Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Farida Khanum(PTV)-Wo ishq jo hamse rooth(वो इश्क़ जो हमसे रूठ)1973

Mera Laung Gawacha by Musarrat Nazir

Ariz. Gov.: "I Have Vetoed SB 1062"

Fears that Ukraine will split on ethnic and linguistic linesFears that Ukraine will split on ethnic

Going To Extremes: Role of far-right in Ukraine upheaval stokes neo-Nazism rise fears


Saudi Arabia is in talks with Pakistan to provide foreign-backed militants operating inside Syria with anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets to tip the balance in the war, to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, a Saudi source said Sunday.
An unnamed Saudi source, who is close to decision-makers in the country, said on Sunday that Pakistan produces its own version of Chinese shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles, known as Anza, and anti-tank rockets, both of which Riyadh is planning to get for the militants.
“ Unnamed Sources further added that Saudi Arabia asked Islamabad to deploy 30 thousand Pakistani soldier on its territory, as part of a military agreement between the two countries may also include the sale of a Pakistani arms to Saudi Arabia for Syrian militants fighting against Asad government .” The source referred to Pakistani army chief of staff General Raheel Sharif’s visit to Riyadh earlier this month during which he met Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz. Prince Salman himself last week led a large delegation to Pakistan, shortly after Saudi’s chief diplomat Prince Saud al-Faisal visited the kingdom’s key ally. The source further said that Jordan is set to provide facilities to store the arms before they are delivered to the militants within Syria. Ahmad Jarba, the head of the so-called Syrian National Coalition (SNC), said last week during a visit to northern Syria that “powerful arms will be arriving soon.” “The United States could allow their allies provide the rebels with anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons following the failure of Geneva talks and the renewed tension with Russia,” said the head of the Gulf Research Centre, Abdel Aziz al-Sager. Providing those weapons to the rebels “relieves pressure on the US in the short-term,” said Simon Henderson, director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Programme at the Washington Institue for Near East Policy. “But the long-term political worry is that Manpads (Man-portable air-defence systems) will leak and be used to bring down a civilian airliner somewhere in the world.” Rebels have long said that anti-aircraft rockets would help them defend themselves against Syrian warplanes, which regularly bomb rebel-held areas with barrels loaded with TNT and other ordinance.
Rising Saudi influence
Saudi Arabia has a strong influence on Syria’s southern front, where it coordinates with Jordan, and has helped unite the rebel fighters in the area, according to Syrian opposition sources. On the other hand, Qatar and Turkey are responsible for coordinating with the rebels on the northern front, said an official of the Syrian opposition, requesting anonymity. Saudi Arabia has come to eclipse Qatar as the main supporter of the Syrian rebels, a development illustrated by the election last July of Ahmad Jarba, who has strong Saudi links, to lead the Syrian National Coalition, the main umbrella opposition group. The trend appeared to continue with the dismissal last week of General Selim Idriss, the top commander of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, who was considered close to Qatar, according to an opposition source. The main criticism of Idriss was “bad distribution of weapons” and “errors in battle,” said another opposition source. Idriss, who has refused his dismissal, has been replaced by Brigadier General Abdel Ilah al-Bashir, the leader of the rebel military council for the region of Quneitra in southern Syria. On its internal front, Saudi Arabia has sidelined intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who had been leading Riyadh’s efforts concerning Syria, according to a Western diplomat. Diplomats have said that the file has been passed to the interior minister, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, known for his successful crackdown on Al-Qaeda following a wave of deadly attacks in the kingdom between 2003 and 2006. Bandar’s management had triggered American criticism, diplomats said. The Saudi royal himself has criticized Washington for its decision not to intervene militarily in Syria, and for preventing its allies from providing rebels with much-needed weapons, diplomats added. Citing Western and Arab diplomats as well as foreign-backed Syrian opposition sources, the Wall Street Journal reported on February 15 that Saudi Arabia has agreed to provide the foreign-backed militant groups in Syria with more sophisticated weaponry, including anti-aircraft shoulder-fired missiles. A Western diplomat with knowledge of the weapons deliveries told the journal that “new stuff is arriving imminently.” Meanwhile, the Syrian army has reportedly arrested more than 80 foreign officers and soldiers, mostly from Saudi spy services. The detainees are said to have entered Syria to carry out terrorist attacks. Saudi Arabia has been the main supplier of weapons and funds to foreign-backed militants inside Syria. Syria has been gripped by deadly violence since 2011. Over 130,000 people have reportedly been killed and millions displaced due to the unrest.

Turkish opposition holds protest rallies

Demonstrations coincide with president's signing of law tightening controls on judiciary and new audio-recording leak.
Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in Turkey after the president signed a controversial bill tightening controls on the judiciary, deepening opposition resentment towards a government already struggling with a corruption scandal. Police used tear-gas to disperse protesters in the capital Ankara on Wednesday, while in Istanbul demonstrators gathered on central Taksim Square, the scene of protests that have dogged the government for months. Protests that swept six Turkish cities on Tuesday continued on Wednesday as demonstrators chanted "Thieves!" and "Government resign!" Mustafa Sarigul, the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) candidate for Istanbul mayor - the biggest prize in the country's March 30 elections - called on the government to resign, as party officials handed out fake money amounting to 30m euros. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, has accused his ally turned rival Fethullah Gulen - a US-based Muslim leader with strong ties to the country's police and judiciary - of being behind the corruption investigation. In retaliation, the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has sacked thousands of police and prosecutors.
Second recording leak
The latest protests were organised by the CHP amid leak of a second audio recording, presented as the voice of Erdogan, asking his son not to accept an amount of money on offer in a business deal but to hold out for more. The recording was posted on the video-sharing site YouTube by an anonymous poster using a pseudonym on Wednesday, Reuters news agency said.
"Don't take it," the voice on the latest recording, presented by a user under the pseudonym Haramzadeler as that of Erdogan, says.
Whatever he has promised us, he should bring this. If he is not going to bring that, there is no need." "The others are bringing. Why can't he bring? What do they think this business is? ... But don't worry they will fall into our lap." Erdogan said a similar post on YouTube late on Monday, allegedly of him telling his son Bilal to dispose of large sums of cash as a corruption investigation erupted, was a "vile" montage and "completely untrue". The recorded conversations allegedly took place on December 17, when a high-level corruption scandal implicating highly placed Erdogan allies erupted. Reuters could not verify the authenticity of either recording. Fikri Isik, Turkish technology minister, said on Wednesday that five officials overseeing the encrypted phones used by the Erdogan's office had been dismissed. The tensions come as new legislation gives the Justice Ministry greater control over the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), an independent body responsible for appointing members of the judiciary.
More government powers
The law, signed into force by President Abdullah Gul on Wednesday, will give the government more say in the naming of judges and prosecutors, a role currently fulfilled by the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK). Critics say the move contravenes the basic principle of the separation of powers enshrined in the constitution. Gul last week dismissed calls to reject the bill, saying it was not his place to challenge legislation passed by parliament. He also indicated he would sign another bill strengthening state control over the internet. Gul said he had objected to 15 provisions that were "clearly unconstitutional", and that he believed the Constitutional Court would deal with them. The CHP is expected to file a challenge to the law at the Constitutional Court, seeking its annulment. But even if the court rules to overturn some articles in the law, the government will have enough time to make changes that will tighten its grip over the HSYK, according to Murat Arslan, president of the Association of Judges and Prosecutors. The law will come into effect once it is published in the Official Gazette and all personnel of the HSYK, excluding the 20 elected members, will then lose their jobs. The unelected staff amounts to about 1,000 people, including its secretary-general, inspectors, audit judges and administrative staff, whose positions will then be filled by the justice minister, the Hurriyet daily said.

