Distribution, not famine, is what ails masses of the second largest country’s poor, says a researcher — and Israel has the solutionsWhen he visits family on vacation from his post at Israel’s Vulcani Agricultural Research Institute, Dr. Akhilesh Kumar is always struck by the two very different New Delhis he experiences. One is the city of haves, where people can phone up a fast food joint and get a nice meal delivered. The other is the city of have nots, down in the street, among the penniless, hungry beggars that the delivery person has to wade through to make his delivery. “The food is there, but it isn’t getting to everyone,” Kumar said. “The problem in India is not a lack of food. In truth, India grows enough food to feed itself. The problem isn’t one of poor agriculture, but poor distribution, Kumar told The Times of Israel in an exclusive interview. “The biggest crop in India is the potato, and in fact India is the second largest producer of potatoes in the world after China (the country produced 45 million metric tons of potato in 2012, approximately 12.2% of total global potato production). But those potatoes are mostly produced in the winter, and when harvest time comes, there is a glut on the market. “Producer prices are very low at that time, and farmers who sell their potatoes in the market can only get a little money for their produce. And, there’s only so many potatoes the market can absorb at one time,” said Kumar. “The excess potatoes are bought up by distributors who store them in cold-storage warehouses,” he continued. “Later on when the weather is warm, they bring out the potatoes, and sell them for three times or more the price that they bought them for after the harvest. Those same farmers who sold the distributors their potatoes at low cost after the harvest now have to buy them back at greatly inflated prices.” Solving this problem is one of Kumar’s objectives, and as a plant biotechnologist specializing in transgenic research, he is conducting basic research in extending the shelf life of potatoes. “If we could extend the time farmers could hold on to their potatoes in typical room-temperature situations, there would be less need for them to sell off their crop right away, prices would not drop as much at harvest time, and the power of the distributor trust would be diluted,” he said. Kumar was speaking during the recent ID2 (Israeli Designed International Development) conference, which brought together 70 entrepreneurs, academics, and students to discuss how to develop solutions for some of the world’s big problems – like hunger in India. Kumar came to Israel in 2010 on an 8 month Foreign Ministry scholarship, but upon finding Israel as a hub of innovative technologies, he decided to extend his stay and continue his research project. In his research, Kumar is trying to decipher the molecular mechanism of glycoalkaloid (toxic secondary metabolites) biosynthesis in potato tubers – the process that turns potatoes green and sprout little “roots.” The green area and sprouts indicates the presence of solanine, which is poisonous. By developing ways to reduce glycoalkaloid biosynthesis, Kumar hopes to prevent or at least postpone the blight that makes it impossible for farmers to hold onto their potatoes. According to Kumar, Israel — and the Vulcani Institute in particular – is the right place to do this research. “Israel has developed technology to deal with this problem, and applying it on a large scale, I believe, will greatly improve the agricultural situation in India.” Although he was trained in genetic research, Kumar believes that it would be best to keep genetic modification out of the food chain, because monkeying around with genes could create a whole new set of unforeseen problems. “At Vulcani they practice precise agriculture,” which entails very close monitoring of everything surrounding the growing of a plant — air, atmosphere, soil, hybridization, and more — to develop the best and most effective strains, capable of growing and thriving under the most difficult conditions. Israeli solar energy technology could also be used to help India’s poor farmers, Kumar said. “Farmers could build small storerooms with solar panels on top to generate electricity for small refrigeration units. The solar panels could also power batteries which will keep the rooms cold at night as well.” Although usually thought of as a Hindu country, India is actually home to the third largest Muslim population in the world — 176 million, or more than 15% of India’s total population, and almost as many as in Pakistan, the second largest Muslim-populated country in the world, with 178 million. Muslim politicians are very influential in India, and the country is located in a very anti-Israel neighborhood, with Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other hard-line Islamist countries close by — so the government is definitely concerned about appearing too pro-Israel, Kumar said. “On the other hand, Israel and India do about $5 billion in business a year, and the free-trade agreement between both countries is likely to be signed in the coming months. Ten years ago doing business with Israel was much more difficult, but as time has gone by people see that having a good relationship with Israel has brought about many positive benefits to India,” said Kumar. Water technology, agricultural technology, and scientific cooperation with Israel have gone a long way to convince even Muslim politicians that working with Israel has its benefits. “There are many more issues that need fixing in India and that Israel can help with,” said Kumar. “I hope to be able to take what I have learned here and teach others when I get home, and I am hopeful the Israeli government will support wider-scale technology training within India itself, and not just for visiting students.” Read more: A better potato for India, via Israeli tech | The Times of Israel http://www.timesofisrael.com/better-potato-for-third-largest-muslim-populace-via-israeli-tech/#ixzz2uJ0F2Ar1 Follow us: @timesofisrael on Twitter | timesofisrael on Facebook
Monday, February 24, 2014
Russia has lashed out at the new regime in Kiev, accusing it of using “dictatorial” and “terrorist” methods to suppress dissent in the country, with backing from the West which is “acting out of geopolitical self-interest.” “The position of some of our Western partners doesn’t show genuine concern, but a desire to act out of geopolitical self-interest,” said a statement on the Russian foreign ministry’s website. “There is no condemnation of criminal actions by extremists, including manifestations or neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism. In fact, these are being encouraged.” The statement went on to say that “outside sponsors” are advancing a “regime change” in the country, without a desire to find “national consensus."
