Sunday, November 10, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan: Philippines destruction 'absolute bedlam'

The head of the Red Cross in the Philippines has described the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan as "absolute bedlam". Up to 10,000 people are believed to have died in Tacloban city and hundreds elsewhere. Hundreds of thousands of people are displaced. The typhoon flattened homes, schools and an airport. It has since made landfall in northern Vietnam, near the Chinese border, where it has weakened to a tropical storm. Supplies Four million people have been affected in the Philippines, and many are now struggling to survive without food, shelter or clean drinking water. A huge international relief effort is underway, but rescue workers have struggled to reach some towns and villages cut off since the storm. "There's an awful lot of casualties, a lot of people dead all over the place, a lot of destruction," Richard Gordon, head of the Philippine Red Cross, told the BBC. "It's absolute bedlam right now, but hopefully it will turn out better as more and more supplies get into the area." He said roads had now been cleared to allow relief workers to get to the hardest hit areas, but that they expected to find many more casualties. "It's only now that they were able to get in and we're beginning just to bring in the necessary food items... as well as water and other things that they need." Jane Cocking, the humanitarian director for Oxfam, said her colleagues witnessed "complete devastation... entire parts of the coastline just disappeared, and sizable trees just bent over and [were] thrown about like matchsticks." The latest report from the Philippines' Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council confirmed 255 deaths as of 22:00 GMT on Sunday. It said almost 630,000 people had been reported displaced. But officials have warned that the number of dead will rise significantly. Typhoon Haiyan - one of the most powerful storms on record to make landfall - swept through six central Philippine islands on Friday. It brought sustained winds of 235km/h (147mph), with gusts of 275 km/h (170 mph), with waves as high as 15m (45ft), bringing up to 400mm (15.75 inches) of rain in places. "The world has not seen a storm like this before," said Senen Mangalile, the Philippines Consul General to the UK. Steven Godby, a disaster management expert at Nottingham Trent University, told the BBC the typhoon was "probably the most intense and strongest storm of this type to make landfall". "We've seen storms like this perhaps on rare occasions that have had that kind of intensity out at sea but for it to come ashore with that kind of strength is almost unprecedented," Dr Godby said. American military aircraft and ships are being deployed to provide help. US President Barack Obama has issued a message saying he was "deeply saddened by the loss of life and extensive damage". Other countries have also pledged millions of dollars in assistance. Kristalina Georgieva, the EU Humanitarian Aid commissioner, said relief efforts would be guided by three priorities. "The first one is to get access to remote areas as quickly as possible, and the access issue is both transportation and also restoring telecommunications," she said "The second, of course, is to get the immediate humanitarian assistance for people affected by this kind of disaster. And the next one would be shelter." The relief efforts are being focused on the eastern province of Leyte and its capital Tacloban, where a massive storm surge flattened houses. The typhoon wrecked up to 80% of structures in its path, police chief superintendent Elmer Soria told reporters. Officials said looting was widespread and order was proving difficult to enforce. Military spokesman Lt Col Ramon Zagala said that 100 soldiers had been deployed to help police prevent looting in Tacloban, AFP news agency reported. In some areas, the dead are being buried in mass graves. Typhoon Haiyan has now made landfall in Vietnam, near the tourist destination of Ha Long Bay, with sustained winds of up to 140 km/h (85mph). Some 600,000 people were evacuated in northern provinces of the country.

Turkey is alarmed by extremist militants in Syria border area

By Patrick J. McDonnell
Turkey has welcomed Syrian rebels in the border area, but as the conflict drags on, the rise of Al Qaeda-linked militants becomes a concern.
In this bustling border town, anonymous apartments serve as safe houses for Syrian rebel commanders, clinics for wounded fighters and opposition media centers equipped with banks of sophisticated laptops and video gear. Turkey has allowed an assemblage of Syrian rebels and their associates, including secular activists, cash-wielding sheiks, arms traffickers and Islamist militants, to use its territory as a transit route, logistics hub and rest stop. The government has been very clear that it wants to see Syrian President Bashar Assad removed from power. But after more than two years, the conflict is dragging on. Al Qaeda-linked rebel groups are strengthening rapidly in Syria and seizing territory close to the Turkish frontier, the eastern boundary of the NATO alliance. Increasingly, officials in Ankara, the Turkish capital, as well as critics of the government's policy worry that the militants will establish a permanent presence, exporting extremist ideas and fighters from a chaotic, war-torn state. Despite concern in Washington about the militants' advance, Turkey appears to have few good options. "Ankara's calculation has been that Assad has to go, and Turkey will allow anyone who wants to fight Assad to go into Syria," said Soner Cagaptay, an analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "To Turkey it didn't matter that much if there were some bad guys, because once Assad was gone the good guys would take over and clean out the bad guys." Now that calculus is changing. "Turkey is realizing that Assad may not go," Cagaptay said. "And the good guys may not take over." Turkish artillery batteries opened fire last month on positions in Syria of a powerful Al Qaeda-linked rebel faction, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, after its fighters captured the Syrian town of Azaz, just three miles from the border. Turkey shut the crossing to Azaz, prompting an Internet threat by the group to extend a campaign of car bombings to Turkish soil. Turkey could be more cautious about which Syrian opposition groups receive aid and who can operate in the border region. Officials are pushing back against charges that Turkish territory has become a launch pad for Al Qaeda-linked groups such as Al Nusra Front. News reports have cited seizures of trucks carrying what they described as suspicious chemicals and warheads for hundreds of rockets. But sealing the frontier zone to Syrian rebel factions would choke off supply routes and could lead to the collapse of the entire anti-Assad rebellion in Syria's north. Alarmed by the downward spiral, Turkey has launched something of a diplomatic offensive with neighbors, including Iran, a key backer of the Assad government. Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, visited Ankara early this month and the two nations vowed to work together to find a solution for Syria, despite being on opposite sides of a proxy war there. When an armed rebellion first surfaced against the autocratic Assad in 2011, Turkish officials embraced a vigorous policy of backing the opposition on the assumption that Assad's government was on the verge of collapse. Assad's exit would have opened the way for Turkey's grateful clients to seize power in Damascus. But it hasn't worked out that way, with Assad clinging to power as the West, and most specifically the Obama administration, opted not to provide robust military aid to the Syrian opposition. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, architect of Ankara's Syria policy, did not hide his displeasure when the recent U.S.-Russian-brokered deal to neutralize Syria's chemical weapons seemed to rule out the prospect of an American bombing campaign against Syria. Erdogan rejects the idea that Islamic militant groups could gain a foothold in Turkey. "It is out of the question that organizations like Al Qaeda or Al Nusra could take shelter in our country," he said Thursday on a visit to Sweden. But his policy of providing a welcome mat for Syrian rebels of all stripes is drawing the ire of many Turks who fear that long-secular Turkey is being dragged into Syria's increasingly sectarian quagmire. "Why are we bringing in all these crazies here?" asked Suleyman Osterek, an opposition politician in Antakya, another border-area town that has seen an influx of Syrian fighters. "These people scare us." In an interview this month with Britain's Guardian newspaper, Turkish President Abdullah Gul voiced concern that Syria could become "something like Afghanistan on the shores of the Mediterranean." It is unclear whether additional Western military support or even direct U.S. intervention would have pushed Assad out or just accelerated the process of militarization and radicalization in Syria. Afghanistan in the 1980s, Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and current-day Libya all provide examples of Islamist militants gaining traction after the West-backed toppling of authoritarian governments. Today, fractious opposition brigades and sundry warlords hold sway over vast stretches of Syria. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and another Islamist offshoot, Al Nusra Front, both apparently bankrolled by wealthy donors in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere, now count among insurgent Syria's major power brokers, and by some accounts are the most dominant. The Islamic State has drawn thousands of recruits from other rebel units and throngs of eager volunteers from dozens of nations. Turkey is now widely regarded as a transit route for Syria-bound Islamist militants from the Persian Gulf, North Africa, Europe and Chechnya and elsewhere. Iraqi, Jordanian and Lebanese volunteers usually enter via their nations' borders with Syria, experts say. With extremists in the ascendance, the U.S.-backed policy of aiding "moderate" rebel groups appears to face major hurdles. The numbers of foreign Islamist militants in Syria now exceed those who previously flocked to Iraq and Afghanistan, according to U.S. congressional estimates. There is widespread concern in the West that the Syrian conflict is incubating a new generation of extremists who could eventually wreak havoc across the globe. "When it is over, these people will be combat trained, combat hardened, and they are going to want to go home," U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said last month. As Turkey grapples with the Islamist militants on its doorstep, it also faces the emergence in northern Syria of autonomy-minded Kurdish militiamen allied with the Kurdistan Workers Party. Turkey has battled the party for more than 30 years, though peace talks are now underway. Secular Kurdish militiamen, who have long viewed the radical Islamist forces as their archenemy, have proved to be the sole Syrian faction capable of pushing back the onslaught. Late last month, Kurdish militiamen overran a crossing along the Iraqi border, expelling Al Qaeda-affiliated fighters. The volatile border tableau has prompted speculation that Ankara could eventually seek a strategic alliance with Syrian Kurds. Though improbable on one level, it no longer seems out of the question, analysts say. "Turkey is going to have to make some very, very difficult decisions, given the way Syria has unraveled," said Howard Eissenstat, a Turkey expert at St. Lawrence University in New York. "They are backing up, recalibrating and saying, 'OK, what is our long game going to look like?'"

