Friday, January 10, 2014

President Obama: “A child’s course in life should be determined not by the zip code she’s born in”

Yesterday, on the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, President Obama announced the first five “Promise Zone” locations across the U.S. The program, first unveiled at his State of the Union address last year, is an initiative that partners with local communities and businesses to create jobs, expand access to educational opportunities and spur economic mobility and security.
Joined by students from the Harlem Children’s Zone -- a 17 year undertaking that found children will do better if those around them are doing better -- the President spoke in the East Room of the White House on the importance of making sure everyone who works hard has a fair shot at success, no matter where they come from or who they are. “A child’s course in life should be determined not by the zip code she’s born in, but by the strength of her work ethic and the scope of her dreams,” the President said.
As an example of how communities can change children’s lives, the President told the story of Roger Brown from Harlem. Roger spent some time in the foster care system before going to live with his mom, who entered his name into the Promise Academy Charter School lottery, where he received a spot. During school, Roger was the class clown and acted out but his teachers didn’t give up on him and kept pushing him. So he buckled down and became the first person in his family to go to college.
“If you want to know why I care about this stuff so much, it's because I'm not that different from Roger,” President Obama said.
'There was a period of time in my life where I was goofing off. I was raised by a single mom. I didn’t know my dad. The only difference between me and Roger was my environment was more forgiving than his. That’s the only difference. If I screwed up, the consequences weren't quite as great. So if Roger can make it, and if I can make it, if Kiara can make it, every kid in this country can make it.'
The Promise Zones, located in San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, are the first of twenty being launched over the next three years. In his speech, the President spoke on why commitment to these communities is so important:
Each of these communities is designing from the bottom up, not the top down, what it is they think they need, and we're working with them to make that happen. And each of these communities is prepared to do what it takes to change the odds for their kids. We will help them succeed -- not with a handout, but as partners with them every step of the way. And we're going to make sure it works, and we're going to hold them accountable to make sure it is making a difference in the lives of kids.

Netanyahu, Rouhani Due at Davos Forum

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, whose countries are arch-foes, are both set to attend the World Economic Forum this month, organizers said Friday.
WEF spokeswoman Michele Mischler confirmed to Agence France Presse that both leaders would be at the January 22-25 annual gathering of top politicians and business leaders in the plush Swiss ski resort of Davos.
Mischler would not say on which dates the two leaders would be in Davos.
The WEF is scheduled to unveil the guest list next week.
This year's edition of the forum, the 44th, is scheduled to take place at the same time as a peace conference on Syria in the Swiss cities of Montreux and Geneva, brokered by the United Nations and Arab League.
There has been bitter debate over a potential role at the talks for Iran, a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, with key Israeli ally the United States among the most vocal critics.

Syria: Mrs. Asma al-Assad visits martyr daughters’ schools

Mrs. Asma al-Assad on Thursday visited the Martyr Daughters’ School, surprising the students of the Basic education, sons and daughters of the martyrs , while they were taking their first semester exams.
Touring the class halls, Mrs. Asma assured the situation of the students as she has been following their social, educational conditions since many years. Based on the fact that the homeland is built by education and knowledge, Mrs. Al-Assad asked the general supervisor of the Martyrs’ daughters’ schools Shahira Fallouh about the performance of the educational, exam situation in general, and the students of the basic education stage, particularly in the first semester exam. She wished the students success and excellence for the prosperity of the homeland. For her part, Supervisor of the schools thanked Mrs. Asma for her continuous interest in the martyrs and their sons as this represents a continuation of President Bashar al-Assad’s care about the martyrs and their sons.

