Saturday, March 8, 2014
Mayalsia Airlines says still no sign of missing plane more than 24 hours after its disappearance.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of supporting fighters in Iraq and effectively declaring war on the country. The rare direct attack on the Sunni Gulf powers, comes with Iraq embroiled in its worst prolonged period of bloodshed since 2008, with more than 1,800 people killed already this year, ahead of parliamentary elections due next month.
The bloodletting in the country, which shares a long border with Saudi Arabia, has been driven principally by widespread discontent among the country's Sunni Arab minority and by the civil war in neighbouring Syria. Maliki, a Shia, has in the past blamed unnamed regional countries and neighbours for destabilising Iraq, the AFP news agency reported. But in an interview with France 24 broadcast on Saturday, the Iraqi premier said allegations he was marginalising Sunnis were being pushed by sectarians with ties to foreign agendas, with Saudi and Qatari incitement. "They are attacking Iraq, through Syria and in a direct way, and they announced war on Iraq, as they announced it on Syria, and unfortunately it is on a sectarian and political basis," he said. "These two countries are primarily responsible for the sectarian and terrorist and security crisis of Iraq." Saudi Arabia and Qatar have emerged as regional rivals because, while both have provided support to fighters opposed to embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the two countries have also sparred in recent weeks over Doha's support for the Muslim Brotherhood of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi. Saudi Arabia, along with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, withdrew its ambassador to Qatar this month. Baghdad has long complained that support for groups fighting in Syria's civil war finds its way through to Iraq with weapons in particular ending up in the hands of armed groups. Maliki said in the interview that Riyadh and Doha were providing political, financial and media support to fighters and accused them of buying weapons for the benefit of these organisations.
http://www.ew.com/ew/A, B, C… it’s not always easy as 1, 2, 3. And yes, even the leader of the free world gets a little tongue-tied sometimes. During a speech at the Women of Soul concert series, which is being hosted at the White House, President Obama spoke about the impact that many great artists had on the fight for equality. However, when Obama went to quote Aretha Franklin’s famous song ‘Respect’, he got a little caught up in the moment – and, like a nervous contestant at a spelling bee, he accidentally missed a letter. Obama told the crowd: “When Aretha [Franklin] first told us what R-S-P-E-C-T meant to her, she had no idea it would become a rallying cry for African Americans, and women, and then everyone who felt marginalized because of what they looked like or who they loved. They wanted some respect.” The crowd immediately chuckled following the slip-up, but the President pushed right past it. You’ve got to rspect that follow-through.
Russian forces block Ukraine's only exit point to the Black Sea by sinking two aging vessels, as the crisis in Crimea intensifies.
http://www.bernama.com/There is no indication of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing although it has been reported missing more than 24 hours ago.
More than 500,000 girls under the age of 17 were married in the past 11 years in Turkey, according to Family and Social Policies Ministry data, which does not include unofficial marriages. In the past 11 years, 504,957 girls between the ages of 16 and 17 got married in Turkey according to the official marriage data. Girls between 16 and 18 can get married with their parents’ permission according to Turkish law. However, it is known that many underage girls are getting married with only a religious ceremony either if their age is younger than 16 or if official marriage is not common in the areas where they are living. The ministry said it would work against child marriages via schools, mosques, health centers and even by visiting people in their houses in places where the phenomenon is most common. According to the ministry’s data, the number of girls between the ages of 16 and 17 who married officially was 37,263 in 2002, 45,981 in 2003, 49,280 in 2004, 44,919 in 2005, 50,366 in 2006, 50,720 in 2007, 49,203 in 2008, 47,859 in 2009, 45,738 in 2010, 42,700 in 2011 and 40,428 in 2012. The ministry also said it had given safety buttons to women who were victims of violence in two pilot cities. In Adana, 73 women received safety buttons with a court decision, along with 53 women in Bursa. The ministry also said in the first two months of 2014, more than 3,000 women and children had stayed at shelters in different cities of Turkey. This number was 12,648 in 2013, according to the ministry’s data.
Some 2,000 people marched peacefully in central Istanbul on International Women’s Day, protesting the Turkish government’s policies and violence against women. A small group of protesters later clashed with officers who blocked them from Taksim Square. The demonstrators, mostly women, marched down the city’s landmark pedestrian Istiklal Street on Saturday towards Gezi Park at Taksim Square – the cradle of last year's massive anti-government protests. As riot police cordoned off the area, some protesters tried to break the police line, hitting officers with the sticks of the banners they were carrying, Ruptly news agency reported. Police used shields and batons to disperse the crowd. The protesters shouted, “Police go home, the streets are ours" and "Tayyip (Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan) run away the women are coming," Xinhua news agency reported. According to a survey conducted by the Turkish Health Union, more than 79 percent of respondents believe there is gender inequality in the country, which has caused poverty and disadvantages among women.
