Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Saudi Arabi Fines Car Owners After 6 Women Found Driving In Defiance Of Kingdom's Male-Only Law

Saudi traffic police have fined several car owners after six women were found defying the kingdom's male-only driving rules, a Saudi daily reported on Wednesday. The fines in Eastern Province coincide with a campaign called by women's rights activists to challenge the ban on women driving in the conservative Islamic kingdom late next month.
Traffic police issued fines totalling 5,400 riyals ($1,400) for allowing "an unqualified person to drive", al-Sharq newspaper reported, quoting an acting police spokesman. "The cases were stopped near the beach and in uninhabited areas that are still being developed," Major Mansour al-Shakra said. "They were driving for fun and not to learn how to drive." No laws explicitly ban Saudi women from driving, but citizens must use locally issued licenses. These are not issued to women, making it in effect illegal for them to drive. Women who have defied the rules in the past have also faced charges of organising political protests, which are also prohibited in the monarchy, where there are no political parties and the only elections are for city councils. A group of Saudi activists last week called on women to get behind the wheel on Oct. 26 to challenge the ban. At least two similar campaigns in the past two years have failed to bring change, with the authorities detaining several women and making them sign pledges not to drive again. Saudi Arabia is a conservative monarchy backed by religious scholars. It upholds an austere form of Sunni Islam and gives wide powers to clerics who dominate the judicial system and run their own police squad to enforce religious morals.

Saudi Arabia worst on women's legal issues -report

Saudi Arabia tops the list of countries for laws that limit women's economic potential, while South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa have made the least progress over the last 50 years in improving women's economic opportunities, a report issued on Tuesday says. In the last half century, women's rights worldwide have improved significantly and yet in almost 90 percent of the 143 countries surveyed in the World Bank study, at least one law remains on the books to bar women from certain jobs, opening a bank account, accessing capital or making independent decisions. Twenty-eight countries make 10 or more legal distinctions between the rights of men and women, and half of these countries are in the Middle East and North Africa, followed by 11 in sub-Saharan Africa, it said. The World Bank report shows that when there is a gender gap in legal rights, fewer women own their businesses and income inequality is greatest, a finding that offers fresh insight on the impact that reducing barriers to women's economic opportunities could have on reducing world poverty. "When women and men participate in economic life on an equal footing, they can contribute their energies to building a more cohesive society and more resilient economy," said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in releasing the report, Women Business and the Law. Kim has set as a World Bank priority ending extreme poverty by 2030. Empowering women is viewed by development experts as crucial to achieving that goal, since women have the primary responsibility for the family. Women's economic inclusion helps lift household incomes, leading to healthier children who are more likely to attend school and who in turn raise themselves from poverty. Countries everywhere have started to remove legal obstacles to women's economic participation, but the progress has been uneven. In Latin America and the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia, legal restrictions have been cut in half since 1960, said Augusto Lopez-Claros, director of global indicators at the World Bank.
But the Middle East region shows the least progress and some countries have gone backwards. Yemen and Egypt have removed from their constitutions bans on gender discrimination. Iran has allowed husbands to prevent their wives from working, placed restrictions on women's mobility and limited their work in the judicial sector, the report said. Sarah Iqbal, program officer at the World Bank and lead author of the report, said the persistence of legal restrictions remains one of the most discouraging aspects of the report. "We have come a long way but still have a great way to go," she said in a news briefing. About 25 percent of countries surveyed have no laws addressing domestic violence and again the Middle East and North Africa region has the least protections, the report found. Additionally, Algeria and Morocco are the only countries in the region that have laws addressing sexual harassment in the workplace, the report found. Yet advancements worldwide have been made in the past two years. Forty-four countries improved economic opportunities for women between April 2011 and April 2013, the time period the report covers, and no new restrictions were imposed. Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and Mali, for instance, no longer allow husbands to unilaterally forbid their wives from working; the Philippines has removed restrictions on night work for women, and Slovakia increased the wages paid women during maternity leave. The 2014 report covers 143 countries and was based on data from April 2011 to April 2013, on an examination of laws, and interviews with country experts in family and labor law. In addition, it looked at how conditions have changed over the past 50 years on two indicators - women's access to institutions and use of property in 100 countries.

Pakistan quake island unlikely to last—experts
A small island created in the Arabian Sea by the huge earthquake that hit southwest Pakistan has fascinated locals but experts say it is unlikely to last long.
The 7.7-magnitude quake struck on Tuesday in Baluchistan’s remote Awaran district, killing more than 200 people and affecting hundreds of thousands. Off the coastline near the port of Gwadar, some 400 kilometers from the epicenter, locals were astonished to see a new piece of land surface from the waves. “It is not a small thing, but a huge thing which has emerged from under the water,” Gwadar resident Muhammad Rustam told AFP. “It looked very, very strange to me and also a bit scary because suddenly a huge thing has emerged from the water.” Mohammad Danish, a marine biologist from Pakistan’s National Institute of Oceanography, said a team of experts had visited the island and found methane gas rising. “Our team found bubbles rising from the surface of the island which caught fire when a match was lit and we forbade our team to start any flame. It is methane gas,” Danish said on GEO television news. The island is about 60 to 70 feet high, up to 300 feet wide and up to 120 feet long, he said. It sits about 200 meters away from the coast. Gary Gibson, a seismologist with Australia’s University of Melbourne, said the new island was likely to be a “mud volcano,” created by methane gas forcing material upwards during the violent shaking of the earthquake. “It’s happened before in that area but it’s certainly an unusual event, very rare,” Gibson told AFP, adding that it was “very curious” to see such activity some 400 kilometers from the quake’s epicentre.
The so-called island is not a fixed structure but a body of mud that will be broken down by wave activity and dispersed over time, the scientist said. A similar event happened in the same area in 1945 when an 8.1-magnitude earthquake at Makran triggered the formation of mud volcanoes off Gwadar. Professor Shamim Ahmed Shaikh, chairman of the department of geology at Karachi University, said the island, which has not been named, would disperse within a couple of months. He said it happens along the Makran coast because of the complex relationship between tectonic plates in the area. Pakistan sits close to the junction of three plates — the Indian, Arabian and Eurasian. “About a year back an island of almost similar size had surfaced at the similar distance from the coast in the Makran region. This would disperse in a week to a couple of months,” Shaikh told AFP. Gibson said the temporary island was very different from the permanent uplift seen during major “subduction zone” earthquakes, where plate collisions force the Earth’s crust suddenly and sometimes dramatically upwards. For example, in the massive 9.5-magnitude earthquake in Chile in 1960 — known as the world’s largest ever — whole fishing villages were thrust “several meters” upwards and wharves suddenly located hundreds of meters inland, Gibson said. Such uplift events are relatively common in the Pacific’s so-called “Ring of Fire,” a hotbed of seismic and volcanic activity at the junction of several tectonic plates. A thundering 8.0-magnitude quake in the Solomon Islands in 2007 thrust Ranogga Island upwards by three meters, exposing submerged reefs once popular with divers and killing the vibrant corals, expanding the shoreline outwards by several meters in the process. During the massive 9.2-magnitude earthquake off Sumatra which triggered a devastating tsunami across the Indian Ocean in 2004, several islands were pushed upwards while others subsided into the ocean. The Aceh coast dropped permanently by one meter while Simeulue Island was lifted by as much as 1.5 meters, exposing the surrounding reef which became the island’s new fringe.
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Death toll from earthquake in Pakistan rises to 328

