Monday, December 30, 2013
The sun has undergone a “complete field reversal,” with its north and south poles changing places as it marks the midpoint of Solar Cycle 24. “A reversal of the sun's magnetic field is, literally, a big event,” NASA’s Dr. Tony Phillips said in a statement issued on the space agency’s website. “The sun's polar magnetic fields weaken, go to zero and then emerge again with the opposite polarity. This is a regular part of the solar cycle,” Stanford solar physicist Phil Scherrer explained. While it may seem like the event could have catastrophic repercussions for the galaxy, its effects are actually more subtle, mostly interfering with space exploration. “Cosmic rays are a danger to astronauts and space probes, and some researchers say they might affect the cloudiness and climate of Earth,” said Phillips. Both the aurora borealis and its southern counterpart - the australis - are set to become broader, more frequent, and more visible now that the event has reached its final stage. The process has been slow and steady, with solar physicist Todd Hoeksama telling Metro: “It’s kind of like a tide coming in or going out. Each little wave brings a little more water in, and eventually you get to the full reversal.” Scherrer explained earlier in December that “the sun's north pole has already changed sign, while the South Pole is racing to catch up.” The impact of the process has been extremely far-reaching. “The domain of the sun's magnetic influence (also known as the 'heliosphere') extends billions of kilometers beyond Pluto. Changes to the field's polarity ripple all the way out to the Voyager probes, on the doorstep of interstellar space,” Phillips explained. NASA has released a visualization of how the switch occurs. Beginning in 1997 and ending in 2013, it shows the green (positive) polarity switching with the purple (negative) polarity. Solar Cycle 24 has been viewed as quite unpredictable. First, it came late by about a year, with extremely low activity recorded throughout 2009. This prompted astronomers to shift a predicted 2012 peak to 2013. Scientists say the cycle is already among the weakest reported and if the trend continues, the Earth might see another Little Ice Age.
President Barack Obama is the most admired man in America for the sixth year in a row, and Hillary Clinton is the country’s most admired woman, according to a survey out Monday. Each year Gallup asks Americans to name the living man and woman they most admire. In 2013, 16 percent named Obama, a strong showing but down significantly from the 30 percent Obama drew in 2012. Former President George W. Bush and Pope Francis each earned 4 percent while Bill Clinton and Billy Graham got 2 percent each. Hillary Clinton earned the Most Admired Woman designation for the 18th time, more than any woman in Gallup’s history. The 15 percent she earned in 2013 is down from 21 percent last year. Behind Clinton is Oprah Winfrey with 6 percent, and Michelle Obama and Sarah Palin, with 5 percent each. Read more: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton Top ‘Most Admired’ Survey | TIME.com http://swampland.time.com/2013/12/30/obama-and-clinton-top-most-admired-list-again/#ixzz2p1HSuqxv
No professional or vocational training, no visits to the doctor, no lawsuits without male approval: Yemeni-Swiss political scientist Elham Manea bemoans the plight of women in Saudi Arabia.I will never forget the words of my father when he turned down an offer to work at our Yemeni embassy in Saudi Arabia in the mid-80s. He simply said: "I have a daughter!" His words came back to me this October 26, when more than 60 Saudi women's activists got behind the wheels of their cars protesting against a ban on women driving in the kingdom. Their demand symbolized in a nutshell what it means for a woman to live in Saudi Arabia: perpetual minors in a system of gender apartheid. Saudi Arabiais the only country in the world that outlaws this right of driving. And yes, depriving a woman of the right to drive serves the purpose of controlling her physical mobility and hence independence. But focusing on the right to drive misses the whole spectrum of the issue. Systematically treated as perpetual minors Women in the Kingdom, a 2008 Human Rights Watch report maintains, are systematically treated as perpetual minors through a system instituted by the state that infringes on their basic human rights. In other words, every adult Saudi woman, regardless of her economic or social status, must obtain permission from her male guardian to work, travel, study, seek medical treatment or marry. She is also deprived of making the most trivial decisions on behalf of her children. This system is supported by the imposition of complete sex segregation, which prevents women from participating meaningfully in public life. Sex segregation is strictly monitored by the government's Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (the religious police) in all workplaces with the exception of hospitals. Unlawful mixing between sexes leads to the arrest of the violators and criminal charges. The brutality of the members of this commission and the unequal punishments men and women receive when committing the same 'crime of mixing' was best described by the Saudi writer Samar Al Muqren in her novel "Ni'saa al Munkar - Women of the Abominable," published in 2008, which she wrote based on her work as a journalist. Reinforcing discriminatory gender roles The ramifications of this system of male guardianship and sex segregation are felt by Saudi women