Sunday, October 13, 2013

Malala says she's no Western puppet, she's 'daughter of Pakistan'

Malala Yousafzai hit back at claims that she has become a figure of the West, insisting she was proud to be a Pakistani. The 16-year-old, who was shot by the Taliban for championing girls' right to an education, claimed she retained the support of people in her homeland, and reiterated her desire to enter Pakistani politics. The activist was shot in the head on her school bus on October 9 last year for speaking out against the Taliban. She was flown for specialist care in Britain, where she has continued her education, while she has been feted and honoured in the West.
On Thursday, she won the European Union's prestigious Sakharov human rights prize, while US President Barack Obama welcomed her to the White House on Friday. Asked in a BBC television interview broadcast Sunday about some people in Pakistan thinking she was a "figure of the West" and "a Westerner now", she said: "My father says that education is neither Eastern or Western. Education is education: it's the right of everyone."The thing is that the people of Pakistan have supported me. They don't think of me as Western. I am a daughter of Pakistan and I am proud that I am a Pakistani." "On the day when I was shot, and on the next day, people raised the banners of 'I am Malala'. They did not say 'I am Taliban'." "They support me and they are encouraging me to move forward and to continue my campaign for girls' education." She highlighted the problem of education in the midst of the Syrian conflict."We want to help every child in every country that we can," she said. "We will start from Pakistan and Afghanistan and Syria now, especially because they are suffering the most and they are on the top that need our help." "Later on in my life I want to do politics and I want to become a leader and to bring the change in Pakistan." "I want to be a politician in Pakistan because I don't want to be a politician in a country which is already developed."
Obamas welcome Malala to Oval Office
US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle welcomed Pakistani schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai to the Oval Office on Friday. On the day she was passed over for the Nobel Peace Prize, the Obamas hailed Malala, 16, for her "inspiring and passionate" work on behalf of girls 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," a White House statement said. "We salute Malala's efforts to help make these dreams come true." The 16-year-old, who was shot by the Taliban for championing girls' right to an education, was overlooked for the prize, with the Nobel committee instead honoring the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Sakharov prize for freedom goes to Pakistan's Malala
The European Parliament's Sakharov prize for freedom of thought has gone to Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani advocate for female education who survived a Taliban gunshot to the head, lawmakers announced Thursday. "It takes an exceptional human being to stand up to a regime such as the Pakistani Talban and when that human being is a young 16-year-old girl then that bravery becomes breathtaking,” said Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the European Parliament’s Liberal Democrat group that nominated Yousafzai for the prize. “The recent renewed threats to Malala's life have showed that those who tried to harm her are becoming increasingly desperate as the world's attention turns to this exceptional young woman. She is a most worthy recipient of the Sakharov prize and richly deserves the nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize," he said in a statement. Joseph Daul, chairman of the European People's Party, the largest group in parliament, echoed Mr. Verhofstadt's feelings when he stated that "Malala personifies the fight for education for girls in areas where respect for women and their basic rights are completely ignored". "She is an icon of courage for all teenagers who dare to pursue their aspirations and, like a candle, she lights a path out of darkness," Daul added. The Sakharov Prize will be presented on November 20. Malala is also a favourite to win the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. Last year, the EU prize went to Iranian human rights activists Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi. The Sakharov Prize, named after prominent Soviet human rights activist and nuclear physicist, Andrey Sakharov, has been awarded by the European Parliament annually since 1988. Pakistani teenager shot by Taliban invited to Buckingham Palace Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenage activist who was shot by the Taliban last year, has been invited to Buckingham Palace, the Press Association reported Sunday. Malala, 16, will attend a reception on Youth, Education and the Commonwealth being hosted by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip on October 18, the palace confirmed. Other guests will include teachers and academics. On October 9, 2012, Taliban gunmen shot Malala in the head on a girls' school bus in Pakistan's Swat Valley because of her public campaign for the right of all girls to education. Malala was flown a few days after the shooting to Britain, where she was hospitalized for months while recuperating and undergoing rehabilitation. She now lives with her family in Birmingham in central England, with her parents and two brothers. She is among the record 259 nominees for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, which is to be announced on October 11. Speaking on her 16th birthday in July at the United Nations, she said: "On October 9, they shot at the left side of my head and thought that bullets can silence me, but they failed." She told the UN Youth Assembly: "The extremists are afraid of books, of girls and boys going to school, and that is why they kill innocent people. They are afraid of change and equality." Malala vowed at the UN to continue her struggle for girls' education. "I do not want to be the girl who was shot by Taliban - I want to be the girl who fought for the rights of girls." Read more:

'Millions of people still won’t have access to road, water, electricity by 2060'
A new study has revealed that even though countries are likely to improve their infrastructure networks substantially in the future, the current path points to millions of people without access to basic infrastructure even by 2060. That’s among the key findings from “Building Global Infrastructure: Forecasting the Next 50 Years” -- the fourth volume in Patterns of Potential Human Progress (PPHP) -- published by the Frederick S Pardee Center for International Futures at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies. “Millions of people around the world currently lack access to even basic infrastructure,” Dale S Rothman, lead author of the report and senior scientist at the Frederick S Pardee Center for International Futures, said. The data show that, in 2010, 62% of the rural population of low-income countries did not live within two kilometers of an all-season road, 76% of all people in low-income countries lacked household access to electricity, 34% to improved water, 63% to improved sanitation and 78% to modern forms of communication, such as mobile phones. “We forecast that, if we follow the current path, by 2060, most developing regions will achieve access rates to improved water and electricity that approach or even exceed those of high-income countries today, while access to mobile phones and mobile broadband will approach near universality much sooner,” Rothman said. Millions of people, however, will not feel the reach of these improvements. “We forecast that more than half-a-billion people will still not live within two kilometers of an all-season road by 2060 and a similar number will not have access to electricity. Approximately 250 million people will not have access to an improved source of drinking water, and more than 1 billion will not have access to improved sanitation,” he said. “The vast majority of these people will be in low-income and lower-middle-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere,” he added. Rothman said the current pace of infrastructure advance is not fast enough for most developing countries to achieve universal access to basic infrastructure by 2060, much less by the year 2030, the target date specified in a number of international discussions this week at the United Nations and elsewhere.

Bangladesh: War crimes trial and failure of our politics

Genocide was committed against our people, and yet we cannot agree to condemn it collectively.
WE are a severe critic of this government on many issues. But on the issue of holding war crimes trial we have no hesitation in saying that without the AL in power, and without Sheikh Hasina’s determined leadership, it would have never happened. For this we express our heartfelt gratitude, as we have done in the past, to the AL chief’s single minded focus and unwavering resolve to hold the trial and then see it through to the very end. For those of us who remember the immediate post-Bangabandhu assassination period, we distinctly recall how the memories of our Liberation War and that of the leaders of those momentous days, especially the role of Bangabandhu and that of Awami League, were either gradually obliterated or made questionable by selective, incomplete, and sometimes fabricated history of the period. Bangabandhu was the founder of Baksal and Awami League the party that killed democracy were the two oft-repeated narrative of that period. The former’s role in leading to the independence struggle — how he united a divided people, how he forged an ironclad unity behind Bengali nationalism, how he emboldened us all to first demand and then fight for our rights-were swept under the carpet, and only the fact that he formed Baksal (no doubt his biggest blunder) was grilled into the public mind. All the narratives of the Liberation War were usurped by one sentence, that Maj. Zia declared independence, and hearing his announcement over the radio, people just spontaneously started the armed struggle. There was no political struggle from 1947 to 1970, there were no movements for provincial autonomy — six points and eleven