Monday, July 29, 2013

U.S: Panel backs lung cancer screening for some smokers

For the first time, government advisers are recommending screening for lung cancer, saying certain current and former heavy smokers should get annual scans to cut their chances of dying of the disease. If it becomes final as expected, the advice by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force would clear the way for insurers to cover CT scans, a type of X-ray, for those at greatest risk.
That would be people ages 55 through 79 who smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years or the equivalent, such as two packs a day for 15 years. Whether screening would help younger or lighter smokers isn't known, so scans are not advised for them. They also aren't for people who quit at least 15 years ago, or people too sick or frail to undergo cancer treatment. "The evidence shows we can prevent a substantial number of lung cancer deaths by screening" — about 20,000 of the 160,000 that occur each year in the United States, said Dr. Michael LeFevre, a task force leader and family physician at the University of Missouri. Public comments will be taken until Aug. 26, then the panel will give its final advice. Reports on screening were published Monday in Annals of Internal Medicine. The recommendation is a big deal for many reasons. The task force, an independent group of doctors appointed by the government, in recent years has urged less frequent screening for breast and cervical cancers, and no screening for prostate cancer, saying PSA blood tests do men more harm than good. There are no good ways to screen for ovarian cancer or other less common types. But lung cancer is the top cancer killer worldwide. Nearly 90 percent of people who get it die from it, usually because it's found too late for treatment to succeed. About 85 percent of lung cancers in the U.S. are attributable to smoking, and about 37 percent of U.S. adults are current or former smokers. The task force estimates that 10 million Americans would fit the smoking and age criteria for screening. The American Cancer Society used to recommend screening with ordinary chest X-rays but withdrew that advice in 1980 after studies showed they weren't saving lives. Since then, CT scans have come into wider use, and the society and other groups have endorsed their limited use for screening certain heavy smokers. The scans cost $100 to as much as $400 and are not usually covered by Medicare or private insurers now. But under the new health care law, cancer screenings recommended by the task force are to be covered with no copays. "It's generally going to be covered by all health plans" if the advice gets final task force approval, said Susan Pisano of the industry trade group America's Health Insurance Plans. She said her group may develop a response during the public comment period but has had "high regard" for the task force in the past "because they rely so heavily on the evidence" in crafting their recommendations. The task force considered lung cancer screening in 2004 but said there was too little evidence to weigh risks and benefits. Since then, a major study found that screening the age group covered in the task force's recommendation could cut the chances of dying from lung cancer by up to 20 percent and from any cause by nearly 7 percent. Screening "is absolutely not for everybody," not even all smokers, LeFevre stressed. That includes President Barack Obama, who said a couple years ago that he had quit smoking. Obama is too young (he will turn 52 in a few days) and too light a smoker (he reportedly smoked less than a pack a day), to be in the high-risk group advised to get screening. The potential benefits of screening may not outweigh its possible harms for people not at high risk of developing lung cancer. A suspicious finding on a scan often leads to biopsies and other medical tests that have costs and complications of their own. The radiation from scans to look for cancer can raise the risk of developing the disease. "These scans uncover things, often things that are not important. But you don't figure out that for a while," and only after entering "the medical vortex" of follow-up tests, said Dr. Peter Bach, a cancer screening expert at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. The best way to prevent lung cancer is to quit smoking or never start, and screening doesn't make smoking safer, doctors stress. "That's everyone's public health concern: People will see this as a pass to continue smoking," Bach said of screening. "I don't think it's likely," because people know how harmful smoking is, he said.

Obama, Hillary Clinton sit down to lunch

President Obama honors San Francisco Giants, counts on a comeback

President Obama honored the San Francisco Giants’ 2012 World Series championship on Monday, saying the team is “making this a habit.” The Giants won their second world championship in three years in October, beating the Detroit Tigers 4-3 in the final game after nearly being knocked out of the playoffs several times. “It’s no wonder that your own fans still refer to Giants baseball as torture,” Obama joked. In 2010, the Giants beat the Texas Rangers 4-1 to win their first World Series since 1954. Before the ceremony, Obama privately told team officials he's counting on a comeback this season, too, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. "You guys are a second-half team. I expect you to be a second-half team this time around," he said. The president attributed the two championships to "stellar pitching and smothering defense and timely hitting," noting some changes from the players' last visit to the White House including new nicknames -- the "Reverend" Hunter Pence and "Blockbuster" second baseman Marco Scutaro. And, of course, pitcher Tim Lincecum's new haircut. "Where’s Tim?" he said. "There he is. See, you don't even recognize him anymore." Obama also congratulated Bruce Bochy, who last week became one of 21 managers to reach 1,500 wins. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and former Giants great Willie Mays -- “the Say Hey Kid” -- also attended the event. In addition to their championships, the president recognized the team for its work in the community with Junior Giants, a free, noncompetitive league that serves more than 20,000 kids. The team also was honored for its support of the LGBT community, and two years ago was the first professional sports franchise to create an “It Gets Better” video for LGBT youths, the president noted. Next year, the team will turn the center-field bleachers into what is believed to be the first edible garden in a major sports facility, Obama said, with kale, strawberries and eggplant. “I should add, even Michelle would say it's OK to have a hot dog once in a while, though,” he said. ”I don’t want everybody to get carried away and think they have to have kale every time they go to the ballpark.” The Giants' Twitter feed sent out updates and photos from the event:

Moscow Urges End to ‘International Terrorist’ Bloodshed in Syria

Moscow is calling on all responsible sides in Syria to put an end to the bloodshed unleashed by what it termed “international terrorists,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Monday. Over the weekend “it became known about the atrocious killing” of some 150 people by militants from extremist groups Jabhat al-Nusra and Ansar al-Khilafah during an attack on Khan Assal, a town outside the northern city of Aleppo, the ministry said in a statement on its website. Both militant groups, which have conducted joint operations in the past, have claimed credit for taking control of Khan Assal on July 22-23 and killing more than 100 soldiers. The Russian ministry expressed deep condolences to the entire Syrian people and strongly condemned the acts by “terrorists and their accomplices” on Syrian soil. “The barbarous nature of the crime has come as a shock to all Syrians: It has been condemned not only by the country’s authorities but also by leading opposition groups,” the ministry said. According to UN data, about 100,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict.

