Saturday, October 12, 2013

Malala Yousafzai wows Washington after being nixed for Nobel peace prize

Taliban could not intimidate her, but evidently she is not inhibited in the presence of the President of the United States either. Teenage Pakistani activist Malala Yousufzai says she told US President Barack Obama during a visit to the White House on Friday that refocusing efforts on education in Pakistan would make a better impact than drone strikes that kill innocent victims and fuel terrorism. The White House, which released a photograph of Malala's meeting with the President that also showed First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughter Malia sitting in, did not confirm the account, only noting that the First Couple welcomed her to the Oval Office "to thank her for her inspiring and passionate work on behalf of girls education in Pakistan." "The United States joins with the Pakistani people and so many around the world to celebrate Malala's courage and her determination to promote the right of all girls to attend school and realize their dreams. As the First Lady has said, investing in girls' education is the very best thing we can do, not just for our daughters and granddaughters, but for their families, their communities, and their countries," the White House said. But in a statement issued through Associated Press, Malala claimed to have also "expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact." The White House did not confirm the exchange. The White House meeting, part of Malala's US tour that has included speaking at Harvard University, the World Bank, and numerous TV appearances, came on what is now celebrated as the International Day of the Girl. "As the President said in his proclamation to mark the International Day of the Girl, across the globe there are girls who will one day lead nations, if only we afford them the chance to choose their own destinies. And on every continent, there are girls who will go on to change the world in ways we can only imagine, if only we allow them the freedom to dream," the White House statement reminded, saluting Malala's efforts "to help make these dreams come true."
Indeed, in several public appearances in Boston, New York, and Washington, the young Pakistani activist has wowed audiences with her passionate promotion of education for girls. Asked on Jon Stewart's Daily Show what she wanted to tell the Taliban, which shot her in the head for espousing education for girls, Malala said, "You can shoot me, but listen to me first. I want education for your sons and daughters. Now I have spoken, so do whatever you want." The response caused Daily Show's Jon Stewart to go mock slack-jawed. "I know your father is backstage and he's really proud of you. But would he be mad if I adopted you?" Stewart joked. To Christian Amapour on CNN, she said of Taliban: "They only shot a body but they cannot shoot my dreams." Similar responses to an audience packed into the World Bank atrium on the sidelines of the Bank-Fund annual meeting brought her several rounds of applause. "If a terrorist can change someone's mind and convince them to become a suicide bomber, we can also change their minds and tell them education is the only way to bring humanity and peace," she said, after insisting, "I am proud to be a girl, and I know that girls can change the world." She said people did not have to do anything extra for their daughters, "but don't clip their wings...let them fly... and give them the same rights as your sons....give them a chance to be a human being." When World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, a physician by profession, asked her why she wanted to enter public life, Malala replied, "Because a doctor can only help someone who has been shot. If I become a politician, I can help make a tomorrow where there are no more cases of people being shot." Later in the evening, Malala spoke at Sidwell Friends School - where Obama's daughters Malia and Sasha study; also alma mater to Chelsea Clinton and daughters of President Nixon - at a sold-out event hosted by Politics and Prose bookstore. Many of her engagements are aimed at promoting her book "I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. The Washington event came hours after she had been nixed for the Nobel peace prize after her PR machinery had built unrealistic expectations that she was favored to get it. Malala herself provided the most sober perspective of the hype, saying it would a "great honor and more than I deserve" to win the accolade, but insisting she still had more to do before she felt she'd truly earned it. "I need to work a lot," she said.

