Monday, February 11, 2013

Super Funny Valentine's Day Song

Malala Gets Nominated For 2013 Nobel Peace Prize

While Malala Yousufzai has already created buzz after the teen was shot by Talibans, reports confirm that she has got nomination for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize. She has nearly missed death before she went through emergency skull reconstruction surgery and later was made to receive specialized medical care in Britain. Though she managed to survive, the reason why she was treated as a threat is still reverberated by media. The girl promotes girls' education, and perhaps that's what has not gone down well with the Tahreek-e-Taliban', which after few hours of attack proudly claimed the responsibility. The attack has been condemned internationally, and showcases how Taliban can't allow any rising voice for women rights. The brave girl, after releasing from hospital, is all set to continue spreading the same message despite all odds. "Malala doesn't just represent one young woman, she speaks out for all those who are denied an education purely on the basis of their gender", said Shahida Choudhary, who has been leading a campaign to nominate Yousufzai for the nominate Yousufzai, in a statement issued by global petition platform Change. org. It has been reported that the call made to Prime Minister David Cameron and other senior government officials has been supported by tens of thousands of Britons.

Global financial crunch

Bangladesh to be hard hit
Collapse of the US sub-prime mortgage system resulting in global financial crises has not only engulfed the entire US and European financial and banking system but also affected the global economy. The crux of the problem is that banks and financial institutions have, for many different reasons, gone bankrupt and had to be bailed out by States such as the US government pumping in US$ 700 million into the system and the UK government nationalizing banks and other financial institutions. Other countries like Russia are bailing out their banks through guarantees of millions of dollars and atleast one country, Iceland has gone bankrupt and has to take credits of millions from Russia to survive. The effect of banks and financial institutions going bankrupt is that there is no money available as credits or loans to run businesses and so businesses in all the major economies in USA, Europe and Russia are either closing down altogether or retrenching leading to massive job losses and unemployment. The common people in all these economies long habituated to consumerism that is, buying everything from food to houses, on credit are now forced to return the money which they cannot do because they have lived way beyond their incomes. Incomes too have either decreased or are unavailable as businesses, factories and manufacturing have closed down or retrenched. Many things. For one, our exports of garments and all the other consumer goods are going to slow down drastically as USA and Europe who are the major importers of these goods will not import as much as they did because now their consumers do not have enough cash or credit to buy these goods. So our industries too will have to retrench leading to job losses. Since imports will reduce, so government will have less revenue and less money to push into "development and social safety" resulting in an increase in poverty. Banks and financial institutions too will have less money to give as credits to businesses, factories and manufacturing, if they at all want this money. Next, remittances will also reduce drastically as expatriate Bangladeshis will be the first ones to get the chop in the foreign countries where they are working particularly in the Middle-eastern countries whose economies are entirely dependent on oil exports, the price of which is falling drastically. Again, international financial institutions and development agencies such as the World Bank, the IMF and ADB, the UN will not dole out credits and grants like they did in the past because their major financiers in USA, Europe, Japan and Middle-east are all either going bankrupt or are bailing out their own economies. So, the global financial crisis is going to have a severe impact on Bangladesh sooner rather than later and the global financial crisis is here to stay for at least the next 5 years. Our governments and politicians need to take stock of this immediately and take steps at the earliest.

Celine Dion sings in Mandarin for state TV's New Year Gala show

SEAL Team 6 commando who killed Osama bin Laden describes terrorist's last breath

