Saturday, March 30, 2013

Bassem Youssef's "Albernameg" - S02E01 (1/2 - English Subtitles)

Pashto new song 2013...Kala Che War Zama

U.S: ''Outlook for immigration deal brightens''

Prospects for a law to create a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants brightened on Saturday after major business and labor groups reached an agreement on a guest-worker program, a source familiar with the deal said. The agreement was reached on Friday night in a conference call between the head of the Chamber of Commerce, Tom Donohue, and the president of the AFL-CIO labor organization, Richard Trumka, with New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer acting as the mediator, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. A guest-worker program has been a major stumbling block to efforts by a bipartisan group of senators known as the Gang of Eight to reach a compromise on a way to create a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, most of whom are Hispanics. Labor unions have argued against a guest-worker program, worrying that a flood of low-wage immigrant laborers would take away jobs from Americans. The agreement covers the pay levels for low-skilled workers and provides labor protections for American workers. Under the deal, a new "W Visa" would be created for employers to petition for foreign workers in lesser skilled, non-seasonal non-agricultural occupations. This could include jobs in hospitality, janitorial, retail, construction and others. The W Visa would not be considered a temporary visa as workers would have the ability to seek permanent status after a year, according to details of the agreement released by the AFL-CIO. The program would begin on April 1, 2015, unless there is a need to extend the start date by six months. At the beginning, 20,000 visas would be permitted and the figure would rise to 35,000 visas the following year, 55,000 in the third year and 75,000 in the fourth. The cap can never be below 20,000 or above 200,000 in any year. WOOING HISPANIC VOTERS "We have created a new model, a modern visa system that includes both a bureau to collect and analyze labor market data, as well as significant worker protections," Trumka said in a statement. "We expect that this new program, which benefits not just business, but everyone, will promote long overdue reforms by raising the bar for existing programs." Schumer briefed White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on Saturday on the breakthrough, the source said. The agreement still must be approved by the Gang of Eight senators, four Democrats and four Republicans. If, as expected, they do so, a broad new immigration bill would be advanced in the Senate in the coming weeks. In recent days, the immigration effort had been stalled by failure to forge an agreement on the guest-worker program, although the White House insisted that progress was being made. President Barack Obama wants to fulfill a campaign pledge by gaining passage of a law that would create a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants currently in the country. He has vowed to do what he can on immigration through executive actions in the absence of legislation. Immigration long has been a controversial issue in the United States and previous efforts to craft a comprehensive overhaul of American immigration laws have failed, with Democrats and Republicans remaining far apart. Many Republicans previously had taken a hard position against illegal immigrants. Obama's unsuccessful Republican challenger last year, Mitt Romney, had advocated "self-deportation" of illegal immigrants. Republicans in Arizona and other states passed tough laws cracking down on illegal immigrants. But the mood for a deal is ripe because Republicans saw Hispanic-Americans vote overwhelmingly for Obama and other Democratic candidates in last November's elections and they need to woo this increasingly important voting bloc. Many Republicans see gaining favor with Hispanic voters, who are 10 percent of the U.S. electorate and growing, as a matter of political survival. Republicans want to ensure that security along the U.S.-Mexican border is improved before immigrants can get on a path to citizenship. Obama feels security is sufficient but this disagreement is not seen as a deal-breaker. "We're seeing right now a good bipartisan spirit," Obama told Spanish-language network Univision on Wednesday. "I want to encourage that and hopefully we'll be able to get it done."

Video: Shoe hurled at former Pakistani president

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf talks to CNN's Wolf Blitzer about his trial and facing death threats.

Bangladesh: 4 Pakistanis held with fake Indian rupees

Police in the capital have arrested 12 alleged militants, including a former Jamaat leader and an Afghan war veteran, with bombs, bomb-making materials and Tk 1.29 crore in fake Indian currency. Of the 12, all arrested on Friday night, one is a former Islami Chhatra Shibir leader and the rest are members of different terrorist outfits like Harkatul Jihad al Islami (Huji) and Harkatul Mujahideen and Allah’r Dal. In a separate drive the same night, the Detective Branch of police arrested four Pakistani nationals with fake 6.3 million Indian rupees. Briefing newsmen, DB Joint Commissioner Monirul Islam said the arrested Bangladeshis were preparing for subversive activities, including attacks on public gatherings and eminent personalities. To remain financially secure, they were counterfeiting money in coordination with the Pakistani nationals. The seizure also includes eight hand-made bombs, $400 in cash, 4,000 Pakistani rupees and seven passports — four Pakistani and three Bangladeshi. DB officials said they first arrested former Madaripur district Jamaat unit Ameer Dr Farid Uddin Ahammad, 55, Afghan war veteran Farid Uddin Masud, 35, former Shibir cadre Mizanur Rahman, 31, and militant activist Mahfuzur Rahman, 23, at a house on Free School Street, Kathal Bagan, with bombs and bomb-making materials. According to DB officials, Dr Farid and Masud had been reorganising the leaders and members of various militant outfits to establish Khilafat in Bangladesh through subversive activities. Dr Farid was a Shibir leader while studying at Sylhet Medical College. On completion of MBBS, he got involved in the committee of the Sylhet city unit Jamaat. As he hails from Madaripur, he acted as the ameer of the district unit Jamaat for a decade. Dr Farid, who took part in parliamentary elections as a Jamaat candidate, got involved with militant outfit Allah’r Dal, Huji and Harkatul Mujahideen. He was the ideologue of different militant outfits, Joint Commissioner Monirul said. In 1991, Dr Farid allied himself wth Farid Uddin Masud, who stayed in Pakistan till 2004 and got involved with Harkatul Jihad there. Another detainee, Mizanur Rahman, who is a former Shibir cadre, was also a leader of Allah’r Dal. Mizan, a former student of Dhaka University, also had been recruiting members for carrying out subversive activities under the directives of Dr Farid and Masud. DB officials said following the arrest of the four, they around 8:00pm arrested two others — Abdul Khalid and Mohammad Sajal — in Paltan area. On information given by the duo, detectives arrested six members of a gang, involved in making fake currencies, at a house in Nikunja-2 under Khilkhet area with counterfeit 66 lakh Indian rupees. The six are Md Mostofa, Mamunur Rashid, his wife Dolly Akhter, Md Abul Bashar, Rezaul Karim, and Roksana Begum. DB said following the arrest of the six, the force conducted a raid at a residential hotel in Bangshal from where they arrested four Pakistani nationals with fake 63 lakh Indian rupees. The detained Pakistanis — Sayeed Uddin, Mohammad Farhan, Rubina Begum and Nargis Akhter — have visited Bangladesh between six and 12 times. Nazrul Islam Mollah, deputy commissioner of DB (North), said Dr Farid, Masud, Mizan and Mahfuzur had been taken on remand for three days each, the Pakistani nationals for seven days each and the rest for four days each.