in their daily lives. In the field of education, the general framework of education is tailored to reinforce discriminatory gender roles and what the authorities consider as suitable to "women's nature and future role as wives and mothers." In addition, women's and girls' access to education depends on the good will of male guardians, whose permission is essential for their educational enrollment. Sex segregation undermines women's right to equality in education, especially when female university and professors are often relegated to unequal facilities with unequal academic opportunities. In the field of employment, the Saudi labor code, which came into force in 2006, repeated a former stipulation decreeing that in line with article 4 of the code, which requires adherence to Sharia, "women shall work in all fields suitable to their nature" (article 149). The result is that Saudi women continue to be marginalized almost to the point of total exclusion from the Saudi workforce. Both public and private sector require female staff to obtain the permission of a male guardian to be hired, and employers can fire a woman or force her to resign "if her guardian decides for any reason that he no longer wants her to work outside the home." In jobs in clothing stores, amusement parks, food preparation and as cashiers, guardian permission is no longer required. However, strict sex segregation in the workplace is imposed and female workers are prohibited from interacting with men. The male guardianship system jeopardizes Saudi women's fundamental right to health. Depending on the religious orientation of those working in hospitals, health officials may require guardian's permission for a woman to be "admitted, discharged, or to administer a medical procedure on her or her children." A recent example occurred this July: After a car chase by religious police left the driver dead and his wife and daughter in critical condition, King Fahd Hospital in Baha postponed amputating the wife's hand because she had no male legal guardian to authorize the procedure. Women under this system are denied their legal capacities, rendering them unable to make decisions for themselves. And as legal minors their ability to access and engage with the courts and the government is severely constrained without a guardian. Some of these limitations border on absurdity; mostly they have grave consequences. For instance, women were granted in 2001 the right to an independent identification card; yet this right, which is optional, still requires a guardian's permission to be granted! Excuse me, may I sue you? More gravely, it is nearly impossible for victims of domestic violence to independently seek protection or obtain legal redress because the police often insist that women and girls obtain their guardian's authorization to file a criminal complaint, even when this complaint is against the guardian! Moreover, even when women manage to file a domestic violence case, often the measures taken against the perpetrators are flimsy and shameful. For example, in May, Jeddah's Summary Court convicted a man for physically abusing his wife to the point of hospitalization, but sentenced him to learning by heart five parts of the Quran and 100 sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. Finally, Saudi Arabia applies a personal law system based on the Hanbali School of Islamic Jurisprudence, the most strict and literal among the Sunni schools of jurisprudence. The result is that a male guardian has the unilateral authority to marry off his female ward without her consultation and to dissolve a marriage he deems unfit. Given the effects of this system of guardianship and segregation on women's lives, it comes as no surprise that Saudi women activists have been the most vocal against this system of apartheid. In their shadow report prepared for the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 2008, they argued that this principle of "imposing the guardianship of a male over the woman all her life in Saudi Arabia is linked to the inferior look to women and her traditional role in society and family." Alliance between king and radical clerics The perception is certainly inherent in the Wahabi Salafi interpretation of Islam. What makes it relevant though is the Saudi regime itself, because its state's apparatus is the one faithfully implementing Wahabi gender doctrines. An alliance between the Saudi dynasty and the Wahabi establishment has meant that in return for legitimacy, the religious establishment will have a free hand in applying its conservative and reactionary religious provisions in areas of social norms and women's lives. This has made the difference between Saudi Arabia and other countries of the Arabian Peninsula, including Yemen. Survival for the kingdom has meant dependence on the Wahabi religious establishment for legitimacy. It may introduce some measures to make life "less restricted" for women, but the core of "inferiority" still remains the same. The kingdom is also very wary that women's demands for change may turn to an overall social movement for political change. Given the kingdom's shameful records in citizenship and human rights, democracy and good governance, the fear is realistic. Subsequently, a real change in Saudi gender apartheid system is not likely in the near future. In the meantime, women will continue to bear its consequences - living as perpetual minors segregated by law from their male fellow citizens. It seems my father was right after all: Life for a woman is better elsewhere.
