Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Video:Justin Bieber - Boyfriend

Detectives search Justin Bieber's home

A search warrant is executed in relation to a felony vandalism investigation, police say.

France: Hollande's bid for privacy

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

Egypt Votes on New Constitution

Drinking Beer Made of Whale Will Turn You Into a True Viking, Claims Brewery

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.”
“This is a unique beer, brewed in collaboration with Hvalur hf. Whale beer will include, among other things, whale meal. Whale meal is very protein rich, and has almost no fat in it. That, along with the fact that no sugar is added makes this a very healthful drink, and people will be true Vikings drinking it,” said the brewery’s owner, Dabjartur Arilíusson.
The beer in question is being launched to coincide with the Icelandic mid-winter festival Thorrablot, which honors the Norse god Thor, and will at least only be sold for a limited time, according to the Independent.
Still, it’s drawn criticism from whale advocates who are disgusted that a company would stoop low enough to turn endangered fin whales into booze. “Demand for this meat is in decline with fewer and fewer people eating it. Even so, reducing a beautiful, sentient whale to an ingredient on the side of a beer bottle is about as immoral and outrageous as it is possible to get,” said Vanessa Williams-Grey, head of Whale and Dolphin Conservation’s (WDC) Icelandic anti-whaling campaign.
“The brewery may claim that this is just a novelty product with a short shelf life, but what price the life of an endangered whale which might have lived to be 90 years?”
Japan’s long been in the spotlight for using a loophole in the whaling ban, but Iceland’s openly defying it. Iceland initially conducted a “scientific” whaling program, but withdrew from the International Whaling Commission in 1992 and resumed commercial whaling in 2006, targeting minke and fin whales, despite the dwindling demand for whale meat both in Iceland and in Japan, which had been a viable market.
Those who profit from the continued slaughter of whales are clearly trying to get creative with ways to pawn off whale meat no one wants. This isn’t the first time both countries have drawn the ire of whale lovers and conservationists over a novelty product. Last year, Tokyo-based Michinoku Farm pulled dog treats made of fin whales processed by Hvalur hf off the market after drawing international outrage. Hvalur hf also sparked controversy when it used whale-oil-based fuel to power the very ships it uses to go out and slaughter more whales.
Unfortunately, Iceland’s continued whaling hasn’t just hurt whales. WDC noted that Iceland has continued to ignore the potential for economic damage over public opposition to whaling and that it’s negatively impacting other industries that depend on whales being alive. The Icelandic Whale Watch Association and the Icelandic Travel Industry Association have reported a decline in whale watching because whales are increasingly difficult to find. Hopefully people will decide they’re okay with merely being impostor vikings and this beer will be an epic failure.
Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/drinking-beer-made-of-whale-will-turn-you-into-a-true-viking-claims-brewery.html#ixzz2qPN3eyfs

Israel: US calls Ya'alon's comments about Kerry 'offensive'; Netanyahu does damage control

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."

Erectile Dysfunction: 'Penis pumps cost U.S. government millions, watchdog cries waste'

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.

Shama Ashna Pashto Songs

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.

Bangladesh: Daily 'Beast' warns U.S.A..... '' US should not repeat the mistake of 1971 ''

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.

FIFA Awards Afghanistan 'Fair Play Award For 2013'

FIFA has named the Afghanistan Football Federation as the winner of FIFA’s Fair Play Award for 2013. FIFA Fair Play Committee member Tokyo Sexwale said at FIFA’s Ballon d’Or awards ceremony in Zurich on January 13 that the Afghan federation had shown “dedication and hard work to develop football at the grassroots level” and “built the foundations for the game, nurturing a national league in the midst of violence and destruction.” Sexwale said the Afghan federation “against all odds” had “opened up football to a wider audience, including women and families,” and had helped “ease regional tensions” by hosting its first international match against a neighboring country in nearly a decade. The award was presented to Afghan Football Federation President Karim Keramuddin by Jordanian Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, FIFA vice president for Asia.