Today we have to decide , for our Generations to come , whether they ll salute us , or will condemn us to a Point , that they ll feel ashamed to show their association with us . As at Present there are two Shariff families at the Helm of affairs of Pakistan , which is at the Most crucial stage of its existence . And this is a Break Point where even a single Minute fault of any will DisIntegrate Pakistan , into such small pieces , that for the coming generations of ours , NO Muslim will ever think of Building there Homeland, A Nation where all the Muslims can Live together in Peace , irrespective of their Cast , Creed , Sect or Ethnicity. Shariff I The Foremost is the Present Rulers of Pakistan the Shariff family, the Off Springs of Mian Shariff , commonly and generally Known as Nawaz Shariff’s family, as Now he head’s the Clan after the demise of Mian Shariff, the family which has not given any thing to this Pakistan , As per the Record they were a small manufacturer of Iron Products , like Main hole covers , and Bicycle and tricycles for the toddlers , and it was the fortune of these Shariffs that there Cottage Industry was even Nationalized by the Wrong turn of the Century of the Great Bhutto , But as the History gives every body a chance to Recover for his Lost Coins . So the Shariffs even got a chance even and it was the Great Mian Sahib that , When the History took its turn and the Devil was building Its Empire and was choosing his Cabinet , Mian Shariff allowed his Son to be adopted by the The Great Satan in Uniform
shiapost.comThe army commanders in a special meeting on Friday decided they will not be part of the negotiating team with the Taliban as the generals think “militaries sitting on the table do not negotiate anywhere” with the militants and also have rejected the three reported demands of the Taliban, including evacuation from Waziristan, release of prisoners and compensation for those killed. By some it was described as a “wish list.” Here is the detailed inside story of the Corps Commanders meeting held on Friday. They started at 1000 hrs. They ended seven hours later. An attendee said that longer meetings have been held before, but this one was “very serious”. Corps Commanders’ Conferences are named inappropriately.Actually, the Commanders sit on the Chief’s left, as the Commander Southern Command, from Quetta, begins the quorum, followed by the I, then II, and so on, Corps’ Commanders. However, the Chief’s staff, starting from his Chief of General Staff, take his right-hand side, indicating their administrative and political importance.Thus, if you take into account the Principal Staff Officers, as well as the key two-stars and adjutants who line up the second rows, the Corps Commanders are actually outnumbered almost 2:1. Still, the chaps are bent on calling this function the Corps Commander’s Conference. It’s a classic example of the Army’s logic: the number of men in the room don’t count. The Army isn’t a democracy, though these days, it claims to be supporting one. Instead, the number of men each man in the room commands matter. And the command of the world’s fifth largest fighting force is controlled by the Corps Commanders. Period. On Friday, for the 170th Conference, presentations were made. A prayer break was taken. Cigarettes were smoked. Karachi was discussed. The effectivity of the air strikes was debated. Also mulled was the National Security Policy. The NACTA bit, it was claimed, is for the civvies to figure out. “The [National Security Policy’s] parts about intelligence fusion and the reaction forces were talked about,” said a source. “It was assessed that they would be supported through quick operationalisation when required.” Three new terror attacks – the F8 Katchery attack in Islamabad, the IED attack on the FC in Bannu, and the assault on Khasadars in Khyber – were discussed, and according to a source “it was decided that if there is a connection of these attacks with any party, they will be hit back hard.” As for the jaw-jaw versus the pow-pow – or the talk versus fight – narrative, it was hoped, according to a source, that “the negotiations convince the Taliban to identify those parties which are with them and those who are not and where they all stand so that everyone knows how to proceed forward.” Translated: The talks should start bi-producing the names and addresses of the bad Taliban versus the not too bad Taliban (this, assuming, that the Army knows the same for the good Taliban, who are not a part of the public face of this negotiation equation yet). As for the structure of the talks and the Army/ISI’s potential role as an active participant in the negotiations, it was clarified: “That was never really a decision or a directive, and was prematurely floated in the press. It was just a suggestion from the negotiators to the PM, that’s it.” It was also clearly suggested by a source that militaries sitting on a table and negotiating with militants “is not done anywhere”. Fair enough. Lets remember that this “participation clause” was really a Talib demand, and not the PM’s idea. Anyway, this army is in no mood to comply with the TTP’s three-tier wish list – prisoner releases, South Waziristan evacuation, and compensation – unless really pressed on by Raiwind. And Raiwind is in no mood to press the Army on anything; instead, it wants things to settle themselves. That’s why the GHQ is such a serene place to visit these days. And that’s why neither side – the Shers and the Soldiers – has unleashed an assault on the other. As for the talks: “Intel agencies provide input, of course, but the defence minister has already clarified how that would work in the talks,” said the source, referring to Khawaja Asif’s ‘March in March’and ‘Army input is valuable’’ comments on Friday.Translated: No Boots or Spooks will directly participate in the talks. It’s a risk-averse approach. Succeed, and they will look like they cooperated and provided key data. Fail, and they will look like they were right not to negotiate with the thugs. Meanwhile, the Khawaja Asifs will provide the right wicket keeping and appeals. That’s the secret of the Raiwind/GHQ combine. The right guys are working with tough guys, more or less.But there are missing links, and hints. Local audiences – the Parliament, for example – are being told by the War Cabinet’s jaw-jaws that “third powers” are in motion, that not all of the TTP is evil and anti-state, and that there is light at the end of this dark, bloody tunnel. But foreign audiences – a wires agency, for example – are being told by the War Cabinet’s not-so jaw-jaws war is coming if this frustrating ‘talk-fight-deny-talk-fight’ construct continues. Is this ‘different horses for different courses’ approach a part of the PM’s brilliant stratagem, or just an indication of his ambivalence?Is the PM colour blind, or does his approach of making every red-line that is crossed by the terrorists a pink-line; the political equivalent of a tiger trap… Luring in the beast closer till it is within shooting range? Is this PM, who evidently signed off on Kargil after just one briefing, exacting his revenge by over-analysing through this deliberation? Or is his master plan to expose the TTP as it shoots itself in the foot, leave them no moral quarter, and then charge in? Are Nawaz’s generals getting restless, or is their paranoia about public engagement forcing them to play along? Or is everyone on the same page because the plan is working? And lets not forget that the Americans like where all of this going. The Coalition Support Funds are flowing like a river. That’s the best indication of Washington’s mood, for now.Also, as for the operation itself: does the Army have a battle plan? Yes, say junior and senior officers. Is it a very good one? We don’t know, and we never will, till the fighting actually begins, but when it does, it’s going to be “days, maybe weeks, but not months”. It’s name? There are several, but for the history books, the Operation Al-Mizan umbrella will continue. A foreseeable problem? How long will the divisions that are deployed to liberate North Waziristan going to be stationed there for? There is fresh blood on the ground, by the way: The new General Officer Commanding of the 7th ‘Golden Arrow’ Division in Miranshah, Zafarullah Khan, a Piffer like the Chief himself who had Chief of Staff stint in Lahore, just got promoted and sent in to replace a very worn out Maj Gen Ali Abbas. Will GHQ give him the green light to go to town even before he’s familiarised with the terrain and targets? It’s highly unlikely. Bottomline: The war will not be self-inflicted. The war will be forced. Lets not forget that peace negotiations are meant to deliver peace, not some sort of metaphysical relationship of the State with the TTP. This is a game of inverted brinksmanship. Interestingly, blinking is allowed. Magnanimity will get you points. The loser will be one who fires first.
