Friday, November 22, 2013
By STEVEN ERLANGER Under the proposed six-month deal that six major powers are negotiating with Iran in Geneva, Iran would eliminate its current stock of uranium enriched to 20 percent by diluting it or turning it into fuel rods or oxide powder, forms that are unusable for weapons, senior Western officials said Friday. Iran would be allowed to continue to enrich uranium at much lower levels, to 3.5 percent, the officials said, but would also agree to cap its current stockpile of such uranium, by eliminating, diluting or transforming into fuel as much 3.5 percent uranium as it produces over the six months. The officials spoke about the deal on the condition of anonymity because the negotiations had not been completed. The rationale for such a deal, the officials said, is to satisfy Iran’s refusal to suspend all enrichment — a concession that its negotiators could not sell domestically, even for six months. But in exchange, Iran would agree to cap its stockpile, while eliminating its current supply of the more highly enriched uranium, which is much closer to bomb grade and has caused anxiety among Western nations, Israel and the Arab gulf nations, including Saudi Arabia. Iran has refused to export any of its enriched uranium to be turned into fuel, as the Western negotiators — the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, and Germany — had first proposed in years of negotiations. Israel and Saudi Arabia have expressed concern that if Iran produced only oxide powder from the 20 percent enriched uranium, and not fuel rods or plates, the oxide could be reconverted into 20 percent enriched uranium. But the Western officials say that such a reversal is difficult, and that Iran does not now seem to have the ability. The concern around the 20 percent purity level is that Iran could, if it chose, quickly turn that into bomb-grade material, which means it could more quickly “break out” to create a nuclear weapon before the West could detect it or react to stop it. Iran denies any intention of building a nuclear weapon. Western officials said Iran was also being asked to halt construction, for six months, on the Arak heavy-water reactor. The reactor, when finished and fueled, could produce plutonium, another route to a nuclear weapon. Iran would also agree not to install any more of its faster, second-generation centrifuges, the machines used to enrich uranium, and would not operate the 1,000 or so of these centrifuges already installed but not yet in use. Iran would also agree to more intrusive inspections, to ensure the deal is kept. If Iran agrees, the combination of concessions would give breathing space for a longer negotiation on a more permanent agreement. The deal also is intended to convince Iran that if the West detects evidence of an effort at a nuclear breakout, the Western nations would have time to take decisive preventive action — potentially military action. In return, Iran would receive what the Western officials said was about $3.6 billion in oil income, which has been frozen abroad, released in portions over six months. Iran would also get relief on sanctions currently on auto parts and kits for reassembly, on gold and precious metals, on commercial aircraft parts and repairs and on petrochemicals. Sanctions on oil sales and financial transactions would remain in force. The officials estimated that the sanction relief over the six months would represent between one-fifth and one-sixth of what Iran is already losing because of existing sanctions. Iran is estimated to be losing $25 billion to $30 billion every six months, depending on the price of oil, from the oil sanctions alone. The deal also envisages establishing a so-called green channel for Iran to buy monitored humanitarian goods and medicines through selected banks, which have been afraid to handle any Iranian transactions for fear of violating existing sanctions.
http://www.tehrantimes.com/A report by a group of British MPs says that the government should no longer ignore claims of hypocrisy over its relations with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. According to BBC, the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) published a report on Friday saying that concerns over human rights were being juggled with the UK's lucrative trade and other strategic interests. MPs said the Persian Gulf region was critical to the UK, yet many states were among the "least democratic in the world". The committee said it was concerned about "limited but worrying evidence of a poor public perception of the UK in Saudi Arabia.” It also called on the British government to assess Riyadh’s move in supplying weapons to foreign-backed militants in Syria who fight against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The MPs said in the report that governments “such as the UK face a challenge in trying to reconcile their liberal constituencies at home with the need to maintain relationships with undemocratic and conservative regimes that are important to their interests on a regional and global level.” "We understand that to encourage a government such as that of Saudi Arabia towards reform, a combination of private and public pressure is required,” the report also said, urging the government to explain its approach better to the public. On calls for reform in Bahrain, the MPs warned that "if there is no significant progress by the start of 2014, the government should designate Bahrain as a 'country of concern' in its next Human Rights Report". On Saudi Arabia, the MPs said there was worrying evidence that the public there, especially young Saudis, had a poor perception of the UK and likewise the UK population had a negative perception of Saudi Arabia. The committee urged the government to explain its approach better to the public.
