Thursday, October 24, 2013

Aseefa Bhutto: My mother left a great vision and I will give my best to carry her legacy to make Pakistan a polio-free country

PPP Social Media Cell /FAA
Aseefa Bhutto Zardari Pakistan Ambassador for Polio Eradication.

India, Pakistan border guards clash on Kashmir border

The border guards of India and Pakistan Thursday again targeted each other's posts on international border in Kashmir, officials said. The border guards on both sides targeted each other using automatic weapons early Thursday in frontier districts of Jammu and Samba. "Pakistani Rangers last night started firing mortar shells and rockets on our outposts in Nikki Tawi area of Jammu and Ramgarh area of Samba. The firing continued until early today," said an official of Indian border guards Border Security Force (BSF). " Our side also retaliated to the firing from Pakistani Rangers." Officials said no loss of life was reported from Indian side. Border guards of the two nuclear neighbors on Tuesday exchanged fire along 50 locations on the international border, triggering panic among the residents. Reports said many villagers in the frontier areas have started constructing underground bunkers for their safety. According to India's official broadcaster All India Radio ( AIR), Pakistani Rangers targeted civilian areas in Ramgarh sector which caused extensive damage to some residential houses. "The inmates of one house in Nanga Gao of Ramgarh sector had a narrow escape as the mortar fired by Rangers fell on the rooftop of a house," said AIR. "BSF personnel also had a miraculous escape as the mortar fired by Pak Rangers fell close to border outpost." On Tuesday India's Home Minister Shushilkumar Shinde visited the restive region to review security along line-of-control (LoC) and international border (IB). Skirmishes between troops posted on LoC have been going on almost at daily basis since Aug 6. Majority of exchanges took place on LoC in Poonch. However for the past several days similar skirmishes are going on along IB in the region. Both sides have suffered troop as well as civilian casualties during the standoff on 720 km long LoC and 198 km IB. LoC is a de facto border that divides Kashmir into India and Pakistan controlled parts. New Delhi and Islamabad in 2003 agreed to observe cease-fire along the IB and LoC in Kashmir. Though some violations have been reported on both sides, the cease-fire remains in effect. Both New Delhi and Islamabad blame each other of resorting to unprovoked firing on LoC and IB. Kashmir, the Himalayan region divided between India and Pakistan is claimed by both in full. Since their Independence from British, the two countries have fought three wars, two exclusively over Kashmir.

Bahrain’s enormous tear gas tender exposed amid ongoing unrest

Demonstrators protesting the death of an activist were teargassed near Bahrain’s capital on Wednesday, as human rights groups slam the country’s crowd-dispersal policies following release of a leaked government tender for riot control weaponry supplies. Bahrain’s Ministry of the Interior issued a tender in June, seeking supplies of 1.6 million tear gas canisters and 145,000 stun grenades, according to a document obtained by UK based rights group Bahrain Watch. The number of tear gas shells appears to be greater than the country’s population of 1.2 million. The watchdog has alleged South Korean companies could be most likely bidders, taking into account they have a record of supplying tear gas to Bahrain.
South Korea’s DaeKwang Chemical acknowledged it exported around 1 million units of tear gas to Bahrain between 2011 and 2012 according to Kim Jong-bae, a senior executive at the group, cited by the Financial Times. Bahrain Watch has launched an online campaign, calling on internet users to bombard the companies exporting tear gas to Bahrain and the authorities approving such sales with condemnatory emails. “Tear gas is supposed to be 'non-lethal', but Bahrain's police use large amounts of tear gas in residential areas, even when there are no protests, and sometimes shoot tear gas directly into houses. The police also fire the canisters directly at people's heads, which has caused serious injuries and deaths,” the text of the message reads. It had already been sent about 30,000 times by the time this article was published. Signatories to the message have been welcome to share their own stories of tear gas exposure. “I live in Sehla – Bahrain. Tear gas became a daily routine that we got used to, I would never dare open the window driving into town, knowing that I could suffocate and drive into a lamp post on the way. My wife is pregnant and we bought gas masks and put them in our cars,” one of such stories by a user named Anon reads at the campaign’s web-page. Other rights groups joined the campaign. Human Rights Watch reacted by saying that Bahraini security forces had “repeatedly used tear gas disproportionately and sometimes unlawfully in suppressing antigovernment demonstrations,” according to The New York Times. Another watchdog, Human Rights First has called on Washington to intervene and slam the sales. The US itself stopped exports of tear gas to Bahrain in 2012 because of human rights concerns. “Tear gas is being used in an indiscriminate, inappropriate and lethal way. The US should publicly oppose all sales of tear gas to Bahrain while it is being abused by the police,” said Brian Dooley of Human Rights First. Bahrain has seen regular opposition rallies since the beginning of the Arab Spring in February 2011. It has on many occasions been criticized for excessive use of force in handling riots. According to estimates by Physicians for Human Rights 39 deaths in Bahrain over two-and-a-half years were caused by tear gas. Tear gas was most recently used to disperse crowds which clashed with police in Bahrain on Wednesday in a village near capital Manama, at the funeral of 17-year-old Ali Khalil Sabbagh. Protesters claim he was shot by police, which argues the teenager was a terrorist and died when a bomb that he was making exploded.