President Obama's Weekly Address: Let’s Get Back to the Work of the American People

Pakistan: Capital police bust al-Qaeda’s drone project

The Islamabad Police and intelligence agencies, in a joint venture, have discovered a drone project, an invention of the al-Qaeda chapter in Pakistan, sources said on Friday, adding that the joint team of the Islamabad Police and intelligence agencies timely intervened and halted the al-Qaeda’s ambitious project. “Yes, the al-Qaeda Pakistan chapter had acquired drone technology and was in the final stages of implemeting the plan when intercepted,” sources said.The Islamabad Police, during a recent raid in the Kashmir Housing Society in G-15 area, recovered a huge quantity of arms and ammunition. The house belonged to Professor Irtyaz Gilani, a graduate in electronic engineering from Ghulam Ishaq Khan (GIK) University who has also served in the Air Weapons Complex, Kamra. After leaving the job at Kamra, Irtyaz served as a lecturer at the International Islamic University, Islamabad, teaching electronics. Gilani managed to dodge the raiding team and is still at large, intelligence agency sources said, while some other sources claimed that he had been held and shifted to an unknown place for thorough investigation. Police investigators have recovered evidence of his links with al-Qaeda. Evidence also suggested that Tanveer, a most wanted terrorist of al-Qaeda, had been staying at Gilani’s place since January 2013 till the recovery of VBIED from Bhara Kahu. During the raid, it was observed that the house was purposefully built, having a dedicated lab in the basement which was being used to develop the ambitious project. The police found the layout of drone technology, which they believe was acquired from different sources. Investigations revealed that work on the drone project was underway for one-and-a-half years and considerable progress had been made. Small drones, which had already been tested, were also recovered from the lab in the house. “Complete parts of a drone, including the airframe, wings and propelling motor, were also recovered which, if made operational, could carry a significant quantity of explosives to damage vital buildings and other sensitive installations,” people engaged in the investigation of the case revealed. “The al-Qaeda people had collected all parts of the spy plane from different sources and completed the assembling process in the basement laboratory in G-15 when the joint team swooped on them,” the sources said. “They conducted a successful test flight of the spy plane in the Margalla hills but the small drone could fly within a radius of only one kilometre,” the sources disclosed. A large drone had almost been assembled and was to be tested before the law enforcing agencies raided the laboratory. It is obvious that the al-Qaeda wants to target highly guarded complexes through these drones where ground access is impeded by the conventional security measures. It is very important to remember that besides a few high-security buildings, there is no mechanism in place to guard against any aerial attack. Having realised the weakness, the al-Qaeda worked on this ambitious plan to give a surprise to the international law enforcement agencies, which has been averted, courtesy timely intervention by the police. It is believed that Professor Irtyaz Gilani had been chosen for the task due to his qualification as well as work experience. It may be of value to remember that Ali Gondal, an employee of the AWC, was arrested in 2005 for planning an attack on Gen Pervez Musharraf. He had planted rockets in Rawalpindi; however, they malfunctioned leading to his arrest. Ali Gondal is Tanveer’s real brother and links of the troika indicate the presence of al-Qaeda in leading anti-state operations in Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Professor Irtyaz Gilani was working on a high-level post at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, Kamra, having rich technical information about putting up drone aircraft, the investigation report said. But it was still a mystery from where he got parts of the drone, investigators said. The investigation report claimed that Professor Irtyaz Gilani, Tanveer Gondal and Hammad Adil were directly involved in the brazen attack on the Minhas Airbase of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) at Kamra on August 16, 2012, adding that Professor Gilani provided technical information and inside position of vital installations and aircraft to Tanveer Gondal and Hammad Adil before and during the attack while Tanveer and Hammad provided logistical support to the attackers. Law enforcement agencies are hunting for Tanveer, the wanted associate of Professor Irtyaz and an old member of al Qaeda.The police authorities confirmed the report.