Gunmen launch major attack on Pakistani prison holding militants

Grenade-wielding Taliban fighters battled Pakistani security forces during a sophisticated midnight attack on a major prison holding hundreds of Taliban and other militants, police said on Monday. Fighting continued into the early hours of Tuesday, and security forces said they had imposed a curfew on the city, Dera Ismail Khan, 200 miles west of Lahore. The Pakistani Taliban sent 100 fighters and seven suicide bombers on a mission to free some of their top leaders, said Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid. He said they had freed around 300 prisoners, a claim that could not immediately be verified. Some of the suicide bombers had blown up at the prison walls and some were in reserve, he said. The prison houses around 5,000 prisoners. Around 250 are Pakistani Taliban and members of banned sectarian groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni militant group that has killed hundreds of Shi'ite civilians this year. Up to 40 gunmen wearing police uniforms launched their attack by blowing up the electricity line to the prison and detonating heavy explosions that breached the outer walls, said provincial prisons chief Khalid Abbas. "It's completely dark in there. We don't know what's going on but there is fighting," he said. The militants fought their way inside using rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, district police chief Sohail Khalid said. Mushtaq Jadoon, the town's civil commissioner, said dozens of prisoners had escaped. "The Taliban have loudspeakers and they are calling the names of their friends," he said. The gunmen also took over a nearby house and hospital, holding the residents hostage as they fired on police from the rooftops and laid ambushes for reinforcements. Police Constable Gul Mohammed said he was rushing to the scene when he was challenged by two young boys holding rifles. "They told me to stop. I told them I am a policeman, and that's when they opened fire," he said, adding that he was shot three times. Police said there were other small groups of gunmen in the streets leading to the prison. The number of casualties was unclear because the fighting was ongoing. Police said they had called for military reinforcements. WARNINGS OF THE ATTACK Provincial authorities received warning of the impending attack two weeks ago, said one security official in the provincial capital of Peshawar. He said phone intercepts indicated the militants were planning a jail break and interrogations of captured fighters confirmed it. Security officials alerted the provincial governor of the threat based on the intercepts. The attack raises questions over how well-prepared Pakistani security forces are after a series of high-profile attacks. Last week, militants stormed the headquarters of the Pakistani military intelligence service in the southern town of Sukkur. Over the weekend, around 40 people were killed in twin bombings in mainly Shi'ite areas in the town of Parachinar. Pakistani militants have launched successful raids on prisons several times before. Last year, nearly 400 prisoners were freed when the Taliban attacked a prison in the northern town of Bannu. After that attack, militants told Reuters they were helped by insiders in the security services. An inquiry later found there were far fewer guards on duty than there should have been and those who were there lacked sufficient ammunition. The attack comes the day before Pakistan's lawmakers are due to choose a president and two days before a major Shi'ite festival, which security officials have warned could be attacked. The front-runner for Tuesday's election to the largely ceremonial position is a close ally of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose party swept national elections in May and who has promised to seek talks with militant groups. An analysis by Reuters found that militant violence had sharply increased since Sharif took power.