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad Monday called for a battle against Wahhabism, the political and religious ideology embraced by the Saudi government.
Support for the war in Afghanistan has dipped below 20%, according to a new national poll, making the country's longest military conflict arguably its most unpopular one as well. The CNN/ORC International survey released Monday also indicates that a majority of Americans would like to see U.S. troops pull out of Afghanistan before the December 2014 deadline.Just 17% of those questioned say they support the 12-year-long war, down from 52% in December 2008. Opposition to the conflict now stands at 82%, up from 46% five years ago. "Those numbers show the war in Afghanistan with far less support than other conflicts," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. "Opposition to the Iraq war never got higher than 69% in CNN polling while U.S. troops were in that country, and while the Vietnam War was in progress, no more than six in 10 ever told Gallup's interviewers that war was a mistake." The U.S. timetable for Afghanistan calls for the removal of nearly all troops by roughly this time next year, and that can't come fast enough for the vast majority of Americans. Just over half would rather see U.S. troops withdrawn earlier than December 2014. Only a quarter say that America should still have boots on the ground in Afghanistan after that deadline. Fifty-seven percent say the conflict is going badly for the U.S. and only a third say America is winning the war in Afghanistan. "Independents have a much gloomier view of the war in Afghanistan than Republicans or Democrats," Holland said. "That may be because a Republican president started the war and a Democratic president has continued it, so there may be some residual support among people who identify with either party." Some 2,300 U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan since the war began in the autumn of 2001. The U.S. is quickly drawing down its forces in Afghanistan. If a bilateral security agreement that would keep up to 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after the end of 2014 isn't signed in the near future, the U.S. could withdrawal all forces from Afghanistan at the end of next year. The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International between December 16 and 19, with 1,035 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points. The discontent evident in the CNN poll is also seen in two other national surveys conducted earlier this month. Two-thirds of those questioned in an ABC News/Washington Post poll said the war has not been worth fighting, and an Associated Press/GfK survey showed 57% saying the U.S. did the wrong thing in going to war in Afghanistan.
According to a new survey report, Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai has emerged as the leading candidate as compared to other presidential candidates. Glevum Associates and its Afghan research partner AIRC in its latest survey report ‘Afghan Presidential Pre-Election National Opinion Survey Findings’ revealed that Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzay currently has a 4-point lead over his nearest rival Doctor Abdullah Abdullah (29% compared to 25%, respectively). According to a statement released by Glevum Associates, the survey was conducted in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan, with around 2,500 Afghans questioned about the upcoming elections. The survey report consists feedbacks of 2,148 likely voters, which was conducted between November 27 and December 3, 2013 using face-to-face interviews. Glevum Associates in its statement said that the sampling margin of error is + 2.11 with a 95% level of confidence. For subgroups, the margin of error is larger. The survey report also revealed that Abdul Qayoom Karzai is next most popular with 8%; Professor Sayaf is at 6%; Zalmay Rasool 6%; and Rahim Wardak 5%. All other candidates are below 5% at this time. About one in ten likely voters (11%) remain undecided. A large majority (89%) say that they would not vote for a candidate with a history of involvement in corruption. Similarly, 78% indicate that they would not vote for a candidate with a history of human rights violations, according to the survey report. Glevum Associates in its survey report also stated that a majority of those surveyed (59%) would or might vote for a female candidate for President. Fully 82% would or might vote for a candidate who asked a woman to run as a vicepresident. Half (50%) think it important that a presidential candidate supports women having more freedom. In the meantime, 49% of the respondents insist that the new president must address the security issues, while 17% insisted on economic issues and only 6% of the likely voters said that the new president must address education. The respondents were also questionned regarding the relations of the candidates with the United States, where a larger majority (71%) would vote for a candidate who wants positive relations with the United States. Meanwhile, a sizable minority (40%) considers it important that candidates should want to keep some international troops in Afghanistan after 2014, according to the survey report.