points — there was no anti-martial law movement, there were no anti-Ayub and anti-Yahya movements, there was no Agartala Conspiracy case, there were no student or mass movements. There was just Zia’s announcement, and like magic our Liberation War started. Without going into the nitty-gritty of the trial and its real and imagined shortcomings, the question we need to ask is that why did it need the Awami League and Sheikh Hasina in power to bring it about? There is not a single Bangalee–save perhaps the perpetrators themselves–who will deny that genocide did take place on our soil during 1971. In that genocide millions were killed and hundreds and thousands of our women raped and thousands of our villages burnt. Even today one would not find a single family that did not have one or several of its family members killed, either by the Pakistani army or their local collaborators, including the dreaded Al-Badrs, Al-Shams, etc. When such is the collective memory, then why is that it is only the AL and Sheikh Hasina who pursue the war crimes trials, and the rest of us, at best, watch like spectators and, at worst, pass sneering remarks about its so-called flawed process and legal lacunae. Herein lies one of the biggest failures of our politics. It is so blinded by mutual hatred, jealousy, suspicion, and driven by vulgar opportunism, that we are willing to sacrifice everything, including facts relating to the Liberation War atrocities, just to suit our political convenience. We are among a few countries in the post Second World War history, which had the rare good fortune of fighting and creating a free and independent state of our own. In gaining that freedom we had to undergo tremendous sacrifices, immense sufferings, almost endless prison terms of many of our leaders, including, and especially, Sheikh Mujib. In the final chapter of that struggle we had to face genocide. The state machinery of Pakistan and its formidable and highly trained and equipped armed forces — armed, by the way, by our tax and jute money — used their full might to quell our struggle for freedom. The idea was that they would kill everyone who demanded freedom and when sufficient numbers would be dead the rest would become silent. What made our genocide different was that it was being perpetrated by “our own” army. In almost all other cases of genocide, the actor was an invading army. But in our case the army that we clothed, fed, trained, brought equipment for and housed in ideally located areas of the country, wanted a “pure Pakistani” people and wanted to eliminate the “impure Bengalis” from amongst them. The above narrative was just to nudge the memory of those of us Muktijoddhas who seem to have forgotten how our Liberation War narrative was hijacked till Awami League and Sheikh Hasina retrieved it. (With a new fault of their own, that of excluding everybody from the narrative save Bangabandhu.) We hope to address that issue on a separate occasion) We need to remember the atrocities of 1971 and the brutality perpetrated on our people, in order to fully understand the relevance of the war crimes trials. Yes, we wish we were a bit more efficient in going about it, more tech-savvy, more up to the international standard, etc. But all the shortcomings notwithstanding — all of which were eminently avoidable — the fundamental legal, moral and historical foundation of the process remains unshaken. There is an urgent need for the nation to be united behind the war crimes trial. The present political process that shows a divided polity on the issue is an insult to the millions who laid down their lives so that we can live in freedom. This is not revenge, nor retribution, but only justice. There is no way we, as a self-respecting people, can and should forget what happened in 1971. Those who say why hang on to the past, the answer is simple. There are “pasts” whose value is so immense, whose significance in our national ethos so fundamental, and whose energising capacity to drive towards the future is so powerful, that giving it up is like giving up our very dream of building a nation of prosperity, freedom, and above all, DIGNITY.