The special forces commando who brought down Osama bin Laden said he had no choice but to kill the terrorist kingpin, fearing he had a gun or suicide explosives close at hand. The Navy SEAL team member, identified only as “The Shooter” by Esquire magazine, describes the three shots that delivered sudden justice to the world’s most despised man. Bin Laden appeared to push his youngest wife toward the advancing SEALs before the fatal bullets were fired inside his safe house in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2, 2011.“He's got a gun on a shelf right there, the short AK he's famous for. And he's moving forward,” the shooter said. “I don't know if she's got a vest and she's being pushed to martyr them both. He's got a gun within reach. He's a threat. I need to get a head shot so he won't have a chance to clack himself off [blow himself up].” In that fateful moment, the shooter told the mag he knew what needed to be done. “In that second, I shot him, two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap! The second time as he's going down. He crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again, Bap! same place,” he said. “That time I used my EOTech red-dot holo sight. He was dead. Not moving. His tongue was out. I watched him take his last breaths, just a reflex breath.” The shooter’s clean shot at bin Laden was made possible by a fellow SEAL who brilliantly lured out and killed the terrorist’s son — and last line of defense. The shooter was about five people in back of a line, following their point man who had spotted bin Laden’s armed, 23-year-old son was just ahead. “I heard him whisper, 'Khalid... come here' in Arabic, then in Pashto. He used his name. That confused Khalid. He's probably thinking, 'I just heard s----y Arabic and s----y Pashto. Who the f--k is this?’ He leaned out, armed with an AK, and he got blasted by the point man,” the shooter said in the interview. “That call-out was one of the best combat moves I've ever seen. Khalid had on a white T-shirt and, like, white pajama pants. He was the last line of security.” Seconds after killing bin Laden -- and in the high of that moment -- the shooter said he had an understandable mix of emotions. “And I remember as I watched him breathe out the last part of air, I thought: 'Is this the best thing I've ever done, or the worst thing I've ever done?’ ” the shooter said. “This is real and that's him. Holy s--t.” The shooter explained the months of preparation and dry runs in a model of bin Laden’s safe house built in North Carolina.During that training, the shooter said he and other SEALs would fall back on dark humor to break the tension of their incredibly serious task. “I was usually the guy to joke around when we were planning these things — we all d--k around a lot,” he said. “But I was like, 'Hey guys, we have to take this f--king serious. There's a 90-percent chance this is a one-way mission. We're gonna die, so let's do this right.’" Members of SEAL Team 6 understood there was a great chance they’d die or be captured in this harrowing mission. The Pentagon even developed a plan if the SEALs were approached by Pakistani forces, who were not told of the mission.“We would surrender. The original plan was to have Vice President Biden fly to Islamabad and negotiate our release with Pakistan's president,” the shooter said. “This is hearsay, but I understand Obama said, 'Hell no. My guys are not surrendering. What do we need to rain hell on the Pakistani military?' That was the one time in my life I was thinking, I am f--king voting for this guy. I had a picture of him lying in bed at night, thinking, 'You're not f--king with my guys.’ Like, he's thinking about us.” Once they bagged bin Laden’s body and returned to base, the shooter met up with the female CIA analyst who had devoted her life to finding the 9/11 mastermind. That CIA operative told SEALs she was absolutely sure they’d find bin Laden — code name “Pacer” — in his third-floor bedroom. That’s exactly where he was. “While they were still checking the body, I brought the agency woman over. I still had all my stuff on. We looked down and I asked, 'Is that your guy?’ She was crying,” he said. “That's when I took my magazine out of my gun and gave it to her as a souvenir. Twenty-seven bullets left in it. 'I hope you have room in your backpack for this.’ That was the last time I saw her.” The shooter has since seen the movie “Zero Dark Thirty,” Hollywood’s take on the famed bin Laden raid. He had minor beefs with the flick, but said he appreciated how director Kathryn Bigelow and actress Jessica Chastain portrayed CIA operative “Maya.” "They made her a tough woman, which she is,” he said. The Esquire piece focused heavily on the shocking lack of economic safeguards built in for exiting SEALs. The shooter, a 16-year Navy veteran, said he hasn’t figured out how he’ll handle life with no healthcare insurance or a pension. The shooter would have been eligible for a meager pension had he struck around for 20 years. Healthcare was only picked up for 180 days after he left the Navy, the shooter said. "I asked if there was some transition from my Tricare to Blue Cross Blue Shield. They said 'no,' " the shooter said. "'You're out of the service, your coverage is over. Thanks for your 16 years. Go f--k yourself.'" The brutal stress of life inside ST6 also took a huge toll on the shooter’s marriage. He and his wife are legally separated but still live together to cut costs and raise their kids. Amazingly, the shooter and his wife both said they still love each other, but believe marriage isn’t for them right now. "Our marriage was definitely a casualty of his career," said the shooter's wife. "Somewhere along the line we lost track of each other." They still live in fear that his leading role in bin Laden’s killing could bring reprisals, even on US soil. "We're actually looking into changing my name," the wife said. "Changing the kids' names, taking my husband's name off the house, paying off our cars. Essentially deleting him from our lives, but for safety reasons. We still love each other."

Boy Invades Obama's Podium

Either scripts and active content are not permitted to run or Adobe Flash Player version10.0.0 or greater is not installed.

Get Adobe Flash Player

China should not fear NK disputes

Global Times | 2013-2-6
It's widely predicted that North Korea will soon conduct another nuclear test. Sino-North Korean relations now face a new challenge. It's unlikely China would punish North Korea as harshly as countries like the US, Japan and South Korea would prefer, and the friendship between the two sides is not going to end. The West should understand this clearly. However, if North Korea insists on a third nuclear test despite attempts to dissuade it, it must pay a heavy price. The assistance it will be able to receive from China should be reduced. The Chinese government should make this clear beforehand to shatter any illusions Pyongyang may have. Some Chinese scholars believe that China will face a diplomatic challenge if North Korea carries out a third nuclear test. They worry that Pyongyang will turn against China because of China's participation in some international sanctions against it. In the worst case scenario, the rupture that occurred in relations between China and the Soviet Union will be repeated. Such concerns are driven by a lack of confidence in China's national strength, and they exaggerate North Korea's diplomatic irrationality. The nuclear issue complicates Sino-North Korean relations, adding strategic difficulties to China in Northeast Asia. China has many misgivings when handling relations with Pyongyang, but there is a general principle: China is never afraid of Pyongyang. Pyongyang's diplomacy is characterized with toughness. But if Pyongyang gets tough with China, China should strike back hard, even at the cost of deteriorating bilateral relations. Some believe the US, Japan and South Korea are attempting to foment discord between China and North Korea. Such a trap may be real, but China shouldn't be taken hostage by North Korea's extreme actions in order to avoid such a trap. Pyongyang is important to China, but not important enough to make China give up its diplomatic principles. China maintains that denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is necessary and insists relevant parties solve problems through negotiations. China is willing to maintain the Sino-North Korean friendship, but Pyongyang should do the same. The two should have same concerns over the possibility the relationship might break down, which would be of no benefit to Pyongyang. North Korea would face an even worse situation, but China could find some ways to compensate for geopolitical losses. Some worry Pyongyang would completely turn to the US if it fell out with China. Such concerns are unfounded. The political gap between Washington and Pyongyang is impassable. Even if the whole Korean Peninsula moved closer to the US, there would be no serious ramifications. With China's increasing strength, being close to the US doesn't equal being hostile to China. We are not advocating giving up the Sino-North Korean friendship. Instead, we believe the strategic significance of a friendly relationship is special. But Pyongyang shouldn't misread China. China won't put its relations with Pyongyang above other strategic interests. China must not fear disputes with Pyongyang if it is to maintain the traditional bonds of friendship.