Thousands take to the streets south of Manama to protest against what they say is a crackdown on the opposition.Thousands of Shia in Bahrain took to the streets south of the capital Manama to protest against what they called repression of the opposition, witnesses said.
Five decades after it served as the backdrop for a nation's grief and disbelief, Dallas' Dealey Plaza took center stage once again Friday as Americans commemorated the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination. "A new era dawned and another waned a half century ago when hope and hatred collided right here in Dallas," Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said in his remarks commemorating Kennedy's death. Rawlings then read the final words of the speech Kennedy was to deliver that day. That was followed by a moment of silence at 12:30 p.m., the time Kennedy was shot a few feet from where Rawlings spoke. Bells tolled, and after a brief pause, cadets from the Naval Academy sang "America the Beautiful." Historian David McCullough read excerpts from famous Kennedy speeches. Some 5,000 invited guests were expected to attend the commemorative events, which was bookended by bagpipers -- a JFK favorite -- playing under a spitting gray sky. The tightly choreographed and secured event was the culmination of a series of commemorations Friday, including wreath-laying events in Kennedy's home town of Boston and at his Arlington National Cemetery gravesite. In Washington, where flags flew at half-staff over the Capitol and White House, Kennedy's last living sibling, Jean Kennedy Smith, participated in the Arlington wreath-laying. Earlier, Attorney General Eric Holder visited the gravesite.And in the House of Representatives, where Kennedy served from 1947 to 1953, the Rev. John Robert Skeldon of Fort Worth, Texas, reminded lawmakers in his opening prayers that "in commemorating such a one whose life and presidency were cut short, we do so not to sow in tears, as the psalmist says, but rather to reap with shouts of joy." "Help us, Lord God, to make the late President's inaugural vision our own so that together as fellow Americans we may 'ask not what our country can do for us, but rather what we can do for our country,'" Skeldon prayed, invoking Kennedy's famous words. The Dallas event was designed to be a delicate balancing act of honoring Kennedy's memory without sensationalizing his murder, and to help the city throw off its reputation as "the city that killed Kennedy." It opened with a video from an organizer speaking of that goal, and continued in Rawlings remarks, which keyed off Kennedy's call for the United States to embrace and conquer a "New Frontier" of challenges The mayor spoke of a Dallas that took up the mantle of Kennedy's challenge of American betterment and transformed itself with a "sense of industry born of tragedy" into a city that he hopes would make the president proud. "He and our city will forever be linked, in tragedy, yes," Rawlings said. "But out of that tragedy, an opportunity was granted to us: the chance to learn how to face the future when it's the darkest and most uncertain, how to hold high the torch even when the flame flickers and threatens to go out."A new JFK monument also was unveiled, in the infamous section of land known as the "grassy knoll." The inscription on the monument is the final paragraph of the speech JFK intended to deliver at the Dallas Trade Mart on November 22, 1963: "We in this country, in this generation, are --- by destiny rather than choice --- the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of "peace on earth, good will toward men." That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago, "except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." Other Dallas events Conspiracy theorists, who have typically gathered on the plaza on each anniversary of Kennedy's assassination, were barred from the plaza. Instead, The Dallas Morning News reported, the group planned to hold an event at the nearby JFK memorial, and then move to Dealey Plaza after the main event was over. Demonstrators gathered at Dealey Plaza on Thursday, and many chanted: "No more lies. No more lies." The remarkable Sixth Floor Museum, which chronicles the Kennedy assassination, was set to open from 3 to 8 p.m. CT. Parkland Hospital, where Kennedy died, planned a brief morning ceremony, where the flag will be lowered to half-staff. Also in Dallas on Friday, a candlelight vigil for J.D. Tippit was set for 6 p.m. at the site where the 39-year-old Dallas police officer was shot. "I think the remembrance of him calls attention to all of the officers killed in the line of duty. We should remember those who have given their lives for our city," Marie Tippit, who had been married to the officer for 17 years, told the Los Angeles Times this week. She told the paper she will also attend the ceremony at Dealey Plaza. Finally, the Texas Theatre, where Lee Harvey Oswald was apprehended by police, was to screen part of the movie "War Is Hell," the film that was showing when Oswald slipped into the audience without paying.The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston asked visitors to gather to watch a video musical tribute to the President that includes James Taylor. A moment of silence was held at 2 p.m. ET, the time when a doctor approximated Kennedy died. Moments of silence were also planned at various other locations around the nation. And online, a handful of Twitter accounts focused on recreating Kennedy's movements that fateful day, culminating in breaking accounts of the aftermath of the shooting.