Japan: Abe’s militarism defies history

Seventy-two years ago, nearly 2,000 Canadian soldiers fought side by side with the Chinese people and Allied forces to defend Hong Kong from Japanese invasion. More than 500 Canadian soldiers lost their lives in the battle or died later in captivity. Last month, the Canadian consulate in Hong Kong held a commemorative ceremony that was joined by hundreds of people, including survivors of the battle, local residents and official representatives from China. Together, they paid tribute to those who fell and cherished friendship and peace.
That hard-won peace should be treasured by all. However, as 2013 drew to a close, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe blatantly paid homage at the Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 war criminals from the Second World War are among those honoured. This act, which goes against historical justice, triggered strong condemnation from neighbouring China and South Korea, plus other members of the international community. More and more people fear Mr. Abe is opening a Pandora’s box of militarism, leading Japan down a path that gravely undermines regional peace and stability.
This is not alarmism. After the Second World War, Japan accepted the verdict of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, also known as the Tokyo Trials, and enacted a pacifist constitution that renounces war as a sovereign right. But since taking office a year ago, Mr. Abe has taken a series of calculated moves to deny the war’s outcome and challenge the postwar international order in the name of building a “normal country.”
These moves include questioning the legitimacy of the Tokyo Trials, claiming that the “definition of aggression” has yet to be established, strengthening Japan’s military and loosening self-imposed bans on weapons exports. Mr. Abe has even advocated revising the postwar constitution to allow Japan to regain the right to wage war and officially maintain a standing army. By choosing to visit the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine on the first anniversary of his inauguration, Mr. Abe displayed the depth of this determination to implement this extremist agenda. He is steering his country in a very dangerous direction – Japan’s neighbours and the rest of the international community have every reason to show their concern.
The roots of Mr. Abe’s challenge to the postwar international order go deep. Many of his hawkish positions, such as those on aggression and rearmament, are surprisingly similar to those espoused by his maternal grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, who was held as a Class-A war crimes suspect after the war and later became prime minister.
It’s widely known that Mr. Abe sees his grandfather as a political role model. His provocative positions play well to his right-wing base. The fact that Japan’s economy picked up pace last year also played a part in the ballooning of Mr. Abe’s ambition. In this context, it is not surprising to see Mr. Abe declare last week that “the struggle to restore a strong Japan has just begun.”
Unlike Germany, which undertook a deep reflection on its wartime crimes, Japan has failed to take action to heal the deep wounds it inflicted on millions of Asian people. What’s worse, it keeps adding salt to those wounds. So how can such a country win the trust of its neighbours and the international community? How can it inspire confidence that it will play a constructive role in promoting regional peace and stability?
The wars of the 20th century testify that peace is never a low-hanging fruit. To prevent history from repeating itself, all peace-loving people must remain vigilant about Mr. Abe’s government’s attitude toward history and its increasingly frequent actions counter to the trend of peace and development.
China and Canada were both on the winning side of the Second World War, sacrificing tremendously in the fight against fascism. We share a common responsibility to oppose efforts to nullify its outcome.
Zhang Junsai is China’s ambassador to Canada.

Iran says differences over implementing nuclear deal solved

Differences between Iran and the world powers over implementing an interim nuclear deal have been solved, Iran's top nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi said Friday. "Nuclear talks ended in Geneva (on Friday) and agreement reached on the remaining issues," Araqchi was quoted as saying by Press TV. "Announcement will be made in the next few days if parties agree to do so," he added. Iran and the European Union (EU) held a meeting in Geneva on Thursday and Friday to discuss remaining issues pertaining to the implementation of the interim nuclear deal clinched between Tehran and the major world powers in November. Abbas Araqchi met with Helga Schmid, a deputy of European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who has overseen contacts between Iran and the six major powers on the country's nuclear issue. Nuclear experts from Iran and the six powers have held three rounds of talks to resolve various technical issues before the Geneva deal can be put into place.

Video: Chomsky on Anarchy & Anarcho-Syndicalism

Video: Russian Cossacks patrol Sochi prior to Olympics

Russian Cossacks join forces with Russian police to patrol the streets of Sochi, where the Olympic games will kick off in less than a month.

