Tuesday, December 10, 2013
President Obama poses for a funeral selfie and gets chummy with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt but Michelle does not look impressed
http://www.nydailynews.com/President Obama was caught committing a funeral faux pas — snapping a selfie during Nelson Mandela’s memorial service with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and British PM David Cameron. The threesome smiled as the Scandinavian beauty held her smartphone out to capture the moment but Michelle Obama sat at a distance, as if in disapproval of the digital display.Thorning-Schmidt, 46, was animated as she took her place among the dignitaries in the stands at the FNB stadium in Johannesburg for the somber occasion, chatting with other leaders and unabashedly typing away on her device.The Danish politician, who is married to British executive Stephen Kinnock, appeared particularly chummy with President Obama but Michelle Obama, 49, seemed annoyed at the mingling, looking solemn as she stared intently in the opposite direction and paid attention to the proceedings. As the President laughed away with the Danish leader, at least one photograph shows the First Lady flash a disapproving glare in their direction. Thorning-Schmidt, who has two daughters with Kinnock, is the first female prime minister of Denmark. She assumed office in October 2011. She has met Obama on numerous occasions, including a White House visit in February 2012 and the NATO Summit in Chicago in May 2012. In September, Obama visited with Thorning-Schmidt during his visit to Stockholm, when he also met with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.The Danish leader's selfie went viral on Twitter, with scores of comments on the total lack of propriety shown by the three leaders.
A senior military delegation from Saudi Arabia has visited Israel to discuss a deal recently reached between Iran and the six world powers over Tehran’s nuclear energy program, media reports say. Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Salman bin-Sultan Al Saud and two other officers secretly visited Israel, according to reports by the Palestinian news portal al-Manar and Israeli radio. Bin-Sultan, who is the brother of Saudi Arabia’s spy chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, “met Israeli security leaders” and one of the “Israeli military bases accompanied by a senior member of the Israeli staff board”, the al-Manar report said, quoting "confidential sources". On November 24, Iran and the six world powers -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany -- reached an interim deal to pave the way for the full resolution of the West’s decade-old dispute with Iran over its nuclear energy program. In exchange for Tehran’s confidence-building measure to limit certain aspects of its nuclear activities, the six countries agreed to lift some of the existing sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had previously clashed with US President Barack Obama and other Western countries over last month’s deal with Iran, describing it as a "historic mistake” that is bad for Israel. He added that Tel Aviv would not be bound by it. On November 17, the British newspaper The Sunday Times reported that Riyadh has given the go-ahead for Israeli planes to use its airspace for possible attacks on Iran over Tehran’s nuclear energy program. Riyadh denied the Saudi-Israeli cooperation in preparation for an attack on Iran's nuclear program. Iran has repeatedly warned that it will retaliate with its utmost power against any attack on its soil.
http://www.voanews.com/U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has strongly defended the Obama administration's interim deal with Iran on its nuclear program, and asked Congress to hold off on passing any new sanctions on Iran to give ongoing negotiations a chance to succeed. The Senate is sending mixed signals as to whether it will take up a measure to impose new sanctions on Iran before it leaves for recess this year. For the first time since the agreement on Iran was reached in Geneva last month, Secretary of State John Kerry came to Capitol Hill to address concerns that have been voiced by skeptical lawmakers. Kerry heard plenty of those from both Democratic and Republican members of the House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee. The committee's chairman, Ed Royce, a Republican, said Iran has a history of deceiving the international community about its nuclear program. "Iran is not just another country. It simply cannot be trusted with enrichment technology, because verification efforts can never be foolproof," said Royce. Kerry argued that the agreement is a big boost to both U.S. national security and the security of close U.S. allies in the Middle East, including Israel. "Once implemented, this agreement halts the progress of Iran's nuclear program, halts the progress and rolls it back for the first time in nearly 10 years," said Kerry. Kerry appealed to members of the House and the Senate to hold off any efforts to impose new, tougher sanctions against Iran during the six month period specified in the deal, saying this could derail the process. "Let me be very clear: this is a very delicate diplomatic moment and we have a chance to address peacefully one of the most pressing national security concerns that the world faces today,” said Kerry. The House already passed tougher sanctions on Iran in July, but the Senate has not. There are mixed signals coming from the Senate. Republican Senator John McCain, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, indicated to VOA that the panel is considering a new sanctions bill. "[We are] still negotiating, we should have an agreement soon," said McCain. The Senate Banking Committee is not planning to pursue new sanctions against Iran. For this year, the Senate only has a little more than one week to act before a planned recess.
