Tuesday, January 14, 2014
A search warrant is executed in relation to a felony vandalism investigation, police say.
French President Francois Hollande, under fire over an alleged affair, refuses to discuss his personal life but says he will clarify the status of France's first lady before his visit to U.S
http://www.care2.com/A brewery in Iceland is causing a stir following an announcement that it will be adding whale meal, a byproduct of processing the animal’s meat and oil, to one of its new brews that it claims will turn those who drink it into “true vikings.”
State Dept. issues rebuke after Ya'alon reportedly calls Kerry "messianic, delusional"; PM says "even when we have disagreements with the US, they are always on the heart of the matter, not on the merits of an individual."Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did damage control on the Israel-US relationship in his speech in honor of the Knesset's 65th birthday, following Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon's comments about US Secretary of State John Kerry. "Even when we have disagreements with the US, they are always on the heart of the matter, not on the merits of an individual," Netanyahu said in an apparent dig at Ya'alon, who, according to a Yediot Aharonot report, accused Kerry of being "messianic" and "delusional" when it comes to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The United States on Tuesday rebuked Israel for the comments attributed to the defense minister. "The remarks of the defense minister, if accurate, are offensive and inappropriate especially given all that the United States is doing to support Israel's security needs," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a brief statement that constituted a rare rebuke to close ally Israel. "Secretary Kerry and his team, including General (John) Allen, have been working day and night to try to promote a secure peace for Israel because of the secretary's deep concern for Israel's future," she added. "To question his motives and distort his proposals is not something we would expect from the defense minister of a close ally." Following the reports in Yediot, Ya'alon's bureau released a statement which contained a pledge to smooth over divisions with Washington, but not a denial of the reported remarks. Relations between the US and Israel are "intimate and are of high significance for us. The US is our greatest friend and most important ally, and when there are divisions we smooth them over inside the room [behind closed doors], including with Secretary of State Kerry, with whom I hold many talks about the future of Israel," the statement said. Ya'alon vowed to continue to safeguard the security of Israeli citizens with "determination, responsibility, and sound judgment." "The US is our greatest ally," Netanyahu stated in his speech. "We are partners in goals and joint interests: regional stability, the war on terror, growth, security and peace. We are making efforts to bring security to the region and stand up for our interests." The prime minister said that true peace depends on recognition of Israel as the Jewish state along with security arrangements that will ensure that "the land in the Palestinians' hands will not turn into terrorist launching pads." However, he said, those aims must be reached "while respecting our important connection with the US." "We stand up for our national interests and one of those is continuing to cultivate our connection with our ally, the US," Netanyahu added. President Shimon Peres thanked US President Barack Obama "for his full responsiveness to our security and intelligence needs" and Kerry for his "determined efforts to make peace." "There is no doubt [Obama] wants to see a peaceful Middle East," Peres told the Knesset. "Our deep friendship with the US is a central component of Israel's security and an impetus for peace in the Middle East." Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) also referred to Ya'alon's comments, saying that the relationship with the US is essential and "we shouldn't call them 'messianic' or 'delusional' or any other derogatory nicknames."
Penis pumps cost the U.S. government's Medicare program $172 million between 2006 and 2011, about twice as much as the consumer would have paid at the retail level, according to a government watchdog's report released on Monday. The report by the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services said Medicare, the government health insurance system for seniors, paid nearly 474,000 claims for vacuum erection systems (VES) totaling about $172.4 million from 2006 to 2011. Yearly claims for the devices nearly doubled from $20.6 million in 2006 to $38.6 million in 2011. According to the Mayo Clinic, penis pumps are one of a few treatment options for erectile dysfunction. Government waste is a major issue in ongoing budget talks in the U.S. capital as lawmakers try to reach agreement on a $1 trillion spending bill. "Medicare payment amounts for VES remain grossly excessive compared with the amounts that non-Medicare payers pay," said the report, dated December 2013. "Medicare currently pays suppliers more than twice as much for VES as the Department of Veterans Affairs and consumers over the Internet pay for these types of devices." If Medicare had adjusted its payments to approximately the price non-Medicare payers pay, the U.S. government would have saved an average of about $14.4 million for each of the six years, the report said.