“We urge those embroiled in the crisis in Ukraine to show responsibility, and to prevent further deterioration of the situation, to return to the rule of law, and to stop the extremists in their bid for power.” An escalating three-month standoff between the opposition and the government came to an end at the weekend, when President Viktor Yanukovich escaped Kiev. Since then, a Rada composed of opposition deputies and defectors from Yanukovich’s Party of Regions has assumed control, stripping him of his powers, and making its speaker Aleksandr Turchinov the interim head of state.
The Russian foreign ministry said “paramilitaries... refuse to leave the cities, or abandon the administrative buildings they have occupied, while they continue to carry out acts of violence”. It also censures them for mocking historical memorials. The statement says that the legitimacy of the Rada is “questionable”, and says that the opinions of the largely pro-Russian regions should not be ignored.
Moscow accuses the Ukrainian MPs of using “revolutionary expediency” for calls to “virtually forbid the use of the Russian language entirely, encourage a lustration, liquidateparties, shut down certain media, and remove the limitations on Neo-Nazi propaganda”. The Rada revoked a law that allowed Russian and other minority languages to be recognized as official in multi-cultural regions, and has also proposed an initiative that would forbid officials from the former regime from occupying official posts. One nationalist leader has called for Russian TV stations to be barred from broadcasting in Ukraine. The Russian ministry has also condemned the announced May 25 presidential election date, saying that according to the February 21 agreement between the authorities and the opposition, made before Viktor Yanukovich left Kiev, that any polls could only be staged after a constitutional reform. To ensure the success of the reform, any changes to the Constitution should be put to a national referendum, Moscow stressed.
President Obama and Vice President Biden deliver remarks at the National Governors Association at the White House.
http://www.frontpagemag.com/There is a country in the Middle East where 10 percent of the population is denied equal rights because of their race, where black men are not allowed to hold many government positions, where black women are put on trial for witchcraft and where the custody of children is granted to the parent with the most “racially superior” bloodline. This Apartheid State is so enormously powerful that it controls American foreign policy in the Middle East even as its princes and princesses bring their slaves to the United Kingdom and the United States.
That country is Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia abolished slavery in 1962 under pressure from President Kennedy, who accomplished what the Ottoman Empire and the League of Nations had not been able to, but that hasn’t stopped its citizens from selling castrated slaves on Facebook or its princes from beating their black slaves to death in posh London hotels. The Saudis had clung to their racist privileges longer than anyone else. When rumors reached Mecca that the Ottoman Empire might be considering the abolition of African slavery and equal rights for all, the chief of the Ulema of Mecca issued a fatwa declaring “the ban on slaves is contrary to Sharia (Islamic Law)… with such proposals the Turks have become infidels and it is lawful to make their children slaves.” But Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth eventually made slavery economically unnecessary. Early on, African slaves worked for foreign oil companies which paid their masters, but they were a poor fit for the oil economy. The Kingdom no longer needed agricultural slaves and pearl drivers; it needed trained technicians from the West and international travel made it cheaper to import Asian workers for household labor and construction than to maintain its old trade in slaves. The Saudis replaced the 450,000 slaves of the 1950s with 8.4 million guest workers. These workers are often treated like slaves, but they are not property and are therefore even more disposable than the slaves were. Exact numbers are hard to come by, but Nepal alone reported 265 worker deaths in Saudi Arabia in a single year. Human Rights Watch has described conditions for foreign workers in Saudi Arabia as resembling slavery. Meanwhile the three million Afro-Saudis are denied equal rights, prevented from serving as judges, security officials, diplomats, mayors and many other official positions. Afro-Saudi women are not allowed to appear on camera. “There is not one single black school principal in Saudi Arabia,” the Institute for Gulf Affairs, a Saudi human rights group, reported.Kafa’ah, equality in marriage, is used to establish that both sides are free from the “taint” of slave blood. The blood of Takruni, West African slaves, or Mawalid, slaves