Sunday, December 8, 2013

Quarter of Europeans face poverty – Eurostat

Over 124 million people in the European Union – or almost a quarter of its entire population - live under the threat of poverty or social exclusion, a report by EU’s statistical office has revealed. Last year, 124.5 million people, or 24.8 percent of Europe’s population were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, compared to 24.3 percent in 2011 and 23.7 percent in 2008, the Eurostat said in a document published earlier in the week. The data included people who were falling within at least one of the three categories: at-risk-of-poverty, severely materially deprived or living in households with very low work intensity. Bulgaria (49 percent), Romania (42 percent) and Latvia (37 percent) top the list, followed by Greece, Lithuania and Hungary. In comparison, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic (both 15 percent), Finland (17 percent), Sweden and Luxemburg (both 18 percent) can boast the lowest number of people at risk of poverty. However, even founding EU countries like Italy are struggling more than ever. Some 18.2 million -Italians are facing poverty – that is the highest number in the EU, even though proportionally (29.2 % of the population) the country seems to be doing not too bad. With the Italian economy going through its longest recession since the World War II, over 12 percent of adults are unemployed, while four out of ten young people don't have a job. There are no official figures on the homeless, RT’s Egor Piskunov reports. Marco, 46, used to work as a pizzaiolo (pizza maker) - many Italians used to call it ‘the golden skill’ which would always get you work in Rome. However, it did not hold true for Marco, who was sacked one day and has not been hired since. He has been living on the street for about four years now and says he sees little chance of fixing his life. “When you live on the street, survival is what takes up most of your time. Simply getting a shower is a challenge. It takes so much time to take care of yourself as a normal person. You reach the end of the day and you’re exhausted and depressed,” he told RT. With the number of those in need increasing, more Italians are beginning to turn to charity and humanitarian aid for help. Pietro Zezza is a volunteer at Caritas Food Emporium in Rome – a place where people can get food for free. “Two years ago we had about 55 percent of foreigners and 45 percent of Italians coming here,” he said. “Today we have about 65 percent of Italians and 35 percent of foreigners. So the figures are reversing.” Groceries from the shelves of this “shop” are given in exchange for points allocated to low income families by the global charity network Caritas. Most of the food is near its expiration date, except for food specially labeled aid. Caritas is raising the alarm, stressing that around one third of all Italian children are now at risk of poverty and are lacking basic essentials such as protein-rich foods, heating and clothes.