At least five people have been killed and 30 others injured after two blasts occured in Karachi's Ancholi area, DawnNews reported. Several of those injured are reported to be in critical condition. The blasts are reported to have taken place near a hotel. The noise from the explosions were heard at far distances. Motorcycles and cars at the sight of the blasts have been destroyed, reports suggest. Reports suggest that there is a complete electricity blackout in the area after the two blasts. The windows of buildings within the vicinity of the blasts have been shattered. Shops in the area have now shutdown. Rescue services and police have rushed to the scene. Emergency has been declared at a number of hospitals. Security has now been put on high alert in the city. Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon has strongly condemned the incident and said that the blasts were a cowardly act. Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain has strongly condemned the blasts. Governor Sindh Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan has sought a report on the incident from the Inspector General of Sindh Police.
http://www.thehindu.com/John Kerry formally swears in Nisha Desai Biswal, the first ever Indian-American to become Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia. The success of Nisha Desai Biswal and other Indian-Americans is reflective of the deep ties between the United States and India, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said. Ms. Biswal, the first ever Indian-American to become Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, was formally sworn in by Mr. Kerry at an impressive ceremony held at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department which was attended by key officials of the Obama administration including the White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough. “Nisha’s experience and the success that so many Indian Americans bring to the American table shows to everybody in the world the deep ties that we have between the United States and India. “And I know that we’re going to unlock the enormous potential of stronger economic, security, and cultural ties between our countries,” Mr. Kerry said in his remarks. Describing Ms. Biswal as an woman with “incredible energy” and praising her focus and her enthusiasm for what she does, Mr. Kerry said, “Think about the message that we’re sending today, which I am excited about: The story of a woman who left a small town in India at age 6 to come to America and now becomes one of the most important leaders in the Department of State. “It’s a great story; it’s the American story. It is proof of the power of the American journey. It helps capture how in every generation, immigrants revitalize America and renew us and help to remind us of our common roots and then go on to write the next chapter of American history,” he said. As the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Ms. Biswal would be Mr. Obama’s point person for entire South and Central Asia — a region of the world, which Mr. Kerry said is home to 2 billion people and has a collective GDP of $2 trillion. “We are invested in that region’s prosperity for the long haul and in naming Nisha Biswal as the Assistant Secretary today, we show the strength of that commitment,” he said. Mr. Kerry said Ms. Biswal’s colleagues say that she is somebody who speaks softly and carries a big stick. “The truth is she doesn’t need to speak too loudly about so many of America’s strengths because whether it’s women’s rights or human rights or a belief in the power of education and equal opportunity, Nisha has lived every single one of those lessons,” he said. “She leads every single day with those lessons in mind. She takes charge of our efforts now in one of the most complex, dynamic regions of the world,” he said. In her remarks, Ms. Biswal said from her childhood and throughout her life, she has sought the opportunity to serve the country, the United States of America, in the way that her grandparents, who were freedom fighters in India, served their country. “And that is why I am so honoured by the responsibility that has just been invested in me. As the Secretary noted, it is indeed a high honour to represent the United States and to lead our engagement with such a vital region that is shaping global politics and economics for the 21st century,” Mr. Biswal said. Keywords: Nisha Desai Biswal, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Indian-Americans, diaspora, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
http://www.globaltimes.cn/A Chinese envoy said on Wednesday the reconstruction of Afghanistan should be led by the Afghans, calling for sustained support and assistance from the international community, the Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday. Wang Min, China's deputy permanent representative to the UN, made the remarks at a meeting of the General Assembly on Afghanistan. "To achieve peace, stability and development in Afghanistan, we should give full play to the ownership and leading role of the Afghan people," he said. "China supports the Afghan government in continuing to step up its own capacity building." The envoy called on the international community to help Afghanistan upgrade its sustainable development capacity and focus on supporting Afghanistan in building up its military and policy capacity, so as to undertake the responsibility of security and to attain as soon as possible the goal