Thursday, March 6, 2014

President Obama Speaks on Ukraine

White House imposes sanctions on Russians over Ukraine

The State Department Thursday imposed a visa ban on Russian and Ukrainian officials and individuals responsible for or complicit in threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. President Obama also Thursday signed an executive order laying the groundwork to impose sanctions against individuals and entities responsible for the crisis. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement the move was a response to "Russia's ongoing violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity -- actions that constitute a threat to peace and security and a breach of international law." While no people or entities have been identified yet, the executive order authorizes sanctions against those responsible for activities undermining democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine; threatening the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine; contributing to the misappropriation of state assets of Ukraine; or purporting to assert governmental authority over any part of Ukraine without authorization from the Ukrainian government in Kiev. The sanctions would include freezing assets, blocking property under U.S. jurisdiction and preventing U.S. businesses would be prohibited from doing business with any individual or entity listed.

Israel’s Choice

In Washington this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel sounded two different notes about peace negotiations with the Palestinians, which are nearing a critical juncture. In a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobby, he enthusiastically advocated a peace agreement as a means to improve Israel’s ties with its Arab neighbors and “catapult the region forward” on issues like health, energy and education.
But at other moments, a more familiar skepticism was apparent. He demanded that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state with “no excuses, no delays.” In response, a senior Palestinian official, Nabil Shaath, accused Mr. Netanyahu of putting an end to peace talks because Palestinians have already rejected that designation. (Palestinians recognize Israel as a state, but not as a Jewish state because they believe that that would undercut the rights of Palestinian refugees.) And, on Monday, at the White House, Mr. Netanyahu asserted that while Israel has worked hard to advance peace, the Palestinians have not.
How much of this is posturing before the two sides face tough choices in their negotiations is unknown. But as President Obama noted in an interview with Bloomberg View, time is running out, and not just because the Americans will soon release a set of principles that are to serve as a framework for further talks on a final peace deal. Mr. Netanyahu and the Palestinians will have to decide whether to move forward on the basis of those principles, negotiated over months with the mediation of Secretary of State John Kerry, or reject them.
In remarkably blunt comments, Mr. Obama said that he had not heard a persuasive case for how Israel survives both as a democracy and a Jewish state absent a negotiated two-state solution, since in Israel and the West Bank “there are going to be more Palestinians, not fewer Palestinians, as time goes on.” He also warned that given Israel’s aggressive settlement construction — 2,534 housing units were begun in 2013 compared with 1,133 the previous year — Palestinians may soon decide that a contiguous state is impossible and America’s ability to help manage the consequences will be limited. Meanwhile, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who is committed to nonviolence, is aging; no one knows who will succeed him. These are the hard facts that need to be broadcast widely.
Negotiators have largely kept silent on details of the talks. But there are fears that the principles might tilt toward Israel, which would mean the final negotiations simply won’t get off the ground. For instance, there was a troubling report in the Palestinian newspaper Al Quds that said one proposal would give Palestinians just the neighborhood of Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem as their capital. The Palestinians have long claimed East Jerusalem, which was captured by Israel in the 1967 war, as their capital in a peace deal.
The framework is expected to call for an end to the conflict and all claims, following a phased Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank (based on the 1967 lines), with extensive new measures like drones and sensors in the Jordan Valley to address Israel’s security concerns. Israel will retain certain settlement blocs and the Palestinians will be compensated with Israeli territory.
President Obama is scheduled to meet with Mr. Abbas at the White House on March 17 and then go to Saudi Arabia, an important player in rallying Arab support for Mr. Abbas and the peace effort. In his Aipac speech, Mr. Netanyahu declared, “I’m prepared to make a historic peace with our Palestinian neighbors.” But, really, what other just and durable choice does he have? What is his long-term answer for Israel, if not a two-state solution?

US report slams Turkey for endemic corruption

Corruption in Turkey has become so endemic that it can be qualified as a “violation of human rights,” according to a report by the US State Department released on February 27.
It may be interesting for many to observe that there is no improvement in Turkey mentioned in the 2013 Human Rights Report from the US Department of State.
On the contrary, from freedom of the press to the freedom of non-violent assembly, from arbitrary arrests and long detention periods to police brutality, there are areas where the rights situation in Turkey has deteriorated over the last year, according to the critical report, released February 27.
As one can imagine, on top of the usual violations in the country’s predominantly Kurdish regions, this year, the Gezi protests and the government’s use of its police force to suppress them received special emphasis.
In addition to that, in this year’s report there is a new chapter. A new section on “human rights violations” in Turkey has been added. According to the US Department of State, corruption in the country has led to what the report calls a “violation of human rights.”
The title of the report's Section 4 is “Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government.” The section begins with the sentence, “While the law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, the government did not implement the law effectively, and some officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.”

