Monday, April 1, 2013

mere sapno ki rani kab aayegi tu

Pakistan: Tehrik-e Islami and Jama'at-e Imrani seat adjustment
According to reports, the PTI has entered into a seat adjustment with the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). This is not a good strategy because in my opinion, it will help only the JI and may well cost the PTI potential voters. That said, the one Lahore seat, NA 126, that Imran Khan will contest on, was won in 2002 by the JI’s Liaquat Baloch, so the PTI may have one benefit from the seat adjustment. Overall, however, the image of the party will suffer because it chose to enter into a seat adjustment with a conservative religious party. The PTI claims to implement the ideology of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah but the Jamaat-e-Islami was founded by Maulana Maudoodi. The latter was a vocal opponent of the concept of Pakistan and of Jinnah as well. And the JI, to the best of my knowledge, has never tried to dispel this impression. Similarly, the PTI has said that it will look out for the interests of minorities if it is voted to power. However, how is that going to happen given that it has chosen to enter into a seat adjustment with a party that led a campaign against Ahmadis as early as 1953. The seat adjustment between the two parties is clearly not compatible with the manifesto and history of both parties.

Britain: Benefit cuts putting 200,000 children in poverty must be stopped, experts say

Senior welfare experts have urged the government to reconsider benefit cuts coming into force next week that will disproportionately hit the poorest families and push a further 200,000 children into poverty. In an open letter to David Cameron, published in the Guardian, more than 50 social policy professors warn that the welfare reforms, coupled with previous tax, benefit and public expenditure cuts, will result in the poorest tenth of households losing the equivalent of around 38% of their income. They say the changes will undermine public support for the welfare state – which they call "one of the hallmarks of a civilised society". "Welfare states depend on a fair collection and redistribution of resources, which in turn rests upon the maintenance of trust between different sections of society and across generations. "Misleading rhetoric concerning those who have to seek support from the welfare state, such as the contrast between 'strivers' and 'shirkers', risks undermining that trust and, with it, one of the key foundations of modern Britain." The letter argues that such rhetoric does not reflect the reality of a UK where families move fluidly in and out of work and in and out of poverty. It adds: "In the interests of fairness and to protect the poorest, as well as to avoid the risk of undermining the consensus on the British welfare state, we urge you to increase taxation progressively on the better off, those who can afford to pay (including ourselves), rather than cutting benefits for the poorest." The letter follows growing concern among charities, campaigners and local authorities about the combined impact on vulnerable individuals and households of welfare changes and cuts to local authority budgets. A separate report compiled by academics from six UK universities concludes that Britain's poorest are worse off today than they were at the height of the cuts imposed by Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government in 1983. The Poverty and Exclusion project reports that 33% of British households lacked at least three basic living necessities in 2012, compared with 14% in 1983. These include living in adequately heated homes, eating healthily, and owning basic clothing items such as properly fitting shoes. "Despite the fact that the UK is a much wealthier country, levels of deprivation are going back to the levels found 30 years ago," says the report, titled The Impoverishment of The UK. Some of the findings are featured in an ITV Tonight programme titled Breadline Britain on Thursday evening. The report found: • Around 4 million adults and almost 1 million children lack at least one basic item of clothing, such as a warm winter coat, while 3 million adults of working age (including over a fifth of those looking for work) cannot afford appropriate clothes for a job interview. • Roughly 4 million children and adults are not fed properly judged against what most people consider to be a minimally acceptable diet – meaning they do not eat three meals a day, including fresh fruit, meat, fish and vegetables. Over a quarter of all adults skimped on meals so others in their households could eat. • One-third of all adults can't afford to pay unexpected costs of £500 (such as if a cooker breaks down), 31% can't afford to save at least £20 a month, and 1 million children can't afford to join sports training or drama clubs. • About 11 million people cannot afford adequate housing conditions and nearly one in ten households are unable to afford to fully heat their home. The project measures who and how many people fall below what the majority agree are "necessities for life" in the UK today. The list of necessities also includes consumer items such as a washing machine and a telephone, and social activities like visiting friends and family in hospital. "The results present a remarkably bleak portrait of life in the UK today and the shrinking opportunities faced by the bottom third of UK society," said the head of the project, Professor David Gordon of Bristol University. "Moreover this bleak situation will get worse as benefit levels fall in real terms, real wages continue to decline and living standards are further squeezed."

President Obama Consoles Kid at Easter Egg Roll

Bilawal Bhutto returns to Pakistan

Bilawal Bhutto arrives in Karachi on Thursday dismissing the reports of differances with father President Zardari.

Stakes high in Pakistan election
Voters in Pakistan go to the polls on May 11 for provincial assembly elections and the results will not matter as much as the process, a former ambassador to Pakistan said Monday. In a telephone discussion arranged by the Council on Foreign Relations, former Ambassador Ryan Crocker offered scenarios for both tragedy and hope in the upcoming elections. "The stakes, I think, are very high for the United States," Crocker said. "Pakistan is a country of 180-plus million people. It, of course, possesses nuclear weapons. And since my time there as ambassador, 2004 to 2007, I've seen almost all the trend lines running the wrong way. There are more extremist groups in Pakistan than when I was there, and they are targeting the Pakistani state, military and civilian. We've seen the press reports of the ascendancy of the Taliban in Karachi, one of the world's largest cities." Pakistan, he added, "is in a state of institutional failure. It's not a failed state, but you could argue it is a failing state." It does not matter who wins, Crocker said, but whether the military intervenes in the voting process. Pakistan elected a civilian government five years ago, and it is necessary for the country to have a second five-year term of civilian rule to avoid internal collapse. "I don't think there is much appetite in the Pakistani military to get itself involved in the electoral process, certainly not under current management," Crocker said. "So as long as there is not widespread disorder, I would be reasonably confident that the military will keep its distance." There were massive election rallies in Pakistan on Sunday, Crocker said. There was isolated violence but the events went reasonably well, he said. All in all, 2013 could be an extremely eventful year in Pakistan, according to Daniel Markey, a senior fellow at the CFR. "In September, President Zardari will reach the end of his term," Markey said. "And although it's possible that he will stay on, it's also quite possible that he will be voted out, too. In November, the army chief is slated to leave office. And in December another major power player in Pakistani politics and in government, is the supreme court chief justice, is slated to retire. So all in all, you could see at the end of this year an entirely different cast of characters in charge in Islamabad."

Afghanistan protests Pakistan's border 'construction, physical reinforcement'

