Thursday, January 23, 2014

New Afghan Song 2014... Chup Chup

Justin Bieber - All That Matters

Video: Justin Bieber appears in court on drunk driving, drag racing charges

Pop star Justin Bieber appears in court after being arrested in South Florida on charges of drunk driving and drag racing.

The United States needs to tell Turkey to change course

By Morton Abramowitz, Eric Edelman and Blaise Misztal
Whatever his achievements over the past decade, Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is destroying his country’s parlous democracy. That is a profound problem for Turks and Turkey’s Western allies. Staying silent, out of fear that speaking out would harm some short-term interests, risks Turkey’s longer-term stability. Last month police arrested more than 50 people close to Erdogan’s government — including prominent business executives and sons of government ministers — on charges of corruption. While graft has long permeated Turkish governments, these allegations are unprecedented. They reach high levels of government and involve not just domestic transgressions but also sizable evasions of Iranian sanctions. Rather than ensuring a meticulous examination of these charges, Erdogan is burying them. He has removed the case’s lead prosecutors and some 3,000 police officers nationwide, sought to increase government control over a weak judiciary, limited the ability of police to conduct independent investigations, prevented journalists from reporting on the case and mounted a media campaign to destroy his enemies — particularly the followers of powerful religious leader Fethullah Gulen, who were once his strongest allies. And, as he did when protests erupted against his government last summer, Erdogan portrays the events as a massive plot against him. He has also implicated other opposition parties and foreign powers and even threatened to expel the U.S. ambassador. These are not the actions of a politician simply seeking to stave off scandal. Erdogan is exploiting the allegations to further stifle dissent and strengthen his grip on Turkey. His tactics are not new. When challenged, Erdogan has sought to destroy his opponents rather than compromise. After effectively sidelining the military’s political influence , Erdogan went after other centers of power: media, business leaders and civil society; now, the Gulenists, a strong, politically effective community. The prime minister has exploited crises — whether real or manufactured — to undermine the rule of law. The protests in Gezi Park last year and the present scandal are neither isolated domestic disturbances nor simple political infighting. Their occurrence and the government’s reaction are symptomatic of a struggle between an increasingly authoritarian government, which seeks to reduce resistance to its rule, and opposition movements ranging from secular liberals to conservative Gulenists. That struggle has entered a new phase. Turkey has important local elections at the end of March, followed by presidential and parliamentary campaigns. Erdogan has not yet declared whether he will seek the presidency or reelection as prime minister, but he is intent on continuing to run Turkey. These allegations, and his subsequent actions, could lower his vote tallies; they have given the opposition parties new life. Turkey’s democratic decline creates a pressing dilemma for the United States. Erdogan’s current course would take Turkey from an imperfect democracy to an autocracy. Such a fate for a close ally and NATO member would have profound implications for our partnership, the United States’ beleaguered credibility and the prospects for democracy in the region. It would also threaten Turkey’s economy. Secretary of State John Kerry, with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in tow, recently made some modest, generalized public references to U.S. devotion to democracy and the rule of law while insisting that the United States would stay out of Turkish domestic politics and rhapsodizing on the bilateral relationship. Not surprisingly, Davutoglu agreed. Erdogan’s denunciation of supposed U.S. meddling puts Washington in a difficult position: If the United States weighs in on the scandal, it might give his accusations merit and rally more supporters to his side. Yet for much of Erdogan’s rule, the U.S. approach has been mostly public silence on unfavorable developments, with occasional private rebukes. As we argued in a recent Bipartisan Policy Center report, this strategy has not succeeded. It has not influenced important aspects of Erdogan’s foreign policy, which have often diverged from U.S. policy; moderated his confrontational rhetoric; or led to a less antagonistic domestic policy. Indeed, U.S. silence all these years might have encouraged Erdogan. U.S. policymakers should lay aside their reluctance to confront the disastrous impact of Erdogan’s dictatorial tendencies and remind the Turkish leader of the importance the United States attaches to Turkey’s political stability and democratic vitality. Particularly as their influence is greater than it appears: While Turks do not trust the United States, neither do they like to be at odds with it. Erdogan has exploited Turkey’s partnership with the United States and his close personal relationship with President Obama to burnish his legitimacy. U.S. condemnation of his recent actions — publicly and even more strongly in private — might temper his posturing. However significant U.S. interests with Turkey are, neither silence nor platitudes will help halt its political descent. Erdogan is doing great harm to Turkey’s democracy. The United States should make clear, privately and publicly, that his extreme actions and demagoguery are subverting Turkey’s political institutions and values and endangering the U.S.-Turkey relationship.
Morton Abramowitz and Eric Edelman are former U.S. ambassadors to Turkey and co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Turkey Initiative. Blaise Misztal is acting director of foreign policy at the center.