Arab Spring shows value of Atatürk’s move for republic

In view of the turmoil in the region, the most important accomplishment Mustafa Kemal Atatürk made was his decision to choose a republican regime to replace the monarchy, according to Professor Tülay Baran. Women became real citizens, which is another important legacy of Atatürk, says Baran
The present chaos in the Middle East highlights the unparalleled importance of modern Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and his legacy, according to a historian of the republican era.
“Turkey became a country that decided on its own to endorse democracy [thanks to Atatürk’s reforms],” said Professor Tülay Baran of Istanbul’s Yeditepe University. The process for women to become real citizens also started with the republic, said Baran, who is the deputy director of the Institute of Atatürk Principles and Revolutionary History at the same university.
If I were to simply ask, what is Atatürk’s most important legacy?
First and foremost, he secured the transition from a monarchy to the republic. I think there is nothing more invaluable then that. I believe he is also to be respected since he did not leave these [republican] concepts empty but gave substance to them as well. He is the person that turned individuals into citizens. And in fact, the process that enabled women to become real citizens in the modern definition started with the republic. We had to wait for the republic to acquire the same rights as men. He was not only important for making a regime change but also for introducing many aspects a society needs, even in the absence of a concrete infrastructure for them, such as arts and culture.
Can you elaborate on his views and policies on women?
The first population census in the republic was conducted in 1927. Of the 13,660,000 people, only 1.2 million were literate. Think of the place of women in that number. He realized a miracle by fearlessly turning women into citizens in a country that was not used to seeing women in society.
Atatürk’s critics argue that women were not liberated with the republic but that they were already emancipated. What exactly were his reforms?
Women earned the right to have an equal share from inheritance. They obtained the right to vote and to be elected. He saw women not just as mothers but was conscientious of their value as citizens. He made an effort for the reforms to be implemented in real life. In the early days of the republic with the country devastated, there were many priorities. Women’s emancipation was also a priority; it was never put on the backburner, never postponed. School enrollment of girls was encouraged and the list can go on.
What is his view of women that made him different?
Simply, he just saw women as individuals, as equal humans.
Do you think we have had a healthy understanding of Atatürk’s legacy?
Sometimes, we see that we do not have a healthy understanding. The biggest problem is that trying to understand that period through the lenses of today won’t lead us to healthy results. When there are assessments made ignoring the societal, economic and sociological conditions of that period, that naturally leads to mistaken analyses. We need to evaluate that period within the parameters of that period and comparing it with the world at that time. Don’t forget that when he started his struggle, only 50 countries in the world were truly independent. Nurturing the idea of an independent republic and working to make it real at a time when colonialism was considered normal is very important.
But don’t you think that there has also been an idolization of Atatürk and that perhaps efforts to demystify him could help us better understand his legacy?
His legacy is very impressive, yet different ways of expressing it could have been chosen; we can talk about it. But I don’t always understand what is meant by the idolization of Mustafa Kemal. The fact that nearly every place was named after him, that it was a taboo to criticize him and that criticism was actually criminalized in the penal code. If there was a sensitivity, that relates to the will to see him as a unifying factor. This might have come from the feeling that the more we emphasize the legacy, the more we can unify around him. His critics argue he was a dictator. One of the biggest problems is that we have too many people talking in the name of history without being true historians. Unfortunately, having these people talk leads to confusion. If we are to stick to science, the outcome would be much healthier. I cannot agree that he was a dictator. This means not knowing him, not knowing dictators or their practices. Someone who wants to be a dictator does not endorse a republic as a regime. The fact that he opted for a republican regime at a time when there was nothing to force him to do that, when there was no such demand in society is the biggest proof that he was against dictatorship. Conservative circles would criticize him for endorsing secularism while secular circles are thankful to him for that. Secularism is a concept that needs to be thought of together with democracy. Anyone who endorses democracy in Turkey should also endorse secularism, which is about maintaining an equal distance to all religions and faiths. Perhaps secularism is not properly understood in Turkey; when seen just solely from the perspective of the separation of state and religion, we then fail to see the real gains of secularism. With secularism, you change certain references in society, you place people in the center of society and you also succeed in maintaining an equal distance to all religions and faiths. Some would argue that he had a heavy-handed approach to religion in a very pious society. On the contrary, he was rather sensitive. The 1924 Constitution says the religion of the state is Islam. This remained there until 1928. It was only a year before his death that secularism entered the Constitution.
What would you say in general to the criticisms that have been voiced recently about Atatürk and the early republican era?
What really bothers me is that when we talk about republican history, there are comments implying that there is a separate history apart from the official history that we have not talked about. I am bothered that when we talk, it is called official history but that when something completely opposite is argued, this is viewed as something that we have hidden yet it is the real history. When we do research on Mustafa Kemal, our method is science. We talk with documents that can prove everything we say. It is really disturbing that some bring counter arguments without using scientific research and claim to be talking in the name of history. It was not the case with your generation perhaps but maybe in the past, there was not enough of academic freedom, which might have led to some historical distortions. I don’t agree; again all the references we use, all the sources are documented, they are in the open, in the archives. All the sources we have tell us that what has been said until now reflects the truth. Whatever said to the contrary needs to be proven scientifically.
Looking from today’s lens, in your view, what is the greatest accomplishment of Atatürk?
Turkey became a country that decided on its own to endorse democracy. When we look today at the turmoil in the region we are situated in; when we see the problems of democracy, when we consider foreign interference in democracy, I say it was a right thing for Mustafa Kemal to have thought about it and offered [democracy] to us as a present. There have been many regimes and leaders which did not survive until the 21st century. Of course, there are problems; democracy requires a lot of work. But he [gave] us the 21st century’s most idealized regime.

