Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pashto Song...NUN PA DI HUJRA

Pashto Song: pekhawar kho pekhawar de kana

Obama’s Plan Aims to Lower Cost of College

President Obama announced a set of ambitious proposals on Thursday aimed at making colleges more accountable and affordable by rating them and ultimately linking those ratings to financial aid.
A draft of the proposal, obtained by The New York Times and likely to cause some consternation among colleges, shows a plan to rate colleges before the 2015 school year based on measures like tuition, graduation rates, debt and earnings of graduates, and the percentage of lower-income students who attend. The ratings would compare colleges against their peer institutions. If the plan can win Congressional approval, the idea is to base federal financial aid to students attending the colleges partly on those rankings. “All the things we’re measuring are important for students choosing a college,” a senior administration official said. “It’s important to us that colleges offer good value for their tuition dollars, and that higher education offer families a degree of security so students aren’t left with debt they can’t pay back.” Mr. Obama hopes that starting in 2018, the ratings would be tied to financial aid, so that students at highly rated colleges might get larger federal grants and more affordable loans. But that would require new legislation. “I think there is bipartisan support for some of these ideas, as we’ve seen in states where the governors have been working on them,” said the administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to disclose information not yet made public. Ohio, Tennessee and Indiana have made moves toward linking aid to educational outcomes. But in the divisive Congressional atmosphere, it is not clear how much backing there would be for such proposals. In February, the administration introduced an online college scorecard, making public some of the information to be included in the ratings, to help families evaluate different colleges. Graduates’ earnings, however, will be a new data point, and one that experts say is especially tricky to make meaningful. “There are all kinds of issues, like deciding how far down the road you are looking, and which institutions are comparable,” said Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, a group representing colleges and universities. “Ultimately, the concern is that the Department of Education will develop a formula and impose it without adequate consultation, and that’s what drives campus administrators nuts.” Almost all of the federal government’s $150 billion in annual student aid is distributed based on the number of students a college enrolls, regardless of how many graduate or how much debt they incur. Under the new proposal, students could still attend whatever college they chose, public or private, but taxpayer support would shift to higher-ranked schools. With rising tuition and declining state financing, students and families are assuming a growing share of college costs. Tuition revenues now make up about half of public university revenues, up from a quarter 25 years ago. And with colleges facing larger pensions, health care and technology costs, the pressure to keep raising tuition is intense. The average borrower now graduates with more than $26,000 of debt. Loan default rates are rising, and only about half of those who start college graduate within six years. Mr. Obama has focused on these concerns for some time, exhorting colleges and universities, and state legislators, to make higher education more affordable. In his 2012 State of the Union address, he said he was putting colleges on notice that if tuition did not stop rising faster than inflation, financing from taxpayers would drop. And in this year’s State of the Union speech, he urged Congress to consider affordability and value in awarding federal aid, and followed up with a policy plan recommending that those measures be incorporated into the accreditation system. Mr. Obama’s proposal urges colleges to experiment with approaches that reduce costs. The plan mentions so-called competency-based degrees, in which college credits are based not on the hours students spend in classrooms, but on how much they can show they know. Another approach mentioned in the plan is online education through what have become known as “massive open online courses,” or MOOCs, which are mostly free. Mr. Obama also urged consideration of three-year degree programs and dual enrollment programs in which high school students can begin to earn college credits. “This isn’t something that’s going to be fully driven by the federal government, but the president can tell colleges that there’s people out there doing good things, you should look at them, try them and try to do better — and here’s where we can help,” the official said. There is some money available for such efforts, including $500 million for community colleges, and the administration is seeking more. So far, though, it has failed to persuade Congress to pay for Race to the Top competition for higher education, under which grants would go to those colleges with promising approaches. With or without more financing, the president plans to offer regulatory waivers to colleges that serve as experimental sites promoting high-quality, low-cost innovations in higher education, especially those that make it possible for students to get financial aid based on how much they learn, rather than how much time they spend in class. He also wants to let colleges offer Pell Grants, federal aid based on need, to high school students taking college courses. In a letter to supporters this week, Mr. Obama said that tinkering around the edges would not be enough, and that the changes he was proposing in his two-state, three-campus tour beginning Thursday, “won’t be popular with everyone — including some who’ve made higher education their business — but it’s past time that more of our colleges work better for the students they exist to serve.” Mr. Obama is championing his ideas on a two-day bus tour, at town hall-style meetings on college campuses across upstate New York and Pennsylvania. In the proposal, the president plans to change aid practices to make sure those receiving financial aid are moving toward a degree by, among other things, stretching out the disbursement of Pell Grant money over the semester, rather than giving it out in a lump sum at the start. While “satisfactory academic progress” is required by the current law, it is left to each institution to define such progress, and students who fail out of one college can simply transfer to another and receive more aid. “That doesn’t make sense,” said Sandra Baum, an economist who is a senior fellow at the George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development. “Students need a structure that will help them make progress.” Mr. Obama would also like to expand his existing pay-as-you-earn program for student borrowers so that borrowers could cap their payments at 10 percent of their discretionary monthly income. That expansion would require Congressional approval. But even without it, the administration next year will direct the Education Department to call all debtors behind in their payments to make sure they understand repayment options.