The death toll from a powerful earthquake in southwest Pakistan rose to 328 on Wednesday after hundreds of mud houses collapsed on residents throughout the remote and thinly populated area, local officials said.

President Obama at the United Nations

In his address to the United Nations General Assembly, President Obama gave some coherence to his foreign policy vision, which acknowledges both America’s role in the world and its limited ability to determine events inside other nations. He also set important, if incomplete, priorities for the rest of his term. Mr. Obama is well known for giving good speeches, so the question is whether he can implement a consistent, effective strategy to achieve his goals. It is no surprise that Iran was at the top of his agenda. The recent election of a more moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, has improved opportunities to pursue a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear program, which threatens regional stability. More surprising was Mr. Obama’s decision to give prominence to Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, which the White House initially held at arm’s length even as Secretary of State John Kerry began to bring the two sides together. We hope that means the United States-brokered negotiations, taking place behind closed doors, may be making some progress. On Iran, Mr. Obama was appropriately cautious, noting that more than three decades of hostility between the United States and Iran will not be overcome easily. Even so, Mr. Obama said “the diplomatic path must be tested,” gave Mr. Kerry that task and held out the hope that a nuclear deal would be a major step toward “a different relationship — one based on mutual interests and mutual respect.” Mr. Rouhani, in his own speech to the General Assembly, also spoke of tolerance and understanding and said nuclear weapons had no place in his country’s future. But he made no specific proposal to demonstrate that Iran was prepared to go beyond the well-chosen words. Whether the two nations can actually break new ground might be seen when Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, attends a scheduled meeting with Mr. Kerry and representatives from the other major powers negotiating the Iran dispute later this week. It would be the highest level meeting between the two countries since 2007. (The White House proposed an “encounter” between Mr. Obama and Mr. Rouhani at the United Nations, but Iranians refused the overture as “too complicated” politically.) Before the world leaders, Mr. Obama took pains to defend his threat of military action against Syria for the use of chemical weapons as crucial to getting a Russian-brokered deal on the table and the Security Council to act. He sharply called on Russia and Iran to accept reality: that the Assad regime cannot be left to stand and the continuing war would lead to an increasingly violent arena for extremists. And he insisted that America would be engaged in the Middle East for the “long haul.” There was much to consider in his comments about how and when America will use its influence and its force in the future. He warned that the danger for the world is not that America is eager to immerse itself in other countries but that it may disengage and leave a leadership vacuum that no other nation is ready to fill. Mr. Obama affirmed his intention to use “all elements of our power, including military force,” to secure America’s interests, like preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. But he also said that after more than a decade of war and a conflicted record in the Middle East, America has gained a “hard-earned humility” about its ability to alter the course of other countries. The challenge for the United States is balancing those two ideas.

Most Americans against defunding Obamacare: Survey

A solid majority of Americans oppose defunding the new health care law if it means shutting down the government and defaulting on debt. The CNBC All-America Economic Survey of 800 people across the country conducted by Hart-McInturff, finds that, in general, Americans oppose defunding Obamacare by a plurality of 44 percent to 38 percent.
Opposition to defunding increases sharply when the issue of shutting down the government and defaulting is included. In that case, Americans oppose defunding 59 percent to 19 percent, with 18 percent of respondents unsure. The final 4 percent is a group of people who want to defund Obamacare, but become unsure when asked if they still hold that view if it means shutting down the government. The Republican-party-led House voted 230-189 on Friday to adopt a short-term government spending bill that would eliminate all funding for the new health care law. The measure could lead to a government shutdown in less than two weeks. The poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percent, was conducted Monday through Thursday of last week. Full results will be released this Thursday.


