Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Video: Turkey protesters mourn teen death


UN calls for end to destruction of Syria's cultural heritage

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and UN and League of Arab States Joint Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi called on Wednesday in a joint statement for a halt to the destruction of Syria's cultural heritage. Cultural heritage in the war-torn Syria was being ripped to shreds amid the ongoing violence which has caused innumerable human suffering and loss, they said in a statement. The statement said that world heritage sites there were severely,sometimes irreversibly, damaged, with four of which being used for military purposes or transformed into battlefields. Moreover, it was pointed out that archaeological sites in Syria were being systematically looted and the illicit trafficking of cultural objects has reached unprecedented levels. The three senior officials also warned that Syrian heritages reportedly have been deliberately targeted for ideological reasons, and all layers of Syrian culture were under attack. "The destruction of such precious heritage gravely affects the identity and history of the Syrian people and all humanity, damaging the foundations of society for many years to come," they said. They called on all parties to immediately stop all destruction of Syrian heritage and to save and protect the country's rich social mosaic and cultural heritage, in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2139.

President al-Assad inspects situation of displaced people at al-Dweir shelter in Adra
President Bashar al-Assad affirmed Wednesday that the state is going ahead with combating terrorism and the terrorists who have forced citizens out of their houses and perpetrated hideous crimes against them.
The President visited al-Dweir makeshift center in Adra, Damascus Countryside, inspecting the situation of displaced people there.
President al-Assad toured places where the displaced families are staying and listened to their needs and conditions of their residence. The President stressed that the state continues providing basic requirements of the displaced families until everybody returns home whether those in Adra or in any other place.
‘’Before terrorists entered it, Adra was Syria in miniature as it hosted citizens from all the Syrian areas and governorates that have been targeted by terrorists,” President al-Assad affirmed.
The President added that the Syrian armed forces have offered a lot of sacrifices and martyrs for restoring security and stability to the homeland and the return of every displaced to his home and every kidnapped to his family.
"The Syrian Arab army will continue, supported by citizens, to strike terrorism everywhere in Syria," President al-Assad said. On the missing citizens, President al-Assad said that the state will leave no stone unturned in this file, adding Every Syrian citizens is the focus of our attention, whether he is an injured, kidnapped, missing or martyr. President al-Assad stressed that the Syrians are vigorous people who are able to rebuild what the terrorists damaged thanks to their unity and steadfastness.

Obama meets with Ukraine's PM, shows support

U.N.: Claim of Captive Saudi Princesses Received
United Nations officials confirm they have received allegations that Saudi Arabian princesses have been held against their will. But Xabier Celaya of the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights told The Associated Press that U.N. officials are “not in a position to confirm if any action has been taken on this case.” Celaya said Wedneday that the claims have been brought to the attention of the U.N. special investigator on violence against women. The case stems from an email sent to the United Nations and The Sunday Times of London, which published a story saying two daughters of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia claim they and their sisters have been held against their will for 13 years in a royal palace compound in Jeddah.

New York City buildings explosion kills 2, more missing

Two New York buildings collapsed on Wednesday in an explosion believed to be caused by a gas leak, killing two people, injuring at least 22, and setting off a search for more feared trapped in the debris, officials said.
A blast that scattered debris onto nearby rooftops brought down neighboring five-story buildings with a total of 15 apartments at about 9:30 a.m. (1330 GMT) on the largely residential block at East 116th Street and Park Avenue in Upper Manhattan.
Clouds of thick smoke billowed from the rubble of the apartment buildings that sat above a ground-level church and a piano store in a largely Latino working-class neighborhood. Officials declined to give a number of people still missing.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who rushed to the scene in East Harlem, where a cascade of twisted and burnt metal blocked the sidewalk and covered parked cars, said preliminary information showed the explosion was caused by a gas leak. Officials at the press conference said the blast occurred 15 minutes after a resident in an adjacent building called Con Edison to complain of a gas odor.
Hundreds of firefighters were scouring the mounds of debris for survivors and trapped bodies.
"There are a number of missing individuals," de Blasio said. "We are expending every effort to locate each and every loved one."
Crews also scrambled to clean up the debris, which littered nearby train tracks and shut down Metro-North Railroad service, ahead of the evening commute.
Neighbors said they thought an earthquake was shaking them from their beds and breakfast tables. The explosion, which could be heard from blocks away, shattered windows around the neighborhood. "All of a sudden the whole building shook. We had no idea what was going on," said Robert Pauline, 56, a Columbia University data processor whose apartment six blocks away was rocked by the explosion. The force of the blast blew Joseph Concepcion, 30, who lives less than a block away, at least an inch off his couch. "I literally got lifted off my couch, the boom was so strong," Concepcion said. President Barack Obama was briefed on the collapse and sent his condolences to the victims' families and his support to first responders at the scene.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone impacted by this incident," the White House said in a statement.
Crowds of residents, their faces covered with protective scarves and masks, filled the sidewalks of surrounding streets, which were blocked off with yellow police tape. "It's a very active scene. It's a very chaotic scene," said Fire Department spokesman Michael Parrella. Fire trucks used high cranes to spray blasts of water into the rubble, as dozens of ambulances and police cruisers with flashing lights swarmed the scene. During the morning commute, trains were stopped in nearby stations because of debris on the tracks and passengers were ordered off the Metro-North Railroad cars at the Fordham stop in the Bronx, passengers said.
Metro-North said it had been rerouting commuters to New York City subways and it was not yet clear whether normal train service would resume in time for the evening rush hour.

Turkey’s main opposition leader: I fear provocations by government

Turkey’s main opposition leader issued a warning yesterday about possible “dangerous provocations” by the government ahead of the March 30 elections, saying the conspiracies could include “fake assassination attempt” against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“I cannot give any further details in order not to cause further problems,” Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said. “But I can tell you that I have alarming information with me.”
Kılıçdaroğlu made the comments ahead of the funeral for Berkin Elvan.
Kılıçdaroğlu, told the Hürriyet Daily News on the phone today that the “provocations” could include the use of violence and even “a made-up assassination attempt” against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, according to “strong indications” in his possession.
The CHP leader answered the questions following a short written statement in the morning hours before the funeral, saying he wanted to warn the people of “dangerous provocations that the prime minister and a small number of people around him are after in order to continue their power,” without giving any details.
“I cannot give any further details in order not to cause further problems,” Kılıçdaroğlu said. “But I can tell you that I have alarming information with me. I am worried that the funeral and that the protests afterwards could be abused by the government in order to give the impression before the March 30 elections that ‘if he goes, Turkey will roll into a chaos.’”
Kılıçdaroğlu claimed that Erdoğan seeks endorsement from his grassroots to further polarize society and could “take the risk of provocative violence” for such a polarization. “We saw that during Gezi protests” he said. “It was understood that those throwing Molotov cocktails at police vehicles pretending to be left-wing groups turned out to be police officers in plainclothes.”
The opposition leader also claimed that he had information about a possible “assassination attempt scenario” against Erdoğan before the elections in order to attract sympathy.
“He did that once before” Kılıçdaroğlu said. “There was an attack on his convoy before the last elections, when it was public information that he was traveling byhelicopter.”
On May 4, 2011, gunmen attacked a convoy for Erdoğan's election campaign between Amasya and Kastamonu in northern Turkey, killing a policeman. The gunmen were reportedly killed in clashes in August the same year.

Street battles in Turkey following death of anti-government protester
Clashes in Ankara follow similar scenes in Istanbul, after the death of a protester who had lain in a coma since being hit by a tear-gas canister during anti-government demonstrations last June
Clashes erupted between demonstrators and police in Ankara on Wednesday, during an anti-government demonstration that drew thousands into the city's main intersection. The demonstration mirrored those on the streets of Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, where tens of thousands of people marched in a funeral procession for a Turkish teenager who has become a symbol of anti-government resistance. 15-year-old Berkin Elvan was wounded in street clashes last summer, but died on Tuesday after 269 days in a coma. He was reportedly on his way to buy bread when he was hit on the head by a police gas canister during civil unrest last summer. In a symbolic gesture, protesters in Ankara's Kizilay Square held loaves of bread whilst calling for the government to resign.
Their anger has been directed at Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who sanctioned the heavy-handed crackdown on last summer's protests and praised the police as heroes.

