Monday, March 3, 2014

Israel must make tough choices for peace, Obama says
Netanyahu, in meeting with the president, vows to defend Israel, says Palestinians not doing their part in negotiations.
S President Barack Obama said Monday that tough decisions will have to be made as the deadline nears for completing a framework for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians
Obama spoke in a meeting in the Oval Office with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, ahead of private talks between the two. He said it is still possible to create two states — one for Israelis and one for Palestinians. But Obama said the task is difficult and requires compromises on all sides.
He commended Netanyahu for engaging in “tough negotiations” with the Palestinians. “It is still possible to create two states, a Jewish state of Israel and a state of Palestine, with people living side by side in peace and security,” Obama said. “But it’s difficult. It requires compromise on all sides.” Despite the highly critical stance he demonstrated toward Netanyahu in an interview published Sunday, the US president said that “we do not have a closer friend than Israel.”
Obama said that in addition to the peace talks with the Palestinians, the two planned on discussing “Syria and the need for both of us to address the extremism issue inside Syria.” According to Obama, the heads of state would also discuss Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iran, as well as “the opportunity for both countries to work on counter-terrorism.”
Netanyahu said Israel has been doing its part to pursue peace, but the Palestinians have not.
“Twenty years of peace process were marked by many Israeli steps for peace, but we got suicide bombers and rockets in return,” the prime minister said.
“It’s about time the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state – we have only been there for 4,000 years,” he added.
Netanyahu said the greatest challenge faced by Israel is Iran’s nuclear program. He said he would do “whatever I must do to defend the Jewish state.”
“The people of Israel expect me to stand strong against pressure and for the security of Israel.” On Iran, Obama affirmed “my absolute commitment that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.” The two leaders spoke for three hours after the photo op in the Oval Office, and Netanyahu left without comment to reporters, CBS’s Mark Knoller tweeted.
Netanyahu came to the White House to meet Obama over the future of the peace process with the Palestinians and Western efforts to curb Iran’s rogue nuclear program. Netanyahu arrived in a large black 4×4 shortly before 1:45 p.m. as temperatures plummeted and a major snowstorm blanketed Washington. Obama was expected to press Netanyahu to accept Secretary of State John Kerry’s framework for extending the negotiations beyond a late April deadline. Israel and Palestinian negotiators have conducted seven months of US-led direct peace talks, which have made little progress. Washington is now pushing them to accept a new deadline as set out in the framework proposal. Unconfirmed reports suggest Washington will demand a partial freeze on construction in isolated settlements outside the major West Bank blocs that Israel hopes to retain in any peace deal.
Upon landing in Washington late Sunday, Netanyahu blamed the Palestinians for the morass in the peace talks. His comments came hours after Obama was quoted as saying that Washington would be hard-pressed to defend Israel should talks fail.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Obama stressed that time was running out for Israel to achieve a peace deal, and added that he believed Netanyahu had the capacity to rally Israel’s citizens behind an agreement. But if Netanyahu “does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach,” Obama said.
“There comes a point where you can’t manage this anymore, and then you start having to make very difficult choices,” the president said.
In an immediate response on his arrival in the US, Netanyahu vowed to resist pressure: “For us to have an agreement, we must uphold our vital interests. I have proven that I do so, in the face of all pressures and all the turmoil, and I will continue to do so here as well,” he said.

U.S. moving fast on possible sanctions over Ukraine

The Obama administration is moving fast to prepare possible sanctions against Russia over the situation in Ukraine, if President Barack Obama decides to act, senior officials say. Over the weekend, the Treasury Department and other officials began drafting possible language for sanctions that would, if imposed, take the form of a Presidential Executive Order. That means they would not need congressional approval. Officials caution no decision has been made on whether to impose sanctions against Russia for its military moves in Crimea that Obama says violate international law. Officials note the United States has already taken several diplomatic steps in the past few days. These include suspending preparations for the annual G8 summit of the world's industrial powers, which is scheduled for the Russian Olympic venue, Sochi, in June.
The Obama administration also has canceled trade and energy talks and has withdrawn the American delegation for the Paralympics in Sochi. One official said decisions are "expected very soon" on sanctions and it could be a "pretty fast process." But that official added "people have to decide what we are really going to do" and, additionally, there are a number of factors Obama has to consider. "We have to look at where the Europeans are, how much you want to lean forward and how much you want to keep in reserve," the official said. Some European allies, particularly Germany and France, are balking at sanctions before giving diplomacy a chance. "But four days ago we weren't even having this decision with them and now we are. So a lot can happen in four more days," another senior administration official said. The official said the administration is "a step shy" of having an executive order ready to go for the President's signature. Right now the administration is deliberating who to target, the official said. Because the U.S. response would be in response to Russia's military activities in Crimea and moves toward separatism, the official said top Russian government and military officials would likely be targets, as could Russian-speaking separatists in Ukraine. But Russian companies and businessmen are unlikely to be sanctioned. A congressional source said there seems to be more interest among the Europeans for 'isolation' rather than sanctions - severing military exercises and action around visas and the G8 -- rather than steps that could hurt Europe.

Obama 2015 budget seeks $60 billion tax credit expansion: White House

President Barack Obama will strike a firmly populist tone in his 2015 budget plan on Tuesday, proposing to pay for an expansion of a popular tax credit for the working poor by eliminating tax breaks claimed by wealthy Americans. The proposal to expand one of the most popular U.S. government poverty reduction programs, the Earned Income Tax Credit, would cost $60 billion, a modest amount in a budget in which the president has $1.014 trillion in spending to parcel out, the White House said.
Obama would pay for the tax credit expansion by closing tax loopholes used typically by wealthy investors or employees of professional service companies such as law, consulting or lobbying firms.
The president's budget request is a scant two-tenths of a percent higher than his 2014 budget of $1.012 trillion because both amounts were set in a congressional budget deal in January.
Even so, Obama's budget recommendation stands little or no chance of being approved as is by Congress, where Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, disagree with the president's policy priorities, such as spending government money on job training. But the document will provide an agenda for Obama's fellow Democrats in a congressional election year and help the president shift the debate to poverty reduction and middle-class betterment and away from deficit reduction, a theme that has dominated Washington budget battles for the past three years.
Republicans issued their own salvo in the anti-poverty debate on Monday as House of Representatives Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a potential presidential contender in 2016, argued in a report that the government, for all its massive spending on programs to aid the poor, had barely made a dent in poverty over the past 50 years.
To pay for his proposals, Obama would close the "carried interest" tax loophole, which benefits U.S. private equity and venture capital executives. The tax break allows those financiers - many of whom are among the wealthiest people in the country - to treat such income as capital gains, making it subject to a tax rate of only 20 percent, instead of the nearly 40 percent top rate on ordinary income paid by the highest earners.
The president's budget will also target a controversial loophole certain self-employed individuals can use to avoid paying taxes for the U.S. Social Security and Medicare programs. The White House referred to that as the "Gingrich" loophole after former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich. As a Republican presidential hopeful in 2012, Gingrich was criticized for taking that tax break after he publicly released his personal tax filings. But the criticism can cut both ways: Republicans note that former Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards came under similar fire for using the tax break after he released personal tax documents on the campaign trail. Obama will also try to use the budget to boost the middle class by making contributions to workers' tax-protected retirement accounts automatic. Currently, workers must elect to have such contributions made to Individual Retirement Accounts, and the White House says the switch will benefit about 13 million workers. The president has said that despite the tight spending caps on his budget, he will propose to spend $302 billion in highways, bridges and transit projects, to be paid for in part by ending some business tax breaks.