Pak-India: Tunnel at the tunnel’s end

In the one central demand that India made of Pakistan in a meeting that was otherwise a spectacular non-starter, is the answer to the question of what is next for relations between the two countries. The short answer is: pretty much nothing. At least, not till there is some clarity on whether Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif can (or even wants to) assert control over the Pakistan army and not till a new government takes charges post-elections in India. In New York, India’s condition for any normalisation of ties was that Pakistan had to first contain violations along the Line of Control (LoC). Since we now know that the Keran infiltrations (notwithstanding the debate over the missing bodies of 12 terrorists) were unfolding at about the same time as the two prime ministers were barely managing a smile for the cameras, it is even more ironic that the only conclusion that a lacklustre summit was able to reach was that the two Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) would meet soon to find a mechanism for reducing tensions at the LoC. But what worth can such a meeting possibly have (if it still takes place) after no less than India’s army chief has bluntly blamed the Pakistani military for “trying to keep Kashmir simmering” with “desperate” infiltration attempts that he warns will only worsen with the pull out of American forces from Afghanistan. The multiple ceasefire violations — more than 100 in the last two months alone, 165 this year — reinforce the paradox of Sharif’s prime ministership. He is the first civilian politician in Pakistan who has dared to say that the country’s prime minister is the Boss, not its army chief. The prime minister claims that he was ousted from power in the coup of 1999 because he advocated peace with India. He has made all the right noises on the dialogue process since being elected. Yet, in the 10 years of the 2003 ceasefire agreement, these few months right after Sharif got elected as prime minister, have been easily the most volatile and violent phase at the LoC. Sharif is already battling his army on two different fronts. He’s at war within after his decision to open talks with the Pakistani Taliban, talks in which his outgoing army chief has already said “terrorists will not be allowed to set the terms”. But the Pakistan security establishment shows no such allergy to the Lashkar-e-Taiba or its founder and ideological patron Hafiz Saeed, who lives with impunity despite a $10-million US bounty for information resulting in his arrest. In early September, Saeed was allowed to lead an inflammatory anti-India rally, right in the heart of Pakistan’s capital and not too far from its National Assembly. Even more critical than the equation between Nawaz Sharif and his army is the relationship between his party base and Islamist groups in Pakistan. The Punjab government led by his brother has been repeatedly charged with looking the other way as Saeed mocks Indian concerns on the Mumbai attacks and the still-elusive action against its perpetrators and patrons. In many ways Sharif’s bête noire — the man who forced him out of power and now finds himself in jail in a remarkable levelling of history — represents why Pakistan’s new prime minister could find it impossible to get his army to endorse any significant peace missive with India. General Pervez Musharraf does not even bother to deny reports that he violated the sanctity of the LoC himself, as the Chief of Pakistan’s Army. Not just through the seriously botched misadventure in Kargil, but by crossing over into Indian territory in 1999 and spending a night 11 kilometres inside India with Pakistani soldiers. In an old interview to me he said he would neither confirm nor deny what he called “military matters... but, but I’m telling you that I have been spending nights with my troops.” His claim may well have been an empty boast, rubbished firmly by Indian Army Chief General VP Malik. But what is critical is his description in the same interview of the LoC as “violable.” Arguing that it was hardly significant whether he was on the Indian side of the LoC or in his own land, Gen Musharraf went on to tell me, “The LoC is not a permanent international boundary. That’s the first part. The second part is, why should I say whether I was on the other side of line of control or not. Why are you interested?” That a man who led Pakistan’s army and the country as president should so openly question the sanctity of the LoC is enough indication of what Sharif is up against. In New York, both Nawaz Sharif and Manmohan Singh went through the token ritual of extending invitations to the other for State visits. As things stand, that is not just unlikely, it’s pretty much impossible. On the contrary, it’s pretty clear that the situation along the LoC is going to remain intensely inflammable for the next few months, and more so, as the uncertainty in Afghanistan spills over. When Sharif and Singh met in New York both were weakened by the domestic politics of their own countries. One is a new PM grappling with the entrenched biases of his security establishment and trying to manage the optimism that followed his win swiftly turn into scepticism and cynicism; the other is an outgoing PM who has been beleaguered by scams, listless leadership and a party that sees him as far too fixated with his Pakistan project. The best that can be said about the handshake in New York was that it was a non-event. In fact, India-Pakistan equations may be entering one of their worst phases in recent memory. The simmering LoC is a barometer of that impending fever.

US troop status up to elders, says Karzai

After a marathon series of meetings, President Hamid Karzai and US Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday said they had agreed on some major issues pertaining to the much-delayed Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), but the issue of jurisdiction for American forces remains unresolved.
Both men, appearing at a joint press conference in Kabul after a series of meetings, said they had reached agreement on many contentious sovereignty issues and the safety of Afghan citizens at the hands of American and allied troops after 2014, when most foreign troops are leaving. But Karzai said a Loya Jirga, a traditional grand assembly of tribal elders, was being convened within a month to make a final decision on on the issue of jurisdiction for any crimes committed by US forces in Afghanistan after 2014. He said the security agreement would be then send to the Afghan Parliament for its approval. “We have reached an agreement on the respect of national sovereignty, preventing civilian casualties, a definition for aggression and also the prevention of unilateral acts by foreign forces,” Karzai said. “We reached an agreement on that, but the issue of jurisdiction for foreign forces is above the authority of the Afghan government, and that is up to the Afghan people and the Loya Jirga.” Kerry responded that any decision made by the Loya Jirga and Parliament would be respected, but if the jurisdiction issue was not resolved, there would be no agreement. Karzai said the issue of jurisdiction for foreign forces was above the authority of the Afghan government and that is up to the Afghan people and the Loya Jirga. Kerrey said his discussions with Karzai were important and that his country respected Afghanistan’s sovereignty, rights and demands of its people. He said: “We want the people of Afghanistan to live in peace and stability. Anyone who commits a crime will be punished; something the United States has practically proved.” He said American soldiers, who committed crimes in Afghanistan, had been jailed in the United States.

