Sunday, July 14, 2013

Pakistani Taliban sent hundreds to Syria to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with rebels

A Pakistani branch of the Taliban has sent hundreds of men to Syria to fight alongside rebels in the battle to topple President Assad. The militant organization has reportedly set up camps, aiming to foster ties with al-Qaeda’s central leadership. Taliban commanders told Reuters on Sunday that they decided to join the cause in Syria in order to fight alongside their “Mujahedeen friends.” “When our brothers needed our help, we sent hundreds of fighters along with our Arab friends,” one senior commander said, mentioning that his group would be providing the general public with videos of their “victories” in Syria. One commander told the agency that the help was sent at the request of “Arab friends.” “We have established our own camps in Syria. Some of our people go and then return after spending some time fighting there,” a Pakistani Taliban commander said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Since our Arab brothers have come here for our support, we are bound to help them in their respective countries and that is what we did in Syria,” he added. Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is known for its affiliation with the al Nusra front, recognized as a branch of al-Qaeda. The majority of Pakistani Taliban groups work under the banner of the TTP. They operate in Pakistan's insurgency-plagued areas along the Afghan border, seeking to topple Pakistan’s government and install its own branch of Islam. Taliban factions are motivated to fight by religion in Syria, working under the belief that Sunni Muslims - who are a majority in Syria - are being oppressed by the Shia government. Foreign Sunni fighters now flock to Syria from countries such as Tunisia and Libya, in order to wage a holy war against perceived Shia oppressors. Prominent Pakistani author and Taliban expert Ahmed Rashid told Reuters that sending Taliban fighters would be regarded as an act of loyalty by al-Qaeda. “The Pakistani Taliban has remained a sort surrogate of al-Qaeda. We've got all these foreigners up there in Federally Administered Tribal Areas who are being looked after or trained by the Pakistani Taliban,” said Rashid. He explained that the fighters are like global jihadists, and drew the conclusion that they are aiming to “cement relationships with the Syrian militant groups.”
Risk of heightened extremism
The relationship between Islamists and the Free Syrian Army is already fragile, and thousands of people have died in the year-long armed conflict. Violence erupted again on Thursday after an al-Qaeda linked group assassinated one of the Free Syrian Army’s most senior commanders in Latakia. “Recent credible reports show that there are approximately 29 nationalities of foreign fighters engaged in terrorism activities within Syria’s borders,” Assad told Argentinian media in May. A UN report published earlier this year mentioned the same number, stating that the majority were extreme Salafists. US Secretary of State John Kerry met with foreign ministers from European and Arab nations on Saturday, underlining that military support to rebels would need to increase “in order to have an impact on the ground.” Congress appeared to prevent that plan from taking place on Wednesday. Lawmakers moved to block increased military aid, fearing that weapons would fall into the hands of terrorist groups. US analysts are particularly concerned over the strengthening of the Syrian al-Qaeda-affiliated group al-Nusra Front, also known as Jabhat al-Nusra. European countries have opted not to extend an arms embargo, which means member states now are allowed to arm the Syrian rebels.

President Obama urges 'calm reflection' in wake of Zimmerman trial

In the wake of the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin, President Obama issued a statement Sunday urging the nation to ""respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son."
The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America. I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son. And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin.

ElBaradei sworn in as Egypt's interim VP

Prominent liberal politician Mohamed ElBaradei was sworn in on Sunday as Egypt's vice president for international relations in the interim government, official news agency MENA reported. Leading the main opposition bloc during the rule of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, ElBaradei was nominated last week as prime minister in the transitional period, but his choice was opposed by Islamists. ElBaradei served as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from 1997 to 2009 and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 jointly with the IAEA. Earlier on Sunday, the Egyptian presidency said interim Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi has started consultations with a number of nominees for various ministerial portfolios. It said that former ambassador to Washington Nabil Fahmy has accepted the post of interim foreign minister. Local media said the cabinet line-up will be announced Tuesday.

NAACP asking Obama administration to pursue civil case against Zimmerman

The NAACP is asking the Justice Department to open a civil rights case against George Zimmerman, the Florida neighborhood watch captain acquitted Saturday night by a jury in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous started the drive by posting a petition Sunday morning on the website that is addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder. "The most fundamental of civil rights -- the right to life -- was violated the night George Zimmerman stalked and then took the life of Trayvon Martin," Jealous wrote in the petition. The Justice Department has already been reviewing the handling of the criminal case in which Zimmerman, a Hispanic, fatally shot Martin, a black teen, in February 2012, raising concerns about such issues as racial profiling and equal justice. Jealous told CNN’s “State of the Union on Sunday morning, “There is reason to be concerned that race was a factor in why (Zimmerman) targeted young Trayvon.” He also said he has not spoken directly with Holder but has spoken to his senior people. “We are glad that what they began months back continues, which is a serious reviewing of everything that came out in this case, everything that was known before this case,” Jealous said. “If this moves into a civil phase, they will review all that comes out in that and then they will make a choice about whether or not they will pursue criminal civil rights charges.”