A political analyst says the Saudi kingdom is hell-bent on toppling the Syrian government and establishing a Wahhabi-style regime in the crisis-hit Arab country, Press TV reports. In an interview on Saturday, Kevork Almassian said the Saudi regime is desperately seeking to bring about a regime change in Syria. He added that it was therefore of no difference who spearheaded the kingdom’s mission in the Arab country after former Saudi spymaster, Bandar bin Sultan was ousted. “His successor will be no different from Bandar bin Sultan because they are already arming new growing (terrorist) factions, which have no different ideology from al-Qaeda,” Almassian said, adding, "Look...there are different names and different bands for these fighting groups, but what is the ideology? It is the same.” Almassian said the foreign-sponsored terrorist groups aim to oust the Damascus government as part of the Saudi-backed ploy “to establish a Wahhabi-style” rule in Syria. Syria has been gripped by deadly violence since 2011. Some sources say around 130,000 people have been killed and millions displaced due to the violence fueled by Western-backed militants. According to reports, the Western powers and their regional allies -- especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey -- are supporting the militants operating inside Syria. Last month, reports said that the Al Saud regime relieved its spymaster, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, of his duties in leading the kingdom's mission in the Syria crisis. According to recent reports, Saudi Arabia has assigned Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef to lead Riyadh’s anti-Damascus policies instead of Prince Bandar, who has been a staunch supporter of Takfiri militants operating against Syria.
A video of jihadists executing a group of Syrians in the city of Aleppo has emerged. The execution is carried out by Russian-speaking fighters, and one of those to be killed was said to be mentally ill. The graphic video was published today on the Facebook page of a group known as the Syrian Center for Documentation. The group claimed that civilians, including children, were among those killed. Although the date and exact location of the execution has not been disclosed, the Syrian Center for Documentation indicated that it took place in Aleppo. In the video, a number of well-armed fighters are seen moving civilians into a large room. A group of young and middle-aged males appears arranged in a line, while others are huddled in small groups or are being moved around the room. Some of the captives are flex-tied. Lying on the floor of the room are the bodies of several men who appear to have been executed. The fighters speak in Russian, according to a translation of the video by Foundation for Defense of Democracies' Boris Zilberman. "They spoke pretty decent Russian ... better than some of the folks that you can usually find on Kavkaz Center," Zilberman said, referring to one of the propaganda arms of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate. The fighters seem eager to proceed with the execution, while the cameraman is concerned about the angle he should use to film it. "Come on, come on, what about this injured?" one of the fighters says. "Should I film from the front or back?" the cameraman asks. He decides to film from the rear. Seven men are lined up, kneeling on the ground. One of the fighters walks behind the men, and buttstrokes each of the men in the back of the head. A group of fighters then lines up and opens fire, killing the men. After shooting the men, one of the fighters asks, "Whose phone is this?" and then walks over to a fighter in military fatigues and a helmet who appears to be the group's leader. "This is what happens to those that fight against Islam," the fighter says to the leader. The leader then points to a man on the ground who appears to be still alive, and orders the men to shoot him again. Just before the execution, one of the men who about to be killed says in Arabic that another in the group is "Darwish," a term used locally to describe the mentally ill, according to the Syrian Center for Documentation. The jihadists do not respond. It is unclear if the mentally ill man was among those seen killed in the video. Jihadists from the Russian Caucasus are known to fight in both the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS) and the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, which is al Qaeda's official affiliate in Syria. There is controversy over which group carried out the execution, and when it took place. The Syrian Center for Documentation reported that the ISIS carried out the execution, and that the video was shot recently in the village of Hretan just north of Aleppo. Others claimed that the execution was carried out by an Al Nusrah Front unit commanded by a Chechen known as Abu Muslim al Shishani, and that it took place 10 months ago. Abu Muslim is said to have fought alongside Ibn Khattab, the famed Saudi jihadist who led al Qaeda's International Islamic Brigade in Chechnya before he was assassinated by Russian forces in 2002. Omar al Shishani is the overall commander of the Caucasus jihadists who fight in the ranks of the ISIS. Al Shishani received permission from Doku Umarov, the emir of the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Caucasus Emirate, to join the ISIS. Omar's forces often serve as the ISIS' shock troops, and his unit functions as the vanguard for the ISIS. The ISIS has been denounced by al Qaeda's General Command for failing to resolve its dispute with the Al Nusrah Front, the Islamic Front, and other rebel groups. The ISIS rules with a heavy hand and refuses to cooperate with the other jihadist groups to resolve disputes. The dispute caused a large group of Chechens to break ranks with the ISIS and join the Al Nusrah Front. Read more: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/03/isis_executes_civili.php#ixzz2vOiVyO1d
http://rt.com/Ukraine’s new government is under the influence of the radical nationalists, according to Russia’s Foreign Minister, who believes his foreign counterparts are well aware of the fact, but are unwilling to acknowledge it. “The so-called interim government is not self-sufficient, and, to great regret, depends upon radical nationalists, who carried out the military coup,” Sergey Lavrov told journalists on Saturday, when he was answering the question of whether Russia was ready to have direct talks with the coup-imposed government. The Right Sector movement, consisting of several far-right groups, was very active in the violence leading to the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovich. After the February-21 agreement between Yanukovich and opposition leaders was signed, the Right Sector declared they did not recognize it and would continue the armed struggle. At Saturday’s press conference, Lavrov gave an example of how exactly the Right Sector is influencing the current decision-making in Kiev. “The new government’s officials asked this Right Sector to approve their choice of ministers and now the Right Sector is dissatisfied. Its leaders say the reloading of the government system in Ukraine has not been completed. They are demand each of the ministers go to the Maidan protesters and report on how well they implement the demands of the protest leaders.” Sergey Lavrov said the group, which allegedly demanded access to the country's arsenals, had the security situation in Kiev under its control. The capital of Ukraine has not been safe since ousted President Viktor Yanukovich removed all the police from the streets in compliance with the February-21 agreement. "Actually there’s no state control over public order and the so-called Right Sector calls the tune, the group that has resorted to terror and intimidation.”
