Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Huge Fire Burns San Francisco Building

A three-alarm fire was burning at a building under construction near AT&T Park in San Francisco Tuesday.

3/11/14: White House Press Briefing


Video: Clashes erupt in Turkey after teen protester dies


Thousands rally for Russia in Crimean capital

Video: Obama shops at Gap, calls for minimum wage increase

President Obama picks up a pink V-neck sweater for Sasha, says U.S. workers shouldn't have to live in poverty.

Turkey: Clashes erupt between protesters, police

Clashes have broken out between the protesters and riot police in Turkey following the death of a teenager wounded during mass anti-government protests last year. On Tuesday, protesters threw stones at police vehicles in Istanbul after 15-year-old Berkin Elvan, who had slipped into a coma after being hit in the head by a police tear gas canister during last summer's demonstrations, died at the city’s Okmeydani Hospital. Demonstrations in relation to the boy's death also took place in the capital, Ankara, where police fired tear gas and used water cannon to disperse thousands of protesters.
Students also staged a sit-down protest in the Aegean port city of Izmir. Berkin was on his way to buy bread when he was caught up in a street protest. His family blames Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for their son's death. "It's not God who took my son away but Prime Minister Erdogan," the boy’s mother Gulsum Elvan, speaking to reporters outside the hospital, said through tears. Berkin’s death raised the number of fatalities from last summer's anti-government protests in Turkey to at least eight, including a police officer. On May 31, 2013, Turkish police broke up a sit-in held at Istanbul's Taksim Square against a proposal to demolish Gezi Park. The violence turned into nationwide demonstrations against the ruling Justice and Development Party and Erdogan, with police using water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets against the demonstrators. The protests saw an estimated 2.5 million people take to the streets across Turkey over three weeks to demand Erdogan's resignation. More than 8,000 people were injured in the demonstrations, according to medics.

'They are hanging to life' - Saudi king's ex-wife speaks out

Exclusive: in her first television interview, the former wife of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia claims her four daughters have suffered years trapped in the royal compound in Jeddah.
Channel 4 News has broadcast the first television interview with the former wife of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, writes Fatima Manji. She has gone public about what she claims is years of abuse against their four daughters. It is an extraordinary insight into the House of Saud, a secretive dynasty, which has held absolute power for more than 80 years. Princess Alanoud Al Fayez was married to King Abdullah at the age of 15. It was a marriage arranged by her uncle and she had never laid eyes on him until their wedding day. Soon she had four daughters - princesses Sahar, Maha, Hala and Jawaher (pictured above) - but no son. The girls led a privileged childhood - skiing trips in the Alps, visits abroad. But after their mother was divorced by the king, she says things deteriorated and she eventually fled to London.
For the last 13 years the girls say they have been trapped in the royal compound in Jeddah. They cannot leave without armed guards and are barred from leaving the country. Their mother has not seen them in person for a decade. She tells me: "They are really in a terrible state, especially Jawaher and Sahar. She's telling me, 'Mummy, we are trying to hold on to our sanity'. They are hanging to life. They don't deserve what happened to them."
I have been communicating with the eldest daughter, Princess Sahar (pictured above), via email.
She sent me pictures of the compound where she says they are held and a surveillance tower watches them day and night. She says their villa is no gilded cage, but a house is slipping into ruin, with leaking pipes and shattered windows: "People don't realise how hard our situation is. They still see us as 'pampered' Saudi Princesses. We never were. We suffer on a daily basis."
No way out
She told me she was speaking out after being threatened by her father - the king. Sahar writes: "Our father said that we had no way out and that after his death our brothers will continue detaining us." A few hours ago Sahar sent me a long email detailing her views on Saudi society. She says: "Women and children [in Saudi Arabia] are abused, while their male guardian enjoy privileges granted by the court in cases of domestic abuse. Princes and the elite entourage are protected and the victims and their families suffer injustice." In London, their mother says she has tried everything to get her daughters released. Her lawyers have asked to visit the princesses in Saudi and have gone to the UN's special rapporteur on human rights.
Their mother says she is especially worried about Princess Hala, who is suffering from extreme anorexia and psychological problems. She claims she was jailed after she got a job in a local hospital and spoke up about human rights abuses. Channel 4 News put this and all the other claims to the government of Saudi Arabia though their embassy here in London. But so far we have had no response. The house of Saud is one of the most secretive in the world. The king, now thought to be 89, is worth an estimated £11bn, and is feted by the west. Just a few weeks ago Prince Charles paid a visit - and President Obama will visit later this month. Yet the princesses say the west remains silent on human rights abuses in the country, particularly the treatment of women.

Crimea parliament declares independence from Ukraine ahead of referendum

The parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea has adopted an independence declaration from Ukraine which is necessary for holding a March 16 referendum. “We, the members of the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the Sevastopol City Council, with regard to the charter of the United Nations and a whole range of other international documents and taking into consideration the confirmation of the status of Kosovo by the United Nations International Court of Justice on July, 22, 2010, which says that unilateral declaration of independence by a part of the country doesn’t violate any international norms, make this decision,” says the text of the declaration, which was published by the Crimean media.
The document was adopted during an extraordinary session of parliament.
78 of 100 members of the parliament voted in favor of the declaration. The Crimean parliament’s vote to become an independent sovereign state paves the way for the March 16 referendum for the Crimean Autonomous Republic and the city of Sevastopol to join Russia.
If the referendum is in favor, the Crimean authorities will request for their country to become a constituent republic of the Russian Federation. The declaration was signed by the speaker of the Supreme Council of Crimea, Vladimir Konstantinov, and the head of the Sevastopol City Council, Yury Doynikov. “We adopted the declaration of independence to make the upcoming referendum legitimate and transparent,” Konstantinov said. “Now we declare ourselves the Republic of Crimea, we don’t add ‘autonomous." After Tuesday’s declaration of independence, Crimea will never rejoin Ukraine, Konstantinov added. “Crimea won’t be a part of Ukraine even if the ousted president, Viktor Yanukovich, returns to power,” he said. “The country where we lived doesn’t exist anymore. We are going our own way and we’re trying to do it quickly.” Konstantinov said that Crimea will adopt the Russian ruble as its currency soon after the referendum. Meanwhile, Crimean authorities are preparing for Sunday’s poll, says the speaker of the Supreme Council of Crimea. He reiterated that he believes the referendum will be passed. “The ballots for the referendum are being printed and the election committees are being formed in all parts of Crimea," he says. Seventy-seven percent of people in Crimea and Sevastopol will vote to join Russia in the March 16 referendum, according to the poll conducted by Crimea Republican Institute of Political and Sociological Research. Eighty-five percent of people in Sevastopol, a city with a special status located on the Crimean peninsula, believe that it should join Russia. According to the poll, 97 percent of the population of Sevastopol and Crimea negatively view the situation in Ukraine regarding the Kiev coup-imposed government, while 84 percent say that Ukraine is experiencing a crisis. A total of 83 percent of the population of Crimea disapprove of the coup-appointed government in Kiev, the poll found.

Pakistan:CCI recommendation criticized by PPP Human Rights Cell

The PPP Human Rights cell Coordinator has expressed concern at the recent statement of the Chief of the Islamic Council of Ideology regarding reversal of the Family Law Ordinance 1961 particularly on the second marriage of males and said that this interpretation was against the spirit of equality which was the basic tenet of Islam.
“Why is Islamic Ideology Council concerned with men’s four marriages and why have they done nothing to ensure that women get their property as enshrined in Islamic Law? Or why have they failed to stop practices such as vani, swara and karo kari? Or stop rape, and acid crimes against women?” asked Dr Nafisa Shah. “Unfortunately Islam has been misinterpreted over a period of time by a mindset and a particular school of thought. Islam and modernism are compatible provided progressive scholars interpret the religion”. She added
The Human Rights Cell Coordinator called upon the government to include progressive Islamic scholars in the Council of Common Ideology so that women’s rights and the rights of all are protected.