who gained their freedom by converting to Islam, is kept out of the Saudi master race through genealogical records that can be presented at need. Challenges to the Kafa’ah of a marriage occur when tribal members uncover African descent in the husband or the wife after the marriage has already occurred. The racially inferior party is ordered to present “proof of equality” in the form of family trees and witnesses. If the couple is judged unequal, the Saudi Gazette reported, “Children’s custody is usually given to the ‘racially superior’ parent.” These Saudi efforts at preventing their former slaves from intermarrying with them have only accelerated their incestuous inbreeding. In parts of Saudi Arabia, the percentage of marriages among blood relatives can go as high as 70%. Saudi Arabia has the second highest rate of birth defects in the world, but a Saudi Sheikh blamed this phenomenon on female drivers, even though women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. Equality has always been a foreign concept to the Saudis whose tribal castes determine the right to rule. In Saudi Arabia everyone has their place, from the Afro-Saudi, to the non-Muslim guest worker to the Saudi woman. On the road to Mecca, a sign points one way for “Muslims” and another for “Non-Muslims.” Only Muslims are allowed into the holy cities of Islam. A Christian truck driver from Sri Lanka who wandered into Mecca was arrested and dispatched for trial to a Sharia court of Islamic law. Likewise, women are barred from many jobs, kept from driving and even electronically tracked to prevent them from leaving the country. Guest workers in Saudi Arabia are treated as slaves, their identity papers held by their employers, preventing them from leaving without permission. The guest workers however, if they survive the witchcraft accusations and sexual assaults, will escape back to Ethiopia, Sri Lanka or the Philippines with a fraction of the money that they were supposed to earn. The Afro-Saudis however have nowhere to return to. Saudi Arabia is the only home they know. The Arab slave trade was longer, crueler and far more enduring than anything Europeans and Americans are familiar with and left behind large numbers of Afro-Arabs across the Middle East and Afro-Turks in Turkey. While African-Americans are prominently represented in American life, Afro-Arabs and Afro-Turks suffer from an inferior status which keeps them away from political power and out of public view. American soldiers in Basra were surprised to discover large numbers of Afro-Iraqis. The hundreds of thousands of Afro-Iraqis are a legacy of the Zanj slave rebellion when 500,000 African slaves rose against their Arab masters. The Afro-Iraqis are free, but relentlessly discriminated against. In Gaza, 10,000 Afro-Arabs face daily discrimination. But it is the Afro-Saudis who are the Middle East’s best kept secret. Nawal Al-Hawsawi was dubbed the Rosa Parks of Saudi Arabia when she took three women to court who insultingly called her “Abd” or slave. Nawal dropped the court case after she received an apology, but the taunt of “slave” is one that Afro-Saudis have to live with daily in Saudi Arabia. “The monarchy’s religious tradition still views blacks as slaves,” Ali Al-Ahmed, the Director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, wrote in Foreign Policy Magazine. The Institute blames Deputy Saudi Foreign Minister Abdul Aziz Bin Abdullah, the son of the Saudi king, for being the architect of the Saudi apartheid state, but Saudi apartheid predates any one man. Saudi slavery was intertwined with Islam, receiving sanction from the Koran and the Hadiths while relying on the Saudi role as the guardians of Mecca and Medina to lure African Muslims into slavery. African Muslims who made the pilgrimage to Mecca were defrauded and forced to sell their children into slavery to afford the return trip home. Slave traders lured African Muslims from Sudan, Mali and Burkina Faso by promising to take them to the holy places of Islam and teach them to read the Koran in Arabic. Sheikh Saleh Al-Fawzan, a leading authority on Islam in Saudi Arabia, bluntly stated, “Slavery is a part of Islam. Slavery is part of jihad, and jihad will remain as long there is Islam.” The linkage between slavery, Jihad and Islam dates back to Mohammed whose followers were compensated with human property. In The Legacy of Arab-Islam in Africa, John Alembillah Azumah writes that, “In pre-Islamic Arabia blacks were held in high esteem and did marry Arab women … the discrimination on account of the colour of their skin is a development within the Islamic period.” Racism was a necessary prerequisite to the expansion of Islam through Jihad. The land that is today known as Saudi Arabia was at the center of those conquests, growing rich in slaves and loot. Today it is once again at the center of the new Jihad, its every atrocity justified by its role in the holy wars of Islam.