Gilani: Pakistan People’s Party's defeat was a ‘conspiracy’
Former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani
has said that President Asif Ali Zardari is waiting for his tenure in the Presidency to be over and then he will lead Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) with a renewed zeal. Speaking to Jang Forum London, Gilani said that those saying that the PPP has been routed will be disappointed in future “because they will see that the party is as strong as ever but it was defeated in the last general election as part of a plan”. Gilani said that he was sacked and President Asif Ali was stopped from running the party affairs and termed it a “conspiracy” that went on to contribute to the massive election defeat of the PPP. Nearly 200 leading members of Pakistani communities attended the Forum and asked Mr Gilani questions on the PPP’s performance in five years and the various controversies that marked 5 years of rule. Gilani defended his decision of not writing to the Swiss authorities to open graft cases against President Zardari but added that his successor Raja Pervaiz Ashraf was given “accommodation” and relief and asked to find a middle way. He protested that his ouster and disqualification was biased and was a punishment to him for not being a “turncoat”. He said that he was offered incentives to turn against President Zardari and the PPP but he turned down every offer and vowed that “neither has he let down the party in the past nor will he do so it in future. Jails are nothing new for me. I have spent time in jail on account of my political beliefs. I am ready to face jails again but will not compromise on principles. It’s due to my political beliefs that one of my sons has been kidnapped and my family members have been dragged into alleged corruption cases.” Gilani told overseas Pakistanis that their loyalty should not be suspected in any case and “they are ambassadors of Pakistan”. He said that overseas Pakistanis should have the right to vote as well to stand in the election to get the votes. “We failed to get support of all parties over the issue of overseas Pakistanis but we will support PML-N and other parties if they bring legislation for the representations of overseas Pakistanis. Overseas Pakistanis are more Pakistani than anyone else and their loyalty to Pakistan is 100%. There should be no discrimination against them.” Gilani said that the PPP government performed well during its tenure and successfully ended its terms but to say that itwas defeated in the election due to “bad governance” was not right. “We were defeated because of a well planned pre-poll rigging. Everything was done to ensure that we lost and it was engineered. The PPP leadership was attacked from all sides. We were stopped from campaigning and our rallies were attacked by terrorists and threats were issued to us,” alleged Gilani. He said that he had implemented 85 per cent of the Charter of Democracy (CoD) in its true spirit and pursued the “reconciliation” policy introduced by Benazir Bhutto. Gilani said he was right to maintain that President Asif Ali Zardari has immunity under Pakistani and international laws, Article 248 of the Constitution and as per the Vienna convention. “I didn’t write to the Swiss authorities because I protected the Constitution of Pakistan, for me to write a letterwould have been an illegal act that could have amounted to ridiculing the Constitution”. “There was a judicial coup againstme but Raja Pervaiz Ashrafwas asked to find amiddle way. Historywill prove that Iwas right but Iwas victimised,” Gilani held. PPP diehards put critical questions to Gilani and blamed the leadership for taking the party towards oblivion. They asked why, of all the parties, the PPP looked absent fromthe local bodies election campaign.Gilani said that PPP has a strong manifesto and its roots are in the masses. He said the PPP will carry forward the vision of Z A Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto. Gilani said that Nawaz Sharif had made tall claims about introducing a new kind of policy and won elections promising to bring “change in the strategy” but he said that Sharifwas following the same policies. He said that the PML government should be given 1,000 days to see how do they fare and what new policies do they bring. Gilani said that he had met PresidentObama for an hour and told him throughout about the damage caused by drone attacks. “I told Obama that drones create terrorismandmake the job of the democratic government difficult. I appealed to Obama to stop drone strikes inside Pakistan so that we can fight militants effectively and on our own terms.”

Mubarak leaves prison
Egypt’s ousted president Hosni Mubarak was flown from prison by helicopter to a military hospital Thursday after he was cleared for conditional release while standing trial, an interior ministry general told AFP. Mubarak will be held under house arrest at the Cairo hospital on the orders of the prime minister, who has been granted the power to order arrests during the current state of emergency. Live television footage showed the medical helicopter that took Mubarak from Cairo’s Tora prison arrive at a nearby military hospital. Mubarak, 85, is believed to be suffering from a heart condition. Mubarak was cleared for conditional release after his lawyer argued his detention had exceeded the limit of pre-verdict imprisonment, and Mubarak had paid back the money involved in one of his corruption cases. His next hearing is set for Sunday, on charges of corruption and complicity in the deaths of protesters during the 18-day uprising that overthrew him in early 2011.

