Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bangladesh: National consensus to ban Jamaat-e-Islami

A national consensus is needed to ban the politics of fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, said Awami League Joint General Secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif on Tuesday. He said due to BNP's utter support towards Jamaat, the government is unable to put an immediate ban on its politics. “If people of the country are united against the politics of Jamaat and demand it’s banning, the government will response positively,” said Hanif, also a special assistant to the prime minister. Despite the intention of BNP and Jamaat of foiling the trial of war criminals, the present government will complete the trial on the soil of Bangladesh at any cost, said the ruling party leader.He urged the pro-liberation, secular, democratic forces and other like-minded organisations to march forward together to abolish the politics of such fundamentalists. He expressed resentment over the poor security measures around Bangladesh Secretariat as the Shibir men went berserk on Monday. He said it caused due to the irresponsibility of law enforces on duty. "This time law enforces showed enough patience to control the situation. But it will not be followed further," added Hanif as he was warning the disrupters of Jamaat-Shibir. The AL leader was speaking to reporters at a press briefing day after the mayhem of Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir in the capital. AL leaders Ahmed Hossain, BM Mozammel Haque, Mrinal Kanti Das, Faridun Nahar Laily, among others, were present at the press briefing held at the AL president's Dhanmondi office in the capital.

President Zardari stresses for projecting positive image of Pakistan

President Asif Ali Zardari has emphasized the need for projecting positive image of Pakistan to counter negative propaganda and perceptions. He was speaking at the launching ceremony of the PTV's English News and Entertainment Channel in Islamabad on Tuesday. The President expressed the confidence that the launching of English News Channel‚ Pakistan will help achieve this objective. He said we have been mis-read and mis-thought in the international media and there was need to counter this perceptive. The President said majority of the Pakistani young generation especially living abroad did not fully understand Urdu and even they did not understand the poetry of Allama Iqbal and Faiz Ahmed Faiz and other renowned poets. He said in these circumstances‚ there was a need to launch an English News Channel for providing latest‚ correct and accurate information to the young generation and to the international community. The President said launch of yet another TV channel will increase competitiveness in the field of electronic media. According to prepared text of the address‚ the President said the independent media is guarantor of human rights‚ freedom and liberties. He said we recognize and respect his critical role of the media in furthering democracy and the record of this government in upholding freedoms and tolerance for dissent speaks for itself. Referring to media freedom given during the present government‚ the President said the government has not taken any action against anyone in the media. He said the government has extended the hand of friendship to all political forces and added he felt satisfied that this policy of the government has started paying dividends. The President said the government is earnestly addressing issues in media freedom and added that a Press Council has been set up and its Chairman has been appointed. He said now it is the responsibility of the Press Council to move forward and move fast in consultation with all stake holders. The President said the present government has a history of supporting media freedom. He said Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto as Prime Minister started the process of liberalization of the media. Addressing the ceremony of PTV English Channel‚ Information Minister said that media is enjoying unprecedented freedom in the country and not a single journalist has been victimized during the last five years. He said that international media has remained biased towards Pakistan and news about the country have been distorted. He hoped that PTV English Channel would project the real face of Pakistan at global level. The Information Minister said that democracy is flourishing in the country and credit for this goes to all the democratic forces. He said that our next target is launching of youth and music channels.

Obama to pitch immigration reform

President Barack Obama heads to Las Vegas on Tuesday to make his pitch for an overhaul of the immigration system after failing to press the issue during his first four years in office. With his re-election last November aided by strong support from Latino voters, Obama has made a comprehensive immigration bill a top legislative priority of his second term. The president will highlight his immigration stance in a speech at 2:55 p.m. ET at Del Sol High School, which the White House says has a 54% Hispanic student body, according to U.S. News and World Report rankings. Senior administration officials say Obama will not introduce new legislation on Tuesday, a day after eight senators unveiled a bipartisan framework for immigration reforms. Obama came under criticism from Latino activists for failing to deliver on a 2008 campaign promise to make overhauling immigration policy a priority of his first term. Last year, as his re-election campaign heated up, the Obama administration announced a halt to deportations of some young undocumented immigrants in a move that delighted the Latino community.Exit polls in November indicated that Latino voters gave overwhelming support to Obama over GOP challenger Mitt Romney, who had advocated a policy that amounted to forcing undocumented immigrants to deport themselves. On Tuesday, Obama will press for quick action on immigration and share details about his proposal, which includes a path to citizenship for more than 11 million undocumented immigrants.Senate lays out blueprint The White House may consider introducing its own legislation if the Senate framework made public Monday fails to gain traction, according to the administration officials. Under the compromise plan by the senators, millions of undocumented immigrants would get immediate but provisional status to live and work in the United States. The senators' outline also called for strengthening border controls, improved monitoring of visitors and cracking down on hiring undocumented workers. Only after those steps occurred could the undocumented immigrants already in the country begin the process of getting permanent residence -- green cards -- as a step toward citizenship, the senators said at a news conference. By the numbers: Immigration and naturalization
Conservatives split on reform
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a tea party-backed conservative considered a rising star in the Republican Party, said the goal of the framework he helped put together was a "modern immigration system" that treated everyone fairly, both the undocumented and those waiting to come to America legally. "None of this is possible if we don't address the reality there are 11 million people in this country who are undocumented," Rubio said Monday. However, another tea party-backed Republican, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, objected to the framework by his colleagues, saying the guidelines "contemplate a policy that will grant special benefits to undocumented immigrants based on their unlawful presence in the country." Other conservatives immediately voiced their opposition to what they called amnesty, a code word on the political right for providing undocumented immigrants a path to legal status. What's in Senate immigration plan? "When you legalize those who are in the country illegally, it costs taxpayers millions of dollars, costs American workers thousands of jobs and encourages more illegal immigration," said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, who serves on the immigration subcommittee in the House. "By granting amnesty, the Senate proposal actually compounds the problem by encouraging more illegal immigration." A litany of left-leaning advocacy groups spoke out on the senators' plan, praising it as a good first step but cautioning against harming the rights of workers. "The people of this country are ready for us to be one country again without second-class people being mistreated simply because they lack paper, even though they are already contributing to our economy and our tax system," NAACP President Ben Jealous said. Democratic senators backing the plan include Chuck Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado. On the Republican side were Rubio, John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona. Durbin said Tuesday that immigration reform must have bipartisan support to work, so it won't include everything everyone wants. "It's going to look different than what I might write, or the president might write," he said. Immigration Q&A: Amnesty or path to citizenship? House works on own plan A similar effort on immigration is said to be under way in the House, involving a group of Republicans and Democrats. Two senior House Democratic sources briefed on the effort told CNN the group was working to release some sort of outline of its plan soon, possibly as early as this week, but concede "they are not as far along as the Senate." Like the Senate framework, the House plan will include a path to citizenship, but details of how that will work are still being discussed. The Senate proposal is a good starting point, Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Florida, said Tuesday on CNN. "I think it puts us in a very good place," he said.

