Friday, March 29, 2013

Billy Joel - We Didn't Start The Fire

Abrar ul Haq - - Billo on GT Road

Pyongyang Declares ‘State of War’ with South Korea - Agency

North Korea has declared that it entered a “state of war” with South Korea, saying that all issues between the neighboring countries will be handled in accordance with a wartime protocol, Reuters reported on Saturday citing North's official KCNA news agency. “From this time on, the North-South relations will be entering the state of war and all issues raised between the North and the South will be handled accordingly,” the agency said citing a statement carried by KCNA. AFP reported on Saturday citing the same statement on KCNA that “The long-standing situation of the Korean peninsula being neither at peace nor at war is finally over.” North and South Korea remain technically at war, since no peace treaty was signed following the Korean War in 1953. The Demilitarized Zone between the countries is the most heavily armed border in the world. On March 11, South Korea and the United States began annual large-scale military exercises, codenamed Key Resolve. The drills involve 10,000 South Korean and 3,500 US troops. Prior to the exercises, Pyongyang threatened the United States with a preemptive nuclear strike amid warnings that it plans to terminate the Korean War Armistice Agreement. It warned of retaliatory countermeasures if the United States and South Korea went ahead with the drills. The United States on Thursday dispatched two nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers on an “extended deterrence” practice run over South Korea. US officials said the exercise should serve “to demonstrate very clearly the resolve of the United States to deter against aggression on the Korean Peninsula.” North Korea responded on Friday by placing its strategic rocket forces on standby to strike US and South Korean targets.

Putin Signs Decree to Reinstate Hero of Labor Award

Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a decree on Friday night ordering to reinstate a Soviet-era award and call it Hero of Labor of the Russian Federation. “To establish the title of the Hero of Labor of the Russian Federation for awarding it citizens of Russia for outstanding labor achievements on behalf of the country and people, connected with attainments of exceptional results in the state, public and economic activities, aimed at providing wealth and prosperity of Russia,” the decree said. Earlier on Friday, Putin said at a meeting with staffers of the All-Russia People’s Front, who successfully campaigned for his re-election for a third term, that the award of the ‘Hero of Socialist Labor’ in the Soviet Union “was justified.” The award, established under the rule of Josef Stalin, was widely used to praise civilian workers for their labor achievements and to boost output. The initiative to resurrect the title was voiced during a previous meeting of the People's Front with Putin in December.

Pakistan: The military versus the TTP

Daily Times
The tribal areas of Pakistan are a war zone since many years and there does not seem to be any let-up in the relentless spree of killings. Amongst different militias formed under one pretext or the other (such as aiding the war in Afghanistan) the battle is waged for domination of turf or the suppression of an opposing force. Drones are employed by the US to eradicate militancy in the area, and collateral damage is used as one of the justifications by local people to unleash terror on other areas of Pakistan, resulting in almost 49,000 security personnel and civilian deaths since 2008. As the ‘insurgency’ takes on more vehemence, the military steps in, and then a new round of battle comes into play. As the military, aided by one group or the other takes on the enemy — the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — the operation becomes controversial to some, as has been brought to light by the submission of the latest report of the intelligence agencies in the Supreme Court. The report highlights the role of the TTP and the ‘recent nexus of Tehreek-e-Taliban Swat (TTS) with the Afghanistan government’, which would be conducive to the acceleration of terror activities in Mohmand and Bajaur Agencies, Dir, Swat and Chitral. The report was called for in the hearing of a petition by a Jamaat-e-Islami leader against Action (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulation, 2011. The petion is being heard by a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. That the TTP has reared its ugly head to perpetuate non-stop violence in FATA, especially in the Tirah valley lately, Quetta, Karachi, Peshawar and in different parts of Pakistan, is a sign that it is working in collusion with other likeminded groups like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). It does not require any rocket science to gather this, and the section of the security agencies' report about this merely highlights what is common knowledge by now. The report’s shifting of blame onto the Afghan government for being in cahoots with the TTP to wreak havoc in Pakistan as a retaliatory measure against the agencies’ ‘tacit’ assistance to the Taliban in Afghanistan does not hold any weight as there is nothing to substantiate that claim keeping in view Pakistan’s own proxies in action in the area. One being the infamous Maulana ‘FM Radio’ Fazlullah, who after being chased out of Swat by the military found safe haven in the eastern provinces of Afghanistan bordering FATA, enabling him to indulge in his anti-Pakistan activities by spreading a message of violence to establish the writ of his own version of Islam. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan have to be careful not to fall into the trap laid by the militants to bring them into conflict along their porous border by sowing confusion about who is attacking who. The more likely scanario than the one the security agencies have sketched is that Maulana Fazlullah and his ilk are being facilitated across the border not by the Afghan government, which hardly has a presence in that area, but by our own proxies, the Haqqani network, which controls those border Afgan provinces. All the jihadi proxies spawned by our security establishment have by now united in a war against both neighbouring states. The logic of the situation dictates close cooperation between Kabul and Islamabad if the common threat from terrorism is to be overcome.