Afghanistan Can Use a Strong Dose of Moral Optimism

Sharif Azami
The threat for Afghanistan these days is that America will withdraw all assistance and promised aid if the Afghan government does not sign the Bilateral Security Agreement "in weeks, not months." In practical terms, no financial aid and military support means the collapse of the Afghan State and return of the Taliban.
The question that comes to my mind when I see this kind of "we don't care" attitude is that why did America intervene in Afghanistan in the first place if they were to hand it over to its enemies at the end? Why lose so much blood and treasure over a lost cause? These questions particularly disturb me when I interact with Americans who have lost loved ones in hopes to liberate Afghanistan. Among them, one works in my office, and I get to interact with him on daily basis. His son was killed in my hometown Kandahar.
Afghanistan is not a lost cause and America does have substantial interests in the country; otherwise, it would have not intervened there in the first place. It was an intervention of necessity not only because Afghanistan was serving as a global hub for terrorism, but also because America wanted to bring liberty and freedom to a war-torn nation. If there is one war in American history where America could have a positive legacy, it would be the war in Afghanistan. Therefore, America should not put the future of a whole nation at stake for the sake of one agreement.
The world needs to recall the Taliban era of 1994 to 2001 to truly appreciate what Afghans have achieved since 2001. The Taliban era was a medieval-style barbaric government where one man could make laws and serve the so called "justice" instantly without due process. There was no administrative system in place. The whole cabinet of Mullah Omar was limited to his guest house. For ordinary people, this meant living in a giant prison with no rights. You could spend months in a prison for having long hair or daring to shorten your beard. Having access to TV or music was out of question, and if the Taliban wanted to make a point, torture in public was their sole solution to all problems.
When the new era started in late 2001, Afghanistan was a divided nation full of grievances and anger. The atrocities of the Taliban era had especially divided the Pashtun and non-Pashtun ethnic groups. In addition, three decades of war had eliminated Afghanistan's human capital. Almost everyone was illiterate. Those still alive from the king era in the 1970s were among the only educated workforce left, but almost all of them were struggling from mental illnesses due to what they had endured over three decades of war.
In other words, the Afghans started a new government with deep divisions, zero workforce, no institutions, no infrastructure, and a deep-seated insurgency. In addition, Afghanistan had to deal with dozens of NATO-led countries that wanted Afghanistan to be governed based on their terms. The Afghans had no (and could not) influence over foreign assistance or armed forces. This was an excellent opportunity for the war profiteers to rip the benefit of absence of checks and balances in Afghanistan and sell services to the allied forces ten to twenty times higher than what it should have actually cost.
Despite all these challenges in just a little over a decade, Afghanistan is now again a promising home to all Afghans. The Afghan economy was one of the fastest growing economies over the last decade. The country has adopted a new constitution and has active executive, judicial and administrative branches. The security forces have shown good progress. Women enjoy more rights and freedom. Afghanistan has also held two successful presidential, parliamentary and provincial elections. The country once again has diplomatic presence all over the world. According to the Ministry of Education, over seven million Afghans are enrolled in schools today, the country has functioning private and public universities, and thousands of young Afghans are enrolled in universities worldwide. As per the government, over 85 percent of the population has access to communication services, and the banking sector is slowly emerging. Moreover, social media is as active as anywhere else and is playing a key role in mobilizing and informing Afghans about the upcoming presidential and provincial council elections. Importantly enough, the Afghan soccer team won the South Asian Football Federation Championship last year and its cricket team has qualified for the World Cup in 2015.
All of these achievements might sound very basic, but for a country that started well below zero, this is a substantial progress. If one was to compare the pictures of pre-2001 Afghanistan to today, chances are he/she would not identify it as the same country. We need to recognize that Afghanistan is still building the very basic infrastructure to run a state and the country is slowly acquiring skilled workforce direly needed to run a state. It can't be done overnight, and one decade is not close to sufficient. It will be a long journey for Afghanistan to be financially independent. Afghanistan's challenges in terms of instability, week governance and lack of capacity, and corruption will also not disappear overnight. Therefore, the right strategy for Afghanistan would be to appreciate the progress made, stay committed to the work ahead, and remain greatly optimistic. Instead of further demoralizing Afghans by releasing extremely pessimistic predictions from sixteen U.S. agencies about the country, the United States should offer a bold firm commitment of partnership to Afghanistan in order to demoralize the insurgents, not vice versa. This pessimism hurts progress in Afghanistan more than any other challenges and has had a direct impact on the economy and growth of the insurgents.
If America wants a strong Afghanistan, the priorities for stable Afghanistan are straight forward and cost effective. Among them are 1) first and foremost helping Afghans conduct legitimate elections this year with integrity without tempering with the results; 2) providing state of the art training and equipment to the Afghan armed forces; 3) based on the commitments of the Tokyo and Chicago summits, providing adequate long-term and predicable financial and military support to the Afghan government; and 4) finally helping facilitate a peace deal with the Taliban.

Bomb explosion kills eight in Pakistani city of Peshawar

A powerful bomb explosion has claimed the lives of at least eight people and wounded dozens in Pakistan's northwestern city of Peshawar, security sources say. The bomb was planted in a vehicle parked on the pathway near a workshop at Scheme Square of the volatile city on Thursday. Local television footage showed that several vehicles were destroyed by the explosion. The injured were rushed to a nearby hospital to receive necessary treatment. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the recent attacks although similar incidents are usually blamed on Taliban militants.The incident comes days after a bomb attack on a military base in northwestern town of Bannu killed more than two dozen soldiers. Pakistan has become the scene of violence and frequent bomb blasts. A number of bomb explosions and militant attacks have killed dozens of people, including several security personnel over the past five days. Government authorities as well as international officials have strongly condemned violence in the country. Peshawar and several other northwestern towns have experienced a fresh spate of violence and militant attacks over the past few months, which have killed many people in these areas. The Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has carried out numerous attacks against security forces as well as civilians since 2001 when Pakistan entered an alliance with the US on the so-called war on terror. Pakistani government has said it will use an all-out military action as a last resort to address the issues of extremism and militancy in the country.


Blast footage Peshawar scheme chowk by TheExpressNews

Pakistan: Six killed in Peshawar blast

At least six people have been killed in a blast near Scheme Chowk in the city on Thursday. Police say the blast took place inside a car workshop and the nine injured had been shifted to the Lady Reading Hospital. Doctors said three of the injured were in critical conditions. According to reports form the site, a crater has been formed on the spot of the blast. The area has been cordoned off by the police and the nature of the blast is not yet known. Five vehicles were also destroyed in the blast. This is a developing story and further details are awaited.