Kerry Plans 11th-Hour Meeting With Russians Over Crimea

Secretary of State John Kerry will fly to London to meet with his Russian counterpart in a 11th-hour effort to persuade the Kremlin not to move forward with the annexation of Crimea, American officials said on Wednesday. Mr. Kerry’s meeting with Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, will come on Friday, just two days before a Sunday referendum in Crimea in which the region is to decide whether to become part of Russia. The United States and its partners have said that such a referendum would not be legal, and Mr. Kerry has warned that Russian steps to annex the region would “close any available space for diplomacy.”
Mr. Kerry announced the meeting with Mr. Lavrov in testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations. His testimony came as Ukraine’s acting prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, was scheduled to consult with Mr. Kerry at the State Department this afternoon before meeting with President Obama and Mr. Kerry at the White House.
In his opening statement, Mr. Kerry repeated his oft-made point that while Russia had legitimate interests in Crimea, “nothing justifies a military intervention,” adding that there were peaceful ways to ensure to that Moscow’s concerns were addressed.
Under questioning, Mr. Kerry asserted that the United States and its partners were prepared to impose tough sanctions if Russia moved to annex Crimea. “It can get ugly fast if the wrong choices are made, and it can get ugly in multiple directions,” he said. “Our hope is that there is a way to have a reasonable outcome here.”
Mr. Kerry held out the hope that a political solution might be reached even though there have been no public hints of Russian flexibility. Even if the referendum in Crimea went ahead, he suggested, there might be a chance for a political solution if Russia stopped short of annexing the province.
“There are a lot of variants here, which is why it is urgent that we have this conversation with the Russians,” he said.
Mr. Kerry noted that the United States has “exchanged some thoughts” on how to address the crisis but acknowledged that the two sides “haven’t had a meeting of the minds.” The announcement of Mr. Kerry’s trip came as the Group of 7 nations on Wednesday issued a statement warning Russia to “cease all efforts to change the status of Crimea contrary to Ukrainian law and in violation of international law.”
“We call on the Russian Federation to immediately halt actions supporting a referendum on the territory of Crimea regarding its status, in direct violation of the Constitution of Ukraine,” the statement said. “Given the lack of adequate preparation and the intimidating presence of Russian troops, it would also be a deeply flawed process which would have no moral force. For all these reasons, we would not recognize the outcome.”
Mr. Kerry met with Mr. Lavrov twice last week in Europe. American officials later said that the Russian foreign minister did not appear to have the authority to negotiate a compromise with the United States.
The Obama administration then weighed sending Mr. Kerry to Russia so he could meet directly with President Vladimir V. Putin. But the administration decided not to do so because there were no indications that Mr. Putin appeared receptive to the American position. The United States seeks a halt in Russia’s military moves in Crimea, the affirmation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and a meeting between Russian officials and officials from the new Ukrainian government, either directly or as part of an international “contract group.” The London meeting is expected to last a day, possibly two. The choice of the venue appeared to reflect a recognition that the American conditions for a Russia trip had not been met. On Saturday, the State Department sent Mr. Lavrov a series of questions that were intended to probe whether the Kremlin was receptive to the American proposals for addressing the crisis. On Monday night, the Russians responded, but the answers did not signal a shift toward the Western position, American officials said. “We received responses from the Russians last night,” Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said on Tuesday. “They largely restate positions that we heard in Paris and Rome,” she added, referring to Mr. Kerry’s meetings there with Mr. Lavrov last week. Another important issue, which come up at the hearing on Wednesday, is the $1 billion American loan guarantee that Mr. Kerry announced during a visit to Kiev last week. The Obama administration is seeking Congressional support for the loan guarantee, but the prospects for speedy Congressional approval are unclear. The House has voted to provide the loan guarantee. But Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, wants to combine it with measures to overhaul the International Monetary Fund that the House may not support. Representative Harold Rogers, the Kentucky Republican who leads the House Appropriations Committee, urged the Senate to support the $1 billion loan guaranteed “unencumbered” by other measures.

Obama to order expansion of overtime pay

By Zachary A. Goldfarb
President Obama plans to order new overtime protections for “millions of workers,” using his executive authority to revise regulations covering who should be paid extra for working more than 40 hours a week. A White House official said Wednesday that Obama would direct Labor Secretary Thomas Perez “to begin the process of strengthening overtime pay protections for millions of workers to help make sure they are paid a fair wage for a hard day’s work while simplifying the rules for employers and workers alike.”
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the move reflects the fact that current Labor Department regulations establishing a 40-hour workweek have grown outdated. According to the White House, millions of salaried workers have had to work 50 or 60 hours a week without being paid overtime — and, in some cases, “making barely enough to keep a family out of poverty.”
Asked about Obama’s planned executive order by reporters Wednesday morning, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) rejected suggestions that the issue could become a difficult one for Republicans to ignore in an election year. “There’s all kinds of rumors about what the president may or may not do with regards to overtime pay and reclassifying some jobs for overtime,” he said. “But if you don’t have a job, you don’t qualify for overtime. So what do you get out of it? You get nothing. The president’s policies are making it difficult for employers to expand employment. And until the president’s policies get out of the way, employers are going to continue to sit on their hands.”
The effort has already drawn intense resistance from the business community, which is likely to say that new regulations and higher wages could hurt jobs in a still-recovering economy with a 6.7 percent unemployment rate.
The White House did not say how administration officials plan to overhaul regulations to ensure that workers are better compensated. But administration officials cited their authority to regulate overtime under the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. That act requires most workers to be paid overtime but permits exemptions at the discretion of the Labor Department. One prominent exemption permits employers to deny overtime pay to “executive, administrative and professional” workers.
Companies have broad leeway to classify workers as being in this category, even if their job duties are far from what’s generally considered white-collar work. Today, most workers who make more than $455 per week are eligible to be classified as “executive, administrative and professional.” Workers earning less than that must be paid overtime. The George W. Bush administration set the $455 level in 2004, and it has not been adjusted to account for inflation. If inflation were taken into account, the threshold would be $553 per week. The White House official noted that the Labor Department first set the salary threshold in 1975 at $250 per week, which would be $970 in today’s dollars.
One option for the administration would be to hike the federal threshold to somewhere between $550 and $1,000 per week, and perhaps set it to rise automatically with inflation. California and New York already have set state thresholds of $640 per week and $600 per week, respectively, with the caps set to rise to $800 per week and $675 per week in 2016.
The White House official said the action, which was first reported by The New York Times, is part of the administration’s campaign to make progress on important priorities despite political gridlock in Congress. “The central tenet that motivated President Obama to run for office and guides him every day is that, in America, if you work hard and take responsibility, you’ll have the opportunity to succeed,” the official said.
“Today, after weathering the Great Recession, and through five years of hard work and determination, America is creating jobs and rebuilding our economy. But as a result of shifts that have taken hold over more than three decades, too many Americans are working harder than ever just to get by, let alone to get ahead.”