News Analysis: Release of Mubarak unlikely to change Egypt's political scene

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will be freed on Thursday, as his lawyer said, but he will be placed under house arrest to avoid more perplexity in the country hit by turmoil since the ouster of his successor Mohamed Morsi on July 3. Mubarak will leave the jail after settling his last corruption case of Ahram institution, in which he was charged along with his two sons with misusing power and accepting gifts from governmental institutions via his information minister. Mubarak, 86 years old, governed Egypt for 30 years until he was overthrown during the uprisings that swept the Arab country in early 2011. He will still be banned from traveling abroad as he faces a retrial on charges of involvement in the killing of protesters during the 2011 unrest that eventually toppled him. The next hearing is slated for Saturday. For his old age and the judicial procedures, Mubarak's release won't change the political situation in Egypt, said Gamal Zahran, chief of the political science department at Port Said University. His release won't complicate the political scene which gives the priority for handling stalemate in relations with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and the religious parties after toppling their president and detained their leaders, Zahran told Xinhua. The people don't care currently about Mubarak's news, Zahran said, "his release will add to the sarcastic situation in Egypt." The old man's release will send "negative messages for the society," as Mubarak was involved in misusing his powers in his last corruption case, Zahran said. He called for activating the transitional justice and the revolutionary courts, to hold Mubarak and his remnants accountable for corruption, as incomplete information over their charges helped in acquitting most of them. Though Mubarak has no political future, people are confused over the release of the man charged of killing the protesters, among others. While Mubarak may leave Tora prison soon, leading MB members are detained in the same prison complex. Egyptian authorities on Wednesday arrested hardliner Islamist preacher Safwat Hegazi and MB spokesman Morad Mohamed Ali, while they were trying to flee to Libya and Rome, respectively. Two days ago, the MB's top leader Mohamed Badie was arrested, and was on Tuesday ordered 15 days in custody over charges of killing protesters.Nabil Zaki, a political analyst, upheld that the "Mubarak's regime was a page in Egypt's history, and its influence went long." He expected that Mubarak will be paroled in all cases due to his old age, and it won't take a long time for the people to accept it. Anger against Mubarak decreased obviously after the citizens compared his bad rule with the MB's worse regime, Zaki told Xinhua. The Islamists' poor performance in one year equals what Mubarak's regime did in 30 years of his rule, he noted. Members of Mubarak's ruling party stayed at home, and didn't burn the country when their party dissolved, like what the Islamists did after the army ousted their leader, he added. The Egyptians have to learn respecting the law and the judicial verdicts if they want to live in a democratic country governed by the law, Zaki said. By contrast, Samir Ghatas, chief of Cairo-based Maqdes Center for Political Studies, said the release of Mubarak would stir more political unrest in the country. Though his release is legal but the time is very critical as the Egyptian authorities in which most of them belonged to Mubarak regime, are detaining the MB members, he pointed out. The MB will take to the street against Defense Minister Abdel Fattah Sisi, who ousted their legitimate president and released Mubarak, to pave the way for Mubarak remnants to hold power again, and to eradicate any chance before the Islamists to take power. The situation in Egypt is very complicated and Mubrak's release,although not acquitted, will add perplexity to the scene, Ghatas added.

China slams McCain's remarks on Diaoyu Islands

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Thursday urged a "relevant U.S. lawmaker" to stop making irresponsible remarks on the Diaoyu Islands. The response follows comments by U.S. Senator John McCain on Wednesday, in which he claimed that the China is violating Japan's fundamental right to the islands. The ministry's spokesman, Hong Lei, said in a press release that "relevant U.S. lawmakers" should avoid making regional situations more complicated. According to a Kyodo report, McCain described the Diaoyu islands as "Japanese territory" at a news conference in Tokyo and said that nations feeling increasingly threatened by China's maritime presence "need to act in closer coordination with each other." It is futile for anyone to deny the fact that the Diaoyu Islands are Chinese territory, Hong said.

Syrian govt ready to cooperate with UN experts in chemical attack probe

The Syrian government is ready for “maximum” cooperation with UN experts working to clarify the alleged use of chemical weapon in attacks, Russia’s Foreign Ministry says. Syria will provide all materials related to the investigation. Speaking on Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said Moscow hopes that UN experts will conduct “objective investigation of all possible cases of use of chemical weapons on Syrian territory.” "We hope that the results will clarify the issue and will help to dispel numerous speculations around the alleged use of the Syrian chemical weapons that simultaneously create a positive background for the moves towards the start of the political process of settlement of the Syrian crisis", he said. The statement comes the day after a gas attack was reported by opposition activists in the capital, Damascus, killing according to various reports from dozens up to 1,300. However, according to Lukashevich no one has a confirmed data on the number of killed. While rebel groups blamed the incident on President Bashar Assad's forces, the government suspects it was carried out by opposition to draw international attention to their cause. The attack coincided with the visit of UN observers, coming to the country to investigate previous cases of chemical attacks in the war-torn country. France has called on the international community to respond with force if it is proved true that the Syrian government was behind Wednesday’s chemical attack on civilians. Echoing the French statement, Britain said its priority is to verify cases of chemical weapon use and added it cannot rule out any option to end bloodshed in Syria. Germany earlier the day also demanded Syrian authorities to “immediately” grant full access to UN chemicals weapons experts investigating the attack. Russian officials at the same time remain skeptical of the claims that the Syrian government was behind the gas attack. Reports by “biased regional media” about alleged chemical weapons use near Damascus might be “a provocation planned in advance,” Lukashevich said on Wednesday. He added that there were previous reports by local media about chemical attacks that proved to be false. “It draws attention to the fact that biased regional media have immediately, as if on command, begun an aggressive information attack, laying all the responsibility on the government,” he said.

Sexual harassment in India: 'The story you never wanted to hear'