Amnesty urges treatment of jailed Bahraini activist

A human rights group has called for “specialized medical treatment” for one of Bahrain's leading jailed activists as the Al Khalifa regime continues its crackdown on protesters. Amnesty International said in a statement that Abdelwahab Hussain has been denied much-needed medical treatment for his chronic diseases. The 59-year-oil prisoner “needs urgent access to specialized medical treatment. His health condition has deteriorated and his family’s last scheduled visit to the prison was cancelled without explanation,” the London-based rights group said. In June 2011, a military court sentenced Hussain and 12 other opposition figures to life imprisonment on the charge of plotting to topple Al Khalifa regime and change the constitution. Amnesty also urged Bahraini authorities to “release all 13 opposition activists immediately and unconditionally, since they are prisoners of conscience, convicted solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.” Meanwhile, another rights group, Front Line Defenders, has requested that King Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa pardon the head of Bahrain’s Center for Human rights, Nebeel Rajab. Known for being a vocal critic of the regime, Rajab began serving a three-year sentence May last year. He was convicted of inciting anti-government demonstrations and sharing online posts against the country’s long-time prime minister. The Manama regime is under fire for its heavy-handed crackdown on protests. Scores have been killed, many of them under torture while in custody, and thousands more detained since a popular uprising began in Bahrain in early 2011.

Munawar Hassan’s remarks ‘irresponsible, misleading’: ISPR

A spokesman of Pakistan army has strongly condemned ‘the irresponsible and misleading’ remarks by Syed Munawar Hassan in a TV programme, declaring the dead terrorists as shaheeds while insulting the shahadat of thousands of innocent Pakistanis and soldiers of Pakistan's armed forces. According to a press release of ISPR, Syed Munawar Hassan has tried to invent a logic based on his political convenience. Strong condemnation of his views from an overwhelming majority leaves no doubt in any one's mind that all of us are very clear on what the state of Pakistan is and who are its enemies. “Sacrifices of our shuhada and their families need no endorsement from Syed Munawar Hassan and such misguided and self-serving statements deserve no comments, the spokesman said. However, he added that coming from Ameer of the Jamat-e-Islami, a party founded by Maulana Maududi, who is respected and revered for his services to Islam is both painful and unfortunate. He said the people of Pakistan, whose loved ones laid down their life while fighting the terrorist, and families of shuhada of armed forces demand an unconditional apology from Syed Munawar Hassan for hurting their feelings. It is also expected that Jamat-e-Islami should clearly state its party position on the subject.

Philippines: Bodies litter Tacloban

Tacloban City on Saturday put a face to the death and devastation inflicted by Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan), with bodies scattered in the streets, buildings flattened by savage winds and giant waves, and people walking around dazed and begging for help. The extent of the destruction in Leyte’s capital, a city of 220,000 people, slowly emerged at daybreak Saturday as the government began to rush aid to areas that Yolanda smashed with 315-kilometer-per-hour winds.
More than four million people were affected across 36 provinces, officials said. Many of the worst-hit areas remained cut off from communications on Saturday, with power and telephone networks destroyed, but initial accounts from some areas reached by the military and the media painted a deeply ominous picture. In Tacloban, the city’s airport manager reported more than 100 bodies were littered in and around the facility, with at least 100 more people injured. “The terminal, the tower, including communication equipment, were destroyed,” Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) deputy chief John Andrews told Agence France-Presse, as he recounted the airport manager’s assessment. Large areas of Tacloban were flattened, according to a news agency photographer who reached the coastal city aboard a military plane carrying relief supplies. Storm surges more than three meters (10 feet) had pounded the area, the Philippine Red Cross said. In scenes reminiscent of tsunami damage, some houses in Tacloban were completely destroyed, with piles of splintered wood lying on concrete slabs, while others had just the stone frames remaining. Almost all the trees and electric posts were torn down, while cars were overturned. Some dazed and injured survivors wandered around the carnage asking journalists for water, while others sorted through what was left of their destroyed homes. Eight bodies had been laid to rest inside the airport’s chapel, which had also been badly damaged. Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla said the typhoon likely killed hundreds of people. “I think hundreds,” Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla said on ABS-CBN television when asked how many people had died in the coastal town of Palo and surrounding villages that he visited on devastated Leyte island. Palo and the neighboring city of Tacloban were struck by devastating storm surges early Friday as Yolanda began scything through major central islands, disaster officials have said. Petilla, a Palo native, was dispatched by President Benigno Aquino 3rd to the island, and surveyed the damage aboard a helicopter. “We saw 24 corpses in Palo, but officials there reported to us that there are people in nearby areas planning to bring their dead to the town center,” he said. “Palo, Ormoc, Burauen… Carigara, they all looked the same. The buildings were all unroofed and littered with fallen trees,” he said, describing the devastation in some of the other Leyte towns and cities that he visited. Rescue work starts Yolanda blew out of the country Saturday morning as government and civilian volunteer groups started ferrying relief, rescue and telecommunication facilities and volunteer workers to help in the worst-hit areas of the worst ever storm that hit land. Malacañang officially confirmed receiving reports of over 100 deaths in Tacloban, but hundreds more are missing in Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga City, Surigao del Sur; Masbate, Bicol and Palawan. CAAP Deputy Director General John Andrews flew to Tacloban on a Philippine Air Force C-130 cargo plane to assess the damage on the airport. He brought with him supplies, food, medicine and communication equipment. CAAP Director General William Hotchkiss said airport runways in Iloilo, Caticlan, Romblon, Dumaguete, Bacolod, Masbate, Legazpi and Surigao were being cleared of debris. Military reports identified three of the dead as Regie Francisco Bucoy, 2, who was hit by lightning in Zamboanga City and Jimmy Cabilan, 56, in Surigao del Sur and Rhandy Cejar in Iloilo, both electrocution victims. Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras said in an interview with CNN Secretaries Mar Roxas 2nd of Interior and Local Government and Voltaire Gazmin of National Defense were in the Visayas even before the storm hit. Almendras said the government was setting up command centers in Western and Eastern Visayas to better coordinate relief efforts. Eastern Visayas covers the islands of Samar, Leyte and Biliran, while Western Visayas is composed of Aklan, Antique, Negros Occidental, Capiz, Guimaras and Iloilo. Roxas airport remained closed until Sunday while Kalibo airport is expected to resume operations on Monday. Tacloban and Busuanga airports were severely damaged. “While the casualties are lower in the Western part compared with the East, the destruction brought by the typhoon was just as bad. We expect more people to be housed in the evacuation centers,” Almendras said. “We have pre-positioned relief goods and that would be good for two to three days,” he added. The National Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) placed the death toll from Yolanda at four, with seven people injured and four missing. Interviewed on state-run Radyo ng Bayan, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said Aquino has tasked government officials to prioritize the safety of the people and ensure that the lines of communication are restored as soon as possible. Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines and PAL Express said they would resume their flights once the provincial airports are fully cleared. Over 90 flights had been cancelled because of Yolanda. The Philippine National Police (PNP) sent a team headed by Special Action Force commander Director Carmelo Valmoria to Eastern Visayas to assist in the search, rescue and rehabilitation efforts in Leyte and restore communication lines, according to PNP Public Information Chief, S/Supt. Theodore Sindac. Fifteen thousand soldiers had been deployed to the disaster zones, military spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala told Agence France-Presse. He said helicopters were also flying rescuers into priority areas, while infantry units deployed across the affected areas were also proceeding on foot or in military trucks. Another area of particular concern was Guiuan, a fishing town of about 40,000 people on Samar that was the first to be hit after Yolanda swept in from the Pacific Ocean. The Red Cross said contact had not yet been made with Guiuan. The Philippines suffered the world’s strongest storm of 2012, when Typhoon Pablo left about 2,000 people dead or missing in Mindanao.

