Monday, January 13, 2014
On Tuesday, Egypt votes on the new constitution, which aims to show the world that 30 June has electoral legitimacy, and thus undermine the Muslim Brotherhood’s legitimacy as well. Given that the Yes campaign is on the streets, on TV, in the newspapers, all over the social media and in targeted text messages to phones, and that the few who dare start a No campaign get arrested, it is fair to say that the Yes vote will win handily, since everyone who will go to the polls is planning to vote Yes anyway. The result will be as follows: a constitution that will get a historic turn-out and approval rating, but will not have electoral legitimacy, because, well, it’s hard to claim it is democratic if those who oppose it are getting arrested. Never mind that the state didn’t need to arrest the few No campaigners: historically, there hasn’t been a single referendum that Egyptians have voted No on. Moreover, the majority of Egyptians were planning to vote Yes anyway since they consider it a vote on the return of the MB to power. Instead, here we are, with the means used completely destroying the end desired. It should be noted that the supreme majority of Egyptians have not really read the constitution, and don’t really care what it says, since for them it’s a “step towards the path of stability”. The majority of the Egyptian middle class – especially those in the lower-middle – are so economically crushed by the chaos of the last three years that they will do anything that brings a semblance of normality (and stable income) back into their lives. They want the constitution to pass and for the presidential elections to be held right after it because “the country has to be ruled”. In many of my conversations in Cairo’s poorest neighborhoods, the consensus I hear is the same: “We are tired. We want to work and raise our kids. We want the economy to get going, for the protests to stop getting into our way and livelihood and for the security to come back.” This is why they are voting yes, and if this sounds to you like the argument they had back in the 2012 and 2011 referendums, well, dear reader, you are not wrong. It’s the exact same argument and rationale. Some things never change around here. Many are advancing the argument that the referendum and its high turn-out is a vote on Al-Sisi, which is something the Sisi-for-president enthusiasts are keen to propagate and utilise. This is also a means to their end of having the country governed by a strong leader who can bring back law and order and get — nay, force — Egyptians to work again. Those same enthusiasts will not get a rude awakening if Al-Sisi doesn’t run, but rather if he ran and won as expected, thanks to the constitution that they are so eager to pass. The new constitution states that the new president will not be the high commander of the police; it states that he can’t fire a single minister without parliament’s approval; he can’t appoint a new Minister of Defencee without the military’s consent; he can’t chose the Minister of interior, Justice, or Foreign Affairs without the approval of the prime minister (who gets appointed by the parliament); he can’t declare a state of emergency without the prime minister and parliament’s approval; he can’t send troops overseas without the approval of the National Defense Council and two-thirds of the parliament; and he can’t provide a presidential pardon without the consent of the cabinet. Those who believe that President Al-Sisi would have absolute unchecked power to strongly lead us through those turbulent times will be perplexed the first time they demand his removal of a minister from his position and discover the kind of process he must go through to do that. A strong president indeed. The one area of policy that President Al-Sisi will be able to set freely will be the foreign policy, which will not be fun for him at all. After all of this talk over “revolution or a coup”, having the defence minister who removed the president become the next president will make it a 100% certified coup, even if he is elected in record numbers. Welcome to strained diplomatic ties, to protests in every country he visits by democracy activists and local MB members. Oh, and how the MB members will love it: a justification for all of their talking points presented on a silver platter. Not to mention: Garbage is not collected? Blame Al-Sisi. Power black-out? Al-Sisi will be cursed. It doesn’t matter that those issues may be under the domain of the cabinet and the PM, the buck stops with the president. The irony that those who love Al-Sisi the most are the ones who want him to have the worst job in Egypt is not lost on many of us, for it’s the same irony that those who desire a strong-man state are the ones voting Yes on a constitution that will not give them that at all. President Al-Sisi will have all of the responsibility, yet neither the tools nor the power to execute decisions the way he does now, something every presidential hopeful knows. Therefore, they are all collectively promoting Al-Sisi to run: pushing him to be president is the only way to destroy his popularity (and the idea of a strong military ruler) once and for all, and that is their end.
Security forces in Bahrain have attacked another religious site, damaging a revered shrine. The Al Khalifa regim's forces have vandalized the shrine of Sasaa Sohan al-Abdi, a companion of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), in the village of Askar on the southeastern coast of Bahrain. According to reports, the building of the shrine has been damaged and its valuable items have been stolen. The Al Khalifa regime’s forces have attacked 38 religious sites since the uprising began in 2011. Bahrain's main opposition group, al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, has condemned the regime's assault, saying that it shows the authorities' animosity toward the people. The Bahraini security forces had earlier threatened the shrine’s caretaker, saying they would cut off his feet if he came to the holy site. Since mid-February 2011, thousands of pro-democracy protesters have staged numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded the country to assist the Bahraini government in its crackdown on the peaceful protesters. According to local sources, scores of people have been killed and hundreds arrested. Physicians for Human Rights says doctors and nurses have been detained, tortured, or disappeared because they have "evidence of atrocities committed by the authorities, security forces, and riot police" in the crackdown on anti-government protesters.