Women Should Speak Up Before Others Speak For Them: Dr. Fouzia Saeed

The Baloch Hal
On March 8, International Women’s Day, renowned Pakistani women’s rights activist Dr. Fouzia Saeed released the US edition of her popular book Working with Sharks, a unique and compelling account of sexual harassment against women at the work place in Pakistan. Dr. Saeed, who is currently a Visiting Fellow in Washington DC’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED), campaigned tirelessly in Pakistan to pass the landmark Anti-harassment Bill in 2010. spoke exclusively with Dr. Saeed about her book and its impact on working Pakistani women.
How do you feel about having your book published in the USA?
I am totally thrilled. I really wanted it published in the USA. We get to read their stories but they rarely connect with ours. It was re-edited for an international audience and the title of the book was changed. People are so appreciative of women’s struggle in Pakistan and Parliament’s response in 2010.
Why did you choose to write a book on the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace?
I always believed that it is unfair to ask women to speak up unless I speak out myself. So, I decided to publish this book in order to encourage other women to come forward and become a part of our campaign to end sexual harassment at the workplace. I had been working on my book since 1999 but more as a healing process for myself. We wanted to earnestly address the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace. Once, after a ten-year struggle, our parliament passed laws against sexual harassment, we paid more attention to implementing the mechanism. But after so many years, I see society and the management still continue to stigmatize women. That is when I started a campaign called Speaking Out!
What goals did you have in mind while writing your book?
My goal was to convince our society that sexual harassment is a serious issue which also has dire implications for our lives. It is not a mere joke. I do take the reader with me so that they can experience what a woman experiences in her daily life. The book is about women’s mixed feelings of pain, the feeling of helplessness, rage, yearning for justice, persistence and resolve. These problems exist in our society because we simply tolerate it. Such practices will end when women in our society stand up and say it is enough and they are not going to tolerate it any more.
In Pakistan, most laws are not implemented in reality. How hopeful are you with regards to the implementation of anti-harassment laws in Pakistan?
Many members of our society and the government are taking the law seriously. However, there are many who are still trying to put hurdles in its path. Banks, for examples, are helping with significant progress; the members of Pakistan Business Council have all complied. Government institutions have pretty much fully complied with the legislation. The sectors that are lagging are the media, universities, medium businesses and the military. The provinces have set up implementing committees but bureaucrats are trying their best not to let them work – they are not taking the lead the way they should. We need regular meetings of these committees so that we can see progress. The results are mixed but considering that it has only been two years, I think the progress is remarkable. Over one thousand cases have been resolved in the formal sector and over a hundred cases are in the courts.
What was the United Nations’ reaction to your book since it mainly addressed the issue of sexual harassment within the United Nations?
The UN’s response was nothing but absolute silence. I have been writing letters to the United Nations to introduce policy changes. They have made some changes but the work environment has not changed much in the last 12 years. Some organisations like the World Food Program have developed better mechanisms to deal with it. As far as our case is concerned, senior people at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) never completed the case and we still feel bruised. I did not even get an acknowledgement of the book I sent to the Secretary General.
How much do you think your book has helped in encouraging Pakistani women to speak up against sexual harassment?
In the first two months of its publication inside Pakistan, the book sold 2000 copies. In a society where very few people read, the sales showed that the book was well received. Now, we are translating it in Urdu and I am sure it will be received very positively by the Urdu readers.
Would you support more sex and gender education among our students at school and college to educate boys and girls about such negative practices in practical life?
Absolutely. Those working on reform of our educational curriculum should include this issue and the awareness of the legislation in the school books.
Do you think the urban-rural divide, economic status and level of education play any kind of role in encouraging women in speaking out against sexual harassment?
Every woman in our country faces sexual harassment at different levels. Social and economic class division hardly makes a big difference. We all experience it from time to time and we are very tired of it.
Why did you decide to publish your book in the United States?
In the United States, people generally have negative perceptions about Pakistan. The people here normally get news of violence and they stereotype us. I feel they know our issues but they know very little about the struggle of Pakistani women. I want them to understand that the Pakistani women regularly and bravely struggle against injustices. I feel very proud of our Parliament that they passed two laws against sexual harassment. I have mentioned that in the epilogue of the book so that they know that my country finally did acknowledged the existence of the problem. Now, we are struggling for a shift in mindset and implementation of the passed laws. I want my American readers to know Pakistani women’s stories and understand us at a human level.
How different is sexual harassment in the United States as compared to Pakistan?
Sexual harassment is also common in the States. Women here might not experience it on a daily basis but they also face it at different stages in their lives. However, the stigma for women who report these cases is still high in the United States. In the military and sports sectors, there are often complaints of sexual harassment and many cases that are filed every year.
Do you think the internet, social media and blogs have helped in reducing or increasing sexual harassment against women?
The social media has had both positive and negative outcomes. In some cases, there have been cases when girls had to commit suicide after their pictures were photo-shopped and circulated online. Many countries in the world are working on Internet regulation and legislation and we should also learn from them as to how to eradicate cyber bullying.

Saudi Arabia intent on monitoring communications

Country close to reaching agreement with operators of Whatsapp, Viber and Skype, Al Arabiya reports, to access data for security purposes.
Saudi Arabia is close to reaching an agreement with the operators of Whatsapp, Viber and Skype in order to be able to monitor communications through these platforms, according to a report on the Al Arabiya website on Tuesday. However, if no deal is reached, Saudi Arabia may move to block the programs. The Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) requested that the Saudi Telecommunications Company (STC) find a way for the government to monitor these communication programs, according to a source quoted by Al Arabiya. The site also quotes the managing director of the National Information Systems Company, Abdulrahman Mazi, as saying that Saudi companies will be required to block the programs if no agreement is reached. Mazi also stated that IP providers in the country must give the government access to any requested data for security purposes. It would take three to four months to implement the block, he said. Saudi Arabia’s citizens are among the leaders in the region in terms of using social media. Al Arabiya reported that there are three million Twitter users in the country, which is more than in any other country in the Middle East. This comes after a report on Sunday on the website that Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti criticized Twitter in the Al Watan newspaper as a “council of clowns” for people to “unleash unjust, incorrect, and wrong tweets.”


Tracy McVeigh
A guarantee of equality has been removed from the new constitution written after the revolution in 2011. There has been a rise in sexual assaults on the streets. Amnesty International claims discrimination against women "remains in law and practice".
Women were prominent during the 2011 uprisings but demonstrators today segregate themselves by gender. Discrimination is still enshrined in law. A quota of 30% for women in jobs in state agencies has been proposed but not yet debated. Child marriage remains legal with 52% of women marrying under 18.
Reforms promised by King Mohammed VI are inching forward. A law that allows rapists to escape jail if they marry their victim is expected to be amended this year. Child marriage is illegal but has been on the rise over the last two years and there are moves to reduce the legal age from 18 to 16. There is only one female minister.
Women's legal rights have not changed since the revolution in 2010-11 but it took street protests before the new constitution was rewritten to enshrine full equality. The ruling Islamist Ennahda party has 42 women among its 89 MPs and only 3% of teenage girls are married. Some are worried about a rise in hardline conservatism.