Afghanistan: Saving people from polio
Polio is a dangerous and infectious disease which can lead to paralysis or even death. It can be prevented with a simple vaccine, which has been effectively used in Afghanistan thanks to the efforts of the Ministry of Public Health. As a result, polio cases have been dramatically reduced. Afghan officials, with the support of several United Nations agencies, are working hard to identify and prevent all the polio cases across the country. In Balkh province, 2,224 male and female volunteers are working to provide the vaccine through a door to door campaign, ensuring that all children under 5-years-old are vaccinated. “Polio appears typically among children because their body resistance and immune system is weak. Children are usually the first ones in the community to get the disease. With this campaign we are hoping to vaccinate 415,000 children across the province,” said Dr. Basir Ahmad Fazli, responsible for the polio vaccination campaign in the northern provinces. “In my team there are 18 male and female volunteer workers. They are qualified and professionally trained so they are able to properly vaccinate children. My work is to coordinate and check that our goals are accomplished,” explained Ahmad. “In the past few years we have been announcing and promoting our vaccination campaigns only in mosques, but now our vaccination teams go from door to door to make sure no children are left behind. Fortunately in Mazar-e Sharif we haven’t had any positive polio cases since 2010,” he added. The volunteer workers enjoy helping the people, because with a simple vaccine they are providing protection from a deadly disease, and therefore are ensuring the future of many Afghan children. “I have been working as a volunteer since 2010. We know that polio can be fatal, but with this vaccine it can be effectively avoided. We will work hard to cover all the areas of our duty station,” said 24-year-old Waheedullah, a young volunteer from Balkh province. Although volunteers are visiting every household in their areas of work, it is also the responsibility of every family to make sure their children get vaccinated. “When I heard on the news about the polio vaccination campaign I decided to vaccinate my one-year-old son. It is my responsibility to keep my child safe and take care of him,” explained 42-year-old Sadruding, a Mazar-e-Sharif resident.

Russia’s Lavrov Urges 'Political Will' to Solve Iran Nuclear Row

Russia’s foreign minister has called on world powers and Iran to show “political will” in finding a solution to the international standoff over Tehran’s nuclear program. At talks in Geneva between Iran and six major world powers, Sergei Lavrov urged the sides to "show the maximum political will in an effort to find the necessary solutions,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Sunday. Intense talks to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions ended without an agreement on Saturday. The sides focused on confidence-building measures and ways to allay concerns of the international community over the country's nuclear program, the ministry said. Western countries suspect Iran of using its nuclear program to develop atomic weapons, a claim that Iran has consistently denied. Tehran claims it needs atomic technology for producing electricity, although it has some of the world’s largest reserves of oil and gas. Iran's President Hassan Rouhani was quoted by ISNA news agency as saying Sunday that its right to uranium enrichment is a “red line” that cannot be crossed. The talks between Iran and the six powers – the US, Britain, Russia, China, France and Germany – will resume on November 20.

Newly elected Tajik President Emomalii Rahmon to face Afghan problem

Emomalii Rahmon, who won the presidential election in Tajikistan last Wednesday, may face grave difficulties as soon as next year following the withdrawal of NATO forces from neighbouring Afghanistan scheduled for the end of 2014. Russia may also see an increased threat of terrorism and drug trafficking spilling over from Afghanistan through Tajikistan. US generals suggest the troops should be out of Afghanistan before a so-called ‘fighting season’ sets in, thereby abandoning the country to its fate, the way they had done before in Iraq. Afghanistan’s governmental forces will then risk facing the Taliban one-to-one. As Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently remarked, “the threat of terrorism spillover from one country to another is real”. Afghanistan may become one of the main security problems not only for Tajikistan but also for Russia. The analysis centre at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations of Russian Foreign Ministry forecasts that once NATO withdraws its troops from Afghanistan, terrorism and drug trafficking in that country will escalate. Moreover, new perilous combinations may emerge. For instance, interaction may intensify among terrorists in Afghanistan’s North, all over Central Asia and even in Russia. One of Russia’s major specialists in fighting drug trafficking, Deputy Chairman of the Federal Drug Control Service in 2003-2008, police Lieutenant-General Alexander Mikhailov, said in an interview to Itar-Tass: “From my own experience I can say Rahmon has hardly played any important role in fighting drug trafficking. Very little depends on the Tajik president here. Moreover, I am sure that once NATO coalition and American troops leave Afghanistan, drug production in the country will either remain unchanged or will be reducing”. To explain his opinion the expert said: “Throughout their presence in Afghanistan the Americans did eliminate a drag laboratory once in a while, but generally they preferred to stay aloof and stick to neutrality. The paradox is that drug production in Afghanistan increased exactly when US troops came to that country. Why? The reason is now the Taliban has found a foreign enemy. Whereas before the foreign troops’ arrival they had been actively eliminating poppy crops and had stifled many producers, with NATO's presence in Afghanistan the Taliban was in dire need of money for armed resistance. Renewed heroin production was the sole way to gain cash to buy weapons. When NATO leaves, the Taliban’s need for weapons will dwindle. Accordingly, the interest in drugs will wane as well”. However, Mikhailov believes, the scale of heroin production and transportation will remain the same: “The Americans are leaving the country in ruins. Afghanistan has no oil and gas fields, and for local peasants drugs are the sole liquid product for sale. This situation will not change until the economy, education, and health care are restored to normal. The worst thing is nobody knows who will comes to power there. In other words, instability will persist in the region for a long while.” The director of the Institute of the CIS Countries, Konstantin Zatulin, told Itar-Tass “the withdrawal of US troops has brought the Afghan crisis back on the agenda”. “Now Afghanistan will seek protection from the Central Asian Taliban in Russia. It will certainly take a milder attitude towards Russia. Nevertheless, the terrorism threat and the risk of growth in drug trafficking will increase for Russia. The Taliban will be trying to spread its influence over Central Asia, including Tajikistan, so destabilization in the region looms large,” the expert said in conclusion.

