Thursday, June 20, 2013

Happy Birthday Shaheed Benazir Bhutto !

BENAZIR Bhutto Shaheed would be remembered eternally in the history for her heroism, struggle for the restoration of democracy and her sacrifices for Pakistan and its people. In the past, we find a very few women with such bravado and nerve that not only faced all troubles staunchly but also led different missions successfully. Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto is not only a role model for the women of Pakistan, she is also the pride of the Islamic world. It was the happiest and joyous day for the Bhuttos when on June 21, 1953, a baby girl opened her eyes in the lap of Begum Nusrat Bhutto. The baby girl was named "Benazir" which means "unique", "exceptional" and "unmatched". No one knew that she was fated to lead the poor, oppressed and downtrodden Pakistani people in millions on the path of democracy, progress and peace. No one knew that she would appear on the political horizon of the country and the Islamic world as Benazir – a matchless, exceptional and a unique person. A dictator's long tyrannical rule had turned Pakistan into a breeding ground of terrorism and extremism. Neither in mosques, markets and educational institutions nor inside homes was anyone safe. Daily suicide bombings were killing men, women and innocent children. Schools, colleges, universities, public places and mosques were under attack – killing and terrorising the public. Pakistan's Tribal Areas and the Swat Valley – once earthly paradises, were being turned into a hotbed of terrorism. Life of the common man was in immense trouble and everyone was passing through a situation of great anguish and fear. Pakistan was rapidly turning into the Stone Age with worst examples of human rights violations, poverty and unemployment. In such a heart-wrenching situation, for a leader like Benazir Bhutto, who had always fought for the well-being of her people, it was difficult to stay further away from her nation and her beloved country. Thus, she decided to return home to bring her country toward peace and progress. Many advised her against returning to Pakistan because of the threats to her life, but she favoured death among her people rather to bargain and reside silently abroad. She had known all the dangers to her life. She had in her memory the pains that dictator Ziaul Haq had inflicted on herself and her mother when the first democratically elected prime minister of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had been put behind bars after a military coup. She remembered her days and nights in Sukkur and Karachi jails in the hot summer days and cold winters. She also remembered her father's hanging to death, sanctioned by the country's apex court. Benazir Bhutto Shaheed no doubt had been born with a silver spoon in her mouth, had lived a highly contented luxurious life being daughter of a prime minister. But she also spent a good time of her life in bearing difficulties. She didn't consider anything; pushed behind all fears and rushed to her country only to bring it peace and restore democracy and the constitution her father gave to Pakistan. We find in history only a few such fearless, courageous and relentless ones who experienced all kinds of sufferings – from the confines of prison to the martyrdom of her father and two brothers – and yet gave preference to difficulties. Many men, unable to face the dictators, either became turncoats or fled the country. But alone, Benazir, as a young 25-year-old, fought ruthless Ziaul Haq and, after him, dictator Musharraf. Her life is a gloomy chapter in the political history of Pakistan, bearing the martyrdom of father, ZA Bhutto Shaheed, younger brothers, Shahnawaz Bhutto and Mir Murtaza Bhutto, but still she remained plucky and determined towards Bhutto's great mission. She didn't let go of the mission of ZA Bhutto, who had planted the seeds of democracy in Pakistan and had given this nation a constitution that is still the centre of unity among all provinces and equally valuable to all political parties. On October 18, 2007, as she landed in the land of pure, her eyes were shedding tears of love for Pakistan. She kissed the soil of Pakistan and was dressed in the national flag colours to show how much she loved this country and its people. She was surrounded by a crowd of workers of the Pakistan People's Party. She was excited, light-hearted, optimistic and in high spirits. Before her eyes was the mission of making Pakistan a better place for its citizens, free from extremism and terrorism. But she didn't reach her residence peacefully, as two blasts hit her welcoming rally and 275 party workers were killed, with over 600 seriously injured. This tear-jerking misfortune didn't fracture the supreme morale of the bravest female leader, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. After the tragic incident of Karsaz, she didn't give the killers any impression of fear. She continued her struggle and started visiting different provinces, cities and villages of Pakistan to tell the terrorists that she was not afraid of death. Benazir Bhutto fought bravely against all those forces that wanted to see Pakistan as a state where pseudo-religious champions could impose their irrational ideas on the public. She was a great messenger of the women's rights and for the rights of minorities. She promised to promote human rights and fundamental freedom. For her unyielding great efforts to promote human rights and peace, the United Nations in 2008 conferred on her an award in the field of human rights. The highly prestigious UN Prize in the Field of Human Rights, awarded every five years, was presented at a UN General Assembly ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). On becoming the first elected head of a state in the Islamic history, she said, "As the first woman ever elected to head an Islamic nation, I feel a special responsibility regarding issues that relate to women." Benazir Bhutto's life teaches us the lesson of persistence, valour and courage. Her services for the well-being of Pakistan and its people will be cherished forever. Happy Birthday Shaheed Benazir Bhutto.

Pakistan using Netsweeper to block Internet content
Web content filtering company Netsweeper has supplied its products to Pakistan, even as some top IT companies have refused to supply gear for a controversial filtering project, a Canadian research group has disclosed.
The new report released Thursday by Citizen Lab, based at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, finds that Pakistan is actively filtering content, with Netsweeper filtering devices actively used to censor content on an ISP-wide level in Pakistan. The Canadian company has supplied its filtering products to the Pakistan Telecommunication Company, which is Pakistan’s largest telecommunications company and also operates the Pakistan Internet Exchange Point. The operator did not immediately return calls for comment. “The fact that Pakistan has deployed the Netsweeper filtering technology at the national Internet Exchange level is a significant development giving the potential of extending Internet censorship to lower-level ISPs in the country,” the report said. Besides using technology from the Canadian company to block websites, ISPs also use other less transparent methods, such as DNS tampering. The targets include websites of secessionist movements, independent media and those covering sensitive religious topics. The lab used for its research tools such as Shodan, a search engine that lists IP addresses of externally visible devices on the Internet, and scanned for keywords and URL fragments previously associated with censorship devices. Testers in the country also used software developed by the lab to track instances of Internet filtering. “It is unfortunate that despite the re-establishment of peoples’ democracy within the country, certain elements continue to enforce mass online censorship, disabling citizens from learning to make responsible decisions themselves,” said civil rights group Bytes for All Pakistan, referring to parliamentary elections last month in the country. The group said it will will submit the report to the Lahore High Court, which is hearing a public interest litigation relating to freedom of expression. Pakistan has a long record of filtering and blocking websites, including YouTube which it blocked in September after a video clip that mocks the Prophet Muhammad was posted to the site. In February last year, Pakistan floated a request for proposal for a system to filter and block websites, some months after curbing the use of encryption on the Internet, and considering the idea of filtering and blocking SMS messages in the country. The proposed National URL Filtering and Blocking System should be capable of URL (uniform resource locator) filtering and blocking, from domain level to sub-folder, file levels and file types, and each hardware box in the modular architecture should be able to handle a block list of up to 50 million URLs with processing delay of not more than 1 milliseconds, according to the RFP posted on its website by the National ICT R&D Fund of the country’s ministry of information technology. Following protests from civil rights groups, five international companies known to sell surveillance, filtering and blocking systems committed not to apply for the project. Websense, for example, said it would not submit a response to the RFP, as it does not sell to governments or ISPs that are engaged in government-imposed censorship. Citizen Lab asked in the report a number of questions directed at Netsweeper, including whether it has a human rights policy for its technologies and sales strategy. Netsweeper did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The lab earlier discovered a FinFisher command and control server in Pakistan. The surveillance technology is sold by the Gamma Group in the U.K., and has been used to “surveil journalists, dissidents, and activists in a number of countries,” according to the Lab.