Our western partners, it seems to me, are quite well informed of what they [the radicals] represent, because they are frequent quests there [in Kiev] and among themselves they are sharing extremely alarming impressions. But I guess for political reasons, they try to conceal the facts in public.” John Laughland, of Paris-based Institute of Democracy and Cooperation, has warned of dangers of underestimating the nationalist forces in Ukraine. “Western media call far-right groups a minority but it’s a decisive minority,” he told RT. “It's been clear for some time that the men of violence exercise decisive influence. In 2012, the EU parliament condemned the Svoboda party - and now it's members are in the government. Europe is looking the other way. Double standards - the whole point to bounce tUkraine into the western camp.” The leader of the Right Sector, Dmitry Yarosh, confirmed on Saturday he was running for president of Ukraine and was transforming his movement into a political party. On Wednesday, Russia put Yarosh on an international wanted list and charged him with inciting terrorism. Charges were put forward following Right Sector’s posting a call for Doku Umarov, the notorious Chechen terrorist, to attack Russia over the Ukrainian conflict. “Ukrainians have always supported the liberation struggle of the Chechen and other Caucasian peoples,” the post on one of the Russian social networks said. “Now it’s the time for you to support Ukraine. As the Right Sector leader I urge you to step up the fight. Russia is not as strong as it seems.” The Right Sector argues its account at the social network was hacked and denies reports it ever demanded access to Ukrainian arsenals. To learn more about the Right Sector movement and its ideology, watch RT Peter Oliver’s report from Ukraine.
The day after he returned from the Winter Olympics, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia gathered the 12 members of his national security council for a crisis meeting to manage a political implosion in Ukraine that, by all accounts, had surprised Russia’s political and military elite and, above all, infuriated Mr. Putin himself. One prominent member of the council, Valentina I. Matviyenko, chairwoman of the upper house of Parliament, emerged from the meeting declaring that it was impossible that Russia would invade Crimea, yet a couple of days later Russian troops were streaming into the peninsula.
When Mr. Putin made his first public remarks on the crisis on Tuesday, he said that Russia would not support Crimea’s efforts to secede. On Friday, the Kremlin allowed a mass pro-secession rally in Red Square while senior lawmakers loyal to Mr. Putin welcomed a delegation from Crimea and pledged support to make it a new province of the Russian Federation.
An examination of the seismic events that set off the most threatening East-West confrontation since the Cold War era, based on Mr. Putin’s public remarks and interviews with officials, diplomats and analysts here, suggests that the Kremlin’s strategy emerged haphazardly, even misleadingly, over a tense and momentous week, as an emotional Mr. Putin acted out of what the officials described as a deep sense of betrayal and grievance, especially toward the United States and Europe.
Some of those decisions, particularly the one to invade Crimea, then took on a life of their own, analysts said, unleashing a wave of nationalistic fervor for the peninsula’s reunification with Russia that the Kremlin has so far proved unwilling, or perhaps unable, to tamp down. The decision to invade Crimea, the officials and analysts said, was made not by the national security council but in secret among a smaller and shrinking circle of Mr. Putin’s closest and most trusted aides. The group excluded senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the cadre of comparatively liberal advisers who might have foreseen the economic impact and potential consequences of American and European sanctions. “It seems the whole logic here is almost entirely the product of one particular mind,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, a Russian analyst and editor of the quarterly journal Russia in Global Affairs. Some of Russia’s plans were clearly years in the making, including one to sever Crimea from Ukraine through Moscow’s political support for sovereignty and even reunification. Nevertheless, Mr. Putin’s strategy in the last two weeks has appeared ad hoc, influenced by events not always in his control. “We shouldn’t assume there was a grand plan,” said Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russia’s security forces from New York University who is in Moscow and regularly meets with security officials. “They seem to be making things up as they go along.” Mr. Putin’s decisions since the crisis began reflect instincts, political skills and emotions that have characterized his 14 years as Russia’s paramount leader, including a penchant for secrecy, loyalty and respect, for him and for Russia. They also suggest a deepening frustration with other world leaders that has left him impervious to threats of sanctions or international isolation, such that he shrugged off threats by members of the Group of 8 countries to boycott this year’s summit meeting in Sochi, Russia. Because of Mr. Putin’s centralized authority, Russia’s policies and actions in moments of crisis can appear confused or hesitant until Mr. Putin himself decides on a course of action. That was the case in the days when violence erupted in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, prompting a frantic effort by the Europeans to mediate a compromise. Mr. Putin, perhaps preoccupied with the Olympics, did not send a representative to those talks until the agreement was ready to be initialed.
Dmitri Trenin, the director of the Moscow Carnegie Center, said that Russia’s role in Ukraine’s upheaval was “very passive” up until the moment that the government of President Viktor F. Yanukovych collapsed. This was true, he said, despite the Kremlin’s wariness about any new Ukrainian trade agreement with the European Union and its pledge in December to provide a $15 billion package of assistance to shore up the country’s faltering finances. Jolted by the government’s collapse, Mr. Trenin said, the Kremlin “sprang into action almost immediately.” He and other officials and analysts said that Mr. Putin’s reaction stemmed from the collapse of the agreement on the night of Feb. 21. Mr. Putin, by his own account at a news conference on Tuesday, warned Mr. Yanukovych not to withdraw the government’s security forces from Kiev, one of the demands of the agreement being negotiated. “ ‘You will have anarchy,’ ” Mr. Putin said he told him. “ ‘There will be chaos in the capital. Have pity on the people.’ But he did it anyway. And as soon as he did it, his office and that of the government were seized, and the chaos I warned him about erupted, and it continues to this day.” By then, however, Mr. Yanukovych had already lost the support of his party, whose members joined others in Parliament in ordering the security services off the barricades that they had maintained around government buildings in Kiev. Mr. Yanukovych, fearful because of reports of armed protesters heading to Kiev from western Ukraine, packed up documents from his presidential residence and fled in the early hours of the next morning. That night Mr. Putin was still assuring President Obama in a telephone call that he would work to resolve the crisis. By the next day, however, Ukraine’s Parliament had stripped Mr. Yanukovych of his powers, voted to release the opposition leader Yulia V. Tymoshenko from prison and scheduled new presidential elections. Russia’s initial response was muted, but officials have since said that Mr. Putin fumed that the Europeans who had mediated the agreement did nothing to enforce it. Mr. Putin and other officials began describing the new leaders as reactionaries and even fascists that Russia could not accept in power. “It was probably not just thought of today,” Aleksei A. Chesnakov, a political strategist and former Kremlin aide, said of Mr. Putin’s move in Crimea, “but the trigger came when it was clear that the authorities in Ukraine were not able to return to the compromise of the 21st.”
Two days later Mr. Putin attended the closing ceremony of an Olympics that he hoped would be a showcase of Russia’s revival as a modern, powerful nation. He then ordered the swift, furtive seizure of a region that has loomed large in Russia’s history since Catherine the Great’s conquest. The decision to order in Russian forces appears to have occurred late Tuesday or early Wednesday among a smaller circle of Mr. Putin’s advisers.