Russia suspects Saudi Arabia of sponsoring Volvograd attacks
President Putin’s cabinet seems to be pointing the finger at Saudi Arabia for the Volvograd attacks. On December 29th, a kamikaze Muslim woman, identified as Oksana Aslanova, blew herself up in the Volvograd train station, killing 18 people. The following day, another kamikaze blew himself up in a trolleybus, killing 17 people.
President Putin called on the victims’ families to offer his condolences, and visit the wounded at the hospital. He emphasized that foreign sponsors may have been behind this action. Over 700 people have been questioned by the police, mainly illegal immigrants, during the security checks that followed the attacks.
On 31 July 2013, the chief of Saudi secret services, Prince Bandar, had been received in Moscow by president Vladimir Putin. During the meeting, he purportedly declared himself unable to restrain any terrorist attacks by Caucus Islamists if Russia does not stop supporting Syria. A second meeting took place on December 3rd.
Shortly before the first meeting, the Caucus emirate, Dokou Oumarov, had publicly called for attacks to be staged during the Sochi Olympics. Furthermore, in June, Oumarov—who had kept away from the international jihad scene for some time—called for battle in Syria (at the side of Prince Bandar’s men) in order to acquire the necessary expertise to ’’liberate the Caucus’’.

U.S: 'The War Over Poverty'

Paul Krugman
Fifty years have passed since Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty. And a funny thing happened on the way to this anniversary. Suddenly, or so it seems, progressives have stopped apologizing for their efforts on behalf of the poor, and have started trumpeting them instead. And conservatives find themselves on the defensive. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. For a long time, everyone knew — or, more accurately, “knew” — that the war on poverty had been an abject failure. And they knew why: It was the fault of the poor themselves. But what everyone knew wasn’t true, and the public seems to have caught on.
The narrative went like this: Antipoverty programs hadn’t actually reduced poverty, because poverty in America was basically a social problem — a problem of broken families, crime and a culture of dependence that was only reinforced by government aid. And because this narrative was so widely accepted, bashing the poor was good politics, enthusiastically embraced by Republicans and some Democrats, too.
Yet this view of poverty, which may have had some truth to it in the 1970s, bears no resemblance to anything that has happened since.
For one thing, the war on poverty has, in fact, achieved quite a lot. It’s true that the standard measure of poverty hasn’t fallen much. But this measure doesn’t include the value of crucial public programs like food stamps and the earned-income tax credit. Once these programs are taken into account, the data show a significant decline in poverty, and a much larger decline in extreme poverty. Other evidence also points to a big improvement in the lives of America’s poor: lower-income Americans are much healthier and better-nourished than they were in the 1960s.
Furthermore, there is strong evidence that antipoverty programs have long-term benefits, both to their recipients and to the nation as a whole. For example, children who had access to food stamps were healthier and had higher incomes in later life than people who didn’t.
And if progress against poverty has nonetheless been disappointingly slow — which it has — blame rests not with the poor but with a changing labor market, one that no longer offers good wages to ordinary workers. Wages used to rise along with worker productivity, but that linkage ended around 1980. The bottom third of the American work force has seen little or no rise in inflation-adjusted wages since the early 1970s; the bottom third of male workers has experienced a sharp wage decline. This wage stagnation, not social decay, is the reason poverty has proved so hard to eradicate. Or to put it a different way, the problem of poverty has become part of the broader problem of rising income inequality, of an economy in which all the fruits of growth seem to go to a small elite, leaving everyone else behind.
So how should we respond to this reality?
The conservative position, essentially, is that we shouldn’t respond. Conservatives are committed to the view that government is always the problem, never the solution; they treat every beneficiary of a safety-net program as if he or she were “a Cadillac-driving welfare queen.” And why not? After all, for decades their position was a political winner, because middle-class Americans saw “welfare” as something that Those People got but they didn’t.
But that was then. At this point, the rise of the 1 percent at the expense of everyone else is so obvious that it’s no longer possible to shut down any discussion of rising inequality with cries of “class warfare.” Meanwhile, hard times have forced many more Americans to turn to safety-net programs. And as conservatives have responded by defining an ever-growing fraction of the population as morally unworthy “takers” — a quarter, a third, 47 percent, whatever — they have made themselves look callous and meanspirited.
You can see the new political dynamics at work in the fight over aid to the unemployed. Republicans are still opposed to extended benefits, despite high long-term unemployment. But they have, revealingly, changed their arguments. Suddenly, it’s not about forcing those lazy bums to find jobs; it’s about fiscal responsibility. And nobody believes a word of it. Meanwhile, progressives are on offense. They have decided that inequality is a winning political issue. They see war-on-poverty programs like food stamps, Medicaid, and the earned-income tax credit as success stories, initiatives that have helped Americans in need — especially during the slump since 2007 — and should be expanded. And if these programs enroll a growing number of Americans, rather than being narrowly targeted on the poor, so what?
So guess what: On its 50th birthday, the war on poverty no longer looks like a failure. It looks, instead, like a template for a rising, increasingly confident progressive movement.