Altaf Hussain, the notorious MQM leader who swapped Pakistan for London

Altaf Hussain lives in London but leads Pakistan's powerful, controversial MQM party, which has millions of supporters. He has also been acccused of inciting murder and violence in his home country
By Owen Bennett-Jones
Pakistan's most vibrant, vivacious and popular 24-hour news channel, Geo TV, generally has little difficulty recruiting staff. Its headquarters are in Karachi, Pakistan's so called "city of dreams" – a massive, sprawling conurbation with 20 million residents seeking a better life. And yet there was one vacancy recently that Geo TV could not fill. The channel wanted a lookalike for its popular satirical show, in which actors play the parts of the country's leading politicians. It was a job offering instant stardom and good money. And not a single person in Karachi was willing to do it. The man Geo TV sought to satirise was Altaf Hussain, the leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). And the reason no one applied was the fear that if Altaf Hussain were unamused by the performance, the actor playing him would be murdered.
Anxiety about the MQM is not restricted to Pakistan. One member of the British House of Lords who has been openly critical of the MQM recently said: "If I went to Karachi now I would be killed." Another peer has similar worries: "This is one issue I don't ask questions on. I have my child to worry about." The man who has everyone looking over his or her shoulder does not even live in Karachi. For more than 20 years, Altaf Hussain has operated from the north London suburb of Edgware, beyond the reach of Pakistani prosecutors. He is almost completely unknown in the UK: his four-million-plus devoted supporters live thousands of miles away. It's difficult to know how many murder cases have been registered against Altaf Hussain, but perhaps the most authoritative number was released in 2009 when the then Pakistani president General Pervez Musharraf implemented his National Reconciliation Order, granting most of the country's senior politicians an amnesty. One of the biggest beneficiaries was Hussain, against 72 cases were dropped, including 31 allegations of murder. The MQM rejects all the murder charges lodged against Hussain. When Pakistan was created in 1947 it had a population of 70 million. As well as the Bengalis in East Pakistan (who split away to form Bangladesh in 1971) there were four main indigenous groups: the Sindhis, the Baloch, the Pashtuns and the Punjabis. Partition brought a new element: Muslims who had fled Hindu-majority India. They were called the Mohajirs and most settled in Karachi, which was then the capital of Pakistan. This is the group represented by the Mohajir Qaumi Movement or, as it's now named, the Muttahida (United) Qaumi Movement or MQM. At first the Mohajirs fared well. As many had spearheaded the campaign to create the country, they slipped naturally into leadership positions. But their disproportionate influence could never last. By the 70s a political backlash, especially from Punjabis and Sindhis, was in full swing and many Mohajirs found themselves unable to secure jobs or even places in schools and universities. For a group that thought it had the right to govern, it came as a heavy blow. And the first man to exploit the Mohajirs' sense of grievance was Hussain. In 1988 MQM candidates broke through, and suddenly the party was the third largest in the National Assembly and has dominated Karachi politics ever since. Hussain has periodically flirted with demands for some kind of territorial settlement: "When everyone else had a province," he said in March 1984, "we said the Mohajirs should have one too." But for the most part he has accepted that such a demand is plainly unacceptable to the rest of Pakistan and has restricted himself to demands for greater Mohajir rights within the existing national framework.The MQM's most vocal critic today is cricketer-turned-playboy-turned-Islamist-politician Imran Khan. In 2007, portraying himself as the man who dared to confront even the most entrenched political interests, Khan paid a visit to the Metropolitan police in London to hand over, he claimed, evidence of Hussain's wrongdoing. Apparently unimpressed with the quality of that evidence, the police did not bring any charges and Khan let the issue drop. But in May this year when one of his best-known party activists in Karachi, Zahra Shahid Hussain, was shot down outside her home, Khan openly accused the MQM of her murder. Thousands of his social media-savvy supporters were encouraged to complain to the British police. More than 12,000 did so and the police responded by, for the first time, formally investigating Altaf Hussain's London activities. There are a number of strands to the Met's inquiries. First there is the issue of whether the MQM leader is using his London base to incite violence in Pakistan. In assessing that, the police have a huge amount of material to sift through, much of it online. At his birthday party in 2009, for example, he regaled his guests with a remark aimed at Pakistan's rich landowners and businessmen: "You've made big allegations against the MQM. If you make those allegations to my face one more time you'll be taking down your measurements and we'll prepare your body bags." Because he is in London, Hussain addresses rallies in Karachi over the telephone. Crowds gather to listen to his voice through loudspeakers. In one such speech he had this message for TV anchors: "If you don't stop the lies and false allegations that damage our party's reputation, then don't blame me, Altaf Hussain, or the MQM if you get killed by any of my millions of supporters." Most of his threats have been aimed at people in Pakistan but at least one was directed at the UK journalist Azhar Javaid who asked a question once too often. At a press conference in September 2011 Hussain warned Javaid that his "body bag was ready". Adressing those whom he accused of denying the Mohajirs their rights, in December 2012, Hussain ranted: "If your father won't give us freedom just listen to this sentence carefully: then we will tear open your father's abdomen. To get our freedom we will not only tear it out of your father's abdomen but yours as well." Partly because of the difficulty of establishing unchallengeable translations of Hussain's words, it might be months before the police decide whether to recommend a prosecution. In the meantime there is talk of a private prosecution. Long-time MQM critic George Galloway MP recently set up a fund to pay the legal fees of such an initiative. On two occasions British judges have found that the MQM is a violent organisation. In 2010 a Karachi-based police officer sought asylum in the UK claiming the MQM was threatening to kill him in revenge for his having registered a case against one of its members. The judge, Lord Bannatyne, granted asylum and in his judgment accepted that: "the MQM has killed over 200 police officers who stood up to them in Karachi". The figure is often cited by the Karachi police themselves, and refers to those officers who were closely involved in Benazir Bhutto's anti-MQM crackdown, Operation Clean-up. It came in 1995, during Bhutto's second government. Unable to rely on the slow, intimidated and corrupt courts, which were always nervous to convict MQM defendants, the security forces resorted to hundreds if not thousands of extrajudicial killings of MQM activists. Many of the police officers responsible have subsequently been murdered. MQM, however, refutes any allegations of inciting violence from London.When asked about these allegations, MQM issued the following statement to the Guardian: "We'd also like to point out here that it is the MQM that has been the worst victim of violence in recent history of the country. The Taliban and other jihadi elements have killed scores of MQM members … " As well as the incitement investigation, the British police are currently running another MQM-related inquiry. It concerns the September 2010 murder of a senior MQM member, Imran Farooq, who was stabbed to death outside his flat in Green Lane, Edgware. For the UK authorities, his murder crossed a red line. London is open to outsiders – but they have to leave their violent politics back home. The Counter Terrorism Command have launched a massive and sustained investigation into Farooq's death. In December last year they raided the MQM's Edgware offices where they found substantial thousands of documents. Since most of the material is in Urdu and some, from MQM lawyers, is subject to client privilege, assessing it is extremely time-consuming. But with 12 officers working on the case full-time and a whole range of specialists available to carry out specific tasks when needed, the police are still showing real determination to trace Farooq's killer. In its statement to the Guardian, the MQM said: "MQM understands that as part of that ongoing investigation, the Metropolitan police have interviewed several hundred people. MQM has assisted the ongoing police investigation whenever it has been requested to do so. A number of MQM party members have also voluntarily offered to be witnesses to assist the ongoing police investigation. Mr Altaf Hussain, MQM's party leader, has not been arrested nor charged with any criminal offence. The police are treating Mr Hussain as one of a large number of potential witnesses in their investigation and not as a suspect." Right from the start the police raids in the investigation have produced rich material. Shortly after the 2010 murder the police found a significant number of papers stashed in Farooq's home. Some of the documents gave credence to the confessions made by a number of suspected MQM militants in Karachi. Repeatedly, MQM activists there had told the Pakistani authorities they were trained in India. Asked on numerous occasions over a period of several weeks about its relationship with the MQM, Indian government officials have failed to make any statement on the matter. Recent police raids have turned up £150,000 at the party's Edgware's offices and £250,000 at Hussain's house in Mill Hill. The police say they are making significant progress in the Farooq murder case and have an ever-clearer understanding of what they believe was a conspiracy to kill him. Their investigation, however, is complicated by the fact that the MQM has supporters deep within the Pakistani state who want to protect it, and more cynical actors such as Pakistan's main intelligence agency, the ISI, which want to control it. However, the recent elections in Pakistan have left the MQM politically weaker and there is a distinct possibility that the government of Nawaz Sharif will be less protective of the MQM than the last administration. Aware that Farooq's killer or killers may be thousands of miles away and, the British Police believe, back in Pakistan, the UK investigation has focused on who might have ordered the murder. Having promised full co-operation with the British authorities Hussain has also complained that he is the subject of a witch-hunt and a conspiracy. Recent British police actions have included the arrest (he is now bailed until September) of Altaf Hussain's nephew, Ishtiaq Hussain. The police won't divulge why he was arrested. Intriguingly, Altaf Hussain also let slip that he himself and MQM were being investigated for money laundering. This is now one of the most active elements of the British police's work. The question is: where does all the money seized in the raids and that used to buy the MQM's extensive UK property portfolio come from? In the statement to the Guardian, the MQM deny the laundering allegations. "It is reiterated here that the party, its leader Mr Altaf Hussain or any other member of the Party has never dealt with any money that is the proceeds of crime. MQM's legal team has already submitted effective answers to questions concerning the cash seized from the party's office, whereas legal responses would be submitted shortly concerning the cash seized from Mr Altaf Hussain's residence." With a condescension that is increasingly grating to the Pakistani public, Washington and London produce a regular flow of statements expressing concern about various Pakistani human rights abuses. But the whole issue of human rights monitoring is suffused with double standards. The abuses listed by the US and the UK are in fact little more than diplomatic ammunition held in reserve and deployed should the need arise. The UK itself has questions to answer. It has resisted repeated Pakistani requests to hand over Hussain so that he can stand trial for murder in Pakistan. Hussain arrived in London in February 1992 and just three years later, Benazir Bhutto – then prime minister – was asking for London's help. "I think the British government has a moral responsibility to restrain Mr Altaf Hussain and say you cannot use our soil for violence," she said. Eighteen years later, Imran Khan's appeal was strikingly similar: "I blame the British government. Would they allow someone to sit in Pakistan and threaten people in the UK? They know about his track record." If Hussain were a suspected London-based jihadi, many Pakistanis believe, he would have been arrested years ago. Pakistanis point to other instances where they believe the UK has favoured Hussain. In 2002 he was issued with a UK passport. Off the record, British officials admit that the process by which he obtained nationality was flawed – a decision in January 1999 to grant him indefinite leave to remain in the UK was made as a result of a "clerical error". Despite repeated questions, the Home Office has refused to disclose what that error was. Most Pakistanis dismiss the idea of a clerical error as risible. They point to a letter No 10 received from Hussain as evidence of how the UK and the MQM have tried to conceal the true nature of their relationship. Written just two weeks after 9/11, in it Hussain says that if the UK wanted hundreds of thousands of people on the streets of Karachi denouncing terrorism he could lay that on with just five days' notice. He claimed he could also organise human intelligence on the Taliban and could set up a network of fake aid workers in Afghanistan to back up Western intelligence gathering efforts there. After a copy of the letter appeared on the internet, the MQM denied its authenticity. Disclosures under the Freedom of Information Act have established that the letter is in fact authentic. Faced with that information, the Foreign Office admitted it had received the letter. As Hussain suggests in the letter, British interest in the MQM is largely driven by the perception that the party offers a defence against jihadis. But there is more to it than that. The MQM is British turf: Karachi is one of the few places left on earth in which the Americans let Britain take the lead. The US consulate in Karachi no longer runs active intelligence gathering operations in the city. The British still do. When it comes to claiming a place at the top table of international security politics – London's relationship with the MQM is a remaining toehold. And there's something else. The FCO's most important currency is influence. Successive Pakistani governments, when they are not demanding Hussain's extradition, have included his parliamentary bloc in various coalition governments. From the FCO's point of view, it's a great source of access. Right on their doorstep, in London, they have a man with ministers in the Pakistani government. For its part the UK government insists there is nothing unusual about its contacts with MQM and that its meetings with MQM officials are: "a normal part of diplomatic activity around the world". I spoke to a British official recently about the MQM and asked why the UK government, so keen to declare its commitment to human rights, seemed so willing to deal with the party despite officials privately saying that it uses violence to achieve its goals. She said: "There is one thing I can assure you of – it's not a conspiracy." Which in a sense is true. It's not a conspiracy. It's just policy.