China blasts Japan's pro-military tendencies, nuclear stockpile

China on Wednesday strongly denounced the Japanese government's pro-military tendencies and controversial view on history, and threw doubts on the country's nuclear material stockpile.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last week, Etsuro Honda, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's economic aide who is also a key architect of Abe Economics, said Japan needed a strong economy so it could build a more powerful military and stand up to China.
When asked to comment on the remarks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular press briefing on Wednesday, "Those words show that Abe Economics is in fact aimed at serving Japan's military expansion, which mirrors the country's pre-war militarism.
"Those voices from Japan have proved the country's so-called active pacifism and willingness to hold dialogue with China as deceptive."
Such statements revealed Japan's "dangerous tendencies" to stand against China, and to change its post-war peaceful development road, she said. Japan, led by its right-wing forces, is on a dangerous direction and is becoming a troublemaker which would harm regional peace and stability, Hua said. Hua also commented a recent report from the United States Congressional Research Service (CRS), which expressed worry over Abe's view on history.
"The CRS report pointed out problems that exist in the Japanese leader's view on history," Hua said.
She criticized Japan's recent moves to deny or whitewash its aggression history. "They are in fact challenging the world's anti-fascism achievements and the post-war order," she said. Hua urged Japanese leaders to listen to the voices of the international community and to regain trust from its neighbors and the world via tangible measures.
While commenting on reports that the Japanese government is to hand over its plutonium stockpile to the United States, Hua said China supports the U.S. to demand Japan return those nuclear materials. She urged Japan to return weapons-grade nuclear materials at an early date. Since the nuclear security summit in Washington in 2010, the U.S. government has been pressing Japan to return 331 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium given to the country during the Cold War. The U.S. plans to reach an agreement with Japan before the nuclear security summit in the Netherlands in March. However, it has been reported that a large amount of highly enriched uranium is also in Japan's hand.
"Highly enriched uranium is a problem which could ignite nuclear security and proliferation risks," Hua said, adding that doubts from the international community should be addressed.
"Does Japan have highly enriched or weapons-grade uranium? How much does Japan store?" Hua asked, adding that China urges Japan to take a responsible attitude and explain its answers to the world.

23-Year-Old Detained by Police in Bahrain Dies
A 23-year-old Bahraini suffering from sickle-cell anemia who was detained by police as part of a security investigation has died a week after being taken to the hospital, authorities in the Gulf island kingdom said Wednesday. The country's main Shiite opposition group, al-Wefaq, hailed the man as a martyr and blamed the government for his death because of what it alleged was improper care while in custody. The Ministry of Interior said the man, identified as Jaffar Mohammed Jaffar, had sickle-cell anemia and died at around 3:15 a.m. Wednesday. He had been receiving treatment at Salmaniya Medical Complex after being admitted on Feb. 19. It is unclear how — or if — his disease contributed to his death. The office of public prosecution said in an email that the hospital report indicated that Jaffar died of a pulmonary embolism and that there were no signs of injury on his body. As a result of his sickle-cell condition, he suffered from blood clots in the lungs that led to respiratory failure and bleeding in his digestive system, it said. He was being held awaiting trial. Opposition activists and human rights groups in the past have raised concerns about the alleged mistreatment of detainees amid a three-year uprising by a Shiite-dominated opposition seeking greater political rights from the country's Sunni rulers. Bahrain, an American ally that hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, says it is committed to complying with human rights norms. In April 2011, a supporter of Bahrain's anti-government movement, Rashid Zakaria Hassan, 40, was found dead in a detention facility. A medical examiner determined that complications from sickle-cell anemia resulted in his death. Jaffar was one of several suspects detained in connection with an operation in December that resulted in the seizure of stocks of weapons and explosives, including some being smuggled in by sea. The man's family alleges that their son was subjected to beatings and electric shocks, according to al-Wefaq. A government ombudsman has opened an investigation into the death, and investigators have spoken to family members and "relevant persons" at the detention facility, according to an emailed statement in response to questions. It said results of the investigation will be made public once it is complete. Jaffar is the second person to die in police custody this year. In late January, Fadhil Abbas Muslim, 20, died from injuries sustained when he was shot in the head while trying to flee the scene of a police investigation, according to authorities. In a separate statement, the Interior Ministry urged Bahrainis not to take part in fighting in conflicts abroad and warned against becoming involved with religious extremist groups. It specifically raised concerns about Bahraini citizens who have joined the fight in Syria, and said it was preparing draft legislation aimed at further deterring citizens from fighting abroad or receiving weapons training. It follows a royal decree issued earlier this month by neighboring Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah punishing citizens who fight in conflicts outside the kingdom with prison sentences ranging from three to 20 years in jail. Many Sunnis in the Arab Gulf back predominantly Sunni rebels against Syria's President Bashar Assad, who comes from a Shiite offshoot sect.

Calls for Turkey PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan to resign in leaked tape scandal
A voice recording said to be of a telephone conversation between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his son Bilal is at the centre of the latest political storm in Turkey. In the conversation the pair allegedly discuss how to hide large sums of money on the day police raided houses as part of a corruption inquiry into Erdogan’s government on December 17, 2013. Erdogan’s office described the recordings as a “dirty immoral fabrication”. After the alleged leak, Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) held an emergency meeting where they discussed the voice recording. The CHP said the government has lost its legitimacy and called on Erdoğan to step down. The executive board of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) also held a meeting under the leadership of chairman Devlet Bahçeli. Bahçeli said “the talks between the Prime Minister and his fugitive son is beyond our capacity of understanding.” In the newly released voice recordings, it’s claimed Erdoğan and his son discuss in five wiretapped phone conversations plans to conceal huge sums of cash from police, who raided a number of venues as part of a corruption investigation that has implicated sons of three Turkish ministers, businessmen and the head of the state bank. The Prime Minister’s office released a statement late on Monday, claiming that the voice recording is a “product of montage” and it is “completely false.” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ repeated the claim and said those responsible will be brought to justice. The voice recording is the latest in a series of leaked phone conversations that purportedly reveal wide-range corruption. The Prime Minister claims that all these are a plot against his government and are completely unfounded. Pro-government newspapers yesterday published reports of what it claims were illegally tapped phone calls. The political uncertainty hit Turkish markets, with the Turkish Lira losing value against the euro and the dollar.

Hague receives Hillary Clinton award

Shakira opens school for needy children in Cartagena

Video: CrossTalk: Revolutionary Kiev

Oscar-nominated film holds mirror to Indonesia's dark past

Bilawal Bhutto visits Moenjo Daro
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron in Chief, Pakistan Peoples Party visited the historic site of Moen Jo Daro along with Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah and attended a briefing regarding the preservation and promotion of the world-famous Indus valley civilization heritage and the steps to be taken in future for Moen Jo Daro’s preservation and promotion. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari stressed on the need of further excavation and dry core drilling to determine the complete area of the world heritage site. Further steps were discussed to safeguard the site and promote cultural tourism.

'Taiwan independence' a dead end: spokesman

"Taiwan independence" will not win the support of Taiwan people and is doomed to be opposed by people from across the strait, said a mainland spokesman on Wednesday. Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman with the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, made the remarks at a press conference in response to a question about the pulling down of Dr. Sun Yat-sen's statue in Tainan City by supporters of Taiwan independence. Dr. Sun is the great forerunner of China's democratic revolution and is respected by people from both sides, Ma said. Organizations and people from the island expressed their indignation and denounced the pulling down of Dr. Sun's statue, Ma added.

Cold War passions in Ukraine

By Nicholas Burns
PRESIDENT JOHN F. Kennedy memorably called the Cold War a “long, twilight struggle’’ — the four-decade contest in Europe for freedom and power between the United States and Soviet Union. Last week’s dramatic revolution in Ukraine was compelling evidence that Cold War passions continue to burn in a country deeply divided between East and West.
It is too early to predict where these momentous events will carry the people of Ukraine. The new interim government, dominated by nationalists from the central and western parts of Ukraine, acted swiftly to set presidential elections in May and seek greater economic and political ties with Europe. But in the industrialized country’s east and south, millions of ethnic Russians want to maintain Ukraine’s centuries-old symbiotic cultural, linguistic, and economic links to Russia.
One thing is certain — Russian President Vladimir Putin will not easily accept Ukraine’s separation from Moscow. He will push back hard to keep Ukraine within the Kremlin’s orbit. It is unlikely in the short term that Russian tanks will roll across the border to defend ethnic Russians in Donetsk, Kharkiv, and the Crimea. Instead, his instinct will be to use Russia’s stranglehold on the Ukrainian economy to intimidate, if not blackmail, the interim rulers in Kiev. Putin has turned off Russia’s natural gas spigot in the past and may do so again. He could also cut loans and exports if the new leaders veer too far in an anti-Russian direction. Putin will be prepared to play a tough, cynical game.
President Obama is thus right to proceed cautiously given the risk of conflict with Moscow. But Ukraine matters to American interests too.
Every president since Harry Truman has viewed a democratic, free Europe as one of America’s most vital strategic aims. President George H.W. Bush described it as a Europe “whole, free, and at peace.” It was the absence of such a Europe that compelled our entry into the First and Second World Wars and the long Cold War. That is why the downfall of the Soviet bloc was the single most important US foreign policy success during the last half century.
Don’t look, however, for a repetition of the old Cold War strategy as the Obama team prepares to duel with Putin. The United States will not deploy military forces on the front lines of a new East-West divide. Instead, it is countering with a more patient diplomatic strategy to help Ukraine steer clear of Moscow’s smothering embrace. In the last few days, the United States and Europe have stressed the importance of an independent, undivided Ukraine built by free elections and peaceful change. Obama is challenging Russia to join a global financial effort to rescue Ukraine’s nearly bankrupt economy. He should also push the interim government to reach out to distrustful ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine. All this will help to build global pressure on Putin not to deploy military force. But Obama will need to lead this Western effort for it to be successful.
Obama’s hand is also strengthened in the chess match with Putin by the prescience of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, whose expansion of NATO to take in 10 Central European countries was criticized by some as excessively provocative to Moscow. But NATO’s push eastward has protected those countries from Putin’s aggressive muscle flexing in Russia’s so-called “near abroad.” Lying outside of NATO and EU territory, however, Ukraine finds itself in a renewed Cold War struggle between East and West. If the United States and Europe have their way, this battle will not be decided by armies but by a persistently powerful ideal. Shouldn’t all Europeans, including the people of Ukraine, be free to choose their own future?
The Ukraine crisis has reminded us of an important geopolitical reality. While pivoting to Asia and coping with Middle East fires are priorities, Europe is still our largest trade partner and investor and home to our strongest alliance, NATO. Europe — its unity and continental peace — still matters greatly to Americans. And strong US leadership in the Ukraine crisis is vital to preserve the democratic peace in Europe.