How Egypt's radical rulers crush the lives and hopes of women

Women stood shoulder to shoulder with men in Tahrir Square in 2011. Now they are back on the streets, opposing a new constitution that sweeps away their rights and opens the way for girls of 13 to be married. And in Cairo's slums, life grows harder as the gulf between the sexes widens
BY :Tracy McVeigh
The ambush came from the left, from a side street which led up the hill to Mokattam mosque. A rush of hundreds of men running down on the march of anti-government protesters, bringing a sudden clatter of rocks landing all around, the crack of shots fired and the whizz of tear gas canisters. Sticks, stones and metal bars flew through the smoke in both directions and screaming women and men ran back the way they came. Dozens of manned police vans remained parked a kilometre away. The only sirens came from ambulances that drove through the crowds and past burning vehicles to take some 40 injured people to hospital. One angry woman with a bleeding mouth and eyes streaming from the tear gas pulled off her headscarf and stood yelling at the other side, the supporters of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood: "You are not Islam! You are not Egypt! Where is my freedom?" So go most Fridays in Cairo over the past few weeks as liberal Egyptians have shown their virulent opposition to the president, Mohamed Morsi, as he has awarded himself new powers and pushed through a deeply contentious new constitution. Several buildings of the Muslim Brotherhood, the group behind Morsi, have been burned. In post-Arab spring Egypt the revolution continues. But it's women of all classes who have found themselves most alienated – written out of the jostling for power and subjected to a skyrocketing number of sex assaults, rapes and harassment. Women who stood shoulder to shoulder with men during the 2011 Tahrir Square protests that brought down Hosni Mubarak found their position in society undermined almost immediately. The parliamentary quota for women was removed without debate and a promised female vice-president failed to materialise, amid what political commentator Moushira Khattab called "a radical anti-feminist sentiment". Morsi threatened but stopped short of decriminalising Egypt's practice of female genital mutilation, carried out on almost three-quarters of Egyptian girls, making it clear he would not tackle an issue he called "a family matter". The new constitution has swept away recognition of women's rights and left the door open to the legalisation of perhaps Egypt's most crippling social issue – underage marriage. Draft legislation that would allow the legal age of marriage to be lowered from 18 to 13 has been drawn up while clerics within the Muslim Brotherhood have indicated that marriage at the age of nine for girls is acceptable. "They see women as, number one, objects of sex and, number two, to clean their floors. This is what the Egyptian 'brotherhood' is all about," said Fatma, 24, an engineering graduate marching with her friends, some in burqas, some in headscarves. The women keep close together, arms linked and eyes alert for the men flying down the side of the demonstration on motorcycles grabbing and screaming at females. "They want to marry us at nine years old. Are these really the kind of men we want to run our country? Paedophiles?" Political progress has been slow, with parliamentary elections scheduled for April now postponed with no new date. Frustrations have built. "They are like a pack of dogs, tearing out the weakest first, raping and harassing the women and the girls, getting rid of them, and then fighting among themselves to be pack leader," said Aya Kadry, 62. Around Cairo hundreds of tower blocks are being built, extending the Arab world's largest city leg by leg into the desert. This is where the vast majority of Egypt's women are already living the constrained lives that the educated and middle-classes fear will be imposed by a radical government. Child marriage is common, the norm among the poor. Doctors are bribed to sign documents asserting a 14-year-old is 18 but most people don't have the money so marriages go ahead without registration. Underage girls then have children who, essentially illegal, cannot have their births registered. Without papers those children cannot attend school, encasing a whole new generation in poverty. In the poor district of Ezbet Khairallah 10 women are sitting around a metal cash box, holding the weekly meeting of their savings and loans group. Set up by the charity Plan Egypt, it encourages women to squirrel away a few coins when they can and to discuss problems. "We do not really have time to talk to our neighbours, there is a great burden of things to do in the home and for some of us our husbands do not like us to go out of doors, although we have convinced them we should meet for this social fund because it will help all the family," said Seham Ahmed, 38, who is taking the opportunity to show the group how to make a basic liquid soap. "I was married at 14," she said, thumping a stick round a battered bucket and most of the women around her nod. "Pulled out of school one day and married that night. I hope my daughters can wait a little while but it's quite difficult for girls who are not married at an early age to find a good man later and there is a lot of pressure. And fathers want girls gone because it is one mouth less to feed." Asmaa Mohamed Fawzy is 21. She was engaged but her family allowed her to break it off when her best friend died in childbirth aged 16. "I liked having the ring but I was only 15 and didn't know any better. When Aya died it was a miserable tragedy and I'm very lucky that my mum agreed with me I should not get married. I get teased and bullied. They shout I am not pretty enough, why am I the ugly one, but I do not want to die or to have children who cannot go to school. It is probably too late for me now and I'm sad I won't have children." Her mother, Naghzaky Abdalla, 47, also endures being shunned by her neighbours. "When her friend died I too made up my mind. We only have one so we can afford to protect her. A neighbour had died at 15 of bleeding: the doctors wouldn't treat her because she was married illegally and they don't want to get involved. The girls' bodies are not ready for childbirth and they are not ready for sexual relations which makes their husbands impatient with them. "Three girls in our street stay indoors now for ever because their husbands divorced them. If they cannot prove they were married and they are not virgins then they cannot get married again so they are shunned. Many are divorced because of course these girls are too young to understand what marriage means, she is still a child. In our community, though, a girl should be married before she is 16, maximum." Mrs Gihan, 45, a community activist with strong views, is fervently for the lowering the age of marriage to 13 in law. "We must do this," she said. "Because all the unregistered children who cannot go to school need to be helped. These girls are denied healthcare, their children are denied a future. They have already decreased the legal age of work from 14 to 12 and I think this age too should be lowered. When Mubarak listened to international pressure and raised the age to 18 it changed nothing here. If you decree a legal age then you simply criminalise and marginalise. Men leave their wives before they turn 18 and their children are seen as being born into prostitution. We will raise awareness and stop child marriage this way." The stench of human waste coming from the river in another poor Cairo district, Manial Sheiha, is overpowering. The streets of packed earth are quiet with only children to be seen. Nawal Rashid opens her door but remains on one side of the deep concrete threshold that she cannot cross – or allow visitors to cross – without her 70-year-old husband's permission. He is at work. Her three-year-old son plays behind her and she insists she married at 18 – which makes her 21 now – but her neighbours all say she was 14. "I accepted the older man to help my family as there were four other children and my parents are very poor. I am quite content and happy to have sacrificed myself for my family." Next door is Etab, 19. She has two children and has returned to stay with her despairing mother Nearnat, 42, her ageing father and her three siblings. "We thought by marrying her we would get her a better life," said Nearnat. "Now she is divorced because he was a bad man. She refuses to get married again because then her ex-husband would take the children and now her younger sister is begging me not to go ahead with her marriage. I regret that my daughter was married young because now if she leaves the house her reputation will be ruined. The community all tease me." Outside in the street a group of young men explain why they want to marry young brides. "Children need to have their rights but also you want to marry a girl who is much younger so she will stay young and beautiful when you are old. Also you can control her better and make sure she is not one of these girls who goes around wanting to be harassed," said Abdel Rahman, 17. His friend Youssef, 20, agrees. "There are many girls who just want to be harassed, walking around in the streets with their eyes uncovered." Their views are not a surprise to Mona Hussein Wasef, 26, who works for Plan Egypt in Cairo. "For 18 days we were in Tahrir Square, side by side, men and women, educated and uneducated, rich and poor. Never have I felt so much solidarity. I was Egypt, we were all Egypt, fighting for freedom, shoulder to shoulder," she said. She is too fearful to attend any political demonstrations these days. "Now we have never been so far apart, men and women. In such a short time, such a gulf. Now we are fighting just for the right to walk down the street without being assaulted. It is so hard, so shocking. To see the rights we had being ripped away and lost in the power struggle. To see us go backwards." I WAS SOLD TO A SAUDI MAN – MY FUTURE IS RUINED Rasmia Ahmed Emam was 17 when she was married to a 50-year-old stranger. "My family is a big one so I had to sacrifice to support them. My dad went to a marriage broker to find a rich husband for me and she told us she had a Saudi man. He came and seemed to like me and gave my parents the money to build a roof on our house." But the desperation of poor families combined with the acceptance of child marriage has created opportunities for unscrupulous marriage brokers trading young girls to sex tourists. Rasmia thought she was getting married but in fact she was kept in a hotel room for two weeks before "her husband" went home. "I felt insulted, scared. I had a nervous breakdown. My father went to the broker but we had no proof of the marriage. She offered to marry me again. I refused. All my neighbours knew I was a prostitute, all my friends abandoned me. My future is destroyed. Now three girls in my street have been Saudi wives. All men are liars." The phenomenon is becoming increasingly common in Cairo, says Mohammad Gazer, who has set up a charity, ACT, to warn families. "The taxi drivers bring men from the airport to the brokers. These girls are being traded and trafficked and dumped back home, their lives ruined. "It is becoming clearer and clearer to Saudi men and other tourists that Egypt is the place for child marriage, for ignoring girls' and women's rights. It has got worse since the revolution and keeps getting worse every day."