Iran President Rouhani’s English-language message to the American people

Pakistan: Two faces of terrorism

THE terrorist atrocities perpetrated in Peshawar and Nairobi on the weekend were dissimilar but not exactly disconnected. For one, both were explicitly directed against non-Muslims. The dozen or so men who stormed into the Westgate shopping mall in the Kenyan capital reportedly queried potential victims about their faith before singling out their victims. Outside the All Saints Church in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa capital, no such interrogation was deemed necessary. The pattern of the Nairobi siege has been compared with the Mumbai rampage of 2008. The suicide bombings in Peshawar, on the other hand, resemble the targeting of Shia imambargahs and Ahmadi places of worship. In both cases, however, commentators purportedly representing the perpetrators have harped on the theme of foreign military intervention as a primary motivational factor. The Somali militia Al Shabaab, which has claimed responsibility for the Nairobi carnage, has said it was a response to Kenya’s military role in neighbouring Somalia, where a ramshackle regime in Mogadishu barely survives in the presence of troops contributed by the African Union (AU). The Shabaab militia, though, has a particular beef with Kenyan forces, which have collaborated with local warlords to substantially restrict its remit. In Pakistan, it was initially reported that the Junoodul Hifsa, which is linked to the local Taliban, claimed the responsibility (subsequently denied by the Taliban). Reportedly, it said it had been provoked by the American drone strikes in the tribal areas — without elaborating, obviously, on the connection between the All Saints churchgoers and the CIA’s Predators, because there is none. Sadly, but not altogether surprisingly, Imran Khan, whose party wields provincial power in KP, chose to implicitly harp on the same theme, while also linking the attack to elements opposed to the prospect of peace talks between the Taliban and the government in Islamabad, without specifying who he had in mind. It is intriguing that the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) reportedly denied involvement in the attack, but in itself it proves nothing. It is hardly a secret, after all, that groups loosely affiliated with the Taliban pursue relatively independent agendas, so even if the TTP is not being entirely disingenuous, it is perfectly conceivable one of its associates may have decided to commit mass murder without clearing its plans with the TTP hierarchy. It may well also be the case that whoever authorised the unutterably vile act was indeed determined, inter alia, to thwart any sort of peace process. If so, they are likely to have been pleased by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s indication from London that in the wake of the monumental tragedy, conciliatory talks were off the agenda. Perhaps he felt he had little choice. After all, many sensible voices in Pakistan oppose negotiations with dedicated killers as pointless, and arguably irresponsible. After all, in any civilised state, some things must be non-negotiable. Such as the sanctity of life. Talks ought not to be written off completely as long as there is the slightest chance that they could lead to a modus vivendi that does not entail submitting to obscurantist blackmail. But given that the prospects of successful negotiations are incredibly slim, is there a Plan B in place? A dozen years after the 9/11 backlash, has the notion sunk in that Pakistan and terrorism cannot indefinitely coexist? Pakistan cannot, surely, want to lapse into another Somalia. The lessons are tangential, no doubt, but ought not to be ignored. The African state fell into disarray following the ouster of Siad Barre in 1991, and was overrun by competing militias under rival warlords, a trend that UN and US intervention in the mid-1990s — including an ill-fated contingent of Pakistani peacekeepers — singularly failed to arrest. A semblance of stability was eventually restored by the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which fell short of a satisfactory solution, but temporarily brought peace to Mogadishu by sidelining the warlords. Its nomenclature alone may have sufficed, though, to provoke a disastrous US-backed Ethiopian invasion, which led to the ascendancy of Al Shabaab, which had until then been a relatively minor component of the ICU. There have since then been competing factions within Al Shabaab, which affiliated itself with Al Qaeda a few years ago, with Somali nationalists — who primarily opposed a foreign presence on their soil — lately weeded out by the votaries of global jihad, who have attracted adherents, including British and US-born Somalis, from across the world. Both Al Shabaab and the Kenyan authorities claim that the Westgate terrorists were a disparate bunch in terms of nationality. The vast area Al Shabaab once controlled within Somalia has also been shrinking, largely because of military operations by Kenyan and other AU forces in collaboration with warlords whose loyalties are easily bought. What’s more, its leadership and ranks have lately been depleted by a vendetta against nationalists averse to the agenda of global jihadism. The militia is likely to have been aware that the shopping mall it targeted in Nairobi is Israeli-owned, but it appears Westgate was chosen because it is magnet for Westerners as well as the Kenyan elite. Its ruthlessness inevitably made the world pay attention. And Kenya, whose president and vice-president have both been implicated by the International Criminal Court in the violence that followed elections five years ago, has received offers of additional support from the UK, US and Israel. Pakistan and Somalia are very different entities but, although it is clear that US intervention has not had a salutary effect in either case, stemming the bloodshed in both cases deserves more concerted engagement at a local level than, most tragically, has hitherto been the case.

Afghanistan: You can help eradicate polio
Polio is a crippling disease that affects dozens of children in Afghanistan every year. Polio (poliomyelitis) is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. One in 200 polio infections leads to irreversible paralysis, usually in the legs. In Afghanistan, polio cases are mostly reported in its border areas with Pakistan. According to Abdul Qayom Pokhla, chief of Kandahar’s Department of Public Health, at least 24 cases were recorded last year in the south – 11 from Kandahar, 11 from Helmand and 2 from Uruzgan. Because of people’s movement from one place to another, the virus can affect children who have not been immunised against the disease anywhere in the country. Polio cases have decreased by over 99 per cent since 1988, from an estimated 350,000 cases in more than 125 endemic countries to 223 reported cases in 2012. In 2013, only parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria remain endemic for the disease, according to a World Health Organization report..
The virus enters the body through the mouth and multiplies in the intestine. It mainly affects children under five. Initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck and pain in the limbs. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis, usually in the legs. Among those paralysed, 5 to 10 per cent die when their breathing muscles become immobilised. There is no cure for polio; but, it can be prevented. A polio vaccine, given multiple times, can protect a child for life.
The government has tasked vaccination workers to go door to door and get all Afghan children vaccinated against polio As long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio. The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is determined to ensure that every child is immunised against preventable infectious diseases. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other international organisations, in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health, run regular vaccination campaigns. However, the success of these programmes depends on people’s cooperation. When you hear that a vaccination team is in town, get your children vaccinated. You can also consult a local doctor about your child’s vaccination schedule. Polio’s eradication from the world will be a great victory for the world. It is not impossible. Smallpox, another viral disease, was eradicated decades ago with effective vaccination programmes. You can help wipe polio out, too!