In Soweto and Beyond, Mandela Still Serves as a Beacon of Hope

The walls of the Regina Mundi Catholic Church here are riddled with bullet holes from the days when it was a center of the struggle against apartheid. But on Sunday, parishioners instead focused on the traces of Nelson Mandela. Mr. Mandela’s image is etched in a stained-glass window at the back of the church. A page from a guest book with his signature hangs in the office. And older worshipers still recall his visits to the church, not far from his former home in the township. “I thought of the old man, when he used to say, ‘We blacks will go and will fight for our freedom,’ ” Tom Nakene, 55, a lifelong member of the parish, said after a three-hour Mass on Sunday. “I remembered him, and I prayed for him,” Mr. Nakene said, “wherever he is.” South Africans across the country began a week of commemorations of Mr. Mandela’s life on Sunday with what officials called a day of prayer and reflection. People gathered in houses of worship, private homes and even open fields to pay homage to the man who embodied the struggle against apartheid. For the country’s politicians, Sunday was a day to urge unity and continuity after the death of Mr. Mandela at 95 on Thursday, and national and provincial officials, including President Jacob Zuma, appeared at churches and other places of worship across the country. In Bryanston, near Johannesburg, Mr. Zuma attended a Methodist service, sitting alongside members of Mr. Mandela’s family and his former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Mr. Mandela received his early education in Methodist schools. “We should not forget the values that Madiba stood for and sacrificed his life for,” Mr. Zuma said, referring to Mr. Mandela by his clan name, as he urged South Africans to be guided by Mr. Mandela’s example as an opponent of oppression, a fighter for freedom and a model of forgiveness. For others, the eulogies were freighted with concern about the future, adding a sharper edge to their prayers for peace in the post-Mandela era. In the vast squatter camp of Diepsloot, north of central Johannesburg, where thousands of South Africans and immigrants live in tin shacks with no plumbing and often no electricity, people gathered in tin-walled churches, under trees and in fields to offer prayers for Mr. Mandela. “Thank you, Madiba,” a group of women from Zimbabwe sang plaintively in a meadow of wildflowers. “Nelson Mandela was a leader chosen by God, and now God has called him home,” said Virginia Sibanda, a 40-year-old housekeeper from Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, who has lived in Diepsloot for nearly two decades. “He was a leader not just for South Africa but for all Africans, and the world.” Many migrants living in Diepsloot worried that Mr. Mandela’s death would leave them more vulnerable to the xenophobic attacks they have suffered in recent years. With rising crime, joblessness and deteriorating living conditions, South Africans have frequently turned on those from other countries. Mr. Mandela and his foundation had sought to reduce such violence. “Rumors have been passing through the town that once Mandela dies, we immigrants will be attacked,” said Nkosi Nkomo, the pastor of a small church with a largely Zimbabwean congregation. He spent the weekend outdoors with a small group of followers, praying by a campfire shaded by trees. “Lord, bring us peace in this land,” Mr. Nkomo said. “Let Mandela’s spirit live with us.” The unease about a future without Mr. Mandela was only an undercurrent in a broader celebration of a leader whose life has become a parable for the struggle for freedom. In other parts of the world, people also congregated to remember Mr. Mandela, whose long incarceration and subsequent election as South Africa’s first black president inspired a following far beyond the frontiers of his land. At a service in London, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, called Mr. Mandela South Africa’s “saving grace.” At another church, this one in New York, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio promised to bring the spirit of Mr. Mandela to his mayoralty. At the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, Mr. de Blasio told about 3,000 people: “Tomorrow, we start living out the lessons of Nelson Mandela.” On Tuesday, tens of thousands of South Africans and many foreign dignitaries are expected to gather for a national memorial in a World Cup soccer stadium just outside Soweto. Mr. Mandela’s body will then lie in state for three days in Pretoria at the Union Buildings — once the emblem of the white establishment he helped to overthrow. Many world leaders, including President Obama, are expected to travel to South Africa this week for the formal commemorations. Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, said through a spokesman late Saturday that he would attend Tuesday’s commemoration at the soccer stadium. The South African government said Sunday that at least 53 heads of state planned to attend. The week of memorials will end Sunday with a state funeral in Mr. Mandela’s remote childhood village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape region. The emphasis on spirituality on Sunday recalled the role that religion played on both sides of South Africa’s epic racial and political battle. Among the dominant white Afrikaner minority of that era, the Dutch Reformed Church was often depicted as offering scriptural justification for the policies of racial separation that became the code of power after the Afrikaner-dominated National Party was elected in 1948. Those who dissented, including Beyers Naude, a prominent Afrikaner cleric, were shunned. Mr. Naude was eventually declared a barred person. During years of protest, South African clerics like the Anglican archbishop Desmond M. Tutu often were embroiled in the turmoil of the country’s segregated black townships. They led calls for the end of apartheid even as they sought to temper the anger of nonwhite South Africans toward compatriots they viewed as stooges of white rule. Some churches, most notably Regina Mundi in Soweto, became crucibles of dissent. On Sunday, the pastor, the Rev. Sebastian J. Rossouw tried to temper concerns over the future by saying Mr. Mandela could inspire others with his vision for the country. Some people have noted, Father Rossouw told hundreds of congregants, that “we will not see another person of his caliber for ages to come.” “I beg to differ,” he said. There can be another Madiba, he later added, saying, “One of us sitting here can be like him.”

‘Saudi intelligence chief met with Israeli officials in Geneva’

According to Iranian media report, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan held talks with Israeli counterpart and others on sidelines of Iran nuclear negotiations
The director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, met with the head of Mossad and several senior Israeli intelligence officials last month on the sidelines of the Geneva nuclear talks between the P5+1 world powers and Iran, according to the semi-official Iranian news agency Fars.Citing the Twitter account of a source “who is well connected with the inner circles of the Saudi secret service,” Fars reported that the meeting took place on November 27 and focused on “containing Iran by any possible means, exercising stronger control over Syria’s jihadist forces, sidelining Muslim Brotherhood and stopping the waves of the Arab Spring.”The report could not be independently confirmed by the Times of Israel.
According to the news agency, reportedly affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Saudis have also been using their contacts with J Street and its director Jeremy Ben Ami to “explore ways of enticing the world powers into war on Syria.” Last month, the Sunday Times reported that Israel was working with Saudi Arabia on coordinating plans for a possible military strike on Iran, with Riyadh prepared to provide tactical support to Jerusalem. According to the paper, Riyadh had agreed to let Israel use its airspace in a military strike on Iran and cooperate over the use of rescue helicopters, tanker planes and drones.