PAKISTAN: Balochistan; 160 persons extra judicially killed, 510 disappeared and 50 decomposed bodies were found during 2013
A child of 15 was arrested by the security forces in October and there has been no response from the authorities The disappearances and extrajudicial killings in the province of Balochistan continued unabated during 2013. The Voice of Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) has compiled lists of disappearances and extra judicial killings despite threats and intimidation from the state security agencies. The VBMP list reveals that during 2013, 160 persons were extrajudicially killed, 510 persons remain missing after arrest by the security agencies and 50 decomposed bodies of unknown persons were recovered from different cities of the province. It mentions the names and dates of the persons disappeared and killed. Please find here the list issued by VBMP. After the general elections of May 11, 2013 and formation of new governments in Balochistan and the federation it was claimed repeatedly that there has been a reduction in disappearances and the dumping of bullet riddled bodies. However, during the year a new phase was introduced which is the dumping of decomposed bodies which are in such a state that they cannot identified. The former military government, the state intelligence agencies and security forces introduced the phenomenon of enforced disappearances on a large scale throughout the country to spread fear and emphasise the power of the army. During the previous civilian government of Asif Zardari, the security forces took advantage of the weak government and introduced the extrajudicial killings of missing persons to eliminate the evidence of disappearances after arrest. Again, in the reign of the incumbent government, the security forces adopted the new phenomenon of dumping decomposed bodies so that the person cannot be identified. The VBMP held a press conference and claimed that since the year 2001 to the end of year 1013, a total number of 13,990 persons are missing after their arrest by security forces. The government has made no effort to contradict this figure. In the meantime the VBMP has forwarded the other cases, including of one of a child who were arrested by the security forces and remains missing. A young student Abdul Baqi Nichari (15), the son of Kareem Bux, was abducted from his relative's home by the Frontier Corps and plain clothed persons from Qambrani Road Killi Nichari Quetta early in the morning of October 19, 2013. He was a resident of Mungchar Johan Cross district Kalat and a student of class six in Government High School Mungchar. Personnel from Frontier Corps (FC) and plain clothed persons arrived in 20 FC vehicles. The climbed over the walls of the house where Abdul Baqi was living and harassed the relatives before dragging Abdul Baqi away. After identifying him they threw him in a vehicle. To-date his whereabouts remain unknown. Mr. Baqi belongs to a very poor family and after school he was working on daily wages to assist with the expenses of his family and to continue his education. On October 23, Safar Baloch 26 son of Qadir Baksh, formerly a resident of Awaran Labach. Baloch was abducted by security forces from his home at Lasbela Hub Choki and his whereabouts are unknown. He was a driver by profession. The FC personnel's raided his hometown of Awaran Labach, which is an earthquake affected area. His family migrated to Hub Choki. The Baloch Republican Party (BRP) Media cell reported that Pakistan's Inter service Intelligence, the ISI backed group called "Muslah Difa Tanzeem" headed by Taliban linked Mulla Shafiq Mengal, targeted and killed Rais Qudoos Mengal, an organizer of the Balochistan National Party (Mengal group) in Khuzdar on December 31. In another case the BRP reports that the ISI and a local death squad in Sui abducted a shopkeeper namely Ali Hussain Bugti on December 29. He was a resident of Mat, adjacent area of Sui. He had gone to the market to buy some consumer goods for his shop. Mohammad Rafiq son of Abdul Karim was arrested by personnel from security forces on October 31 from the market place and since then his whereabouts are unknown. Rafiq's sister held a press conference in Karachi on January 7, and told that she has reported the disappearance after arrest to the police, government authorities and security forces, but that no one was helping for his recovery. She demanded that he must be produced before the court and if he had committed a serious crime he must be punished according to law. The Asian Human Rights Commission urges the government of Nawaz Sharif to remove the blinkers that it and successive governments have been wearing with regard to disappearances and extrajudicial killings. The people of Pakistan have a Constitutional right to the protection from the state; a right which has so far been denied them. Pakistan must immediately ratify the UN Convention against Enforced Disappearances, ensure that local laws are put in place to enforce the Convention and so that this menace is halted one and for all. Though successive civilian governments have claimed that they are opposed to enforced disappearances, their policy of appeasement toward the armed forces and indifferent attitude towards the people that elected, them betrays their true attitude.
One of USA's leading news website, www.thedailybeast.com, has warned Washington against backing Islamists in Bangladesh yet again. It says the US should not repeat the mistake of 1971 when it backed Pakistan's brutal military effort to suppress Bengali nationalist aspirations and ended up backing genocide. Below is the article reproduced in full.In 1971, the U.S. abetted a genocide in Bangladesh—and it’s now siding with the radical Islamist culprits, who are fomenting the country’s latest political crisis. In 1971, the United States abetted a genocide in what is today Bangladesh. President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, provided diplomatic and military succour to the Pakistan army and its Islamist allies as they slaughtered three million people, displaced ten million, and forced half a million Bengali women into sexual servitude. There has never been an apology from Washington. But 42 years after it got into bed with Islamist genocidaires in Bangladesh, the U.S. appears once again to be espousing their cause. On Sunday, Bangladesh held the 10th general election since it became an independent state. The principal opposition—made up of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its chief ally, the Bangladesh Jamat-e-Islami, a clerical ensemble of alleged war criminals and aspiring theocrats—boycotted the vote. Their walkout was prompted by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s refusal to transfer power to a caretaker administration. Yet in spite of their withdrawal the polls, being constitutionally mandatory, went ahead. The ruling Awami League party, without a formidable opposition, won