U.S. Captures Senior Pakistani Taliban

The United States has confirmed that American forces have captured a high-ranking member of the Pakistani Taliban, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said U.S. forces captured Latif Mehsud in a military operation, but did not say where or when it occurred. She described Mehsud as a senior commander and a “trusted confidant” of the Pakistani Taliban’s leader, Hakimullah Mehsud. News reports said U.S. forces seized Latif Mehsud recently in Afghanistan. Some reports said he was snatched by American troops as he was traveling with Afghan agents who were trying to recruit him to work toward peace talks with the Afghan and Pakistani governments. Arsallah Jamal, governor of Logar Province in eastern Afghanistan, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying Mehsud was captured a week ago as he was driving along a highway that connects to Kabul. He said Mehsud was in a car with two or three other men when the U.S. military arrested him. A report in the “Washington Post” quoted Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, as saying U.S. troops forcibly seized Mehsud and took him to Bagram air base, which includes a U.S.-run detention facility.
Angry Karzai?
The report said Karzai had been angered by the U.S. seizure of Mehsud, which reportedly came after months of conversations between Mehsud and Afghan security agents. A spokeswoman for the Pentagon, Commander Elissa Smith, said Mehsud was being held legally by U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, but did not specify where he is being detained. News of Mehsud’s capture came as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew into Kabul on October 11 for talks with Karzai about a pact - called a Bilateral Security Agreement - covering the future of U.S. forces in Afghanistan after foreign combat troops withdraw at the end of 2014. Reports said Kerry and Karzai were expected to discuss the Mehsud case. Latif Mehsud, thought to be about 30 years old, once served as a driver for Hakimullah Mehsud before rising in the ranks of the organization, which seeks to overthrow the U.S.-backed Pakistani government. Hakimullah Mehsud took over leadership of the Pakistani Taliban in 2009, after his predecessor was killed in a U.S. drone strike.
Pakistani Taliban
The Pakistani Taliban, whose base is in the largely lawless zone along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, has close links to Al-Qaeda militants, but remains a separate organization from the Afghan Taliban. The United States accuses militants of using the Pakistani tribal districts along the border as a haven to plot attacks on Afghan and foreign forces in Afghanistan. The Pakistani Taliban is believed to have trained Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad in bomb-making techniques and funded his plot to detonate a car bomb in New York City's Times Square in May 2010. The device failed to explode and was defused by a U.S. bomb squad. Shahzad is serving a life sentence in U.S. prison after confessing to the bombing attempt.

Winning hearts, not awards: ‘Malala herself is a Nobel Prize for us’

When Malala Yousafzai didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, thousands of crest-fallen Pakistanis joined a nationwide debate that questioned the snub at Oslo. But those close to her believe that both Malala and her noble cause are far above any award. “Malala herself is a Nobel Prize for us. Today, she can read, write and talk for girls’ education in the entire world after the shooting, and we couldn’t be prouder,” Mahmoodul Hassan, Malala’s cousin, told The Express Tribune. “We are thankful to Allah for her and what she has achieved.”
Although a majority of people in Mingora believed her win was inevitable, they were not disappointed when she did not. “Even if she did not receive the Nobel Prize, her nomination was a great honour not only for her but for the Swat Valley and the entire Pakhtun belt,” said Mohammad Amjad, one of her teachers. According to former students of Khushal School, who were seniors of Malala, the brave teenage girl raised her voice globally for education and if she did not win the Nobel Prize,
it does not mark the end of her cause. “It does not mean that her mission has stopped. Her efforts will go on and we hope she will get it next time,” said Neelum Chattan, a women’s rights worker and former student at the school.Until Friday morning, all the students of Khushal School were fully confident that she would win the prize. “All the girls were sure that Malala would be awarded the Nobel Prize and they wanted to hold a celebration at the school,” said Iqbal Hussain, the school administrator. “We don’t feel bad because her aim was not getting awards and prizes,” her friend Uzma Ali proudly said. “If she had won the Nobel Prize, it would definitely be the victory of peace and the defeat of militants – those who abhor female education. But we are hopeful that she will continue her fight for girls’ education and women rights in the marginalised communities across the country,” said Miss Nargis, one of her teachers. Civil society members and literary persons also praised Malala’s efforts and said that she is still very young and they expect that she would achieve the Nobel Prize in future.“The small girl who has done a very big deed deserves higher accolades than the Noble Prize and that is her success,” Rahima Naz, a poet and writer from district Chitral, said sanguinely. “She has a long journey in front of her and we are sure that she will get her reward soon when all the girls in the world will be literate.”