Zimmerman verdict: Civil rights groups express dismay

Civil rights groups in the US have expressed dismay after neighbourhood watchman George Zimmerman was found not guilty of murdering black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida last year. Rights leader Jesse Jackson said he was "stunned" and that the Department of Justice (DoJ) should intervene. Meanwhile Mr Zimmerman's family and lawyers have said they now fear he could face revenge attacks. The case sparked a fierce debate in the US about racial profiling. Prosecutors had argued that Mr Zimmerman opened fired on 26 February 2012 because he assumed that Trayvon Martin, who was African-American and was wearing a hooded sweatshirt as he walked in the rain, was up to no good. But the defence said he shot Trayvon Martin in self defence after the teenager had punched their client, slammed his head into the pavement and reached for Mr Zimmerman's gun.
Defence 'ecstatic'
Mr Zimmerman was facing possible conviction for second-degree murder or manslaughter, but on Saturday he was cleared of all charges by the six-women jury at Seminole County Criminal Justice Center in Sanford, Florida. One of his lawyer's, Mark O'Mara, said the defence team were "ecstatic". "George Zimmerman was never guilty of anything except protecting himself in self defence. I'm glad that the jury saw it that way," he said. Another defence lawyer, Don West, said the prosecution had been "disgraceful". "As happy as I am for George Zimmerman, I'm thrilled that this jury kept this tragedy from becoming a travesty," he said. However, following the verdict, protest marches were staged in US cities including San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington and Atlanta. In Oakland, California, some protesters started small fires and smashed windows. Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson told CNN on Sunday: "I remain stunned at the decision. The Department of Justice must intervene to take this to another level." In a Facebook posting, he said "the American legal system has once again failed justice". But he also appealed for calm, saying anyone seeking to "compound our pain with street justice" would do "damage to the innocent blood and legacy of Trayvon Martin". Right activist Al Sharpton also appealed for calm, but said the verdict was "a slap in the face to the American people". He compared the case to the beating of African-American man Rodney King by police in 1991, which sparked widespread rioting. Campaign group the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has launched a petition demanding that the DoJ open a civil rights case against Mr Zimmerman. Its president, Benjamin Todd Jealous, wrote: "The most fundamental of civil rights - the right to life - was violated the night George Zimmerman stalked and then took the life of Trayvon Martin."
Revenge fears
Daryl Parks, lawyer for the Martin family, told BBC News he hoped the case would be a wake-up call for the US. "Many will realise that if there is a law that would allow you to kill an unarmed teenager, then that's a law that we probably should look at and change," he said. Florida police had angered many by not arresting Mr Zimmerman for six weeks after the shooting, citing the state's controversial "stand your ground" law, which allows a citizen to use lethal force if he or she feels in imminent danger. But Mr Parks said the trial had given the US "a new perspective on black life - when a young black person gets killed, the approach that it takes to investigate, to arrest the person that did it". Mr Zimmerman's brother, Robert, and his lawyers said they were concerned for his safety. Meanwhile Mr Zimmerman's family and representatives have said they are afraid he could fall victim to revenge attacks. His brother, Robert said he had received frequent threats on social media and there was "more reason now than ever to think that people are trying to kill him". "He's going to be looking over his shoulder the rest of his life," he said.

U.S: Anger over Zimmerman verdict

I Am Malala (Official Music Video)

Community In Swat, Pakistan, Proud Of Malala Yousafzai

Egypt upheaval mars hopes of end to economic woes
Egypt's shattered economy was boosted this week by Gulf allies pledging billions of dollars in aid, but analysts say this simply buys time as political turmoil deepens its economic malaise. The millions of ordinary Egyptians angered by record high unemployment, soaring inflation and chronic fuel shortages who took to the streets two weeks ago demanding Mohamed Morsy's resignation blamed him for letting the economy nosedive. Fuel supplies have returned, after panic buying before the military coup on 3 July, and three Gulf monarchies relieved at the toppling of Egypt's Islamist president have pledged $12 billion in assistance. But dire security problems and political instability mean a return of the tourists and foreign investment that Egypt so desperately needs are a distant prospect. And progress remains stalled on negotiations with the International Monetary Fund on a $4.8-billion loan. "Even if they do agree on the loan, I just don't believe that we're going to see a flood of investment," said financial analyst Andrew Cunningham. "The country has been in turmoil since 2011, there's just been a military coup and they're shooting people on the streets. This is hardly an attractive prospect." Gulf pledges of financial assistance are a lifeline for the new administration. Foreign reserves have fallen by almost 60 percent since the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, to $14.9 billion in June -- the equivalent of just three months of imports. Kuwait offered $4 billion in cash, loans and fuel, with Saudi Arabia contributing $5 billion and the United Arab Emirates another $3 billion. But Cunningham warned that, while welcome, the cash injection was not a long-term solution. "We're still talking plasters and bandages. The challenges are enormous and they are structural. Egypt's economy has been badly managed for decades, and it didn't improve under Morsy." Illustrating the severity of the problem, the latest data from Egypt's official statistics agency shows that unemployment jumped after Mubarak's ouster and then rose steadily over the next two years to reach a record 13.2 percent in March. Problems Egypt's new rulers will have to confront if they are to reverse the inexorable decline include corruption, poor education, a bloated public sector, low productivity and unsustainable food and fuel subsidies. "They need to fix the entire system," said Ahmed Galal, head of the Eco Research Forum. "It's going to be difficult to do, but it's doable, with a lot of dedication," he told AFP, adding that stability and appointing a competent government will be crucial if Egypt's economic woes are to be resolved. This week Hazem al-Beblawi, a former finance minister and accomplished economist with long experience of working with international financial institutions, was named prime minister. But his task of forming a national unity government was immediately complicated by Morsy's Muslim Brotherhood rejecting any offer of jobs in the new cabinet. US intelligence firm Stratfor believes the instability goes far beyond political divisions. It said growing poverty and joblessness, "arguably among the root causes of the uprising in 2011," was part of a "swelling trend" that motivated the recent protests. "It is possible that the new government will find a level of stability that the increasingly isolated Muslim Brotherhood leadership was unable to sustain in the face of rising disputes with the former coalition partners and an obstructionist judiciary," it said. But "mounting demographic and economic pressures" mean the country's new leaders will face economic challenges "that become incrementally more difficult with each passing year." Egypt is the Arab world's most populous nation, and has witnessed an astonishing 50 percent rise in its population since 1990. Last year it hit 84 million, "one in four of whom live below the poverty line and only survive thanks to subsidised wheat," according to agricultural expert Sebastien Poncelet. Egypt imports about 10 million tonnes of wheat annually, with its own production supplying less than half of demand, which was 18 million tonnes in 2012. The acute shortage of foreign currency has hampered imports over the past six months, so financial aid from the Gulf will help Cairo cover its cost in the short term. But to be able to supply cheap bread, a key ingredient in maintaining social stability, "the economy must be able to generate sustainable income over the long-term," said Galal.