Mainstreaming Balochistan

The election this time in the troubled province of Balochistan will be especially significant. It may represent the last chance to draw its people back into the mainstream, and persuade them that political solutions to their problems – rather than just militant ones – are still possible; that it is not too late for them. In this context, the decision of Akhtar Mengal’s Balochistan National Party to take part in the polls is of course extremely significant. It represents some hope for the future and may build confidence in Baloch people that it is worth remaining a part of the political process rather than shying away from it entirely. Since his return to the country, Mengal has been playing an active role, meeting leaders of various parties, as well as the caretaker chief minister of Balochistan Nawab Ghous Bakhsh Barozai, who has warmly welcomed his decision to take part in the polls. The significance being given to involving Baloch parties in the process is illustrated by the chief election commissioner’s trip to Quetta to meet the heads of key parties and reassure them that any concerns they have would be addressed. The National Party (NP), Balochistan National Party (BNP), Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), Balochistan National Party-Awami, Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), JUI-N, Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) all took part in the discussion with Justice (r) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, again signalling a welcome sense of unity. These parties will now need to cooperate with the ECP and local authorities to ensure elections can go ahead peacefully in the province. There have been fears expressed over whether polling is possible in Balochistan at all given the degree of violence there. This remains a very valid concern. It was also raised by the CEC in his meeting with the CM, who assured him that troops would be deployed to ensure balloting could go ahead without violence. We must hope these measures succeed. The dangers in Balochistan are many. But with the major parties now on board, we can only hope that they too will do their best to work for peace and persuade people how necessary it is to ensure it is maintained at all costs. In many ways the 2013 polls and the results they produce will be essential to Balochistan’s future. How the next provincial government handles matters could determine many things. It is, therefore, essential that the process go ahead as smoothly as possible, with maximum participation by political parties and people of the troubled province. The efforts being made for this should then be welcomed. We hope and pray they succeed.

Amidst the blue waters of Israel

Aggressive talk from North Korea concerns U.S. leaders

By Ernesto Londoño and Karen DeYoung
The latest round of threats exchanged by North Korea and the United States is dragging on longer and taking on a more virulent tone than in the past, provoking deep concerns among American officials and their allies. Following blustery warnings by Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s 30-year-old leader, and videos depicting North Korean attacks on the United States, the Obama administration took the unprecedented step this week of sending two stealth bombers to South Korea as part of an ongoing military training exercise. But despite the escalating tensions, U.S. officials said they have focused more closely on what North Korea is doing than on what it is saying. “Putting on a show is not the same as taking action,” said a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the volatile situation. “Describing the situation as akin to war is not to be remotely confused with wanting a war, let alone going to war.” The senior official and others said that U.S. military commanders are closely watching the situation, which has escalated since North Korea conducted a nuclear weapons test in December. In addition, officials cited new levels of cooperation and mutual confidence between the United States and allies in South Korea and Japan. While a direct attack on U.S. forces on the mainland or in the Pacific seems unlikely, nongovernment analysts said the rising tensions increase the risk of some form of limited armed conflict. North Korea recently cut off its military phone line with the South, which is used to coordinate logistics along the demilitarized border buffer. In a new escalation of rhetoric early Saturday, North Korea’s official KCNA news agency reported that the country was entering a “state of war” with South Korea and that “all issues raised between the North and the South will be handled accordingly.” Some experts noted that South Korea also has adopted a more aggressive rhetorical posture. Senior officials quoted anonymously in the media have suggested that plans have been drawn up for “surgical strikes” against North Korea. “The level and scope of the rhetoric [in North Korea] is stronger than in the past,” said Scott A. Snyder, a Korea expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. “This time we’ve seen a higher level of threat, delivered at a higher level.” He added, “There’s room for miscalculation right now.” Earlier this month, the Pentagon announced it was significantly bolstering America’s missile defense capabilities on the West Coast. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Thursday that the United States has no option but to take Pyongyang’s threats seriously. But the decision to include B-2 bombers flown from Missouri in the military exercise with South Korea was made some time ago, the senior official said, adding that U.S. “strategic air assets” would be a part of the annual exercise “from this point forward.” “It’s not something that just came up last week” in response to Kim’s verbal and video threats, the official said. “But it is certainly the case that following North Korea’s decision in December to conduct a nuclear test . . . both the United States and our allies recognized the need to ensure that there were consequences and that our deterrence was visible.” Christopher R. Hill, a former U.S. diplomat who served as ambassador in Seoul in 2004 and later led a negotiating team that sought to eliminate the North Korean nuclear threat, said the current standoff appears “more serious” than past ones. It also comes as the North appears to be attempting to bolster Kim’s military credentials. The doughy, boyish-looking Kim has been an enigma since he took the helm of the country in December 2011 after his father’s death. The country’s leaders have taken great pains in recent months to bill the world’s youngest head of state as a capable commander in chief, granting him additional titles and medals. “The explanation could be that this is linked to trying to give this third-generation camp a little more of a profile,” Hill said. “I don’t think he has really connected with the North Korean people. They could be looking to show he’s a tough guy.” The senior official agreed that Kim’s style is sharply different from his father’s, “including putting himself out in front of the cameras. He’s got a sort of assertive, outgoing and more egocentric character. His father was very reclusive and preferred to shove other people out into the limelight.” But “fundamentally, the patter is eerily the same,” the official said. “It’s a very familiar North Korean playbook that some of us who have worked on North Korea have seen repeatedly. Right around now, during the winter training cycle, the leadership injects a huge dose of urgency. . . to mobilize the population. It’s invariably a counterpoint to the U.S.-South Korean exercises.” Behind the sudden decision to strengthen mainland American defenses against North Korean missiles is a fear that Pyongyang’s biggest benefactor, China, may no longer be able to act as a guarantor of baseline stability on the Korean Peninsula. In the past month, North Korea has ignored Chinese warnings by threatening a nuclear strike on the United States and renouncing the 60-year armistice with South Korea. The rhetorical escalation followed advances in missile technology and a nuclear weapons test that China had opposed. North Korea also appears to be paying less heed to the possibility of South Korean or U.S. retaliation for any provocation. Top military officials said North Korea probably can’t make good on its most extreme threats but suggested that the old rubric of deterrence might be crumbling. Deterrence involves both prevention and punishment, Adm. James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said when the Pentagon announced the new missile defense plans. “We believe that this young lad ought to be deterred,” Winnefeld said, referring to Kim. “And if he’s not, we’ll be ready.”