Obama Defends Afghanistan Policy

President Barack Obama defended his Afghanistan policy on Monday, saying he continues to have "faith" in the U.S. mission in the country, after his former Pentagon chief said the president had changed course on his own decisions. "What's important is we got the policy right, but this is hard and it always has been," Obama told reporters at the White House, rejecting criticism from former Pentagon chief Robert Gates.
Obama insisted he had faith in the Afghan war mission after Gates charged the president lacked passion for military action and soured on his own troop surge. In his first public comments on criticisms of his role as commander-in-chief in a new memoir by Gates, Obama said he had a duty to constantly question US military tactics and "sweat the details" when sending young men and women to war.
"Just as I have continued to have faith in our mission, more importantly I have had unwavering confidence in our troops," Obama said.
But the president declined to say whether he had been irked by the publication of the book while he was still in office and American forces remained on the battlefield. Gates sparked a Washington firestorm when he suggested in "Duty," to be published Tuesday, that Obama became disillusioned with the troop surge strategy launched in 2009 by early 2011, and lost confidence in his troop commanders and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The failure of the Afghan government to sign a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States has strained ties between the two countries. The White House has urged Karzai to sign the agreement by the end of 2013 to give enough time for planning and deciding the number of troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2014.
However, Karzai refused to sign the BSA until after a new president is elected on April 5, or unless Washington meets preconditions including immediately halting US raids on Afghan residences, ensuring viable security and supporting meaningful peace talks with the Taliban.
NATO forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, after which time the Afghan forces will take over full security responsibility. The alliance currently has around 80,000 troops in Afghanistan, the majority being American.
NATO plans to leave a training mission, expected to number 8,000 to 12,000 soldiers, in Afghanistan if the BSA is signed.

Afghan-Pak officials discussed natural disaster management cooperation, challenges

Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA) officials are on a 3-day-long visit to Pakistan as part of the drive to discuss disaster management experiences, mutual cooperation and other related issues with Pak authorities, officials said Tuesday. ANDMA Director General, Dr. Daim Kakar, along with members of his delegation during the trip had meeting with chairman, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) at the Prime Minister’s Office. The Afghan delegation is on a three-day official visit to Pakistan as a state guest on a visit, which is part of the approved activity plan identified under the Heart of Asia (HoA) Confidence Building Measure (CBM) in the field of disaster management. It merits mentioning here that Pakistan is a co-lead along with Kazakhstan on Disaster Management CBM working through Istanbul Process and pursuing its effective implementation. Pak-NDMA Chairman Major General, Muhammad Saeed Aleem, extended warm welcome to Afghan NDMA director general and his delegation on their arrival at NDMA, Pakistan. The Afghan delegation was given a detailed briefing on the disaster context and evolution of disaster management system in Pakistan. The Afghan delegation also briefed NDMA about their disaster management system and the challenges they are confronted with while tackling both natural and manmade disasters. Dr. Lais Mustafa (Technical Advisor ANDMA) also briefed NDMA officials on the ANDMA’s mandate and all affairs related to disaster and emergency response in Afghanistan including development, monitoring and execution of policy, strategies and planning for disaster management. He added that ANDMA is an active member of Saarc and ECO Disaster Management Centre. He highlighted Istanbul Process as a vital initiative and appreciated countries under that initiative for showing interest in supporting Afghanistan. He added that this is an open option for countries of the region to assist Afghanistan under the disaster management —CBM initiative by assisting in the establishment of disaster management institute.