SHOCKING: Indian Govt Behind Parliament Attack, 26/11!
In what is certain to escalate the already vicious fight between the CBI and the IB over the IshratJahan "fake encounter case", a former home ministry officer has alleged that a member of the CBI-SIT team had accused incumbent governments of "orchestrating" the terror attack on Parliament and the 26/11 carnage in Mumbai. R V S Mani, who as home ministry under-secretary signed the affidavits submitted in court in the alleged encounter case, has said that Satish Verma, until recently a part of the CBI-SIT probe team, told him that both the terror attacks were set up "with the objective of strengthening the counter-terror legislation (sic)". Mani has said that Verma "...narrated that the 13.12. 2001(attack on Parliament) was followed by Pota (Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act) and 26/11 2008 (terrorists' siege of Mumbai) was followed by amendment to the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act)." The official has alleged Verma levelled the damaging charge while debunking IB's inputs labelling the three killed with Ishrat in the June 2004 encounter as Lashkar terrorists. Contacted by TOI, Verma refused to comment. "I don't know what the complaint is, made when and to whom. Nor am I interested in knowing. I cannot speak to the media on such matters. Ask the CBI," said the Gujarat cadre IPS officer who after being relieved from the SIT is working as principal of the Junagadh Police Training College. Mani, currently posted as deputy land and development officer in the urban development ministry, has written to his seniors that he retorted to Verma's comments telling the IPS officer that he was articulating the views of Pakistani intelligence agency ISI. According to him, the charge was levelled by Verma in Gandhinagar on June 22 while questioning Mani about the two home ministry affidavits in the alleged encounter case. In his letter to the joint secretary in the urban development ministry, Mani has accused Verma of "coercing" him into signing a statement that is at odds with facts as he knew them. He said Verma wanted him to sign a statement saying that the home ministry's first affidavit in the Ishrat case was drafted by two IB officers. "Knowing fully well that this would tantamount to falsely indicting of (sic) my seniors at the extant time, I declined to sign any statement." Giving the context in which Verma allegedly levelled the serious charge against the government, Mani said the IPS officer, while questioning him, had raised doubts about the genuineness of IB's counter-terror intelligence. He disputed the veracity of the input on the antecedents of the three killed in June 2004 on the outskirts of Ahmedabad with Ishrat in the alleged encounter which has since become a polarizing issue while fuelling Congress's fight with Gujarat CM Narendra Modi. Gujarat Police has justified the encounter citing the IB report that Pakistani nationals Zeeshan Zohar, Amzad Ali Rana and Javed Sheikh were part of a Lashkar module which had reached Gujarat to target Modi and carry out terrorist attacks. In its first affidavit, filed in August 2009, the home ministry had cited IB inputs that those killed with Ishrat in the alleged encounter were part of a Lashkar sleeper cell, and had objected to a CBI probe into the "encounter". In its second affidavit, filed in September 2009, the home ministry, irked by the Gujarat government treating the first affidavit as justification of the encounter, said the IB input did not constitute conclusive proof of the terrorist antecedents of those killed. It supported the demand for a CBI probe. Mani said Verma doubted the input saying MHA's first affidavit was actually drafted by IB officer Rajinder Kumar, who looked after IB's operations in Gujarat at the time of Ishrat "encounter" and now runs the serious risk of being chargesheeted by the CBI for hatching the conspiracy behind the alleged extra-judicial killings. Mani said Verma stuck to his guns even after being told that the home ministry did not need outside help. The former home ministry official said Verma insisted that the "input" was prepared after the encounter.

Pak ambassador to UN hosts a dinner in honour of Malala
Pakistan ambassador to U.N. Masood Khan hosted a dinner in honour of Malala Yousufzai at his residence on Saturday night, Geo News reported.
Former British prime minister, Gordon Brown, senior officials of the U.N., ambassadors and delegations from other countries also attended this grand dinner reception. The diplomats making a queue shook hands with Malala and paid tributes, while many got themselves photographed with the celebrated Malala Yousuzai.