Around 100 heads of state and thousands of South Africans gathered to honour Nelson Mandela at a memorial service in a Johannesburg sports stadium Tuesday. • Family, friends, world leaders and religious figures from various faiths all spoke to pay homage to Nelson Mandela in front of the thousands of South Africans who turned out to celebrate the life of the anti-apartheid hero despite pouring rain at the World Cup stadium in Soweto. • Barack Obama was greeted by wild cheers as he addressed the crowd. The US President said that Mandela was “the last great liberator of the 20th century” and that "we will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again”. • There was embarrassment for Jacob Zuma when he was booed and jeered by the crowd as he arrived in the stadium and again as he prepared to speak. The South African president has been battling criticism over his government’s handling of various issues, including persisting poverty, crime and unemployment. • The booing ceased for Zuma's speech, however, during which he underlined Mandela's role as "a fearless freedom fighter" who “laid the foundation for a better life for all”. • And there was an historic moment as Obama shook hands with Cuban leader Raul Castro, who also spoke at the ceremony. Havana and Washington have not had diplomatic relations since 1961, two years after Raul’s brother Fidel came to power in the Cuban revolution.
The US president, Barack Obama, shook hands with his Cuban opposite number, Raul Castro, at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela.
By HEATHER BARR When, in late November, I read a draft law prepared by Afghan government officials that reintroduced execution by stoning as the punishment for the “crime” of adultery, I was horrified but not that surprised. The draft, leaked to me by someone desperate to prevent reinstatement of this Taliban-era punishment, is just the latest in a pattern of increasingly determined attacks on women’s rights in Afghanistan. The last 12 years have been a time of significant achievements here, hard-fought by Afghan activists. Millions of girls have gone to school, women have joined the police and the army and the civil service. Twenty-eight percent of the members of Afghanistan’s Parliament are women, and a 2009 law made violence against women a crime. But signs are everywhere that a rollback of women’s rights has begun in anticipation of next year’s deadline for the withdrawal of international combat forces. Opponents of women’s rights are already taking advantage of growing international fatigue with Afghanistan. On Monday, the United Nations issued a new report showing that while reported cases of violence against women went up by 28 percent in the last year, prosecutions increased by only 2 percent. A parliamentary debate last May on the Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women was derailed by conservatives calling for the abolition of a minimum marriage age for girls and arguing against making rape a crime. One of President Hamid Karzai’s new handpicked commissioners at the government’s previously well-respected Independent Human Rights Commission is an ex-member of the Taliban government who wasted no time after his appointment before calling for the repeal of the EVAW Law, which he said “violates Islam.” These setbacks have occurred against a backdrop of continuing day-to-day abuses against women that are so commonplace that some extreme practices go almost unnoticed. About half the women in prison in Afghanistan and about 95 percent of girls in juvenile detention — a total of about 600 people — are imprisoned on accusations of “moral crimes,” like sex outside of marriage or running away from home. In reality, most have fled forced marriages or domestic violence. Some are survivors of rape who are blamed by the courts for “immorality,” sometimes alongside their attackers. Their stories are a call to the Afghan government to do much more to track down and punish abusers of women, and to crack down on police officers, prosecutors and judges who treat women fleeing abuse as criminals rather than victims. Above all, the government needs to end the barbaric practice of virginity tests. Whenever a woman or girl is arrested on “morality” charges — and sometimes even when she is accused of non-moral crimes such as theft or assault — she is whisked away for a vaginal examination at a government clinic in the province in which she was arrested. There is no opportunity for her to refuse. Because of frequent mix-ups and general inefficiency, some women are sent for the examination two or three times. The examination, carried out by government doctors, results in a report on whether or not the woman or girl is a “virgin.” These reports are often used as the sole evidence to support “moral crimes” charges in court, aside from