The United States is a serious contender to top the medals table at the Winter Olympics in Sochi next month after a record-setting performance in Vancouver four years ago, but its prospects on Olympic snow and ice weren’t always so promising. Following a dismal performance at the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary, Canada, where the US team garnered just six medals, the US Olympic Committee launched an overhaul of its system for financing and training athletes that experts credit with helping vault American athletes to dominance. The commission, headed by George Steinbrenner, a polarizing professional baseball owner, concluded that “if you want to win medals at the Olympic Games in the winter, you have to devote resource and money,” said Alan Abrahamson, an expert on the Olympic movement who runs the website 3 Wire Sports. “They decided to start putting some money into the winter sports effort,” Abrahamson, who will serve as a columnist for NBC Olympics during the Sochi Games, told RIA Novosti. The US medal haul proceeded to climb following the Calgary debacle. The American team won 34 medals as host nation for the Salt Lake City games in 2002, second only to Germany in the total medals count. After a slight retreat at the 2006 Turin Winter Games, where US athletes earned 25 medals, the US team proceeded to set a Winter Olympic record with 37 medals four years later in Vancouver, including nine gold medals. The US team is predicted to finish fourth in the medals table with 30 medals at the Sochi Games, which are set to run from February 7 to February 23, and tie with Norway for the most gold medals at 14, according to the latest projections by the Dutch sports media company Infostrada Sports. The rise of US Winter Olympians since Calgary is evident not only in their medal haul, but also in the percentage of US entries that result in medals, said Simon Gleave, head of analysis at Infostrada, which crunches Olympic, world championship and World Cup results in formulating its projections. In 2002, 15 percent of US entries won medals, while 16 percent captured them in 2010, said Gleave, adding that both results were more than double the percentage of entries that medaled in the 1990s. If that rate holds in Sochi, the United States “can expect somewhere around 35 to 40 medals, which is pretty impressive stuff,” Gleave said. The US team lost one of its biggest stars and medal hopes for Sochi last week when Lindsey Vonn, the most dominant US women’s alpine skier in history and a gold medalist in downhill in Vancouver, announced that a knee injury would prevent her from competing in the Games. Infostrada had predicted Vonn to win gold in the women’s downhill and silver in the women’s super-G. While her exit knocked the US team’s projected gold haul down one medal, its total projected medal count remained steady based on recent performances by other US athletes, Gleave said. Both Gleave and Abrahamson said that if they had to place a bet on the US competitor most likely to win a gold medal, they would go with women’s moguls skier Hannah Kearney, a gold medalist in Vancouver who took World Cup victories in Park City, Utah, last week. “She looks like she’s far further ahead of her competitors than anyone else in the United States’ team,” Gleave said. “ … She wins almost every time she takes part.” In addition to the funding and training revamp since the Calgary Games in 1988, the site of Kearney’s triumphs last week has played a crucial role in the resurgence of US Winter Olympians, said Abrahamson. After Salt Lake City was awarded the Winter Olympics in 1995, the focus of the US winter sports effort shifted to the mountains of Utah from Lake Placid, New York – the site of the 1980 Winter Olympics that saw the US men’s ice hockey team upset the vaunted Soviet squad in the so-called “Miracle on Ice.” “Lake Placid is a sweet, charming little town, but Salt Lake City is actually a real city,” Abrahamson said. The abundance of university sporting facilities, the development of world-class ski facilities in the Wasatch Mountains and an international airport made Utah an ideal hub for training elite winter athletes. The Salt Lake City games also gave US sports fans a firsthand taste for success at the Winter Olympics thanks to athletes like speed skater Apolo Ohno and alpine men’s skier Bode Miller, which helped attract sponsorship for US winter athletes, Abrahamson said. “All of a sudden you had all of these factors come along, and you had an American team that showed Americans what it was like to win in these sports, and you had an infusion of cash and resource,” he told RIA Novosti. By the closing ceremony at the Vancouver games in 2010, the US skiers and snowboarders had won 21 of the 37 medals that the United States brought home. Despite strong performances on the slopes, medals have remained elusive for US athletes in two skiing events: cross-country skiing and biathlon. The only US cross-country skier ever to medal at the Winter Olympics was Bill Koch, who captured bronze in the 30-kilometer race in the 1976 Games in Innsbruck, Austria. That drought could come to an end in Sochi, where Infostrada has projected Kikkan Randall, 31, to come home with a gold for the US in the women’s sprint freestyle. The United States has never won an Olympic medal in biathlon. Tim Burke is widely seen as the US team’s best hope to make the podium in the sport that combines cross-country skiing and shooting. Abrahamson said the US struggles in Olympic biathlon remain “an enduring mystery” to him given how deeply entrenched firearms are in American history and culture. “You would think that a country that gave the world Dirty Harry and Rambo would be very, very good at biathlon,” he said. “But so far, no.” Projected Medals Table Country Gold Silver Bronze Total Norway 14 12 10 36 United States 14 8 8 30 Canada 11 14 6 31 Germany 10 11 12 33 France 6 3 5 14 Russia 5 6 4 15 Korea 5 5 4 14 Netherlands 5 4 4 13 China 4 4 4 12 Austria 3 8 9 20 Switzerland 3 5 1 9 Sweden 3 3 1 7 Slovenia 3 2 2 7 Japan 2 3 3 8 Poland 2 0 2 4 Czech Republic 2 0 1 3 Italy 1 3 5 9 Great Britain 1 2 3 6 Finland 1 0 7 8 Australia 1 0 2 3 Kazakhstan 1 0 1 2 Latvia 1 0 0 1 Belarus 0 4 0 4 Croatia 0 1 1 2 Ukraine 0 0 2 2 Slovakia 0 0 1 1
The al-Qaeda-linked Islamist State of Iraq and the Levant executed dozens of rival Islamists over the last two days as the group recaptured most territory it had lost in the northeastern Syrian province of Raqqa, activists said on Sunday. One of the activists, who spoke from the province on condition of anonymity, said up to 100 fighters from the Nusra Front, another al Qaeda affiliate, and the Ahrar al-Sham brigade, captured by ISIL in the town of Tel Abyadon the border with Turkey, the nearby area of Qantari and the provincial capital city of Raqqa, were shot dead. "About 70 bodies, most shot in the head, were collected and sent to the Raqqa National hospital," the activist said. "Many of those executed had been wounded in the fighting. The fact that Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham are ideologically similar to the ISIL did not matter," he added. Among those reportedly executed on the weekend was Abu Saad al-Hadram, Nusra Front's commander forRaqqa province who was captured several months ago as tension mounted between the foreign-led ISIL and the more home-grown Nusra. In Raqqa, the only provincial capital under rebel control, activists said ISIL fighters battled remnants of rival Islamist units including the Nusra Front in several neighbourhoods. To the north, ISIL recaptured the town of Tel Abyad on the border with Turkey over the weekend. Abdallah Farraj, a member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition from Raqqa, said rebels had been able to expel ISIL from parts of the neighbouring Aleppo province, but it would be hard to shake ISIL's hold on Raqqaand rural areas along key supply lines across the north. "The rebels lack the organisation and the firepower to win. It will be difficult to defeat ISIL without military strikes from someone like Turkey," he said. Abu Khaled al-Walid, an activist speaking from the border area, said many fighters from Ahrar al-Sham, one of the most powerful Islamist groups, chose not to confront ISIL because the combatants were local people with little enmity for each other. "Many did not see a point in fighting their own relatives. ISIL is now in control of 95 percent of Raqqa and its rural environs. Tel Abyad is also back with it," he said. Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/2014_01_13/Al-Qaeda-Syria-unit-executes-dozens-of-rival-islamists-5992/
The U.S. Supreme Court signaled a willingness on Monday to rein in President Barack Obama's power to temporarily fill senior government posts without the Senate's approval, a move that would curb his ability to bypass a gridlocked Congress. Most of the nine justices expressed skepticism, during 90 minutes of oral arguments, about so-called recess appointments Obama made to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in 2012. The court is expected to issue a ruling in the case by June that has the potential to shift the balance of power between the White House and the Senate. While both are now controlled by Democrats, Republicans hope to win control of the Senate in congressional mid-term elections in November. The Supreme Court could decide the case in various ways, but even a narrow ruling against the administration could be bad news for Obama in the last two years of his term, especially if Republicans control the Senate. The arguments before the court on Monday dealt with a case in which soft drink bottler Noel Canning Corp is challenging an NLRB ruling against it. The company argues the ruling was invalid because some of the NLRB board members on the panel that issued it were recess appointees picked by Obama. With the intervention of senior Republicans, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business interests, the Yakima, Washington-based company's case has become a much broader fight over the president's ability to make appointments while the Senate is in recess and what exactly constitutes a recess. Obama used his recess appointment power to name three members to the five-member NLRB in January 2012. Democratic and Republican presidents have made many such temporary appointments - valid for up to two years - of officials who otherwise would have had difficulty winning Senate confirmation. Underscoring the political stakes involved in the court case, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who has sought to stymie Obama's legislative agenda, attended the arguments. Under McConnell, Republicans had used Senate rules to frustrate Obama's attempts to fill various positions, including vacancies at the NLRB, up until a Senate rule change was pushed through by Democrats late last year. "The president made an unprecedented power grab by placing political allies at a powerful federal agency while the Senate was meeting regularly and without even trying to obtain its advice and consent," McConnell said in a statement afterward. White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler and White House spokesman Jay Carney were also present. Carney told reporters the administration was "confident that the president's authority to make recess appointments will be upheld by the courts." FRAMERS' INTENT DEBATED The administration says it is following the long-established interpretation of the recess appointments clause of the U.S. Constitution, dating back to President George Washington. Noel Canning and its backers say the administration has ignored the original intent of the Constitution's drafters, who included the recess appointments clause to ensure the government could continue to function when the Senate was in recess for months at a time and senators would travel to Washington on horseback. The court could decide the case in various ways, but even a narrow ruling against the government could be bad news for Obama in the last two years of his term. If Republicans win control of the Senate in November, they would be able to reject Obama appointments outright and would have more sway over when to declare recesses. Republicans and business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have long been eager to prevent Democratic presidents from appointing pro-labor members to the NLRB, an independent federal agency which has the power to address unfair labor practices and safeguard employees' rights. These groups were particularly outraged at Obama naming the three NLRB members while the Senate was not conducting business, but was not technically in a recess. POLITICAL DISPUTE At least one justice appeared to see the dispute as primarily political. Justice Stephen Breyer, an appointee of Democratic President Bill Clinton, said the Constitution clearly envisioned that appointments had to be agreed upon by both the president and Congress. "Now that's a political problem, not a constitutional problem" if the two sides disagree, he said. Despite apparent misgivings about whether the courts should be deciding such an issue, justices from both sides of the ideological divide expressed skepticism about the administration's use of the recess appointment power. Justice Elena Kagan, appointed to the court by Obama in 2010, was one of those critical of Solicitor General Donald Verrilli's legal arguments on the administration's behalf. The administration, for example, says that it is up to the president to determine when exactly the Senate is in recess. But, to Kagan, some of Verrilli's arguments seemed to confirm that "it's really the Senate's job to determine whether they're in recess," she said. Chief Justice John Roberts defended the right of senators to object to appointments they do not like. "They have an absolute right not to confirm nominees that the president submits," he said. "EQUILIBRIUM" CITED Verrilli's defense was that the way the recess appointments clause has been used over the years has changed in an effort to create a "stable equilibrium" between executive branch and congressional power. If a majority of justices were to buy that argument, the administration could still lose on a narrower ground, but the recess appointment power would not be entirely disabled. Monday's argument indicated that, although there could be a clear majority to rule against the administration on that narrow ground, some justices might be willing to go further. If Noel Canning wins its case, the practical fallout for the NLRB would be limited. In July, a Senate deal paved the way for the confirmation of five board members, marking the first time in a decade that the board had a full complement. If the bottler prevails, those members would have to re-examine some board decisions made by the contested recess appointees.