Don't abandon the women of Afghanistan

Afghanistan's presidential election season is underway. In a sign of genuine political progress, the government has begun accepting nominations for candidates to succeed President Hamid Karzai. This process started just weeks after the nation's Assembly passed legislation providing a legal framework for the presidential, provincial council and parliamentary elections. Nothing is more important for Afghanistan than building on the liberalizing achievements of the past decade and preventing a slide back toward repression. This is why it is crucial to retain and expand the hard-won rights of Afghan women. Gender equality isn't just a matter of moral fairness -- it's essential to the country's economic and political health and to ensuring that the nation has a secure, peaceful and stable future.Since the fall of the Taliban, Afghan women's rights have expanded significantly. The country's current constitution affords equal protection to men and women, guaranteeing women the right to education, political participation and economic opportunity. Afghan women are now employed at jobs ranging from doctor to police officer -- unthinkable under the Taliban. An Oxfam report found that school enrollment among girls has increased from roughly 5,000 to 2.4 million. These are encouraging developments. But there is so much more progress to be made. Afghan women are still the targets of institutional discrimination and gender-based violence. Here in the last half of 2013, two consecutive Ministry of Women's Affairs chiefs were assassinated. In August, female parliamentarian Fariba Ahmadi Kakar was kidnapped by Taliban militants. A few days later, the vehicle envoy of female Sen. Roh Gul Khairzad was ambushed, leading to the death of her 8-year-old daughter. And in mid-September, Afghanistan's top female police officer was shot as she left her home. This violence is organized. Sima Samar, head of the Independent Human Rights Commission of Afghanistan, has noted that by targeting high-profile women, the Taliban seeks to "limit the active presence and activities of women in their society."Indeed, a new United Nations report finds that in the first six months of 2013, the deaths of women and children jumped 38 compared to the same period last year. American forces will be drawn down next year. It's absolutely imperative that their exit not bring on a backslide. The country's government must be expected to keep its commitments to women and girls. Gender equality is about affirming human dignity, and it starts with improving access to education. The statistics tell the story. Mortality rates for children younger than 5 are 50% lower for mothers who have attended primary school. Educated women are less likely to die during childbirth and more likely to send their own children to school. These children then grow up to be the educated young citizens essential to sustained economic growth. These facts shouldn't be surprising. Education is a basic human right and its impact is transformative in any society. Educated women are major contributors to Afghanistan's economy. Each additional year of primary school improves a woman's earning potential by 10% to 20%. Women also provide an indispensable voice in political institutions. Here in the United States, after gaining the right to vote, women drew attention to underappreciated issues such as maternal health and child care, resulting in policy shifts that significantly reduced child mortality rates. Given the enormous challenges that Afghanistan faces, the country cannot afford to regress back to a system in which some of its brightest minds are left out of the political process or any part of society. Afghanistan's elections and the impending drawdown of American troops mark a new era in the country's development. The international community must work to ensure that women's gains in recent years are protected and that Afghan women continue to make political and economic progress. Any future support for the country's government must be explicitly tied to continued defense of equal rights and continued progress of female citizens. For peace and prosperity, we must not abandon the women of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan: Intelligence agents detain ‘future child bombers’
Intelligence operatives in eastern Laghman province have detained 21 children, some as young as 7, being taken to Pakistan for receiving suicide attack training, an official said on Thursday. The children, aged between 7 and 12 years, were detained a day earlier after they entered Laghman from Nuristan province, the provincial National Directorate of Security spokesman Nasrullah Nasrat told a press conference. He said the children had been picked from various areas in Nuristan and were being taken to Pakistan through Laghman by Qari Usman when they were arrested as a result of an intelligence report. He said Usman had been arrested and was being interrogated and the children were officially released to the Nuristan peace committee. A member of Nuristan peace committee, who did not want to be named, said abject poverty and lack of schools were some of the major reasons forcing youth and children into joining terrorists. He said armed groups were taking advantage of lack of schools and use children in suicide attacks and other terrorist activities. The Ministry of Education says religious schools have been established in all provinces in order to prevent children from going to Pakistan for religious studies.

د ګوزڼ جهاني ورځ خو وزیرستان او خېبر کې یې ناروغان

د ورستیو راپورونو له مخه په قبایلي سیمو، په ځانګړي ډول، په شمالي وزیرستان او خیبر کې پولیو مخ په زیاتېدو ده.
نن په نړۍ کې د ګوزڼ ناروغۍ ضد ورځ په داسې حال کې لمانځل کېږي چې ډاکتران اندېښنه ښيي چې دا ناروغي له شمالي وزیرستانه نورو سیمو ته هم خپرېدای شي. یوازې د اکتوبر په میاشت کې په شمالي وزیرستان کې ۱۰ کسان دې ناروغۍ ځپلي دي. د روغتیا نړیوالې ادارې له وینا سره سم، ګوزڼ ناروغي، پرته له درو هیوادونو، نوره له ټولې نړۍ پاکه شوې ده. په دې هیوادونو کې افغانستان، پاکستان او نایجېریا شامل دي. د ورستیو راپورونو له مخه په قبایلي سیمو، په ځانګړي ډول، په شمالي وزیرستان او خیبر کې پولیو مخ په زیاتېدو ده. د شمالي وزیرستان روغتیايي ادارې مشر ډاکتر جان میر خان مشال راډیو ته وویل، په روانې اوونۍ کې په دې سیمه کې د پولیو ناروغۍ درې نوي کېسونه مالوم شوي دي. د ده په وینا، یوازې د اکتوبر په میاشت کې ۱۰ کسان ګوزڼ وهلي دي. ډاکتر میر وايي، له شمالي وزیرستانه یې د ۹۰ داسې ماشومانو وینې نمونې اسلام اباد ته استولې دي چې عمرونه یې له پینځو کالونو کم دي. د ده په خبره، ناروغي په ټول وزیرستان کې موجوده ده. د شمالي وزیرستان روغتیايي ادارې مشر ډاکتر جان میر خان وویل، په وزیرستان کې خو د ګوزڼ ناروغي خپره شوې ده خو اوس خطر دا دی چې دا ناروغي به جنوبي وزیرستان، کورمې او د بنو نیمه قبایلي سیمو ته هم ورسېږي. د ده په خبره، د پولیو ناروغۍ واکسیني څاڅکو پر ورکولو د وسله والو بندیز ختمولو له پاره پوره هڅې کوي. ډاکتر میر د وزیرستان پر ولس غږ (ږغ) وکړ چې د پینځو کالونو له عمره کم، ټولو ماشومانو ته د ګوزڼ ناروغۍ مخنیوي څاڅکي ورکړي او دوی روغتون ته د واکسین ورکولو لپاره بوځي. په روان (۲۰۱۳ز) کال کې په قبایلي سیمې خیبر کې ۱۰، شمالي وزیرستان کې ۱۵ او په ټول پاکستان کې ۴۶ کسان ګوزڼ وهلي دي. له دې علاوه د پاکستان په مختلفو برخو کې د واکسیني څاڅکو پر ورکوونکو ډلو هم وخت په وخت حملې شوې دي.