of an Afghanistan run by the Afghans. Furthermore, Wang stressed, "Comprehensive promotion of the peaceful reconstruction of Afghanistan requires the sustained support and assistance of the international community." He urged the parties concerned to honor in real earnest their assistance commitment to Afghanistan and support the country in implementing its national development strategy, and respect the priority development areas as defined by the Afghan government. Afghan President Hamid Karzai backed Thursday a proposed security pact with the US that will see up to 15,000 foreign troops stay in the war-torn country, but said it would not be signed until after next year's election, AFP reported. An assembly of tribal chieftains, community elders and politicians began four days of debate on the bilateral security agreement, which will shape Washington's future military presence in Afghanistan. It has been touted as vital to the country's future after 2014, when the bulk of NATO's 75,000 troops will pull out. A draft text released by Kabul late Wednesday appeared to show Karzai had bowed to a US demand that American troops would not be tried in local courts if they are accused of crimes - an issue that became a major hurdle in the negotiations.
Integrating Afghanistan into its neighbourhood should create a “win-win” situation for all the countries in the region and for the international community as a whole, writes Erlan Idrissov. Erlan Idrissov is Kazakhstan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs"The coming weeks and months provide an important opportunity to increase the level of regional cooperation and coordination ahead of the transfer of security control in Afghanistan from international to Afghan security forces in 2014. Kazakhstan disagrees with the frequently expressed Cassandra view that chaos and violence inevitably await Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force in 2014. This sort of prognosis is dangerous. It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy by making us all think that there is no hope for Afghanistan. Instead, we are optimistic that with the right level of assistance from its friends and neighbours and through the creation of a peaceful environment in its immediate neighbourhood, Afghanistan can overcome its historical isolation and take its rightful place in the “Heart of Asia”. We strongly support the development of transportation links to facilitate trade within the region. Afghanistan can benefit hugely from the creation of the “New Silk Road”, bringing together Eurasia and South Asia via new road, rail and energy corridors. As the largest land-locked country in the world, Kazakhstan has a strong interest in having the best possible access to global markets, including to its south. The stabilization of Afghanistan and its pursuit of harmonious relations with its neighbours are an important part of that process. So too is the normalization of Iran’s relations with the international community. Integrating Afghanistan into its neighbourhood should create a “win win” situation for all the countries in the region and for the international community as a whole. We have to work steadily to establish the conditions for the Afghan people to find the political solutions that can unite the country and provide the leadership for long-term renewal. There are no magic solutions to Afghanistan’s problems and we must accept the fact that only Afghans can decide the country’s way forward. The international community should limit its efforts to promoting the social and economic rehabilitation of Afghanistan and stay out of politics. In Afghanistan, Kazakhstan is putting its efforts into developing agriculture, education and infrastructure, providing in all cases a combination of expertise and financial support. Afghanistan’s population is 70-80% rural and we believe that encouraging Afghans back into productive employment on the land can have a major economic impact and improve the security situation. We are training Afghan agricultural specialists and have also provided large volumes of seed. Despite some significant progress in recent years, Afghanistan still has a heavy legacy to overcome in education. As part of a $50 million program Kazakhstan is providing professional training for 1,000 Afghan students in its higher education institutions in areas ranging from engineering to medicine. Development of infrastructure to promote trade within Afghanistan remains an urgent priority. Kazakhstan has recently financed the repair of a 77km road in the north of the country at a cost of $1.65 million. Afghanistan remains the undisputed global leader in production and supply of illicit heroin and opium to the global market. The criminalization of Afghanistan’s economy is creating serious problems in many countries along the main export routes for these products, including in Kazakhstan. The only reliable way to combat it is to develop an economy that supports other types of legal activity. At present, opium poppy production is the only social safety net for many farmers. Solutions to many of Afghanistan’s problems are obvious. What is usually much less clear is how to create an environment that is conducive to applying them. As Afghanistan’s government takes over responsibility for the country’s security, its relations with neighboring countries are already taking on increased prominence. As neighbours, we must live up to our responsibilities and make the most of this opportunity."