a “confession” taken down by a police officer immediately after the arrest, which is usually signed with a thumbprint by a woman or girl who has no idea what it says. I have seen cases where a judge used the report as evidence against a girl even when its findings were inconclusive. For many of the 600 women and girls imprisoned for “moral crimes,” the doctor’s observations are a key factor in her receiving a stiff prison sentence. Forcing these women and girls to undergo invasive vaginal examinations, sometimes repeatedly, to ascertain “virginity” as evidence likely to be used against them in criminal proceedings is not only a form of degrading and inhuman treatment strictly prohibited by international law but also a violation of their basic fair trial rights. All of this would be horrific enough if it weren’t bad science, but it is. “Virginity” tests have no medical validity. A medical examination cannot determine, with any level of accuracy useful to a court, a woman’s sexual history. And despite progress in other countries in banning such examinations, there are no signs of this practice ending in Afghanistan. For vulnerable Afghan women, things are only getting worse. One recently proposed law revision would ban victims of crime from testifying against family members — effectively preventing all prosecutions for domestic violence and forced or underage marriage. Female activists in Afghanistan, who have accomplished so much in the past 12 years, are doing all they can now to prevent that progress from unraveling. Countries, including the United States, have pledged continued funding for services for Afghan women, but in addition to aid they need political support. International support for the Afghan government and its security must depend on continued progress for Afghan women. Anything less would be a betrayal.
www.shiitenews.comAnother Shia notable was shot martyred in a targeted attack of Yazidi nasbi takfiri terrorists of outlawed Sipah-e-Sahaba in Karachi late on Monday night. Shiite News Correspondent reported here that Qamar Hasnain was going to somewhere in his car when notorious Yazidi terrorists ambushed him near Kulsoom Hotel Stop Godhra area New Karachi. He embraced martyrdom on the spot and body was taken to a government hospital for treatment. Martyr Qamar Hasnain was a member of Matami Anjuman Zulfiqar Haideri and owner of two Pakwan shops in Federal B Area Block 17 and Gulshan-e-Maymar. Shia parties and leaders have condemned the targeted murder and surge in genocide against Shiites. They demanded immediate military operation to eliminate terrorists.
All the way through 2013, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has been documenting how too many lives, and the solemnity of those living, have been snatched by a cold state and brutal cruelty in Pakistan. The AHRC’s State of Human Rights Report in Pakistan, 2013, released to mark Human Rights Day observed on 10th of December picking up on the year in Pakistan, inspecting the largely decisive factors that influence the lives of all its citizens. An extract from the statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission on Human Rights Day is presented below:''Appeasement for hardliners means religious minorities are harassed and killed daily. Leaders and spokesmen from banned organisations, some internationally wanted, are allowed to make hate fuelled speeches in public. The government has arrested thousands of alleged extremists over the past four years, but there have been no successful prosecutions due to lack of proper witness protection and half-hearted attempts by the prosecutors. These criminal elements now utilize the weaknesses of the law to their own benefit and collect public donations but are not arrested for fear of upsetting extremist groups. In spite of the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion, minority groups are not protected. Targeted attacks of the Shiites take place in daylight and on public roads in the presence of uniformed personnel; every year, around 200 Shiites are killed in this manner. The groups that claim responsibility for these killings move freely and even have offices in major cities. The Ahmadis are also frequently targeted for their belief, their places of worship are attacked and they are not allowed to carry out their religious observances. Religious fanatics who rape and abuse Christians and Hindus with no fear of consequence or reprisal consider the women of these communities free game. Harassment, forced marriage, and forced conversions of both Christian and Hindu women to Islam is common. When victims do manage to reach the courts, judges rule in favour of their abductors, who are equally supported by religious fundamentalists. This Religious discrimination is forcing native Pakistani Hindus to flee their homeland.''