BSA: President Karzai unlikely to meet US deadline

President Hamid Karzai may not sign a security deal allowing an American military presence in the country post 2014 on the US timetable, Washington’s envoy in Kabul has privately informed the Obama administration.
If the assessment turns out to be correct, the ensuing situation could lead to a messy troop withdrawal by the end of the year, leaving the US with little time to assemble a coalition to stay in Afghanistan.
The Washington Post reported on Friday the assessment had been made in recent days in a classified cable by US Ambassador James B. Cunningham, who has been negotiating the pact in Kabul.
The White House wants to see the document signed within “weeks, not months.” In the cable, Cunningham says he did not think Karzai would sign the pact before a presidential election scheduled for April.
The assessment follows America’s repeated extension of the deadline for signing the deal that was expected to be concluded early last fall.
Senior Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker John A. Boehner, have held President Obama responsible for the ongoing upheaval and al-Qaeda gains in Iraq, where the administration was unable to complete a similar agreement before the final departure of troops.
Last month, the US intelligence community warned a total American military pullout from Afghanistan would lead to a rapid collapse of central government control to the Taliban and other power brokers in many parts of the country.

Pakistan: Vaccinators refuse to join polio campaign in Jamrud

The Express Tribune News.
Health workers in Jamrud Friday refused to participate in a polio vaccination campaign because of security threats, officials said.
The three-day campaign in the Khyber tribal district is due to start on Saturday, almost three weeks after gunmen shot dead a worker while he was administering polio drops and vaccines to children in the town of Jamrud. Efforts to stamp out the crippling disease in Pakistan have been seriously hampered by militant attacks on health workers inoculating children.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) banned polio vaccinations in the tribal region of Waziristan in 2012, alleging the campaign was a cover for espionage.
“The employees at the civil hospital in Jamrud swore on oath that they will not join the campaign owing to serious security threats,” a senior health official in the region told AFP on condition of anonymity.
He said these employees recently held talks with the local administration and demanded better security and higher wages for health workers. He said the campaign would be launched according to schedule in Bara and Landi Kotal towns of Khyber from Saturday.
“If the health workers do not participate in the campaign in Jamrud, we will hire the local tribal police for the purpose,” the official added.
One health worker in Jamrud told AFP he and his colleagues had received threats from militants on Thursday night warning them of serious consequences if they joined the campaign.
“Our lives are dear to us and we have decided not to join the campaign,” he said, asking not to be named. Pakistan is one of three countries in the world where polio remains endemic, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria. Eradication efforts have also suffered due to long-standing rumours that the vaccine was part of a Western plot to sterilise Muslims.
According to the World Health Organization, Pakistan recorded 85 cases of polio last year compared with 58 in 2012.

Aitizaz Hasan to be honoured with Sitara-e-Shujaat

The Express Tribune News
Aitizaz Hasan to be honoured with Sitara-e-Shujaat,a high civilian award for bravery – upon Aitizaz Hasan, Express News reported on Friday. The recommendation will go to President Mamnoon Hussain for approval. Hasan – a student from Hangu – tackled a suicide bomber on January 6 who had come to attack his school at a time when hundreds of students were inside. The brave boy died while protecting others. The school is the only one in Ibrahimzai, a Shia-dominated area in Hangu. There were nearly 2,000 students in the school at the time the attack occurred. Later in the day, the bombing, which was the first suicide attack at a school, was claimed by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Earlier today, teenage activist Malala Yousufzai announced she would give Rs0.5 million to Aitizaz Hasan’s family and called on the government to bestow the highest civilian award on him.