Violence hampers polio eradication in Pakistan

Several people have been killed in the latest wave of violence against polio vaccinators in Pakistan. The attacks undermine government efforts to eradicate the virus in one of the few countries where it remains endemic.
A bomb rigged to a bicycle hit a police patrol on its way to guard a polio vaccination team in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, January 22 killing six policemen and a boy, the police said. It was the second attack in as many days targeting heath workers. On Tuesday, four gunmen opened fire on a medical team in the southern city of Karachi on Tuesday, January 21, killing three health workers including two women. The killings come just days after Pakistani authorities began a nationwide drive to eradicate polio. Officials say the militants want to terrorize the polio immunization teams in the city so that they abandon their campaign. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but in the past, the Pakistani Taliban have opposed anti-polio inoculations and blocked the program in the restive northwestern tribal region of Waziristan.
'Pool of polio virus'
In 2012, the United Nations suspended its polio eradication campaign in Pakistan after the Taliban killed two of its workers in the northwestern city of Charsadda. The UN's World Health Organization (WHO), which partnered with the Pakistani government, said that the decision to suspend the program was made because of the "very precarious" security situation in the Islamic Republic.
Polio is a highly infectious viral disease, mainly affecting children younger than 5. It can cause permanent paralysis and death, but can be prevented through immunization. The virus is spread through contaminated food and water. Lack of proper access to anti-polio vaccination has led to a rise in polio cases in the South Asian nation. Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the only countries in the world where polio remains endemic. The number of polio cases in Pakistan rose from 58 in 2012 to 91 in 2013, out of which 65 were located in the remote tribal region bordering Afghanistan. The WHO recently described the capital of Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Peshawar, as "the world's largest pool of polio virus."
Islamists suspected
Militant Islamists retain a strong clout in Pakistan's northwestern areas and their influence has also grown substantially in the central and southern Pakistani cities, including Lahore and Karachi, over the past two or three years. Experts say the militants' attacks have made it extremely difficult for health workers to run their campaign. They say that the failure of the polio eradication drive will be devastating for the country and its already weak economy. "If the polio virus spreads in the country, Pakistanis will be barred from travelling to other countries," Sikandar Januja, an activist in Karachi, told DW.
Janjua said he had no doubt about who was carrying out attacks on the health workers: "The Islamists organizations, including the Taliban, al Qaeda and Jamaat-i-Islami, are killing polio workers. Probably, there are some key al Qaeda leaders hiding in Karachi and the Islamists fear that through polio eradication campaigns the CIA will find and kill them," Janjua added.
In July 2012, Pakistani authorities had to postpone a similar anti-polio campaign in Waziristan after Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadur banned inoculations, claiming the drive was similar to a hepatitis vaccination program run by the imprisoned Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi. Afridi allegedly helped the CIA find al Qaeda's former leader Osama bin Laden who was eventually killed by the US Special Forces at his Abbottabad hideout in May 2011. Afridi is currently in a Pakistani prison facing treason and murder charges.
Credibility loss
Shahnaz Wazir Ali, an advisor to the former Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, told DW that the Afridi affair had made it difficult for the authorities to conduct anti-polio campaigns. "People think that agents like Afridi work in polio immunization teams, and that might put their lives at risk," she said. According to Ali, the campaign to eradicate polio was not anti-Islam as propagated by some groups. Wajahat Malik, an Islamabad-based social activist and filmmaker, told DW that since the Afridi incident, "the polio eradication campaign has lost its credibility. For his part, journalist Nusrat Amin believes anti-progressive forces in countries like Pakistan have often opposed campaigns that are aimed at improving people's lives. "Successive governments have always succumbed to tribal pressures, so it doesn't surprise me if the government chooses to postpone the drive," said Amin.

Bilawal Bhutto jolts nation to unite against terrorism
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Thursday lamented the inaction shown by the government and public alike on the increasing terrorist attacks in the country.
Bilawal on Thursday took to the social networking site and spoke his heart out: “We claim to be brave but don’t fight for our martyred soldiers. We claim sovereignty but don’t protect our civilians. We claim to have honour but can’t avenge the slaughter of our sisters. We claim paradise lies under our mothers’ feet but can’t protect them. We claim to be human but remain silent when children are massacred. We claim to be Pakistan but I don’t recognise the country we have become.”
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari tweeted with hash tag Mastung, a reference to the latest suicide attack on a bus in Mastung area of Balochistan that killed 24 people.

Pakistan: Quetta sit-inners refuse to bury Mastung victims

Countrywide protests erupted after 24 people, mostly Hazara community pilgrims, returning from Iran were killed and 35 more wounded when a suicide bomber struck a passenger bus in Mastung on Tuesday, officials said. The attack took place at Dringhar village on the Pakistan-Iran highway some 60 kilometers (37 miles) west of Quetta, Balochistan's capital. Quetta city wore a gloomy look as the families of the victims and members of the Hazara community began a sit-in protest. They placed the dead bodies on Shuhda Chowk, blocked Alamdar Road and refused to bury there loved ones until the authorities took action against the extremists behind the attack. "The human life is worth that much in a country where the writ-less rulers are forced to beg the terrorists for mercy", said a protestor pointing at the shrouded bodies of the victims. A complete shutter-down strike was observed in the provincial capital to condemn the bombing on the call of nearly all the politico-nationalists parties. All markets and business centres at Liaquat Bazaar, Prince Road, Jinnah Road, Shahra-e-Iqbal, Mission Road, Shawak Sha Road, Masjid Road, Hazara Town, Alamdar Road and Abdul Sattar Road remained closed throughout the day. Traffic was thin on the city’s roads compared to the routine rush. Heavy contingents of the police and law enforcement agencies have been deployed to maintain law and order in the city. However, no unpleasant incident was reported. Hundreds of people also took to the streets in Karachi demanding action against the culprits. The city's roads remained blocked for hours causing miles long snarl-ups to the peril of citizens. Sit-ins were also staged in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and other cities of the country to show solidarity with the families of the blast victims. It is customary for Muslims to bury the dead swiftly, and a similar protest after a bombing had prompted Islamabad to sack the provincial government last year. The banned militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attack. There is anger and frustration at the apparent inability or unwillingness of the authorities to tackle the LeJ. Analysts say the failure of the judiciary to prosecute sectarian killers allows them to operate with impunity.