VIDEO: Demonstrators Clash in Ukraine

Russia calls on OSCE to condemn "neo-fascist" sentiment in West Ukraine

Voice of Russia
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called on democracy watchdog, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, on Wednesday to "decisively condemn" the rise of "nationalist and neo-fascist" sentiment in western Ukraine. In a foreign ministry statement, Lavrov also said the OSCE should condemn attempts by nationalists to ban the Russian language in Ukraine. "Lavrov called on the OSCE to decisively condemn the rise of nationalist and neo-fascist sentiment in the west of the country, (to condemn) calls to ban the Russian language, to turn the Russian-speaking population into 'non-citizens' and to restrict freedom of expression," the ministry said in a statement.
Any forms of assistance to Ukraine, including from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), should be rendered at the request of this country's legitimate authorities and with respect for its sovereignty, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a meeting with OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier. "It has been emphasized that any forms of assistance, including from the OSCE, should be rendered at a request from the legitimate Ukrainian authorities and with unconditional respect for Ukraine's sovereignty," the Russian Foreign Ministry quoted Lavrov as saying at the meeting in a statement summing up its outcomes.
Moscow is soon going to provide video evidence to the EU and OSCE proving that extremists provoked unrest in Ukraine, the Russian Foreign Ministry has stated on its Facebook account. "The Western media prefer not to talk about the riots for what they really were, demonstrations arranged by extremist groups. Perhaps the leaders of the European institutions do not know about the actions of these extremists who were disguised as civilians," the statement reads. "We are most deeply concerned about what is happening in Ukraine. We are startled to hear that some Western countries misinterpret the events, trying to influence the situation," the Ministry said.

Ukraine revolution: Putin puts troops on alert in western Russia
Moscow flexes military muscle with urgent drills amid confrontation between pro and anti-Russian protesters in Crimean capital
In the Crimean capital of Simferopol, supporters of Ukraine's revolution and their pro-Russian opponents are embroiled in an ugly stand-off outside the regional assembly, where members were holding an emergency session to discuss the crisis gripping the country. A crowd of several thousand people shouting pro and anti-revolutionary slogans have gathered outside the assembly, which pro-Russian protesters claim they are defending from the "fascists" who have taken power in Kiev. Small scuffles broke out as the two sides pushed and shoved each other. Pro-European demonstrators, most of them ethnic Tatars, rallied under a pale-blue flag, shouting: "Ukraine! Ukraine!" and the Maidan's refrain of "down with the gang!" The pro-Russian crowds, some of them cossacks in silk and lambswool hats, shouted back "Crimea is Russian!". Protesters said parliamentarians were debating the possibility of a referendum to decide the future of the Black Sea peninsula though this could not be immediately confirmed. The autonomous eastern peninsula, which is home to a largely ethnic Russian population, is at the centre of tensions over the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of Moscow, by pro-European protesters at the weekend. Earlier, Cossack protesters hung the Russian flag across the assembly's facade, according to Russia's Interfax news agency, calling on the government to ignore what they regard as illegal resolutions by the new authorities in Kiev. Moscow has denounced the removal of Mr Yanukovych as tantamount to a coup, and has become increasingly concerned by swift moves by Ukraine's parliament to break away from the Russian sphere of influence. Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister said that Moscow's "policy of non-intervention" will continue. But the combat drills in the western district bordering Ukraine are likely to raise the temperature in the region. "They wouldn't have done it now unless they wanted to have a political effect. If they had a planned exercise at this time in that command they would have cancelled it - if they wanted to de-escalate the situation," a former British Army commander said. "The converse is obviously true." The Telegraph's David Blair in Kiev said: "Russia’s decision to place its forces near the Ukrainian frontier on high alert sends another pointed signal to its western neighbour. The Kremlin wants no-one to misunderstand its strength of feeling over the downfall of a friendly pro-Russian regime in Kiev, and the possible emergence of a new pro-Western government in Ukraine. "But military alerts of this kind have been ordered before – and the term itself means little. What exactly will the armed forces in western Russia be doing today that they weren’t doing yesterday? "Vladimir Putin’s latest decision is best viewed in the same light as the withdrawal of Russia’s ambassador from Kiev. The goal is to send a pointed message, perhaps timed to coincide with the possible formation of Ukraine’s new government. But the alert probably means nothing more than that. In particular, it emphatically does not suggest that Russian tanks are about to start rolling over the border." On Tuesday, the country's interim president, Oleksander Turchynov called an emergency meeting to discuss "the question of not allowing any signs of separatism and threats to Ukraine's territorial integrity - meaning the events which have taken place in Crimea - and punishing people guilty of this," according to an official statement. In the fiercely pro-Russian Crimean port city of Sebastopol, the home of Russia's Black Sea fleet, the newly installed mayor announced the formation of vigilante 'self-defence' units to defend the region against the "fascist" revolutionaries in Kiev. Alexei Chaliy also said he would guarantee the salaries of the Berkut riot police, which was this morning officially disbanded by Mr Turchnyov. Video has emerged via Channel 4 of members of the feared riot police begging for forgiveness for their role in repressing the Kiev protests, as they knelt in front of members of the pro-European movement on Tuesday night.
The United States and Britain have sought to lower the temperature amid fears the former Soviet state could fragment in the struggle between its pro-Russian and pro-European populations. John Kerry, the US secretary of state, insisted the country must not be a battleground between East and West, after meeting William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, on Tuesday. "This is not a zero-sum game, it is not a West versus East," said Mr Kerry after the two men met at the State Department. "This is about the people of Ukraine and Ukrainians making their choice about their future." Mr Hague, who is planning to visit Kiev shortly, urged the country's interim leaders "to form an inclusive government, involve people from different parts of Ukraine including from the east and the south of Ukraine. It's important for Ukrainians to be able to make these decisions together after the terrible divisions of recent months." "We want to send our strong support for the territorial integrity and unity of Ukraine," he added. Mr Lavrov this morning called on Europe's democracy watchdog to condemn the rise of "nationalist and neo-fascist sentiment" in western Ukraine. In a statement, his ministry said the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said the organisation should also condemn moves to ban the Russian language and to turn the "Russian-speaking population into 'non-citizens'". The United States has warned Russia against interference in the crisis, saying military intervention by Moscow would be a "grave mistake". After a classified State Department briefing on Tuesday, Senator John McCain, who has openly expressed suspicion of Vladimir Putin for years, warned that the Russian leader has long had his eye on Ukraine as the "crown jewel" of the former Soviet states. "I know that Putin believes that Ukraine is part of Russia. He is committed to that," Mr McCain said.