The Future of Internet Freedom

OVER the next decade, approximately five billion people will become connected to the Internet. The biggest increases will be in societies that, according to the human rights group Freedom House, are severely censored: places where clicking on an objectionable article can get your entire extended family thrown in prison, or worse.
The details aren’t pretty. In Russia, the government has blocked tens of thousands of dissident sites; at times, all WordPress blogs and Russian Wikipedia have been blocked. In Vietnam, a new law called Decree 72 makes it illegal to digitally distribute content that opposes the government, or even to share news stories on social media. And in Pakistan, sites that were available only two years ago — like Tumblr, Wikipedia and YouTube — are increasingly replaced by unconvincing messages to “Surf Safely.”
The mechanisms of repression are diverse. One is “deep packet inspection” hardware, which allows authorities to track every unencrypted email sent, website visited and blog post published. When objectionable activities are detected, access to specific sites or services is blocked or redirected. And if all else fails, the entire Internet can be slowed for target users or communities.
In other cases, like in Ukraine, sites are taken offline with distributed-denial-of-service attacks, which overwhelm a server with digital requests, or else the routing system of the national Internet system is tampered with to make entire sites mysteriously unreachable. Entire categories of content can be blocked or degraded en masse; in Iran, we hear that all encrypted connections are periodically severed and reset automatically.
How common is each tactic? Reliable data can be scarce. Measuring patterns of censorship brings its own risks: If you repeatedly check whether “objectionable” content is being blocked, you risk becoming a target yourself. And while the technologies of repression are a multibillion-dollar industry, the tools to measure and assess digital repression get only a few million dollars in government and private funding. Private and academic centers like the Citizen Lab in Toronto are building detection tools, but we are still in the early days of mapping the reach of digital censorship.
Of course, detection is just the first step in a counterattack against censorship. The next step is providing tools to undermine sensors, filters and throttles. Again, the groundwork is being laid. For years, a vibrant community of engineers from San Francisco to Beijing have collaborated on circumvention technologies to shield dissidents from surveillance. One such tool, called Tor, has been used by tech-savvy dissidents around the world for over a decade. Our travels have taken us to North Korea, Saudi Arabia and other countries grappling with repression. Yet when we meet dissidents and members of harassed minorities, we are surprised by how few of them use systems like Tor. Trust is perhaps the most fundamental issue. In Iran, online bazaars sell services that promise secure access. Yet rumors swirl that these services are covertly provided by the Iranian government, and can be monitored or terminated at any time.
Scalability is another problem. One popular approach, virtual private networks, allow users in a repressively censored place like Syria to “proxy” the connections through a computer in a more open place like Norway. But when thousands of users connect to a single intermediary, the repressive government notices, and shuts them down. The final challenge is usability. Engineers can build sophisticated algorithms, but they’re useful only if a member of, say, the Kurdish minority in Iran can figure out how to install them on her low-bandwidth phone.
None of these challenges are new. What is new is the possibility to overcome them — if we make the right public and private investments. For example, software using peer-to-peer algorithms lets users route an Internet connection through another computer without having to go through a V.P.N., helping to address the trust and scalability issues. These algorithms don’t resolve the trust issue completely. How do you know you’re actually connecting to your friend, not a government agent? Ten years ago, this challenge would have been a deal breaker for many people. But today it’s possible to use networks like Facebook or Google Hangouts to verify one another’s identities similarly to how we do offline.
Obfuscation techniques — when one thing is made to look like another — are also a path forward. A digital tunnel from Iran to Norway can be disguised as an ordinary Skype call. Deep packet inspection cannot distinguish such traffic from genuine traffic, and the collateral damage of blocking all traffic is often too high for a government to stomach. Finally, advances in user-experience design practices are a big, if not obvious, boon. The Internet is becoming easier to use, and the same goes for circumvention technologies — which means that activists will face less of a challenge getting online securely. Much of the fight against censorship has been led by the activists of the Internet freedom movement. We can join this open source community, whether we are policy makers, corporations or individuals. Money, coding skills or government grants can all make a difference. Given the energies and opportunities out there, it’s possible to end repressive Internet censorship within a decade. If we want the next generation of users to be free, we don’t see any other option.

New York: Authorities respond to massive explosion in East Harlem

New York police and fire officials were responding to reports of a massive explosion in Manhattan's East Harlem, authorities said Wednesday. There were at least 11 minor injuries as clouds of dark smoke rose over the residential neighborhood of red-brick tenements, fire officials said. Metro North commuter rail service, which runs along the site of the blast on Park Avenue, was suspended, officials said. "Two buildings have collapsed. I hope there is no one in there. It's just rubble," a worker at a nearby flea market said. Clouds of dark smoke could be seen for a three-block radius as hundreds of rescue officials descended on the scene. CNN first learned of this story via Twitter.

Thar's Hindu minority restricted to weak food supplies

There have been gross allegations of discrimination against minorities, even in relief commodities dispatched by the Federal government for drought-hit Thar's region of Mithi.
According to sources bulk of commodities dispatched to Thar include meat products, which are religiously prohibited for the majority Hindu religion, which form in Thar.
The unfortunate Hindus have been restricted to small portions of lentils (pulses), which is an insufficient source of whetting appetites, while vegetables which are strong source of building immune system have been ignored. Medical and nutrition experts and chief coordinator of relief services Arbab Ghulam Rahim have also termed this prohibition of meat by Hindu community as the chief cause of Thar's horrific famine, since many Hindu citizens are said to have fallen ill from continuous consumption of lentils.
PPP's parliamentarian Ramesh Lal has said that about 2 million Hindus of Thar were suffering due to lack of access to relief goods arriving in Thar. He said though the Sindh government is trying is best to facilitate the Thar people; however, it could not succeeded as it should be.

Video: Thousands gather for Turkish boy's funeral after night of protests

Pakistan: Rupee Strengthens Against $USD After Receiving $750m Saudi Funds Agaisnt Asad Government
The rupee continued to appreciate on Tuesday as the value of the US dollar fell to below from PKR 108 to PKR 100 after receiving $750 million funds from Kingdom of Saudi Arabia over military support against Bashar-al-Asad government in Syria.
According to the website, the open market rates for the greenback were Rs99.90 in buying and Rs100.45 in selling. However, the inter-bank rates dropped further to Rs99.50 in buying and Rs99.70 in selling. The ongoing trend in the open market suggests that the value of the rupee has fallen by 0.99 per cent from Monday, and dropped by 5.64 per cent since January.
The current trend in the inter-bank trading showed a drop of 2.64 per cent from yesterday, and a 5.23 per cent fall from last month.
The yearly difference in both the open market and the inter-bank trends is a rise of 1.01 per cent and 1.73 per cent respectively. Pakistan’s senior politician of Sheikh Rashid observed that the government instead of taking care of its own people hardly hit by terrorism has preferred to interfere in Syria which he added was a violation of international norms when it comes to international relations. He termed himself misfit for the parliament under the circumstances and announced boycott of the session. It is to mention here that according to foreign media, Saudi Arabia has received Pakistani arms including anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets to Syrian rebels to try to tip the balance in the war to overthrow President Bashar Al Assad.
As the State Bank of Pakistan remains tightlipped over the source and purpose of funding, Pakistan received another tranche of $750 million in the newly-established Pakistan Development Fund (PDF), taking the total contribution to $1.5 billion so far. Highly-placed sources told The Express Tribune that friendly countries have injected another sum of $750 million in the PDF – an account opened to channel money from abroad. The last tranche was received in February that stabilised the dwindling official foreign currency reserves.
On February 13, 2014, Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam told a weekly news briefing that defence cooperation would figure in the Crown Prince’s interactions and that Pakistan was eyeing Saudi Arabia as a market for military gear. “Certainly, defence cooperation would figure in the talks. The army chief would be calling him separately,” she said.
Pakistan is interested in selling arms to Saudi Arabia, including the JF-17 Thunder jet co-developed with China, the Mushak trainer aircraft and other equipment, she added. Aslam rejected recent Western media reports suggesting that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are looking at nuclear cooperation, describing them as “baseless”. “There is a whispering campaign and at times there are reports based on leaks or background briefings…They are baseless. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are not discussing nuclear cooperation,” she said It is the first time that any country has generously given $1.5-billion assistance to Pakistan within one month, as Islamabad never received such an amount as ‘upfront’ payments. The US, which remains the largest contributor, always gave amounts in tranches spreading over several years. Under its five-year, $7.5-billion Kerry Lugar aid package, Washington gave less than $2.5 billion in government-to-government assistance in over three years.
However, it was not clear whether the money received is a grant or depository loans aimed at temporarily bailing out the country. The Pakistani rupee’s strong showing against the US dollar over recent days has taken financial analysts and currency traders by surprise.
The rupee gained 1.66 on the dollar in one day on Monday and has gone down from over Rs 111 to just above Rs 100 against the greenback.
Increases in remittances, the clearance of Pakistan’s share in Coalition Support Funds (CSF) of almost $ 350 million, and a massive payment of more than $ 750 million into Ishaq Dar’s brainchild, the Pakistan Development Fund, have played their part.
In particular, growth in exports, almost 18 percent year-on-year, has pushed the trade imbalance down almost five percent, strengthening the rupee. However, globally, the dollar has been weakening for the better part of seven months, as part of a deliberate monetary policy by the US Federal Reserve to help exports. One can’t overplay the effects of funds entering Pakistan from various sources, which have boosted the State Bank of Pakistan’s (SBP) forex reserves by over $ one billion in the last month.
The SBP was tightlipped about the source for much of these funds, but it is possible they recalibrated forex levels after a deferred payment scheme was reportedly reached with Saudi Arabia for oil purchases. The prime reason for rupee to revert back sharply in the last week is the building up of SBP reserves which are up from the low of $2.84 billion to $3.92 billion in a span of three weeks. Some of the flows like CSF money were well anticipated but the market was surprised by around $700 million jump in reserves in the third week of February. That is probably due to $750 million in aid coming from Saudi Arabia for some military related supports to the Kingdom.
That has changed the sentiments–punters, traders and treasurers are expecting reserves to build up further on account of some negotiations going on with KSA and some GCC countries for deferred oil payments. The government has almost finalized a deal with KSA for six months deferred oil payments for a period of three years, similar deals are envisaged with Kuwait and the UAE. Together, these measures can give a cushion of over $5 billion in imports payment in next six months and that can be continued for three years. Even, only with Saudis we can save $400-500 million per month in oil import payments for six months and forex reserves to be up by same amount. No wonders, the SBP expects its reserves to reach by $4.7 billion by April end and $6.7 billion by June end (See BR Research article Whats behind rupee appreciation?” published on Feb 18). This information has changed the market sentiments, thereby creating a domino effect as many who were holding back dollars for months are now offloading them to book the loss, and that has resulted in further appreciation in the currency. Plus, the USD is falling internationally for a host of reasons–the Indian rupee has appreciated by 3-4 percent last week against USD, so Pakistani market is no exception.
But this sudden appreciation in currency without strong macroeconomic fundamentals has all the potential to worsen current account balance and can make currency more volatile. Its a big loss to exporters–if the dollar is down by one rupee, our textile exports lose out Rs12billion per annum, so in the last week potential loss is close to Rs50billion. Soon the strong textile lobby and large vote bank in Faisalabad may approach PML-N leadership to bail them out. Plus, its going to be windfall for importers to enjoy higher margins by not fully passing on the impact of rupee appreciation. Even if they do pass on the benefit then higher import demand may put a pressure on balance-of-payment.
Pakistan Hosiery Manufacturers & Exporters Association (PHMEA) on Monday expressed concerns over the appreciation of Pak rupee against dollar, which has a serious impact on exporters. “The appreciation of rupee against dollar during your tenure is no doubt a very good sign; however, this has seriously impacted our exports,” says the PHMEA letter to Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. In the letter, Chief Coordinator, PHMEA, Javed Bilwani said that the foreign buyers signed deals with Pakistani exporters three to four months ahead of the shipments. “Exporters, who have taken orders on the costing before the increase in value of rupee, will be seriously affected as by the time payment is realised there would be a difference of approximately seven percent as the exchange rate of dollar against rupee was Rs 108.46 on December 12, 2013 and Rs 100.90 on March 10, 2014,” he said.
He said that the exporters were striving hard to retain their share in the global market just at 4 to 5 percent of margin of net profit, adding that the strengthening rupee value will left them ‘ruined’. He said the rupee value grew during November and December last year which is always a peak booking period for the exporters to strike deals with foreign buyers for next summer season. He requested Ishaq Dar to spare time for a meeting with the value-added textile products exporters to evolve a policy that may support the struggling sector to earn foreign exchange for the nation without getting affected.