By Daphne Sashin and Katie Hawkins-Gaar, CNN
Michaela Cross, an American student at the University of Chicago, has written a powerful account of her study abroad trip to India last year, during which she says she experienced relentless sexual harassment, groping and worse. Upon her return, she says she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and is now on a mental leave of absence from the school after a public breakdown in the spring. Cross, a fair-skinned, red-haired South Asian studies major, titled her story "India: The Story You Never Wanted to Hear." She posted her account on CNN iReport under the username RoseChasm.Her story has struck a chord around the world, racking up more than 800,000 page views as of Wednesday morning. It quickly found its way to India, where many readers sympathized with the story and men felt compelled to apologize for the experience she endured. Others called for greater perspective and warned against making generalizations about India or its people. India's deadly gang rape of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi happened a few days after Cross left India in December, and she said that helped others understand what she and her classmates went through. The country has continued to see several high-profile cases of rape and sexual violence cases since then, and the government has introduced tougher laws and punishment for sexual crimes.On her return, Cross struggled to find a way to talk about a cultural experience that was both beautiful and traumatizing, she said in her essay. She writes: "Do I tell them about our first night in the city of Pune, when we danced in the Ganesha festival, and leave it at that? Or do I go on and tell them how the festival actually stopped when the American women started dancing, so that we looked around to see a circle of men filming our every move? "Do I tell them about bargaining at the bazaar for beautiful saris costing a few dollars a piece, and not mention the men who stood watching us, who would push by us, clawing at our breasts and groins? "When people compliment me on my Indian sandals, do I talk about the man who stalked me for 45 minutes after I purchased them, until I yelled in his face in a busy crowd?"Later, she writes: "For three months I lived this way, in a traveler's heaven and a woman's hell. I was stalked, groped, masturbated at; and yet I had adventures beyond my imagination. I hoped that my nightmare would end at the tarmac, but that was just the beginning." A university spokesman confirmed Cross is a student at the school and would not comment on her mental leave. He said the school is committed to students' safety at home and abroad. Cross said she didn't say anything to the professors on the trip until things reached "a boiling point" -- what she called two rape attempts in 48 hours.Dipesh Chakrabarty, a University of Chicago professor who was in India for the first three weeks of the session, told CNN that he was unaware of Cross' situation. He noted, though, that the university tries to prepare students for what they might encounter while abroad. The Civilizations Abroad in India program was based in the city of Pune, but the students traveled to other areas during the semester. "Both faculty and staff in Chicago and our local Indian staff counsel students before and during the trip about precautions they need to take in a place like India," Chakrabarty said in an e-mail. "Ensuring student safety and well-being is the top priority of both the College and staff and faculty associated with the program." The university provided this statement to CNN: "Nothing is more important to us at the University of Chicago than caring for the safety and well-being of our students, here in Chicago and wherever they go around the world in the course of their studies. The University offers extensive support and advice to students before, during and after their trips abroad, and we are constantly assessing and updating that preparation in light of events and our students' experiences. We also place extremely high value on the knowledge our students seek by traveling and studying other civilizations and cultures, and we are committed to ensuring they can do so in safety while enriching their intellectual lives."Her story sparked a wave of reaction online, with scores of Indians responding, many with sympathy to her plight and pointing out that Indian women also experience high levels of harassment and abuse. Arvind Rao, a media professional in Mumbai, was moved to post this comment on her story: "It thoroughly disgusts me to be known as an Indian male ... An apology is extremely meager for all the trauma you've gone through." He expressed hope that politicians would "wake up and implement stricter laws against crime and sexual harassment on women." "Every time my girlfriend goes out alone, I pray that she comes back home safely," wrote a commenter using the name Jajabar. "Being an Indian male, I apologize." Others, however, observed that sexual harassment was by no means confined to India, and Indian commenter Sam1967 warned against condemning his home country when so many others failed to protect the women living within their borders. "I accept what happened was definitely an embarrassment and a cause of trauma for her that might haunt her for the rest of her life. But this has happened in many other countries or places and therefore it may not be the right thing to single out India."Another woman who said she was on the same University of Chicago sponsored trip to India, posted a response on CNN iReport calling on people to resist stereotyping Indian men and recognize that sexual assault happens all over the world. The student, Katherine Stewart, said she dealt with her own share of harassment on the trip, but "in my experiences in India, I have met a solid handful of warm and honest Indian men -- men who are also college students, men who also love the thrill of riding on a motorcycle in the busy streets, men who defended me at necessary times, and men who took the time to get to know me and my culture. And that should not at all be surprising." Stewart said she believed Cross "had every right to tell her story" and in no way wanted to lessen the significance of her experience. But Stewart, who is black, cautioned that "when we do not make the distinction that only some men of a population commit a crime, we develop a stereotype for an entire population. And when we develop a negative stereotype for a population, what arises? Racism." One thing is certain: Cross sparked a huge discussion with a story that she thought no one wanted to hear. She said she is thankful for her experiences in India, and wants to see more international exposure about what women travelers and residents endure. "Truth is a gift, a burden, and a responsibility. And I mean to share it," she writes. "This is the story you don't want to hear when you ask me about India. But this is the story you need."