Islamabad court attack: Three terrorists were from Punjab

The initial report about firing and suicide blast in Islamabad session court in F-8 has been forwarded to Interior Ministry. According to the report, five to seven attackers wearing shawls entered into the court premises in separate groups. According to sources, three of them were from Punjab province of Pakistan and Additional Session Judge Rafaqat Awan was their target. Rafaqat Awan had dismissed a plea to register Abdul Rashid Ghazi murder case. The terrorists fired around 1, 000 bullets in 15 to 20 minutes while 200 security officials were deployed on the site but no one retaliated. The terrorists also telephoned a man namely Ayub when they were firing bullets and directed him to bring more weapons. According to the sources, the intelligence agencies had issued a RED alert three to four days ago. The security of important buildings including Benazir International Airport has been tightened.
There are 12 entry points of Islamabad District Court for pedestrians while three big entry points are for vehicles. Only two or three policemen are deployed at the security in the court premises at night. There are around 46 courts in the premises of the district court including offices of additional deputy commissioner revenue, home department, legal branch of police, excise and taxation office and tehsildar courts while NADRA’s Soft Centre is also situated in the locality.
Meanwhile, four-member medical board of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) headed by Dr Nasreen Butt has prepared post-mortem report of blast and firing victims. According to the report, Rafaqat Awan died of bullet injuries in chest and arms while other victims received bullets in chest, liver and head.
The dead bodies of the victims of terrorist attack were handed over to the heirs while samples of terrorists’ body parts were shifted to PIMs where forensic tests would be conducted. A case of the terrorist incident has been registered in F-8 police station. According to SP Jameel Hashmi, case has been registered against unknown persons.

Fiza Malik: Young woman lawyer among the 11 killed in Pakistan- "Why her? What did she do?

"Why her? What did she do?" asked an emotional father of 23-year-old woman lawyer who was among 11 people killed in a brazen attack on a local court in Pakistani capital here.
It was Fiza Malik's third day at work and she was in the Court room right next to the entrance from where the attackers stormed the premises. She was probably one of the first to be killed by the unidentified attackers.
"What can I say? The people who did it are also children of some parents," Malik's father said holding back his tears.
Her mother said she first thought her daughter had been injured. "It was only when we reached the hospital that I came to know she was dead," the mother said.
Malik had completed her law from the UK and had returned to practice in Pakistan. Eleven people, including a Judge, were killed while 25 others were injured in a suicide attack on the local Court in Pakistan's federal capital.

Bilawal Bhutto condemns Islamabad terror attack
Patron-in-Chief of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has strongly condemned the terror attack on Monday morning in Islamabad Kachehri F-8, which resulted into loss of precious human lives including an additional session judge while injuring many others. In a statement, PPP Patron-in-Chief said that such terrorist acts carry evil for the country and aim to tamper with the lives and possessions of the Pakistani nation. He said that repeated terror attacks were a well-planned conspiracy to destroying social and economic fabric of the country. Bilawal Bhutto extended his condolences to the families of the victims and expressed his sympathies to all those injured in this “heinous” act.

Pakistan: Ahrar-ul-Hind suicide assault team attacks courthouse in Islamabad
The newly formed Ahrar-ul-Hind claimed credit for a suicide assault today at a courthouse that killed a judge and 10 other people in Pakistan's capital of Islamabad. The attack took place after both the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and the Pakistani government announced over the weekend that they would suspend attacks against each other.
Two Ahrar-ul-Hind suicide bombers armed with weapons and hand grenades attacked the court, and killed judge Rafaqat Awan, a female lawyer, and nine others. Thirty more people were wounded in the assault, which may have been designed to free a prisoner who was brought to court to face trial.
Asad Mansoor, the spokesman for Ahrar-ul-Hind, told Dawn that the group carried out the suicide assault and that it would continue to conduct attacks until sharia, or Islamic law, is imposed throughout Pakistan. Shahidullah Shahid, the spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, said his group was not responsible for the attack, The News reported.
Ahrar-ul-Hind, which was formed by elements of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and "other jihadi organizations," sent emails to The Long War Journal on Feb. 9 announcing its formation and vowing it would not participate in peace talks or adhere to a ceasefire unless sharia is imposed in Pakistan. Ahrar-ul-Hind said it is entrenched in Pakistan's major cities and would conduct attacks there. It also said fighters in the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan are still "our brothers," despite its separation from the larger group.
Also today, jihadists killed two Frontier Corps troops and wounded seven more in an IED attack in the tribal agency of Khyber. No group has claimed credit for the IED attack. The Taliban and a host of jihadist groups are based in the tribal agency.
Today's suicide assault in Islamabad and the IED attack in Khyber occurred after the Taliban and the government agreed over the weekend to cease hostilities in order to continue peace talks. On Saturday, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan's spokesman announced a month-long ceasefire. And on Sunday, the government said it would end its airstrikes in northwestern Pakistan. Negotiations between the government and the Taliban are being brokered by radical Pakistani clerics, including one who supports jihad and led an insurrection in Islamabad in 2007.
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Eleven Pakistani were killed and 25 others injured in a suicide attack at a district court in Islamabad’s sector F-8 by TTP terrorists ,while another blast took place near a Frontier Corps vehicle in Landikotal, Khyber Agency killing two FC personnel, Just a Day after the Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan Declared a ceasefire for a Month’s Time.
Apparently the Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan has disassociated themselves , from both the Incidents , but as it is quite evident from the Nature of Attacks , in which One is a Suicide Attack in the premises of the Islamabad District Court , while the other is a IED Blast on FC Personnel in KPK area , where except the Taliban or their allies , there are No such enemies , who can perform such acts of terrorism.
As Earlier Hours after the attack By the TTP terrorist on the convoy, carrying a polio vaccination team and security forces on Saturday in which 12 people were killed, the military said.
The Taliban said they would observe a one-month ceasefire to revive peace talks that failed last month. It also called on their allied Terrorist Groups to observe the ceasefire. A government negotiator told Reuters they were open to restarting peace talks as long as the Taliban and its affiliates honored the ceasefire.
The Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan an alliance of terrorist groups, says its target & Mission is to overthrow the Government of Pakistan and to Kill the Armed Forces of Pakistan who are the defenders of Pakistan as they call them the allies of Infidels and replace it with a state ruled by themselves under their Version of law which they call Islamic , But which is widely condemned, and declared Un Islamic by the Majority of Muslim Scholars, across the World.
As their Sponsors are the Saudi Monarchy and the Gulf Sheikhdoms , who want to acquire the Nuclear technology , which is Hard earned By Pakistan , and at the same time the Gulf Sheikdoms are of the view that the Prosperity and the Progress of Pakistan is not in their favour ,as if only even Gwadar Port of Pakistan gets the Center of attraction , then their Ports and Barren Deserts could not prosper. And to defend this Point of view they are funding Heavily the enemies of Pakistan , the Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan and their allies , to Keep destabilizing and creating chaos in Pakistan, And to Hamper its Progress , to keep it to its Knees and so it Keep begging them financial assistance to run the affairs of the state. While which is now not even given in any substantial size , as the last time Pakistan asked the Saudi Arabia to allow to give its Oil supplies on 90Days Deffered terms , which was even not accepted and was refused.
PML – N Nawaz Sharif’s Government which has been installed with the Blessing of Saudi Monarchy , as they feel that he is their loyal ,who has even once saved him from the gallows of death, so in order to Pursue his Loyalty as now this is his Pay Back time , P.M Nawaz Shariff is going head over heels to accommodate the treasonous Taliban Terrorists , who are the Killers of atleast 50,000 Patriot Pakistanis , which include the Brutal Killings of the Armed forces of Pakistan.
But as with the Changed New top Army Brass , who itself is from the family of Martyrs , Have taken a serious Notice of the Critical Situation , and have responded the terrorist in their Own Language and have started , Surgical Air Strikes , which has caused some losses to these terrorist Networks , so now they are trying to take some Time Out , so in the mean time , they can re organize and Re Plan their strategy to Hit Back ,with more Power , to create more Disaster , as the History it self is an evidence of such tactics of these Taliban Terrorists , whether it was Swat Peace Accord or any other Previous Peace Accord with them.
As the Patriot Pakistani Think Tanks have suggested that the Only way to deal with these terrorist groups , is and all out operation against them across Pakistan ,in order to crush them upto a level where , they should come to their knees , with their arms surrendered to the Patriot Armed force of Pakistan , and at the same time identify the locations of their allied Foreigners and their Hide outs ,so they should also be brought out of their Rat Holes , so they can also be deported back to their Homelands , so the Justice should also be done with them.
And our Sacred Homeland should be cleansed of the terrorism and the terrorist at the same time , and we can Once again start our Journey to become the Greatest Economic and Defence Power of the World.