NAWAZ SHARIF *EXPOSED* Noora's Security BRUTALLY Beating Youth

Pakistan: List of 54 fake degree holders submitted to ECP

In a communiqué addressed to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has submitted the names of 54 former members of parliament and provincial assemblies with fake degrees, DawnNews reported late on Friday night. According to the HEC letter sent to the election commission, Akhunzada Chataan, Samina Khawar Hayat, Ghulam Dastagir and Wasim Afzal Gondal have all been proven to have fake degrees. Nasir Ali Shah, Mir Badshah Qaisarani, Seemal Kamran and Shumaila Rana also have fake degrees while the degrees of Israrullah Zehri and Umar Gorgage are not recognised. The HEC also submitted the names of 180 members who have not submitted their Matric and/or Intermediate certificates to the ECP. These politicians include Khurshid Shah, Chaudhary Nisar, Bushra Gauhar and Faisal Saleh Hayat. Afrasiyab Khattak, Javed Hashmi, Samsam Bukhari have also not submitted in their certificates. Meanwhile the names of Imtiaz Safdar Warraich and Qasim Zia have been categorised as among those with non-verifiable degrees.

Russia Calls On U.S., North Korea To Step Back From The Brink

Russia is urging the U.S. and North Korea to end an escalating cycle of dangerous provocations after Pyongyang put its missile forces on high alert and American stealth bombers flew practice bomb runs over the Korean Peninsula. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking Friday in Moscow, said the tit-for-tat moves were becoming a "vicious cycle" that could "simply get out of control," Reuters reports. Lavrov, apparently referring to U.S. actions, said Russia is concerned that in addition to U.N. Security Council sanctions aimed at Pyongyang's nuclear program, "unilateral action is being taken around North Korea that is increasing military activity." The Russian foreign minister's remarks follow a ratcheting up of rhetoric and Cold War-style moves as North Korea eyes joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises with suspicion. As we reported earlier, the U.S. command in South Korea made a rare announcement Thursday that a pair of B-2 stealth bombers, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, had flown an "extended deterrence mission" from a base in Missouri to a range in South Korea. Normally, such missions are not made public. In response, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered his medium- and long-range missile forces to be on standby for a possible attack on Hawaii, Guam and South Korea, according to KCNA, the official North Korean news agency. KCNA said Kim had "judged the time has come to settle accounts with the U.S. imperialists in view of the prevailing situation." Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Thursday that "these provocations by the North are taken by us very seriously, and we'll respond to that." "The North Koreans have to understand that what they're doing is very dangerous," Hagel said. "I don't think we're doing anything extraordinary or provocative or out of the ... orbit of what nations do to protect their own interests." As NPR's Tom Gjelten reports, Seoul has become more resolute in its desire to respond to North Korean threats since Pyongyang's forces shelled a South Korean military base in 2010. Last week, the U.S. and South Korean militaries also signed a "counter provocation" plan spelling out how a combined U.S.-South Korean response to any such future incident might play out. As a result, Pyongyang might think twice about any action that could draw a joint response, Gjelten says. On Friday, KCNA reports that Kim is leading the nation's defense in the face of "the grave situation where the U.S. anti-DPRK [North Korea] hostile acts have reached the brink of a nuclear war." Exactly what North Korea's missile capabilities are has been the subject of intense speculation among Western observers in recent months. Its KN-08 medium-range missile is both mobile and is believed to have a range that would allow it to hit Japan. In December, Pyongyang launched its first satellite into orbit, demonstrating at least a rudimentary long-range missile capability that would potentially put Guam and Hawaii within range. But the accuracy and reliability of those rockets, as well as how many Pyongyang might possess, is still a question mark. But for now, North Korea's bellicose language continues. As NK News reports, the photograph at the top of this post shows a chart in the background marked "U.S. mainland strike plan", with missile trajectories that look to terminate in Hawaii; Washington, D.C.; Austin, Texas; and Los Angeles.

