The Sindh Festival and the Sindh Government are taking every necessary measure to ensure the integrity of the ancient ruins at Mohenjo Daro, Sindh, the location of the Opening Ceremony of the debut Sindh Festival, scheduled for February 1. “As long as all precautions are taken to ensure that no damage is inflicted on the archaeological remains and they are carefully guarded, promotional events at important heritage sites such as Mohenjodaro are organized around the World and are not a cause for concern,” said Yasmeen Lari, Sitara-‐i-‐ Imtiaz, Chair & CE of Heritage Foundation of Pakistan. Objections from others have also been revised. When the precautions that had taken place at Mohenjo Daro were shared with Ali Gul Metlo, one of the original signatories of the letter of complaint sent to UNESCO published in many of today’s papers, he insisted that he was “satisfied that all appropriate and necessary precautions are being taken” and he was happy to withdraw his complaint. “We are grateful for the concern voiced by Pakistanis on all media platforms about protecting the UNESCO World Heritage site of Mohenjo Daro,” said Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, founder of the Sindh Festival and Patron-‐in-‐Chief of the Pakistan Peoples Party. “We share this concern deeply, and have taken extraordinary and foolproof measures to protect this heritage site from any possible harm or damage.” Following the concerns raised on social media about the ancient ruins, Director of the Sindh Archaeology Department Qasim Ali Qasim showed Mr Bilawal Bhutto Zardari around Mohenjo Daro yesterday afternoon to ensure that construction work for the Sindh Festival’s Opening Ceremony remained strictly and fully compliant with international preservation standards. “The stage and seating are not being installed atop the ancient ruins,” said Sharmila Farooqi, Advisor on Culture to the Sindh Chief Minister. “Preparations for the Opening Ceremony at Mohenjo Daro are being undertaken with all due care and we are faithfully abiding by the advice and instructions of well-‐reputed conservationists both in Sindh and abroad.”
Friday, January 31, 2014
The Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban are two very different things. The Afghan Taliban, who have stubbornly resisted the worst that the US and Britain could throw at them for the past 12 years, brought a measure of peace and stability to their war-racked country during the late 1990s. Sons of the Pashtun soil, they gained widespread support with their claims to being pious and honest, even though their version of Islam was brutally reductive. That helps to explain why they are still such a force to reckon with today. The situation is completely different in Pakistan, west of the Indus River, where the shaggy-bearded, bloodthirsty Islamists of the Pakistani Taliban are seen in the same light as ancient Romans regarded the Visigoths – as terrifying barbarian invaders. For all its failings and contradictions, Pakistan enjoys a measure of civilisation unknown in Afghanistan beyond the watering-holes of Kabul. The Pakistani Taliban are a direct threat to all that. That’s one reason why the decision by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the 25-year-old son of Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s recently retired President, to call for decisive military action against the Pakistani Taliban is going down very well far beyond the Bhutto family’s strongholds in Karachi and rural Sindh.In an interview with the BBC’s Lyse Doucet this week, Bhutto said: “Dialogue is always an option but we have to have a position of strength. How do you talk from a position of strength? You have to beat them on the battlefield. They are fighting us. It’s not only confined to North Waziristan. They are attacking us in Karachi. We would like to eradicate the Taliban from Pakistan.” This fiery declaration comes after a long series of unprovoked, murderous attacks by Pakistani Taliban against Christians, Shias, Sufis, Hazaras – the typically diverse enemies of the totalitarian Islam they want to impose. They have also killed schoolchildren and paramedics struggling to inoculate the poorest people in the country against polio, as well as many soldiers. For all its corruption, the Pakistani state enjoys a degree of democratic legitimacy that is the envy of countries like Libya and Iraq, let alone Syria or Somalia. The Pakistani Taliban would love to put a bomb under all that; yet the chief beneficiaries of the ballot box, Imran Khan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, balk at confronting the fundamentalist menace. On Wednesday Sharif backtracked from a planned army offensive, explaining: “Since the other side has shown intent to negotiate, we also wish to give peace another chance.” Bilawal Bhutto promptly tweeted, “I want [Sharif] to be our Churchill. Unfortunately he is becoming our Neville Chamberlain…” Bull’s eye! Sharif, a notorious trimmer, must have blushed to the roots of his thinning hair. Bilawal’s Hal-to-Henry V transformation is all the more surprising given his earlier reputation as an effete, Westernised young man who struggled with his Urdu and, during the last elections, campaigned from Dubai to improve his survival chances. For younger, urbanised Pakistanis, as for their Indian counterparts, political dynasties are so last century: a Gujarati taxi driver told an Indian friend of mine that Rahul Gandhi is “a puppy still suckling his mother’s milk, who hasn’t yet learned even to bark!” But the flipside of dynastic privilege, on both sides of the border, is assassination, generation after generation. In Bilawal Bhutto at least it seems to have produced some steel.
Thursday, January 30, 2014
Many Saudi women have resorted to selling tissues on the streets to provide for their families, Al-Eqtisadiah daily reported. This trade was usually the domain of expatriate children at traffic signals, but has now become a daily routine for many Saudi women. Such women sit along streets for more than eight hours a day in the scorching heat, freezing cold and other weather conditions because they have no other source of income. Along King Abdullah Road, Um Nayef, a Saudi woman in her 40s, said she has seven children to support. Her husband has abandoned her and his children and is not providing for them. Her relatives have also neglected her and her only option was to sell paper tissues along streets. “This activity does not provide me with enough income but it has at least allowed me to stop asking people for money and assistance.” She noted that many, however, do offer assistance when they learn of her situation. Um Nayef pointed out that she does not have the money to deal with other products and selling tissues provided her with the best solution due to their low cost. Um Abdullah, a Saudi woman in her 30s, said her income is around SR50 a day and she sells paper tissues throughout the day. She leaves her selling place before sundown because she is afraid of the dark. “There are many who sympathize with me and offer extra money for the tissues that is enough to support my family for a few days.” Um Safyah said her husband has abandoned her and their five daughters, while she is illiterate and could not find a job. She receives food from a charitable organization but claimed that it is not enough for her children. “I also could not obtain social security payments because I am married and such benefits are only for widows and divorced women,” she said. Dr. Majeedah Al-Najem, assistant professor of social studies at King Saud University, defined poverty as the inability to meet basic living costs. She said that there are 1.2 billion people worldwide whose income is less than one dollar a day. She added women on limited incomes outnumber men living in the same conditions by a ratio of 2.5 to 1. "Poor families supported mainly by women are 30 percent more than those supported by men," she said. She pointed out that this is due to the limited opportunities available for women compared to men, especially during social and economic crises. Al-Najem noted that among Arab countries, the UAE has less poor women than men, 83 for every 100 poor men. "In the Kingdom, Kuwait, Sudan, and Oman there are between 120 to 160 poor women for every 100 poor men and in Syria that number is 271 poor women," she said. She asked for a review of social security system payments and beneficiaries of the system. Al-Najem believed social security payments should take into consideration the cost of living.