Venezuela celebrates Hugo Chavez anniversary

Crimean parliament votes to join Russia, hold referendum in 10 days on ratifying

A referendum on the status of Crimea will be held March 16, the region’s deputy prime minister announced. Crimeans will be asked to decide if the autonomous republic stays part of Ukraine or joins Russia. "The referendum will take place March 16," said the autonomous region’s First Deputy-Premier Rustam Temirgaliev, according to ITAR-TASS. The new date is two weeks earlier than the one announced last week. There will be two questions on the ballots. “The first one: Are you in favor of Crimea becoming a constituent territory of the Russian Federation. The second one: Are you in favor of restoring Crimea’s 1992 constitution,” Temirgaliev said. According to the 1992 constitution, the autonomous republic is part of Ukraine but has relations with Kiev, defined on the basis of mutual agreements. Sevastopol residents will take part in the referendum, despite the city enjoying a special status and not officially being a part of Crimea, according to Sergey Shuvainikov, a Crimean MP. “We will give Sevastopol an opportunity to have its say,” he said, as cited by RIA Novosti. Meanwhile the Crimean MPs have unanimously voted for the region to become a part of Russia. "To become part of the Russian Federation as its constituent territory,” says the text of the Crimean parliament’s statement, obtained by RIA Novosti.
When the decision was announced to the people outside the parliament building, they welcomed the news with cheers and screams of “Russia!” There are currently several thousand people in front of the parliament building, according to ITAR-TASS. The parliament has also made a decision to ask the Russian leadership to “launch the procedure of Crimea becoming part of Russia.” The speaker of the Crimean parliament, Vladimir Konstantinov, explained that the parliament’s decision on the region joining Russia still has to be approved at a referendum. Russia’s State Duma (parliament) could possibly debate the bill on Crimea joining Russia next week, said leader of the ‘Fair Russia’ party, Sergey Mironov. “I think that taking into consideration the date of the referendum – March 16 – we have time to consider the bill as part of normal business. The Bill is going to be debated next week,” Mironov said as cited by RIA Novosti.
More than half the Crimean population are Russian and use only this language for their communication. Crimean authorities denounced the self-proclaimed government in Kiev and declared that all Ukrainian law enforcement and military deployed in the peninsula must take orders from them. The majority of troops in Crimea switched sides in favor of the local authorities.

Jo Kiya Hai Aaj Wada - Madam Noor Jahan

Farzana Naaz - Tu bia Afghan Song

Pakistani polio strain threatens global campaign
Just a few weeks ago, 11-month-old Shaista was pulling herself up, giggling as she took her first wobbly steps with the helping hand of her teenage mother.
Then the polio virus struck and Shaista was no longer able to stand, her legs buckling beneath her weight. Today, her mother cries a lot and wonders what will become of her daughter in Pakistan's male-dominated society, where a woman's value is often measured by the quality of her husband.
"It is not a hardship just for the child, but for the whole family," said the child's 18-year-old mother, Samia Gul. "It is very difficult for a poor family like us. She will be dependent on us for the rest of her life."
Shaista is one of five new polio cases to surface in Pakistan in just the first month of this year. Last year, Pakistan recorded 92 new cases, beating Nigeria and Afghanistan — the only other polio-endemic countries — by almost 2 to 1, the World Health Organization said. Pakistan's beleaguered battle to eradicate polio is threatening a global, multi-billion-dollar campaign to wipe out the disease worldwide. Because of Pakistan, the virus is spreading to countries that were previously polio-free, UN officials say.
"The largest polio virus reservoir of the world," is in Peshawar, in northwestern Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan, according to WHO.
Shaista and her parents share a two-room mud house with a couple of goats, a half-dozen squawking chickens and 10 other relatives in Pakistan's western Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, or KPK, province, where Islamic militants often gun down health workers distributing vaccines and send suicide bombers to blow up police vehicles that protect them.
The latest casualty was a police constable killed on Tuesday protecting a team of vaccination workers in northwest Pakistan. During a two-day vaccination campaign in Peshawar earlier this month, 5,000 police were deployed to protect health workers, most of whom earn barely $2 a day.
Fresh cases of polio — traced through genetic sequencing to the Pakistani strain of the disease — are showing up in countries that were previously polio-free, including Syria and Egypt, as well as in the Gaza Strip, said Ban Khalid Al-Dhayi, the spokeswoman for Unicef in Pakistan. Unicef is tasked with persuading a reluctant tribal population that lives along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan — perhaps one of the most dangerous places on the planet — to vaccinate their children. "A lot of countries that spent so much money and resources eradicating polio are worried," Al-Dhayi said in an interview.
Pakistan's neighbours are particularly vulnerable.
The same genetic sequencing found that 12 of the last 13 new polio cases in Afghanistan originated in Pakistan. Just last week, a 3-year-old was diagnosed with polio in the Afghan capital of Kabul, the first case since 2001.
Neighbour India, with a population of 1.2 billion, has been polio-free for three years. Fearful that Pakistan could wipe out that achievement, India is demanding that Pakistani visitors provide proof of vaccination. It wasn't so long ago — 1988 — that more than 350,000 people, most of them children under 5, were afflicted by polio in 125 countries where the disease was endemic. Today the disease is endemic in only three.
Last year, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a multi-billion-dollar charity that funds polio vaccinations, vowed to wipe out the crippling disease by 2018.
Underlining the danger that Pakistan poses to achieving that goal, Al-Dhayi said there are 350,000 Pakistani children in just one small area of the country who have not been vaccinated — and it takes only one child left unvaccinated to reverse global gains against the disease. The area — North and South Waziristan — is too dangerous for health workers to venture. Islamic militants, many with ties to al-Qaida, banned polio vaccinations there in 2012 to press their demand that the United States end its use of drones to target their hideouts. Militants have also created suspicion among ultraconservative parents in Pakistan's deeply religious northwest, saying the polio vaccine will make their children impotent. The vaccine, they claim, is a ploy by the West to limit the world's Muslim population.
But health workers and militants alike agree the biggest setback was the highly publicized use of a Pakistani doctor and a vaccination ruse to ferret out al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden in May 2011. Dr Shakil Afridi is in jail in Pakistan for his role in the CIA operation that uncovered bin Laden's hideout in the northwestern city of Abbottabad, 60 miles (100 kilometres) from the capital, Islamabad.
While Afridi never got DNA samples from the bin Laden family, his involvement in the covert operation that led to bin Laden's death caused residents to look with suspicion on many vaccination programs. Devastating for the polio campaign were the images of Afridi standing beside a banner promoting polio vaccinations as television commentators told of his collusion with the CIA.
"We have deep sensitivity about the polio vaccination after the martyrdom of the great mujahed and leader of Muslims, Sheikh Osama bin Laden," Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told The Associated Press. "We still have strong suspicions that the vaccination campaign could be used again and again to spy on Muslims and the mujahedeen." The ruse also turned the polio campaign violent. The first attack against a health worker occurred in June 2012, said Dr Imtiaz Ali Shah, the KPK provincial government polio campaign coordinator. Since then, 40 people participating in vaccination campaigns have been killed in Pakistan and another 39 injured, according to Unicef figures.
"Before 2011, we never saw health workers being attacked," he said. "Now there are parts of Pakistan that are so volatile that vaccinators can't go there." Mohammad Wasil's 19-year-old son, Hilal, was killed by militants as he vaccinated children in rural northwest Pakistan. Sitting on a bed made of rope in his village, where women are rarely seen without the all-enveloping burqa, Wasil said his son volunteered because he loved children and wanted to earn money for his education. Still, there have been small gains. In 2012, new polio cases in northwest Pakistan were found in 13 districts; a year later, that was reduced to six districts. But the virus is stubborn, and in the provincial capital of Peshawar, it keeps reappearing, forcing tens of thousands of children to be revaccinated because they may not have built up enough immunity.
"That makes everyone suspicious," said Al-Dhayi, the Unicef spokeswoman. "They wonder whether there was something wrong with the vaccine or with the new vaccination being administered."
It has been impossible to eradicate the polio virus from Peshawar, says Shah, because people from the heavily infected tribal regions that are off limits for health workers arrive daily in the city, bringing with them a fresh outbreak. The tribal regions "are producing so many cases and the (tribal people) travel regularly", he said. Al-Dhayi said some of the new polio cases showing up elsewhere in Pakistan have also been tracked to Peshawar and other areas of northwest KPK province. In the meantime, Unicef is trying to get Pakistan's senior Islamic clergy to support the polio campaign, with some success, according to Al-Dhayi. Among those recruited is the so-called father of Afghanistan's Taliban movement, Maulana Sami-ul-Haq.
"The effort is really intensive and proving positive," she said, but the clock is ticking. "Pakistan is the worst of the three (polio-endemic countries) in terms of the number of cases and the complexity."