Bahraini court jails 12 anti-regime protesters

A court in Bahrain has sentenced 12 anti-regime protesters, including three minors, to prison terms of up to five years as the Al Khalifa regime steps up its crackdown on dissent. On Sunday, the court sentenced the nine adults to five years in jail each. The three minors were also given three-year prison terms each. Manama has accused the defendants of attacking a police patrol with petrol bombs. On December 2, a Bahraini court sentenced 16 anti-regime activists to seven years in prison each for allegedly attacking a police vehicle during an anti-government demonstration. According to Bahrain’s main opposition party, al-Wefaq, the Manama regime's harsh clampdown on pro-democracy activists has intensified over the past months. In October, Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa, said, “The [Bahraini] authorities simply slap the label 'terrorist' on defendants and then subject them to all manner of violations to end up with a 'confession'.” Bahrainis have been staging demonstrations since mid-February 2011, calling for political reforms and a constitutional monarchy, a demand that later changed to an outright call for the ouster of the ruling Al Khalifa family following its brutal crackdown on popular protests. Scores have been killed, many of them under torture while in custody, and thousands more detained since the popular uprising started in the kingdom. Physicians for Human Rights says doctors and nurses have been detained, tortured, or disappeared because they have "evidence of atrocities committed by the authorities, security forces, and riot police" in the crackdown on anti-government protesters. Protesters say they will continue to hold anti-regime demonstrations until their demands for the establishment of a democratically-elected government and an end to rights violations are met.