Pashto Tapay :Nazia Iqbal and Javid Fiza


Indian VP, Hamid Ansari, Attends Afghan Vice Prez Fahim's Funeral
Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari today attended the funeral of Afghanistan's First Vice President Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim, and said in his demise India has lost a "true partner".
Ansari, the senior most foreign dignitary to attend the funeral, described the former senior commander of the Northern Alliance that fought Taliban as an "illustrious son" of Afghanistan and a "towering leader" of the Afghan people. Fahim, 57, died of natural causes in Kabul on Sunday. Fahim, a close lieutenant of charismatic Northern Alliance commander Ahmad Shah Masood, visited India in 2011. India has lost a "true partner", Ansari wrote in the condolence book. Earlier, Ansari arrived here with a delegation which, in a unique gesture, included three former Ambassadors to Afghanistan - Vivek Katju, Rakesh Sood and Jayant Prasad. Ansari too was India's envoy to Afghanistan in 1989-90. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's special envoy and point person for Afghanistan Satinder Lambah was also part of the delegation. The pointed inclusion of former ambassadors to accompany an Indian dignitary at a funeral, is the first of its kind in the realm of India's foreign engagement and reflects the importance that India places on the strategic partnership with Afghanistan, sources said. After the funeral prayers, Ansari had detailed talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace here. The two leaders discussed the situation in Afghanistan as it heads to presidential elections on April 5 and other bilateral issues. Thanking the Vice President for braving snow and bad weather to attend the funeral, Karzai said this reflected the "all weather" nature of India-Afghanistan relations. Karzai said whatever the outcome of the forthcoming elections and the orientation of the new leadership, friendship with India would remain a "top priority" for any new government in Afghanistan. Ansari mentioned that friendship between the people of India and Afghanistan existed much before friendship between the two governments and there was unanimity in India about the continuance of good relations with Afghanistan. India's strong bonds of friendship with Afghanistan were a "matter of conviction not convenience," said Ansari. (Outlook India)

Group claims responsibility for killing Swedish journalist in Afghanistan

A more radical militant group has claimed responsibility for killing a Swedish journalist in a brazen raid in the Afghan capital. The slaying on Tuesday of 52-year-old Nils Horner, who also held British citizenship in Kabul’s diplomatic enclave, has sent a new shock wave for foreigners living there.
While Afghans are still probing the motive and scrambling to find the two culprits who fled right after the attack, a militant group calling itself Fidayee Front of Afghanistan’s Islamic Movement said it carried out the killing.
The group, which according to some Afghans has been operating separately from the Taliban insurgents led by Mullah Mohammad Omar, was formed in recent years. The group said it killed the journalist because it believed he was a spy for the British M.I.6. “Mujahideen targeted Nils Horner. Nils Horner was killed in this attack. He was not a journalist. He was a spy of (M.I.6), he was a special worker of (M.I.6),” a statement on the group’s website quoted its spokesman Qari Hamza as saying. The group claims loyalty to Mullah Dadullah, a notorious Taliban commander killed in 2007. It has also claimed responsibility for killing a former Taliban minister, Mullah Arsala Rahmani, in 2012 in Kabul. Rahmani, who lived under government protection in Kabul, was viewed as a potential intermediary in stalled peace talks between the government and the Taliban led by Mullah Omar and other insurgents.
On Wednesday, an official for Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency said it recently foiled a major planned attack in Kabul by the Dadullah group.

Canadian military involvement in Afghanistan formally ends

The Canadian army has hauled down the flag in Afghanistan. An understated ceremony, held under heavy guard, at NATO headquarters in Kabul brings to an end just over a dozen years of military involvement in the war-wasted nation.
The last Canadian commander, Maj.-Gen. Dean Milner, says the training mission taking place over the last three years has been invaluable preparation for the Afghan army, but the progress made is not irreversible and the West needs to continue nurturing both military and civilian institutions.
anadian commandos, hunting al-Qaeda, were the first troops to hit the ground in late 2001 and they were followed by as many as 40,000 more rotating through different campaigns, including the five-year combat mission in Kandahar. The war cost the lives of 158 soldiers, one diplomat, one journalist and two civilian contractors. The Canadian ambassador in Kabul, Deborah Lyons, says the country will remain engaged in Afghanistan and the focus will be on helping build the ruined nation's economy, particularly in the resource sector.