Dr Abdus Salam: The forgotten genius

BY: Suhail Yusuf
On a hot summer afternoon in 1940, a boy of 14 was rushing on his bicycle to his hometown near Jhang, part of present day Pakistan. He covered his head under a heavy turban because the barber had accidentally shaved off his hair. When he reached the town, he saw people lined up on either side of the road, greeting him with loud cheers. The boy had earned a distinction in his matriculation examinations; the young genius had broken all previous records within the province, he was Abdus Salam. Salam was born on January 29, 1926 in Jhang, then a small town in Punjab. After attending Government College, Jhang he went to Government College, Lahore in 1946 where he was awarded a masters degree in Mathematics, securing first place in the College with 95.5 per cent.
A wrangler in Cambridge
After his masters, Salam had two choices: Join the civil services or go abroad for further education. Luckily, he was offered a scholarship and instantly opted for the latter.
In 1946 at St. John’s College in Cambridge, Salam did his Tripos (BA honors) in just two years (the course usually takes three years) and because of this, he was given the title of ‘wrangler’ – a term given to students at Cambridge for obtaining first-class honours in the University’s undergraduate degree in mathematics. Salam was appointed as a fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton University, USA In 1951, where he attended a lecture by Albert Einstein. Author Zakaria Virk mentions a witty incident between Salam and Einstein in her book “Dr. Abdus Salam – Champion of Science in the Third World”: “One day, when Prof Salam was studying in Princeton, New Jersey, he met Prof Einstein casually on the campus of the Institute for Advanced Study. Einstein asked him, ‘what kind of research are you doing?’ Salam replied, ‘I am working on the renormalisation theory,’ to which Einstein replied, ‘I am not interested in that.’ After a few moments of silence, Einstein asked the Pakistani, ‘have you studied my Relativity Theory.?’ Salam replied, ‘I am not interested in that.’” The story of his doctoral thesis too is truly inspiring; he had taken up the complex task of eliminating infinities from the Meson Theory. Salam found a unique solution to this problem in just three short months! However, as per the regulations at Cambridge, he had to wait three years to receive his doctorate degree in 1952.
Back to Pakistan
While he was waiting to get his degree, Salam returned to Pakistan with the hope of serving his country. Upon his return, Salam was appointed the head of the Mathematics Department at Government College, Lahore from 1951-54. However, in that period with no research, minimal contacts or updated material to work with, Salam faced complete intellectual isolation. In addition to this, neglecting Salam’s outstanding academic career at Cambridge and Princeton, his principal at the college advised him to put aside his research, offering him three substandard jobs: warden of the hostel, chief treasurer of the college or president of the football club. Resignedly, Salam took up the football club offer. However, this occurrence resulted in major disappointment for Salam, prompting him to return to Cambridge as a lecturer. He was the pioneer of the Theoretical Physics Department at Imperial College, London, where he taught from 1957 to 1993. Back at Cambridge, he studied and interacted with PAM Dirac, Max Born, Wolfgang Pauli and other great minds of the time. In 1959, Salam became the youngest Fellow of the Royal Society at the age of 33 years. The Royal Society is the oldest science association on the planet During the 50s, Salam visited Pakistan often as an advisor on science policy to the government and in 1961 he was finally appointed as a Chief Scientific Advisor to the President of Pakistan. He laid the foundation of Pakistan Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) and made remarkable contributions in creating a culture of science in Pakistan. In 1973, at the Conference of Islamic Countries in Lahore, Salam presented a memorandum for the creation of Islamic Science Foundation.
The dream of ICTP
During a meeting at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Salam proposed the Idea of an International Center for Theortical Physics (ICTP). He planned a platform for physicists from the developing world to stop the ‘brain drain.’ In his book Salam wrote, “The notion of a centre that should cater particularly to the needs of physicists from developing countries had lived with me from 1954, when I was forced to leave my own country. I realised that if I stayed there much longer, I would have to leave physics, through sheer intellectual isolation” (Ideals and Realities 3rd ed., World Scientific, 392, 1989). Salam was interested to establish the centre in Pakistan. He also passed on this idea to President Ayub Khan. When Ayub Khan briefed his Finance Minister, Mohammad Shoaib, about the idea, the minister dismissively replied, “Salam wants to make a hotel for scientists rather than a centre.”
Unification of Fundamental Forces
Dr Salam was often quoted as saying, “Progress, begins with the belief that what is necessary is possible.” With this spirit he presented the unification theory of electromagnetic and weak forces – the basic but very different forces of nature; he named it the ‘Electroweak Force.’ The theory predicted basic particles of W and Z bosons. The experimental stamp was put to theory when Carlo Rubbia discovered them in atom smashing machines at the Center for European Nuclear Research (CERN). Rubbia was also conferred the Noble Prize in 1984 with Simon Van Der Meer for the discovery of the particles. Despite being afflicted with Parkinson’s disease, Salam produced high level research papers until 1995. He worked on Chirality and its role in the origin of life, gravity, fermions, superconductivity, symmetry, proton decay and science and human development.
The Nobel Prize
In 1979, he shared the Noble Prize of Physics with US physicists Steven Weinberg and Sheldon Glashow. For the Nobel Prize ceremony, he wore the traditional Pakistani dress of shalwar and sherwani with a turban. He was also allowed to give his speech in Urdu.
Beside the unification of Physics, Salam had another passion; to unify humanity for science. He often said science is the common heritage of mankind. In 1964, he setup a rendezvous for science called the International Centre for Theoretical Physics. And due to the laudable efforts of the Italian government, the centre still continues to do wonders in the beautiful city of Trieste. Unesco and IAEA also supported the effort for the centre which was set up to bridge the gap between the scientists of the south and the north. The ICTP mission statement says: “Foster the growth of advanced studies and research in physical and mathematical sciences, especially in support of excellence in developing countries. Develop high-level scientific programmes keeping in mind the needs of developing countries, and provide an international forum of scientific contact for scientists from all countries. Conduct research at the highest international standards and maintain a conducive environment of scientific inquiry for the entire ICTP community.” The center also offers strong scientific research and outreach programs, organising more than 60 international conferences, seminars and numerous workshops annually. Thousands of scientists and scholars visit the ICTP every year to avail the center’s travel fellowships as well. Salam was the Founding Director for the ICTP from 1964 to 1993. Apart from his passion for Physics, Salam also felt strongly about providing a platform for scientists from the developing world. He established the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), also located in Trieste, for this very reason. TWAS supports scientists in the developing world through a variety of grants and fellowships. Salam breathed his last in Oxford, England on November 21, 1996. In an email to Dawn.com, world renowned physicist, author and professor of physics at the University of Texas, USA, Steven Weinberg said: “As a graduate student, though I had not yet met Salam, I spent a good deal of time reading his papers on quantum field theory. So I was very pleased when he invited me to spend 1961-2 at Imperial College, where he was the leading theorist. We became friends and collaborators, and wrote a paper together (with Jeffrey Goldstone) that turned out to be pretty important. Of course, before and after that Salam did work of the highest importance in theoretical physics. Physicists in general, and I in particular, miss him greatly.”