When Canada made Afghanistan worse

In those early, hopelessly naive years, when Canadian soldiers and their energetic general encamped in Kandahar to kill “scumbags” and set Afghanistan on the road to democracy, the accompanying media fell into line – in love with the general, the soldiers and their mission. The early coverage was largely ahistorical, gung-ho, a big group hug for the Canadians – a travesty of journalism, really. What Canadians needed then was a clear-eyed analysis of the country and its history, an understanding of its regional antagonisms, an appreciation of the daunting, even impossible task Canada and its government – to say nothing of the entire North Atlantic Treaty Organization – had signed up for in that forbidding, post-medieval place. Many years later, as the Americans prepare to withdraw their forces and the last Canadians (trainers for the Afghan army) can see the end of their time in Afghanistan, Westerners will have left behind graveyards of their fallen and a country still corrupt, tribally divided and closer to civil strife than civil peace. After that first full flush of nonsense reporting that, in fairness, played well at home and was supplemented by the country’s biggest windbag on Hockey Night in Canada, along came another group of correspondents, sympathetic to the troops and their travails, of course, but willing to question the party line and explore beyond the perimeters of the Canadian base in Kandahar. There were some very good journalists in this group, brave men and women in a place growing more violent every day. One lost her life. Another was held hostage. Another was seriously wounded. The Globe and Mail’s Graeme Smith (now with the International Crisis Group in Kabul) was among them. He stayed longer than most, took extraordinary risks around Kandahar and in Quetta across the Pakistani border, interviewed the Taliban (despite criticism for giving a microphone to the enemy) and, more than anyone else, exposed the story of Afghan prisoner detainees turned over by Canadians and other NATO forces to local authorities, who tortured and abused them. Canada’s government lied about many aspects of the detainee affair, insisting that Ottawa didn’t know what was happening or that Afghan authorities were examining all allegations of misconduct – despite memos from Canadian officials on the ground saying that wasn’t so. Mr. Smith explains the detainee affair, from the prison where he visited and interviewed prisoners to the government’s mendacity in the House of Commons, in The Dogs Are Eating Them Now, a memoir of his correspondent days in Kandahar and Kabul. But the detainees represent but one small part of a wise, enthralling, detailed, realistic account of his time in Afghanistan. Many are the lessons from Mr. Smith’s book, but one emerges above all: that the presence of foreigners did not necessarily turn the tide against the Taliban. Indeed, the foreigners’ military forays and strange (to the Pashtuns) ways may even have allowed the Taliban to survive and, ultimately, to grow. Mr. Smith doesn’t say so, but he would be honest to admit that his portrait is of only one part of a sprawling, diverse country. There were and are much less violent parts of Afghanistan, where leaders fought against the Taliban before and might do so again after the Americans leave. His is a picture of Kandahar and its surroundings, where the Pashtun code of tribal identity and revenge has for centuries proved difficult for foreigners to understand. In southern Afghanistan, at any rate, “we are leaving behind an ongoing war; at worst, it’s a looming disaster,” Mr. Smith says. How the West, including Canadians, unintentionally made things worse is a textbook case of cross-cultural misunderstanding and hubris. The West will tell itself heroic stories, then forget about Afghanistan. Perhaps unexpectedly, given his depressing account, Mr. Smith concludes that saying goodbye would be a mistake. The Afghan government Westerners leave behind will need support, and lots of it. Without foreign money and help, he argues, the chances of a moderately peaceful Afghanistan seem remote – as remote as that support continuing.

US and Afghanistan nearing deal on bilateral security pact

US Secretary of State Kerry and Afghan President Karzai have agreed in principle on a security deal on the future of American forces in Afghanistan. The deal must still be approved by tribal elders. The pact was announced jointly by John Kerry and President Hamid Karzai late on Saturday following two days of talks in the Afghan capital, Kabul. The deal would keep some US forces in Afghanistan after most foreign troops withdraw by the end of next year. Both men said an agreement had been reached on a series of issues that had deadlocked talks in the past year. These included some sovereignty issues and the question of the safety of Afghan citizens at the hands of American and allied troops. However, US officials said the issue of jurisdiction over the US troops who remain is still a sticking point. The US has demanded that it retain jurisdiction over its troops, making them immune from Afghan law. Karzai opposes this and says he will put the matter before the Loya Jirga - a traditional Afghan assembly of elders, leaders and other influential people - for consideration. The opinion of the Loya Jirga would then be given to the Afghan parliament, which would take the final decision. Crunch issue Kerry said that "unfortunately there cannot be a bilateral security agreement" without the issue of jurisdiction being resolved. A similar security agreement between the US and Iraq in 2011 collapsed over the issue of troop immunity, and the US pulled its troops out of the country, which has since seen another surge in sectarian violence comparable with that in 2008. There are currently an estimated 87,000 international troops in Afghanistan, including some 52,000 Americans. That number will be halved by February, and all foreign combat troops are scheduled to leave by the end of 2014. The US wants to leave as many as 10,000 of its troops in the country after 2014 to help fight the remaining al Qaeda militants in the country and train the Afghan national army. If no agreement is signed, all US troops would have to leave by December 31, 2014.