VIDEO: CNN crew caught in police tear gas

Turkey tense ahead of teenage boy's funeral

Thousands of people have gathered in Istanbul for the funeral of a teenage boy who died nine months after being injured during Turkish anti-government protests. Berkin Elvan's death on Tuesday led to protests in cities across the country. President Abdullah Gul has appealed for calm ahead of his funeral. Berkin was injured while walking to buy bread in Istanbul in June. He was hit on the head by a tear gas canister at the height of the unrest.
Correspondents say his 269 days in a coma gripped the country and became a symbol of the heavy-handed tactics used by police to rein in the biggest demonstrations against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Crowds of mourners began arriving early on Wednesday in the streets near an Alevi Muslim prayer hall, known as a Cemevi, in the Okmeydan area of Istanbul.
After his funeral at the Cemevi, a march is due to take place in the centre of the city. News of his death - the eighth linked to mass anti-government protests - triggered demonstrations in several Turkish cities the previous day. In Ankara, police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse some 2,000 protesters who chanted: "Government of Erdogan, government of corruption, resign, resign." Police pursued the protesters into side streets where small clashes continued. There was similar police action against thousands of protesters on both the European and Asian sides of Istanbul and in the cities of Mersin and Adana.
The June protests started as a gathering to save an Istanbul park, but they quickly grew into a nationwide movement against the government of Mr Erdogan, which critics say has become increasingly authoritarian and corrupt. The sons of three former cabinet ministers have been arrested and accused of corruption, while Mr Erdogan himself has condemned as fabricated an audio recording that appears to show him talking to his son about hiding large sums of money. He said last month that the recording, allegedly tapped and then posted on social media, was a "treacherous attack". It appears to reveal Mr Erdogan asking his son Bilal to dispose of millions of euros in cash from a house. The prime minister says the corruption allegations are part of a plot to unseat him by US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former ally whose is thought to have millions of followers in Turkey. President Gul sent a message of condolence to Elvan's family in which he said that Turkey was going through difficult days and that the "mind of the state has become overwhelmed by anger and hatred".
"This atmosphere of hatred is undermining society's need for love and peace and efforts to understand one another," he said. "Little 15-year old Berkin Elvan is the latest victim of this atmosphere."
After Berkin's death was announced, his mother appeared outside Okmeydani hospital and was quickly surrounded by mourners. Tributes appeared on social media and hundreds of people gathered to show their anger. Riot police soon arrived at the scene and protesters attacked one of their vehicles.
BBC Turkish correspondent Rengin Arslan said many in the crowd believed the police had not turned up at the hospital to ensure the safety of mourners but to make things worse.
Further protests were reported in the coastal cities of Antalya and Izmir and in the capital, Ankara, where students boycotted classes and staged sit-ins.

Moscow: US to violate own laws by financially aiding Ukraine’s coup-installed govt

Washington’s decision to provide financial aid to the coup-appointed government of Ukraine goes against the US laws, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said, urging American politicians to think about the consequences of supporting the radicals in Kiev. Ukraine’s ousted president, Viktor Yanukovich, said on Tuesday that the US plans to loan $1 billion to the country’s new authorities are illegal.
“Indeed, in accordance with the amendments introduced to the 1961 law (Foreign Assistance Act) a few years ago the provision of foreign assistance is prohibited to ‘the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.’ The relevant provision is contained in 22 US Code § 8422,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“Thus, by all criteria the provision of funds to the illegitimate [Kiev] regime, which seized power by force, is unlawful and goes beyond the boundaries of the US legal system,” the statement added.
However, the ministry said it realizes that the American side “would hardly recognize this obvious fact” due to the stance it has already taken in the Ukrainian crisis.
“The US administration will most probably continue to close its eyes on the dominance of the ultranationalist forces in Kiev, which have launched a hunt for dissidents across the country, increasing pressure on the Russian-speaking population and our compatriots, threatening the people in the Crimea with punishment for their desire for self-determination,” the ministry stressed.
Moscow has also urged the decision makers in the US to think hard about the possible consequences of “reckless indulgence of radical Nazi-oriented elements in Ukraine.” The US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that Washington is preparing a $1 billion loan for the coup-imposed government of Ukraine during his visit to Kiev last week.
Yanukovich, who wants to challenge the lawfulness of the American aid to Kiev in US courts and Congress, “has some very legitimate points to be raised,” senior editor of Executive Intelligence Review, Jeffrey Steinberg, told RT. Prohibition of American financial support to governments, which came to power via a coup, “isn’t some esoteric issue” as it has been applied just recently, he stressed.
US Code § 8422 saw the US Congress freezing financial aid to Egypt, following the 2013 military coup, which resulted in the ousting of president, Mohamed Morsi.
However, this January the senators authorized President Obama to send about $1 billion in aid to the Northern African state. “There was a ferocious debate in the Obama administration and in the congress over whether it was to be technically labeled a coup,” Steinberg stressed. “And ironically under that debate Senator John McCain was one of the leading voices arguing for a total cut off of all the military aid to Egypt. So now he’s on the exactly opposite side of the same debate.” According to the Executive Intelligence Review senior editor, Washington is using the law as a “political football.” “It’s applied in instances where it suits the policies of the administration and certain hardline allies in congress. And it’s freely ignored when it’s inconvenient truce,” he said. And, in the case of Ukraine, “nobody can dispute” that Yanukovich’s democratically elected government was “overthrown by military force, involving the most severe right wing neo-Nazi and Neo fascist elements,” Steinberg concluded.

President Obama to welcome Ukrainian PM, in affront to Russia
US President Barack Obama welcomes Ukraine’s interim prime minister at the White House on Wednesday, a high-profile diplomatic gesture aimed at emphasising Western recognition of Ukraine’s fledgling government.
Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk will be greeted at the White House with all of the grandeur of a state visit, including an Oval Office meeting with Obama. The two men are expected to make comments to the media following their discussions. White House spokesman Jay Carney said Yatseniuk’s visit is meant to signal “that we strongly support Ukraine, the Ukrainian people and the legitimacy of the new Ukrainian government”. Ukraine’s parliament installed Yatseniuk as head of the country’s interim leadership after pro-Kremlin president Viktor Yanukovich fled the capital Kiev following three months of popular protests against his decision to reject an economic agreement with the European Union in favour of pursuing closer ties with Moscow. Vice President Joe Biden, who has served as a primary administration contact with Ukraine’s old and new governments, will also attend the meeting. Secretary of State John Kerry, who met with Yatseniuk in Kiev last week, is expected to have a separate meeting with the prime minister. Yatseniuk will, above all, be seeking financial assistance when he arrives in Washington to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia, which he has described as being “armed to the teeth”. The United States has so far promised Ukraine $1 billion in loan guarantees, as well as technical support as it moves towards elections. The European Union has pledged $15 billion in assistance to Ukraine, though that falls well short of the $35 billion in international rescue loans that Kiev says it will need over the next two years. Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, said Tuesday that Russian leaders were “rejecting a diplomatic solution” by rebuffing dialogue with their Ukrainian counterparts.
"They are refusing all contact at foreign ministry and top government levels," he told AFP.
He told the parliament in Kiev that he wanted the United States and Britain, as guarantors of a 1994 treaty that saw Ukraine give up its Soviet-era nuclear weapons, to intervene to fend off Russian "military aggression". "The US and the European Union must force Russia to stop this military aggression and these provocations against Ukraine," Turchynov said. But despite NATO air patrols of the Polish and Romanian borders, and US naval forces preparing for exercises in the Black Sea, the West has made clear that – as when Russia annexed parts of Georgia in 2008 – it has no intention of risking a military conflict with Moscow over Ukraine.
An ‘illegitimate’ referendum
Yatseniuk’s talks with the Obama administration come as the largely Russian-speaking region of Crimea prepares for a referendum Sunday on whether to become a part of Russia or remain a semi-autonomous enclave of Ukraine.
Russia sent troops to occupy the enclave last week after Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin government was ousted. Russian President Vladimir Putin has so far ignored threats from the West to impose visa bans, economic sanctions and halt an international economic summit Russia is scheduled to host in June. The United States and Europe have declared the Crimea referendum illegitimate, saying that Ukraine’s central government must be involved in decisions about its territory. But Russia does not recognise Ukraine’s new government, nor the presidential elections Ukraine has planned for May. Yanukovich, for his part, declared in a televised appearance Tuesday that he remained Ukraine’s rightful ruler. Crimea’s parliament declared the same day that if the public votes to become part of Russia, the peninsula will declare itself independent and seek to become a Russian state. The Russian parliament has already approved the accession, in principle, of Crimea, which was given to Ukraine by Soviet rulers nearly 60 years ago. A poll released this week showed that two-thirds of Russians support the Kremlin's moves in Crimea. But it is not clear whether or how soon Russia would formalise an annexation as it remains engaged in a complex confrontation with the West over the Black Sea territory.