India PM to boycott Sri Lanka Summit amid war crimes row

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is likely to skip a meeting of Commonwealth leaders in Sri Lanka this week marred by long-running accusations that Colombo has failed to address the issue of war crimes against minority Tamils. Singh's move is seen as bowing to pressure from India's own large Tamil population, with an eye to a general election that must be held by May 2014. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has already said he would boycott the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) that Sri Lanka is hosting from November 15 to 17. Harper said last month he was disturbed by continuing reports of intimidation and incarceration of political leaders and journalists, the harassment of minorities, reported disappearances and allegations of extra judicial killings. British Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will attend, but will demand an investigation into the accusations. The Sri Lankan government, which defeated separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009, faces increasing pressure from the international community to try those responsible for rights abuses during a nearly three-decade-long civil war. Critics in India slammed Singh's decision as opening the door for giant Asian rival China, which helps fund Sri Lanka's military and infrastructure projects, to extend its influence. Indian news channels and newspapers reported the decision over the weekend, saying Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid would go instead, but the foreign ministry has not confirmed this. "From time to time the prime minister is required to be here and he is unable to visit," Khurshid told reporters on Sunday. "It should not be looked at as something that, if such a decision has been taken, will affect India-Sri Lanka relations." Sri Lanka, an island of 21 million people just off India's southern tip, has become a visible front in the competition between India and China, where mutual suspicion and commercial ambition have led to a race for construction projects. "Now we are vacating our backyard for the Chinese to rebuild all of a booming post-war Sri Lanka," influential columnist and editor Shekhar Gupta wrote in the Indian Express newspaper, about Singh's move. "Cancelling now would amount to letting India down without persuading one more Tamil to vote for his coalition." Colombo had not been officially informed of Singh's decision not to attend, Karunatilaka Amunugama, the secretary of Sri Lanka's external affairs ministry, told Reuters. The move has reawakened questions about Singh's legacy after he steps down - as he is expected to do - following the 2014 vote. His ruling Congress party has been weakened by a string of corruption scandals, high inflation and stuttering growth after nine years in power, but is relying on its record of support for the rural citizens who form two-thirds of India's population. Singh's landmark foreign policy initiatives have hit major roadblocks, such as a 2008 atomic energy deal with the United States that lifted India out of diplomatic isolation over its nuclear programme. Read more:

Pakistan: Bolshevik Revolution of 1917: the challenging legacy

In the present excruciating crisis that spells agony for the masses, nothing less than a revolution can emancipate the oppressed millions The financial and economic crash of 2008 and the ongoing organic crisis of world capitalism continues to destroy and debilitate humanity on the economic and social front. But since 2011, it has also given rise to a series of upheavals and movements around the globe. The rejection of capitalism has never been so far and wide and the search of an alternate so intense. In Pakistan, the ferocious crisis of capitalism and its resultant pillage and devastation has left society pulverised, distraught, traumatised, and up to the point of sudden explosions. The constant talk of a ‘French revolution’, and more importantly that this will be ‘a bloody revolution’ by some of the leaders of the ruling elite is a deliberate attempt to inculcate fear amongst the masses against a revolution, and it also reflects an impotent rage at the historical failure of their system to develop and run society. In this hue and cry about revolution, they conveniently avoid mentioning the Bolshevik Revolution because they are well aware of the real dangers it poses to this exploitative and oppressive system, and more importantly, the way forward it provides to the toiling classes to transform society. The Russian revolution was not only one of the greatest events in history but was the only successful revolution carried out on classic Marxist lines. The Bolshevik revolution triumphed on November 7 (October 26 according to the orthodox Byzantine calendar), 1917. With the exception of the heroic episode of the Paris Commune, this was for the first time millions of downtrodden workers and peasants took political power into their own hands, sweeping aside the despotic rule of capitalists and landlords, and set out to create a socialist world order. John Reed, the iconic American writer, described it in the following words in his celebrated work, Ten Days that Shook the World: “No matter what one thinks of Bolshevism, it is undeniable that the Russian Revolution is one of the greatest events in human history, and the rule of the Bolsheviks a phenomenon of worldwide importance.” For 73 years, the apologists of capitalism vented their spleen against the Soviet Union. There was an avalanche of slander unleashed to stain the image of the Bolshevik Revolution and the nationalised planned economy that emerged from it. They manoeuvred to identify socialism with the ‘bureaucratic totalitarian’ regime, which arose from the isolation of the revolution in a backward country. The regime established by the revolution was neither bureaucratic nor totalitarian but the most democratic regime yet seen on earth. For the first time in history, the success of a planned economy was demonstrated not on the pages of Das Kapital, but in an arena comprising a sixth of the planet’s surface, not in the language of dialectics, but in the language of steel, education, healthcare and electricity. In a gigantic and unprecedented experiment, it was proved that it was possible to develop and run society without capitalists, landlords, and moneylenders. Despite the aggression of 21 imperialist armies, tremendous difficulties and obstacles, the abolition of market mechanisms and the introduction of the planned economy revolutionised the productive forces and laid the basis for a modern economy. In the 50 years from 1913 (the height of pre-First World War production) to 1963, total industrial output of the USSR rose by more than 52 times. The corresponding figure for the US was less than six times. In a few decades, a backward agricultural economy was transformed into the second most powerful country. It developed a mighty industrial base, a high cultural level and more scientists than the US and Japan combined. Life expectancy more than doubled and child mortality fell by nine times. Such economic advances, in such a short time, have no parallel in the world. Rents were fixed at about six percent of the monthly income. A small flat in Moscow, up until the early1980s, cost $ 17 per month, which included gas, electricity, telephone and unlimited hot water. However, due to the defeat of revolutions in Germany (1918-23), China (1925-27), Britain (1926), Spain (1930s) and several other countries, the isolation of the revolution and primitiveness of technology led to the beginning of the degeneration of the revolution.
In his State and Revolution, Lenin had clearly set the conditions for Soviet power.
1. Free and democratic elections with the right of recall of all officials by the Soviets (committees of workers, peasants and soldiers).
2. No official must receive a salary higher than that of a skilled worker.
3. No standing army but an armed people.
4. Gradually all tasks of running the state would be performed by everyone in turn.
As the economy expanded, technology became advanced, and production multiplied manifold, it became more and more difficult to run it efficiently on a bureaucratic basis without workers’ democratic control and management as envisaged by Lenin. But under frightful conditions of economic, social and cultural backwardness, the workers democracy degenerated into a deformed caricature. With the death of Lenin and the rise of Stalin, a bureaucratic clique began to crystallise and monopolise power. The four conditions laid down by Lenin were obliterated. The leaders of the revolution predicted the degeneration and collapse of the Soviet Union in advance. In 1921, Lenin said: “Berlin is the heart of Germany and Germany is the heart of Europe. If there is no revolution in Germany the Russian Revolution is doomed.” Unlike the development of capitalism that relies on the market for allocation of resources, a nationalised economy requires conscious planning and direction. The workers democracy is for the planned economy what oxygen is for the human body. In his epic work, Revolution Betrayed, Trotsky wrote in 1936: “The fall of the present bureaucratic dictatorship, if it were not replaced by a new socialist power, would thus mean a return to capitalism with a catastrophic decline of industry and culture.” The apologists of capitalism, reformists, the former Stalinists, and ex-leftists try to argue that the collapse of the USSR signified the demise of socialism. Alan Woods wrote in 1997: “What failed in Russia was not socialism, but a false model, a caricature of socialism...The demagogic attacks on socialism/Marxism/communism have an increasingly hollow ring, because they are made against a background of the deepening crisis of capitalism.” In the present excruciating crisis that spells agony for the masses, nothing less than a revolution can emancipate the oppressed millions. The only revolution that can ensure an end to this pain, misery and deprivation is the socialist revolution. The legacy of the Bolsheviks still provides the general outlines and a comprehensive strategy to achieve a victorious revolutionary transformation.