White House warns North Korea on isolationist actions

President Obama Speaks on Infrastructure and the Economy

Wahhabi clerics deceive majority of Sunnis, prop up Al Saud regime: Al-Isa

An analyst says the Sunni majority of Saudi Arabia has been deceived by a Wahhabi monarchy that rules by fueling sectarian divisions. He also added that Wahhabi clerics are doing their best to prevent the final collapse of the House of Saud. the Sunni majority of Saudi Arabia have been deceived by the regime’s false support when in reality they support dictatorship and Wahhabism. In the background of this a Saudi prosecutor has urged the death penalty be applied to Shia cleric and activist Nimr al-Nimr who was kidnapped and arrested by Saudi security forces, which triggered deadly protests in the region of the eastern province where a popular uprising against the brutality of the Saudi regime has been boiling over for the past two years. Press TV has conducted an interview with Zayd Al-Isa, Middel East expert, London to further discuss the issue. What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview.
Press TV:
The death penalty to critic and prominent cleric. What do you think about the charges brought against him and how would this decision be viewed in the eyes of the international community?
Press TV:
These charges are absolutely baseless and totally groundless. They are totally unfounded and I can just say they are a travesty of justice and makes a mockery of what is called the legal system in Saudi Arabia, which is actually non-existent. And that is according to reputable international agencies like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. The evidence is always fabricated and it is extracted using the worst types of torture. Those who are accused, particularly the Imam, have been denied any access to a lawyer or indeed to any legal representation; they have been denied any access to his family - they haven’t been able to establish his whereabouts since he was kidnapped by the so-called security services. And he has simply called for basic human rights. He has called for an end to the violence and discrimination and the unbearable abuse and widespread persecution of the Shias in Saudi Arabia and the Eastern province, which happens to be the wealthiest and oil-rich part of Saudi Arabia. Those people in this area have been subjected to intolerable discrimination and they have been treated like second class citizens. There is widespread unemployment, widespread persecution of those people. He called on his people to stand up to the Saudi regime and defy the Saudi regime. We must remember that there has been a popular uprising raging in the eastern province and this has spread from Bahrain where the Saudi regime has occupied and invaded that country to quell the protests and placate the demands of the overwhelming majority of Bahrainis who are demanding, again, basic human rights and political reform. And we have to remind ourselves that these protests are peaceful protests. The protesters in both the eastern province and also in Bahrain, they are peaceful protests demanding human rights, demanding political reform. And we have to say that the United States, which is the staunchest and the closest ally of Saudi Arabia and has been propping up the Saudi regime in the face of internal and popular uprising, which have bled Saudi Arabia.
Press TV:
Touching on what you’ve just said, how significant are the protests and demonstrations taking place at the doorstep of the House of Saud?
I have to say that the protests have been successful in actually moving from Bahrain into the eastern province, which has been swept by protests for two years now - ongoing protests for the last two years. But what is more significant is that this popular uprising has surmounted the impregnable Saudi regime’s defense, which has been sectarian divisions by actually moving to the heartlands to the areas where the Saudis have their diehard supporters and that is to the Sunni areas of Saudi Arabia. We must also remind ourselves that the Saudi regime is dependent on the Wahabi Salafist establishment, which props up the regime, which gives them religious legitimacy and religious justification whereas the overwhelming majority of Saudis are Sunnis. And those people have been deceived for a long time by the Saudi regime’s claims that it is the guardian and the defender of Sunnis. Whereas in reality the popular uprising around the Arab world in Egypt, in Yemen, shows that the Saudis regime is supportive of dictatorship; supportive of tyrants against the world of Sunni Muslims who are the dominant forces in those regions. So we’ve seen that the Saudi regime has gone out of its way to spearhead and to be at the forefront of opposing popular uprisings around the Arab and Muslim world.

China will not be passive in sea disputes

Chinese naval fleets recently conducted patrols on the South China Sea, reaching as far as Zengmu Reef, the southernmost part of Chinese territory. In an oath-taking ceremony on board Tuesday, the troops and officials vowed to safeguard China's sovereignty. Earlier this month, a Chinese vessel fired two warning signal shells into the sky to prevent illegal fishing operations by Vietnamese fishermen. Both showed China's firm determination to insist upon its stance amid the South China Sea disputes. Washington expressed its concerns in both cases, reinforcing its attitude that the US can interfere in the South China Sea issue any time. Despite the fact that John Kerry, the new US secretary of state, has stepped into office and some side effects brought by his predecessor's aggressive approach are in decline, the US stance on the South China Sea will not fundamentally change. Behind China's frictions with the Philippines and Vietnam is actually the rivalry between Beijing and Washington over the South China Sea. After Hillary Clinton's four-year intervention into the South China Sea issue with her "smart power" diplomacy, and Manila and Hanoi's frictions with Beijing, all kinds of risks within the South China Sea issue have become evident. All parties involved now have a clearer understanding of each other's national strength and determination. China, through powerful countermeasures against Manila and Hanoi's provocations, has changed its passive status. Beijing had been worried that frictions on the South China Sea would cause deterioration in its surrounding environment and thus undermine its period of strategic opportunities. Now most of its concerns have been dispelled. Crises like the Huangyan Island standoff have made one thing explicit - those were, after all, conflicts between countries whose strength were unequally matched. Manila and Hanoi would not have any chance of victory if the South China Sea issue escalated into a confrontation of national strength. China has no plan to wage a war and recover all the islands illegally occupied by the Philippines and Vietnam. However, China has become more resolute in terms of strikes against the two's provocations. China's growing leverage over the South China Sea issue stems from stable domestic development. Meanwhile, Manila and Hanoi are witnessing a reduced ability to provoke Beijing over those disputes. Washington is also seeing an increasing number of restraints in its South China Sea policy. The Philippines and Vietnam would face more troubles if they choose to seek fierce confrontation with China. China should focus on peaceful development. But meanwhile, it is not afraid of adopting resolute measures to protect core national interests. China should avoid external misjudgments toward it, which is pivotal to the nation's long-term strategic environment.