China captures train station attack suspects

Government says a "terrorist gang" of six men and two women was responsible for Saturday's attack that killed 29 people.
Chinese police have captured three suspects for a knife-wielding railway station attack that killed 29 people and wounded 143, authorities told state media. "Three suspects involved in the terrorist attack in the southwestern city of Kunming had been captured," the official news agency Xinhua said on Monday, citing the ministry of public security. Altogether eight members of a "terrorist gang" carried out the stabbing spree late on Saturday, Xinhua said. Four more of the group were shot dead by police and a wounded woman was captured at the scene, it continued, naming their leader as Abdurehim Kurban. China has blamed separatists from its restive far-western region of Xinjiang, home to the mainly Muslim Uighur minority, for what it describes as an "act of terror", with state media dubbing the incident "China's 9/11". The incident that happened at around 9 pm local time (1:00pm GMT) late Saturday night at Kunming Railway Station in Yunnan province "was an organised, premeditated violent terrorist attack", Xinhua earlier reported, citing authorities. Defiant Kunming residents queued to donate blood on Monday while others vented their anger. Many Chinese Internet users accused the United States of double standards on social media, after Washington condemned the bloody rampage by attackers but refrained from calling it a terrorist incident. Top official in Kunming Meng Jianzhu, China's top security official, has arrived in Kunming early on Monday to oversee the handling of the incident, while President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang sent condolences to the victims and their families. Meng visited the injured and their families and then went to the Kunming Railway Station to investigate the scene. China has seen a number of mass stabbings and other attacks in recent times carried out by people bearing grudges against society. Beijing government has blamed similar incidents in the past on fighters operating in Xinjiang. Such attacks have generally been limited to Xinjiang itself. The attack comes at a sensitive time as China gears up for the annual meeting of parliament, which opens in Beijing on Wednesday and is normally accompanied by a tightening of security across the country.

Oscar: '12 Years a Slave' named best picture

The searing drama "12 Years a Slave" was named best picture at the 86th Academy Awards on Sunday night. The story of Solomon Northup, a free African-American man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery, won just three awards, but they were all major: best picture, best supporting actress (Lupita Nyong'o) and best adapted screenplay (John Ridley). Brad Pitt, one of the film's producers, accepted on behalf of the film before deferring to its director, a noticeably excited -- and tongue-tied -- Steve McQueen. "Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live. This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup," McQueen said. He added, "This is for all the people who have endured slavery, and the 21 million people who still endure slavery today."
Nyong'o, a newcomer, paid tribute to her character, Patsey, a slave in 1840s Louisiana. Her voice cracked as she spoke. "It doesn't escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is because of so much pain in someone else's," she said. The force of 'Gravity' "Gravity" topped all films with seven Oscars, including an award for director Alfonso Cuaron. The Mexican director devoted four years of his life to making the technically challenging film about a space mission gone wrong. He's the first Latin American to win the award. "Gravity's" other Oscars are for original score, visual effects, sound mixing and sound editing, cinematography and film editing. "Dallas Buyers Club" won three awards, including two in acting categories: best actor for Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto for best supporting actor. The film also won for makeup and hairstyling. As expected, Cate Blanchett won best actress for her turn as a modern-day Blanche DuBois in the Woody Allen film "Blue Jasmine." Blanchett praised films with female protagonists. Female-centric movies are "not niche -- they make money!" she exclaimed to an ovation. "Let It Go," from the animated film "Frozen," won best song. Robert Lopez, one of its songwriters, became an EGOT with his Oscar win: He now has an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. "Frozen" also for won best animated feature. One of the evening's highlights was Darlene Love, one of the singers featured in documentary winner "20 Feet From Stardom." Love launched into an impromptu version of "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" upon the film's win, and her full-throated take brought down the house. "The Great Gatsby" won two Oscars, for production design and costume design. Italy's "The Great Beauty" took home the Oscar for foreign-language film. "American Hustle," which had tied "Gravity" for the most Oscar nominations (10), was completely shut out at the awards ceremony.
Ellen sets a record
Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres managed to set a social media record with a celebrity-filled selfie that was retweeted more times than any photograph in Twitter history. She went into the audience and gathered a number of stars -- including Meryl Streep, Kevin Spacey and Bradley Cooper, who shot the image -- and encouraged people to send it around the world. She had a pretty good head start, given that she has more than 25 million followers on Twitter. DeGeneres was generally loose and low-key throughout the broadcast, inspiring smiles more than laughs. In her opening monologue, she cracked the usual jokes about Hollywood and image. Later, she went into the audience to ask if anyone wanted a pizza -- and even borrowed Pharrell's famous hat to collect a few bucks for payment. There were also some somber moments. The "In Memoriam" segment, which has received scrutiny in recent years after certain omissions, included notables who recently died -- among them Sid Caesar, Harold Ramis and Shirley Temple Black -- and concluded with Philip Seymour Hoffman. And when he took the stage to present the award for best cinematography, Bill Murray worked in a shout-out for his old "Ghostbusters" and "Groundhog Day" friend Ramis. Blues in the night On the red carpet, blue was the color of choice for many stars. Nyong'o was dressed in a striking sky-blue Prada gown. Liza Minnelli and best actress nominee Amy Adams ("American Hustle") also were in shades of blue. Jennifer Lawrence was an exception: She was in a striking red dress. But for "12 Years" actress Alfre Woodard, very little of the glitter mattered. Asked by CNN's Piers Morgan what she was wearing, Woodard laughingly turned the question back toward the work that got all the nominees to the red carpet in the first place.
"I hope I'm wearing my talent tonight," she said.