by BABAR SATTAROurs is the country where the 15-year old Aitezaz Hussain was left to engage the suicide bomber heading to blow up a school full of students. He sacrificed his life in the process. There is need to honour his courage and his memory. But that is not enough. We need to ask ourselves how this country became a place so sick that requires ninth graders to demonstrate such courage? We get angry when the researchers place Pakistan amongst the worst places for children to be born. Maybe it is time we get angry at why that is. Terrorists in Karachi have claimed Chaudhry Aslam, the anti-terror cop who was the bane of their existence. We can cry hoarse paying tribute to his bravery and his determination to lead from the front in full view of death lurking around him. But he is gone now. He has joined the long list of iconic policemen like Safwat Ghayyur, Malik Saad, Khan Raziq and Abid Ali who were undaunted by the TTP-led terror syndicate and unflinching in their resolve to fight those viciously attacking their compatriots and colleagues. Aslam, Safwat and Saad were who they were and did what they did not because the state incentivised them, boosted their morale and backed them up, but despite that. They fought tyranny and savagery with the courage of their conviction in full view of the state that continued to dither. They stood up for the state even when the state refused to stand beside them. And that is what makes them true heroes. Men such as these, who can inspire themselves and everyone around them amidst complete darkness and despondency, are an endangered species. What lessons would a rational law enforcement official draw from Aslam, Safwat and Saad? That heroism is costly, it claims your life and leaves your family mourning your loss and wondering for the rest of their lives how things might have been had you been around. That there is value in growing old and seeing your kids graduate from college, settle down, get married and have kids of their own. And that value of normal life trumps the value of heroism in a country that has no desire or will to build on sacrifices you render. Where is the outrage at the tragic loss of Aitezaz or the assassination of Chaudhry Aslam? What kind of a state is one that can neither protect its officials nor its citizens and everyone is left to fend for himself? It is a state with no red lines. There is no loss that is unacceptable. We have seen a schoolgirl shot in the head, we have seen a schoolboy tackle a suicide bomber, we have seen the TTP play with the severed heads of our brave soldiers and assassinate a serving general, we have seen policemen die fighting alone. We have now seen everything. And we are unfortunately getting comfortable with this ugliness. Those opposed to the US mission in Afghanistan did not need to attack Aitezaz and his school. He had nothing to do with the US and its policies. Chaudhry Aslam was not a target because he was directing drones to Fata, but because his job was to protect citizens against terror attacks and he was doing it well. However this started, there is a now a war raging across Pakistan wherein terrorists are attacking innocent citizens and law enforcement personnel trying to protect them. In this war you cannot root for both sides. You cannot mourn the martyred soldiers and policemen who lay down their lives in the line of duty and citizens claimed by terror attacks and simultaneously sympathise with those who plan and execute terror attacks within Pakistan and call them shaheed when killed because they are inspired by hate for the US. The duty to protect the citizens of Pakistan rests squarely with the state of Pakistan and is not contingent on whether the US acts in an agreeable or abhorrent manner. Whether it is the PML-N or the PTI leadership, it is not OK to continue trotting the globe and issue platitudes about the rule of law, tragic loss of life and need for peace while real people continue being killed in droves. It is also not OK for the PPP, ANP and the MQM — the so-called centre-left parties — to scoff at pro-talkers in private and support the lets-talk-the-terrorists-out-of-terror mantra in public. A national leadership stricken by fear doesn’t fully explain our pusillanimous response to terror. It is a combination of fear, confusion, incompetence and indifference. The pro-talk all-party conference passed its resolution on Sept 8, 2013. Over four months later have we moved an inch? Talking to the terrorists can only be one component of an effective anti-terror policy. Where is our policy on tracking and eliminating terror funding? Where is our policy on monitoring and cutting off supply of guns and explosives? Where is our policy on disrupting the transit of terrorists from Khyber to Karachi and back? Where is our policy on blockading the supply chain of terrorists to the TTP syndicate? The distress at Chaudhry Aslam’s death is fitting. In a fight between the state and the terrorist when the state itself picks the side of the terrorist Chaudhry Aslam automatically falls on the wrong side of the fight. All that is left now for society’s protection are more Aitezaz’s, till we run out of them as well.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Monday visited Chaudhry Aslam’s residence to offer condolence with his family. Talking to slain officer’s family, he said that Aslam was a brave and fearless officer and never bowed before terrorists. He said; “We are with Chaudhry Aslam’s family in this testing time”.
Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad (front 2nd left) attends a religious ceremony on the occasion the Prophet Muhamad’s birthday at al-Hamd mosque in Damascus on January 12th, 2014. Photograph: Sana/ReutersUS secretary of state John Kerry and Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov discussed the possibility of ceasefires in parts of Syria, Mr Kerry said today after talks in Paris.
Tokyo has risked further escalating tensions with China over the disputed Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea by threatening the use of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF) and mulling amending school teaching manuals over the "sovereignty" of the islands. On Sunday morning, three China Coast Guard vessels carried out patrols in the territorial waters surrounding the Diaoyu Islands, according to the State Oceanic Administration. In response to the Chinese patrols, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera Sunday told reporters, "We can never overlook repeated incursions into territorial waters." The minister made the remarks after observing the Japanese SDF's elite airborne brigade conducting airdrop drills designed to hone their skills to defend and retake remote islands. "We need to make diplomatic efforts on one hand. We also want to firmly defend our country's territorial sea and land with the Self-Defence Forces cooperating with the coast guard," he added. Onodera's mention of the SDF raised concerns over the possibility of military conflicts between Beijing and Tokyo triggered by a clash in the waters near the Diaoyu Islands. Since Japan's "nationalization" of the islets in September 2012, non-military patrol ships from China and Japan have been shadowing each other in the area. Liu Jiangyong, a deputy dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University, on Sunday told the Global Times that at the current stage it is unlikely that Japan would send the SDF to resolve the dispute, as Japan's pacifist constitution restricts the use of its military. "However, it is a threatening message by Japan to display its military strength," Liu said. Meanwhile, Onodera also joined the US in criticizing China's new fishing restrictions in the South China Sea. The new regulations adopted by China's Hainan Province on implementing the country's fishing law took effect on January 1. The amended regulations require foreigners and foreign fishing vessels to obtain approval from the central government of China before entering waters under its jurisdiction. "I'm afraid not only Japan but international society as a whole has a concern that China is unilaterally threatening the existing international order" with its new restrictions in the South China Sea and the creation of an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea, said Onodera. According to Liu, the Japanese defense minister's comment on China's new fishing law was a move to rally support among Southeast Asian countries to contain Beijing, as several countries in the region are locked in territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea. Separately, Japan's education ministry is planning to describe the Diaoyu Islands and a group of islands in the center of a territorial dispute between Tokyo and Seoul as inherent parts of Japan's territory in new guidelines for middle and high schools, reported Japanese broadcaster NHK. According to the report, the change will be made in a supplement to the government's new guidelines for textbook publishers and teachers. The existing supplement does not contain descriptions about the Diaoyu Islands, and neither do some textbooks. The ministry expects the guidelines will be reflected in textbooks to be published for the 2016 school year and after, according to NHK. "It will intensify the disputes between China, South Korea and Japan. At the same time, Japanese students will be misled by the textbook if they are not clear about the facts and this affects their sentiment toward their neighbors," Liu said.
By Yolande Knell In death as in life, Ariel Sharon remains a highly divisive figure.
EditorialCan it claim to reflect "People's Will?" A new cabinet has been sworn in. And like so many times in the recent past, we restate our position that the government of Sheikh Hasina resulting from the elections to the 10th Parliament lacks the popular mandate to lay any claim to it being truly representative of the people. Thus the cabinet sworn in yesterday may have some legal cover but suffers from a serious lack of public mandate. Furthermore, the party that was coerced, cajoled and enticed to participate in the election has not only formed the opposition but is also represented in the cabinet. Other than war-time cabinet in some special cases, it is probably the first time in the world that an opposition party is also in the cabinet. We also notice that although many of the corrupt and inefficient persons in the erstwhile cabinet have lost their place there are some of those in the cabinet with questionable credentials. However, even if we are to accept the contentious argument of constitutional obligations that compelled holding of the election, that obligation, from the perspective of Sheikh Hasina, has been fulfilled, and therefore, the current dispensation, bereft of "People's Will" behind them, should be changed as quickly as possible. Thus the primary task of the government is to immediately pave the way for a government that would be come through an election reflecting the "Will" of the people and not one that has come to power through a parliament in which majority MPs were elected "unopposed". And the sooner that process is commenced and concluded the better it will be for democracy in the country.
What is polio? Polio (poliomyelitis) is an infectious disease caused by a virus that invades the nervous system through the mouth (faecal-oral route). Initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck and pain in the limbs. One in 200 infections cause irreversible paralysis, usually in the legs. About one in 10 of those paralysed die. Who is the most at risk? Polio mainly affects children under 5 years. Can polio be cured? There is no cure for polio, but it can be prevented. Polio vaccine (drops), given multiple times till the age of 5, protect a child for life. How many oral polio drops does a child need? A child should get four doses of oral polio vaccine in the first year with supplementary doses till the age of five on the immunisation days. How is a country declared polio free? Before a country can be certified polio-free, it should have at least three years of zero polio cases. Since the launch of the 1988 Global Polio Eradication Initiative to eradicate polio, 5 million people - mainly in the developing world - who would otherwise have been paralysed, will be free of polio.
A limp is all that sets Ruksha Shah, 5, apart from other girls of her age in her home in Subharara village in the Panchla block of the Howrah district of West Bengal. It’s the only remnant of the polio infection that ravaged her in 2011, which left her right leg a little shorter and weaker than the left. Ruksha’s the last recorded case of polio — on January 13, 2011 — in India, and if the nation’s polio eradication programme stays on track, it may well be India’s last. Being declared polio-free means the virus has died in the environment and new cases, if any, would be caused by infection in another country where infection persists.