The Express Tribune
Afghanistan on Monday expressed grave concern about what it claimed the ‘Pakistani military’s unilateral construction and physical reinforcement activities’ along the border in the eastern Ningarhar province, the Afghan Foreign Ministry said. A formal protest was also lodged amidst growing diplomatic tension between the two uneasy neighbours which also led to the cancellation of Afghan army officers’ planned visit to Pakistan last week. “Deputy Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Jawed Ludin, spoke with the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in Afghanistan, Mohammad Sadiq this afternoon,” the Afghan Foreign Ministry said. “Ludin told Ambassador Sadiq that these activities are against all accepted international norms, provocative and unacceptable to the Afghan government, and that the government of Pakistan must halt them immediately,” an Afghan Foreign Ministry statement said. The Afghan Foreign Ministry quoted the Afghan border police reports as saying, “these unilateral activities began a while ago along the Durand Line near the villages of Hatam Kalai and Kodzarai in Goshta district”. Ludin also expressed the Afghan government’s grave concern about alleged Pakistani rocket and artillery attacks in different areas of Kunar province over the past several days, and said the continuation of such attacks could negatively affect existing relations between the two countries. “Ambassador Sadiq promised to convey all of the Afghan government’s concerns and demands to relevant authorities in Pakistan,” the Afghan Ministry said. Afghanistan’s protest coincided with Pakistan Army Chief’s call on the top commander of foreign forces in Afghanistan to stop attacks into Pakistan from Afghanistan. General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani urged General Joseph F Dunford, Commander International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), to ‘help Pakistan check cross-border attacks launched from inside Afghanistan.’ The heightened tension has raised serious concerns over the urgently needed peace process in the war-torn country to avoid any escalations before the 2014 pullout of NATO forces. Afghan officials claimed that Pakistani forces fired nearly 50 rockets into eastern Afghan province of Kunar on March 25 and 26. In return, the Afghan Foreign Ministry cancelled a planned trip to Pakistan by Afghan army officers for joint exercises. Pakistan described the decision as ‘overreaction’ to a local issue. As the tension grew in recent days Aimal Faizi, Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s spokesperson, accused Pakistan of “sabotaging efforts to end the Taliban’s bloody 11- year insurgency.” Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Javed Ludin also claimed that some Afghan Taliban leaders who signified their intention to join in the peace process were either killed or arrested in Pakistan. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry clarified that Pakistani troops merely returned small arms fire at the specific directions from where the militants fired at the Pakistani border posts. Islamabad has insisted that Pakistani militants, who had fled military offensive in Swat valley in the northwestern tribal belt, have routinely launched attacks on Pakistani posts and villages from Afghan border areas. The Pakistani military says that at least 100 Pakistani security personnel and civilians have been killed in 20 militant attacks from Afghan side of the border in the past year. Last month, Afghan forces arrested a senior Pakistani Taliban leader Maulvi Faqir Mohammad in eastern Nangarhar province.

US Watching Regional Impact of Upcoming Pakistan Vote

Voters in Pakistan go to the polls next month for what is expected to be the country's first civilian-to-civilian transfer of power. Pakistan's May election comes at a tumultuous time in the region, with Islamabad and Kabul both pushing for talks with the Taliban ahead of Afghan voting next year. Ryan Crocker is a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and to Afghanistan. "A stable Pakistan is crucial to a stable region. And that takes us back to the importance of these elections," he said. With a credible electoral commission in place, he says, the vote comes down to institutions. "Pakistan is in a state of institutional failure," said Crocker. "It's not a failed state, but you could argue it is a failing state. So these elections need to be well-run and credible in their outcome." Pakistan's military has largely stayed out of this vote. U.S. Council on Foreign Relations fellow Daniel Markey says he believes the military has a lower political profile as it watches how the United States and Afghanistan engage the Taliban. "They are very eager to figure out what the Americans are actually doing," said Markey. "They don't trust that the U.S. officials are necessarily letting them in on the reconciliation process. And they don't trust the Afghans or even the Afghan Taliban to tell them either. So their major concern is to be looped into the process." Also part of the equation is Pakistan's natural gas pipeline with Iran, over which the United States is threatening to sanction Islamabad because of concerns about Iran's nuclear program. But American University professor Akbar Ahmed says Pakistan's energy demands outweigh U.S. opposition. "It's in the interests of the Pakistani government to have access to energy, and Iran is promising that through this gas pipeline. At the same time, the United States is doing everything to block this," said Ahmed. Ahmed says Tehran is hoping that U.S.-led sanctions force Pakistan into a closer alliance with Iran. "I don't think the United States should be pushing Pakistan to the point that it's at the brink," he said. "It's already at the brink in terms of the law-and-order breakdown in Pakistan, in terms of the economic crisis, in terms of really the sense of crisis that now envelopes Pakistan and the awareness in Pakistan that America is at the root cause of most of its problems." U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wanted to go to Islamabad following his surprise trip to Kabul last week, but decided against it. A senior State Department official says they "did not want to lead anyone to conclude anything about where" U.S. interests may lie.

President Obama's April Fool Prank

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U.K: Iain Duncan Smith Urged By Petition To Show He Can Actually Live On £53 A Week

A petition calling on Iain Duncan Smith to live on £53 a week has been signed by over 66,000 people in less than day, after the Work and Pensions secretary said he could live on the amount some benefit claimants receive "if I had to". Speaking on the BBC's Today programme on Monday morning, Duncan Smith made the claim after saying it was "only fair" if households had a spare room with "no legitimate reason" that they should pay for it, when other families were crammed into houses that were too small for them. Market trader David Bennett told the programme he earned around £2,700 last year working between 50 and 70 hours a week. Mr Bennett said his housing benefit had been cut even though his children stayed with him several days a week, and that his overall income was now around £53 per week. It was not clear why Mr Bennett was not receiving tax credits. The petition has taken off since Dominic Aversano started it earlier on Monday and has become the fastest growing petition ever on in the UK. Dominic said he was “overwhelmed" by the number of people who have signed my petition. He added: "Iain Duncan Smith's comments earlier struck me as both fanciful and insincere. "I believe many people feel there is a dangerous division forming in this country between the rich and poor, and to bridge this, and prove we truly are all in this together, he should show leadership and prove he can survive in the conditions he expects others to endure. Duncan Smith also penned a joint article in the Daily Telegraph with Chancellor George Osborne, writing: "Of course, if you listened to the shrill voices of the Left you'd think that every change to the welfare system, and any attempt to save money, marks the beginning of the end of the world." The politician has come under heavy fire both by Labour, the church and voices on social media, who condemned his cuts as being unjust. Now many are calling on the Work and Pensions secretary to "prove" his claim.The petition on calls on Iain Duncan Smith "to live on this budget for at least one year. This would help realise the Conservative Party's current mantra that "We are all in this together". "This would mean a 97% reduction in his current income, which is £1,581.02 a week or £225 a day after tax."Iain Duncan Smith also faced criticism after the Mirror reported he lived rent-free in a £2million country house with at least four spare bedrooms. Thousands came out to protest against the so-called "bedroom tax" on Saturday while Labour's Work and Pensions Spokesman Liam Byrne slammed the reform there was a massive shortfall of one-bedroom properties for families to move into. He said: "This wicked bedroom tax is going to rip neighbour from neighbour, force vulnerable people to food banks and loan sharks, and end up costing Britain more than it saves as tenants are forced to go homeless or move into the expensive private rented sector. "It is the worst possible blend of cruelty and incompetence. The government must think again and drop this tax now." In 2010 Iain Duncan Smith agreed to take part in a Channel 4 reality show Tower Block of Commons where four MPs spent time living in a variety of deprived housing estates around Britain. However he pulled out from the programme after the first episode after his wife was diagnosed with cancer.