IN THE three years since Bahrain’s iteration of the Arab spring sputtered out in the grip of a government crackdown, Rula al-Saffar, 51, has gone from nurse to detainee to activist. At her home a stone’s throw from the hospital where she is effectively barred from working, Ms Saffar is busy with a campaign she began in December to track and tally Bahrain’s prisoners of conscience. “Our mission is to get them released and for the government of Bahrain to respect all the international covenants regarding prisoners of conscience,” she said, wearing a t-shirt bearing the image of Martin Luther King Jr. So far, families have registered 161 detainees on the campaign’s website, 56 of whom are students. This activism is probably not what the ruling Khalifa monarchy hoped for when it brought criminal charges against Ms Saffar and 20 other medics for their alleged support for anti-government protests that took place in February and March of 2011. Rather than give up, Ms Saffar is now turning other Bahrainis into amateur medics. After being released from her five months in detention in 2011, during which Ms Saffar said she was electrocuted, slapped around and sexually harassed, she was told she could only return to her job as head of a nursing program at Bahrain’s College of Health Sciences if she swore an oath of loyalty to the regime. She refused. Now she delivers instructions for basic medical treatments over Skype, fearing that treating protesters in person could land her back in jail. Nearly every week, she says, she gets phone calls from those at protests in Manama’s Shia-majority suburbs such as Karrana and Sanabis, hotspots for dissent against the ruling Sunni Khalifa family, asking how to dress wounds. The difficulty of Ms Saffar and many of her fellow medics is linked to the decision of both protesters and security forces to make Salmaniya, the country’s only full-service public hospital, a flashpoint of the 2011 unrest. Bahraini security forces in March 2011 took control of Salmaniya and cordoned off part of the sixth floor to interrogate patients, an independent commission found. The commission also concluded that some doctors in Salmaniya strayed from medical neutrality by participating in anti-government demonstrations. Bahrain’s medical system has yet to recover from this politicisation. Doctors detained in 2011 who have returned to work say that it is still not safe for those wounded in clashes with police in ongoing unrest to seek treatment at a public hospital, or even at some private clinics. According to a doctor working in Salmaniya, a patient who shows signs of protest-related wounds—burns to the hands or birdshot to the body—will be interrogated by a hospital security guard, often before a nurse or doctor has seen him. The guard then monitors the patient throughout his stay in Salmaniya and often arrests him after he is discharged, the doctor said. This exact scenario is difficult to verify (the Ministry of Health declined to comment by phone), but several doctors interviewed agreed that the threat of arrest hangs over protesters who check into a hospital. Protesters now tend to avoid hospitals unless gravely wounded. Some doctors try to help by quietly treating people. “It’s my medical obligation to treat those regardless of the type of injury or the trauma inflicted on them,” said a surgeon who runs a private clinic in Manama. In recent weeks, he treated a teenager whose orbital socket had been broken, allegedly by a combination of a stun grenade and a policeman hitting him in the face. The doctor asks protesters to lie low until bodily signs of clashes with the police have subsided. He then registers the patient as suffering from a cold or simple ailment that won’t draw the attention of security forces. He stitches the protester up, prescribes medication and sends him on his way.
The situation in China's neighboring areas have entered a period of rapid change. The infiltration of Islamic extremism in Central Asia directly threatens the security of China's western region and has become one of the main security challenges facing China in 2014. At a time when the entire country's public opinion is centered on the whirlpool of Japan, it is time to shift our focus to the western region of China as security in this part may be far more troublesome than that in its eastern part. With US-led NATO forces starting to withdraw from Afghanistan, the balance of security in Central Asia is bound to change. In fact, there have already been signs that extreme forces such as Al Qaeda are likely to rally, the Taliban will stage a comeback, and the plantation and smuggling of narcotics will become rampant. The Afghan security forces do not have the capabilities to control the situation. Although the US may still send troops to Afghanistan, they will likely be small-scale special forces which will mainly focus on combating terrorism than carrying out peacekeeping missions. After the US withdrawal is complete, the activities of terrorists and religious extremists in Afghanistan will likely intensify. Meanwhile, tense relations among different tribes may even bring back past conflicts. Without a stable Central Asia, Xinjiang can hardly be stable as well. The stability of Xinjiang is one of the most critical security issues in China as it affects the progress of the country's western development which plays a key role in China's development strategy. Currently, it is difficult to estimate what impact Central Asia's extreme forces will bring to the stability of Xinjiang. But the establishment of security in Central Asia means China has to reconsider its involvement in the region. Central Asia is an area where the interests of large powers such as China, Russia and the US have all gathered. It is also a region boasting various cultures. However, for a long time, a stable balance of power has been missing from the region and friction among multiple forces has made the prospects of this region very unpredictable. Those Central Asian states that are trying to bring stability to the region have not yet found an effective regional economic mechanism such as ASEAN. Meanwhile, domestic political and economic problems restrict the pace at which foreign capital can flow into the region, thus constraining the process of its integration into the global economy. China needs to pay more attention to stability in Central Asia. The region has been greatly influenced by the Islamic movement, and the emergence and development of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement has been affected by pan-Islamism and pan-Turkism in the area. After the 9/11 attacks, US-led NATO forces entered Afghanistan, making this region directly connected with the Middle East policies of the US and the West. The evolution of the global Islamic movement has become a prominent international political phenomenon during the post-9/11 era, as such what happened in Central Asia is no exception. China, as a big regional power, cannot detach itself from the reconstruction of Central Asian stability or simply play a supervising role. The true test for China's Central Asia strategy in the future will be how to play a leading role in the region. Through cooperation made under the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) China's endeavor to promote stability will reflect such strategic considerations. Cooperation is also a strategic objective of Russia and Central Asian countries. In terms of enhancing regional security, member countries of the SCO share common ground, which is the basis for mutual support. At a time when Western countries were expressing doubts over security during the Sochi Olympic Games, Chinese President Xi Jinping chose to attend. This move shows China's support for Russia as well as conveying the strategic intention of enhancing regional security cooperation. The withdrawal of NATO forces is both a challenge and an opportunity. It not only adds urgency for enhanced cooperation among SCO members, but also provides more room to maneuver for cooperation. Maintaining the stability and peace of Afghanistan can become a new focus in this regard.