in a landslide. But, far from being a perfunctory show, this election was the most violent in the country’s history. Eighteen people were slain as the opposition, having sworn to keep out, showed up on election day to deter people from exercising their franchise. Polling stations were torched, voters threatened not to step out of their homes, and volunteers of the Awami League were assaulted by mobs. The warriors of the Jamat expressed their “disaffection” by raiding the villages of feeble religious minorities. As one Bangladeshi commentator put it: “In its 42 years of existence, Bangladesh has never seen such violence. It seems like someone has just opened the gates of hell.” Hasina’s decision not to vacate her office, in defiance of a recent convention, was a grievous mistake. Attempting to remedy it by pushing her to concede to the opposition as it stands now—which is what Washington and its allies are doing—would be suicidal for Bangladesh. The violence that has devoured parts of Bangladesh over the last week was not a spontaneous outburst by disgruntled democrats. It was a campaign of terror calibrated to delegitimize the election and generate chaos, invite a crackdown, depict Hasina as a tyrant to Western governments while weakening her at home, and ultimately halt Bangladesh’s arduous effort—initiated by Hasina—to achieve a sincere reconciliation with its past. There are no innocents in Bangladeshi politics and every politician is tainted by accusations of corruption. Yet Hasina, for the sheer resolve with which she combated the religious right, must rank among the most formidable women in recent history. At a time when Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto was aiding the Taliban’s rise in Afghanistan, Hasina was taking on Islamists cut from the same ideological cloth as the Taliban. She overcame exile, survived assassination attempts, and rebuilt the Awami League. Her party, the secular alternative in Bangladesh, has provided a modicum of protection to religious minorities. In 2010, she revived the war crimes tribunal: nearly four decades after the crimes, a whiff of justice. Oddly, instead of welcoming the trials, some of the world’s leading Islamic leaders urged Hasina to drop them. Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, the world’s leading authority on genocide denial, wrote to Hasina asking her to spare some of the convicts. But this was Bangladesh’s moment. Hundreds of thousands of young men and women poured into the streets of Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, demanding harsher punishments than the tribunal awarded. The opposition is afraid of the past because its revered members are culpable for some of the most agonizing memories it evokes. Thirteen battalions of mostly Bengali Islamists assisted the Pakistan army in carrying out the single largest massacre of Muslims since the birth of Islam—“a jihad against Hindu-corrupted Bengalis,” as one American witness to the events in 1971 in what was then East Pakistan called them. Kissinger and Nixon, having recruited Pakistan as a conduit in their effort to broker relations with Mao’s China, condoned the massacres. They told each other jokes about the killings. After independence, when East Pakistan established itself as Bangladesh, the new state gave itself a secular constitution. Sheikh Mujib, the father of the new nation, was fierce in the beginning. An act of parliament was passed in 1973 to set up a tribunal with jurisdiction to punish the perpetrators of the genocide. Two years later Mujib, along with almost every member of his family, was assassinated in a coup. Hasina, who was then living in Germany, survived. She was barred from entering the country. Gen. Ziaur Rahman, who took over the country in 1977, scrapped secularism and made “absolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah” a fundamental feature of the constitution. When Rahman was assassinated in 1981, his wife, Khaleda Zia, took charge of his Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Islamists who a decade ago had slaughtered their compatriots in service of the Pakistan army became active once again in Bangladeshi politics. Zia, in bed with the Islamists who were being dispatched to the gallows by the tribunal, found her appeal ebbing. Women are key drivers of growth in Bangladesh. The $12 billion garment industry is virtually dependent on their labour. But if Zia’s allies had their way, women would be forced out of the workforce and into the veil. At home, Zia’s “nationalist” outfit has supported men who are enemies of the Bengali nation. Abroad, Zia has vigorously projected herself as a victim. She has accused Hasina of suppressing democracy. But she’s hardly innocent: it’s her party which pulled out of the elections and forcibly stopped people from voting. Now that elections are over, violence is the only instrument at Zia’s disposal. She and her allies will attempt to disrupt normal life to the point where the government will either have to assume authoritarian powers or negotiate with her. The status quo is untenable. Hasina will almost certainly dissolve the government and call fresh elections. But it’s important to grasp that democracy is not in peril in Bangladesh. Secularism is. Sanctions, now being contemplated in some capitals, will hurt ordinary Bengalis and assist the far right. They may reverse the gains of the previous half-decade. To get a sense of Hasina’s accomplishment during this time, consider these words by the author Salim Mansur: “a democratically elected government in a Muslim majority country for the first time in fourteen centuries of Arab-Muslim history arranged for, and brought to trial, Muslims charged with crimes against humanity.” Is there a leader in the contemporary Muslim world with a profile quarter as courageous as that? Any attempt to interfere in Bangladesh’s affairs must begin with the realisation that Zia is not the victim. She is the force behind the unrest. Washington, given its awful history in Bangladesh, has a special obligation to ensure that it doesn’t, in the name of upholding democracy, end up once again giving succour to mass murderers and their political allies.
Two Indian archaeologists are being sent to Kabul to study a "begging bowl" thought to have been used by Buddha in a first step to bringing the artifact back to India, an official said. The huge stone vessel, weighing nearly 400 kilograms (880 pounds), is currently displayed at the National Museum of Afghanistan and is regarded as important in the Buddhist religion. The experts will examine the piece after demands in the national parliament last year for the return of the bowl which the state-run Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) believes belongs to India. "We will be sending two experts to Kabul to examine the bowl. We are very much in favour of bringing it back to India," ASI additional director general B. R. Mani told AFP late on Monday.
