Saturday, July 13, 2013

2 Killed by U.S. Drone Strike in Pakistan

At least two people were killed Saturday in an American drone strike in a northwestern tribal region of Pakistan, according to intelligence officials.
The drone strike took place at around 11:30 p.m. Saturday in Mosaki village, near Mir Ali, the second-largest town in North Waziristan tribal region, alongside the border with Afghanistan. North Waziristan is a stronghold of the Taliban and militants affiliated with Al Qaeda. The two victims, whom the authorities believed to be militants, were riding a motorcycle when they were targeted by the drone strike. Their identities were not immediately known. “Both of the militants on the motorbike were killed on the spot,” a Pakistani intelligence official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “The drone fired two missiles that also damaged a nearby house, but no casualty has so far been reported inside it.” The strike was the second one in July. The previous strike occurred July 2, killing at least 17 people, also in North Waziristan. Drone strikes, which are operated by the C.I.A, are immensely unpopular in Pakistan and are portrayed as a violation of its sovereignty. Islamist and right-wing, nationalist political parties have long demanded that America stop its drone campaign in the tribal regions, claiming that they have caused a large number of civilian casualties. Pakistani officials have also publicly condemned the drone strikes, although privately have acknowledged their utility. American officials have, however, called them as a useful tool to target militants who have found safe havens in Pakistani regions where the state is weak and ineffective. Drone strikes have decreased in recent months, because of greater scrutiny of the program in United States and newer restrictions from President Obama.

Fascist Saudi regime jails two Shias over protests

A Saudi special court has sentenced two Shia men to eight and nine years in jail, respectively, for taking part in protests in Eastern Province, SPA state news agency said on Friday. The first defendant was found guilty of joining three protests in the town of Awamiya, in the province's Shia Al-Qatif region, it said. He was also found guilty of having "anti-kingdom and anti-rulers pictures on his mobile phone...and of knowing dissidents in Qatif and covering up their activities." The second defendant, who was sentenced to nine years, was found guilty of taking part in "most demonstrations" in Qatif. He was also convicted of "surfing dissident Internet websites, and posting statements inciting opposition to the well as calling for the release of prisoners," SPA said. The two defendants and the prosecution have decided to appeal the verdicts, it said. There are an estimated two million Shias in the Sunni-ruled kingdom of around 27.5 million people. Shia towns in the oil-rich Eastern Province have been rocked by sporadic violence as protesters clashed with police over what they say is the marginalisation of Shias. The unrest first erupted after violence between Shia pilgrims and religious police in the Muslim holy city of Medina in February 2011. The protests escalated when Saudi Arabia led a force of Gulf troops into neighbouring Bahrain the following month to help crush Shia-led pro-democracy demonstrations in the tiny Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom. Human rights groups say more than 600 people have been arrested in Saudi Arabia since the spring of 2011, most of them in Qatif. The majority have since been released.

Xi urges China to keep red

Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged the 85 million members of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to work hard and serve the people wholeheartedly to "ensure the color of red China will never change." Party members should improve their work styles to withstand tests the Party faces and ensure the CPC's nature is not compromised, said Xi, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee. He was speaking during a two-day inspection tour of north China's Hebei Province, which concluded on Friday. During the trip, Xi visited Xibaipo, an old revolutionary base, where the CPC leadership were based from May 1948 to early 1949 to draw the blueprint of the new country and prepare for the CPC's new role as the ruling party. Late Chinese leader Mao Zedong's remarks on Party members' work styles prior to the founding of New China in 1949 still have far-reaching ideological and historical significance, he said.
At an important meeting of the CPC in March 1949, Mao called on the whole Party to resolutely carry forward the work style of displaying modesty and prudence while guarding against conceit and impetuosity, and resolutely carry forward the style of working hard and plain living. Xi said the comments bear lessons learnt from thousands of years of Chinese history, a summary of the process of the CPC's growth, and profound thoughts on keeping the Party's advanced nature and purity as well as on maintaining the prolonged stability of an upcoming state power. Xi said he had been to Xibaipo many times. "Each time, I came with a lot of respect and left with many thoughts." Calling China's revolutionary history the "best nutrient," Xi said studying and recalling such history can bring "positive energy" to Party members. Previous Chinese top leaders Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao both visited Xibaipo shortly after they took office. Xi's visit symbolized the Party's commitment to its traditions, said Prof. Wang Yukai, with the Chinese Academy of Governance. Last December, Xi chose Guangdong, which served as the testing grounds for reform and opening-up policies more than 30 years ago, as the destination of his first inspection tour out of Beijing after taking the office of general secretary of the CPC Central Committee. "The new leaders are learning from political wisdom and experiences of their predecessors," Wang said. Besides Xibaipo, also on Xi's schedule was Zhengding County, where Xi had been Party chief in the early 1980s. The President dropped in the house of a local farmer, visited a village community center and the provincial civil affairs department. The Party's performance at the grass-roots level matters very much, Xi said. "If every CPC member and every grass-roots organ have a strong sense of responsibility and do a good job, the Party will be strong, the country will be strong and people will be strong. Thus, the Party's rule will have a solid foundation," he said. The CPC leadership is unfurling a large-scale campaign against harmful work styles, aiming to improve Party-people relations. At a meeting with provincial officials of Hebei, Xi asked the senior provincial officials to set the example in the campaign. They should raise the bar higher, examine their own conduct and correct their problems with unselfishness and bravery, the president said. Senior officials should show the people their courage and resolve to face up to their own problems and their willingness to take advice from the people as well as make actual moves, he said. The people should be encouraged to take care of the cause of the CPC and be guided to exercise their duty of supervision, according to Xi. While acknowledging the performance of Hebei, the President urged the province to focus on the quality and efficiency of its development, improve people's well-being and protect the environment. The country's new leadership has sent out a clear signal that the key to the Party's rule is to improve its capacity to rule and maintain its internal vitality, Prof. Wang said.