US museum eyes influences of Indian-Americans

Indian-Americans are doctors, engineers, motel owners, taxi drivers and spelling bee champs — just a few takeaways from a new exhibition at the Smithsonian. Looking closer, though, curators are probing the history behind certain cultural stereotypes of this population of 3.3 million Americans in a new exhibit opening Thursday.
The influx of Indian doctors, for example, began in the 1960s as the U.S. needed more physicians for its new Medicare system and immigration law opened the door to those with medical training. Later, the American inventors of Hotmail, the Pentium chip and fiber optics were all of Indian origin, perhaps because H-1B visas for engineers were a U.S. effort to remain competitive with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
"Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation" is the Smithsonian's first major exhibit to examine the history of Indian immigration to the United States and the influence of Indian-Americans. The exhibit is on view for at least a year and is expected to travel to 15 cities through 2019.
It's a story that dates to the first Indians arriving in 1790, those who helped build the nation's railroads and farms, and those who fought for citizenship when immigration from Asia was discouraged. There are also plenty of more recent contributions of leading Indian-American writers, entertainers, athletes and a fashion designer favored by first lady Michelle Obama.
Curator Masum Momaya said her team used Indian-American stereotypes as an entry point for visitors to learn more.
"We want to take people beyond some of the things they know and have seen in popular culture to the deeper and more nuanced history," she said. "I think one of the things that museums can do is add history and add context to contemporary conversations about race and immigration."
So in a subtle way, curators show the current debate over immigration has been debated before.
The Smithsonian borrowed and collected objects from many Indian-Americans, from family photos and shoes that evoke a family home to the a professional football helmet worn by the first Indian-American to win the Super Bowl, Brandon Chillar with the Green Bay Packers.
For more than a year, curators worked to borrow a dress made by Indian-American designer Naeem Khan for Mrs. Obama. Khan draws on a line of Indian embroidery techniques in his design for an American silhouette. The rarely seen gown joins items from other Indian-American ground breakers. There's the NCAA basketball jersey from the first player wear a turban in competition as a symbol of his Sikh faith, a silver Olympic medal won by gymnast Mohini Bhardwaj in Athens, and the first U.S. spelling bee trophy won by an Indian-American in 1985. Coincidentally, Indian-American students have been on a spelling bee winning streak for most of the past decade.
"It's novel, but at the same time, it does speak to that experience of becoming American," said Konrad Ng, director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. "Spelling bees have this symbolic value of being American, being literate in the language of the country and excelling in it."
The yearlong exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History is part of a $2 million ongoing heritage project at the center. It will also help bring new items into the Smithsonian's collection to represent Indian-Americans. Newly acquired artifacts include campaign materials from former U.S. Rep. Dalip Singh Saund, who was the first Asian-American elected to Congress in 1957.

Eyeing Afghan exit, U.S. intensifies campaign against Haqqani militants

The United States has intensified its drive against the Taliban-linked Haqqani network in an attempt to deal a lasting blow to the militants in Afghanistan before foreign combat forces depart this year, according to multiple U.S. officials. The effort is taking on added urgency as the clock ticks down on a NATO combat mission in Afghanistan set to end in December, and as questions persist about whether Pakistan will take action against a group some U.S. officials believe is quietly supported by Pakistani intelligence. The Obama administration has created a special unit based in Kabul to coordinate efforts against the militant group, according to officials familiar with the matter. It was set up late last year, as part of a new strategy that involves multiple government agencies.
The unit, headed by a colonel and known in military parlance as a "fusion cell", brings together special forces, conventional forces, intelligence personnel, and some civilians to improve targeting of Haqqani members and to heighten the focus on the group, the officials said. "Things are coming together in terms of the more comprehensive approach (against the Haqqanis). So, there's a lot of focus - there's a lot of energy behind it right now," said a U.S. defense official, who asked not to be identified. It was not immediately clear whether the intensified focus on the Haqqanis has led to increased strikes on the group by the U.S. military or the CIA, which operates drones over Pakistan's tribal areas. And it remains to be seen, this late in the NATO combat mission, how much damage the United States can inflict on the Haqqani network, which has proven resilient and uses Pakistan's tribal areas along the Afghan border, including the North Waziristan region, as a sanctuary.
The White House announced on Tuesday that President Barack Obama had ordered the Pentagon to prepare for a possible complete withdrawal of troops following Afghan President Hamid Karzai's refusal to sign a bilateral security pact.
The Haqqani network, which professes obedience to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, is believed to have been involved in some of the most audacious attacks of the Afghan war. These include assaults on hotels popular with foreigners, a bloody bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul, a 2011 attack on the U.S. embassy, and several massive truck bombing attempts.
The group is also believed to be holding Bowe Bergdahl, the only known U.S. soldier missing in the war in Afghanistan. Some U.S. lawmakers have complained that the Obama administration has dragged its feet in cracking down on the group after designating it a "foreign terrorist organization" in September 2012. For example, it is unclear what diplomatic pressure Washington is putting on Islamabad to arrest individuals connected to the group, the lawmakers say. This month, the U.S. Treasury froze the U.S. assets of three suspected militants linked to the Haqqanis, the Obama administration's first significant non-military move against the network since that 2012 designation. The Pentagon has regarded the Haqqanis, seen as more skilled in attacks on foreign targets than other militants in Afghanistan, as an acute threat to its soldiers for years. U.S. General Joe Dunford, who commands U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, told Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel of his concern about the state of the current U.S. effort against the group in a private letter last November, sources familiar with the matter said. During a recent visit to Washington, Dunford told senior White House officials that the group was a top priority for him, the sources said.
Retired General John Allen, who commanded U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan from 2011-2013, said he initiated the request to designate the Haqqanis as a terrorist group in spring 2012 because military efforts alone were insufficient. "My reason for doing that was that it is simply such a pervasive, virulent entity," Allen said in an interview.
"I was going to pressure them in every possible way inside the country, but I wanted them to feel it at a strategic level, to include attacking their finances, their assets - pressuring the entire nervous system of the Haqqanis." Some Afghan and U.S. officials remain skeptical that the United States can seriously weaken militant groups such as the Haqqanis unless Pakistan cracks down on them from within or better controls its borders.
"Until the Pakistanis do something about the safe havens, that's going to be a problem. (Militants) can recruit and train and equip and prepare to launch in Pakistan," said Major General Stephen Townsend, who commands U.S. and NATO forces in eastern Afghanistan. Townsend was speaking about the array of militants who infiltrate the border with Pakistan, not just the Haqqanis. On Tuesday, the Pakistani military launched new air strikes on militant hideouts in North Waziristan, killing at least 30 people. Pakistani fighter jets have been pounding targets in the area since efforts to engage the Pakistani Taliban in peace talks broke down this month.
The former top U.S. military officer, Mike Mullen, told U.S. lawmakers in 2011 the Haqqanis were a "veritable arm" of the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI, which some U.S. officials believe seeks to strengthen the Taliban and its allies as a means of ensuring that archenemy India does not wield influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan denies such charges.
Founded by mujahideen leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, the group fought the 1980s Soviet occupation of Afghanistan with varying levels of support from Pakistani, Saudi and U.S. policy-makers. In November, six members of Congress sent Obama a letter calling efforts against the Haqqanis "woefully insufficient", according to a copy of the letter obtained by Reuters.
"It is past time for the administration to comprehensively address the threat posed by the Haqqani network's deadly attacks," Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told Reuters in a statement.

Pakistan's Nawaz Regime:- ''Hiding behind the army''