Bahrain must stop jailing journalists, Reporters Without Borders says

Reporters Without Borders has censured Bahrain for imprisoning journalists and human rights activists. “We are sounding the alarm about the recent arrests of journalists and human rights activists in Bahrain and we condemn the government’s nearly two-year-old policy of harsh repression,” Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières -- RSF) said in a statement issued on Monday. “The authorities clearly want to obstruct journalists and prevent the flow of information about demonstrations and their suppression by the security forces,” the statement added. RSF cited the examples of Ahmed Humaidan, a Bahraini photojournalist, who has been in custody since December 29, 2012, and Sayed Yousif al-Muhafda, a human rights activist, who will go on trial on Tuesday on charges of circulating false news. Al-Muhafda, who is the vice president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the head of its documentation department, was arrested on December 17 and held for a month, but was finally released on bail on January 17. He is charged with deliberately disseminating false news on Twitter with the aim of inciting violence. RSF has asked the Bahraini judiciary to drop the charges against al-Muhafda, saying the charges were only filed to punish him for his commitment to the free flow of information about the human rights situation in Bahrain. Reporters Without Borders has called for his immediate release and the dismissal of all the charges against him. Over 30 international human rights organizations, including Reporters Without Borders, have sent a joint letter to the US president, calling on him to pressure the Bahraini government to free all the human rights defenders and activists being held in the Persian Gulf kingdom. Since mid-February 2011, thousands of pro-democracy protesters have staged numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded the country to assist the Bahraini government in its crackdown on the peaceful protesters. According to local sources, scores of people have been killed and hundreds arrested. Physicians for Human Rights says doctors and nurses have been detained, tortured, or disappeared because they have "evidence of atrocities committed by the authorities, security forces, and riot police" in the crackdown on anti-government protesters.