Pakistan: Terrorists stalk everywhere

The Nawaz Sharif government may still be at sea on the question of peace talks, but Taliban are not. Not that they don't want talks at all; they do want talks but on their own terms - spelled out once again by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan after the Bannu attack on the security force on Sunday. Their spokesman Shahidullah Shahid says his organisation is ready for "sincere and meaningful" negotiations despite having suffered "heavy losses" in the deaths of Hakeemullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman. Insisting the attacks are part of the TTP war on Pakistan's "secular system" he also promised more such attacks, and has lived up to his words. Next morning a suicide-bomber blew himself up at a checkpost near the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi. Nearly three-dozen people, mainly personnel of security forces, have been killed while many more injured some grievously. By moving its fight closer to the GHQ the TTP's spell of violence seems to have reached a crescendo. One may say the terrorist outfit carried out these deadly attacks on security forces to gain what is commonly called the 'position of strength' at the negotiating table if and when it is laid out. Given, that recent spike to the TTP-owned terrorism follows the latest move to kick-start the peace process, smacks of dubiousness. While the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has no doubts about its mission to prevail in Pakistan, the government is beset with a whole range of perceptions and perspectives ranging from zero-tolerance for terrorism to votaries of Taliban mindset. No wonder then Maulana Samiul Haq has welcomed the Taliban offer of talks made immediately after the Bannu attack as a positive move. That the Bannu attack was in response to last month's military operation in Mirali, North Waziristan, and that the Taliban had no hand in the blast at the Tableeghi Markaz in Peshawar last week - the TTP is trying to convey that its target is none else but the security forces of Pakistan. Is it that in the wake of a pivotal shift of Taliban power from FATA to Swat, the place present chief Maulana Fazlullah hails from, the terrorist alliance is splintering up, and that as affiliates based in settled areas are for peace but those in tribal areas want war?
There are wheels within wheels; who is fighting whose war it remains an enigma. But that should not be the government's problem. Given the fact that incidence of terrorism is not something new and that the terrorists' agenda is simply impossible to implant in a democratic Pakistan by now a clearly articulated line of action should have been under implementation. Why the fight against terrorism should be held hostage to airy-fairy ideas like total national consensus and parliamentary unanimity. One would be too naïve to believe that the Nawaz Sharif government's political opposition would like it to get credit for winning this war against terrorism. In a nutshell, it is the present federal government's exclusive responsibility to combat the demons of extremism, a responsibility assigned to it by the majority of people of Pakistan. If this challenge is beyond its capacity it should make way for a national government. It cannot be both at the same time. If it finds the opposition in parliament co-operative enough to help it enact stringent anti-terrorism laws it should go for promulgation of ordinances to equip itself with adequate legal powers to take tough measures to rid the country of extremism and terrorism. Time is the essence. That the federal cabinet once again failed to stitch up the much-awaited internal security policy is indeed frustrating. But if others, like the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and company, believe that they hold the key to the door that opens out onto the dens of terrorists in tribal areas they should come forward and show their magic. So far, all that they have said, and done, hardly lends any credence to their posture of being the right leadership to get country past the demons of terror and religious extremism. Terrorism is no more the issue for point-scoring; it is a question of life and death for Pakistan.

PAKISTAN: State of paralysis

LET us not delude ourselves; over the past few weeks the militants have launched an unrelenting assault on Pakistan while the government’s response to this offensive has been characterised by confusion and paralysis. Let us recall the trail of death and destruction the TTP and Lashkar-i-Jhangvi have left in the first few days of 2014. The new year started off on a grisly note when Shia pilgrims returning from Iran were targeted by a suicide bomber outside Quetta, while on Jan 9 Karachi’s top anti-terrorism cop Chaudhry Aslam was mowed down by the TTP in a devastating bombing. More recently, on Sunday a massive bombing inside Bannu garrison was traced to the Taliban, while a day later the banned outfit struck at the doorstep of GHQ in Rawalpindi. Tuesday brought more mayhem as pilgrims returning from Iran were again killed, this time in Mastung, in an attack claimed by LJ, while three anti-polio workers were gunned down in Karachi. And as these lines were being written on Wednesday, there were reports of a deadly attack targeting a police team tasked with providing security to anti-polio workers in Charsadda, while an immunisation team also reportedly came under attack in Sibi.
In such circumstances, with the militants launching one bloody terrorist operation after another, we can only concur with Human Rights Watch’s assessment that the state is either unable or unwilling to stop terrorism. In both instances, the consequences for the people are deadly. The organisation is spot on when it says in its World Report 2014 that banned outfits operate “with impunity” in Pakistan. There seems to be a complete lack of commitment and resolve on the state’s part to go after the militants. Where is the much-needed leadership in such a state of crisis?
Much more needs to be done by our leaders than have photos taken with victims of terrorism or while offering fateha for the departed. Ordering one or two retaliatory air strikes is not going to break the militants’ back. What the political leadership, particularly the prime minister, must do is tell the nation exactly how the government intends to tackle terrorism, in black and white. Stopping a suicide bomber just as he is about to detonate may indeed be near impossible. That is why it is important to take the fight to the militants, to destroy their hideouts and safe havens, uproot the infrastructure which brainwashes, trains and dispatches suicide bombers and prosecute those guilty of waging war on the people and state of Pakistan. Does the government have any such intention? Or will it continue to be on the defensive, capitulating to the terrorists and ceding more and more ground? The state needs to assert itself and display some leadership if the militant onslaught is to be stopped.