President Xi Jinping has extended Lunar New Year greetings to Chinese people at home and abroad ahead of the traditional Spring Festival, which falls on Friday. Xi sent greetings to Chinese of all ethnic groups, both in China and overseas, and compatriots from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan while extending his wishes to local herdsmen in Xilingol League in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. "I wish good health, happiness for you and your families and may all go well with you," Xi said. Xi said that he hopes the Chinese will continue to work hard and strive for prosperity and a better life.
Despite some efforts to keep the findings private, a new report released by a government watchdog group this week found that Afghanistan cannot be trusted to properly spend the millions of dollars it receives in aid from the United States. In fact, the report – authored by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) – found that none of Afghanistan’s 16 ministries could be entrusted with US funds without high risk of that assistance being stolen or wasted. It can be read in full here (PDF). The United States has allocated more than $1 billion in assistance to Afghanistan this year – about half of the amount initially requested by the Obama administration – much of which is often funneled directly to Afghan ministries rather than American aid programs. According to the New York Times, two global auditing firms were hired by the United States three years ago to verify Afghanistan’s ability to properly allocate funds. The details of the report were so negative, however, that officials at the US Agency for International Development, or USAID, pushed SIGAR to keep it a secret — a request that was denied based on the public’s right to know. The findings were published on Wednesday. The full report highlights the Afghan Ministry of Public Health as a high-risk operation. The ministry has received $236.5 million in aid that’s in danger of being poorly spent as a result of paying salaries in cash, the study found. The Afghan Mine Ministry, meanwhile, is potentially “paying higher prices for commodities and services to finance kickbacks and bribes.” Additionally, the SIGAR report found that even after USAID conducted its own risk reviews as a result of the audits – which also found the ministries incapable of managing direct funds without high risk – the agency agreed to deliver aid to them anyway. Despite these findings, SIGAR admitted that direct funding would likely continue regardless, and recommended USAID ratchet up the pressure on Afghan ministries to become more organized. In response to the release of the report, USAID took exception to its conclusion, claiming that although SIGAR outlined numerous potential risks, there were no details of any fraudulent activity. “As this audit does not examine the implementation of USAID direct assistance programs, we do not believe this report has any basis on which to question whether the identified vulnerabilities have been addressed prior to funds being made available,” Donald L. Sampler Jr., the assistant to the administrator for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the agency, told the New York Times. Previous reports by SIGAR have also highlighted wasteful spending in Afghanistan, with one noting that $50 million intended to strengthen local governments was instead used on workshops and overhead. Another report, meanwhile, detailed a local hospital project that was grossly overpaying for basic items and necessities, in some cases to the tune of more than 20 times the market rate. The latest SIGAR report arrives during a time in which tensions have escalated between the United States and Afghanistan. Congress recently set aside $85.2 billion for military operations in the country this year, but slashed development aid in half and halted US involvement in any new infrastructure projects. The new spending allocations come as Afghan President Hamid Karzai refuses to sign a bilateral security agreement that would keep US troops in the country beyond 2014. It’s still unclear as to when he’ll render a decision on the issue. Just recently, Karzai said the US should restart peace negotiations with the Taliban or leave the country entirely.
By ALISON ROBERTSOn the day that Malala was shot, her father Ziauddin Yousafzai was at the Swat Press Club for a meeting, and had just taken the stage to make a speech when his phone rang. Malala’s bus had been attacked. “I had a sixth sense as soon as it rang that it was something bad and it was something to do with Malala,” he says now. Later that day he took a call from the father of Arfa Karim, a female Pakistani computer prodigy whom Bill Gates invited to Microsoft and who died in 2011 from a heart attack at the age of 17. “Her father called out of sympathy and solidarity, and I remember asking him to tell me how does one live without a daughter? And after that I cried and cried. I couldn’t speak any more.” Malala’s recovery has been good. Although she will never be the same physically — she has a titanium plate fixed with eight screws to the top of her head — in spirit she seems very like the girl she was. Yousafzai flicks through the photographs of his daughter in her book: “Yes, she had changed, but we all change with the passage of time.” Some things don’t change though. Three days ago the planned launch of Malala’s best-selling memoir in her home province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in Pakistan was abruptly cancelled. Organisers of the event at Peshawar University claimed they’d come under intense pressure from senior local government officials, who themselves were likely influenced by the Taliban’s vehement opposition to the book. It was a masked member of the Taliban, of course, who in October 2012 shot 15-year-old Malala at point blank range for campaigning for girls education in a country where female literacy is still less than 50 per cent.
Spanish cyclist Federico Javier Colorado Soriano, who narrowly escaped an attack in Mastung, and survived another grenade attack just 12 hours later in the troubled district of Balochistan, has disputed the claim that six levies personnel had died protecting him, Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia reported on Thursday. Colorado, who spoke to La Vanguardia in the safety of New Delhi, recalled the harrowing events in Balochistan, where he was not allowed to cycle. He told the paper that he was waiting at a check post just 300 meters behind a bus carrying pilgrims, which was attacked with a suicide bomb. His camera was recording at the time and somehow he managed to capture the blast on video. The explosion had killed at least 30 pilgrims and left over 50 injured.
The cyclist said that ever since he crossed the Iran-Pakistan border, he was escorted by various members of the security forces who always transported him in their vehicles. However, he disputed the number of security personnel that he was being escorted by at the time of the attack. “Just after crossing into Pakistan from Iran, I was awarded two escorts, the Balochistan levies.” Following the bus bomb attack on January 21, he was held in a police station overnight for safety and allowed to travel the following morning. Even after the explosion, Colorado was loaded into a van with only one gunman and a driver, with no following vehicle. A little after they passed the destroyed bus on the Mastung highway, Colorado’s vehicle came under a bomb and gun attack in which he was injured just above his left temple. Colorado told La Vanguardia that the attack happened barely three minutes after they crossed the bus (visible in his video). He adds that contrary to the official version in which the deaths of six and injuries to three levies personnel is claimed, none of the two men accompanying him were injured, nor did he see anyone else die.
In the video, which he has uploaded on to the internet, Colorado can be seen lying on his stomach on the bed of the pickup truck with his cycle, holding the camera with one arm and his injured head with the other. In the video, an armed levies’ guard can be seen standing over Colorado while a second man, possibly the driver, walks around to the back of the vehicle and inquires whether the Spaniard is ok. To this Colorado tells the driver in Spanish and broken English to keep going. Later at the hospital in Quetta, one of the guards accompanying Colorado tells an attendant in Urdu that they had just escaped a blast and that four to five levies personnel had been killed, while at least three others were injured.
La Vanguardia further reports that according to Colorado, he was flown to Lahore where he stayed in his room for 36-hours with two ‘agents’ outside his door. When he contacted his family in Madrid he read the official statement that he was given. But in New Delhi, he uploaded the video and said that he could no longer keep quiet about what had really happened.