تحریر: ملک سراج اکبر
literature فرنٹئیر کور نے گورنمنٹ عطا شاد ڈگری کالج کے ہاسٹل پر چھاپہ مار کر’’ ملک دشمن‘‘ کتابیں اور لٹریچر برآمد کرنے کا دعویٰ کیا ہے۔ ملک دشمنی کی انتہا دیکھیں کہ ضبط شدہ کتابوں میں پاکستان دشمن رہنما گاندھی اور نہرو کی سوانح عمری بھی شامل تھیں۔ شکر ہے کہ ایف سی نے بروقت کارروائی کرکے نوجوانوں کے ذہن آلودہ کرنے والی کتابیں اپنی تحویل میں لے لیں۔ اب تو اس واقعے کی فوری طور پر تحقیق ہونی چائیے کیونکہ یہ تو وہی کالج (اور اب یونیورسٹی ) ہے جہاں سے وزیراعلیٰ بلوچستان ڈاکٹر مالک فارغ التحصیل ہوئے تھے۔کہیں انھوں نے بھی زمانہ طالب علمی میں یہ گمراہ کن کتابیں تو نہیں پڑھی تھیں؟ کیا بلوچ نوجوانوں کو اتنا بھی پتہ نہیں تھا کہ پاکستان میں صرف ایک قسم کی لٹریچر کی اجازت ہے اور وہ ہے جہادی لٹریچر۔ کیا جہادی لٹریچر اسٹال پر ملتی نہیں ہے یا اس کی قیمت بڑھ گئی ہے جو بلوچ نوجوان’’گمراہ کن‘‘ لٹریچر پڑھنے پر مجبور ہوگئے ہیں؟ ویسے تو بلوچستان کے بارے میں پاکستانیوں کو بہت کم علم ہے لیکن ایک بات جو بہت کم لوگوں کو معلوم ہے وہ یہاں کے نوجوانوں میں کتاب اور اخباربینی کا بہت شوق ہے۔ ملک کے دیگر حصوں میں شاید ہی آپ کو نوجوان اتنی بڑی تعداد میں اخبارات کا مطالعہ کرتے ہوئے نظر آئیں لیکن بلوچستان میں طلبہ سیاست نے جو ایک اچھی روایت ڈالی ہے وہ یہ ہے بلوچ نوجوانوں میں پڑھنے کا بڑا رجحان ہےاور یہ روایت بہت پرانی ہے۔ اب بھی اگر آپ کسی بلوچ نوجوان سےاس کے مشاغل کے بارے میں پوچھیں تو اخبار کا مطالعہ یا کتاب بینی کا تذکرہ ضرور ملے گا۔ جہاں ایک طرف پاکستان میں ریاست نے نوجوانوں کی سوچ اور فکر پر تالے لگانے کی خاطر جھوٹی اور مسخ شدہ تاریخ سے متعارف کیا ہے ، تو دوسری طرف بلوچستان کے نوجوانوں کو اس طرح کے قدغن کا سامنا نہیں کرنا پڑا۔ ایک عام پاکستانی نوجوان کو یہ بتایا جاتا ہے کہ تاریخ کا آغاز سات سو بارہ میں سندھ پر محمد بن قاسم کی ’’ فتح‘‘ سے ہوتا ہے ، ہم سب مسلمان بھائی بھائی ہیں، ہندو ناپاک اور مکار ہیں اور وہ ہمارے ابدی دشمن ہیں۔بلوچستان میں نوجوانوں نے ہر وقت سچ کی تلاش میں خود کتابیں پڑھی ہیں۔ یہاں وجہ ہے کہ ہمارے نوجوانوں میں روسی اور غیر ملکی ادب کا بڑے شوق سے مطالعہ کیا جاتا ہے۔ تاریخ تعصب کے ساتھ نہیں پڑھی یا پڑھائی جاسکتی۔ تاریخ یا کسی موضوع پر درست رائے قائم کرنے کے لئے لازم ہے کہ اس کا خود مطالعہ کیا جائے۔ لگتا ہے کہ ہماری اور ایف سی کی سوچ میں بہت فرق ہے۔ مجھے یہ پڑھ کر دلی خوشی ہوئی کہ بلوچ نوجوان نہرو اور گاندھی جیسے رہنماوں کی سوانح عمری کا مطالعہ کرتے ہیں۔ لیکن ایف سی اہلکاروں کو صیح طریقے سے چھاپہ مارنا چائیے تھا۔ مجھے یقین ہے کہ ان نوجوانوں کے پاس فیڈل کاسٹرو ، چے گویرا ور ہوگو شاویز کی سوانح عمری بھی ہوئی ہوگی۔ کتاب بینی ایک غیر معمولی خوبی ہےاور جس شخص کو کتابیں پڑھنے کا شوق ہوا سمجھیں اس نے آدھی دنیا فتح کرلی۔ جب ایبٹ آباد میں اسامہ بن لادن پکڑا گیا تھا تو پتہ چلا کہ ان کے گھر سے فحش سی ڈی برآمد ہوئی تھیں۔چھلے مہینے جب پنجاب یونیورسٹی کے ہاسٹل پر چھاپہ پڑا تو اسلامی جمعیت طلبہ کے ناظم صاحب کے کمرے سے شراب کی بوتلیں اور پستول برآمد ہوئے ۔ اس کے برعکس،شکر ہے کہ بلوچ نوجوانوں کے قبضے میں نایاب کتابیں برآمد ہوتی ہیں۔ ان طلبہ کے والدیں کو اپنے بچوں پر فخر ہونا چائیے۔ کتابیں ہر کسی کے گھر یا کمرے سے برآمد نہیں ہوتیں۔ ایف سی کے چھاپے سے ہمیں یہ خوش خبری ملتی ہے کہ ہماری نئی نسل صیح سمت میں گامزن ہے۔ دنیا کی تاریخ میں بے پناہ ایسی مثالیں ملتی ہیں جب کسی فوج نے ایک خطہ کو فتح کرکے وہا ں کے کتاب خانوں کو نذرآتش کردیا تا کہ اس قوم کو اس کے ثقافتی و تاریخی ورثے سے محروم کیا جائے۔ بلوچستان میں یہ سلسلہ کافی عرصہ پہلے شروع کیا گیا جب ایف سی نے نواب بگٹی کی نجی لائبریری تباہ کردی اور اس کی نایاب کتابیں چرالیں۔ کچھ عرصہ قبل وزارتِ داخلہ نے ڈاکٹر نصیر دشتی کی دو کتابوں پر یہ کہہ کر پابندی لگائی کہ ان سے ملک کی سالمیت خطرے میں پڑھ گئی تھی جب کہ ڈاکٹر صاحب سے جب میں نے حکومتی دعووں کے حوالے سے پوچھا تو وہ ہنس پڑے اور کہنے لگے کہ جس ملک کی سالمیت اور یکجہتی کو دوکتابیں نقصان پہنچا سکتی ہیں تو اس ملک کو دنیا کی کوئی طاقت یکجااور سالم نہیں رکھ سکتی۔ اب جان بوجھ کر بلوچ نوجوانوں کی سوچ اور فکر پر پابندی لگانے کی خاطر ان سے وہ کتابیں چھین لی جارہی ہیں جن سے ان کی سو چ اور فکر کشادہ ہوسکتی ہے۔ حکومتی اداروں کی تو عرصہ دراز سے خواہش رہی ہے کہ بلوچوں کوروشن خیال لٹریچر کے بجائے مذہبی ، جہادی اور فسادی لٹریچر پڑھائی جائے تاکہ وہ ترقی پسند راہ سے ہٹ کر مذہبی جنونیت کا راستہ اختیار کریں۔ہمیں پکا یقین ہے کہ ہمارے نوجوان اپنی زندگی میں کبھی اچھی کتابوں کا مطالعہ ترک نہیں کرینگے۔ نوجوان مجھ سے عموماً پوچھتے ہیں کہ وہ کن کن کتابوں کا مطالعہ کریں میرا سب سے پہلامشورہ یہ ہوتا ہے کہ آپ معلوم کریں کہ آپ کے ملک میں کن کن کتابوں پر پابندی عائد ہے۔ اورآپ وہ کتابیں ضرور پڑھ لیں کیونکہ ان کتابوں میں یقیناًکوئی خاص بات ہوگی جو باقی لوگوں کو پتہ نہیں ہیں اور حکومت آپ سے وہ باتیں چھپانا چاہتی ہے۔ عطاشاد ڈگری کالج پر ہونے والے چھاپے پر خفاہونے کی ہرگز ضرورت نہیں ہے۔ یہ بلوچ نوجوانوں کے لئے خوشی کی بات ہے کہ وہ کتابیں پڑھتے ہوئے پکڑے گئے ہیں۔ کتابیں قوموں کو فرش سے اٹھا کر عرش تک پہنچادیتی ہیں اور کسی بھی قوم کے لئے کتابوں سے بڑھ کر کوئی ہتھیار نہیں۔ آئیے سال دوہزار چودہ میں عہد کریں کہ ہم اور آپ کم از کم ایک ایسی کتاب کا معالعہ ضرورکریں جس پر حکومت نے پابندی لگائی ہے یا اعتراض کیا ہو۔ اگر مجھ سے پوچھا جائے تو میں یقیناً نہرو کی سوانح عمری ’’گلمپسز آف ورلڈ ہسٹری‘‘ پڑھنے کا مشورہ دوں گاجس کی کچھ کاپیاں اب ایف سی کے پاس بھی ہیں
A press report carries the surprising news that the biggest challenge to polio eradication programme comes not from militants infested Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but Punjab. A report sent to the government by two polio eradication programme partners, WHO which provides support in operational and financial areas, and the UNICEF helping with communication assistance, says "missed and NA (not available) children pose biggest challenge to Punjab as it tops the list of missed and NA children with the number reaching 134,877 in the campaign of September 2013, thus posing a formidable challenge to the polio eradication partners." That, of course, does not mean the situation in KPK and Fata is not worrisome enough. Indeed, armed militants continue to resist vaccination drives. Since July 2012 as many as 31 polio workers and their police escorts have been killed. Some of the attacks have taken place in various parts of Karachi and Quetta populated by extremist dominated communities. Prominent political personalities, Imran Khan in KPK, chief minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch in Balochistan and Asifa Bhutto Zardari in Sindh have come out to lead anti-polio campaigns to provide encouragement to health workers as well as families. Polio vaccination teams, however, face no such threat in Punjab. Yet according to the partner organisations' findings from a survey, out of a sample of 340 missed children in Punjab, 205 were listed as unavailable during the National Immunisation Days. Even more disturbing is the discovery that as many as 112 children could not receive anti-polio drops due to non-availability of vaccinating teams. The number of refusal cases was only nine. These findings are absolutely unacceptable considering the amount of resources that have been going into the effort to immunise children against this debilitating disease. It is bad news also for all citizens who need to travel abroad. India has already made it mandatory, effective later this month, ie, January 30, for Pakistani citizens seeking its visa to take polio drops six-week before travelling to that country. Other countries may follow suit if effective measures are not adopted. The Punjab, arguably, is one of the better run provinces. The provincial government, of course, is cognisant of the need to eradicate polio. There is a law in place too that allows for punishing parents who refuse to allow their children to be vaccinated. It is obvious from the sample survey result that scores of children failed to receive anti-polio drops because of unavailability of vaccinators, that the field staff is responsible for criminal negligence of duty. The partner organisations' report also mentions a laid-back community attitude towards vaccination. Needless to say the government has to act urgently to redress the situation both from the vaccination givers and receivers ends. The monitoring system has to be strengthened to ensure health workers perform their duties properly. Also, it would be worthwhile for the Chief Minister either to lead anti-polio drives himself, like prominent figures in other provinces, or to appoint a popular personality as a goodwill ambassador to create greater awareness among different communities about the perils of adopting a careless attitude toward polio vaccination.