Pakistan: a house united against itself?

By Dr Mohammad Taqi
The TTP has effectively slapped the media, society and the state across the face. Mr Imran Khan may be the ball and chain around his foot but the decision to act is only and only Mr Nawaz Sharif’s
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) martyred over 20 security personnel in Bannu last week followed by another deadly attack killing soldiers in the Royal Artillery (RA) Bazaar, Rawalpindi, earlier this week. Prior to these attacks, the TTP slaughtered three employees of a media house in cold blood in Karachi. Subsequently, Ehsanullah Ehsan of the TTP had the audacity to call the same media house during a live programme, claim the assassination of these innocent men and threaten more bloodshed if his horde is not given ‘proper space’ and ‘unbiased coverage’ by the media.
The response of Pakistani society and the state, starting from the anchor that handled Ehsan’s call all the way up to the prime minister, was to turn over and play dead. It is as if a near consensus exists on inaction against the TTP. Pakistan increasingly and ominously looks like a house united against itself. Notable and honourable exceptions, providing timely caution and reality checks, certainly exist but remain few and far between. The Urdu media in Pakistan, including a handful of the liberals in its ranks, has been legitimising the Afghan Taliban for a decade now. It was just a matter of time before it switched gears from rationalising the TTP’s atrocities to downright lionising it. The Afghan Taliban have been presented ostensibly as legitimate freedom fighters trying to oust the US and NATO forces from their country. Never mind that the same Taliban were slaughtering Afghans and shooting women in football stadiums for petty crimes from 1996 through to 2001 when there was not a single US person in Afghanistan.
The media and its decade-long darling, Mr Imran Khan, use the same revisionist lie to justify TTP barbarism, i.e. there was no Pakistani Taliban till the US war on terror and the drone strikes started. Conveniently forgotten is the fact that the Pakistani Taliban arose almost at the same time as their Afghan counterparts in the mid- to late-1990s in Malakand, Orakzai Agency and the two Waziristans. In fact, many of the Pakistani Taliban like Nek Muhammad Wazir, Baitullah Mehsud, Waliur Rehman Mehsud and Hakeemullah Mehsud had fought inside Afghanistan alongside Mullah Omar’s men long before there were any US troops there. Another frequently peddled lie is that military operations have failed to produce results. The fact is that, as half-hearted as some of the military operations were and other serious reservations about the tactics and motives notwithstanding, they still cleared Swat and large swathes of Bajaur and South Waziristan agencies. In addition to the military operations, the tribesmen of Upper Kurram have beaten back the TTP and its allied groups, and have held them at bay since the winter of 2007.
In the wake of the deadly bombings on the security and media personnel, one expected the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) to review their policy of appeasing the TTP but the political Tweedledum and Tweedledee are competing with each other yet again to lay the blame for TTP atrocities on the US’s doorstep. Mr Imran Khan went first and, after spending about 30 seconds regretting the Bannu attack, he blamed the US for every evil that has befallen Pakistan. Earlier that day he had tweeted, in English, a generic condemnation of the TTP’s Bannu assault. Mr Khan clearly took pains to avoid condemning the TTP in Urdu and thus annoying them. He could not bring himself to utter a word against the TTP barbarians who martyred over 20 security men. In fact, Mr Khan’s line in that speech in Haripur was not very different from what the TTP says about the US. Little surprise then that Mr Khan remains the chief apologist of the TTP and the bulwark against a decisive action to neutralise that terrorist horde.
The ultimate responsibility for indecision and inaction, however, rests squarely with the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Mr. Sharif’s handpicked man for negotiating with the TTP and formulating the national security policy remains Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan who, in grappling with these issues, appears both out of his depth and wits. He comes across as a provincial politician who is clueless about the complex process of negotiating with the TTP. His take on the drones and the US ostensibly being responsible for vitiating his imaginary success in bringing the TTP to the dialogue table is not that much different from that of his former schoolmate Mr Imran Khan. It seems like the two Khans have perfected a weird good cop/good cop routine vis-à-vis the TTP where one is falling over the other to appease the terrorist outfit. Mr Nawaz Sharif is a seasoned politician and a serious statesman. He will be ignoring his interior minister fumbling with the task at hand at his and the nation’s peril.
The TTP has effectively slapped the media, society and the state across the face. Mr Imran Khan may be the ball and chain around his foot but the decision to act is only and only Mr Nawaz Sharif’s. If Mr Khan has confused the national narrative, what exactly has Mr Sharif done to counter it? Not articulating an alternative to the PTI’s talks hoax and asking assorted clerics and Charlie’s aunt to go talk to the TTP is certainly not statesman-like. Does the prime minister have a Plan B or, for that matter, a Plan A, as the TTP regains lethal strength? Thanks to his government prevaricating, the TTP has had several months to regroup, rearm and resume its deadly attacks with a vengeance. I suspect that the much-trumpeted national security policy will not have a clear mission statement regarding who exactly is the enemy and will not set any mission goals. Procedural, departmental and legal updates, which this document likely does, can hardly be termed a national security policy. Mr Nawaz Sharif will have to resist his temptation to privatise the negotiations. He has to take ownership of the peace process as well as the military option should the talks fail or fail to start. He must avoid another silly All Parties Conference, with a slew of TTP sympathisers in attendance, which Mr Imran Khan is again calling for. An elected and functioning parliament exists and should be the only forum to discuss anti-terrorism policy and action. Mr Sharif must go to the house he has been elected to lead and spell out his vision and action plan, which must include absolutely no forbearance for the barbarians.