The group, the officials and analysts said, included Sergei B. Ivanov, Mr. Putin’s chief of staff; Nikolai P. Patrushev, the secretary of the security council; and Aleksandr V. Bortnikov, the director of the Federal Security Service. All are veterans of the K.G.B., specifically colleagues of Mr. Putin’s when he served in the organization in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, during the 1970s and ’80s. The exclusions of other advisers, the analysts and officials said, underscored his increasing conservatism since he returned to the presidency in 2012 after a stint as prime minister and faced not only popular protests but also mounting criticism from the United States and Europe of the country’s record on political and human rights. “He has bit by bit winnowed out the people who challenged his worldview,” Mr. Galeotti said. Neither Mr. Putin nor any other official has acknowledged ordering an armed incursion in Crimea, though Mr. Putin in his news conference said that he had bolstered security at the bases of the Black Sea Fleet, which has its headquarters in Sevastopol. The deployment of the Russian forces — which the Ukrainian government has said ranged from 6,000 to 15,000 troops — remains a covert operation, the officials and analysts said, to sidestep international law and the need for approval by the United Nations Security Council, something that Mr. Putin and others have repeatedly insisted was necessary for any military operations against another country.
“It’s a traditional thing — to deny the obvious,” said Andrei Soldatov, a journalist and the author, with Irina Borogan, of a book on Russia’s intelligence services called “The New Nobility.” As long ago as 2008, when NATO leaders met in Bucharest to consider whether to invite Ukraine to begin moving toward membership, Mr. Putin bluntly warned that such membership would be unacceptable to Russia, presaging the strategy that appears to be unfolding now.According to a diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks, Mr. Putin even questioned the legality of the Soviet Union’s transfer of the region to the authority of what was then the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954. “If we add in the NATO question and other problems, the very existence of the state could find itself under threat,” Mr. Putin said, according to the cable, written by Kurt Volker, the American ambassador to NATO at the time.
The question now is how far Mr. Putin intends to go. Sergei A. Markov, a political strategist who advises the Kremlin, said it was not yet clear. “He is improvising,” he explained.
http://www.euronews.com/For International Women’s Day, we focus on struggles that have grown increasingly extreme. Furious protests followed in India after a woman was gang-raped and then disembowelled, leading to a slow death. The country had never reacted to rape crimes so actively demanding change, late in 2012. The government strengthened sex crime legislation. But the incidence of reported rapes since then has gone up. Then, this January, came another case shocking the world: a woman’s accusation that 12 men gang-raped her as punishment for an affair with a man from outside the community, on the order of her own village council. It showed how seriously gender conditioning affects India. A women’s rights campaigner there, Rishi Kant, said: “A lot of these sex crimes are happening due to the fewer girls in our country. The young men are not able to get married, especially in the northern part of India. It’s because of the female foeticide and infanticide.” The last census confirmed the growing gap in India between the numbers of women and men. The imbalance is attributed to the widespread practice of aborting girl foetuses; a discrimination in favour of having boys. In an attempt to stop this, a law came into effect in 1996 that made it illegal to identify the sex of a child before birth. India banned prenatal sex determination. According to the Centre for Global Health Research, in the past 30 years there were 12 million female foetuses aborted in India. Gender-based discrimination also sees girls’ get less schooling [Dept. of Statistics] and food [National Family Health Survey], and women contribute almost double the share of their income towards the family on average compared to men [Centre for Global Development]. But the Centre for Global Health Research, headquartered in Toronto, Canada, found the lower female birth rate also among women with ten years or more of studies behind them. Dr. Prabhat Jha said: “What we found is the households that were at the top of the income ladder had a much greater decline than the households that were at the bottom of the income latter. So this is really a phenomenon of the educated and of the wealthy that we are observing in India.” According to leading general medical journal The Lancet, in families where the first born is a girl, the drop-off in the birth rate of girls after that affects most countries. We spoke to Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary-General at the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (also known as UN Women), about the strong significance for International Women’s Day of political and human rights. UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri said: “Gender equality and the women’s empowerment agenda now has become very prominent and has been embraced by the international community as never before, especially since the creation of UN Women.” Adrian Lancashire, euronews: “Is the UN confident that the implementation of the new rape law in India makes women safer?” Puri: “The rape law in the new amendment to the Criminal Code is a landmark, a landmark law. It is really progressive and comprehensive in terms of covering forms of violence that need to be acted against, the definition of sexual violence, the penalties, the special provisions, the special courts that are provided… so all of that is very, very positive. But, of course, implementation is the key, and that’s what we really need to work on with all partners: government, stakeholders, the public at large… Citizenship is very important. “ euronews: “Many studies say girl foetuses in India are targeted for abortion more than boys, even though pre-natal sex determination is a crime. What does the UN say about selective abortion?” Puri: “Well, the UN is against all forms of violence, including against women and girls, and this is indeed a very unacceptable and abhorrent form of violence and discrimination, extreme discrimination, based on boy preference, which is rooted in patriarchal structures, and we, the UN — UN Women in particular — has been campaigning against this, including in India, and in other parts of the world where such practices exist, and we have been working with other partners, like UNICEF and UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund] to support the government in its campaign.” euronews: “India says it is the world’s largest democracy. Are India’s constitutional democracy and the UN Children’s Charter carrying out what they promise?” Puri: “India, as the world’s largest democracy, has in fact one of the most progressive constitutions and provision for equality between men and women, boys and girls — as well as child rights. And India is a signatory to all the conventions relating to children’s rights. So, there is of course a will on the part of the government to implement these conventions, but — always — there is a gap between what is possible, what measures need to be taken additionally. And there are these major challenges, two major challenges, poverty — extreme poverty in particular — and the misinterpretation of culture, tradition and religion. So these really two need to be combated in every way.”
Vietnam air force planes spot two oil slicks suspected to be from missing Malaysian Boeing 777 jet, which vanished over the South China Sea with 239 people on board
The fate of flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing remains unclear more than 12 hours after air traffic controllers lost touch with the plane. However, Vietnamese authorities said they had spotted a 14-mile long oil slick 120 miles off the coast of Cape Ca Mau - the most southerly point of Vietnam's mainland. A Vietnamese government statement said the slicks were spotted late on Saturday off the southern tip of Vietnam and were each between six and nine miles long. There was no confirmation that the slicks were related to the missing plane, but the statement said they were consistent with the kinds that would be produced by the two fuel tanks of a crashed jetliner.