Pakistan: Time to meet the terror challenge

A terrorist attack in a church in Peshawar has added more than 80 to the grisly death toll of recent years in Pakistan. Yet the country’s leadership is in disarray about how it should respond to this ghastly act because of a reluctance to call out the reality, which is this: in a deep arc from the prosperous Punjab province to the north-west, the country is in the grip of a network of militant groups; their history in Pakistan pre-dates the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11; they were set up by the Pakistani security establishment as instruments of its strategy for Afghanistan and Kashmir; they have sown an extreme interpretation of Islam which has taken deep root in the country; in order to deal with them, Pakistan needs to develop a new vision of itself, no less, both as a nation in itself and among others in the region. That vision should best come from an elected government with a huge mandate such as the one that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif won less than six months ago. Unfortunately, he is yet to articulate a policy to back his declared progressive intentions. Instead, Pakistan’s political parties endorsed an initiative for the government to begin a dialogue with the Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan, an umbrella organisation of militant groups, which denounces Pakistan’s democratic constitution and says its aim is to establish its own rule over the country. The TTP also wants its imprisoned cadres released before talks, and killed three soldiers including two senior officers to underline this demand. Swift to condemn these killings and talk down the peace initiative, the Pakistan Army stopped short of articulating the next step, even though it clearly has a say. The government’s confusion is now plain. While Prime Minister Sharif said after Sunday’s church bombing that it would “be difficult” to take the dialogue initiative forward, his Interior Minister fudged in Parliament that there was no clarity on who had carried out the attack. The ruling Pakistan Muslim League (N) is under pressure from its own constituents who are sympathetic to the TTP, as well as from other parties, including Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf which rules the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, not to reverse the decision to initiate peace talks. Counter-intuitive though it may sound, all this only underlines the importance of the proposed meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mr. Sharif in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. India has been a victim of cross-border jihadi groups, but only through constant engagement can New Delhi drive home the point that Pakistan has the most to lose from the unchecked activities of terrorists.

Deadly Pakistan earthquake creates new island in the sea
Tremors were felt as far away as the Indian capital of New Delhi, hundreds of miles to the east, where buildings shook, as well as the sprawling port city of Karachi in Pakistan.
The United States Geological Survey said the 7.7 magnitude quake struck 145 miles southeast of Dalbandin in Pakistan's quake-prone province of Baluchistan, which borders Iran. The earthquake was so powerful that it caused the seabed to rise and create a small, mountain-like island about 600 meters off Pakistan's Gwadar coastline in the Arabian Sea. Television channels showed images of a stretch of rocky terrain rising above the sea level, with a crowd of bewildered people gathering on the shore to witness the rare phenomenon. Officials said scores of mud houses were destroyed by aftershocks in the thinly populated mountainous area near the quake epicenter in Baluchistan, a huge barren province of deserts and rugged mountains.Abdul Qadoos, deputy speaker of the Baluchistan assembly, told Reuters that at least 30 per cent of houses in the impoverished Awaran district had caved in. The local deputy commissioner in Awaran, Abdul Rasheed Gogazai, and the spokesman of Pakistan's Frontier Corps involved in the rescue effort said at least 45 people had been killed. In the regional capital of Quetta, officials said some areas appeared to be badly damaged but it was hard to assess the impact quickly because the locations were so remote.Chief secretary Babar Yaqoob said earlier that 25 people had been injured and that the death toll was expected to increase as many people appeared to be trapped inside their collapsed homes. Local television reported that helicopters carrying relief supplies had been dispatched to the affected area. The army said it had deployed 200 troops to help deal with the disaster.

More than 230 killed in huge Balochistan quake; aftershocks continue

Pakistan's military Wednesday rushed to reach the scene of a huge earthquake that killed more than 230 people and toppled thousands of mud-built homes when it hit the country's southwest. The 7.7-magnitude quake struck on Tuesday afternoon in Balochistan province's Awaran district whereas aftershocks continued to occur in the northwestern part of the country with the latest tremor measured on Wednesday at 4.7 on the Richter scale. Officials said 238 deaths had been confirmed so far, 208 in Awaran district, and the toll is expected to rise as rescue teams reach more villages in the remote area. “A total of six districts, Awaran, Kech, Gwadar, Panjgur, Chaghi and Khuzdar, and a population of over 300,000 have been affected by the earthquake,” Jan Muhammad Buledi, spokesman for the Balochistan government said while adressing a press conference. Buledi confirmed the quake's death toll at 238 and added that more than 400 persons had suffered injuries. The provincial government spokesman stated that Iran and Turkey had offered support for the earthquake survivors in Balochistan. He admitted that thousands of earthquake survivors were facing difficulties in Awaran and Kech districts of Balochistan. Buledi said aid workers were facing difficulities in reaching out to survivors since communication system was severely affected by the earthquake. Buledi said teams were working to recover bodies, but the priority was to move the injured to hospitals as soon as possible, a difficult task in a desolate area with minimal infrastructure. “We are seriously lacking medical facilities and there is no space to treat injured people in the local hospitals,” he said. “We are trying to shift seriously injured people to Karachi through helicopters and others to the neighbouring districts.” The head of the provincial disaster management agency, Abdul Latif Kakar, said that 30 people had died in Kech district, a toll confirmed by another senior local official. "There is nothing, patients are dying", Rehmatullah Muhammad Hassani, an earthquake survivor told via phone from District Headquarter Hospital Awaran claiming that patients were not even provided basic first aid in the hospital. "There are no doctors and para-medics", Muhammad Hassani claimed. Hassani said that a large number of mud-walled houses had collapsed as result of the powerful earthquake tremors. "We fear there are people still under the rubles", he said. The Awaran resident added that authorities had yet to launch an effective rescue operation to retrieve the people stuck from under the rubble. Moreover, a para-medic, Nazar Muhammad, said 70 injured were brought to district hospital Awaran for medical treatment. He said, "we have no surgery equipment and we are only providing basic first aid to the survivors." The army has sent 100 medical staff and 1,000 troops to the area to help with rescue efforts and has established a medical centre in one of the worst-affected villages, Tarteej. The scale of the territory involved is daunting. Awaran's population is scattered over an area of more than 21,000 square kilometres. More than 60,000 people live within 50 kilometres of the epicentre, according to the UN disaster agency, mostly in easily collapsible mud homes. Abdul Rasheed Baloch, a senior official in Awaran, said teams had worked through the night to try to retrieve bodies and survivors from the rubble. “Around 90 per cent of houses in the district have been destroyed. Almost all the mud houses have collapsed,” he said. Some of the dead have already been laid to rest in their villages, he added. Tremors were felt on Tuesday as far away as New Delhi and even Dubai in the Gulf, while people in the Indian city of Ahmedabad near the border with Pakistan ran into the streets in panic. Office workers in Pakistan's largest city Karachi rushed out of their buildings in an experience reminiscent of the 2005 earthquake to that hit the country. A 7.6 magnitude quake in 2005, centred in Kashmir, had killed at least 73,000 people and left several million homeless in one of the worst natural disasters to hit Pakistan. The US Geological Survey issued a red alert on Tuesday, warning that heavy casualties were likely based on past data, and the provincial government declared an emergency in Awaran. Television footage showed collapsed houses, caved-in roofs and people sitting in the open air outside their homes, the rubble of mud and bricks scattered around them. Iran's Red Crescent reported no damage from the latest quake over the border from Pakistan. Balochistan is Pakistan's largest but least populous province. But it is also a flashpoint for growing violence against minority Shia Muslims and has suffered attacks blamed on Taliban militants. It also suffers from an ongoing separatist insurgency which began in 2004 when Baloch rebels rose up to demand a greater share of profits from the province's mineral resources.