Pakistan influence on Taliban commanders helped Afghan breakthrough

Pakistan's powerful military has played a central role in convincing Afghanistan's Taliban rebels to hold talks with the United States, U.S. and Pakistani officials said, a shift from widely held views in Washington that it was obstructing peace in the region. U.S. and Taliban officials were due to meet in Doha, the capital of Qatar, in the next few days, raising hopes for negotiated peace after 12 years of war between American-led forces and the Islamist insurgents. Neighboring Pakistan's role in the war has been ambiguous - it is a U.S. ally but has a long history of supporting the Taliban as its proxy in Afghanistan, part of its wider jockeying with regional rival India. Western officials believe Pakistan may now calculate that its interest is better served by helping to broker peace that would lead to the emergence of a friendly government in Kabul capable of stabilizing Afghanistan and preventing chaos spilling over the border. Several military and civilian officials told Reuters Pakistan helped persuade the "relevant Taliban commanders" to talk to the Americans and Afghans and also sought to convince them that getting into talks was in their interest. "It would not have been possible without our facilitation. Convincing the Taliban that it was in Afghanistan's interest and also convincing the other parties that this is what the Taliban actually have in mind," one senior army officer said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. Pakistan has a civilian government but the military has ruled the nation for over half of its 66 years of independence and holds sway over large areas of policy, including relations with neighbors. A meeting between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistan military chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani in Brussels in April was a turning point in arranging the talks in Doha, said a former senior Pakistani official. "The key was the trilateral meeting hosted by Kerry in Brussels," said the former official. Pakistan helped get Taliban leaders to a series of secret meetings with representatives of the Afghan government in Europe in recent months that helped pave the way for the planned talks, Pakistan's foreign ministry told Reuters. "Many of them travelled to Doha and other places and things started moving. We hope this will move on to its ultimate phase where there will be an inter-Afghan dialogue," foreign ministry spokesman Aizaz Chaudhry said. TERRORIST ORGANISATION The Taliban movement was born in Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan during the Soviet Union's 1979-1989 occupation of Afghanistan. In 1996, Taliban soldiers swept through their nation and took control of Kabul, many say with the support of Pakistan's army and its ubiquitous spy agency, the ISI. After the 9/11 bombings and under pressure from Washington, then-president Gen. Pervez Musharraf officially distanced Pakistan from the Taliban and threw its lot in with the United States, making it a strategic ally in the "global war on terror" despite misgivings among his top military brass. But as late as last year, Washington said the Taliban, and the Haqqani faction linked to it, were allied to elements in Pakistan and the ISI. It declared the Haqqani group a terrorist organization in September. "There has in the past been skepticism about their support, but in recent months I think we've seen evidence that there is genuine support," a senior U.S. administration official told reporters on Tuesday about Pakistan's involvement. "The government of Pakistan has been particularly helpful in urging the other side - that is, the Taliban - to come forward and join in a peace process," another U.S. official said. With the U.S. troop drawdown in Afghanistan firmly underway, U.S. officials have abandoned long standing demands that Pakistan crack down on Taliban safe havens, and instead sought to enlist Pakistan's help to promote dialogue. Pakistan military officials say they want to seal a deal in Afghanistan to avoid the risk that instability after the foreign combat mission ends in 2014 will spill across the border and energize a stubborn insurgency by Pakistani militants. However, the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai remains deeply suspicious, fearing Pakistan's military remains wedded to a time-worn strategy of backing militant proxies such as the Taliban and that it is extending minimal cooperation merely to appease the West. WARY OF INDIA Afghan officials are also concerned that Pakistan might use its influence over the Taliban to steer the shape of any future settlement of who comes to power in Kabul. Pakistan is wary of the close relations between Karzai's government and India, Islamabad's old rival. Privately many Pakistan officials admit the country's past support for Taliban came at an unbearable cost in blood and finance. Pakistani troops are now fighting an insurgency by the Pakistan Taliban, which wants to replace democracy with Sharia law. But some hawks in the security bureaucracy may cringe at the idea of supporting dialogue unless they can be certain that any future settlement will limit the influence of India in Kabul. Pakistan has also sought to bolster its influence in Afghanistan by building bridges with the Northern Alliance, a constellation of anti-Taliban warlords who have traditionally been implacable critics of Islamabad. "You cannot afford to side with one faction, then you turn everybody else against you," one senior member of the security forces told Reuters. Pakistan is keen to stress that it will remain neutral in substantive peace talks -- several officials said Pakistan did not want to sit at the negotiating table, and that such talks would be "Afghan-owned and Afghan-led." "Pakistan will go all out to support this process," said Col. Abid Askari, a spokesman for the armed forces, but added: "We don't want any region or country, including Pakistan, to impose a solution."

Turkish media's 'poor coverage' of Gezi protests slammed at EU Conference

The traditional Turkish media’s poor coverage of police crackdowns on mass demonstrations in Turkey, in contrast to social media’s pivotal role, has repeatedly come up for discussion during a conference organized by the European Commission on freedom of expression and media in the Western Balkans and Turkey. The deafening silence of the mainstream media in the first days of the recent protests in Istanbul and in other places and the worrying use of police actions against the media only serve to underline how much this conference is needed, Stefan Füle. Strong democracy is a prerequisite for membership, and freedom of expression is one of the main pillars of democracy, according to Füle, who added that the state of the media provided an accurate index for the state of freedom of expression. He stressed there was a direct link between freedom of expression and the accession process. While he briefly mentioned self-censorship in Turkey, he also praised recent judicial amendments regulating the conditions according to which journalists can face imprisonment. Turkish news channels have received more criticism for not providing coverage of demonstrations in Istanbul and instead choosing to broadcast documentaries about penguins, this time from Fergus O’Dowd, the Irish minister of state. “It is clear that by choosing not to report, broadcasters end up being sidelined and citizens go elsewhere,” he said, addressing a conference on freedom of expression and the media in the Western Balkans and Turkey. As a result of the poor coverage in the early days of the demonstrations, social media has played a pivotal role in the organization of organizers and provided information to the wider world, said O’Dowd. The demonstrations show that Turkey is in transition and that the space for civil society is widening, which is largely due to the reforms of EU accession process, he said. Even pro-government journalists were able to expresses their criticism about the response to the demonstrations, according to the minister from Ireland, which currently holds the presidency of the 27 nation bloc. Meanwhile, Member of the European Parliament Jery Buzek also talked about Turkey in his opening speech, making particular reference to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s description of social media as a “troublemaker.” “When TV and radio do not report police brutality against demonstrations, you know something is wrong,” Buzek said. “We should be worried about this.” Dunja Mijatovic, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, recalled that 60 journalists were currently in prison in Turkey. While recalling the argument of the Turkish government that these were not in prison because of their journalistic activities, she expressed amazement at the fact that a great majority of them were facing terrorism charges. She also drew attention to the fact that 30,000 websites were blocked in Turkey.