Sexual harassment gets worse in post-uprising Egypt

Sexual harassment has become a more explicit phenomenon afflicting the Egyptian society after the country's 2011 upheaval due to constant protests and deteriorating security. Women are deemed inferior to men in Egypt's male-dominated culture, said feminists and human rights activists, stressing that the state is responsible for sexual harassment due to general passivity toward the issue and the lack of security, lack of awareness of women's rights and lack of deterrent laws against harassers. Mervat al-Tallawi, chairwoman of the National Council for Women said at a press conference on Sunday that the state was responsible for the phenomenon, particularly the prevailing group sexual harassment and rape. She noted that the Council has filed a lawsuit against such an "organized crime" against Egyptian women, adding that "the law alone is not enough to combat such an issue." "If all forces unite, including the people, the interior ministry, the education ministry, the Muslim mosques and Christian churches, the phenomenon can be minimized," Tallawi told Xinhua, adding that changes need time. Tallawi criticized the country's political leadership in this regard, urging executive institutions, schools and the media to cooperate in enhancing awareness and changing cultural blemishes that led to such "a dangerous phenomenon." Feminists and activists said the phenomenon of sexual harassment was always there even before the uprising in 2011, but it shamelessly prevailed afterward and led to a new phenomenon - "the group sexual harassment." "We do not have accurate statistic about sexual harassments in Egypt, but we made a survey during the previous Muslim feast and we found out that two out of each three girls are sexually harassed," Azza Kamel, head of Appropriate Communication Techniques (ACT) Center for Development, told Xinhua, warning it was an extremely high rate. Human rights activists said that women in Egypt might experience various types of harassment by males, from teens, young men to men and even aged men. They do not care about the female's age and harass them with shameless verbal comments, grope, assault or even rape. "The boys walk around recklessly, feeling there are no limits to their behaviors in the streets," a woman in the street told Xinhua. "I don't want to tell you what they do and say in public. We wish this would stop." For his part, Fathy Farid, a researcher at ACT center and coordinator of "I Saw Harassment" initiative, blamed the government and the interior ministry in particular for the growing issue, arguing that police officers reportedly looked down upon females who dared to report sexual harassment cases and sided with the harassers or gropers. "The police officer who arrests a harasser does not believe that the man is wrong and he sexually abused the victim," Farid told Xinhua. "If the culture of Egyptian police does not change, the girl will remain the victim, and she will have to find a different way to defend herself against harassers such as using violence." The government said it will draft laws to reinforce the punishment on sexual harassment, but the activists doubt it. "What's the use of a law that will not be actually in effect?" Farid wondered, noting that all the country's institutions, including the legislative, executive and judiciary authorities, the ministries of interior, education and culture as well as the Muslim and Christian religious institutions, should unite to combat the phenomenon. The interior ministry, however, blamed the country's political turmoil for the issue, arguing that if there was political stability and there were no constant chaotic protests, security would gradually be restored on the streets. "Political turmoil leads to security disorder," police officer Hossam Ahmed told Xinhua. "When the country gets more stable, not only sexual harassment but also robbery, carjacking and relevant crimes will gradually vanish." Ahmed denied claims that the police mistreat harassed women, stressing they just had to verify the case as most of the time they got false reports for personal reasons. Despite efforts, conferences and awareness campaigns, sexual harassment has grown to an alarming issue threatening social peace in Egypt particularly after the uprising, representing a real problem for women who think twice before going out alone or coming home a little bit late.

Afghans sell daughters to pay drug lords

The mother of a little Afghan girl cannot even turn to face her daughter. She looks down in shame as she explains why she must hand the girl over to drug lords. The father of the girl has done what many Afghan farmers must do to finance their opium farms: borrow money from drug traffickers. But the Afghan government and international forces’ attempt to halt the opium trade has quashed the father’s poppy business, and with it, his ability to pay back the lenders. The drug lords have taken him hostage to extract a payment. “I have to give my daughter to release my husband,” the mother explains with the girl at her side. She looks no older than six. Ninety percent of the world's opium – the raw source of heroin – comes from Afghanistan. Growing poppy there has been a lucrative industry. The Afghan government has been cracking down and destroying illegal crops, leaving many farmers in the same horrifying situation as the family forced to use their own daughter as collateral for the loan. “They’re way more dangerous and powerful than the Taliban,” one father of two kidnapped children says about the drug lords. He looks at a text messaged picture of his daughter being held in captivity as the captors demand $20,000 from the man over the telephone. These tragic stories are documented in PBS’ award-winning Frontline film, "Opium Brides,” which was made by investigative Afghan reporter Najibullah Quraishi and producer Jamie Doran. Quraishi told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that when the families give up their children, they are often taken to other countries, like Pakistan or Iran, where they are used for transporting drugs or put into sex slavery. The film traces another story of an ill-fated Afghan farmer. “It just seemed too awful to be true,” producer Jamie Doran told Amanpour about that man’s plight. “[He] couldn't pay the traffickers back and refused to give his daughter away. And we actually have the entire film of him being beheaded with a penknife. That's what they do if you refuse to hand over your daughters.” The reporter behind the film says the government is aware that it is destroying families’ lives along with their crops, but policymakers have yet to come up with a solution to safeguard the farmers’ families while trying to end the opium trade. One little girl who was lucky enough to escape her captors recounts just how horrible the conditions were. “They wouldn't allow me to change my clothes. They wouldn't give me soap to wash them. My clothes became worn out on my body. They did every possible cruelty to me. I really fear that those smugglers will take me again.” Even if the girls do escape, they often have nowhere to go while they search for their families. The filmmakers did find one halfway house, but it was only enough for about 30 girls. The filmmakers believe there are many hundreds, if not thousands of girls on the run from the traffickers. “The role of NATO and the United Nations is fascinating in this situation,” Doran said. “The U.N. and NATO ISAF will tell you it's not their responsibility nor do they advocate the destruction – the eradication of the poppy. But they supply the protection for the police to actually do it. So they're saying on one hand, 'we have nothing to do with this.' But the Afghan police couldn't do without NATO support.” But Doran points out that the root of the problem is the opium drug users. “I don't know if there's a solution because the world demands poppy cultivation for its heroin addiction. So you know, maybe the blame shouldn't just be put onto the Afghan government. Maybe we should be looking inside ourselves a little more,” Qaurishi said. The looming fear is that this horrendous situation could worsen when international troops leave Afghanistan in 2014.