Malaysia Finds Managing Crisis Exposes Leadership Crisis

By Sharon Chen and Jason Scott
Malaysia, aspiring to become a developed nation in six years, is finding that more than 50 years under one coalition and tight control over information is a mismatch for handling a rapidly growing crisis followed across the world.
China is calling on Malaysia to be more transparent as Prime Minister Najib Razak lets his cousin, Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, be the face of the investigation into why a Malaysian Airline System Bhd. (MAS) plane vanished on March 8. It was en route to Beijing with 239 people on board. Investigators from at least nine countries are trying to locate the jet.
Najib’s United Malays National Organisation leads the coalition governing the Southeast Asian nation. Only in recent years has it seen a move toward more competitive elections, in some districts, that put a premium on public speaking. The government’s lack of a clear message, compounded by a series of false leads on the plane’s whereabouts and questions on coordination, risks undermining its image internationally. “They’re handling a huge global issue as if it was domestic politics,” said Clive Kessler, Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, who has analyzed the nation’s politics for half a century. “With the cause of the disappearance still unknown you can understand the need for discretion and caution but it’s being perceived in Malaysia and elsewhere in the region as a bid to hide the truth.”
‘Doesn’t Work’
Najib’s administration is sending the message that people should let the “government tell them what they need to know, when they need to know it, and not before,” Kessler said. “That’s the way they’ve acted for generations and they are starting to find out it doesn’t work anymore.”
Many newspapers and television networks in Malaysia are controlled by the government directly or indirectly. And Najib, 60, has yet to make good on a pledge to replace the nation’s Sedition Act with legislation that would protect free speech while preventing incitement of religious or ethnic hatred. The law, which dates back to 1948 when Malaysia was under British control, mandates jail sentences of at least three years for words deemed seditious, including those that “excite dissatisfaction” against the government.
Government-controlled Malaysian Airlines said in a statement yesterday it would “continue to be transparent in communicating with the general public via the media” on all matters affecting Flight 370.
Stolen Passports
Nations searching for the plane had little to go on with no distress calls or emergency-beacon signals. The hunt continued for a fifth day as planes and ships prowled waters on both sides of Peninsular Malaysia after failing to find debris along the jet’s route, with Vietnam sending a team to Vung Tau in the nation’s southeast after getting an e-mail tip from an oil rig worker about the missing plane.
The discovery that two passengers boarded the missing flight using stolen passports raised concern about Malaysia’s immigration security practices.
“The Malaysian side cannot shirk its responsibilities,” the Global Times, a Chinese government-controlled newspaper, said in an editorial on March 10. “The initial response from Malaysia was not swift enough. There are loopholes in the work of Malaysia Airlines and security authorities.” Faced with pressure from families of the 153 Chinese nationals who were on the flight, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang for a second day yesterday noted the lack of progress in finding the Boeing Co. 777-200.
Urging Malaysia
“We once again request and urge the Malaysia side to enhance and strengthen rescue and searching efforts,” Qin told reporters in Beijing.
“The Chinese government is under quite a lot of pressure,” said Xu Liping, senior fellow at the National Institute of International Strategy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. Ordinary people in China feel the investigation “has not been professional.”
Broader ties between Malaysia and China probably won’t suffer, he said, citing a phone conversation between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Najib on March 8 about the missing flight. “This channel has been unimpeded.”
Cautious Personality
China accounted for 8.262 billion ringgit ($2.52 billion) of Malaysia’s exports in January, the second-largest amount after Singapore. Malaysia approved $920 million of foreign investment from China in the manufacturing sector in 2013, up from $646 million the year earlier, according to the Malaysian Investment Development Authority. Najib’s government has a $444 billion 10-year plan to build roads, ports and utilities plants to elevate the country to developed-nation status by 2020.
It is understandable that Najib doesn’t want a high profile in this situation given his cautious personality, according to Joseph Liow, associate dean of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
“He’s not one who would go to the front of the camera and do lots of chest thumping and wave the flag and all that without being certain that there’s substantive” progress in the investigation, he said. “Hisham is very different from his cousin. He’s someone who is not uncomfortable with the limelight,” he said, referring to Hishammuddin.
Hishammuddin, 52, has been the acting minister since a general election last May. He is unable to formally take the role given internal coalition rules on which party assumes particular posts in cabinet.
Other Leaders
Other Asian leaders have faced questions for not reacting to crises immediately. Philippine President Benigno Aquino was criticized for taking two days to visit victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan last year. So was China’s former premier, Wen Jiabao, when he took more than two weeks to visit the site of the country’s worst snow storms in 50 years in 2008.
In the U.S., President George W. Bush was criticized for his handling of damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 after he remained on vacation as New Orleans flooded. He cut short the break by two days to survey the damage from the air, something he later said was a “huge mistake” since it made him look “detached and uncaring.”
Najib needs to assure Malaysians and the international community that his government is doing all it can, said Vishnu Varathan, an economist at Mizuho Bank Ltd. in Singapore.
“What could have been done was the prime minister delegating the transport secretary to locating the plane and assigning one other person in charge of investigating the security breach and another to handle international relations,” he said. “It’s not easy to convey all that is happening in the background and the government needs to highlight these things.”
Airline Statement
Compounding the image that authorities leading the investigation are struggling to communicate effectively, Malaysian Airlines issued three versions of a press statement yesterday to correct several errors. One was a reference to an “expensive” rescue operation, which it meant to call “extensive.”
“There are big issues -- transparency, information sharing, questions associated with security,” said Bridget Welsh, a political science professor at Singapore Management University. “They are not in control of the discussion and the problem is they’re not instilling confidence. Everyone wants to give them the benefit of the doubt but this is a crisis of credibility for the administration.”
Najib postponed a trip to Mauritius, according to the state-run news service Bernama. He also met the families of the crew from the missing plane at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, his press office said on Twitter on March 8.
‘Everything Possible’
“I assure you we are doing everything possible within our means,” Najib said on Twitter on March 9. “We thank you for your prayers, assistance and show of solidarity.” Najib’s office directed queries on China’s concerns about the handling of the incident to authorities involved in the investigation. Hishammuddin, who is also defense minister, was elected a vice president of UMNO in October, putting him in line to possibly succeed Najib. He is the nephew of Malaysia’s second prime minister, Najib’s father, Abdul Razak Hussein. “It’s a lack of experience, anybody would be tested,” said SMU’s Welsh. “This is Hisham’s test, and Najib’s government’s test.”
Mahathir Years
Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who led the country through the 1998 Asian financial crisis, “was a stronger leader,” said RSIS’s Liow.
Mahathir responded with capital controls when investors fled Asian economies during the crisis. He called billionaire financier George Soros a “moron” who was trying to destroy growth through speculative attacks on the currency.

