Friday, February 8, 2013

Madonna - Papa Don't Preach

South Cyprus condemns Erdoğan's remarks calling him a 'bully'

The government of South Cyprus strongly condemned Feb. 8 the remarks of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in which he claimed that there was "no such thing as Cyprus as a country." "The agitation and bullying manifested by Erdoğan cannot change our determination for freedom and reunification. Cyprus is a country and a member of the U.N. as well as the EU, of which it assumed the presidency during the previous six months. It exercises its sovereign rights such as the exploitation of its natural resources," said Christos Christofides, a Greek Cypriot government spokesman. Erdoğan had slammed the EU once again during his Central European visits to three countries this week. "To begin, [Greek] Cyprus is not a state, it's an administration. There is no such thing as Cyprus as a country," he said during a speech at Eötvös Lorand (ELTE) University in Budapest, during his bilateral visit to Hungary on Feb. 5. The candidate of the ruling communist party, AKEL, in the presidential elections to be held on Feb. 17 and former Foreign Minister Giorgios Lillikas has also denounced Erdoğan's words. "I hope that those who wished that natural gas be transported to Europe via Turkey will come down to earth," said Lillikas. South Cyprus' initiatives to explore for oil and natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean have heated the already strained relations between the two countries. Nikos Anastasiadis, the leader of the Democratic Rally (DISY) and one of the most fervent supporters of the Annan Plan for the reunification of the island back in 2004, is another Greek Cypriot politician who has reacted strongly to Erdoğan's comments. Anastasiadis' press secretary, Tasos Mitsopulos, said that any prospect of Turkey entering the EU had to pass through EU-member South Cyprus and called on the government to file a complaint about the Turkish prime minister.

China refutes Japan's allegations on radar targeting

China on Friday refuted Japan's allegations that Chinese warships targeted fire-control radars at Japanese vessels in the East China Sea. "Recently, Japan has repeatedly spread false accusations that have distorted facts and defamed Chinese military's normal combat readiness training," according to a statement issued by the information office of the Chinese Ministry of National Defense. The statement was issued responding to Japanese media reports that Japan's defense ministry said Tuesday that a frigate of the Chinese navy directed its fire-control radar at a destroyer of the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) in the East China Sea at around 10 a.m. on Jan. 30. The Japanese side also said that a Chinese frigate was suspected of locking a similar radar on a MSDF helicopter on Jan. 19 in the East China Sea. The defense ministry's statement pointed out that Japanese warships and airplanes have often conducted long and close-in monitoring and surveillance over China's naval ships and airplanes in recent years. It said this "is the root cause to air and maritime safety issues between China and Japan." "At around 4 p.m. on Jan. 19, a Chinese naval frigate, while conducting routine training in relevant waters in the East China Sea, spotted an approaching ship-borne helicopter of the Japanese Self Defense Force (JSDF)," said the statement. It added that the ship-borne radars of the frigate kept normal observation and were on alert but the fire-control radar was not used. "At around 9 a.m. on Jan. 30, a Chinese naval ship found itself closely followed and monitored by JSDF destroyer Yudachi while conducting routine training in relevant waters in the East China Sea; ship-borne radars of the Chinese naval ship kept normal observation and were on alert, and fire-control radar was not used," said the statement. "The Japanese side's remarks are against the facts," it said. During a daily news briefing on Friday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called Japan's allegations "a sheer fabrication out of nothing." Hua said the Chinese side has always been restrained, taken a responsible attitude and is committed to addressing the relevant issue through dialogue and consultation, while taking necessary measures to safeguard the country's territory and sovereignty, since the Japanese side triggered the disputes over the Diaoyu Islands last year. "Rather than rectify their wrongdoings, the Japanese side has dispatched many warships and airplanes to infringe on China's sovereignty,which has further escalated the tensions," Hua said. She urged Japan to "stop playing petty tricks" and go back on the right track of addressing the issue through dialogue." According to the defense ministry's statement, China has lodged representations to the Japanese side many times. In the statement, the Chinese defense ministry accused Japan of unilaterally releasing untrue information to the media. It also accused senior Japanese government officials of making irresponsible remarks that hyped up the "China threat", without verifying related facts with the Chinese side. The statement said Japan's allegations this time "recklessly" created tensions and misled public opinion in the world. "We must be vigilant against and ponder such moves by Japan," said the statement. "China hopes that Japan will take effective measures and stop stirring up tensions in the East China Sea, and stop making irresponsible remarks," added the statement.

Japan declares propaganda war on China, Korea and Russia

For many decades, Russia and Japan have been unable to resolve their territorial disputes. The Kuril Islands are a stumbling block in the relations between the two countries. Time passes, presidents and the governments change, various programs are being created, but the problem remains. What is preventing the neighboring countries from solving this problem once and for all? Japan is planning to engage in propaganda of its position in disputes with Russia, South Korea and China. To implement this, the Government established a special unit that includes 15 officials and independent experts. Their task is to study and thoroughly analyze the positions of other countries on the territorial disputes. Observers note that Tokyo announced the information war, first of all, against Beijing and Seoul. "Russia should be more active in communicating its position on the Kuril Islands to the world community," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. Japan for years has been claiming the four southern Kuril Islands: Kunashir, Iturup, Habomai and Shikotan. Moscow, in turn, insisted that the Southern Kuriles became part of the USSR after World War II and Russia's sovereignty over them should not cause any doubt.Japan has a hard time in the foreign policy because it has territorial disputes with nearly all its neighbors in the Asian region. In addition, these countries, especially China, deployed serious anti-Japanese campaigns that emphasize that Japan is a belligerent country that has captured the Senkaku Islands as a result of aggression on the mainland. China argues that the claim to these islands is without any historical or legal justification. South Korea is also conducting an information war with Japan. This is what caused the desire of the Japanese authorities to resist anti-Japanese campaigns and communicate its position to the international community. Japan does not need such propaganda within the country as it firmly believes that the country's position in all these disputes is the right one. According to experts, Japan will use all available means: political, diplomatic, informational, and even economic. The specially designed unit will work through the media, diplomats, and will use "soft" power. A researcher of the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Takushoku University, professor Vasily Molodyakov, doubts that the Japanese will come up with some new moves because they tend to underestimate and even ignore the positions of other countries. This is particularly evident in territorial issues. The Japanese believe that their position is the only right one. If you disagree with them, they will try to explain their position again, forgetting that it has long been known to their partners. Vasily Molodyakov assumes that the target audience of Japan is youth, which means a possible use of manga, anime, and other "soft" means. A significant part of the Japanese firmly believes that Russia is currently going through the Japanese boom. They believe that if the Russian public is told once again that the South Kurils is a "native land of Japan," they are likely to take these arguments to heart and appeal to President Putin asking him to hand over those territories to Japan. This expectation, however, is on the verge of fiction. Active propaganda began in the late 1980s, but fully unfolded in the 1990s. Japan produced a number of publications describing how the Soviet Union illegally took away the Japanese land. In the 1990 the thought that the Kuril Islands was the native land of Japan has been actively discussed in the Russian press. This view was supported by many observers in the Russian Federation and some scientists studying Japan. It was then suggested to return the island to Japan. The Japanese promised that after the signing of a peace agreement investments will rush into Russia from their country. But it was relevant only in those years when many countries considered Russia a poor country that would do anything for money. The times have changed, and now the Russian society has a different point of view. Public opinion polls show an interesting fact - Russians generally have positive feelings towards Japan, but in the border areas - Sakhalin and Primorye - the percentage of people with negative attitude towards Japan is very high. This target audience will not be easy for Japan. Russia's leadership recognizes the territorial problem because since 1956, the Soviet Union and Japan have been living without a peace treaty. Japan constantly comes up with various demands and engages in anti-Russian campaigns. Is this a right situation for a normal dialogue? The Russian Embassy in Japan does not conduct an information war, and Russian diplomats are trying to establish a dialogue on this issue. Instead of confrontation, Moscow on many occasions suggested that the two countries jointly develop the area. However, in response Japan said that such cooperation would be possible only if it does not harm the country's legal position on the territorial issue. However, Russia is interested in Japan and is always ready to come to aid. In the devastating earthquake of 2011, Russia immediately sent food aid and rescue teams to the affected regions. In addition, Russia has made some steps towards Japan. It introduced simplified visa regime, allowed economic activity on the islands, etc. This once again confirms the readiness of the Russian Federation to discuss the issues of the territorial dispute with Japan in a peaceful format. Japan's position cannot be called constructive. Numerous protests have to do with "unacceptable", according to Tokyo, visits of the Russian leadership to the disputed territory, refusal to join in a peaceful dialogue on bilateral relations, relying on history to bypass international agreements - this policy of the Japanese authorities cannot yield good results. Director of Moscow Carnegie Center Dmitri Trenin believes that the presence of a frozen territorial issue strongly poisons bilateral relations between Moscow and Tokyo, and places obstacles in the way of strengthening economic ties. Neither Russia nor Japan can get the desired result from the relationship. According to him, the political circles of Russia and Japan are convinced that the current situation in the long term is not acceptable for anyone. "Japan is cooperating with a very few countries, and it is interested in strengthening the relations with Russia, and Russia also needs a strong economic partner in the Asian region," said Dmitry Trenin. The leaders of the two countries have no choice but to jointly define a solution for this issue. After the signing of a peace treaty the Russian-Japanese relations must become an Asian analogue of the Russian-German relations. Both countries should benefit from a compromise, and it should become a turning point in the relations between Moscow and Tokyo.