Afghanistan: Talks with the Taliban must focus on justice and human rights

Human rights, including women’s rights, must be integral to any peace deal with the Taliban said Amnesty International today as the USA announced that it was to start direct peace talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban armed group. The call comes as Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai announced that his country would boycott the peace talks unless they were “Afghan-led”, and on the heels of NATO handing over responsibility for security in the country to Afghan forces. The first meeting is due to take place imminently in Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban have recently set up an office. “Any agreement with the Taliban must include clear red-line commitments that they will guarantee the rights of all Afghan women, men and children,” said Polly Truscott, deputy Asia-Pacific Programme Director at Amnesty International. “The peace process must not allow members of the Taliban or anyone else to be granted immunity from prosecution for serious human rights abuses and war crimes.” The peace talks must uphold the rule of law, and not deny justice to victims of human rights abuses and war crimes – whether perpetrated by the pro-government forces or insurgent groups. Human rights and justice should not be sacrificed for the sake of military and political expediency, Amnesty International said. The organization also called on the Afghan government to repeal the 2007 National Stability and Reconciliation Bill. Under this legislation, people who committed serious human rights abuses during the past 30 years – including massacres, enforced disappearances, torture, rape, and public executions – would be immune from criminal prosecution. Taliban fighters who agree to cooperate with the Afghan government would also be immune from prosecution. Afghan civil society groups – in particular women's groups – have demanded that the Afghan people’s human rights and well-being not be compromised in any reconciliation talks with the Taliban. But their voices have largely been marginalized. Only nine women have been appointed to the 70-member High Peace Council, the Afghan government’s body charged with leading proposed peace and reconciliation talks with the Taliban and other armed groups. And even these women are sidelined from key peace negotiations the council is undertaking. “The inclusion of women in the peace talks must be genuine and meaningful, with their priority concerns fully reflected, in line with UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security,” said Truscott. The Taliban have had a terrible record of human rights abuses both while they were in government and as insurgents. Today in areas under their control, as when they ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban have severely curtailed the rights of girls and women, including the rights to education, work, freedom of movement, political participation and representation. As insurgents, Taliban fighters have targeted and killed civilians whom they consider to be “spies” or “collaborators” of the Afghan government and the international forces, and have carried out abductions, often killing their captives. The Taliban have also made little effort to distinguish between civilian and military targets and have launched hundreds of indiscriminate attacks, including suicide bombings and roadside bomb attacks, in which hundreds of civilians, including children, have been killed or injured. Civilian casualties have increased by 24 per cent in the first five months of 2013, with 3,092 civilians killed or wounded, according to the UN. Insurgent groups were responsible for 74 per cent of casualties in the reporting period, with their use of improvised explosive devices particularly to blame.

Pakistan: Muslim landlord keeping Christian girls as sex slaves in Punjab

(PCP) The Voice, a Christian human rights orgnization in Pakistan reports that there team was approached by the family of Parveen Bibi daughter of Kalu Masih residents ofMirzapur, Manawala Village; district Sheikhupura, about the illegal and illegitimate acts of sexual harassment from the sons of the Landlords of the Village named Rana Saeed mainlyagainst the Christian women of the Village. A team of The Voice Society reached the village on 8th of June 2013 at about 10:00am in the morning and met the family and few neighbors. They told us that Rana Saeed is a rich man andalways have bad sight for the Christian girls. He always along with his fellows uses to harass the Christian girls and develop illegitimate relations with them forcefully. He use to abduct the Christian girls and women forcefully and keep them in his illegal confinement for as long as he wants and then leave them after satisfying his lust. This time he have a bad eye on Parveen bibi and he demands from the family to leave Parveen in his custody for three days. Whereas parveen is getting married on Sunday 15th June. Rana Saeed have terms in police and as well as in the political parties.Amir Masih s/o Mushtaq Masih told the Voice that he is the first cousin of Parveen bibi, he saw Rana Saeed harassing and trying to kidnap his cousin sister Parveen on 6th June of when she was going to the tube well to wash the clothes. Rana was on his motor bike along with one of his friend and he stopped Parveen when she was going on tube well along with her sister in law to wash the clothes. Rana threatened her and forced her to sit on his motor bike. He said, I want to stay with me for three days and then I will let you go. Parveen tried to escape but Rana stopped her and pulled her, so her clothes were torn and she became half naked. Rana said you are a beautiful woman I will make you happy. Amir said I could not bear all this, I tried to interrupt but Rana started firing bullets in the air and left saying that I will fulfill my wish at any cost, it is better for you to stay away from my matter or you will be killed. Kalu Masih Father of Parveen bibi told The Voice crying that,” I am a poor man, I have three children, two daughters and a boy. I want justice, is it a crime to live a respectful life. My elder daughter is married and so is my son. He is having two children and I don’t want to see him in trouble as well. Police is not listening to us, Rana is practicing this humiliation upon Christians from so many years. We are only three Christian houses in this whole village and we are all suffering pain, and humiliation. We do not work for the Muslims here. We use to work in the city, and our women are all alone in the house/village when we are out in city. They go to the tube well to wash the clothes because of load shedding. We have no light and therefore do not have enough water to do everything at home, so our women go out at tube well to wash the clothes. In such circumstances Who will protect us? Who will protect our respect and dignity? Rana and Muslim people like him in the village rape our daughters and we are unable to speak because of the life threats. Now my younger daughter Parveen is 24 years old and going to get married on this Sunday i.e. 15th june, but Rana and his friends threatened us that they will take my daughter for three days before marriage. He pleaded for help from God as well as from the Voice.Iqbal Bibi another Christian resident of the same village told the Voice that her daughter Najma was also abducted by Rana and he kept her for three years and during that time he kept on sexually exploiting her and raped her forcefully. We tried our best, we went to his family members, and other respectable Muslim people of the village but nobody helped us. Even the police did not listen to us. Instead of helping us police and his family members threatened us that they will kill all men of our family if we ever tried to raise hue and cry. “we will leave her when we feel like” Than after three years he released my daughter Najma. No body helped us and nobody came to save us. So it is a very common practice here, Rana will do whatever he wants and nobody will protect Parveen, because Rana have strong connections and he is very rich. The Voice team went to the police station and met the SHO who refused to register an FIR saying that there is no such incident happened. The Voice team than approached DIG (Deputy Inspector General) of Punjab and brought the situation in his knowledge. He ordered an immediate action and orders to register an FIR against Rana Saeed and Yasir his friend. The police lodged an FIR numbered 171/13 under section 365 B/ 511 Pakistan Penal Code upon The Voice’s efforts and arrested Yasir, co-accused of the case. Whereas Rana succeeded to get the pre-arrest bail (bail before arrest) . The voice also got the security for Parveen bibi from DIG’s office on the day of her marriage which was on 15th June. Thank God every thing went well and Rana couldn’t do anything. Parveen got married now and is safe, but the animal named Rana was still on bail, which was pending for 17th of july. By the grace of God the Voice lawyers contested the bail and the bail application was dismissed by the additional sessions Judge Sheikhupura on 17th June, but unfortunately Rana Saeed was escaped from the court room and was not arrested.The Voice teams is pursuing this case very keenly and hope that whenever he will go to the High Court he will be arrested and punished for his deplorable and Heinous offence. Please pray for the affected family, and all such women that are suffering by the hands of Evil like Rana. Please pray for the Voice team as well so that God keeps on helping us and we keep on helping his people, sons and daughters.