Afghan atheist to get asylum in Britain on religious grounds

A supervisor on the case, said: 'The decision represents an important recognition that a lack of religious belief is in itself a thoughtful and seriously-held philosophical position'
An Afghan man is understood to have become the first atheist ever to secure asylum in Britain on religious grounds.
His case was accepted by the Home Office on the basis there was a risk he could face persecution in Afghanistan for having rejected Islam. Although he was brought up a Muslim, since living in the UK he has gradually turned away from it and is now an atheist. The young man – who does not want to be identified for fear of being rejected by the Afghan community in Britain – fled to the UK from a conflict involving his family in Afghanistan. He first claimed asylum in 2007 when he was just 16. The claim was rejected but he was granted discretionary leave to remain until 2013 under rules to protect unaccompanied children.
The case was taken up by Kent Law Clinic, a pro bono service provided by students and supervised by practising lawyers from the University of Kent’s Law School, alongside local solicitors and barristers. A submission to the Home Office argued that the man’s return to Afghanistan could result in a death sentence under Sharia law as an “apostate” – someone who has abandoned their religious faith – unless he remained silent about his atheist beliefs.
His fears of persecution became more acute after attending a friend’s wedding in Pakistan, according to evidence presented to the Home Office. The man says he as shocked by how people responded to him, with one telling him: “You cannot sit and eat with people who are not Muslim”. He said he believed the situation would be worse in Afghanistan.
Evidence presented to the Home Office also suggested that because daily life and culture in Afghanistan is permeated by Islam, living discreetly would be virtually impossible. The submission read: “The Applicant’s lack of religion causes him to live in fear of the prospect of being returned to a country where religion is both prevalent and dominant in society”. Claire Splawn, a second year law student at the University of Kent, prepared the case. Ms Splawn said: “We argued that an atheist should be entitled to protection from persecution on the grounds of their belief in the same way as a religious person is protected.” Sheona York, who supervised the case, said: “The decision represents an important recognition that a lack of religious belief is in itself a thoughtful and seriously-held philosophical position.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases. The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need it and we consider every application on a case by case basis.”

India eyes return of 'begging bowl' used by Buddha from Afghanistan

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.
"They will examine if the raw material has been sourced locally from one of the Afghan cities. If not, it will strengthen our claim that it belongs to us," Mani said.
The ASI says its historical documents and research suggests that Buddha donated the bowl, which is 1.75 metres (5.7 feet) in diameter, to the people of Vaishali, a Buddhist pilgrimage site in the eastern Indian state of Bihar. A king who ruled northern India and other parts of Asia in the second century took the bowl to what is now Peshawar in Pakistan, before being moved to what is now Kandahar in Afghanistan, ASI says its research shows. The bowl was then believed to have been moved to the Kabul museum during the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
"In Buddhist monasteries such huge stone troughs used to keep at the entrance gates as donation bowls. This bowl was also perhaps used similarly," Mani said.
The greenish-grey granite bowl has a lotus flower chiseled around its base, suggesting its Buddhist past. The bowl was later inscribed along its rim with rows of Arabic verses from the Koran, said Mani. The safety of Buddhist relics in Afghanistan caused concern after the Taliban destroyed monumental Buddha statues carved into a hill in Bamiyan province in 2001. Mani said he hoped the Indian government would take up the matter with Kabul if the ASI experts established that the bowl originated in Vaishali. It's not known exactly when the experts will leave for Kabul. "We will have to see whether they (the Afghanistan government) agree to give it back to India," Mani said.