“Ruksha is cured though she feels A little pain in the affected right leg when she runs. Earlier, many of us did not take our babies to get polio drops, but now most have understood the deadliness of the infection,” said her father Abdul Shah, a zari embroidery-worker with a monthly income of Rs. 2,000.
HT visited several villages including Subharara, Beldubi, Golpara and Biti Hakola around the Kulai Rural Hospital and found many families have not got their children immunised, which can result in new infection and outbreaks and threaten India’s efforts to eradicate polio. A recent WHO report said pulse polio immunisation-awareness programmes are yet to gain momentum in Howrah and South 24 Parganas district, where about 2,000 polio booths are set up during each vaccination round to immunise children.Around 500 families are still strongly reluctant to get their babies vaccinated with pulse polio oral drops. On behalf of the government, we, along with UNICEF and NGOs, are conducting regular awareness programmes and have got a positive response from some conservative families." "Many, unfortunately, are still against immunisation,” Dr Prasanta Biswas, polio monitoring officer in charge of Howrah. Religious leaders are regularly invited to raise health awareness. “They have read out the religious texts to persuade villagers to look after their children’s health. Panchla block is the most sensitive area in the state because of the last reported case was from here, but about 5 % of the roughly 30,000 children up to five years who need to be vaccinated are yet to be immunised with polio drops,” said Dr Biswas.
In a strong message to Pakistan and China over ceasefire violations, Army chief Gen Bikram Singh said on Monday that India will not sit quiet if its neighbours break rules on the border. Addressing a press conference here, the Army chief said, "If rules are followed by our neighbors, we follow them too. If rules are broken, we won't sit on it, we will break them too." On Jammu & Kashmir, the Army chief said he was against tampering with Afspa in J&K. "Military viewpoint is that we have to wait for sometime to monitor the situation. Decision only after that," Gen Bikram Singh said when asked for his reaction on Afspa. We have a focused commitment towards enhancing the combat power of the Army, General Bikram Singh said. Speaking on the BDC agreement, the Army chief said, "This agreement will strengthen understanding at LAC level, HQ level and national level." He said there is zero tolerance towards human rights violation in the Army.
Former President Asif Ali Zardari Sunday strongly condemned the attack on Advisor to the Prime Minister, Amir Muqam in Shangla, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in which six policemen were killed and several others injured. He also condemned firing on the vehicle of Awami National Party leader Mian Mushtaq, killing him and two of his associates in Budh Bair. Asif Ali Zardari said the terrorists want to impose their distorted and obscured political and religious agenda on the people of Pakistan as they are enemies of country and want to derail democratic system in the country. Condemning the incident, he said that terrorists cannot weaken the resolve of the nation and the security forces to fight terrorism till the end.
A remote-controlled explosion occurred in Peshawar’s Badbher area Monday where the funeral prayer of slain Awami National Party (ANP) leader Mian Mushtaq Ahmed was scheduled to be held today, leaving one policeman injured, DawnNews reported. According to the police, security arrangements were being made in Badbher’s Sulemankhel area in the suburbs of Peshawar for the funeral prayers of Mushtaq Ahmed. A police mobile was transporting a walkthrough gate to be installed at a location when the explosion occurred. Subsequently, one policeman was injured. Later, speaking to media representatives, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Badbher Faisal Wahid said two to two and a half kilograms of explosives were used in the making of the bomb that triggered the explosion. He said a search operation was underway in the area and 10 to15 suspects had been detained, adding that security was beefed up in the locality. The funeral prayer for Mushtaq Ahmed will be offered at 2 pm today. On Sunday, unknown gunmen shot dead ANP’s Mian Mushtaq along with two others in Peshawar, hours after a bomb attack in another part of the region killed five. The five were killed in two roadside bombs targeting Amir Muqam of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) party. The men killed in the Martoong area of Swat valley, which the Taliban controlled from 2007-2009, were members of Muqam's security detail.