Pakistan's Malala challenges world leaders to educate Syrian refugees

Pakistani education crusader Malala Yousafzai and other youth activists challenged world leaders on Monday to come up with $175 million to educate 400,000 Syrian children who fled to neighboring Lebanon to escape a civil war in their homeland.
As leaders gather in New York for the U.N. General Assembly, Yousafzai, 16, who was shot in the head by the Taliban last year for demanding education for girls, and U.N. education envoy Gordon Brown received $1 million from campaign group Avaaz to kick off the push for money to send Syrian refugees to school. U.N. children's agency UNICEF said 257,000 Syrian children were seeking education in Lebanon in 2013 and that was set to rise to 400,000 next year, swamping the Lebanese public school system that already educates 300,000 children. "I can feel what's happening in Syria because it's what happened to us in Pakistan," Yousafzai said of being displaced by violence as she spoke with Syrian student Farah Haddad, 20, in New York. Yousafzai is now at school in Britain because she cannot safely return to Pakistan. Haddad, who finished high school in Syria and moved to the United States in 2011 to attend college, has taken up the fight for education for Syrian refugee children. "When the war is ended, there will be no way for us to bring back the dead, or mend the hearts of mothers in Syria, but we can surely equip Syrian children to wrestle with a Syria when the bombs stop exploding," said Haddad. Former British Prime Minister Brown announced on Monday a plan by the Overseas Development Institute to educate those 400,000 Syrian children by employing Syrian refugees who were teachers, opening Lebanese schools 24 hours a day to teach children in double or triple shifts and providing school meals. "A 100 years ago the Red Cross secured the right that health care should be provided even in conflict. We want in this generation to secure the right of every child to education even when there's a conflict," Brown told reporters. LOST GENERATION "Instead of 400,000 Syrian children doing nothing ... perhaps becoming unemployable, a lost generation, a wasted generation, childhood destroyed, we can actually show that in the next few months these 400,000 children can actually get the opportunities they so richly deserve," Brown said. Brown said $175 million was needed to implement the education plan in Lebanon. Avaaz raised its $1 million donation in the past week from more than 32,000 people in 143 countries, and Western Union also announced it will match consumer donations to its newly created education fund up to $100,000. "The U.N. Security Council ... has failed the people of Syria. We can't fix that problem today but I can think we can still determine whether the children of this war become a lost generation or a generation of leaders that can rebuild and renew the hope of the country," said Avaaz co-founder Ricken Patel. The U.N. Security Council has been deadlocked over how to try and end the two-and-a-half year Syrian conflict. Russia and China have refused to consider sanctions on President Bashar al-Assad's government and have vetoed three resolutions condemning Assad's crackdown on opposition groups. A World Bank report said Syria's conflict will cost Lebanon $7.5 billion in cumulative economic losses by the end of 2014. The report was prepared for a U.N. meeting this week to provide humanitarian aid and development assistance and strengthen Lebanon's armed forces.