'Truth tracker' keeps tabs on Pakistan election pledges

By Shumaila Jaffrey
As you turn off the main road just south of Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore, it soon seems as if you have travelled 50 years back in time.
At Sitara Colony Number Two, leaking sewage pipes and abandoned bulldozers belie Lahore's reputation as one of Pakistan's most developed cities.
The scene is also testament to political promises which have remained unfulfilled. But a new website seeks to put promises of development and progress to the test.
Sitara Colony number 2 is a labyrinth of narrow streets. bustling with small shops, street vendors and donkey carts. Across from the market is the residential area.
Rough tracks and sewage spewing out from various points, mixed with stagnant water from a recent downpour await the visitor. Huge bulldozers and other machinery lie idle nearby. Construction work is at a standstill. Tariq Mehmood has lived in Sitara Colony for 10 years. He says that in every election campaign he can remember, politicians have promised to build roads and proper sewers here, but that the candidates never look back once elected. "Look at the water in the street, it's been here for the past one and a half years. Even the drinking water is not clean any more," he says.
"During the election campaign we brought different candidates here - all of them promised to resolve the issue. But nothing happened afterwards. Now when we go to our MP, he gives us more false hope. They don't think we are humans, it's sad but true."
It's a frequent complaint in Pakistan, but it now seems that politicians here might have a harder time getting away with broken promises unnoticed.
A website called Truth Tracker ( http://www.truthtracker.pk/ )has been launched by UPI Next, the non-profit media development arm of the United Press International news agency.
Its mission: To keep an eye on the commitments made by politicians during and after election campaigns.
A team of 25 reporters all over Pakistan scour manifestos, elections speeches, party websites and media appearances of politicians to nail down promises made to voters.
The senior editor of Truth Tracker, Mubasher Bukhari, says it is all about accountability: "It means we keep tracking promises, and keep reminding politicians again and again about their commitments to the people. We also give reasons as to why any promise is not fulfilled and what the obstacles are." The various parties' campaign symbols are used to identify who made what promise - the tiger for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's PML-N or a cricket bat for former cricket star Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party (PTI).
There are five categories for the state of a promise: Broken, fulfilled, under way, not started and compromised. For example, the website says that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif promised during last year's election campaign to provide housing to all low-income families, but nothing has been done so far to make progress on the issue. Truth tracker has categorised this promise as "not started".
During the same campaign Imran Khan's PTI promised to hold local government elections within 90 days of taking power.
According to Truth Tracker, Imran Khan repeatedly criticised previous governments for not holding local polls, accusing them of being reluctant to share power with the grassroots. The website calculates that since PTI politicians took the oath of government in north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhawa province on 30 May, the 90 day deadline was due to fall on 31 August. But with local government elections still pending, Truth Tracker rates this promise as "broken".
In another example, the chief minister of Punjab province, Shahbaz Sharif, promised to explore alternative energy options in an effort to end the power crisis that has plagued Pakistan. The Punjab government has started a project to build a solar energy plant in the south-eastern desert of Cholistan. According to the Truth Tracker team, this promise is "under way". Social analyst Rasul Bakhsh Rais believes that initiatives like Truth Tracker can strengthen accountability, which he says is essential for any democracy.
"In Pakistan politicians have different attitudes when they are in power. So citizens should not wait for five years to question them - it must be done on a continuous basis," he says.
"And now this can happen with the help of information technology, through tools like websites." Others, however, say that in a semi-literate country like Pakistan, the number of people who will use websites like Truth Tracker to monitor the performance of elected politicians is likely to be limited - and powerful politicians will keep on getting away with broken promises. In Sitara Colony, Tariq Mehmood is so frustrated, he has given up hope. "Now local elections are coming up, but we are not interested," he says. "It doesn't matter because we know nothing is going to change." But Mubasher Bukhari is hopeful Truth Tracker can make a difference. "It's true many people are still not aware of it, but a lot of politicians are - they know that they are being watched."