Pakistan: World Polio Day 2013: Stop the outbreak, in the name of our children

By Elias Durry
On a number of occasions, I have argued Pakistan is on the verge of eradicating polio but that failure to do so would have serious global consequences. There is no need for me to repeat these arguments. Having said this, on World Polio Day 2013, I will not shy away from re-emphasizing some salient truths about the current and urgent dangers that polio poses to our children. In a nutshell, although I do not intend to become part of any controversial debate like so many others, as a father I am disheartened to know hundreds of thousands of innocent children are now being deliberately exposed to a crippling future. Let’s be honest with ourselves, polio affected children are less likely to grow up to be future doctors, nurses, teachers or lawyers. Most of them and their families will be convicted to a life of poverty and deprivation. What is troubling for me as a father is how we have come to be in a situation where so many children are being denied or deprived of a highly effective public health intervention. Polio eradication is not rocket science. If we vaccinate our children, they will be protected, if we don’t, polio will keep on following them. The poliovirus is smart; it looks for children with poor immunity levels and attacks them, cripples them. The vaccine, however, is smarter than the virus; it brings the immunity of the children to optimum levels, leaving the virus no room to attack. This is the reason why it is so important to ensure children are immunised during each and every polio round, so their bodies are prepared any time the virus attacks. Polio travels largely undetected across borders and continents. A Pakistani citizen who leaves Karachi with a bad cold may never know that a few hours later, he has infected a cab driver in Dubai, Doha, or Cairo with polio. Easy and cheap air travel has increased the mobility of the virus and has made it more dangerous for the rest of the world. Now no country in the world is absolutely safe from poliovirus. This is the main reason why the world is so interested in eradicating polio from Pakistan and other polio endemic countries. Every polio-free country has a right to be nervous that all the financial resources and tireless efforts which were put in place for their children and their country to stand in the row of polio-free nations may be jeopardized if all countries, including Pakistan, are not declared polio-free in the near future. At the end of 2011, Pakistan was facing one of the worst and largest polio outbreaks in over a decade, with 198 confirmed polio cases and almost all sewage samples confirming the presence of the virus in the environment. The virus was everywhere and every child in this country was at risk. Transmission was particularly intense in three zones, including the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and parts of central Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Quetta and its neighbouring districts of Killa Abdullah and Pishin, as well as Karachi. With so many paralysed children and asymptomatic children silently spreading the virus, we had reached an all-time low. So, what was done following this low-point? To cut a long story short, all the so-called “failing polio programme of 2011” needed were some key game-changing decisions. Intensification of activities, accountability and oversight were key to the change we saw in 2012. The children of Pakistan remain grateful to all the deputy commissioners, commissioners and the higher bureaucracy for their efforts to ensure a healthy future. Thanks in large part to their efforts, Pakistan recorded a 70% decrease in cases in 2012, with only 58 polio cases. Moreover, one of the three types of poliovirus was completely eradicated during that year. Without exaggeration and in frankness, by the end of 2012 Pakistan had made such big strides towards eradication that life without polio seemed a very real possibility for the children of the country. Then horrific things happened. The dreadful attacks on polio teams that started in December 2012 continued into 2013. It goes without saying such events, and the accompanying intimidation and fear, cause serious damage to the morale of polio workers who work tirelessly for the future generations of the country. Ironically, rather than attacking a virus that cripples and kills, our health workers were being attacked and killed. Preceding the targeted attacks on polio teams, a ban on all polio immunisation was introduced by the Taliban in North and South Waziristan in June 2012. With very limited vaccination activity in the area since that date, we have a huge ‘vaccination-gap’.
The ban remains in place.
In other parts of the country, in spite of their fear, vaccinators heroically continued their battle against the disease and carried on from house to house to offer the vital polio drops. In my view, their humanitarian spirit and courage is truly worthy of a Nobel Prize. The success of polio eradication efforts continued in 2013. We currently have 46 polio cases this year – a further reduction on the 2012 figure. The noticeable exception to this success is the areas in which inaccessibility and fear have prevented vaccinators from reaching children. In fact, close to 90% of the children paralysed by polio this year come from the areas in which there are problems of inaccessibility due to the ban on vaccination, or a fear of violence against polio teams and where good quality vaccination has therefore not been possible. In these areas, approximately 1.3 million children have little chance of immunisation as compared to the rest of the children in Pakistan. Without a doubt, the outbreak in these areas clearly threatens the children in the rest of Pakistan. In North and South Waziristan combined, an estimated 260,000 children have remained deprived of the polio vaccine since the ban on immunisation. As a result, 14 innocent children have been unjustifiably paralysed and the outbreak threatens the future of so many more. A large number of these children (74%) have never received a single dose of polio vaccine. In 2012, this number was very small – only 13% of polio afflicted children were unvaccinated. An estimated 91% of children paralysed by the poliovirus in Waziristan were below the age of two years. This shows these affected children were born around or after the month of June last year, when the ban on immunisation was imposed. This makes it very clear children who remain unvaccinated during polio campaigns are and will remain vulnerable to the poliovirus. Denying a child’s right to vaccination is a great injustice. Laboratory results have now confirmed the current number of children infected and paralysed by the poliovirus in North Waziristan and Bara of Khyber Agency this year is only the tip of the iceberg. A historic poliovirus ‘tsunami’ is unfolding in Pakistan. With such large numbers of un-immunised children, we will soon be hit with a large wave of polio across this country. The children of Pakistan and around the world are at risk. Concrete steps have to be taken by all stakeholders to stop this outbreak. The onset of paralysis cases in 2013 (up to October 19) occurred in children aged between three months and 8 years. According to the WHO, polio mainly affects children under the age of five but can strike at any age On this World Polio Day, I would like to make a personal plea to everyone holding a stake in polio eradication. These stakeholders include, of course, the parents whose responsibility it is to ensure their children are protected against polio. But in order to stop the explosive ongoing polio outbreak in Fata, all parts of government, civil society, communities throughout the country, as well as the Taliban, must now be actively involved in addressing the sizable challenges we face. All that is needed are a few good campaigns reaching every child through negotiated access - based on the core humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. The polio eradication effort in Pakistan will continue, whether it takes us one year or longer than that. But at this very moment, we have to save our children from this crippling disease and stop this major outbreak. The author is the head of Polio Eradication at the World Health Organization.
Fact box Wild polio refers to a poliovirus which is encountered in nature and not communicated by a strain of the virus used to produce polio vaccines The source of the virus in a patient matters; less than 5% of those infected with wild poliovirus show symptoms, the rest show none but can transmit the virus to others 198 was the number of confirmed polio cases in 2011 One of the three types of poliovirus was completely eradicated during 2012 5,994 children could not be administered OPV in an anti-polio campaign in October in Peshawar district due to ’parental