Patron-in-Chief of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has strongly condemned the suicide bomb attack against the Frontier Corps check post near the Iranian consulate on University Road, Peshawar today. PPP Patron-in-Chief called upon all citizens to come together in solidarity against such terrorism in all its forms, so as to put an end to all plots targeting Pakistani people and institutions. He urged all to rally around the security forces which fortify the nation. Bilawal Bhutto expressed his sincere condolences to the families of the fallen martyr soldiers, while wishing speedy recovery to all those injured as a result of the explosion.
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham strongly condemned the Monday terrorist attack in front of Tehran’s consulate office in Peshawar, Pakistan.A blast near the Iranian consulate on University Road in Peshawar killed two security guards and left 10 others injured on Monday. The consulate is situated in a residential area and has schools in its vicinity as well. The Iranian foreign ministry spokeswoman condemned the terrorist actions and resort to violence in the region, specially against diplomatic center, and called for closer cooperation among all countries in their campaign against violence and extremism as well as confronting plots against religions. “Following the occurrence of this terrorist act Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a telephone conversation with Iran’s consul-general in Peshawar was assured about the health conditions of our consulate colleagues and he was also briefed about the damage inflicted on the consulate building, and he also stated some necessary recommendations,” Afkham said. A spokesman for Pakistani jihadist Mast Gul, once acclaimed in Pakistan for his role fighting Indian rule in Kashmir, claimed responsibility. The group is affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban, who are fighting to topple the government. "We sent a suicide bomber to target the Iranian consulate and Iranians inside the building," the spokesman was quoted by Reuters as saying. "They unfortunately remained safe. "We will continue to target Iranian installations and the Shi'a community everywhere," he added.
A suspected suicide bomb attack outside the Iranian consulate in Peshawar Monday killed two paramilitary soldiers and wounded ten others, officials said. The bombing took place in the up-market University Town area of the northwestern city of Pakistan, where many non-government organisations (NGOs) are also based. Police sources said a suspicious vehicle stopped near a security checkpost near the Iranian consul-general’s office, following which a blast was witnessed. “We have two bodies of paramilitary soldiers and ten wounded have been admitted to hospital,” Farhad Khan, a spokesman for Khyber Teaching Hospital where the casualties were taken told AFP. A senior police official, Mohammad Ejaz Ahmed, said it appeared to be a suicide bombing. Confirming the incident and casualties, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Health Minister Shaukat Yousafzai told reporters that Iranian consulate was the apparent target of the attackers. No group has yet claimed responsibility, but the Pakistani Taliban have carried out such attacks in the past. Earlier this month Pakistan entered into talks with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) aimed at ending their seven-year insurgency. But the militant group continued carrying out attacks on a near-daily basis, and the dialogue was suspended last week after the insurgents claimed they had executed 23 kidnapped soldiers in a northwestern tribal region. Since then the air force has been carrying out attacks in the volatile tribal regions which border Afghanistan, killing dozens.
A suicide blast took place near the Frontier Corps (FC) check post close to Iranian Consulate, killing at least two FC personnel and injuring nine others, hospital sources said. Talking to Geo News, IG police Nasir Khan Durrani said there was one attacker who managed to reach near the FC check post. The personnel deployed at the check post stopped the attacker after which he detonated his explosive laden vest. Durrani said a detailed account would be provided once the bomb disposal squad completes its probe. FC personnel stopped the attacker from reaching the Iranian Consulate, he added. Police have cordoned off the area and a search operation is underway. According to SP Cannt, the suicide bomber jumped out of a vehicle and carried out the attack.
Asked on NBC whether the US was concerned that Russia may bring its troops to Ukraine, Rice said it’s not in the interest of Ukraine or of Russia or of Europe or of the US to see a country splitRussia has declared that the US president's national security adviser, Susan Rice, would better counsel the White House, not Russia, a Russian Foreign Ministry source told Itar-Tass on Monday in a comment on Rice’s statement that Russia’s intervention in Ukraine “would be a grave mistake”.
“We have brought to notice Susan Rice’s expert estimates based on repeated introduction of US forces in different parts of the world, especially where, according to the US administration, values of Western democracy are endangered or where the incumbents get out of hand too obviously,” said the source. “We hope it is such advice on the wrongs of using force that the current national security adviser will give the US authorities if they decide on another intervention.” Asked on broadcaster NBC on Sunday whether the US was concerned that Russia may bring its troops to Ukraine, Rice said “it’s not in the interest of Ukraine or of Russia or of Europe or of the United States to see a country split. It’s in nobody’s interests to see violence return and the situation escalate.