Pakistani Lawyers: Black coats misbehaving again

In a shocking incident on Wednesday, lawyers in Islamabad's district courts locked the doors of 40 courtrooms, confining several judges in their chambers because a civil judge was reluctant to issue contempt notice to Capital Development Authority (CDA) Chairman for demolishing lawyers' chambers constructed on a football ground. The CDA had taken notice of encroachments on the area residents' complaints. A press report points out that the lawyers have been making encroachments right and left. They have constructed their chambers on footpaths, litigants' sitting area and almost every open space in front of the courtrooms. Last month, some of them razed the district courts security walls as well to erect their own structures there. It took a lot of discussion and the involvement of the Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Mohammad Anwar Khan Kasi for the black coats to agree to vacate the area in front of courtrooms. Preceding details make it plain that lawyers are in the wrong. CDA and district authorities in several other cities have been demolishing encroachments on public space. There is no reason why members of the legal community should be treated any different; in fact they are expected to demonstrate a greater responsibility to abide by the rules. Unfortunately, however, what happened in Islamabad is not the first case of lawyers acting aggressively. They seem to have drawn wrong lessons from the success of the movement for the restoration of judiciary, which was inspired by a higher notion of rule of law. Many among them have come to see that as a licence to challenge everyone using uncouth means. In one instance, a lawyer threw a shoe at a civil judge for refusing to grant bail to his client. Another slapped a presiding judge for some similar reason leading to protest resignations by fellow judges. They even beat up an officer of the fearsome Punjab Police on the Lahore High Court premises. Black coats have also been attacking journalists for covering such incidents. Bar councils have done little to stop a growing aggressive trend among their members. The bench and the bar are expected to work in harmony for better administration of justice. But putting pressure by members of the bar on judges to deliver orders to their liking comprises a grave threat to the administration of justice. Judges cannot be expected to do justice in the face of lawyers' menacing behaviour. They, of course, cannot deal with such situations on their own. Black coats' bullying and beatings on the court premises must come to a stop. Towards that end, leadership of various bar associations have a special responsibility to ensure the lawyers act in a civilised manner. The administration must also ensure that those resorting to violence get the punishment that they deserve. In the present case, all those involved in locking in the judges need to be brought to justice so that they think twice before taking any such step in future.

Pakistan's Tribal belt: Four new polio cases confirmed

The Express Tribune
Four more children from the tribal areas have fallen victim to the crippling polio virus. The National Institute of Health Islamabad reported the fresh cases after laboratory tests confirmed the presence of the polio virus. So far, this year the disease has disabled 31 children from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). In all 43 children across Pakistan were hit by the polio virus during the current year. The ban imposed by militant commanders on polio vaccination teams in North and South Waziristan Agencies and persistent security threats in other tribal agencies are hindering polio eradication efforts. The NIH on Friday confirmed the presence of the crippling virus in the stool samples of 30-months old Zulqarnain of Bara tehsil, Khyber Agency. The child has not received the oral polio vaccine (OPV) in the last 10 months due to volatile security situation. The same tribal agency has also reported two dozen cases of Sabin Like (II) Poliomyelitis (SL2), however due to the peculiar scientific and genetic nature of the SL2 virus strain, these cases have yet to be included in the national polio case count tally. The other three cases were reported from North Waziristan Agency where a nine-month old boy from Miramshah, and two girls aged 16 months and 12 months from Mir Ali contracted the disease. The children had not received the vaccination due to the ban imposed by the local warlord in the middle of 2012. “We are unofficially confirming these four cases on the basis of lab reports….the official notification will be issued in due time,” an official of the Expended Programme on Immunisation Fata said wishing not to be named. He said a recent move to administer anti-polio drops to every child at the security checkpoints of Bannu district on the entry and exit routes of the North and South Waziristan proved to be a great success. The teams are vaccinating 7,000-8,000 children in a month, he said.