Afghan Music: Farzana Naz - Shamal

Musharaf Bangash !! Da Zamong Watan Afghanistan De

Time to Leave Afghanistan: Hamid Karzai Gives Washington a Welcome Shove

Doug Bandow Doug BandowSenior Fellow, the Cato Institute
The longest war in American history drags on, with Washington a captive of purposeless inertia. The Obama administration should bring all U.S. forces home from Afghanistan and turn the conflict over to the Afghans. After Afghan-based terrorists orchestrated the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Washington invaded the Central Asian nation. The Bush administration had little choice but to make an example of the Taliban regime as well as target al Qaeda. Members of any government giving sanctuary to those who attack Americans need to understand that they will no longer be members of any government.
But that lesson was delivered 12 long years ago when U.S. forces aided indigenous opponents of the Taliban to capture Kabul. If nation-building in Central Asia ever was a realistic objective, the moment soon passed. The Bush administration shifted its gaze to Iraq and careened to disaster along the Euphrates.
Yet President Bush continued to pursue a resource-starved counter-insurgency campaign in Afghanistan. The conflict wasn't as costly -- in lives or money -- as Iraq, but the war lacked serious strategic rationale. As 9/11 receded into the past, fewer Americans had any idea what the fighting was about. President Barack Obama took office having opposed the Iraq invasion, but twice increased the number of troops in Afghanistan. Still, he promised that U.S. forces would return home
. Last year Vice President Joe Biden stated simply: "We are leaving. We are leaving in 2014. Period." But now the administration wants American troops to stick around, for years, if not forever. The newly negotiated Bilateral Security Agreement would take effect on January 15, 2015 and run until "the end of 2024 and beyond." The administration apparently hopes to keep between 8,000 and 15,000 troops on station.
The president has made Afghanistan his war.
Why? Back when even some Republicans began turning against the conflict, the Heritage Foundation's Baker Spring said the Afghan war was necessary to "defend the vital interests of the United States." These days "vital interests" have taken over the role of "patriotism," which Samuel Johnson famously called "the last refuge of a scoundrel." Almost any issue any where in the world is routinely elevated to "vital" status to justify extensive and expensive U.S. intervention. Afghanistan never was vital to America. Not even during the Cold War. After the Soviet invasion in December 1979 the conflict offered a convenient and inexpensive (for Washington, not the Afghan people) opportunity to bleed Moscow dry. Less then a decade later Soviet forces withdrew. The U.S. government has been criticized for then losing interest in the struggle, but there was little Washington could have done. The civil war continued. There was no peace to keep and only direct military intervention could have imposed one. America had neither cause nor ability to do so. Osama Bin Laden again focused U.S. attention on Afghanistan, but only the transitory terrorist connection made control of Kabul critical to America. With the displacement of al Qaeda and punishment of the Taliban, Afghanistan quickly receded in importance. Observed Biden: "we went there for one reason: to get those people who killed Americans, al Qaeda. We've decimated al Qaeda central. We have eliminated Osama bin Laden. That was our purpose." So what is Washington doing there today? A mix of nation-building, democracy-promotion, and humanitarian intervention. The State Department's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, James F. Dobbins, warned that if the U.S. fails to maintain its presence "you project into the upcoming electoral period a degree of instability caused by growing alarm at Afghanistan returning to the 1990s." The election could turn into "winner takes all" and "every man for himself, where losers in the election don't just go into the opposition but get killed or go into exile."
However, if the Afghan political system is as fragile as Dobbins suggests despite years of allied military and financial support, the few thousand personnel the Obama administration hopes to keep in country won't make much difference. In fact, social engineering in Afghanistan has failed. Coincident with the negotiation over the BSA was the announcement that the Afghan Justice Ministry was drafting a new penal code which would punish adulterers by stoning--the same penalty imposed by the previous Taliban government.
Moreover, war is a dubious humanitarian tool. Afghan civilian deaths are in the thousands. The Taliban are the greater killers, but the conflict is their occasion for doing so. Moreover, the U.S. bears responsibility for misdirected air strikes, violent home raids, and substantial other "collateral damage." Before his recall even Gen. Stanley McChrystal complained about checkpoint killings: "We've shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force." Hundreds of thousands of Afghans have been displaced, many fleeing into Pakistan. Why else should Washington stay in Afghanistan? The country's travails are destabilizing its neighbors, most obviously Pakistan, but the conflict is the most harmful factor. Unfortunately, American involvement exacerbates the problem. There is near-constant confrontation with Islamabad over cross-border incidents, drone strikes, supply convoys, and more. The Economist magazine worried about "a civil war that might suck in the local powers, including Iran, Pakistan, India and Russia," which would eventually "end up harming America." Yet the price of conflict without America is likely to remain far less than with America. Neither history, with three decades of war, or geography, with porous borders, gives much hope for eliminating the Taliban and stabilizing the region. Some U.S. officials want to keep troops in Afghanistan for embassy security. However, most of the projected personnel would be scattered about the country, not available to protect diplomatic posts. Washington better would reduce its vulnerability by staying out of the fighting and reducing the size of its facility alongside its ambitions. The last stand for U.S. officials is counterterrorism. When I visited Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011 I received a plethora of briefings. Allied commanders and officials routinely justified the Western presence as being necessary to prevent an al Qaeda revival. Back in America John Bolton similarly contended that the Taliban and al Qaeda had to be defeated lest they "reconquer Afghanistan and make it a base for international terrorism." Yet this scenario is highly unlikely. Global al-Qaeda is weak if not moribund, more a symbolic franchise than an ongoing operation. Three years ago CIA Director Leon Panetta concluded: "At most, we're looking at 50 to 100, maybe less" al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan. Terrorists don't need to locate in Afghanistan when they can operate in Pakistan and many other nations. Indeed, al Qaeda affiliates seem to be far more active in Yemen, Syria, and increasingly Iraq than in Afghanistan. Moreover, even a triumphant Taliban wouldn't likely welcome back the group which brought down the wrath of America. There is evidence that top Taliban leaders were not pleased by their guest's behavior in 2001. Indeed, Washington should point out that the lesson of 9/11 still applies: aid terrorists against America and suffer the consequences. For the most part, the largely Pashtun Taliban isn't interested much in larger struggles. Its members simply don't want foreign occupation of their land. Concluded a Washington Post story on administration deliberations on a full withdrawal: "Many of the groups that U.S. forces target in Afghanistan -- most notably the Afghan Taliban -- do not appear eager to attack Americans or U.S. interests outside the country."
The strongest argument against the "zero option" of no troops is that it would limit Washington's capability to strike elsewhere, most notably in Pakistan. One unnamed administration official told the Post: "The footprint of the intelligence community depends to some extent on the footprint of the military." No doubt, fewer troops would mean less reach. However, the projected 8,000 to 15,000 military personnel, servicing a complex of bases, communications facilities, airfields, and out-size embassy, look more configured to act in the civil war that is likely to continue. The draft BSA allows U.S. forces to engage in combat if "mutually agreed" and notes that "U.S. military operations to defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates may be appropriate in the common fight against terrorism." The Post cited Pentagon officials as affirming that widely dispersed bases "would allow U.S. intelligence personnel and Special Operations forces to remain within easy striking distance of insurgent groups in the tribal area that straddles the border with Pakistan." Yet insurgents against the Pakistan government are even less likely than the Afghan Taliban to attack America.
Further, the larger the projected presence, even if focused on counterterrorism, the greater the target for terrorists, insurgents, and malcontents of any variety. Better a much smaller counterterrorist operation, perhaps embedded within an Afghan base to lower its profile. Better still would be moving any operations off-shore, as with Yemen. Action "would get longer, slower and harder," said Linda Robinson of RAND. Nevertheless, that would be a cost worth paying to restrain dubious American military involvement.
Moreover, Washington should scale back its drone operations in Pakistan and elsewhere. It's not easy to assess the current program's costs and benefits, and especially the number of non-combatants killed -- with a consequent rise in hostility toward America. But so-called "signature" strikes, in which most anyone in proximity to suspected terrorists is viewed as a likely terrorist, undoubtedly kill locals who threaten no one. Further, the U.S. began targeting the Pakistan Taliban apparently on the rationalization that Pakistani militants might threaten Americans in Pakistan. Unfortunately, blowback was inevitable: the would-be Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad, was motivated by U.S. drone strikes and trained by the PT, after it found itself under attack.
Nevertheless, the administration remains committed to preserving a sizeable military presence in Afghanistan. However, President Karzai unexpectedly declared that he did not want to sign the BSA until after April's presidential election. He convened a Loya Jirga, or grand council, to debate the accord, but told the meeting that "This pact should be signed when the election has already taken place, properly and with dignity." The Obama administration is insisting on immediate approval. Said National Security Adviser Susan Rice: "Without a prompt signature, the U.S would have no choice but to initiate planning for a post-2014 future in which there would be no U.S. or NATO troop presence in Afghanistan."
The dispute has turned into an international game of chicken. Karzai admitted: "My trust with America is not good. I don't trust them and they don't trust me. During the past ten years I have fought with them and they have made propaganda against me." Some suspect that Karzai hopes to enhance his nationalist credentials and administration's reputation, as well as wring more benefits out of Washington. Four years ago U.S. ambassador Karl Eikenberry opined: "He and much of his circle do not want the U.S. to leave and are only too happy to see us invest further. They assume we covet their territory for a never-ending war on terror and for military bases to use against surrounding powers." Former and future Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah said that Karzai "thinks the Americans are keen to stay in Afghanistan at any price and at any cost." In fact, Karzai told the Loya Jirga: "We want the Americans to respect our sovereignty and be an honest partner. And bring a lot of money."
While Afghan support is necessary for any continued American presence, it is not enough. The U.S. presence should serve U.S. interests. American security guarantees are popular around the globe: The Europeans, Australians, Japanese, and South Koreans have subcontracted their defense to Washington since the 1950s. And none of them has tired of the subsidy. Afghanistan likely would be no different. In putting off implementation of the BSA President Karzai actually is doing America a favor. U.S. troops actually might leave Central Asia -- as they should.
What would follow? It almost certainly would not be the sort of liberal, democratic society which the West favors. However, Taliban misrule and brutality have left most Afghans with little enthusiasm for a repeat of the past. In fact, the existing regime might prove to be more resilient than expected: contra expectations, Soviet client Mohammed Najibullah survived for three years on his own before the Mujahedeen triumphed. Most likely may be a fractured nation -- a tragedy, to be sure, but one beyond U.S. remedy, at least at satisfactory cost.
Americans have been fighting in Afghanistan for longer than the Civil War, World War I, and World War II combined. America has overstayed its welcome. It's time to go home.