P.I.A: Struggle starts against Privatization of Pakistan International Air Lines

by Farhad Kayani
Within months of coming to power the right-wing government of the Muslim League announced their intentions of privatizing the state owned enterprises. On 13th September it was announced that 26% of the shares of Pakistan International Airline’s would be privatized along with the control of the management of the company. Pakistan Post, Railways, WAPDA (Water and Power Development Authority) and many others are also on the list for privatisation. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is the state owned airline operating flights to 24 domestic destinations and 39 international destinations in 25 countries across Asia, Europe and North America. Established in 1946 as Orient Airways it employs 20,000 workers and plays a key role in the Pakistan’s economy and infrastructure. Once a profitable organization, PIA has been losing money for some years now owing to the corruption of its top management, most of which only have the merit of being friends of those in the government. PIA was once one of the best airlines in the world. A number of foreign carriers had their staff trained by PIA. Until the 70s it was a very profitable institution and a source of income for the government. The gradual decline started in the 80s and corruption is attributed to be the main cause of that. This coincides with the advent of huge sums of black money in Pakistan’s economy. The ever-increasing deficit of national airlines has now swelled beyond Rs 180 billion. On 14 March the National Assembly was told that PIA had acute shortage of aircraft and out of total 38 planes, only 24 were being operated on various routes. In February 2012 Transparency International reported that PIA signed an agreement to purchase five 777 Boeing aeroplanes for $1.5 billion. In that deal $500 million were given to the PIA management as kickbacks for purchasing the aircrafts for 50% more than the market price. These and many other examples clearly show that prime beneficiaries and perpetrators of major corruption are the top bosses, not the ordinary workers. If properly managed, the financial gap could be closed just by the profits of PIA owned hotels in the heart of New York and Paris. One example of this loot and plunder is the current practice of a Federal Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who is also the owner of a private Air Line called Blue Air. His airline is now starting operations from Birmingham (Britain) to Pakistan from 28 September. But before that he is withdrawing all PIA management staff from Britain, in order to create a vacuum of management which will continue for many months. This will help his private airline to get market share of PIA. Similar policies have been carried out over many years to bring down this national asset. But the workers are quite determined to fight against these vicious attacks. Addressing a public meeting in Lahore, Secretary General of Peoples Unity, Hussain Abbas, the official representative union of PIA workers said that if workers are given democratic control of PIA “we will turn it into profitable institution within few months”. He said that five new planes have been grounded due to minor problems, but that management is not allowing for them to be repaired, which means that the company is being drained of funds. The President of Peoples Unity in Lahore, Sajid Gujjar, also exposed the vested interests of the present government who is led by Nawaz Sharif, who himself owns many industries. He said that they are only looking to loot and plunder this public asset in order to do favours for their cronies. He said that PIA owns luxurious hotels in Manhattan New York and on Champs Elysees in Paris. The Roosevelt hotel ( in Manhattan has 1,015 rooms and has rents up to $2600 per night. If only these hotels are managed properly all the losses of PIA could be made up for. But these rulers want to bankrupt these hotels in order to buy them cheap. The Chairman of PTCL (Pakistan Telecommunication) workers union, Sabir Butt, said that if workers stay united no force on earth can privatize PIA. He explained the experience of privatization of PTCL in 2005, when some leaders sold out to the government. He said Privatization of state institutions has not yielded anything in the past. PTCL used to be one of the most profitable telecom companies in Asia. It had 72 thousand employees and the profit earned in the last year before privatisation was Rs. 30 billion. Now PTCL has 18 thousand workers and the profit has dropped to just Rs. 8 billion per year along with a steep drop in the quality of the services. Privatisation of Karachi Electric Supply Corporation has also resulted in disaster for the consumers and the workers. Muslim Commercial Bank and Habib Bank Limited were privatised with the infamous legislation of 27/B barring any union in financial institutions. The privatisation of PIA would result in massive layoffs that would lead to more unemployment, poverty and misery. Fares would also increase and a number of domestic routes to remote areas would be closed down. Addressing the public meeting of PIA workers comrade Adam Pal of PTUDC said that Bourgeois financial analysts and the media are prescribing privatization as the solution of all the problems in PIA. The newly elected government of Pakistan secured a loan of $6.68 billion from IMF few weeks ago. Most of this money will be used to pay back the interest on other existing loans, which have already been repaid many times over. But the loan comes with strict conditions of vicious attacks on the working class. This gives the government the excuse of implementing the directives of the IMF, privatization being on the top of the list. Through corporate media, Privatization is being portrayed as a magic pill which, will transform Pakistan into a prosperous economy. But this is all a big lie for workers and people of Pakistan. Comrade Adam Pal also warned against the option of selling 26% shares to workers of PIA. He said this is a ploy of some “sympathizers” which will end in a sabotage of whole struggle. We should call for total control of PIA under democratic control of workers and end of policy of Privatization. He promised the workers to bring them solidarity from workers of other industries and public institutions and workers from other countries of the world. This was enthusiastically appreciated by all. Representatives from the Young Doctors union were also there. Dr. Tajamal But also spoke and said that the Young Doctors union will support PIA workers in their struggle. The President of the Lahore zone of Pakistan Steel official representative union, Mr Shah, also supported the struggle and vowed to fight against policy of privatization. After the financial meltdown of 2008 and the following crisis of global capitalism the workers in the advanced capitalist countries are being subjected to brutal austerity and unemployment resulting in the contraction of European and American markets. The growth rates of the so called emerging economies have also slowed down drastically. In these conditions it would not be easy for the rulers to find good buyers of state owned institutions. Who would want to invest in Pakistan which is facing a terrible security situation compounded with political instability? Therefore there are no investors in the market who would buy PIA, Pakistan Steel and Pakistan Railways as a whole. The situation is somewhat similar to that in Britain during 80s, when Margret Thatcher sold off British Telecom for just one pound. Since the pathetic bourgeois rulers cannot do anything like that, they have decided to go for fragmented privatization of the state owned institutions. PIA and other state institutions will be sold at throwaway prices to the cronies of those in power. Pakistan International Airlines has decided to close down the flights and offices in US, Australia and some European countries due to shortage of planes and a persistently growing deficit. Such steps are being taken to further justify the privatisation. The first major Privatization in Pakistan was that of Muslim Commercial Bank during the first government of Benazir Bhutto. The last PPP government tried its best but could not carry out any major privatisation. They reverted to the sinister scheme of Public Private Partnership (PPP) by offering 12% shares to the workers. In 2011 the PPP government tried to sell off PIA but the workers waged a marvellous struggle and won. ( Ferment is building up in the ranks of the workers in PIA. Protests are already underway. The workers are preparing for a fight back. They have already defeated one attempt to privatise the airline and they have learned important lessons in that struggle. But it is not only the workers of PIA that are at stake. Other institutions are in the queue as well. This fight has to be a joint struggle of all the workers, particularly those from Railways, WAPDA, Post and other state owned enterprises. The only way out is to make all fronts a battlefield in this class war. We appeal to workers of the world to express solidarity with this struggle and send solidarity letters from their unions.
No to Privatization!
Workers control and ownership of all state and private enterprises!
Long Live Workers Unity! Workers of the world unite!

Canada: Islamic group's charitable status revoked over alleged link to terror organization ( charitable arm of Jamaat-e-Islami )