Confusion as search for Malaysian jet spreads across SE Asia

The search for a missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner expanded on Wednesday to cover a swathe of Southeast Asia, from the South China Sea to India's territorial waters, with authorities no closer to explaining what happened to the plane or the 239 people on board.
Vietnam briefly scaled down search operations in waters off its southern coast, saying it was receiving scanty and confusing information from Malaysia over where the aircraft may have headed after it lost contact with air traffic control.
Hanoi later said the search - now in its fifth day - was back on in full force and was even extending on to land. China also said its air force would sweep areas in the sea, clarifying however that no searches over land were planned.
The seas off India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands are also being combed for traces of the lost jet.
"We are expanding to the east of the expected route of the flight and on land," Lieutenant General Vo Van Tuan, Vietnam's deputy army chief of staff and spokesman for its search and rescue committee, told reporters.
The confusion over where to look is adding to one of the most baffling mysteries in modern aviation history, and prolonging the agonizing wait for hundreds of relatives of the missing. Flight MH370 dropped out of sight an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing early on Saturday, under clear night skies and with no suspicion of any mechanical problems. Dozens of planes and ships have already searched tens of thousands of square miles of Malaysia and off both its coasts without finding a trace of the Boeing 777.
Adding to the frustration and uncertainty, Malaysia's military has said the plane could have turned around from its planned flight path, but there were conflicting statements and reports about how far and in which direction it could have flown after communication was lost.
Malaysia's air force chief, Rodzali Daud, denied saying military radar had tracked MH370 flying over the Strait of Malacca off the country's west coast, about 500 km (310 miles) from the point ,roughly midway between the east coast town of Kota Bharu and Vietnam, where it was last seen by air traffic control.
Malaysia's Berita Harian newspaper on Tuesday quoted Rodzali as saying the plane was last detected at the northern end of the Strait of Malacca at 2.40 a.m. on Saturday, more than an hour after it lost contact.
"It would not be appropriate for the Royal Malaysian Air Force to issue any official conclusions as to the aircraft's flight path until a high amount of certainty and verification is achieved," Rodzali said in a statement on Wednesday. "However all ongoing search operations are at the moment being conducted to cover all possible areas where the aircraft could have gone down in order to ensure no possibility is overlooked."
Indonesia and Thailand, which lie on either side of the northern part of the Malacca Strait, have said their militaries detected no sign of any unusual aircraft in their airspace. The massive search operation involving ships and aircraft from 10 countries is spread out over the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea, which lie between Malaysia and Vietnam, and in the Strait of Malacca extending into the Andaman Sea. An Indian foreign ministry official said Malaysia has sought its help in the search. India has a large military command in its Andaman and Nicobar islands and its navy patrols in the Malacca Strait.
A senior military officer who had been briefed on the investigation told Reuters on Tuesday that the missing aircraft had made a detour to the west after communications with civilian authorities ended.
"It changed course after Kota Bharu and took a lower altitude. It made it into the Malacca Strait," the officer said.
After the comments from the officer, a non-military source familiar with the investigations said the reported detour was one of several theories and was being checked.
If the plane had made such a detour it would undermine the theory that it suffered a sudden, catastrophic mechanical failure, as it would mean it flew at least 500 km (350 miles) after its last contact with air traffic control.
In the absence of any concrete evidence to explain the plane's disappearance, authorities have not ruled out anything. Police have said they were investigating whether any passengers or crew on the plane had personal or psychological problems that might shed light on the mystery, along with the possibility of a hijacking, sabotage or mechanical failure.
The airline said it was taking seriously a report by a South African woman who said the co-pilot of the missing plane had invited her and a female companion to sit in the cockpit during a flight two years ago, in an apparent breach of security.
"Malaysia Airlines has become aware of the allegations being made against First Officer Fariq Ab Hamid which we take very seriously. We are shocked by these allegations. We have not been able to confirm the validity of the pictures and videos of the alleged incident," the airline said in a statement.
The woman, Jonti Roos, told Reuters that she and her friend were invited to fly in the cockpit by Fariq and the pilot between Phuket, Thailand, and Kuala Lumpur in December 2011.
"I thought that they were highly skilled and highly competent and since they were doing it that it was allowed," Roos said. "I want to make it clear, at no point did I feel we were in danger or that they were acting irresponsibly."
Hugh Dunleavy, the commercial director of Malaysia Airlines, told Reuters there was no reason to blame the crew.
"We have no reason to believe that there was anything, any actions, internally by the crew that caused the disappearance of this aircraft," he said.
The Boeing 777 has one of the best safety records of any commercial aircraft in service. Its only previous fatal crash came on July 6 last year when Asiana Airlines Flight 214 struck a seawall on landing in San Francisco, killing three people. U.S. planemaker Boeing has declined to comment beyond a brief statement saying it was monitoring the situation.

Meera Dance to Naheed Akhtar's Song


Pakistan Struggles To Find Missing Children

تھر میں غفلت برتنے والوں کیخلاف سخت کارروائی ہوگی: بلاول بھٹو زرداری
کراچی: پیپلزپارٹی کے سرپرست اعلیٰ بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے کہا ہے کہ ہم اپنا پیٹ کاٹ کر تھرپارکرکے بچوں کا پیٹ بھریں گے۔ انھوں نے مزید کہا کہ گندم کی ایک لاکھ20 ہزار بوریاں تھر پہنچا دی گئی ہیں لیکن وہاں کے ایک ایک فرد کو جب تک مکمل غذا نہیں مل جاتی میں اور میرے ورکرز چین سے نہیں بیٹھیں گے۔ بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے کہا ہے کہ پیپلزپارٹی تھر کے ایک ایک بچے کی صحتیابی کیلیے کام کرے گی۔ انھوں نے کہا کہ تھر کی صورتحال میں اگر کسی بھی سطح پر غفلت برتی گئی تو ذمہ داروں کیخلاف سخت کارروائی کی جائیگی۔ اس موقع پر وزیراعلیٰ سندھ قائم علی شاہ نے کہا کہ قدرتی آفت پر سیاست بازی نہیں ہونی چاہیے، تھر کا ایک ایک بچہ میرے بچوں کی طرح ہے، سندھ تمام وسائل کا رخ مصیبت زدہ بہن بھائیوں کی طرف موڑ دے گی

Karachi: Series of blasts kill 12 in Lyari
At least 12 people including two women were killed in a series of explosions and exchange of fire between two rival groups in strife-hit Lyari area of Karachi. According to initial details, four blasts occurred in different areas of Lyari one after the other, killing 12 people while injuring 30 others. The explosions were followed by intense firing in Chakiwara and Jhatpat market. Around 8-10 grenades were hurled in different areas of Lyari, one of the officials said. The dead and the injured were taken to the nearby hospital while the death toll is feared to rise. Tension and fear gripped the city soon after the blast. Meanwhile, people were forced to stay at homes while business outlets and markets were immediately closed.