TEACHERS AND STUDENTS CLAIM GROWING ISLAMIZATION AT HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS IS HAMPERING QUALITY OF LEARNING. The Pakistan Studies lecturer is in mid-flow when his students stand and rush for the door—his class interrupted yet again by the call to prayer.
“They won’t come back for at least 30 minutes and some of them even decide not to return to class,” Sajjad Akhtar said, gathering his notes and sitting down to wait for his students to return.
At Quaid-i-Azam University, rated the best public university in Pakistan and the best Pakistani university in Asia, this is an everyday reality across all academic departments. The university grants a 15-minute break for prayers but any student is allowed to get up as soon he hears the call to prayer in what critics call a chaotic interruption of academic life. They say increased Islamization in Pakistan’s top teaching institutes and among the growing middle classes is helping to dumb down academic standards and restrict students’ social life.
“At Quaid-i-Azam University there are four mosques, but still no bookshop,” says Pervez Hoodbhoy, a nuclear physicist and one of Pakistan’s most prominent academics who used to teach there.
Established in 1965 in the then-new federal capital Islamabad, it was considered a liberal campus until 1977 when controversial military ruler Zia-ul-Haq seized power. During his 10-year rule, until his death in a plane crash in 1988, Zia embedded a conservative form of Islam into politics and affairs of state, and ushered in shariah law to run alongside the penal code.
Trade unions and student bodies were banned in educational institutions, and Arabic and Islamic Studies were made mandatory for all students until university level. Additional marks were given in exams to students who learned the Quran by heart. Over the subsequent generations, the trend has got deeper and more embedded.
“There are far fewer students today who can sing and dance, recite poetry, or who read novels than 20 years ago,” said Hoodbhoy. “The university is very much like a school for older children, where rote-learning is considered education. There’s no intellectual excitement, no feeling of discovery, and girls are mostly silent note-takers, you have to prod them to ask questions.”
Strolling through the various departments, most female students wear the hijab—the headscarf that hides all their hair and an import from the Middle East—and none wear jeans. None dare sit next to a man, a common sight at more liberal privately run universities, which have become the preserve of the elite as schools like Quaid-e-Azam cater to the lower and middle classes. Though no specific place is allocated for men and women in the central cafeteria, both genders sit as far apart as possible.
Hifza Aftab, a hijab-wearing MBA student, says there is no such thing as a “liberal” girl at the university. Any young woman who arrives on campus without wearing a hijab or the looser dupatta traditional to Pakistan quickly changes the look in two or three months, she says. “A liberal girl would get notorious throughout the whole university,” she said.
It was not always thus. Jamil Ahmed, who graduated in 1991, said that in his days the hijab was rarely seen and male and female students would mingle. Hasan Askari, a former professor at Punjab University, said students are becoming increasingly attached to religion and drifting away from rational thinking. “The increasing Islamization has affected quality of education as today, teachers stress more on conspiracy theories than logic,” he said. Last year a private school in Lahore dropped human reproduction from the biology syllabus after an outcry in the conservative Urdu-language press claiming it was “obscene.”
Quaid-i-Azam University Vice Chancellor Masoom Yasinzai admitted academic standards had slipped over the years but insisted it was a country-wide problem and not to do with the growing focus on religion. “Here at Quaid-i-Azam University, academic standards are not falling at an alarming rate,” he said, adding that the expression “Islamization” was being used out of context. “We have given students the freedom to practice their religion and I think practicing religion is one’s individual choice.”
With sectarianism and violence against minorities on the rise in Pakistan, some fear encouraging a religious mindset in universities is storing up problems for the future. “If you have a very dominant view and very authoritarian worldview which this curriculum is teaching you, that ‘You are Muslims, Islam is a good religion and other religions are not good,’ that value system will create a social crisis in the society,” said education analyst Farzana Bari. At one of the mosques on campus, a number of religious books are on display on the bookshelves and free for students to take away. One of them, entitled Put an End to Obscenity has pictures of a computer, CD player and a drum set on its cover with a red cross on top of each. The book explains how playing music during marriage ceremonies affects “the next life” and how angels pour melted copper into the ear of anyone who listens to music or the female voice.
At the mosque, cleric Habib-u-Rehman Saleem says floods and earthquakes are God’s punishment for gay sex. “Males started to sleep with males and females started to sleep with females,” he tells a group of male students. “Some people are trying to create an environment like that of the West here, but God willing the students are religious and they will never let any such conspiracy succeed.”
Touseef Ahmed Khan, chairman of the Federal Urdu University in Karachi, said he could see no change coming soon. “A whole generation was Islamized and those who started their academic career during the Zia regime are now retiring from their jobs,” he said. “This phenomenon of Islamization has been there for three decades, you cannot reverse it in one year—it will take decades to do so.”

BALOCHISTAN: ' کتابوں پر بھی چھاپے'

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

Pakistan: Punjab's polio challenge

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.

Glitch: US audit detects fault in Pakistan aid data

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.

Remote-controlled bomb blast near DI Khan injures 8 police officers

The Express Tribune
A 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.