Housework not homework for millions of children in Malala’s Pakistan

Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai’s speech at the UN in New York calling for “free, compulsory education all over the world for every child” is a reminder that back in her home country several million children are out of school, exploited for their labour, and/or abused.
The most recent annual State of Pakistan’s Children report, published in May by the Islamabad-based NGO Society for the Protection and Rights of the Child (SPARC), found that out of 120 countries in the world, Pakistan has the second largest number of children out of school (after Nigeria), with 5.1 million children aged 5-9 not attending an educational institution. “Education is vital for our future. Only when they read can they research, think and do something for the nation. Without education in its true sense there is no hope for this,” said Basarat Kazim, president of the Lahore-based NGO Alif Laila Book Bus Society which campaigns for education, literacy and modernization in the education sector. A significant number of these children end up in the workplace. “Child labour is a highly accepted social norm from a very young age for both girls and boys,” said Smaranda Popa, the chief of child protection at the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Pakistan. “These children are not only denied access to their rights to education, protection, health and development but are also highly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.” Figures on the precise number of child workers are somewhat uncertain, with estimates ranging from 3.3 million, according to a 1996 figure from the Federal Bureau of Statistics, to 12 million, according to more recent estimates by media reports and NGOs. The International Labour Organization estimates one quarter of these children are involved in the worst forms of child labour, including slavery, commercial sexual exploitation of children, using children to commit a crime, and work that is harmful to the “health, safety or morals” of children. The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics in its 2010-11 Labour Force Survey puts the number of child workers at just 4.29 percent of the country’s children aged 10-14, in other words 855,426 of the 19.94 million children in that age range, according to 2011 figures from the government’s Economic Survey.
Brooms not books
According to SahibaIrfan Khan, programme officer child labour at SPARC’s Lahore office, the only major law on child labour is the Employment of Children Act 1991, “which just regulates child labour for those less than 14 years of age and prohibits it in specific occupations and processes.” These laws are frequently weakly enforced, particularly in the area of domestic labour. Earlier this month, an incident in which an influential employer had beaten her 13-year-old domestic servant, Jamil, to death after he dropped a jug was widely reported in the media and confirmed by police in the southern Punjab city of Multan. “Investigations in this case are continuing,” city police officer Ghulam Muhammad Dogarm told IRIN. Another local administration official, who asked not to be named, said child labour was high in the area due to poverty, and “complaints of physical or sexual abuse are made but not often acted on because the families of the victims do not have much power.” He believed the incident involving the murder of Jamil was taken up only because “the news reached the media.” Other cases of abuse go unreported. “My 11-year-old daughter, Habiba, worked as a maid in a big house, helping to look after three young children, and doing all kinds of other tasks such as washing dishes,” mother Shahida Bibi, of Lahore, told IRIN. “I took her home after I visited one day and found her covered in bruises as a result of the beating she had received from her employers, who said she did not work hard enough. She also told me she was made to labour for up to 14 or 15 hours a day.” Such stories are not unusual, according to SPARC. “Thousands of children working as domestic servants are deprived of their basic right to education and are often subjected to abuse and violence,” said Khan. Data compiled by the organization shows that between January 2010 and December 2011, 18 cases of “severe” torture and abuse of child domestic labourers were reported. Of these 18 children, 13 died as a direct result of the violence inflicted upon them at the hands of their employers. “In the first six months of 2013, 14 cases of violence against child domestic workers were reported in media, out of which nine resulted in the death of the child,” Khan said. Poverty, inadequate educational facilities and a lack of awareness of the negative impacts of such work are a key cause of the high prevalence of child domestic labour, with families sending children into domestic service.
“Extreme educational poverty”
The poor condition of state-run schools, and the lack of access to them, notably in rural areas, also makes it more likely children will be sent to work. According to the government’s Economic Survey for 2012-13, the literacy rate in rural areas, at 49 percent, is significantly lower than the 75 percent in urban areas.
Photo: Kamila Hyat/IRIN
Yusuf, 12, has worked as a labourer in Lahore, Pakistan since dropping out of school last year
Facilities at public-sector schools are often dismal, with many lacking furniture, fans, drinking water, toilets, or teachers. According to the 2012 report by the Pakistan Education Task Force, set up by the government in 2009, seven million children are currently out of school and 30 percent of citizens “live in extreme educational poverty”, with 15-20 percent of teachers absent from the classroom on an average day. “My son, aged 10 years, simply kept running away from school, because he was shouted at by his teachers, sometimes beaten and taught very little since his teacher rarely came,” said Muhammad Hanif, who lives in the settlement of Shahdra on the outskirts of Lahore. Hanif says he was unable to pay for private schooling, and rather than have his son “roam around on the streets”, he arranged for him to be employed as a house-help. “He is at least given his meals, even if it is just a few leftovers or lentils, and he brings home Rs 2,500 [US$25] each month,” Hanif said. The wage is less than half of what would, in most cases, be paid to an adult. SPARC says children are preferred for domestic labour because they are considered more obedient, and can be hired for less pay.
Acts of charity?
There is, however, a twist to the tale. For generations, employing child domestic workers has been considered an act of charity. “Employers believe that since employing poor and unfortunate children is in itself a great favour to the child, they have the liberty to treat them as they wish,” Khan said. This attitude is also tied in to traditional culture in a society highly stratified on the basis of class and wealth. “Feudal lords are not just large landowners or big farmers. Land is the sole economic resource in a good part of this country and whatever little opportunities, other than land, have arisen lately have also been monopolized by the same class,” said Tahir Mehdi, executive coordinator of the NGO LokSujag, which campaigns for democratic rights and social equity. Speaking of employment by the wealthy, he said: “They treat their subjects as pairs of hands that should work for them like robots that need to be oiled but don't have any rights and can't make any demands.” Of course, not every child domestic worker suffers. Some, like Pervez Zaman, 13, are more fortunate. Zaman, from the north of the country, says his employer in Lahore pays him well, has given him an additional food allowance and is now planning to arrange for private lessons so he can catch up on the studies he missed out on when he was younger. However, such cases are rare. The incidence of abuse among young domestic workers is high, as SPARC has recorded, while simply being at work also means they are missing out on schooling. To address child labour, UNICEF says, Pakistan must harmonize its legislation with international standards, implement those laws, provide functional child and social protection systems including for family poverty, improve access to and use of social services, and increase the amount of “decent” work available to adults. “Any state invests in its sustainable development by investing in education,” Popa said. “No child should be forced to substitute school with the worst forms of labour.”