The young are the hope to rejuvenate Egypt

Mistaken are those who think the young are helpless. Egypt began to demonstrate exactly that two years ago Jan. 25. Today it still does. In the lead-up to Egypt’s third year of revolution, groups of young, angry and disappointed Egyptians showcased their ability to dissent in a series of events around the capital. Jan. 23, hundreds of the “Ultras,” originally organized to support their favorite soccer team, flooded an underground metro station and blocked the tracks for a few hours. Simultaneously, they brought Cairo’s 6th of October Bridge, which cuts across the city from east to west, to a halt amidst the end-of-day rush hour, paralyzing traffic all around the city. Their rowdy sit-in around the main downtown stock exchange rounded up their warning signals. This young group might not have been among the main dissenting groups demanding change two years ago, but they have developed today into a forceful group with a grievance they will not ignore. Their initial involvement in Egypt’s Tahrir Square in the earlier stages of the Egyptian revolution shed light on their abilities to organize and their numbers around the country. They developed from young, energetic soccer fans to a true patriotic stakeholder following the brutal massacre in Port Said February 2012. The Port Said Massacre took the lives of 70 fans and their friends. The survivors will not forget and will not forgive easily. They have since awaited legal justice. Jan. 23, they announced they have had enough dallying in the courts. A verdict was postponed to Jan. 25, with rumors it could be postponed again. They might not be the biggest groups, they might not be the greatest politicians and they might not be the only revolutionaries, but they are, however, the youngest and therefore a force to be reckoned with. Their power stems from their values, for unlike adults, they have not yet learned to compromise. Their integrity, their pain and their loyalty to their massacred friends continue to ignite their drive to demand justice. Unlike their seniors, they have an unrestricted imagination, flowing energy and very strong links to each other. They believe in the virtues of right and wrong enough to fight for them vehemently. The one thing they are not afraid of is death. In all their recent chants, they declare they are willing to die if justice to their martyrs is not served. “Justice to them or we die like them,” is a translation of one of their popular slogans. It has already been two years since the first wave of revolution; the second wave is just beginning. Time is of the essence to all in Egypt. The old should never underestimate the young. The passage of time adds to the young and younger, while it takes away from the old. The future is theirs and the present will be shortly. It would be wise of the old not to underestimate their young. Unarmed with experience, unlimited by boundaries, unrestricted in their hearts and thoughts, youthfulness is their power. They will carve their way through. They are the hope for Egypt; the oldest human civilization, to once again rejuvenate and become youthful. We have been warned.

EGYPT: ''Conjuring the demon''

BY:Rana Allam
Morsy, you are now face to face with those who have lost everything, including their hope for a better future and their faith in you
So the president waves his forefinger at us during a long awaited speech amid bloodshed and chaos, declaring a 30-day curfew in the three major canal cities and a state of emergency, while allowing harsher measures to be taken by his now-beloved Ministry of Interior. It is quite interesting that he would impose curfew in Ismailia (which didn’t have much rioting until the curfew decision!) and leave Cairo, which is paralysed by the violence in its downtown area and the frequent cutting of major roads and bridges. These are of course questions to be asked and never answered. Egypt is bursting with opposition to this decision, except of course those who support Morsy (no matter what he does and before he does it), and those who believe that crushing people will bring “stability”. I am not one of those; I am against all acts of violence and oppression. A state of emergency and curfews and more weapons are never the solution. Besides, what will be the gain from announcing a state of emergency? The police already detain people without warrants; many were taken from their homes in the past few days. Also, Egyptians never respect curfews; they held protests during curfew hours right after the president’s speech. So basically, the only gain is legalising random detention and allowing the use of lethal weapons in facing protesters. Admittedly, we are hearing of protesters carrying firearms, which was not the case two years ago, back then the strength was in the numbers of protesters and the rocks they managed to find on the streets. But then, isn’t it Morsy and Co’s strategy to leave the MOI as corrupt as it has always been, so now heavy firearms are sold everywhere for reasonable prices? They have left the MOI without punishment for their crimes, isn’t it a consequence that everyone is becoming a criminal? Didn’t they insist on keeping that failure of a government until people became hungry with no hope to eat? These are not the people fighting for a constitution…they are fighting for food, for justice, for survival. They can burn it all down. Morsy, if you think that meeting the opposition figures on a “national dialogue” will bring an end to this, you are completely delusional. To think that the shameful National Salvation Front or the weak political parties or even the popular activists can put a stop to this, or have any control over those on the streets, you must be joking. You are not fighting ElBaradei’s fans, nor Hamdeen’s, nor even Shafiq’s. The ladies and gents of Heliopolis and Zamalek are no longer your battle, you have moved behind those who have good jobs and posh homes. You are now face to face with those who have lost everything, including their hope for a better future and their faith in you. It will not be the likes of me marching on those protests anymore, it will be those who can handle violence, those who have nothing left to lose, who are way too many and way too chaotic. Now those who support Morsy’s crackdown on Egyptians believe that we can only be controlled by force. Those fools who, because they can only survive as slaves, think that all Egyptians are like them, and they repeat their revolution-days rhetoric, slamming us with the forever boring question: “what is the solution? You are complaining over and over… do you have a better solution to stop the bloodshed, and get the criminals and killers off the streets? Do you have a better solution than the use of force?” Well, I don’t have a solution. But then again, I am not the one who caused this deadlock, and as the Egyptian proverb goes: That who conjured the demon, should exorcise it! I am also quite positive that if our rulers want a peaceful solution, they can find one. If they realise that they are no longer an illegal organisation, if they move beyond the phobia of those trying to overthrow their regime, beyond the treason conspiracy theories. If only they ask themselves, why were people out on the streets in the first place? Maybe then , they will realise that it is Morsy and Co’s fault. They did this! Their interior ministry did this by continuing to torture people and detain them for no reason, while not doing their real job of maintaining peace and order on the streets. Their cabinet and its continuing failures in all aspects, on top of which the economic disaster we are living. Their constituent assembly and its deformed constitution. Their judges and their political agendas. Their counsellors, and their guidance bureau who time after time prove their ignorance of strategy and policy making, and most importantly how they ignore the poor people of this country. The solution is never weapons and force and detentions; it might give them a momentary gain, but it will backfire at the slightest spark. Even if they can control it now, can they control it a week from now? How long can their uniforms sustain dealing with this chaos? Those fighting you now are the Egyptians who are frustrated with their miserable daily hardships, their every day struggle, and guess what? They have no leader, but apparently they have a lot of weapons… and you have taken away their hope! Deal with it… and never ask me to approve of curfews and emergency laws and murder!