Women’s International Day and Afghanistan

Being subject to discrimination, violence, sexual abuses, confinement, economic dependence, the current day world is still long way back from where it should be or have been in terms of women’s emancipation. To voice their challenges, the UN, and its member states observe women’s international day.
When other nations are trying to liberate women of the centuries-old odd and women-unfriendly traditions and cultural clutches, women in Afghanistan still lives in the armpit of these highly suppressive and inhuman traditions and clutches.
We have a ministry with name of Women’s Affairs, but its in name only, as the ministry can hardly boast of any clat, but what it can do is arrange seminars on awareness, where usually participants are from well-off families, who never have experienced how to be a poor woman caught in the whirl of challenges in a country where getting justice is still a distant cry. Women’s rights issue, their protection, and the struggle to give them the world they deserve is not a no-brainer rather it’s really too much challenging job, that need long strategies and toughest actions by the government, international community, and citizens of the country.
Women’s representation in politics and the parliament is worth appreciation what is missing is dedication and the hold of a diehard mindset which has been mould by the US, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan that is jihadism. They heavily invested in creating and promoting this mindset as each of the player saw good opportunities in it. The one wanted to contain the iron curtain of then USSR. The second one wanted to counter the influence of Shia Iran, which is why Wahabite Islam was heavily supported. And the third one saw a good opportunity to destabilize Afghanistan and suppress the voice of Pashtun nationalism and irredentism. All of the three players succeeded, but at the cost of irreparable damages, millions of people killed, thousands others left with permanent disabilities, infrastructure ruined, education destroyed, and on top of that bred a mindset which is not only suppressing women, hurling acids at their faces, killing innocent civilians, but has become a threat to peace of the world. The US has come to reap the whirlwind, where as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are seen nowhere here to reap their whirlwinds rather contrarily Pakistan still clings to a deleterious strategy and its still investing in the same mindset and scheme. Until this mindset prevails, Afghan women will remain suffering.
It doesn’t mean this paper holds religion responsible for the plight of Afghan women, but it condemns the use of religion against women’s rights, the same religion that declared share in bequeath and inheritance some 1400-year back when Arab pagans used to bury their daughters alive. At that time it was a biggest revolution. However, now these diehard elements are hell-bent in divesting women of their fundamental rights. Share in inheritances is nowhere in practice, but yes, girls are sold like commodities, take heavy walwar (a bride’s price), they are swapped, and cases of forced prostitutions have been reported. Where is our Afghan honor? Where is our national pride? And where do we stand as a nation and where do stand other nations of the world? To liberate them, first this mindset has to be defeated which makes you feel as if women are sub-humans and moreover the current set up has to translate its promises into reality as just hollow vows are elusive and never give good results. Besides that the next government must foster a lager female representation in politics, decision making and make women independent in real sense. The nee is women’s role should be re-organized in peace negotiations, governance, defense forces, and other sectors. Should this happen and we will be in a newer world.

NATO strike kills five ANA troops in Afghanistan, ISAF calls it 'accident'

In what NATO called an “unfortunate” incident, five Afghan soldiers were killed and at least 8 injured in an air strike in the eastern Afghanistan's Logar province.
The air strike on early Thursday killed 5 soldiers of the Afghan National Army in the Charkh district of Logar province. The information was given by Afghan defence ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi on his Twitter account. In a statement, NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed the incident, saying that the five ANA troops were killed "accidentally".
"Our condolences go out to the families of the ANA soldiers who lost their lives...An investigation is being conducted at this time to determine the circumstances that led to this unfortunate incident," ISAF said in a statement.
Saying that ISAF valued relationship with Afghanistan, the statement sought to assure that action would be taken to ensure that such accidents will not be repeated.
"We will determine what actions will be taken to ensure incidents like this do not happen again," the statement said.
The attack is expected to further anger Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has earlier expressed immense outrage at the civilian deaths at the hands of the US-led security mission. Also, Afghanistan is already in a strained relationship with the US because of the differences over the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA agreement) that would retain 10000-15000 US soldiers in Afghanistan after the completion of troops withdrawal by the end of the year.
However, Karzai wants the US to halt all military operations and bring the Taliban to the negotiating table as a pre-condition before he signs the agreement.
The US has however threatened that if the agreement is not signed, the NATO troops will be withdrawn completely from Afghanistan and the insurgency-stricken country will not avail millions of dollars in aid.