A deadly suicide attack on the Rangers headquarters in Karachi killed three paramilitary soldiers and a civilian on Wednesday. The attack happened just when the prime minister was extending another olive branch to the terrorists in his long awaited speech in the National Assembly. The suicide bomber, just like in previous such attacks, had a relatively easy time exploding himself. The bomber walked in through the check post and refused to stop. The soldiers on duty intercepted him but by then it was too late. The man blew himself up instantly on resistance. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has claimed responsibility for the attack. Suicide terrorism has been the most successful tactic to inflict terror-related crimes. A man with a bomb attached to his vest is difficult to detect until he detonates the explosives. This theory, though, has been proved wrong by countries that had successfully fought against the scourge of terrorism. The 2007 bomb blasts in the UK prompted the International Association of Chiefs of Police to come up with techniques to prevent the suicide bomber from reaching his target. The solution recommended was shooting the suspected bomber in the head. The technique holds out hope for countries like Pakistan where absolutely no mechanism is in place to stop the living bomb from creating mayhem. Our standing operating procedures to combat suicide bombers are archaic and based on a response strategy. Although emergency response agencies must be prepared to respond effectively to suicide bombing, the greatest payoffs lie in preventing such attacks. And it goes without saying that for a smart mechanism a mentoring and threat assessment programme should precede the proactive preventive measures to detect and prevent suicide bombing attempts. Israel has been able to foil 80 percent of suicide operations through counter-intelligence. The government has to enhance the capacity of its intelligence agencies in order to disrupt the network that organizes and supports such actions. For preventing suicide bombing, the first layer of security should be fortifying the infrastructure potentially vulnerable to attacks and protecting both soft and hard targets. In our case the law enforcement personnel, both from the civilian and army cadres, and their offices are in the line of fire. The second layer of security is about stopping the suicide bomber from exploding the bomb. Snipers could be handy for that. Any person, as happened in the Rangers headquarters bombing, who refuses to stop when challenged and is suspected to be a terrorist should be shot in the head then and there. These and many such mechanisms have to be adopted immediately to counter the threat posed by suicide terrorism.
President Obama on Thursday called Rep. Henry A. Waxman, the 20-term Democrat from Beverly Hills who announced he will retire at the end of the session, “one of the most accomplished legislators of his or any era.” Obama issued this statement on Waxman’s retirement: “Early in the 20th century, Henry Waxman’s grandparents came to America, the land of opportunity, and found a place where they could build a better life for themselves and their families. Over the course of 40 years in Congress, their grandson has fought to give every American family that same chance. Thanks to Henry’s leadership, Americans breathe cleaner air, drink cleaner water, eat safer food, purchase safer products, and, finally, have access to quality, affordable healthcare. Today, he continues to advocate tirelessly on behalf of Los Angeles and California as he leads efforts to address a changing climate and make sure every American has the economic security that comes with health insurance. Henry will leave behind a legacy as an extraordinary public servant and one of the most accomplished legislators of his or any era. Michelle and I wish him, his wife Janet, and his family all the best as they begin the next chapter of their lives.” http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/politicsnow/la-pn-obama-henry-waxman-retirement-legacy-20140130,0,729478.story#ixzz2ruw1b2ve
By Griff WitteWord spread quickly last autumn in the rapidly gentrifying north London neighborhood where the Sebah brothers were raised: Mohamed and Akram had died in a car crash. The news was devastating for friends and neighbors who had watched the brothers grow from affable and popular boys into promising young adults. But the truth, as recently revealed in jihadist Web site postings, was darker still. Mohamed and Akram had been killed in Syria while fighting alongside militants. The Sebah brothers were part of a growing legion of Britons who have left behind their often comfortable lives here and joined an increasingly radicalized war effort — one that is just a short budget-airline flight away. Dozens have been killed. Hundreds more remain on the battlefield. But most disconcerting for British security services are the ones — perhaps 50 or more — who are thought to have come home. British officials have expressed growing alarm in recent days over the possibility that returnees from the Syrian war, hardened and trained by their experiences in battle, will seek to carry out terrorist attacks. The head of Scotland Yard’s counterterrorism command said recently that it is “almost inevitable.” That concern is matched by a fast-rising tally of arrests, with at least 14 Britons detained on charges related to travel to or from Syria this month, compared to a total of 24 last year. Security officials say the several hundred Britons who are known to have joined the fight in Syria eclipses the totals for either Afghanistan or Iraq — two other conflicts that attracted radicalized young fighters from the West but that were more difficult to reach. They also acknowledge that there could be many more fighters who have slipped into Syria undetected, given the relative ease of travel by air to Turkey and then over land into the war zone. The distress among security officials is pervasive in European capitals and in Washington. U.S. intelligence chief James R. Clapper Jr. told a congressional panel Wednesday that the Syrian war had attracted about 7,000 foreign fighters from as many as 50 nations and that at least one of the main jihadist groups in Syria aspires to carry out an attack in the United States. But Europe is a far closer and more accessible target. The International Center for the Study of Radicalization, or ICSR, estimated last month that nearly 2,000 Western Europeans had traveled to Syria to fight and that the number was rising fast. French officials say 700 came from France. French Interior Minister Manuel Valls asserted this month that returning fighters represent “the biggest threat that the country faces in the coming years.” The anxiety has been especially acute in Britain, where memories are still fresh of the July 2005 transit bombings. Those attacks, which claimed 52 lives, were carried out by homegrown radicals, at least two of whom had received training in Pakistan. “The penny hasn’t dropped. But Syria is a game-changer,” Richard Walton, who leads counterterrorism efforts at Scotland Yard, told the Evening Standard newspaper. “We are seeing it every day. You have hundreds of people going to Syria, and if they don’t get killed they get radicalized.”
http://voiceofrussia.com/Deputy Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mikdad said that the official governmental delegation of Syria is ready to discuss the formation of a transitional government in Syria. Earlier the Syrian opposition refused to discuss any issues on settling the conflict in the country with government delegates until debates over the creation of a transitional government in Syria take place. "We are ready to discuss all the issues, but we want to stick to the order, stipulated by the Geneva communique," he told the journalists. Earlier today SNC spokesperson Louay Safi said: "They say we should first discuss Geneva communiqué provisions and then the creation of a transitional government. It’s wrong. It’s like putting the cart before the horse."