Pakistan: PTI and PML-N: the sheep in sheep’s clothing

Dr Mohammad Taqi
The PTI and the PML-N sheep must not forget that the jihadist crocodiles are aplenty in the political waters of Punjab The so-called stakeholders struck again last week. A suicide bomber killed the law minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Mr Israrullah Khan Gandapur. The minister, a decent young man from all accounts, was exchanging Eid greetings with the visitors at his house in his native Kulachi. The official response of the provincial ruling party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), to which Mr Gandapur belonged, and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which rules at the Centre, was nothing more than muffled bleating. Forget an unequivocal condemnation of the act and its perpetrators, if not a befitting response to such an atrocity, the federal interior minister ‘expressed sorrow’ and the provincial government begged the terrorists to stop killing on humanitarian grounds! The current leadership clearly lacks a plan and the resolve to fight terrorism. The PTI and the PML-N may just be what Winston Churchill would have called sheep in sheep’s clothing. The PTI and its leader, Mr Imran Khan, lead the herd that continues to dream of a dialogue with those who continue to kill and maim without pause. Never being willing to name the jihadists for the barbarity they have unleashed over a decade, Mr Khan and his lieutenants are now actively muddying the waters by blaming the elusive ‘foreign hand’ and ‘enemies of peace’ even for the violence that the terrorists directly claim. The PTI leader seems to suggest that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) wants a negotiated settlement but there are spoilers, handled presumably by the Afghan-Indo-US-Zionist combine, which are thwarting the process through bombings. He had the gall to say that if the Taliban had been given an office, according to his whims, they could be asked directly if they had killed Mr Israrullah Gandapur. The irony in insisting on negotiating with and accommodating these ‘foreign agents’ is lost on Mr Khan. Mr Khan’s naiveté about the terrorists and their motives is now downright dangerous as his party runs the government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the province worst affected by jihadist terrorism. If it were just an individual losing the plot it might be different, but Mr Khan has a large following, and a strong presence in the National Assembly, where he reportedly is jostling to become the opposition leader. Mr Khan’s relatively new theory that there are bad Taliban within the bad Taliban of the TTP does not hold water. The jihadists have never been one cohesive force even when their antecedents ravaged Afghanistan in the 1980s. Hundreds of Mujahideen groups fighting then made it difficult for even their ISI handlers to keep track, and they mandated that the insurgents join one of the Peshawar-based seven Afghan groupings to be eligible for the Pak-Saudi-US largesse and weapons. Similarly, the TTP has been a coalition of assorted groups and thugs operating in different areas, pledging nominal allegiance to Mullah Omar and Hakeemullah Mehsud, and cooperate to extend and multiply force, but, at times, also fight among themselves. But it is not all naiveté on Mr Khan’s part. He disingenuously ignores not just the TTP’s own claims for perpetrating hundreds of attacks across Pakistan but its stated objectives too. When asked by the BBC recently if the US withdrawal from Afghanistan will have an impact on his movement, Hakeemullah Mehsud had said: “There will be no impact of the American withdrawal on the TTP, because friendship with America is only one of the two reasons we have to conduct jihad against Pakistan. The other reason is that Pakistan’s system is un-Islamic, and we want that it should be replaced with the Islamic system. This demand and this desire will continue even after the American withdrawal.” Contrary to Mr Khan’s portrayal of the TTP as wayward boys fighting to avenge the harm done to their tribal home and honour by the US drones, the TTP’s head honcho is clearly vying to impose a sharia-based emirate in Pakistan, regardless of the US presence in the neighbourhood. Whether TTP can succeed or not is a different story but it surely seems hell-bent on endless bloodshed along the way. While building a strong narrative for no action against the relentless jihadist enterprise, Mr Khan also conveniently passes on all the responsibility for talks to the federal government. Although the PTI chief is merely playing politics, the buck does stop with the PML-N and its Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. As Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reels under terrorism, Mr Sharif’s gingerly attitude towards that hapless region remains deeply disappointing. The Cabinet Committee on National Security has met perhaps once, and the PML-N’s much-touted national counterterrorism policy and force remain elusive as ever. But Mr Sharif did order fast-tracking the planned special counterterrorism force in Punjab. The prime minister has had several days’ sojourns in Saudi Arabia and London but spent barely an hour in Peshawar — the city that has lost hundreds of innocent lives within days. Mr Sharif appears as clueless as Mr Khan about both the negotiations and the dialogue. When on foreign tours Mr Sharif makes some noises about dealing forcefully with those (terrorists) who flout the state’s writ, but when at home, he settles for calling the terrorist attacks in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, such as the one that killed Mr Gandapur, as “not acceptable”. It seems that for all practical purposes Mr Sharif is concerned only with saving his home province of Punjab, and considers the Pashtun lands a sandbag to achieve that goal. Some argue that better policing and law enforcement has kept the terrorist menace to a minimum in Punjab. But there are clear signs that the PML-N’s appeasement of the jihadists and sectarian terrorists over the past several years has bought it some reprieve in the Punjab. The TTP’s Omar Media has released the video of their IED attack that had martyred General Sanaullah Niazi last month. Watching the gruesome clip one is reminded of its marked resemblance to the videos the Afghan Mujahideen used to release after killing Afghan and Soviet soldiers in the 1980s. According to its planners, the Pakistan-sponsored jihad was supposed to remain confined to consuming Afghans only, but it did not. And the terrorism consuming the men, women and children in the Pashtun lands won’t remain confined to across the Attock Bridge either. Churchill had said that an appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last. The PTI and the PML-N sheep must not forget that the jihadist crocodiles are aplenty in the political waters of Punjab.

Begum Nusrat Bhutto: The savior of democracy
by Maleeha Manzoor
“We will never go. The generals must not think they have won” – articulates the iron lady standing in the District Jail Rawalpindi knowing that she was meeting her beloved husband, standing behind the bars, for the last time… The story of this gallant lady is too hard to enfold, one cannot wrap up the letters without a pierced heart and misty eyes. But there also lie in her story the biggest lessons of heroism – how to continue with the valor, how to bear with the worst of the adversaries, and how to defeat those evil elements, her life depicts everything any bravest could have ever faced. That is Begum Nusrat Bhutto: the iconic wife who burried her husband, burried two young sons, and also lost her young daughter, about whose assassination she hardly even knew… I am lost into oblivion when I commence to ponder about the great sacrifices Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto rendered for each one of us, but then what takes the jiyala in me back to the life is the heroism of Nusrat Bhutto. Along with fulfilling her own pledges to her husband, she, when returned to Sindh from Rawalpindi after Bhutto’s judicial murder, initiated to actualize his dreams and his promises made to the people of Pakistan. She became the prominent leader of The Movement for the Restoration of Democracy arose against the dictatorship and against all the injustices done to Sindh due to ill federalism. Her husband killed brutally, herself left all alone with four symbols, the children, of her gallant husband, her eldest daughter sent to gallows, exiles, yet what she stood for was democracy – democracy for a country that cost blood of her entire family, the young blood of husband, two sons and a daughter. Through the platform of Pakistan Peoples party, Begum Bhutto strove for a democracy – fighting against the ruthless dictator Zia whose evil soul still continues to shatter the very depths of the existence of Pakistan, and whose extremism has trapped not only Pakistan but also Islam into the worst picture. Nevertheless, chanting zindah hai Bhutto zindah hai, Begum Bhutto breathed life into the dead souls of jiyalas. She sharpened the faded colors of the party’s flag with the red of hers and her children’s blood and kept her martyred husband’s legacy alive that is now being carried forward by the third generation of PPP. All the efforts she made the party are the cement-binding base of today’s Pakistan. Despite losing all a mother/a wife/a lady has the right to have, her firm commitment to return democracy to Pakistan makes her Madr-e-Jamhooriat. The world now recalls her as the bravest woman after Fatima Jinnah. Yes, the same world that could not stand beside her when she needed it the most. Yet the selflessness made her an unforgetable leader, she worked for all without any discrimination. Revived and strengthened democracy. Bestowed this country with the greatest leader Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto who too, like her parents, laid down her life fighting to ensure democracy for Pakistan. The democracy we witness today is due to the streak of sacrifices Bhutto family made. And Nusrat Bhutto is the iconic lady behind the two greatest leaders of Pakistan. To me, she serves as an example of another Bi Amma who kept alive the movement of an independent country when her sons, the prominent leaders of freedom movement Mohammad Ali and Shaukat Ali Johar, were imprisoned. Therefore, those witnessing democracy today must not forget the one valiant leader behind the inception of today’s democratic Pakistan – for here lie the lessons of valiance and this Bhutto’s ‘heart’, his wife, signifies the valor of each Pakistani who has struggled against any tyrant. So with the struggle of democracy, began the struggle of Begum Nusrat Bhutto and with the demise of Begum Bhutto, closed the golden chapter of history. But she will be missed, always. Rest In Peace Amma Nusrat. Today I reaffirm my pledge to stand with your grandchildren to actualize what you dreamed for Pakistan and make it a Benazir Pakistan. That’s my promise to Bibi Shaheed and that’s my promise to you as well. Your sacrifices have not been in vain. Pakistan is and will always be indebted to your forfeitures.