Opinion: It's high time to stop hijacking Tibetans

For the 14th Dalai Lama and his followers, the most unwise and inhumane attempt to coerce the Chinese government into compromise is to hijack their fellow Tibetans. The conspiracy was declared on Wednesday by a representative of the Dalai Lama, after months of apathy toward a spate of self-immolations that has killed or injured dozens of Tibetans over the past two years. As Lobsang Nyandak, the Dalai Lama's representative to the Americas, put it, self-immolations were aimed at coercing the Chinese leaders to engage "His Holiness's representatives in a very positive manner." He did not clarify what the "positive manner" should be, or what results were expected. His speech, delivered to "Tibet independence" advocates in Washington on Wednesday, was full of cliches and jargon, blaming the Chinese government for "repression" in Tibet and calling for international attention to be lavished on the Tibet issue, just as the Dalai Lama has done on every possible occasion. As if to instigate more suicides, Lobsang Nyandak said the "overwhelming majority of the Tibetan people both inside and outside Tibet have so much great admiration, respect for those self-immolators." We cannot tell how a man outside China and Tibet was able to judge the Tibetans' attitude with such certainty, but his words provide yet more evidence that the self-immolators were hijacked by an allegedly "great undertaking," and fairytale promises about an "independent land" of their own. Our sympathy goes to those innocent Tibetans who were used as cats' paws and died in extreme agony, completely ignorant of the dirty deals and cruel fight for power that set them alight. The Dalai Lama and his follower who allegedly sought "freedom and happiness" inside Tibet have never dropped their "independence" claim and have made every attempt to separate the Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan communities from China. With such motives in mind, they have never hesitated to sacrifice their fellow Tibetans' interest and even their lives. More than 100 Tibetans have been incited to set themselves on fire since 2009. But the Dalai Lama and his followers have turned a cold shoulder to the deaths and injuries. On one occasion last year, the Dalai Lama gave an abrupt "No answer" to a journalist's question on whether Tibetan monks should stop self-immolations. Instead of denouncing and calling for an end to the suicidal acts that deviate from the tenets of Buddhism, the Dalai Lama has repeatedly praised the "courage" of the self-immolators. His acts are not surprising. Under the Dalai Lama's rule in old Tibet, the lives of ordinary Tibetans were considered to be of little or no value. The monk has allegedly been fighting for the rights and interests of Tibetans since he fled China in 1959. Such claims, however, are merely meant to appease devout Tibetan Buddhists who still have faith in him, and to persuade his Western patrons to continue to support his "Tibet independence" movement, which aims to eventually separate Tibet from China. The monk and his followers in exile, mainly former aristocrats, are still dreaming of restoring old Tibet's social and political system, a dark Medieval society characterized by theocracy. Old Tibet was a paradise for the ruling class, but a hell for ordinary Tibetans. Their separatist claims are apparently against the trend of history and against the Tibetan people's will. Thursday marks the 54th anniversary of the emancipation of Tibetan serfs. It is also the fifth "Serfs Emancipation Day," an occasion celebrated across the plateau region. March 28 was designated in 2009 as the day to commemorate the 1959 democratic reform in Tibet, which ended feudalism and freed about 1 million Tibetan serfs, accounting for more than 90 percent of the region's population. Many of the former serfs are still alive today. Nyima is one of them. At 73, she is in decent health except for constant pain in her legs. The problem, she says, is a result of rheumatism inflicted when she was forced to work long hours for the serf owners in bitter cold and without adequate food. For many ordinary Tibetans like Nyima, nightmares of their childhood still cling to them today. It's high time for the Dalai Lama and his followers to stop hijacking the Tibetans, as their separatist claims are against the wishes of these people.

The Total Iraq and Afghanistan Pricetag: Over $4 Trillion
The wars are over, but the spending is just beginning, says a new study
The U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been declared officially over, but America has barely begun to pay the bill, says a new study. That could make defending the nation and paying the government's bills even tougher to do in the future.The Iraq and Afghanistan wars will together cost $4 to $6 trillion, according a new study from Harvard University's Kennedy School. A large share of those bills has yet to be paid: the study finds that the U.S. has spent around $2 trillion thus far on the two controversial wars, and that growing commitments to spending on military personnel and veterans will drive much of the spending in the decades to come. The study notes that the Veterans' Affairs budget has tripled since the start of the wars. "Assuming this pattern continues, there will be a much smaller amount of an already-shrinking defense budget available for core military functions," writes Linda Bilmes, senior lecturer in public policy at Harvard and the study's author. Bilmes has been studying the costs of the two wars for years, and she says that the estimates of the total cost continue to climb as the cost of continuing care for veterans mounts. "What has happened is the number of injuries and the number of claims and the complexity of these conflicts has been much higher than in previous wars," she says. She notes that after Vietnam, veterans averaged around two and a half to three conditions per claim, whereas veterans now have over eight conditions per claim.Of the nearly 1.6 million troops that have been discharged from the wars, over half have received Veterans' Affairs medical treatment and will also receive benefits for the rest of their lives. Those costs will stack up as more troops are discharged and need benefits. The study finds that providing medical and disability benefits to vets will eventually cost over $836 billion. This long tail of spending follows a well-established historical trend, writes Bilmes: disability spending on World War I veterans hit its peak in 1969, and spending on World War II veterans was at its highest in the late 1980s. There are other factors at play here, however: the military must also spend on replacing worn-out equipment and on interest on the cost of the wars. In addition, Congress ramped up spending on personnel and veterans during the wars, increasing pay for troops to counteract difficulties in recruitment and expanding the military's TRICARE healthcare system. Bilmes believes that spiraling costs may have the potential to change spending on veterans from a "sacred cow" to an area with real potential for deficit reduction."If you look at some of the costs that are baked into the system as a result of the wars—military pay raises, military health benefits, expanding the TRICARE system—it's more expensive to have personnel in the Defense Department," which could pressure lawmakers to target that area for cuts in the future. There has already been a glimpse of that in the willingness of some on Capitol Hill to accept the forced cuts of sequestration, which did not exempt the military. While this study puts the total cost of the wars at $4 trillion to $6 trillion, assessments of the wars' costs do differ from source to source. While the Harvard study puts the cost of the two wars thus far at around $2 trillion, the Congressional Budget Office as of October 2012 said that only $1.4 trillion had been appropriated, though they do not account for some areas, like Social Security Disability Insurance, Bilmes points out. In addition, while she estimates the total cost of the two wars at $4 to $6 trillion, the Costs of War project at Brown University estimates it at around $4 trillion.