Saudi Arabia, Corrupt and Fraudulent Regime: Saudi Prince defects from Royal Family
Prince Khalid Bin Farhan Al-Saud has announced his defection from Al Saud royal family through a statement, calling on other princes to break their silence and reveal the truth for sake of God. In his statement on Saturday, the Saudi prince referred to his ‘sufferings’ under reign of Al Saud regime describing them as bitter experiences that will be revealed by the Saudi twitter writer Mujtahid and Saudi activist Saad al-Faqih, who is currently living in London. He said he thanked God that helped him understand the truth about Saudi regime through a “direct horrible personal experience” so that he could have a taste of what people suffered from throughout the country. “With pride, I announce my defection from Al Saudi family in Saudi Arabia,” he wrote in his statement. “This regime in Saudi Arabia does not stand by God’s rules or even (country’s) established rules and its policies, decisions, and actions are totally based on personal will of its leaders.” “All that is said in Saudi Arabia about respecting law and religion rules are factitious so that they can lie and pretend that the regime obeys Islamic rules.” He criticized the royal family for considering the country as its own property while silencing all voices from inside and outside the government calling for any change and reforms. Khalid Bin Farhan said the ruling family has deliberately pulled the country to the current condition where cries of oppressed people are ignored. “They don’t think about anything but their personal benefits and do not care for country’s and people’s interests or even national security,” he added. H warned that current problems of the Saudi Arabia are not “temporary or superficial” and they do not end at unemployment, low wages and unjustified distribution of common wealth, facilities and services. “The problems are deep and real,” he said adding that they are concerned with political and financial corruption and abuse of power by the regime and fraud in the parliament and judiciary system. The Saudi prince said everything that the pro-reform opposition says about country’s political, economical, judiciary, social and security condition as well as their abuse of religious values are true and “the situation is even worse than what is said in criticisms”. He called on all those who cared for the future of the country to join him and the reform stream and break their silence on Al Saud corruptions.

Saudi forces burn cars, houses during operation to arrest rights activist

Saudi security forces have burnt a number of cars and houses in the eastern city of Awamiya during an operation to arrest an anti-government human rights activist. According to a video posted online, the incident took place as Saudi security forces stormed the house of human rights activist Abbas Ali Mohammed Al-Mazra on Monday. One person is reported to be injured by the security forces. Abbas al-Mazra is one of the 23 Saudi activists wanted by the kingdom’s Interior Ministry for organizing anti-government demonstrations in the eastern cities of Awamiya and Qatif. Some of the activists on the list have already been arrested. It was not clear whether Mazra was arrested in the operation. Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province has been witnessing anti-government demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters demand political reforms, greater liberties, freedom of expression and the release of political prisoners some held without trial for more than 16 years. They have also condemned economic and religious discrimination in the oil-rich region and their government's involvement in a brutal crackdown on protesters in neighboring Bahrain. In Saudi Arabia, protests and political gatherings of any kind are prohibited. Activists say there are over 30,000 political prisoners in the country.