Video shows militants in Syria training child soldiers

New video footage has surfaced online showing the foreign-sponsored militants in Syria recruiting dozens of children and teenagers. The video, which was posted on the internet recently, shows the commander of a US-backed group in the northern province of Aleppo saying when the children arrive, they are children, but when they leave, they become killing machines. Teenagers are shown being taught how to use assault rifles and other weapons against the Syrian government forces. They are also taught how to disarm enemies by stabbing them or killing them with their bare hands. This is despite the fact that international law prohibits the use of children under 18 in combat and military support operations. Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011. Many people, including large numbers of security forces, have been killed in the turmoil. The Syrian government also says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the militants are foreign nationals. In addition, several international human rights organizations have accused the militants in Syria of committing war crimes.

One Egyptian dead, 40 injured in clashes with security forces

At least one protester was killed and 50 others were injured in clashes Friday between Egyptian protesters and security forces near the presidential palace, Egyptian media reported. In several other provinces, police fired volleys of tear gas at protesters, as thousands took to the streets to demand Islamist President Mohamed Mursi fulfill the goals of the revolt that brought him to power. Protesters lobbed petrol bombs and set off fireworks, as security vans charged towards demonstrators who fled down the large avenue flanking the presidential palace in Cairo. Clashes also erupted in several cities and towns in the Nile Delta province of Gharbiya, where the health ministry said 28 people had been injured, suffering mainly from tear gas inhalation. In the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, five people were hurt in sporadic clashes between police and protesters. The confrontations came after a day that saw thousands take to the streets across Egypt after opposition groups called “Friday of dignity” rallies. In recent months, Egypt has witnessed regular, often bloody, protests against Mursi who is accused of betraying the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak. Opponents have accused him of using his power to promote the interests of his Muslim Brotherhood, long banned under his predecessor. The country has been deeply divided between Mursi’s mainly Islamist supporters and an opposition of liberals, leftists, Christians but also deeply religious Muslims calling for rights and the separation of religion and state. Shortly after Muslim noon prayers, marchers set off from several locations in Cairo to Tahrir Square and the presidential palace, banging on drums, waving flags and clapping in unison. “The people want the downfall of the regime,” the protesters chanted while others slammed interior ministry officials as “thugs.” In Tahrir, several thousand protesters carried aloft a huge Egyptian flag as they listened to speeches and music from the stage. Several hundred protesters also gathered outside the presidential palace chanting “Freedom, where are you? Brotherhood rule stands between us,” in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood movement from which Mursi hails. The protests come after several incidents of police violence last week that caused public outrage and sparked angry demonstrations. Protests against the Islamist president also took place after the weekly Friday Muslim main prayers in several of Egypt’s 27 provinces. In the Nile Delta city of Kafr el-Sheikh, police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd outside a government building, as protesters hurled stones at the security forces, the official MENA news agency reported. In Tanta, police clashed with protesters who tried to break into the municipal council building, MENA added. Thirty-eight opposition parties and movements had joined together to call for the rallies, demanding a new unity government, amendments to the Islamist-drafted constitution and guarantees that the independence of the judiciary be maintained. Earlier this week, the death of a pro-democracy activist following days in police custody sparked fury and reignited calls for police reform -- a key demand of the uprising that toppled Mubarak in 2011. His death came just days after footage was aired live on television of a man stripped naked and beaten by riot police during demonstrations near the presidential palace. The two incidents confronted Mursi with uncomfortable parallels with the old regime. Friday’s protests come just days after clerics issued fatwas to justify killing opposition leaders. Radical cleric Mahmud Shaaban, a professor at Sunni Islam’s main seat of learning al-Azhar, gave the green light to kill opposition leaders including former U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei and ex-presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi, during a talk show on a satellite channel. Another hardline cleric, Wagdi Ghoneim, also called on Muslims to “kill the thugs, criminals, and thieves who burn the country,” state media reported. Security was stepped up outside the homes of ElBaradei and Sabbahi ahead of the protests, witnesses told AFP, following orders from the interior minister. The presidency condemned the fatwas as “terrorism.” “Some are promoting and inciting political violence while others who claim to speak in the name of religion are permitting ‘killing’ based on political differences and this is terrorism,” the presidency said.