UK govt imposes avalanche of cuts, reforms

The UK will begin implementing a raft of welfare reforms on Monday, which critics say will hit hard on low-income families and the financially vulnerable. On Sunday, protesters took to the streets, with several churches joining the backlash. Labour, the opposition party, has labeled the day the beginning of ‘Black April.’ Among the changes being introduced are the controversial ‘bedroom tax,’ a loss of access to legal aid, NHS commissioning changes – derided by many as a step towards privatization – and council tax benefits being transferred to local control. The simultaneous cuts to central council funding have led over 70 percent of councils to impose a minimum tax payment on lower-income families. Some 2.4 million households will face a rise in taxes, averaging £138 per year. “The cuts are unjust and that the most vulnerable will pay a disproportionate price,” the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Church of Scotland said in a joint statement on Sunday, amid reports that the move is driving a wedge between church and state. "These cuts make April fools of us all," said Paul Morrison, Public Issues Policy Adviser for the collective. “We are witnessing what happens when we create a culture that blames poor people for their poverty. It is a lie to say that most people on benefits are lazy, that they have an easy life or that they are responsible for the nation's financial deficit. When people are willing to believe those lies, poor families pay the highest price.” The UK government is imposing the measures in hopes of cutting £2 billion from the budget. The Department for Welfare and Pensions was the biggest-spending department in the UK in 2011 and 2012, forking out nearly £167 billion Lower-income families will be hit hardest by the changes. However, the wealthier in society will see a tax cut next Saturday, in which the 50-percent rate will be slashed for high earners; Labour has alleged that 13,000 millionaires will get a £100,000 tax cut. The infamous ‘bedroom tax’ coming into force will affect those incomes low enough to receive financial support from the UK government. These families must now make an extra payment – in the form of a 14-percent benefit cut – if one of the rooms in their house is ‘free.’ The affected will therefore lose an average of £14 per week, and the cut will rise to 25 percent if the house has two free rooms. The UK government has dubbed the bedroom tax an “under-occupancy penalty,” and says that they are seeking to encourage more efficient use of social housing. However, critics have lashed out, saying that hundreds of thousands of vulnerable UK residents will be hit by an inescapably ‘vicious’ tax. To benefits claimants, an extra £14 is a lot of money. The bedroom tax will “end up costing Britain more than it saves as tenants are forced to go homeless or move into the expensive private rented sector,” Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne said. He went on to point out that while over 90,000 households faced losing benefits, there were less than 4,000 smaller homes available. The controversial implementation of the measure sparked protests over the weekend as hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets, with similar protests kicking off across several UK cities, including Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland. Starting next Monday, disability living allowances will also begin to be replaced by ‘personal independence payments’ (PIP), which will be allocated under the watchful eyes of ATOS, a private body responsible for assessing whether benefits claimants are suitable for work. The group will be paid up to £1 billion to continue to carry out assessments. ATOS have in the past declared stroke victims, the blind and amputees ‘fit for work’ in an attempt to reduce the number of benefits claimants. The organization now aims to remove a further 500,000 people from the benefits rolls through stringent medical tests. This is one of many services which critics believe should be conducted without the motivation of saving money, amid further steps towards privatization of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS).
Health service upheaval
The much-debated Health And Social Care Act also comes into effect on Monday, meaning that the institution’s traditional Primary Care Trusts have given way to a new style of management. An NHS commissioning board has been set up instead, and 240 GP-led commissioning groups have now taken control of the day-to-day running of the health service. NHS services will be shifted to private organizations providing treatment, as the bodies will be required to commission health services through competitive markets. The NHS Confederation believes that handing decision-making to those with clinical expertise will encourage improvements during a time when funding is tight. However, the move has led some specialists to voice concern over the quality of services, as those offering the best deals will have to reduce costs themselves. “Last month I was working in a drugs service in the Home Counties,” said Max Pemberton, a prominent doctor, journalist and author writing in the Daily Telegraph. He says that it was taken over by a non-NHS organization, which offered a good price because they replaced nurses with “drugs workers” who were “not medically trained.” The commercialization of the NHS has been mourned by UK critics who say the extra funding should have been used to improve the standard of NHS care, especially in the aftermath of the Stafford scandal. At the beginning of March, over 1,000 NHS doctors wrote to the Daily Telegraph clamoring for the withdrawal of the new health regulations, saying they would be

