Thursday, July 11, 2013
Afghan President Hamid Karzai's spokesman has dismissed a "New York Times" report claiming U.S. President Barack Obama is considering an expedited and complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan as a tactic "aimed at putting pressure on Afghanistan." Speaking to RFE/RL in Kabul, Aimal Faizi said that the "zero option" -- whereby there would be no U.S. troops left in Afghanistan after 2014 -- was never discussed with Kabul. "The complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan is an issue that has never been brought up in joint meetings between Kabul and Washington. The report in 'The New York Times' is aimed at putting pressure on Afghanistan and on public opinion in the country," Faizi said. "We have already put our conditions to the United States and have clearly told the United States that a final decision regarding the [U.S.-Afghan] security agreement will be made by the people of Afghanistan, and that is through a national jirga," he added, in a reference to the national parliament. "The New York Times" reported on July 8 that a June 27 video conference between Obama and Karzai aimed at lowering tensions "ended badly." The report said Karzai accused Washington of putting his government in danger by holding a separate peace with the Taliban and its Pakistani supporters. "The New York Times" added that since after the video conference, a complete pullout from Afghanistan like the one from Iraq has moved from a "worst-case scenario" to a likely choice "under serious consideration in Washington and Kabul."White House spokesman Jay Carney, however, said Obama was considering the "zero option." "The [zero] option has always been available and it is part of a process that is not focused on troop numbers but on policy objectives and how do we best do that. And part of how we best do that is, if we do decide to leave a residual force there in pursuit of these policy objectives, what kinds of agreements do we have with the Afghan government going forward with regards to that residual force," Carney told reporters in Washington on July 9. Senior current and former Afghan officials, however, have said that despite the disagreements between Washington and Kabul, a precipitous U.S. withdrawal is unlikely. Nasrullah Stanikzai, a former political aide to Karzai, said Kabul must pursue its own strategic and political interests in talks with Washington but tense relations between leaders of the two countries were not helping.Carney's comments come after reports on July 9 that the Taliban had temporarily closed its Doha office, where officials had hoped to resume Afghan peace talks. Taliban officials said the closure was to protest the removal of the Taliban flag and a nameplate with the movement's formal name, the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan." Karzai's government wanted such symbols removed, fearing they suggested the Taliban wanted to set up a government in exile. "We've seen the reports about the Doha office, and as President Karzai and President Obama said, the surest way to a stable unified Afghanistan is for Afghans to talk to Afghans," Carney said. "And it is up to the Taliban to decide if they are serious about negotiations."
The EU special envoy for Afghanistan Vygaudas Usackas on Wednesday said that the peace efforts between the Afghan government and Taliban militants group will not bear fruit until 2015, a year after US-led troops leave the country. While speaking during an open session of the Geneva Centre for security policy, Vygaudas Usackas said, “The European Union supports an Afghan-led dialogue on reconciliation. Whatever channels they choose is up to them.” Usackas further added that no breakthrough is expected in Afghan peace talks until 2015. The comments by EU special envoy for Afghanistan comes a day after Taliban militants group temporarily closed their newly opened office in Qatar, blaming “broken promises” by the Afghan government and United States. The Taliban political office was opened in Qatar on June 18 in a bid to accelerate potential peace talks with the Taliban group to end almost a decade old violence in the country. However Afghan president Hamid Karzai and Afghan high peace council boycotted the talks with the Taliban group and suspended talks on bilateral security agreement following the establishment of the Taliban office in Qatar, calling it a step to establish a paralell government in Afghanistan. In the meantime EU special envoy for Afghanistan Vygaudas Usackas said, “We’re watching the situation around the Doha office… We know that peace and reconciliation requires patience and consistency.”
At least two people were killed and five others wounded on Thursday when a motorcycle bomb exploded at a roadside restaurant in northwest Pakistan, police said. The remotely detonated bomb exploded on the main highway between the towns of Kohat and Hangu in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which is rife with Taliban and al Qaeda led militancy."The motorcycle was parked at a roadside restaurant 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Kohat city. Two people were killed and five others wounded in the attack," Dilawar Khan Bangash, district police chief of Kohat, told AFP. "One person died at the spot while another died while being shifted to hospital," he said. Hospital officials confirmed receiving one dead body and five injured. "We received one dead body and five wounded from the blast site," Mohammed Shamshad, a doctor at Kohat's main hospital, told AFP. Police said the motive for the attack was not immediately clear. "The motorcycle carrying the bomb was parked close to a small mosque, built at the restaurant to facilitate customers for prayers. But, we don't know the reasons why and who managed this attack," said Bangash. Pakistani troops have been fighting for years against homegrown insurgents in the tribal belt, which Washington considers the main hub of Taliban and al Qaeda militants plotting attacks on the West and in Afghanistan.
