swat, in Karachi… our deepest condolences”. “We obviously stand with the people of Pakistan in strongly condemning these senseless and inhumane acts,” she added. “We remain concerned about extremist violence of any kind in Pakistan and remain committed to working with the government of Pakistan to combat terror.” Extremist Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) claimed responsibility for what was the worst ever sectarian attack on Shias, who account for around 20 percent of Pakistan’s 180 million population. Hundreds of Shias staged a sit-in at the devastated snooker hall on Friday, refusing to bury loved ones until the army takes responsibility for security in Quetta from paramilitary and police officers. The government in Balochistan, which is also fighting a separatist insurgency, announced three days of mourning, but the protesters squatted on the road alongside around 30 bodies draped in shrouds and placed in coffins. It was the deadliest attack in Pakistan since suicide bombers killed 98 people outside a police training centre in the northwest in 2011 – an assault claimed by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Meanwhile, unidentified men fired rockets on NATO containers carrying goods for international troops operating in Afghanistan, killing one person and destroying at least five vehicles in the Hazar Ganji area on the outskirts of Quetta on Friday. “A group of at least 12 unidentified men attacked the terminal and fired rockets, which triggered a massive fire and gutted five out of 10 containers parked there,” senior local police official Hamid Shakeel told AFP. He said that the attackers escaped after also shooting dead an employee at a nearby petrol pump. A local police official Noor Bukhsh Mengal also confirmed the incident. Earlier Thursday, a bomb detonated under a security force vehicle in a crowded part of Quetta, killing 11 people and wounding dozens. A bomb at a religious gathering in the northwestern Swat valley killed 22 people and wounded more than 80, the deadliest incident in the district since the army in 2009 fought off a two-year Taliban insurgency. At the snooker club, the first bomber struck inside the building then, 10 minutes later, an attacker in a car blew himself up as police, media workers and rescue teams rushed to the site, said police officer Mir Zubair Mehmood. Police official Hamid Shakeel put the death toll at 92. LeJ claimed responsibility in telephone calls to local journalists. The group has links to al Qaeda and the Taliban, and was involved in the kidnap and beheading of reporter Daniel Pearl in January 2002. The attacks, coupled with violence in the northwest, revived warnings from analysts that militancy could threaten national elections, expected some time in May. Polls would mark the first time an elected civilian government in Pakistan, for decades ruled by the military, completes a term in office and is replaced by another democratically elected government. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) demanded that the government take immediate steps to clamp down on “murdering mayhem” ahead of the elections.

Pakistan has a rape problem too
Days after a Delhi student's death, a Pakistani child was beaten and raped by three men. Where's the outrage?
Days after the Delhi gang-rape victim died, a 9-year-old girl in Pakistan was allegedly abducted from her home and raped by three men. The captors are said to have beat her before dropping her bleeding body in front of her house. One of the kidnappers is then reported to have threatened her mother, saying they would kill her if she contacted the police. She did anyway. The mother then took her daughter, a second-grader, to a nearby hospital where she was treated for a loss of blood and internal injuries. Police have arrested six suspects and a court case is pending. Few Pakistani media outlets carried this story and no demonstrations have been held in support of the young victim. Such a muted response is in stark contrast to the protests that are raging in India, demanding justice for the 23-year-old medical student who is alleged to have been raped and brutalized by six men on a moving bus in Delhi. Even if rape in Pakistan received the same kind of attention, however, finding justice for crimes of sexual violence can be an exceedingly arduous task in Pakistan. “I had even more people with me, I felt like the whole world was with me,” said Mukthar Mai, whose gang-rape unleashed an outcry in Pakistan in 2002. “But still I did not receive justice.” Thirteen of the fourteen men charged with raping Mai were acquitted in a case that was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court in 2011. Many in Pakistan now point to this her trial as a missed opportunity for reform in the country. Mai was gang-raped by members of a rival clan on the orders of a jirga, or village council, for an offense that her teenaged brother had allegedly committed. The severe social stigma associated with rape in Pakistan has pressured many women to commit suicide after suffering such crimes, and Mai admits that she tried repeatedly to end her own life. It was only when the national media began to report the story — framing her as a victim — that she felt renewed strength to take her case to court. “When I saw that the media and educated people were standing beside me, I got peace of mind from them,” Mai told GlobalPost from her home in Meerwala, a small village in Punjab. “I started to think that it’s better for a person to fight than to die. If not for yourself, then for others.” As her case drew international attention, Mai’s family, who had encouraged her to be quiet for fear of reprisals, eventually began to offer their support. She drew the attention of major political actors — although they did not always support her quest for justice. Mai applied for a visa to leave Pakistan and go to the United States. But in 2005, she was denied. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf implied at the time that Mai was just using her rape to get rich. “You must understand the environment in Pakistan,” he said on tape, but nonetheless later tried to deny. “This has become a money-making concern. A lot of people say if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped. It’s the easiest way of doing it.” India’s ruling elite has made similar statements in response to the now infamous Delhi rape case. Indian lawmaker Abhijit Mukherjee, the son of the Indian president, told regional news networks recently that it was becoming “fashionable to land up on the streets with candle in hand” for “dented and painted women chasing two minutes of fame.” Mukherjee too later retracted his statement. Mai laughs when reminded of what Musharraf said. She said she was offered citizenship in a number of countries, including Canada, but was committed to staying and working to improve conditions for women in her hometown. “I wanted to live in Meerwala, to work for the good of people in Meerwala,” Mai said. And she is doing just that. Illiterate when she was raped, Mai recalls how hard it was to file a police report and work on her case with lawyers without being able to read. She has since completed primary school and founded the Mukhtar Mai Women’s Organization, which provides education to young girls and refuge to battered women. She started the organization with about $8,000 given to her by President Musharraf, who made the gesture once her story began to make headlines. While Mai’s case went all the way to the Supreme Court, 13 of the 14 men originally charged in connection to her rape have been acquitted. One received life in prison. “That was a case you can say was a litmus test,” says Naeem Ahmed Mirza, who heads the Aurat Foundation, a Pakistani women’s rights organization. “It gave an overview of how lower and superior [courts] function, and how much they need to be sensitized to women’s issues, especially instances of violence.” Mirza says that Mai’s case was a missed opportunity for real change, but says it’s not just the legal system that need redress. “There needs to be more awareness and mobilization among masses, victims of violence, other women, and the implementers of these laws, from the police, to jirgas, lower courts and superior courts,” Mirza said. The media and the nonprofit sector also have a role to play in highlighting cases of rape and domestic violence, since many women feel too ashamed to speak out about it, Mirza said. An annual report compiled by the Aurat Foundation found that violence against women has generally been on the rise since it began to record figures in 2008. Instances of rape have increased from 778 in 2008 to 827 in 2011, with 928 in both 2009 and 2010. But as the report states, “Rape in particular is under-reported as the victims and their families … keep the matter hidden because of the shame and disgrace attached to the crime.” On a national level, activists say there is a lack of political will to deal with sexual violence in a more robust way. A bill intended to offer greater protections for female victims of domestic violence was passed by Pakistan’s National Assembly in 2009, but was thwarted by a religious conservative group. It’s seen repeated delays since, and must now earn approval from each of the country’s four provinces to have a chance at being implemented. While Mirza fears an increasingly conservative turn in the country will keep the bill from being enacted, if it does pass in the provinces, a new battle will arise — making sure it’s actually enforced.

Pakistan: Evaluation by IMF
The visiting International Monetary Fund (IMF) team in Islamabad for the purpose of carrying out Post-Programme Monitoring (PPM) has reportedly informed the Ministry of Finance that even the scaled down budgeted tax revenue collections are unrealistic and suggested that they be further revised downward to 2,231 billion rupees. The tax collection estimates were scaled down by the Federal Board of Revenue from the budgeted 2,503 billion rupees to 2,381 billion rupees. The reason, reports indicate, are a slowdown of the economy, electricity and gas shortages which continue to compromise the country's capacity to produce, escalating reliance on bank borrowings which continues to crowd out private sector borrowings, thereby disabling a powerful engine of growth, and expected failure to either realise foreign inflows from the stalled auction for 3G licences or generate the amount due from Etisalat under PTCL privatisation due to failure to ensure that all properties agreed under the sale have been handed over. The outcome would be a higher budget deficit than was envisaged. The budgeted deficit was estimated at 4.7 percent for the current fiscal year and it does not take the IMF to conclude that the deficit would be missed. Business Recorder has consistently argued that the past three years budgets are unrealistic in terms of (i) expenditure allocations, with over 300 billion rupees more disbursed than budgeted for untargeted subsidies and (ii) revenue generation capacity reflected by borrowings exceeding the budgeted amount by around 600 billion rupees in the last fiscal year alone. Thus, unfortunately, the revised budget estimates have proved the newspaper right. It has been suggested time and again that it would be in the national economic interest if the Ministry of Finance would begin a budgetary exercise that would be premised on realistic targets. The deficit, as per the IMF, would therefore be a lot higher than what was indicated in the 2012-13 budget documents. The exact deficit would of course depend on several decisions that maybe taken during the course of the current fiscal year, including major policy decisions that may be taken by the caretakers and which maybe at variance with what the present economic team is engaged in; however, a look at last year may well show by how much this government is capable of understating the deficit estimate. In last year's budget, Dr Hafeez Sheikh, the Federal Finance Minister, indicated a budget deficit of 4 percent while negative 7.4 percent was realised at the end of the year as per the budget documents. This figure included a whopping 346 billion rupees disbursed under power and food sector subsidies which, budget documents maintained would, if excluded, reduce the deficit to 5.5 percent. However, there can be no economic rationale for exclusion of unbudgeted subsidies. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate was estimated at 4.3 percent in the current year's budget documents - an amount that is unrealistic or so the IMF has indicated. It is unrealistic for two broad reasons, both known to the country's economic team. First and foremost, the GDP data does not indicate the changed sectoral priorities based on five to six years of detailed surveys that also required a changing of the base year to reflect a period other than when Pakistan was isolated by the international community after the Musharraf coup; the reason is an executive order of the Finance Minister to the Federal Bureau of Statistics to continue calculating the GDP growth within the same parameters. Secondly, the GDP estimates have in recent years been deliberately overstated to justify an unrealistic revenue collection target. It is unclear why the Ministry of Finance continues its policy of presenting unrealistic targets, and some of its data has been recently challenged by other members of the cabinet specifically the inflation figure, as it achieves no purpose and, need one add, fools no one. It doesn't even provide a reprieve to the Ministry of Finance as no one lends credence to the data released on the day of the budget. Pragmatism if not integrity would, one hopes, begin to compel the ministry to present realistic data.