Tax avoidance: Legality vs morality

Pakistan generals, we’re still here

I am flattered. Pakistan’s infamous military Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has taken exception to my columns in this newspaper and ordered the blocking of the Toronto Sun website in Pakistan. In a recent column, I had written about reports that the Pakistan army was behind a Canadian cleric who threatened to storm the parliament building in Islamabad to pave the way for yet another military takeover. The next day, all access to was shut down across Pakistan. What is the Pakistan Military and the ISI afraid of? I asked a number of prominent Pakistani journalists, parliamentarians and senior officials in Islamabad. Every one of them was scared of the ISI and begged not to be quoted. On condition of anonymity, one gave a blunt reason: “Your criticism and exposure of the Fauji-Jihadi shenanigans. Decision (to shut down Toronto Sun came) from Aabpara.” (Fauji is the Urdu word for Army while Aabpara is the Islamabad neighbourhood housing the ISI headquarters.) What most Canadians don’t know is Canada is home to many “retired” Pakistan military generals, brigadiers and colonels with close ties to the ISI. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has now raised concerns of the links between the Pakistan Army and international Islamic terrorists. HRW has asked Islamabad to “actively investigate allegations of collusion” between Islamic terrorists and the Pakistan military intelligence. These terror groups include the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). The LeT operates not just in India, Myanmar, Thailand and Bangladesh, but right here in Canada. We learned of LeT’s Canadian presence during the trial in Chicago of Pakistani-American David Headley and Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Rana for their role in the 2008 Mumbai terror attack as well as the plot to blow up the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten. Interestingly, Rana turned out to be a former Pakistan military officer. Then there is the question of my column about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Some of Pakistan’s 200 nukes may be directed at India, but that is not who the Islamists wish to target. Rather, it is the West and our allies in NATO who Pakistan’s jihadi generals see as “Islam’s enemies.” Pakistan’s leading nuclear physicist, MIT-educated Prof. Pervez Hoodbhoy has this to say on the subject in his new book Confronting the Bomb: “The fear of loose (nuclear) weapons comes from the fact that Pakistan’s armed forces harbour a hidden enemy within their ranks. Those wearing the cloak of religion freely walk in and out of top security nuclear installations every day.” Hoodbhoy describes the Pakistani army as “a heavily Islamicised rank-and-file brimming with seditious thoughts … It is difficult to find another example where the defence apparatus of a modern state has been rendered so vulnerable by the threat posed by military insiders.” But loose nukes aside, it seems the unpardonable sin I committed in the eyes of the ISI is my column on the taboo subject of Pakistan Army’s atrocities in Balochistan, where thousands of young men have simply disappeared from the face of the earth. HRW has accused Pakistan’s military intelligence agencies of “continued enforced disappearances and killings” of Baloch opposition activists who want an end to Pakistani occupation. In 2012 at least eight journalists were killed in Pakistan. HRW talks of “a climate of fear” that impedes media coverage of the state security forces so journalists rarely report on human rights abuses by the military. And the Pakistani government can block the Toronto Sun all they want, it is not going to deter me from exposing them.

Biden: Sense of urgency over gun control measures

Vice President Joe Biden says there's a real sense of urgency from lawmakers and police about enacting gun control measures. Biden was joined Monday at Girard (juh-RAHRD') College by law enforcement officials, U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole and Democratic members of Pennsylvania's congressional delegation. Biden says ideas like universal background checks for gun purchases have widespread support. The Obama administration is pushing for new gun control measures in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14. Proposals include a new ban on military-style weapons, a ban on high-capacity magazines carrying more than 10 rounds of ammunition, and background checks for all gun sales. Federal lawmakers joining Biden included Reps. Bob Brady, Chaka Fattah and Allyson Schwartz and Sen. Bob Casey.