Painful payment for Afghan debt: A daughter, aged 6

As the shadows lengthened around her family's hut here in one of Kabul's sprawling refugee camps, a slight 6-year-old girl ran in to where her father huddled with a group of elders near a rusty wood stove. Her father, Taj Mohammad, looked away, his face glum. "She does not know what is going to happen," he said softly. If, as seems likely, Mr Mohammad cannot repay his debt to a fellow camp resident a year from now, his daughter Naghma, a smiling, slender child with a tiny gold stud in her nose, will be forced to leave her family's home forever to be married to the lender's 17-year-old son. The arrangement effectively values her life at $2,500. That is the amount Mr Mohammad borrowed over the course of a year to pay for hospital treatment for his wife and medical care for some of his nine children — including Janan, 3, who later froze to death in bitter winter weather because the family could not afford enough firewood to stay warm. "They said, 'Pay back our money,' and I didn't have any money, so I had to give my girl," Mr Mohammad said. "I was thankful to them at the time, so it was my decision, but the elders also demanded that I do this." The story of how Mr Mohammad, a refugee from the fighting in Helmand Province who in better days made a living as a singer and a musician, came to trade his daughter is in part a saga of terrible choices faced by some of the poorest Afghan families. But it is also a story of the way the war has eroded the social bonds and community safety nets that underpinned hundreds of thousands of rural Afghans' lives. Women and girls have been among the chief victims — not least because the Afghan government makes little attempt in the camps to enforce laws protecting women and children, said advocates for the camp residents. Aid groups have been able to provide a few programs for women and children in the ever-growing camps, including schooling that for many girls here is a first. But those programs are being cut as international aid has dwindled here ahead of the Western military withdrawal. And the Afghan government has not offered much support, in part because most officials hope the refugees will leave Kabul and return home. Most of the refugees in this camp are from rural southern Afghanistan, and they remain bound by the tribal codes and elder councils, known as jirgas, that resolved disputes in their home villages. Few, however, still have the support of a broader network of kinsmen to fall back on in hard times as they would have at home. Out of context, the already rigid Pashtun codes have become something even harsher. "This kind of thing never happened at home in Helmand," said Mr Mohammad's mother as she sat in the back of the smoky room. Watching her granddaughter, as she laughed and smiled with her teacher, Najibullah, who also acts as a camp social worker and was visiting the family, she added, "I never remember a girl being given away to pay for a loan." From the point of view of those who participated in the jirga, the resolution was a good one, said Tawous Khan, an elder who led it and is one of the two main camp representatives. "You see, Taj Mohammad had to give his daughter. There was no other way," he said. "And, it solved the problem." Some Afghan women's advocates who heard about the little girl's plight from news media reports were outraged and said they had asked the Interior Ministry to intervene, since child marriage is a violation of Afghan law and it is also unlawful to sell a woman. But nothing happened, said Wazhma Frogh, the executive director of the Research Institute for Women, Peace and Security. "There has to be some sort of intervention," Ms Frogh said, "otherwise others will think this behavior is all right and it will increase." The camps The dark, cramped room where Mr Mohammad lives with his wife and his eight children is typical of the shelters in the Charahi Qambar camp, which houses 900 refugee families from war-torn areas, mostly in southern Afghanistan. The camp is the largest in the capital area, but just one of 52 such "informal settlements" in the province, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Abjectly poor, the people in the camps came with little more than a handful of household belongings. Seeking safety and aid, they instead found themselves unwelcome in a city already overcrowded with returning refugees from Pakistan and Iran. For years Charahi Qambar did not even have wells for water because the government was reluctant to let aid groups dig them, said Mohammad Yousef, an engineer and the director of Aschiana, an Afghan aid group that works in nine camps around the country as well as with street children. The refugees' skills as farmers and small village workmen were of little use here since they had neither land nor houses. Penniless, they gravitated to others from the same area, and the camps grew up. Mr Mohammad, like most men in the camps, looks for work almost every morning as an unskilled laborer, which pays about $6 a day — not even enough to buy the staples that his family subsists on: green tea, bread and, when they can afford them, potatoes. Meat and sugar are the rarest of luxuries. Many days, no one hires the camp men at all, put off by their tattered clothes, blanketlike wraps and full beards. "People know where we are from and think we are Taliban," Mr Mohammad said. After four years in the camp, he is thinking now of going back to Helmand as a migrant laborer for the opium poppy harvest so that he can earn enough to feed his family and save a little for next winter's firewood. "It is too cold, and we wish we had more to eat," said Rahmatullah, one of 18 deputy camp representatives and one of the few who spoke against the jirga's decision to have Mr. Mohammad give his daughter to pay off the debt. Rahmatullah, who uses just one name, did note a positive difference in camp life, however, adding, "We do have one thing here — we have education." Education was unheard-of for most camp residents at home in Helmand, and Rahmatullah, like many camp residents, said that at first he was suspicious of it. Shortly after arriving in the camp four years ago, he was shocked to see young girls walking on the street. He was even more amazed when another camp resident explained that the girls were going to school. "I did not know that girls could go to school, because in my village only a very few girls were taught anything and it was always at home," he said. "I thought, 'Maybe these are the daughters of a general,' because where I come from women do not leave their homes, not even to bring water." "I talked to my wife, and we allowed our girls to go to the camp school, and now they are in the regular Kabul school," he said. His daughters were lucky. The schools in the camp were run by Aschiana, which gives a healthful lunch to every child enrolled — 800 in the Charahi Qambar camp alone. They try to bring the children up to a level where they can keep up in the regular Kabul schools. However, that program has just ended because the European Union, amid financial woes, is not renewing its programs for social protection. Instead, it is focusing its aid spending on the Afghan government's priorities, ratified at last year's international aid meeting in Tokyo, which do not include child protection, Alfred Grannas, the European Union's charge d'affaires in Afghanistan, said in an e-mail. The world of women Like most dwellings in the camp, Mr Mohammad's hut has a tarpaulin roof, lightly reinforced with wood, an unheated entry room, and an inner room with a stove. A small, grimy window lets in a faint patch of light, and piled around the room's edges are the family's few possessions: blankets, old clothes, a few battered pots and pans, and 10 bird cages for the quails he trains to sing in hopes of selling them for extra money. For his wife, a beautiful young woman who sat huddled in the shadows, a black veil drawn across her face as her husband discussed their daughter's fate, there is little to look forward to day to day. Back in their village in Helmand, even poor families have walled compounds and sometimes land where a woman can go outdoors. In the camps, though, the huts are crammed together, with narrow mud pathways barely more than foot wide between them. "There's no privacy in the camps, and for women it is like they are in a prison," said Mr Yousef, the Aschiana director. "They are constantly under emotional stress." Like many Afghan women, Mr. Mohammad's wife, Guldasta, let her husband speak for her — at first. He explained that she was too upset about what was happening to her daughter to talk about the situation. But then in a quiet moment, she turned, lifting her veil to reveal part of her face and said clearly: "I am not happy with this decision; it was not what I wanted for her." "I would have been happy to let her grow up with us," she said. The family's case is a kind of dark distortion of the Afghan tradition of the groom's family paying a "bride price" to the family of the wife-to-be. The practice is common particularly in Pashtun areas, but it exists among other ethnic groups as well and can involve thousands of dollars. In this case, the boy who is receiving Naghma as a wife, instead of paying for her, will get her in exchange for the debt's forgiveness. Because Naghma, whose name means melody, was not chosen by the groom, she will most likely be treated more like a family servant than a spouse — and at worst as a captive slave. Her presence may help the groom attract a more desirable second wife because the family, although poor, will have someone working for it, insulating the chosen wife from some of the hardest tasks. Anthropologists say this kind of use of women as property intensified after the fall of the Taliban, said Deniz Kandiyoti, a professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. The most recent anthropological studies of the phenomenon were of indebted drug traffickers who sold their daughters or sisters to settle debts, she said. These are essentially distress sales. And unlike the norm for marriage exchanges before the past three decades of war, the women in some cases have become salable property — stripped of the traditional forms of status and respect, she said. Regrets Almost from the moment he agreed to the deal, Mr Mohammad began to regret it and think about all that could go wrong. "If, God forbid, they mistreat my daughter, then I would have to kill someone in their family," he said as he stood at the edge of the camp in a muddy lot in the cold winter dusk. "You know she is very little, we call her 'Peshaka,' " he said, using the Pashto word for kitten. "She is a very lovely girl. Everybody in our family loves her, and even if she fights with her older brothers, we don't say anything, we give her all possible happiness." He added: "I believe that when she goes to that house, she will die soon. She will not receive all the love she receives from us, and I am afraid she will lose her life. A 6-year-old girl doesn't know about having a mother-in-law, a father-in-law, or having a husband or being a wife," he said. Adding to their fears, the mother of the boy that Naghma will marry came to Mr Mohammad's home to ask his wife to stop sending the girl to school, he said. "You know, my daughter loves going to school, and she wants to study more and more. But the boy she is marrying, he sent his mother yesterday to tell my wife, 'Look, this is dishonoring us to have my son's future wife go to school,' " he said. "I cannot tell them what to do," he added, looking down at his boots. "This is their wife, their property."

Christiane Amanpour Show with Bassem Youssef

U.S. accuses Egypt of stifling freedom of expression

The United States on Monday accused Egypt of muzzling freedom of speech after prosecutors questioned the most popular Egyptian television satirist over allegations he insulted President Mohamed Mursi and Islam. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland also suggested the Egyptian authorities were selectively prosecuting those accused of insulting the government while ignoring or playing down attacks on anti-government demonstrators. Bassem Youssef, who rose to fame with a satirical online show after the uprising that swept autocrat Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011, turned himself in on Sunday after the prosecutor general issued an arrest warrant for the comedian on Saturday. Youssef, whose program is now on television and has been compared to U.S. satirist Jon Stewart's the Daily Show, is accused of insulting Islam and undermining Mursi's standing. "We have concerns that freedom of expression is being stifled," Nuland told reporters at her daily briefing, citing Youssef's arrest and his subsequent release on bail of 15,000 Egyptian pounds ($2,200) on Sunday. In what seemed a gesture of defiance, Youssef arrived at the prosecutor general's office on Sunday wearing an oversized graduation hat modeled on one donned by Mursi when he was awarded an honorary degree in Pakistan in March. The prosecutor general issued the warrant after at least four legal complaints filed by supporters of Mursi, a Muslim Brotherhood politician who was freely elected last June. Referring to Youssef's case, Nuland added: "This, coupled with recent arrest warrants issued for other political activists, is evidence of a disturbing trend of growing restrictions on freedom of expression." "The government of Egypt seems to be investigating these cases while it has been slow or inadequate in investigating attacks on demonstrators outside of the presidential palace in December 2012, other cases of extreme police brutality and illegally blocked entry of journalists," she added. "There does not seem to be an even-handed application of justice here." Egypt has been in a state of political turmoil since the ouster of Mubarak, a long-time U.S. ally. The political uncertainty and growing street crime has deterred tourism, a key driver of the Egyptian economy. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry raised the issue of freedom of expression with Mursi when he traveled to Cairo in early March on his first trip since taking office and the United States will continue to press for respect of human rights, Nuland said.

Air ball! President Obama goes 2 for 22

The trouble started when President Barack Obama took time off from the annual Easter Egg Roll event at the White House to shoot hoops. The underwhelming performance brings to mind recent comments from NBA Commissioner David Stern, who sized up Obama’s game for Reuters TV.