An Afghan poet shapes metal and hard words with same passion

The poet guided a strip of sheet metal into the ancient steel clippers, cutting shimmering triangles that fell with a dull clang on the shop floor. In the background, a workman’s chorus filled the yard: a handsaw planing a log beam; a generator humming and catching; the groan of a giant diesel truck idling. The harsh music of the workday welled up around Matiullah Turab, one of Afghanistan’s most famous Pashtun poets, in the garage where he earns a living repairing the colorful Pakistani caravan trucks that transport goods around the countryside. The cadence of his nights, though, is his own: shaping poetry as hard and piercing as the tools he uses by day. Nature and romance carry no interest for him. “A poet’s job is not to write about love,” he growled, his booming voice blending with the ambient noise of the workshop. “A poet’s job is not to write about flowers. A poet must write about the plight and pain of the people.” With his unflinching words, Turab, 44, offers a voice for Afghans grown cynical about the war and its perpetrators: the Americans, the Taliban, the Afghan government, Pakistan.
War has turned into a trade Heads have been sold as if they weigh like cotton, and at the scale sit such judges who taste the blood, then decide the price
Taped versions of Turab’s poems spread virally, especially among his fellow ethnic Pashtuns, whom he unabashedly champions - a tribal affinity that alienates some Tajik and Hazara listeners. His close affiliation with Hezb-i-Islami - part Islamist political party, part militant group - has put off others. But even as his social affiliations are narrow and divisive, his poetry has mass appeal. Turab reserves his charity for ordinary Afghans, weighed down by the grinding corruption and disappointment that have come to define the last decade of their lives. Many see his poems, some of which were translated from Pashto for The New York Times, as a counter to the daily spin showered on Afghans by the government, diplomats, religious leaders and the media.
O flag-bearers of the world, you have pained us a lot in the name of security You cry of peace and security, and you dispatch guns and ammunition
“There is no genuine politician in Afghanistan,” he said, briefly cracking a rare smile. “As far as I know, politicians need the support of the people, and none of these politicians have that. For me, they are like the shareholders of a business. They only think of themselves and their profit.” He continued: “The Taliban are not the solution, either. Gone are those old days when the Taliban way of governing worked.” He has no patience for preciousness in his own work or in others’, and he is particularly merciless with government officials. He ridicules them, saying they should stitch three pockets into their jackets: one to collect afghanis, one for dollars and a third for Pakistani rupees. For all that disdain, however, Turab has remained popular in influential corners of the government. And President Hamid Karzai recently invited him to the presidential palace in Kabul. “The president liked my poetry and told me I had an excellent voice, but I don’t know why,” he said. “I criticized him.” He is quite widely in demand. Though he prefers to be home in Khost, Turab’s travel schedule still far outpaces the average metalsmith’s. People flock to his rare personal readings, and new poems posted on YouTube quickly become among the most-watched by Afghans. He is planning a trip to Moscow soon to receive an award from members of the Afghan diaspora there. And he visits the governor of Paktia, a friend, to perform on occasions. Turab is the latest in a long roll call of cherished Afghan poets, among the most famous of them Rumi, the Sufi mystic whose works of love and faith remain popular across the world. Though poetry is loved, it seldom pays. Some writers have taken government jobs, finding the steady paycheck and modest responsibilities conducive to their work. Turab, for his part, has stuck to his dingy garage on the outskirts of Khost City. “This is my life, what you see here: banging iron, cutting it short, making it long,” he said. “I still don’t call myself a poet.” There is something else, which even the plain-spoken Turab seemed reluctant to confess: He is nearly illiterate. Though he can, with difficulty, read printed copy, he can neither write nor read the handwriting of others, he said. He constructs his poetry in his head, relying on memory to retain it and others to record it. Turab grew up in a small village of Nangarhar province, poor even by Afghan standards. His father was a farmer, and grew just enough to feed the family. Though they had little, he fondly remembers his youth - particularly the days spent learning from the village poet, a man he grew to love for his sharp words and honesty. After the Soviet invasion in 1979, Turab, a teenager at the time, moved with his family to Pakistan. He came of age there, returning to Afghanistan two decades later, with a trade, a wife and a modest following as a poet. He kept refining his craft after his return, cultivating a broader audience. Under Taliban rule, he dared to publish a book of his work - a grave mistake. “The Taliban beat me very badly,” he said, shaking his head, then proffering a smile. “After that, I decided publishing wasn’t such a good idea.” Though he is an unabashed Pashtun loyalist, he has no love for the Taliban, who are closely identified with Pashtun tribes. He says he loathes the terror they cultivate and the way they have destabilized Afghanistan. And he excoriates them for being as inept and out of touch as the Western-backed government.
O graveyard of skulls and oppression Rip this earth open and come out They taunt me with your blood, and you lie intoxicated with thoughts of virgins.
“Sometimes I’m amazed that things aren’t falling apart,” he said, clasping his hands together as he reflected on years of war and foreign presence here. “But then I realize there is a social law here that holds the country together, even if there is no governmental law.”

Afghanistan: Karzai's Jirga to be Held Within Two Months
In an interview with Associated Press, Emal Faizi, spokesman of President Karzai, said that the proposed Loya Jirga would be convened within the next two months. According to the President's office, the Jirga aims to collect input from the public on the Afghan-U.S. Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) prior to any final decision on the agreement being made. A number of political parties have strongly criticized Karzai's Jirga, labeling it unconstitutional. Their claim is that the Afghan government has already agreed to the security agreement with the U.S. and now, by organizing a Jirga, President Karzai is only trying to delay the final signing of it in order to negotiate benefits for himself. "The Jirga is illegal. By holding the Jirga, President Karzai is striving to legitimize his own agenda. At the Jirga they will try to make personal gains as the Jirga is going to be conducted by those who are supporting and working for personal benefits," said Syed Fazel Aqa Sancharaki, spokesman of the National Coalition of Afghanistan. Members of the National Front Party (NFP) were of the opinion that the Jirga would be used by President Karzai as a means to influence campaigns in the upcoming elections. "People already agreed on the security agreement at the previous Jirga, there is no need for another one," said Sardar Muhammad Rahimi, spokesman of the NFP. "It seems that the government aims to meet other objectives. Soon the Presidential candidates will be announced and by holding the Jirga the government wants to promote a particular nominee for the elections," he said. According to President Karzai's office, the Loya Jirga is simply intended to provide feedback for a final decision to be made on the security agreement, an accord meant to provide the roadmap for U.S. security assistance in Afghanistan after the bulk of troops are withdrawn when the official NATO combat mission ends in 2014. U.S. officials gave the Afghan government until October to sign the BSA, which is one slice of the broader Strategic Cooperation Partnership Agreement (SCPA) signed by President Karzai and President Obama in May, 2012. According to the 3rd Chapter, Section B and Article 2 of the BSA, both countries pledged to sign-off on the finalized details of the agreement within a year of the SCPA's ratification. The 3rd Chapter of the BSA states: "Both sides will hold negotiations over the security agreement. The negotiations on the security agreement must be completed within a period of one year immediately after the Strategic Cooperation Partnership Agreement is signed. The security agreement will provide clarity on the presence of US military and civilian employees in Afghanistan to support the country in combating insurgency, providing assistance, military training of the Afghan Security Forces and other activities which both countries had agreed upon in 2003." However, as this one-year deadline has already come and gone, the October timetable submitted by the U.S. and the two-month Jirga window proposed by President Karzai's office provide the only indicators of when a final signing might be expected. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) announced on Tuesday that the BSA talks had entered a new stage, lending hope to the potentiality of a ratification before October. MoFA officials said that Dr. Rangeen Dadfar Spanta, the National Security Advisor; Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, the head of the Security Transition Commission (STC); and Dr. Zalmai Rasoul, the Foreign Minister, had been assigned the task of accelerating the process. But with simultaneous news of President Karzai's intent to go ahead with the Jirga, the exact decision making method of the Afghan government when it comes to its expectations and conditions for an acceptable BSA is increasingly unclear. If negotiations are in fact entering a final phase, as the MoFA implied this week, it seems somewhat of a mystery as to just how influential public feedback from the Jirga would be as the U.S.' October deadline draws near. The Afghan government has already announced a number of broad preconditions for finalizing the BSA, including the U.S. assisting in the restoration of peace and security, supporting Afghanistan against external threats and equipping the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). The issue of "diplomatic immunity" for U.S. forces in Afghanistan post-2014, which would free them from the potential of prosecution in Afghan courts, has remained as one of the sticking points in negotiations between Kabul in Washington that have prolonged the process. The Afghan government initially postponed talks on the security agreement back in June after tensions between the two countries flared during the "Islamic Emirates" controversy surrounding the opening of the Taliban's political office in Qatar. If the agreement is not signed, it is unlikely that any U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan following the official end of the NATO mission in 2014. "There is a lot of hope that the BSA would be finalized soon." Said Dr. Dawood Muradyan, an international affairs analyst. "The enemies of Afghanistan are closely monitoring the situation and they are waiting to see what is going to happen. The signing of the BSA will remove all misconceptions and send a clear message to neighboring countries that Afghanistan and the U.S. are enjoying longstanding relations."