THERE’S a certain degree of inevitability about the latest military strikes on the militants’ hideouts in North Waziristan. The Sharif government was left with no choice but to suspend the peace charade following the Taliban’s slaughtering of the FC soldiers. Air force jets have been pounding suspected terrorist camps since then, reportedly taking out several militant commanders. Yet, there seems to be no comprehensible strategy behind the latest targeted bombings. It is still unclear whether the blitz is the beginning of a full-fledged operation to dislodge the TTP from its stronghold or retaliatory action to settle scores to be followed by a return to the dialogue mantra.
Also, there’s no indication yet of the civilian leadership showing resolve to take the battle to its conclusion. It seems quite plausible that it was pressure from the military that forced the government to give its consent to the surgical strikes.
It is apparent that a frightened administration is reluctant to take ownership of the campaign, leaving it to the discretion of the military command. For the government it appears to be just a military matter aimed at ‘avenging’ the death of the soldiers, detaching itself from responsibility. Surely the civilian leaders have not given up the hope that the virtually dead dialogue process could somehow be revived. It’s more of a carrot than a stick policy still at work.
Instead of taking a firm position on the threat directed at the entire nation the Sharif government is hiding behind the army. Nothing could be more ridiculous than the remarks made by the interior minister describing the latest offensive in North Waziristan as action by the military in self-defence. “The armed forces have the right of self-defence which cannot be denied,” he declared at a press conference. So for the minister it’s all about the military defending itself against Taliban attacks. For him, the bombing of the terrorists’ sanctuaries is merely a unilateral punitive action. It doesn’t matter if civilians are killed, religious places are bombed and the state’s authority is challenged by the terrorists. It is nothing less than criminal abdication by an elected administration of its responsibility to defend the state, Constitution and the democratic values being threatened by the insurgents. It seems a deliberate move by the government to maintain ambiguity and not commit itself fully to an all-out operation. This war, it believes, is the military’s and let it deal with it, while the government plays the peace card. Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who never misses an opportunity to placate the Taliban, not surprisingly appears optimistic about the resumption of the so-called peace talks with the militants.
His invitation to the Taliban to play a friendly cricket match may be dismissed as a crude sense of wit. It also reflects his non-serious attitude towards the most critical issue confronting the country. In fact, it is a cruel joke.
It is typical of Nawaz Sharif to rule by stealth. This characteristic comes out more glaringly in his handling of some of the most critical issues concerning national security and militancy. There has not been any formal policy thinking on the future course of action. There is no clarity on whether the prime minister has finally decided to use force and to what end. This state of uncertainty has intensified political polarisation imperilling national security.
Mr Sharif’s latest decision to support the Saudi-backed Al Qaeda war in Syria is bound to strengthen the radical Sunni militant groups involved in sectarian killings and terrorist attacks on Pakistani security forces. There are already reports of Pakistani militants joining the new jihad theatre in the Middle East. This irrational decision to take sides in another country’s civil war may suck Pakistan into an international conflict at a time when the country is in the midst of a battle for its own survival. Pakistan would effectively be supporting the same forces in Syria who we are fighting here. This senseless policy to please Mr Sharif’s Saudi patrons threatens to push the country to the brink of civil war.
For sure the military operation is critical to dislodging the militants from their bastion. But it is only half the battle. Success in this complex war would largely depend on whether we can defeat the militant narrative as well. Unfortunately, the national leadership seem to have completely handed over the initiative to the religious parties and hardline pro-Taliban clerics making it much more difficult to mobilise public support for the military offensive. Failure to build a strong counterterrorism narrative has given a huge advantage to the Taliban and their allies among the mainstream political parties. But the barbaric beheading of FC soldiers and the posting of ghastly internet videos showing militants playing football with their severed heads may prove to be a turning point in defeating the narrative of violence.
The government has wasted more than eight months trying to appease the militants and playing on their ideological turf, thus allowing the terrorists a free hand. This flawed approach has led to many more deaths and destruction.
More half-hearted measures will have disastrous consequences for the country’s unity. It is important to clear North Waziristan of militants, but it’s not the end of the battle. It will be a protracted struggle to not only eliminate the terrorist network, but to also defeat the extremist ideology.

BANGLADESH: What if the al-Qaeda threat is real!

By Afsan Chowdhury
Rather than brushing it off as a BNP-AL production, it’s better to be ready to handle what has emerged as the ‘al-Qaeda’ threat. The government is doing a spin to say that the al-Qaeda will never be successful here because people are not interested in terrorism. But this really sounds like a feeble excuse. Even the US takes such threats seriously. While not panicking and not even saying that it’s certainly al-Qaeda, it’s clear that extremist Islam is interested in Bangladesh. And the safety level for everyone here has been diminished accordingly.
No matter who or what is to blame, the party in power failed to convince its enemies that its policies were not against Muslims hence Islam. It was ignited by the war crimes trial which is a fine thing to do but the Jamaat-e-Islami supporters were able to mobilise internationally and nationally at a level which the present government never expected. Although its supporters claimed that a large sum of money was spent for propaganda by the Jamaat, which is true, Bangladesh government was not short of money at anytime so why didn’t it act and counter the propaganda?
The fact that the Jamaat – a non-state actor could mobilise so well while the state of Bangladesh did a confusing job at best is a disturbing fact. Within the country, the Jamaat supporters bombed at will. The police may have nabbed a large number of opponents but the pro-Jamaatis made their presence felt. At no time did the government look like it was prepared to meet the threat, locally or internationally and little planning has gone behind it. It would be good to remember that hanging Bangla Bhai is one thing and confronting al-Qaeda is completely another. That message is yet to go through, it seems.
Our state minister for home has said that “We are not seeing it as a threat. One of the reasons why the government feels confident is because people in Bangladesh will not allow terror to take root. The countries with such issues (al-Qaeda activity) usually have locals who support their cause. But our people are with us. They don’t want insurgency, terror and al-Qaeda in their country.” (Govt tracing ‘al-Qaeda threat)
But in its own report says, “al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in the clip interprets the Bengali struggle for freedom from Pakistan in a way that is chillingly similar to the one offered by the Jamaat-e-Islami. (Al-Qaeda chief’s ‘intifada’ call in Bangladesh) Again, the global terror is on the same wavelength with the Islamist party, facing calls for a ban for 1971 atrocities that the ongoing war crimes trial only aims to harass Islamic scholars.”
In other words, the allies are already lined up if pro-government forces are to be believed. In the parliament, the AL MPs have already found the BNP-JI connections though JI and the Hifazat have both denied this quickly. But there are many splinters who can easily become friends of international terrorism. To say that it’s not a threat is to risk the lives of many Bangladeshis. But is it a matter of intent or ability?
Bangladesh has always been part of other people’s war and was not strong enough to carry out even its own war. So in 1971, it had to depend on India to fund and manage its military activities and house its refugees. This was possible because for strategic/political reasons India wanted to slice down Pakistan. The result was what happened on December 16 and its Indo-Pak hostility that ensured that it was carried to the end. Bangladesh’s security has always been linked to international conflicts and it didn’t happen just yesterday. The Rakkhi Bahini was raised by an Indian General and clearly was meant, among other things, to ensure continued support to India. However, it failed to deliver in 1975 when Sheikh Mujib was killed. It didn’t fulfil one of its main objectives; protecting Sheikh Mujib.
On the other side, it’s the BNP, the counter to the AL who introduced the ISI to such operations in Bangladesh during the first arrival of Rohingya refugees in the ’90s. Media carried stories of this involvement and the presence of ISI was no secret. But the attempt of “Islamic insurrection” in Myanmar fizzled out and of course Bangladesh was left with the refugee problem while the Indo-Pak forces fought out its proxy wars elsewhere. As the North-East insurgency began to peak in India, BNP became willing supporters and many operations were planned from here much to India’s chagrin. It’s because of this arrangement that the 10-truck arms shipment was caught because the Indian intelligence had tipped off Bangladesh making it impossible for it to ignore. But the bottom line is the same. We are part of other people’s wars. Which brings us to the latest one, al-Qaeda’s war.
Al-Zawahiri has said in his tape there has been a “a massacre of Muslims… and “the western media is colluding with the killers to belittle its significance and hide the facts”’. “This is the bloodbath taking place in Bangladesh, without the Muslims paying least attention to it,” the Egyptian-born eye surgeon, thought to be in hiding in Pakistan or Afghanistan, observes. He says Bangladesh has not worked as a nation which was created more than 40 years ago “to protect the independence, glory, honour and freedom of its people”. The al-Qaeda chief’s tirade appears to have been provoked by the war crimes trials. Zawahiri in the clip says: “Bangladesh is the victim of a conspiracy in which the agents of India, the corrupt leadership of Pakistan Army, and treacherous power-hungry politicians of Bangladesh and Pakistan participated.”
It may well be a fake but what really matters is whether Bangladesh has the capacity to handle such threats and survive. Bangladesh has the right to try war criminals, there is no doubt about that but was/is it prepared to handle the collateral threat that come with it? The way the trial have advanced and generated politics didn’t show the government to be prepared for the events that were unleashed. Even Shahbagh, which was pro-government took the authorities by surprise and it literally had to amend the trial rules in the parliament as demanded by it. It also didn’t seem to be efficient in handling the JI violence and failed disastrously to protect the minorities who were victimised although people had been saying that this was coming for quite awhile. It also messed up the Hifazat adventure which gave the entire episode a bad image. It was not ready for the Pakistani reaction to Mollah’s hanging either, so it’s not a question of who is right or wrong but who is ready or not to face security threats. And now comes the al-Qaeda threat and one wonders if the government anticipated this too or not.
Instead of saying that we are a peaceful people and we will never encourage any terrorist activities it might be best to get some quality assessment about the level of threat and prepare response mechanisms. It might be that we should be concerned more about our own security incompetence than al-Qaeda’s capacity to inflict damage.
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No bluff: U.S. planning possible withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan

By Barbara Starr and Tom Cohen
We're not bluffing, the Obama administration told Afghanistan on Tuesday in announcing for the first time it has started planning for the possible withdrawal of all U.S. troops by the end of the year if no security agreement is signed. Statements by the White House and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel showed President Barack Obama's impatience with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai's refusal to sign the agreement that would keep several thousand American troops in the country after combat operations conclude this year. In a phone call with Karzai on Tuesday to discuss upcoming elections for a new Afghan leader, Obama made clear that time was running out to properly plan for keeping any U.S. forces in the country beyond 2014, the White House said. Meanwhile, a senior Pakistani official warned that pulling out U.S. troops could have dire consequences, leading to a civil war in Afghanistan.
"President Obama has asked the Pentagon to ensure that it has adequate plans in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal by the end of the year should the United States not keep any troops in Afghanistan after 2014," said the White House statement.
It also noted that a deal remained possible with a new Afghan leader, even if Karzai fails to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement before the April election chooses his successor.
"Should we have a BSA and a willing and committed partner in the Afghan government, a limited post-2014 mission focused on training, advising, and assisting Afghan forces and going after the remnants of core al Qaeda could be in the interests of the United States and Afghanistan," the White House said. "Therefore, we will leave open the possibility of concluding a BSA with Afghanistan later this year."
In his separate statement, Hagel said he strongly supported the order by Obama to "ensure adequate plans are in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal by the end of the year should the United States not keep any troops in Afghanistan after 2014."
Speaking at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia Tuesday afternoon, Hagel said the situation in Afghanistan will likely be a top item on the agenda at a NATO ministerial conference in Brussels this week. Obama, he said, has been very clear that the possibility of U.S. troops staying in Afghanistan depends "on whether we have a bilateral security agreement signed by the Afghani government, to assure our rights of our troops and other important elements that are required any time America has troops in another country."
Pakistani official: Don't do it
A senior Pakistani government official told CNN that a full withdrawal of U.S. troops should not be considered, declaring that "the zero option means civil war in Afghanistan." Speaking on condition of not being identified, the Pakistani official predicted that 30% of Afghan forces would desert if U.S. forces leave the country.
For the Pentagon, Obama's order means preparing for all contingencies. "For the first time, the commander in chief has told us to begin planning for a complete withdrawal" from Afghanistan, a senior U.S. official told CNN.
While the option to keep troops there remains, the situation has reached a point where the Pentagon has to begin planning for all possibilities, the official added.
More than 33,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan as the Obama administration winds down the almost 13-year war that began shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The security agreement negotiated between Afghanistan and the United States would cover a continuing mission after 2014 focused on training Afghan forces and counterterrorism.
Pentagon: If freed Afghan prisoners return to fight, they're 'legitimate targets'
Afghan presidential contender says he'll sign if elected
While Karzai has balked at signing, a leading contender to succeed him told CNN's Christiane Amanpour this month that the agreement should proceed. Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah said he would sign the deal to keep international forces in Afghanistan, and aid dollars flowing, if elected in April.
Abdullah said Afghanistan will need the financial and military support of the international community "for years to come."
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday that that longer it takes for security agreement to get signed, the more difficult it will be to properly plan and carry out a U.S. mission after 2014. Continued delay would result in a smaller and less ambitious mission, Carney said. Asked what happens if no agreement gets signed, he said: "We cannot and will not have U.S. troops on the ground" without a signed deal.

Afghanistan: No end to illegal abortions

By Khwaja Basir Ahmad & Zarghona Salehi
Desperate families are resorting to abortion in unsafe conditions and abandoning newborns, particularly female infants, in hospitals. It is not unusual to find an aborted foetus in city garbage dumps, according to an investigation by the Independent Media Consortium (IMC) Productions. In Afghanistan, like in many countries in the world, women do not have the right to abortion unless there are life-threatening complications. Here doctors risk imprisonment or a fine not less than 12,000 Afs (210 USD) for performing an abortion -- even if with the women’s consent.
Abortion laws make no concessions for survivors of rape or domestic abuse. The shame of sex outside wedlock is so strong that a rape survivor has little chance of living a normal life, and is instead blamed for bringing dishonour to the family and tribe. In January 2009, the media reported the terrifying ordeal of a 14-year-old whose brother cut out her 5-month foetus with a razor blade, then stitched up the wound with string. Doctors in Bamyan discovered the truth when the sick girl was brought to hospital with a severely infected wound. Her 20-year-old brother was arrested and the foetus recovered. He said he was attempting to hide his sister’s pregnancy. The man accused of raping the teen was a construction worker helping to build a school near her home. There are no official figures of unsafe abortions, but an official in the sanitation department of Kabul Municipality who was interviewed by IMC says some 70 aborted foetuses were found in landfills in the Gazak area of Bagrami district, Kabul province, in the past one year. Abdul Basir Akhundzada, who works as a manager in Gazak, told IMC that at least two or three foetuses are found in a month. For the last six years, all the garbage from Kabul, a city of five million, is transported and buried in two landfills here called Gazak-Part 1 and Gazak-Part 2.
Sometimes the foetus is not fully formed. Some are nearly nine months. But in each case the cleaners bury the foetus according to Islamic funeral rites in a makeshift graveyard next to the landfill. The small, unmarked graves are easy to spot though some have been leveled by the passage of time.
According to Akhundzada, Kabul Municipality has been disposing hospital wastes elsewhere. A municipal cleaner who did not want to be identified said foetuses have also been found in city garbage containers. He said he has been working for the last seven years, and there is not a month that they have not found “three to four foetuses in garbage skips in Kabul City”.
Mohammad Rafie, a deputy director in the municipality’s cleaning department, confirmed that aborted foetuses were found when skips were emptied into trucks taking waste to Gazak.
Recently the police were informed when the bodies of two newly-born infants were recovered from city rubbish dumps by Kabul Municipality staff. The staff here has been trained to report the matter to the police.
Social prejudice
Nasratullah, a student, told IMC the body of a new-born girl was found behind the buildings in Sharak Telayi township. Later local people and the police buried her in Shuhada Salehin graveyard. Niaz Mohammad, a witness, thinks there are only two reasons why dead new-borns are left in the garbage: she may have been born out of wedlock, or rejected because she was female. “Such views are common,” Mohammad observes. People in provinces outside the capital are also prejudiced, he adds.
Khadem Husain, the mayor of Bamyan City, claims aborted foetuses were found in garbage skips next to Bamyan University. But he did not give more details. Mohammad Maroof Mukhtar, an appeals lawyer in the Attorney General’s Office for Takhar province says two foetuses were found in farm land adjoining the provincial capital Taluqan.
No option
IMC interviewed a young man who got the young woman he was in love with pregnant. The man who did not want to be identified said the pregnancy was confirmed through an ultrasound. However, none of the clinics they went to were prepared to perform an abortion except one which demanded 22,000 Afs (385 USD). The man was very remorseful of the situation he had put the woman in, and described it as an “unforgivable sin”. Had her family agreed to their marrying “we would never have aborted the foetus”, he says.
Dr Mohammad Hashem Wahaj of the Wahaj Private Hospital, Kabul, says his hospital does not admit women unless there are l ife-threatening complications. According to him, women who cannot prove they are married are turned away when they come to the hospital for a pregnancy ultrasound.
Wahaj blames unintended pregnancies on moral corruption in society. He rues the influence of western culture on Afghan youth: the “unlimited liberty” given to women and men, and the raising of the age of marriage in the last decade.
Dr Najia Alemi, a specialist in Kabul’s government-run Rabia Balkhi Maternity Hospital, says government hospitals prohibit abortion but not private medical facilities. She wants the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) to crack down on illegal abortion. MoPH spokesman Dr Kaneshka Baktash Turkistani said the ministry was not aware of illegal abortions in private clinics.
Islamic rites
Dr Mohammad Ayaz Niazai, a lecturer at the Religious Studies Faculty of Kabul University, says the country’s abortion laws adhere to Islam. To dump a foetus in the garbage is anti-Islam. It must be bathed, wrapped in white cloth and buried, he adds. Najibullah Zadran Babrakzai, responsible for protecting children’s rights in the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), believes “human rights and dignity are breached when the aborted foetus is not buried”.
Law enforcement
Kabul Police chief General Mohammad Zahir Zahir says the police have not made any arrests for illegal abortion. Arrests have been made in cases where the husband and wife were estranged, and the wife resorted to abortion in unsafe conditions. Women take a deadly cocktail of medicines to force a miscarriage, or turn to midwives for help to terminate the pregnancy. General Sayed Abdul Ghafar Sayedzada, provincial police chief of Herat, says no complaint has ever been filed for clandestine abortion practices. The police have been cracking down on moral corruption, and trying to arrest perpetrators, the general said. Basir Azizi, a spokesperson in the Attorney General’s (AG) Office, said there are cases under investigation of a wife who miscarried because she was beaten by her husband, and women with unintended pregnancies who aborted the foetus. “Investigation has been completed in some cases and files sent to the court, which has taken a decision,” Azizi said not giving any details.
Abandoned infants
Dr Fatema Nazari, a specialist at Rabia Balkhi Maternity Hospital said she has seen babies who were abandoned by mothers after the delivery. Often the reasons are the gender of the baby, and the parents’ inability to provide for another child. The abandoned infants in Rabia Balkhi were handed over to the MoPH for adoption. Nine new-born girls and two boys were left in three Kabul hospitals in the last 10 months, according to MoPH’s Department of Curative Medicine.
Dr Nazari said a new-born baby girl was left at the back of her consulting room at the hospital last year. Mohammad Ajmal, a Kabul resident, said a neighbour in the 16th District found a female infant wrapped in a blanket in a gr aveyard in Tapa Maranjan. Ajmal and his wife who were childless adopted the baby. A worker, Abdul Qayum, in the 17th District, found a new-born baby boy in a garbage skip in Dewan Bigi area. The child, however, died because it was exposed to the bitter cold.
Mirza Mohammad Reja, the head of the provincial health department of Kapisa, says unwanted babies are abandoned also in hospitals in his province. His counterpart in Nangarhar, Dr Baz Mohammad Sherzad, said there were two cases in the government hospital last year. In both cases the mothers died in childbirth, and the fathers were not ready to take their daughters home.
Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous places for a woman to be pregnant.
Maternal mortality rates are one of the highest in the world. Mohammad Maroof Mukhtar, a lawyer in Takhar province, said a baby girl who was found in a garden in the state capital T aluqan four months ago, was handed over to a man called Jamaludin in Rustaq district. The decision was taken by an unnamed influential local.
Esmatullah from Raj village in Farah province says he found a 2-month-old infant on his way to the mosque. The boy is now with his neighbour Bismillah who has no children.
Son obsession
A woman who gives birth to a daughter risks being beaten by her husband and his family members. Latifa, 35, a mother of six in the Qala-e-Zaman Khan area in Kabul, says after each birth she was brutally abused by her husband. “My husband told me to abort the foetus when the ultrasound showed it was female. But I don’t want be considered a murderer on Judgment Day,” Now Latifa is two-months pregnant with her seventh child. She hopes it will be a son or her husband has threatened to marry again. Hawa Alam Nuristani, a press officer at the AIHRC, says the obsession with sons is contrary to the Shariah and against Islam and human rights. The AG’s Office has recorded some 8,000 cases since 2009 of heinous abuse when women bore girls or were infertile.