Killing by Numbers: Data compiled by AHRC (from January to November 28, 2013): Sectarian Violence & Target Killings: Total Attacks: 491 Killed: 2350 Injured: 3786 Terrorist Attacks: Total Attacks: 250 Killed: 2286 Injured: 1609 Suicide Attacks: Total Attacks: 38 Killed: 820 Injured: 1445 Drone Attacks: Total Attacks: 25 Killed: 188 Injured: 160 Total Attack Incidents & Killings: Total incidents: 804 Total killings: 7170 Total injuries: 8746 - See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/human-rights-day-asian-human-rights-commission-outlines-2013-in-pakistan/#sthash.hR4jRhGr.dpuf
The Express TribuneHundreds of commuters remained stranded in traffic for over three hours on Monday as disgruntled residents of Rajar, Charsadda blocked the Tangi-Peshawar Road in protest against prolonged power and gas outages. Nearly 300 protesters led by Qaumi Watan Party MPA Sultan Muhammad Khan blocked the road near Rajar by burning tyres and pelting stones at vehicles heading to Peshawar. They chanted slogans against the Water and Power Development Authority and natural gas supply companies for not providing them basic facilities.
Daily TimesPakistan People’s Party (PPP) Patron-in-Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has strongly condemned the murder of Dalit girl Kaku Kolhi in Shadi Pali on the even of World Human Rights Day to be observed on Tuesday.
The Punjab University hostel administration in an operation against the illegal residents caught 15 outsiders and later handed them over to Muslim Town police station, Geo News reported Tuesday morning.
By: Stephen Kinzer
Cutting military spending and focusing on domestic issues could keep Pakistan from becoming a 'nuclear-armed Somalia'Just four months after taking power, new leaders in Iran have begun a highly promising effort to pull their country out of its isolation and, perhaps, transform it into a stabilizing rather than a destabilizing force. There is little prospect that Saudi Arabia or Israel, which also feed regional tensions, will follow suit. Yet some dare to hope that Pakistan might. The Middle East and surrounding regions are in a period of historic flux. Iran's new policies, upheaval in Egypt, horrific warfare in Syria, state collapse in Libya, and intensifying terror in Iraq reflect the collapse of old structures. One of those structures, in place for more than half a century, has been a Pakistan that falls steadily deeper into poverty while spending huge amounts on weaponry, fomenting terror in neighboring countries, and deepening its self-destructive obsession with imagined security threats. Pakistan stands at an intriguing crossroads. A new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, took office in June. General Pervez Ashfaq Kayani, the army chief of staff who nourished Pakistan's ties with Islamic militants, has just retired. The mercurial chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, will retire this week. Meanwhile, Pakistanis are expressing increasing disgust with their political system. In several parts of the country they have taken to the streets to protest murderous attacks by militants who count on clandestine support from within the government. Pakistan is not about to crack down on terror groups or cut its military budget in order to build roads, schools and hospitals. Yet one prominent Pakistani, in a new book and a series of speeches, is urging it to do just that. He is offering a stark alternative to policies that threaten to turn Pakistan into what he calls "a nuclear-armed Somalia". Most Pakistani politics is conducted within a narrow spectrum. Politicians spend much time debating the best ways to fight India, or take Kashmir, or dominate Afghanistan, or punish the United States for its real and imagined sins. Now comes a voice arguing that these debates are meaningless in a country that cannot care for its own citizens and is fast becoming a pariah state. It is the voice of Husain Haqqani, a wily veteran of Pakistani politics who served as his country's ambassador to the United States from 2008 to 2011. During those years, Pakistani-American relations were fraught with tension and mistrust. Haqqani had to deal with fallout from the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden, and with the arrest of a CIA contractor, Raymond Davis, for the murder of two Pakistanis. His diplomatic skill and dense web of contacts in Washington helped contain these crises and maintain a semblance of partnership in the increasingly poisoned US-Pakistan relationship. Now Haqqani has published a book exploring the roots of this relationship and explaining how it became so toxic. Its arresting title is Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding. As a trenchant and unsparing account of how these two countries came to mistrust