Pakistan: Health Workers boycott hits polio drive

Members of the Lady Health Workers Union (LHWU), Hyderabad, and other vaccination staff boycotted the ongoing anti-polio drive on Friday in protest against non-payment of their three months salaries. A large number of lady health workers held a protest demonstration outside the local press club and torched a couple of the hand-carry ice boxes meant for keeping polio vaccines during the door-to-door campaign. The protest disrupted the October 9-13 campaign in Hyderabad. LHWY president Rukhsana Mughal, general secretary Raheela Shaikh told the media that 1,200 women workers and 200 other staff engaged in the anti-polio work had not been paid their salaries since July although they had been doing their jobs to the entire satisfaction of the authorities concerned. They said they would not resume their work until they were assured of the disbursement of their dues. During the protest, some of them revealed that they were being provided substandard or expired vaccines which were ineffective. “Such vaccines are distinguished by their (purple and dark purple) colours,” they said. If the parents of the polio drops recipients knew the expired drops being administered, they resist vaccination violently, they said. “We complained to the high-ups in the health department about the issue but no one paid heed to the issue or our grievance,” they claimed. Deputy provincial coordinator of the national programme for family planning and primary healthcare Dr Saifullah Qaimkhani along with district health officer Dr Ghulam Mustafa Abbasi and other officials concerned visited the protesting lady health workers and listened to their grievances. Dr Qaimkhani assured them that they would get their one month salary on Monday and the remaining dues soon. On his assurance, the lady health workers ended their protest. Dr Abbasi told the protesters that the claim about use of substandard or expired vaccines were investigated and found wrong.

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan in Afghanistan

Latifullah Mehsud has been captured in Afghanistan by the US forces. He is considered the second in command and a close aide of Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The 2009 Times Square bombing in New York was carried out by the TTP as was testified in a US court by Faisal Shehzad, the lone accused of the attack. Latifullah’s arrest is in line with the strategy the US has adopted to capture or kill al Qaeda-affiliated operatives involved in terrorist activities on 9/11 and later. Hakeemullah Mehsud is a sworn enemy of the US and has vowed to attack it again whenever possible. Latifullah has been arrested by the US military from a convoy of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, en route to taking Latifullah for a dialogue over peace talks between the Afghan Taliban and the Karzai administration. The capture of TTP’s leader from Afghanistan has revealed once again that the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban are two sides of the same coin. Otherwise what was a Pakistani Taliban doing in Afghanistan and why was he considered important for a peace dialogue, so much so that his capture has angered Karzai? Living in a state of denial about the Pakistani Taliban having a toehold in Afghanistan’s eastern region in the pursuit of a ‘friendly’ government in Kabul post-2014 is neither in the interests of Afghanistan nor Pakistan. The Haqqani network is operative there, and has sheltered the militants fleeing the Swat operation in 2009. The recent reports of Mullah Fazlullah’s falling out with the Haqqanis have confirmed his group’s presence there. This support of terror by the TTP within Afghanistan raises the suspicion of Pakistan’s complicity. The supply line running through North Waziristan and FATA into Afghanistan is what has caused all the mess and has made the US mission in Afghanistan a failure. These are the people who are attacking the US-led NATO forces. Since they get direct help through Pakistan, which is reluctant to crack down on the sanctuaries operational in North Waziristan, Pakistan cannot escape direct responsibility for these rogue elements. It seems the strategic depth syndrome has not fully died its natural death as yet. We are still obsessed with the fear of India encircling Pakistan through Afghanistan, therefore we want a friendly government in the country, something that we think the Taliban can provide. Isn’t it about time that we shed these unfounded fears, since we have enough of our own emanating from none other than the TTP that is waging a horrific war against the state and its people? The sooner we stop providing support to these enemies in both the countries the better. Our salvation lies in a strategy to have a friendly Afghanistan, not just a friendly government in Kabul.

Pakistan: Opposition Leader strongly criticizes the government for increasing inflation
Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Syed Khurhsid Shah has strongly criticized the government for increasing inflation and said that the government was committing excesses.
He said that aides of General Ziaul Haq were now criticizing the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Shah said that it was government’s responsibility to hold negotiations with the Taliban as opposition had given it mandate. The PPP stalwart said that the new NAB chairman was appointed unanimously by the government and the opposition. He said that action was being taken against criminal elements in Karachi, adding that the MQM had demanded military operation in the city.