A US government system that collects and stores data about civilian assistance to Pakistan is malfunctioning and providing inaccurate information, reveals an audit report of the US Office of Inspector General (OIG). “[The system] PakInfo shows obligated funds for government-to-government assistance projects totaling about $1.8 billion, whereas Phoenix [another database] shows almost $1.4 billion,” according to the audit of USAID’s Pakistan government-to-government Assistance Programme. The OIG conducted the audit to determine whether the USAID Country Office was managing the government-to-government assistance programme to achieve development goals, such as creating improved opportunities for work and education, increasing stability in certain areas, and improving the economic status of Pakistanis.
Under the Kerry-Lugar Act, the United States has committed $7.5 billion in civilian assistance to Pakistan. However, the obligations and disbursements remain far below the commitments thus far. Of $1.4 billion obligations made so far, Washington has disbursed $960 million in government-to-government assistance. The civilian assistance that is flowing outside the government channels is in addition to the aid disbursed through official channels. “The PakInfo project database contains inaccurate information,” the audit noted. The findings strengthen the views of Pakistani authorities who have been challenging the US claims on account of the amount the US pledged and the actual disbursements towards Pakistan. The figures that the US Embassy in Islamabad provides always remain higher than what the Economic Affairs Division reports. The audit noted that the system was not functioning correctly two years after the mission started developing it. The Programme and Resource Management Office is responsible for maintaining the information in PakInfo, including the amount of funding for each project – project start and end dates, and project results data.
The second system is Phoenix, which also collects data on financial obligations and disbursements for all America’s government-to-government projects. The audit noted that obligated amounts for some projects in Phoenix exceed the obligations reflected in PakInfo. For instance, although assistance for the Satpara dam project is $26 million, PakInfo shows a total funding of $19 million. “Inaccurate data can lead to uninformed and bad decision-making which, in turn, can affect the outcomes of government-to-government assistance projects,” observed the US auditors. They added that a pattern or practice of storing and reporting inaccurate data, even if inadvertent, can reduce users’ confidence in the data. The findings showed that some projects’ start and end dates in PakInfo don’t tally with those in project activity agreements. For example, the first activity agreement for the Municipality Services Programme in Sindh was signed in January 2011, while the agreement was executed in April 2012. However, PakInfo shows the start date as February 2012 instead of January 2011. PakInfo groups together some projects that have different activity agreements and are managed by different offices. Doing so makes it difficult to understand the correct funding amount for each project, the auditors noted. The OIG has recommended implementing a plan with a timeline to validate the PakInfo data, and reconcile them with the data in Phoenix. The OIG also suggested implementing a plan with a timeline for PakInfo to become operational.
The Express TribuneA remote-controlled bomb blast near Dera Ismail Khan left eight police officers injured, Express News reported on Tuesday. The blast took place in the Thana Kulachi area near a police mobile. Rescue teams are on the way. According to SHO Imran Kundi, who was also injured during the attack, a remote-controlled bomb was used in the blast. Swabi In another incident, unidentified persons on a motorcycle killed a security agency official in Swabi. The criminals fired at the official, identified as Amjad Ali, and managed to get away. Nowshera In a separate incident, four bullet-riddled bodies were found in Thana Azakhel, Nowshera earlier today. The bodies were found in a village near River Kabul. According to initial details, the deceased are reportedly between 25 and 45 years of age. The identity of the victims is not yet known. The bodies were taken to District Headquarter Hospital for post mortem. Further investigations are underway.