Opposition rejects Morsy’s call for dialogue

Egyptian opposition leaders have again rejected President Mohamed Morsy’s invitation to national dialogue, insisting the calls were insincere and demanding their own preconditions be met first. “This call for dialogue is for show, it is not serious. We have presented certain conditions for any serious dialogue and if they remain unmet we will not go to dialogue just to pose for the camera,” said National Salvation Front (NSF) leader Mohamed ElBaradei. He added that Egypt was currently facing many problems like the economy, poor security situation and political instability. “We have already presented our demands such as a new national unity government to address these problems, the dissolving of the Shura Council and amending the flawed constitution,” ElBaradei added. Popular Current leader Hamdeen Sabahy called on Morsy to admit full responsibility for the deaths of at least 40 people since Friday. The president must clearly state he respects the demands of Egyptians and their protesting, Sabahy added. “We reject all forms of violence, but a distinction should be made between the street’s violence, which is due to the lack of a political situation and the Ministry of Interior’s violence which has been unprecedented,” the third placed presidential runner up added. The Minister of Interior must be dismissed and put on trial, Sabahy added. “The National Salvation Front is preparing a comprehensive plan for Egypt that tackles the economy, political and security situations,” said former Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa. The Front said it rejects what it called Morsy’s threats. “The last person who threatened us was [former President Hosni] Mubarak,” said lawyers’ syndicate chairman Sameh Ashour. “There can be no dialogue while Egyptians are being killed, injured and arrested at the hands of the regime,” the NSF said in a statement. Finally, the opposition bloc reiterated its calls for protests next Friday if its demands remain unmet. “We will call for the revocation of the constitution and a return to the modified 1971 one as well as early presidential elections if the president does not respond to our demands.”

Egypt army chief warns of 'state collapse'

Defence minister says ongoing unrest, which has killed more than 50 people, "could lead to grave repercussion".
The Egyptian defence minister, General Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, has given warning that the unrest sweeping the country could lead to the collapse of the state. Failure to resolve the situation "could lead to grave repercussions if the political forces do not act" to tackle it, Sissi said on Tuesday, in comments posted on his Facebook page. "The continuing conflict between political forces and their differences concerning the management of the country could lead to a collapse of the state and threaten future generations," he said. His comments were excerpted from a speech he gave to students at a military academy. Sissi, who is also the head of Egypt's military, further said that the political, economical, social and security problems facing Egypt constitute "a threat to the country's security and stability". His comments will be seen as a warning to Egypt's political class, which has done little to end the unrest.

Karzai: Afghan government should lead peace talks

Associated Press
Afghanistan's president warned on Tuesday that all efforts at peace talks with the Taliban should go through the government, and appealed on the country's powerbrokers not to engage in such negotiations if the authorities are sidelines. Hamid Karzai insisted the government — and not foreign powers — must lead the talks if the country is to have any hope of emerging from a decade of fighting as a strong and unified nation. He said some Afghan powerbrokers and prominent political figures had been approached by foreign powers to hold talks through side channels, rather than working through the High Peace Council set up by the Afghan government. "All our politicians must know that the peace process will only have a good result if we are unified and the process goes forward and the process will go forward through the High Peace Council," Karzai said. The president said participating in talks with the Taliban without the government would weaken the country and urged all to refuse those offers. The Afghan peace process has made little headway since it began several years ago and has been hobbled by distrust between the Afghan government and the United States. Karzai has repeatedly decried foreign, and specifically American, efforts to jumpstart the talks while keeping the Afghan government in the dark. On Tuesday, Karzai upbraided his Western allies for trying to undermine what he said had to be an Afghan process. Though he referred mostly to the interference of "foreigners" in general, Karzai at one point directly targeted the United States, which is in the process of negotiating terms for its long-term presence in the country. "We told American government during our recent visit that no foreigners should try to hold the Afghan peace process in their hands," Karzai said. Since U.S.-backed talks broke down last March in a dispute over the release of five Taliban detainees held in American custody at a military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the High Peace Council has tried to take a greater role. The Taliban, meanwhile, have established a presence in Qatar and the council says they are hoping to be involved in talks with those in the Doha office. "I want to call on the Taliban and our politicians not to let the foreigners cheat them. Peace is only possible from one source: the High Peace Council, which includes all Afghans, all parties," Karzai said. Karzai spoke Tuesday at a conference about water management, where he first talked about the need for clean water systems and then broke off to address what he described as a "very important issue" — the varied attempts at peace talks with the Taliban.

Peshawar Sikhs worried, insecure over kidnappings

Insecurity has increased in the minority Sikh community of Peshawar city in northwest Pakistan after the kidnapping of a Sikh man and the killing of another, a media report said today. Mohinder Singh, a seller of herbal medicines, was kidnapped in Khyber tribal region last November. His mutilated body was found in a deserted location in the tribal belt last month. Last week, kidnappers took away Raghbir Singh, a 40-year- old cloth dealer, from near his house at Quaidabad on the outskirts of Peshawar. Local residents said Singh, a father of four, was on way back home from a gurdwara when the armed abductors overpowered him, bundled him into their car and took him to an unknown location. "The Sikh community is disturbed over the two incidents. They have approached some senior government officials to seek their help in recovery of Raghbir Singh but things are yet to work in their favour," former Deputy Attorney General Khurshid Khan told The News. Khan, who has close links with the Sikhs and often performs 'seva' at gurdwaras, visited a Sikh shrine in Peshawar and expressed his sympathies with around 200 elders of the community over the killing of Mohinder Singh and the kidnapping of Raghbir Singh. Sikhs are a peaceful community and were never involved in any kind of crime but they were suffering for the past few years due to kidnappings, said Khan. Around 3,000 Sikhs have settled in Peshawar, mostly in Dabgari area, while hundreds more live in other districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and Khyber and Orakzai tribal regions. Members of the Sikh community said they have lodged a First Information Report about the kidnapping of Raghbir Singh at Bhanamari police station but no progress had been reported so far in tracing him. Sikh elders met Haroon Bilour, advisor to the Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister, to seek his help for the safe recovery of the kidnapped man. Bilour assured the elders that he would take up the matter with relevant government agencies. Some years ago, 33-year-old Sikh IT professional Robin Singh was kidnapped from Peshawar. He later returned home safe and sound. Before that, three other Sikhs were kidnapped from Khyber Agency in January 2010. One of them, Jaspal Singh, was later killed while the two others were rescued during a military operation.