Rare Afghan fashion show seeks to empower women

Associated Press
Afghan models paraded down a candle-lined catwalk Friday as men and women watched from the audience in a restaurant off a muddy street in Kabul. The rare fashion show in this war-weary capital was a small production but a big idea — part of an Afghan group's efforts to empower women by breaking down barriers in this highly conservative Muslim society. "The situation always gets tougher and tougher every day by day, but we should not back down. We are here to move on and move forward, so I think if women step up and they show up in this field, I think they will do a good job," said Shahar Banoo Zeerak, the designer whose clothes were featured in the show. The idea of women on display remains mostly taboo in Afghanistan more than a decade after the 2001 U.S. assault that ousted the Taliban from power after a five-year reign of terror by the fundamentalist movement. Some women still don't go outside without wearing blue burqas that cover them from head to toe. Violence against women is still common in Afghanistan, and there are reports of women being stoned, executed in public or imprisoned for having affairs with men. Women have even set themselves on fire to escape domestic violence. Friday's fashion show was organized by Young Women for Change, an independent, nonprofit Afghan organization committed to empowering Afghan women and improving their lives. Most of the 10 models, including three young men, who showed off 33 designs including colorful short-sleeved dresses, jeans, tunics and more traditional outfits — were Afghan women who volunteer for the group. One of them, 17-year-old Farkhonda Taheri, had never even seen a fashion show before. She said her father and other family members were supportive of her decision to participate, but her grandmother was not happy. "The biggest challenge for us that we cannot do these things in Afghanistan because people do not like it," she said afterward. "I was excited because I felt I am going to bring a change." She said it was important for Afghan youths to take risks to bring change as the country struggles to achieve a semblance of normalcy, with international combat forces preparing to withdraw by the end of 2014. "Who will bring the peace? We are going to bring it. Afghans. The new generation," Taheri said. There have been a few other fashion shows in Afghanistan, but most were geared toward an international audience and seldom featured Afghan women or a mixed Afghan audience. Reflecting the obstacles, the organizers did not permit local Afghan media to film the event to protect the women, who on occasion appeared without headscarves and in short skirts. "It may not be perfect and professional but it's a beginning," said Salma Gul, the 26-year-old tailor who made the clothes. Organizers said they had two reasons for staging the show despite fears of violence in a country that sees frequent bombings and suicide attacks, often against targets deemed un-Islamic by extremists. One was to raise money for the advocacy group and the other was to gradually change attitudes toward women. A spokesman for the advocacy group, Mohammad Zafar Salehi, said they earned more than $1,000 from the show, which sold tickets and drew mostly group members and friends. "We want to change the mindset of the people but at the same time I worry about the security of the girls," he said as the famous Afghan rock band Morchaha performed in another room. "I believe in a change that can be slow." ___

Hillary Clinton is most popular US politician

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the most popular US politician, surpassing fellow Democrats President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as well as leading Republicans, a national poll found. Sixty-one per cent of American voters approve of Clinton, a possible U.S. presidential candidate for 2016, while 34 per cent said they had an unfavourable opinion, according to the survey by Quinnipiac University released on Friday. The poll comes one week after Clinton left her post as the nation's top diplomat. Clinton, 65, has said she does not see herself going back to politics but left open the possibility of such a return.In comparison, 51 per cent said they held a "favourable" opinion of Obama while 46 per cent had an unfavorable opinion. For Biden, 70, another potential 2016 contender, 46 per cent gave him good marks compared to 41 per cent who did not. Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said the results show that after a positive burst for Obama following his re-election in November, the United States is quickly returning to partisan politics. "The lower approval numbers for the president could be because once the election afterglow is gone, governing inevitably requires decisions that make some voters unhappy," he said, adding that Clinton won over more independents and Republicans. Leading Republicans, including rising star Marco Rubio, a first-term senator from Florida, saw favourable opinions from one-third or fewer of those surveyed. The poll found 27 per cent held a favourable view of Rubio, 41, who could also be a player in the 2016 election. Fifteen per cent held a negative view and 57 per cent said they did not know enough about him. Many respondents - 45 per cent - also said they did not know enough about former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. About 20 per cent of those polled said they had a good opinion of House Speaker John Boehner, and 24 per cent said they saw former Republican vice presidential candidate and U.S. Representative Paul Ryan positively. About one-third of voters said they did not know enough about either Republican. Obama will deliver the annual State of the Union address on Tuesday. Overall, Quinnipiac researchers found 68 per cent of U.S. voters said they are "somewhat dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied" with the state of the nation today. Another 31 per cent said they are "very satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied" when asked about "the way things are going," according to the nationwide poll, which surveyed 1,772 registered voters between January 30 and Monday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

Storm Churns Through Tri-State, Up to 1 Foot of Snow Expected in NYC

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International Forces Reject UN Afghan Report
The international forces in Afghanistan have rejected a UN committee's report that U.S. military forces in Afghanistan have killed hundreds of children in attacks over the last four years. James Graybeal, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that the concerns "are categorically unfounded." He said, "equally unsubstantiated is their assertion that U.S. forces use indiscriminate force during their operations." The Geneva-based UN Committee on the Rights of the Child says the casualties were "due notably to [a] reported lack of precautionary measures and indiscriminate use of force." The UN review on policies affecting children is conducted every four years, and its release came as U.S. policy on drone targeting and air strikes is under increased scrutiny in Washington.

White House warns of damaging "sequestration" spending cuts

The White House said on Friday that government spending cuts due to take effect March 1 would have harsh consequences on ordinary Americans and the economy, seeking to turn up pressure on Congress to come up with a plan to avoid what Washington calls "sequestration." In its strongest warnings yet, the White House gave examples of that it said program cuts would mean: - 1,000 fewer FBI officers, mass layoffs of government meat and food inspectors, and aid benefits slashed for hundreds of thousands of low-income women and children. "Sequester is a blunt and indiscriminate instrument that poses a serious threat to our national security, domestic priorities and the economy," Danny Werfel, a senior official at the White House budget office, told reporters at a briefing. "It does not represent a responsible way to achieve deficit reduction," he said. The administration repeated its plea to Congress to put off the planned reductions, which the White House said would slash non-defense programs by 9 percent across the board and defense programs by 13 percent in the current fiscal year, resulting in "furloughs," or temporary layoffs, for hundreds of thousands of government workers. White House economic aide Jason Furman said it was up to Congress to work out the details of how to raise revenues and cut spending so both sides have time to agree on how replace the sequester with a more acceptable fiscal belt-tightening program. "What we're trying to do now is make sure Congress can buy the time it needs in order to do this entitlement reform, tax reform, that's a much better solution to our problems than letting the sequester hit," Furman said. Republicans said that while they agree sequestration could be devastating, the president must propose spending cuts if he wants to see the deep automatic cuts replaced with something more palatable. "Spending is still the problem," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner. "It's time to finally make the cuts and reforms we all know are needed to save and strengthen our safety net programs." LEGACY OF 2011 BUDGET BATTLES Sequestration is a legacy of the 2011 impasse between Obama and congressional Republicans over raising the nation's debt limit. Republicans, unhappy about the nation's deficit, wanted to match any increases in the borrowing cap with cuts to government spending. The president balked at cutting social safety net programs, and the nation came close to defaulting on its debt as a deal eluded negotiators. The two sides finally agreed to raise the debt ceiling but vowed to continue negotiating to cut the deficit, setting up a deadline for the painful automatic sequestration cuts as an incentive to come to terms. The automatic cuts were reportedly suggested by the White House but were agreed to by both sides. The spending reductions are divided equally among nondefense and defense programs in an effort to make politicians at both ends of the political spectrum feel the pressure to compromise. The long period of fiscal skirmishing between Obama and congressional Republicans has been blamed by economists for creating a drag on the sluggish U.S. economic recovery because it leaves businesses and consumers uncertain about tax rates and government spending plans. Defense spending fell sharply at the end of last year, in part because of fiscal uncertainty, contributing to a contraction of the overall economy in the quarter. Obama's November re-election and gains by Democrats in both houses of Congress have strengthened the president's hand in fiscal negotiations. The two sides were able to avoid an initial year-end deadline for spending cuts with a deal that raised taxes on the wealthy while leaving lower rates in place for most Americans. The deal to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff" postponed automatic cuts off for two months. NEW REVENUE, TARGETED CUTS Cutting government spending remains a high priority for Republicans, who still control the House of Representatives. However, the White House pushed back on Friday by painting a dire picture of what would happen if the automatic cuts were allowed to go into effect. Obama wants Republicans to agree to a short-term budget package to avoid the deepest of the automatic spending cuts but has said it needs to "balanced" - that is, include some increases in revenue from closing tax loopholes. Boehner has said he would block any delay in those cuts unless other spending cuts and reforms are agreed to. Key Democratic U.S. senators are discussing a plan that could be introduced next week to turn off the sequester for 10 months, through December 31, and pay for it half with new revenues and half with spending cuts, a Democratic Senate aide said. While no elements have been decided upon yet, provisions under discussion include ideas Democrats have raised before, such as raising taxes on carried interest, a provision aimed at wealthy investors who profit from hedge funds and private equity partnerships. Tax breaks for corporate jets and large oil companies could also be targeted, along with higher payroll taxes on smaller private firms organized as S-corporations. The senators are also considering reductions in farm subsidies, which they consider a spending cut. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid discussed the plan on Thursday with Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and Appropriations Committee Chairman Barbara Mikulski.