Karachi’s sectarian backyard

IN a city drawn into a spiral of violence where crime, politics and extremism are interlinked, law-enforcement agencies are poorly resourced and conviction rates low, where religious institutions with political agendas teach lessons of hate and sectarian fault lines are ripped apart, it is difficult to clearly identify the causes of sectarian violence.
Since 2007, increasing violence in Pakistan — with militants targeting political leaders, the military and police, clerics, tribal leaders, Shias, and schools — has found an urban epicentre in Karachi. In its latest security report, the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) reported a 53pc increase in sectarian violence for 2013. More than 85pc of such attacks and 68pc of the people killed were concentrated in Karachi, Quetta, Gilgit and Kurram Agency.
Last year, 212 were killed in 132 sectarian-related attacks mostly in Karachi. However, a cycle of tit-for-tat sectarian killings on Karachi’s streets since 2011 has sparked ethno-political violence with various sectarian outfits contributing to the growing body count.
The banned sectarian group Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ), sharing operational and ideological ties with Al Qaeda and the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), demonstrates how militancy elsewhere in the country affects the city through a lethal nexus.
In the case of the LJ-TTP link, Chaudhry Aslam Khan, the head of the Sindh police’s CID anti-extremism cell, who was recently assassinated in Karachi, confirmed in an interview shortly before his killing that both conduct joint terrorist activities in the city. The leader of LJ’s Balochistan wing, Usman Saifullah Kurd, is also connected with Karachi’s sectarian militants, he had said.
Aslam had said in a January 7 interview that “after the crackdown against LJ in Karachi and Punjab, their cadres had found sanctuaries in the tribal areas.” He said that in a raid last November, the police had killed LJ’s Karachi chief Gul Hasan, involved in suicide attacks on the Haideri mosque and Imambargah Ali Raza (2004) and an attack on the Chief Justice of the Sindh High Court, Justice Maqbool Baqar in August 2013. Ideological and turf wars between the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat\Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan, following the Sunni Deobandi school and the Barelvi Sunnis, represented mainly by the Sunni Tehreek, adds to this volatile cauldron. It is incorrect to differentiate between terrorist groups and sectarian outfits because they share similar agendas and religious ideologies, says political analyst Dr Ayesha Siddiqa.
Nobody knows what exactly drives sectarian violence, whether it is the consequence of state policies of Islamisation of laws and education, parallel legal and judicial systems, politicisation of the police force, failure of the state and the military, and the marginalisation of secular forces.
French researcher Marium Abou Zahab believes that links with the Middle East could be part of the explanation (proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran) but views sectarian violence as an indigenous phenomenon. With sporadic administrative and legal efforts to dismantle well-entrenched groups, leaders of supposedly banned groups such as the SSP operate with virtual immunity, using new avenues (social media) to propagate their militant ideas and enter electoral politics aligned to mainstream political parties.
Aurangzeb Farooqi, the Karachi head of the ASWJ, terms Shias ‘infidels’, attributing an increase in sectarianism to similar trends observed in the wider Muslim world. Condemning violence, he denies links with the LJ, calling for dialogue with ‘rival groups.’ He blames the police for failing to protect Sunnis as hundreds have been killed in reprisal attacks.
For their part, Shia political party Majlis-i-Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM) claims they do not indulge in violent killing. They might have organised the largely peaceful demonstrations in Karachi and other towns to protest against the Quetta bombings last year, but the police suspect that some have adopted a violent retaliatory path, with a Karachi-based Shia militia responsible for attacks on Deobandi clerics.
MWM spokesperson Ali Ahmar accuses LJ of fuelling sectarian violence, claiming that 500 Shias, including professors, students, lawyers and doctors, were targeted in 2013 with perpetrators arrested only in four to five cases. If young Shias are aligning themselves with MWM, then interviews with moderate Deobandi clerics suggest that the killing of students and teachers is pushing men with no sectarian links towards Deobandi groups. The cost of militancy includes damage to the economy, national security, citizen morale and political stability. Shrinking space for an alternative liberal discourse is evident as political patronage for the religious right goes unchecked with banned extremist organisations and madressahs raising their public profile, providing endless recruits and sectarian-oriented curricula and publications to further fuel intolerance and bigotry.
As Karachi’s sectarian militants conduct ‘business’ on home turf with their political utility intact, the consequences are uncertain but definitely deadly as Pakistan’s security establishment nurtures some Taliban groups in the border regions as proxies for the post-2014 period.