Punjab govt’s love for Turkish companies wears off after alleged exchequer loss

The employees of the Turkish company managing the parking lots in the metropolitan have been allegedly causing a loss to the government exchequer, forcing the authorities concerned to involve other international firms in the bidding process, Pakistan Today has learnt. Lahore Parking Company (Le-Park) is going to bid the parking areas of metropolitan in a joint venture with other international companies apart from the Turks. The company prefers to hand over the parking contract with the joint venture. Mainly, the companies from Germany, Austria and Saudi Arab are interested for the parking area of Lahore. The companies will manage the working with the local contracts that have the international license. Sources on good authority revealed that the revenue collection of a major site, Liberty Market, dropped suddenly since the Turks took over. The Turkish company may also be replaced, the sources said, adding that the Turks had failed to provide appropriate service at parking stands of the Liberty. “The company does not have enough capacity or size to handle a place like Liberty,” the source said, adding that “The machines at Liberty are all worn out and some of them are not even working. The company is still using the old system to issue parking tickets. The Turkish company is using tickets printed in Turkey, which are in Turkish, instead of using the ones printed by the City District Government Lahore (CDGL). Taking to Pakistan Today the Officials of Le-Park said, “The companies of west are more professional and more competent and the Turks aren’t really doing a good job,” adding that many companies were showing interest in the parking stands of Lahore. “Our options are open and for future ventures we might consider other companies. We will learn from our experiences with the Turkish companies and that will help us improve our service,” they added.

Policeman killed in attack on polio vaccination team in Swabi

Unknown gunmen attacked a polio immunisation team in Gullu Dheri area of Swabi district on Monday killing a policeman who was escorting the team. The two assailants, who were riding a motorcycle, fled from the area after the attack. SHO of Swabi police station told Dawn.com that the two lady health workers, comprising the anti-polio team, remained unhurt and were sent back to their unit, adding that the anti-polio campaign continued in other parts of the province. The body of the deceased policeman was shifted to the District headquarters Hospital Swabi. Dr Riaz, incharge of the polio campaign said that 538 teams, comprising of 754 lady health workers, were operating for the eradication of the polio virus and that each team was escorted by a policeman. He further said that a meeting would be held with the DCO and DPO to discuss the future of the three-day immunisation campaign which was scheduled from Jan 28 till Jan 30. No group had claimed responsibility for the attack till the filing of this report. Nine polio workers were killed in a string of attacks targeting the immunisation workers across the country in Dec 2012.

Bill Gates to affirm resolve to root out polio

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates will this week deliver the annual BBC Richard Dimbleby Lecture in which he will spell out his commitment to rid the world of poliovirus, which can cause paralysis and even death within hours. Medical experts have demanded concrete steps to eradicate poliovirus from affected countries of the world. According to them, it is high time for making a strong strategy to protect children from this crippling disease. Bill Gates is the single most influential voice in global health, so when he turns his attention to an issue, it is worth listening. Through the Gates Foundation, Gates and his wife Melinda have already given away nearly $30 billion of their fortune and there are tens of billions more in the pipeline. He has spoken of his passionate belief in the power of vaccines and his determination to defeat polio. In his lecture Gates will liken the pace of innovation in computers with the fight against polio. He will say, “In the late 1970s we had a dream of giving everybody access to computer technology – a vision of a computer on every desktop. Now there is a computer in every pocket. The pace of innovation keeps getting faster. The same is true of polio. It was first recognised at least 4,000 years ago, but it was just 200 years ago we figured out it’s contagious – just 100 years ago we learned it’s a virus. Just 50 years ago we developed the vaccine to prevent it. Just 25 years ago we resolved to eradicate it.” But Gates will also acknowledge that the final push against polio is proving extremely difficult. “I can say without reservation that the last mile is not only the hardest mile, it’s also much harder than I expected,” he said. The killing of nine health workers last month was a reminder of the challenges facing those trying to chase down the virus and protect every last child. Part of polio’s danger is its utter portability – it can be spread across borders by one infected traveller, who can continue to transfer virus for weeks. Only last week an emergency vaccination programme was ordered in Cairo after samples of the poliovirus were found in sewage – the strain matches that in Pakistan. The oral polio vaccine can –in very rare cases – trigger polio. The World Health Organisation says this happens in one in 2.5 million first doses of vaccine. Over the past decade 15 billion doses of polio vaccine drops have been given and there have been 200 confirmed cases of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus. But with naturally occurring polio cases now so low there is a minority which claims the oral live vaccine is causing significant harm. This is a now or never moment – exterminate polio from the planet over the next few years or face a humiliating retreat which could see the virus re-emerge in scores of countries. Gates recognises what is at stake for global health: “Polio eradication is a proving ground, a test. It will reveal what human beings are capable of, and suggest how ambitious we can be about our future.”