Balochistan: Revisiting the Alamdar Road Tragedy

By Asif Magsi
Today 10th January, marks the first anniversary of Alalmdar Road Quetta blast in which as many as 106 people were killed while around 1970 remained injured in a twin blast. The blast took place at a snooker hall when at about 8:50 p.m. a suicide bomber blew up himself inside the snooker hall.
After the first blast, people from all walks of life i.e. Civil society, Police, media men and the rescue teams, reached the scene to help and rescue young boys who were present in the snooker hall. Within ten minutes, a second blast took place near the snooker hall as a remote control bomb fixed in a car exploded. The second blast mainly targeted those who had gone to rescue and assist the victims of the earlier blast. As a result, the second blast killed aid workers, security personnel, journalists and all those who had rushed at the scene to help the victims of first blast.
The blast on Alamdar Road, Quetta, left many families in grief as most of the victims were young people aging between 14 to 25 years. The relentless wave of sectarian violence that had targeted Hazara Shia Muslims in Balochistan has taken away many sons, brothers and fathers from Hazara Shia Muslim community in Quetta.
Among these mothers is Saeeda Bibi who lost her eldest son Irfan Ali aka Khudi, a young man who worked as a community activist and was married a year and half ago. Khudi, like the rest of the people, had gone to snooker hall to help the victims of first blast. But, unfortunately he himself became the victim of the second blast and lost his life while rescuing the victims of first blast.
One of the second blast victims included SAMAA News journalist Saif Baloch who had reached the scene for coverage but went on missing for many hours after second blast. Later on, it was learnt that he had succumbed to injuries at Quetta’s Combined Military Hospital.
Many mothers, such as Saeeda Bibi, have lost their beloved sons because of the unabated sectarian war in Quetta while many others have been compelled to leave their homes, jobs and careers to move to safer places. There are also those who could not afford to leave Quetta but are stranded today within the confines of the boundary walls of Hazara- dominated towns in Quetta. Today after a year, the families of the Alamdar Road twin blasts are unsure if the killers of their loved ones would ever be brought to justice.
Malik Siraj Akber, the US-based editor of Balochistan’s first online English newspaper The Baloch Hal, said in and interview with Al-Jazeera English, “the Pakistani government has not had a policy of countering sectarianism in the southwestern region, which is the base for Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and other Sunni armed groups”.
Akbar said the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which claimed responsibility for the twin blasts, is an offshoot or supporter of the Taliban. “The LeJ wants the Shias in Balochistan to either convert into Sunni Islam or leave Balochistan and Pakistan,” he said.
The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi openly operates in Balochistan and routinely carries out attacks on Hazara Shia Muslims. In some cases, it stopped buses full of Shia pilgrims, brought the passengers down and shot them after establishing their identity as Hazaras or Shias. The LeJ has also killed hundreds of Shia, Hazaras in numerous suicide bomb blasts in Quetta.
Whether it is dictatorship, democracy or governor’s rule, the Hazara Shia Muslim community has suffered for the last 13 years although the Hazaras are widely recognized as a very peaceful community. In spite of repeated attacks and the barbaric killing of innocent Hazaras, each attack is responded by the community with absolutely peacefully protests while carrying the dead bodies of their loved ones in front of the Governor’s House, Chief Minister House or the Balochistan Assembly. Unfortunately, their quest for justice has not been positively responded by the government. Last year, it was deeply heartbreaking to see some of the protesters carrying only the remaining parts of the bodies of their beloveds in blood freezing temperatures on Quetta roads seeking justice.
During the past 13 years, more than 1200 people of Hazara, Shia community have been brutally killed and more than 3500 injured and paralyzed for life time.
Not all the Hazaras are Shia but most of them are. They can be easily be recognized because of their distinctive facial features, making it easier for the attackers to identify and target them. Concerning the security situation and targeted attacks on Hazaras, members of the community have been compelled to take a number of preventive measures at the cost of restricting their movement.
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (H.R.C.P.), some years ago there were around 250 Hazara students at the University of Balochistan in Quetta. But that number has dramatically declined and now one can hardly find one or two Hazara students in the entire university. Of the 11 Hazara faculty members, all of them have left.
In the wake of the prevailing fear among the Hazaras, many of them are seeking asylum in other countries. Many take serious risks to travel illegally by sea in risky boats to get to foreign countries. In some incidents, a number of asylum seekers died when their boats capsized. Despite all hardships, around 6,000 Hazaras have left for Australia.