Massive storm system takes aim at winter-weary U.S. East Coast

A massive winter storm system packing cold air, snow and freezing rain was bearing down on the U.S. East Coast, causing federal and local offices in Washington to close on Monday after it pummeled the central United States over the weekend.
The National Weather Service predicted the storm will bring up to 9 inches of snow to the Washington area. Votes scheduled for Monday in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate were postponed, and District of Columbia Public Schools have canceled classes.
The storm "is going to be a real mess," said Bruce Sullivan, a senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Silver Spring, Maryland.
"The main system is injecting a lot of moisture and cold air out over the Southern Plains," he said. "It's going to bring quite a bit of precipitation." Rainfall and snow associated with the system stretched over 1,500 miles, from southeastern Colorado to southern Massachusetts, meteorologists said. About 2,000 flights were canceled and 5,600 were delayed as of early evening on Sunday due to the storm, according to the airline tracking site "Ripple-effect flight delays and cancellations are likely to reach nationwide," said AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.
Boston and New York City should see only light snowfall, but lingering freezing rain could complicate Monday morning's rush hour for commuters. By Sunday afternoon, up to nine inches of snow had already fallen on parts of Indiana. More than 40,000 homes in northeast Ohio were without power due to downed transmission lines, according to Chad Self, a spokesman for utility provider First Energy. Most customers should have power restored by late Monday, the utility said. Margie Gibson, 60, of Perry, 40 miles northeast of Cleveland, said the storm disrupted power at her home. "The power keeps popping on and off every half-hour. It goes off and comes right back on," she said. Central Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky were also at risk for heavy ice conditions and power outages, according to AccuWeather. Though temperatures will not be as frigid as during some other storm systems this winter, when the so-called polar vortex pushed Arctic air across large swaths of the county, the cold air will blanket areas as far south as Texas and North Carolina. Temperatures in Lubbock, Texas, in the northwestern part of the state, were around 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 Celsius) on Saturday but by Sunday morning were a bone-chilling 18 degrees (minus 8 degrees Celsius), Sullivan of the National Weather Service said. Amanda Dyer watched a vehicle slide off the road as she dropped her husband off at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on Sunday.
"There was slush kicking up from the cars and the road," she said. "When we got home our car doors were frozen shut."
Forecasters urged motorists to use caution because slick roads and fast-moving bands of snow could cause traffic accidents. In southwest Missouri, slick conditions were blamed in the death early Sunday of a 13-year-old girl when the driver of the Ford Explorer she was riding in went off the highway and overturned. The Missouri State Highway Patrol reported two adults and another child in the vehicle suffered serious injuries, and nobody in the car was wearing a seatbelt. On Saturday in Colorado, a heavy midday dump of snow led to a 104-vehicle pileup in Denver. One woman was killed and 30 people were hospitalized, police and local media said.

China: Terrorists must be punished

At 9:20 p.m. on March 1 2014, a group of more than 10 terrorists attacked innocent civilians in the square and ticket hall of Kunming Railway Station. By March 2,2014, 29 victims were confirmed dead and more than 130 others injured. Kunming's government said the evidence at the scene indicated that the attack was orchestrated by separatists from Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. The separatists formed a very well organized group. They chose to launch the attack in the crowded station before the upcoming annual sessions of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, with the aim of sensationalizing the attack, damaging China’s image, and destabilizing China. Such terrorist attacks against civilians are an affront to human rights, and challenge the authority of the legal system, human civilization, and social order. Such attacks also offer a warning to China of how complex and severe is the challenge of fighting terrorism. The religious extremism spread by the Xinjiang separatists poisons the minds of the minorities of Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. No country can tolerate terrorist attacks. History will present its own verdict on the separatists from Xinjiang Uygur and the crimes they have committed. The whole of China has responded to the attack with a greater sense of unity. In every form of social media - QQ groups, Weibo and other channels - people have spoken out to denounce the terrorist attack and offer their prayers for the victims. The attack in Kunming will never diminish the resolve of the people of China to safeguard national stability and promote social development. The Chinese government will take firm action to root out terrorist organizations and put a stop to their activities, and create a stable, prosperous and harmonious society for its people.

Commentary: West should work with, not against, Russia in handling Ukraine crisis

As the West reacted with alarm to Russia's latest approval of military action in Ukraine, tensions might further escalate. Based on the fact that Russia and Ukraine have deep cultural, historical and economic connections, it is time for Western powers to abandon their Cold War thinking, stop trying to exclude Russia from the political crisis they failed to mediate, and respect Russia's unique role in mapping out the future of Ukraine. Protests in Ukraine started on Nov. 21, 2013, with peaceful demonstrations demanding the country's European integration, but soon snowballed into a violent movement against authorities. Crimea, an autonomous republic within Ukraine, currently has become the center of the crisis in Ukraine. Crimea is a multiethnic region enjoying autonomy after Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union in August 1991. According to the 2001 Ukrainian Census, 58.3 percent of the Crimean population are ethnic Russians and most of them hold Russian passports. Russia also maintained its only Black Sea naval base in the port of Sevastopol, Crimea. The Russian parliament on Saturday authorized President Vladimir Putin to use military force to protect Russian interests. Russia has reportedly increased movement of troops and equipment into Crimea. It is quite understandable when Putin said his country retained the right to protect its interests and Russian-speakers living in Ukraine. Over the decades, Ukraine's population was divided along language barriers with much of western Ukraine advocating closer ties with the European Union (EU) while eastern and southern regions looking to Russia. Although the EU has made efforts to broker a peace deal between Yanukovych and the opposition in order to solve the crisis, the situation in Ukraine rapidly worsened. Right now, the West should show more appreciation for what Russia can do to solve the crisis in Ukraine. Given Russia's historical and cultural influence in the country, the Kremlin is the piece that cannot be missing in this political puzzle. The West should also be honest with the fact that their biased mediation has polarized Ukraine and only made things worse in the country. Ukraine now appears headed for an economic depression that can hardly be cured by its Western neighbors, as the EU itself is also struggling economically. Looking to the future, Russia's economic cooperation and assistance are vital for Ukraine to solve its various problems. Right now, the Ukrainians have to figure out what is best for their own country and solve the problems through political dialogue and negotiations. At the same time, the United States and European countries must work with, not against, Russia to tackle the Ukraine crisis.

China: Kunming attack shows terrorists now hitting softer targets

An appalling slaughter struck Kunming, the capital of Southwest China's Yunnan Province, on Saturday, turning it overnight from a tranquil spring city to a site of horror gripping the world's attention.
This inhumane attack has been identified to be orchestrated by separatist forces from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The terrorists of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement previously carried out violent attacks in Xinjiang and then Beijing. It was actually unanticipated that terror would strike serene Kunming.
The terrorists targeted this peaceful city mainly because Urumqi and Beijing have made full preparation for terrorist attacks, particularly before the "two sessions" this year. It is difficult for terrorist groups to launch attacks in areas with stern security measures.
Kunming has certain advantages to terrorists. Located close to Southeast Asia and boasting dozens of ethnic groups and a diversified cultural background, Kunming offers mobility throughout the vast and complex cross-border terrain, making it convenient for terrorists to hide and flee.
Armed gangs from Xinjiang have been trafficking drugs in the cross-border region for many years, and they probably collude with and offer assistance to separatist forces.
Western media downplayed the deadly attack while hyping ethnic hatred in China.
The New York Times stated in an article: "Many Uyghurs resent the government's controls on their religious life and say the growing presence of Han people in Xinjiang has deprived them of jobs, land and opportunities…The Chinese government's own repressive policies have seeded the violence." Other major outlets including Forbes and CNN published similar comments.
Such an attitude demonstrates that the West still applies a double standard to combating the simmering challenge of terrorism. They strongly condemn terrorist attacks that happen at their door, but show sympathy to terrorists killing people brutally in China.
Attempting to contain a rising China that they deem is gradually threatening their international status, the West continues providing financing to separatists. China is confronted with a daunting challenge in eliminating terrorism and guaranteeing public security. The Kunming attack serves as a sober reminder that anti-terror efforts should be exerted across the whole country by increasing public awareness and education, exploring and sharing terror-related intelligence, and promoting collaboration with the international community.