Afghan Song: Da Zemong Zeba Watan

My name is Pakistan and I’m not an Arab

In 1973, my paternal grandparents visited Makkah to perform the first of their two Hajj pilgrimages. With them were two of my grandmother’s sisters and their respective husbands. Upon reaching Jeddah, they hailed a taxi from the airport and headed for their designated hotel. The driver of the taxi was a Sudanese man. As my grandparents and one of my grandmother’s sisters settled themselves in the taxi, the driver leisurely began driving towards the hotel and on the way inserted a cassette of Arabic songs into the car’s Japanese cassette-player. My grandfather who was seated in the front seat beside the driver noticed that the man kept glancing at the rear view mirror, and every time he did that, one of his eyebrows would rise. Curious, my grandfather turned his head to see exactly what was it about the women seated in the back seat that the taxi driver found so amusing. This was what he discovered: As my grandmother was trying to take a quick nap, her sister too had her eyes closed, but her head was gently swinging from left to right to the beat of the music and she kept whispering (as if in quiet spiritual ecstasy) the Arabic expression Subhanallah, subhanallah …’ My grandfather knew enough Arabic to realise that the song to which my grandmother’s sister was swinging and praising the Almighty for was about an (Egyptian) Romeo who was lamenting his past as a heart-breaking flirt. After giving a sideways glance to the driver to make sure he didn’t understand Punjabi, my grandfather politely asked my grandmother’s sister: ‘I didn’t know you were so much into music.’ ‘Allah be praised, brother,’ she replied. ‘Isn’t it wonderful?’ The chatter woke my grandmother up: ‘What is so wonderful?’ She asked. ‘This,’ said her sister, pointing at one of the stereo speakers behind her. ‘So peaceful and spiritual …’ My grandfather let off a sudden burst of an albeit shy and muffled laughter. ‘Sister,’ he said, ‘the singer is not singing holy verses. He is singing about his romantic past.’ My grandmother started to laugh as well. Her sister’s spiritual smile was at once replaced by an utterly confused look: ‘What …?’ ‘Sister,’ my grandfather explained, ‘Arabs don’t go around chanting spiritual and holy verses. Do you think they quote a verse from the holy book when, for example, they go to a fruit shop to buy fruit or want toothpaste?’ I’m sure my grandmother’s sister got the point. Not everything Arabic is holy. Even though I was only a small child then I clearly remember my grandfather relating the episode with great relish. Though he was an extremely conservative and religious man and twice performed the Hajj, he refused to sport a beard, and wasn’t much of a fan of the Arabs (especially the monarchical kind). He was proud of the fact that he was born in a small town in north Punjab that before 1947 was part of India. In the early 1980s when Saudi money and influence truly began to take hold on the culture and politics of Pakistan, there were many families (especially from the Punjab) that actually began to rewrite their histories. For example, families and clans that had emerged from within the South Asian region began to claim that their ancestors actually came from Arabia. Something like this happened within the Paracha clan as well. In 1982 a book (authored by one of my grandfather’s many cousins) claimed that the Paracha clan originally appeared in Yemen and was converted to Islam during the time of the Holy Prophet (Pbuh). The truth, however, was that like a majority of Pakistanis, Parachas too were once either Hindus or Buddhists who were converted to Islam by Sufi saints between the 11th and 15th centuries. When the cousin gifted his book to my grandfather, he rubbished the claim and told him that he might attract Saudi Riyals with the book but zero historical credibility. But historical accuracy and credibility does not pan well in an insecure country like Pakistan whose state and people, even after six decades of existence, are yet to clearly define exactly what constitutes their nationalistic and cultural identity. After the complete fall of the Mughal Empire in the 19th century till about the late 1960s, Pakistanis (post-1947), attempted to separate themselves from other religious communities of the region by identifying with those Persian cultural aspects that had reigned supreme in Muslim royal courts in India, especially during the Mughal era. However, after the 1971 East Pakistan debacle, the state with the help of conservative historians and ulema made a conscious effort to divorce Pakistan’s history from its Hindu and Persian past and enact a project to bond this history with a largely mythical and superficial link with Arabia. The project began to evolve at a much more rapid pace from the 1980s onwards. The streaming in of the ‘Petro Dollars’ from oil-rich monarchies and the Pakistanis’ increasing interaction with their Arab employers in these countries, turned Pakistan’s historical identity on its head. In other words, instead of investing intellectual resources to develop a nationalism that was grounded and rooted in the more historically accurate sociology and politics of the Muslims of the region, a reactive attempt was made to dislodge one form of ‘cultural imperialism’ and import by adopting another. For example, attempts were made to dislodge ‘Hindu and Western cultural influences’ in the Pakistani society by adopting Arabic cultural hegemony that came as a pre-requisite and condition with the Arabian Petro Dollar. The point is, instead of assimilating the finer points of the diverse religious and ethnic cultures that our history is made of and synthesise them to form a more convincing and grounded nationalism and cultural identity, we have decided to reject our diverse and pluralistic past and instead adopt cultural dimensions of a people who, ironically, still consider non-Arabs like Pakistanis as second-class Muslims.

PPP parliamentary party meeting held in Islamabad
The meeting decided that its members would not poll their votes tomorrow in protest against advancing the date of voting for Presidential elections. Parliamentary Party meeting of the PPP held at Parliament House in Islamabad this afternoon reaffirmed earlier decision of the party regarding boycott of the Presidential elections. The meeting decided that its members would not poll their votes tomorrow in protest against advancing the date of voting for Presidential elections. It maintained that the protest was not against the presidential elections itself but the way these are being conducted‚ denying adequate time for canvassing to the candidates.

Afghan government says it's ready for April vote

An Afghan official says the country's security forces are prepared for the presidential election next April, though five districts remain gripped by insurgency. The vote will be a key test of Afghanistan's ability to smoothly transition power ahead of the pullout of foreign forces at the end of 2014. Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi told reporters on Monday that plans have been prepared to secure 6,845 polling centers in all 34 provinces. He says a plan is also in place to secure more than 400 voter registration centers. Four million new voters are expected to be added to 16 million previously registered voters. Afghanistan has a population of about 30 million. But Sediqi says authorities still don't have full control of five districts around the country because of the insurgency.

Afghanistan eyes Iran deal to boost trade to Europe, India
Afghanistan hopes an agreement with Iran to use one of its ports will help boost exports to Europe and India and reduce its dependence on neighbouring Pakistan's ports for trade. Iran will allow land-locked Afghanistan to use the port to export goods like fruit and carpets to India and other countries, according to the spokesman for Afghanistan's Ministry of Commerce and Industries. "We want to export to central Asia and Europe, India wants to use the port to send goods to Afghanistan," Wahidullah Ghazikhel told Reuters. Afghanistan currently relies on the port of Karachi in Pakistan for the bulk of its sea exports.But that leaves traders vulnerable to political disputes between the United States and Pakistan, which has closed its border with Afghanistan at least twice over recent years, cutting US military supplies to Afghanistan, as well as routine trade. "If the Pakistani government's relationship with the United States goes bad, this impacts our traders," Ghazikhel said. In the most recent disruption on the Afghan-Pakistani border, private transport companies were banned from moving Afghan goods to Karachi, delaying containers for about three months. Not only did the contents, including milk and eggs, spoil, but companies were also charged a total of $10 million for renting storage space for their delayed containers, he said. "We are very interested in exporting to European countries and working on other ways (that avoid Pakistan's port)," the spokesman said. Millions of dollars have been invested in companies that aim to export "premium" fruit such as pomegranate, prized by the health-conscious in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Afghanistan also exports many other types of fresh and dried fruit, saffron and carpets. But although it sees agriculture as a driving force in its economy, Afghanistan continues to rely on imports for most of its food.