Nebraska kebab-maker now top U.S. adviser in Afghanistan

By Kevin Sieff
The man who once owned the only Afghan restaurant in Omaha is known for a different distinction here: He’s one of the longest-serving Americans at NATO’s military headquarters and the only person to have advised the last seven U.S. commanders. Gen. John R. Allen called Abdullah Amini “my mentor.” To Gen. David H. Petraeus, he was “my wise counsel.” Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal wrote to him, “Your friendship means more to me than I’ll ever be able to explain.” Over nearly a decade in Afghanistan, Amini has become a key player in the American mission, helping top generals navigate a culture in which misunderstandings and perceived insensitivity can have deadly consequences. But his ascent to the halls of power was much different from theirs. And now, as the U.S. military prepares to withdraw, he faces his greatest test as a cultural conduit: watching as the troops of his adopted United States leave the nation of his birth to an uncertain fate. The men he advised went to prestigious military academies and earned recognition by leading thousands of soldiers and Marines. Amini fought his first battles with a Kalashnikov and no uniform, as a 21-year-old in the mountains of his native southwestern Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. At times, Amini’s dual identity has put him in a difficult spot — when relatives complained about the behavior of U.S. troops, or when he had to face a roomful of Afghans who were livid that American soldiers had burned Korans. Amini is outspoken about the successes of the United States’ longest war: the millions of children in school, the growth of Afghan security forces. But he frets about the dozens of siblings and other relatives he will leave behind when he, too, departs in 2014. “We must be hopeful. We must win. We don’t have any other option,” he said. “But when I think as a non-member of the coalition, as a regular Afghan, really I’m worried.”
An emissary and a critic
When Amini returned to Afghanistan in early 2002, he saw the U.S. intervention as the best chance for the country to move beyond decades of war. But he had never met an American soldier or Marine. A decade later, he has served for nearly the duration of the war, alongside some of the conflict’s most prominent American figures. He has been an interpreter in significant meetings, an emissary when things go wrong and a critic when U.S. generals make poor decisions. “The first thing I did when I arrived in Kabul is go to Abdullah’s office,” said Marc Chretien, the political adviser to Allen, whose Afghan tour ended in February. That office is many miles and decades removed from Amini’s roots in remote Farah province. War cut short his studies, but as a young mujaheddin fighter he always remembered one image from a geography textbook: the soaring skyline of New York City. In 1988, he arrived in the United States as a refugee with $7 in his pocket. In the months that followed, he was rejected from every job he applied for in Omaha, where he had relatives. But by 2001, he had accomplished most of his goals. He was a U.S. citizen. His three American-born children spoke perfect English. He owned a restaurant where business soared — even Nebraska’s governor was a customer. But the news from Afghanistan in the 1990s had haunted him. Twenty of his relatives were killed during the civil war. The Taliban rose to power, demolishing the values of the country he remembered. He was thriving in the United States while his native country was being destroyed. He feared he would never return. On Sept. 11, 2001, the distance between Afghanistan and Nebraska was suddenly shortened. His native country was back in the headlines, but for an unimaginable reason. He worried, with a restaurant named Afghani Kebab, that he would be a target. “I thought someone might show up with a gun and shoot me,” he said. Instead, he got a flurry of phone calls expressing support. He was shocked when business quintupled on Sept. 12. Then there were more phone calls from American officials and contractors. The United States was going to war in Afghanistan, they said. Would Amini be interested in working with U.S. troops on the ground? Amini had grown embittered toward U.S. foreign policy when the country turned its back on Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. But a return to his home country would mean a chance to rebuild the battered cities he had once fought to defend. The night he closed his kebab restaurant in 2002, a local television news crew interviewed Amini, wearing his usual black bow tie and white button-down shirt, surrounded by dozens of his customers. “Everyone else from around the world wants to help this poor country,” he said, tearing up. “Why not me?”
‘Everything was in ruins’
In 2002, Amini arrived in Kandahar, a longtime Taliban stronghold, to work as a cultural adviser and interpreter. He couldn’t believe what had become of the country. “Everything was in ruins,” he said. Amini watched as U.S. officials made gains and errors — building schools and encouraging civil society while also awarding positions in the new government to corrupt Afghans. It sometimes felt like cultural awareness was being sacrificed for political expediency. “If this is not right for this mission, I will fight you all the way to the White House,” he recalled telling his bosses. His willingness to speak up earned him respect. By 2005, he had nearly unlimited access to top officials. When Hillary Rodham Clinton came to the country as secretary of state, Amini was her intermediary with a group of Afghan women. He took Vice President Biden to meet soldiers in eastern Afghanistan. He went with then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to volatile Wardak province. But Amini’s brothers and sisters were ordinary Afghans living in a remote province in one of the world’s poorest countries. Sometimes they called him to complain about the actions of U.S. troops. “My children almost died today,” his sister told him one day in 2009. A NATO convoy had held up traffic for more than seven hours. Cars with no air conditioning and no access to water were stuck on the road in scorching heat. Amini told McChrystal, then the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, the story. “We are losing the support of the public,” Amini recalled saying. “We are losing hearts and minds.” Within days, McChrystal issued a directive that would prevent those protracted bottlenecks. He would later write in his memoir, “My Share of the Task,” that he relied on Amini’s “ability to parse interactions I had with Afghans for revealing cues I overlooked.” Amini reviewed the speeches of U.S. commanders, crossing out lines that might be perceived as culturally insensitive. In some cases, Amini was blunt: “Sir, I will not translate that,” he would say. Amini grew to admire his bosses, men who he says understood the importance of personal relationships in Afghanistan. When each new general arrived — as Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. did in February — Amini would dole out the same advice:“Through friendship, an Afghan will sacrifice his life for you. Through bad relations, he will turn into your enemy.” Amini was always there when the relationship between his two countries had to be patched. When violent protests broke out after U.S. troops burned hundreds of Korans at a base last year, Allen dispatched Amini to speak with Afghans on the general’s behalf. When photos of soldiers urinating on dead insurgents surfaced and civilian casualties threatened U.S. relations with President Hamid Karzai, Amini conveyed apologetic messages to Afghan leaders. Still, he and other cultural advisers wonder how those incidents could happen after 11 years of U.S. troops working with Afghans. And they have wondered what the dwindling appetite for an American presence in Afghanistan will bring. Amini has decided to remain in Kabul until at least 2014, when the majority of U.S. troops are due to withdraw. He has always encouraged American generals to exercise patience with their Afghan counterparts. Now he is trying to accept his own advice, staying as anxiety here grows. The men he works alongside have encouraged him to be optimistic as his long tour nears its conclusion, knowing well that Amini’s ties to Afghanistan are unlike theirs, that the lives of his relatives hinge on the war’s outcome. “I look forward to when you can simply drive across this country to visit your family,” Dunford wrote to him recently. “We’ll get there.” Amini read the e-mail out loud at his desk. Then the phone rang. It was Karzai’s palace on the line. There were problems to resolve between Amini's two countries, and as it often does, reconciliation began with a call to his office.