Major Snowstorm Poised To Strike US Northeast

A blizzard of potentially historic proportions is threatening to strike the Northeast US with a vengeance. Up to two feet of snow is forecast along the densely populated corridor from the New York City area northwards. Boston and Providence in Rhode Island closed schools on Friday, and airlines cancelled more than 4,000 flights. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick ordered all cars off the roads by 4pm local time, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg advised New Yorkers to make it a night in. "Everybody's going to get plastered with snow," said Massachusetts-based National Weather Service meteorologist Alan Dunham. The snow was expected to start on Friday morning, with the heaviest amounts falling at night and into Saturday.Wind gusts could reach 65mph. Widespread power failures were feared, along with flooding in coastal areas still recovering from Superstorm Sandy in October. New York City was expecting up to 14ins (35.5cm) of snow. Mr Bloomberg said ploughs and 250,000 tons of salt were being put on standby. "We hope forecasts are exaggerating the amount of snow, but you never can tell," he said. Blizzard warnings were posted for parts of New Jersey and New York's Long Island, as well as portions of the New England region, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The warnings extended into New Hampshire and Maine. In New England, it could prove to be among the worst 10 snowstorms ever, and perhaps even break Boston's record of 27.6 ins (70cm), set in 2003. It comes just after the 35th anniversary of the blizzard of 1978, which paralysed New England with more than 2ft (60cm) of snow and hurricane-force winds. The last major snowfall in southern New England was, unusually, well over a year ago - the Halloween storm of 2011.

Hamid Karzai swaps Kabul fortress for Claridge's finery

On day he issued decree back home to curtail government expenses, Afghan president checks into luxury London hotel
Living in the shadow of terror and the threat of assassination around the clock, Hamid Karzai could be forgiven for indulging in a bit of relaxing comfort whenever he gets the chance. But to touch down in London and check into Claridge's, one of the most luxurious hotels in the world, the day he issued a decree back home to curtail government expenses is, at best, a sign that the Afghan president is prone to a touch of political frailty like the best of his western counterparts. For this is where he and an entourage of 40 officials stayed on their whistlestop visit to London for talks with the Pakistan president, Asif Ali Zardari, on Monday night. Rooms at Claridge's, a byword for refined luxury and a hotel favoured by royalty and celebrity alike, cost anything from £300 but the individually crafted suites favoured by hundreds of heads of state over the years cost thousands a night. The top-of-the-range Brook penthouse, where the truly rich and famous stay, is bigger than a standard Victorian terraced house at just under 185 square metres (2,000 sq ft). "Designed by Veere Grenney, this elegant art deco-style apartment is decorated in gentle lilac with light oak floors" and "an idiosyncratic blend of old and new furnishings," gushes the hotel's website. The nightly tariff, available on request, is a cool £6,900 a night. Impecunious VIPs can opt for the cheaper suites at about £1,000 a night. But even a budget-conscious, non-drinking guest is not going to come off lightly after a stay in Claridge's. A non-alcoholic raspberry crush in the Fumoir bar will set the purse back £8, while classic afternoon tea, albeit accompanied by a selection of finger sandwiches and a selection of pastries, costs £40 a head. It is a world away from Arg-e-Shahi Palace, Karzai's fortress compound in central Kabul where four checkpoints and a battery of army personnel and sniffer dogs protect the president from the constant threat of attack. One US diplomat described his job as "the hardest in the world". Four of Afghanistan's past six presidents have been murdered, three of them in office. But the irony of a luxury stay in Claridge's will not be lost on the Afghan electorate. According to the usually reliable Tolo News, Karzai has ordered government departments to cut back on purchases of deluxe, expensive equipment in favour of domestic products. "All ministries and government offices are required to economise on the expenses of stationery, oil materials, repairs and other expenditures, to avoid any unnecessary expense and above-standard per diems for trips out of the country, and to reduce expenses," the decree states, reported Tolo News on Monday, just as Karzai was meeting the Prince of Wales, who the president has said "is a very good friend of Afghanistan". The Afghan embassy was not available for comment. The use of high-cost items at government departments has been heavily criticised in the past, especially because most of these products are mainly funded with budgets from the international community. However, it is the first time that the president has so formally addressed it. So who foots the bill? According to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), all heads of state invited on official visits to the UK are treated to stays in first-class hotels such as Claridge's. The cost of 10 of Karzai's entourage was paid for by the British taxpayer, with the remainder on the Afghan tab. An FCO spokeswoman said: "Heads of state on guest of government visits are able to stay in a range of hotels of a similar level, including Claridge's. Accommodation is determined by a variety of factors, including suitability for a head of state, location and security. As you would expect, we do not go into detail on accommodation or other arrangements for visiting heads of state." The FCO is said to be proud to have run the trilateral event hosted by the prime minister in Chequers and will have seen the cost of putting up part of Karzai's entourage as money worth spending – especially if it leads to a deal. Charming, clever, and fluent in Pashtu, Dari, English and Urdu, he made Esquire magazine's list of best-dressed men in 2004, and seems at home anywhere from the remotest corners of Afghanistan to western capitals. Karzai took power as a temporary leader of his country after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, then won two successive presidential polls, in 2004 and 2009, and confesses he is looking forward to a rest. He told the Guardian in an interview on Monday that it is a decade since he took a holiday. And Karzai is certainly not the first head of state from a country relying on foreign aid to stay at the hotel. Foreign aid accounts for 40% of Malawi's budget yet President Joyce Banda stayed there shortly after she rose from vice-president to the top job last year. During the Olympics a team of 16 from Malawi stayed for 11 nights, while a team of nine from Gabon had an eight-night stay during the Games. Karzai's friendship with Prince Charles, who he describes as a "very fine gentlemen", has also yielded dividends for Afghanistan and the owners of Claridge's. The Turquoise Mountain Foundation charity was founded at the request of the prince in 2006 to protect and encourage ancient Afghan craftsmanship in calligraphy, woodwork, jewellery and ceramics. It was subsequently commissioned by the Maybourne Hotel Group, which owns Claridge's, to craft The Prince's Lodge Suite at the Connaught, an exquisite room involving 37 square metres of carved dark walnut for a four-poster bed, alcoves, architraves and cabinets.