Pakistan's PM's Useless speech to the Nation

Nawaz Sharif delivered his first speech to the nation after a gap of 14 years but there was hardly anything new for the public. The energy problem is the same; there’s no let up in corruption; white elephants are still being paid to survive; no heads rolled for the price escalation of the Nandipur power project; the ailing economy is still to be put back on track; the fate of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline is not known. While the PM wants to make Pakistan an Asian Tiger, he must realize that is not possible without solving the energy problem. He is even unwilling to tackle the terrorism problem,For counter terrorism…what’s new…? No solid action announced!Just waste of time, he should also take strong action against Punjabi Taliban and punish the leaders of Lashker e janhgve who are involved in attacks on SHAI, AHMADI Muslims. Pakistani PM should also distance himself, his brother Shabaz and Punjab's Law Minister SANAULLAH from Lashker e jhangvi gang who are openly killing innocent people.
Nawaz was dreaming the same dream in 1990 and then again in 1997 in his speech by cliaming,he make Pakistan,Asia'a tiger.MR PM should stop dreaming. This country needs practical steps not more of “Josh-e-khtabat” Nawaz forgets the days of his government during which corruption did not reduce. The sad state of Pakistan is due to last 66 years of corruption that prevailed in society. The previous generation of youth did not help but made money by whatever means. This generation includes all the older statement like Nawaz, Shabaz, and Maulana FUR. Empty Promises by him. Nothing solid on counter terrorism. NS will destroy Pakistan the way he’s going. As long as there is feudalism and capitalism in Pakistan, dreams of being Asian Tiger are just day-dreams.2/3rd of Pakistan’s population is below poverty line and multinationals are literally ruling and robing us and our politicians and bureaucracy are serving them instead of our own people and country.We will become Asian Tiger and much more only after we become independent in real world.

Roadside Bomb In Pakistan Kills Taliban Commander, Guards

A senior Taliban commander and three bodyguards have been killed by a roadside bomb in a remote region of northwestern Pakistan. Hafizullah Wazir, a journalist in Pakistan's South Waziristan tribal district, told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal on August 22 that the bomb hit a vehicle carrying commander Ghulam Jan late on the previous day. Wazir said the incident happened in Mana, a village near Pakistan's western border with Afghanistan. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. Jan was closely allied with the militant group, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. In 2007, he battled his own Ahmadzai Wazir tribesmen but was forced out of the region along with his mainly Uzbek allies. Rivalries among Taliban factions are common in Waziristan, which has served as the main base for Islamist extremists over the past decade

Musharraf in the dock

For the first time in this country’s 66-year history, the walls seem to be closing in on the culture of impunity that has dominated its political direction. Former army general and president of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf has been indicted by an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) for the murder of Benazir Bhutto, one of Pakistan’s most important political leaders. This charge comes almost six years after the PPP leader’s death — a reality that seems set to erode some of the power the hitherto untouchable military has enjoyed after ruling this nation for more than half its life. Even when it has not been running the show, the powerful army has been pulling the strings from behind the scenes. Hence, to see a former military dictator being hauled up and brought to book is a precedent that one could not have imagined in the past. Musharraf has been in trouble ever since he made the stupid decision to return to the country on a quixotic mission to present himself as a saviour once again. Instead a rash of setbacks and court cases have haunted him since set foot on home soil. The killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti has in particular repeatedly come back to haunt him with the finger of accusation being pointed his way and now the murder of Benazir Bhutto has been placed squarely on his shoulders. Whilst the ex-general is in the dock for the most high profile assassination in Pakistan’s recent history, it is the party Benazir gave her life for that should be ashamed of the role it failed to play in bringing the perpetrators of her murder to justice. It was the PPP that gave Musharraf safe passage out of the country in 2008, even though fingers had already started pointing his way. It was the PPP that in its five years in power did little except go through the motions of trying to track down its martyred leader’s killers. Whilst the UN and Scotland Yard may have been brought in, little to no effort was made to initiate a full blown internal investigation into her murder. The PPP beats its chest and rides on a wave of sympathy for its martyred leaders but also leaves them high and dry when it is most needed. The party and all those who have been at its helm after the assassination should be ashamed of themselves. Musharraf miscalculated every step in the run up to his indictment. Fooled by the many ‘likes’ he received on Facebook while in exile, the ex-dictator rode in on a high horse before the elections of May 2013, expecting a hero’s welcome. He was sorely mistaken as only a handful of people arrived to greet him. He was then disqualified from participating in the elections for which he had travelled to Pakistan and then placed under house arrest — definitely more comfortable than biding time in a prison cell. Now that he has been indicted by the ATC, it seems any outcome is possible, including one in which he is found guilty of murder and conspiracy to murder. The case against him was initiated by the caretaker government before the elections and has now come to this. However, too many questions still remain unanswered. Benazir’s e-mails before her death speak of a woman under constant threat, given the ultimatum by Musharraf himself that her security was contingent on ‘cooperation’ with him. The fact that she did not have adequate security and the numerous attempts on her life before that last fatal blow in 2007 show that without the general’s tacit approval, none of the tragic events of 2007 could have happened. All allegations of militant involvement seem futile when one considers all the circumstantial evidence: a lone gunman in the midst of a thronging crowd when the injury suffered by Benazir could only have been inflicted by a high velocity weapon such as a sniper rifle, a suicide blast and a suspected second body, and, most damning of all, the hosing down of the crime scene immediately after the murder. It seems impossible that all of this happened without the powerful military knowing about it. There are nagging questions that still need to be answered but, it seems, the first step has already been taken: making answerable the man who was ‘king’ when it all transpired.