Call it a reset, reboot or Obama 3.0. Whatever it is, entering the sixth year of his presidency, President Barack Obama has decided he will go it alone if he has to. After five years of fits and starts in trying to work with Republicans in Congress on divisive issues like health care reform and cutting the debt, Obama set a new course in his State of the Union address. “America does not stand still and neither will I,” he said. His declaration drew a pop-up ovation from Democrats in the House of Representatives chamber. Republicans sat on their hands staring straight ahead. Obama did renew an appeal to Congress to work together if possible and seemed to indicate that immigration reform represents the best potential for success, adding that it was time to “fix our broken immigration system”. Unlike past years, he did not hammer Republicans for blocking a path to citizenship. Several Republican lawmakers seemed to appreciate the ‘soft-sell approach’ and there are indications that leaders like House Speaker John Boehner and others may be open to a compromise that eventually might offer a path to legal status to the millions of residents who entered the country illegally. Republicans have an incentive to defuse immigration as a political issue. A kinder, gentler approach to the growing Hispanic population would help blunt Democratic attacks in this year’s congressional midterm campaign that Republicans are anti-immigration. It’s also another sign that mainstream Republicans believe the Tea Party is in retreat after last October’s politically disastrous government shutdown that hurt the Republican Party across the board. The limits of executive action One of the first actions the president announced was increasing the minimum wage for new federal contract workers from $7.25 an hour to $10.10. But this action also points up the limits of executive power. The wage increase only applies to future contracts and will impact very few workers initially. Most of the other actions announced by the president are small-bore steps and programs designed to buttress his fundamental goal—to make the middle class more secure and to try and narrow the growing income gap between the wealthiest 1 percent in the U.S. and everyone else. That’s not to say executive orders and presidential proclamations can’t have a major impact. Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862 freeing slaves in the southern states. President Harry Truman issued the order to desegregate the military in 1948 and President Bill Clinton unilaterally declared millions of acres of federal land as protected national monuments in the 1990s. But the Constitution sets limits on unilateral presidential action and executive orders are not immune from court challenges that occasionally wind up being decided in the Supreme Court. Given the conservative slant to the current high court, the president may wish to avoid that if possible. The Republican backlash The Republican reaction to the president’s ‘Go it alone’ strategy has been predictable. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a possible presidential contender in 2016, described the approach as “borderline unconstitutional.” Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Texas Senator and Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz decried the president’s “persistent pattern of lawlessness.” Since the earliest days of his presidency, many Republicans, especially those aligned with the Tea Party, have promoted the narrative that Obama is bent on pursuing an ‘imperial presidency.’ They point to the enactment of the health care law as the prime example of the president running roughshod over the objections of the tens of millions of Americans represented by Republicans in Congress. No Republicans supported the law when it passed Congress in 2010. The Republicans will try to turn the executive order strategy against the president and Democrats in the November elections. And they will continue to focus on what they contend is the failure of Obamacare in this year’s campaign, even though the president made it clear in his State of the Union that he believes voters are not interested in refighting old battles over health care again in 2014 and he will resist any effort to kill the law. It’s really about November In any election year, the president’s State of the Union serves as a blueprint for his party’s campaign strategy. For Democrats in 2014, the emphasis will be on bolstering the middle class with practical government assistance that includes raising the minimum wage across the board, extending unemployment benefits for the jobless, greater access to college and funding pre-school programs. Polls show these types of initiatives are popular not only with Democrats but with independent voters, a group that has vacillated in its support of the president in the past. Obama and the Democrats are trying to tap into a growing sense of middle class angst that is leftover from the last recession, the fear that the American Dream is in decline and that our children will not have it as good as we had it. It’s the same fear that underlines poll numbers that show for the past 10 years, Americans have generally felt the country is headed in the wrong direction. It’s also partly why Obama’s approval rating is mired down in the low to mid-40s even though there are numerous signs of an improving national economy in terms of job growth and a strengthening housing market. Republicans are trying to tap into the same fears. Their pitch will be to limit the government’s involvement in the lives of Americans and rely more on individual initiative and the power of the free market. They will point over and over again to the flaws of the president’s health care law as the best example of government overreach. And so the midterm battle begins with significant political stakes for the president and for both political parties. If the Republicans can hold or increase their majority in the House of Representatives and also gain the six seats they need to take control of the Senate, they will be able to block anything the president wants to do in his final two years, rendering him a true ‘lame duck.’ Democrats are panicked at the thought of losing the Senate and will pour all the resources they have into holding enough seats to keep their majority. Their problem is that many of the key Senate races this year are in Republican-leaning states that have soured on Obama. If the president’s poll ratings stay low, history tell us that Democrats could have a long and difficult night when the elections are held on November 4.
Highest consumer spending levels in three years boosted growth, which had been hit by higher taxes and federal spending cutsThe US economy expanded at an annual rate of 3.2% in the last three months of 2013, the Commerce Department said on Thursday, as consumers and businesses largely ignored a government shutdown and fight over the debt ceiling. The pace of growth slowed from 4.1% in the previous quarter but still means that US gross domestic product (GDP) the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, grew at an annual rate of 3.7% in the last half of 2013, a pace unseen since 2003. A weak first half of the year dragged the annual rate of growth down to 1.9% for all of 2013, down from 2.8% in 2012. “When we take into account the near three-week federal government shutdown at the start of the quarter, the 3.2% annualized gain in fourth-quarter GDP growth is pretty impressive, particularly since it followed a 4.1% gain in the third quarter. The broader picture is that, as the massive fiscal drag diminishes, US economic growth is accelerating,” Paul Ashworth, chief US economist, Capital Economics wrote in a note to investors. The fourth-quarter number, the Commerce Department’s first estimate of GDP in the period, benefitted from healthy gains in consumer spending as 2013 drew to a close. Personal consumption expenditures, which make up more than two-thirds of GDP, rose by an annual rate of 3.3%, the strongest pace in three years. Economists had worried that a hike in payroll taxes at the start of the year, the 16-day government shutdown in October and the still unresolved fight over the debt ceiling would prove a drag on consumer and business spending. The latest figures suggest both consumers and businesses largely shrugged off the battles in Washington.For consumers auto and household goods sales slowed but were offset by purchases of services and nondurable goods including clothing and footwear. Meanwhile, businesses boosted spending at an annualized 3.8% pace, with the bulk coming from investment in equipment. In a note to investors PNC Bank chief economist Stuart Hoffman said: “After some weakness in the first half of 2013, the US economy appears to be hitting its stride. Consumers are slowly but steadily increasing their spending thanks to moderate job and income growth and gains in stock and home prices. After years of putting off purchases consumers are releasing some of their pent-up demand, buying big ticket items such as cars. Businesses are boosting their investment thanks to very good profitability, low interest rates, and less uncertainty over the economic outlook and government policy.” The GDP figures come a day after the Federal Reserve announced it was intending to trim another $10bn a month from its giant economic stimulus programme, known as quantitative easing (QE). The third round of QE was launched in September 2012 and until last year meant the Fed was pumping $85bn a month into the bond markets in an attempt to encourage investment and keep interest rates low. On Wednesday the Fed made its second cut to QE, bringing the monthly investment down to $65bn a month, and said there was "growing underlying strength in the broader economy". The GDP news cheered investors with all the US stock markets rising in morning trading after several days of losses. Turmoil in Turkey and fear that its problems could spread to other emerging markets have taken their toll on stock markets in recent days. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has closed down six of the past seven trading days and is now off 5.05% from its record high at the end of December.