Norway's intelligence agency said Monday that it fears an increased "terrorist threat" to its country due to dozens of Norwegian nationals fighting in the Syrian conflict. At least 40 or 50 people with links to Norway have fought, or are currently fighting, with forces opposed to the Bashar al-Assad regime and run the risk of returning as seasoned radical fighters, the Norwegian Intelligence Service (NIS) wrote in its annual threat assessment report. "We conclude that the threat has already increased and will continue to increase throughout 2014," the head of NIS General Kjell Grandhagen said, adding that these "jihadists" are often in the most radical Islamic groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and Al-Nusra Front. The NIS estimates that about 2,000 rebel fighters have travelled from Europe to fight the Syrian regime but did not reveal how the figure was calculated. Norwegian daily Verdens Gang also reported Monday that about a dozen women have left Norway for Syria to join rebel groups. In late 2013 the fate of two teenage girls of Somali origin hit the headlines in Norway when they left to join a jihadi group in Syria and were located weeks later by their father who brought them home. Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2014/Feb-24/248330-norway-in-danger-from-syria-jihadists-intelligence-agency.ashx#ixzz2uFOENTIa (The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)
Islamic fundamentalists in Syria have started to destroy archaeological treasures such as Byzantine mosaics and Greek and Roman statues because their portrayal of human beings is contrary to their religious beliefs. Fears are growing that a part of the world's heritage may be lost forever unless there is a concerted international response. But can an international community that has failed to protect Syrian civilians manage to protect Syrian artefacts? Brendan Cole reports.
Interview: Heela Najibullah: The daughter of Afghanistan's last communist president: My father wanted inclusive solution to Afghan conflict
The daughter of Afghanistan's last communist president reflects on politics and pluralism in the strife-riven state.
Heela Najibullah was only 10-years-old when her father became the president of Afghanistan. To Heela, Mohammad Najibullah was Aba, father, trying to create reconciliation among an Afghan nation divided between communists and Mujhaideen, religious warriors fighting soviet occupation. Though Heela saw her father working towards an inclusive solution to the Afghan conflict, few in the general population could separate Najibullah the communist from Najibullah the president calling for reconciliation. In the decades since, however, Najibullah's image has undergone a transformation. Pictures of a man once tied to communism now hang in people's cars, windows and shops. In an interview Al Jazeera, Heela Najibullah talks about her father's changing image 25 years after the soviet withdrawal.AJ: How old were you during Dr Najib's presidency? How old were you when he died?
AJ: What would surprise people about your father and his personality?HN: People are surprised to hear that he was soft and sensitive inside and yet very decisive, strong and stubborn at the same time. When he made-up his mind irrespective of the risks and consequences, he would act on it. AJ: Do you have a memory from your father's time in Afghanistan that sticks out to you the most? HN: Often Aba would tell us stories with a hidden message, one such story that he shared with my sisters and I, was about a mother, who assembled her five children and gave them each a stick to break. Once the children had broken the sticks into two, she collected them into a bundle and gave each the bundle to break, which none of the children could break. He concluded his story by telling us that the mother drew the lesson for her children that when you are alone you can be broken easily but when you unite no one can divide you. I often remind myself of his story and hope that one day Afghans could realise their power in their unity. AJ: How would you describe him as a father? Did that differ from how he was a leader? HN: As a father he was a guide to my moral consciousness and as a leader, my hope for a stable Afghanistan. AJ: Why do you think people are drawn Dr Najib rather than say Zahir Shah, Daoud Khan or even Amanullah? HN: When one reflects on leadership in Afghanistan, Najibullah was the first and only leader to fight for peace and not power or territory. He publicly announced that for a peaceful resolution with his opposition, he was willing to accept their conditions to step down. AJ: Some would say Dr Najib and Hamid Karzai are in similar situations, would you agree? HN: I don't think Najibullah and Hamid Karzai are entirely in similar situations. Najibullah's government had no support from the international community while Hamid Karzai's government has signed strategic agreements which shall last beyond the withdrawal of ISAF and NATO forces. [The] Soviet withdrawal was enforced in less than one year, while withdrawal of ISAF and NATO forces are currently debated. Dr Najibullah's government was stronger and independent in terms of its decision-making processes and military capacity, while President Karzai's government doesn't enjoy the same capacity or independence. Dr Najibullah's government had a solid political party system while President Karzai's government runs on alliances of power brokers along ethnic lines and old political affiliations. Dr Najibullah's reconciliation policy promoted political pluralism and national unity and indicated religious extremism and poor economy as the prime enemy for Afghanistan's national interest. While the Bonn Agreement was the foundation of a divided society based on ethnicity and selected historical victories of ruling factions who are negotiating the agreement to allow US bases. However, what remains the same are the regional and international rivalries and continued involvement of Afghanistan's neighboring countries in its internal politics.