Pakistan: Fizza Malik: Beyond the death toll

For the first time in my life today, the number 11 felt greater than what I had ever been taught. Larger than a mere numeral, much heavier than just a statistic.
I went back to the news story I had read earlier in the morning. This time, reading it slowly, I weighed in each and every word. “At least 11 people, including additional sessions judge Rafaqat Awan, were killed and 29 others wounded on Monday during a gun and bomb attack in a court in the capital city’s F-8 area.” Once the knowledge that Fizza, a former colleague and friend, was at work at the F-8 court when the attack happened was no longer an incoherent thought, the next few lines of the news story grew deafening, word after word. “Two blasts took place inside the court's premises, one near the lawyers' chambers and the second office. “Lawyers fled from their chambers seeking shelter from bullets as fear and panic gripped the premises.” That is never how you want to remember a friend’s last living moments: Gripped in fear. Shaking my head, I tried to replace the image with that of how I have always known Fizza Malik: A soft voice, a large smile and always full of life. Her petite frame animated with unbounded energy; conversations with Fizza were a mix of hugely varying issues. From being a cricket fan to passionately talking about the social ills of Pakistan, Fizza was never one to shy away from voicing her opinions. For all those who know Fizza, our souls are dim today. We are one with the families and friends of all of those who lose a Fizza every day in this country. Fizzas, who are not just death toll numbers, but realities that ring louder than the hollow words of our leaders. From the daily oblivion that we have all inherently become a part of, Fizza’s death is yet another reminder of how close the war is. We can now touch it, smell it. It has flowed from other cities, into ours. The war is in our homes, in our hearts. We sleep and awaken in its fold every day, knowing that today, someone we know has been irreversibly damaged because of it. But the question is, what do we all, those who are silently watching the unraveling of this war, do about it? In a world where men play God, do we stay indifferent enough to let them continue? Are we exhausted from being angry? Or are we just waiting for ‘one of our own’ to be killed next?

Taliban deprive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa residents of entertainment

Attacks on cinemas show that the Taliban want only chaos, citizens say.
Pakistani cinema-goers are frustrated with Taliban attacks on cinema houses.Cinemas are a cheap source of entertainment for low-income citizens who flock to auditorium screenings to watch their favourite heroes in action.
"We often watch Pashtu movies on the weekends to seek a few moments of leisure after tiring work," Abdul Jamil, a mason in Hayatabad Township, Peshawar, and frequent cinema goer, said. "It seems the Taliban's terror has slammed the doors of this enjoyment on us."
Miscreants February 2 detonated a bomb hidden in a turban that killed five cinema-goers at Picture House in Peshawar. Militants February 11 launched another attack that killed at least 12 people and wounded 24 others in a grenade attack on the Shama Cinema in Peshawar.
An agenda of chaos and oppression
Militants have long opposed other forms of entertainment, but Pakistanis consider such a stance an attack on local culture. Cinemas received letters demanding that they stop their "shameful trade" or the militants would take action, Daraz Khan, manager of a local cinema, told Central Asia Online.
"The Taliban are attacking cinemas, places of entertainments, and mosques, places of worship," Saifullah Shah, a cinema house regular, said, adding that he does not really understand the militant group's agenda. "What they want is to create chaos and fear."
Cinema houses traditionally stood firm in not giving in to Taliban threats; after the two February attacks, however, police ordered all cinema houses in the city to close. "The closure of cinemas after back-to-back bombings has disappointed us," Jamil said.
Fundamentalist militants have also demanded that mobile phone shops cease uploading musical ringtones and video clips, claiming they are haram.
"The Taliban are trying to snatch sources of entertainment from people as part of their onslaught against local culture," Daraz said. "Today, the Taliban are isolated because of these follies. Even their former well-wishers have become their foes."
Peshawar's once-thriving film industry
The city, which once had a roaring movie business, has 11 cinemas compared to 21 before the advent of militancy in about 2007. "We receive [audiences] from Afghanistan, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and other districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), but the latest series of attacks has left us high and dry," Daraz said. The Taliban have also angered artists like actor-director-producer Asif Khan, one of the pioneers of Pashtu movies. The Peshawar cinemas would screen about 12 new Pashtu films yearly in better times, he said, recalling that Sundays and Eid particularly drew throngs to the cinemas. The Taliban will fail to eliminate film because it is part of Pashtu tradition and culture, he said. "The people hold us in high esteem," he said. "I can't go to public places because the people rush to greet me out of respect. The same is true for other performers." Khan rejected militant allegations that cinemas showed obscene films. "We invite the Taliban to come and watch films," he said, adding that his films have no indecency. "The Taliban's campaign against cinemas is just an effort to frighten the people and keep them away, he said. "The Taliban also attack mosques, funeral ceremonies, markets and schools as part of their agenda to spread terror."
Protecting the film industry
The police warned cinemas that they need to ensure security inside their businesses, Peshawar Police Chief Ejaz Khan said. "We have held meetings with them and informed them about the severity of the situation," Khan said.