“Pakistan is the key geographic location in the fight,” Dr Bukhari said.With a renewed sense of urgency, last year the Pakistani government revamped its strategy to increase the scope and effectiveness of vaccinations. In Karachi, the police were ordered to provide security to all polio teams. But even with 200 policemen, a campaign in the Gadap Town area, where there is a large TTP presence, came under attack by militants last month, though no workers were killed and the police managed to capture the TTP militant who led the attack, Amir Hamza. Despite the renewed efforts, the continuing lack of security is hampering the vaccination drives, said an official who works with a group of local women from Gadap called social mobilisers, whose job it is to persuade families to vaccinate. The official, who asked to remain anonymous, lives under threat from the TTP, and saw Unicef colleagues killed in Gadap in July 2012. “The refusals are increasing now because people are scared, and the quality of the campaign has decreased because of the security issue,” she said. The police help because they can intimidate people into taking the vaccination drops, but they also hurry workers along and sometimes do not allow them to enter houses they feel might be dangerous, she said. A team of female vaccination workers last week went door-to-door in Neelum Colony, a slum of tight alleyways, dirt paths and makeshift homes. The security risk is much lower in Neelum Colony than places like Gadap, but the required police escort failed to show up, and so the women went about their work unprotected. Though the police are receiving training to assist in vaccinations from Unicef and the Pakistan government, Nausheed Kesar, a local health official, said that high turnover of staff is her biggest problem. “Just today 11 workers didn’t show up, and I also had a group of nursing students who dropped out because their parents were too concerned about their safety,” Ms Kesar said. “If workers who we’ve trained don’t show up, it prolongs the campaign and decreases quality.” The vaccinators are also only paid the equivalent of $2.50 per day, and many times there are months-long delays in delivering the salaries. Pakistani officials said they plan to double the daily rate, but so far the pay raise has not occurred. Across Pakistan vaccination rates have reached 90 per cent, with more than 33 million children vaccinated each year. But resistance from deeply religious segments of Karachi’s fast-growing Pashtun population has proved difficult to breach. In the highest-risk areas, both in terms of security and the prevalence of polio, many people are recent arrivals from Fata. In the tribal areas, they lived under draconian colonial-era laws and were subject to collective punishment by the Pakistani government, while receiving almost no services. Their communities have also suffered the most from the US drone war and Pakistan army counterinsurgency operations, which fuels suspicion of the state. “The government is not interested in doing any work for us, there is no education, we are given nothing at government health facilities,” said Qari Saboor, a Pashtun cleric in Hijrat Colony. “The children get sick from water, which runs on the same line here as sewerage. But they come again and again for polio … why just this focus on polio?” Because of the security threats across Karachi, the campaigns that are meant to last three days, can drag out for much longer and the refusal rates increase as a sense of annoyance sets in, said the vaccination official in Gadap Town. “One polio drive is easy. Six times a year is very difficult, even though it is necessary for covering all the children,” said Dr Bukhari. “But polio is not people’s top concern. Security, education and sanitation are.” On the outskirts of Karachi, a polio team, with the help of paramilitary Rangers, board every passenger bus coming into the city from other provinces, vaccinating nearly 1,000 children a day. On one bus, coming from the Swat valley, a social mobiliser moved down the rows of seats behind the vaccinators. A woman in niqab with two children refused to allow the workers to give the drops. As the passengers watched, she said, “No, this is not good for Muslims, I will not let you give it.” The mobiliser gently tried to persuade the mother, saying that all pilgrims on Haj are given the drops by Saudi Arabian authorities, but she held firm. “You do your work, but I refuse, this is my belief.” Read more: http://www.thenational.ae/world/south-asia/pakistan-is-new-front-line-in-war-on-polio#page2#ixzz2qGVsusAe Follow us: @TheNationalUAE on Twitter | thenational.ae on Facebook
افغان ولسمشر حامد کرزي د هغه ځوان زړور عمل وستایه چې د خپل ځان په قربانولو سره یې د یو ځان مرګي برید مخه ونیوله. اعتزاز حسن د تیر زیارت په ورځ د خیبر پښتونخوا د هنګو په ابراهیم زو کې په خپل سکول د ځان مرګي برید ګر مخه ونیوله . له ارګ نه په خپاره شوې خبرپاڼه کې ليکل شوي د افغانستان ولسمشر حامد کرزي د اعتزاز حسن بهادري ستایلې، او وایې ترهګري د افغانستان او پاکستان خلکو ته ګډ ګواښ دی چې تر ټولو ډیر قربانیان یې د ډیورنډ کرښې دواړو غاړو اوسیدونکي دي. نن د قامي وطن پارټۍ مشر افتاب احمد خان شیرپاو هم د اعتزاز کلي ته ورغلی وو، او هلته یې د هغه له کورنۍ سره لیدلي. بلخوا پرون د پوځ یو چارواکي بریګیډیر ندیم ذکي د اعتزاز قبر ته ورغلی وو، او هغه ته یې د پوځ د مشر جنرال راحیل شریف لخوا د عقیدت پیرزونې وړاندې کړې. د پاکستان د پوځ مشر جنرل راحیل او وزیراعظم نواز شریف د اعتزاز حسن د قربانۍ او مړانې ستایینه کړی ده.
http://balochwarna.com/The Voice for Baloch Missing Persons Long March lead by Qadeer Baloch, Farzana Baloch and other family members of abducted Baloch activists reached Khanpur city of Sindh on Sunday. They started their walk from Ghari Yasen and travelled about 30 kilometres. It was their 31st from Karachi and day 56 from Quetta to Islamabad. Large numbers of Sindhi freedom loving men, women and children including members of JSQM (Bashir Qureshi), JSMM (Burfat), Baloch Qaumi Movement, Sindhi Adabi Sangat, and Pakistan Paramedical Staff, welcomed and join our march on the way. The leader of march, Qadeer Baloch, briefed Sindhi local media about the purpose of the march at different places. He said they started the first phase of their march from Quetta on 27 October 2013 and reached to Karachi on 22 November. The second phase of march was launched on 13 December 2013 from Karachi Press Club to Islamabad; altogether they have walked for 56 days to reach Khanpur today. It is estimated that it will take them about another 30 days to reach UN headquarters in Islamabad. Qadeer Baloch said: “We are marching against human rights violations in Balochistan which include on-going military operations, enforced-disappearances, torture and kill and dump policy of Pakistani state in Balochistan.” He added: “We do not expect justice from Pakistan because it continues its brutalities in Balochistan. People are still being