Baloch patriot leader Hyrbyair Marri said on Wednesday that unearthing of mass graves in Balochistan is not only a tragedy for Baloch nation but it is also an international incident. “Pakistan has exceeded the limits of brutalities, savageness and barbarism against Baloch nation,” he said. He said we [Baloch] have been saying from the beginning that Pakistan military has abducted thousands of Baloch and they’re being tortured to death in military’s torture centres. Mr Marri said: “Pakistani security forces including Military intelligence and other secret security agencies have abducted 18000 Baloch. They have been telling lies to the world that the abducted persons have fled to Dubai and other foreign countries. “But, now their dead bodies are being found from mass graves in military’s controlled areas.” Which he said confirms the concerns and point of view of the Baloch people about Pakistan military. He said he has highlighted the issue of enforced-disappearances, displacements and earthquake victims on all forums. He said in 2009 when John Solecki was seized from Quetta and people who were holding him had demanded from the United Nations to play its due role for the release of abducted Baloch. Baloch leader said that during that time a delegation of United Nations approached him and asked for help with regards to Mr Solecki’s release. He had constituted a ‘Baloch Qaumdost Committee’ consisting members of all pro-freedom parties to work for the release of John Solecki. He said: “In my meetings with UN delegation I highlighted the issue of human rights violations, enforced-disappearances, military operations and the internal displacements. “We had succeeded in securing John Solecki unharmed but the enforced-disappeared Baloch are not only still missing but Pakistan forces are abducting and killing more Baloch every day.” He added: “Even several members of the Committee including shaheed Ghulam Mohammad have been killed, many including Zakir Majeed Baloch are still missing and some are forced to live in exile because of constant life threats by Pakistani forces in Balochistan.” He said the United Nations has remained silent on these tragic incidents. Similarly, when the Pakistan military stopped the UN from helping the displaced Baloch, the UN should have raised this matter but it remained completely silent. “And the silence of UN and other international human rights organisations is encouraging Pakistan to commit more crimes in Balochistan. These crimes of occupying state are now shaping as a massive human tragedy,” He said. Hyrbyair Marri said the silence of international media and human rights organisations on heart wrenching incident of the discovery of mass graves in Tootak area of Khuzdar Balochistan is encouraging Pakistan to continue its crimes against Baloch people. He said: “The same international organisations intervened and raised voice for East Timor, Kosovo and South Sudan whereas the Balochistan conflict is also of the same magnitude as Kosovo and East Timor but the human rights organisation are ignoring it.” He said it was not only the moral responsibility of UN and international human rights organisations but it is also their legal duty to take notice of Baloch genocide and human rights violations in Balochistan. Hyrbyair Marri said: “We raised the issue of discovery of mass graves with member of US congress during a recent meeting with them. We have also informed them about human rights violations including enforced-disappearances by Pakistani forces in Balochistan.” Recently Baloch leader Hyrbyair Marri and Khan Kalat Mir Suleman Daud held a detailed meeting with members of US congress about Balochistan conflict. Expressing his views about mass graves in Tootak, Mr Marri said: “We suspect that the government is trying to remove the evidence from the site because the other day when locals were digging the mass graves, the Pakistani security forces opened fire on them and took control of the entire region. They are not allowing anyone including the media to go in that area, which illustrates that Pakistan army is busy in removing evidences.” Referring to a statement of IG FC (Inspector General Frontier Corps) that ‘Baloch militant should not be called ‘angry Baloch’, Hyrbyair Marri said, Baloch nation has never said that they were angry in fact Baloch nation is struggling for their independence, which was snatched from them by Pakistan and Iran. He said that statement of Pakistani IG FC was an attempt to justify the mass killings of Baloch people. The Baloch patriot leader said Baloch nation has the right to self-defence under international laws and Baloch are exercising this right in their national liberation struggle whereas occupying Pakistani forces are committing genocide of Baloch nation by labelling them as terrorists.
By Daud Afghan Nation refers to a community of people who shares a common language, culture, ethnicity, descent, and history. So in this regard, Pashtuns are a different nation historically though its politically Afghan nation today which also covers the non-pashtuns in Afghanistan due to a common government and territory. Afghan-cum-Pashtun Nationalists espouse Pashto & Pashtunwali, while the Pashtuns living in the territorial jurisdiction of the state of Pakistan are gradually losing their elements of societal/national originality (Pashto and Pashtun-specific code of life) under the state’s clandestine as well as blatant policy of Depashtunization (or in other words Punjabization/Pakistanization). On the other hand, the state of Pakistan which is the brainchild of Islamic Brotherhood concept (Muslim Ummah) and the new definition or philosophy of Iqbal-e-Lahori that all Muslims are one nation and all other people are other nations (two-nation theory; believers and non-believers----Quran) espouses Islam & Islamic government, while Muslims living in its immediate neighbor Afghanistan are somehow being influenced by Americans and Indians which may result in re-conversion of them to their old societal originality (majorly Hinduism with a slight mix of Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and Judaism). This is what the expansionist Punjab-led security establishment teaches the Taliban. So, this gives the Islamic State of Pakistan a valid reason of announcing Jihad in Afghanistan and supporting Talibanization to fight back the American and Indian influences in order to keep the Afghans good Muslims. But there are Nationalists equivalent of Taliban who have got the same valid reason of fighting the state of Pakistan for weakening and finally finishing the cultural/national originalities of Pashtuns under its depashtunization policy. So, in order to make a stable Afghanistan, the Afghan nationalists must protect the Pashtuns from depashtunization of Pakistan to promote unity and a strong national state of Afghanistan. Therefore, there is a clash between Afghan-cum-Pashtun Nationalism consisting of social democrats, seculars and liberals; and Pakistani and Saudi-backed Islamists consisting of today’s Taliban and