Bangladesh: Punish war criminals, check law, order

"A serious decline in law and order would defeat the very purpose of the war crime trials".
In the ongoing war crime trials in Bangladesh 10 top leaders of the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami and two leaders of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) are being tried. The verdicts in three cases have come and the remaining ones are likely to come in next one month or so. While it is extremely necessary to punish the war criminals in Bangladesh to set the record of history in that country straight, it is equally important for the Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League government to keep a check on the law-and- order situation. A serious decline in law and order would defeat the very purpose of the war crime trials which are nearing completion. It is believed that extremists elements arose in Bangladesh because they were not brought to book in the aftermath of the liberation war. Sheikh Muzib-ur-Rahman, father of the Bangladeshi nation under whose leadership the war of liberation was fought, himself gave amnesty to these war criminals. He thought this act of generosity would lead to all sections of Bangladeshi society coming together and marching forward. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Mujib was murdered on August 15, 1975. The murder of Mujib brought about a very different trend in Bangladeshi politics. Zia-ur-Rahman, who came to power some time later, started the Bangladeshi Nationalist Party and used Islam to legitimize his rule. The emphasis on Islam brought focus back on Islamist parties, most important of which was Jamaat-e-Islami. Zia rehabilitated leaders of this party, many of whom returned from Pakistan. Islamists leaders also got prominent positions in his administration. This trend of emphasis on Islam continued during the regime of Gen. Ershad, who declared Islam the state religion of Bangladesh. Even after the restoration of democracy in Bangladesh in 1990, the Islamist forces represented by Jamaat-e-Islami only grew stronger. Jamaat had participated in the movement for restoration of democracy in Bangladesh along with other mainstream political parties. Jamaat subsequently offered support to the BNP-led government. Through these smart moves Jamaat tried to gain acceptability in the political set-up of Bangladesh. Soon, however, Jamaat started showing its true colors as the source of all other extremist and terrorist groups in Bangladesh. During the four- party coalition regime, Jamaat was part of the government, and terror groups supported by Jamaat launched attacks on all secular political groups in Bangladesh. An attack was launched on Sheikh Hasina herself in August 2004, in which she nearly lost her life. The civil society in Bangladesh, especially the freedom-fighters (mukitjodhas), have realized that if Bangladeshi politics are to remain moderate, these extremist elements have to be weeded out. It was also realized that these forces have grown stronger because they did not get their due punishment for the war crimes they committed during the liberation war. Through sustained effort they brought this issue onto the national agenda in the run-up to the 2008 elections. Seeing the popular sentiment in favor of prosecution of war criminals, the main Bangladeshi political party, Awami League, known for its pro-liberation role, was encouraged to make this issue its own. However, the actual prosecution of war criminals is fraught with danger. The Jamaat has increased its influence in Bangladesh over time. Today it commands significant material and human resources in Bangladesh. People sympathetic to Jamaat are in Bangladeshi administration and even in the military. The February 2009 Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) mutiny is strongly suspected to have been engineered by Jamaat to foil war crime trials. The best way for Jamaat to foil war crime trials is by creating a law and order problem in the country. In any case Bangladesh is known for “confrontational politics,” with the two main political groups continuously struggling against each other in the streets, and less in the parliament of the country through political debates. The job of Jamaat has been made easy after the sup- port it has received from the main opposition, BNP. In the days to come, it is expected that Jamaat will create further problems for law enforcement agencies by unleashing its violent cadres, most of whom aspire to establish an Islamic state in Bangladesh. Deterioration in law and order may also prompt the army to take over the administration outright, or through a proxy, as was done in January 2007, when a similar situation arose in the country. This however, does not mean the war crime trials should be stopped. The war crime trials should be taken to their logical conclusion to create a precedent in the country which discourages extremist and radical elements. But the government of the day in Bangladesh must also act swiftly and efficiently to maintain law and order to prevent extra-constitutional forces thwarting the whole exercise.

Feeding 10 billion people in 2050

It is only 12 years since the six billion mark was reached. Among these increase (between 1950-2005) rich world added roughly 400 million while developing world added 3.5 billion people. Whilst 100 years ago human population stood at 1.6 billion, in 1990 the figure shot up to 5.5 billion and is projected to grow to as high as 10 billion in 2050, if recent rate of 80 to 100 million per year growth continues unchecked. According to United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, much of the demographic changes up to 2050 will take place in the less developed regions - least able to ensure the health, stability, and prosperity of its citizens. While many factors affect the rates of population growth, historical analyses suggest income levels, education, women empowerment, social tradition and religious belief are strongly linked with population growth. For example, although United Kingdom a rich country, birth rates among immigrant mothers (usually poor, illiterate and house wives by profession) is double compared to the white British. Economists identify four related menaces to our civilization: global warming, population explosion, extreme poverty, particularly in Africa, and quarrelsome and ineffective world government. Among them one of the greatest challenges of twenty-first century is meeting society's growing food needs. “Growth of population, together with related environmental and economic consequences, is the single most important issue the world, as a whole, has to face”, world’s scientific community has warned. There is a sense that the world is becoming just less of everything - rice, energy, water, land, credit - to go around. Food riots (in 2008) from Haiti to Bangladesh to Cameroon to Egypt and on going horsemeat scandal in Europe is a stark reminder of this inadequacy. When the global population was 5.5 billion people in 1990, there were more than 1 billion people who went hungry everyday which will be more than 2 billion by 2050 and set to worsen condition as increasing heat waves reverse the rising crop yields seen over the last 50 years along with rising greenhouse gas emissions and resource depletion, according to new research. Thomas Malthus, on his essay the Principle of Population in 1798 famously said "power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man. Humans reproducing more rapidly than the supply of food could grow." Those who disagree with Malthus say, he underestimated the power of agricultural science and innovative practices resulting in higher productivity. But when it comes to the question of whether it will be possible to feed these 10 billion people, opinions diverge widely between optimists and pessimists. Those who are optimistic believe, today's population growth is good for development. We have got more than enough land upon which to collectively sustain ourselves, we just need to use it more wisely and fairly. Pessimists, on the other hand, argue population growth has already gone too far to avoid disaster. Population pressure is driving farmers to exploit soils, causing soil degradation and inevitably decline in productivity. They believe whatever practicable methods are used; it will not be possible to produce the crops necessary to support the world population in the longer run. But one thing is clear: with existing resources, feeding 10 billion people will be a major challenge and will shape global geopolitics. On its special issue on food, the famous Foreign Policy magazine argues , “ to feed its growing population 70 per cent more food production will be needed by 2050 but there will be more arid land unsuitable for crop production.” The immediate question may be asked: Does the world have available land to produce necessary crops in sufficient quantities. Among other challenges it could include climatic factors, water availability, factors related to crop nutrition and soil quality, and economic and environmental factors related to intensified land use. The FAO in association with UNESCO estimates the total area of soils that might be used for arable crop production appears to be about 3,000 million hectors. The area of arable land currently in use is about 1.5 to 1.8 billion hectors. Thus, there could be as much as 1.2 to 1.5 billion hectors of potential arable land not currently cultivated. Although modern humanity was born about ten thousand years ago with the invention of agriculture their survival still depends on the natural resources such as soil, water and sunlight to grow food. There have also been many dire warnings that the methods that must be used to produce the necessary crops will lead to soil degradation and environmental pollution. Lester R. Brown argues civilization can survive the loss of its oil reserves, but it cannot survive the loss of its soil reserve. Many experts in this field reached the conclusion that the soils of the world were able to support a population in access of 8 billion but about 82 countries will be "at risk" because they will not be able to produce sufficient food for their population. In the past, increases in crop production came mainly from extension of arable lands. But now that era is coming to an end in some of the more agriculturally advanced countries, where farmers are already using all available technologies and lands to raise yields, such as Japan and China (one-third of world's rice producer). Meanwhile, wheat yields have plateaued in Britain, France, and Germany - Western Europe's three largest wheat producers. Similarly, the option of increasing food production by cultivating more land is rapidly disappearing in Asia and in the Middle East. In Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, land is available for further exploitation, but it is often of low inherent fertility and easily and rapidly degraded, or its use may be inhibited by high access of infrastructure costs. Countries in regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East seem unlikely to be able to grow the food they need. Many African countries cannot afford the fertilizers and other inputs that are necessary, and, without a major improvement in their economies, will depend increasingly on aid. These developments indicate, in the not too distant future, the world will become almost entirely dependent on further increases in yield, and if the population of the world is to be maintained, it is essential that the yields be produced on a sustainable basis. Lecturing in London's City Annual Food Summit recently, Nestle CEO Paul Buckle said “ water scarcity would be the cause of massive food shortages within the next 15-20 years. There will be up to 30 per cent shortfalls in global cereal production by 2030 due to water scarcity, a loss equivalent to the entire grain crops of India and the United States combined. This shortage will lead to price increase and volatility.” To address the world's future food security and sustainability, a collective public policy response is needed. It needs to focus not only on agricultural policy, but on a structure that integrates it with energy, population, and water policies, each of which directly affects food security. Increase in yield per crop of the cereal staples that has allowed food production to match the increase in population and reducing food-waste could also be a valuable tool. Buckley pointed out that almost one-third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tones per year.