Around Rs 15 lacs was spent from national treasure on the portraits of the President Mamnoon Hussain which would be put on the President House’s lounge walls. Meanwhile, the presidential spokesperson said that it is not good to spend so much money on the portraits, adding that the issue would be investigated. Mamnoon Hussain as a president of Pakistan hired a photographer Qamar Pervez from Lahore for the photo shoot. Family members of the president also have their photo shoot from the same photographer which costs Rs 1.5 lacs.
Five people, including two children, have been killed in violence across Pakistan. Two police officers were killed and another was injured in an attack on December 30 in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi. A local police official told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal that four unknown attackers on motorcycles opened fire at the police officers near a Shi'a mosque. Earlier on December 30, an apparent bomb planted outside a house in the Charsadda district of the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa killed a woman and two children. The chief of the local police station, Hassan Khan, told RFE/RL that the dead were members of one family. Two other members of the same family were taken to hospital with injuries. Charsadda lies close to Pakistan's troubled northwestern tribal region where troops have been locked for years in deadly battles with insurgents.
The number of polio cases in Pakistan reached 82 this year with five new cases reported in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas as the crippling disease remained endemic in the country. Four cases were reported from North Waziristan Agency and one from South Waziristan Agency. The infected children are aged between 10-28 months. A health official said polio vaccine was not administered to these children, Express Tribune reported today. On Saturday, the number of cases in Pakistan was reported to reach 77, up by nineteen from the whole of last year. With the new cases, the count has increased to 82 this year. Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where the polio virus is still endemic. Violence against vaccinators and suspicions about the polio vaccine were cited as reasons for the increase in cases. The Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups hampered efforts to immunize children, denouncing the vaccines as a "western plot" to sterilize Muslims and a cover for spies. A polio worker was killed on Saturday and two others injured when unidentified gunmen attacked Peshawar's Matni Hospital in northwest Pakistan. The gunmen opened indiscriminate fire after entering the hospital and fled from the scene. Polio vaccinator Zahid Gul was killed instantly and two others sustained severe injuries. Polio campaign teams have been under constant attack in Pakistan's restive northwest by the Taliban and its allies. On December 21, unidentified militants gunned down a polio worker in the Jamrud Tehsil area of Khyber Agency. On December 13, gunmen had attacked two separate polio teams in northwestern Pakistan, killing one polio worker and two guards.
The Express Tribune News
Two police officers were killed and another injured in a firing incident in Rawalpindi, Express News reported on Monday. The officers were deployed for the security of an imambargah in the Race Course area of the city. Police said four unidentified armed men attacked the police officers. The injured – who is in critical condition – was taken to a hospital for medical assistance.
A Pakistani trade delegation’s talks with Afghan counterparts and senior functionaries were overshadowed by veiled complaints from the hosts about the ‘unpredictability’ of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s land route due to protests and insecurity. Trade delegates, who just returned after a three-day visit to Kabul, told Dawn that Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s road blockade at Peshawar had added salt to injury for Pakistan’s trade with Afghanistan, making Afghans to go for other options to fulfill their import needs. “They told us in plain words that Pakistan is no more their first option for bilateral and transit trades,” said Zahidullah Shinwari, president of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chamber of Commerce and Industry. A delegation of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry, involving 21 businessmen and professionals from Karachi, Peshawar and other cities, undertook a three-day visit to Afghanistan from December 23. Ziaul Haq Sarhadi, a director of the joint chamber, said Afghan businessmen and officials expressed displeasure over the ongoing road blockade at Peshawar. “They complained that the road blockade in the name of stopping supplies to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has proved a last nail for the normal trade, adding to their costs of doing business with or via Pakistan,” said Mr Sarhadi. The echoes of complaints about obstacles to normal trade because of the blockade made rounds during the delegation’s meetings with Afghans during the visit, according to delegates. “We were not feeling comfortable about easing restrictions on trade with Pakistan because of troubles at home,” said Mr Shinwari when asked about the level of confidence with which they raised their issues with Afghan authorities in the face of PTI’s ongoing road blockade against drone strikes since Nov 23. He said the road protests had done more harm than good to strengthen trade ties between the two countries. According to Mr Sarhadi, the delegation, led by the chamber’s co-chairman Zubair Motiwaala from Karachi, held meetings with senior Afghan functionaries, including the country’s vice-president Ustad Mohammad Karim Khalili, commerce