Afghanistan's women wary as Taliban creeps back into political life
As American and NATO forces prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of next year, some fear the Afghan government's efforts to bring the Taliban into the political fold may mean a step back in time for the country's women. After the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom toppled the militant Taliban regime 12 years ago, girls' schools reopened, burqas were no longer compulsory and many women went back to work. So when the Afghan government last week appointed a former Taliban official as a commissioner on the newly established independent human rights commission, many were shocked. Abdul Rahman Hotak, nominated for the post by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, was the editor of Taliban newspaper "Afghan Sunrise" and worked for the group's education directorate during its rule – an alarming choice, some say, for someone tasked with championing the rights of women who were denied so many freedoms under the Taliban.Hotak also opposes Karzai's proposed Elimination of Violence Against Women law (EVAW), which would make domestic and public violation against women punishable by law. Criticized for being un-Islamic, it has been languishing in Afghanistan's parliament since 2009. "I want to help the women… I want to try to tell people that they are our mothers, our sisters, our daughters," Hotak told NBC News, claiming that he actually championed women's rights during the Taliban regime and asked them to allow girls to go to school. He said his ideas and politics were not in line with the Taliban's and that he was compelled to work for them because there was "no other option when there is a government like that." As for opposing EVAW, he said he believes that if most politicians are not in agreement about a piece of legislation then it must mean it is flawed. Nonetheless, his appointment does not sit well with some. "We need the human rights commissioner to be independent and we ask the president to rethink his choice … It is not a good choice for an ex-Taliban to be in this role," said Shukria Barakzai, a member of parliament who hopes to run for president in next year's election. Barakzai, known as "the woman feared by both NATO and the Taliban" for her outspoken views, has been fighting for women's rights for years. She believes promoting people like Hotak gives the Taliban and other conservative groups a "green light" to strike political deals that would hold women back further – deals designed to make peace more attractive to Taliban leaders. "They will not join forces but they will benefit from each other," she said. "All these years it is not only the Taliban who have been problematic for women's rights but equally the government, members of parliament and the legislative committee," Barakzai said. Just this past May, conservatives in parliament surreptitiously removed a law which stipulated there should be at least 25 percent female representation in the upper house. Female politicians fought to have the law reinstated when they discovered the move. A spokesman at the presidential palace would not comment but said the reinstatement was waiting to be approved by the upper house and the president. Additionally, in 2012 Karzai endorsed a "code of conduct" law that protects men from being prosecuted for rape within a marriage, and allows husbands to beat their wives under certain circumstances."The government and the Taliban have a shared view when it comes to women," Barakzai said. However, after facing years of hurdles, Barakzai now welcomes the Taliban in Afghan politics. "I just don't want to see any more violence – that is why I would rather have the Taliban in parliament. It is the only way to end the killing." She believes if the Taliban were part of the government, they would be forced to follow the law and adopt democracy. They would have to put an end to their violent principles, she says. "The only difference between the Taliban then and the Taliban now is that they no longer wear turbans, but are dressed in smart suits. However the principles are the same as before," she said. "But we will civilize them." For some, like student Halima Rashidi, it doesn't matter who is in charge – the outcome is all that matters. "I don't think that only people who are in the government right now can change the future of women. A Taliban or mujahedeen can also do that, too. It is not important for me who is running the show but I need protection and my rights, peace and security and a better future."

Malala does not want to be remembered as the Taliban girl

Pakistan teenager Malala Yousafzai said Saturday that she does not want to be known as the girl the Taliban tried to kill but as “the girl who struggled for her rights.”
A day after making a widely hailed speech at the United Nations, the 16-year-old said she would devote her life for the education of girls. The UN appearance was Malala's first public speaking engagement since a Taliban gunman shot her in the head last October in a bid to end her campaign to get girls into schools. “The attack on October 9, 2012 was just a part of my life,” Malala said at a reception at the Pakistani UN mission in New York. “I want to work hard, I want to sacrifice my whole life for the education of girls. “And to be true, I want to say that I don't want to be the girl who was shot by the Taliban, I want to be the girl who struggled for her rights.” The teenager, considered a strong candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, said she was determined to keep her her struggle “for a right to live in peace, for a right to go to school.” But she reaffirmed her message that the Taliban and other extremists “do not understand the importance of education.” The Taliban were among “people who think that when a woman goes to school she will be empowered, and they are afraid of it,” she emphasized. “They are still targeting schools, they are still killing innocent children,” she said, referring to recent attacks both in her native Pakistan and Nigeria. “If we work together, we will soon see that there will be many schools created in Pakistan and Afghanistan and poor countries. And we will see that every woman and every girl will have the same rights as men have,” she said. “We do want equality, we are not like men,” she joked. Malala is expected to return to New York for a summit on education on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly of world leaders in late September. “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,” said Gordon Brown, the former British prime minister and now UN special envoy on global education. Getting all children into primary school by 2015 was one of the Millennium Development Goals agreed at a world summit in 2000. Malala was given several standing ovations for her speech Friday when she said she would not be silenced by the Taliban. She declared: “Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.”

Polio case detected in Peshawar

A new polio case has been confirmed in Peshawar by the National Institute of Health, bringing total number of cases to five in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 21 in the country in 2013. One-year-old Uzair Mohammad, son of Dost Muhammad, a resident of Ijazabad-1, Gulbahar Number 4 in Shaheen Muslim Town-1, Peshawar, who didn’t receive any dose of the oral polio vaccine, belonged to an area where water samples had been tested positive for polio during the past two years, relevant officials said. They said that they were planning a rapid response immunisation campaign within fortnight to prevent outbreak of diseases in Peshawar, which had been declared a polio reservoir by World Health Organisation. Children in South Asian countries, which had long been declared polio-free, risked re-infection owing to circulation of the virus in Peshawar, they added. The officials said that they had recently formed a technical communication committee with the task to scale up public awareness about significance of the vaccines so that people could demand it for safety of their children. The committee will make interventions under the supervision of district administration to ensure that the children, who were missed owing to inaccessibility by health workers or refusals against the vaccine by their parents, can be administered the drops. They said that polio was the only childhood disease that could be eradicated through vaccination forever because of which the government was making hectic efforts to ensure that every child was administered OPV in every campaign till he or she attained age of five years. “Vaccination is the only option for polio eradication, therefore, we have planned to convey the message to the masses to protect the future of their children,” they said.