Turkish police fire tear gas, water cannon at Gezi Park protesters

Turkish police have cleared Istiklal Avenue, firing water cannon and tear gas at hundreds of protesters as they gathered to march to Gezi Park. The park has been a cradle of anti-government unrest for weeks. Demonstrators have been protesting against a recently imposed law which blocked the authority of the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) from approving urban planning projects. They gathered at Istiklal Avenue to march to Gezi Park, which is located a short walking distance away. The crowd was chanting anti-government slogans and screaming, “This is just the beginning. The fight is continuing.” As police approached the crowd and asked them to exit the area, some of the protesters refused to leave the street. Riot police then responded by using tear gas and water cannon.Police blocked the entrance into Taksim Square, but some protesters tried to break through and reach the area through smaller nearby streets. Witnesses say police also blocked the entrance to Taksim Hospital. The entrance to Gezi Park has also been barricaded by law enforcement. Police have reportedly used water cannon to shoot colored chemicals in order to disperse protesters, according to locals. Twitter user @TaksimGazete tweeted that police have pointed water cannons at apartments located above the protests. Many of those who left Istiklal Avenue have reportedly moved to another neighborhood near Taksim. Taksim Gazette says that people have managed to get into Gezi Park, where they are currently holding “forum meeting.”TMMOB members also staged protests in Ankara on Saturday, with architects and engineers believing the bill – which was passed by parliament this week –to be part of a government vendetta. Earlier, TMMOB opened a lawsuit against plans to redevelop Istanbul's Gezi Park. A court has since cancelled the redevelopment project, although authorities can still appeal against the ruling.

Gordon Brown: Malala's U.N. speech is just the beginning

Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai's inspiring speech at the United Nations on every child's right to go to school is just the beginning of a major push on education, former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Saturday. Yousafzai -- who on Friday gave her first public remarks since she was shot by the Taliban last year for advocating that all girls should go to school -- will return to the United Nations in September to press her point, according to a statement from Brown's A World at School campaign. Accompanied by Brown, she will address an education summit of world leaders during the week of the full General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, it said. There, the 16-year-old will demand action on behalf of 57 million children around the world who have no access to any schooling.Meanwhile, Brown, who's the U.N. special envoy for global education, will travel to Pakistan in July to discuss education issues with the country's new government. He also intends to visit Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, in the fall. Between them, Pakistan and Nigeria have 16 million children out of school, the statement said, most of them girls. Malala's journey from near death to recovery Brown and Yousafzai met with the United Nations' Pakistan high commissioner on Friday to discuss the plight of more than 5 million children who are out of school in the country, the statement said. "Malala's speech was just the start of a momentous push for change in the run up to 2015, to deal with the education emergency," Brown said. The Millennium Development Goal on education set by U.N. member states in 2000 pledged to have every child in school by 2015. In her speech Friday, Yousafzai said the masked gunmen who shot her in the head in October, who also injured two other girls, had not silenced her ambitions but rather made her stronger. Gordon Brown: The story of Malala's friend "They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed," she said. "And then, out of that silence came thousands of voices." She said that she doesn't seek revenge against the Taliban, who have threatened to hunt her down again and end her life, and that she's against no one. Malala's global voice stronger than ever "I am here to speak up for the right of education of every child," she said. "I want education for the sons and the daughters of all the extremists, especially the Taliban." She also reflected on the very real dangers faced by teachers and students in Pakistan. Earlier this summer, a teacher was gunned down in front of her son as she drove into her all-girl school. A school principal was killed and his students severely injured when a bomb was tossed onto a school playground at a girls' school in Karachi in March. In January, five teachers were killed near the town of Swabi in the volatile northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the United Nations says. And, in June, a suicide bomber blew up a bus carrying 40 schoolgirls as it made its way to a girls' campus in Quetta. Fourteen students were killed. The speech, given on her 16th birthday, was not about her, Yousafzai added, but rather to give a voice to all the voiceless millions around the world fighting for their rights. "Let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, and let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons," she said. "One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first."