ولسمشر حامد کرزي قطر ته سفر وکړ
ولسمشرکرزی د یوه لوړ رتبه پلاوي په مشرۍ د شنبې په ورځ د قطر پایتخت دوحې ته روان شو. د افغان چارواکو په باور د دوه اړخیزو اړیکو پراختیا، پانګه اچوونه او سوداګري او په قطر کې وسله والو طالبانو ته د دفتر د پرانستلو په اړه خبرې دوحې ته د ولسمشر کرزي د سفر اصلي اجنډا جوړوي. د ولسمشر کرزي د ویاند مرستیال "فایق واحدي" د شنبې په ورځ قطرته د جمهور رییس کرزي له روانیدو وروسته مشال راډیو ته وویل چې؛ ښاغلی کرزی به د قطر له امیر او نورو قطري چارواکو سره پر بیلا بیلو سیاسي، اقتصادي او داسې نورو مسایلو خبرې وکړي. ښاغلي واحدي څرګنده کړه چې، په افغانستان کې د سولې روانې هلې ځلې او په دوحې کې وسله والو طالبانو ته د دفتر پرانستل له قطري چارواکو سره د ولسمشر کرزي د خبرو اصلي ټکي دي: ټاکل شوې ده، د دې سفر په ترڅ کې د سولې پروسې پر بیلا بیلو اړخونو خبرې وشي؛ په دې ترڅ کې به د وسله والو مخالفانو لپاره په دوحې کې د دفتر د پرانستلو په هکله هم له قطري چارواکو سره خبرې وشي. موږ هیله من یو چې، د دواړو خواوو ترمنځ د علاقې وړ مسایلو په هکله ښه پرمختګونه ولرو." ولسمشرکرزی دوحې ته د قطر د امیر په بلنه دا دوه ورځنی سفر ته ترسره کوي. په دې سفر کې له ولسمشر سره د بهرنیو چارو وزیر ډاکټر زلمی رسول، د ملي امنیت سلاکار ډاکټر رنګین دادفر سپنتا، د سولې د عالي شورا رییس او د دارالانشا رییس یې صلاح الدین رباني او انجنیر محمد معصوم ستانکزی ملګري دي. افغان حکومت هڅه کوي چې، د سولې د خبرو آترو لپاره په قطرکې د طالبانو لپاره دفتر پرانستل شي. ولسمشرکرزي تل ټینګار کړی چې، د سولې هرډول خبرې اترې باید د سولې له عالي شورا سره د افغانستان په مشرۍ او مالکیت ترسره شي. خو یوشمېر سیاسي څیړونکي وایي چې؛ ګمان نه کیږي ولسمشر کرزی قطرته له دې سفرڅخه هغه څه ترلاسه کړي چې دی یې غواړي. د سیاسي چارو څیړونکي وحید مژده آزادي راډیو ته وویل چې؛ وسله وال طالبان به هیڅکله په قطر کې له افغان حکومت سره خبرو آترو ته غاړه کې نږدي: "که د ولسمشر کرزي هدف دا وي چې، په قطر کې طالبانو ته کوم دفتر پرانستل شي او هغوی باید افغان حکومت او د سولې له عالي شورا سره خبرې وکړي، طالبان هیڅکله دا خبره نه مني. زما په باور که چیرې دا سفر د همدې هدف لپاره وي؛ نو بې نتیجې به پای ته ورسیږي. د طالبانو غوښتنه دا ده چې بهرنیان باید له افغانستان څخه د خپلو سرتیرو د وتلو نیټه اعلان کړي او په بشپړ ډول له دې هیواد څخه ولاړشي." وسله والو طالبانو تردې وړاندې په وار وار ویلي چې؛ له افغان حکومت سره د سولې خبرې اترې نه کوي، دوی وایي چې، سولې ته به هغه وخت تیار شي چې؛ بهرني ځواکونه یومخ له افغانستان څخه ووځي. وسله والو طالبانو دا شرایط په داسې حال کې وړاندې کړي چې د افغانستان او متحده ایالاتو ترمنځ ستراتیژیکې اړیکې ټینګې شوي او د دواړو هیوادونو ترمنځ د امنیتي سند په اړه هم خبرې اترې روانې دي. افغان حکومت تردې وړاندې تل ټینګار کړی چې؛ پاکستان کولای شي، طالبان له افغان حکومت سره خبرو اترو ته را مات کړي، خو په عین حال کې دا یې هم ویلي چې، اسلام آباد تراوسه په دې برخه کې هیڅ ډول عملي او صادقانه اقدامات نه دي کړي. افغان چارواکو په خپلو تازه څرګندونوکې ویلي چې؛ له دې وروسته د پاکستان له همکارۍ پرته د سولې هڅې پرمخ بیایي. څیړونکي وایي چې، قطرته د ولسمشرکرزي سفر هم همدا څرګندوي چې؛ ښایي افغانستان د اسلام آباد له همکاریو نا هیلې شوی وي او اوس په دې هڅه کې دی چې د قطر په څیر له نورو هیوادونو څخه په دې برخه کې مرسته او همکاري وغواړي.