Video: Ukrane's Yanukovich: I'm alive, I'm still president, I'll be back

Persian: Song:Baran - 100 Baar OFFICIAL VIDEO

First hand glimpse at the horrors of war: Terrifying video from Afghanistan ...

First hand glimpse at the horrors of war: Terrifying video from Afghanistan shows exactly what it is like to be struck by an IED
In a single second the blinding flash of the detonating IED knocks the solder to the ground in Afghanistan as rubble and dusty debris are spewed out. The rare and disturbing POV footage was filmed two years ago, but the shock and sheer intensity of the leveling blast still shocks. Presumably on a routine patrol in war-torn Afghanistan, the American soldier is surrounded by his comrades after the blast and miraculously survived. While the soldier in the video is unfortunately not identified, the video serves as a reminder of the perils that servicemen and women endure daily whilst deployed to the Central Asian nation. At the height of the war against the insurgency of the Taliban in 2010, 60 percent of the 400 weekly attacks in Afghanistan were the result of roadside bombs.
Data released by the Pentagon in 2010 showed 1,059 IED incidents in April of that year, one of the highest monthly numbers on record and more than double the amount in April 2009. The work performed by bomb-disposal experts - made famous by the film Hurt Locker, which was set in Iraq - became more deadly as the Taliban became more sophisticated. Part of the problem was that the novice Afghan army engineers were facing an enemy that had mastered the art of bomb-making and were becoming more creative. Trained by Western military experts, the Afghan military's progress has been arduous because the Taliban had become so ingenious with their methods of killing.
In the training session soldiers pass the metal detector past a disused anti-tank mine rigged with explosives. A cooker stuffed with an explosive device is placed on the side of the road. Then there is a wired, old mortar on display. One soldier is told to take his weapon off before placing a rock down on a sand mound to mark the location of an IED.
Infantrymen kneel along the side of the road, practising how to keep an eye out for Taliban fighters who may stage an ambush during an IED-sweeping operation. The Taliban are also now hiding bombs in trees and walls, not just the carcasses of dogs or donkeys. They often plant IEDs in one area and melt away to do the same in another. The engineers are likely to be frustrated for lack of more sophisticated training and they need more devices to detect IEDs activated by remote-controlled devices. Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2577839/Terrifying-person-video-Afghanistan-shows-exactly-like-struck-IED.html#ixzz2veVL8Um9 Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

The Dream of Peace in Afghanistan

Aziz Amin Ahmadzai
With a new era about to begin, the international community must help Afghanistan find peace.
This is a decisive year for Afghanistan. The withdrawal of all foreign troops, the pursuit of peace talks with the Taliban, and the presidential election due for April 5 combine to open a new chapter in the country’s political history.
International forces are slated to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014. If the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) is signed, a residual U.S. force of between 5,000 and 10,000 will remain. This force would serve only in a training and advisory role for the fledgling Afghan forces and may operate on its own only to hunt down the remnants of al-Qaida operatives and leadership. So far, however, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign the BSA until the principal concerns of the Afghan government are resolved and certain preconditions are met. U.S. President Barack Obama recently warned Karzai that the U.S. military will withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the latest attempt to cajole the Afghan leader into signing the BSA.
“Because [President Karzai] has demonstrated that it is unlikely that he will sign the BSA, the United States is moving forward with additional contingency planning,” the White House said in a statement that followed the recent call between the two leaders. “Specifically, President Obama has asked the Pentagon to ensure that it has adequate plans in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal by the end of the year should the United States not keep any troops in Afghanistan after 2014.”
With these changing circumstances, Afghanistan is once again at a historical crossroads. Once again, the Afghans themselves, their neighbors, most notably in Pakistan and Iran, and the international community face a question: Can they save the country from further bloodshed?
For now, the Taliban continues its attacks. One recent incident at a military checkpoint at Ghaziabad, in the mountainous Kunar region close to Pakistan, saw 21 Afghan soldiers killed and a number of others apparently taken hostage. Meanwhile the country’s economy continues to struggle, remaining in the grip of warlords and other corrupt elements who may have reasons of their own to oppose any peace deal with the Taliban.
Any initiative to move beyond this grim situation must be led by the Afghan people themselves. The role of the international community, led by the United States, must be helping Afghans determine their own future, and blocking the kind of interference from Afghanistan’s neighbors that marked the strife in the 1990s. This is the best hope for achieving a stable and robustly democratic Afghanistan, which is surely in the interests of the region and the world at large.
Afghans are peace-loving people who have been sadly exploited by powers both local and distant. Invasions by the world’s most powerful states has sown internal mistrust, and have left the nation poor, without infrastructure, riven with disunity, and rampant with discrimination. Afghans are well aware of this and are ready to resolve their internal differences peacefully.
The next question is will the U.S. and the international community continue to support Afghanistan in terms of building its economy, its infrastructure and its state institutions? If Afghanistan’s government institutions remain weak, then a return to Taliban control seems inevitable. In that case, having seen off another superpower, the Taliban will be stronger than ever, a prospect that must alarm not only Afghanistan but also neighbors Pakistan and Iran.
It is worth remembering, though, that Afghan society has changed. The Taliban does not have the kind of widespread support they enjoyed before the war. State institutions, while weak, are at least active. If it does receive international support, Afghanistan can overcome the pressure applied by Taliban violence.
Afghans are no different from people anywhere else: They wish to get on with their lives in peace. They have the chance to do that after the U.S. withdrawal, but regional stakeholders and the international community must assist. The time for fighting is over; the Taliban must be brought to the table for talks.

Afghanistan: Journalist gunned down in Kabul

A gunman has shot dead a Swedish-British journalist in central Kabul, a rare daylight murder of an expatriate in a city often hit by Taliban suicide attacks.
The Taliban denied responsibility for the killing in an upmarket district close to a Lebanese restaurant in the Afghan capital, where the militants launched a suicide attack that killed 21 people, including 13 foreigners, in January. The Swedish ambassador to Afghanistan, Peter Semneby, identified the dead man as radio journalist Nils Horner. "Unfortunately we just have received confirmation that Nils Horner, who was correspondent for Swedish national radio, was shot and killed in Kabul this morning," ambassador Peter Semneby told AFP. Advertisement
"We understand he had British nationality in addition to his Swedish nationality. His family has been informed."
A witness at the scene described hearing a single gunshot before seeing the victim fall to the ground and a doctor at Kabul's emergency hospital said he was dead on arrival. "There were two guys who ran away. They were perhaps in their 20s and security guards chased them as they ran away," the witness told AFP on condition of anonymity. Security forces rushed to the scene and cordoned off the street, where there was blood visible on the ground. The attack came as many of the Afghan capital's security forces were occupied with the funeral of Vice-President Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim, who died on Sunday. The Taliban, who have led the insurgency against the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai since being toppled from power in 2001, denied the attack. "We checked with our mujahideen and they are not involved," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told AFP. "We don't take responsibility for this incident."
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/journalist-gunned-down-in-kabul-20140311-hvhi7.html#ixzz2vePuqB5L