In CM Shahbaz Sharif’s Lahore, three Christian women forced to parade naked and Ahmadi man killed

Religious minorities in Pakistan, are facing an increase in persecution at the hands of Takfiri Deobandi militants of Sipah-e-Sahaba (ASWJ-LeJ) Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its other affiliate groups who believe the country is only made for Muslims and all other religious and sectarian minorities are Kafirs and wajabul qatal. Various media reports suggest that Pakistan Muslim League (N)nourishes the banned outfits in Punjab and recently in Punjab Budget 2013-14 it includes millions for Jamaat-ud-Dawa. Malik Ishaq self confessed killers of shias enjoyed Punjab government’s financial assistance and in election 2013 Lashkar-e-Jhangvi terrorists contested on PML-N tickets.
Christian leaders already expressed their concerns over the anti-minorities nature of the present government and that Pakistani Christians are in great fear to face more violence and torture during the present government of PML-N. They are afraid that during the PML-N rule, Pakistani Christians will face more violence as they have faced similar situation in the past during PML-N government. Gojra, Korian and Joseph Colony incidents were being planned by the banned militant groups and supported by PML-N leadership. IN PML-N’s previous government Lahore Massacre occurred on May 28, 2010, in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan, during Friday prayers. 94 people were killed and more than 120 were injured in nearly simultaneous attacks against two mosques of the minority Ahmadiyya Community. The TTP, as well as their Punjab wing, claimed responsibility for the attacks and were also blamed by the Punjab Police. PMLN and Sipah Sahaba (ASWJ) enable minority persecution: Some of the media reports stating Al-Qaeda linked Sipah Sahaba ASWJ behind Gojra massacre are listed below. PMLN has formed a political alliance with Sipah Sahaba ASWJ and probably that explains why there has been no action despite a trend of violence by them against minorities. Furthermore, Joseph Colony incident was backed by PML-N leaders Malik Riaz, Chaudhry Shehbaz, Dr. Asad Ashraf, Ghazali Saleem Butt and Mushtaq Mughal and it was reported to the police as well. But unfortunately, PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif have not taken any notice against them and the same leaders are in the ruling elite and will create more problems for Christians especially in Punjab. Punjab where PML-N’s government is in place has seen yesterday two incidents of persecution against Christian and Ahmadi community and the perpetrators of these acts were still not brought to justice. In Lahore, Christian women were attacked and paraded naked by a mob with the support of the ruling party. The revelation was made by a press release issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC). According to the Daily Times, three Christian women, Arshad Bibi, Sajida Bibi and Sauriya Bibi, the daughter-in-laws of Sadiq Masih, were brutally beaten and then paraded naked by armed men hired by Muhammad Munir, the son of Abdul Rasheed, a landlord who has the support of the ruling party, the PML-N.

NAYA PAKISTAN: CM Khattak goes against PTI pledge

A natural follow-up question irritates ordinary PTI supporters and a common man ‘why were the choices so limited that Imran Khan had to rely on a traditional politician to lead the model government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa? How can the problem (past political leadership) be a part of the solution? A little perspective to the dilemma may help readers understand why the face of change in KPK appears ‘more of the same.’ Chanting slogans for change, good governess and establishing Naya Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, KPK Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak emerged the first to react against his party manifesto and the vision of Imran Khan. The chief minister transferred Swat DPO Gul Afzal Khan Afridi when he refused to bow to him. The CM showed the attitude of traditional politicians who opted to use their powers for personnel gain, showing that he had no intention for change. According to sources, Khattak called Swat DPO Gul Afzal khan Afridi and said: “Your behaviour is not good while answering the question of CM. The DPO replied: “Sir my behaviour is good enough.” But the CM repeated the same remarks. The DPO replied ‘if the CM has any doubt over his behaviour, he could consult his superiors’. The CM said: “You are not cooperating with my MPA’s. The DPO replied: “Sir I will treat everyone according to the law and will never violate merit for few.” The CM remarked: “You know I can sack you or transfer you.” The DPO bluntly said: “You will do your work and I will perform my duty with dedication and never bow to any influential”. Sources said that the CM was speaking in harsh tune and threatened the DPO of dismissal. It is learnt that after the conversation with the CM, the DPO received a phone call from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police Inspector General Office and the registrar informed him that he was transferred and his transfer letter was faxed to him DPO Gul Afzal Afridi is a brave and duty full officer who performs his duties efficiently. During his tenure in Swat, he arrested many militants, strengthened the investigation system of police and brought the crime rate down. He maintained interaction with the people and made himself available to the media. He cleared Swat valley off dacoits and drugs sellers but was transferred due to political interference. The people are disappointed at his transfer and say that the system cannot be changed in Pakistan. The DPO told TheNation that after CM’s call, IGP Peshawar Office Registrar called him and said that his transfer order was faxed and he should leave his charge. When contacted on phone, Javed Khaki, press secretary of the CM, said that the CM was not available and he would check with him about the matter. But when called again, he could not get the opinion of the CM and said he was busy.

Naya Pakistan?: PTI MNA calls for Mumtaz Qadri's release

A Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MNA called for the release of Malik Mumtaz Qadri, the man who gunned down Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer in 2011. PTI MNA from Mardan, Mujahid Ali Khan made the demand during a debate on the budget in the National Assembly. Khan had won the NA-11 seat in the May 11 elections. Another PTI MNA Arif Alvi clarified that Khan had made this demand in his personal capacity, and this had nothing to do with the party. Earlier in 2011, PTI chairman Imran Khan had condemned Qadri’s reception as a hero on the premises of the Anti Terrorism Court, Rawalpindi. “Extremism and radicalism have penetrated our society deeply,” he had said, adding that it is especially harmful for the youth. Qadri never argued that he had not killed Taseer – shortly after he shot him dead, Qadri said his motive was Taseer’s apparent opposition to the country’s blasphemy law. But if the murder wasn’t shocking enough, it was the stringent defence put up by religious parties, whose activists showered rose petals on Qadri at his court hearing, brought him flowers on Valentine’s Day and set up Facebook pages glorifying him.