Hagel Lands In Afghanistan To Press For Security Agreement

Karzai in Iran amid security deal row with US
At the head of a high-level delegation, President Hamid Karzai on Sunday landed in Tehran for a one-day state visit to hold talks with Iranian leadership on issues of mutual interest amid a row with the US over a security accord. Iran’s official news agency, IRNA reported the visiting Afghan president was warmly welcomed by Vice President Mohammad Shariatmadari upon arrival at Mehrabad airport. During his one-day stay, the Afghan president is to hold talks with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani and a number of senior Iranian officials on issues of mutual interest.
Karzai will meet Rouhani for the second time in four months in Tehran, and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. The Presidential Palace in Kabul issued a statement saying the president left Kabul for Tehran for a one-day visit to discuss with his Iranian counterpart measures pertaining to bilateral relations in various fields. The statement, received by Pajhwok Afghan News, said the Iranian president had invited President Karzai to visit Tehran when he last travelled to the neighbouring country four months ago.
Tehran strongly backs Karzai's stance in refusing to sign the security deal with the US, allowing NATO troops to operate in Afghanistan after 2014. IRNA reported the deal will be discussed during the talks. Karzai’s visit to Iran is taking place a day after US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Kabul for an unannounced visit and held talks with his Afghan counterpart Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, Chief of Army Staff Sher Mohammad Karimi and deputy interior minister.
After the meeting, Hagel said he received assurances from Mohammadi that the deal would be signed soon. Hagel did not meet Karzai, saying that Kabul was already aware of the US position. Washington and its allies have appealed to Karzai to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA). Iran's position on the BSA is that it would not serve the interests of its eastern neighbour. "Iran does not see the signing and ratifying of this security pact to be beneficial for the long-term interests of the people and government of Afghanistan," foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said Tuesday.

‘Pakistan’s strongest weapon is the weapon of denial’