Pakistan: Absence of strategy

The targeted operation in North Waziristan and adjoining Kurram Agency on Tuesday, including the use of air power, smacks more of a retaliatory action rather than part of any strategy. This in spite of the army’s clarificatory statement that the operation was the result of intelligence pointing to the presence of high profile targets in the area. Although the aerial bombardment yielded conflicting numbers of terrorists killed (about 40-60, including foreign fighters), there were also reports of non-combatant civilians suffering as collateral victims. There are contradictory reports too about Adnan Rashid of the Bannu jailbreak fame being amongst the dead since his house is said to have been hit. It may be recalled that earlier the military had retaliated against the attack on its check post and taken out the attackers after a firefight. Some may consider these retaliatory actions as welcome relief from the seeming paralysis of the government and security forces in the face of the by now daily attacks by the terrorists in different parts of the country. To illustrate, on the same day, a bus bombing in Mastung, some 45 kilometres from Quetta, killed 24 and wounded 40 Shia pilgrims returning from Iran. This route has become a death trap for Shias travelling to or from Iran. All the efforts of the authorities to provide security escorts for buses plying the route have failed to halt the blood and gore. Since the target was sectarian, it bears keeping in mind that this type of violence has escalated in the country since the Ashura incident in Rawalpindi. And of course no one can forget the huge bomb attacks in Quetta in January and February 2013 that killed nearly 200 people from the Hazara Shia community. The usual suspect, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, has readily accepted responsibility, reflecting its confidence that it is ‘untouchable’, both in Balochistan and its main base in southern Punjab. As if this were not tragedy enough, three anti-polio workers in Karachi and one in Mansehra were killed on the same day. The result: the anti-polio vaccination campaign in Sindh, that was in only its second day, has had to be called off since the vaccinators have refused to work without adequate security. In case anyone had turned sanguine that the worst was behind us, on Wednesday a cleric was shot dead in Karachi while a police vehicle was attacked in Charsadda, leading to the death of six policemen.
Unfortunately, the country has been allowed to drift into receiving these blows from one direction or another, in one or the other part of the country because the government is unable to overcome its paralysis and the sense of drift that commentators are focusing on. These phenomena in the face of the exponential growth in terror attacks is because of the self-inflicted virtually exclusive and strangely fixated notion of talks with the Taliban being the only way out. Since virtually nothing is being done to the perpetrators of terrorist violence, they have been emboldened to up the ante. Clearly, the man responsible for the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) and other terrorist groups’ increasing violence is none other than the new chief of the TTP, the bloodthirsty Mulla Fazlullah. While the terrorists have been allowed a free and unfettered run, notwithstanding the retaliatory actions of the military mentioned above, the government appears to be spending its days in cloud cuckoo land. There are some feeble signs that it may be waking up to the necessity of taking firm action, but until and unless these green shoots find expression in some telling blows against the terrorists as part of a sustained campaign, confidence in the ability of the government to handle the situation, already eroded, could suffer a catastrophic meltdown. The government should consult its security structure on the way forward to conduct pre-emptive actions, tactics, strategy, rather than simply retaliating against particular attacks, and those too exclusively against the armed forces. With due respect to the sacrifices of the soldiers and others of the military and security forces who have laid down their lives in the struggle against the terrorists, we cannot allow the perception that the citizens (civilian) of the country are expendable. Increased capacity for the law enforcement and security forces may have to wait for resources, but at least the existing capacity must be brought into play if the country is not to be virtually surrendered to the bombers and gunmen.

Inequality of education in Pakistan

By Hiba Saeed
Education is the universal, fundamental human right, recognized as such by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and reaffirmed in international human rights convention. Article thirty seven of the Constitution of Pakistan states clearly that education is a fundamental right of every citizen. All 189 United Nations member states at the time and at least 23 international organizations committed to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. In these 8 goals, there is goal to achieve Universal Primary Education and ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be to complete a full course of primary schooling. We have only one year o fulfill these goals. Total estimated population of Pakistan for 2010 is over 173 million. The ratio of women to men in Pakistan population is tilted in favor of men with 108 males per 100 females. Pakistan has committed to various other international conventions and agreements relating to equal access to education for boys and girls. According to Global Gender Gap Report, Pakistan placed at 129 out of 135 countries for education attainment. Inequalities in education sector are widespread phenomenon in the world, particularly in the developing world, to which Pakistan is no exception. About 50 percent of Pakistani girls drop out of school and our literacy rate for women is amongst the lowest in the world. 1 in 3 young women aged 20-24 was married before the age of 18. Early marriage forces girls to leave school and miss out opportunities to receive an education and skills needed to fulfill their potential. These girls turn into uneducated mothers, perpetuating the cycle of poverty. Gender inequality in education still exists instead of the Quran’s spirit of “Iqra” (read). Muslims in Pakistan fail to follow true spirit of Islam from generation to generation. Gender inequality can also be because of opportunity cost, poverty, cultural constraints, and illiteracy of parents and parental concerns about safety and mobility of their daughters. Educational opportunities available in Pakistan are of diverse nature beside the gender inequality. There are deep inequalities based on regional inequalities, rural urban location, income and wealth of parents, medium of instruction in schools, types of schools and access to extra coaching. When there is inequality in society, the structure of society will be disorganized and it gives rise to anti-social activities. The rapid growth of the private sector, over this period, has also added to the diversity and inequality of educational opportunities. In Pakistan, The cost of education is another determinant for parents to decide whether to send their children; to government schools, private schools or no schools. Educating a child in public school costs twice to society as would cost in private school. Despite increased enrolment and attendance, inequalities between the rich and poor still persist and the move towards universal primary education has resulted in more parents sending their children to private schools as reports of low educational standards within government schools emerge. While we are discussing about inequalities in education we pay no attention to another type of inequality namely, inequality in learning. And because of the poor learning conditions and absent teachers in public schools, their students cannot hope to compete with graduates of English medium schools, even if they are lucky enough to get a pass on their exams. There has always been a hierarchy of schooling in Pakistan. However, the increasing range of private schools means the difference between high and low quality education is growing. There is a mushroom growth of the English-medium schools, especially at the primary level. English still attracts parents who feel elated when their children demonstrate verbal skills in English. However, the high tuition schools that give good quality education, meant mainly for the elite, are indirectly perpetuating class distinctions as they mainly cater to the upper strata of society. Increasingly the quality of education depends on being able to pay for private education. Standard government schools deliver very low learning outcomes. Employment opportunities are dictated by the type of school attended. Schools, which might award economic opportunities on students, are beyond the reach of normal citizens. Inequality is neither natural nor is it written in the fate of each individual or group; in modern times, it can be said that it results from state policies, the nature of politics and traditional social orders founded on elitism and hierarchy in social relations.