each other so deeply, despite pretending to be friends, this book is unmatched. Its implicit message – the need to remake Pakistan – is even more provocative. Haqqani has been travelling around the United States, where he now lives, preaching this message. Officially he is on a book tour, but it feels like something more. Haqqani is laying out a radically different path for his homeland. His campaign is important not only to Pakistanis, but to all who are terrified by threats to global security posed by what Liam Fox, a former United Kingdom defense secretary, recently called "the most dangerous country in the world". In his speeches, Haqqani begins by rattling off statistics – 43% of Pakistani children do not attend school – and recounting episodes that reflect the barbarism into which his country has fallen, like the murder of health workers giving polio vaccines. Then he describes Pakistan's role in training Islamic militants who have wreaked havoc in Afghanistan, India, and within Pakistan itself. His critique of obtuse and delusional American policies toward Pakistan – he blames the US for helping to undermine Pakistani democracy – is devastating. He told students at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies on Tuesday: The United States has to find some other way to deal with Muslims besides either killing them or taking them out to lunch. Haqqani concludes with his prescription for Pakistan: it sounds like common sense to many outsiders, but in Pakistan it is nothing short of revolutionary. To begin with, Haqqani wants his country to stop supporting militant armies and terror groups. He urges a reversal of attitudes toward India, which he sees not as a threatening enemy but as a potential partner. Domestically, he wants the government to redefine the meaning of security away from military prowess and toward the development of a modern society. He said in his Watson Institute speech: We are a warrior state, and we need to become a trading state. This message finds applause in the United States, and "Magnificent Delusions" has been well received in India. Remarkably, reviews in Pakistan have also been favorable. Haqqani has succeeded in widening the bounds of political discourse in his homeland. No Pakistani politician, however, is yet ready to campaign for high office on such a radical platform. In his book and speeches, Haqqani does not mention the possibility that he might do so himself. He is well known in Pakistan; may have as many friends there as enemies; is a Sunni married to a Shia woman from a prominent family; and has both a communal and regional base. Whether such an erudite cosmopolitan would be comfortable crisscrossing his country in an armored car, or campaigning while wearing a bulletproof vest, is far from clear. Even if Haqqani is not ready to return and preach his urgent message in Pakistan, however, Pakistanis need to hear it. If they do not, worse times lie ahead for them and their neighbors.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Pakistani leaders Monday that if they don't resolve protests stalling some military shipments across the border with Afghanistan, it could be difficult to maintain political support in Washington for an aid program that has sent billions of dollars to Islamabad, defense officials said. In response, the officials said, Hagel received assurances from the Pakistanis that they would take "immediate action" to resolve the shipment problem. The officials did not provide details on how that might be done. Just last week, anti-American protests along one of the primary border crossing routes in Pakistan prompted the U.S. to stop the shipments from Torkham Gate through Karachi last week, due to worries about the safety of the truckers. The protests center on the CIA's drone program that has targeted and killed many terrorists, but has caused civilian casualties. The defense officials said Hagel described a political reality on Capitol Hill that could complicate support for the billions of dollars of aid Pakistan now receives. It was Hagel's intent to try and pre-empt any problems with the aid, said the officials who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the private meetings publicly on the record. Hagel had back-to-back meetings Monday with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the new army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, in a move to further repair what has been a strained and sputtering relationship between Washington and Islamabad. Defense officials said Hagel is first high ranking U.S. official to meet with the Army chief, who took over at the end of last month. After leaving Islamabad, he flew to Saudi Arabia where he is meeting with Crown Prince Salman, and then to Qatar, where he will speak to troops on Tuesday. During