US commandos hand over troubled area to Afghans

U.S. special operations forces handed over their base in a strategic district of eastern Afghanistan to local Afghan special forces on Saturday, senior U.S. commanders said. The withdrawal satisfies a demand by Afghan President Hamid Karzai that U.S. forces leave the area after allegations that the Americans' Afghan counterparts committed human rights abuses there on U.S. orders. The transfer of authority ends a particularly rocky episode in the strained relations between the U.S. and Karzai. He had insisted that U.S. forces leave Nirkh district in Wardak province over the alleged torture, kidnapping and summary execution of militant suspects there — charges U.S. officials firmly denied. The incident shows the larger struggle of Karzai's government to assert its authority over security matters, even as its green security forces try to assume control of much of the country from coalition forces on a rushed timeline, ahead of the scheduled withdrawal of most of coalition forces by December 2014. "As we pledged, our forces have transitioned Nirkh district to Afghan national security forces and they have now assumed full responsibility for security in this key district," Gen. Joseph Dunford, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement released Saturday. "The rest of Wardak will continue to transition over time as Afghan forces continue to grow in capability and capacity," he added. Maj. Gen. Tony Thomas, the top U.S. special operations commander in Afghanistan, told The Associated Press in an interview that the transition of authority took place Saturday. "What it means is we brought in an Afghan special forces team to take the place of ours," Thomas said. Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for the governor of Wardak province outside Kabul, confirmed that U.S. special operations forces withdrew and were replaced by a joint Afghan security forces team. Karzai had originally demanded the U.S. special operations forces pull out from the entire province, a gateway and staging area for Taliban and other militants for attacks on the capital Kabul. But he scaled down his demands to just the single district after negotiations with Dunford and other U.S. officials. "President Karzai was specific, it's only for Nirkh, that was a provocative point," Thomas said. "American special operations forces are integral in the defense of Wardak from now until the foreseeable future." U.S. commandos will also continue to visit the Afghan team in Nirkh. "We're going to support them from a distance," Thomas said. "The reality is there was such a groundswell of support (from locals) in Wardak after the initial allegations that we're keeping several teams down there to work with the Afghan security forces for the future, with an idea that we'll transition over time." The American special operations troops are paired with and live alongside locally recruited and trained teams known as Afghan local police. Thomas said most of the local police will be paired with Afghan security forces by the end of the summer, with the Americans making occasional visits as they will do in Nirkh, to assess whether they need logistic or other support. One Wardak government official expressed relief that the agreement crafted with Karzai did not mean the complete pullout of U.S. forces from the province, saying that local officials were worried their new forces would not yet be able to keep hardcore insurgents out of the area. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because his comments run counter to public statements made by Karzai that the Afghan security forces are ready for complete independence in Wardak. Meanwhile, Taliban militants attacked a police convoy Saturday morning in Ghazni province in eastern Afghanistan, kicking off a fierce gunbattle, according to deputy provincial police chief Col. Mohammad Hussain. The police requested a coalition air strike, which hit the militants' position and killed 15 fighters but also wounded nine civilians including a woman and child, Hussain said. He did not report any police casualties.

President Obama's Weekly Address

Armed men attack Karachi school

Pakistan: Human Development Report 2013

United Nations Development Programme launched by country director Marc-Andre Franche in Islamabad highlighted four major global trends. First, developing economies particularly India, China and Brazil have transformed themselves as emerging economies that accounts for their growing geopolitical influence; and, the South, as opposed to the North is driving global economic growth. The report forecasts that by 2020 China, India and Brazil's combined output in 1990 purchasing power parity dollars will surpass United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, France Italy and Canada's combined output. In this context the current membership of international bodies including the United Nations Security Council and the citizenship of heads of multilaterals like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, etc, need a revisit. Secondly the dynamism of the emerging economies is fuelled by trade and foreign direct investment and technology partnerships within the South or, in other words, the South is no longer clamouring for technology transfer as a condition to achieve development with a doubling of its share of world merchandise trade - from 25 percent to 47 percent. Thirdly the middle class in the South is growing rapidly and there are demands for greater consumer items which would expand the fiscal space and enable the state to invest more on education. And finally a negative namely that income inequality remains an issue and cancels some of the progress achieved in curbing health and education inequality. There is no doubt that Pakistan, firmly in the South, remains on the outside of these major developments other than in witnessing rising poverty levels in recent years. The reasons for this are varied including the failure to support economic policies that would have transformed the country from a developing to an emerging economy. Our politicians are at present in the election mode and their manifestoes focused on eliminating corruption as a major strategy to plug leakages which, so is the argument, would improve governance across several critical sectors particularly the energy sector as well as reduce the burgeoning budget deficits; however ignored is the need to implement reforms on an urgent basis if we are to transform ourselves into an emerging economy. It is critical for Pakistan to note that the three emerging economies are no longer eligible for concessional credit from international donors - credit whose amount for each country is linked to performance. Pakistan has been subjected to decreasing amounts of concessional credit due to poor performance especially with respect to governance. And growth in trade of the emerging economies is not through getting a special status that is allowed only to the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries but through transforming their industrial sectors and thereby enabling them to effectively compete globally. In Pakistan the mantra of 'we want trade and not aid' remains with a focus on getting special exemptions from tariffs which are extended at a price which in recent years has implied remaining engaged in the war on terror with its consequent human as well as financial costs. Pakistan needs to undertake massive reforms in the tax structure and ensure that taxes are not only equitable (with all paying the same tax on their incomes irrespective of the source of their income), fair (ending the issuance of statutory regulatory orders which have been and continue to be abused) and non-anomalous (with no special tax privileges extended to any entity whatever its credentials). There is also a need to encourage market based policies that would allow some of our industrial units to die while others that are more competitive would not only be able to effectively capture the domestic market but also compete internationally. But before such policy changes are identified and implemented there is a need to implement power sector reforms, end untargeted subsidies, withdraw patronage towards all those state and private entities that do not clear their monthly bills, meticulously adhere to public procurement rules and regulations and last but not least begin civil service reforms that would take away the incentive to bow to political pressure or indeed to accept bribes. The scale of reforms required is massive and the sooner they start the quicker will the country be able to approach the label of an emerging economy.

Balochistan candidates, voters receiving serious threats from BLA
The banned Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) is out to sabotage the forthcoming general elections and in this regard it has accelerated the practice of sending threatening letters to candidates and offices of political parties. Besides that, reports emerging from Balochistan revealed that the candidates and voters were also receiving threats of being target-killed. Despite assurances from the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (R) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, the political parties in Balochistan have demanded deployment of security forces one month prior to the Election Day. Eight Baloch majority districts in Balochistan have been declared extremely sensitive for the forthcoming general elections. However, activities of the banned outfits are also continuing in other parts of Balochistan. Areas from Mastung to Gawadar including Khuzdar, Awaran, Kalat, Turbat, Chagai and Kharan are among the areas which have been declared most sensitive. National Party leader Mir Hasil Khan Bazinjo has confirmed that the BLA has not only sent threatening letters to the residences of the contesting candidates, but also sent threatening pamphlets to mosques. They have threatened to target the candidates and voters taking part in the elections. He has demanded of the CEC to deploy security forces one month earlier to the election day in Balochistan.