Pakistan: Former President Asif Ali Zardari wants health workers fully protected
Former president and co-chairman of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Asif Ali Zardari has directed the Sindh government to provide complete protection to volunteers engaged in the polio vaccination drive in Karachi. He said that a comprehensive strategy should be adopted for ensuring continuance of the compulsory health drive in the city.
He issued these directives on Wednesday while presiding over a meeting at Bilawal House with Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, PPP’s women wing president MNA Faryal Talpur, former interior minister Rehman Malik and Minister for Prisons Manzoor Wassan. Members of the meeting discussed the political situation of the province, plans of conducting the local government elections in Sindh, Karachi law and order, the ongoing targeted operation and the Sindh government’s relationship with opposition parties. Chief Minister Shah briefed the former president about the steps being taken by his government to restore law and order in Karachi. Zardari told the chief minister that measures should be adopted to provide protection to people and their property in Karachi, adding that steps should also be taken for resolving civic issues of the city. He asked the chief minister to take into confidence all stakeholders regarding the measures being taken by the provincial government for combating lawlessness and terrorism in the province.
He was of the view that the PPP should work on improving its working relationship with all the political forces so that consensus evolves on national issues. In this regard, Zardari directed PPP leaders in Sindh to accelerate their campaigns for maintaining contacts and liaison with the public so that they have first-hand information about their problems and resolve them on a priority basis.

Pakistan: Countrywide protests against Mastung bloodbath

The protests against the killing of Shia pilgrims in a bombing in Balochistan's Mastung district were observed across the nation on Thursday including Karachi, Quetta, Lahore, Islamabad, and Hyderabad, DawnNews reported. The Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM) staged protests in-front of the Governor House in Lahore and in Faizabad area of Islamabad. Moreover, members of civil society staged a vigil outside the Press Club in the federal capital city earlier on Wednesday night. Shia organisations also arranged protests at several locations of Karachi whereas the flow of traffic was blocked in Ancholi, Malir, Shah Faisal, Qayyumabad, Hino Chowk Flyover and Numaish Chowrangi areas. Karachi’s chairman of the Private Schools Management Association, Sharaf uz Zaman, said that schools would remain closed today in those areas where roads were blocked. Alamdar road protests Despite freezing temperatures, thousands of members of the Hazara Shia community staged an ongoing sit-in in Quetta to protest against the killing of Shia pilgrims in a bombing in Balochistan's Mastung district. The demonstrators gathered Wednesday morning at Alamdar road, vowing to continue their protests until authorities arrested the perpetrators of the attack. A large number of women and children were also part of the demonstration. The mourners have brought 26 dead bodies along with them and kept them on the road to press the authorities to launch a crackdown against the perpetrators of attack on Shia pilgrims in Balochistan's Mastung district. “We will continue our protest until perpetrators of the blast are brought to book,” said Syed Ahmed Raza, a member of the Balochistan Assembly and leader of the Hazara Community. He lamented that the killing of members of the Hazara community had become the ‘order of the day’ and that the Balochistan government had completely failed to protect the Shia pilgrims coming from Iran to Pakistan. The banned militant organisation Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attack, which it described as a suicide bombing, and warned of more such attacks. Officials said Wednesday that three more injured succumbed to their wounds from Tuesday’s blast on the bus bringing Shia pilgrims from Iran to Quetta. The deaths have raised the toll from 26 to 29. An official at the Combined Military Hospital (CMH), requesting not to be named, said 26 bodies had been identified while one corpse was yet to be identified. He said 35 injured were under treatment at the CMH in Quetta. “The condition of seven injured is serious,” he said. It was the second attack on Shia pilgrims in this part of Balochistan over the past three weeks; the first attack took place near Quetta on the eve of New Year. Last year, thousands of mourners staged a three-day sit-in from January 10 to 13 in the aftermath of twin-bombings that had left over 100 people dead. The minority community's protest had prompted the former Pakistan Peoples’ Party-led government to remove Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani and impose governor's rule in Balochistan. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Balochistan, Dr. Abdul Malik Baloch visited Alamdar Road on Wednesday and expressed his concern over the Mastung incident. He held a long meeting with members of the community to end their protest. “We are all victims of terrorism and I stand by you in this hour of grief,” Baloch told the grief-stricken mourners. Speaking to reporters, the chief minister pointed towards the presence of foreign militants in Balochistan. “The killing of Uzbek militants in Mastung shows that foreign militants have reached Balochistan,” he said. Baloch claimed that his government was determined to wipe out terrorism despite all odds. Speaker Balochistan Assembly, Jan Muhammad Jamali, provincial ministers Dr. Hamid Khan Achakzai, Abdul Rahim Ziaratwal and others accompanied the chief minister. But despite the assurances, the protesters appeared to be in no mood to leave the Shuhada Chowk till late at night. They had set up camps and collected firewood to brave the chilling Siberian winds. But they removed the coffins from the road and kept them in Imambargah Nachari. The provincial government has beefed up security on and around Alamdar Road and deployed there hundreds of policemen and personnel of Anti-Terrorism Force and Frontier Corps. Roads leading to the Shuhada Chowk had been blocked. No-one was allowed to enter the area without permission of security officials. Hundreds of volunteers of Hazara community were also providing security cover to the area. CM demands ferry service for pilgrims Meanwhile speaking to a private TV channel, the Balochistan CM called upon the federal government to provide ferry service for pilgrims from Karachi to Chabahar in Iran. Dr Baloch said that ferry service would be safe and economical. The buses of pilgrims returning from Iran to Pakistan are constantly under threat and have been attacked twice this month, he said. MWM leader's threat to paralyse the whole country on Thursday Earlier on Wednesday, addressing a sit-in in Islamabad, central leader of Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM) Allama Amin Shaheedi vowed to prolong the sit-in till realisation of all their demands. Besides demanding a military operation against Taliban militants, he threatened to paralyse the whole country on Thursday if their demands were not meet.