Why do you think Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif picked Gen. Raheel Sharif to succeed Gen. Kayani as Army Chief over more senior officers?
Gen. Sharif is the younger brother of an iconic deceased military figure who happened to be a batchmate of Pervez Musharraf. When Raheel Sharif was commissioned in 1976, we learn that Mr Musharraf took him under his wing. As such, it’s a surprise actually that PM Sharif selected an Army Chief who is a protégé of Mr Musharraf. However, Gen. Sharif was a commander of the 11 Infantry Division in Lahore and 30 Corps in Gujranwala, which is the heart of (Pakistani) Punjab. So he must have come into very close contact with the (Nawaz) Sharif family. That is probably how he developed that comfort level with the current political dispensation in Pakistan. Besides, Gen Sharif has neither served with the Inter-Services Intelligence nor with the Operations/ Intelligence Directorate. In his last assignment, he dealt with training and doctrinal aspects. The doctrinal study on counter-insurgency has probably been authored by him. There is a Pakistani writer who recently mentioned that Gen. Sharif does not have the personality of an Army Chief who would lead the nation into a war. I feel that Gen. Sharif in his time will mature, and find his own place among equals. I discount theories that he is not aggressive and not capable. He is an infantry officer with a good operational orientation and cerebral capability and has the right political backing.
Under Gen. Sharif do you think there can be a reversal of Gen. Kayani’s confrontationist policy on the Line of Control?
This year there have been several infringements of the ceasefire. It is very important for Pakistan to try and keep the fire of disgruntlement burning in Kashmir. There are fewer than 250 terrorists in the Kashmir Valley now. Pakistan probably thought if it does not act now, its ability to calibrate turbulence in the valley will be severely compromised. In late 2012, Pakistan probably decided that the LoC has to be re-activated because the Indian Army had its focus on the Jammu and Kashmir hinterland and was succeeding in moulding public opinion towards itself in a positive way. Many militant leaders were eliminated in focused counter-terrorist operations. This is what was worrying the Pakistan Army. Given this, I don’t think there can be a drastic change towards J&K and towards India (as a whole). I don’t think anyone heading the Pakistan Army can take an overnight decision to suddenly switch off Kashmir. In the next six months, I don’t expect any change in policy. The Pakistan Army has been brought up on a diet of anti-Indianism. This basic orientation of the Pakistan Army will not change. Pakistan’s modified military doctrine warns of a disproportionate response vis-à-vis India. India’s doctrine of Cold Start (now called Proactive Strategy) — to address the problem of our slow mobilisation — has never really been enunciated. It, of course, worried Pakistan and they permanently moved some of their formations to more appropriate locations closer to the border. Earlier, Pakistan was able to mobilise forces much faster compared to India. Pakistan then decided to bring some offensive formations south of the Chenab. It also decided to adopt a policy of “react first and mobilise later”.
This is a very major change in the doctrine of Pakistan whereby Pakistan will rely on swift and potent reaction with what is available and then supplement it with mobilisation.
Should this not succeed, as a last act of desperation, Pakistan could well resort to the use of tactical nuclear weapons, a capability it is keenly developing. And there is an assumption that in any fallout with India, the Afghan border will be downplayed. One-third of their brigades are on the Afghan border. These will be brought back. They appear to have some kind of understanding with the Taliban that in case of any conflict with India, the Taliban will switch off and allow the Pakistan Army to react to the Indian Army.
How would you react to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement — that Pakistan cannot win a war against India — which was made in response to a comment from the Pakistan Prime Minister which has since been denied?
Pakistan’s strongest weapon is the weapon of denial. We should not be naive. PM Sharif’s purported statement — that Kashmir is a flashpoint and can trigger a fourth war with India — was part of political gamesmanship. Such aggressive verbal posturing is usual when a Pakistani Prime Minister visits Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. However, it is very significant that our Prime Minister has reacted to it. His message was unambiguous — that Pakistan cannot meddle militarily with India and ever hope to succeed. I think it was required and has effectively conveyed our stance. Mr Sharif may have been testing the waters.
How do you see the current civil-military relations in Pakistan.?
The Pakistan Army’s relationship with the civilian government should pan out positively. The Pakistan Army does not want to take up governance of the country. It has too much on its hands already.
What will be the Pakistan Army’s strategy on its western border and Afghanistan ahead of the pullout of foreign troops next year?
Pakistan is looking at stability. The Pakistan Army’s strategy is to weaken the Pakistani Taliban. It is not easy to defeat such an insurgency. The strategy would be to stabilise and to prevent further radicalisation. For Pakistan, it is important to engage with Afghanistan and to ensure that no factor perceived to be hostile is allowed to germinate in its backyard.
Some say the situation in Afghanistan has to be closely monitored in the context of infiltration into Kashmir.?
I don’t think there will be any sudden and sharp influx into J&K after the pullout of foreign troops from Afghanistan. The Indian Army is alert on the LoC. However, Pakistan will continue moral and material support to separatism in J&K with the possibility of keeping the LoC active to facilitate infiltration, as it has done in the past.

Pakistan: Muslim landlords rape two Hindu women, murder one for reporting
Two scheduled caste Hindu women were raped by their Muslim landlords in front of their family members. Kakoo Kohli, 24, and her elder sister, Nallan, 26, who belong to the Jane sect of the Hindu religion, were both raped by one Mohammad Khadim Shar and his brother Sirajuddin Shar, it has been alleged. The suspects are the sons of the landlord and the owner of the village, Mr. Lalu Ilyas Shar, it has been further reported. According to a report issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), one of them was girl was later murdered in revenge for making a police report. The murder victim and her mother, the report said, were abducted in broad daylight by one of the landlords from outside the clinic of a doctor and the daughter was shot dead in front of her mother. AHRC report said the Shadi Pali Police Station of Umer Kot district, Sindh, took time to register the First Information Report (FIR) allowing the rapists time to flee the area. The family members of the victims are displaced from their village and are living on the roadside in the cold nights but the police and authorities have refused to help them. "In providing protection to the rapists, the police and notables of the area forced the victims to reach to a settlement and give amnesty to the rapists," AHRC report recorded. "Once again the police have shown their efficiency to get approval from judicial magistrate so that perpetrators are freed."
read more about this horrible incident at:

Pakistan's Islami Jamiat-e-Tulaba - a sardonic joke

By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid
When some of the most wanted terrorists are seen 'hanging out' in some of the biggest universities in the country, the vulnerability of the security situation is self-explanatory
The Islami Jamiat-e-Tulaba (IJT), the student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), has metamorphosed into a bit of a joke in recent times — one that is more sardonic than funny. The IJT resorts to violence ostensibly to safeguard their much touted ideology of peace; vie to safeguard women’s integrity by harassing them into conforming to their version of modesty; declare a man responsible for the killing of thousands of fellow citizens a ‘martyr’; earn their proverbial bread and butter courtesy anti-US chants despite supporting the US being a part of their raison d’etre, and sometimes they set buses ablaze merely days after complaining about the lack of buses on their campus.
Last week, IJT activists clashed with policemen, the Punjab University (PU) administration and, for all practical purposes, most of Lahore, after being ordered to clear hostel number 16 for the accommodation of girls, which resulted in chaos and a traffic blockade on University Road. Hostel number 16 and hostel number one are renowned hubs of the IJT but that was not the only reason the PU administration took the decision to convert it to a girls’ hostel. It was also a manoeuvre to balance skewed accommodations since, despite formulating virtually half of the student strength in the university, the girls still do not have sufficient rooms.
For the university administration, it was an act of hitting two birds with one stone but, for the IJT, the stone struck the spot where it hurts them the most since it pinched the organisation’s nerve centre with booze, bhang and bullets being dug out of rooms in hostel number 16. While the former is one of the many aspects that add scorn to the sardonic joke, it is the latter that makes it not quite so funny, especially after a member of al Qaeda’s ‘suicide squad’ was arrested from the hostel in September this year after being sheltered by the IJT.
When the mastermind of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, was arrested from a JI women’s wing leader’s house in Rawalpindi almost a decade ago, the JI’s links with al Qaeda were — or should have been — established. However, handlers of the terrorist organisation’s suicide squad staying in university hostels is a different kettle of fish altogether.
The newly surfacing alliance between the IJT and al Qaeda is more menacing than the many linkages that exist of the establishment and political parties, going all the way down to the grassroots. The IJT have their stranglehold in most top universities and colleges in Pakistan while the JI has a massive financial influx solely dedicated to bolstering the aforementioned alliance under the shroud of running schools, madrassas and charities. The killing of Abdur Rehman, an IJT activist in a drone strike in North Waziristan on November 29, 2013, has further thrown some extremely deadly cats among very vulnerable pigeons. Abdur Rehman, who was involved in the Mehran Naval Base attack, was an NED student, expelled from the university owing to severe shortage of attendance. The fact that he was killed in a drone strike adds credence to the security agencies’ claim that members of the IJT are now well and truly an active part of al Qaeda. And have been for over a decade now. While the security agencies have unravelled how IJT activists have been recruited to be trained by al Qaeda (a process started by the Islamic Medical Association’s president, Dr Arshad Waheed) over the past decade, echoes of the JI and IJT being banned are reverberating from various quarters as well since the ‘Shaheedgate’ episode starring JI chief Munawar Hassan, which saw the establishment turn against its historic chum. Even so, a more pertinent question than the potential banning of the JI is ensuring the security of campuses all over Pakistan where the IJT is providing ‘guest rooms’ for al Qaeda terrorists to stay in. When some of the most wanted terrorists are seen ‘hanging out’ in some of the biggest universities in the country, the vulnerability of the security situation is self-explanatory.
The JI and the IJT are proving themselves to be a political smokescreen for terrorist organisations, and their reaction following Hakeemullah Mehsud’s killing showcases where their allegiance lies quite unambiguously. Maybe taking a leaf out of Bangladesh’s book would be a great idea for Pakistan but, before that, some serious security measures need to be taken to make sure the sardonic joke of student politics is purged out of university campuses. For, the worst of worst fears could come true if al Qaeda has the last laugh.