کورمه: چاودنې د امنیتي ځواکونو ۴ سرتېري ووژل
په قبایلي سیمې کورمه کې د سړک تر غاړې ښخ بم په چاودنه کې د امنیتي ځواکونو څلور سرتېري وژل شوي او نهه ژوبل دي. پېښه نن سهار شا و خوا نهه بجې په منځنۍ کورمه کې شوې ده. یوه امنیتي چارواکي د نوم نه ښودو په شرط مشال راډیو ته وویل، د امنیتي سرتېرو قافله له ټله کورمې ته روانه وه چې په سپېرکټ سیمه کې د چاودنې ښکار شوه. هلته په پېښور کې د پولیسو پر څوکیو د وسله والو په ډزو کې یو پولیس وژل شوی دی. دا برید نن سهار د پېښور په وزیرباغ کې د توحید اباد پر څوکۍ شوی دی. بل پلو په مومندو کې د سړک غاړې ښخ بم په چاودنه کې یو کس وژل شوی او بل ژوبل دی. پېښه په پړانګ غار تحصیل شوې ده. د بریدونو پړه چا نه ده منلې. دا په داسې حال کې ده چې له طالبانو سره د اوربند تر اعلان وروسته بریدونه هم دوام لريږ له پاکستانیو طالبانو سره د خبرو لپاره جوړه کمېټي وايي، د اوربند تر اعلان وروسته هم وسله وال بریدونه د جوړ جاړي بهیر ته تاوان رسولای شي. د پاکستان دولتي راډیو له وینا سره سم، تېره ورځ د حکومتي کمېټۍ غړو په اسلام اباد کې غونډه وکړه. په غونډه کې په اسلام اباد او قبایلي سیمې خیبر کې د شویو حملو په اړه خبرې وشوې. د کمېټۍ غړو له پاکستاني وزیراعظم نواز شریف سره هم ولیدل.

Pakistan: Carnage at the courts: it was coming

To the man on the backseat of the bullet-proof limousine the world outside seen through tinted glass looks so very placid, all the more so when the road ahead has been cleared of usual traffic mess by the hooter blowing advance escort. He puts aside the newspaper and begins chewing on his minions' soothing accounts of the day before, that were so much 'distorted' by the media. No wonder then that kind of make-believe 'sub achha hae' (all is well) has come to obtain aplenty in the nation's capital. Islamabad was never safe and secure as its guardians would claim. Last month when the chief of crisis management cell in the Interior Ministry told parliamentarians that the city sits on a volcano of terrorism, his minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali, lost no time in refuting his subordinate's briefing. How far away from reality on the ground the minister had moved we saw it first hand on Monday morning as a clutch of terrorists attacked the district and sessions courts of Islamabad located in the commercial area of F-8 sector. Wearing suicide jackets and armed with grenades and guns they entered the courts complex unchecked and undetected - because all four CCTV cameras were out of order, and the police on duty were having their morning tea on the roadside eateries. As the intruders went on their hunting spree, the otherwise medically fit police jawans, heard nothing of the sort and remained unconcerned - while hundreds of others took refuge behind tables, walls and trees. It took the so-called law-enforcers almost 45 minutes to wake up to the horror of the apocalypse unfolding right in the heart of the capital. Not only there were some 50 police constables supposed to be on duty to protect the courts complex, the Margalla police station shares its back wall with the courts complex. And also so closely located are the offices of the capital's top bureaucracy. Except for the two suicide bombers who did their job and died the rest walked away as unruffled and unharmed as they came. If at all the suitably-armed police did anything sort of protecting judges, lawyers and their clients there is no proof, at least no injured assailant was captured from the site of the incident.
And all of it was coming. Islamabad was never safe and secure against terrorist strikes; if the ongoing spell of tranquillity was courtesy the much ballyhooed upgraded security arrangements of the capital city that's not true - only the terrorists were busy somewhere else. And when they decided to put the official claim to test - for whatever reason, to sabotage the so-called peace process or to take revenge on a judge - they did with impunity. The gun-toting assailants fired at will, killing a judge, four lawyers and many others who were there at the time. Given the congestion of the tightly-packed judicial premises with scores of makeshift lawyers' offices, wayside tables of stamp vendors and application-writers and closely surrounded by some 200 shops, dozens of eateries and some teaching centres the F-8 Markaz has all the makings of a forbidden warren. As courts open their doors in the morning, thousands of justice-seekers turn up jam-packing the place, their vehicles are parked in the narrow open spaces between the plazas and even on the footpaths. If someone gets past the entry points that are supposed to be well-guarded by metal-detectors and CCTV cameras then it is almost impossible to get a hand on him. This is where the Islamabad police failed. And fail they had to because all the mess at the site is their own creation. You can enter from the exit point, ride a motorbike on the footpath, park your car blocking others' and entertain your guests at one of the eateries encroaching the pedestrian walkway. There is nobody to stop you from that, because everyone else is also doing the same and the law-enforcers have no spine left in them to intervene. So a kind of lawlessness abounds in the capital city but remains invisible when seen through the tinted glass. There is no 'sub achha hae' in the capital city - a charade that foreigners residing in the city uncovered earlier than the locals. Every fourth house in the posh sectors of the city has its own security guard who is properly armed and is open-eyed unlike their counterparts who failed to protect the Islamabad courts. Maybe as a polity we have decided to co-exist with the terrorist instead of confronting him or lost the verve and will to stand up to the devil or we don't know how to go about it. Neither the rapid response force showed up nor any minister as long as the carnage lasted, except for Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani. All of it happened in the heart of the capital, under full glare of the media and personally verified by the country's top judge. Hopefully, the court's verdict on this colossal failure would set an example by duly punishing those who failed to do their duty.