Pakistan: PPP demands replacement of Punjab Assembly opposition leader
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has demanded that Opposition Leader of the Punjab Assembly, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed be changed The two leaders of PPP Raja Riaz and Shaukat Basra at a press conference in Press Club demanded Imran Khan, Chairman, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to remove Mian Mehmood-ul-Rasheed since he has been negligent towards discussing inflation and other issues in the assembly. “Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed is not addressing the issues of the public,” PPP Spokesperson Raja Riaz argued. He also stated that PPP will lead a protest if the opposition leader is not changed. The brother to the leader of opposition has been appointed at an important designation by the Punjab Assembly , claimed the two leaders of PPP. Riaz further pointed out the Tsunami being nothing but a bad reputation. Imran Khan has led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) government to its own funeral and now a bargain settling game has also begun in Punjab, claimed Raja Riaz. Imran Khan would be considered as an ally to the leader of opposition if he fails in replacing him, said Raja Riaz.

Malala Yusufzai: Heroine, Victim, Patsy, Spy – by Omar Ali
Let me start with my preferred version of the Malala narrative, just so that people know where I am coming from:
Malala Yusufzai is a 16 year old from Swat, the daughter of a left-leaning Pakhtoon educationist and activist named Ziauddin Yusufzai. During the Taliban’s reign of terror in Swat in 2009, BBC Urdu wanted to get a student inside Swat to blog about what life was really like under the Taliban. The initial plan may have been to find an older student, but when volunteers were lacking (or withdrew out of fear of the Taliban), Ziauddin volunteered his own daughter (or she volunteered on her own initiative; these details may be in her book, but I have not read the book as yet). Between January and March 2009, she wrote a series of blog posts for BBC Urdu, describing life under the shadow of the Taliban as well as her own feelings. These posts were popular and received notice from several quarters. The New York Times did a feature on her at some point and after the Taliban had been pushed back and her identity revealed, she was honored by the Pakistani government as a brave girl who took a stand against the medieval Taliban in Swat. Over time, her profile rose higher and she became internationally known as a symbol of resistance to the Taliban: a brave Pakhtoon girl who wrote about life in Swat under the Taliban and raised a voice against them (initially under a pseudonym, then openly once the Taliban had been pushed back by army action). This caused the Taliban a lot of heartburn and in October last year, they decided she should be shot to make an example of her. She and her family were still living in Swat and she was on her way back from school when they shot her (and two other girls in the bargain) and almost killed her, but she survived and thanks to excellent medical care in Great Britain, has now recovered and is able to continue her crusade on an international stage. She is apparently interested in politics and she and her father obviously share an ideological dislike for the Taliban and their ideology. They are also brave enough to publicly take this stance (they are not alone in this; thousands of ANP activists in KPK have taken such a stand, and hundreds have been martyred for doing so). The core ideology underlying the personal politics of father and daughter appears to be left-leaning, liberal and Pakhtoon nationalist (though for good tactical reasons, both father and daughter had avoided projecting too much detail about their own political leanings until now; whether this has changed in the book, I do not yet know). But beyond their politics and its core ambitions there are obviously many other actors involved in this ongoing saga, and many of them have interests and aims that are not necessarily the ones Ziauddin or his daughter may have. There is nothing strange about this and nothing unexpected. In war in particular, necessity can produce strange bedfellows. The Pakistani state, itself a patron of the Taliban at some point (and in other places, still a patron of some factions, if not of all) has got into a very vicious fight with the Swat Taliban and its relatively sane factions seem willing to promote Malala as an antidote to that especially vicious gang of Jihadists. Many in Western media outlets are obviously interested in promoting a liberal voice that makes them feel good about their own worldview. Liberals in general can find it in their heart to support and promote a girl who speaks for female education and emancipation in the face of extremely retrograde and thuggish opponents. Western powers eager to see action against the Taliban are happy to promote a young girl whose shooting embodies the clearest possible example of the ruthlessness and horrifying fanaticism of their opponents. All this has naturally led to a perfect storm of positive publicity and honors for Malala in the outside world, but with every honor and every bit of positive publicity, she has aroused more and more envy and hatred within Pakistan. Why is this so and who are these haters? First and foremost of course are the Taliban. Their hatred of Malala is clear and rational, since she has become a symbol of resistance to their medieval ideology and its most fanatical aspects. First as a champion of female education and emancipation (itself bad enough in their eyes) and then as the victim of a particularly vicious and inhuman attack (it is hard to justify an ideology whose followers are willing to carry out the assassination of a 16 year old school girl in this manner). That they are upset and want to silence her or malign her is unsurprising. They are somewhat shaken by the publicity and are dimly aware that it is not reflecting to their credit, as is apparent from the letter written by Adnan Rashid in to Malala, explaining why she was shot. To their credit, they have not denied their attack or tried to blame in on RAW and Mossad. Instead, they have tried to justify it by appealing to the fact that she is being used against “Islamic forces” by Western powers. It is hard to imagine for many sheltered Westerners, but that justification carries weight in their own constituency and they are not doing too badly in justifying their action to their own followers. The second group opposing her consists of Taliban apologists and fellow travelers in Pakistani society at large (Jamat e Islami, Islamists in general, factions of the PTI, etc.); their job is a bit harder because some in the audience they are aiming at are not fanatical enough to think that just speaking out against the Talibs (or even being honored by Western powers) is enough reason to execute a young unarmed girl. So this group relies on a mix of justification (she is an agent of Western powers) and evasion (the Taliban didn’t even do it, the CIA did it). It is an unstable (and illogical) mix, but never mind that, the ground has been well prepared for unstable and irrational propaganda mixes in Pakistan. Thanks to years of army psyops that have promoted exactly such a mix (the Taliban are bad/the Taliban didn’t do it/ RAW-CIA is responsible) thousands of educated Pakistanis can now successfully hold at least three contradictory theories in their head and vigorously support all three. Thus we find thousands of PTI supporters and other middle class Pakistanis happily maligning Malala for being a CIA agent and simultaneously claiming that the CIA arranged her shooting and that the Taliban were well justified in targeting her. The third highly visible (though practically less consequential) group of Malala haters is a subset of elite Pakistani (and presumably Indian, Bangladeshi, etc.) leftists who live in a Eurocentric world with only two poles: Western imperialists (bad) and their opponents (good). This highly educated (and mostly Western employed, frequently richly capitalist) group has a Pavlovian response to anyone and anything that they feel is being honored by Western imperialists (aka their employers and business partners) in any shape or form. Once Malala moved beyond Bishop Tutu and started getting honors from Queen Elizabeth and Barack Obama, her goose was cooked in this well-appointed kitchen. She was now an imperialist pawn and they were not going to take it anymore. With their envy and mean-spiritedness set free by this ideological “axiom of choice” (“liked by Obama, must be hated by me”) they have wasted no time. Unlike the PTI’s nearly illiterate support base (educated, but not too literate), these people know the best postmodern lingo and phrases like “white savior complex” have flown off the keyboards and on to the hallowed pages of the Guardian and Huffpo in less time than it takes to say “metropolitan gaze”. Alhamdulillah. Last, but not the least, there is the matter of straightforward envy. Malala, a lower-middle class girl from Swat, is now living in Birmingham and traveling the world. She has a book deal worth X and prizes worth Y under her belt and more are likely to come her way very soon. Sure, she had to get shot for the privilege, but she survived and there she is. And we are not. The same ugly well from which Musharraf drew his famous line about “women in Pakistan are getting raped in order to get foreign visas” has been visited by many to draw out taunts about Malala, and the results are not pretty. That this is human nature and we are all humans and so on does not make it any less nauseating. As with any write-up, some people are going to be unhappy with this one. I don’t particularly care about some groups (super-elite leftists, for example, can take a hike) but I feel the need to add these parting thoughts: No liberal can prefer the people who sat down, planned and then carried out an assassination attempt on a schoolgirl in her school van, against the schoolgirl herself (no matter how prominent now and how honored by whom). At least this much we can agree on. Anyone who is in some sense a partisan in the ongoing strife in Pakistan has to know what side they are on (for whatever reason), and what sides there are to choose from. From a profoundly Leninist position, Malala should yet find support from most of Pakistan’s 3242 Leninists. Her “over-exposure” may really be unhelpful to your cause (whatever you imagine it to be), but in the name of God and common sense, please step away from that ZaidHamid level conspiracy theory with your pens in the air. Take a deep breath. Relax. There, feel better?