the Pakistan meetings some of the more contentious issues also were raised, including Islamabad's opposition to ongoing CIA drone strikes and Washington's frustration with Pakistan's reluctance to go after the Haqqani terrorist network, which operates along the border and conducts attacks on U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan. The officials acknowledged that little progress was made other than to agree to continue talking. Sharif's office said in a statement the prime minister and Hagel had "in-depth exchanges on a whole range of issues of mutual interest" including bilateral defense, security cooperation and Afghanistan. Sharif's office also said the prime minister conveyed Pakistan's deep concern over continuing U.S. drone strikes, "stressing that drone strikes were counter-productive to our efforts to combat terrorism and extremism on an enduring basis," the statement said. Shireen Mazari, the information secretary for the political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, said in a statement Monday it's time for the government to speak forcefully to the U.S. to demand an end to the drone attacks. The party is leading the protests. Pakistan has called the drone strikes a violation of the country's sovereignty, but the issue is muddied by the fact that Islamabad and the military have supported at least some of the strikes in the past. Following their meeting in Rawalpindi, Hagel and Sharif echoed each other's desire to work to strengthen the countries' ties. The top military men discussed the defense relationship between the two countries and regional stability, according to the Pakistani army chief's office. Hagel's warning to the Pakistanis about the supply route reflects what has been a growing frustration among U.S. lawmakers with Pakistan in recent years. The Pakistani government blocked the supply crossings for seven months following U.S. airstrikes that accidentally killed two dozen soldiers on the Afghan border in November 2011. Pakistan finally reopened the routes after the U.S. apologized. The rift largely led the U.S. to sever most aid to Pakistan for some time, but relations were restored in July 2012. Since then the U.S. has delivered over $1.15 billion in security assistance to Pakistan. Some of the items include advanced communications equipment, roadside bomb jammers, night vision goggles and surveillance aircraft. Since July 2012, relations between Washington and Islamabad have been improving. Sharif met with President Barack Obama and Hagel in late October in Washington. The last Pentagon chief to visit Pakistan was Robert Gates in January 2010. Hagel flew to Pakistan from Afghanistan, where he visited U.S. troops but declined to meet with President Hamid Karzai, who has rankled the U.S. by refusing to sign a security agreement before year's end.
In Pakistan, thousands of civilians and security force members died in terrorist violence in 2013. Military campaigns and political outreach have made little headway in reducing the toll. But, Pakistani youth are trying to open a dialogue and end the violence, even in Pakistan's lawless tribal regions. Teenager Malala Yousufzai became the international face of Pakistan's youth this year. Young and determined, she narrowly escaped death after being shot in the head by the Taliban for her outspoken advocacy of education for girls. In Pakistan, there are many other young people like her, trying to make a difference by forging peace. Even in the country's violent tribal northwest, where guns are commonplace and tribal feuds a way of life, young people are working to resolve conflicts through dialogue.University student Mohammad Farooq Afridi is one of those youth leaders. He regularly leaves behind his school in the northwest city Peshawar, and drives out to village tribal communities to talk about alternative ways to resolve disputes. “People have no patience, they don’t listen to the other side," he said. "I am trying to teach them patience and tolerance. People think more about revenge than resolution, even when they know the consequences, and it’s a never-ending cycle of revenge.” Afridi has created his own organization called Khadim ul Khalq, or Servant of the People, and he receives some funding from international donors to try to help mediate conflicts. Like Malala, Afridi believes education will bring change. He says right now, many children do not study because parents say it is not safe to send their children to class. He wants to set up free street-side schools, cricket tournaments, mobile medical units, all staffed by volunteers. Afridi says he wants to work more on education because the state of education in his area is pathetic for vulnerable children. He says he wants children to have direction so that they avoid unsocial and unhealthy