Pakistan: Terrorists planning to kill judges and Musharraf’s lawyers, court told

A lawyer representing former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf in the high treason case expressed reservations on Wednesday over poor security arrangements in and around the Special Court set up at the National Library auditorium and warned judges that they might be attacked by terrorists.
Citing Monday’s terrorist attack on the district courts in Islamabad in which an additional district and sessions judge and 10 other people were killed, Rana Ijaz said: “I have received some information that terrorists are planning to assassinate the honourable judges (of the Special Court), two defence lawyers and a prosecutor.”
The claim annoyed the judges and Justice Faisal Arab, who heads the three-judge court, said: “We cannot sit at home or overlook our responsibilities because of threats to our lives. We are also conscious of the security aspects and on Tuesday held a meeting with the interior secretary, the chief commissioner and the inspector general of Islamabad police.”
Another defence lawyer contended that the court could issue directives and it was the responsibility of the government to provide fool-proof security arrangements. He said the federal government was a party in the high treason case and the defence lawyers had no faith in official security arrangements after the March 3 incident.
Ahmed Raza Kasuri, the counsel for Gen Musharraf, claimed that the defence lawyers had received threats from the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. He read out a letter which, according to him, was addressed to lead defence counsel Sharifuddin Pirzada, him and Anwar Mansoor Khan.
The letter in Urdu says: “Janab-i-Aali, Aap teeno say iltimas hai keh aap log Musharraf ke case say alag ho jaen” (You three are requested to dissociate yourselves from Musharraf’s case). Senders of the letter identified themselves as “people of South and North Wazirstan Agency” and warned the three defence lawyers that if they did not act upon the suggestion, they would be beheaded. The letter alleged that Gen Musharraf had handed over hundreds of Muslims to the United States and come back to rule the country again. Being a traitor Musharraf should be hanged, it added.
The defence lawyers said that because of the threats it was not possible for them to continue their assignment.
The court told them that it would issue on Friday its verdict on their applications challenging the establishment of the Special Court and appointment of Akram Sheikh as head of prosecution team.
The counsel requested the court to adjourn the hearing to March 12.
But Mr Sheikh reminded the court that since it had already summoned Gen Musharraf on March 11 for indictment, the date of the hearing could not be changed. Referring to their application seeking transfer of the treason trial to a safe location, the defence counsel said the National Library auditorium was not a secure place. They again requested the court to allow Gen Musharraf’s medical treatment abroad. The court had turned down a similar request on Feb 21. The counsel contended that the court had rejected the previous request without properly hearing it. “The matter in hand needs to be properly heard in the larger interest of justice,” the fresh application said.
Gen Musharraf had sought his cardiac treatment in the United States.

Pakistan: A faux ceasefire

By Dr Mohammad Taqi
By all indications the TTP took a serious battering in the recent air strikes against its NW sanctuaries but, like any shrewd guerilla, it was not about to stay put in the face of state might and get decimated
Just as the Pakistani state was finally inching towards a limited military action against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in North Waziristan (NW) came yet another political tour de force by the Taliban. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government seems ecstatic about the ceasefire crumbs thrown its way by the TTP over this past weekend. The federal interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan — the mascot of the PML-N’s disastrous handling of terrorism — not just welcomed the TTP move but announced that the Pakistani forces would reciprocate and hold their fire, including the air assault. Apparently, the jihadists of the Abdullah Azzam Brigade did not receive the TTP’s ceasefire memo. The Azzam Brigade slaughtered at least 13 people, including a child, in the Jamrud district of Khyber Agency, when they bombed a polio vaccination team the very day the TTP announced the ostensible truce. Subsequently, the TTP’s splinter group, Ahrar-ul-Hind, rained death in Islamabad. Mr Nisar Ali Khan has not, however, let the Jamrud and Islamabad tragedies dampen his enthusiasm one bit. His ministry issued a statement that “following the Taliban’s positive announcement on Saturday, the government has decided to suspend air strikes.” He even wants the TTP to help the government apprehend the culprits! While the TTP and the government both have pretended that the terrorists’ ceasefire announcement was unconditional and altruistic, there are indications that the state halting the air strikes was one of the preconditions set by the TTP before it would announce even a temporary respite. According to certain media reports, a government official had been in direct contact with the TTP leading up to their declaration. If correct, this liaison dovetails with the suggestion by a member of the government’s negotiating team, Major (retired) Amir Shah, that the proximity committees be disbanded and the state and the TTP should hold direct talks. Whether the next round of talks is direct or indirect, the PML-N government appears set to walk into the TTP’s trap yet again.
When public opinion was shifting towards a decisive action against the TTP, especially after it slaughtered the 23 FC soldiers — a war crime by any standard — the terrorists have successfully baited the PML-N government. The PML-N has now been politically checkmated, twice in two months, by an ostensibly ragtag terrorist gang. The TTP surprised the government first by pouncing on the negotiations opportunity afforded to them by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his January 29 National Assembly speech. If the government’s objective was to divide the terrorists into the reconcilable and irreconcilable ones via the talks’ offer, it has failed miserably. The TTP, on the other hand, has used the negotiations ploy repeatedly to divide the Pakistani public and political opinion over any military action against it. The ceasefire gimmick is a slick propaganda manoeuvre by the TTP that helps build its image as a reasonable entity, with those sitting on the fence vis-à-vis a military offensive. It also helps its patrons, like Maulana Samiul Haq, and its political cheerleader Mr Imran Khan, who were on the ropes after the TTP continued its killing spree, spring back into action. Both Mr Imran Khan, who had very reluctantly indicated that he might back a limited military action, and Maulana Samiul Haq are buoyed and set to sell their poisonous pro-TTP potion again.
By all indications the TTP took a serious battering in the recent air strikes against its NW sanctuaries but, like any shrewd guerilla, it was not about to stay put in the face of state might and get decimated. With the changing political narrative coupled with the military action in NW, things were becoming untenable for the TTP. Melting away while using every ruse to gain a breather from the state’s onslaught is what it needed to do. It had to take a step back to be able to eventually spring forward again.
The TTP’s ceasefire manoeuvre appears to have gained it that reprieve. Reviving the moribund negotiations will give the TTP a further lease on life. All the terrorists need now is for the government to not any set terms for the talks. While the contours of the new détente are not clear yet, the TTP, through its political allies, will seek maximum mileage out of any renewed talks. The government’s eagerness to call off the air strikes smacks of desperation and weakness. Protecting Punjab is clearly the PML-N’s priority and the TTP is well aware of this vulnerability. The chances are that the trade off between the government and the TTP would still be about largely sparing Punjab in exchange for the status quo ante bellum elsewhere, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA.
After making its views known formally and informally about the TTP, combat preparedness and the sacrifices of the armed forces, the military establishment has been mum about the new developments. I have maintained in this column that the Pakistani military is not inclined towards an all-out operation in NW and is still sticking to its dangerous distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban. That policy will likely hold in the short to mid-term, the focused retaliatory and rather effective strikes against the TTP notwithstanding. In fact, the air assault without involving ground troops suggests that the security establishment does not intend to rock the whole jihadist boat as the US drawdown from Afghanistan is around the corner.
There are indications that the ‘good’ Taliban of the Haqqani Network and the Hafiz Gul Bahadur group have been advised to prepare to move the bulk of their logistics across the Durand Line as soon as things are more conducive in Afghanistan. In the end analysis, this may be the only actual plan the security establishment has up its sleeve to regain the large swathes of NW that it has been leasing to its jihadist assets. It is highly unlikely that the Pakistani military establishment has the desire or the stomach to take on its ‘good’ Taliban. An exception could be if the punitive strikes against the TTP somehow suck the ‘good’ Taliban in and the limited action inadvertently snowballs into something bigger. Despite the recent sound and fury from the armed forces, their reticence suggests that the TTP’s faux ceasefire is perhaps to their liking too. Before their final face off, the army and the TTP both would rather wait and see how the chips may fall in Afghanistan. On the other hand, the TTP will continue to test the PML-N’s measly resolve despite its sneaky ceasefire.