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PAKISTAN: New draconian laws provide legal cover to disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, & unfair trial
The government of Pakistan has – within a short period of less than two weeks – promulgated two draconian laws, ostensibly, to combat terrorism. The first ordinance was promulgated on October 11. It has amended the Anti-Terrorist Act, 1997, and curtailed fundamental rights of citizens. Now the government has gone ahead and promulgated another ordinance on October 20. This one is called "Pakistan Protection Ordinance." It hands even greater powers to law enforcement authorities (LEA). Now LEA can enter and search any premises without warrant and confiscate any property without permission from any lawful authority. The ill intentions of the government have not been disguised. Parliament, and thereby open debate on the provisions of law, has been avoided to unilaterally push through these decisions. Both ordinances are manifestly ultra virus and unconstitutional. The October 11 ordinance, which amends the Anti-Terrorist Act, 1997, provides extraordinary powers to LEA. It allows LEA to detain suspects up to three months, and thereby to curb the process of fair trial by such long detention. It allows for conviction on the basis of incriminating text messages, phone calls, and email. It grants LEA powers to shoot at sight. Telephones and internet facilities can be freely tapped and monitored. The ordinance has become a grave threat to right to privacy. The October 20 ordinance, 'Pakistan Protection ordinance', covers issues related to the security of the people and attempts to clamp down on anti-state elements with swift justice and timely LEA action. This ordinance allows the constitution of joint investigation teams so investigations by security agencies and police can be conducted in all heinous crimes. The October 11 ordinance was issued by the President of Pakistan while he was travelling in Saudi Arabia, whereas official copies of the October 20 ordinance have not been provided to the media. The presidential secretariat has only disclosed its key features and justification, in a detailed hand out to the media. The Daily Dawn, quoting official sources, has reported that under the October 20 ordinance, LEA – including police, military and para-military forces, Pakistan rangers, Frontier Corp and Frontier Constabulary – would be able to enter and search any premises without warrant. The arrested suspects would not be entitled to bail. These forces, on suspicion, can confiscate property, arms, and other household goods without permission from any lawful authority. And anyone found guilty of resisting enforcement of law or legal process will spend 10 years behind bars. Separate police stations will be designated for professional and expeditious investigations of specified crime. The cases will be prosecuted by federal prosecutors – a new force of prosecutors will be created, parallel to the existing prosecution branch. And special jails have been designated to detain hardened criminals. The government has been authorised to create a parallel judiciary through these ordinances. Anti-Terrorist Courts and special prosecutors for terrorist crimes are already in operation. However, through the October 20 'Pakistan Protection Ordinance', the government will make "special courts and special prosecutors" to protect the country. By issuing these ordinances, the government has made the courts under the constitution as redundant. LEAs have also been given authority to violate provincial autonomy, awarded to the provinces through the 18th amendment to the constitution. The ordinances now allow the federation to intervene in provincial affairs to provide complete protection to LEA. They provide legal cover for encroachment on provincial autonomy in the name of 'protection of Pakistan'. The government has justified the promulgation of both ordinances by citing the increasing incidents of terrorism, the need to address delays in trial, the need to restore the security of the people and LEA personnel, and the need to clamp down on anti-state elements with swift justice and timely action on the part of the LEA. The promulgation of ordinances has been a usual practice of Pakistan's past military governments, abrogating the constitution. Civilian governments have, however, also tried to issue such ordinances to avoid a lengthy parliamentary debate. Ordinances take immediate effect, ideal for an autocratic way of governance. Through these ordinances, the government has in effect given legal protection to the rampant practices of disappearances and extrajudicial killings in Pakistan. Disappearances and extrajudicial killings are at alarming levels in Pakistan. Since the year 2000, hundreds of people are missing. Similar numbers of people have been killed extrajudicially in detention centres, torture cells, and in the open. Extrajudicial killings by LEAs are a routine practice, used without compunction by the police, Frontier Corps, and Pakistan Rangers. Providing greater powers through the two ordinances "to restore sense of security, overarching issues related to the security of the people and swift justice", now means that nobody in Pakistan is safe from LEAs. Both the ordinances are in blatant violation of the Pakistan constitution, particularly Article 8 of the constitution, which states the following: 1) Any law, or any custom or usage having the force of law, in so far as it is inconsistent with the rights conferred by this Chapter, shall, to the extent of such inconsistency, be void. (2) The State shall not make any law which takes away or abridges the rights so conferred and any law made in contravention of this clause shall, to the extent of such contravention, be void. The ordinances are also against the Article 24, which guarantees the rights of property and denies the right of the government to confiscate any lawful property.
Article 10 of the constitution, providing safeguard to arrest and detention states: (1) No person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed, as soon as may be, of the grounds for such arrest, nor shall he be denied the right to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice. (2) Every person who is arrested and detained in custody shall be produced before a magistrate within a period of twenty-four hours of such arrest, excluding the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to the court of the nearest magistrate, and no such person shall be detained in :custody beyond the said period without the authority of a magistrate. The right to fair trial is also guaranteed in the constitution. But these ordinances are fundamentally against fair trial. Article 10 A of the constitution states:
For the determination of his civil rights and obligations or in any criminal charge against him a person shall be entitled to a fair trial and due process. The government, instead of reforming its criminal justice system to enable speedy trial, fair investigation, and proper prosecution, has given inordinate power to police, military, and other law enforcement agencies to restrict fundamental rights of the people in the name of fighting terrorism. In light of this, the government of Pakistan must withdraw the ordinances and bring the bills before the parliament for open debate. The government must respect the process of fair trial and rule of law rather than resorting to making draconian laws which curtail the fundamental and constitutional rights of the people. It must also understand that by making draconian laws terrorism cannot be overcome. Rather it will generate more terrorism in different forms. The ordinances are not lawful. The promulgation of the two ordinances negate all procedural guarantees in the Criminal Procedure Code and the constitution. The civil society of Pakistan should own this moment and challenge the constitutional validity of these ordinances and until then must seek judicial intervention to stay the operations of the ordinances. The courts must decide whether Pakistan should continue to be smothered by executive orders or whether the executive writ is also subject to parliamentary supervision.