Pakistan: PPP smells efforts to impose unconstitutional rule

Daily Times
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Raza Rabbani has said that efforts are being made by undemocratic forces to install unconstitutional government in the country for the next two to three years. During an informal talk to the media on Monday, Rabbani said that dissolution of the Election Commission of Pakistan would be an unconstitutional move. The senior PPP leader said that efforts were being made to create conditions similar to those of the 1977 general election in the country. He said that under a deliberate attempt, some elements were trying to damage the credibility of the ECP and make it controversial. He said that undemocratic forces were trying to postpone the election and there was a sword hanging over the democratic process. “The future of democratic process hangs in the balance.” Rabbani said that the only constitutional move available to remove chief election commissioner or members of the ECP was to use Article 209. He urged all democratic forces to unite and jointly fight those who wanted to derail the democratic process, and foil all conspiracies aimed at creating anarchy in the country. The senator’s comments came at a moment when the country prepares for historic general election.

Pakistan's economic woes are being overlooked

By Bruce Stokes
Pakistan is a country beset with political difficulties, but they could be of secondary importance to its economic woes. While much attention has been devoted to the dramatic Supreme Court move to order the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on charges of corruption and recent large-scale protests led by populist cleric Tahirul Qadri to demand the resignation of the government ahead of elections due in May, the country's financial difficulties have been overlooked. Likewise recent deadly militant bombings have also distracted attention, as have skirmishes with India on the Line of Control (LoC) that divides the disputed Kashmir region. These headline-grabbing events have not only served to obscure the profound economic challenges facing Pakistani society but in many cases have also nurtured and aggravated them.
'Deteriorating economy'
The truth is that the Pakistani people are deeply troubled by the plight of their economy and their own economic prospects. With the government likely to ask the International Monetary Fund this year for a new aid package, the nation's economic plight may soon become topic number one in the global discussion about Pakistan's future. "Deep seated structural problems and weak macroeconomic policies have continued to sap the [Pakistani] economy's vigour," the IMF's executive board concluded in late November. Economic growth over the past four years, after adjustment for inflation, averaged 2.9% annually, and is projected to be only 3.2% in 2012-13. That, says the IMF, is not sufficient to achieve significant improvement in living standards and to absorb the rising labour force. All this at a time when prices are rising about 11% per year. Moreover, the government deficit was 8.5% in the last fiscal year and press reports suggest it may miss its budget deficit target this year by a significant amount. The IMF expects foreign reserves this fiscal year to be half what they were just two years ago, a sign of waning investor confidence and a deteriorating international economic situation. Hardly surprising then that the Pakistani people are extremely downbeat. 'Personal pain' Roughly nine out of 10 say the economy is bad, including a majority (64%) who think that it is very bad, according to the 2012 Pew Global Attitudes survey. Just 9% rate the economy positively. There has in fact been a sharp decline in economic ratings in Pakistan since the beginning of the global economic recession. In 2007, 59% said the economy was doing well; by 2008, this percentage had dropped to 41% and has continued to fall since then. A plurality (43%) believes the economy will only worsen. For many of them, this pain will be felt personally. Their assessment of their own personal economic situation is down 19 percentage points since 2008, one of the largest fall-offs among the 15 countries for which the Pew Research Centre has comparable data. Only 38% say they are better off than their parents. More than half (57%) say they are worse off than five years ago. And 65% say it will be very difficult for their children to
advance economically.
Unemployment is one of the public's major concerns. Nine out of 10 people say that the lack of jobs is a very big problem, a more important issue to them than concern about corrupt political leaders or unrest in Kashmir. However because the survey was conducted in the spring of 2012, it could be that concern about Kashmir has risen more recently because of flare-ups in January along the LoC. While it is true that issues of life and death and war and peace will always trump economic news, the dire nature of Pakistan's economic problems could ultimately feed political and social unrest as the regional and global discussion about Pakistan's future moves to centre stage. Polling suggests that the people of Pakistan may say this refocusing is long overdue.

Pakistan Army likely to begin training Afghan forces

Islamabad and Kabul are close to signing a deal that will allow the Pakistan Army to train Afghan national security forces, in the latest sign of improving ties between the neighbouring nations.
The progress was made during talks between visiting Afghan Defence Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi and army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi on Monday. Pakistan has long been offering Afghanistan to train its army but, until now, Kabul had shown little interest, largely due to the trust deficit between the two countries. The talks, led by the Afghan defence minister and the Pakistani army chief, proved to be decisive as the two sides agreed to explore the possibility of “military training exchanges,” a senior military official disclosed to The Express Tribune. The official said the Afghan delegation would visit military institutions as part of efforts to assess how the two neighbours could enter into an accord to strengthen military-to-military contacts. He added that that Pakistan has one of the best military training institutions in the region and this could help Afghan forces, including its officers and soldiers. A statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) also hinted at progress in talks over military training. The statement said the two sides discussed matters of professional interest, with particular focus on “enhancing mutual defence cooperation and measures that the Afghan National Army and Pakistan Army intend to initiate for an enduring training relationship.” Another official said that the visit is “likely to mark a new page in the history of Pak-Afghan relations.” “It is also of note that General Bismillah is a non-Pashtun, a Tajik, by origin. This vindicates the fact that Pakistan is moving ahead with the vision of a broad-based relationship with Afghanistan,” said the official. Pakistan is considered crucial for the peace process in Afghanistan because of its historic ties with Afghan insurgents, including the Taliban. The official said General Kayani told the Afghan defence minister that Pakistan would make all-out efforts for a “peaceful, stable and united Afghanistan”. Gen Kayani maintained that the release of Taliban detainees was part of Pakistan’s ‘sincere efforts’ to help the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process. He also assured the Afghan delegation of full support to bring normalcy to the border region, which “should have a direct and positive effect on the stability in Afghanistan so that situation could become ripe for the drawdown of Isaf forces in 2014”. The two sides also discussed the possibility of converting the existing trilateral border control mechanism into bilateral arrangement once the US-led foreign forces leave the country. In his remarks, the Afghan defence minister thanked Pakistan for releasing some important Taliban prisoners, which, he said, would help kick-off a broad-based intra-Afghan dialogue. The Afghan defence minister also called on President Asif Ali Zardari and discussed defence cooperation and the fight against extremism. President Zardari said Pakistan attached great importance to its ties with Afghanistan and added that the delegation’s visit would help further cement relations.