President Obama's Weekly Address: Strengthening our Economy by Passing Bipartisan Immigration Reform

President Karzai Congratulates Malala Yousafzai- Education Activist on Her 16th Birthday

President Hamid Karzai congratulated Malala Youafzai and her family on the occasion of her 16th birthday. Returning home from school, Malala Youafzai-an education activist was attacked by the Taliban last year in Mingora area of Swat valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, sustaining serious injuries to her neck and head.
While addressing the United Nations on celebrating her 16th birthday, Malala said that terrorism and war deterred children both in Afghanistan and Pakistan from going to school. She added that the people of Afghanistan were suffering from extremism for decades.
Malala yousafzai said, "One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world” and extremists are afraid of this change that education could bring in the society. President Karzai said that education in both Afghanistan and Pakistan suffered seriously from terrorism, adding that students, teachers and education workers are targeted for many years by terrorist attacks on both sides of the Durand Line. Calling attack on education an act by the enemies of Islam, the President said, “Elements, who oppose progress and development of the peoples on the two sides of the Durand Line, commit such crimes.” President Karzai once again stressed, “Using terrorism and extremism as a political tool is in the interest of no country. Afghanistan and Pakistan must join hands in sincerity to seriously fight against terrorism and extremism- a common threat because indifference to this will make future generations of the two countries face more threats.”

Saudi princess may have kept four other women as slaves, police say

Authorities are investigating whether four other women from the Phillippines found living with a woman described as a Saudi princess in Irvine were forced to work as slaves. The Saudi woman, 42-year-old Meshael Alayban, was charged Wednesday with one count of felony human trafficking after a Kenyan woman managed to leave the Irvine gated community and flee, carrying a suitcase and a U.S. State Department pamphlet on human trafficking, officials said. Orange County prosecutors allege that Alayban forced the woman to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for only $220 a month. Authorities say she was unable to leave because Alayban kept the woman's passport and documents.The law of our nation and California does not tolerate people who deprive or violate the liberty of another and obtain forced labor or services," Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas said. "If any person is being enslaved, he or she should contact law enforcement." In addition to the Kenyan woman, police said officers found four other workers being held under similar circumstances at Alayban's home. No charges have yet been filed in those cases. Orange County prosecutors identified Alayban as one of the wives of Saudi Prince Abdulrahman bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz al Saud. Alayban's attorney, Paul S. Meyer, said there was no physical abuse, no physical restraint and that the complaints were about hours worked and wages paid. "We intend to fully investigate this matter, and expect that the truth will resolve it," he said. The servant, whose identity was not released by authorities, began working for the family in Saudi Arabia to help cover her young daughter's medical care, officials said. The woman was contacted through an agency in Kenya to work for Alayban's family in Saudi Arabia in March 2012. She was meant to work for two years and be paid $1,600 a month. She was told she'd work eight hours a day, five days a week and that her pay would rise after three months, authorities said. Irvine police said that when the woman arrived in Saudi Arabia, Alayban took her passport. She accompanied Alayban and her family when they came to Irvine in May. Police said the servant came with four other women from the Philippines working under similar contracts. She told detectives she was required to work excessive hours and paid only a fraction of the agreed-upon salary. When the woman complained about the working conditions and asked for her passport back so she could leave, Alayban refused to give it to her, police said. The servant told authorities she was working for various Alayban family members living in four luxury apartments in a development off Jamboree Road, police said. She claimed she was not allowed to leave the complex without a member of the family present. "We are gratified to have been able to help this victim find her freedom," Irvine Police Chief David L. Maggard Jr. said.

Turkish journalists hit street to denounce police brutality during Gezi protests

Journalists gathering under the banner of the “Journalists’ Platform” came together at Galatasaray Square at 7 p.m. to protest what they termed the continual violence, pressure and threats they have faced at the hands of the police since the Gezi Park protests began in late May. The journalists, which included representatives of a number of different media outlets, also protested the arbitrary detentions and arrests, firings and acts censorship and self-censorship that have occurred since the demonstrations began. Police have arrested journalists even after reporters show their official press cards, private broadcaster IMÇ TV’s Gökhan Biçici said, while others complained of having their equipment seized by authorities. ETHA news agency journalist Arzu Demir also accused the police of sexually harassing her while searching her house during a June 18 raid. The journalists marched behind a banner of penguins in a direct jibe at CNNTürk, which became the target of widespread ridicule and sarcasm at the beginning of the protests in late May when it chose to air a documentary on penguins rather than cover the demonstrations. CNNTürk’s penguins were subsequently adopted as a symbol of the self-censorship that many news organizations, particularly the mainstream media, demonstrated during the initial stages of the protests. The group began a sit-down strike after close to 100 police blocked their way toward Taksim Square outside Galatasaray High School with two water cannon, but the group was ultimately not subjected to any police attack. Before the journalists’ march, activists also gathered in cities around Turkey, including Tünel on Istanbul’s İstiklal Avenue, to commemorate Dora Özer, a transsexual who was found murdered in the Aegean province of Aydın’s Kuşadası district on July 9.