Obama grills Nawaz over Mumbai attack trial, LeT; suggests Pak exports terror
Any residual doubt that Pakistan is a duplicitous terrorist state was set to rest by the time Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met US President Obama in the White House on Wednesday with leaked US intelligence reports that showed Islamabad acquiesced to Predator strikes on some terrorists targets even as the country's intelligence agencies shielded and helped others. The US president also implicitly accused Pakistan of exporting terrorism. The disclosures relating to drone strikes from 2007 to 2011, when Gen Pervez Musharraf and Asif Ali Zardari were in power, did not stop Sharif from predetermined talking points during his two-hour meeting with the US president that included pleading for a stop to the attacks. "Pakistan and the United States have a strong ongoing counterterrorism cooperation. We have agreed to further strengthen this cooperation. I also brought up the issue of drones in our meeting, emphasizing the need for an end to such strikes,' Sharif said with a straight face, with US president next to him. Obama, who had already spoken by then, ignored the drone issue altogether, but praised Sharif for his commitment in trying to reduce "incidents of terrorism inside of Pakistan's borders, and the degree to which these activities may be exported to other countries." Implicit in the remark was that Pakistan is a terrorism-exporting country, and the drone strikes were a legitimate US response in areas where Islamabad has no control and has ceded sovereignty. The fact that Obama grilled Sharif over Islamabad's dodgy approach to terrorism, particularly in reference to India, was confirmed by the Pakistani prime minister himself. "He (Obama) asked, why the trial of the (Mumbai) terrorist attack in India has not started yet," Sharif told reporters soon after the meeting, adding, "He (Obama) has raised the issue of (Dr Shakil) Afridi. He spoke about cross-border movement. He also talked about Jamaat-ud-Dawa." In public though, the US president was careful not to embarrass his guest too much. "We talked about security and the concerns that both of us have about senseless violence, terrorism and extremism. And we agreed that we need to continue to find constructive ways to partner together -- ways that respect Pakistan's sovereignty, that respect the concerns of both countries," Obama said in a nuanced explanation that provided the sub-text to the drones strike imbroglio. The Obama administration was evidently compelled to leak intelligence reports of the back channel agreement on drone strikes with Pakistan after Sharif upped the ante ahead of his meeting with the US president in an address to the US Institute of Peace on Tuesday, saying the attacks infringed on Pakistani sovereignty, it is an irritant in bilateral ties, and he would raise it with Obama. US officials had tried to walk Sharif away from the subject by suggesting that such strikes were inevitable when Islamabad ceded sovereignty to terrorists and was even complicit in their activity, but faced with Sharif's intransigence, partly driven by domestic considerations, the administration leaked a trove of documents to the Washington Post that exposed Pakistan as a dishonest, two-faced country that helped terrorists it considered state assets. The documents, the Post said, show that not only did US officials share information with Pakistan on drone strikes, but the two sides also clashed on occasions over Pakistani military-intelligence agencies being in cahoots with terrorists. These included time-stamped videos of terrorists dispersing material and themselves soon after being tipped off by an intelligence courier that a drone attack, about which US shared information with Pakistan, was imminent. In one case, the report says, then US secretary of state Hillary Clinton cited "cell phones and written material from dead bodies that point all fingers" at a militant group based in Pakistan. "The US had intelligence proving ISI was involved with these groups," she is cited as saying. In another case, CIA deputy director Mike Morell is said to indicate that the CIA was prepared to share credit with Pakistanis for a drone strike if the agency could confirm that it had killed Ilyas Kashmiri, an al-Qaida operative suspected of ties to plots against India. The agency would do so "so that the negative views about Pakistan in the US decision and opinion making circles are mitigated." Overall, the disclosures suggest that the United States is cognizant of Pakistan's sponsorship of terrorism, but instead of punishing the country, it will selectively leak information to walk it back from its self-destructive path. US President Obama's explicit reference to Pakistan exporting terrorism is the closest the US has come to publicly outing it as a terrorist entity. But there is no indication though that Pakistan, dubbed Denialistan in some quarters, recognizes the gravity of the charges. In his USIP address, Sharif went so far as to assert that "Pakistan is neither source of nor epicenter of terrorism," even though his own political party, the Pakistan Muslim League, has well-chronicled links with terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. The government in Punjab led by his brother is reported to make budgetary allocations to the internationally banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba aka Jamaat ul-Dawa, even as Washington appropriates US tax-payer dollars as aid to Pakistan. None of these complications or contradictions is reflected in the 2500-word joint statement issued at the conclusion of the Obama-Sharif meeting. The statement, along with an elaborate fact-sheet, manages the optics of the visit and suggests that all is -- or will be -- hunky-dory between the two sides as the U.S tries to manage the relationship ahead of its 2014 drawdown from Afghanistan.