An aerial view of an oil spill seen from a Vietnamese Air Force aircraft searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, the chief executive of Malaysia Airlines, said there was no indication that the pilots had sent a distress signal, suggesting that whatever happened to the plane occurred quickly and possibly catastrophically.
The search has focused on an area of the South China Sea roughly 120 nautical miles south west of Vietnam - the last point of contact with the jet, and where the oil slick has been reported. China, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines all dispatched rescue ships and an emergency rescue message also alerted all ships in the region to assist the mission and watch for any survivors that might be adrift. The flight, a codeshare with China Southern airlines, had 153 Chinese on board, including one child. There were also five Indians, four French, three US citizens, two passengers each from New Zealand, Ukraine, and Canada, and one each from Russia, Italy, the Netherlands and Austria, but no British passengers. Among the Chinese were two groups, one of artists and their families, who had taken part in a cultural exchange and another of Buddhists returning from a religious meeting in the Malaysian capital.
Relatives of the passengers were directed by the Chinese police to the Lido Hotel in Beijing where they waited for news in a large conference room. Angry relatives accused the airline of keeping them in the dark and failing to provide updates as they were received. About 20 people stormed out of the room at one point, enraged they had been given no information. "There's no one from the company here, we can't find a single person. They've just shut us in this room and told us to wait," said one middle-aged man, who declined to give his name. "We want someone to show their face. They haven't even given us the passenger list," he said. Another relative, trying to evade a throng of reporters, muttered: "They're treating us worse than dogs."
Meanwhile, reports in the Italian media raised questions over one passenger on the manifest. Luigi Maraldi, 37, reportedly called his parents to say he was in Thailand and not on board the flight. Mr Maraldi told the Corriere della Sera newspaper that his passport had been stolen last August. "One of the hypotheses about how he came to be on the passenger list is that someone boarded using his stolen passport," the newspaper reported. A spokesman for Malaysia Airlines said they had received any information on Mr Maraldi.In Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian transport minister, Hishamuddin Hussein, said it was too early to confirm a crash and that there were no signs of wreckage on the surface of the water. "We are doing everything in our power to locate the plane. We are doing everything we can to ensure every possible angle has been addressed," he said. Flight MH370, a Boeing 777-200 jet, took off from Kuala Lumpur at 12.35am on Saturday. Two hours later, according to Malaysia Airlines, it lost contact with the air traffic control in Vietnam.
The last data from the plane showed it climbing steadily to 35,000 ft before vanishing. There was no distress signal and the weather conditions were good. Vietnam authorities said contact with Flight MH370 was lost near its airspace, but its exact location and fate remained a mystery for more than 12 hours after it slipped off air-traffic control screens.
In Beijing, the Chinese president Xi Jinping ordered all resources to be mobilised to find the plane and aid survivors. "We are extremely worried," said Wang Yi, the Chinese Foreign minister, breaking off a press conference to attend to the crisis.Frustrated relative struggled to make sense of the disappearance of the Boeing 777-200 which - like the Malaysian national carrier - has a solid safety record. Malaysia Airlines said the plane, on an overnight flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, relayed no distress signal, indications of rough weather, or other signs of trouble. "We filled in a form with our personal information but we have had no updates," said one woman, who declined to give her name. "I hope someone can stand up and say something, but I know there is not much information yet," she added.
If confirmed, the crash would be the worst disaster in the history of Malaysia Airlines, which has had no major accidents for almost two decades. The Boeing 777 is also one of the world's safest planes: the first fatal crash in its history only came last July when an Asiana Airlines jet landed short of the runway in San Francisco, killing three of the 307 people on board.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron-In-Chief of Pakistan Peoples Party today sent a bouquet to senior PPP leader Lateef Mughal, Information Secretary PPP Karachi division who has undergone a painful operation at Aga Khan Hospital last week. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari sent out best wishes and prayers for him saying that workers like Lateef Mughal are the true assets of the Party and genuine followers of the ideology of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. PPP Sindh Information Secretary Waqar Mehdi, Taj Haider, Aijaz Durrani and others presented the bouquet on behalf of the Patron-In-Chief.
Associated PressIn 2009, the United States gave Wazhma Frogh the International Woman of Courage award for her women's rights activism in Afghanistan. Prominently displayed in Frogh's office is a picture of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton granting her the award as First Lady Michelle Obama smiles, clapping by her side. Four years later, the United States denied her a visa when she was trying to get away from an Afghan militia commander who she says was persecuting her. For Frogh, the experience underlined the state of the women's rights movement in her country. Thirteen years after the fall of the Taliban, billions of dollars have been spent, the West and the Afghan government have offered countless words of support, yet the successes that have been achieved remain vulnerable. Ultimately, women still have nowhere to turn when their battle for equal rights puts them on the firing line, she said. "They give you an award but they don't support you when you need them," she told The Associated Press. "I always thought that if my government didn't help me I would always be able to turn to the United States. I never thought that they would turn their back on me." Gains have been made. Gone are the rules imposed by the Taliban forcing women to wear the all-encompassing burqa and barring girls from school. Now, as many as 4 million girls are in school, and women sit in Afghanistan's parliament. But Frogh and other women's rights activists said those changes, while important, are superficial. Women's equality was a priority when the memory of the Taliban was fresh, but over the years the commitment has waned. It became a mantra recited by the Afghan government and non-government organizations to get international funding, and a flag for Western governments to wave as a symbol of success over the Taliban, said Frogh and Afghan parliamentarian, Fawzia Koofi. "Women's rights is the most politicized issue in Afghanistan, before even talks with the Taliban, and I am not happy with it," said Koofi, referring to the Afghan government's attempts to negotiate with Taliban insurgents, raising women activists' fears authorities will compromise on their rights if necessary to reach a deal. Koofi said she is proud and grateful for the successes, but "after 13 years I am still being forced to ask for my basic rights." Many of the victories have major caveats. Girls are back in school, but most are pulled out by their families as they near puberty to ready them for marriage, she said. A hard-fought Law on the Elimination of Violence against Women was passed. More women are reporting cases of abuse and are aware of their right to speak out, said Georgette Gagnon, director of Human Rights with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. But, she said, few cases make it to court and prosecution is rare. Instead most end up in mediation, often through jirgas — a traditional council of elders — or other community councils, which rarely work in favor of the woman. "Often this mediation doesn't fully protect woman's rights and often leads to more violence against the woman," said Gagnon. The few Afghan businesswomen are paraded as success stories, while women are still having their lips cut off for perceived offenses, as happened recently in northern Afghanistan, said Frogh. More than 80 percent