Bahrain police disperse women’s protest with stun grenades
Tensions are once again high in Bahrain after police dispersed anti-government protesters with stun grenades and tear gas. The police intervention came after a demonstration by women was banned. They were on the streets of the west coast town of Malkiya in support of jailed political prisoners and against the upcoming Formula One race in April. It is the latest in a series of protests on the Gulf island, led mainly by Shi’ite Muslim groups demanding equality with the Sunnis, as well as political reforms. There were major turnouts two weeks ago on the second anniversary of the intervention by a Saudi-led force which helped crush a pro-democracy uprising . Bahrain’s opposition and government negotiators resumed reconciliation talks last month for the first time since July 2011, but little progress has been reported.

Saudi Arabia uses Iranophobia to stop pro-democracy protests: Expert

Saudi Arabia is using anti-Iran propaganda as part of its policy to fuel sectarian tension in order to stop pro-democracy movements in the Kingdom, an analyst tells Press TV. In an exclusive interview with Press TV on Monday, London-based political commentator, Zayd al-Isa, said the rapidly spreading uprising which erupted in oil-rich Eastern Province in 2011 has prompted the “desperately worried” Saudi rulers to try and deepen the Sunni-Shia divide.
“[Riyadh wants to] demonstrate to its people that it is involved in confronting and combating the serious, perilous and extensile threat coming from the Shias and namely coming from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the expert noted. This, Isa explained, aims to put anti-regime protesters in a corner and to “portray them as people who are standing against the regime which has tried its best to portray itself as the standard-bearer or the defender of Sunni Islam.”
The analyst said Saudis now see well through the maneuver, given the regime’s staunch support for Western-backed dictators in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen. Isa pointed to the continuation of demonstrations in Saudi Arabia despite the regime’s violent crackdown, arresting activists, and labeling protests as anti-Islamic by “the Wahhabi-Salafi establishment.” “All that has spectacularly failed to deter the people,” he concluded.

Badam Zari Is First Woman From Pakistan's Tribal Region To Run For Parliament

A 40-year-old Pakistani housewife has made history by becoming the first woman to run for parliament from the country's deeply conservative tribal region bordering Afghanistan. Badam Zari is pushing back against patriarchal traditions and braving potential attack by Islamist militants in the hope of forcing the government to focus more on helping Pakistani women. "I want to reach the assembly to become a voice for women, especially those living in the tribal areas," Zari told The Associated Press in an interview on Monday. "This was a difficult decision, but now I am determined and hopeful society will support me." Many of Pakistan's 180 million citizens hold fairly conservative views on the role of women in society. But those views are even more pronounced in the country's semiautonomous tribal region, a poor, isolated area in the northwest dominated by Pashtun tribesmen who follow a very conservative brand of Islam. Most women in the tribal region are uneducated, rarely work outside the home and wear long, flowing clothes that cover most of their skin when they appear in public. Zari, who finished high school, spoke to reporters at a press conference Monday wearing a colorful shawl wrapped around her body and head, with only her eyes showing. Life for women in the tribal region has become even more difficult in recent years with the growing presence of Taliban militants who use the border region as their main sanctuary in the country. The militants have been waging a bloody insurgency against the government to impose Islamic law in the country and have a history of using violence to enforce their hard-line views on women. Last fall, Taliban fighters in the northwest shot 15-year-old schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai in the head in an unsuccessful attempt to kill her because she resisted the militants' views and was a strong advocate of girls' education. Zari is from of Bajur, one of many areas in the tribal region where the Pakistani army has been battling the Taliban. She filed the paperwork necessary to run for office on Sunday in Khar, the main town in Bajur. She was accompanied by her husband, who she said fully backed her decision to run for a seat in the National Assembly."This is very courageous," said Asad Sarwar, one of the top political officials in Bajur. "This woman has broken the barrier." Men in Bajur and other parts of the tribal region have historically discouraged women to vote, saying they should remain at home, according to local traditions. Even in less conservative areas, women are often expected to vote according to the wishes of male members of the family, said Farzana Bari, head of the gender studies department at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad. "In the name of culture and tradition, political parties and local power brokers have tried to keep women out of the political process," Bari said. "This woman (Zari) has shown her own agency against the structures of oppression, which are very pronounced in that area." Pakistan ranked second to last in 2012 in the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report, which captures the magnitude of gender-based disparities in things like political empowerment, education and health. The only country Pakistan beat out was Yemen. There are examples of Pakistani women holding very powerful positions in the country, such as the late former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, but many of them come from powerful feudal families and run for office when male relatives are not available, said Bari. Approximately 17 percent of the seats in the National Assembly are also allocated to women on a quota basis and are distributed proportionally to the parties based on their performance in the election. Women can also run for directly elected seats, as Zari is doing. Zari, who is running as an independent, said she has not been discouraged from locals to run and has not received any threats from Islamist militants. She hopes she can convince women to turn out and vote for her. Out of the roughly 186,000 registered voters in her constituency, about 67,000 are women, according to government records. Under Pakistan's political system, the winning candidate is the one who receives the most votes – not necessarily a majority – meaning Zari could be a strong candidate if she can get women to support her and the male vote is split among several candidates. "My decision to contest the election will not only give courage to women in general and attract attention to their problems, but also helps negate the wrong impression about our society," Zari said. "This will reflect a true picture of our society, where women get respect."