Dawood in Pakistan, joint efforts with US to nab him: Shinde

India's most wanted terrorist Dawood Ibrahim is in Pakistan and joint efforts with the US were being made to nab him, Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said on Friday.
"As per our information, Dawood is in Pakistan. When I went to America last year to discuss inland security, I met the Attorney General who looks after the FBI. "I talked to him and we decided that we will pass whatever information we have on Dawood amongst each other. We decided we will make joint efforts," Shinde said when asked about the whereabouts of Dawood who is wanted in a number of cases by Indian agencies including the 1993 Mumbai blasts.
The minister was addressing his monthly press conference. The home minister, on the same question about Dawood last year, had said all such wanted elements will be brought back "one by one".
"All will come. Just wait," he had said.
Dawood, who heads a vast and multifaceted illegal business, has emerged as India's most wanted terrorist after the 1993 Mumbai bombings, which he allegedly organized and financed. An Interpol red corner notice is still pending against him.
According to the US, Dawood maintains close links with terror outfit al-Qaida. As a result, the US declared him a "global terrorist" and pursued the matter before the United Nations in an attempt to freeze his assets across the world and crack down on his operations.
During the tenure of Shinde as home minister, security agencies successfully brought back several wanted terrorists including Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, key plotter of Mumbai attack terrorists Fasih Mahmood aka Fasih Mohammed, Abdul Karim Tunda and Yasin Bhatkal.
Shinde became the home minister on July 31, 2012.

Pakistan's Ahmadiyya Muslims: Family of Masood Ahmad want help after Pakistan arrest

The family of a British man arrested in Pakistan for "posing as a Muslim" are calling for the government to help bring their father back to the UK. Masood Ahmad was jailed in November on blasphemy charges after being secretly filmed reading from the Koran. The dual Pakistani-British national, 72, belongs to the minority Ahmadiyya sect, considered heretics in Pakistan. They were declared non-Muslim in 1974 by the Pakistan government and have restricted religious practices. This is because of theological differences with mainstream Islam. Secretly filmed One of the restrictions on their religious freedom is that they cannot publicly quote from the Koran. Two men posing as patients visited Mr Ahmad at his clinic in Lahore, before asking questions about religion. They used a mobile phone to secretly film him reading the Koran and then called the police to have him arrested. Ahmadis can be jailed for up to three years in Pakistan for referring to their faith as Islam, preaching or "outraging the religious feelings of Muslims". Mr Ahmad's daughter, Aasiya, who lives in Glasgow, said she was distressed by what had happened. She said: "My father didn't hurt anybody. We just want him out of jail and with us here where he can practice his faith freely." Mr Ahmad had several operations to remove a tumour in 2010 and his family is concerned that his health will deteriorate in prison. His lawyers have applied for bail due to his age and illness, but have been unsuccessful on three occasions. Humanitarian reason The Foreign Office do not usually get involved in cases between dual Pakistani-British nationals and authorities in Pakistan but according to advice given to individuals detained there, it "may make an exception to this rule". Mr Ahmad's son, Abbas, said he wanted the British government to put further pressure on the Pakistani authorities. "They say because he has dual nationality, they have limited access for these kinds of things. For us, his children are here, he's a British citizen. We are taxpayers, he's paid tax. "My father is 72 and he's never harmed anybody. Anyone can read the Koran - a Muslim, a Christian, anyone. We just want the government to help." In response, a spokesman for the Foreign Office said: "We cannot get British nationals out of prison or detention, nor get special treatment for them because they are British. "We urge the government of Pakistan to guarantee the fundamental rights of all its citizens." The spokesman added: "We engage at a senior level on the issue of the mistreatment of religious groups, including Ahmadis. "We will continue to provide consular assistance to both Mr Ahmad and his family". In an interview with the BBC from his prison last month, Mr Ahmad said he felt targeted prior to his arrest and was concerned about how his children were coping. Mr Ahmad's family is trying to stay hopeful that he will soon be released from prison. Aasiya Firdous said: "We are trying to do our best and stay strong for each other. We knock on every door we can. We are just looking for the good and trying to stay positive."