Peshawar: No respite: CM censures centre over power outages during Ramazan

The Express Tribune
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Chief Minister Pervez Khattak on Saturday censured the federal government over unscheduled power outages during Ramazan. The government had earlier instructed no load-shedding take place during Sehri, Iftar and Taraweeh timings in Ramazan. However, power outages still remain the norm in the capital city and the rest of the province. Speaking to party workers and office bearers in Nowshera, Khattak demanded the Federal Ministry for Water and Power to provide K-P its full share of electricity. “The federal government is not giving us power according to our quota. K-P’s requirement is 2,700 megawatts (MW) per day. However, it only receives 1,700 MW. “Unannounced outages occur because of forced load-shedding by the Regional Control Centre in Islamabad,” he maintained. Khattak further demanded prompt steps be taken to address the dearth of grid stations in K-P and to repair the existing system of power lines, otherwise he himself would resort to protest demonstrations alongside the people. “The people are at immense unease with load-shedding; I myself have received a lot of complaints,” he said. Ihsanullah, a resident of Kohat Road, said: “We face outages every day, Sehri time is no exception.” Mazhar Iqbal, a resident of Landi Arbab, said he was hopeful they would get some respite in Ramazan, but they did not. Peshawar Electric Supply Company (Pesco) spokesperson Shaukat Afzal told The Express Tribune the company was trying to adhere to the government’s directives. However, they were faced by two major hurdles in doing so, he claimed. “The Sheikh Muhammadi Grid Station which was recently destroyed by militants is still under construction, which is why there is a shortage of power supply to Peshawar and adjacent areas,” said Afzal. “The other reason for outages is the fact that power distribution system in the remote areas is outdated and not capable of bearing the complete load.” Afzal maintained Pesco was striving to provide uninterrupted power supply during Sehri, Iftar and Taraweeh and requested customers to avoid using extra power in these timings.
Enraged locals blocked the main DI Khan-Multan Road in Tariqabad for two hours on Saturday to protest against load-shedding. Protesters also chanted slogans against the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) and the provincial and federal governments. Despite the government’s claims, power cuts during Iftar, Sehri and Taraweeh continue in the district where the average temperature remains over 40 degrees Celsius. Along with load-shedding, low voltage and tripping have also irked the locals, who find no relief during the sweltering heat in Ramazan. Meanwhile, another protest was staged in front of Town Hall, DI Khan, resulting in traffic jams on Circular Road. Residents of Nawab and Mandahra villages claimed the duration of outages has reached up to 18 hours a day in their areas. Aslam Khan Gandapur, in-charge at the only grid station in DI Khan, said there is only one station in the city so they have no other option but to cut power during those timings. SDO Zafar Khan, however, was more optimistic. Zafar said if the University Grid Station becomes operational, load-shedding will reduce greatly. He added the 220KV grid station was under construction with funding from Japan, but the funds were transferred to other areas and its construction halted. “Setting up of this 220KV grid station can end load-shedding in DI Khan forever.”
Double edged sword
Along with prolonged power cuts, the people of Swat are also suffering from gas load-shedding during Sehri and Iftar timings. “At exactly 2am, the gas supply is cut off and it is restored in the morning. That is the time we have to cook Sehri; without gas it’s impossible to cook,” said Minhajuddin, a resident of Saidu, adding even electricity is out at that time, compounding problems for those intending to fast. Minhajuddin said he had to buy readymade meals for Sehri from the market as a result. “I was unable to cook food for Sehri at midnight and my family had to go out and fetch food from the market,” complained a woman from Khona Cham. “During sehri, when the electricity went out, we would run our generators on gas. But now even gas is not available at that time and we are forced to eat in darkness,” said Waseem Khan, a resident of Afsarabad.

Pakistan: Power outages during Sehri continue in various cities

Various areas of Karachi, Lahore, Mardan, Multan and Swat among several cities once again experienced unannounced loadshedding during Sehri time, Geo news reported. The authorities had claimed that the power load shedding would not be carried out in Sehri, Iftari and Taraveeh timings, however, Lahore city is facing power outages during Sehri and Iftar timings. Residents of Muslim Town area of Lahore also complaint about gas outage in the area. Meanwhile, various areas of Mardan, Muzaffarabad, Multan, Swat and Dera Ismail Khan also face electricity load shedding during Sehri time.