John Kerry: "I have big heels to fill"

Obama honors soldier's heroics

Assad says Syria will not submit to plots, pressure

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
says that his country will not submit to pressure or " diversifying plots" against it. "Syria will remain the beating heart of the Arab world and will not give up its principles despite the intensifying pressure and diversifying plots not only targeting Syria, but all Arabs," Assad said at a meeting with a Jordanian delegation in Damascus on Monday. Assad’s remarks come after the leader of the foreign-backed Syrian opposition coalition, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, pledged allegiance to the Israeli regime if he managed to form a “new regime in Syria.” Khatib also admitted to having received information from US, French and German intelligence agencies on the bases and movements of the Syrian army. Meanwhile on Monday, violent clashes continued between Syrian army forces and militants in the capital, Damascus, and the western city of Homs, where a commander of the al-Qaeda-linked group al-Nusra Front was reportedly killed by army forces. The Syrian forces also killed and wounded a number of militants during clashes in the northwestern port city of Latakia. Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011. Many people, including large numbers of Army and security personnel, have been killed in the violence. The Syrian government has said that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and that a very large number of the militants operating in the country are foreign nationals.

Don’t let reward points die with you

Afghani Pashto Music

Afghan government: Prisoner abuse not systematic

Associated Press
An Afghan government panel acknowledged Monday that detainees face widespread torture but denied there is systematic abuse in government-run prisons. The panel's findings were the result of a two-week fact-finding mission following a U.N. report last month that said Afghan authorities are still torturing prisoners despite promises of reforms. The country's intelligence service earlier had denied any torture in its detention facilities. The complaints have prompted NATO to stop many transfers of detainees to the Afghans as concerns about torture raise questions about the government's commitment to human rights. The U.N. report said more than half of the 635 detainees interviewed had been tortured — about the same ratio found in its first report in 2011. It cited brutal tactics including hanging detainees from the ceiling by their wrists, beating them with cables and administering electric shocks. Many rights activists have expressed concern that such abuses could become more common as international forces draw down and the country's Western allies become less watchful over a government that so far has taken few concrete actions to reform the system. The Afghan panel also denied the allegation in the U.N. report that the government appeared to be trying to hide the mistreatment by hiding detainees in secret locations during inspections by international observers. Commission head Abdul Qadir Adalatkhwa told reporters that torture and beatings occur in the first stages of the arrest "but not while they are in prison." The delegation visited both male and female prisons as well as juvenile detention facilities. Adalatkhwa said 148 of 284 prisoners interviewed in the provinces of Kabul, Kandahar and Herat complained of torture and misbehavior at the time of their arrest and during the interrogation period. Of those 136 cases were confirmed, he said. The panel also interviewed 23 female detainees and found no confirmed allegations of rape and abuses. He also said more than 66 percent of those interviewed also had no access to defense lawyers. The government-appointed commission plans to discuss the findings during a meeting with judicial officials and President Hamid Karzai later this week at the presidential palace, Adalatkhwa said. "There is no systematic torture in Afghan detention centers," he said. In a letter responding to the U.N. report, Gen. John Allen, the then-commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said his staff had written letters to Afghan ministers urging them to investigate more than 80 separate allegations of detainee abuse during the past 18 months. "To date, Afghan officials have acted in only one instance," Allen said in the letter. In that case Afghan authorities did not fire the official in question, but transferred him from Kandahar province to Sar-e-Pul in the north. The letter said the NATO military alliance had responded to the U.N. report by stopping transfers of detainees to seven facilities in Kabul, Laghman, Herat, Khost and Kunduz provinces — most of them the same facilities that were flagged a year ago. The transfers were halted in October, when the U.N. shared its preliminary findings with the military coalition. "We have only stopped transferring some detainees to certain Afghan facilities," Jamie Graybeal, a spokesman for the international military alliance in Kabul. "The Afghan government has stated its commitment to upholding its human rights obligations and we remain committed to working together with the International Community to support them in their efforts to tackle this difficult problem. "