http://www.afghanistantimes.af/Political analysts during a routine meeting of the Mahmood Tarzi Think Tank discussed political struggle between neighboring and some regional countries in Afghanistan. They said the neighboring countries should not see Afghanistan as their fighting ring and restrain from outwitting each other in the war-hit country. They further said that a stable Afghanistan was in the interest of neighboring and regional countries. Shah Hussain Murtazawi, an Afghan writer and journalist, said that if the neighbors want to invest on natural resources of Afghanistan, they should take practical steps to bring peace and stability in the country. “They shall also help Afghans in holding safe and transparent presidential and provincial councils; elections,” added Murtazawi. Ghaws Janbaz, another political expert, said that several spy agencies of different countries were active in Afghanistan and were in the quest to weaken the country. However, it will go against the interest of these countries that are playing double game with Kabul, due to geo-strategic location of Afghanistan. “Instability of Afghanistan will create challenges for them as well because it is in the heart of Asia,” said Janbaz. He said that there was need for national consensus to deal with Pakistan and make Islamabad to support the Afghan-led peace process. Sayed Masood, lecturer at the Faculty of Economics in Kabul University, termed the policy of neighbors against Afghans, and said that polices of the neighboring countries in Afghanistan was designed to achieve their own goals instead of helping Afghans. Pakistan became an atomic power in the region. Weakening of Afghanistan was Islamabad’s priority. Equal economic opportunity would end competition between the regional countries, she said, suggesting that the Afghan government should pave ground for investment and bring improvement in the policies necessary for growth of national economy. He said a policy regarding management of water resources between Afghanistan and its neighbors should also be carved out.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) passed a resolution on Sunday, expressing solidarity with armed forces, rangers, police and other security personnel. The resolution was adopted at a large gathering held in Karachi to express solidarity with armed forces in their fight against Taliban. It said that all the participants of the Solidarity Rally strongly condemn suicide attacks and bombings targeting shrines, mosques, imambargah, churches, schools and bazaars and term them as contrary to Islamic teachings. The resolution also paid tributes to martyred soldiers, policemen, rangers, FC personnel and levies men at the hands of Taliban and expressed sympathy with their families. “Today’s gathering announces that Pakistan is an independent Islamic state… It is not property of any one sect or group,” it said, adding that Sikhs, Hindus, Christians and other minorities are equal citizens of Pakistan. Pakistan and Taliban cannot go along together, it added. The resolution c urged the government to deal with the terrorists with iron hands. It said all the citizens of Pakistan have right to live their lives with freedom to practice their religion and faith. It also stressed upon the social boycott of the political parties supporting the Taliban.
Pakistan’s brave and iconic education activist Malala Yousafzai recorded a video message for the second Lahore Literary Festival, which took place Feb. 21 to 23. The message played to roaring applause at the inaugural ceremony and at the beginning of select sessions.
www.shiitenews.comYazidi nasbi takfiri terrorists have shot martyred another Shia Muslim in Karachi, capital of Pakistan’s Sindh province on Monday. Shiite News Correspondent reported here that notorious terrorists of outlawed Sipah-e-Sahaba/Lashkar-e-Jhangvi stormed into L block of Orangi Town where they targeted Sarwar Abbas Naqvi. 25 year old Sarwar embraced martyrdom due to firing. The body was taken to hospital for autopsy. Shia parties and leaders have condemned the targeted murder of another Shiite on the anniversary of martyrdom of another Shia youth Danish. They demanded military operation to eliminate the terrorists.