Afghan President To Visit Pakistan Soon

Afghan President Hamid Karzai
will visit Pakistan soon in an effort to improve ties between the two neighbors. Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Janan Musazai said on July 28 that officials from the two countries are working to prepare a "practical and clear" agenda for the visit. He did not give any dates for the trip, but said that Kabul hoped that "the visit is not just ceremonial." Last week Karzai accepted an invitation to visit Islamabad only when an "effective struggle against terrorism and the peace process are on the top of the agenda." The invitation was extended on June 21 during high-level talks designed to mend increasingly tense relations. Kabul often accuses Islamabad of backing the Taliban. However, Washington views Islamabad as a key player in the negotiations because of its long-standing ties with the Taliban. Meanwhile, British troops have briefly returned to a volatile district in southern Afghanistan. The British Ministry of Defense confirmed on July 28 that 80 British military advisers have traveled back to Sangin district in the southern province of Helmand. They helped some 2,000 Afghan soldiers clear insurgents during an eight-day military operation. The "Sunday Times" newspaper, which first reported on the mission, said British Defense Minister Philip Hammond gave a special go-ahead to the operation. The country's defense officials have downplayed their involvement, saying British troops do operate outside central Helmand, where they are currently present. It was the first British deployment of its kind since the NATO-led international military coalition handed over Helmand's security to Afghan forces.

Pakistan: The hows and whys of low collection

According to Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), Sales Tax and Federal Excise Duty collection has fallen sharply in the first 26 days of current financial year. Some kind of slowdown in economic activity is normal in Ramazan but certainly not to the extent the revenue collection figures indicate. Sales tax being the biggest contributor to the revenue stream has fallen by 32.61 percent. In July 2012, it was Rs 53.609 billion; now it's Rs 36.126 billion. Even if one was to add another Rs10 billion, on account of extension of sales tax filing date from July 15 to July 29, it is still short by a huge number. A further segregation shows that sales tax collection on the import stage did not exhibit such a sharp decline: Rs 28.701 billion (July 2012) versus Rs 28.055 billion (July 2013). It is on domestic supplies that one sees the real reason for such a sharp decline: Rs 8.071 billion compared to Rs 24.907 billion. A 67.59 percent decrease despite an increase in the rate from 16 to 17 percent. Sales tax in GST mode is more or less in VAT mode even though FBR is unable to extend it to the retail stage. But on most items FBR collects sales tax from industry at the factory stage by applying the tax on the retail price. Therefore, the devil which needs to be checked is the adjustment of sales tax paid at the import stage. No one in his right mind would not seek a 17 percent adjustment of sales tax paid at the import stage as input tax. A cursory glance of sales tax data paid at imports vis-à-vis adjustment taken at the domestic stage shows that adjustment taken in sales tax paid on imported raw material exceeds the sales tax paid at the factory gate. How is this possible? Was there no value addition when an intermediary product is converted into a saleable item. Therefore, fraud on the exchequer is committed at import adjustment stage. A detailed sectoral analysis will also clearly explain this menace. There are two ways to counter this fraud. Either lower the sales tax rate at import stage and disallow adjustment or else link the system of sales tax whereby an audit of balance sheet should show value of letter of credit opened, tax paid at the import stage with value of sales. Linkage of WEBoC with CREST is needed if sales tax is to be collected in GST mode. It should be apparent that domestic sales tax collection has shown a downward trend since May this year in comparison to higher collection in the January to March quarter. So, FBR appeared to on the right track but now has lost its way. If five percent depreciation of the rupee and one percent hike in rate is to be discounted, then the actual sales tax collection at import is also in the negative. Budget is a sub-set of an economic strategy. Raising rates on a small base instead of broadening the base is wrong. We are now told that there is no institutional arrangement between FBR and Nadra to share the data. This is indeed shocking. It reverses the earlier strategy to go after consumption using a regression model. The problems that need to be surmounted are immense. Having a political heavyweight like Ishaq Dar as Finance Minister is a plus. The confidence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Dar can only accrue added benefits provided he is allowed to concentrate on economy and is not involved in matters generated by political heat. For example, Dar had to abruptly leave the meeting with exchange companies at SBP on Friday as he had to rush to MQM's 90 headquarter. Dar the chartered accountant can indeed be very useful in improving the tax-to-GDP ratio, although he has been out of the loop for quite some time. Dar's grip on the economy needs to be strengthened. He needs to be more open with economic agents and be in a listening mode before taking decisions to avoid backtracking later. Processed milk was placed in the exempt mode in Finance Bill 2013. It was zero-rated in the Finance Act. Now what will happen during the intervening period between the bill and the act. Similarly, items which are retailed were first put in and later withdrawn from the 3rd schedule. Businesses are caught in the conflicting demands of revenue collection authorities of Sindh and Punjab. Businesses should not feel harassed. A critical mass of taxpayers first needs to be created and the value of tax viewed over a life time not just for today. Processes need to be strengthened to capture transactions into a data base. The data of revenue for the first 26 days of the financial year indicates that revenue collection will not only be far short of the target given in the budget but may be lower than the last fiscal year's. The IMF Board of Directors is to meet on September 4. Pakistan has committed to taking prior actions before the Board meets. That needs to be Dar's top priority. The PM should himself tackle the political negotiations and leave Dar exclusively available for matters and issues that strictly fall within his ministerial jurisdiction because tough business of economy becomes tougher in tough economic times.