Pakistani co-operation hints at peace in Afghanistan

PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, Pakistan’s former president, did little to disguise the loathing he felt for his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai. The feeling was probably mutual. Pakistan has long played host to militants who mount cross-border raids in Afghanistan, as well as to senior leaders of the Taliban insurgency. This has made the war waged by the Afghan government and as many as 130,000 NATO troops unwinnable. And, by thwarting negotiations between Taliban leaders and the government in Kabul, the Afghan capital, it has also helped keep peace out of reach. By contrast, Mr Musharraf’s successor, Asif Ali Zardari, seems to have found in Mr Karzai a new best friend. In Britain this week, sharing a podium with their host, David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister, the two men beamed, clasped hands and pledged what Mr Cameron called “an unprecedented level of co-operation”. They even agreed to work towards a peace agreement with the Taliban within the next six months. This reflects a change in Pakistan’s strategy far more profound than can be explained by Mr Zardari’s more emollient character.Hopes for peace in six months seem starry-eyed. But at least Pakistan is making big gestures towards “reconciliation” in Afghanistan. In November Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, the body entrusted with seeking a negotiated settlement, visited the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. Pakistan freed 20 Afghan Taliban prisoners, and a peace “road map” was drawn up—and leaked. It gave Pakistan a central role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table, which is to be placed in Doha in Qatar. A comprehensive peace process is now a more realistic prospect than at any time since the Taliban were driven from Kabul in 2001. Years of quarrels, mutual mistrust and casualties brought Pakistan’s relations with America and the government in Kabul to their lowest ebb in late 2011. Yet Pakistan’s ultimate objectives in Afghanistan are not that different from those of NATO, its nominal ally. It has no interest in an endless war to which its own soldiers and civilians fall victim. Only an extremist fringe and a few misguided strategic “realists” hanker after a Taliban restoration in Kabul: that would boost the Pakistani Taliban, whose target is the secular government in Islamabad. It might also revive hopes for a separate “Pushtunistan”, grouping the ethnic Pushtuns on either side of a border, drawn by the British, that Afghanistan has never formally accepted. What drove Pakistan onto the other side of its own allies’ war is the obsession with India. Its aim has been a future Afghan government that, as a minimum, is not an Indian ally. Such an alliance would “encircle” Pakistan and deprive it of the “strategic depth” it has always felt it needs to deter a hypothetical Indian invasion. At best, the future government would be a loyal Pakistani client. The ISI, Pakistan’s spy service, helped form the Taliban movement that took Kabul in 1996. Pushtun ethnic kinship, along with ties of loyalty and patronage forged over the years, has made the Taliban and other extremist factions, such as the Haqqani network, seem Pakistan’s natural allies in Afghanistan. Now, Pakistan may have decided that if it wants to create a government it can tolerate, talks hold more promise than warmongering. For several reasons the tacit backing of a Taliban victory may no longer be Pakistan’s best option. The first is that such a victory is unlikely. Any Afghan government left behind after most NATO troops depart in 2014 will probably be able to hold the big northern cities. It will face an insurgency in the south and east. But an interminable civil war is hardly in Pakistan’s interests. Second is the growth of the Pakistani Taliban, a faction of which was driven out of the Swat region of Pakistan in 2009, and has since been squatting in eastern Afghanistan, launching attacks across the border. The Afghan Taliban are unlikely to rein it in. Pakistan’s improved relations with India and America may also have helped bring it to the table. The usual pattern is for any rapprochement with India to be derailed when a terrorist atrocity or other provocation in India is blamed on Pakistan. That seemed all too likely when the ceasefire over the frontier between the Indian and Pakistani parts of disputed Kashmir broke last month. Three Pakistani and two Indian soldiers were killed; the Indians’ corpses were mutilated. But this has not yet led to a breakdown in relations. And the crisis in ties with America, which led Pakistan to close its Afghan border to NATO supply lorries, has passed. Pakistan is probably pleased to see in John Kerry a new secretary of state whom its leaders know and whose name is on legislation promising Pakistan continuing aid. Afghan observers know Mr Zardari’s limits. For all that he may soon become the first civilian leader of Pakistan to be replaced by another civilian after a full five-year term, he has paid the price for that by leaving the army free to run security policy. So the most encouraging aspect of the talks in Britain was that the chiefs of both Pakistan’s army and the ISI were there. That does not rule out, however, attacks by elements of the armed forces or the terrorist groups with which they have maintained links, designed to provoke India, Afghanistan or NATO. Terrorists are dangerous partners, not fully under their sponsors’ control.
When push comes to shove
Yet that argument also goes for the Afghan Taliban, whose spokesmen were scathing about the talks in Britain. The biggest question now hanging over the peace talks is whether Pakistan really can lead them to the negotiating table. It has locked up some Taliban leaders, one of whom complained (in comments he later denied) of enduring years of torture. NATO leaders have long argued that some leading Taliban figures living in apparent freedom in Pakistan were in effect hostages, unable to return home even had they wanted to. Pakistan has shown that, without its co-operation, the war in Afghanistan can never end. It has yet to prove it has the power to bring peace.

Pakistan stops access to Toronto Sun's website
Looks like we’re bad in Islamabad. If you judge your success by the quality of your enemies, then you can only join us here at the Toronto Sun in profound disappointment that our online presence has been blocked in Pakistan. Of course we are disappointed on behalf of our followers in Pakistan who obviously enjoy going to to read news and views expressed in an honest, open and forthright fashion. It’s what we do best. At another level, we are disappointed that someone unknown in the Pakistan government has taken the decision to place us behind a censorship firewall. Maybe they think no news is good news, especially when it comes to a newspaper that consistently exposes a raft of questionable policies and decisions. After all, this is a military administration that in the past has shown scant regard for basic values of democracy, rule of law, accountability and a host of other principles we here in Canada take for granted. The evidence of our website being attacked is stark. YouTube has experienced the same problem in the same period as has social media network BuzzFeed. The latter announced Friday it had been banned with this statement: “Pakistan’s ever-changing firewall system appears to have blocked citizens from viewing BuzzFeed, as well as the Toronto Sun. “Other major sites have long been blocked, though the government has promised to make some of them available again, including YouTube, after new firewall technology is deployed. “‘We believe in access to free information’,” Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said regarding the YouTube ban, claiming that the ‘only reason’ to block YouTube is the ‘presence of blasphemous material.’” BuzzFeed revealed the Pakistan government claimed to have a “filtration” mechanism — a part of the firewall that may have blocked — that could filter such content selectively. The numbers certainly support this theory in our case. Up until Jan. 16 this year the Toronto Sun had recorded 63, 814 visits in the 12 months to that date in Pakistan. Then nothing from Jan. 17 onwards except a sole visit on Jan. 19. There could be many reasons for a censorship decision the Pakistan High Commission in Ottawa would neither confirm nor deny Friday. Their press counsel would only say they “would make a statement on Monday.” Well, what we can say in the interim is this. The Sun extensively covered the visit to Toronto by outspoken former Pakistan cricketer turned politician Imran Khan who was yanked from his flight to New York and questioned at Toronto Pearson International Airport last October. This followed a local speaking engagement. “I was taken off from plane and interrogated by U.S. Immigration in Canada on my views on drones. My stance is known. Drone attacks must stop,” Khan tweeted at the time. We published that. The Sun has also worked hard to expose failings within the Consulate General of Pakistan in Toronto that saw a senior diplomat recalled last July over a sex assault investigation. The married father of two allegedly assaulted a female passport applicant inside the North York consulate in February. He subsequently left Canada when his visa expired. We published that. Then there are Sun columnists like Tarek Fatah. He has been unsparing in his criticism of Pakistan. Fatah feels that the decision to ban us is definitely politically motivated and it does no credit to the current administration in the national capital Islamabad. “I have had it confirmed for me by an extremely senior member of the government,” Fatah said. “I have the tweet where he outlined why the firewall has been imposed. “The tweet says, when asked why the Sun has been blocked: ‘Your criticism and exposure of Fauji-Jihadi shenenigans. Decision from Aabpara.’ “The word “Fauji” stands for Army and the word “Aabpara” is code for the intelligence organization ISI. It’s the neighborhood that houses the secret military intelligence unit. “That clearly shows that this banning decision has been made by the Pakistan military. It is they who really run Pakistan. “Here is another thing. All the journalists over there who I used to talk to have gone silent. They no longer take my calls. “It seems the Toronto Sun is now persona non grata in Pakistan.” We sought comment from Google, who administer the Chrome search engine that handles traffic in Pakistan, but received no reply by press time.