Saudis banned from Harrods? Pakistan paper falls for it

Al Arabiya Network
At a time of rising tensions in the Gulf, relations between Qatar and its neighbors has become a topic for serious analysis.
So serious, in fact, that one Pakistan newspaper missed the joke completely.
The News International, one of the most established English newspapers in Pakistan, today ran a report in which it was claimed that Qatar had banned Saudis, Bahrainis and Emiratis from entering its upmarket London department store, Harrods. “Banning Arabs from Harrods may not create a big political or strategic upheaval but it is definitely an insult no rich Arab sheikh or emir would take lightly,” was the newspaper’s take on the affair. Except, of course, that Saudis and other Gulf nationals can still wander freely into Harrods – for no such ban was ever made. The News International had in fact lifted the story from The Pan-Arabia Enquirer, a satirical website that is becoming increasingly high-profile in the Middle East and beyond. The fact that the site is satirical (and is clearly marked as such) was apparently missed by writer Shaheen Sehbai and his editors at The News International. In its analysis of the tension between Qatar and several of its neighbors, the newspaper republished several fictitious quotes from The Pan-Arabia Enquirer, including one from a Middle East analyst dubbed “Bella Cockpit”. It also quoted a fictitious statement from the Qatari side: “Sure, they can withdraw their ambassadors, but let’s see how they feel when they can’t enjoy a luxury retail experience spread over seven floors, 330 departments and 20,000 square metres in one of London’s most exclusive neighborhoods,” the newspaper quoted the ‘Consultative Assembly of Qatar’ as saying.
The story stemmed from the very real news last week, when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain decided to recall their envoys from Doha. The move was interpreted as a response to Qatar's support of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Saudi Arabia and the UAE consider a 'terrorist' movement. The News International appeared to have realized its error after much mockery on Twitter, and later updated the online version of the story. But the original print version is still visible on its website. Executives from the newspaper did not respond to requests for comment. But while the newspaper missed the joke, one of the writers behind The Pan-Arabia Enquirer continues to see the funny side. “It is a testament to the growing reach of our satirical work that publications such as Pakistan’s The News International are now turning to us as a provider of up-to-the-minute fictitious news,” the writer, who prefers to remain anonymous, told Al Arabiya News. “We applaud their decision to trust our journalists enough to not change a single word or even bother to check whether our sources exist or not.”

Pakistan: Cops escorting polio team shot dead in D I Khan

Two policemen escorting a polio vaccination team for security were shot dead in Dera Ismail Khan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Tuesday, DawnNews reported. The two cops were returning to their homes after performing their duties when the were targeted by unknown gunmen in Garo Ahmed area of D I Khan, killing the two on the spot. Police and rescue teams reached the spot and shifted the bodies to a hospital for post-mortem. Efforts to eradicate it have been seriously hampered by the deadly targeting of vaccination teams in recent years.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Jan 17 had declared Pakistan's troubled northwestern city of Peshawar as the world’s “largest reservoir” of endemic polio and called for urgent action to boost vaccination. Militant groups see vaccination campaigns as a cover for espionage, and there are also long running rumours about polio drops causing infertility. Increasing number of polio cases have give rise to fears that Pakistanis could face travel restrictions over the growing polio cases in the country.

Pakistan: Rivalry with Afghanistan to make Fata military offensive riskier

Pakistan seems ready to launch a military operation in Fata but a continued rivalry with Afghanistan may lead to failure, warn US experts.
In TV talks and think-tank debates this week, experts also emphasised the importance of greater coordination between the forces deployed on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border for this operation to succeed.
Underlining this point, Pakistan’s Ambassador to US, Jalil Abbas Jilani, said his country was seeking a “robust and forward-looking defence partnership” with the United States.
But a former US ambassador to Islamabad, Cameron Munter, said that a durable relationship between the two countries would require a greater engagement with the Pakistani people. Chairman of the House Defence Appropriations Committee, Rodney Frelinghuysen, who recently visited Pakistan, said the country focused more on perceived threats from India and not enough on its “soft-underbelly, the Taliban”.
In a piece CNN released on Sunday, Frederic Grare, Director of the South Asia Programme at the Carnegie Endowment, argued that Pakistan alone could not seal the Afghan border and Afghanistan would not cooperate without a credible guarantee of non-interference from Islamabad.
An operation launched without Afghanistan’s support “would heighten the risk that terrorist sanctuaries could reemerge, undermining more than a decade of counter-terrorism efforts,” Grare warned. Continued tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, he said, would also reduce America’s “freedom to manoeuvre diplomatically”.
Addressing officers of the staff and war course at the US Marine Corps earlier this week, Jilani noted that Pakistan and the United States had together made valuable gains in fighting Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks. “And there is a mutual desire to further build on this fruitful cooperation,” he added. “They can accomplish even better results by further deepening bilateral friendship and trust.”
Experts like Grare noted that the need for US support to a Pakistani military operation in Fata was greater now than ever before.
“Since the TTP operates from Fata and Afghanistan, Islamabad worries that the movement may collude with the Afghan Taliban,” Grare said. “Even a limited operational alliance between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban would create a serious headache for Islamabad, and could even increase the risk of conflict between Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
To complicate matters further, “Pakistan cannot expect to quash the TTP without Afghan cooperation. Faced with Pakistani pressure, the TTP will inevitably seek refuge in Afghanistan,” he argued.
Grare noted that the US-led coalition forces were unable to stop Taliban infiltration and the Afghan forces were unlikely to perform any better.


By Gaurav Dixit
Pakistan in order to revive its security plans before the drawdown of international troops from Afghanistan in 2014 has come up with its first ever National Internal Security Policy (NISP).
The 94-page policy document is an introspection of the current political and security problems in Pakistan, as well as defining strategic level intervention to end internal disputes to bring peace and reconciliation. The policy purported at defending the national security of Pakistan includes Secret, Strategic, and Operational components. One of the crucial components of the envisioned policy document aimed at combating extremism is to bring all the religious madrassas or Islamic religious schools under its national education system within one year. The aim is to curb the religious hatred these madrassas allegedly promote against its own government and neighbouring countries. Some of these madrassas allegedly support and are patrons of regional terrorist groups like Taliban and Al Qaeda. The NISP paper claims that some of the country’s 22,052 madrassas are responsible for spreading extremism, most of them outside the purview of the Pakistan government. The document claims that although all madrassas are not home to terrorists, there are problems with some madrassas which are spreading extremism. The madrassas are also being financed by unidentified sources and the publication and distribution of hate material is prevalent.
Earlier in 2013, Ganj madrassa in Peshawar was put on economic sanctions after being branded as a terrorist training centre supporting Al Qaeda and the Taliban. According to the US treasury, the centre was used as training and recruiting base by the militant groups, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba blamed for the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
There are huge networks of the Deobandi and Ahl-e Hadith madrassas where youths are indoctrinated into jihadi philosophy. They are deployed at regional training centres, and ultimately sent to terrorist training camps.
In 2009, then-principal officer at the US consulate in Lahore in his initial study of southern Punjab had found a disturbing nexus between the madrassas and foreign donors facilitating the indoctrination of poor children in the radical educational institutions developed in Multan, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan Divisions. Majority of these networks are actively waging war against India in Kashmir.
Undoubtedly there are some serious concerns about the madrassas and seminaries in Pakistan, many of them found to be vigorous patrons of the conservative and radical groups promoting sectarian hatred, anti-India and anti-US sentiments. The madrassas have become a sort of hunting ground for future terrorists in the name of Islamic war promoted and vigorously lobbied by Arab and Gulf funds. The adoption of rigid and conservative curriculum based on narrow principles of Islam isolates the students from universal understanding of more secular and liberal forms of education. It pushes the students towards a more radicalised understanding of the religion and as crusaders of puritanical Islam.
In the case of Pakistan where madrassas are fast turning into indoctrination camps, ample studies demonstrate the lack of political will and commitment to fight against extremism. It is also seen as a product of the mistrust and fear existing between the government and the religious organisations controlled by madrassas. In some cases, Pakistani authorities have intentionally pushed these madrassas to morph into indoctrination centres and terrorist camps, either for strategic gain or as part of a policy of appeasement for a section of the populace.
Last year, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an organisation on the UN terror blacklist, the parent body of banned terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba run by Hafiz Saeed, was granted more than Rs.6.1 crore by the Punjab province government, along with dedicated sanction of Rs.35 crore for setting up a ‘Knowledge Park’ at the centre and other development initiatives. Jamaat-ud-Dawa and four senior Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders were added to a UN sanctions list in December 2008 after the Mumbai attacks. Lashkar-e-Taiba is active in India and is accused in various terrorist attacks in the last one decade.
The problem with the Pakistan government in the past was its inability to devise a policy to curb growing extremism, even though there was ample evidence of the diabolic schemes sprouting in these madrassas. The most disturbing trend about these seminaries and madrassas is not only their inherent ability to promote certain kind of ideology, but also the ability spread it among society through its coalesced network.
According to Ayesha Siddiqa, a Pakistan based geo-strategist, these organisations do not allow pupils and society to look at alternative perspectives within the religious discourse, thus promoting a worldview which leads to opposition of any alternative discourse.
The Pakistan government has found it quite tough to handle the issue, considering the size and strength of madrassas during last couple of decades. Any panoptic solution will need to look into various other components of society such as poverty, educational facilities and resources, to curb the growing menace of hate preaching madrassas. This time, however, the government has come up with an extensive plan to tackle extremism and curtail such groups, with a vision to develop a national narrative based on tolerance, harmony and the right of the people to make religious, political and social choices. It would be tough to predict the outcome of this policy now. But, a positive approach will certainly help to de-radicalise a large number of such organisations which are promoting extremism.