Pakistan domestic help: An unequal people

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” — George Orwell, Animal Farm
THE 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.

Remembering Aitzaz Hussain

Daily Times
Aitzaz 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.

Pakistan's internal security czar Nisar : Startling utterance

If this is the ruling hierarchy's internal security czar Nisar Ali Khan's understanding of the monstrosity of terrorism afflicting the nation so bloodily, the divine powers then have mercy on us. Taking on the critics purportedly asking for military operation to curb the beast, he sarcastically has asked if an operation in North Waziristan or FATA would bring peace to the entire country. But who will tell the eminence that terrorism is not just berthed in or confined to these two territories? It's a countrywide phenomenon. No part of the land is immune from it. Only the intensity of its bestiality varies; some areas having become its bleeding quarry, some having relatively less of it. But the entire land has it engulfed grievously and devastatingly. Accordingly, it has to be tackled all over the country, not in one niche or two.
And it is not the military alone that has to fight it out. The entire state in its multifarious roles has to get involved wholly. As the monstrosity has assumed the vicious form of urban terrorism predominantly, it is the police and other civil armed forces that are to get intensively and intensely involved. They in effect have to be in the lead to confront terrorism in metropolises, cities and towns. Busting the sleeper cells, lairs and hideouts of terrorism thugs in urban centres is their job, not the military's. And for the state's uniformed forces of every description to act decisively and effectively, the whole of the state intelligence apparatus has to be networked tightly with inviolable, unbreakable and fully-coordinated linkages of sharing information, particularly real-time. Without good intelligence, even the best security forces come out of the battle humiliatingly with mud plastered all over their faces.
And, then, the battle against terrorism has not to be fought on the security front alone. It has to be waged on multiple other fronts, especially administrative, educational, development and diplomatic. The administrative machineries have to muscularly scotch dissemination of hate literature and hate speech. The state has to step in vigorously to reorient the educational systems to inculcate a bubbling sense of moderation and tolerance in the studentry and modernise the religious education of madrassas for their pupils to be as well versed in sciences and languages as in religious subjects. And a stupendous development effort must accompany various anti-terrorism methods to provide avenues to the youth in particular to engage in acceptable ways to earn their and their families' living and not get seduced by anti-state element's allurements in any way. Then, a robust diplomatic action has to be mounted to put an end to the aliens' incitement and instigation of terrorism on our land.
But all this could come home only to the one who fully grasps the complexity of the evil phenomenon of terrorism that has become such a grave threat to our national stability and security. Nisar is definitely not such one. He remains focused entirely on the factions that pretend to be motivated by religious inspirations. But the vile phenomenon goring us so horrendously is no such a simple monstrosity. It is a complex syndicate, in which confessional extremists, sectarian fanatics, gunrunners, smugglers, kidnappers for ransom, plain murders, hired guns and proxies of the aliens have got together to unleash their vileness and thuggery on this beleaguered nation hurtfully and incurably. It is a beehive where nestle up all manner of terrorists and criminals, each and all pursuing their own pernicious agendas but helping one another in perpetuating their thuggish errands. This evil axis has to be taken on not disjointedly but multifariously to free the citizen from terrorism, bloodletting and criminality. But Nisar cannot understand this when he so irrationally and so ignorantly remain unsettlingly so uni-focused. Has indeed he ever doubted his own approach to this confounding complexity that makes up the nasty terrorism clobbering us all over and tried to know the credentials of the interlocutors he has in mind to talk peace with from this vicious beehive? Was he intrigued in any manner when the occupation coalition forces snatched slain TTP head Hakimullah Mehsud's deputy Lateef Mehsud from the convoy of Afghan spy service National Directorate of Security (NDS) in Afghanistan? Wasn't he any mystified when Afghan President Hamid Karzai himself protested strongly against this arrest? And did he ever bother to know why had the NDS agents themselves arrested fugitive Pakistani militant commander Faqir Mohammad, long ensconced like current TTP chief Fazlullah in bordering Afghan territory? Had he ever try to comprehend why had the Afghan hounds netted him after leaking that he was on their payroll? Had he turned a rogue, and his arrest and leak were a message other militants on this side of the border on their payrolls? And did he ever care to know where had Fazlullah disappeared in Afghanistan after leading, together with his father-in-law Sufi Mohammad, thousands of young Swati green horns to fight against US-led invaders of Afghanistan, and how after years had he surfaced in Swat, laden with enormous money and weapons?
Verily, Nisar needs to come out of his shell of superficiality and ignorance and look deep into terrorism pulverising the nation so horrifically. A counter-terrorism strategy he needs to evolve at once in collaboration with provincial governments as well as of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. A solo flight can't be his much-touted but so-far-elusive national security policy.