minister Kargar, deputy commerce minister Muzzamal Shinwari, customs director Gul Bacha, and private businessmen. The delegation focused on convincing the Afghans to lower import duties on Pakistani items from the existing ratio of 110 per cent. It solicited favourable treatment for visa applications by Pakistani businessmen. A case for waiving $100 fee on Pakistani containers on way to Central Asian markets via Afghanistan was also made. Mr Sarhadi said they also suggested the Afghan authorities to construct ‘export houses’ and warehouses to help exporters save money spent on handling charges and demurrage. On their part, said Mr Shinwari, the Afghans raised the delays in clearance of their transit trade items at Karachi. Afghans, he added, complained that delay in clearing the consignments caused them Rs200,000 to Rs250,000 additional costs on account of detention charges. “They said that they had already diverted their transit business to Iran,” said the KPCCI chief, adding the recent road blockade had strengthened their idea of taking Pakistan as the second option for trade. Though the senior Afghan functionaries, said Mr Shinwari, did not refer to the PTI’s ongoing road seizure, they did express their reservations tacitly. The Afghan authorities, said the businessman, pointed out that Pakistan had subjected the transit good to Afghanistan to five different types of securities, including insurance, digital trackers and other conditions, at a time when it could not guarantee an unhindered land route for transporters. They told the delegates, said Mr Shinwari, that they did not consider Pakistani route dependable and as a result they had already shifted 70 per cent of the transit business to Iran.
IN the years that Pakistan has been mired in militancy and terrorism, there has been no dearth of detractors maintaining that it is the inefficiencies of different arms of the state — if not outright collusion — that has allowed matters to reach such a pass. This charge is hotly denied, by state representatives who say they have no part in the mess, and by a citizenry that cannot digest the levels of ineptitude on part of the leadership that this would imply. Unfortunately, there is no denying that with distressing frequency, evidence of such monumental incompetence surfaces that questions cannot but be raised about the state’s levels of political will and operational ability. In this category must be included the revelations about July’s Dera Ismail Khan jailbreak, when militants managed to free over 250 prisoners without so much as a peep from the law enforcement and security apparatus. The report of the inquiry commission tasked with investigating the incident, the contents of which were made public by this newspaper yesterday, constitutes an indictment of the security and law enforcement agencies. It ought to have served as a wake-up call of no minor proportions at all levels. Instead, it was shelved — to the utter lack of surprise of those familiar with the head-in-the-sand approach in Pakistan. The report notes that over two dozen Mehsud militants, accompanied by several more from Punjab, Uzbekistan and other places, managed to travel all the way from South Waziristan to D.I. Khan. Once there, they set up pickets at 10 strategic locations around the prison, cutting off security and law enforcement personnel’s access to the area. Shockingly, most of these pickets were located not far from police and military checkpoints. The militants blew the prison’s gates open with rocket-propelled grenades and over the next 45 minutes or so conducted a “methodical” search of the cells and barracks, freeing prisoners and even identifying and executing four members of a minority sect. Having done so, they dispersed; some headed back to South Waziristan, others melted into the city. All this was achieved with virtually no interference from the security and law enforcement apparatus, which had in the preceding days been beefed up, according to the report. It could be argued that a jailbreak on such a large scale would have been difficult to counter — except that not only had a similar incident taken place before, this time there was even intelligence that an attack was imminent. Clearly, no lessons were learnt from the assault in Bannu last April, claimed by the TTP, which resulted in nearly 400 prisoners being sprung from jail. Further, in the case of D.I. Khan, the civilian and security administrations had been made aware of the threat and had even made efforts to ward it off. If this was the state of preparedness of the authorities in an area which has long borne the brunt of militancy and terrorism — one that has, with great fanfare, been announced as having been brought back into the fold of the state’s writ — what the situation must be in other areas can only be guessed at. Most worryingly, perhaps, the report notes that about half an hour into the assault on the jail, a militant came onto the police wireless frequency to taunt the law enforcers and to say the city would be razed to the ground. The confidence is astounding; the image conjured is of a savvy, well-equipped militant network running merry rings around a helpless state and security apparatus. The report refers to the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan as a “Frankenstein” and warns that as long as “even a semblance of these outfits” exists, the violence will continue unabated and all strengthening of the security apparatus will be in vain. Is the state refusing to look the threat in the eye? Is it shying away from recognising the enormity of the problem? Or, even more disturbingly, is it impotent, unable to muster the strength and intelligence that the task requires? On the answer to this question hinges the future of the country.