Terror Groups In Pakistan's Punjab: 'SIMMERING CAULDRON IN PUNJAB – ANALYSIS'

By Ambreen Agha
“If you want to destabilize Pakistan,” an unnamed senior Police Officer in the Province notes, “you have to destabilize Punjab.” That, precisely, is the intention of an accelerating and expanding campaign of Islamist extremist terrorism in Pakistan, linked intimately to the Taliban – al Qaeda complex, and to the growing movement of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which has turned renegade against its original sponsors and handlers in the Pakistan establishment and Army.” – Tempest of Terror, August 2009
On March 3, 2014, at least 11 persons, including Additional District and Sessions Judge Rafaqat Awan and a woman lawyer, were killed, and another 25 were injured, when terrorists carried out a suicide attack at the courthouse complex located in the F-8 area of Islamabad. According to reports, the terrorists entered the complex and opened fire indiscriminately at everyone, hurled hand grenades and later exploded their suicide vests.
The TTP ‘spokesman’ Shahidullah Shahid, distancing his outfit from the attack, clarified, “We have already declared a ceasefire and we strictly adhere to our deal with the Government. Our colleagues in the organisation also cannot violate this agreement”. On declaring an ‘unconditional’ ceasefire, on March 2, 2014, Shahid had stated, “Following a positive response from the Government, an appeal from religious scholars, in honour of the representative committee and in the greater interest of Islam and Pakistan, we have decided not to carry out any activities for one month… We hope that the Government will take our ceasefire announcement seriously and will work to move forward in a positive way while keeping the peace process away from all types of politics.” The Nawaz Sharif Government and TTP resumed negotiations in the second phase of talks on March 5, 2014.
Meanwhile, ‘spokesman’ of the Ahrar-ul-Hind (AH), a TTP splinter group, claiming responsibility for the attack, declared that the judicial system in the country was ‘un-Islamic’ and that they would continue their ‘struggle’ till Sharia’h law was enforced. Further, while dispelling any confusion over its alleged links with the TTP, he said, “We are an independent group and have no links with TTP. We were a part of TTP earlier but now we operate independently.”
Earlier, on February 7, 2014, five officials were injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up during a search operation jointly launched by Police and Intelligence Agencies in the Khanewal District of Punjab Province.
Prior to this, on January 20, 2014, a TTP suicide bomber killed 13 persons, including eight soldiers and three children, and wounded another 29, when he blew himself up at Royal Artillery Bazaar, close to the General Headquarters of the Pakistan Army in Rawalpindi District. Claiming responsibility for the attack, TTP ‘spokesman’ Shahidullah Shahid announced, “It [the attack] was carried out by one of our suicide bombers to take revenge for the Red Mosque massacre. We will continue our struggle against the secular system.” The Pakistani Army had conducted operations at Red Mosque in 2007.
These incidents are not in isolation. The first two months and seven days of the current year have already recorded 39 fatalities, including 23 civilians, nine Security Force (SF) personnel and seven terrorists, in nine incidents of killing, according to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP).
In 2013, a total of 81 persons, including 64 civilians, seven SF personnel and 10 terrorists were killed in total 20 separate terrorism related incidents of killing, as compared to 104 persons killed in 19 such incidents in 2012, registering a decline of 22.11 percent in fatalities.
The decline registered in overall fatalities is mainly due to the SFs’ reluctance to counter the terrorists’ threat. Indeed, as compared to 2012, the year 2013 witnessed a decline of 75.86 and 37.5 per cent in fatalities among SFs and terrorists, respectively. Perhaps emboldened by the evident operational paralysis among the state’s security agencies, terrorists killed a slightly higher number of civilians in 2013, as against the previous year.
Other parameters of violence have varied widely. Out of 20 incidents of killing in 2013, seven were major incidents (involving three or more killings) resulting in 40 deaths, as compared to five major incidents in 2012 that accounted for 76 deaths. While the Province recorded only one suicide attack in 2013, same as in 2012, the resultant fatalities stood at five and 11 respectively. At least five bomb blasts occurred in 2013, which claimed 14 lives and left 73 injured. In 2012, the number of bomb blasts stood at 10 with 51 fatalities. Incidents of sectarian violence, however, increased considerably from four in 2012 to 13 in 2013. The resultant fatalities, though, remained almost the same: 42 in 2013 as against 43 in 2012.
The possibility of escalation of violence cannot be ruled out as a result of the considerable and increasing presence of at least 57 extremist and terrorist outfits in Punjab alone Out of the 57 extremist organisations found in Punjab, at least 28 homegrown outfits exist in the provincial capital, Lahore, making it the most violent among the 36 Districts of the Province, followed by Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Significantly, Lahore has witnessed a total of 563 fatalities since 2005, according to partial data compiled by SATP, compared to 225 in Rawalpindi and 222 in Islamabad, in the same period. However, in 2013 Rawalpindi recorded the maximum fatalities, 26 in nine incidents of killing, followed by Lahore, with 14 in seven terrorism incidents.
The Province is also home to various foreign terrorists, including the Afghan Taliban and Uzbek terrorists. Talibanisation is, consequently, no longer a local affair, and manifests a dual strategy of both importing foreign radicals into the Province and exporting radical Islamism. Significantly, on December 15, 2012, suicide bombers of the TTP in collusion with foreign terrorists of Dagestani and Uzbek origin, attacked the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) base inside the Bacha Khan International Airport of Peshawar, the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. On December 18, 2012, the then Federal Minister of Education Sheikh Waqas Akram disclosed in the National Assembly, that banned terrorist outfits in Punjab had contacts with Uzbek terrorists, who charged USD 40,000 for carrying out terrorist attacks within Pakistan.
Punjab has also proved to be a major ideological sanctuary and recruitment base for terrorists, as well as a source for the export of the terrorist theology and activities beyond borders. A September 7, 2013, media report quoting analyst Mansur Mehsud, who runs the FATA Research Institute (FRI), stated that terrorists based in Punjab Province were being trained for an ethnicity-based civil war in neighboring Afghanistan after the withdrawal of foreign forces in 2014. Mehsud explains:
Before, they [terrorists in Punjab] were keeping a low profile. But just in the last two or three years, hundreds have been coming from Punjab. Everyone knows that when NATO and the American troops leave Afghanistan there will be fighting between Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns. Indeed, in a media interview in 2013, a senior Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) member, who goes by the pseudonym Ahmed Zia Siddiqui, declared, “We will go to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban as we have done in the past.” When asked whether the Punjab-based terrorists were preparing for war in Afghanistan after the foreign withdrawal, he replied, “Absolutely.”
In one of his bizarre claims, Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) founder and Jama’at-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, while addressing a gathering at Markaz-e-Khyber in the Nishatabad area of Faisalabad District on February 23, 2014, alleged that America, India and their allies were trying their best to ‘crush’ Pakistan from the East and West, and that India was supporting terrorism in Pakistan. Significantly, these gatherings and pronouncements fuel the jihad culture of Punjab, radicalizing madrassa educated youth, face of future religious extremism. In the last two years, Saeed has organised and led five grand rallies, three in 2013 and two in 2012, with the sole purpose of disseminating hatred and sowing the seeds of extreme orthodoxy. Appearing openly at a rally in Islamabad on September 6, 2013, he denounced India as a ‘terrorist state’, while more than 10,000 of his supporters chanted slogans of “holy war” against India and ‘War will continue until the liberation of Kashmir’. Further, he told a frenzied crowd, “The United States and India are very angry with us. This means God is happy with us.” Unsurprisingly, former ISI chief Hamid Gul added during the rally, “They should know there are a lot of people here who are waiting for the conquest of India. It will be our privilege to take part in this war.”
Punjab is experiencing a tsunami of extremist forces. Significantly, apart from the principal TTP organization, separate local wings of the outfit, such as the TTP-Tariq Karwan Group in Mianwali District in the North of Punjab and the Fidayeen-e-Islami wing of TTP in Lahore District in the East, thrive, and have the potential to multiply further, swelling the radical Islamist wave in the Province. The ideological heads of these extremist formations move around openly with impunity and ease across the Province, including Provincial Capital Lahore and Federal Capital Islamabad. Saeed once audaciously declared, “I move about like an ordinary person – that is my style.” Saeed has also expressed appreciation of the ‘security’ offered to him, declaring, on January 1, 2012: Pakistan is unmatched in terms of the freedom it allows for the pursuit of jihad and for the spread of Islam. No other territory in the world matched Pakistan and it was a great blessing from Allah… Non-Muslims were conspiring against Pakistan both internally and externally.
With no one to hold them to account, these radicalized forces find fertile grounds in Punjab, creating an escalating threat of destabilizing across the entire region. With little realistic expectations from the peace talks, several of the Army’s self-created terrorist proxies have turned against their masters. Unfortunately, there is little reason to believe that a substantially collusive and compromised civilian Government will do anything more than the military establishment to eliminate Islamist extremist formations that have, for decades, been harnessed against Pakistan’s perceived external enemies, even if some of these terrorist groupings have turned renegade against their erstwhile sponsors.