INDIA: 20-year-old private tutor gang-raped, set afire in UP

A 20-year-old private tutor was allegedly gangraped and then set on fire two days ago in Etawah, the home district of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, the police said on Friday. The young woman is battling for life with 90% burn injuries at the Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences at Saifai. According to the first information report lodged by the woman’s brother, her fiancé Farhan and four of his associates raped her and set her on fire. The complaint also names two women as accused. Etawah senior superintendent of police Nilabja Choudhury, however, said there were reports the woman had set herself ablaze because a dowry demand of Rs. 5 lakh from Farhan’s family had cast a shadow over their marriage. The woman is a graduate, while Farhan is a mechanic, said a police official.The police have not been able to make a single arrest in connection with Wednesday’s crime, the latest in a string of such violent attacks on women and children reported from across UP. “Efforts are on to nab the accused,” the SSP said.
Other cases
In Pratapgarh, a rape victim was allegedly attacked by the family members of the accused who tried to severe her tongue on Wednesday. The girl was admitted to the hospital with serious injuries. In Lucknow, a four-year-old girl's body was found on Wednesday with multiple wounds. She had allegedly been raped before being killed. Police initially tried to pass off the case as an attack by stray dogs.

Obama speaks with Putin on Snowden, but no sign of movement

President Barack Obama raised U.S. concerns directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday over Moscow's handling of former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, but there was no sign of a breakthrough on Washington's demand that Russia expel him. Obama and Putin spoke by phone in a discussion that White House spokesman Jay Carney said earlier would largely be about Snowden, who is wanted in the United States for disclosing secret surveillance programs. Carney had accused Russia of providing Snowden a "propaganda platform" to air his complaints about the United States. A White House statement about the Obama-Putin call offered no indication that Putin was prepared to send Snowden back to the United States. "The two leaders noted the importance of U.S.-Russian bilateral relations and discussed a range of security and bilateral issues, including the status of Mr. Edward Snowden and cooperation on counter-terrorism in the lead-up to the Sochi Winter Olympics," the statement said. The Sochi Olympics are in 2014. The high-level contact came during intense diplomatic wrangling over Snowden, who has been holed up in a transit area at a Moscow airport since arriving from Hong Kong on June 23. He is seeking asylum in either Russia or in one of three countries in Latin American that have offered to take him: Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia. Snowden, 30, is wanted on espionage charges, accused of taking records about secret U.S. surveillance of internet and phone traffic and releasing them to the news media. The disclosures have raised Americans' concerns about domestic spying and strained relations with some U.S. allies. Putin has so far refused all U.S. entreaties to return Snowden to the United States. 'DOING THE RIGHT THING' The case presents Putin with an international headache as he prepares to host Obama and other world leaders at a G20 summit in St. Petersburg. "I can't imagine Mr. Putin wants this thing hanging around as it is necessary to get ready for the summit in September," said James Collins, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia who is director of the Russia and Eurasian Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said it would raise concerns in the U.S.-Russian relationship if Moscow were to accept an asylum request from Snowden. "However we are not at that point yet. They still have the opportunity to do the right thing and return Mr. Snowden to the United States and that's what our hope is," she told reporters. The White House and the State Department complained that the Russian government had permitted Snowden to meet with human rights groups at the Moscow airport. Snowden told activists on Friday he was seeking temporary asylum in Russia and had no regrets about spilling U.S. spy secrets. "Providing a propaganda platform for Mr. Snowden runs counter to the Russian government's previous declarations of Russia's neutrality," Carney said. He said it was "also incompatible with Russian assurances that they do not want Mr. Snowden to further damage U.S. interests." In Moscow, Putin's spokesman repeated earlier conditions that Snowden should stop harming the interests of the United States if he wants asylum. The drama has tested U.S.-Russian relations, although no lasting damage has been apparent so far. "My sense is that both Washington and Moscow have lots of experience in compartmentalizing these kinds of issues when you've got spies or … defectors," said Steven Pifer, a Russia expert who is director of the Brookings Institution's Arms Control Initiative. "They can fence that off from the rest of the relationship."

Afghanistan: Rise in Female Kunduz Prison Inmates
Kunduz province prison officials on Friday said that there has been a twofold increase in the number of female prisoners compared to last year. According to Gen. Shah Mir, the Director of the Kunduz provincial prison, two years ago 20 females were imprisoned, but now the number has increased to nearly 50. Gen. Mir cited illiteracy, poverty and domestic violence as one of the reasons behind the increase in the number of female inmates in Kunduz. "The crime rate is increasing day by day, last year we had 16 female prisoners. Unfortunately, this year the number has risen to 47," said Gen. Mir. Prison officials said that among the 47 female prisoners that are serving jail time, there is a diversity of criminal charges, including, but not limited to, murder and kidnapping. Gen. Mir said that 20 children who have reached seven years of age belonging to the female inmates have been transferred to a special children's home where they are educated and receive vocational training. However, he said many more children below seven are still living with their mothers in the prison. Meanwhile, the female prisoners told reporters that they want to seek pardons for the sake of their children's futures. "I am imprisoned with my children and I request that the President pardon my sentence for the sake of my children," begged one of the female prisoners, imprisoned for murdering her husband. "I have six children and for their future please release me. I committed a crime and I won't do it again," said another prisoner. Emphasising the efforts put in by the provincial authorities to work with the prisoners, officials of Kunduz prison said that professional training is being done so that the female prisoners can earn a livelihood after their release. Officials told reporters that the prisoners are receiving training in tailoring and carpet weaving. Presently, 825 convicts are imprisoned at the Kunduz prison and among them 47 are female prisoners.