Barack Obama says 'no' to Nawaz on Kashmir, nuclear parity

As expected, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif failed to get any traction with President Barack Obama on his wish list - US mediation on Kashmir, nuclear parity with India and an end to drone strikes on suspected terror dens in Pakistani territory. Despite being rebuffed by both India and the US, Sharif did once again dutifully raise Kashmir during his two hour meeting with Obama at the White House, but the joint statement made no mention of it or the drones. Speaking to the media with Obama after their Oval office meeting, Sharif said he was committed to cooperation with India, including on Kashmir. And while India has described Pakistan as the "epicentre of terrorism" and linked any progress on peace talks to Islamabad shutting down its "machinery of terrorism" he told Obama that "terrorism constitutes a common threat" for Pakistan and India. "We need to ally our respective concerns through serious and sincere efforts without indulging in any blame game," Sharif said. He had also "brought up the issue of drones in our meeting, emphasizing the need for an end to such strikes," he said. Obama, on his part, made no mention of either Kashmir or drone strikes in Pakistan that according to Sharif "has become a major irritant in our bilateral relationship" besides being a "a continual violation of our territorial integrity." Acknowledging tensions and "misunderstandings" between the two countries, Obama said he and Sharif had pledged to work together on security issues in ways that "respect Pakistan's sovereignty. "We committed to working together and making sure that rather than this being a source of tension between our two countries, this can be a source of strength for us working together," he said. Obama also praised Sharif for seeking to end tensions with India saying, "I think he is taking a very wise path in exploring how decades of tension between India and Pakistan can be reduced." Noting that "billions of dollars have been spent on an arms race in response to these tensions," he said those resources could be much more properly invested in education, social welfare programmes on both sides of the border between India and Pakistan. The joint statement noted that "the two Leaders stressed that improvement in Pakistan-India bilateral relations would greatly enhance prospects for lasting regional peace, stability, and prosperity, as it would significantly benefit the lives of citizens on both sides of the border." In this context, it said Obama welcomed recent engagements between Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He "expressed hope that this would mark the beginning of a sustained dialogue process between the two neighbours, aimed at building lasting peace in South Asia and resolving all outstanding territorial and other disputes through peaceful means." Obama also "welcomed steps taken by Pakistan and India to improve their economic relations, including by exploring electricity and gas supply agreements, developing a reciprocal visa regime, and expanding bilateral trade." Obama and Sharif, the statement said also "welcomed progress on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project, and tasked the Energy Working Group to explore possible further US support for the Central Asia-South Asia electricity line, CASA-1000, in close collaboration with the World Bank." Reflecting the focus of the Obama-Sharif session, the joint statement mentioned "terrorism" 13 times saying both leaders "condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. They also "emphasized that no country's territory should be used to destabilize its neighbours." The word nuclear too figured ten times in the joint statement, not in the context of India type civil nuclear deal that Sharif wanted, but in the context of nuclear terrorism. Obama and Sharif, the joint statement said "emphasised that nuclear terrorism is one of the most challenging threats to international security" and "underscored that all sides should continuously act with maximum restraint and work jointly toward strengthening strategic stability in South Asia."

Secret memos show Pakistan 'knew of US drone strikes'

Secret US documents reveal that senior Pakistani government officials have for years known of and endorsed CIA drone strikes, an American newspaper reports. The Washington Post obtained CIA documents and Pakistani diplomatic memos which indicate officials were routinely given classified briefings. Analysts have long suspected Pakistan gave tacit consent for such strikes despite publicly condemning them. Pakistan's PM Nawaz Sharif has urged US President Obama to halt such attacks. "I also brought up the issue of drones in our meeting, emphasising the need for an end to such strikes," Mr Sharif said after they met on Wednesday. The attacks by unmanned US aircraft have been a critical source of tension in the relationship between the countries and came up amid wide-ranging talks between the leaders in Washington. They are also deeply unpopular with the Pakistani public and Pakistan has consistently stated that they violate its sovereignty. The Pakistani government is yet to comment on the report. 'Explicit arrangement' The documents obtained by the newspaper focus on at least 65 drone strikes in Pakistan over the last few years and were labelled as "talking points" for regular CIA briefings. Although they are marked "top secret", they are cleared for release to Pakistan, the paper reports. The Washington Post says the documents provide a detailed timeline of the CIA drone programme "tracing its evolution from a campaign aimed at a relatively short list of senior al-Qaeda operatives into a broader aerial assault against militant groups with no connection to the 11 September 2001 attacks". A spokesman for the Pakistani embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment from the newspaper and the CIA also declined to comment. Correspondents say the files expose the explicit nature of the arrangement between the countries in the period when neither acknowledged that any drone programme even existed. In 2010 the controversial whistle-blowing site Wikileaks released numerous documents relating to Pakistan which showed the Pakistani military and other arms of the government had "quietly acquiesced" with drone strikes even though they publicly condemned them. In August 2008 then Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is reported to have said: "I don't care if they do it as long as they get the right people. We'll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it." But this latest cache includes documents which appear to refer to a direct Pakistani role in the selection of targets, with the newspaper referring to one 2010 entry describing hitting a location "at the request of your government". There is also a reference to a "network of locations associated with a joint CIA-ISI targeting effort". Civilian casualties The number of civilian casualties in these drone strikes has long been a source of dispute. Local claims of civilian deaths are almost impossible to prove. One reason is the restricted media access in the region. The other is the militants' tendency to cordon off the targeted sites and conduct quick burials. Earlier this week, Amnesty International released a report which said that CIA drone attacks in Pakistan are responsible for unlawful killings, some of which could amount to war crimes. The rights group named several victims who, it says, "posed no threat to life". Amnesty said it reviewed nine of 45 recent drone strikes in the volatile tribal region of North Waziristan where many strikes have hit, and found a number of victims had been unarmed. The US has defended its drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere. On Tuesday the White House said it takes "extraordinary care" to ensure they comply with international law and that they were a "course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life". A recent UN report also found that US drone strikes had killed at least 400 civilians in Pakistan, far more than the US has ever acknowledged. Estimates by other groups such as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism calculate that between 407 and 926 civilians were killed in Pakistan. The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says that the general impression one gets from talking to elders and correspondents from the tribal area is that drone strikes are for the most part accurate, causing fewer civilian casualties than some reports suggest. Relations between Islamabad and Washington nosedived more than two years ago, when US special forces killed al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in a raid on his hideout in Abbottabad in north-west Pakistan, without giving the Pakistani government advance warning. But in their meeting on Wednesday, Mr Sharif said the US and Pakistan "have travelled together as friends and allies in defence of freedom and the pursuit of international peace and security".