former Mujahideen (some of them today are ruling elites in Afghanistan). The war between Afghan Nationalism and Islamists took 35 years and is still continued which has divided the Pashtun nation into two major blocks; 1- Nationalists and 2- Islamists. The Afghan Nationalists (representing a national democratic state for Afghans) and Islamists (which generally represent Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) are killing one another till the last Pashtun is spared who will decide whether Afghanistan will be a secular nationalist state or an Arabic Muslim state or in other words; whether there will be Loy Afghanistan or the united Muslim Ummah. Now, there are two opposing concepts; 1-Muslim Brotherhood (represented by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan) and 2- Pashtun Brotherhood (represented by the National Democratic Republic of Afghanistan). Now, we analyze which brotherhood concept is beneficial for Pashtuns in general. Under Pashtun Brotherhood Concept, there will be a stable and developed Afghanistan, which will present Pashtuns to the globe as a developed nation, will promote Pashto and Pashtunwali, and will be a peaceful nation, will be rich, prosperous and self-sufficient. A stable united Afghanistan will drag Pashtuns out of terrorism towards peace and will eliminate their miseries, poverty and finally Pashtuns will take a hold of their political destiny themselves. While Under the Muslim Brotherhood Concept (United Muslim Ummah), Pashtuns will always remain a third class people polishing the boots of Punjabis and Arabs, will ever remain fighters and protectors of Punjabis and Arabs’ Islamic hegemony and capitalism. They will be drivers, guards, sweepers and their physical labour will used to be exploited in Lahore, Gujranawala, Karachi, Dubai, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. They will fight and kill their own brothers but part of (Pashtun Brotherhood) for the sake of Punjabis and Arabs and will destroy their schools, public places and will vandal their peaceful civilization. They will continue to kill among themselves and will try to weaken the Afghan Nationalism that is the ultimate goal of their Punjabi masters. The killings and bloodshed among Pashtuns will continue sponsored by the Islamist institutions in our villages, towns and cities funded by the government of Pakistan and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Our youth will be brainwashed in the centers run by Islamists for suicide attacks or in more respected words; the centers having back doors open into celestial paradise and to enjoy with 72 divine Hurs (young and beautiful girls considered to be offered to martyrs in the Heaven) while the real Hurs (girls of the Pashtun Brotherhood) will be left alone having no males available for them in their Pashtun brotherhood in the wake of suicide attacks, bomb blasts, and war constituting Jihad (the holy Islamic war to protect the money and cultural domination of Arabs). The fate of females of Pashtun brotherhood will be, as usual, very pathetic and they will be exploited as prostitutes in the commercial places of Lahore and Dubai and this is what exactly the Arabs and Punjabis want. The children of Pashtun Brotherhood will be polishing shoes in plazas and markets owned by Punjabis and Arabs in Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Lahore. Pashtuns will get bombed by the major nuclear and military powers of the world as the Russian Federation, the USA and in the foreseeable future even China for very good reasons as they will be blowing up themselves in the cities of non-Muslims for the protection and victory of Islam and this is what we have been observing since last 35 years. Pashtuns will have no place, no country and no state and even their own masters (Punjabis) for whose protection they are fighting will declare them terrorists and cheap people and this is what Punjabis and Arabs think about us today. O Pashtuns! Please come, please come! Leave others, talk about yourself, talk about Pashto and Pashtunwali, establish a national state, make your civilization, be peaceful and civilized, don’t kill your own brothers from Pashtun Brotherhood for the favors of others, be united, and recognize yourself, your history, culture, descent and originality. O Pashtun Youth! Please do not sacrifice your real Hurs (Pashtun girls) for the sake of heavenly Hurs (Young Arab and Punjabi girls) in paradise. What will they (the Pashtun girls) do, if you are nowhere here any longer? Protect them! Keep their honor and do not let them be exploited when you are killed in suicide attacks, bomb blasts or war for terrorism going on in your area due to your own involvement. This is stupidity! Extreme stupidity! Educate yourself on modern lines; educate your children and females. Stop the “war for the interests of others”! Stop the” war for the destruction of your own self”.
The White House on Wednesday urged the Karzai government to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement in the next few weeks, saying it did not want the deal to be delayed until after the election. “Because of the need to coordinate this planning internationally with the Afghan government and within our own military, we still believe this needs to be done in the next several weeks and not delayed until after the election,” Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said. He told a news conference the US had made clear the BSA that had been negotiated was a good agreement both for the United States and Afghanistan, and should be signed by the government of President Hamid Karzai. “We believe that should happen as soon as possible, that there does not need to be further negotiations, that the text is agreed. And we've said that needs to take place in the coming weeks, and so we don't want to see it delayed until after the election..." Rhodes insisted there was not much time left because they had a significant amount of planning to do in terms of a drawdown over the course of 2014 and any follow-on force. If there was no clarity about the accord, the US could not plan a troop presence in Afghanistan after 2014, he argued. “We need to be able to get together with our NATO allies because their drawdown is going to be affected by whether or not there's a BSA. Countries that are contemplating their own post-2014 presence are waiting to see whether or not there's a BSA and there'll be a US presence. So our ability to coordinate the alliance very much depends upon the certainty that we're going to have a BSA. And so that's one critical component of this,” he said. “So for all those reasons, we would like to make these decisions in the coming weeks. We don't want to see it delayed. The President has been very clear to us that even as we plan for potential options for a troop presence after 2014 in the event of a BSA, that we're not going to keep troops in Afghanistan if there's not a BSA. So we also have to plan for a contingency of not having troops in Afghanistan,” the White House official explained.