US withdrawal from Afghanistan

Relations between the US and the Karzai government have remained on a downward slide ever since the first round of official talks between the US and the Taliban in Doha, ran aground at the last minute over Afghan officials' objections to what they said amounted to giving legitimacy to the Taliban as a government in exile. According to reports, negotiations between Washington and Kabul on a long-term security deal under which the US was to maintain residual troop presence after the 2014 combat troops withdrawal date also came to an abrupt end as Karzai insisted that in order for the negotiations to move forward the Taliban must be persuaded to meet directly with the Afghan government representatives. If that demand was not unrealistic enough, reports also point out that the long-term security deal talks had already faltered in recent months as Karzai government demanded that the US commit to declaring Pakistan the main obstacle in the fight against militancy in the region. As American officials have been publicly acknowledging, Pakistan has played a key role in persuading the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. Washington will not want to harm a helpful friend on the say-so of others. In any case, the US has to watch its own interests in determining the nature of its relations with the region's countries. It can ill-afford to alienate Pakistan, especially at a time it needs to find an honourable exit from Afghanistan. Frustrated over Karzai's behaviour, American officials are now said to have made it clear to him that President Obama was also considering the "zero option" of withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan after 2014. In fact, that option is said to have moved from being considered as worst-case scenario to a serious option. It could be a mere pressure tactic; it could also mean that the US has gone on to conduct informal negotiations with the Taliban, and is willing to ignore Karzai as long as it gets necessary assurances from them. Karzai personally does not have much of a stake in the future of Afghanistan. His second and last term in office is to end next year. He can get up and leave when the going gets bad. He has amassed enough wealth that will stand him in good stead for the rest of his life. But the Afghan people who have endured nearly thirty-four years of conflict, two wars involving foreign powers and years of internecine fighting in between, deserve better. As for the US' two earlier stated policy objectives of maintaining troop presence in Afghanistan post the end 2014 withdrawal date to pursue al Qaeda remnants and train and equip Afghan security forces, those may well have changed. A Taliban spokesman addressed the US' primary concern when he stated in Doha last month that the "movement is not intending to harm any other parties, and will not allow anybody to use Afghan territory to threaten other countries." Considering that the Taliban have been fighting to oust foreign forces they are unlikely to allow any American troop presence as part of a peace deal. 'Zero Option' policy, however, should not mean the US would walk away like it did at the end of its last Afghan war without clearing the mess the conflict had created, leaving regional warlords and the two main political forces, the Taliban and the erstwhile Northern Alliance, to fight a protracted intra-Afghan war. Its talks with the Taliban must focus on achieving an orderly transition agreement that ensures lasting peace and stability.

Pakistan: Power crisis deepens in month of Ramadan

Power generation in the country has reached upto 14,650 MW, however, complaints of power outages during Sehri, Iftari and Taraveeh timings could not be reduced. In Multan, citizens took to streets against the unannounced load shedding while power outage problems in Lahore could also not be resolved. The protestors are of the view that the government gave them ‘false hopes’. They said that the duration of loadshedding has increased during the holy month of Ramazan. In Karachi, unannounced load shedding was carried out in various areas during the Sehri timings. The areas included Gulistan e Jauhar, North Nazimabad, North Karachi and Surjani Town. Experts of energy affairs said that government’s claims could not reduce the power loadshedding, adding that there is a need to increase electricity generation.

Pakistan's Load Shedding: ‘Govt didn't keep word even in Ramazan’

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) central Punjab president Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo has criticised the government for continuing loadshedding during Sehr, Iftar and taraveeh prayers despite its claim that there will be no outages during these times. In a statement issued here on Friday, Wattoo said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government could not even keep its word during the holy month of Ramazan. The PPP leader said that Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif had confessed that loadshedding could not be overcome even in three years. He said the minister disappointed people, who were already fed up with the new wave of price-hike unleashed by the PML-N government during the last one month. He said the worst had yet to come. Wattoo said implementation of International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) conditions would unleash another spell of inflation when the government would increase the electricity tariff for domestic consumers. He said the government decided at a recent meeting to increase the power tariff for commercial consumers with immediate effect.