Pak-Afghan must not derail

Once a contractor for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)--now a princely President of Afghanistan-- Hamid Karzai continuously vomits out venom against Pakistan-a country he often described as ‘inseparable twin brother’. His actual authority outside Kabul is said to be so limited that he is often derided as the ‘Mayor of Kabul’. Amidst growing frustration and discontent over failing to reforms outside of the region under the influence of various local leaders around Kabul, President Karzai and his administration, in a bid to salvage their tarnished image, unleashed a Pakistan-bashing campaign. In fact, he had sown seeds of hatred against Pakistan amongst the Afghan people. Karzai’ journey to Kabul Palace from the US hotel studded and punctuated with betrayals starting from the killing of the friends and foes alike in the Palace. Having been surrounded by accusations of nepotism, widespread corruption, electoral fraud, and the alleged involvement of his late half brother Ahmed Wali Karzai in the drug trade, President Karzai, in fact, is fast losing his hold on Afghan affairs, particularly his role in the US-led peace process initiated to establish a durable peace in the country before the pullout of the US and NATO troops by the 2014-end. The entire world including the UN believes and sees regional power Pakistan as critical to stabilizing Afghanistan. The Karzai Administration, once heavily dependent on Pakistan, has initiated a blame-game against Islamabad. The fact of the matter is; the Karzai-led Administration has not been cooperating with Pakistan in repatriating the members of the TTP given safe havens in Afghanistan-an act that has created multiple problems for Pakistan. The Foreign Office on Thursday expressed concern over continued presence of safe havens of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Kunar and Nooristan areas of Afghanistan from where these elements are carrying out undesirable activities against Pakistan. Yet Pakistan, in the larger interest of regional peace, has extended its support to the Afghan peace process; releasing all high profile Afghan Taliban-a gesture never been reciprocated by the Karzai Administration resulting thereby Pakistan is continuously facing massive loss of men and material. To be exact, over 49000 people have lost their lives in terrorist attacks. The causalities in Pakistan have out-numbered the loss of life in the Afghan war on terror. Notwithstanding, the loss Pakistan has to withstand in the war against Soviet Union in Afghanistan. In return, President Karzai, having attained a lifestyle of Mughal King, is sending a rude shock from across the Durand Line over Pakistan’s ‘complacency’ in the nascent Afghan peace process and is ready to work without Islamabad’s help on reconciliation. Kabul’s Deputy Foreign Minister goes on to say ‘We here in Kabul are in a bit of a state of shock at once again being confronted by the depth of Pakistan’s complacency, we are just very disappointed.’ Even the Kabul government has cancelled visit of its army officers to Pakistan. The fallout in Pakistan-Afghanistan relations is ill-affordable for the durable peace in the region. Beyond any doubt, the stability in Afghanistan is interlinked with the peace in Pakistan thus two states must not forget-the solution to Afghan instability needs a joint effort to wipe out terrorists operating on the both sides of the border. None of the two can capitalize on instability in either side. President Karzai, however, must understand that leaders of Afghan Taliban if at all are reluctant to talk to the government it is just because he has been installed by the foreign forces to serve their interests rather than serving the people of Afghanistan. Secondly, Taliban are aware that the peace process is aimed at giving a new lease of life to corrupt presidency. Taliban are sovereign sons of the Afghan soil do understand the ground realities, hardly need any foreign dictation, thus their continued reluctance to stay away from the government has nothing to do with Pakistan. President Karzai, having enjoyed his two terms in heavily guarded office, is no more acceptable. Thus instead pouring out venom against Pakistan, President Karzai should concentrate on the political affairs of his country the way he wants. Better if he understands the strategic importance of Pakistan thus should pursue the follow-up of the London talks. Best way to remove the concerns of the two countries is to communicate through every possible channel rather than slamming the door on each other.

The Return of the General: Why is Musharraf Running for Office in Pakistan?

Pakistan’s former military ruler Pervez Musharraf had a rough day in court on Friday, having a shoe hurled at him as he was forced to appear in two murder cases to plead for bail. He secured bail, but was barred from leaving the country. The ignominy added to the retired general’s troubles since he arrived back in Pakistan last week, ending four years in exile in Dubai and London, to make another bid for power at the elections in May. Ahead of his return, the Pakistani Taliban threatened to send a death squad to kill him. Once he landed at Karachi airport, fewer than two thousand people were there to greet him in what was billed his great homecoming. Musharraf heralded his day in court with a tweet, with a blurred picture of him hastening past the phone camera. The pensioned dictator has memorably claimed in interviews that his social media following demonstrates his popularity in Pakistan. His Facebook page has 825,000 likes. “Leaving to appear in court today,” he said, in the first time a former dictator has live-tweeted an audience with a judge. The Twitter account shows the former commando in action, training at the gym (“Feel very energized”), tasting Pakistani food (“The best cuisine in the world”), posing with a dwindled crowd of fans, and showing off his farouche-looking armed bodyguard (“Taliban threat? NOT ON MY WATCH!!!”). As a barrel-chested Musharraf strode into court, with flashing cameras retreating in front of him, a shoe zipped over their heads. The assailant was a lawyer, a familiar type of opponent. In 2007, during his last year in power, Musharraf sacked Pakistan’s Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry twice, sparking a lawyer-led movement that ultimately saw him resign as President of Pakistan the following year. Like most shoe hurlers, the lawyer, Tajamal Lodhi, was a terrible shot and missed his target by some distance. Local news channels gleefully played the footage several times. They, too, have a gripe with Musharraf: he shut down a number of independent news channels when he imposed a state of emergency in 2007.Lodhi, the lawyer, was released without charge. Musharraf, however, didn’t get off as easily. He managed to secure bail in the three cases he’s charged with involvement in: the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the death of Baloch leader Akbar Bugti, and a case about his sacking of several judges in 2007. Musharraf’s troubled history with Pakistan’s judiciary made this a delicate moment. It was also the first time that a former Pakistani military ruler was appearing in court. In his tweets, Musharraf struck a deferential tone, referring to the judges as “honorable”. But the Sindh High Court also ruled that Musharraf would not be allowed to leave the country without their permission, placing his name on an “exit control list.” Over the next month, as campaigning for Pakistan’s general election in May gets underway, Musharraf will be forced to appear at courts in different parts of the country to extend his bail. It is unlikely, however, that he will end up convicted of his involvement in either the Bhutto or Bugti assassinations. He is widely accused of failing to give Bhutto adequate security, including in a high-profile U.N. inquiry. In Bugti’s case, Musharraf notoriously remarked on television that he would “hit him from where he wouldn’t see it coming.” But the courts would need more evidence to establish culpability. ” “You would have to demonstrate liability in very direct terms,” says Feisal Naqvi, a leading Pakistani lawyer. “It would be very hard to prove this in court.” Musharraf still manages to attract considerable attention in Pakistan. Many news channels broadcast his press conference live from the luxury hotel in Karachi where he is ensconced. The familiar bluff rhetoric was on display, with Musharraf controversially saying that Kargil – a military adventure he led as army chief in 1999 – was a success. But few believe that he will make a political impact. “Despite a very poor performance by the democratic government, people are not going to choose a former military ruler,” says retired Lieut. Gen. Talat Masood, who was once close to Musharraf.After having ruled Pakistan for nine years, it is difficult to establish why Musharraf wants be involved in politics again. Some ascribe the decision to his vanity. “He’s fantasizing,” says Masood, the retired general. “He has highly-exaggerated ideas about himself. He’s out of touch with reality. He certainly has a grand vision, but it’s about himself rather than the country.” The forthcoming elections have drawn a strange cast of characters, all vying for political power. At one point, AQ Khan, the notorious nuclear proliferator who has also established a political party, was thinking about fighting elections but dropped out yesterday. His election symbol was going to be a missile. Beyond the trouble with the courts, Musharraf will also have a hard time campaigning. “This is why he won’t make an impact,” says Imran Khan, the former cricket legend turned politician who was imprisoned by Musharraf briefly in 2007. “We’ve not invented any way to deal with the suicide bomber. The only way to avoid one is to stay at home.” It’s a big risk to take for what looks to be a very small reward. Musharraf insists that he will hit the campaign trail, and is tipped to possibly win a couple parliamentary seats, one in Karachi and one in Chitral. And if current opinion polls hold through the election, Musharraf would be reduced to sitting as a lonely member in a parliament headed by Nawaz Sharif, the former Prime Minister he ousted in the 1999 coup that brought him to power.