Pakistan: Taliban made a fool out of Govt, says Khursheed Shah
Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah said that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) made a fool out of the federal government by announcing a fake ceasefire to enter Islamabad. Speaking to media on Monday, Khursheed Shah said that Taliban killed innocent people when it attacked the Sessions Court in Islamabad today. He added that the opposition parties in the Parliament fully condemn the incident. At least 13 people, including a judge, were killed when several terrorists attacked a district court in Islamabad earlier today. He further stated that the time for peace talks has passed and a full scale military offensive should be carried out against the terrorists in the country. It should be noted that Khursheed Shah had called Taliban’s cease-fire as a part of their strategy.

Initial report disclosed regarding Islamabad District Court incident

Two suicide blasts and firing incident in Islamabad District Court killed 12 and injured at least 30 people today on Monday. The witnesses of the incident disclosed some information on the screen regarding which the report was completed. According to a witness Tariq Aziz Advocate, at least 12 people covered in loose gowns stepped out of a land cruiser and violently started to fire on everybody. They headed towards the canteen area and started to kill everyone without ceasing off for a minute at least. According to Chaudary Khawar Hanif Advocate, the attackers entered into the canteen area where judges and several advocates were having breakfast. The attackers did not suspected any particular person but they started to fire on everyone.

Islamabad court suicide attack strikes rare terrorism blow in Pakistani capital

At least 11 people were killed and 24 wounded on Monday in a gun and suicide bomb attack at a court complex in the heavily-guarded Pakistani capital Islamabad, police said.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack, which came two days after the Pakistan Taliban announced a month-long ceasefire aimed at restarting stalled peace talks with the government.
Attacks within the capital have been very rare in recent years.
Islamabad police chief Sikandar Hayat told reporters firing broke out, followed by two suicide blasts. “All the [other] attackers fled, though one sustained injuries in the leg and back,” he said. An AFP reporter at the scene saw blood and human remains in the court complex.
The death toll was confirmed by other police officials and the spokeswoman for the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, Ayesha Isani. Isani said 20 wounded had been brought to the institute, half of them in critical condition. The dead included a sessions judge, police said. Roads around the court, in a prosperous residential sector of the city popular with foreign residents, were sealed off as police and paramilitary forces carried out a search.
Lawyer Murad Ali Shah described the dramatic moment the carnage began.
“At 9am around 15 armed men surrounded the court compound. They entered the chamber and started firing,” he told AFP, adding that he had helped recover several bodies. “The attackers were armed with Kalashnikovs and hand grenades. They were wearing shalwar kameez and had long beards and long hair.”
On Sunday the Pakistani government announced it was halting air strikes against suspected Taliban hideouts in the country’s restive tribal areas along the Afghan border in response to the militants’ ceasefire. The government began peace talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) last month but the dialogue broke down after militants killed 23 kidnapped soldiers. The military responded with a series of air strikes in the northwestern tribal areas that left more than 100 insurgents dead, according to security officials.
Despite near-daily attacks by the militants and air strikes by the armed forces, Pakistan’s negotiators have insisted that the door for talks is still open.
The Taliban’s ceasefire announcement on Saturday was met with scepticism by analysts, who said it may have been a tactic to allow them to regroup after they had suffered heavy losses in air strikes.
The government has struck peace agreements with the Pakistani Taliban several times in the past but they have failed to yield lasting results.

Asif Ali Zardari condemns Islamabad terror attack
Former President Asif Ali Zardari strongly condemned terror attack on Monday morning in Islamabad Kachehri reportedly killing 11 people including an additional session judge and several lawyers and injuring over two dozen citizens. In a statement Former President said this brutal and barbaric attack on innocent citizens shows the distorted mindset of terrorists who want to disrupt and destroy daily life routine in Pakistan and impose their political and religious philosophy on Pakistani nation by use of force. He said that Pakistani nation’s resolve to fight these beasts to the finish will not be weakened by such vicious attacks. Former president prayed to Almighty Allah for grant of eternal peace to the departed souls and courage to the bereaved families to bear loss of their loved ones with equanimity. He also prayed for early recovery of injured.

Pakistan's Dasu Dam: Kabul wants its reservations addressed

Afghanistan has decided on approaching the World Bank (WB) regarding Kabul’s reservations over the construction of Dasu Dam on the Indus River in Pakistan’s Kohistan region, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said a day earlier. The National Security Council (NSC), which met under President Hamid Karzai chairmanship on Saturday, directed the Ministry of Finance and Foreign Affairs to come up with measures to ensure Afghanistan’s interests were protected in the wake of Pakistan planned construction of Dasu Dam in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The construction of $7 billion Dasu hydropower project on the Indus River is expected to start this year and will be completed in two stages and four phases by 2037 with total capacity of 4,320 megawatts, according to a project report prepared by Pakistan’s Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) and published by the World Bank. Islamabad had forwarded its plan to the WB about the dam’s construction, prompting the WB to seek Afghanistan’s stance on the matter. The Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked international donors not to issue funds for the project until Afghanistan’s reservations were addressed.

Interview: Karzai says 12-year Afghanistan war has left him angry at U.S. government