Pakistan: Bomb kills 16 people in northwest

Associated Press
A bomb planted near a market in northwestern Pakistan killed 16 people and wounded 17 others Friday, the latest in an uptick in attacks in recent months, government officials said. The blast occurred in Kalaya, the main town in the Orakzai tribal area, said local government administrator Khaistan Akbar. Orakzai is one of several areas in the semiautonomous tribal region along the Afghan border where the military has been battling a domestic Taliban insurgency. No group has claimed responsibility for the latest bombing, but Taliban militants regularly target security forces and civilians in the area. The blast occurred near government and security offices, according to another local administrator, Javed Khan. It damaged one of the shops in the market. Some of the wounded were in critical condition, he said. Initially, the death toll stood at 10 with 23 people wounded. But Khan said that six of those who were wounded later died at a hospital in Kalaya, increasing the death toll to 16. The 17 others who were wounded were being treated, including three who were in critical condition. The military has launched multiple operations against the Pakistani Taliban in the northwest since 2009, but the militants have proved resilient and continue to carry out attacks. Also on Friday, unknown attackers fired rocket-propelled grenades at a paramilitary convoy in southwestern Baluchistan province, killing one soldier and wounding five others, said police official Babil Dashti. Two vehicles were damaged in the attack, which took place in Turbat district, said Dashti. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Baluch nationalists have waged a decades-long insurgency against the government for greater autonomy and a larger share of the province's natural resources. The province is also home to many radical Islamist militants.

Toronto Sun website blocked in Pakistan

The Express Tribune
The Toronto Sun newspaper’s website has been possibly blocked by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) and is no longer accessible in Pakistan. The Canadian newspaper is an English daily that draws a relatively small readership from Pakistan. It reports that, “Up until January 16 this year the Toronto Sun had recorded 63, 814 visits in the 12 months to that date in Pakistan. Then nothing from January 17 onwards except a sole visit on January 19.” Attempts by The Express Tribune to access the site were unsuccessful with the requests returning an “118 connection timed out” error. The Pakistan High Commission in Ottawa neither confirmed nor denied the censorship of the website, Toronto Sun reported. It added that their press counsel would make a statement on February 4. Press counsel Nazia Khalid, while speaking to The Express Tribune, denied any such planned statement. She said a correspondent from the Toronto Sun had contacted her to inquire about their website possibly being banned in Pakistan, but she replied that she had no information on it. Khalid further added that, “The government of Pakistan wouldn’t do such a thing.” However, when pressed, she said she could neither confirm nor deny whether the site had been blocked in Pakistan. The PTA has become increasingly aggressive in blocking websites in the country. The entire website of Rolling Stone, a pop-culture and politics magazine, has been blocked since July 2011. A PTA spokesperson confirmed that the website has been blocked but said he did not know why it had been done so. The popular video sharing website YouTube has been blocked since September 17, 2012 in efforts to block access to sacrilegious film Innocence of Muslims after violent protests erupted across the Muslim world. Last month interior minister Rehman Malik hinted that the Pakistani government is working implementing a new internet filter for blocking blasphemous or offensive material, after which YouTube would be unblocked.

Pakistan: Elections may be put off if SC admits Qadri’s petition

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Barrister Aitizaz Ahsan while talking to reporters said that if Supreme Court (SC) decides to take up the petition filed by Tehreek Minhajul Quran (TMQ) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri, elections may be postponed, a private TV channel reported. On Thursday TMQ chief had filed a petition in SC seeking reconstitution of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and appointment of a new chief election commissioner which the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) had termed would be unconstitutional. Aitzaz Ahsad said, speaking to reporters outside SC, that constitutionally it was not possible to remove any member of the present commission and form a new election commission. He alleged that Qadri was moving in another direction while leaving the agreement reached to hold the sit-in staged near Parliament House in Islamabad.

Peshawar: Free dialysis in KP from next month

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is to begin free dialysis programme at the province’s seven hospitals early next month. The relevant officials told Dawn on Thursday that the government had allocated Rs60 million for free dialysis of all those with failed kidneys, mostly the people, who were unable to afford the costly, lifelong procedure. They said the money had been released by the finance department, while other formalities were being met to formally begin the programme in early March this year. The officials said every kidney patient underwent one to three sessions of haemodialysis with each costing more than Rs5,000 and thus, suggesting weekly expenditure of Rs15,000. They said kidney patients often died due to their inability to continue with dialysis, a lifelong treatment. According to them, the government had planned to use the interest from the health department’s endowment fund for free treatment of kidney patients. However, it later dropped the idea and allocated separate sum of money for the purpose. The officials said the health department first collected data of kidney patients from all hospitals of the province and then decided to allocate funds for their extended free treatment. They said free dialysis would be offered to all kidney patients at Institute of Kidney Diseases, Hayatabad, Government Lady Reading Hospital and Khyber Teaching Hospital, Peshawar, Mardan Medical Complex, Mardan, Saidu Group of Hospitals, Khalifa Gul Nawaz Teaching Hospital, Bannu and District Headquarters Hospital, Haripur regardless of their financial position. “The patients will not be required to present Zakat certificates. The only thing they require will be proper prescription and diagnosis from specialist doctors,” an official said. The officials said the department had first thought about offering free dialysis to poor patients only but later changed its mind considering the lengthy procedure to secure Zakat certificates from the relevant offices. The officials said the funds allocated for the programme, first of its kind in the country, were enough to cater to the needs of around 10,000 patients in the province annually and that they would be increased to Rs100 million next year. They said around half of the sufferers of chronic kidney disorders died due to their inability to bear treatment cost. “We have also planned to create public awareness of free dialysis so more and more people avail themselves of it. Banners about it will be displayed at government hospitals,” an official said. The officials said the only way to treat kidney problems was transplantation but majority of the patients didn’t opt for it first because it was costly and second it was not readily available in the province. They said the government would supply free medicines to kidney patients and tenders for procurement of these medicines had already been floated.