Pakistan's Nawaz regime & Taliban: 'A growing liability'

The government’s inexplicable desire to purse negotiations with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the face of rising public anger and a growing list of terrorist attacks is becoming a liability for the country. Since the announcement of a ceasefire by the TTP on Sunday, there have been at least four terrorist attacks, mostly against military personnel in regions bordering the tribal areas. The most dramatic was Monday’s attack on the district courts in the heart of the federal capital, Islamabad, which left 12 people dead. The terrorists targeted the chambers of a judge who had the temerity to dismiss a blasphemy case and turned down a murder petition against Pervez Mushrraf for the former President’s role in the 2007 Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) incident, which was the cassus belli for certain militant groups to form the TTP and is their rallying cry for fighting the state. The attack was soon claimed by a TTP splinter group, Ahrarul Hind, allegedy opposed to negotiations. In the wake of this, and with nothing but TTP denials as a show of good faith, the government is still pursuing negotiations with terrorists who have clearly stated their ambition to overthrow the constitution and subject Pakistan to their bizarre form of Islam. The PPP, though opposed to negotiations in the beginning, has taken the government’s side after the ceasefire and says it will support a negotiated peace if one is possible, though it is hard to see what has changed. Familiar platitudes like ‘foreign hand’ are once more being trotted out, despite their lack of substance. This is music to the ears of the TTP and their sympathisers, who seemed terrified by the prospect of a full scale military action and begged for a ceasfire after rapid destruction of their infrastructure by targeted air strikes. The lesson is clear: the terrorists will not negotiate with a state they do not respect militarily, because violence is the only form of communcation they are interested in. Even a negotiated settlement, that tries to sift reconcilable from irreconcilable terrorists, will only hold so long as the TTP also agrees to dismantle extremist religious seminaries and other terrorist infrastructure in the tribal areas, something they will be loathe to do.
The question really is, who is the government trying to prove its legitimacy to — the millions of voters and citizens who repose their trust in the state and oppose the TTP and their religious agenda, or the minority of vocal clerics and critics who see an opportunity to expand their personal power at the expense of the state? The people of Pakistan voted for a government to represent their concerns, not play nice with vested interests who use violence and murder to achieve their goals. Twelve innocent civlians are dead because in the eyes of the TTP or their kindred they, and millions more people, are not innocent or people. To the TTP they are meat and the higher the body count, the happier the terrorists are. The fallacy that the TTP are pursuing negotiations while a large number of ‘splinter groups’ continue attacking should be obvious to the government by now. The truth is simple: if these men are willing to blow themselves up on command, then they are also willing to take the hits from a military strike while the core of the TTP remains protected under a ceasefire, with plausible deniability. The evidence of this strategy is apparently not so obvious to the government, which seems to consider the murder of 12 citizens no reason to subject the militants to the full military force of the state. Will we only see action when members of the government itself are killed? Or are the public to continue to bear the weight of blood that government officials avoid through extravagant secrity measures? Perhaps they should feel secure enough in their own strategy to not remain barricaded behind miles of barbed wire while ordinary citizens are blown to pieces, and see how long they last when one of the TTP’s ‘splinter groups’ comes calling. It appears Mr. Sharif has forgotten who it was that voted him into power and while trying to prove to terrorists that he’s serious about negotiations, is ignoring public demands that he get serious about ending terrorism.