Militant's Killing Threatens NATO Supply Route
The killing of Pakistan's top Taliban leader could result in another casualty -- a major NATO supply line that runs through the country en route to Afghanistan. Following the death of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) head Hakimullah Mehsud in a suspected U.S. drone strike in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on November 1, the governing party in the bordering Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province voted to block a NATO supply route that runs through its territory as of November 20. Officially, such decisions lie with the federal government, which has opposed the strike but so far has taken a cautious approach in its response. With the closure of the supply route now being debated in Islamabad, there is a possibility -- albeit a slight one -- that national consensus could be reached and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province's decision would be formally adopted. If not, there is also the possibility that the province could go rogue and blockade the route on its own. Below we chart some of the possible effects such a blockade might have.
High Costs
Previous blockades and attacks on supply lines have forced NATO to establish alternative routes through Central Asia in recent years. Shashank Joshi, a fellow at London's Royal United Services Institute, says that 80 percent of supplies to Afghanistan are now carried by air or the Northern Distribution Network. But Pakistan's seaports and proximity still make it a key avenue for supplying international forces in Afghanistan, and remain the cheapest way for NATO supplies to reach Afghanistan. Joshi says a blockade would complicate operations. "It would stop some equipment from getting in and it would also make it much, much more expensive because more equipment has to be flown in immediately via air, either from places like Dubai or other ports in the region," he says.
Center Vs. Province
Islamabad is far from united behind the idea of shutting down NATO supplies. The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, which is led by former cricket star Imran Khan's Tehrik-e Insaf party, has no control over the country's foreign policy, which is in the hands of its political rival, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Though both parties have publicly opposed drone strikes carried out in Pakistan, Tehrik-e Insaf has so far failed to unite the country's fragmented political spectrum in its opposition to Islamabad's antiterrorism alliance with Washington. Observers say that, at best, Tehrik-e Insaf can close the supply route that links Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with Afghanistan via the Khyber Pass. A shorter route through the southwestern province of Balochistan could still cope with most NATO supplies.
Economic Impact
Joshi says that the potential economic harm caused by a NATO supply route closure could persuade Islamabad to prevent the authorities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from imposing a blockade. He says that powerful Pakistani interest groups would also likely resist any closure of the route. "Local Pakistani trucking companies, particularly those involved or affiliated with retired members of the Pakistani army, benefit considerably from hauling American equipment," Joshi says. "I think, if there is a major backlog, if the U.S. increases its dependency on northern routes and shifts away from Pakistan, this will hurt [local suppliers'] own pockets." The Pakistani economy is struggling with sluggish growth, inflation, an ongoing energy crisis, and diminishing foreign investment. A major diplomatic rift with the West would likely damage foreign aid, and international economic support for the country of 180 million.
Afghan Withdrawal
The blockade of NATO supply routes through Pakistan could disrupt plans to withdraw alliance troops from Afghanistan by the end of next year. Joshi says that a closure of one of the exit routes would make it difficult to remove the vast amounts of equipment NATO has accumulated in Afghanistan over the past 12 years. But he says that, after dealing with previous blockades, Western forces are better positioned to deal with a potential disruption. "What's likelier is that the United States will simply decide to destroy some of its equipment -- to sell some of its equipment within Afghanistan to local forces, and I think, it will shift to the northern routes more and more," Joshi says.

86 civilians, 23 policemen lost lives during terror attacks in October

Civilians and policemen remained major victim of terrorism across Pakistan last month, said monthly security report of Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) released on Friday. The report said five militants were also killed and as many injured in the exchange of fire with army men. Civilians had major share in casualties as 86 of them lost their lives while 246 were injured, the report said, adding 23 policemen died and 36 were injured in terror attacks. The report said 21 military and paramilitary troops also fell in the line of duty in October. As many as 85 attacks were carried out by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), local Taliban and other militant groups of same category that killed 79 and injured another 180 people. The nationalist insurgent groups in Balochistan perpetrated 31 attacks claiming 47 lives and inflicting injuries on 145 others. Meanwhile six sectarian-related attacks claimed the lives of nine people and injured another person. Security forces and law enforcement agencies were main target of the militants in 20 districts of Pakistan, mainly in KP, Fata, Balochistan and Karachi. The militants carried out 53 terrorist attacks on security forces their convoys and check-posts. The report further says that a total of 122 terrorist attacks were carried out across Pakistan in October, 13 less than previous month, claiming the lives of 135 people, representing a decrease of 50 per cent compared to previous month, besides inflicting injuries on 326 others. Despite an overall decrease, the number of reported attacks from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) increased in October by about 13 per cent, as compared to previous month. As many as 43 attacks were reported from KP which claimed the lives of 40 people and injured 103 others. In terms of casualties, Balochistan was worst-hit among all regions of Pakistan where 49 people lost their lives and 145 others sustained injuries in 32 reported attacks while 26 terrorist attacks occurred in Sindh, including 24 in Karachi, and 19 in Fata. Security forces, either independently or in collaboration with bomb disposal squad, also foiled at least 16 terror bids in October, including 11 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, three in Sindh and one in Islamabad, PIPS said.