activities, like violence and drugs. In northwest Pakistan, recruitment by extremist movements is on the rise, fed by social exclusion, weak rule of law, and a battle between the tribal way of life and the state's attempt to exert control, says the U.N. Development Program's Marc Andre Franche. “One of the aspects that most encouraged me in Pakistan is meeting so many young people that are trying to make a difference, that are trying to change the situation in this country,” he said. With 56 percent of the country's population under the age of 30, Franche says such youth outreach programs are extremely valuable in bridging gaps in Pakistan Several non-government groups are training and funding youth peace-makers, bringing them to Islamabad to teach them conflict mediation techniques. Arshad Hamid is one of those students. He says in Hangu, where he is from, violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims is common. “This sectarian conflict is scaring people, they don’t feel safe going outside, running their businesses, or even just having a social life. They are frightened," he said. "They never know if they are going to go out and die.” While Hamid's efforts and others are still on a small scale, they are a hopeful sign that Pakistan's next generation is focused on finding new ways to solve old problems.
Filed under Good Intentions and Good Money for Naught: the U.S. television ad campaign last year in Pakistan to persuade locals to stop hating America. Steve Tatham, a British military officer and expert on propaganda efforts, penned a report on U.S. "information operation and strategic operations" that the Army War College published last week. One of his case studies involved television ads the U.S. government purchased in September 2012 on Pakistani national television to denounce The Innocence of Muslims, a video offensive to Muslims. The ads featured statements by President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Sounds reasonable, right? Perhaps to an American. Not so much to a protesting Pakistani, Tatham points out: "In assessing the Pakistan TV advertisements, a number of questions arise, chiefly about accessibility and reach," Tatham writes. "First, of the large body of people who chose to riot, probably only a very tiny percentage had actually seen the offending video. The video is 74 minutes in duration and a little over 400-megabytes (MB) in size. 'Highlights' could therefore have been available to smart phones, but it would be next to impossible to view properly without access to the web. While Internet penetration in Pakistan is undeniably growing, literacy in Pakistan is still less than 55%, and around 30% to 40% of the population live beneath the poverty line, which suggests limited access to the Internet via computer. At the same time, viewing the U.S. response required both access to a TV set and the ability either to understand English or to read the superimposed Urdu script. It is a reasonable supposition, therefore, that many of the rioters had probably never seen the original video, nor the presidential address that followed, and that their knowledge of its existence was largely second hand, transmitted through trusted community leaders and/or social networks such as mosques." Tatham suggests that anger over the video was intensified by the perception that the "U.S. hates Muslims" based on the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and desecrations of the Koran both intentional and accidental. "In this context, it seems optimistic that a few words in a TV advertisement from the U.S. President, the embodiment of the western 'infidel,' could appease an enraged mob," Tatham writes. And, unsurprisingly, they didn't. "The ads have been running this week on seven different Pakistani television stations in cool tempers over the film," ABC News reported at the time, as Tatham points out. "But today's protests were the largest seen so far since the controversy began in Pakistan last week with the attempted storming of the U.S. embassy." Tatham credits the U.S. government for trying. But that's faint praise. He concludes failures of U.S. propaganda since 9/11 stem from "susceptibility to ambitious contractors, an absence of 'intelligent customers,' and an apparent absence of understanding how communication can, and cannot, be realistically employed to mitigate crisis and conflict." His findings track with what USA TODAY has found in two years of reporting on those propaganda: hundreds of millions of dollars spent on poorly tracked programs that have enriched contractors. Tatham takes note of our coverage, labeling me a "long-standing critic of the Department of Defense's (DOD) Information Operations (IO) efforts." That coverage has often been dismissed by the Pentagon's IO community, he writes.