US, Pak and Afghan ties a Gordian knot: McKeon
"One of the tougher nuts to crack has been Pakistan. It's no secret that the Pakistanis and the Taliban have some shared history. There's no need for rose-coloured glasses here.
Relations between the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan are a Gordian knot," Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon told reporters at the National Press Club.
The lawmaker said that stability in both Pakistan and Afghanistan was "symbiotic" and that the relationship between the two countries are "thawing".
"Yet we're finally starting to shake some progress loose.
Pakistan and Afghanistan have both acknowledged that stability in both their countries is symbiotic. Problems in one means problems in the other," McKeon said.
"Relations between the two countries are thawing. That started with President Karzai's visit with Prime Minister Sharif last September. Official state visits are well and good, but what I'm really watching is the military-to-military relations," he said.
The Congressman added that the three sides had a long way to go, but "these baby steps have paved the way for giant leaps down the road."
"Pakistan and Afghanistan have gotten the ball rolling there. The relationship has improved, but slowly. I was happy to see the three-way talks between senior ISAF, Pakistani and Afghan leaders, and just as happy to see the same meetings held at lower levels," he said.
"With that progress in mind, we have a real problem heading our way with the bilateral security agreement. That agreement is the legal framework we need to continue the mission there until the mission is finished," he said. - See more at:

Iranian Consulate in Peshawar Attacked by Central Asian Terrorist

Investigation results released by Pakistani police on the recent terrorist attack near the Iranian Consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan, said the suicide bomber was from a Central Asian country.
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.
Police investigation revealed on Tuesday that the perpetrator of the attack was either an Uzbek or a Chechen national.
The suicide bomber intended to destroy the Iranian Consulate building, but due to a technical failure in his car and malfunction of the bomb he had planted in his car, he failed to achieve his goal.
Meantime, two other accomplices of the suicide bomber who were also inside the bomb-laden car tried to enter the consulate building, but were stopped by the security guards and one of them exploded himself near the entrance gate.
The vests used by the suicide bombers usually contain 8 kilogram of explosives, but the bomber was wearing a suicide vest with 4 kilograms of explosives planted in it. The Peshawar police also confirmed earlier reports that a militant group commanded by a person named Mast Gul has claimed responsibility for the Monday attack.
Mast Gul, 47, is known for his clashes with Indian forces and fled to a region in Kashmir in 1995.
A spokesman for Mast Gul, once acclaimed in Pakistan for his role fighting Indian rule in Kashmir, claimed responsibility on Monday. 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 on Monday. "They unfortunately remained safe. "We will continue to target Iranian installations and the Shiite community everywhere," he added. He escaped an ambush by the Pakistani forces in Peshawar in 2003 and is hiding since then.
A few hours later yesterday, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham strongly condemned the Monday terrorist attack in front of Tehran’s consulate.
“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.
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.