Chaudhry Aslam : Death of a policeman

Chaudhry Aslam seemed to be the man with nine lives – no matter how often the Taliban targeted him he would manage to get away. His luck finally ran out on Thursday as an explosion near Hassan Square in Karachi killed Aslam and two other policemen. It is believed that the TTP was behind the attack, which also left seven people injured. In fact, just earlier that day, Aslam had been leading an operation in Manghopir against the militant outfit. Aslam had made plenty of enemies in a city where taking on anyone with power and influence can be fatal. The government is yet to confirm that the TTP was behind the attack, although the group itself claimed responsibility and suicide attacks aren’t a tactic used by other violent entities in the city. The specific nature of this attack is what makes it so chilling. The TTP had only one man in their sight – a man they had previously tried to kill in a brazen attack in his own home – and they did not give up till they got him. This will have a chilling effect throughout the ranks of the police, both in Karachi and the rest of the country. If you dare take on the militants they will not rest till they have exacted revenge.
His past has its fair share of controversies. He was an integral part of the infamous police operations in the 1990s and he was one of the few who managed to survive them with his job and life intact. Now, at a time when the police, prosecutors and judges are all fearful of taking on the TTP because of the possible repercussions, Aslam will be held up as an ideal security official who had confronted the militants and was seen by the TTP as a prime enemy because of his persistence. Matters of security will also come up in the wake of the killing. How were those carrying a heavy volume of explosives able to enter and roam through the streets of Karachi – a city where the Rangers and the police are deployed in large numbers? Why was it that the crossing on the Lyari Expressway, where attacks have also been carried out previously, not made safer? Have such questions become an inevitability after every incident of terrorism that claims common citizens or those whose job it is to guard our cities against the militants? The militant threat now grows stronger and its perpetrators certainly bolder having pulled of an attack and killing of this kind. So the most vital question will remain the one asked most often: what progress have the state and the government made in efforts to end militancy?

Pakistan: Are we worthy of Aitezaz Hussain?

The words do not flow now, there are no cutting comments or quotes, no wit, and even less wisdom. There is only a deep sorrow, and an even deeper rage. It flows like fire through dull veins to a heart thought to have been numbed, a heart that desperately wants to be numbed.
So the words that follow will not be tempered and measured. They will not be weighed and balanced. And this is because we live in a land where a young child, Aitezaz Hussain, had to give his life fighting a scourge that our own leaders bend over backwards in an attempt to appease. There is sorrow and rage because a nation that can produce such lions does not deserve to be led by such lambs.
For those just now attending this bitter wake, Aitezaz was a 13-year-old-boy who stopped a suicide bomber from entering his classroom. Arriving late for school, he was punished by not being allowed to attend the morning assembly. Standing outside the gate, he saw a man trying to enter. He saw the detonator of his suicide vest; he saw a split second chance and saved countless lives with a courage few of us can match. Had he not been there, had he not done what he did, dozens, maybe hundreds of children would have lost their lives in a flash of fire, their bodies torn apart by cruel, blind shrapnel.
And as their hearts would stop beating, the souls of those who loved them would also dim and die. It would remain unanswered, the question of what may have been. It would be deafening, the absent echo of laughter through a house. It would be unbearable, the waiting for a child who would never return, would never grow up, never live and never love.
Instead, there is only one family that will have to bear this burden; only one mother who will never welcome her son home. It’s still one too many. And there are many such homes across the length and breadth of this blighted land. Homes where despair lives in empty rooms, where the silence is of the grave. From what the family says, they stand tall. In this moment of darkness, they hold onto the belief that their child did not die in vain, that he made the greatest sacrifice possible, that his blood bought life by stopping a beast who walked with and worshipped nothing but death. But for how long? The world will move on, the focus – what little there is of it – will shift and they will be left alone in empty rooms, waiting for a voice that will never be heard again.
We don’t need more Aitzazs’. Not one or one million. What we need is to be worthy of the one we lost. What we need is for those who claim to lead us to show the courage that this boy did. Perhaps, that is too much to ask from those who roll out apologies and obfuscations with such unerring regularity, but stammer and shake when it comes to naming those responsible for mass murder.
Those who can pray for and praise killers before the blood of their victims has even dried. We need those men and women who can look Aitzaz’s family in the eye, hold them in their arms and tell them – in all honesty – that their son did not die in vain.
And until you can do that, dear leaders, keep your hollow words to yourselves. Leave us to our silence.