Former President Zardari : Nelson Mandela to be remembered for great cause
Former President Asif Ali Zardari said that in the death of Nelson Mandela the world has lost a great son whose passing away will be mourned not only in South Africa but also throughout the world.
Even in a distant age, he will be remembered as an icon of peace and reconciliation in a world torn by strife and conflict, this has been stated by the former president in a condolence message on the death of Nelson Mandela. “Personally, Mandela suffered hugely for the cause and for the unification of his country but bore ill will towards none,” he said adding that he forgave his worst enemies but did not forget. That trait of his enabled him to achieve the most elusive of things namely, truth and reconciliation. Many medals have been conferred on Mandela in recognition of his humanism and ceaseless political struggle that brought enemies together without violence. But no medal on his chest will shine as brightly as the scars he bore on his soul in the course of this epic struggle, he added.
Nelson Mandela brought together the forces of humanity and his death will be mourned by humanity, not just the people of South Africa. May Allah rest the soul of this great man in eternal peace, prayed the former President.

Karachi: Iranian stall at book fair closed after ASWJ protest

A stall set up by the Iranian consulate at the Karachi International Book Fair in the Expo Centre has been closed after a religious organisation held a protest against the display of what it alleged controversial books.
The Iranian consulate rejected the allegation.
Activists of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat staged the demonstration outside the Expo Centre in protest against the display of “sectarian” books at the stall. The protest continued for a considerable time and ended only after police removed those books from the stall, police and ASWJ officials said. An ASWJ spokesman accused the Iranian consulate of selling controversial books at the fair and said they had submitted an application to the Aziz Bhatti police station for action into the matter. Rejecting the ASWJ’s allegation, the consulate said in a statement that Iran had always raised voice for the unity of Muslims and “wrong statements of those organisations which are themselves illegal and involved in fuelling sectarianism and sectarian strife among Muslims can never be the standard of measurement of a reality”. It said that noble people of Pakistan had rich Islamic culture and negative statements of “followers of a deviant ideology” could not affect friendship between Iran and Pakistan.

The smuggled Shakespeare book that inspired Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela spent almost three decades in jail, but he wasn't alone -- he had two Indian goddesses and a 17th century playwright for company.
Locked in solitary confinement on Robben Island, newspapers were banned and letters from loved ones a rare treat. Where did he find the inspiration to continue his long struggle for freedom? As the twittersphere explodes with quotes from the legendary leader, it's perhaps easy to forget there was a time when Mandela was in need of a few words of wisdom himself. He found them in the musings of another great thinker -- one born centuries before and on the other side of the world. A tattered book covered in luminous Hindu deities might have seemed like a strange choice for the South African political activist languishing in his cell.
But the beatifically smiling women on the cover knew something the prison wardens didn't.
Inside was the "Complete Works of Shakespeare," and the historic text became a source of strength for Mandela and his fellow inmates during their darkest days.
A bible by any other name
It became known as the "Robben Island Bible," and today is one of the most remarkable artifacts from Mandela's 27 years in jail. "What resonance does a white guy from England 400 years ago have to a group of South African political prisoners in the latter half of the 20th century?" said Matthew Hahn, who wrote a play based on the "Robben Island Bible," and interviewed many of the inmates who read it. "There's this universality to Shakespeare -- including many lessons on good and bad leadership -- and I think Mandela found resonance in his words. He once said that 'To be taken seriously as a politician, one must always quote from Shakespeare,' and a lot of his speeches when he was president did just that."
The valiant
The book was smuggled into the jail by political prisoner Sonny Venkatrathnam, who disguised it in colorful Diwali cards celebrating the Hindu festival of lights, convincing the warden it was his bible. Between 1975 and 1978, the volume was passed between 33 of Venkatrathnam's fellow prisoners -- including Mandela.
Many of the inmates signed and dated their names beside particularly poignant passages -- words of hardship, political unrest, or injustice.
Mandela chose a passage from Julius Caesar -- just before the Roman statesman leaves for the senate on the Ides of March -- and his sweeping handwriting on the now-yellowing page is a haunting reminder of the activist's dedication to his cause.
It includes the lines: "Cowards die many times before their deaths/The valiant never taste of death but once."
"I believe when Nelson Mandela signed this passage, he recognized this book would get out and be circulated in the liberation movement -- his would be the quote people looked to," said Hahn.
"It was an incredibly powerful quote -- he lived his entire life according to these two lines." Lasting impression
The quote is all the more poignant considering Mandela's speech during the 1960s Rivonia Trial, where he said: "If need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."
Mandela signed the passage December 16, 1977. He never could have imagined that December 16 would later be known as
"Reconciliation Day" in South Africa -- a public holiday which only came into effect after the fall of apartheid. While Hahn believes the "Robben Island Bible" began as an attempt by Venkatrathnam to gain the autographs of the most famous political activists at the time, it has now become a powerful memento of their many years -- and sources of inspiration -- behind bars.
"It was amazing to see visitors from all over the world drawn to this book like a magnet," said Jonathan Bate, Professor of English Literature at Oxford University, who helped curate the British Museum's Shakespeare exhibition last year.
"It was a coming together of one of the greatest writers of humanity, and one of the greatest humans of the 20th century. With Mandela's death comes a particular poignancy in a passage referring to the death of the valiant."