Report reveals grave abuses of juveniles in India

Deutsche Welle
Juvenile justice is non-existent in conflict-ridden parts of India. Children are treated as adults and many are subjected to gross human rights violations claims a scathing report by the Asian Centre for Human Rights. In November 2010, Soumen Mohanty, then 17 years of age, was arrested by the Orissa police under the Explosives Act for aiding Maoist rebels. He was reportedly tortured in custody and was subsequently released after activists took up his case before the state human rights commission. State authorities were ordered to pay him 800 euros (50,000 Indian Rupees) in compensation. Like Mohanty, 12-year-old Dipak Saikia [not his real name] of Sanitpur village in the northeastern state of Assam was allegedly dragged out of his house by around six police officers for no apparent reason and tortured late 2009. He, too, was illegally detained and only released after many months of pressure from civil society.
Kids treated as adults
Several such cases of arbitrary detention and torture, instances of sexual assault and even rape by the security forces has been documented in a damning report titled "Nobody's Children: Juveniles of Conflict Affected Districts of India," recently released by the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR). It also mentions girls who have faced sexual violence from law enforcement personnel in Andhra Pradesh and the northeastern state of Tripura. "Many conflict afflicted districts do not have observation or special homes implying that juveniles are taken into custody and kept in police lock up and camps of the army and paramilitary forces in clear violation of the Juvenile Justice Act and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child," Suhas Chakma, ACHR's director told DW. The organization's research further revealed that in 197 districts of India, officially deemed affected by internal armed conflicts and noted as "disturbed" under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and over 100 districts declared affected by left-wing extremism, the edifice of the juvenile justice did not exist. "This is a really serious situation. Juveniles in conflict affected districts do not seem to be anybody's priority and they are being denied equal access to the juvenile justice provided to their counterparts in the rest of the country," Chakma said.
Jammu and Kashmir worst hit
According to the report, the situation of juveniles was worst in conflict-ridden Kashmir. This first ever documentation on the juvenile justice situation states that minors in Kashmir continue to be illegally detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA), under which they can be kept in "preventative detention" for up to two years. In the absence of juvenile facilities for under-aged boys and girls, minors are locked up in prisons with adults. This report is just the tip of the iceberg. Children are being exploited by both police personnel and militant groups. And unless the government wakes up to this alarming state of affairs, it will only get worse, Subhas Mahapatra, a rights activist from Orissa, told DW. The eastern state of Orissa is one of the 12 Indian states affected by Maoist violence. Activists have recommended to the Ministry of Women and Child Development and respective state governments to allocate financial resources to establish special homes as well as to report cases of arrest, detention and torture of juveniles. "We must declare this situation as an emergency. This is not a specific civil unrest. This is systemic across the country," Enakshi Ganguly Thukral, a child rights activist, told DW. Ironically, the report comes at a time when there has been a fierce national debate with respect to lowering the age of adult criminal responsibility in wake of the gruesome rape of a young woman in December last year in Delhi.

Pakistan: Prosecuting terrorists: Out of 559 cases in 2012, suspects acquitted in 414

The Express Tribune
As many as 271 terrorism cases of the 559 that were decided in 2012 by the anti terrorism courts (ATCs) in the Punjab had to be dismissed and the accused acquitted because the witnesses recanted. Of the 559, convictions were secured in 145 cases, according to official figures. A total of 414 cases ended in the acquittal of the accused; in 124 of the cases the suspects were acquitted on ‘merits of the case’ and in 19 the parties reached a compromise. When asked to explain how a compromise could be reached with parties charged or convicted under the said act – since the crimes committed are against the state –, Punjab’s Chief Prosecutor Chaudhry Muhammad Jahangir told The Express Tribune that there were instances in which complainants were private parties and not the state. Such cases are usually registered under Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code (murder) along with section 7 of Anti Terrorism Act (ATA). When complainant(s) reach a compromise with the accused, then the respective ATCs let the accused go, taking the view that the main offence was under Section 302 of PPC, which is compoundable, said Jahangir, adding that in most such cases ATCs also declare that sections of the Anti Terrorism Act do not apply. Khurram Khan, a deputy prosecutor general, attributed the large number of recanting witnesses to “fear, threats and out of court settlements”. Though he was quick to add that charges under the act are non-compoundable, parties do compromise, especially in murder cases. “Since the court does not allow it, witnesses resile,” he told The Express Tribune. Witnesses have a high rate of recanting because of fear or threats in kidnapping for ransom cases, Khan says. “Very few people come forward. Since we don’t have a witness protection programme, they change their statements,” he says. When it comes to high profile cases or terrorism attacks, it is usually the police that are the complainants. When they are threatened, says Khan, they give statements contradicting their earlier statements. This results in concessions to or acquittal of the accused. Nabeela Ghazanfar, the spokesperson for the inspector general of Punjab Police, while talking to The Express Tribune said that there were many flaws in the criminal justice system which caused the acquittals of terror suspects. She said that the majority of acquittals in terrorism cases were due to resiling of witnesses and the inspector general of police as well as the government is considering a witness protection programme to stop that from happening. Past record: In August 2011, the US State Department released its 2010 Country Reports on Terrorism in which Pakistan was criticised as being “plagued by an acquittal rate of approximately 75 per cent” and a legal system “almost incapable of prosecuting suspected terrorists”, according to The Telegraph. Syed Ejaz Hussain, a former DIG with the Counter Terrorism Department, in November 2011 presented a paper Why Do Terrorism Cases Fail in Court? An Empirical Analysis at the American Society of Criminology’s annual meeting in Washington DC. The paper analysed 178 of judgments between 1990 and 2009. A total of 311 cases were decided in the ATCs. In 231 (74%) cases, trial courts acquitted the suspects. Though Hussain noted that “the courts, [in] almost all cases, used a combination of reasons to acquit the accused,” he identified three main reasons for the high acquittal rate: defects in the registration of cases, defective investigations, and defects at the prosecution stage. The third reason includes witnesses becoming hostile (giving statements that do not help the prosecution case), not appearing for evidence, resiling or changing their statements. According to the paper, it is “the fear of terrorists among witnesses and the prosecution which led parties to compromise, witnesses to become hostile, or resile in courts or not come for recording evidence at all.” Of the 231, in 86 cases witnesses became hostile, in 48 no witnesses showed up to record evidence, in another 48 the witnesses resiled or compromised with the other party, and in 23 witnesses changed their statements.
What counts as terrorism? Section 6 of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 defines ‘terrorism’ as: 1) In this Act. “terrorism” means the use or threat of action where: (a) The action falls with the meaning of sub-section (2). And (b) The use or threat is designed to coerce and intimidate or overawe the Government or the public or a section of the public or community or sect or create a sense of fear or insecurity in society; or (c) The use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a religious, sectarian or ethnic cause. 2) An “action” shall fall within the meaning of sub-section(1), if it: (a) Involves the doing of anything that causes death; (b) Involves grievous violence against a person or grievous body injury or harm to person; (c) Involves grievous damage to property: (d) Involves the doing of anything that is likely to cause death or endangers a person’s life; (e) Involves kidnapping for ransom, hostage-taking or hijacking; (f) Incites hatred and contempt on religious, sectarian or ethnic basis to stir up violence or cause internal disturbance; (g) Involve stoning, brick-batting or any other from of mischief to spread panic: (h) Involves firing on religious congregations, mosques, imambargahs, churches, temples and all other places of worship, or random firing to spread panic, or involves any forcible takeover of mosques or other places of worship; (i) Creates a serious risk to safety of public Or a section of the public, or is designed to frighten the general public and thereby prevent them from coming out and carry8ing on their lawful trade and daily business, and disrupts civil (civic) life; (j) Involves the burning of vehicles or an other serious form of arson; (k) Involves extortion of money (bhatta) or property; (l) Is designed to seriously interfere with or seriously disrupt a communications system or public utility service; (m) Involves serious coercion or intimidation of a public servant in order to force him to discharge or to refrain from discharging his lawful duties; or (n) Involves serious violence against a member of the police force, armed forces, civil armed forces, or a public servant. 3) The use or threat or use of any action falling within sub-section (2) which involves the use of fire-arms, explosives or any other weapon, is terrorism, whether or not subsection 1 (c) is satisfied. 4) In this section “action” includes an act or a series of acts. 5) In this Act, terrorism includes any act done for the benefit of a prescribed organization