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” — George Orwell, Animal FarmTHE brutal death of 10-year-old Iram earlier this month, at the hands of her employer in a middle-class neighbourhood in Lahore, raises more issues than the brain can fathom: should one cry murder? Child abuse? Perhaps lament the social menace of hiring children as domestic help? Or should one look beyond Iram’s immediate narrative to the issue that lies at the heart of this and similar tragedies? The issue of the vulnerability, powerlessness and, even in the best of circumstances, the relentlessly unequal status of 8.5 million Pakistanis — men, women and children — who according to some estimates represent the number presently employed as domestic help in households throughout Pakistan. Some might argue that to focus exclusively on the disadvantages faced by domestic help is unfair. After all, in most cases domestic help is paid for its services and given its laziness, obstinacy and indeed wickedness, it does not deserve anything more. Some, however, may cite the myriad issues faced by Pakistan as a developing country as the root causes of the fortunes of domestic help whilst still others may draw attention to the many benevolent employers who support their staff beyond any reasonable call of duty. Granted there may be merit in these arguments, but they are faulty to the extent that they justify an inherent and immutable inequality in Pakistani society and endorse a system of employment of domestic help based entirely on employer discretion. It is interesting to explore the possible reasons behind these justifications: are Pakistanis of the view that domestic help is somehow of a ‘different’ humanity, and, therefore, it is only appropriate that it be treated differently — never mind that it was precisely such thinking that formed the rationale for slavery in the United States, apartheid in South Africa and even the Holocaust? Or are we perhaps driven purely by convenience and selfishness? Certainly the idea of a society in which one part of the population lives to serve another, especially if one belongs to the ‘other’, is too seductive to be abandoned! Worse still, however, is it our feudal mindset — our subconscious bifurcation of society into masters and servants — that not only allows us to accept a stratified society but also to actively preserve the status quo? Whatever the precise reason, the fact remains that the present situation of domestic help is deeply entrenched in Pakistani society and meaningful change will only be possible if there is a shift in our collective consciousness. In terms of modern literature on human rights, this shift may be characterised as making a transition from following a ‘charity-based approach’ towards the poor and underprivileged, to a ‘rights-based approach’. Whilst the charity model emphasises the magnanimity of the rich, the rights-based approach emphasises the rights of the underprivileged. In the context of domestic help, this transition would entail a move away from a system run purely on employer discretion to one which recognises that domestic help have basic and uniform rights for which the employers are accountable. The state, courts and citizens may each play a unique role in bringing about this change: citizens may not only act judiciously towards domestic help in their private spheres but also raise awareness in any forums they may be a part of. Such change will, however, remain variable and whilst it may change individual lives, it will not change the system. Courts may play a larger role by expediting suits brought before them but the impact of this is also likely to remain limited due to the difficulty of domestic help bringing such suits. The Supreme Court, may, of course take suo motu notice of the problem and devise guidelines for appropriate terms of employment but the primary onus lies with the state itself, which must assume primary responsibility for safeguarding the interests of domestic help. The state may, for example, enact a specific law for the protection of the rights of domestic workers which outlines, in detail, the standard minimum rights and duties of domestic help and ensures that domestic help has access to offices specifically empowered for the purpose or to the police and courts, if necessary. Given the danger of abuse of such a law, it should also mandate that domestic workers be registered with the police or other appropriate office, at the commencement of their employment and give notice in case of departure or dismissal. Enacting a law, is, however, only a first step — necessary but not sufficient. The state must also sponsor public awareness campaigns regarding the issue, encourage the formation of support groups for domestic help and regulate any persons purporting to act as employment agents. Such schemes sound naïve in the Pakistani context where rights often belong to the highest bidder. Perhaps it would help, therefore, to remember that the desire to support domestic help does not stem merely from a compassionate impulse but is essential for Pakistan’s continued progress, and indeed, its survival. The words of the renowned economist and Pakistan’s former finance minister, Dr Mahbub-ul-Haq, are most pertinent in this regard. According to him, holistic, meaningful and sustained development is only possible when a country expands the quality of life of all its people and not just the privileged. “People,” he maintained, “are both the means and ends of development … not convenient fodder for the materialistic machine.” Perhaps it is time Pakistan paid attention.
Daily TimesAitzaz Hussain, the brave 15-year-old who saved his entire school from a sure tragedy, is being hailed by every single person in this country as a hero. Sacrificing his own life to prevent a suicide bomber from entering his school’s premises, this innocent soul has committed the noblest act of all. However, whilst the entire country mourns the loss and admires the strength of character of Aitzaz Hussain, the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the boy’s home province, has been conspicuous by its silence over the matter. So much so that chief of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) Imran Khan has chastised his government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) for not acting appropriately over this national tragedy. It seems Chief Minister KP Pervez Khattak failed to make an appearance at the funeral of the young hero, which did not go down well with the PTI chief or the rest of the country. The KP government seemed indifferent and unconcerned, a deplorable attitude considering the magnitude of the matter. After being told off by Imran Khan, the provincial government has announced a compensation of Rs five million for Hussain’s family and other commemorations, such as naming the boy’s school after him. The government of KP should be ashamed of itself. It has to be rattled into shape by the party chief to actually stand by the nation at this time of remembering a hero. It is extremely ironic the double act that the PTI and the provincial government of the PTI and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) seem to be playing. Whenever militants are killed by either drones or the security forces, the PTI and JI harp on about the deaths, going as far as launching protests and stopping NATO supply routes. However, when a true hero such as Aitzaz Hussain is killed by the militants, we hear not a peep from these parties. This only goes to show the blinkers these political representatives have on and the misplaced priorities they harbour. Whilst Imran Khan’s intervention is welcome, it is extremely sad that he had to intervene in the first place. The real tragedy in this situation is that the government has failed to do its job by failing to acknowledge, in a timely manner, the heroism of Aitzaz Hussain. This country is facing a dearth of true heroes; they must be properly honoured.