Pakistan: By-polls: Women voters absent in Nowshera and Lakki Marwat,Punjab's Mianwali area

Several polling stations in Punjab's Mianwali area have prevented women from casting votes. Women have been 'barred' from voting in several polling stations of Lakki Marwat's NA-27 constituency.
Women voters were absent from the polling stations in some parts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as in the May 2013 elections, because they were barred from polling either as a result of a ban imposed or an understanding between the contesting candidates that women voters should not be allowed to come out for voting on the pretext of social or cultural norms. The reports of women being barred from the polling process were received from various polling stations in Nowshera, Lakki Marwat and Mianwali areas. During a visit to various polling stations in Nowshera's NA-5, not even a single woman voter had turned out to cast her vote till the filing of this report and some locals suspected that there might have been an agreement between the contestants to bar female voters from casting their votes. KP Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak’s son-in-law Dr Imran Khattak is contesting the by-polls in Nowshera's NA-5 constituency on a Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) ticket with the support of Jamaat-i-Islami and Qaumi Watan Party in NA-5 against Daud Khattak who is contesting elections on an Awami National Party (ANP) toicket supported by Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam - Fazl (JUI-F) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). No women vote was polled at polling stations situated in NA-5 constituency's Wazir Gari, Dag Behsud, Kadni Tazadin, Ali Baig, Jalozai and Jalozai Mera areas. When asked about the reason for zero turn-out of female voters, Naina Amin, a presiding officer at a women polling station established at Government Girls High School Dag Behsud said that everything was in order and the polling staff had been waiting for the voters, but women are not coming out to cast votes. She said that it is customary in the area for rural women to be barred by their male family-members from casting votes and that the political parties often strike an agreement barring women voters. The presiding officer added that the polling staff was not aware of the exact reason behind the absence of women from the polling process. Sources in Lakki Marwat also said that a local jirga had entered into an agreement which barred women from polling in various polling stations in NA-27 consituency but so far no written agreement regarding any such agreement came into light, similar to those which had surfaced during 2013 general elections in Dir and Buner. Similar reports of absence of women voters were also received from polling stations in Mianwali's NA-71 constituency. During 2013 general elections women voters were not allowed to cast votes in Buner, Lakki Marwat, Dir and some other areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and some written agreement has also surfaced but despite no action had been taken. A local PTI leader Israr Nabi told Dawn.Com that the political parties had not barred the women from voting but local elders of Dag Behsud had decided that as per local traditions and customs women voters should not head out of their homes to cast their votes. A resident of the area claimed that women were themselves not interested to come out and vote because of the local customs and traditions. A local elder Shehzada Khan said that 15 women voters had come out during the last general election in their village and they had voted. He rejected the notion that the women had been barred by the elders of the village, adding “if they are not interested to cast their votes, what can the local elders do.” “It might be security, fear or customs, but if last time 15 women had come out to vote, they can do it this time, but if they are not coming, its not our fault,” he remarked.

Islambad's Sikkandar Drama: ''Facing the music''

Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has said that Sikandar was part of a large network and not a lone gunman taking Islamabad hostage on August 15. He said that the investigation into the incident has revealed Sikandar’s links reaching as far as Abu Dhabi and some suspects have also been arrested from Hafizabad and Azad Kashmir. There were, according to him, some big names involved who could not be revealed because of security reasons. The opposition parties in parliament have been critical of the performance of the security agencies that had made a mockery of the country by not taking out a lone gunman and allowing him to paralyze the capital for five and a half hours. Fingers are being pointed at the professional abilities of Chaudhry Nisar to head the interior ministry, responding to which the minister has offered the formation of a multiparty parliamentary national security committee to oversee his ministry’s performance. He has even asked the opposition parties to suggest the names of honest and professional police officials who should be appointed on sensitive jobs. The crux of this initial investigation however has been the oft-repeated involvement of the ubiquitous foreign hand. Governments in Pakistan have been using the foreign hand for as long as memory serves as a fig leaf to hide their failings. Earlier it was Rehman Malik taking refuge in the mystery of international involvement to explain Pakistan’s dire security situation, now it is Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan adopting the same ‘explanation’. Having become a cliché, this resort to blaming everything that happens on the ‘invisible’ foreign hand does little to console the nation. The Islamabad incident was a sharp reminder of our institutional failure, not so much for their inability to coordinate with each other but for the professional failure they exhibited by not identifying the level of the threat and the response needed to thwart it. Now, instead of accepting the failure, operational, functional and tactical, the minister is passing the blame onto unnamed others. The theory of the ‘other (unknown) factor’ conspiring to destabilize Pakistan has more than passed its sell-by date. The reality is that it was a sheer failure of the police and other security agencies assigned the job to maintain law and order in Islamabad. The same has been revealed by the initial report of the interior ministry on the Islamabad incident. Therefore facing the music is the best option and far more graceful too. No matter how the interior minister tries to justify his and the law enforcement agencies’ role in the Islamabad incident, the fact is that the duration of that drama should not have been dragged out to over five hours. Senator Raza Rabbani has rightly inquired about the officer heading the operation. There should be someone owning the show? Or, worse, there was no one, making it easier for Zamurad to bring the curtain down on the suspense.