Pakistan: Terrorism revisited

That there is no easy solution to the problem of militancy once again became obvious on Thursday when blasts in all the provincial capitals of Karachi, Lahore, Quetta and Peshawar rocked the country. In Karachi, three suspected militants mishandled an explosive device and ended up only killing themselves; in Lahore one person was killed when an explosive device placed in a restaurant in Anarkali detonated; in Quetta the worst happened when six people lost their lives and 42 were injured in the main shopping centre; and in Peshawar there was yet another explosion – although with no casualties this time. Anyone who thought that the prospects of peace talks may lead to a brief respite from the unceasing violence now has to confront the reality that the militants are not going to ease up on us. That much was obvious in an interview that the TTP chief Hakeemullah Mehsud gave to the BBC where he said that that the Pakistan state as it is currently configured does not follow the dictates of Islam. Mehsud has basically reiterated that he is not at war against just the government or the US; any of us who do not want to live in a country ruled by him and his ideology are legitimate targets in his eyes. At the same time, Mehsud did say that he was open to the prospects of talks with the government although he absolutely ruled out accepting any preconditions to come to the negotiating table. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, even if he did not know before, should now be absolutely clear in his mind that we are facing an enemy that will remain violent and with whom almost no common ground can be found. This does not mean that he should abandon altogether the idea of negotiations with the TTP, as decided by the All-Parties Conference. But he should go into the talks understanding that there is only a limited amount talks can achieve. And since the militants refuse to stop attacking us even when the government is willing to talk, the prime minister should be under no obligation to cease law-enforcement and even military actions against the TTP. As it is, we face enough problems with prosecuting suspecting militants. That was pointed out by Nawaz Sharif in a visit to Peshawar where he said that even judges are too scared to take action against militants. The prime minister also reiterated changes in law enforcement that he had earlier proposed, including setting up a separate counterterrorism force and improving our intelligence capabilities. As the four blasts on Thursday showed, we are still a long way from being able to pre-empt attacks and will need major improvements in our terrorist-fighting capabilities. The only way talks with the TTP will yield any breakthroughs is if we have the strength and capacity to actually scare them into compromise. Right now, they are continuing to operate with impunity and that simply cannot be allowed to continue.

European Parliament: Question raised about Ahmadiyya persecution in Saudi Arabia

Ahmadiyya Times
The attitude of the Saudi Arabian Government to human rights is well known, although the way the European Union treats it as an ally is at odds with its systematic violation of these rights. Recently, Sultan Hamid Marzouk Al‐Anzi and Faleh Sudi Awad Al‐Anzi, citizens born in Saudi Arabia whose only crime was to be members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, were arrested. They were held and charged with the crime of apostasy, since religious conversion is considered to be a crime in Saudi Arabia. Against this background, the international community continues to maintain its usual criminal silence, since Saudi Arabia is adopting the same double standards in the observance of human rights as the European Union. The Ahmadiyya community is a religious movement within Islam that is committed to peaceful expansion and calls for dialogue instead of holy war. The movement is persecuted in many Islamic countries where the extremist and fundamentalist Islamic movements have become strong, in many cases thanks to support provided by Saudi Arabia. While the Western powers bomb and occupy countries in the Middle East on the pretext of terrorism, Saudi Arabia, the main stronghold of the most radical Islamic fundamentalist and terrorist movements, is seen as an ally. Is the Vice-President/High Representative aware of the abovementioned arrests, which infringe respect for human rights? Does she intend to publicly condemn the Saudi Arabian Government for religious arrests of this kind? Does she intend to demand that Saudi Arabia abolish all provisions in its legislation that are in conflict with respect for human rights in the sphere of religious freedom? Does she intend to suspend relations within the Gulf Cooperation Council until Saudi Arabia undertakes to respect human rights?