PTI’s good governance in KP province and Shia genocide: 1 June 2013 to 10 March 2014

by Abdul Nishapuri
Here are some actual statistics on Shia genocide (target killed due to faith) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province since Imran Khan’s PTI came to power on 1 June 2013. A higher number of innocent Sunnis has been killed by the same ASWJ-TTP terrorists in the same period, however, Shias (along with Sunni Barelvis, Christians etc) have been specifically taraget killed due to their faith.
An account of Shia genocide by ASWJ-TTP terrorists in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa since PTI came to power on 1 June 2013 to 10 March 2014
Date Province Place Incident Killed Injured
11-Jun-13 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Peshawar Kamal Hussain Martyred , Dr Zakir Hussain and Dr Shakir Hussain Injured 1 2
19-Jun-13 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Peshawar Lieutenant Colonel Syed Imran Haider 1
21-Jun-13 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Peshawar Suicide Attack on Madrisa Al Hussaini 20 25
11-Jul-13 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Kohat Bomb Attack in Shia Area 2 5
30-Jul-13 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa D.I.Khan 5 Shia inmates Beheaded by Taliban in Dera Ismail Khan Jail, 300 takfiri Deobandi terrorists escape. 5
30-Jul-13 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Khanpur Master Ijaz Khan Killed ( Convert Shia ) 1
01-Aug-13 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Peshawar Syed Manzar Hussain Shah IB Sub Inspector Killed in Attack by takfiri Deobandi ASWJ 1
01-Oct-13 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chillas Shia Driver Mohamad Ali Tortured to Death by ASWJ 1
28-Oct-13 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Hangu 2 Brothers Tahir Hussain And Aleem Hussain Killed by ASWJ After Torture 2
04-Nov-13 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Hangu Four killed in grenade attack on Lower Orakzai jirga 4 2
18-Nov-13 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Kohat 1 Shia Killed 3 Injured in An Attack on imam bargah by Deobandi ASWJ 1 3
06-Dec-13 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa D.I.Khan Sagheer Hussain Killed by takfiri Deobandi ASWJ 1
20-Dec-13 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Peshawar Director Altaf Hussain Beheaded by takfiri Deobandi ASWJ in Peshawar 1
29-Dec-13 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Tank Mehran Ali Killed by takfiri Deobandi ASWJ. 1
30-Dec-13 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa D.I.Khan Qais Raza And Mulazim Hussain Killed by takfiri Deobandi ASWJ 2
06-Jan-14 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Hangu Shia Student Killed Aitzaz Hassan Killed in a Suicide Attack on His School in Ibrahim Zai 1
07-Jan-14 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Peshawar Bank Manager Waqar Ul Hassan Gunned Down by ASWJ 1
19-Jan-14 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Tank Syed Masrur Shah Killed by Taliban 1
20-Jan-14 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Peshawar Shia Leader Allama Alam Moosavi Killed by Sipah Sahaba Taliban 1
23-Jan-14 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Kohat Muhamad Ali Son of Tahir Ali Killed by ASWJ 1
03-Feb-14 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa D.I.Khan Azhar Hussain Shah killed in Basti Diwala 1
04-Feb-14 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Peshawar Bomb attack at Imambargah Alamdar, Qisa Khwani Bazar 10 45
04-Feb-14 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Peshawar Sardar Ali Asghar, Shia leader, killed 1
08-Feb-14 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Peshawar Ibraar Hussain, injured in previous bomb attack, dies in Lady Reading Hospital 1
11-Feb-14 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Hangu Three teacheers inl 2 Shias and 1 Sunni killed by ASWJ in Kach Banda. Burial was done in the
Ustar Zai. 3
15-Feb-14 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Peshawar Attak on Imambargah Khymagah, Mehdi Shah injured 1
21-Feb-14 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Kohat Sher Muhammad Turi killed by ASWJ-SSP near Ghari Mawaz Khan area 1
23-Feb-14 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Kohat Attack on Ustarzai Bound Bus kills 10 Shias and 2 Sunni men, women and children. 10 11
28-Feb-14 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Hangu Hasan Patwari killed by ASWJ-SSP. He blonged to Ibrahim Zai. 1
05-Mar-14 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Peshawar Shia policeman Ibne Hasan target killed 1
07-Mar-14 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa D.I.Khan Mushtaq Hussain injured in Mohalla Khaddar Khail Thalla 1
09-Mar-14 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Peshawar Iftikhar Hussain killed by ASWJ-SSP in Sarki area 1
Total killed 79 Injured 95
The above list is neither exhasutive, nor complete. It does not take into account incidents of Shia genocide in Kurram agency (including Parachinar) by the ASWJ-TTP terrorists hiding in other parts of FATA and KP. Also, it does not take into account ordinary Shias killed in indiscriminate attacks on security forces and civilians by ASWJ-TTP terrorists. Nor does it present the larger, much grimmer law and order situation in the KP province, such as the disgraceful jail-break in D.I.Khan and the massacre of Christians in Peshawar church.
Sadly, while the PTI-JI coallition has failed to stop Shia genocide in KP (not unlike PPP’s dismal performance in Sindh province and PMLN’s cirminal alliance with ASWJ-SSP), Pashtun nationalists (ANP and others) have kept tight silence on the organizational identity (Sipah-e-Sahaba aka ASWJ) and ideological identity (takfiri Deobandi) of terrorists who are not only target killing Shias but also Sunni Barelvis and Christians in KP, FATA and other areas of Pakistan.
Source of databse with additional data (incomplete): terrorism-in-kp-since-1-june-2014
- See more at: http://lubpak.com/archives/308165#sthash.QCaR5orC.dpuf