Three Christian women paraded naked in Pakistan, court orders probe
Over a month after a Muslim landlord allegedly paraded three Christian women naked in Pakistan's Punjab province, a court here has finally taken notice of the matter and directed a judge to investigate the incident. The Lahore high court yesterday ordered the district and sessions judge, Kasur, to probe the matter and submit a report within two weeks. The three Christian women were allegedly brutally beaten and then paraded naked by armed men of Muhammad Munir, a local landlord said to be having the backing of the ruling PML-N party, in Pattoki area of Kasur district, some 50 kilometres from here. The incident took place in the first week of last month. The matter came to light a few days after the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) issued a news release to the media. According to the victim family's head Sadiq Masih, the male members of his family had gone out on their jobs when the attackers led by Munir entered his house. Munir demanded Masih to produce his sons who earlier had a brawl with him over a cattle issue. Failing to find them there, the attackers took the wives of Masih's three sons with them. Munir and his armed men first disrobed the women and then forcibly paraded them naked in the streets. As the women screamed and shouted for help, some elderly people of the village came out to their rescue. They put their turbans on the feet of the attackers, pleading them to leave the women. After this, the attackers let the women go but warned the villagers and the victim family against reporting the matter to the police.

PAKISTAN: Ahmadis killed and gravely wounded in attacks

The persecution of the Ahmadis, a minority sect, by police and fundamentalist Muslim groups is continuing unabated. In the month of June, two persons from the Ahmadiyya sect were gunned downed by 'unknown killers' in Karachi and Lahore. Another Ahmadi was shot and seriously injured. In the city of Sialkot, Punjab province, the Ahmadis were stopped from offering Friday prayers and police asked them to produce a No Objection Certificate (no such thing exists) for offering prayers. When Ahmadis went to a senior police official for help, he instead instructed Ahmadis not to observe their Friday prayers until he had spoken to the Mullahs, the Muslim fundamentalists. The authorities do not allow Ahmadis to build a place for worship, nor do they allow them to pray at home. This is the freedom to worship – Punjab style. The Ahmadis are not allowed to call their places of prayer a mosque and if holy verses of the Quran are written on their mosques the police and the Mullahs (fundamentalists) desecrate and erase them. If any person erases such holy words he/she is accused of blasphemy by fundamentalists but, in relation to religious minorities, the Muslim fundamentalists and law enforcement agencies are allowed to erase them. This practice against the Ahmadiyya sect has been continuous over the past six months. The Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya Pakistan, the organization of Ahmadis, has also detailed the persecution of Ahmadis that has occurred during the last six months. AHRC-STM-129-2013-1.jpgA young Ahmadi shot dead: Unknown assailants killed Mr. Jawad Kareem, an Ahmadi, at his home because of his faith. Kareem, a resident of Green Town, was coming downstairs to go to meet his wife at her clinic, when unknown assailants entered his house and shot him. The bullet hit him in the chest. He was rushed to the hospital but did not survive. He had no personal vendettas against him from anyone. However, he was an active Ahmadi and had been receiving threats for some time. On hearing the noise from the attack, his elder brother, who lives on the ground floor, came out. The assailants fired a few shots in the air, and told him, "Next, it is your turn." He is survived by his widow, three small children and brother. His youngest child is only five months old. His mother died of grief the day after Kareem was killed. AHRC-STM-129-2013-2.jpgProminent Ahmadi murdered in Karachi for his faith: Mr. Hamid Sami, 48, a chartered accountant, was shot dead in the afternoon on a busy road on June 11 2013. He left his office in Al-Hayat Chambers, M.A. Jinnah Rd., at 6:30 p.m. by car to go home. A friend and a business colleague accompanied him in the car. On the way, some unidentified men on motorcycles approached his car and opened fire. At least 6 bullets hit him on the face, hand and body, killing him on the spot. He left behind a widow, two daughters and a son. Ahmadi gravely wounded in assault: On June 11 2013, Mr. Naveed Ahmad, son of Rasheed Ahmad, was shot by unknown assailants at 1:15 p.m. in his shop in Jhelum, Punjab, by three unknown men, who came to his shop on a motorbike. He was seriously injured and rushed to the hospital. One of the assailants had come to Ahmad and asked for water. Ahmad provided him a glass of water. The stranger said, "It's very hot". Ahmad offered to let him come inside the shop to cool down a bit under the fan. The stranger came inside and so did two other people. The first one pointed a pistol at Ahmad. Ahmad resisted but the assailant managed to pull the trigger. The bullet hit him under his left eye and injured his jaw. Another of the men also fired at Ahmad, shooting him under his ribs and injuring a portion of his liver. The assailants fled thereafter. Ahmad was rushed to the hospital. After first-aid, he was shifted to PIMS hospital, Rawalpindi. Several bags of blood were needed to keep him alive. Eventually he became stable and is now out of danger. Mr. Naveed Ahmad is the elder brother of Mr. Laiq Ahmad, the head of the local Ahmadiyya youth organisation. No Objection Certificate (NOC, a fictional document) required before allowing prayers: On May 31, in Pasroor, Sialkot district, Punjab, Ahmadis offered their congregational Friday prayers at the residence of the local missionary, as they do not have their own mosque. A police inspector arrived there while Ahmadis were offering their Friday prayers. He told the Ahmadis not to offer their prayers there. The Ahmadis explained their position to him. At this, the inspector demanded an NOC (though no such thing exists) for offering Friday prayers there. When he was told that there is no need for an NOC, the inspector said, "They are offering prayers in the mosques and you are offering it in a house, so you need permission. I need to enforce this in view of the law and order situation." Ahmadis then went to a senior police official for help, but he told the Ahmadis not to say their Friday prayers until he had spoken to the Mullahs. The authorities do not allow Ahmadis to build a place for worship and also do not allow them to pray at home. This is the freedom to worship – Punjab style. The Punjab is ruled by the Mian Brothers, who now complain about terrorism.