By Kevin Sieff
Hamid Karzai was in the midst of negotiating a security agreement with the United States when he met a 4-year-old girl who had lost half her face in an American airstrike. Five months later, the Afghan president’s eyes welled with tears as he described visiting the disfigured little girl at a hospital. He took long pauses between words. Sitting behind his desk Saturday night, the man who has projected a defiant image toward the West suddenly looked frail.
“That day, I wished she were dead, so she could be buried with her parents and brothers and sisters” — 14 of whom had been killed in the attack — he said.
In an unusually emotional interview, the departing Afghan president sought to explain why he has been such a harsh critic of the 12-year-old U.S. war effort here. He said he’s deeply troubled by all the casualties he has seen, including those in U.S. military operations. He feels betrayed by what he calls an insufficient U.S. focus on targeting Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan. And he insists that public criticism was the only way to guarantee an American response to his concerns.
To Karzai, the war was not waged with his country’s interests in mind.
“Afghans died in a war that’s not ours,’ he said in the interview, his first in two years with a U.S. newspaper.
In Karzai’s mind, al-Qaeda is “more a myth than a reality” and the majority of the United States’ prisoners here were innocent. He’s certain that the war was “for the U.S. security and for the Western interest.” Such statements elicit scorn and shock from U.S. officials, who point out that Americans have sacrificed mightily for Afghanistan — losing more than 2,000 lives and spending more than $600 billion in the effort to defeat al-Qaeda and the Taliban and rebuild the country. Some Americans call Karzai a delusional leader, an ally who became an adversary during the 12 years of his presidency.
Row over security deal
In the latest blowup, he has refused for months to sign a security agreement that his government had negotiated with the United States that would permit a residual U.S. force to remain here beyond 2014. He has added several new demands in exchange for signing the deal.
But in a phone call with Karzai last week, President Obama said he will accept having the winner of Afghanistan’s April presidential elections sign the pact. Karzai indicated that he views that as a best-case scenario. He won’t have to submit to U.S. demands — such as the continuation of counter­terrorism operations — but the popular security agreement will probably still be finalized.
“It’s good for them to sign it with my successor,” the Afghan leader said.
On the security agreement, as with several other issues, Karzai’s antagonistic approach seems to have succeeded, in the sense that he has forced U.S. officials to move deadlines — and even to reshape policy. His strong criticism of the civilian casualties caused by American attacks, for example, forced the U.S. military to revise its tactics, producing a dramatic decline in the number of noncombatants killed by American forces (although Taliban-inflicted casualties have increased).
His demands that the United States hand over the Bagram prison were eventually met, allowing Karzai last month to release dozens of high-profile detainees despite U.S. protests. Those experiences reaffirmed his conviction that public criticism of the United States is often his most effective diplomatic tool.
“I had no other weapon to resort to, no other means to resort to, but to speak publicly and get attention that way. In other words, I was forced to yell,” he said.
‘Time for me to move on’
Karzai reiterated that he will not manipulate the April 5 presidential election. He has told his older brother to withdraw his candidacy to avoid the perception of interference. Qayum Karzai has refused, but he acknowledges what most Afghans believe:
“Without the president’s support, it will be impossible to win,” Qayum said.
Every day, candidates and elders plead for Hamid Karzai’s backing, pouring into his office and calling his aides as the election nears. Although his influence on the U.S. war effort is waning, he has never been more relevant, or at least more talked about, in Afghan political circles.
“People do come to me, a lot of people, every day rather. Groups of people, individuals — they ask me” for support, Karzai said.
Some of them ask him to remain in office, he said, but he dismisses the idea. “I’ve done enough; it’s time for me to move on,” Karzai said.
Now that he has decided to leave office, he is reckoning with the same question that many Americans are asking: Was the war worth it?
“I am of two hearts here. When I see good, I am in approval. When I see the losses of Afghan people, our children, maimed and killed, I’m in disapproval,” he said, speaking in English. “Maybe I can give you an answer of yes or no two, three or five years from now, when my emotions have subsided. Right now, I’m full of emotions.’’
Karzai is at his most emotional — and most hostile — when civilian casualties occur. Even his critics don’t doubt the sincerity of his feelings, although they might disagree with his conclusions. He said Afghanistan’s “common cause” with the United States dissipated because of such casualties. He has also said that U.S. forces should have done more to target Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan, rather than conduct operations in Afghan villages.
Karzai denied that he’s more vocal about U.S.-inflicted civilian casualties than those caused by the Taliban. But he has done little to dispel that characterization.
During a visit to the White House in 2010, he carried a photo of what he described as a family whose members were “just gazing with fright and fear” during a U.S.-led night operation. He showed it to Obama. “I said, ‘President, this is what I’m trying to end, the intimidation of Afghan families at night, in the name of fighting the Taliban.’ ”
Asked about Obama’s response, Karzai shrugged, indicating it was unsatisfactory. Then he said: “So we are really an angry people.”
Leaner budget in future
One criticism of Karzai is that his anger has interfered with his ability to govern a country whose institutions have grown exponentially since he took office. Thanks primarily to the U.S. effort, Afghanistan now has a large security force and bureaucracy. As U.S. funding tapers off, Karzai’s successor will have to keep those institutions alive on a much slimmer budget.
“Foreign assistance brought an expensive way of life to Afghanistan,” Karzai said. “This way of life is not sustainable. Afghanistan has to live by its means.”
Specifically, that means a smaller army built based on “efficiency and affordability,” Karzai said. But without foreign funding, it’s unclear whether Afghanistan could afford an army that could keep the Taliban at bay. Maintaining Afghan forces at their current size will cost about $4 billion per year. In 2013, the Afghan government collected only $1.7 billion in revenue. After leaving office, Karzai won’t go far: The government has built him a house a few miles from the presidential palace.
But before he steps down, Karzai has a few more messages to convey to his American partners. As he escorted two Washington Post journalists out of his office Saturday evening, he said: “To the American people, give them my best wishes and my gratitude. To the U.S. government, give them my anger, my extreme anger.’’

اسلام آباد-ڈسٹرکٹ کیچری میں خود کش بم دھماکوں کا ایڈشنل سیشن جج نشانہ کیوں بنے؟

اسلام آباد-ڈسٹرکٹ کیچری میں خود کش بم دھماکوں کا ایڈشنل سیشن جج نشانہ کیوں بنے؟ اسلام آباد-اسلام آباد میں ڈسٹرکٹ کیچری میں صبح آٹھ بجے کلاشنکوفوں ،دستی بموں سے لیس پانچ سے تکفیری دیوبندی دھشت گردوں نے حملہ کردیا اور خود کش بم دھماکوں کے زریعے دو دھشت گردوں نے خود کو اڑایا جبکہ باقی حملوں آوروں کی فائرنگ سے ایک نوجوان خاتون وکیل سمیت تیرہ افراد جاں بحق ہوگئے، وقوعے کے عینی شاہدین کے مطابق حملہ آور دھشت گردوں نے ایڈیشنل سیشن جج رفاقت اعوان کی عدالت پر ہلہ بولا اوراندھا دھند فائڑنگ شروع کردی جس کی زد میں درجنوں لوگ آئے اور اس کے بعد ایک حملہ آور نے ایڈیشنل ڈسٹرکٹ اینڈ سیشن جج رفاقت اعوان کی عدالت کے سامنے خود کو اڈا دیا جس کی وجہ سے رفاقت اعوان بھی ہلاک ہوگئے یاد رہے کہ ایڈشنل سیشن جج رفاقت اعوان کی عدالت میں لال مسجد کے دیوبندی تکفیری دھشت گرد غازی عبدالرشید کے بیٹے اور مولوی عبدالعزیز کے بھتیجے ہارون رشید نے مشرف کے خلاف ایک ایف آئی آر کے اندراج کا آڈر لینے کے لیے درخواست دائر کی تھی جسے انھوں نے رد کردیا تھا اور اپنے حکم میں یہ لکھا تھا کہ “یہ سستی شہرت حاصل کرنے کی کوشش ہے” ایڈیشنل سیشن جج رفاقت اعوان کو اس کے بعد سے دھمکیاں موصول ہورہی تھیں،یہ بھی معلوم ہوا ہے کہ غازی ہارون رشید ،مولوی عبدالعزیز کے تحریک طالبان پنجاب جنودالحفصہ اور اہل سنت والجماعت جیسی دیوبندی دھشت گردوں سے بہت قریبی تعلقات ہیں کچھ حلقوں کا خیال ہے کہ ایڈشنل سیشن جج رفاقت اعوان کا قتل بھی مشرف کے خلاف غازی ہارون رشید کی ررخواست ضمانت رد کرنے اور اس کو سستی شہرت کی خواہش لکھنے کا نتیجہ ہوسکتا ہے - See more at:

PAKISTAN: Eleven including two judges killed in gun, suicide attacks on Islamabad court

Pakistan Today
At least 11 people, including two additional sessions judges were killed on Monday when unidentified assailants opened fire and then blew themselves in a court in the capital city’s F-8 area. “There was firing by two to three people followed by two suicide blasts which killed 11 people and wounded 25 others,” Islamabad police chief Sikandar Hayat told reporters. “All the attackers fled though one sustained injuries in the leg and back.” Twenty-five people were reportedly injured in the attack. Moreover, lawyers fled from their chambers seeking shelter from bullets as fear and panic gripped the premises. According to police, two blasts took place inside the court’s premises, one near the chambers of a judge and the other outside another office. Officers at the scene told AFP the incident began when a defendant was brought before the court and his associates tried to break him free. Another senior-ranking police official said the incident could be a terror attack but nothing could be said with certainty as yet. The hearings of cases scheduled for the day were postponed. Subsequently, police and special forces were deployed in the court and emergency was declared in hospitals. Policemen collect evidence from the site of a bomb attack at the district court. The death toll was confirmed by other police officials and the spokeswoman for the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) Ayesha Isani. Roads around the court, located in a well-heeled residential sector of the city popular with foreign residents, were sealed off as police and paramilitary forces carried out a search operation. The dead include Session court judge Rafaqat Awan and a female lawyer Fiza.