International Women Day and women of Balochistan

by Shawn Forbes
On this 2014 International Women’s Day I ask everyone to join me in celebrating the extensive accomplishments of the inspirational and influential women activists from the turbulent region of Balochistan. Since 2005, the Pakistan armed forces have been engaged in their 5th violent campaign of ethnic cleansing within the province. The violence in the Balochistan region continues to escalate with each passing day. During the past 12 years nearly 20,000 Indigenous Baloch civilians have been illegally abducted by State agencies. Most of the Baloch abductees have been subjected to severe acts of torture and many are extra-judicially executed. More than 1800 bullet-riddled and tortured remains of Abducted Baloch citizens have been recovered since 2005 in Balochistan.
Women like Voice for Baloch Missing Person’s General Secretary Farzana Majeed Baloch. Farzana Majeed Baloch was an accomplished student, holding a MSC in chemistry and a BA in Balochi. Five years ago, Farzana’s younger brother and Baloch Student organization leader Zakir Majeed Baloch was unlawfully abducted by Pakistani ISI agents in Mastung. Zakir Majeed Baloch was a 27 year old English student at the Lasbela University of Agriculture, Water and Marine Sciences. After his abduction in 2009 Farzana Majeed Baloch began a crusade for his safe release. She went before regional courts and supreme courts to petition for her brother’s release, yet was turned away. When the courts refused to help, Farzana Majeed took up peaceful protest. Several times she staged hunger strike demonstrations at the Islamabad supreme courts, but to no avail. After all avenues of legal action had been exhuased, Farzana Majeed Baloch joined the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons Long March for Justice.
Women like Farzana Majeed Baloch continue to inspire people around the world to demand basic human rights and civil liberty. Throughout the past five years, Farzana Majeed has overcome incredible adversity through her continued resilience and persistence. Despite threats to the Long March protestors, vehicular attacks and even Police interference, Farzana remained steadfast in her quest to demand accountability for her brother and the over 20,000 other victims of enforced disappearances in Balochistan.
Another well known Baloch activist is Baloch Republican Party Women’s Wing Organizer Banuk Horan Baloch. Banuk Horan founded the Woman’s Wing of BRP in 2012 and has quickly gained a great deal of support. Baloch Republican Party Women’s Wing now maintains chapters in Quetta, Mastung, Gwadar, Turbat, Karchi and Tump. Banuk Horan Baloch has become an influential and integral part of the liberation movement.
Banuk Horan Baloch has participated in countless demonstrations and protests against Pakistan’s relentless military attacks upon the citizens of Balochistan. In April 2013 target killers attempted to assassinate Banuk Horan Baloch. Unidentified Gunmen indiscriminately fired upon her family home. Although her home was damaged, Banuk Horan and her family were unharmed. Despite the violent attempt on her life, Banuk Horan Baloch continued her struggle to generate awareness of the severe human rights abuses being perpetrated by the Pakistani Army in Balochistan. In addition to organizing and holding protests, Banuk Horan continues to appeal to international human rights organizations.
Banuk Horan Baloch, Farzana Majeed Baloch, Banuk Karema Baloch, Banuk Zarina Marri, and so many other Baloch Women Activists stand bravely in opposition to a tyrannical occupational state in Balochistan. Through their brave deeds and continued efforts, the heroic Women of Balochistan stand as brilliant examples of the greatness one can achieve even amidst oppression and adversity.

Pakistan: Protest against racial attack on Balochistan students in Preston University Punjab

Awami Workers Party, Progressive Youth, Pakistan Youth Alliance Revolutionary Socialists and NSF Pakistan held simultaneous protests at Lahore and Islamabad Press Clubs on Sunday against the racial attacks on Baloch students at Preston University Islamabad.
In a joint statement the socio-political Organisations said that Mehran Baloch, Khalid Kurd and Fakhar Baloch were made victim of hooliganism by a group of eight students. Two of the victims were students of the Preston University while third had come to seek admission. They were eating lunch in the university cafe when eight other students including Jam Mashood Ali, Umer Satti, Ahtasham and Afridi enrolled in BBA program approached them and started beating them saying “why are you speaking Balochi”.
They said there was a strong evidence to believe that the Baloch students were targeted for their participation in the recent Voice for Baloch Missing Persons Long March (#VBMPLongMarch) for the release of missing people of Balochistan.
They said: “One of the victims Khalid Kurd was amongst the marchers. Unlike other young Baloch students, Kurd had not masked his face to hide his identity. Apparently, the plot seemed an attempt to murder the young Baloch activists.
“Sadly, the university administration appeared supporting the offenders during this whole episode. There are CCTV cameras keep round the clock surveillance of in the university premises including canteen. The attackers continued beating victims for 15-20 minutes but no security guard intervened. The administration came only when Balochs were near to die. Despite the circumstantial evidence in favor of injured Balochs, the admin in-charge gave the victims in custody of policy while drove the attackers away safely.
“The police took the bleeding students to PIMS hospital and got them treated. The wounds were so serious requiring stitches. According to the doctor who treated victims, it was a clear assault to their lives. The Baloch students themselves went to the police to register the case.
“The assailants are known to be from influential families and enjoy support of administration in the university. How did any group of students managed to bring daggers and metal punches inside the campus while there is strict security scanning at the entry? Why administration did not intervened timely? Why the assailants were not held and interrogated by admin? Why the victims were not taken to hospital? There are so many questions surrounding this unfortunate incident and there is no reason to stop us believing that Baloch students are being targeted for demanding return of their loved ones picked up by FC and intelligence agencies in Balochistan.”

Pakistan: Government’s Anti-Balochistan Policies

By Adnan Aamir
The Dr. Malik-led coalition government comprising of the National Party (NP), PashtunKhwaMAP (PKMAP) and Pakistan Muslim League –Nawaz (PML-N) has failed miserably. They have even crossed the limits of failure of Nawab Raisani government in terms of governance. Now, people of the restive province have lost hope in the government. It will not be unfair to say that the policies of current government of Balochistan are anti-Balochistan. Let’s see how. First of all, let’s take a look at how badly the government has treated the education sector. Recently, the government announced 674 vacancies of college lecturers. These vacancies were for Baloch areas and therefore these were allocated to Baloch majority districts mainly. The district allocation arrangement was approved by the government including PKMAP who has the education portfolio. This was followed by a vicious campaign against these vacancies by certain quarters and due to which government cancelled the vacancies.
Now, the question arises that why the government did not advertise the vacancies on divisional basis initially? The answer is simple, most of the vacancies are in Baloch areas and allocating it through district-based quota can only fulfill them effectively. In case of Divisional quota the candidates selected from other districts get themselves transferred to other districts and the colleges of Baloch areas will continue to have deficiency of lecturers. Now, people are waiting when the vacancies will be renounced but government is not worried at all for the loss of students.
Continuing with education sector, government has started a new drama in the name of preventing cheating in exams. Recently Dr. Malik, CM of Balochistan, announced a crackdown against cheating and five teachers were suspended for failing to prevent cheating in an examination hall of Quetta. This led the Government teachers association to boycott the Matriculation exams and effectively kick started a crisis in educational sector of Balochistan. Current government doesn’t seem to know but cheating can only be controlled by providing quality education to students which is missing in entire Balochistan. There are not sufficient teachers in almost all government schools and government doesn’t bother to do anything about it but wants to solve the problem by preventing cheating. The entire drama of controlling cheating in exams is nothing but a political stunt at the cost of education in Balochistan.
Now let’s shift from education sector to Local Bodies elections. Balochistan was the only province that conducted Local Bodies elections after directives of Supreme Court in this matter. The elections were marred by abuse of power by ruling coalition who used delimitations, polling schemes and other tactics to win, especially in Quetta. Elections were conducted on 7th December last year and by-elections were conducted in mid January this year. Still there is no sign of convening the sessions of district councils and Metropolitan Corporation to select District chairmen and Mayor.
Government has not done much homework on the role of local bodies and their powers either. This fact was conceded by spokesman of CM Jan Buledi in a statement to media. Why is government waiting and not convening the sessions. Government is not interested in sharing power with the opposition members who have won in these elections. Secondly there is an issue of election on office of Mayor of Quetta. Ruling coalition partner PKAMP wants the office for its candidate but most of the independents have apparently opted for the candidate of PML-N. This is also causing an unnecessarily delay in giving power to local bodies.
Likewise, the situation in the development sector is not good either. Sariab Flyover in Quetta is still partially complete even after two years of commencement of work. There has not been much work on it since the current government took office. Presently, the work is stopped on the flyover due to lack of funds. How can this excuse make sense when government of Balochistan has a development budget of over Rs 40 Billion? So finances are certainly not the issue and the problem lies elsewhere. This government either is not interested in completing work in projects started by previous government or it’s not competent enough to remove any bureaucratic hurdles which are causing delays in the said project.
In the end, Security situation is the biggest problem of the Balochistan. There has not been any progress in this area. Dr. Malik and official spokesman of Balochistan government claim that situation has improved but these claims can’t be backed up from facts on the ground. Nawab Abdul Zahir Kasi, who was kidnapped couple of months ago, is still missing and Government is not taking any serious steps to pressurize the Federal government, apart from a token protest outside National Assembly.
At the moment Dr. Malik is under attack from all corners for failures in governance. The only support for his government is coming from the diehard supports of ruling coalition parties who blindly support any wrong policy of the current government. Dr. Malik was called a middle class chief minister and it was expected from him to deliver. Unfortunately, he has badly failed and He is just a dream that has gone sour. Balochistan government should look beyond completing five years in office and take practical steps for welfare of public. Political stunts such as cracking down on cheating should be avoided at all costs if current government doesn’t want to die the same political death as Nawab Raisani government did.