Experts doubt the Taliban will aim for peace

Afghan security forces have taken control over the security of their country. The Taliban have announced plans to continue carrying out attacks, even as they prepare for peace talks with the US. Afghanistan has reached a turning point. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) formally handed over control of the last 95 districts to Afghan forces at a ceremony attended by President Hamid Karzai and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at a military academy outside Kabul on Tuesday, June 18. Most of those districts are located in the volatile south of the country. The approximate 100,000 NATO soldiers still stationed in the country will now only be called upon if needed. On the same day as the handover, the Taliban made a show of strength by carrying out attacks. A bomb explosion in Kabul killed at least three people and injured 24 others. Two rockets fired at the US airbase Bagram, just north of the capital, later on killed four US soldiers.
Taliban negotiations
The Taliban have an air of self-confidence. Their new official office in Doha, the capital of the Gulf state Qatar, is a clear sign of their new strength. The militants have also announced they plan to continue carrying out attacks in Afghanistan, despite negotiations with the US, which are planned for Thursday, June 20. The US government announced on Tuesday it would engage in direct talks with the Taliban to put an end to the conflict. After over one decade of the ISAF effort, peace seems unlikely without first negotiating with the extremists, according to the political analyst Waheed Mozhdah. "The international community has concluded that the conflict in Afghanistan cannot be solved through war with the US. Now, the US is looking for negotiations with the Taliban ahead of 2014 so they can leave the country in a state of peace," he said. "The talks in Doha could be a big step in the right direction." It seems President Hamid Karzai is of another opinion. He has said he does not approve of the way the talks are set to be held and his government has announced it will boycott the negotiations in Doha unless the Afghan government is involved in them. Karzai has also threatened to halt security talks with the US over the matter.
Foreign help after 2014
Without foreign aid, it will be difficult for the Afghans to handle the Taliban's immense influence, according to Adrienne Woltersdorf, director of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation's (FES) Afghanistan office. She said the conditions in different regions of the country varied immensely and that this had not been taken into consideration with regard to the transition process. "The criticsm is that the process is based more on collected data rather than on local conditions." She pointed out that while northern Afghanistan was relatively peaceful, vast swathes of the south were in control of the Taliban. At the same time, Woltersdorf added, there was no real alternative, considering that none of the ISAF countries were prepared to stay in the country any longer.
Local security forces
The Afghan government has around 350.000 security forces at its disposal to fight the Taliban. But that number is more impressive than reality itself. Experts such as the former German General Egon Ramms believe that the country's security forces are overwhelmed with the job and will continue to need the support of foreign troops. Experts agree the Afghan air force will not be able to operate independently. The former NATO Commander of the Allied Joint Force Command in Brunssum warned, "If the Taliban become more active after the withdrawal of ISAF soldiers, the worst-case scenario is that it could unsettle the entire country." As of yet, the international follow-up operation "resolute support," which was to be implemented from 2015, has not been clearly defined. Pakistan as a destabilizing factor According to Afghan analyst Hamidullah Noor from the Kabul-based National Center for Policy Research, Pakistan is seeking to capitalize on its neighbor's weaknesses. "As soon as the Pakistanis realize that foreign troops have left Afghanistan, they will supply the Taliban with weapons, thus overwhelming Afghan security forces," he said. Despite its lack of proper training and modern equipment, the Afghan military is still much better off than the police, according to Afghanistan expert Conrad Schetter from the University of Bonn. "Police training in Afghanistan simply failed at the local level," he said. "Leaders tried to create a police force by sticking local militiamen in uniforms. But they run the risk that these militias will take advantage of the situation and ultimately take control."
Lasting uncertainty
After the handover of responsibility, many Afghans are now worried. Kabul street vendor Shaheb told DW, "If they keep their promise and foreign aid keeps flowing in, then we will have no problems taking over security nationwide. But Afghanistan might face a difficult future if aid is no longer provided."

Religious fundamentalism could soon be treated as mental illness

Kathleen Taylor, a neurologist at Oxford University, said that recent developments suggest that we will soon be able to treat religious fundamentalism and other forms of ideological beliefs potentially harmful to society as a form of mental illness. She made the assertion during a talk at the Hay Literary Festival in Wales on Wednesday. She said that radicalizing ideologies may soon be viewed not as being of personal choice or free will but as a category of mental disorder. She said new developments in neuroscience could make it possible to consider extremists as people with mental illness rather than criminals. She told The Times of London: "One of the surprises may be to see people with certain beliefs as people who can be treated. Someone who has for example become radicalized to a cult ideology -- we might stop seeing that as a personal choice that they have chosen as a result of pure free will and may start treating it as some kind of mental disturbance." Taylor admits that the scope of what could end up being labelled "fundamentalist" is expansive. She continued: "I am not just talking about the obvious candidates like radical Islam or some of the more extreme cults. I am talking about things like the belief that it is OK to beat your children. These beliefs are very harmful but are not normally categorized as mental illness. In many ways that could be a very positive thing because there are no doubt beliefs in our society that do a heck of a lot of damage, that really do a lot of harm." The Huffington Post reports Taylor warns about the moral-ethical complications that could arise. In her book "The Brain Supremacy," she writes of the need "to be careful when it comes to developing technologies which can slip through the skull to directly manipulate the brain. They cannot be morally neutral, these world-shaping tools; when the aspect of the world in question is a human being, morality inevitably rears its hydra heads. Technologies which profoundly change our relationship with the world around us cannot simply be tools, to be used for good or evil, if they alter our basic perception of what good and evil are." The moral-ethical dimension arises from the predictable tendency when acting on the problem, armed with a new technology, to apply to the label "fundamentalist" only to our ideological opponents, while failing to perceive the "fundamentalism" in ourselves. From the perspective of the Western mind, for instance, the tendency to equate "fundamentalism" exclusively with radical Islamism is too tempting. But how much less "fundamentalist" than an Osama bin Laden is a nation of capitalist ideologues carpet bombing civilian urban areas in Laos, Cambodia and North Korea? The jihadist's obsession with defending his Islamic ideological world view which leads him to perpetrate and justify such barbaric acts as the Woolwich murder are of the same nature as the evangelical obsession with spreading the pseudo-religious ideology of capitalism which led to such horrendous crimes as the murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians in four years of carpet bombing operations by the Nixon administration caught in a vice grip of anti-communist paranoia. The power to control the mind will tend too readily to be used as weapon against our jihadist enemies while justifying the equally irrational and murderously harmful actions we term innocously "foreign policy." Some analysts are thus convinced that neuroscientists will be adopting a parochial and therefore ultimately counterproductive approach if they insist on identifying particular belief systems characteristic of ideological opponents as the primary subject for therapeutic manipulation. On a much larger and potentially more fruitful scale is the recognition that the entire domain of religious beliefs, political convictions, patriotic nationalist fervor are in themselves powerful platforms for nurturing "Us vs Them" paranoid delusional fantasies which work out destructively in a 9/11 attack or a Hiroshima/Nagasaki orgy of mass destruction. What we perceive from our perspective as our legitimate self-defensive reaction to the psychosis of the enemy, is from the perspective of the same enemy our equally malignant psychotic self-obsession. The Huffington Post reports that this is not the first time Taylor has written a book about extremism and fundamentalism. In 2006, she wrote a book about mind control titled "Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control," in which she examined the techniques that cultic groups use to influence victims. She said: "We all change our beliefs of course. We all persuade each other to do things; we all watch advertising; we all get educated and experience [religions.] Brainwashing, if you like, is the extreme end of that; it's the coercive, forceful, psychological torture type." She notes correctly that "brainwashing" which embraces all the subtle and not-so-subtle ways "we make people think things that might not be good for them, that they might not otherwise have chosen to think," is a much more pervasive social phenomenon than we are willing to recognize. As social animals we are all victims of culturally induced brainwashing whose effectiveness correlates with our inability to think outside the box of our given acculturation.