of the women in prisons are jailed for so-called "moral crimes," like leaving an abusive husband. Shelters for abused women have been set up, but most men in conservative Afghanistan, even those in the Ministry of Interior, see shelters as "immoral," and women who seek sanctuary there are often banished from their communities, Frogh said. Afghan President Hamid Karzai's first Cabinet featured five female members, the next only two. The quota for women in district councils was 25 percent, but has been reduced to 20 percent. The government set up a Women's Affairs Ministry but doesn't give it the money to hire the staff it needs. Frogh's Women Peace and Security Research Institute works with the Interior Ministry to get more women in ministry jobs and holds training sessions with policewomen, many of whom face sexual harassment. Frogh counsels women on their rights, and her institute compiles statistics and researches abuses against women. Last year, she tried to go temporarily to the US to gain some distance from a militia commander who she says was terrorizing her after she identified him in a report to NATO as a repetitive rights violator. The commander had her followed. He drowned her in text messages, warning that he knew her every move. Frogh said she would be at the airport and a text message would arrive from the commander: "Welcome home." He threatened her sisters and paid her neighbors to complain to the police, alleging that the many women who visited her office were immoral, Frogh says. She had to relocate her office. Aware of the harassment, the US- based Institute of Inclusive Security invited Frogh to spend six to 12 months as a visiting fellow. Frogh said she was told the visa was denied because of fears she would overstay. But she said she neither wanted asylum nor to overstay her visa, only a respite from the harassment. The US Embassy spokesman in Kabul, Robert B. Hilton, refused to comment, saying the embassy does not discuss visa matters. "Certainly, we were disappointed when her visa was denied," Evelyn Thornton, chief executive officer of the institute told The AP. "We have enormous respect for Ms. Frogh's activism for human rights, peace, and security in Afghanistan. She's a courageous leader who has made a significant difference in the lives of many." Finally, Frogh's family turned to a traditional Jirga to mediate with the commander, offering a number of goats and cows in exchange for his forgiveness, the activist says. "I was forced to apologize to someone who was ruining my life and, on a daily basis, the lives of other people, including women," Frogh said. "If I had to apologize to someone who abuses our rights, and I met the wife of the president of the United States, what hope does an Afghan woman in a village have?" Mary Akrami, head of the Afghan Women Skilled Development Centers, said a long-term approach is needed to women's rights, one that goes beyond the cycle of waxing and waning interest. "We want a clear commitment. We want women's issues separated from political issues," she said. Frogh advocated a "less sexy" approach, one that doesn't bask in quick fixes and feel-good moments, but does the hard work of finding solutions for women within the family, giving them a voice in the home and protection outside. "We made a big mistake isolating women and not looking at the woman within the structure of the family, as mother, sister, wife, and involving the whole family," she said. "So the men are often against the rights of women because they see them as against the family." Read more at: http://www.firstpost.com/world/womens-day-gender-equality-remains-distant-dream-in-afghanistan-1425105.html?utm_source=ref_article
The Express TribuneIn a small rented room on Warsak Road in Peshawar lives Farzana and her two younger sisters. The steel resolve of these three women is the tie that binds them to their 30,000 counterparts in the province. And a lack of opportunities for women, especially from impoverished backgrounds. Thirty-year-old Farzana and her sisters are here for a purpose. Originally from Shabqadar, the trio left their home to earn for their family and found work at a medicine factory at the Hayatabad Industrial Estate. Going against the norms of the more conservative face of Pukhtun society, the sisters faced one obstacle after another since the moment they crossed their threshold. (Not) playing house Farzana says she was still playing with dolls when her parents married her off to a relative. “I was 11 years old and a cousin asked my father for my hand in marriage,” she recalls. “He had everyone convinced of his love for me – he said he would take care of me.” She also remembers what made it all the more easy to marry her off – money, rather the lack of it. “My father was confined to a wheelchair because of a disability and we were never well off, so he easily agreed and gave me away.” The factory worker shares it was in their third year of marriage when the couple started quarrelling. What started as a one-off beating became a daily affair of battering and before Farzana knew it, she was restricted to her room, which she would not leave for months. “I have four children, three sons and a daughter. My husband would often stay away from home,” she shares. “This one time he went missing for two weeks before I heard he had married another girl. On his return, I confronted him and after the beating of a lifetime, my husband finally divorced me.” “But this was not the end of my troubles,” says Farzana as she starts pacing the room, her eyes brimming with tears. “I returned to my father’s house with my children in tow except there was no income – we had to leave again to make a living.” Since none of the three sisters is educated, they were forced to seek employment in the medicine factory as labourers, where they each earn Rs4,000 a month. “It is not enough to fulfil even basic needs,” one of Farzana’s sisters complains. Unfortunately, these three women are not alone in their plight. At least 30,000 females, aged 15 to 35, work in factories across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) – 5,000 of them in the same Hayatabad Industrial Estate, where they work at medicine, tissue, matchbox producing units. And not many can speak highly of their work conditions. Another worker at a medicine factory, requesting anonymity, said the behaviour of the factory owner with his employees is very harsh. “We are no better than slaves and our working conditions are deplorable,” she says wearily. “All the girls who work with me have been driven here by poverty. Their fathers are either dead or drug addicts.” The worker adds nobody cares or asks if a worker is injured during work hours. In the past three years, she says, her salary has only gone up by Rs1,000, barely enough to survive. She alleges factory owners quote inflated salaries to inspection teams which visit once in a while. “Two of my sisters who were also working with me at the Industrial Estate remain bed-ridden since the past six months,” says Ruqaiya, who is 25 and also works at a medicine factory in Hayatabad. “They developed respiratory complications from their job. The third one has quit. Our father is dead, even my very young brothers are forced to work in workshops.” While the plight of these women sounds familiar to those of their male counterparts, the tales of workplace harassment stand apart as does the journey of unwanted daughters or wives forced out of home and hearth. An act of words According to K-P Directorate of Labour’s Inspector of Factories Wajid Ali Khan, after the 18th Amendment, the K-P Assembly passed seven employment-related acts in 2013. These include the Payment of Wages Act, 2013, Minimum Wages Act, 2013, Factories Act 2013, Maternity Benefits Act 2013, Workers Compensation Act 2013, Industrial and Commercial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 2013, and Industrial Statistics Act, 2013. The names suggest many of these could enshrine much-needed rights but the tales suggest they remain on paper only. Khan shares the number of registered running factories in K-P stands at 781 where 54,485 male and female labours are employed. There could be more workers, just not within the system. He reminds The Express Tribune that the minimum wage is Rs 10,000 per month and the factories are bound to provide food at least once a day as well as medical facilities to their employees. The directorate does inspect these workplaces from time to time, insists Khan and takes immediate action against owners who do not fulfil these. But these employees are also negligent in filing complaints, says the inspector.