Wageless in Balochistan - bane of polio vaccinators’ lives

The Express Tribune
Anti-polio campaigners in Balochistan have gone without a salary for the past four months – a shocking fact considering the constant life threats faced by those going door-to-door vaccinating children against the crippling disease. Their job isn’t made any easier by highly conservative families who are unconvinced about the need for administering polio drops to their children.
“We have not been paid for the past four months,” said Shaista Razzaq, 30. She was busy along with 83 other female polio workers in a three-day campaign in Kechi Beg, situated on the outskirts of Quetta. The anti polio drive started in five districts of Balochistan on Sunday.
Balochistan, the country’s biggest province, has 914 polio teams and each team consists of two polio workers. As part of the campaign, 54 teams were deployed at transit points of the cities and 95 at fixed sites. Polio workers face opposition in some places of Quetta and northern areas of Balochistan, where people believe the campaign is a western conspiracy to restrict the Muslim population.
Shaista, who has served the anti-polio campaign for the past seven years, says it is not easy to campaign against polio in insurgency-hit Balochistan. “I have been threatened on several occasions yet I have continued my work,” she added. A polio team was attacked with a hand grenade once in Quetta at the end of 2013. However, no one was hurt as the workers managed to throw back the grenade. The possibility of more attacks, therefore, cannot be ruled out.
The wage of a polio worker is Rs500 per day – half of the amount (Rs250) is paid by the provincial health department while the other half is provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
According to the WHO, polio workers should be paid after completion of the campaign. However, they have not been paid after four anti-polio drives by the WHO and the government.
Balochistan has been declared polio free for the past 14 months. However, any negligence or lapse on the part of workers may succeed in bringing back the virus and putting the lives of thousands of children at risk.

Daily yoga reduces stress in breast cancer patients

For breast cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy, yoga exercises can help regulate stress hormones and improve the overall quality of life.
While simple stretching exercises counteracted fatigue, patients who participated in yoga exercises experienced improved ability to engage in their daily activities, better general health and better regulation of cortisol (stress hormone), says a promising research.
The study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
“Combining mind and body practises that are part of yoga clearly have tremendous potential to help patients manage the psychosocial and physical difficulties associated with treatment and life after cancer - beyond the benefits of simple stretching,” explained Lorenzo Cohen, professor at University of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Centre. Women in the yoga group were also better equipped to find meaning in the illness experience, which declined over time for the women in the other two groups, added Cohen.
The study also assessed, for the first time, yoga benefits in cancer patients by comparing their experience with patients in an active control group who integrated simple, generic stretching exercises into their lives. To conduct the study, 191 women with breast cancer (stage 0-3) were randomised to one of three groups - yoga, simple stretching or no instruction in yoga or stretching. Participants in the yoga and stretching groups attended sessions specifically tailored to breast cancer patients for one-hour, three days a week throughout their six weeks of radiation treatment. Women who practiced yoga had the steepest decline in their cortisol levels across the day, indicating that yoga had the ability to help regulate this stress hormone.
“This is particularly important because higher stress hormone levels throughout the day, known as a blunted circadian cortisol rhythm, have been linked to worse outcomes in breast cancer,” claimed Cohen. Additionally, after completing radiation treatment, only the women in the yoga and stretching groups reported a reduction in fatigue. According to Cohen, research shows that developing a yoga practise also helps patients after completing cancer treatment. Teaching patients a mind-body technique like yoga as a coping skill can make the transition less difficult. People suffering from sleep apnea may face higher risk of pneumonia: A new study has revealed that people who have sleep apnea, may be at a higher risk of contracting pneumonia.
According to researchers from department of Chest Medicine, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, pneumonia was more likely to develop in the people with sleep apnea than the people without it.
The study, conducted on 34,100 patients, found that people with pneumonia were older and had more co-morbidities such as heart disease, diabetes, dementia and other diseases. According to the research, higher incidence of pneumonia in people with sleep apnea could be because of increased risk of aspirating contents or liquid from the throat. Dr Vincent Yi-Fong Su and Dr. Kun-Ta Chou said that the study showed that sleep apnea is an independent risk factor for incident pneumonia, and that there was an exposure-response relation in that patients with more severe sleep apnea, as they may be at a higher risk of pneumonia than patients with sleep apnea of milder severity. The study is published in Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ). Seaweed may help lose weight: A new study suggests that seaweed fibre may help in slimming in future, thereby preventing the body from absorbing extra fat.
Researchers at University of Newcastle’s Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences conducted tests on fat-busting seaweed called alginate, which is majorly found in the sea kelp.
The findings of the test suggest that alginate can suppress the digestion of fat in the gut. The researchers found that alginates containing more of a sugar molecule called guluronate were best at blocking fat digestion. Seaweeds are the best source of minerals. Not just this, it has high iodine, calcium, magnesium, iron value. The research has been published in the journal Food Chemistry.

Did Pakistan TV Debate Prompt Burning of Yoga Center?

Armed men may have burned down a yoga center in Pakistan after it was criticized during a provocative television talk show, local observers said Monday.
The Art of Living, a non-profit organization whose spiritual leader is an Indian yogi, was set on fire Saturday evening, three weeks after outspoken television anchor Arshad Sharif suggested it was a potential threat to Pakistan’s national security.
The two nuclear armed nations are fierce rivals and have fought four wars and countless skirmishes.
In a Feb. 14 episode of his prime-time show "Kyoon?” - meaning "Why?” – Sharif suggested that the facility’s spiritual leader, India yoga guru Sri Sri Ravi Sankar, “could be a national security threat to Pakistan” by having access to important officials. The center's president, Naeem Zamindar, said the facility - which is registered in compliance with Pakistani law - was a retreat meant for spreading happiness.
The center, in Islamabad’s affluent Bani Gala suburb, was attacked at about 8 p.m. local time [10 a.m. ET] Saturday, police said. "Eight to nine armed men approached the yoga center. They then proceeded to round up and tie up all three watchmen, and then went on to take their time to burn the place with the petrol they were carrying," said Mohammad Imran, the Assistant Duty Officer of the Bani Gala police station.
There was an angry response on social media, where Sharif's detractors likened him to Meher Bokhari, another Pakistan anchor whose television face-off with a liberal governor, Salman Taseer, was said to have led to the latter's assassination in 2011.
On Pakistan Tea House, a liberal blog, a clip of SHARIF'S show was published along with the caption: "Media back to work. Last time, they had incited violence against [governor] Salmaan Taseer and got him martyred. Now their show has resulted in the attack and destruction of Art of Living Center in Islamabad."
Sharif told NBC News that the show had discussed “accountability of all these foreign organizations in Pakistan - that’s it.”
“There was much more going on than yoga at that place,” he added. “There are democratic and national security implications to our work and debate. And there is a need for accountability for every dollar spent in Pakistan,” he said.
Raza Rumi, a broadcast journalist who appears on Express News, a rival channel to that of Sharif, said: "Sadly, Pakistani broadcast media has turned into a vehicle which articulates public prejudices at large. But in this case I would hesitate to make a direct connection between the show and the events that happened."
He instead blamed the Pakistan government for failing to tackle extremism. "What's of concern is the encirclement of Islamabad by jihadi organizations and seminaries that preach violence. Sure, the media has a part to play. But ultimately the state is failing to fulfill its obligations to protect its citizens."