As exodus from N Waziristan continues, WHO declares eight districts vulnerable to polio

Eight districts, including Rawalpindi, Islamabad and DI Khan, have been specified as vulnerable to the poliovirus by a recent World Health Organization (WHO) report report.
With increasing military airstrikes against suspected militant hideouts and expectations of a possible operation, the WHO report warned the migration of tribal people may result in the spread of polio to other parts of the country. The report stated children of the tribal areas have been deprived of the polio vaccine for various reasons, including the ban, apprehensions of certain groups against the vaccine and targeted killings of polio workers. So far this year, 24 cases of polio have been reported in the country of which 21 are from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and three from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). Of the 21 from the tribal areas, 19 are from North Waziristan. More than 250,000 children from North and South Waziristan agencies and parts of Frontier Region (FR) Bannu have been denied polio vaccinations since June 2012 due to a ban by the Taliban.
On June 26, 2012, militant groups in Fata warned health workers not to take part in polio vaccination campaigns. They distributed pamphlets stating polio and other foreign-funded vaccination drives in the tribal areas would not be allowed. Not a single health worker has entered North Waziristan and some areas of South Waziristan and FR Bannu for almost two years after the ban put in place by the Taliban.
A FATA Secretariat document available with The Express Tribune confirmed around 254,782 children in the above-mentioned areas have not been vaccinated since June 2012. The document further revealed the campaign in Mohmand Agency has been postponed till March 7 due to non-payment of frontline polio workers. An official of the Fata Expanded Programme on Immunization shared that during the recent polio campaign they administered polio drops to 712,985 children in Fata except in North Waziristan and some parts of South Waziristan and FR Bannu. He admitted since the last two years no campaign has been carried out in North Waziristan due to a ban imposed by militants and thousands of children have been denied the crucial drops. Around 800 refusal cases were reported from Fata during a recent polio vaccination drive, he added.
The focal person for Chief Minister’s Polio Monitoring Cell, Dr Imtiyaz Khan, told The Express Tribune they have made union council-level committees which are to identify those people fleeing North Waziristan.
Imtiyaz shared they have carried out extra polio campaigns in Bannu and Lakki Marwat districts. About the recently displaced children from North Waziristan, he said when the government declares the people internally displaced and the Provincial Disaster Management Authority registers them, they will be easily identified and then immunised.
Talking to The Express Tribune, K-P Minister for Health Shaukat Yousafzai said he has directed officials to identify locations of people migrating from North Waziristan and vaccinate them.

Pakistan: Dancing to TTP’s tunes

The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) holds the centre stage, changing directions of the game every now and then. In short, it is TTP’s sweet will that is holding the sway.
When it decides to hit and kill us, we bow our heads and get killed. When it decides to talk and kill us as well, we oblige: we fly our helicopter to North Waziristan to facilitate its emissaries to meet their bosses and at the same time we keep collecting corpses from Peshawar to Karachi.
And now when the state’s fighter jets and helicopters have conducted surgical air strikes targeting TTP’s sanctuaries, the terrorists announced ceasefire and we feel happy to oblige and live peacefully with them for the next one month. Think the one month period in terms of the possibility: no bomb blasts and IED attacks. This has not happened for the past so many years. So we should be happy!
What is more interesting is the fact that the day TTP was about to make the ceasefire public in the evening, its operatives attacked polio vaccinators in Khyber Agency in the morning.
If the TTP bosses were giving serious thoughts to the idea of giving peace a chance, they should have postponed the Saturday morning attack in Khyber Agency.
But who cares? Ceasefire is the buzzword. The other catchphrase these days is ‘on the same page’.
Earlier, doubts were being spewed whether the civil administration and the military leaders were on the same page or not. Now, at least, the TTP bosses are on the same page with the government. We should feel happy. We are moving to the next page! How many pages of this untitled book written with the blood of thousands of civilians and soldiers are left? No one knows. What is more interesting is the fact that we are hurling praises on TTP for its commanders’ kindness to bestow us with a month long ceasefire. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Information Shah Farman was all in praise for the outlawed TTP for the generosity it showed.
He wants the federal government to reciprocate the terrorists’ seriousness by holding serious and sincere talks. It seems he does not know that, on its part, the federal government is not likely to disappoint him. But what would happen to the families of the 55,000 civilians and thousands of soldiers killed at the hands of TTP? This argument seems to be a spoiler. It would surely be portrayed by the PTI leadership and its cyber brigade as ‘negativity’ and an attempt to sabotage the prospects of peace. But, this forms a legitimate concern for the families, who suffered human losses and have every right to see TTP acted against by the military and the judiciary. Do we think we have paid them ample amount of money in compensation sufficient to shut their mouths and do not look down on us for playing ceasefire and peace with TTP’s murderers? Our memory is deficient and objectives suffer from short sightedness.
We have forgotten that TTP killed 55,000 innocent Pakistanis and thousands of our soldiers.
We have also forgotten that TTP caused us $80 billion losses. It made us hostages in our own cities and towns by unleashing a campaign of fear and mayhem. It destroyed our children’s schools to keep us living with ignorance and illiteracy.
It bombed our mosques to deny us our right to pray and preach. It deepened the sectarian divide in the country by targeting and killing people belonging to the religious school of thoughts not of their liking. They denied us our playing fields and made us to host cricket teams from other countries at London, Sharjah, and Dubai.
They sent us chilling videos of their hooligans playing footballs with the heads of our slain soldiers. They targeted our military assets and caused us billions of losses in dollars, destroying our expensive military hardware.
After TTP made public the killing of FC men kidnapped in 2010, prime minister and his cabinet colleagues gave impression that the peace talks and terrorist attacks could not go hand in hand.
And now, we are being bombarded with TV reports that contacts between the negotiators of the two sides continued during the period when there was a general perception that talks had been stalled to take the fight to TTP’s bastion. Well, those drumbeating and hurling praises on TTP for announcing the ceasefire should not forget that there is an important but voiceless segment of the society that is unrepresented in the peace process.
These voiceless people happen to be the families, who lost their near and dear ones to TTP’s brutalities. We have no right to make deals with TTP at the cost of the victims’ families, denying them their right to seek justice and get their victims honoured by bringing those, who killed their sisters, mothers, fathers and children to the book.