In Pakistan Underworld, a Cop Is Said to Be a King

A corrupt, low-level cop with a healthy dose of street smarts rises to control hundreds of illegal gambling dens in Pakistan's largest city. By doling out millions of dollars in illicit proceeds, he protects his empire and becomes one of the most powerful people in Karachi. The allegations against Mohammed Waseem Ahmed — or Waseem "Beater" as he is more commonly known — emerged recently from surprise testimony by a top police commander before a crusading anti-crime Supreme Court judge. The story has given a rare and colorful glimpse into the vast underworld in Karachi, a chaotic metropolis of 18 million people on Pakistan's southern coast. The sprawling city has become notorious for violence, from gangland-style killings and kidnappings to militant bombings and sectarian slayings. Further worrying authorities have been signs that the Pakistani Taliban are using the chaos to gain a greater foothold in the city. For months, the Supreme Court's Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has been leading special hearings on Karachi's crime, berating the city's top police officers for failing to act. This past week, he demanded they move in to clean up so-called "no-go" areas — entire neighborhoods where police fear to tread — according to local press reports. Further fueling the problem is rampant police corruption, undermining efforts to combat the city's violent gangs and extremists. Among the public, the police nationwide are seen as the country's most crooked public sector organization, a high bar given claims of pervasive corruption throughout the government. The allegations surrounding Ahmed further fuel questions about the overlap between Karachi's underworld and its police forces. After the testimony to the Supreme Court earlier this year, police officials in Karachi provided The Associated Press with additional details over his reported rise. The AP made repeated attempts to contact Ahmed, who has been removed from the force and fled to Dubai, but was not successful. Ahmed came from a poor family in Karachi's old city and joined the police force in the 1990s. He soon started working as a "beater," a low-level thug who works for more senior cops to collect a cut from illegal activities in their area, such as gambling, prostitution and drug dealing, said half a dozen police officers who knew him personally at the time. They all spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. Ahmed, who sports a bushy black mustache and usually dresses in a simple, white shalwar kameez, earned a reputation for carrying out his illicit work efficiently, said two police officers who have known him ever since he joined the force. That reputation helped him forge relationships with more senior figures, and eventually he was collecting money for some of the top police officers and civilian security officials in Karachi, they said. The heavyset 40-year-old also attracted the attention of a local boss who controlled the largest concentration of illegal gambling dens in Karachi, located in the city's rough and tumble Ghas Mandi area, where Ahmed worked, said the policemen and a local journalist. The two teamed up to expand their gambling empire to other parts of Karachi and surrounding Sindh province.Gambling was not always illegal in Pakistan, a nation of 180 million people that gained independence from Britain in 1947 as a sanctuary for Muslims who did not believe they could thrive as part of what is now India, a majority Hindu state. Despite the religious undertones of Pakistan's founding, the country's major cities, such as Karachi and Lahore, were relatively liberal places in the first few decades after independence. Alcohol flowed freely in nightclubs filled with dancing girls. But in 1977, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto banned gambling and alcohol for Muslims in an attempt to appease Islamic hard-liners. Drinking and gambling, which are forbidden in Islam, didn't stop, but much of it was driven underground. The gambling dens in Ghas Mandi are hidden behind nondescript facades down dark alleyways with tangled electrical wires hanging overhead in one of the oldest and densest populated parts of Karachi. In one den, a dozen men dressed in shalwar kameez sat in a semicircle on the floor playing a local card game, mang patta, beneath bare bulbs hanging from the ceiling. The men sipped tea and tossed 100 rupee ($1) poker chips at the dealer. In an adjacent room, a handful of men played chakka, a game that involved guessing the numbers that would appear when the dealer rolled three dice out of what looked like an old leather Yahtzee cup. Rupee notes were placed on a table as bets and held in place by a large metal washer. Everyone stopped their games when the Muslim call to prayer came over a loudspeaker from a nearby mosque — and they promptly resumed the dice and cards once the prayer ended. Ahmed earned tens of thousands of dollars each day from hundreds of such gambling dens, said the policemen and journalist who knew him. He also collected extortion money from drug dealers and brothels and smuggled diesel fuel into Karachi from neighboring Iran, where it is much cheaper, they said. He distributed cash to senior officials, and the pay-outs made him one of the most powerful people in Karachi's police force, said his acquaintances. He won significant influence over who was posted to senior positions, thus providing him with protection, they said. Known as a man of few words who rarely loses his cool, Ahmed also handed out money to Karachi's powerful criminal gangs and traveled with roughly a dozen armed guards as an insurance policy. He was sailing smoothly through the underworld until one of the Supreme Court sessions in January. A petitioner outlined to the court allegations of Ahmed's illicit activities and his power in the police force. Chief Justice Chaudhry then asked senior police officers and civilian officials who were present about the allegations. They all expressed ignorance. But Deputy Inspector General Bashir Memon spoke up and backed the petitioner's claims. "I said yes, Waseem 'Beater' is present among the ranks of the Karachi police. He controls the gambling business in Karachi," Memon told The Associated Press. "I also confirmed that he is involved in the transfer and posting of junior and senior police officers." Another senior police officer in Sindh province, Sanaullah Abbasi, also testified that he knew Ahmed and that he controlled gambling dens in Karachi. Chaudhry lambasted the senior officials for not going after Ahmed and asked Memon whether he was concerned about contradicting his colleagues. "I replied, 'I only told you the truth,'" Memon told the AP.As a sign of Ahmed's power, Memon said he was told the same day he would be transferred out of Karachi, but the Supreme Court canceled the transfer order. Ahmed was dismissed from the police force after the Supreme Court hearing, according to two senior police officers, and government records indicate he flew to Dubai and has not returned. Hassan Abbas, an expert on the Pakistani police at the New York-based Asia Society, said Ahmed's case provides a stark illustration of the level of corruption in the Karachi police force, which he described as the worst in any of Pakistan's major cities. Criminal cases are currently pending against 400 police officers serving in Karachi, said Abbas. Civilian officials, who also benefit from corruption, have shown no willingness to reform the system, making the force relatively ineffective in cracking down on criminal gangs and Islamist militants in the city, said Abbas. "The chaos in Karachi provides criminal gangs with the cover they need to operate," said Abbas. "Corruption provides an incentive to continue that chaos."