Pakistan: IMF satisfaction on economy-- a delusion

After quarterly review under the three-year $6.6 billion Extended Fund Facility (EFF), the chief of the visiting International Monetary Fund mission Jeffery Franks has expressed satisfaction over Pakistan's economic progress, saying budget deficit is broadly satisfactory and the government borrowing has been within the target. As expected, the IMF appreciated the government's move to reduce subsidy on electricity and its work on the restructuring programme to improve the performance of the power generation & distribution companies. The mission will present its report to the IMF Board scheduled to meet in the third week of December following which the second tranche of $587 million will be released to Pakistan.
Apart from the IMF installment, the report will induce confidence in other donor agencies negotiating with the Pakistan government on various development projects. Interestingly, the IMF has made upward revision of the GDP projection to 2.7 per cent from 2.5pc for the current fiscal year because of improved performance of the economy. Amidst frequent bombings, target killings, cruel increase in taxation which is mostly directed at common man and increase in oil prices, the all-is-well stamping on the improvement in economy from the IMF is the most astonishing outcome that the government has achieved. But the ground reality is that Pakistan will continue to suffer challenges on the balance of payments for which the State Bank of Pakistan may have to buy more foreign currency from the open market to build up its much-needed foreign exchange reserves as the stagnant large scale manufacturing sector and shrinking export base are no longer the engines of the economic growth. Amidst the delay in flows of the Coalition Support Fund and other external loans, the current account deficit is also above the target. Continuous devaluation of rupee, rise oil & power prices are persistently pushing up industrial input cost thus rendering cottage, small and medium industry unviable. Having high cost of doing business in Pakistan, the economy is going nowhere rather making side-ways movement; Thus those reading too much from the satisfaction of the IMF are grossly mistaken as the improvement in the economic indicators are more cosmetic in nature. And the IMF programme is seemingly designed to help Pakistan meet its obligations, including about $5bn in outstanding debt on an earlier $11bn IMF loan package. Seeing beyond the clutches of loans, Pakistan's economic and financial managers should sit together to steer the country out of the economic mess. We strongly advise that the concrete efforts should be made to bring down the input cost of the industry. The oil constitutes major raw material for industrial and agriculture sector thus the government should immediately revamp the price fixation formula to rationalize prices of the petrol and petroleum products to put the industrial wheels in motion. Secondly, the government is banking far too heavily on increase in the across the board rate of the GST rather than making the taxation machinery effective against the rich, having bigger business concerns. No matter what the government claims the fact is that even today the tax administration needs to undergo reforms to enhance tax revenue to cut down current account deficit and the government borrowing. The prime minister has promised to do away with the loss-making public sector institutions to lay off burden on the national exchequer. The privatization plan has been approved but it is yet to kick off. We advise to execute the plan to rescue the underfunded public services. In practical terms, mere satisfaction of the IMF can fetch loans for Pakistan but cannot bring some respite for the people of Pakistan. A state should be run like a state but not like personal business that a chartered accountant looks after and brings laurels for the boss. IMF says the economy of Pakistan is growing but the vast majority of the population is finding it hard run their kitchens. Hence the so-called economic reviews of the IMF remain a magnificent delusion.

Cat’s out of the bag: Iftikhar Chaudhry gets a nod of approval from the Taliban! Chief teray jaan-nisar

by Sarah Khan
Reading Jang everyday is a habit one can’t get rid of. Not because of the news covered in it but because reading it tells one how Pakistan is in a downward spiral. Today, November 10, 2013, Jang has published the interview of Ihsanullah Ihsan, the spokesman of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, given to Newsweek Pakistan. The headline given by Jang is good enough to give one fits of laughter and confirm apprehensions that Chief Justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, who is known to favor terrorists is liked by the Taliban as “ … one person among these infidels who has a good attitude it is Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry”. With just over one month left in his imminent retirement, this nod of approval will for sure be quoted by his loyal subjects in references to be held in his honor!Additionally, Ihsanullah Ihsan has also thanked Munwwar Hasan for calling Hakeemullah Mehsud as a “Martyr”.
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Pakistan Divided Over Slain Taliban Chief’s Legacy

The Baloch Hal
By Malik Siraj Akbar
The killing of Hakimullah Mehsud, the chief of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (T.T.P.), an Al-Qaeda affiliate, in a drone strike in Pakistan’s lawless tribal region on Friday is a spectacular counter-insurgency gain for the United States. The State Department had enlisted the T.T.P. among the Foreign Terrorist Organizations while the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) had announced a reward of $5,000,000 for information that led to capture or killing of the 34-year old militant commander. According to the F.B.I., Mehsud was wanted for “his alleged involvement in the December 30, 2009 bombing of a United States military base located near the Afghan town of Khost… the blast from the explosion killed seven United States citizens and injured six other United States citizens.” In addition, he was also charged with conspiring to kill a United States National outside the United States while Washington, on September 1, 2010, listed Mehsud among Specially Designated Global Terrorists. The government of Pakistan, which had announced a relatively smaller bounty on Mehsud, viewed the militant leader as an enemy because he had sanctioned the killing of thousands of Pakistani soldiers, policemen and unarmed civilians. Yet, Islamabad would not go to the extent of agreeing that Mehsud was such a bad guy who deserved to be punished with a drone strike. While the United States has provided about 25 billion dollars to Pakistan to fight the war on terror, the latter has still failed to wholeheartedly own and fight this war. Islamabad remains undecided whether it is a victim or a defender of the Taliban. For instance, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, ironically, “strongly condemned” the drone strike which killed Mehsud, the dreaded terrorist, arguing that there is “an across the board consensus in Pakistan that these drone strikes must end.” The Pakistani Taliban, despite causing enormous bloodshed, enjoys the support of the central government, besides an expanding right-wing political constituency and sections of the hyper-national media. They regularly oppose Pakistan-led military operations and the U.S.-led drone strikes against the Taliban. The Taliban apologists, headed by former national cricket skipper Imran Khan, often nicknamed as Taliban Khan, who now heads the Pakistan Justice Movement or the P.T.I., got an inch closer to power in the general elections of May 2013. The P.T.I. gained controlof the regional government in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K.P.) where the Taliban have strongest presence within Pakistan. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s center-right Pakistan Muslim League (P.M.L.N), which wonan overwhelming majority in the general elections, had promised during its election campaign that it would, if elected, negotiate with the Taliban. The P.M.L. and the P.T.I. both insist that America’s drone strikes will perpetuate instability in Pakistan, increase sympathy for the Taliban and encourage more young people to join the Taliban. Nonetheless, there is no authentic scientific poll or survey to substantiate such assumptions. The detractors of drone strikes fear the consequences of Mehsud’s killing. Prime Minister Sharif had convened an All-Parties Conference (A.P.C.) in September in Islamabad to win the support of all political groups for initiating dialogue with the Taliban. Since Sharif had not clearly stipulated the terms and conditions for talks with the Taliban, negotiations could not commence even a month after the A.P.C. Observing growing public anxiety and incessant media inquiries regarding rapprochement with the Taliban, Sharif said last week that his government had formally established contactwith the Taliban. Much to Sharif’s embarrassment, the Taliban immediately rebutted the Prime Minister’s claim saying that they had not begun any kind of talks with Islamabad yet. The killing of Mehsud on Friday is likely to provide the Taliban a solid pretext to abandon, or at least delay, talks with Islamabad. Talks will not being at least until the T.T.P. nominates a new figure for Mehsud’s coveted position. Unfortunately, neither Pakistan has the commitment nor the capability to completely obliterate the Taliban insurgency. The T.T.P.’s gesture also suggests that the group is currently endeavoring to buy more time till the United States withdraws troops from Afghanistan. The Pakistan Taliban seem to believe that better days and more rewarding deals await them should they refrain from striking any deals with Islamabad at this time. Meanwhile in Pakistan, the United States will possibly get the bulk of the blame from P.M.L. and P.T.I., both ruling parties, for disrupting talks with the Taliban by killing the chief of the terrorist group. The P.T.I. has called for the blockade of supply lines to N.A.T.O. forces in Afghanistan in a pattern of protest which was also witnessed in 2011 soon after thekilling of 24 Pakistani soldiers by N.A.T.O. forces at Salala, on Pak-Afghan border. The N.A.T.O. supplies remained closed for several months until Washington apologized to Islamabad for that incident. Regardless of Pakistan’s outcry, Washington’s drone campaign has proved extremely precise and productive in ousting key Al-Qaeda leadership, dismantling the terrorist organization’s command and structure in elusive tribal regions of Pakistan. These deadly strikes have also eradicated the core leadership of the Pakistani Taliban. Prior to his killing, Mehsud’s deputy, Wali-ur-Rehman (killed in 2013) and two of his predecessors Baithuallh Mehsud (2009) and Nek Muhammad (2004) were all killed in U.S. drone strikes. Islamabad’s inability or unwillingness to go after the perpetrators of terror should not instead be taken as an opportunity to absolve Pakistan of its responsibility to fight terrorism. Considering that country’s limited counter-insurgency capabilities, Islamabad should in fact thank and appreciate Washington for eliminating some of the greatest threats to its national security. Washington has helped its ally to hunt down dangerous employers of terror and tyranny against whom the Islamic republic has failed to take action.