abducted and killed. “We are pinning our hopes to the international community, international media and human rights organisations to raise their voice against state atrocities against Baloch people.” However, he said that so far the international media has also failed to bring the plight of Baloch people to world’s attention. “We have walked for 56 days but not a single media outlet has highlighted our march so far,” Qadeer Baloch told Balochwarna news. It is worth mentioning that yesterday the bullet ridden body of a teenage Baloch school boy was found in Kornadi area of Turbat and five other men were abducted from Dera Bugti area of Balochistan. At least three bodies have reportedly been found in Mastung town of Balochistan today (12.01.2014) The VBMP Long March Team thanked people of Sindh and Sindhi nationalist parties, civil societies, students, Paramedical staff and Baloch residents of Sindh for their continuous support for the VBMP’s walk for justice, freedom and humanity. VBMP team also thanked Baloch and other social media activists for their continuous support to long march and for highlighting human rights violations in Balochistan
By Yasser Latif Hamdani
Jinnah’s idea of Islam was of social justice and equality and never of narrow-minded interpretations by the orthodoxyFamous civil-servant columnist Orya Maqbool Jan continues to claim — like a broken record — in column after column that Jinnah’s August 11 speech was made up by secret forces who were Lord Conwallis’ followers and who were secularists. His original claim was based on the fact that he looked through the record of the Civil and Military Gazette and he could not find it; hence the great civil servant concludes it must not exist. The Hindu, apparently, is not a reliable source because, well, it is ‘The Hindu’. Similarly, the record of the Indian Constituent Assembly with Indian legislators referring to Jinnah’s speech was also ‘tampered’ with I suppose. Jinnah papers have the complete record of the speech in Jinnah Papers Volume IV Appendix IX, Item 4: President’s address, but you guessed it — according to Orya Maqbool Jan that is tampered with as well. He claims that the Constituent Assembly debates are also made up, because, well, they were published on October 9, 1948 after Jinnah’s death. He then claims erroneously that Selena Karim’s Secular Jinnah: What The Nation Does Not Know is his source. Perhaps he should read his source more carefully. Selena Karim questions a quote that Justice Munir had stated in his book Jinnah to Zia, not the Munir Report. This was not about the August 11 speech but Jinnah’s interview with Doon Campbell. The actual quote, which is much longer — which Selena refers to — in fact is even more clearly secular in the real sense of the word. How that becomes relevant to Orya Maqbool Jan’s claim that Jinnah never spoke on August 11 can only be explained when one sees how desperate Orya Maqbool Jan is now having been exposed rather badly. One wonders what it is about the August 11 speech that bothers people like Orya Maqbool Jan that they would go to such lengths in denying the existence of a speech that really cannot be denied. The issue is obviously of the content. It is too fine for the philistines. Here we have our Quaid-e-Azam, the founding father of Pakistan, the largest Muslim majority state at the time, saying that the religion of a citizen should not matter to the state and indeed going even further and saying that, if this policy is followed, in due course of time, the political distinctions between Hindus and Muslims would cease to exist. To Jinnah’s mind, the question of ‘secular’ versus ‘Islamic’ did not even arise. The issue between Hindus and Muslims was a political question to him. He was schooled in the British tradition and there secularism and religion were never mutually exclusive. Toleration and equality of citizenship were the ideals to be achieved with progress and maturity. This was a constant view that Jinnah held throughout his life. It was there when he was a Congressman, it was there when he proposed the 14 points and it was there again when he warned Muslims against raising sectarian questions and theological debates. Jinnah’s idea of Islam was of social justice and equality and never of narrow-minded interpretations by the orthodoxy. Perhaps if Orya Maqbool Jan had read Mr Jinnah’s speeches as a legislator in the Indian Central Legislature between 1910 to 1945 he would find many speeches far more ‘secular’ than the August 11 speech. I will, in due course, produce these speeches in public record but suffice to say that Jinnah remained consistent in the principle that the state should, at all costs, remain neutral and impartial on questions of religion. To Jinnah, at least, this was in no way contrary to the principles of Islam. He also said on December 17, 1947, speaking to the last session of the All India Muslim League, that Islam did not endorse an “ecclesiastical state”. Perturbed by this scurrilous claim against Jinnah by a civil servant on the payroll of the state — and who would not be perturbed when one makes such erroneous and patently false claims as Orya Maqbool Jan has done — I called up Dr Akbar S Ahmed who is visiting Pakistan and asked him what he made of this. Dr Akbar S Ahmed, who is an authority on Jinnah and on contemporary Islam, was categorical: “Jinnah did give the speech. I researched it in the course of my Jinnah quartet. The issue of Islamic versus secularism is a false binary. What Jinnah said on August 11 about an inclusive state is perfectly Islamic.” He suggested that Orya Maqbool Jan should read the Meesaq-e-Medina, where Jews and Muslims are described as one ummah or community. Maybe he feels that too is made up. Jinnah’s August 11 speech, call it secular or Islamic, was one of the most remarkable speeches ever given. It shows the immensity of his vision and his idea of Pakistan. It calls for an inclusive society where no bars are placed against anyone on the basis of religion, sect or caste. It was the crowning glory of a passionate career devoted to constitutional advance and progress. The real reason that it bothers Orya Maqbool Jan is that it goes against the narrow minded and fanatical worldview our mighty civil servant holds. An opponent of democracy, Orya would sooner have the Taliban ruling Pakistan. To Orya, Islam is incompatible with democracy. To Jinnah, democracy was “in the blood of every Musalman”. Well too bad; Jinnah, the founder/maker of Pakistan, was a liberal democrat all his life. No amount of mental gymnastics and odious claims by dishonest civil servants can change that fact, try as they may. Now that is what hurts people like Orya Maqbool Jan so much. As for Pakistan, for now the Oryas, dime a dozen, have managed to thwart Jinnah’s magnificent vision; not for long though. Ultimately, truth will triumph, Inshallah.