Bilawal Bhutto directs Sindh government to launch relief operations in Thar desert
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron-In-Chief, Pakistan Peoples Party has directed Sindh government to launch relief operations in Thar desert immediately and form a Special Relief Committee for monitoring. He expressed his concern over the death of 32 children in Thar desert due to malnutrition and the famine situation that threatens flora and fauna besides the human lives. In a communication with his Advisor on Minority Affairs Surendar Valasai who belongs to Thar, the PPP Patron-In-Chief said he will take the issue with Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah to ensure that Sindh government’s relief and rehabilitation efforts reach out to every nook and corner of the desert. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said Pakistan Peoples Party’s elected representatives, leaders and workers will fully cooperate with the Sindh government in ameliorating the situation in Thar desert. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also directed Surendar Valasai to keep him updated about the famine situation in Thar.

Pentagon says Al-Qaeda still operates from Pakistan’s FATA region
Al-Qaeda continues to operate from Pakistan's tribal areas, a top Pentagon commander said while noting that the long-lasting tensions between India and Pakistan over Kashmir are a threat to regional stability.
"Long-standing tensions between Pakistan and India also threaten regional stability as both states have substantial military forces arrayed along their borders and the disputed Kashmir Line of Control," General Lloyd J Austin, Commander of the US Central Command said in his testimony before House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday. "Al-Qaeda continues to operate in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and, to a lesser extent, areas of eastern Afghanistan," he said. Austin said continued pressure on al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan could result in the outfit's advancement towards less restrictive areas that would serve as safe heavens for terror activities. He said the US faced a host of challenges in Pakistan that have long hindered the efforts of the Pakistan government to fight terrorism and America's ability to provide needed assistance. "Central to Pakistan's struggles is its poor economy and burgeoning "youth bulge." Given these conditions, radicalism is on the rise in settled areas and threatens increased militant activity and insurgency in parts of Pakistan where the sway of the state traditionally has been the strongest," he said. "At the same time, terrorist attacks and ethno-sectarian violence threaten the government’s tenuous control over some areas.
Further compounding these internal challenges is Pakistan's strained relationships with its neighbours," he added. The US-Pakistan military-to-military relationship has improved over the past two years, reflecting increased cooperation in areas of mutual interest, including the defeat of al-Qaeda, reconciliation in Afghanistan and support for Pakistan's fight against militant and terrorist groups. Greater security assistance, training, support and operational reimbursement through the Coalition Support Fund have enhanced Pakistan’s ability to conduct counter-insurgency operations, the Pentagon Commander said. "In November 2013, we held the second strategic-level Defence Consultative Group meeting, focused primarily on implementing a framework for promoting peace and stability based on common COIN (counterinsurgency) and CT (counterterrorism) interests," he informed the lawmakers. "The Out-Year Security Assistance Roadmap will focus on enhancing Pakistan’s precision strike, air mobility, survivability/counter improvised explosive device (IED) capability, battlefield communications, night vision, border security and maritime security/counter-narcotics capabilities," he said. "Additionally, we are nesting these initiatives within our Military Consultative Committee, which finalises our annual engagement plan and the USCENTCOM exercise program," Austin said. He said the end result will be a synchronisation of activities aimed at helping Pakistan build capabilities in support of their common objectives across all security cooperation lines of effort. "While we continue to strengthen our cooperation in areas of mutual interest, we are engaging with Pakistan where our interests diverge, most notably with respect to the Haqqani Network which enjoys safe haven on Pakistan soil," General Austin said.
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Pakistan: TTP, Ahrar-ul-Hind ate and slept together

Two court attack militant brothers arrested | AH part of web including Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Jundallah
The law enforcement agencies (LEAs) on Wednesday claimed to have arrested two terror suspects belonging to a militant outfit involved in the deadly attack at Islamabad district courts on Monday that left at least 11 people dead. The reported arrests were made following a police encounter in the suburbs of Attock on Tuesday night, highly placed security official told this correspondent. The reported terrorists are said to have direct linkages with Ahrar-ul-Hind, which, the source said, is a split faction of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
According to a reliable source in the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the Islamabad incident, two terror suspects involved in the deadly attack looked like Uzbek militants associated with the TTP and it is, he said, under investigation how they managed to break into the highly secured and posh sectors of Islamabad.
“Both the militants are Punjabi Taliban and real brothers, and they founded Ahrar-ul-Hind,” the official shared, adding they have a direct hand in the attack that took place in Islamabad.
One of the main targets of the militants, the source further shared, was the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) Judge Atiq-ur-Rehman who narrowly escaped the attack due to the reason that his court room was shifted from the place following an intelligence agency’s report just a few days before.
“Ahrar-ul-Hind is funded from across the border. Certain groups of Taliban had trained the militants of this outfit outside Pakistan to carry out gorilla attacks in Pakistan’s urban areas,” the officials said. Ahrar-ul-Hind was formed when TTP activists were divided after the death of Hakimullah Mehsud.
A commander of banned militant outfit shared with this correspondent that the newly formed group derived its name from “Ahrar” because the Ahraris were against the formation of Pakistan and they believed that the entire subcontinent was their motherland. They plan to expand the fight to “the remaining part of subcontinent, India and Occupied Kashmir,” the commander explained the AH manifesto.
Apart from the TTP, Ahrar-ul-Hind has reported ties with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Jundallah.
A neighbouring country, sources believe, has been involved in training the Ahrar-ul-Hind militants, who have fought alongside the TTP against the Pakistan army and LEAs.
“Practically, Ahrar-ul-Hind and TTP are the two facets of the same coin even though they have apparently parted ways. The militants of both the terrorist outfits always stick together. In most of the cases, they even sleep and eat together under one roof, besides receiving militant training together to fight against Pakistan’s Armed Forces.” However, surprising was a statement, reported by a section of the media quoting Maulana Sami-ul-Haq that the Taliban themselves did not know “who the hell” Ahrar-ul-Hind is (Ahrar-ul-Hind kis bala ka naam hai). The Maulana was also quoted as saying that the TTP was trying to track the AH and rather they had tracked them using Facebook.