Clashes between Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and PPP workers before Bilawal House in Karachi were continuing for the second day at the time of writing these lines. Some workers, mostly PTI, were reportedly arrested by the police. The fracas began on Saturday when PTI leader and MNA for the constituency in which Bilawal House lies, Dr Arif Alvi, turned up with his workers and threatened to demolish the security wall around the residence that was erected while Asif Ali Zardari was president. In September this year, a challenge to the wall in the Sindh High Court against denying access to the road to the public was upheld, later endorsed by the Supreme Court. The PTI leaders and workers ‘suddenly’ decided it as their pubic duty to demolish the wall and recover the road for the general public. This inevitably aroused resistance from the PPP workers who vowed to protect their leaders. The clashes that ensued and continued on Sunday, when Dr Arif Alvi had threatened the wall would be demolished, resulted in one half of the road being opened by the police, which claimed the court decision required proper implementation while ensuring security for Bilawal House and its residents. The latter requirement entailed setting up security cameras and other equipment to monitor the road. Whatever the case, the question remains whether it is appropriate for a political party to take upon itself the mantle of vigilante implementer of legal decisions. The courts may have found in favour of public convenience, but even they would be aware of the continuing security threats to Asif Zardari and his family. In the first place, if the PTI felt aggrieved, it should have approached the court for speeding up implementation of the decision to clear the road. On the other hand, while in a democracy peaceful protest is the inherent right of everyone, it does not offer license to parties or individuals to take the law into their own hands. The clash therefore was entirely and predictably because of the PTI’s provocation before Bilalwal House. The conclusion is difficult to resist that the timing of the move was no coincidence. After all, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in his speech at Garhi Khuda Bukhsh on the sixth death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto took Imran Khan and the PTI to the cleaners. But whereas Bilalwal employed the weapon of language, the PTI workers in Karachi were only a step removed from employing the language of weapons or force, hardly in conformity with a law abiding, civilised and democratic stance. The penchant of the PTI to resort to taking the law into its own hands (e.g. the NATO supply blockade) owes itself to some serious psychological problems from which the party appears to be suffering. First and foremost, most PTI leaders and workers appear full of righteous indignation, stemming from their exaggerated sense of entitlement to power and running the country, an ambition they had convinced themselves before the 2013 elections was within their grasp, but which was cruelly exposed by the results. The PTI’s inability to come out of that sense of entitlement and disappointment that its dream lay shattered except for the provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has pushed the party into a confrontational mode with all and sundry. Thus Imran Khan has been at loggerheads with the judiciary (let off with a mild reprimand, unlike other political worthies who ran foul of the courts during the previous government), the Election Commission of Pakistan, the election tribunals before whom the PTI has challenged the results of four constituencies (which, even if the results are changed, would hardly constitute a tsunami), the PPP, PML-N (both of whom are constantly berated by Imran Khan for being in cahoots with each other for vested interests) and all and sundry manner of critics or people who question the PTI’s holy writ. The merits of removing the wall and clearing the road for public access before Bilawal House should be settled between the administration, courts and security establishment to ensure access to the public does not compromise the security of its residents. Bilawal’s challenge to the terrorists in his Friday speech has pitched him centre-stage against the terrorists, and given the track record, retaliatory actions against him and his family cannot be ruled out. The PTI’s insistence on immediate implementation of the court’s orders smacks less of concern for the public and more of dangerous politicking over an issue that entails security threats to the Bhutto-Zardari family.