Former President Zardari urges people to resist those exploiting religion

Former President Asif Ali Zardari in a message asked people to resist those who are challenging the country by exploiting religion to foist their political agenda on the people. He said this in his message on the occasion of Allama Iqbal’s birthday today (Saturday) “Allama Muhammad Iqbal will always be remembered not only as a sage, poet and philosopher but also for dreaming of a separate homeland for the Muslims of the Sub Continent and for his contributions to understanding the true message of our religion. “The 136th birthday of our poet sage is an occasion to rejoice and celebrate his life and teachings. It is also an occasion to bear in mind that Pakistan has been challenged and the message of Islam is ruthlessly distorted by extremists and militants to foist their narrow political agendas on the people in the name of religion” Zardai said in a statement issued by the Pakistan People’s Party.

Former President Zardari asked to intervene to save Keenjhar

A not-for-profit organisation has requested former president Asif Ali Zardari to form a commission to assess the effects of effluent dumped in Keenjhar Lake and to take action against all those responsible.
The letter was sent by Haleem Adil Sheikh, the chairman of Pakistan Relief Foundation (PRF), on Saturday. The organisation has already filed a petition in the Sindh High Court against the rising pollution at the lake. The court has set December 3 for the next hearing. The petition said the discharge of industrial waste and sewage into the lake was causing various diseases and environmental hazards dangerous for aquatic species. It also criticised inaction on the part of the government functionaries to ensure the provision of safe drinking water. In the letter, Sheikh asked the Pakistan People’s Party chief for remedial actions to be taken to save the lake, which serves as the primary source of drinking water to Karachi. In the 10-point recommendations, Zardari has been requested to direct the relevant authorities to close all inlets of sewage falling into the Kalri-Baghar (KB) Feeder along its 115km route from Kotri Barrage till the Keenjhar Lake. The letter calls for instructing the water and sewerage board to set up water testing laboratories to regularly check the water quality and ensure supply of safe water to the people of Karachi. Sheikh also suggested taking action against industries in Nooriabad and Kotri to stop wastewater dumping in the freshwater lake and directing the authorities to ensure proper treatment plants were established in all industrial units, which must discharge their waste after proper treatment. He demanded action against negligent officers of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board for not treating and properly chlorinating the drinking water before supply to Karachi. The PRF chairman called for immediate action to save the lives of Karachiites using the contaminated water, and also resolving the issue of Right Bank Outfall Drain-2 (RBOD) to divert the hazardous waste from Manchar Lake from RBOD-3 and RBOD-2.

Saudi Arabia to execute top Shia cleric in coming days: report

The Saudi authorities are planning to execute prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in the coming days, a group calling itself the Al-Qatif News Network said on its Arabic webpage on Facebook. “We have no further details on the issue,” said the group on its webpage. Sheikh Nimr was attacked, injured and arrested by Saudi security forces en route to his house in the Qatif region of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province on July 8, 2012. He was arrested over calls for the release of political prisoners Tensions escalated in Qatif and Ihsaa following the arrest of Nimr. Thousands of people protested, calling for the overthrow of the regime and the release of the sheikh. Two people were killed and dozens were injured. In late March 2013, an unnamed Saudi prosecutor reportedly demanded the death penalty for Nimr. The authority accused Nimr of ‘aiding terrorists’ and ‘instigating unrest,’ and called for the execution of the Shia cleric. Since February 2011, demonstrators have held anti-regime protests on an almost regular basis in Saudi Arabia, mainly in Qatif and the town of Awamiyah in Eastern Province, primarily calling for the release of all political prisoners, freedom of expression and assembly, and an end to widespread discrimination. Since November 2011, when Saudi security forces killed five protesters and injured many others in Eastern Province, the demonstrations have turned into protests against the Al Saud regime. According to Human Rights Watch, the Riyadh regime “routinely represses expression critical of the government.”

Report: 90% Saudi Disabled People Suffer Sexual Abuse

Ninety percent of Saudi mentally or physically disabled people are subjected to sexual abuse across the kingdom, a new report said. Saudi Arabia’s al-Iqtissadiya wrote in a report on Saturday that disabled people are the most vulnerable group in the country that suffer from sexual abuse. According to experts cited in the report, the mentally disabled have the highest number of victims, with at least 90 percent of them having been abused at least once. The number of abuse victims is relatively lower in physically disables which stands at 20 percent. The report says most of the victims are women while a considerable number of them are children as well. Records of the reported abuses show that the attackers mostly come from close relatives of the victims, with 99 percent of the reports having listed a close family member as the attacker. The experts express worry that abused children suffer from high levels of post-traumatic stress and show signs of behavioral disorder and decrease in level of training following in many cases. Domestic abuse is not openly discussed in the country, but in April the first public service campaign against domestic abuse was launched. Only in August a law passed by the Saudi Arabian cabinet that banned violence against women and children in the home as well as in the workplace. The new law can impose a jail term of up to one year and a fine from roughly $1,300 to $13,000.