PRESIDENT ZARDARI: Pakistan highly values its ties with Afghanistan

Afghan Defence Minister Bismillah Khan called on President Asif Ali Zardari in Islamabad Monday and discussed matters regarding defence cooperation and war on terror.
Talking to him‚ President Zardari said Pakistan gives importance to its ties with Afghanistan. Bismillah Khan said his country wants to promote defence relations with Pakistan. Earlier, Afghan Defence Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi arrived here on a five-day official visit to boost counter-terrorism cooperation between the two countries, Afghan officials said Monday. Mohammadi visiting with an Afghan delegation to meet top Pakistani officials and military leaders to discuss topics of national security, including cooperation on defence from insurgents and border coordination. The six-member delegation will also visit various defence institutions. Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had extended the invitation to the minister during his visit to Kabul in November last year. The officials are expected to talk about recent cross-border attacks which have been a source of tension between the two countries in recent months, as well as a "roadmap" for security that Afghanistan has already handed over to Pakistan about the future set-up after the Nato-led military forces withdrawal in 2014, they said.

Obama to tread carefully in immigration debate

President Barack Obama will wade cautiously into the debate over U.S. immigration reform on Tuesday, seeking to build momentum for a new bipartisan plan to offer a pathway to citizenship for the country's 11 million illegal immigrants. Reflecting the growing clout of Hispanic voters, Obama will travel to Nevada little more than a week after his second inauguration and make the case for swift action by Congress to overhaul immigration laws. Immigration reform could give Obama a landmark second-term legislative achievement, but he is expected to tread carefully in a speech in Las Vegas, just a day after a group of influential Senate Democrats and Republicans laid out a broad plan of their own. Obama's challenge is to help build public support for the senators' framework, which is in line with many of his main ideas for a sweeping immigration overhaul, while not alienating his fiercest Republican foes who might resist anything with the Democratic president's name on it. While Obama is likely to use the bully pulpit of the presidency, backed up by a White House-organized grass-roots campaign, he will likely be more circumspect for now about how personally involved he becomes in congressional negotiations. "The minute it becomes Obama's plan, the Republicans kick automatically into opposition," said Bill Schneider, a political scientist at George Mason University in Virginia. "The White House knows to back off for now." Scheduled to speak at a Las Vegas high school at 11:15 a.m. PST, Obama does not intend to unveil legislation of his own. He will instead urge lawmakers to press ahead with their efforts even as he restates the "blueprint" for reform he rolled out in 2011, which called for an "earned" path to citizenship, administration officials said. The flurry of activity marks the first substantive drive in years to forge an agreement on fixing America's flawed immigration system. Though the debate is likely to be contentious there is a growing consensus in Washington that the conditions are finally ripe for tackling the problem. Obama and his fellow Democrats see their commitment to immigration reform as a way to solidify their hold on the growing Latino vote, which they won handily in the 2012 election. Nevada, for example, has a fast-growing Hispanic population that helped Obama carry the state in the November election. Many Republicans, worried that their party has alienated Hispanics with anti-immigrant rhetoric, are suddenly open to cooperation on the issue as they seek to set a new tone.
The eight-member Senate group includes John McCain, a Republican from the border state of Arizona; Charles Schumer, a centrist Democrat from New York; and Republican Marco Rubio of Florida, a Cuban-American favorite of the Tea Party movement who has helped garner support from influential conservatives. Translating the aspirations expressed by the group into an inevitably lengthy and complicated bill will itself be a major challenge in Congress. At the same time, the White House wants to see further details before Obama will fully embrace the senators' approach. In an attempt to build support, the Senate proposal would couple immigration reform with enhanced border security efforts aimed at preventing illegal immigration and ensuring that those foreigners temporarily in the United States return home when their visas expire. Under the proposal, undocumented immigrants would be allowed to register with the government, pay a fine, and then be given probationary legal status allowing them to work. Ultimately, these immigrants would have to "go to the end of the line" and apply for permanent status. But while waiting to qualify for citizenship, they would no longer face the fear of deportation or harassment from law enforcers if they have steered clear of illegal activity. Obama's aides consider it a breakthrough that Republican members of the bipartisan group of senators have agreed to a path to citizenship, a concept that many in their party have long opposed as tantamount to amnesty for law-breakers. The White House remains wary, however. The president's aides have written up extensive legislative language for an immigration overhaul and will step in with their own formal proposals if the Senate effort falls apart, an administration official said. Immigration reform, sidelined by economic issues and healthcare reform during Obama's first term, is part of an ambitious liberal agenda he laid out in his second inaugural address. That agenda also includes gun control, gay rights and fighting climate change. Last summer, Obama took executive action so that the federal government stopped seeking to deport illegal immigrants who had arrived in the United States as children - a dramatic change that was celebrated in the Hispanic community. After winning the bitterly fought election, Obama promised to tackle the issue comprehensively early in his new term.