Fatalism has a major bearing on Pakistan road deaths

Road safety measures in Pakistan need to address the cultural belief that death will inevitably come when it comes
The roads of Pakistan are among the most dangerous in the world. Every year, hundreds if not thousands die. Few families have not been touched in some way by road deaths, accidents or injuries. As a police officer with the national highways and motorways police, I am constantly exposed to the inevitable crashes that follow widespread unsafe road use. There are multiple reasons behind Pakistan's poor road safety record, not least the infrastructure, and old and badly maintained public transport fleets. But here dangerous and risky driving is the rule rather than the exception, and is the major cause of many of the multiple deaths that occur on roads throughout the country. Much research has been done into how to make roads across the developing world safer. Yet after studying international "best practice" approaches to improving safety from developed countries, I am not convinced that standard approaches provide the solution to Pakistan's deadly highways. To truly understand the driving culture in Pakistan, we must look to fate for the answers. Take these words from a 46-year-old taxi driver talking about a bus crash where children who were sitting on the roof died when it went under a bridge: "The children who died in that crash would have died for some other reason anyway, because death was their fate and that was their day. Death was fated for these children who were sitting on the top of bus. This was inevitable, and the driver's mistake just becomes the source of that crash. The sitting of the children on the top of the bus also became a source of death. If they had not had to face death, they would not have sat there. It was also the driver's destiny that it was in his fate to face difficulties of life in this way." I interviewed many Pakistanis about this while researching the relationship between fatalistic and cultural beliefs and risky road use. Like the taxi driver, most believed that a person's time of death is fixed and cannot be avoided. The overriding belief is that there is no point taking steps to avoid death because it will come at the appointed time, no matter what you do. My research was conducted in three Pakistani cities. In addition to professional drivers, I interviewed police officers, policymakers and religious leaders. All of these groups expressed strong fatalistic beliefs, regardless of education and role. It became clear that, across the board, fatalism about death extends to fatalism about risky driving. For example, one police officer said: "If a disaster has to come in your life, you cannot escape, no matter what you do – even if a driver follows safety measures." This reasoning came up time and time again throughout the research, and was considered a simple matter of fact backed up by experiences on the roads. Interviewees could cite many personal experiences of risky driving that had no consequences, and other experiences of people being injured or killed while doing the "right" thing. For them, this confirmed the operation of fate. This has important implications for efforts to promote messages about safe driving. In Pakistan, messages about the relationship between crash risk and speeding – or not wearing a helmet, or any other risky behaviour – lack popular credibility. Crucially, they also lack credibility among the very people responsible for making and enforcing laws and policies. So what does this mean for the promotion of road safety and safe driving measures? Fatalism is found in all cultures in some form or another, and is a powerful force because it severs the link between actions and consequences. For a country like Pakistan, fatalism is so ingrained in everyday thinking and mindsets that it is certainly a major contributing factor to the high numbers of people that die on the roads every year. The great challenge for all of us in trying to make Pakistan's roads safer is how to get people to change their behaviour. I wish I had the answer, but in my experience the only way for campaigners and public officials to effectively promote road safety is for them to emphasise the idea of probabilities. It's a subtle shift, but we need to move rhetoric from a position of certainty – for example, "Speeding kills" – to one emphasising probabilities of injury or death. Speeding does not inevitably lead to a crash, but it does increase the likelihood that a crash will occur and that the injuries will be severe. We need to make this directly relevant to people's lives – how likely it is that adults will be widowed or lose children – and push the idea that safe driving means you can do something about this. It is vital for the authorities to make it clear that people who have been driving dangerously will suffer the consequences and be held accountable for their actions. It could be the only way of making sure that people's lives are not left to fate.

Malala: 15-year-old seals deal to publish memoir