Pakistan: A slow learner

There was no expectation at the launch of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) human development report 2013 ‘The Rise of the South’, that there would be good news for Pakistan contained therein. The subtitle of the report was ‘Human progress in a diverse world’ — progress for some perhaps but not Pakistan and whichever party or parties form the next government they need look no further than this important report for their policy agenda. The report is designed to stimulate debate on global development issues and indicate trends for policy makers. Developing countries can and should act as powerful development forces themselves, and the rise of the countries of ‘The South’ in the last decade tells us that development is no longer the sole prerogative of the developed. Countries of the South have emerged quickly in a way that is unprecedented in speed and scale, but alongside success the report also chronicles in unforgiving detail the failures as well. The Multidimensional Poverty Index, which is an alternative measurement to the income-based calculation that provides an imperfect picture, indicates that 49 percent of the people of Pakistan are poverty-stricken. Pakistan is better off than India with 54 percent and Bangladesh with 58 percent but there is little to crow about, and Pakistan is ranked at 146 out of 157 countries with a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.515 which places us in the lowest category of human development. There has been a global convergence towards higher levels of human development, and the speed of progress has been fastest in those countries which rank in the ‘low’ to ‘medium’ categories, so perhaps all is not lost. Progress upwards needs to be maintained at a greater than average level, but will not be sustained if there are increasing disparities in income — the rich getting richer at the expense of the poor. High military spending and low social cohesion — areas of particular weakness for Pakistan — inhibit development. With our military budgets grossly skewing expenditure on key areas like education and public health, there is no prospect of a turnaround in the foreseeable future. In the last five years our development as a country has actually declined, a stinging rebuke to the outgoing government. Between 2007 and 2012 our HDI went up by 3.4 percent, as against the 18.9 percent between 2000 and 2007. Our spending in the social sector is lower than that of some countries in sub-Saharan Africa such as the Democratic Republic of Congo that manages to spend 6.2 percent of GDP on education and 1.2 percent of GDP on public health. Pakistan is unlikely to reach the former figure in this decade. Poor policy making and politics that have not diversified much beyond the ‘100 families’ that have run the affairs of state since partition contribute to our poverty of development. For Pakistan to change and improve its HDI, the politics of power have to change. Our colourless and vapid ‘democracy’ needs to develop both muscle and courage if we are not forever to be among the group of nations that feed on the bottom of the global pool.

Isaf Commander meets Gen Kayani

Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Gen Asfhaq Parvez Kayani met with Isaf’s Commander Afghanistan General Joseph F Dunford on Monday, according to a press release issued by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR). The two military commanders met as part of the continuing tri-partite commission efforts to strengthen military-to-military cooperation and regional stability. The military leaders discussed a variety of issues related to strengthening cooperation and pressuring militants who threaten security along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. This was General Dunford’s first visit to Pakistan in his official capacity as Isaf Commander. “The Pakistani, the Afghans and the international community all desire peace and security in the region. These meetings are important to achieving that goal as we continue to explore ways to expand our relationship”. General Dunford said. General Kayani reiterated Pakistan’s stance and desire for peaceful, stable and united Afghanistan and the need for a successful Afghan-owned-Afghan-led peace process. He emphasised the need to continue supporting all efforts to bring peace in Pak-Afghan border region. He urged Isaf to help Pakistan check cross border attacks launched from inside Afghanistan. General Dunford had previously met with General Kayani in the days preceding his assumption of command in February. Moreover, Commander of Turkish Armed Forces, General Necdet Ozel, who is heading a high powered delegation, on Monday called on Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), General Khalid Shameem Wynne. He remained with Chairman for some time and discussed matters related to bilateral interests between the two countries with an emphasis upon Geo-Strategic situation of the region, said an ISPR press release. Earlier on his arrival, he was presented the Guard of Honour by a smartly turned out contingent of tri-services. Later, on behalf of the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, in recognition for his services in bringing two armed forces closer and improving the relations between Turkey and Pakistan, he was conferred the award of Nishan-e-Imtiaz (Military) at an impressive and simple ceremony held at Joint Staff Headquarters. General Necdet Ozel, conveyed his thanks to the people, armed forces and government of Pakistan for the recognition of his contribution in furthering the bilateral ties and defence cooperation between the two countries. A number of senior officers from tri-services were also present on the occasion.

Karachi: Police in a mess

That the Karachi police lacks motivation to work hard should not have been starling information for the Supreme Court hearing the case of no-go areas in Karachi. The court has been informed on more dreary facts about the police in other cases. Such as 400 police officers in Karachi running personal crime wings; police hand-in-glove with the criminals to advance the latter’s objectives; out of turn and lateral promotions infesting police with non-professional and political recruits, etc. Police being one of the crucial bodies to maipntain law and order, cannot be left to fester in multiple moral and professional hazards. The implications of this negligence is apparent in Karachi, where police itself has become a governance issue. Every law and order situation of Karachi ends at the doorstep of police. It cannot be anywhere else that one would strive to find the solution to restlessness that has ravaged the economic hub of the country. Myriad issues and circumstances have turned the police into pawns at the hands of politicians. The system itself through which this important civilian commanding body runs, is anomalous. Way back in 1992 and 1996 when police operations were conducted in Karachi against the criminal elements, it was the police that had to pay with their lives for showing the will to follow the dictates of their duty. Most of the officers involved in these operations were either killed or abducted, never to be seen again. To date mystery surrounds their killing and abduction, in the sense that no one has been arrested. Whether the police had been unable or disinterested to arrest those who killed their colleagues is yet to be determined. It is this inability and disinterest that to date is affecting the professional capability of the police officers. They have rather changed their position to become obedient servants of those who define the rules of the game. On the other hand situations where the police could have performed were missed for the lack of professional training and modern investigation and policing equipment. Unless the police operates as an autonomous body, and follows its own rules and regulations independent of every political pressure, it would remain tied to the apron strings of the power lords for its own safety. Hence the demotivation to combat crime and restore law and order. There is an immediate need to redefine the functioning of the police. Brutality being the hallmark of the police and the very reason for the trust deficit between the force and the citizens, needs to be replaced with proper attitudes. Transcending police’s role from being a force to a service can do the needful. After all policing by its very nature is all about security and welfare of the citizens. Building capacity and character are important but more urgent is the need to bring about a change in the attitude of the first respondent (Station House Officer). Without this prerequisite, any police reform would remain mere lip service. It would be instructive to revisit the Police Ordinance 2002 for important amendments. It has been alleged that the ordinance has greatly improved the career prospects of the senior police officers (federal level), while intensifying politicisation and impeding the career prospects of the police ranks (provincial level). Any police reform that fails to take the proper route would just end up being a pretentious attempt. Pakistan is faced by multiple security threats, terrorism being number one. Under such circumstances police reforms take precedence over any other government’s priority. The first wisdom required of this awakening should be: let the force be reorganised to serve the law and nothing else.