Pakistan's POLIO: A problem of perception

By Zeeshan Salahuddin
Despite incredible progress in the two decade long fight against the disease, Pakistan stands at risk of becoming the last active reservoir of the poliomyelitis virus in the world
Maasi Askari, the eldest member of my family was in her late 60’s when she passed away nearly two decades ago. She was afflicted with polio as a child, all of her limbs misshapen and twisted at unnatural angles by the time she reached puberty. She never married, she never held a job. Even the simplest tasks, such as a trip to the washroom took nearly an hour. She suffered from severe depression during most of her life, watching her brothers and sisters get married, employed, and have children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Her last few years were an excruciating cocktail of immobility, debilitating pain and embarrassment at not being able to take care of herself. The most dignified member of our family died a most undignified death, completely cognizant of her situation, and utterly unable to do anything about it. This is the likely fate that awaits children crippled by poliomyelitis in Pakistan, which is now arguably the last refuge in the world for the polio virus. Despite the incredible progress made against this incapacitating disease worldwide and most of Pakistan, it continues as an endemic, with 91 confirmed cases of polio reported in 2013 alone.
Poliomyelitis may only be prevented, and it mostly affects children under the age of five. One in 200 infections results in the virus attacking the nervous system, causing paralysis in literally a matter of hours. During a national vaccination campaign, even a single child missed can put the entire campaign at rish.
Fortunately, we have a vaccine that can categorically prevent polio, effectively creating a barrier between the virus and the child. In Pakistan, this barrier unfortunately exists between the vaccine and the child. Imagine the polio virus as an invading force. The vaccine acts as an armor between the virus and the child population in the target location. If even a single child, or set of children, or community is missed, this creates chinks in the armor, allowing the virus to seep through, and potentially infect unwitting children. Nearly every country in the world has devised a strategy that created an impermeable barrier for polio, effectively eliminating it from its soil, thereby providing a plethora of examples to learn from. It all started with Cuba. A campaign began in which vaccination posts were set up in civic locations such as community centers, schools, churches and synagogues, hospitals and the like, and people were encouraged to bring their children to get vaccinated. The technique worked, and was very successfully replicated in multiple countries. However, the efficacy of this solution was hampered by high-density populations. To mitigate this, door-to-door campaigns were constituted, an evolved and highly complex form of which is now in full effect in nearly every part of Pakistan.
There are three countries in the world that still considered polio endemic: Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In 2013, Nigeria reported 53 cases, a 57% decrease over 2012, Afghanistan reported 13 cases, a 65% decrease, whereas Pakistan reported 91, a 156% increase over the prior year. Cases were also reported in Somalia, Chad, Cameroon, Syrian African Republic, Ethiopia, Kenya and Niger. However, these were isolated incidents or outbreaks that are easily contained and not a cause for alarm for Dr. Elias Durry, the World Health Organization’s pointman for the eradication of polio in Pakistan. The endemic countries, on the other hand, are cause for concern.
“Pakistan stands at the risk of being the only polio endemic country in the world,” says Dr. Durry. Of the 13 cases reported in Afghanistan in 2013, 12 can be traced back to Pakistan. In Nigeria, the last reported case was on October 8th, 2013. So in the last four months or so, every polio case in endemic countries can be traced back to Pakistan, with the exception of the solitary case in Nigeria. Most recently, the WHO has labeled Peshawar in the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province as the largest polio reservoir in the world, with nearly 90% of the cases genetically linked to the virus circulating in the city. While India was formally declared polio-free in early 2014, Bill Gates, a man who’s foundation has been fighting against polio around the world, claims that Pakistan may not enjoy the same status, as far down the line as 2018.
This is a very alarming state of affairs for the country, which stands the risk of being branded the last refuge for the poliomyelitis virus. This is a shame that Dr. Durry understands all too well, having grown up reading about how his part of the world was the last refuge for the smallpox virus. He has spent the better part of the last two decades eliminating polio from several locations across the globe, including the Horn of Africa, Yemen, and Nigeria. His most challenging task now is the situation in Pakistan. It is important to distinguish that there are three categories that signify the seriousness of polio virus’ spread. The first category is known as reservoirs. These are pinpointed, specific locations where the virus circulates, and continues to thrive. The most significant polio reservoirs exist in Karachi and Peshawar, and one was most recently eliminated in Quetta. The second type occurs when a district reports multiple infections. This is still alarming, but not a cause for huge concern as it is a highly local phenomenon and can be easily contained and fixed. The third is an outbreak, where a string of cases are reported, and this too is containable.
Pakistan, unfortunately, in varying degrees, experiences all three.
There are three main issues that have had a direct impact on the rise in polio cases in 2013, and all three can be traced back to militancy. “The biggest problem is fear,” claims Dr. Durry. “Without fear, there is no problem. But as long as fear exists, for parents, for polio workers, for us, the polio eradication program will suffer.” First, the ban. The Taliban have imposed a ban on vaccination campaigns in parts of Pakistan, most notably the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). In the earlier analogy, there is a massive gaping hole in the vaccination armor here, one that causes hundreds of thousands of children to miss polio vaccinations every year. This number has fluctuated between 0.68 million to 1.3 million missed children in 2013. The FATA ban has been in effect since June 2012. Effectively, no children in the banned areas have been vaccinated against polio in nearly 20 months.
There is another, more tacit type of ban in areas that are not necessarily in Taliban control. Some attempt to indoctrinate communities by claiming that the polio campaign is a massive global conspiracy to render Muslim children impotent and that the drops accomplish this goal. As a result of this and threat of retaliation from the militants, a fraction of children, as many as 65,947, are missed because ill-informed and radicalized parents refuse to give the drops to their children. It is important to note here, that despite media’s apparent focus on refusals, the refusal cases present less than 5% of the missed children, the vast majority of which are missed because of the ban.
The Taliban oppose the polio campaigns, which they say is a cover for international espionage. While most other claims can be debased quite easily, this assertion is difficult to refute because Dr. Shakeel Afridi, in an attempt to positively identify Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, embedded himself in the polio campaigns in the area. In a video statement released by the Taliban, they unequivocally state that they believe this campaign is a cover for spies, and while they are for Muslim health, their priority is to eliminate infiltration. Second, the military operations. There has been a prolonged military campaign in the tribal regions of Pakistan against militancy and Taliban control since as early as 2009. The necessity for this campaign notwithstanding, it also results in a logistical nightmare for polio teams as they cannot enter tightly controlled theaters of war.
In November 2013, a US drone strike took out Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) leader Hakimullah Mehsud, and the TTP vowed bloody vengeance. After a few months of relative calm, the TTP launched a series of brazen and deadly attacks, including an attack on a paramilitary convoy on the way to Ramzak in North Waziristan, and a suicide bombing that killed at least 13 people near Pakistan’s army headquarters in Rawalpindi, 8 of them military personnel. In response, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif cancelled his trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, the army launched a counter-offensive, spearheaded by aerial bombardments of TTP hideouts, and the TTP reaffirmed their stance. All of this, unfortunately, renders any vaccination attempts in war-ravaged areas impossible. Furthermore, with the ban in effect for 20 months, the migrant communities relocate to urban centers, carrying the virus with them, thus propagating it.
Third, the killings. On Monday, January 21, 2014, polio workers and their protective detail came under fire again, killing three and injuring another two in Karachi, adding to the list of 29 already killed since the middle of 2012. The attacks are concentrated in Peshawar and Karachi, although no group has formally accepted the responsibility for the attacks. “It is unfair to simply say there was an increase in the number of polio cases in Pakistan in 2013, without contextualizing how and why this happened,” says Dr. Durry. “These three factors, the ban, the military operations and the killings have greatly hampered polio efforts in the country, despite remarkable progress in the last few years.” In fact, without the three factors listed above, Pakistan could have had as few as two cases in 2013, both in Sindh, which would have been 98% decrease in cases from 2012.
The remarkable progress Dr. Durry talks about is undeniable. Polio, by and large, has been eliminated in nearly all parts of Pakistan where there has been a consistent campaign. The numbers don’t lie. Nearly 33.4 million children and targeted for vaccinations during each campaign, and a vast majority of these, between 98-99% are actually covered by the campaign. 20 years ago, in 1994, when the campaign began, there were 25,000 reported cases of polio in Pakistan. The 91 cases last year mark a 99.9% decrease in polio cases since then. WHO data empirically establishes that wherever there has been consistent blanket coverage for vaccinations, the virus has been systematically and judiciously eliminated. Even nomadic populations, tested at random, were positive for polio virus nearly 98% of the time, is now down to single digits.
The polio reservoir in Quetta has been eradicated. We can now identify specific areas, within specific union councils, within specific districts of urban centers that serve as reservoirs for the virus. Over 200,000 people participate across the country every vaccination campaign, simultaneously operating in 102 districts. The campaign is so well-executed in areas where militancy, military operations or killings are not an issue, that this team could conduct a highly accurate census of Pakistan, a task not accomplished since 1998, in a matter of four days.
“The polio eradication strategy is well-tested and has been successful in a large number of countries around the world. The equation is simple – in Pakistan and everywhere else: if you reach enough children enough times with the oral polio vaccine, then the polio virus will go away,” explains Dr. Durry. “And the current situation in Pakistan actually gives testimony to the effectiveness of that strategy: it is namely in the areas where polio teams have been unable to administer drops for extended periods of time that we see children paralyzed by the virus.” The fact of the matter is that Pakistan has come a long way, and the fight against polio is well-planned, well-executed, and a highly complex affair managed by some of the smartest minds Pakistan has to offer. Corruption, while at one point crippling for the campaign, no pun intended, has largely been curtailed through payments of polio workers through bank accounts, which leave a paper trail and drastically improve accountability. Control has been taken from the Executive District Officers (EDOs), most accused of corruption and embezzlement, and given to Deputy Commissioners (DCs), with a level of responsibility that both trickles down to the areas coordinators at the union council level, and float up all the way to provincial Chief Ministers, and the Prime Minster at the federal level. This is not to say that the situation is not alarming. There is a very real and distinct possibility that Pakistan may be the last polio endemic country in the world, a stamp of shame for a country that has come so far in its fight against polio.
The biggest problem right now is that of sustaining this multifaceted endeavor. The vaccination campaigns are extremely difficult to manage, take an incredible amount of planning and precision, and a very strong monitoring and accountability framework to function well. The campaign in Pakistan is trying to play catch-up, where the above mechanisms exist, but there is a barrier between the vaccinator and the child in some parts of the country. These chinks in the armor are circumvented by continuing the campaign full-strength in every other part of the country, not only to deny entry to the virus being carried around by migrant populations, but to empirically establish that the polio campaign, where it is allowed to operate, works in eliminating polio one hundred percent.
Sustaining this level of commitment, however, is prone to battle fatigue over time. Some of the individuals in this fight have been combating this menace for two decades, yet they continue because there is still that sliver of hope that we can eliminate polio completely, that we are so close, down to the last one percent.
Dr. Durry is very clear about his stance on what needs to be done. “Eradication is of course a tangible possibility in Pakistan – but it will not happen by itself and we cannot be complacent. In order to achieve eradication, it is of crucial importance that the problem of inaccessibility is resolved. This issue is the real game-changer. Should attempts to ensure access for vaccinators to all parts of the country fail, God forbid, then there is a risk that the eradication effort will also fail. If this happens, then it will definitely encourage other governments to take action to protect their own populations.”