Pakistan: Why government first is not the right strategy

The Ministry of Finance, due to political compulsions, has learnt to ignore with a measure of disdain the advice of State Bank of Pakistan that its failure to undertake energy sector reforms and convert state-owned enterprises (SOEs) into commercially-run businesses has resulted in a dangerously high fiscal deficit. Poor delivery of public services and crumbling infrastructure have become major impediments in efforts aimed at reviving investment. What is indeed perplexing for us is why directors and senior management in financial sector are also failing to see grave consequences. It increasingly appears that these men of wisdom and foresight do not appreciate the fact that 68 emerging and advanced countries (according to Reinhart Regoff) did default on domestic debt between 1914 and 2007). These defaults took place through a number of mechanisms ranging from forcible conversion to suspension of payments. This fact is contrary to the popular belief that sovereign debt carries zero-risk since governments always honour domestic debt liabilities as they have the ability to print money. The same study shows that in 64 of these domestic default cases domestic debt accounted for almost a two-thirds of the public debt. The share of Pakistan's domestic debt in public debt has risen from 49.3 percent in FY09 to 59.1 percent in FY12. And, has risen further by 35.2 percent within this year, ie, by Rs 838 billion over and above the Rs 2.38 trillion stock of domestic debt of end June, 2012. According to State Bank of Pakistan, the early warning signs are clear on domestic debt sustainability. Fiscal deficit will soar to 8.5 percent of GDP instead of desirable level of three percent during FY13. Public debt as a percentage of revenue instead of a benchmark figure of 15 percent is around 45 percent. Domestic debt as a percentage of total revenue is 280 percent instead of 200 percent; and domestic debt as a percentage of bank deposits is nearing 50 percent mark instead of averaging 35 percent by end June 2012. With an additionality of Rs 838 billion it has now crossed or is about to cross the two-thirds mark. Financial institutions, specially local big and mid-sized banks, need to focus on the need to overcome the excessive reliance of the government on the banking system since their preferred strategy is not only contracting the space for private sector, but also pushing the government towards a virtual default on repayments to them. The systemic risk, in case of a single default on their trade earnings should send shivers down every banker's spine. Letter of Credit confirmation charges could double or triple on imports. Sustainability of banking system, inflation and price stability are the prime responsibilities of the regulator, SBP. Therefore, a dialogue needs to be initiated and a plan to restructure this domestic debt needs to be evolved before a default explodes. Default on timely payment to the power sector or a failure to meet a financial obligation is one thing but default on repayment of sovereign bonds (treasury bills and Pakistan Investment Bonds) is fraught with deleterious consequences. It would be advisable if banks themselves in their own long-term interest come up with proposals whereby the maturity profile of domestic debt could be lengthened. A portion of T-bills' held above the Statutory Liquidity Requirements of under one year could be replaced by one year tenor PIBs. Similarly, one-and three-year PIBs held could be changed with PIBs of longer tenor. A percentage of debt could be converted into zero coupon bonds or banks could off-load some of the government bonds on to the public, using mutual funds, etc, in an agreed timeline. Hesitancy on the part of some foreign banks is understandable. Their Head Offices might not agree to holding long tenor rupee bonds but local banks, which are cash rich at the moment, need to think long-term. Fearing a dip in earning opportunity on the capital deployed is encouraging them to make higher dividend payout as their earnings head towards lean times. Let the banks come up with a proposal instead of being forced by outsiders. Perhaps, SBP needs to drum some sense in its dialogue with Pakistan Banks Association. SBP knows where all this is leading. It needs to take care of public savings besides taking care of the repayment and settlement system to keep the wheel of the economy moving. The banks need to conduct a reality check with a view to assessing whether their credit strategy, which has been found to be strongly skewed towards the government, conforms to reality and greater banking sense.

Malala, Pakistani teen shot by Taliban, leaves hospital after stunning recovery

In a stunning story of survival and recovery, the Pakistani teenager whom Taliban gunman shot in the head in October has been released from a hospital. Malala Yousufzai left Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, on Friday. In the past two weeks, the girl famous for advocating that girls in Pakistan be educated -- which stoked the ire of her attackers -- proved her incredible strength by enduring two operations to repair her skull and restore her hearing. The gunfire caused swelling in Malala's skull and a break in the delicate bones that help turn sound into sensory impulses to her brain. "God has given me this new life," she recently said, speaking for the first time on camera since the shooting. "I want to serve the people. I want every girl, every child, to be educated." Though the gunshots to her neck and head made many doubt that she would walk again, Malala continued to improve over the past several months. "I can walk a little bit and I'm feeling better," the 15-year-old said on February 6. At that time, she said she hoped to be fully recovered in a month. Her medical team decided she was well enough to be discharged Thursday. The teen will continue her rehabilitation at her family's temporary home in Birmingham and will visit the hospital occasionally for outpatient appointments. Malala has credited her survival to "the prayers of the people." Her story captured worldwide attention, moving Pakistan to vow that it would more vigorously fight for girls' rights and against the Taliban. It also prompted global leaders to put pressure on the country to make good on those promises. "Because of these prayers, God has given me this new life and I want to serve and I want every girl, every child to be educated," she said. Malala has already started talking about furthering the cause that enraged the Taliban. In 2009, she wrote an extraordinary blog published by the BBC about how she wanted to go to school but was afraid. "The Taliban have repeatedly targeted schools in Swat," she wrote. About that time, the Taliban issued a formal edict, which covered her home in Pakistan's Swat Valley, banning all girls from schools. On the blog, Malala praised her father, who was operating one of the few schools that would go on to defy that order. "My father said that some days ago someone brought the printout of this diary saying how wonderful it was," she wrote. "My father said that he smiled, but could not even say that it was written by his daughter." Malala soon garnered international attention. She started giving interviews with news outlets, including CNN. "I have the right of education," she said in a 2011 interview with CNN. "I have the right to play. I have the right to sing. I have the right to talk. I have the right to go to market. I have the right to speak up." Why do you risk your life to raise your voice? a reporter asked her. In perfect English, she answered that her people need her. "I shall raise my voice," she insisted. "If I didn't do it, who would?" she said. Girls who are scared should fight their fear, she said. "Don't sit in your bedrooms. "God will ask you on the day of judgment, 'Where were you when your people were asking you ... when your school fellows were asking you and when your school was asking you ...'Why I am being blown up?' " On October 9, Taliban assassins attacked a van that carried Malala and other schoolchildren. They demanded that the children identify her. Terrified, the children did it, and the men fired, wounding two other girls in addition to hitting Malala. "We do not tolerate people like Malala speaking against us," a Taliban spokesman later said, as Malala, in a Pakistani hospital, breathed with the help of a ventilator. The Taliban vowed that if Malala survived, they would come after her again.

Shia lawyer killed in Peshawar

The Express Tribune
A senior Shia lawyer, Advocate Malik Jarar Hussain, was shot dead on Gulbahar Road in Peshawar on Friday morning. Jarar was dropping his children to school when two motorcyclists intercepted his car on Gulbahar Road and shot him. He was being rushed to Lady Reading Hospital when he passed away. The attackers managed to flee the area after the incident. The lawyer was a resident of Gunj inside the walled city of Peshawar, but he was residing in Asad Anwar Colony in Gulbahar. Members of the Shia community lashed out at the provincial government and police for their failure to provide security. Two Shia doctors, a police SP and a number of others have been killed in sectarian attacks during the past few months in Peshawar. Earlier, in January 2013, Lawyers from the district bar association had observed a strike and boycotted court proceedings demanding an action by the government to provide security to the lawyers and arrest the culprits.