Only after a madressah in Rawalpindi’s Raja Bazaar went up in flames (11 people dead from rifle fire and many more injured, a few critically), and only after returning from one of his endless foreign tours, has PM Sharif woken up to the menace of sectarian wall-chalking and misuse of loudspeakers. There are things here that never cease to amaze. PM Sharif and his party have been in power in Punjab for the last 20-25 odd years. It was during this period that we saw sectarianism on the rise and loudspeakers, now being disliked by the PM, become the nuisance that they are. When you are drawing your strength from right-wing religious elements, and your patrons in the army and ISI are also molly-coddling the same, how can you control things, like loudspeakers, so close to the hearts of these fiery speakers? It was only Manzoor Wattoo, briefly Punjab CM from 1993 onwards, who issued an order that loudspeakers should only be used for the call to prayers and the Friday Khutba. Wattoo’s position was precarious, head of a coalition government. But know what? He got his order obeyed and implemented. With the return of the Sharifs in 1997, and later when Musharraf took over, mullahs again started testing the frontiers of loudspeaker freedom. Just as an exercise, please observe any morning, at the time of the early morning call to prayer, how the blaring sound of a multitude of loudspeakers at top volume, the sound erupting from all directions, shatters the sublime beauty of that bewitching hour, when night is about to depart and the chariots of dawn are waiting to come over the western horizon. A Mongol army would break formation and flee in panic at this noise. What’s the beauty of the morning before it? There’s no point in pleading for the impossible. Ideally, the sound of loudspeakers should be controlled, a specific wattage allowed for sound amplifiers. After all, the azaan should be rendered melodiously, falling gently on the senses. But in a country where it’s hard to sensibly control traffic, and ban pressure horns, it’s asking for too much that holy fathers will readily accept any moderate restraint on the power of one of their principal weapons, the loudspeaker. But we can do something else. Once the azaan is done clerics have now come to take it as a holy duty to start reciting scriptural verses at random. Sometimes this goes on and on. Can’t an end be put to this practice? After all, there is a Loudspeaker Ordinance in force against such misuse. Why isn’t it implemented? If Wattoo could do it, why not knights of a heavy mandate? Or, as we have seen so far, is this government going to be all talk and no action? As I was writing these lines there was an editorial in another paper talking of the country’s alarming foreign exchange situation, forex reserves down to 3-4 billion dollars. There was another report saying that this winter power cuts would be so much worse. If we are to solve these problems we need leadership and competence, something woefully missing from the picture presently. If it’s going to be all talk, and fierce statements, and then the obligatory trips abroad, and Interior Minister Nisar virtually acting as deputy PM, and making matters worse, it’s not going to be an easy ride. Do we remember Sikandar the lone gunman along with his wife who made monkeys of the entire Islamabad administration for 5-6 hours and the interior minister subsequently spending days on end trying to convince a laughing public that the incident had been handled with great perfection? Now if a single eccentric could bring Islamabad to a standstill, what makes us think that this government was any better prepared to handle a far graver situation on the 10th of Muharram in Rawalpindi? The same directing hands, the same choreographers, so were there any grounds to expect something different? And there are Sharif allies like the half-cleric Professor Sajid Mir, head of a religious faction whose name I always forget, suggesting that all religious processions should be banned to curb sectarianism. Well, try doing this and see what happens. For centuries past Ashura processions have been brought out and to suggest that they should be banned now is nothing short of an invitation to mischief. An Ashura procession is brought out in London, in the centre of the city, and the British police don’t have any problem managing it. We can pray for miracles but they won’t come easily. Let’s just do one thing, control the loudspeaker, confining its sound to the four walls of mosques and Imambargahs and, take it from a sinner, half our sectarian problem disappears. Foaming clerics won’t embrace sanity overnight but the potential for mischief, fanning the flames not just of hatred but of mindlessness, will be controlled. The Nawab of Kalabagh was a strong administrator. He had not just Punjab under his watch but the whole of what is present-day Pakistan, and he