The Express TribuneA Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) MPA Arif Sandheela allegedly physically assaulted a lady doctor Dr Sana Jabeen over disagreement during a routine visit at a hospital, Express News reported on Thursday. Although the DPO on site said that the police will start investigation in to the case once the lady doctor files a request, she has reportedly been taken to the district police station where she is being pressurised into a compromise. Dr Sana claimed the issue was regarding free medicines, even though the government does not provide them. According to her account, MPA Sandheela is known to frequent the clinic for free medication and has never purchased a required hospital ticket priced at Rs2. Eyewitnesses and colleagues testified that he has never purchased the required ticket. “He threw the mobile phone at my stomach and pushed me as well. If this can happen to an educated female doctor, it can happen to anyone. I request the chief of Punjab to remove this MPA from his post because he is harassing people”, she said while speaking to the media with teary eyes. “He always asks for free medicines though it is not his right. Even when he was not an MPA this was his behavior- now that he is a MPA, he blackmails me regarding my position”, she added. Eyewitnesses claimed that the MPA misbehaved with the lady doctor and was seen to be very angry. The lady doctor was seen crying after she had been slapped. According to reports, Arif Sandheela denied the incident and termed the allegations baseless. Sandheela said that the doctor is accusing him of the incident in hope of receiving a transfer. When contacted by Express News, he said he would get back with an answer however no word has been received yet.
Previously, another MPA from the same party received criticism in the media regarding a similar incident. Nighat Nasir Sheikh’s PML-N party membership was annulled on June 19 for harassing and slapping a bus hostess. According to reports, Sheikh had asked for water from a bus hostess; the hostess failed to serve water on time, which resulted in a quarrel. The annoyed MPA slapped the bus hostess in the face and harassed her. The driver of the private bus immediately took the bus to a police station and the passengers demanded legal action against the MPA in question.
BY Mosharraf ZaidiThe Abbottabad Commission report is now in the public domain. Its authors, the members of the commission, should be seen as national heroes. The level of detail, the intricate analysis, the bold and fearless judgements and the searing truthfulness of the assessments in the report merit more than one reading of the report. It is a great report. So what happens next? The only way to answer that question is to examine what has been happening thus far. When PM Nawaz Sharif took office, it was obvious his priorities lay in addressing domestic economic and social concerns. Pakistan needs electricity and jobs. The PML-N government wants to deliver these things. A rare confluence of policy needs and political will. What could go wrong? As it turns out, plenty. For starters, the "extremist infrastructure" that the Abbottabad Commission report had recommended be "disbanded" is living la vida loca. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi enjoys virtual impunity to kill Hazara Shias as it pleases. The mischievously named Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which is actually just the Pakistani Al-Qaeda affiliate, has so much freedom that it advertises changes in personnel, as was evidenced by the appointment of a new spokesperson. I use the politically correct term spokesperson here out of habit and principle, as if there may one day be a female TTP spox. The situation is beyond absurd. This is a group that has declared war on Pakistan, declared war on the people of Pakistan, declared war on the constitution of Pakistan: the very constitution that declares, quite rightly, God Almighty, to be The Sovereign. And the national conversation has veered toward, "Why did the TTP change spokespersons?" Maybe it's because they know how easily manipulated and how keenly subservient our evening chatter can be? It would be cute to reference Kafka here, if it weren't for the thousands of body bags in which Pakistani mothers have welcomed home their solider sons, Pakistani wives have welcomed home their slain policeman husbands - all while the Pakistani government, including both civilian and military leadership, have presided over a rapid descent into complete state dysfunction. Hypernationalists get very upset with this kind of rhetoric. And of course, the term 'complete state dysfunction' is rhetorical. There isn't complete dysfunction yet. In his testimony, the Grand Mufti of Hypernationalist Pakistanis, Gen Shuja Pasha, says that Pakistan "is a failing state, if not yet a failed state". And if we examine the ways in which the state is not failing, it is easy to see. The lights are on in Bahria Town and DHA. They are off in Laalu Khet and Miranshah. The water in your tap could kill you, and that same water kills thousands of Pakistanis