Pakistani Militant, Price on Head, Lives in Open

LAHORE, Pakistan — Ten million dollars does not seem to buy much in this bustling Pakistani city. That is the sum the United States is offering for help in convicting Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, perhaps the country’s best-known jihadi leader. Yet Mr. Saeed lives an open, and apparently fearless, life in a middle-class neighborhood here. “I move about like an ordinary person — that’s my style,” said Mr. Saeed, a burly 64-year-old, reclining on a bolster as he ate a chicken supper. “My fate is in the hands of God, not America.” Mr. Saeed is the founder, and is still widely believed to be the true leader, of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group that carried out the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, in which more than 160 people, including six Americans, were killed. The United Nations has placed him on a terrorist list and imposed sanctions on his group. But few believe he will face trial any time soon in a country that maintains a perilous ambiguity toward jihadi militancy, casting a benign eye on some groups, even as it battles others that attack the state. Mr. Saeed’s very public life seems more than just an act of mocking defiance against the Obama administration and its bounty, analysts say. As American troops prepare to leave Afghanistan next door, Lashkar is at a crossroads, and its fighters’ next move — whether to focus on fighting the West, disarm and enter the political process, or return to battle in Kashmir — will depend largely on Mr. Saeed. At his Lahore compound — a fortified house, office and mosque — Mr. Saeed is shielded not only by his supporters, burly men wielding Kalashnikovs outside his door, but also by the Pakistani state. On a recent evening, police officers screened visitors at a checkpoint near his house, while other officers patrolled an adjoining park, watching by floodlight for intruders. His security seemingly ensured, Mr. Saeed has over the past year addressed large public meetings and appeared on prime-time television, and is now even giving interviews to Western news media outlets he had previously eschewed. He says that he wants to correct “misperceptions.” During an interview with The New York Times at his home last week, Mr. Saeed insisted that his name had been cleared by the Pakistani courts. “Why does the United States not respect our judicial system?” he asked. Still, he says he has nothing against Americans, and warmly described a visit he made to the United States in 1994, during which he spoke at Islamic centers in Houston, Chicago and Boston. “At that time, I liked it,” he said with a wry smile. During that stretch, his group was focused on attacking Indian soldiers in the disputed territory of Kashmir — the fight that led the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate to help establish Lashkar-e-Taiba in 1989. But that battle died down over the past decade, and Lashkar began projecting itself through its charity wing, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which runs a tightly organized network of hospitals and schools across Pakistan. The Mumbai attacks propelled Lashkar-e-Taiba to notoriety. But since then, Mr. Saeed’s provocations toward India have been largely verbal. Last week he stirred anger there by suggesting that Bollywood’s highest-paid actor, Shah Rukh Khan, a Muslim, should move to Pakistan. In the interview, he said he prized talking over fighting in Kashmir. “The militant struggle helped grab the world’s attention,” he said. “But now the political movement is stronger, and it should be at the forefront of the struggle.” Pakistan analysts caution that Mr. Saeed’s new openness is no random occurrence, however. “This isn’t out of the blue,” said Shamila N. Chaudhary, a former Obama administration official and an analyst at the Eurasia Group, a consulting firm. “These guys don’t start talking publicly just like that.” What it amounts to, however, may depend on events across the border in Afghanistan, where his group has been increasingly active in recent years. In public, Mr. Saeed has been a leading light in the Defense of Pakistan Council, a coalition of right-wing groups that lobbied against the reopening of NATO supply routes through Pakistan last year. More quietly, Lashkar fighters have joined the battle, attacking Western troops and Indian diplomatic facilities in Afghanistan, intelligence officials say. The question now is what will happen to them once American troops leave. One possibility is a return to Lashkar’s traditional battleground of Kashmir, risking fresh conflict between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India. But a more hopeful possibility, floated by some Western and Pakistani officials, is that Mr. Saeed would lead his group further into politics, and away from militancy. “When there are no Americans in Afghanistan, what will happen?” said Mushtaq Sukhera, a senior officer with the Punjabi police who is running a fledgling demobilization program for Islamist extremists. “It’s an open question.” A shift could be risky for Mr. Saeed: Some of his fighters have already split from Lashkar in favor of other groups that attack the Pakistani state. And much will depend on the advice of his military sponsors. For their part, Pakistan’s generals insist they have abandoned their dalliance with jihadi proxy groups. In a striking speech in August, the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said the country’s greatest threat came from domestic extremism. “We as a nation must stand united against this threat,” he said. “No state can afford a parallel system of governance and militias.” Five years of near-continuous battle against the Pakistani Taliban along the Afghan border, where more than 3,300 members of Pakistan’s security forces have been killed in the past decade, has affected army thinking, some analysts believe. Senior officers have lost colleagues and relatives, softening the army’s singular focus on India. “This is a changed army,” said Shaukat Javed, a former head of the Intelligence Bureau civilian spy agency in Punjab Province. “The mind-set has changed due to experience, and pressure.” But for all that, there is ample evidence that parts of the military remain wedded to jihadi proxies. In Waziristan, the army maintains close ties to the Haqqani Network, a major player in the Afghan insurgency. In western Baluchistan Province, it has used Sunni extremists to quell an uprising by Baluch nationalists — even though the same extremists also massacre minority Shiites. And Mr. Saeed’s freedom to roam around Lahore — and, indeed, across Pakistan — suggests some generals still believe the “good” jihadis are worth having around. Western intelligence officials say Lashkar’s training camps in northern Pakistan have not been shut down. One of those camps was the training ground of David C. Headley, an American citizen recently sentenced to prison by an American court for his role in the Mumbai attacks. “There’s a strategic culture of using proxies,” said Stephen Tankel, an American academic and author of a book on Lashkar-e-Taiba. “And if that’s the tool you’re used to grabbing from the toolbox, it can be hard to let go.” For all his apparent ease, Mr. Saeed has to walk a tightrope of sorts within the jihadi firmament. His support of the state puts him at odds with the Pakistani Taliban, which, he claims, are secretly supported by America and India — a familiar refrain in the right-wing media. “They want to destabilize Pakistan,” he said. But that position leaves Mr. Saeed vulnerable to pressure from fighters within his own ranks who may still have Taliban sympathies. Western security officials say Lashkar has already suffered some defections in recent years.. “If he continues in this direction, the issue is how many people he can bring with him,” Mr. Tankel said. But ultimately, he added, much depends on the Pakistani Army: “The army can’t dismantle these groups all at once, because of the danger of blowback. So for now they are putting them on ice. It’s too early to tell which way they will ultimately go.”

Pakistani : Bomb explosion near market in northwest kills 8 people

A government official says a bomb explosion near a market in northwestern Pakistan has killed eight people. Local administrator Javed Khan says the blast Friday in the town of Hangu in the Orakzai tribal area also wounded 18 people. Some of the wounded were in critical condition. No group has claimed responsibility. But suspicion fell on Taliban militants who regularly target security forces and civilians in the tribal region. The area where the bombing took place is close to government and security offices. The military has carried out numerous operations against the Pakistani Taliban in the tribal region, including in Orakzai. But the militants have proved persistent and continue to carry out attacks.

PPP served masses in hard times

Radio Pakistan
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has said that Pakistan Peoples Party is working to resolve the problems of people with diligence despite inheriting numerous problems and challenges. He was speaking after laying the foundation stone of Thakot-Dasu road in District Kohistan on Friday. The Prime Minister said the party served the people in most difficult times with the support of people and help from Allah. He said Pakistan Peoples Party has offered numerous sacrifices for the cause of democracy and stability of Pakistan. He said founder of the party Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged by a dictator but he still lives in the hearts of the people. He said those making conspiracies against democracy have no interest in solving the real problems of the people. Raja Pervez Ashraf said government started a number of projects for the poor masses. He said under Benazir Income Support Program over 7 million families are being provided a monthly grant of 1‚000 rupees. He said different schemes like insurance and education are also being implemented under BISP to alleviate the poverty. He said those who are trying to close this program are not well-wishers of the people. The Prime Minister directed to provide 40 percent hard area allowance to the employees working in the district. He also announced to get all the damaged schools repaired.