Pakistan: Land of the Pure, Land of Perfidy

Pakistan's collusion with violent Islamist groups has been to the detriment of its security and regional stability. Between 1990 and 2001, while the United States was engaged elsewhere, Pakistan condoned a malignant symbiosis between the Taliban and al Qaeda. Unless those ties are finally cut, the recent gains in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan won't last. The long war in Afghanistan has yielded uneven and ambiguous results for long-term security and stability. And, though al Qaeda is indeed disrupted and diminished, it is not fully dismantled and defeated.This is because Pakistan, which translates to "land of the pure," has actually been more like "land of perfidy." If anything, the country is a paradox. One key reason for this is that the Pakistani army and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate, under the spurious auspices of "strategic depth," have persistently fomented insurgency and terrorism in Afghanistan. Indeed, the principal ingredient of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), ammonium nitrate, and the detonators for those devices, still mainly flow from Pakistan. These devices are the leading killers and cripplers of friendly troops. In addition, a veritable host of Islamist fanatic movements — notably, the Quetta Shura Taliban, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar — all likely still associate with, and receive some degree of advice or support from, Pakistan's security organizations. For all their bravado and perfidious use of fanatical proxies, Pakistani strategists in the military and intelligence services fail to understand the most important point about their activities. Their readiness to collude with other violent Islamist groups in the most dangerous places on the planet, Pakistan's tribal areas and Pakistan's heartland, has been to the net detriment of Pakistani security and regional stability. It is the metaphorical equivalent of an arsonist ultimately compelled to act as fireman for his very own house, which he lit on fire. But the reality is even worse than that. The central Pakistani paradox is that, for the six and a half decades of that state's existence, almost every major war or initiative its security elites have undertaken for the ostensible purposes of improving Pakistan's security has, in effect, achieved the opposite outcome, undermining its security and destabilizing the region.Curiously, according to the country's security elites, none of this is the fault of Pakistan. It is simply a consequence of adverse circumstances and conniving by others. As convenient that this self-delusion and mythmaking may be, what it is not is truthful. Consider the four wars Pakistan started with India, including the conflict on the Kargil Heights in the fall of 1999. It endured thrashings in all of them. The only common theme is that defeat was not the generals' fault. And after its particularly humiliating defeat in the 1971 war with India over Eastern Pakistan, Pakistan's leadership made a fateful choice to compensate for its apparent military ineptness. It pressed forward to acquire nuclear weapons. The somber reality is that the international community and the U.S.-led coalition have not re-imagined the means and ways to compel Pakistan to alter its harmful strategic calculations. The United States bears some responsibility in all of this because of its strategic attention deficit problem. The harsh fact is that, since 2001, the United States has been at war in South Asia for just over 11 years. But in fact, it has been partly responsible for the wars there for the last 33 years. For about the first 11 years, beginning just after the Soviet invasion in 1979, it was American policy to fund and support Pakistan's ISI to support Islamist insurgents to defeat the Soviets. This is an example of the apoplexy side of the U.S. strategic attention deficit: all on, damn the long-term strategic consequences. For roughly the next 11 years, from the fall of 1990 to the fall of 2001, the United States generally ignored South Asia. That was the critical period when Pakistan continued to direct various movements of Islamist fanatics, condoning a malignant symbiosis between the Taliban and al Qaeda. Consider this the narcolepsy side of the strategic attention deficit: all off, asleep at the switch.As a consequence, for the most recent 11-plus years, beginning in October 2001, the U.S.-led coalition has been fighting some of those very same Islamist diehards that American policy helped nurture, beginning with the Soviet-Afghan War. Starkly, if the Taliban were to revive an Islamist emirate in Afghanistan, there is every reason to forecast a future with more attacks against the West, planned and orchestrated with increasing scope and intensity from Afghanistan's and Pakistan's tribal areas. The only good news is that, since 2010, the combined Afghan and coalition campaign, resources and leadership fighting against the Taliban inside Afghanistan have been the most effective since this very long Afghan war began. The war has a worthy object, but it will have been in vain unless there is strategic momentum from inside Pakistan to turn off the sources of support to the insurgents. Without support and sanctuary, the Taliban will likely atrophy into insignificance. Reducing the potentially global radiating effects of this sanctuary is a strategic imperative for all. Perhaps there is still the time and the will to offset Pakistan's steady diet of carrots with the addition of some compelling sticks. Among the measures that might compel change are the revocation of Pakistan's status as a Major non-NATO Ally, a resolution on Kashmir that makes permanent the Line of Control, a cessation in funding flows, and an invitation to other South Asian neighbors to participate in military support against the Taliban.

Kaira comes down heavily on Punjab govt

Federal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira has severely criticized the Punjab government for squandering public money on wayward projects. The information minister also lambasted the so-called metro bus service project saying it will prove a scam in the coming days. Addressing a public rally in the outskirts of his hometown Lalamusa the information minister further said, the Punjab government meted out a step motherly attitude with district Gujrat because this area is a stronghold of PPP. While slamming action against young doctors in Lahore the information minister said, protesting doctors are demanding their rights but the way the Punjab government has tried to quell the peaceful demonstration speaks volumes for the anti-People stand of the sitting Punjab government. He said, a handful of Turkish companies were being accommodated at the cost of public money. He said he will soon unmask corruption committed by the Punjab government in these so-called projects. He said, the Swiss authorities reply that they cannot open cases against President Zardari has vindicated out stand that all cases constituted against PPP leadership were false. He criticized Nawaz Sharif for constituting false and fabricated cases against PPP leadership. He said PML N claims to be a party of entire country but it does not have any base in Sindh. " PML N does not have even a single seat in Sindh while in Balohchistan it will not get any seat this time. In KPK it has some support in Hazara only", he added. Kaira said PML N was playing politics in the issue of new provinces but by the grace of God it will not succeed in its designs. "PML N will not get many seats from Gujrat and other adjoining districts', he added. He said PPP voters will cast their votes in favour of PPP come what may. " Nawaz Sharif should take care of Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri who are going to cause a big dent to it in many parts of Punjab'.

Work on Iran pipeline inside Pakistan to begin in a month

Talks between Islamabad and Tehran on $1.5 billion Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline are starting on Monday to finalise the EPC (engineering, procurement, construction) contract that is to be extended to Tadbir -- the state-owned company of Iran. Despite clear opposition from the US and its sanctions on Iran for Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, the $1.5 billion Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline has been accorded approval by the federal cabinet and the crucial talks between Islamabad and Tehran are starting on Monday. These talks, likely to continue for 3-4 days, will finalise the EPC (engineering, procurement, construction) contract that is to be extended to Tadbir -- the state-owned company of Iran for laying the pipeline in Pakistan’s territory. Once the EPC contract gets finalised, the company will start laying the 781 kilometres pipeline inside Pakistan within a month. Now the question arises whether Pakistan will indeed be able to sustain the US pressure. The Iranian delegation headed by deputy chief of Tadbir company will take part in the talks while Pakistan’s side, to be led by secretary Ministry of Petroleum and Natural resources, will comprise managing director of Inter State Gas Systems (ISGS) Mobin Saulat and senior officials of finance and law ministries. The talks will fine-tune the terms of reference, scope of work and the cost of laying the pipeline per kilometre under the EPC contract. The pipeline, compressors and related equipment will be provided by Iran. It would also be discussed as to how long the pipeline would be constructed under $500 million loan. The pipeline will be laid down from Gabd, a point at Pakistan-Iran border, to Nawabshah. The project that will be completed by December 2014 will first bring 750 million cubic feet gas per day in the 781 kilometres long pipeline with diameter of 42 inches and later on the gas flow will increase up to 1 billion cubic feet per day. The 750mmcfd gas will be injected into the power sector to generate 4,000MW of electricity and when the gas import will reach up to 1bcfd, the electricity generation will increase to 5,000 MW. When this gas will replace the costly furnace oil being used by the power plants, the country will save about $1 billion a year. According to officials concerned, the cost of laying the pipeline in Pakistan’s territory stands at $1.5 billion. Iran will provide 500 million dollars while the remaining amount will be arranged by Pakistan itself. The government has already imposed the gas infrastructure development cess (GIDC) to raise funds for the project. In addition, Pakistan’s public sector entities such as the OGDCL, Sui Southern, and Sui Northern will also play their role in providing finances for the project.