Bilawal’s Tribute To Late PPP Minority Leader Shahbaz Bhatti

Co-chairman of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari paid glowing tribute to late PPP leader Shahbaz Bhatti today on his 3rd death anniversary.
Late Federal Minister For Minority Affairs was executed by Islamic extremists on March 2, 2011, near his residence in Islamabad. Bilwal said in a statement that the PPP had a history of giving sacrifices for the esteem and rights of the people of Pakistan without any racism or religious discrimination.
Shaheed Shahbaz Bhatti also laid down his life for a cause and he will always be remembered as a great son of Pakistan who fought for the nation’s unity and integrity so valiantly.”
Bilawal said the “PPP stands for the rights of the people of minority communities”, and confident them that his party’s will provide full support and protection against any injustice.
Further the young PPP leader condemned an attack on polio workers in Jamrud, which resulted in the loss of valuable human lives.
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Pakistan: TTP plays possum.... The government must not give them any slack

The very day the TTP spokesman announced ceasefire, 12 tribal policemen and a school boy were killed in two bomb explosions targeting a polio vaccination team in Jamrud tehsil of Khyber Agency. This was the deadliest attack so far against the security forces in Jamrud. The attack took place despite TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid’s assurance that all groups had been told to honour the ceasefire. The incident indicates that either the TTP is practising duplicity or it has no control over other terrorist groups operating from inside FATA. The network needs to explain why the attack on Levies team providing cover to the polio vaccinators was conducted after a declaration of ceasefire by the network. Enough lame excuses have been extended in the past to explain away horrible acts of terrorism. The ghastly killing of foreign trekkers at the base of Nangaparbat was said to be an act of revenge for the death of Taliban leader Waliur Rehman. The killings of policemen in Karachi and the execution of 23 FC personnel were also told to be acts of revenge. If the declaration is honest, the TTP would not resort to excuses of the type.
It would be naïve on the part of the politicians to take the TTP seriously after all that has happened in the past. A policy marked by flip flops can only encourage the terrorists. What is needed before giving a positive response to the announcement for ceasefire is to test the TTP’s sincerity. To inspire confidence in its promises the network needs to undertake confidence building measures, beginning with the release of kidnapped civilians like Shahbaz Taseer and Ali Haider Gilani. There is a widespread perception that the announcement of ceasefire for one month is aimed at setting the TTP’s house in order, activating its sleeper cells, re-deploying its operatives on ground and meanwhile getting the pressure on the network in various agencies particularly North Waziristan released.
What is needed is for the army to continue to respond immediately and effectively to any attack on civilians or the personnel of the law enforcement agencies anywhere in the country. The retaliatory action by gunship helicopters against the Khyber Agency headquarters of Mullah Tamanche, the man allegedly behind the attacks on polio teams, was therefore an appropriate step. The army should meanwhile make good its commitment to mop up the terrorists which according to the ISPR chief are presently ‘cornered’ in North Waziristan. While this is being done there should be no let up in the ongoing action against the terrorist groups in the four provinces and in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Pakistan: 'Ceasefire?'

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP’s) announcement of a one month ceasefire, ostensibly to give the stalled peace talks another chance, was punctuated by the attack on an anti-polio team in Khyber Agency that left 13 people dead and 11 injured. Most of the dead and injured were from the security detail accompanying the anti-polio team. This incident happened despite the TTP’s statement announcing the ceasefire ‘advising’ all its affiliates and sub-groups to respect the decision and not carry out any attacks. The episode highlights the problems underlying talking to the Taliban when it is far from certain just how much control the TTP exercises over its ‘franchisees’ and sub-groups. A recent example of this phenomenon was the beheading of 23 FC troops by a local group in Mohmand Agency, a horrible crime against helpless prisoners just when the nominated negotiation committees of both sides were engaging in probing the way forward. The massacre led to the suspension of the talks by the government, with the condition that it would not be restarted unless the TTP declared a ceasefire. Since that condition has been met, at least on paper, and the TTP has quietly dropped its earlier preconditions for talks of the army’s withdrawal from FATA and the release of (non-existent as it turned out) women and children prisoners, it would be logical to assume, and there are indications to this effect, that the resumption of the talks is now on the cards. However, this time there are demands from various quarters that the talks should be conducted directly between the government and the Taliban, rather than the rather cumbersome channel of the nominated committees of both sides. If this comes to pass, a question mark will arise over the future of these committees. What may ease the path of direct talks are the media reports that speak of certain ‘guarantees’ having been extended by the government to the TTP, which may include the safety and security of any negotiators the Taliban may choose to talk to the government. On its part, the TTP says the government must take the talks seriously and stay away from ‘mundane’ politics on the issue (whatever that means). Almost all the political parties have welcomed the TTP’s announcement of a ceasefire, with some expressing reservations too. While the other leaderships have concentrated on the ceasefire announcement, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s is the ‘lone’ voice of condemnation of the attack on the anti-polio team. It is as though the other parties chose to shut their eyes to the ‘bad news’ so as not to rock the still precarious boat of the impending breakthrough. Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the JUI-F wants another All Parties Conference, while Zahid Khan of the ANP, a party that has been in the crosshairs of the Taliban for years, doubts the sincerity of the Taliban and argues that there is no guarantee that different groups under the umbrella of the TTP will stop their attacks. Certainly the attack in Khyber Agency lends weight to his concern.
Before we wax lyrical about the current development, it may be salutary to reflect on what may have brought about the apparent ‘change of heart’ amongst the Taliban, and what may follow. We have argued in this space that negotiations must be conducted from a position of strength, not on one’s knees. The effective blows struck by the military at Taliban bases in FATA in recent days cannot be ignored as perhaps the main factor that has led to the ceasefire announcement. It may be that the TTP is hurting from the strikes and needs a breather to regroup and find ways and means to avoid the damage the strikes have wrought. Regrouping and strengthening themselves during pauses in fighting as a result of peace deals has been the pattern for many years of the Taliban’s tactics. Whether this pause will be any different only time will tell. However, the state cannot let its guard down and must continue with its preparations, post haste, of a new and effective security architecture that will better place the government and the security forces to combat whatever the TTP may be planning to throw at them in the future.

Islamabad: Additional session judge among 11 killed in F-8 Kachehri firing

At least 11 people including Additional Session Judge Rafaqat Awan were killed in firing and hand grenade attack in the Kachehri (local court) located in F-8 area in the federal capital, Geo News reported. According to police, two suicide bombers entered in the courtroom of additional judge and opened fire and hurled hand grenade. The suicide bombers blew themselves up after police tried to overpower them. Other 25 to 30 people were also injured in the attack. It is suspected that this could be outcome of groups appearing in the court or a daredevil attempt to get free any under trial prisoner.

Two security men killed, five injured in Khyber explosion

A remote-controlled explosion, targeting a security forces’ vehicle in Khyber Agency’s Landi Kotal tehsil Monday, killed two security personnel and injured five others, DawnNews reported. According to sources, a convoy of Frontier Corps (FC) personnel was travelling from Landi Kotal tehsil to Jamrud. As the vehicle reached Sadukhel, it struck a roadside Improvised Explosive Device (IED) that went off with a loud explosion.Subsequently, two security personnel were killed whereas five others sustained injuries. Moreover, one of the FC vehicles was also destroyed in the blast. Following the explosion, security personnel cordoned off the area and a search operation went underway. Nobody has so far claimed responsibility for the incident but it occurred just two days after the Pakistani Taliban announced a month-long ceasefire aimed at resuming peace talks with the government. Khyber, one of the seven semi-autonomous tribal regions, straddles the Nato supply line into Afghanistan, used by US-led troops to evacuate military equipment ahead of their withdrawal later this year.

Islamabad: Additional session judge among four killed in court attack
At least four people have been killed while 20 others injured in an attack on F-8 Kachehri (session court) in Islamabad. The militants hurled grenades and opened firing at Lawyers chamber, killing four people. The Rangers personnel immediately reached the site and a search operation is underway. There are reports that the militants are hiding in the same vicinity. Meanwhile, the rescue teams are shifting the dead and injured to nearby hospital. Chaos and fear gripped the area while casualties from the attack are feared to mount.