Weekly 'Lahore' office was ransacked:
A religious fundamentalist, Muhammad Yaqub, filed an application with the police to register a case under the blasphemy law against the Ahmadi editor and publisher of the weekly 'Lahore' paper, along with two other persons, for the production and distribution of 'objectionable' material. He also approached a local judge to ask him to order the police to register the case. The above move was reinforced by a vigil by the Khatme Nabuwwat activists against the office of the weekly publication. In the face of this threat, the editor, Yasser Zeervi, had to stop going to his office, and the publication of the weekly paper came to a stop. On June 13 2013, at around midnight, a group of policemen, accompanied by 3 Mullahs, came to the Lahore office, broke the locks, went inside and collected some books and publications. The presence of the Mullahs with the police party is intriguing, and raises serious questions. It is now known that Mr. Hamid Hussain, an Additional Sessions Judge, ordered the police to register a case under the Ahmadi-specific clause PPC 298C. The case is registered in FIR 282/2013 in the Mazang Police Station, Lahore. Punjab police desecrate another Ahmadiyya mosque: On June 26, two policemen and one man in civvies came to the main Ahmadiyya mosque in Shaikhupura, Punjab, and told the management that a Mulim fundamentalist, Maulvi Manzoor Vattoo, had filed an application against the Kalima (Islamic creed) written outside the Ahmadiyya mosque and demanded its removal. The management told the visitors that it was not Ahmadiyya practice to remove the Kalima and they also would not allow a private party to do so. Thereafter, four officials from the CID (Criminal Investigation Department) visited the site in the evening and repeated the mullah's demand. They were given the same reply. Then, at around 10:30 p.m., police officers arrived in two vans led by a District Superintendant of Police (DSP). An inspector and four constables came to the mosque gate, climbed a ladder and defaced the Kalima, as demanded by the cleric. Authorities target yet another Ahmadiyya mosque: On June 14, the police came to Chak 107 RB Sharqi village and forbade local Ahmadis to proceed with the construction of their mosque. The mosque was being built inside an Ahmadi's house and was near completion. The president of the local Ahmadiyya community, Mr. Munawwar Ahmad, was called to the police station. He went there along with a few Ahmadis. The DSP and the SHO were present at the police station. They pressurized Ahmadis and obtained an undertaking from them that they would demolish the mosque by June 16. Ahmadis are trying to resolve this matter peacefully. It is noteworthy that the authorities do not allow Ahmadis to construct a place of worship. They order them to demolish mosques that are being constructed, help miscreants to attack locations where Ahmadis assemble for worship and arrest Ahmadis en masse for alleged violation of laws. This is the unfortunate reality of freedom of worship in Pakistan – for Ahmadis.
Ahmadis behind bars:
The police raided the workshop of a book-binder, Syed Altaf Hussain, and arrested him, his son and his workers on February 22 2013. The charge: doing the book-binding of some Ahmadiyya publications. Syed Altaf Hussain is not an Ahmadi. Two days later, the police released four of the detainees but kept Syed Hussain in detention at Old Anarkali police station. Mr. Asmatullah, an Ahmadi, who was also implicated in the Black Arrow case, had been granted bail in that case but was not released because he was also mentioned in this. Syed Hussain (non-Ahmadi) and Asmatullah (an Ahmadi) are still behind bars. The court heard their pleas for bail but rejected them. Mr. Asmatullah has been detained since early January 2013. Editor and printer of the daily newspaper Al-Fazl and four others incarcerated: On April 10, 2013, the police registered a case against the editor, Mr. Abdul Sami Khan, and the printer, Mr. Tahir Mehdi Imtiaz Ahmad, of the daily Al-Fazl, as well as four others, under the Anti-Terrorism Act and Ordinance XX (which is anti-Ahmadi). The latter four accused are Mr. Khalid Ashfaq, Mr. Tahir Ahmad, Mr. Faisal Ahmad and Mr. Azhar Zareef, and they were arrested in Lahore by the Islampura police. On May 7 2013, the judge granted bail to two of them, Mr. Azhar Zareef and Mr. Faisal Ahmad, and denied bail to the other two, Mr. Khalid Ashfaq and Mr. Tahir Ahmad. They remain behind bars. Lahore High Court heard their pleas for bail on June 6 2013 and rejected them. Hate is promoted and venom is spit against Ahmadis in different religious conferences, which are held in the sacred name of Khatme Nabuwwat. In such conferences, ministers also participate in the hate campaign. The audience are provoked against Ahmadis and instigated to attack them. Anti-Ahmadiyya stickers and provocative banners are displayed in public places. As part of the hate campaign against Ahmadis, citizens are provoked to kill them through the publication of decrees of Wajibul Qatl ('must be killed'). The dissemination of anti-Ahmadiyya hate literature is constantly on the rise. The government can easily stop this but they are consciously ignoring it so that a religious fanaticism can be promoted. Since the promulgation of the anti-Ahmadi Ordinance XX of 1984, 231 Ahmadis have been murdered because of their faith. 51 of these casualties were in Sindh, including 21 in Karachi. Most of the victims in Karachi were well-known professionals in their fields. Not a single killer of Ahmadis has ever been arrested, which shows that Pakistani authorities are colluding with the killers.