For many children of Balochistan, attending school is not an option

A damning report on the state of education in Balochistan, Pakistan’s most deprived province, has revealed that 34.1% of children aged between six and 16 are not enrolled in schools. Around 77.7% children in the pre-primary school age group are not attending elementary schools in the province. These and other shocking statistics were revealed at the provincial launch of Pakistan’s largest-ever citizen-led household-based Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) Survey 2012 in Quetta. The survey also identified that children of school-going age across the country have an alarmingly poor learning ability in terms of reading Urdu, regional languages, English or doing basic levels of arithmetic. “Almost 92.2% of Class-III students are not able to read Class-II level story in Urdu or regional languages like Sindhi and Pashto, while almost 78% of students cannot read Class-II level sentences,” the ASER report said. ASER’s specifically trained volunteer team surveyed 16,303 households in 825 villages located in 28 rural districts of Balochistan and detailed information of 56,375 children (59% male and 41% female) aged between three and 16 years was collected. The report stated that 34.1% of children falling in the six to 16 age brackets were not attending schools in Balochistan. Girls account for 21% of this figure and boys account for 13%. However, the number of children falls dramatically as the progress is made to higher classes. “The number of children comes down drastically as they progress to higher classes. For every 8 children in Class-1, only 3 children reach up to Class-X.” The learning skills of children aged between five and 16 were assessed through specifically designed language and mathematics tests, which covered languages up to Grade-II level text and arithmetic covering up to Grade-III level textbooks. The depressing results showed that nearly 84.5% of children in Grade-III could not read even a sentence in Urdu or their own language. The lack of emphasis on learning English as a language has been well documented in the country over the years. English reading and comprehension tests reported that 68.1% of Class-V students, 49.5% Class-VI and 40.9% Class-VII students could not read Class-II level English sentences – raising serious questions about their learning abilities. All was not doom and gloom in the ASER survey. It reported that 34% of boys and 19% of girls were able to read at least Urdu, Sindhi and Pashto sentences. Similarly, 35% of males and 20% of females were able to correctly read words and sentences in English, while 38% of the former and 18% of the latter were able to do basic subtraction and division arithmetic problems. “As many as 58.3% of surveyed private high schools and 9.6% government schools had functional computer labs. While 41.6% private high schools and 12.9% government high schools had library books available for students to use in the schools premises,” the ASER report noted. Up to 56% of the private primary schools and 14% government schools surveyed did not have adequate and useable water facilities. Similarly, 78% public and 19% private primary schools do not have functional toilet facilities.

HRCP lashes Punjab gov for beating doctors

The Commission said in a statement on Monday said that “HRCP is alarmed by the beating of doctors by the police on Sunday in Lahore where several doctors were injured and wishes that the long protesting medical professionals could have been dealt with without resorting to the use of force. HRCP believes that peaceful assembly and protest is one of the paramount human rights in any society which must not be curtailed. Although wielding their batons is the standard crowd control procedure for the police, it is exceedingly disappointing that a non-violent way could not be found to tackle the doctors if, and it is a big if, they were posing any threat to public peace. To the utter dismay of the citizenry and civil society the doctors-police standoff in Punjab has become a near monthly affair now and it is the people who have been paying the price, in the form of intermittent suspension of health services by the doctors pressing for their demands and blockage of roads in demonstrations or scuffles between the police and the doctors. HRCP reminds all concerned that this is not a vendetta and must not be treated like one. The authorities must engage the doctors constructively and without further delay and find a way out of this deadlock now. The police beating up the protesting doctors has understandably disgusted the advocates of peaceful pursuit of all legitimate demands and the violence must be probed in an impartial manner. Those sanctioning beating u

Pakistan: ''Case closed''