Pakistan: No Man’s Country

Balcoh Hal
By Vardha Khalil
When Washington DC is sleeping, half of the world is awake and when morning appears here many countries, including Pakistan, are concluding their day. So when you wake up in the morning and check your phone and social media then you get updated about what was happening around the globe while you were asleep. When I got up in the morning, I got the horrible news on both regular and social media. The more I studied, the more pain I felt. The biggest optimism for any person is the belief that the future will be better than the present. And as a Pakistani, every time I think that now the country’s situation cannot get worse and may be now it will recuperate but one after one every blatant act of terrorism is making this a shallow and rusty hope. As the Pakistani government was weighing its options to tackle the Taliban and their affiliates, indulged in a debate of good and bad Taliban, at the same time those outfits were planning the suicide attacks at a church in Peshawar. More than 80 innocent Pakistani citizens perished in these atrocious attacks. The sense of loss over this grizzly massacre is quite natural yet some political circles cling to the idea of opening dialogue with the Taliban. The agenda of these political circles is no different from those Taliban who want to convert Pakistan into a sect-minority-free “Islamic State”. Extremist Taliban factors and their sympathizers in political parties, in a bid to enforce self-style version of Islam over Pakistan, are transforming it into a land where inhabitation of humans will be impossible. In current situation the terrified minorities and secular groups are already forced to leave their houses. After target killings of Hazara people in Balochistan, thousands of citizens are seeking shelter in other parts of the country. Several people are moving to other countries because of Shia genocide in the country. The Ahmadiyya community, which has already taken the brunt of sectarian hatred, is once again on the hit-list. Hunting of Ahmadiyya community had started right after the very creation of Pakistan. Yet, in 1973, their persecution was legalized by declaring them non-Muslims in the constitution. The “Islamisation” that started during Zia-ul-Haq’s era in 1980s not only failed miserably but such efforts also gave birth to such monsters who have changed the whole country into a haunted place. The requirement of the new era is to avoid transforming Pakistan into some ideology or religion and just make it a secular country which is suitable for a common human being to live in. We should strive to make our country a place where all human beings have basic rights and there is no human rights violation in the name of religion.

Still a winner: Malala’s voice

She didn’t win the Nobel peace prize — this year — but she has won the world’s admiration and respect. The gracefulness, poise and compassion of a 16-year-old girl who would rather campaign for every child’s right to education than against the Taliban who shot her in the face have been something truly remarkable to behold. That Malala was never your average schoolgirl has been evident for years; what the world has discovered in recent days is that she has grown into a truly extraordinary young woman. There is much sadness and despair in the reality of the circumstances that forced Malala into campaigning for the right to education and that have carried her to global fame. But Pakistan’s most famous young citizen has also demonstrated the kinder though no less resolute side of her country: Malala is focused on improving the human condition rather than lamenting its inadequacies. To truly honour Malala and the millions of other schoolchildren she speaks for, Pakistan can attempt to translate her dream of universal education into reality. Whether it is school enrolment or the quality of education or infrastructure of the public school system, Pakistan consistently ranks near the bottom internationally — and even by regional standards, performs poorly. Fixing the broken education system here is not just about throwing more money at the problem — though surely the federal and provincial governments need to create the fiscal space to spend more on education and health. Every government comes in promising to improve the education sector, but none has left a significantly improved one as its legacy. The twin, and very familiar, problems of capacity and will appear to be the greatest impediments: the expertise to draft a realistic revival plan at the provincial level is missing as is the political and administrative will to stay focused on the issue of education. Of course, there is also the very real problem of the radical mindset that opposes modernity and what the majority of the population would regard as the basic tenets of a good education. Malala’s mature and convincing voice has largely drowned out the howls of anger from the Taliban fringe in recent days, but for a still-too-large number of Pakistani children, especially girls, extreme conservatism and violent radicalism are crucial factors in denying them an education. Malala has shown what a single — though powerful and unique — voice can do to help change perceptions. Many more will have to add their voices to hers if the constitutional right to education is to become meaningful for all children.

US President Barack Obama has lauded Malala Yusufzai's efforts for the promotion of girls' education

President Barack Obama has met Malala Yousafzai at the White House in Washington and lauded her efforts for the promotion of girls' education.
In a statement after the meeting‚ Malala Yousufzai thanked President Obama for the US support for education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees. She also expressed concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these attacks and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. Malala said it will make a big impact if we refocus efforts on education.