President Zardari calls for closer economic ties with Thailand

Daily Times
President Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday stressed the need for translating the cordial relationship between Pakistan and Thailand into a substantive partnership in areas of trade, defence, education, science and technology and tourism. In a meeting with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra at the presidency, Zardari said that Pakistan and Thailand had been longstanding friends and allies, as ties and cultural connection between the two societies goes back to more than two millennia to the Gandhara period.
President’s spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar said the two leaders discussed a wide range of bilateral, regional and international issues. The president said Pakistan was proud of preserving and promoting the rich Buddhist heritage. “Our common cultural heritage, particularly the Gandhara civilization, provides huge opportunities for promoting tourism between the two countries,” he said. The president also suggested organising a Gandhara exhibition in Thailand, which he said would help further promote cultural and tourism ties between the two countries. He said that Pakistan was keen to comprehensively upgrade its relationship with Thailand as a crucial component of the “Vision East Asia”. The spokesperson said the president also stressed the need for deepening and broadening government-to-government, business-to-business, parliament-to-parliament and people-to-people relations, which the president said was vital to build robust economic and trade relations between the two countries. The president expressed confidence that the agreements signed between the two sides on the establishment of the Joint Trade Committee and the Joint Business Council would help expand bilateral trade ties and open new vistas of business and trade. He also called for having a free-trade agreement between the two countries, which he said should be the centrepiece of a strong economic partnership. The president expressed satisfaction that the two countries had shared perceptions and similar positions on a range of regional and international issues. The president appreciated Thailand’s consistent support to Pakistan in becoming a full dialogue partner with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The president also appreciated the Thai government’s recent financial support for the rehabilitation of earthquake-affected people in Balochistan as well as flood victims in 2010 and 2011. He recalled his meeting with Thailand’s Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn during her visit to Pakistan in March 2012, and said that the exchange of high-level visits had brought the countries and people of the two countries further closer. The president hoped that the visit of Yingluck Shinawatra, the first democratically elected female prime minister of Thailand, would further boost bilateral relations, particularly trade and investment ties. Zardari also conveyed warm greetings and best wishes for King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit on the behalf of the people of Pakistan. Yingluck Shinawatra said that Pakistan and Thailand enjoyed deep friendly relations and expressed confidence that the ties would grow further with each passing day. She also offered condolences on behalf of her government and the people over the loss of life and property in recent floods in Pakistan. The Thai prime minister felicitated the president for overseeing the smooth and successful holding of the general election and the presidential election in the country, and said that Thailand believed in the value of democracy and respected the will of the people.

Missing Baloch Journalist Murdered in Karachi

The Baloch Hal
Police recovered bodies of two Baloch men from the Surjani Town area in Karachi on Wednesday, DawnNews reported. The area police said 35-year-old Haji Razzak and 40-year-old Pathan were strangled and their bodies were found near Hamad Nawaz Farm on Hub Road within the remit of the Northern Bypass neighbouring Surjani Town police station. The victims were identified with the help of slips found from their bodies, which had their names written on it. Sources said the deceased persons hailed from the Balochistan province and their names were included in the missing persons’ list. Moreover, Haji Razak, son of Rasool Baksh, was the sub-editor of a Mastung-based publication from the province of Balochistan. He was the resident of Karachi’s Lyari area and was said to be missing since March 24, 2013. Earlier, two missing Baloch youngsters allegedly picked up by personnel of some security agency in Turbat were found dead in Surjani Town. It is pertinent to mention that in the past six months, a total of 16 bodies have been recovered from the Surjani Town area, all hailing from Balochistan. After cities of Balochistan, it is believed that Karachi is fast becoming a dumping ground for bodies of missing Baloch men.

Pakistan: Ahmadi man and a neighbour killed in a hail of bullets

Ahmadiyya Times
At least eight people were shot dead in separate incidents of violence across the city, while four dead bodies were found here on Wednesday. In one incident, a man belonging to the Ahmadiyya community along with his neighbour was shot dead in Mujahid Colony within the jurisdiction of Orangi Town police station. Police officials said the deceased, Zahoor Ahmed Kiyani, 46, an officer in Anti Narcotics Force (ANF), was sitting outside his residence with neighbour Noorul Wahid, when two armed riders targeted Kiyani, killing him on the spot. When Wahid showed resistance and tried to get hold of the culprits, he was also gunned down. Both the bodies were taken to ASH for autopsy, and later handed over to their families. Ahmadiyya community spokesperson Saleemuddin condemned the incident, and demanded law enforcers to arrest the criminals involved. He said that Kiyani had no enmity with anyone, and that he was killed on sectarian basis. Police has registered FIR against unidentified persons, and investigation is underway.