had his finger on the pulse of things and anything untoward that happened was dealt with an iron hand – this phrase no cliché as far as he was concerned. Mustafa Khar was a strong administrator. The police in Lahore went on strike and he broke the strike not by trying to appease the protesters but by threatening drastic action, such as dismissing the entire force. In the 1970s cattle-rustling was a big thing in the districts of central Punjab, farmers in a state of fear because of the widespread practice and nothing being done about it. Khar put an end to cattle-rustling by coming down hard on the police force. Talk to any old farmer and he will tell you all about it. (Khar may have been up to no good in other matters but that’s a different story.) Pray, can anyone please say on what precisely rests the present CM’s reputation for tough administration? Metro-bus, flowers on the Mall, ticking off officials? He has a chance to prove himself on the loudspeaker issue but I am sure he’ll find some way to get round it. As for wall chalking, which relates not only to sectarianism but to such esoteric matters as sure-fire cures for ailments as varied and interesting as piles and impotence, PM Sharif is fairly familiar with London, that being his second if not his first home. Does he find any wall chalking there? If all you acquire from there is the pleasure of avid shopping not much use in being a half-Londoner. There should be no wall-chalking at all, period. If we can’t do this and can’t control that other menace, the loudspeaker, we might as well give up altogether on the Taliban and terrorism. Tailpiece: Things may be bleak on the political front but some truly sensational stuff is happening in the world of music. If you haven’t heard Masuma Anwar you are missing something. What a voice…sultry and husky and honey all over it, and such feeling and passion that even the dead would come alive. And while there is so much nonsense on television, there are some beautiful programmes – wait for this – on PTV Home, none better than Firdous-e-Gosh on Wednesday evenings (10 pm), compered by Fariha Pervez and Faheem Mazhar (gosh, both of them such marvellous singers). If you think hope is lost, listen to Masuma. If you are down in the dumps, give talk shows a break and listen to this Fareeha and Faheem show. I felt depressed. Then, flipping channels, I saw this revelation by the name of Masuma and my spirits soared… “Then felt I like some watcher of the skies, When a new planet swims into his ken…” But my enthusiasm carries me away
EDITORIALThe Prime Minister’s (PM) Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz had assured the members of rthe Senate’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs the other day that the US would halt drone strikes
By Palash GhoshBalochistan, Pakistan’s vast and underpopulated southwestern region, is rich in natural resources, but also lawless, poor and vulnerable to recurring sectarian and separatist violence. In addition, relatively few children in the province, which borders Iran on the west and Afghanistan on the north, attend school on a regular basis, guaranteeing a future mired in poverty.According to a report in Dawn, an English-language Pakistani daily, more than 2.3 million Baloch children -- out of a total of 3.6 million school-age youths in the province -- do not go to school. Ghullam Ali Baloch, the education secretary of Balochistan, told Dawn that children in his jurisdiction also score poorly on other social measures, including literacy, health, sanitation and access to safe drinking water. Dr. Malik Baloch, the chief minister of Balochistan, admitted the dismal scenario for children, but vowed that “we will bring back these kids to school.” To that end, the provincial government has committed increased funding for the educational sector, not only to build more schools and hire more teachers, but also to reform existing "dysfunctional" schools in the province. There are some 12,600 primary, middle and high schools across the province, employing some 56,000 teachers. But Education Secretary Baloch alleges that at least 2,000 of these schools are not functioning properly and at least 3,000 of these teachers are not performing their duties, some of them not even showing up for work. “I have directed the education department to take strict action against absent teachers,” said the chief minister. However, some independent sources in the province claim the numbers are far worse than what the government has divulged. Mujeebullah Gharsheen, president of the All Government Teachers Association, told Dawn that he estimates that more than 6,000 Baloch schools are non-functional and more than 5,000 teachers do not even appear in the classrooms, nor are they qualified. "A large number of teachers in [the provincial capital city of] Quetta and other parts of Balochistan have been working [with] fake degrees in educational institutions,” Gharsheen said. "Even in Quetta city there are 700 teachers working [with] fake degrees. They enjoy complete impunity.” The Society for Empowering Human Resources (SEHR), an anti-poverty activist organization, estimated that nearly half (47 percent) of children of school age in Balochistan have no access to education, and fully 1 million children have never attended school even once in their entire lives. “If we fail to bring these children back to schools, it would be disastrous,” warned the chief minister. Dawn explained that in particularly marginalized and poverty-stricken corners of Balochistan, some parents send their children to madrassas (Islamic seminaries) due to the absence of functioning public schools. “Madrassas provides food, accommodation and other facilities, something which [government-run public] schools cannot,” Niamatullah Khan, an education activist, said. “Madrassas teach Islamic education and provides all facilities to my son,” a parent named Haji Muhammad Yar in the Pishin district, near the border of Afghanistan, told Dawn. Some parents and others in Balochistan complain that government-run schools are underfunded, underequipped and staff are underqualified. Even Education Secretary Baloch admitted that many teachers are taking their salaries but not performing their jobs, adding that only 5 percent of the schools had “proper rooms” and equipment. “There is no education in government-run schools,” said Mehmood Khan, who works at a private TV station. “Despite limited resources, I had my children admitted in a private school since the teachers are doing their jobs.” Under the administration of former military dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf, some 3,000 madrassas were registered in Balochistan alone. But Dawn estimated that there are more than 10,000 “unregistered” madrassas operating in the province. However, it is unclear if the madrassas are providing significant education beyond a knowledge of Islam and the Holy Quran. Meanwhile, private schools are prohibitively expensive for most Baloch parents. Those who cannot gain admission to madrassas must work to help support their families. Making things worse for Balochistan is the seemingly endless battle between the Pakistani army and Baloch nationalists who demand either complete separation from the state or autonomy (which Islamabad will never agree to, given, among other things, the vast potential wealth of Balochistan’s untapped gas, oil and resources). The endless chaos and violence has prompted many teachers and other qualified professionals to flee the dangerous region. “There is serious dearth of teachers in Baloch areas as result of the growing insurgency,” said Niamatullah Khan. Further, the feudal attitudes of some conservative rural Baloch also discourage the attainment of education. “People in remote areas still consider education as un-Islamic,” Niamatullah Khan added. But it is poverty that may serve as the largest obstacle to education, as small children must work to help feed their impoverished families. The Express Tribune newspaper reported child labor is widespread in Balochistan with no effective legislation in place designed to ban such practices. For example, the International Labour Organisation said that some 500 children are working in dangerous coal mines in the Loralai district of Balochistan. “Children below the age of 14 and even [as young as] eight in some cases are working in coal mines,” said ILO Senior Program Officer Farrukh Waseem Mirza. “Interestingly, a majority of the kids have migrated [here] from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa [province].” Pakistan’s government has not issued a detailed study on child labor since 1996, when it was revealed that 3.3 million children in the country were working. Balochistan accounted for one-sixth of that figure, although the province accounts for a far smaller portion of nation’s total population. In Quetta, the Express Tribune reported, children toil as garbage-collectors, carpenters and even as automobile mechanics. “We have identified sectors where children are working as laborers. These employers are risking children’s health,” Mirza said. According to SEHR, more than 10,000 children in Quetta are working as laborers, 60 percent of them garbage-pickers. The vast majority of these children in Quetta are believed to be Afghan refugees. The ILO has drafted a bill called the Prohibition of Child Employment Act which remains subject to approval by the Balochistan Assembly.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Patron-in-chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has appealed to people to pray for peace, tranquillity and brotherhood in the country in their Friday prayers and discourage those elements which are out to “tear apart nation’s unity by fanning sectarianism”.