Mian Iftikhar warns of escalating Taliban violence

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.

Lahore: TALIBAN demands extortion money from doctor

According to Dr Shabir, he received a computerized letter allegedly sent to him by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) demanding Rs 1 million as extortion money. Doctor Shabir reached the decided location a couple of days ago to pay the amount but those who demanded the extortion did not arrive. According to the doctor, he received first letter on January 11 and the second on January 12. On the other hand, a case has been registered in Ghaziabad police station against unidentified persons for demanding extortion money and threatening the doctor. It is not for the first time that traders, doctors and other well off personalities have been receiving extortion threats allegedly from the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in several cities of Pakistan including Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and others.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, centre face criticism in Senate over law and order

Awami National Party (ANP) leader Senator Haji Adeel said on Monday that law and order situation was so bad in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that even chief minister, IG and corps commander were not able to come out of their houses.
Speaking in the Senate another ANP Senator Afrasiab Khattak said that citizens of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were being forced to pay extortion. Abdul Ghaffoor Haidri of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl urged Imran Khan to oust his PTI-led government in KPK,
Reiterating assistance to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to counter militancy Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz Central Secretary Information Senator Mushahidullah Khan said the process of dialogue with Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan was on way and interior minister will brief on it at an appropriate time.
Talks are being held with some groups of TTP and the interior minister will inform about it when he deems appropriate, he said in the Senate speaking on the issue of terrorism with particular reference to Sunday s attacks in the KP. “The government is aware of its responsibilities. We are talking to them (TTP). But anybody spraying bullets on us will be replied with bullets, ” he added. He said the situation in KP was understandable because the provincial government was not capable enough to cope with it. Tsunami Khan has now become Desperate Khan. But desperation alone would not work and his party s government will have to seek some solution to the problem.
Mian Raza Rabbani and Senator Farhatullah Khan Babar also criticized the government over the issues of worsening law and order and talks with Taliban.

Pakistan, a Victim of Ideological Colonization

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.

Bilawal Bhutto says anti-terror official killed by Taliban a martyr

Pakistan People's Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto today described slain anti-terror official Chaudhary Aslam as a true martyr.
"Chaudhary Aslam is a true martyr and hero of the nation as he never bowed down before the Taliban," Bilawal told the widow and sons of the slain officer, becoming the first politician to visit their residence.
The son of former President Asif Zardari and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has in recent months entered the political mainstream with a stream of hard-hitting statements against the Taliban and his political opponents. His tweets have snowballed into major controversies and upset his opponents in the past. Aslam and his two guards were killed on January 9 when a suspected suicide bomber - later identified as Naeemullah - rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into his motorcade in Karachi. Bilawal said Aslam was a brave and courageous officer who laid down his life for fighting against terrorists.