One side wants Pakistan to succeed as a modern state, a proud democracy and the inheritor of 5,000 years of the Indus civilization. The other side wants to turn Pakistan into a theocratic dystopia of religious strife where people are executed in public and stoned to death for personal choicesBilawal Bhutto’s closing speech at the Sindh Festival in Thatta struck a note of defiance against the Taliban. The young PPP leader was also very clear in his narrative: Pakistan is ours, the Taliban and other self-styled thekedars (contractors) of religion are no one to dictate to us how we should practice Islam and that the people who wish to impose their twisted and narrow interpretations of religion on us are the same people who had rallied against the founding father of this country, calling him Kafir-e-Azam (the great infidel) and Pakistan Kafiristan (the land of the infidels). He also declared that ours is a great and ancient civilisation dating back 5,000 years — the civilisation of the Indus. We are in desperate need of this clarity in narrative. For the last 150 years, the battle wages on between the orthodoxy and the modernists, or the revivalists and the reformers. Ever since Sir Syed Ahmed Khan founded the Aligarh Movement to educate and modernise Muslims, the reactionary orthodoxy has been out to prove that the modernists and the reformers are anti-Islam and agents of the west. Amongst the modernists and reformers were men like the Agha Khan, Syed Ameer Ali, Sir Zafrullah Khan, Allama Muhammad Iqbal and last but not least Mohammad Ali Jinnah. By and large, Aligarh’s modernist Muslim arsenal supported the Pakistan Movement and the Muslim League. By and large, the Darul Uloom Deoband and the straitjacket mullahs sided with the Congress Party, the Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind, Majlis-e-Ahrar and Jamaat-e-Islami, not out of any love for the Hindus per se but because of their calculation that in Pakistan, the modernists would dominate. The Congress Party, on its part, encouraged this division, going so far as to appoint Maulana Daud Ghaznavi as its leader in Punjab after secular leftists like Iftikharuddin joined the Muslim League. This was a Faustian bargain that continues to haunt Congress and its Muslim supporters in India even today. The Shah Bano and Imrana cases underscore the vile nature of the unholy matrimony between Deoband and the Congress. In Pakistan, till General Zia’s dictatorship, the apprehension of the religious orthodoxy about the modernists taking over turned out to be true. Every leader from Jinnah to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was in essence a modernist. While there were terrible lapses, for example the passing of the Objectives Resolution under Liaquat, the introduction of state religion by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government and the declaration of Ahmedis as non-Muslims through the second Amendment, it was the teeth General Zia gave religion that ultimately delivered the country to the religious orthodoxy. Subsequently, Benazir Bhutto’s government, despite its generally modernist outlook, failed to withstand the ground gained by the religious right in the country. General Musharraf’s regime tried to roll back some of Zia’s damage but, in the end, that project too fell victim to political expediency. The situation in our time has become unsustainable. Maulana Abdul Aziz’s treasonous, seditious and poisonous ramblings on our television channels are a case in point. It is all or nothing. The battle for the heart and soul of Pakistan is a zero sum game. One side wants Pakistan to succeed as a modern state, a proud democracy, the inheritor of 5,000 years of the Indus civilisation and the flag bearer of the tolerant and inclusive traditions of Islam. The other side wants to turn Pakistan into a theocratic dystopia of religious strife where people are executed in public and stoned to death for personal choices. One side wants Muslims to grasp the higher ethical principles of sharia, i.e. social justice, religious freedom and the preservation of intellect and liberty, which is what made Islam a cyclonic revolution in human history. The other side wants to limit Islam to the regulation of dress codes and enforcement of harsh punishments. One side wants Pakistan to take its place amongst the comity of nations, the other side wants us to become pariahs. If the purpose of Pakistan was the socio-economic uplift of Muslims of this region, then clearly the Taliban and their apologists cannot deliver. We need men and women of vision integrated in the modern world and ready to march in tandem with the rest of humanity. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has thrown out this challenge not just to the Taliban but the rest of the country as well, especially aging leaders like Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan. The young PPP leader has told his people and rivals alike by saying ‘non ducor, duco’. May other leaders find such courage too and lead the country towards a consensus. There is no other way. So, Mr Sharif and Mr Khan: which side are you going to choose? A hefty 5,000 years of our existence as a people is at stake. Sitting on the fence is the most patently cowardly thing you can do!