Gender-Based Violence on Rise in Pakistan

Cumulative reports, of gender based violence against Christian females normally, do not exist. At the same time, tracing and meeting enough victims to prepare sizable case studies is overwhelming, if not impossible. To a certain extent, referring to possibly uncertain statistics from various small organizations, let us review cases of general gender abuse in four particular Muslim countries: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Egypt. These states are critically and closely observed than most others, and a number of human rights organizations, along with government agencies such as the US Department of State, are keenly monitoring them. The facts thus provided by these groups are reliable. Intermittently, some of the cases are even covered by the international media. Meanwhile, mushrooming Christian persecution in general is reasonably well documented internationally by watchdog groups, whilst statistical information from trustworthy organizations such as Open Doors, International Christian Concern and various Catholic outreaches can be accessed online. Since Christians, are regarded as objectionable minorities in these countries, therefore subjected to acute discrimination, oppression and violence. Traditionally women in these countries are treated as second class citizens however; Christian females are in even severe crisis than Muslims, as they are the weakest members of an “infidel,” outcast population. Pakistan now has the arguable characteristic of being “one of the world’s most tarnished hotbeds of Christian persecution.” Nothing like Saudi Arabia and Iran, though it has an unquestionable Islamist constitution, yet the government does not enjoys full command over its population. In preference, Pakistan tends to turn a blind eye to Christian persecution, or else silently winks at the hoodlums who carry it out. For that reason, even if absurdly the state itself is not directly involved and censurable for most of the persecution of Pakistani Christians that takes place; it is over and over again inferred to it. As an alternative of official legal constraint, mobs and random specific militias render their own versions of Islamist law often resulting in fierce and deadly assaults, despite the fact that the state utterly fails to protect the victims. At times the police take action against these perpetrators. The courts may even pronounce them guilty of criminal violence even murder, yet the offenders are generally quietly released within days. Girls in Pakistan convey the impression of being an alluring target for abuse. In a recent report,Raymond Ibrahim- a Coptic-American writer and Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum, described 22 cases of viciousness against Pakistani Christian girls.
Mentioning a handful Ibrahim’s cases, 1- Gulfam, 9-year-old Christian girl, abused in (December, 2010). 2- Lubna, a 12-year-old Christian girl was kidnapped, abused, and murdered. (October, 2010). 3-12-year-old Christian girl Anna, abused then forcibly converted and “married” to her Muslim attacker. (October, 2011). 3-A teenage Christian girl, Amariah, murdered after an attempt to abuse. (December, 2011). 4- A 14-year-old Christian girl, Mehek, abducted at gunpoint from her house. (August, 2011).
These cases – exclusively related to female Christian children – are far from hidden incidents. Instead, they characterize the kinds of violence faced by girls and women of all ages who belong to Christian minorities. - See more at:

The Abysmal State of Education in Balochistan

The Baloch Hal
By Muhammad Akbar Notezai
Liaqat Ali, 14, belongs to Balochistan’s Chaghi District. He has never been to school. The reason is because his native village, Siya Rake, which is two kilometers from Reko Diq gold and copper project, does not have a school. Like the other village boys of his age, he grazes goats and sheep. “I would love to study if I have a school in my village”, said the innocent boy, attired in shabby cloths, with a bare full smile. In Balochistan, many children this writer met have shown an extraordinary interest in education. But either the lack of schools or the closure of existing ones distances them from their desire to be educated. Government officials say many vacant positions have not been filled yet which is why some of the schools remain closed for an inordinate period. At the same time, they insist that the government has established schools in every village of Balochistan. Villages in Balochistan are scattered villages. The communities are also caught up with numerous economic woes. While the overall state of education in Balochistan shows a bleak picture, the situation in rural areas is even worse. Districts like Quetta, Khuzdar and Loralai which have some institutions face creaking infrastructure. The rich people send their kids to Quetta for better education whereas everyone else cannot afford to do so. It is one of the reasons because of which the province has not been making progress in the field of education. Educationists point out that education at public sector is declining day by day but the private sector is flourishing. Despite employing experienced teachers and offering reasonable packages, the government has not been able to raise the standard of education at public schools. The absence of checks and balances is often cited as one of the major reasons for the repeated failure of the public sector. “Teachers who are appointed to serve in rural Balochistan do not even bother to go to those remote areas to teach their classes. They receive their salary while staying at homes”, said a member of a students’ organization. “That is why schools in rural Balochistan have become “ghost schools”. A D.E.O (District Education Officer) told this writer that no one could take action against these “fugitive teachers” because they had been appointed on political basis.There are many teachers’ associations in Balochistan. They repeatedly go on strike over their petty matters despite receiving moderately attractive salaries. On the issues of students’ legitimate rights, they do not side with the former. If they protest students’ right to free compulsory education then they will surely play a great role in the improvement of education in Balochistan. Teachers, to a great extent, can be mentioned as a reason for the poor state of education in Balochistan. Most of them have been appointed by the virtue of nepotism and favoritism under the Aghaz-i-Haqooq-i-Balochistan package offered by the federal government in 2009. With teachers appointed on political basis, how can the quality of education improve in Balochistan? As far as girls’ education is concerned, they get permission from their parents to get education but they also have no educational facilitates. In some of the districts of Balochistan, there are no colleges for girls. They attend their college level classes either in girls’ high schools or boys’ degree colleges in evening shifts. Many girls quit education after matriculating. Presently, Sardar Bahadur Khan Women University in Quetta is the sole girls-only university in Balochistan. Students’ organizations claim that science and math teachers are absent from girls’ high schools in most of Balochistan. On their part, officials have been announcing more new schools in Balochistan.
The current number of schools in Balochistan is as follows:
Awaran: 247 schools with an enrollment of 20,601 Barkan: 604 (18,036) Chagai: 229 (23,781) Dera Bugti: 336 (21,212) Gwadar: 249 (29,027) Harnai: 116 (9,373) Jaferabad: 909 (88,862) Jhal Magsi: 272 (25,390 Kachi: 414 (32,669) Kalat: 441(37,989) Kech: 606 (76,209) Kharan: 216 (18,138) Khuzdar: 653 (48,632) Killa Abdullah: 467 (56621) Killa Saifullah: 581 (36,479) Kohlu: 417 (19,516) Lasbella: 558 (48,397) Lorali: 680 (48,903) Mastung: 354 (25,567) Musakhel: 284 (12,728) Naseerabad: 463 (31,603) Nushki: 213 (26,120) Panjgur: 343 (34,409) Pishin: 910 (71,310) Quetta: 553 (1,28,580) Sherani: 171 (6222) Sibi: 260 (22,475) Washuk: 166 (12,519) Zhob: 327 (26,936) Ziarat: 258 (12,713)
The condition of college and university level education in Balochistan is further abysmal. In rural areas, colleges are left with creaking infrastructure and very low attendance rate among the students. Similar to the situation at schools, colleges in Balochistan also face a dearth of science and mathematics instructors. The lecturers of Urdu and English are only available to teach the college classes. That is, students remain absent from their classes, or say dropout. The absence of lecturers at colleges also encourages and compels that the students to cheat during examinations. I suppose if students are provided education equally and honestly, then there would be no cheating. As Basheer Ahmed, a student at Degree College, Kharan, said: “We do not have lecturers of key subjects at our college. That is why students cheat during the exams.” The government should ensure the appointment of instructors at all levels of education across Balochistan. In addition, the flawed admission policies of some universities in the province, particularly, the Balochistan University of Information Technology and Management Sciences, restrict Baloch students from remote and tribal areas from seeking admission. Likewise, there is only one medical college in Balochistan out of 80 across Pakistan. Lastly, keeping the above educational problems, it is the government’s fundamental responsibility to improve the access and standard of education in Balochistan.