Pakistan's Media under Taliban pressure

Away from the cameras and newsprint, a wave of fear and foreboding has swept through the media in recent weeks and months. Last week, in the killing of three Express News employees by the Taliban in Karachi, many of the industry’s fears coalesced bloodily – and few expect the threat to recede.
In a series of conversations with Dawn, senior journalists offered their views on why, at this juncture, the Taliban are trying once again to intimidate the media and also shed some light on the behind-the-scenes pressure that is being brought to bear and that is rarely made public.
“If the focus was on news before, now it’s on views,” Mushtaq Minhas, co-anchor of Bolta Pakistan on Aaj News, said. “(The Taliban) want to dilute the growing state and society narrative against them and want to impose their own narrative.”
Minhas claimed that the growing sophistication of the Taliban’s media operations – both in terms of putting out their own message and closely monitoring the electronic and print media in Urdu, English and regional languages – has meant that the Taliban are alert to growing public and media criticism of the TTP and the possibility of an impending military response by the state against the TTP. Several journalists, who declined to be named, specifically mentioned Omar Khalid, the TTP Mohmand leader, and the deputy leader of the TTP, Khalid Haqqani, as being especially media-savvy and intent on intimidating the industry. The public clash of narratives has also exacted a toll behind the scenes. Privately, journalists tell of TV anchors and media bosses who have moved their families abroad or increased private security manifold. Seated in his office at a distance from its large windows, a small precaution against a potential blast or sniper’s bullet, a senior journalist told of an increase in threatening phone calls and text messages sent by the Taliban – and not just to senior or high-profile media personnel.
“It’s not just us, the faces on TV. They know the personal numbers of in-house employees, the desk in-charges; the people no one outside the organisation or a small circle would know about. Who is giving them these numbers?” the journalist asked, leaving his question unanswered.
As ever, in the murky world of the Taliban and its many offshoots pursuing agendas of their own, it is not always clear why certain media groups and personalities have incurred the Taliban’s wrath. In some cases, such as Hamid Mir and Hasan Nisar’s, the Taliban’s calculations may be more apparent. “I’m a target of everyone,” Hamid Mir said ruefully. “That fatwa, with mine and Hasan Nisar’s picture at the top, well, with me they (the Taliban) say that, most recently, I promoted Malala. And with him (Nisar), it could be the sectarian issue or that he is seen as pro-Musharraf or that he uses strong language.” But M. Ziauddin, the executive editor of the Express Tribune, said the Express media group is unsure why it has become a repeated target of the Taliban. “The sectarian thing could be a reason. But the Urdu channel and newspaper coverage is not very different to the other mainstream competition.” With full and proper explanations yet to be mooted, the vortex of conspiracy has spawned some darker theories about the true origins of the campaign against the media. “Who does it suit, intimidating the media to give the Taliban narrative more airtime?” a TV news director asked, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “It’s obvious: the establishment.” The director claimed that a by-product of the media’s growing criticism of the Taliban in Pakistan is that it has affected how the Afghan Taliban are perceived.
“You hear the anchors saying it more and more, ‘Enough of this good Taliban, bad Taliban nonsense,’” he said.
“But it’s 2014 and all eyes will be on Afghanistan, so they need to keep the Taliban narrative alive, to keep it legitimate. They are stakeholders, remember?” Whatever the true origins of the threat to the media, this much is clear: journalists expect little respite. A newspaper editor said, “My understanding is that (the TTP) intend to make a big impact by targeting a big media house or a leading anchor or editor to assess the reaction.”
The editor continued: “The failure of media houses and journalists to draw up a joint strategy and raise a collective voice goes in the TTP’s favour. It’s only a matter of time before they carry out their first major attack.”

Bilawal Bhutto deplores inaction as terrorism plagues Pakistan

Pakistan People Party chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has lamented inaction despite increasing violence and the latest spate of terrorist attacks in the country On Thursday, the young PPP leader spoke his heart out in his messages on social networking website twitter. “We claim to be brave but don't fight for our martyred soldiers. We claim sovereignty but don't protect our civilians. We claim to have honour but can't avenge the slaughter of our sisters. We claim paradise lies at feet our mothers but can't protect them. We claim to be human but remain silent when children are massacred. We claim to be Pakistan but I don't recognise the country weve become” Bilawal Bhutto Zardari tweeted with hash tag Mastung, a reference to the latest suicide attack on a bus in Mastung area of Balochistan that killed 24 people. “Pakistan: the country where even the martyred dead protest because the living have failed them,” said Bilawal..