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl shot in the head at point-blank range by Taliban for advocating girls' education, has become a millionaire by signing a deal for around USD 3 million to publish her memoir. "The life story of a 15-year Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban will be published later this year, in a deal reported to be worth around 2 million pounds (USD 3 million)," the UK-based Guardian newspaper reported. The book, titled "I am Malala", will be published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson in the UK and Commonwealth and by Little, Brown in the rest of the world, the paper said, adding that a spokeswoman for the publisher could not confirm reports about the value of the publishing deal."I want to tell my story, but it will also be the story of 61 million children who can't get education," Malala said. "I want it to be part of the campaign to give every boy and girl the right to go to school. It is their basic right." She said: "I hope this book will reach people around the world, so they realise how difficult it is for some children to get access to education." Malala escaped death by inches when she was shot on a school bus in north-western Pakistan on October 9, 2012 as the bullet entered just above her left eye and ran along her jaw, grazing past her brain. The Taliban had said they targeted Malala because she promoted girls' education and "Western thinking". Surgeons in Pakistan removed the bullet before she was air-lifted to the UK for life-saving treatment at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. Last month Malala was discharged from the hospital after she had an operation to rebuild her skull and restore hearing. She has now returned to school and joined the girls in Year 9. Malala's family are currently living in the West Midlands. Her father has been appointed education attache at the Consulate of Pakistan for the next three years. She began writing a blog on the BBC Urdu service under a pseudonym about life in the Swat Valley in 2009. She was shot after her real identity became known. Since the shooting, Malala has been awarded several peace prizes and is the youngest person to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Pakistan: Default-degree dilemmas

Alarming, though not so surprising, information that has come to public knowledge about the default the hundreds of the outgoing people’s representatives have committed in clearing their dues for the use of electricity and telephone facilities would have remained hidden had the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) not made their candidature for the general elections contingent upon their clearance. It is most unfortunate that the list also includes the names of former Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, several of his cabinet colleagues, some party heads and top ranking leaders of political parties. The total amount of default runs into tens of millions of rupees that they have to clear by April 4, just a day before the scrutiny of nomination papers is due to be completed. No further comments are, perhaps, called for to describe the pathetic situation of the polity – the disregard of law and sheer bad governance by these democratically elected lawmakers – after the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), Justice (r) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, has politely but so succinctly remarked, “I really wonder if they deserve to be part of the Parliament with this kind of conduct.”The question of the disqualification of fake degree holders, the grant of voting rights to the expatriates and several other election-related matters are also heating up in the current state of election frenzy and form part of the everyday fare of the media. The Supreme Court has reportedly issued guidelines about some of these issues for the benefit of the ECP. It has, for example, asked the ECP to dispose of the cases of fake degree holders by April 4. Obviously, the question of fake degrees is no longer relevant for the coming elections because of the change in law, but those who have cheated the ECP in the past when graduation was a prerequisite to contesting the polls must be taken to task. To recall, when the issue of the fake degrees of parliamentarians came to light and they began to be unseated, almost all political parties found that they were losing electable members and, thus, rushed into passing legislation to remove the condition of graduation in the future.Similarly, in the case of expatriates, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry directed that the government can issue an ordinance to sort out the hitches in letting them exercise their right to vote. He was perturbed at the ECP’s plea that in case the matter of their voting was now decided it might jeopardise the electoral prospects and maintained that the court orders to that effect were passed as far back as 2011. The ECP could get help from other official agencies, Foreign Office, Nadra, etc.No doubt, the task appears to be stupendous, made more daunting by the outgoing political setup that cared little for judicial verdicts. Nevertheless, the whole nation expects that the combined efforts of the ECP, the judiciary and the guarantors of security like the police and the army that would be providing 50,000 of its men to keep peace during the polls would bear fruit. And free and fair general elections carrying the stamp of articles 62 and 63 are held.