Pakistan: Polio challenge intensifies

IT was a great opportunity. Here was a public health issue that posed grave risk to the basic freedoms of citizens, indeed, was crucial to the very future of the country. Other than those intent on causing harm, everybody else could agree that the polio intervention was necessary. Best of all, there already existed a full-fledged, decades-old, countrywide government initiative to implement the anti-polio drive which employs thousands of workers. In fact, what better evidence could politicians and leaders present to the electorate about their commitment to the welfare of the people than by putting their weight behind the polio vaccination campaign? The crippling disease is on the resurgence in the country, after all, and is even being exported. The level of worry in other countries, most of which are either polio-free or successfully controlling the crippling infectious disease, is such that it has been over two years since the global Independent Monitoring Board for Polio Eradication recommended a travel restriction on Pakistanis who could not produce proof of recent vaccination.
It speaks volumes for the country’s leaders, though, that hardly any voice was raised. And even when it was, it seems that the politicians saw involvement in the vaccination campaign as merely a wonderful photo op. It has been just weeks since PTI chief Imran Khan said that he would be getting involved in the anti-polio effort and that his party would be making it a priority. Around the same time, JUI-S leader and head of the Darul Uloom Haqqania Maulana Samiul Haq expressed his approval of the vaccination, despite his links with the Taliban who have banned the vaccine in the Waziristan region. Both wield influence that could have helped turn the tide. Yet, after the cameras were switched off and the time came to get down to real business, both turned their attention to matters they no doubt considered more pressing. Meanwhile, Aseefa Bhutto Zardari was recently photographed in Karachi administering polio drops to a child, but the special citywide campaign that was due to be initiated in the city has been postponed because of insufficient security for polio teams.
Pakistan’s problems on this front are only worsening. It had earlier been thought that the resurgence of the virus, and the resistance against vaccination, were more of an issue in KP, the tribal areas, and in certain low-income areas of Karachi. But as a report published by our paper yesterday shows, the situation is far graver: the WHO and Unicef consider Punjab the greatest challenge since it has the highest number of children who missed being vaccinated. A report sent by them to the government recently warned that an epidemic is set to explode. The country’s leadership needs reminding that if the situation deteriorates — and all indications are that it will — all their politicking would have come to naught.

Malala to give Rs0.5m to Aitizaz Hasan's family

Teenage activist Malala Yousufzai announced she will give Rs0.5 million to Aitizaz Hasan’s family and called on the government to bestow the highest civilian award on him. Hasan – a student from Hangu – tackled a bomber on January 6 who had come to attack his school at a time when hundreds of students were inside. The brave boy died while protecting others. “I feel saddened that violence took another child’s life in my country; I feel proud that I belong to a country where many brave and courageous people like Aitizaz Hasan are born,” Malala said. Malala herself was attacked by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) gunmen in Swat in 2012 for her vocal opposition of the militant group. “Sacrificing his own life, Hasan saved hundreds of innocent young students from getting killed; I feel proud of his pious and courageous act. I wish his sacrifice brings peace to my people and my country,” she said.

Pakistan: C.M.Sindh announces compensation for the heirs of Shaheed Ch. Aslam SP CID Police.
The Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah under the instructions of Ex- President of Pakistan and Co-Chairman PPP Mr. Asif Ali Zardari has announced the compensation of Rs 2 Crores for the heirs of Shaheed Choudhri Aslam SP CID Police, who along with other police officials was Martyred by terrorists in a blast on his vehicle today in Karachi. The Chief Minister also announced the compensation of Rs 20 lacs for the heirs of other Martyrs of this incident and Rs one Lac for each injured crop. Besides one government service one plot would also be given to the heirs of each martyr of this incident in addition to financial aid to them the announcement revealed. The Chief Minister further said that this compensation is being given to the heirs of Shaheed Choudhry Aslam on account of his achievements in the fight against terrorists and his bravery services that he rendered to protect the lives and properties of the people