http://pashtunwomenvp.com/Today as the world celebrate women day as recognition of long struggle started by the world socialist org for greater role and acceptance of women social political and economic role. Lucy Mangan – in her recent Guardian article – sums up the issues of our western counterpart in these words ‘we keep our eyes on the prize of securing an equal share of power and choices for women – the true freedom, for example, of whether or not to have children, derived from free access to contraception, abortion, economic independence from men, sufficient parental leave, flexible, affordable childcare options and so on’. It pleases me so much that women, at least somewhere in this world, have moved on from fighting for basic women suffrage rights to a point where they can go beyond certain established society rules and challenge them. They seem to be in better control of their lives. While we the Pakhtun women in this part of the world are striving to be only treated as human first. We struggle with laws, customs, and deep entrenched biases against us. We are talking and trying to convince our men that selling a 12 years girl to a 70-year-old man for marriage should be made illegal. Selling us for monetary benefits (Walwar) is not a custom but violation of us as human being. Slavery is abolished by the civilized world .My right to education which has been declared a universal human right by the rest of the world, I am still stopped from going to school because I'm only a cheap labour to be availed in kitchen, farm work and used for reproductive purpose to further your tribal and ethnic needs or your sexual needs. I'm struggling to convince my brothers, fathers and my well-wishers that handing me over to your enemies to settle a blood feud ( Swara) - the crime committed by you is not even approved by God. Hitting me by considering me weak, chopping off my nose, cutting my arms and taking your frustration out on me is not only wrong but also verily you will answer for your deeds one day. (If you believe in any court of law or final judgment of God) .My dear father, brother and my husband I demand to be treated as human. I have emotions, feelings, needs and thoughts same as you. I'm not less than you. Otherwise Day of Judgment would have been ordained by God as different for us. Only physically different but that difference is not to be exploited but cherished because we have to run this system of the world together with respect and dignity as human beings.
On this International Women's day, Google two words: "Pakistan" and "Women". The results will show pages and pages with headlines about girl-child marriages, honour killings, acid attacks, sexual harassment, not enough women-friendly legislation passed by the National Assembly of Pakistan, patriarchy, preference for male child, alarming maternal mortality rates, and the list goes on. A recent report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) shows that Pakistan ranks as the fourth most dangerous country in terms of journalists killed in the line of duty. And yes, Pakistan is considered one of the most dangerous places in the world for women. Some of the search results would be articles written by female Pakistani journalists - including myself - who focus on gender issues. I recall reporting on the gender gap in employment in Pakistan, when the country was ranked 2nd from the bottom in a study of 135 countries (World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report).Stakeholders in peace On the surface, it looks like it is all bad news, especially for female journalists. Despite the harsh working conditiones (low salaries, stress, violence), the fact remains that more and more women are joining media in Pakistan. And for a good reason. This is a country that has a story in every corner, waiting to be told. And women, by default, are great story-tellers. They also have so much to say, and are natural born "fixers". Journalism is thus a great career choice for us. Pakistan's situation, of late has unearthed some new fields and exposed some voids waiting to be filled by reporters, who can choose them as their niches in the world of journalism. With the risk of sounding cliche, there are the proverbial "silver linings" to this mayhem. Here's an example of one of the new beats opening up before women journalists: If earlier I was writing features just focusing on reproductive health and family planning, I now focus on how the security crises have affected women in conflict-ridden parts of the country. If roads are blown up and the infrastructure is damaged, women end up paying the highest price. For example, women in such areas would not be able to access hospitals for childbirth, and female doctors, for safety reasons, cannot travel to conflict zones. All this needs to be highlighted. And women reporters do that well. In times of conflict, the vulnerable sections of society like women and children, are most impacted by displacement and losing the men in their lives. Women, as stakeholders in peace processes at any level, are often ignored. Their voice needs to be heard. Over time, the importance of this particular "beat" or focus as a journalist became obvious to me. It was important that I was there at Peshawer's Lady Reading Hospital to talk to Fatima Bibi (not her real name) whose 14-year-old son had lost his limbs in a blast. She wanted to do something about it more than just weep. She went on to become a peace-builder in her own town. Her story needed to be told. And it was. Defining factors The good part, however, is that it doesn't really matter if you were a male or a female journalist in Pakistan. Media in this country is quickly becoming a sphere where the man-woman dynamic is not necessarily the defining factor. We are not second-guessed because we are women. We are treated as equals to our male colleagues. There is a definite air of synergy which is conducive to the nature of this craft. Yes, we want to see even more women in key leadership positions in media houses, even right at the top. Indeed, many have gotten there, while others are on their way up. The professional hazards, like being stared at or harassed, are not specific to journalism or Pakistan. If, as women we ask for equality, we have to handle these hiccups, although this does not mean staying silent about it. Over time, we learn to handle it. There may be a few "boys' clubs" that are a tad bit over-protective about their female counterparts, but generally, Pakistan's female journalists are a strong voice in the country's overall narrative. What is encouraging is that Pakistan has a vibrant and growing regional language media, often braver than mainstream media. Women from conservative, under-privileged or rural backgrounds are also venturing into it. A proactive female journalist from South Punjab was asked recently why she is doing this job that is risky and not so lucrative. Her answer had great clarity: "Sharing this table with 20 male journalists and being able to find a space where my voice is being heard. What more does one need?"