Imported Turkish shows raise ire in Pakistan

Shoe Thrown At Musharraf As Bail Extended
A lawyer threw a shoe at former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf as he headed to a Karachi courtroom to extend his bail on charges of conspiracy to murder and illegally removing judges. The shoe didn’t hit Musharraf, who was surrounded by bodyguards, journalists, and supporters. Musharraf was granted a 15-day bail extension in a case involving the removal of several judges in 2007, including the Supreme Court's chief justice. He was granted a 21-day extension in two cases related to the 2007 assassination of former Premier Benazir Bhutto and the 2006 killing of Baluch nationalist leader Akbar Bugti. Musharraf took power in a bloodless military coup in 1999 and remained in office until 2008. He returned from four years of self-imposed exile on March 24 in order to attempt a political comeback.

Pakistani female activists “brutally raped” in Benghazi

Libya’s deputy prime minister says pro-government militiamen are suspected of having raped three British female activists of Pakistani origin in the eastern city of Benghazi, the Associated Press reported Friday. According to the report, Libya’s deupty PM Awsad al-Barassi said the women were part of an overland aid convoy bound for Gaza. They were traveling with two male companions when they were kidnapped Tuesday on their way to the Benghazi airport after deciding return to Britain. According to another report by news agency AFP, two British women of Pakistani origin were accompanied by their father. The women “were brutally raped in front of their father,” Awadh al-Barassi said on his Facebook page, condemning the “horrible act,” reported AFP. Al-Barassi told Libya al-Hurra TV late Thursday that he has met with the women and they are in “very bad shape.” Barassi also said the family was “in a very bad psychological state.” Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry condemned the incident and said Islamabad is in contact with Libyan authorities. Britain’s Foreign Office said it is aware of an incident involving British nationals who were part of an aid convoy. It did not elaborate. The women, accompanied by their father on the convoy organised by Turkish NGO IHH, had been destined for the Palestinian coastal enclave blockaded by Israel when it was blocked from leaving Libya and entering Egypt. The three decided to return to Benghazi accompanied by two more Britons, with the aim of getting a flight home. But when they arrived in Libya’s second city they were abducted by five unidentified men. A Western diplomatic source speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed the group had been abducted, but was unable to say the women had been sexually assaulted, pending medical reports. The diplomatic source also said there had been arrests in the case, without specifying how many.

10 killed, 14 injured in Peshawar suicide blast

A suicide bomber on Friday targeted a senior Frontier Constabulary (FC) commander near a security check post in Saddar Cantt area of Peshawar, killing at least ten people and wounding 14 others, officials said. According to Geo News correspondent, a suicide bomber blasted himself near an FC convoy when it stopped at a security check post at Fakhar-e-Alam Road in Saddar area. A security official said Abdul Majeed Marwat, commander of the paramilitary Frontier Constabulary for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, survived the attack and was taken to a military hospital with "only scratches". "It was a suicide attack, the target was the FC commander," police official Arshad Khan told. Witnesses said the suicide bomber was on foot and blew himself up when the convoy of the FC chief stopped at a military check post in the busy cantonment area of Peshawar. "We have received six dead bodies, including two women. Eleven people were also injured," sources from Lady Reading Hospital told. Shah said the injured included three paramilitary personnel. A pair of legs, presumed to be that of the bomber, was seen at the site. There was no immediate claim of responsibility of the attack. Rescue efforts are still underway while police have cordoned off the area. The bomb disposal squad told that approximately 10 kilograms of explosives were used in the blast.

240,000 Pakistani children miss anti-polio drive

A top UNICEF official says as many as 240,000 children have missed U.N.-backed vaccinations against polio because of security concerns in Pakistan's tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. Dr. Nima Saeed Abid, acting UNICEF chief for the polio eradication program in Pakistan, says health workers have not been able to immunize children in the North and South Waziristan regions — Taliban strongholds — since July 2012. Pakistan is one of the few remaining countries, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, where polio is rampant. Up to 58 cases were reported in Pakistan in 2012, down from 198 in 2011. Abid said Friday that 15 health workers have been killed in the anti-polio campaign in Pakistan since July 2012. Pakistani militant groups oppose the vaccinations and accuse the workers of spying for Washington.