Islamabad Yoga Center Attack: ''No peace at peace centre''

As we all know, yoga is a dangerous regimen. The chances of pulled muscles, losing one’s balance, and over-exposure to colourful spandex have serious consequences for practitioners of this pastime. It was probably in the interests of public safety, then, that a group of men burnt down a yoga and meditation centre in Islamabad on Sunday night. The arson took place at the Art of Living centre in Islamabad’s Bani Gala suburb, not far from the residence of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf chief, Imran Khan. Reports say that guards at the site were overpowered by the men who then doused the building with petrol before setting it aflame. Some of the guards say the men asked whether there was any money on the premises before torching the place, raising questions about the motives for the attack. The centre belongs to the non-profit Art of Living Foundation, a global organisation with branches in over 150 countries that promotes meditation and healthy living. Recently it was under the Pakistani media spotlight after a prominent television anchor attacked it as part of a conspiracy against Pakistan because its founder, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, is an Indian guru. Ironically, Sri Shankar recently asked the Taliban to join him for meditation so that he could ‘cleanse’ them of their hate. Apparently, some people with views similar to the Taliban’s decided that another type of cleansing was in order. There are more than a few disturbing aspects to this incident. The first is that it was an act of gang violence in a wealthy, and ostensibly secure, suburb where prominent politicians and government officials live. The second is the choice of target; the recent newscasts about Art of Living undoubtedly cast it in an unhealthy light, which more narrow-minded individuals took to heart as license to destroy. If it is found that the attackers have nothing to do with the Pakistani Taliban, or another similar group, then it is a frightening indictment of the growing social hostility to lifestyles, leave alone value systems, that are perceived to be different. The paranoid frenzy that surrounds anything Indian, particularly in the news media, also bears responsibility, since television anchors and hosts tend to bring their own bigotry into discussions, turning debate into mindless mud-slinging and half-baked conspiracy theories. It is a bitter comment on the adolescent behaviour that dominates our airwaves that the targets of ratings-obsessed talk-show hosts often become the targets of extremists, bigots, or extortionists (remember Governor Salmaan Taseer). Whoever carried out this attack, it highlights the underlying fractures that threaten to derail this country completely and turn it into a playground for criminals and people obsessed with violence. The Pakistani public needs to grow up and learn that not everything they don’t understand is necessarily evil, if Pakistan is ever to have peace.

Pakistan's Loadshedding: ''Long, hot summer''

TEMPERATURES are rising as summer approaches. So is the frequency and duration of power blackouts. A report in this newspaper stated over the weekend that power distribution companies have already begun resorting to 10 to 12 hours of supply cuts to manage the spike in daily demand as generation lags far behind. It quoted a Pepco official warning the people to brace themselves for a far worse summer this year. To most consumers, domestic and industrial, it makes little sense to live 12 hours each day of summer without power when they are buying the most expensive electricity in the region. At the same time, the government's decision to suspend gas supplies to some power producers, and the shortage of oil faced by others has added to general power woes. Chances are that tempers will also rise in tandem with the mercury and power cuts as people feel the heat caused by electricity shortages.
When Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government won the elections last May on the promise of resolving the growing energy shortages, a large majority quietly accepted its decision to raise electricity prices. They did so in the hope of an early improvement in the situation. Later, police came down heavily on a protest against the power cuts in Faisalabad. No one came out on the streets after that incident. Will people continue to suffer silently? It is unlikely. The honeymoon period is over. And, regrettably, the government has done little to make use of the opportunity to reform the energy sector — let alone add to the existing generation capacity — which could have helped significantly improve power supplies for homes, markets and factories.
Unpaid bills of power companies and their fuel suppliers have again shot to over Rs200bn in less than nine months of the liquidation of their previous arrears of Rs480bn. The reasons are obvious. The authorities have implemented only the part related to the increase in price of the energy sector reforms spelt out in its energy policy. Nothing has so far been done to control electricity theft, reduce transmission and distribution losses and recover unpaid bills from public and private consumers owing to lack of political will, the huge public mandate of the government notwithstanding. The issues of poor governance, organisational weaknesses, inefficiencies, corruption and lack of competitiveness facing public-sector power companies are yet to be addressed. Indeed, the problems faced by the energy sector are ‘extensive and deep-rooted’ and it will be unfair not to give the government credit for efforts to woo investment in new generation. But it is also a reality that it has done far less than what was expected of it and what it had claimed to achieve before and immediately after the polls.

Thar drought: Shah defends Sindh govt

Opposition leader Syed Khursheed Shah on Monday defended the Sindh government’s response over deaths of more than a 100 children in famine-hit Tharparkar district, saying that action has already been taken against incompetent officials. Speaking to reporters here, Shah said that situation in Thar was not as bad as portrayed by media. “No government wants to remain silent in the wake of natural calamities,” he said, adding that governments cannot avert a natural catastrophe. To a question about direct talks with Taliban, the opposition leader suggested that PTI Chairman Imran Khan should have joined the negotiation team to represent the Parliament. He also opposed the inclusion of army in talks with Taliban.

Senator questions plans to LNG import at too high price

On a motion to discuss the import of LNG from Qatar Senator Farhatullah Babar raised questions about both the new LNG terminal at Post Qasim as well the price at which it is planned to be imported from Qatar. He said that as per media reports the government was considering to import LNG from Qatar at a price of $ 17.5 per mmbtu anad had indexed it to Brent Crude Oil. Shipping, storage and re-gasification, would make the cost of LNG around $19.50/mmbtu while pipeline tariffs and other local levies could make the cost about five times the price of domestic gas, he said. Further the oil-indexed natural gas prices will increase with rising oil prices.
This is too high considering trends in the global gas market due to ‘shale gas revolution’ pushing down the gas spot prices as natural gas supply increases. The trend in the global gas market is towards a divorce of oil and gas prices as is evident from races recently filed in the International Court of Arbitration. Under a long-term ‘take or pay’ agreement with Doha, Pakistan is bound to pay for the agreed quantity of LNG, whether it actually purchased it or no, he said. He said that the base price and price index, once inked in the contract cannot be changed. He called for renegotiating the price in a transparent manner. India has already set the benchmark in LNG pricing in the region when it struck a deal with the US at $10.50 in July 2013.
We should also include a price review clause, especially when international gas prices are nose-diving at the biggest natural gas hub. A study must be carried out by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources to assess the economic impact, when the domestic gas price is only $3-5 per mmbtu.
Finally, instead of just focusing on its LNG and pipeline contracts, Pakistan must foster a self-sustainable natural gas sector by unlocking shale gas, to generate employment, and heal an ailing domestic natural gas sector. He said that on Friday February 27 the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) ignoring opposition by the Law Ministry approved the huge $2 billion LNG terminal services agreement. He said that while the ECC approved the LNG services agreement, the Auditor General of Pakistan had ordered a special audit of the same agreement on the ground that there are seven serious deviations in the contract from PPRA rules.