The security scenario is getting so muddied and complicated that ordinary citizens may be forgiven for scratching their heads in mounting confusion. Perhaps what is needed is to sift what is clear from what is uncertain or obfuscated. It is clear, for example, that the government and military agreed to launch targeted precision strikes by the air force the other day in North Waziristan and Khyber Agency, and with helicopter gunships in Hangu on Saturday. The latter action killed nine terrorists, including a local Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander. The hits seem to have had a salutary effect on the TTP and its sympathisers in the committee negotiating on their behalf. Now increasingly the TTP seems to be emphasising and asking for a ceasefire and resumption of the peace talks by the government. The government on the other hand is demanding a ceasefire by the TTP before talks can resume. The deadlock has also produced ‘desperate’ appeals by Maulana Samiul Haq and Professor Ibrahim for sparing the terrorists the unwanted attentions of the military, even going to the extent of conceding that the constitution is not anti-Islam, implying there could be talks within its confines. This is however in sharp contrast with the TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid’s reiteration of the TTP view that the constitution has nothing Islamic in it. This ‘discordance’ between the TTP and its negotiating committee spells more trouble in pinning down exactly what parameters the negotiations will be conducted within, if and when they restart. Although the government and the military have refrained from spelling out whether they intend to follow up the aerial bombardments with a full scale military offensive, fear has induced an exodus by people from North Waziristan in anticipation of an operation. In the past few days after the aerial bombardments, apart from minor terrorist incidents in remote areas of FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, there has been nothing on the scale of the 13 policemen killed in Karachi or the slaughter of the 23 FC personnel, both of which fed into the decision to ‘teach the terrorists a lesson’. Nevertheless, there is clearly no room for complacency as the TTP can return to its mayhem and murder any time, anywhere. Interestingly, most political parties, especially those that previously were seen as pro-Taliban, are shifting their positions in the light of the unfolding events. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf has guardedly supported the air strikes. The PPP, ANP and MQM were in the lead of condemning the terrorists and even calling the talks futile. The MQM held a rally in Karachi on Sunday against the Taliban. The JUI-F of Maulana Fazlur Rehman too has ‘distanced’ itself from the Taliban. Only the recalcitrant Jamaat-e-Islami continues to insist on no military operations and a continuation of the talks even if they fail a hundred times! The Jamaat lives in its own cloud cuckooland for which there is so far no known cure. Tomorrow, February 25, the federal cabinet will assemble to discuss the draft of the National Security Policy that has been in gestation for nine months. Media reports have leaked parts of the policy paper. The leaked reports speak of an analysis in the report of how much Pakistan has suffered at the hands of terrorism, outstripping such well known trouble spots as Iraq and Afghanistan. It also discusses the law enforcement and intelligence forces at the government’s command in relation to the challenges posed by the current situation. While we wish the cabinet Godspeed in its long delayed appraisal of the proposed policy’s analysis and recommendations, there remains a worrying question about the approach of the government. The retaliatory strikes by the military were just that: retaliatory. They were also limited in scope and intensity so as to avoid not only collateral damage but perhaps also a widening of the military action beyond the immediate area struck. Limited retaliation by the military smacks of a ‘containment’ strategy rather than ‘elimination’. That is another added factor in the confusion that has the country in its grip. What after all, does the government hope to achieve through ‘containment’ of the terrorist threat, described in the media reports on the policy paper as an existential threat? Coexistence with the terrorists? The road to hell, they say, is paved with good intentions. In this case though, the government may willy nilly be ‘rescued’ from its illusions about minimum damage to be inflicted on the terrorists in the vain hope that their retaliation too would be limited. More likely than not, it is the terrorists who will soon force the government’s hand and nudge it towards the logic of hitting the terrorists hard.
WITH parts of Hangu and Tirah valley pummelled by the military, the inevitable speculation has picked up again: is this a soft roll out of the much-talked-about military operation against the TTP in North Waziristan? Thus far, there is little indication that that may be the case — though the intense speculation only adds to the pressure for one and also reinforces the notion of divisions between the PML-N government and the army high command on the best way ahead. For, as the weekend’s strikes by the military indicate, the idea of limited retaliation by the military after TTP attacks against it has already progressed towards so-called pre-emptive action. But even as the military goes from strictly defensive actions to a mildly aggressive posture, the government continues to insist that talks are still very much the preferred option — as long as the TTP wants to take up the government on its offer. There are two elements here that merit comment: the army’s preparedness and the government’s negotiating strategy. On army preparedness, it is encouraging to note both the resolve to push back against the TTP militarily if necessary and a greater focus on targeted operations. However, military resolve and better intelligence are necessary but not sufficient conditions for military success — that would entail having a strategy that looks into both the medium- and long-term futures and ensuring that the civilian and military arms of the state can work together to deny militants space in their remaining strongholds. Whether there is any thought being given to such concerns by the army high command is unknown. What is clear though is that the military will need to redefine its understanding of success if a decision is eventually taken to allow the military option to go ahead. As for the government’s negotiating strategy, at least this can be said for it: the craven and supine approach at the outset has gradually been replaced with a stronger and more convincing stance. Be it the insistence that talks must take place within the ambit of the Constitution or that any deal will be a localised affair to demand the TTP demonstrate its interest in a negotiated settlement by announcing a ceasefire first, the government — whether by design or because of the pressure it has found itself under — has finally put some genuine pressure on the TTP. If the government stands firm in the days ahead, it is the TTP that will have to provide answers first. Does the TTP have the ability to ensure militant violence ends across or the country? Is the TTP even genuinely interested in negotiations or is it just a time-buying tactic? If the government stands firm, the answers should be known shortly.