So stupefying indeed it is that Balochistan's government ministers and lawmakers would be descending on Islamabad to stage protest against mounting kidnappings for ransom in the province. Isn't law and order constitutionally the provincial domain and its maintenance the provincial responsibility? Then, why are the ministers and lawmakers rushing on to Islamabad for something that they themselves should be tackling? If there is some internecine tiff obstructing them to curb lawlessness and eliminate kidnapping, they should tackle it. If the security apparatus is not delivering, they must plug off the chinks in its armour and make it to perform. And if they think that some law-enforcement agency is not amenable to their control, they can set out to discipline it; and if not under the provincial government's writ, they can just ask for its withdrawal. Why to run to Islamabad? Why are they itching so flutteringly to follow suit of their predecessors, who accumulated in mountains public disdain, scorn and ridicule for similar funny stunts instead of putting their act together? It was in their stint that kidnapping for ransom turned into the province's most booming industry. Nobody was safe from the grab of kidnappers. Doctors, lawyers, professors, you name it, and all were there on their hit list. Yet that ruling mob sat pretty, moving not even a finger to hobble the wicked criminals. So much so, Hindu jewellers and businessmen, who together with Parsi merchants made up the kidnappers' choicest quarry, left the province in numbers and migrated mostly to India. Even as that could have possibly brought Pakistan internationally accusations of persecution of minorities, the mob was least pushed. More shockingly, a minister of that mob claimed publicly that his some ministerial colleagues as well as provincial legislators were involved in abductions for ransom. Although he later backtracked, when summoned to the court to testify, probably fearing vengeance and reprisals, the street listened and believed him. The incumbents too would fare similarly in public rage and fury if they take to evasive pursuits instead of confronting the challenges confronting their troubled province headlong. Their work lies in Quetta, not in Islamabad. Their corrupt and incompetent predecessors have left Balochistan in their trail as a sprawling junkyard, with its law and order condition abysmally dismal. This isn't brought out any poignantly by the current popular discourse about Balochistan, which in itself is highly populist and motivated. The province has not just the malaise of missing persons and dumped bodies to afflict it grievously. Scores of innocent Baloch children, women, men and elderly persons have been losing lives or limbs, unmourned and unlamented, in the blasts of improvised explosive devices that militants plant on roads and pathways in the countryside. Hundreds of Punjabi settlers have been slain and many more driven out by Baloch extremists in the Baloch region. Sindhis too are having a rough time at their hands. The Urdu-speaking migrant teachers and professional too have moved out of the province in flocks for fear of their lives after the community was targeted murderously by insurgents. Not even the Pakhtuns have been spared from this deadly chase. The grief of on this score palpably is no little. It is colossal, and heart-rending. And if it is still going unnoticed, it is because the human rights nobility, the media gentry and the political aristocracy find it not populist enough to be part of their favourite discourse. But the state cannot ignore it, nor can push it under the rug. It has to come to the rescue of the distressed, whoever or whatever the pedigree. But, for the present, the provincial government has not the adequate means to face up to this onerous job creditably. Only a small patch of the province's territory is under the police writ. Not equipped any awesomely is the police even to secure this swathe for its residents' safety of lives and security of their businesses and properties. The rest of the province is wholly under the policing of levies. Say whatever apologists want, this force in official uniform is undeniably just a private militia of sardars, chieftains and their scions, nothing less, nothing more. It practically is mere additional force given to these feudal barons at the state expense to fatten their own private armies and beef up their muscle power to fight out their own feuds and fracas more bloodily. The situation thus stands gravely aggravated for the incumbents to tackle it any effectively. And their task could become all the more harder, given the low morale which the paramilitary FC must be in believably for the wholesale castigation it has been subjected to on one pretext or the other over these times. The incumbents would hence be only on a very sticky pitch if they do not understand that what they are actually to do. Kidnappings definitely cannot be put paid by paying visit to Islamabad or, for that matter, to Timbuktu. The task necessarily requires the raising of a credible, dependable and trustworthy security apparatus. And that requires deep thinking, meticulous planning and hard decisions. Hence, the incumbents, both ministers and lawmakers, should better stay back and bang their heads together how to do it and start working on it.
The Express Tribune NewsA blast in Peshawar killed three people including a woman and two children, Express News reported on Monday. The blast, which took place at a house, left another child injured. The child was taken to a local hospital for medical assistance. The Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) reached the blast site and initial investigation revealed that explosives were planted inside the house. Previous blasts
http://balochwarna.com/The long march of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons completed its day 17 of march toward Islamabad on Sunday and reached to Sakrand town of Sindh.