India's Razia Sultana gets UN education award on Malala Day

Razia Sultana, a teenager from a village in Uttar Pradesh's Meerut, was awarded the United Nations' Special Envoy for Global Education's Youth Courage Award for Education on Friday. The award is in recognition of her efforts to help liberate 48 children from child labour bondage and motivate them to go to school. On Friday, the world learnt about Razia's struggle and courage as she recounted her tale to youth delegates from across the world in New York.
The day, too, has a special significance — it is observed by the UN as Malala Day to highlight and emulate Pakistani child activist Malala Yousafzai's fight for education. Malala turned 16 on Friday. Razia, named after India's first woman ruler, too, has been fighting an uphill battle at her Nanglakhumba village in Meerut. School education for this class XII student would have remained a distant dream since she had begun working to help her family when she was only five. Most households in Nanglakhumba village, where inhabitants are predominantly Muslims, eke out a living by stitching footballs. Malala, eldest of two sisters and two brothers, too, stitched footballs with rest of her family members to supplement her factory worker father's meagre income. "Education was considered an unnecessary distraction that hurt the family's income," said Sher Khan, a Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) activist from a neighbouring village. In 2005, BBA activists initiated a programme to make the village child-friendly. "We would visit the villages and explain the importance of education and rights of a child," said Rakesh Senger of the BBA. But, they met with huge protests. Parents refused to allow the children to give up football stitching and go to school instead. It was more difficult to convince parents about girls' education. Razia's father, who is now proud of his daughter, had also refused to send her to school on the same plea. Gradually, with dogged determination and explaining the importance of education, some children could be weaned away from labouring away at football stitching. It took Razia two years to break the shackles of child labour. Later, a bal panchayat was formed in the village and Razia was elected its head. She went on to become a leader of the National Children's Parliament. Little Razia began campaigning in the village for children's education and their rights. A flurry of complaints by villagers to her father followed. Villagers complained that Razia was a bad influence on their children. But, the teenager was undeterred. "We were surprised by her indomitable spirit at such a young age," said Khan. Her village had no toilets or water pumps. The school building was in shambles. When Razia was elected a panchayat head, she took up such problems with the village panchayat. They could not ignore her for long. Razia wants to continue studying and fight for children's education. The UN award has lifted her spirits and boosted her confidence.

National Security Policy — The Baloch Perspective

The Baloch Hal
By Sanaullah Baloch
Pakistan’s political-cum-civil-military elite are desperately in search of a ready-made recipe for peace to end chronic politico-religious violence. Since we have a habit of being in utter denial about self-created crises, we always look for foreign remedies and fancy plans. The previous PPP regime introduced an unrealistic 3D formula — development, deterrence and dialogue — to curb violence without understanding the difference between complex conflicts and geographically disconnected crises. However, the new PML-N government has recently announced a theoretically more complex policy to deal with endless violence and the worsening law and order challenges. Based on Chinese and Malaysian models, the five layers of the national security policy, prepared by the National Counter-Terrorism Authority are: to dismantle, to contain, to prevent, to educate and to reintegrate. Economically fragile, politically unstable, ethnically divided and strife with sectarian crisis, the ruling elite need to understand before duplicating these that Pakistan is neither equal to economic giant China nor to economically self-reliant Malaysia. And both countries, set as models in the new policy, have never experienced such ethnic discontent, political crises and extreme violence. The current five-pillar policy looks like mixing oranges and apples. The policy doesn’t differentiate between type of crises and violence and doesn’t have the feel of a serious conflict-resolution initiative. It’s a known fact that crises in Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) need a totally different approach and dealing with unrest in Balochistan requires a unique and bold policy. Moreover, managing the sectarian menace requires both domestic and international efforts. In spite of thousands of killings, loss of property and humanitarian crises both in K-P and Balochistan, the civil-military elite in Islamabad are in total denial about the existence of politico-economic conflicts in Balochistan and governance-related conflict in Fata. For conflict-resolution and crisis management, there are three preconditions: acknowledgment, acceptance and adaptability. Bureaucratically-drafted, the national security policy lacks understanding and discounts the existence of conflicts. It would be of no use in addressing the protracted crises. Regarding Balochistan, the government and its politico-military appendage must demonstrate maturity and acknowledge the conflict’s existence, rather than trying to deny it. The politico-military establishment needs flexibility and adaptability. Adaptability requires openness to ideas that could lead to viable solutions. A firm commitment and resolve, with the flexibility to make concessions, will determine how those solutions will be implemented. A national security policy, which begins with the idea of “dismantling”, cannot be considered a wise or constructive approach to deal with national crises. The policy should guide national decision-making and determine the courses of action to be taken in order to attain the state or condition wherein the national interests, the well-being of people, and peace and security are protected and enhanced. The policy must encourage the political-military leadership to acknowledge past mistakes and the existence of multifaceted conflicts — accept the existence of different stakeholders and adapt new ideas and approaches in the conflict-resolution process. Pakistani policymakers must not confuse, and should not avoid the fact that extremism and violence is an offshoot of our politico-military blunders. If we continue to maintain the administrative status quo in Fata for strategic reasons — consider criminals, mafias and extremists as “strategic assets” and political activists as a national threat in Balochistan — peace will have little chance to grow. Adapting a multilayered conflict- resolution model — Pakistan’s national security policy should focus on four key elements namely: 1) governance; 2) delivery of basic services; 3) economic reconstruction and sustainable development; and 4) security sector reform. (Courtesy: Express Tribune)