Malala, the inspiration

EDITORIAL : Daily Times
A lot has happened since the real daughter of Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai, was shot in the head on October 9, 2012 in a Taliban assassination attempt. Her crime was nothing more than going to school and vocally propagating for female education in the troubled area of Mingora, Swat, where the Taliban have been defying the writ of the state and making the citizens’ lives miserable. Fighting for her life, she not only recovered with the aid of doctors at home and in the UK where she currently resides, she has become a global ambassador for peace, education rights and fighting against extremist ideology. Now, on the day of her 16th birthday on Friday, July 12, this year, the brave young girl did what few can ever dream of: she spoke of her ordeal, mission to campaign for education rights and her hopes and passions on the world’s stage at the United Nations Youth Assembly where prominent world leaders and over 1,000 students from all over the globe sat in awe and listened to the true voice of the Pakistani people. Bringing tears to the eyes of all those in attendance and the many millions who watched her on their television screens at home, Malala thanked everyone who had supported her and aided in her recovery. She spoke of equality of every man, woman and child before God and how education was not just a right but a duty for everyone, irrespective of their beliefs. Even though the UN commemorated Friday as Malala Day, the young girl adamantly declared that it was “not my day” but a day for every woman and girl struggling for their rights. Little Malala looked the participants in the eye and confidently told them that every person on earth deserved a chance but that could never happen with half the population — girls — being held back. Her charm and youthful idealism resonated amongst everyone at the UN that day when she told them to stop wars, which prevent women and children from educating themselves and living their lives to their full potential, making them domestic slaves and bonded labour. However, what really stood out was Malala’s compassion and faith in the human spirit. She told us that she held no hard feelings against the Taliban, even the one who tried to take her life, and that she wished for the children of the Taliban — the extremists who wanted to see her dead — to be educated and enlightened too. Truly, Malala has no bitterness in her heart and no agenda for vengeance against the Taliban. Her genuinely forgiving spirit and the defiance with which she stared death in the eye has made her a beacon of hope for many, particularly the young girls in not just Pakistan but the world also, who have been denied access to their fundamental right to education and progress. The fight is far from over though for both Malala and the world, particularly in countries where militants have their stranglehold over the people. Pakistan did celebrate World Malala Day in small pockets where girls in troubled areas demanded education for all, but we still have a long way to go. The UN is just a stepping stone for the young ambassador and her struggle to emancipate the young women in her home country will need the support and help of the government and policy makers who still see fit to hold negotiations with the Taliban. We must all be Malalas, striving to better the lot of the people and bring Pakistan alongside the world in matters of progress and enlightenment.

Pakistan: Sharing pain of the people in need

Breaking the tradition of split on observance of the Holy Ramadan, the entire nation went to fasting on the same day. Indeed it is a good omen that the blessed month of Ramadan has forged the people to show rare consensus on the religious festivity. It is a month of blessings, reflection, prayer and fasting for Muslims wherein Muslims gain a better understanding of and appreciation for the sufferings of impoverished and hungry people and serves to remind Muslims of the importance of charity, and their obligation to be charitable. Apart from the individual acts of generous charities, every government announces a Ramadan relief package every year to share the economic sufferings of the poor masses but this time around even on the eve of Ramadan, the federal government failed to offer the Ramadan Relief Package. The prices of essential eatables like flour, rice, wheat, lentils and oil, sugar and dates at utility stores have been reduced for general consumers. Urban consumers, that mostly are relatively better paid, do take benefit from the government’s offer but the under-paid people living in far-flung rural areas, who deserve than others, miss the benefit due to lack of access to the facility. Looking after the destitute and the poor and providing sustainable assistance in improving their living conditions is what Almighty Allah has stressed upon the most and the month of Ramadan provides the best window to act upon the teachings of God. The much-ignored residents of the war-torn FATA region deserve more than any body else—thousands of them are forced to live under the open sky sans sufficient food and health-cover. Moreover, those living in far-off hilly areas, hardly having any employment opportunities, had to pay double of the price of a flour bag than what a family pays in Lahore or Peshawar. The poor are finding it hard to afford a meal every day during Ramadan, while those who had unleashed a reign of terror and suppression are surviving on sumptuous dasterkhans. In the hour of trial and sufferings, no efforts are afoot to provide relief to the needy. The federal and provincial governments are just making publicity stunts, ignoring the pain, the agony and the starvation that the war on terror has wreaked on the people of the most under-developed areas of Pakistan. Even the members of the civil society have turned their backs on them. Secondly, the hoarding of the essential goods has created an artificial shortage that has pushed the prices of the eatable up manifold hence traders are recklessly fleecing the public with both hands. The government control over the price fixation is nonexistent. To reinstate the writ of the law on the market mechanism, the provincial governments should take strict measures to stem undue profiteering during Ramadan.

615 schools closed in Balochistan

Over 600 schools set up in Balochistan under a presidential ordinance have been closed and services of 684 teachers terminated. Under the ordinance, a National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) was established in 2002 which set up 615 schools and hired 684 teachers in Balochistan to educate over 4,600 students in those schools. The NCHD extended cooperation to the provincial education department for enrolment of students and quality education and 684 feeder teachers hired under the programme were discharging their duties on a meagre salary of Rs1,500 per month. However, after the passage of the 18th Amendment, the federal government transferred the NCHD programme to provinces as part of giving autonomy to them. Under the NCHD, teachers were posted and deployed in those government-run schools where no teacher was available or only a single teacher performed his/her job. The NCHD scheme showed better results and brought down the dropout rate during 2003-06 and more children were enrolled in the schools. During the PPP-led coalition government of Balochistan, a summary was sent to the chief secretary, finance secretary and education department, asking them to evolve a policy to regularise the service of the teachers hired by the NCHD. However, no action was taken on the summary and the services of these teachers were terminated.