The Canada Revenue Agency has revoked the charitable status of an Islamic group after it says it distributed over $280,000 to an agency allegedly linked to a terrorist organization in Pakistan. The CRA announced Friday it will strip the Islamic Society of North America Canada’s Development Foundation of its charitable status. After a nearly two-year-long audit of its books, the CRA said it found evidence linking the group to an organization that funds a terrorist organization in Pakistan. “The Government of Canada has made it clear that it will not tolerate the abuse of the registration system for charities to provide any means of support to terrorism,” a press release from the CRA said. In a 71-page “letter of revocation,” complete with flow charts which illustrate the alleged link between the Canadian group and the Pakistani terrorist group, the agency lays out its case against ISNA. The CRA audited ISNA’s books for two years between Jan. 1, 2007, to Dec. 31, 2009. Transactions during that time showed a “funding arrangement” between the group and the Kashmiri Canadian Council/Kashmiri Relief Fund of Canada. That group would send money to the Pakistani-based Relief Organization for Kashmiri Muslims. That group is the charitable arm of Jamaat-e-Islami, a political organization which supports the overthrow of India’s government through the activities of the Hizbul Mujahideen, the CRA release said. Hizbul Mujahideen is considered a terrorist organization by the European Union and government of India, the CRA said. Officials with ISNA Canada did not respond to calls and e-mails requesting comment Friday. But in a July 26 statement on their website, they dispute preliminary findings made by the CRA, calling them “speculative allegations.” The group says it sent money to Kashmir to help orphans and the needy. It chided another newspaper report for an July story that relied on CRA correspondence that said the money sent by the group “may” have been diverted to terrorists but offered no proof. “We think it is unhelpful to cast aspersions about support for militant groups on a charity and the law abiding citizens that it serves based on pure speculation,” the statement says. The ISNA’s American parent organization referred the Toronto Sun to a statement released earlier this year, which distances it from the Canadian branch. “There has been no links of authority or responsibility between the United States and Canadian organizations for a few decades, despite similarity of names,” the statement said. Having its charitable status yanked will mean ISNA Canada can no longer issue donation receipts for income tax breaks. The group is also no longer exempt from income tax and may be taxed for the full value of its assets. In July, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was a guest speaker at a ISNA Canada event. A request for comment to the Liberal Party was not returned by press time. At the time, Trudeau was slammed by the Muslim Canadian Congress for accepting the invitation. But Trudeau isn’t the only politician to have addressed the group. In 2008, then multiculturalism minister Jason Kenney praised ISNA Canada at an event. He told the group he looked forward to “a closer dialogue between the Government of Canada, the Conservative Party of Canada, and the Muslim community in general, ISNA in particular.”

Peshawar attack fallout

In the aftermath of the Peshawar attack on a church congregation in which over 80 people were blown to pieces and another around 170 injured, the Christian community throughout the country has taken to the streets with a vengeance. Most protests have proved peaceful, the efforts of church leaders and other well wishers of our Christian brothers proving successful. In some instances though, despite appeals for calm and to remain peaceful, the understandable anger and frustration of the protestors has found expression in destruction of property, burning tyres and blocking highways. The authorities’ dilemma becomes that if they act against the protestors to restore law and order, they run the risk of being accused of sprinkling salt on the wounds of the Christian community. And if they do not, they may end up being accused of being weak and ineffective. This is a classic trap as far as managing angry and justified protest is concerned. The protestors’ anger is directed first and foremost against the PTI’s government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and by implication against the PML-N’s government at the Centre. They are critical of these two parties for their ‘soft’ approach to the terrorists, based on placing their desire for talks with the terrorists centre-stage. The Christian community under attack however, is first and foremost demanding protection for its churches and other institutions, which they fear may be further targeted. And they are still sceptical of the usual noises from the police and other law enforcement agencies that the security of their places of worship has been stepped up. The group that has claimed responsibility for the Peshawar church carnage calls itself TTP-Jandullah. The main TTP of Hakeemullah Mehsud has attempted to distance itself from the attack. According to the federal interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali, not much is known about this TTP-Jandullah and it does not appear to have any presence in this region. Now the logical corollary of this statement made by Chaudhry Nisar in the National Assembly is that either TTP-Jandullah has now established its ‘presence’ in this region, or it is a ‘front’ and the real culprits are still the usual cast of suspects who, fearing a backlash from this horrendous mass murder, are erecting a smokescreen to camouflage the real authors of this atrocity. The governments in the Centre (PML-N) and in KP (PTI) are coming increasingly under pressure from the army, political forces, Pakistani public and world opinion to strip the blindfold from their eyes and see the ground realities for what they are. Peace can only be established through talks if both sides are willing to give peace a chance. The TTP, after killing Major General Sanaullah Niazi, stated that it was still in a state of war with the Pakistani authorities, there was no ceasefire so far, therefore their attacks such as the one that killed Major General Niazi will continue. These two governments must gird up their loins and prepare, with the help of all stakeholders, including the armed forces, political forces and public opinion, to take on the violent fanatics who refuse to be reasonable or open themselves up for peaceful solutions. This by no means should be interpreted as closing the door on talks. That door must always remain open, even during hostilities with the recalcitrant groups, to leave room for some groups to come in from the cold. However, those of a different mindset, who want to hold the state and society hostage to their aims through asymmetrical warfare, as a prelude to overthrowing the state and instituting their version of an Islamic emirate, must be deal with with an iron fist. Talks in any case run the risk, amongst others, that even in the unlikely event that negotiations for peace succeed with the umbrella TTP, the dozens of small groups that owe nominal allegiance to the TTP but in practice operate autonomously would not necessarily feel bound by any decision of the central TTP, as the recent case of the Punjabi Taliban ‘seceding’ from the TTP’s control proves. A protracted, difficult and tricky fight against terrorism lies ahead. Counter-insurgency in guerrilla-infested areas such as FATA on the basis of the army and paramilitaries, and intelligence-led police counter-terrorism work in the rest of the country, especially in the cities, while leaving room for peaceful solutions, seems the nuanced path ahead. The government in Islamabad has to lead in this endeavour. It remains to be seen if it is up to the challenge.