Terrorist Osama’s Pakistan

The Baloch Hal
By Vardha Khalil
The U.S. military action in Abbottabad and the eventual killing of Osama bin Laden in the operation not only shocked Pakistan but also compelled public and national circles to raise several question. Two of these questions were most important of all: First, why were the Pakistani authorities unaware of the presence of Bin Laden inside the country? Secondly how the US managed to conduct an attack on the Pakistani soil? In order to ascertain the answers to these critical questions, the Pakistani government formed a commission which recorded statements of 201 persons and finalized an inquiry report. The report contains facts and figures about the Abottabad operation. In the report, the commission has not only highlighted many mistakes at political and military level but also severely criticized Pakistan’s official response to the crisis that damaged country’s reputation at international level and breached public trust in the government and the institutions of national security. Because of its critical nature, the commission expressed concerns over its public disclosure saying that government might keep it secret to bury the truth. Though this concern was well founded the truth could not be hidden as Aljazeera leaked the report earlier this week. According to the report, Bin Laden entered Pakistan through Tora Bora in 2002 and spent some time in South Waziristan and Bajur Agency. Then, he moved to six different places one by one including Swat, Haripur and Abbottabad. He moved with the help of only two of his aides and every time evaded police and other government authorities. During his nine-year presence in Pakistan, he not only built a house but his wife also managed to settle with him in Pakistan after ending her confinement in Iran, his children were also born there. The commission has also pointed out a crucial flaw in Pakistan’s foreign policy. Pakistani government clearly failed to handle the crisis after this operation. The government was confused and ill-informed. It failed to launch a positive response and even it tried to distance itself from this event. The commission has observed that Pakistani government launched an inquiry into the matter on public pressure and not by its own will. This inquiry was initiated reluctantly. The commission says that Pakistani government and its institutions failed at every level of planning, threat assessment and positive response. The report has held the Revenue Department, National Database and Registration Authority, local police, government and military responsible for the presence of Bin Laden in Pakistan for nine years. Report also demands all these institutions to make a public apology for their negligence. The report of Abbottabad commission not only indicates negligence regarding Bin Laden’s presence and US raid but it also portrays a clear picture of the failure in other national matters as well. Corruption and political pressure have damaged Pakistani institutions. These weak institutions failed to locate high value target in Pakistan for nine years. How somebody may hope that they will capture other terrorists who are targeting hundreds of innocent people around Pakistan on daily basis. Aljazeera has also claimed that the page number 157 of this report has been obliterated which contained the statement of former ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] Director General Ahmad Shujah Pasha. This point should also be noted that Pakistani intelligence apparatus has once again played its role in removing key information from the commission report to hide facts regarding national security. The commission’s observation raises some serious questions about the compatibility of the Pakistani government and its mechanism of response. In addition to the many problems haunting Pakistan’s new government, revising policies and tactics could be more challenging. Because this time negligence might prove fatal in a world where such mistakes are no longer tolerated.

Punjab Govt to dump WIC, Mayo Surgical Tower projects?

Wazirabad Institute of Cardiology (WIC) and Mayo Hospital’s Surgical Tower have received a meager allocation of Rs 1 million each in this year’s budget, suggesting the Punjab regime’s intent to ‘dump’ the two crucial projects forever, Pakistan Today has learnt. Both health projects, which cost millions of rupees, were initiated by former Punjab chief minister Pervaiz Elahi but got very little financing during Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s last tenure. WIC was developed as a state of the art health facility for heart patients, costing around Rs 2 billion and accommodating 200 beds. The total approved cost of the Surgical Tower, which was revised in 2012, is Rs 985 million for the building construction and Rs 712 million for equipment procurement according to the project’s PC-1. Its bed capacity was also enhanced from 344 to 521. Last year, after many delays and postponements, the Punjab government, amidst media criticism, finally got around to completing the WIC. It only did so, however, after downgrading the health facility to just 50 beds. MayoHospital’s SurgicalTower, meanwhile, has been at a standstill for years. A senior official from the Punjab Health Department said that the rationale for building the WIC was to ease the over-burdened Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC), besides providing crucial facilities to people who travel long distances to come to Lahore for check ups and treatment. The SurgicalTower was planned to house 16 modern operating theatres, isolation wards, surgical ICUs a Day Care Surgery and more. It would have been an exclusive facility in the city, using costly equipment like CT Scans, MRIs and X-ray machines. The official record reveals that Rs 750 million and Rs 500 million have already been spent on the Surgical Tower and WIC, respectively. “The Punjab government has built a new hospital in Shahdara and is also spending billions of rupees on other health projects, but the surgical tower is at a standstill while the WIC has been downgraded and finally dumped. Politicizing health facilities is detrimental in many respects; now millions have already been spent on both projects and the only reason for dumping them is they were inaugurated by Pervaiz Elahi. A heart by-pass or a surgery here would be for poor people, not politicians, who all go abroad for treatment,” the official added. Both the projects envisaged easing the burden of the two major health facilities in the city, Mayo Hospital and the PIC, which receive thousands of patients in their outpatient and emergency departments every day. Allocating them only Rs 1 million, the source suggested, is tantamount to dumping the two most crucial health projects of the province over political differences. Punjab Health Secretary Hassan Iqbal, on the other hand, said that billions of rupees have been set into blocks for the Health Department’s ADP and funds will be released from these blocks to both projects. “Summaries have already been sent for approval and the government plans to complete both the projects within this year,” he said. - See more at:

Malala Day: Paying tribute to teen icon

The Express Tribune
By Riazul Haq / Maryam Usman
Ideas are bulletproof. This saying reflects Malala’s struggle for girls’ education in a war-ravaged Swat. She took a bullet in the head for campaigning for girls’ education and embodies the dreams of every girl who wants a better life. Journalists and civil society members gathered to observe Malala Day, that coincided with Malala’s 16th birthday at Hill View Hotel on Friday. The participants also cut a birthday cake for Malala. Danish Ambassador Uffe Wolffhechel in his address said, “Malala has set an agenda for discussion on girls’ education as a means to a better future, not only in Pakistan but also the rest of the world.”
Filmmaker and rights activist, Samar Minallah screened a seven-minute version of her documentary, “We are all Malala,” shot in Ghalanai in 2010. Education is our girls’ dream, why is it considered a Western ideology or conspiracy? she asked. “Pakistan is blessed with thousands of Malalas, whom we need to provide a safe country to prosper and fulfill their dreams,” said Minallah, explaining the aim of the documentary. Kishwar Naheed’s poem, “Woh bachiyon se bhee darr gaye” highlights the gist of the documentary.
The Express Tribune Executive Editor Mohammad Ziauddin said, “Malala is an icon. She has shown a way forward that should inspire the whole nation and aid in dispelling cultural taboos.” The event was organised by the South Asian Free Media Association. More funding for girls’ education urged To commemorate Malala Day, a group of thirty students from the capital presented a resolution to State Minister for Education Muhammad Balighur Rehman at his office calling for girls’ right to education and increase budgetary allocation. “Pakistan ranks amongst the lowest in terms of girl’s education enrolment, literacy and budgetary allocation, which necessitates the need for concerted efforts to declare an education emergency,” said Plan International Pakistan Country Director Rashid Javed. The students’ visit was arranged by Plan International, a non-governmental organisation. Out of 2.2 million enrolled students, 42% are girls, according to Pakistan Education Statistics 2010-11.

Malala celebrates 16th birthday with UN address

Malala Yousafzai celebrated her 16th birthday on the world stage at the United Nations, defiantly telling Taliban extremists who tried to end her campaign for girls' education in Pakistan with a bullet that the attack gave her new courage and demanding that world leaders provide free education to all children.
Malala was invited Friday to give her first public speech since she was shot in the head on her way back from school in Pakistan's Swat Valley last October. She addressed nearly 1,000 young leaders from over 100 countries at the U.N.'s first Youth Assembly — and she had a message for them too.
"Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons," Malala urged. "One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first." The U.N. had declared July 12 — her 16th birthday — "Malala Day." But she insisted it was "the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights." The Taliban, which has long opposed educating girls in Pakistan as well as neighboring Afghanistan, said it targeted Malala because she was campaigning for girls to go to school and promoted "Western thinking." In what some observers saw as another sign of defiance, Malala said the white shawl she was wearing belonged to Pakistan's first woman prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in December 2007 when she returned to run in elections.
Malala recalled the Oct. 9 day when she was shot on the left side of her forehead, and her friends were shot as well. She insisted she was just one of thousands of victims of the Taliban. "They thought that the bullets would silence us," she said. "But they failed. And then, out of that silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born." Malala began her speech with a traditional Muslim prayer and later accused terrorists of "misusing the name of Islam and Pashtun society for their own personal benefits." She wore a traditional pink patterned South Asian dress and pants called a shalwar kameez and a matching head scarf.
Malala said she learned to "be peaceful and love everyone" from Indian independence leader Mohandas Gandhi and other global advocates of non-violence; from the compassion of religious figures Mohammad, Jesus Christ and Buddha; from the legacy of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who led Pakistan to independence in 1947. "I'm not against anyone, neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban, or any other terrorist group," she said. "I'm here to speak about the right of education for every child.""I want education for the sons and daughters of all the Taliban and all the terrorists and extremists. I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there is a gun in my hands and he stands in front of me. I would not shoot him," she said. Malala said her main focus was on the education of girls and the rights of women "because they are suffering the most." "We cannot succeed when half of us are held back," she said, urging all communities to be tolerant and reject prejudice based on caste, creed, sect, religion or gender. A report by UNESCO and Save the Children issued just before Malala's speech said 57 million youngsters were out of school in 2011, down from 60 million in 2008. But it said the number living in conflict zones rose to 28.5 million in 2011 and more than half were girls. Malala said extremists kill students, especially girls, and destroy schools because they are afraid of the power of education and the power of women, "and they are afraid of change, afraid of the equality that we will bring into our society." She also decried the fact that wars, child labor and child marriage are preventing boys, and especially girls, from going to school. Malala received several standing ovations and everyone joined in a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday." In U.N. corridors, her speech got rave reviews with some diplomats and observers predicting a future political career. Former British prime minister Gordon Brown, the U.N. special envoy for global education who helped organize the assembly, called Malala "the most courageous girl in the world." She was airlifted to Britain for treatment and returned to school in Birmingham, where her family now lives, in March. He said she was doing exactly what the Taliban didn't want her to do, and announced that 4 million people had signed an online petition calling for education for everyone. One of the main U.N. goals set by world leaders at a summit in 2000 is to ensure that every child in the world gets a primary education by the end of 2015. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged stepped-up efforts to get 57 million youngsters into school in the next 900 days. He said it won't be easy given the first decline in international aid for basic education in a decade and recent attacks on students and schools in Nigeria, Pakistan and elsewhere. "No child should have to die for going to school," Ban said. "Nowhere should teachers fear to teach or children fear to learn. Together, we can change this picture. ... And together let us follow the lead of this brave young girl, Malala. Let us put education first."