THE president has immunity against criminal prosecution under the Pakistani constitution — thus has declared the Swiss attorney general, according to the law ministry here. Has the long-running and vexing so-called Swiss letter saga finally come to an end? It would appear so, though never say never in Pakistan. After all, anything is possible, as Prime Minister Ashraf discovered in the rental power case, where the Supreme Court caught the country by surprise and seemingly ordered the arrest of the prime minister as Tahirul Qadri’s thousands were staging a sit-in near parliament last month. But with matters now in the hands of the Swiss authorities, who are presumably less unpredictable than their Pakistani counterparts, it would appear that at least as far as the millions of dollars once upon a time lodged in Swiss accounts and allegedly belonging to President Zardari are concerned, the file can be considered shut. In a better world, there would be hard lessons learned. Article 248(2) of the constitution has always read: “No criminal proceedings whatsoever shall be instituted or continued against the President or a Governor in any court during his term of office.” While an argument could be made that the Swiss letter only sought to reinstate Pakistan’s role as a civilian party laying claim to the allegedly ill-gotten gains lying in Swiss accounts, it was always a stretch that the Swiss legal system would dance to the tune of Pakistani indecision: prosecution under Nawaz Sharif and then Gen Musharraf; then withdrawal of the cases under the latter after political realities at home had changed; and then the attempted reinstatement of the withdrawn cases at the behest of the superior judiciary. Unsurprisingly, the Swiss probably are not very interested in having their legal system used as a pawn in Pakistani political games. Should the court here have known better? Yes. Should it have acted differently? Yes. Will it absorb the right lessons from this episode? We don’t know. As for the PPP, will it learn that there is a different way to approach challenges than always as a zero-sum political game? Farooq Naek was the law minister when the NRO-related matter first erupted and he was the law minister again when the Swiss letter was finally dispatched — how much time and energy could have been saved had calmer, more reasoned counsel been listened to earlier? And for the public at large, a more fundamental challenge: to argue Mr Zardari has immunity and the democratic transition needed to be kept on track is not to deny Pakistan has a serious corruption problem; how does it build pressure to have cleaner representatives without bringing the democratic system itself down?

Zardari: ''A refusal foretold''

As predicted in this space innumerable times since the issue of writing a letter to the Swiss authorities blew up, the latter have responded to the Pakistan government’s missive by saying categorically that the case against President Asif Ali Zardari cannot be reopened because he enjoys immunity while in office under Pakistani and international law, and that the case has in any case been closed under the statute of limitations under Swiss law since 15 years have elapsed since the case was instituted. It may be instructive to do a brief recap of the whole affair in order to understand the diversionary journey the country has been subjected to over many years. In 2007, when General Musharraf began to lose his grip on events unfolding in the country, he reached out to Benazir Bhutto’s PPP for a political bailout. The deal struck between the two sides after protracted negotiations resulted in the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), which withdrew corruption, etc, cases against Benazir Bhutto, Asif Zardari and many others, cases the PPP always held were politically motivated. The Cotecna case involving Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari led to a presumption of guilt in the Swiss magistracy’s investigation, which was overturned on appeal in 2003. Since then, the issue lay relatively dormant, until in 2008, then Attorney General Justice (retd) Malik Mohammad Qayyum wrote to the Swiss authorities withdrawing the request for assistance in the case, i.e. closing it. In 2009, the Supreme Court (SC) struck down the NRO as discriminatory, and ordered the reopening of all closed cases benefiting from it. This led to a three plus years standoff between the PPP government and the SC on the latter’s insistence that the government write to the Swiss authorities to reopen the Cotecna case. The government dragged its feet, arguing that such a step would be tantamount to an insult to the country’s sitting head of state, as well as fruitless since the president enjoyed immunity under our constitution as well as international law. The reluctance and refusal of the government to write the letter seems to have provoked more fury than judicial sense from the SC, which insisted on the implementation of its judgement by writing the letter. Many legal luminaries and analysts were also of the view that the president enjoyed immunity, but the SC insisted immunity was not automatic (despite the fact it is in the constitution) and would have to be applied for. The government was reluctant, given the state of virtual confrontation between it and the SC, fearing the immunity clause may be struck down. This prolonged standoff cost the PPP government a prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, convicted of contempt of court for refusing to write the letter and thereby losing office and being debarred from elected office for five years. His replacement, Raja Pervez Ashraf, after fresh government deliberations, agreed to write the letter. The result is now before us. The valid question to be asked is why the country was subjected to three plus years of time, resources, judiciary-executive confrontational tension and its destabilising effect on the democratic system when the outcome was staring everyone in the face. The only conclusion is that the superior judiciary failed to exercise its mind judiciously on the issue. If the country has lessons to learn from the whole affair, so, it must be said, has the judiciary. Some legal luminaries believe the Swiss response does not preclude the reopening of the case against President Zardari once he leaves office. They are of course entitled to their views and may even have legal precedent on their side, but Pakistan needs to lay the issue to rest for the moment and get back on track to more urgent and weightier questions, chief among them currently being to ensure the elections are held, on time, and in a free, fair and transparent manner. We need no more red herrings to distract us from this supreme national task.

Pakistan test fires nuclear-capable Hatf IX

Pakistan today conducted a successful test fire of short-range surface-to-surface missile Hatf IX (NASR). The test fire was conducted with successive launches of two missiles from a state of the art multi tube launcher. President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf have felicitated the scientists and engineers on the successful test of short-range missile Hatf-9 Nasr. NASR‚ with a range of 60 km‚ and in-flight maneuver capability can carry nuclear warheads of appropriate yield‚ with high accuracy. This quick response system‚ which can fire a four missile salvo ensures deterrence against threats in view of evolving scenarios. Additionally‚ NASR has been specially designed to defeat all known anti tactical missile defence systems. The test was witnessed by Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Khalid Shameem Wynne‚ Director General Strategic Plans Division Lieutenant General (Retired) Khalid Ahmed Kidwai‚ Chairman NESCOM Muhammad Irfan Burney‚ Commander Army Strategic Forces Command Lieutenant General Triq Nadeem Gilani‚ senior officers from the armed forces and scientists and engineers of strategic organizations. Addressing the scientists‚ engineers and military officers of strategic organizations‚ Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee congratulated them on displaying a high standard of proficiency in handling and operating the state of the art weapon system. He said Pakistan's armed forces are fully capable of safeguarding Pakistan's security against all kinds of aggression.