Crocodile tears over massacre in Peshawar

Reportedly banned outfit of Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah has expressed his concerns over frequent bombings in the FATA and in the provincial capital of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. To the utmost surprise and amazement of many, the TTP did not claim to accept the responsibility of the mass carnage in Peshawar. But the one of its factions- Jindullah--took the lead to claim the responsibility. Self-proclaimed Amir of the 78 Taliban groups said to have been probing bomb blasts in Upper Dir and Peshawar to fix the responsibility of the blasts. Meaning thereby the TTP Chief, who earlier was dead set averse to any contact with the Pakistan government, does not command respect and authority over entire Taliban lot that strengthens the apprehensions and reservations of the critics who do not agree with the government’s move to sit with killers of the thousands of innocent Muslims and other members of minorities living in the country. Unfathomed sadness is that in the name of the peace the political leadership, ignoring the atrocities and brutalities unleashed by the outlawed organization, offered olive branch to the Taliban—a move that almost overturned the status of fighters engaged in a prolonged fighting in the area where the government’s writ had been restricted to the offices of the political agents stationed out of the battle-field FATA. If a total surrender cannot be construed at this point in time yet the official initiative has accepted Taliban as indispensible stakeholders and a prime force to reckon with for peace process in the region. Amidst indirect contact between the TTP and government representatives, the Taliban too apparently had changed it posture and tune but on the other hand, one of its components-- Jindullah is carrying out fatal bombings. If that is right then conversely the TTP chief is turning out to be powerless to control its factions within Taliban. If that is true then the entire government exercise for the peace process seems a farce and a sheer wastage of time. But the fact is Hakimullah Mehsud—a finest exponent of hypocrisy--is shedding crocodile tears over the death of the innocent people of Pakistan. Had he been sincere to the cause of peace, he should have disowned Jindullah, dissociating from their bloody activities. But he is keeping his cards close to the chest and making clever moves to use the situation as pressure tactics to gain advantage on the negotiating table otherwise the execution of men, women and busy in worship does not serve any purpose. Hence the political and military leadership should not give any let-up to the reckless killers till they surrender the control of the region to Pakistan for which the people of the Fata had offered countless sacrifices. Regardless of the state policy and no matter who the perpetrators of the Peshawar Church blasts are they should be brought to book to provide justice to the victims to induce sense of security and protection amongst the members of minorities.

Pakistan Paralysing virus: 10 fresh polio cases detected in North Waziristan

The Express Tribune
“Our fears have now turned into reality,” said the head of the World Health Organisation’s Polio Eradication Initiative, as 10 new cases of the crippling virus were reported in North Waziristan on Tuesday. The new cases bring the total number of confirmed cases to an appalling 25 from the tribal agency alone. After 15 months of a self-imposed ban announced by the Taliban warlord Hafiz Gulbahadur in North Waziristan, 82 per cent of the reported cases were children below the age of one, Dr Elyas Durry told The Express Tribune. “It is a clear manifestation of what is about to hit us in the future if an immunisation campaign does not start soon.” The age of the children affected proves that those born after the ban have been direly affected. The point of concern for the WHO polio programme is to contain the virus, which is an impossible feat because of the conflict that surrounds the region. The fresh cases are concentrated in the administrative units of Mir Ali and Miramshah. Six cases have been reported from the villages of Haider Khel, Saidgi, Khushali, Tappi, Eidak and Sheratala villages in Mirali, while the remaining four cases from the villages of Darpakhel, Spulgay and Smalkhel in Miramshah. Laboratory samples reveal that six of the cases are those of the P1wild poliovirus strain, while the majority of them are like the Sabin-strain. “The cause of the viruses spreading is the lack of consistent inoculation,” said an official. The first polio case for North Waziristan was reported in May this year in the wake of the Taliban ban, and they have continued to spiral ever since. In August, 14 cases were reported from the agency in a single day, while thousands of others are feared to be at risk. Aid workers, being a consistent terrorism target, along with the drone strikes in the agency as well as the US Abbottabad raid in which Osama bin Laden was killed, have been major setbacks for the polio eradication campaigns. Pakistan is among those countries that have never been able to halt the spread of the virus. Polio eradication teams in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa have now asked the paramilitary Frontier Corps to escort them during campaigns. In areas like Swabi, immunisation teams are now allowed to carry weapons for self-protection. The Federally Administered Tribal Areas and particularly North Waziristan nevertheless remain inaccessible to polio vaccination campaigns. Every single child infected in the area puts about 200 to 1,000 children at risk, explains Dr Durry. “Not every child is paralysed if infected, but he or she is a potential carrier.” More cases have been reported from as far as Frontier Region Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan.

Death toll in Balochistan earthquake jumps to 208

According to officials, the death toll has risen to 208 in a major earthquake in southwestern Pakistan. Balochistan Government spokesman said that 145 casualties have been reported in Awaran district whereas 18 people have been killed in Turbat.
The Pakistani military has sent troops and helicopters to Balochistan province s Awaran district, where the quake was centred, and the nearby area of Khuzdar. Local officials said they were sending doctors, food and 1,000 tents for people who had nowhere to sleep as strong aftershocks continued to shake the region. Most of the victims were killed when their houses collapsed, according to the chief spokesman for the country s National Disaster Management Authority, Mirza Kamran Zia, who gave the death toll. He warned that the toll might rise and said the agency was still trying to get information from the stricken area. Pakistan s chief meteorologist and the U.S. Geological Survey put the magnitude of the quake at 7.7. Pakistani officials were investigating whether the earthquake was so powerful that it pushed up the earth and formed a new land mass. Witnesses reported seeing a small island appear off the coast of the port of Gwadar after the quake, said the director general of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, Arif Mahmood. Gwadar Police Chief Pervez Umrani said people gathered on the beach to see the land mass, which was about 9 metres (30 feet) high and 100 metres (109 yards) long. Baluchistan is Pakistan s largest province but also the least populated and most impoverished. Awaran district has about 300,000 residents. Many residents are believed to be involved in smuggling fuel from Iran, while others harvest dates. The area where the quake struck is at the centre of an insurgency that Baloch separatists have been waging against the Pakistani government for years. The separatists regularly attack Pakistani troops and symbols of the state, such as infrastructure projects. A Pakistani military official speaking on customary condition of anonymity said security officials were fired on while escorting doctors to Awaran. No one was wounded. The quake was felt as far as New Delhi, the Indian capital, some 1,200 kilometres (about 740 miles) away, but no damage or injuries were immediately reported there. The quake also jolted Pakistan s largest city, Karachi, roughly 250 kilometres (155 miles) from the epicenter. People in the city s tall office buildings rushed into the streets, and Pakistani television showed lights swaying as the earth shook. Balochistan and neighbouring Iran are prone to earthquakes. A magnitude-7.8 quake centred just across the border in Iran killed at least 35 people in Pakistan last April.