The attack on Jinnah residency
The attack on Jinnah residency in Ziarat—Quetta reveals much more than what we saw on television screens or in print news. For many it was a symbolic act of terrorism and vandalism. For many it was an act of registering their anger with Pakistan and an act of voicing their freedom or separation. It was also an act of showing the world that Balochis don't want Jinnah’s Pakistan anymore. It validates the concept that the two-nation theory was flawed. It also falsified the so-called ideology of Pakistan. It also has laid it bare that Pakistan faces existential threats from within. Pakistan, the progeny of the two-nation theory, has been struggling to survive as a nation but the attack on the residency of Jinnah—the founder of Pakistan, has proved that despite living together for more or less 65 years after its conception, Sindhis, Balochis, Punjabis and Pashtuns have failed to live together as a nation. Jinnah received what he had sown during his lifetime. He divided the Hindus and Muslims of the subcontinent on the basis of the two-nation theory. Then he took a sharp U-turn and announced before the members of the Constituent Assembly that Hindus and Muslims are not two nations but two communities, and in the state polity and policies there shouldn't be any discrimination between them. This is where Pakistan’s problems started off. If a common man makes some mistakes, tells a lie and proved to be a turncoat, it is just he himself that reaps its outgrowth, however, when a leader commits some mistakes it is his nation that bears the downsides of his works. Pakistanis are now reaping what their leader has sown for them. The so-called ideology of Pakistan was very clumsy from the very beginning and it couldn’t last long but just fell apart in 1971 when eastern Pakistan became Bangladesh. This ideology has been responsible for desperation, religious bigotry, and political disharmony in the leftover-Pakistan. Religious intolerance and political discord have permeated in the lives of Pakistanis. Had Pakistan been a natural state, it wouldn’t have witnessed its breakage in form of Bangladesh—being a separate state now. And it wouldn’t have seen separatist movement in Balochistan. It is Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) that has claimed the attack on Jinnah Residency in Zairat—Quetta but the jingoistic Pakistani media and its military establishment will call it an act of foreign hands. The problem is they don’t see at their own faults as what made Bangladeshis alienated from western Pakistan and what distanced Balochis from Islamabad. They blame India for separating Bangladesh from Pakistan while concealing the fact that the very idea of Pakistan was clumsy having no capacity to remain intact for long. This is why its breakage for natural. A nation is a historically evolved stable community of language, territory, economic life, shared goals, and psychological make-up, and all of them should be manifested in a community of culture. Ideology is the very raison de’tre of Pakistan. It is the foundation, and it is the basis on which Pakistan stands and on which India was divided. It is such an idea that Afghanistan never subscribed to it. It was for two major reasons that Afghanistan opposed the idea of Pakistan. First, if a new state comes into existence in the subcontinent, majority of Afghan-Pashtuns will come under its subjugation. And indeed it happened when Pakistan came into existence. Second, Kabul believed that it would be a great injustice with those Muslims who will remain back in India. But the obdurate political genius Jinnah clung to his idea of ‘two-nation theory’ and eventually made Pakistan. His ideology is responsible for the bloodshed in the region. Had there been no two nation theory, no Pakistan, there wouldn’t have been any bloodshed in the name of religion particularly in this region.

Kerry, Karzai Talk Over Taliban Flap

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has spoken by telephone with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in a bid to defuse a dispute that threatens to scuttle peace talks with the Taliban. Karzai on June 19 threatened to boycott U.S.-directed talks with the Taliban and said he was suspending negotiations with Washington on a pact aimed to address U.S.-Afghan relations after 2014. Karzai’s administration was angered after the Taliban on June 18 opened an office in Qatar using the name the militants used for the country while in power from 1996 to 2001: the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Karzai’s government said the United States had not fulfilled pledges that the Taliban would not receive any official status. Karzai said in a statement that unless peace negotiations are Afghan-led, the High Peace Council, which he set up in 2010 to seek peace with the Taliban, will not participate in any talks. The State Department said Qatari authorities have ordered that the Taliban sign be taken down. A U.S. official said talks with the Taliban could still be held in Qatar in the next few days, but no date has been confirmed. The United States and the Taliban announced June 18 that officials from both sides would meet in Doha, as early as this week, to launch a peace process to end the past 12 years of war between the Taliban and U.S.-backed forces. The Taliban made no specific mention, then, that it was ready to meet with the U.S.-backed government of Karzai. In another development, a Taliban representative has told RFE/RL the militants are ready to discuss sharing power and to possibly hold talks with Karzai government representatives. Mohammad Naeem, a spokesman for the Qatar office, said the Taliban seek an inclusive government. Asked if the Taliban are ready to negotiate with Afghan President Hamid Karzai's representatives, Naeem said that the Taliban are ready to "talk to all Afghans who come to the [Qatar] office." The Taliban has previously refused to recognize Karzai’s government, denouncing him as a puppet of foreign powers. Earlier this week, Afghan government forces officially took over security control of the country as U.S. and NATO-led combat troops pull back in preparation for withdrawal by the end of 2014.