Attacks in rural, urban Peshawar worry residents

Residents of the provincial metropolis are concerned due to the sharp increase in the attacks in the suburban and urban areas. Though there has been no suicide bombing or major militant attack in the recent past, targetted attacks are happening almost on a daily basis in urban and rural parts of the city. It has increased the sense of insecurity among the general public. There have been a series of target killings of known people from the Shia sect followed by another wave of attacks on law-enforcers within the urban limits of the city. A senior superintendent of police (SSP), Gul Wali, was among the many police and intelligence officers who have come under attack in the city during the last several weeks. Gul Wali sustained bullet injuries in the attack, but his gunman and driver were killed. The attackers managed to escape as it happens in most such incidents. Deputy Superintendent of Police Amanullah, Station House Officer Mira Jan, Sub-Inspector Gharibullah, around eight constables and two former assistant directors of the Intelligence Bureau Arif Khan and Mujahid Khan are among those killed in the targetted attacks during the last five weeks. Except for the killing of Mira Jan, the rest of the attacks happened in the old part of the city or its surroundings. Not only the security officials, but a number of well-off traders, politicians and others have been attacked within the city limits during the last several weeks. Two houses were bombed in the limits of Yakatoot Police Station and one each in Hashtnagri, Faqirabad, Gulbahar and Pishtakhara police stations during the last few weeks. Also, a bomb targetted a police van in the jurisdiction of the Yakatoot Police Station on Sunday. The owners of most of these houses have been receiving calls for paying extortion which they either failed or refused to pay. Many others who received calls to pay the extortion money have already paid the amount to avoid harm while many have shifted from the city. The situation in the limits of Matani, Badaber and Sarband police stations has gone from bad to worse since October last year. Security posts and officials have come under frequent attacks in the limits of the Matani and Badaber police stations during the last almost nine months. Several senior and junior officials as well as civilians were killed in these attacks. SP Rural Khurshid Khan, the known bomb disposal expert Hukam Khan and another bomb disposal official were among those killed in the area since October 2012. District Police Officer of Kohat Dilawar Bangash sustained serious injuries in the attack on his life in in the area in which six policemen were killed. The convoys of army and FC have also come under attack on several occasions in these lawless areas during the last few months. There are reports that militants have not only strengthened their networks in Matani and Badaber, but are also actively operating in parts of Peshawar city. Capital City Police Officer Liaqat Ali, however, told reporters during a recent media briefing that the situation was not that bad. “We have worked out many cases and work is going on several others. Gone are the days when one group would remain active as we will soon break it,” said Liaqat Ali while referring to increase in attacks on security officials. He added that life in the city was normal.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Hepatitis Day : KP has 47,000 hepatitis B & C patients

World Hepatitis Day is observed every year on 28th July to make awareness among the people about the the disease of hepatitis but the day was silently observed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. About one million people die each year from the chronic disease of hepatitis while globally in every 12 people one was infected from hepatitis B and C with around 240 million people suffereing from hepatitis B while 150 million people from hepatitis C. According to the data received by The Frontier Post that 47,000 patients were registered in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as the disease was spreading rapidly and the patient ratio was increasing day by day in hospitals of the province. The data shows that in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 11,000 patients of hepatitis B were treated in the province while 21,000 patients were under treatment as well as 27,000 patient of hepatitis C were treated while 12,000 patients of hepatitis C treatment were in progress. According to the data in Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar 2,000 patients of hepatitis were under treatment while in City hospital 5000 patients of hepatitis were under treatment, in Khyber Teaching Hospital 700 patient of hepatitis were under treatment while in Hayatabad Medical Complex 250 patients of hepatitis C patients were under treatment. The data further said that that in Nowshera,600 patient, Mardan 800 patients, Swat 700, Bannu 300, Dir lower150, Chitral, 10, Kohat,300, Swabi 240, Batagram 170 and in Abbotabad 370 patients of hepatitis C were under treatment in the province. The Hepatitis Control Program of Health department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was badly affected due to the scandals over the low quality of interferon injection distributed to the hospitals of the province as the previous DG health and many others officials of the health department were arrested in the scandal for playing with the life of innocent people. The health experts were of the opinion that the water of Peshawar were contaminated as most of the people were infected of hepatitis B and C due to the low quality of drinking water while most areas of Peshawar where the sewerage system and water pipes were gone through canals which was the main factor of hepatitis in the area. The previous government of Awami National Party claim that they would change the rusted pipes of Peshawar but still most of the areas was rusted water pipes which were the main cause of hepatitis B and C. It is the need of the hour that the current government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf takes step forward and changes all the rusted pipes of Peshawar as it was the main cause of hepatitis B and C and save the life of people.

Balochistan: Hazara Town Residents Shoot Down Suspected Suicide Bomber

The Baloch Hal
An alleged suicide bomber was killed by residents of Hazara Town in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan on Saturday. Capital City Police Officer Quetta, Mir Zubair Mehmood told that a suspected suicide bomber traveling on foot was killed by residents of Hazara Town shortly before Iftar. He said residents tried to stop the suspected bomber from approaching a mosque they were guarding but he refused to do so. “Residents then fired and killed him on the spot,” he said. Mehmood said a suicide jacket and a hand grenade were recovered from his possession. “A major terrorist attack was averted,” he claimed. Another police official, DIG Operations Fayyaz Sumbal, said the bomber, who had strapped explosives around his body, could not explode himself because of timely action by the volunteers. “One of the volunteers hit the bomber’s head with a brick while another opened fire on him, killing him on the spot,” Sumbul told a foreign news agency. He confirmed that the suicide jacket recovered from the attacker had been safely defused. The body of the bomber was shifted to Combined Military Hospital for postmortem, he said. A large number police and paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) personnel reached the spot and started investigation into the incident. Quetta has witnessed a recent surge in incidents of violence, with sectarian militants repeatedly targeting the Hazara Shia community in several bombings and gun-attacks. On Monday, two youths belonging to the minority community were gunned down in an apparent targeted killing on Shahrah-i-Iqbal. On July 15, four men belonging to the community were killed when gunmen sprayed bullets on their vehicle on Masjid road area. On June 30, a deadly suicide bombing at an Imambargah killed 30 members of the minority community. The banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi had claimed responsibility for the blast, one of a series of bombings this year by the extremist sectarian outfit targeting the Hazaras. The city also saw the country’s two bloodiest attacks so far this year. A giant bomb planted in a water tanker being towed by a tractor killed 90 Shia Hazaras in February, while another suicide bombing at a snooker club in January killed 92 others. Both of those bombings were also claimed by the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.

Polio: Khyber reports 9th case in seven months

The Express Tribune
Another infant in Bara, 12-month-old Maryam, will be crippled for life. As Khyber Agency remains cut off for vaccination teams, the area recorded its ninth polio case. The National Institute of Health Islamabad confirmed the new case on Sunday. Like all other cases that have surfaced from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (Fata) so far, the infected child had not received any dose of Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV). Maryam is a resident of Nawia Qamar Surband, Fort Slop area, Bara tehsil. Due to security problems, the agency has been inaccessible to polio teams since September 2009. In the past seven months, 13 polio cases have been reported from Fata, while five cases have been reported from K-P. Of the 22 cases so far in 2013, 17 have been of children who had not been vaccinated. The last case reported from the same area was on June 11 where the crippling virus affected one-year- old Ayesha, a resident of Nala Kajori in Bara. Despite repeated efforts, the official from the Expanded Programme on Immunisation in Fata did not respond to phone calls to discuss the matter. Last week, however, the EPI had confirmed the lack of accessibility to the area. Around 85% of the cases in the country are said to be because of inaccessibility to volatile areas, bans by Taliban warlords in North and South Waziristan and refusals cases from parents.