Senior ANP leader Mian Iftikhar Hussain expressed the fear that the recent wave of violence would escalate in the coming few months, adding that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province was fully under Taliban control. “Taliban militants are roaming freely in Peshawar and patrolling the city,” he said while appearing in SAMAA’s current affairs program “Nadeem Malik Live,” today. Speaking on this occasion, PML-N leader Amir Muqam, who survived a bomb attack yesterday, said that he was being targeted for denouncing terrorism as a cancer for Pakistan and Islam. “All sides must realize that violence would benefit nobody. Taliban were evicted from Swat after the military operation while people also suffered a lot,” he added. MQM leader Nabil Gabol confirmed that the Ministry of Interior had issued a alert, warning Farooq Sattar, Faisal Sabzwari and him about terror threats. He said Taliban have penetrated into posh localities of Karachi like Defence and Clifton, saying that militants have set up their headquarters in the metropolis. “I think Karachi should be handed over to army for six months. We are dealing with target killers and bombers, who are everywhere in Karachi,” he said. To a question, he said that government should launch Swat-like operation against terrorists. Prominent religious scholar Mufti Muneeb ur Rehman said that APC was a non-serious exercise. “All parties should sit for days or weeks to take a unanimous stand on the issue of terrorism,” he said.
By Dr. Ismail Salami
Only people like Aitizaz Hasan can emerge as beacons of light to usher in the right path towards salvation.The distressing story of a Pakistani teenager who lost his life while he was making efforts to prevent a suicide bomber from detonating his school and unleashing a maniac massacre of innocent children in the country’s troubled north-west has gained colossal attention in the world. Aitizaz Hasan, almost 15 years old, was standing outside as a punishment for being late to school in Hangu, a town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, on Monday when the suicide bomber tried to gain access to the building. Basically a Shia-populated town in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, Hangu has become a scene of unrest and Takfiri-begotten hatred like many parts of the country. What Aitizaz did has reportedly saved the lives of more than 2000 students who were at school at the time of the catastrophe. ”My son made his mother cry, but saved hundreds of mothers from crying for their children,” his father, Mujahid Ali, told the Express Tribune newspaper. Schools, mosques, and temples are the routine targets of the Takfiri groups in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world. According to their definition, anyone but the Takfiris is an infidel and should be eradicated from the face of the earth. Women and children are no exceptions to them. Muslims and non-Muslims are no exceptions to them. What is acceptable to them is complete belief in their twisted perception and interpretation of Islam. In September 2013, a twin suicide attack on a historic church known as All Saint’s Church in Peshawar in northwestern Pakistan killed over 80 people including women and children and injuring over a hundred people. “Suicide bombers entered the church compound from the main gate and blew themselves up in the midst of the people,” a statement posted on the diocese website read. In another incident, a suicide bomber struck a crowded Pakistan mosque in August 2013, killing 43 people and wounding more than 100 during Ramadan prayers. The bomber was wearing about 8-10 kg of explosives and was on foot. He had detonated in the main prayer hall. In 2012, gunmen dragged 20 Shia Muslim travelers off a bus and killed them at point blank range in northern Pakistan. The bus was travelling between Rawalpindi and the mainly Shia northern city of Gilgit. “Ten to 12 people wearing army uniform stopped the bus and forced some people off the bus,” said Khalid Omarzai, a Pakistani official. “After checking their papers, they opened fire and at least 20 people are reported to have been killed. This is initial information and the final toll may go up. They are all Shias,” he said. On January I, 2014, a suicide car bombing in Pakistan killed two Shia Muslims who were returning from a pilgrimage to Iran. The attack took place on Wednesday in Akhtaraba, on the outskirts of Quetta in Balochistan and targeted a passenger bus carrying Shia Muslims. “An explosive-laden car which was parked along the roadside blew up as the bus passed by it, killing two people and wounding 17,” Abdul Razzaq Cheema, Quetta police chief, told AFP news agency. Takfiri hatred is vented in different ways. A common way is, however, suicide bombing. Other forms include beheading, spilling acid over the victims’ faces and mutilating their bodies. Takfirism, which is an umbrella name for Wahhabism, is lavishly funded by Saudi Arabia. For over three decades, Saudi Arabia has been spent over USD 100 billion on promoting Wahhabism worldwide with Pakistan being one of the early instances of such ideological colonization in Asia. In other words, big chunks of petrodollar earned by the House of Saud go to the dissemination of Wahhabism and the subsequent promotion of terrorism. So, suicide bombing is nothing new in Pakistan and some of the countries infested by the influence of the Takfiri groups who are hell-bent on annihilating the rest of the world which they view as ideologically inferior. By way of diverting attention from what is really happening, the West seeks to prescribe its own version of the realities and practically dictates how the media should report on any violence produced by this crooked ideology. In fact, the West substantially capitalizes on the discord sweeping across the Middle East on account of the efforts of the Takfiri groups such as Taliban, al-Qaeda, and al-Nusra and so on and so forth. The western media unanimously attribute attacks of this nature to sectarian violence and the “rift deepening wider between the Shia and the Sunni Muslims” every day. The fact of the matter is that these incidents happening in Pakistan and similar incidents taking place elsewhere have nothing to do with sectarianism and should not be treated thus. Anyway, what is happening in Pakistan is an ideological product of the House of Saud and their ignoramus adherents. Sadly, Pakistani politicians frequently turn a blind eye to the myriad crimes committed by the Takfiri groups whom they use as political leverage to achieve their own malicious goals such as winning the elections in the country. So, instead of curbing the cruel current of extremism, they sit back and watch silently. Aitizaz Hasan is the personification of innocence and the crystallization of a far-fetched hope on the dark horizons of the Pakistani community. In a country corroded by blind ignorance, rampant political corruption and cancerous extremism, only people like Aitizaz Hasan can emerge as beacons of light to usher in the right path towards salvation.