Afghan revelations: Pakistan-US secret diplomacy created Doha roadmap

Months-long painstaking and secret negotiations involving Islamabad and Washington have yielded a detailed roadmap for steering negotiations with the Afghan Taliban which will start to unfold with the release of five Afghan prisoners from Guantanamo Bay and the return of the captured US soldier PFC Bowe Bergdahl, at present in Taliban custody. While the opening of the Taliban office in Doha, Qatar, has captured headlines across the world, wide-ranging interviews with highly-placed diplomatic, military and foreign office sources reveal that this office is but one of the many elements of a complex process, the ultimate aim of which is for all stakeholders in Afghanistan to share power through an inclusive election process under a possibly modified Afghanistan constitution. “The journey begins now and if all goes well should co-terminate with the exit of the American combat troops and holding of elections in Afghanistan that brings everyone onboard,” says a diplomatic source who has been involved in this process. Other elements of this process are complete reconciliation with the Taliban led by Mullah Mohammed Omar, multiple-level dialogue between the Taliban and non- Pashtoon groups, agreement on the constitutional framework to govern Afghanistan after safe and trouble-free exit of the US forces from the Afghan soil, gradual cessation of kinetic operations and crucially, dispensing with Hamid Karzai in the political sense in case he tries to subvert peace efforts. There is little doubt in anyone’s mind that this road is slippery and with no guaranteed success. However, a near-complete and rare alignment of views between the US administration and Pakistan’s policymakers achieved through a robust and out-of-media-glare talks has created space for ‘pulling this one off’, says the source. “There has been some direct dialing between Pakistan and John Kerry, the US secretary of state, working under clear guidelines from president Obama,” says one of Pakistan’s top negotiators. This direct dialing sometimes bypassed the US embassy in Islamabad while Pakistan’s mission in Washington too stayed pretty much on the margins of what was transpiring between the two capitals. The main issues that the two sides have had to grapple with all centered around the Taliban’s core leadership led by Mullah Omar. “The Americans had three solutions for the Taliban problem. First, the Alpha solution, was to beat them into submission and retard their capacity to fight permanently. This failed. The Bravo solution was to fight them hard through a troop surge and force them to accept Afghanistan’s new realities like the presentday Afghan constitution and the leadership of president Karzai. That too did not work. The third, the Charlie solution, was more of a compulsion. Accept Taliban as a legitimate power in Afghanistan, talk to them, accommodate their main demands even it meant abandoning assets like Karzai. I think you are looking at the Charlie solution being played out,” says a military official. The clearest indication of this radical shift in the US outlook towards the Taliban is in their acceptance that the onceroundly condemned Haqqani Network is essential to peace and deserves to be on the table in Doha. The Haqqanis, who dominate Afghanistan’s troubled and violence-infested eastern provinces, have been Washington hard-liners’ favourite punching bag and recipient of most of the military operations conducted by Isaf and Nato led by the US. Declared as international terrorists their leaders have also been the focus of drone attacks inside Pakistan besides being at the centre of the US accusations of Pakistan being a sanctuary and a safe haven for forces killing American soldiers in Afghanistan. “The Haqqanis are no longer the bull’s eye of US military operations. They are no longer in the ‘kill or capture and be rewarded’ category. They are part and parcel of the team that would represent Mullah Omar with which Washington is deeply engaged,” says another source at the foreign office. This ‘deep engagement’ is trilateral and would not have come about without Washington getting exhausted with its stand-alone efforts to cultivate the Taliban minus Islamabad. Pakistani officials say that Washington tried several dialogue processes, in many capitals of the world, some even with low-ranking members of the Haqqani Network, but each time they hit a dead end. No faction could move ahead without the sanction of the Taliban top leadership. As the costs of war in Afghanistan mounted, and the withdrawal deadline neared, the Obama administration found itself in a bind that could only be circumvented if Mullah Omar agreed to be part of the dialogue. “The hardliners among the Taliban ranks did not want to give any space to US forces. They had realised that by stalemating international forces they had actually won militarily. They would not concede an inch of diplomatic space to the US who, in their perception, had lost out in the battlefield,” explained a high-ranking foreign office official involved in talking to the Taliban. “It was then Pakistan’s turn to use its influence even though everyone in Washington had deep doubts about the Taliban showing flexibility. Our pitch to the Taliban was that by becoming part of the dialogue process they could gain international sanction, end conflict peacefully and achieve their goals of foreign forces exiting their country much more swiftly than through perpetual conflict that offered total victory to nobody. “We also had to argue long and hard with Washington to change the sequence of its demands and instead of asking for the Taliban to straightway accept the Afghan constitution and abjure violence let confidence-building measures take place that would start the process of reconciliation,” says the foreign office official. The same sources also said that the real breakthrough in these negotiations came through personal diplomacy between John Kerry and Pakistan’s Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. “With the election fever gripping the country the (outgoing) government in Pakistan had lost all interest in even looking at the notes of some of these important meetings much less taking active interest in spearheading the country’s role in this regard. Kerry-Kayani duo was the centerpiece of this heightened diplomacy. The two had an excellent equation even before Kerry became the secretary of state. Now they talk more frequently than anyone in the press gets to report on,” said the foreign office source. What transpires in these frequent calls is anybody’s guess, but this interaction did yield a crucial breakthrough a few weeks ago when the Taliban shared a draft of their statement with Washington which was seen and appreciated by everyone at the State Department and the White House. “The Taliban in that statement had shown an unequivocal commitment to peace and the constitutional process achieved through dialogue besides reiterating the stance that they would not let their soil be used for attacking the US. The same statement also included a critical element of the Taliban distancing themselves from al Qaeda,” says a diplomatic source who worked closely with Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul and claims to have seen several drafts of that letter. This statement was to be followed by statements of approval from Qatar, Pakistan and of course Washington, joined in by other western powers. “This was much more than Washington was hoping to get out of the Taliban. Frankly, the situation that the US was in, they could have simply settled for the Taliban becoming part of the electoral process,” said a foreign office source. Washington’s glee was reflected in a string of congratulatory calls and messages senior diplomatic and military officers started to receive upon getting the final draft of the Taliban statement. “This showed what a big deal it was for them (in Washington),” said the same source. Prior to this engagement with Washington Pakistan also facilitated a quiet and effective dialogue process between the non-Pashtoon forces (the Northern Alliance) and the Taliban in which the two sides at a senior level agreed to bury the hatchet and work jointly for stabilising Afghanistan. “This was a big breakthrough because this made our peace efforts truly all-inclusive and curtailed the voices of discord and divisiveness that could have raised questions about our motives”, said a senior military source. One such voice was and continues to be that of Afghanistan’s maverick president Hamid Karzai, who according to Pakistani officials, tried his level best to somehow prevent a direct interface between the Americans and the Taliban and create an impression that he and not Islamabad holds the key to the Afghan endgame. “Even in opening the office of the Taliban in Doha his concern was that this should be done through his offices in Kabul, an effort that had no takers from any other quarter and therefore fell flat,” says a senior foreign office official. Karzai’s increasing isolation was proven yet again when Washington, his main backer, stopped counting on him and accepted direct dialogue with the Taliban as the mainstay of their diplomatic push in Afghanistan. This fulfilled a major demand of the Taliban leadership that does not recognise the government in Kabul and wants to have no truck with Karzai. The beleaguered Afghan president got squeezed on the other fronts as well. As non- Pasthoons began to open up to the Taliban even the High Peace Council, headed distanced itself from the daily barrage of Karzai’s brutal criticism of Pakistan. A diplomatic source shared with this scribe some contents of recent meetings between Pakistani officials and members of the High Peace Council which clearly indicate a gaping chasm between them and Karzai. He is variously described as ‘unstable’, ‘a threat to Afghan peace’ and even as a ‘poisonous roadblock’. Unfortunately for Karzai Washington increasingly finds itself in agreement with these assessments, some of which echo those done by senior US officials themselves of the man. That is why when day before yesterday the Afghanistan president raised hell over the Taliban’s office in Doha styling itself as a mission of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Washington calmed him down and itself downplayed this characterisation to dilute his accusation that the Taliban were ‘rogues only he could handle’, said a foreign diplomat. However, the Afghan president’s retribution has been swift. His suspension of talks with the United States on a new security deal, to protest the way his government was being left out of initial peace negotiations with the Taliban, is his most vocal statement of anger of so far. “In view of the contradiction between acts and the statements made by the United States of America in regard to the peace process, the Afghan government suspended the negotiations, currently under way in Kabul between Afghan and US delegations on the bilateral security agreement,” Karzai’s statement said. But that might backfire because Washington is about the only international player willing to put up with Karzai. Pakistan has not pulled any punches against Karzai. Islamabad’s military negotiators have curtly told Washington that they “can either save their man (Karzai) or Afghan peace”. Pakistan has shared volumes of evidence with Washington of the Afghan president’s deliberate encouragement of forces operating against Pakistan from across the border including, more recently, the directions that came for Kandahar for the attackers of the Quaid’s residency in Ziarat. “We do not rule out the possibility of Kabul-sponsored elements making a last-ditch effort to inflict damage on Pakistan with the approval of President Karzai, whose recent conduct borders on strange behaviour, to say the least,” says a senior government official posted in Balochistan. Pakistan’s more subtle message to Washington about its aversion to Karzai has been just as firm. Last week’s trilateral meeting involving Afghan and Isaf commanders was supposed to take place in Afghanistan. Pakistan insisted that it should be relocated to Pakistan because Gen Kayani did not want to go to Afghanistan and pay even a courtesy call on Karzai. “We have left Karzai’s handling to the Americans. He is their man. They invested in him. They should tackle him. We are not pulling any stops for him,” said a high-ranking foreign office source. The newly-elected prime minister, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, who is now in charge of the country’s foreign and defence policies, got an early indication of how complex the Afghanistan peace process has become and how central is the role that the country he leads is playing in taking it forward. He dropped the idea of visiting Kabul any time soon immediately after this proposal was floated in the media. Since then he has been holding regular meetings with the army chief in the presence of Sartaj Aziz, special advisor on national security and foreign affairs, and key members of his core team including Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif. “Most of these meetings have been about the big events happening around us including the Afghan peace process,” said a federal cabinet minister. The prime minister’s briefings on Afghanistan have been detailed and a full extent of the background has been given to him. According to foreign office sources the prime minister is ‘fully clued up’ and on the day of the opening of the Doha office he was informed of all the developments on practically ‘minute-to-minute basis’. Pakistan Muslim League sources confirm that the first visitor to call on premier Sharif after he was sworn in was General Kayani and the major portion of this meet-up was ‘developments in Afghanistan’.