American and NATO military planners, facing continued political uncertainty about whether foreign troops will remain in Afghanistan after December, have drawn up plans to deploy a force this summer that is tailored to assume a training mission in 2015 but is also small enough to withdraw if no deal for an enduring presence is reached, alliance officials said. With President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan refusing to sign security agreements approving a presence for American and NATO troops after 2014, allied military planners have been forced to prepare for both sudden success and abject failure of proposals for a continuing mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces after combat operations officially end this year. The decision on whether to extend the foreign military presence is a political one, and it will be decided first by Mr. Karzai and then by President Obama and the elected leaders from NATO nations. The process has brought vitriol in Kabul, the Afghan capital, and deep concern in Washington and allied capitals. The delays have complicated military planning, since the governments of nations that contribute troops must approve any sustained deployments — and the required financing — months in advance, with a number of notional deadlines for finishing an agreement already long passed. In preparing the mechanics of this summer’s regular troop rotation, American and NATO military commanders have set in motion a plan intended to give the alliance’s political leadership maximum flexibility, according to senior NATO officials. These deployment plans would put in place a coalition military force sufficient to carry out a training mission beginning on Jan. 1, 2015, if Mr. Karzai relents, and small enough for an exit by Dec. 31 of this year if political stalemate results in the so-called zero option, alliance officials said. As of Friday, there were about 36,500 American troops in Afghanistan, and about 19,000 other allied forces. The alliance has approved the concept for a post-2014 training and assistance force of 8,000 to 12,000 troops, two-thirds of them American, based in Kabul and in four hubs in each compass corner of Afghanistan to carry out a follow-on mission, named Resolute Support. This summer, as the United States and coalition nations send in troops for the next round of deployments, a force of that size, based in those locations and having the required skills, will be put in place as part of the overall alliance presence to complete the official combat mission this year. “We will use the arrival of forces in July to tailor the force so it looks like what it needs to look like in that Resolute Support mission,” a senior NATO official said. “So it’s going to be there.” The total allied deployment in the summer months will perhaps remain 10,000 troops larger than designs for a post-2014 mission, so “between July and October we will shed weight,” the NATO official said. “We will start to shrink the perimeter, figuratively speaking, and we will get to the Resolute Support number.” Mr. Obama, delivering his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, reiterated his administration’s policy. If the Afghan government signs a security agreement, the president said, then “a small force of Americans could remain in Afghanistan with NATO allies.” He described the potential follow-on deployment as intended “to carry out two narrow missions: training and assisting Afghan forces, and counterterrorism operations to pursue any remnants of Al Qaeda.” The current and potential missions in Afghanistan were atop the agenda at NATO headquarters in Brussels last week as alliance military chiefs met. Senior NATO officials described internal deployment planning on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the effort. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who attended the NATO session, did not discuss specifics of future deployments, but described a broad goal to assure that military planning gives as much flexibility as possible to the alliance’s civilian leadership. “It’s our job to make sure that the elected leader never runs out of options,” General Dempsey said. But he warned that a continued delay by Mr. Karzai in signing the bilateral security agreement carried risk. “The options will become more expensive and could become somewhat constrained the longer this languishes,” General Dempsey said. Many nations are watching with concern as Mr. Karzai demurs on signing a deal with Washington — a requirement for a similar deal with NATO — because the efficient and lawful disbursement of billions of dollars of pledged international assistance is viewed as dependent on oversight by foreign troops in a country known for corruption. American intelligence agencies are also concerned that if United States troops are pulled out of Afghanistan, they could lose their air bases for drone strikes against Al Qaeda in Pakistan and for responding to a nuclear crisis in the region.
By: Imran HaiderImran Khan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif want to hold talks with the Taliban. They may do so. And while they are at it, they should ask the Taliban why they assassinated my neighbour, Syed Alim Moosavi, steps from my ancestral home in Peshawar. Molana Alim was assassinated on January 20 in Dhakki Munawwar Shah near Qissa Khawani Bazaar. He was heading to the mosque to lead prayers. Two gun men on a motorcycle shot and killed him. Like thousands of others who have died in targeted killings, Molana Alim’s murderers are likely to remain unknown and escape justice. While he was targeted for being a Shia, Sunnis have not fared any better at the hands of the Taliban. The term ‘Shia Genocide’ has been added to the lexicon to describe the mass murder of the minority Shias in Pakistan. But it is not only Shias who are suffering at the hands of the murderous and regressive ideology of the Taliban. Almost seven years to the day, the Taliban assassinated the fearless head of the Peshawar Police, Malik Muhammad Saad, in a suicide bomb attack in the same neighbourhood. For every Shia murdered in sectarian attacks, several Sunnis have also been killed in terrorist attacks by the same Taliban. What could Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif hope to achieve in a dialogue with those who are committing war crimes against the people of Pakistan? Molana Alim was a second generation religious scholar. His father, Molana Safdar Hussain, was one of the pioneers of sectarian harmony in Peshawar. The residents of the walled city of Peshawar distinctly remember Molana Safdar Hussain walking hand-in-hand with Ahl-e-Sunnat scholars in Milad-un-Nabi processions. Molana Alim, like his father, was friends with religious scholars of all stripes. Molana Alim taught us to believe in non-violence, a fast fading tradition of the Frontier that finds its roots in the teachings of Bacha Khan. I have seen Molana Alim calm and respectful of others, even in times of great adversity. When the Taliban gangs attacked Shias in the summer of 1992, Molana Alim preached patience and respect to the restless youth in Peshawar who saw their friends murdered and their graveyards desecrated. And unlike other religious scholars, he lived without any security detail and walked alone and unguarded in the old city. While others knew him as Molana, he was more of a friend to us. He never married and lived alone across the street from my maternal ancestral home. His true companion were his books, which he was always generous to share. He lived in self-sustained poverty. He would cook his own meals and wash his own clothes. My cousins in Peshawar had a much longer association with him. He would greet us with a smile and would ensure that we drink his patented Qehwa (green tea) that he’d prepare himself. He resented the fact that my Math and Physics were stronger than my Persian and Arabic. He wanted us to read the classic texts in their original Arabic or Persian. He’d help us whenever we’d get stuck in seventh century Arabic or 13th century Persian. Molana Alim’s greatest strength was his willingness to embrace those who did not share his views or philosophy. He was not offended by the fact that I did not support Iran’s transformation into a theocratic state and favoured a secular outlook for Muslim societies, where religion and faith would be private matters. He had faith in his neighbours as he would sit outside his home on a chair and greet passers-by. His death is not a loss only to Shias. His death is a loss to the City of Peshawar that no longer resembles its diverse, multi-lingual and multi-faith past where once all were welcome. Unlike Molana Alim, the Taliban follow the takfiri ideology where those who disagree with them by default earn a death sentence. No one is immune; neither the teenaged Malala Yousafzai, who by the grace of God survived the assassination attempt, nor the sons of soil like Malik Saad and Sifwat Ghayur, who laid their lives in the line of duty. While Shias, Christians, and other minorities in Pakistan make easy targets for the Taliban, most Sunnis are killed in indiscriminate violence. Shias are being targeted all across Pakistan, especially in Balochistan where Shia Hazaras continue to suffer despite tall claims by the State to act against the perpetrators. At the same time, the Taliban are bombing unarmed Sunni civilians in the Royal Artillery Bazaar in Rawalpindi and murdering polio vaccinators and those who protect them. It would be wrong to assume that the Taliban are attacking a particular sect. Their target is in fact the State and society in Pakistan. Despite such overwhelming evidence of a revolt against the federation of Pakistan and its constituting units, and commission of war crimes against civilians, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan still insist on sitting across the table from those who murdered the likes of Sifwat Ghayyur, Malik Saad, and Lt. General Mushtaq Ahmad Baig, Pakistan Army’s surgeon general and a hafiz-e-Quran. Mr. Sharif and Mr. Khan should advise the nation of the agenda and goals for their desired parleys with mass murderers. The Human Rights Watch in its latest report declared that militants are operating with “virtual impunity” in Pakistan, where the State is either unwilling or unable to stop terrorist attacks. Offering dialogue to mass murderers and denying security to the citizens hardly builds confidence in democracy. If the status quo continues, Pakistan is likely to descent even further into chaos where even the rich and powerful would not escape terrorism. Mr. Khan and Mr. Sharif should take note.