every year. Pakistan has a polio problem - one of only three countries on the planet with this problem. If you are in Lyari, duck. If you are in Fata, relocate. If you are in Islamabad, try not to vomit. Of course, the state still works for the District Management Group and the various ancillary civil service groups that have learnt how to compete for the spoils of maladministration. And, just to be entirely fair, let us also remember that the state works very well in Rawalpindi, in most cantonments, and save the frequent successful terrorist attacks, at our naval, air and army bases. Apologists of the military establishment will remind us that this is because the forces have discipline and integrity. But it sure doesn't hurt that they have most of the money, and all the guns (save the ones that terrorist Fedayeen attackers and the hordes of contractors like DynCorp, XE, and others have - all of whom entered Pakistan on the watch of the most patriotic Pakistani of us all, Gen Musharraf). If the tone of this piece seems intemperate, those capable of concentrating beyond the 12 minutes of uninterrupted analysis on television should try their reading skills on the Abbottabad Commission report. Nobody will accuse the report's authors of being anything other than faithful and patriotic Pakistanis. Well, maybe nobody. I am hesitant because I recall the blasphemy case on Akhtar Hameed Khan, the daylight assassination of Hakim Saeed and the regular attacks on the character and integrity of anyone that dares to express their intolerance for a Pakistan that fails to live up to even the most basic requirements of what Iqbal and Jinnah would expect. Nevertheless, Ambassador Ashraf Jahangir Qazi, Gen Nadeem Ahmed, IG Abbas Khan and Justice Javed Iqbal are not ordinary people. They have all been part of the broader Pakistani establishment, to varying degrees. That it is their steady and credible hands that have drafted the report is the best inoculation against the stupidity of large swathes of our TV-ratings-driven national conversation. Virtually every aspect of national public life gets brushed under the carpet in Pakistan. The Abbottabad Commission report essentially lifts the carpet that has carefully been laid over the country by myriad narrow private interests, all claiming to act in the greater good. No greater good could have been done by the commission than the report they have produced. The 337-page report is not difficult to read. But it will take time. You must read it. Someone – and I don't expect it will be the Ministry of Information (though it should be) – has to translate this report into Urdu. And then, someone should do an audio book of the report, and play it on the radio, over, and over, and over again. The words incompetence and negligence appear far more frequently than the word complicity. This is very likely the correct balance - though complicity cannot be rule out in getting Bin Laden into Pakistan, helping him move around over nine years and ensuring his safety in Abbottabad for the final six years of his life (all facts ascertained by the Abbottabad Commission). Nor can complicity be ruled out in the US Navy SEALs operation that killed him. We already know about Shakil Afridi - no doubt there were more. The question remains, what will happen next? If the recent past is any indicator, we can be assured, not very much. Consider the situation in foreign policy. PM Nawaz Sharif had known for many months that the PML-N would likely win the election. It is over a month since he took oath. Our embassy in Washington DC is still without an ambassador. Perhaps he has yet to find someone old enough for the job. Consider the response to the report by the previous government. Only two of 32 recommendations have been acted on. Neither will serve to fix anything that is broken. On the most important recommendations, there has been only silence. What should happen? PM Sharif needs to appoint at least three blue-ribbon commissions through an act of parliament. One of them must simply be a monitor for the implementation of the Abbottabad Commission report. The other two must deal with structural and across the board government reform (the first recommendation of the commission), and national security policy (the fourteenth recommendation of the commission). The leak of the Abbottabad Commission report could be a seminal moment in Pakistani history. But only if PM Sharif wants it to be. He's the boss.
Lahore Electric Supply Company (LESCO) has issued a new schedule of power loadshedding for the holy month of Ramadan. Talking to Geo news following a meeting, LESCO Chief Engineer Muhammad Saleem said that the company has chalked out a new schedule according to which all domestic, commercial and industrial consumers would have to experience 10-hour long load shedding. He said that the consumers would be given relief during Sehar, Iftar and Taraweeh time while industries would face 10 consecutive hours of loadshedding from 6 PM to 4AM. The chief engineer further said that the LESCO is getting a quota of 2400 MW, adding that increase in quota may rise further relief.