Women doctors say what ails Pakistan

By Beena Sarwar
On one of her many visits to Pakistan recently, Sarah Peck, director of the US-Pakistan Women's Council, spent some time talking to young women medical students in Pakistan. She was struck by their passion and commitment - and by the hurdles they face. Women outnumber male students in medical colleges across Pakistan, forming up to 85% of the student body in private universities and 65% in the public sector.
But only about half of them end up working as doctors. There are no nationwide figures for this estimate, but the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council's records show the discrepancy between the number of women medical students and women doctors in Pakistan.
Less than half the 138,789 doctors registered with this nationwide body are women, 62,315. For specialists, the numbers are even lower - of the total 29,914 specialists registered with PMDC, only 8,056 are women. The pattern is also visible in doctors from Pakistan coming to the United States.
"When doctor couples come here, the husband starts to work, the wife takes care of the family," says Dr Jamila Khalil, president of APPNE, the New England chapter of APPNA, the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America.
"I grew up here, I was already a dentist by the time I got married," she told IPS. A Pashtun from Pakistan's northwest region bordering Afghanistan, she is a dentist and mother of two teens.
"It was very hard," she added, her New England twang evident in her pronunciation of the last word, "haahd".
The hurdles women doctors face in Pakistan and how to support them came under discussion at a lunch meeting that Sarah Peck attended recently in Somerville, Massachusetts convened by APPNE.
The US-Pakistan Women's Council has powerful political connections. It was launched in September 2012 by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, flanked by two of Pakistan's most powerful and glamorous women, the then Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Ambassador Sherry Rehman.
The initiative, housed at the American University, is a public-private partnership between the State Department and American University, in collaboration with the Organisation of Pakistani Entrepreneurs (OPEN). Its mission is to promote education, employment, and entrepreneurship.
The council's aim to promote people-to-people relations between the US and Pakistan represents a major shift in Washington's foreign policy towards Pakistan since the Obama administration took over.
Previous US governments focused on transactional ties with Pakistan's powerful military establishment, pursuing short-term strategic agendas with long-term disastrous consequences.
One of the organisers, Dr Khalil Khatri, a dermatologist and former president of APPNE, was also present at the APPNA winter session in Karachi last December where Peck met women medical students. At the Karachi meeting women medical students had identified many different factors behind the difficulties they face in practicing medicine.
There are social pressures and lack of support, with mothers, mothers-in-law, and husbands often not wanting women to work. Families may help young couples with household matters and childcare but they also pressure them to conform to traditional gender roles.
Then, those who don't go into ob-gyn or pediatrics have to deal with male patients, frowned upon in that highly gender segregated society - although the women medical students at the Karachi meeting said they had no issues seeing male patients.
What was hard, they said, is the harassment they face, like finding the locks broken on their changing room doors, making it difficult for them to strip and scrub down. Male peers and supervisors don't take this seriously. In fact, those who complain face further problems.
Transport issues and security concerns, especially for those working late night shifts, are also daunting.
"One way to tackle the security and transport problem would be to arrange shuttles for women medical students especially after hours," suggested Dr Nasar Quraishi, a pathologist visiting from New Jersey.
One of Dr Khatri's nieces in Karachi recently started working as a doctor there. "When she has to work late nights, her parents are constantly worried. Two of my other nieces are in medical school there, but they also have every intention of practicing." Saima Firdous, 32, a medical student from Pakistan who finished her post-doc at Harvard University last year and is a board member of APPNE, says there is a need for "more women-only medical colleges in Pakistan, so that more people allow girls to study medicine".
"Coming from a conservative, rural family, I found it really hard," she told IPS. "Our culture doesn't allow girls to live or travel alone. I've had to fight a lot." Her brother didn't want her to attend the co-ed medical school in their city, Rawalpindi, but he also didn't want her to go to the only women's medical college in Pakistan, in Lahore, where she would have to live in a hostel.
"It was my three older sisters, who themselves have never been to school, who stood by me and supported me," said Firdous, who for two years conducted a television show on the state-run Pakistan Television aiming to educate rural dwellers about basic health issues.
She received a major blow when the man she was in love with and about to marry, a US-qualified physician who had encouraged her in her studies, told her that she could finish medical school, but he didn't want her working as a doctor.
"I refused," she said. "I hadn't studied all those years to sit at home."
Traveling alone to the United States, where she initially stayed with family friends, was another hurdle. "When I'm done, in another two or three years, I want to return to Pakistan and work, motivate other girls," added Firdous.
"Women doctors are already respected role models in Pakistan, in all fields. Women have a loud voice in media and society in general," said Dr Naheed Usmani, a paediatric oncologist from Pakistan who lives and works in the Boston area, and has also worked in Pakistan for several years.
The Council should train women doctors from the Pakistani diaspora to mentor and help students problem-solve, she told Peck. The Council could also use its network to identify and train mentors based in Pakistan.
In the long term, there is a need to "increase motivation among women medical students and support them to not give up," Dr Khatri told IPS. "Secondly, educate society to develop a system where medical students are enabled to carry on their work after graduating."
The Council's partnership with US doctors of Pakistani origin provides no quick-fix solutions to these myriad problems, but it is a step in the right direction.
Erum Sattar, a law student from Karachi and president of the Harvard Pakistan Student Group who was present at the lunch, said that the Pakistani students at Harvard would help in any way, perhaps by facilitating video conferencing for mentors and connecting people.

Pakistan's Shia Genocide:ASWJ-TTP Terrorists Kill Two More Shias Including Top Activist In Karachi

Takfiri Deobandi terrorists of Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal-Jamaat (ASWJ) known as Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) have killed two more Shia Muslims in Karachi, The Shia Post reported. Acording to reports, a Shia Muslim syed Naeem Abbas Jafri s/o Syed Latafat Hussain Jafri aged 49 years was attacked on a shop ‘Jaffri Optics’ near Imambargah Bab-e-Fatimah in Lalukhait area Liaquatabad No. 10 in Karachi. Martyr recieved several bullets in his chest and face. He was rushed to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital. Another Shia Muslim Syed Fazal Abbas Naqvi, aged 35-years, Central Secretary General of Wehdat Youth Scout Pakistan, was also shot martyred in Federal B. Area of Karachi. Martyr Fazal Abbas was attacked near Fazal Mills Karachi opposit UBL Sports Complex in F.B Area Block-21. Pro-Taliban terrorists have killed thousands of innocent Shiite Muslims across the country, but government, judiciary and law enforcement agencies have failed to protect the citizens across the country.

Secret Talibanization of North-West Pakistan

Taha Siddiqui
Hide-and-seek the Taliban way
The hub of distinct indigenous cultures and peaceful beautiful valleys of North-West Pakistan have recently come into a lot of limelight unfortunately, for the wrong reason.
There are new threats of rapid Talibanization of areas like Chitral, Gilgit-Baltistan and other parts surrounding this belt. In a recent video release, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has announced an “armed struggle” against the non-Sunni Muslims and the polytheists belonging to the Kalash tribes, for which the Supreme Court took a suo moto notice and has directed the local administration to ensure protection to the people of the area.
Just last year, nine foreigners were shot dead in the Gilgit region, which the Tehreek-e-Taliban has taken responsibility for. Before that, in two incidents Shia bus passengers were shot dead after identification. Although the problem of religious intolerance has existed for more than three decades in this area, local experts believe that after the military operation in Swat in 2009 new terrorist strongholds have emerged across Pakistan. This includes areas like Karachi in the South and the North-Western belt bordering Afghanistan, China and Kashmir.
“There is a huge threat of Taliban infiltration into these areas on the Pakistani side of the Pak-Afghan border,” says Dr. Inayatullah Faizi, a social activist based in Chitral.
“Many Pakistani Taliban fighters are based on the other side now -- in the Kunar and Nooristan provinces of Afghanistan and they regularly enter into and exit from Pakistan,” he adds.
However, according to Dr. Faizi, who has also authored a book on the Wakhan Corridor, the problem of religious extremism is not new. “The Jamat-e-Islami started campaigning against the Kalash in the Seventies, pressuring the government to ban their dancing and singing culture. Simultaneously, the Ismailis and non-Muslims in the area were being pressured to convert to Islam,” he recalls. The situation worsened when General Ziaul Haq took power in 1977 and Pakistan became part of the American-backed jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan. “In the early Eighties, Chitral and Gilgit were attacked by Sunni radicals from neighbouring areas in an effort to rid the area of other sects or else convert them to Islam,” Dr. Faizi says, adding dozens were killed in 1981 and 1983. That is when Sipah-e-Sahaba, now a banned Sunni militant group, came into existence. “In the Shia majority areas, the then military government of Pakistan saw them as a threat, and often accused them of being anti-state, with Iranian links. Therefore, in Gilgit, Parachinar and Jhang, Sipah-e-Sahaba started preaching and radicalizing the population,” he adds. While the Nineties were relatively calm for this region post–9/11, the situation has taken a dangerous turn now, as militancy in these areas has become more violent.
The situation in Gilgit and the adjoining areas is quite tense. Shops close early and curfews have become the norm here. Anti-Shiite wall chalking is a common sight everywhere. Even the neighbourhoods have been demarcated according to Shiite-Sunni sects.
“The militants from Gilgit, Chitral and other North-Western parts have been frequenting Waziristan developing links with the Swati Taliban for training in terrorism,” says Brigadier Asad Munir, a retired military officer who handled intelligence affairs, especially, pertaining to the tribal belt on the Pakistani border where he was posted after 9/11. According to Brig. Munir, the area became vulnerable after 2010, when NATO troops withdrew from the corresponding Afghan provinces. “The Kunar and Nooristan area has become a hotbed of the Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan government does not have any control over it. Since, the border areas are extremely porous there are frequent infiltrations and attempts of Talibanization,” he adds.
Part of the problem is the way this region, especially, Gilgit-Baltistan has been governed through a federal authority and does not enjoy political rights.
Dr. Faizi explains that at the time of Independence, this region was aligned with the Maharajah of Kashmir, who did not want to join Pakistan. “However, the then Pakistani government decided to take this region into its ambit citing it to be a demand of the local people. Once merged into Pakistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, and what is now called Azad Kashmir, were separated. Chitral was included in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province,” he adds, saying that this division was done to prevent possible revolt. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) concluded its fact-finding mission in Gilgit-Baltistan recently, and will release the report soon.
“The Pakistani security establishment wants to ensure that the country become a one-religion State, that too of Sunni Islam,” says Zaman Khan, a representative of the HRCP. “In line with this policy, there is visible intolerance at the State level where religious minorities do not enjoy equal status,” he adds, pointing to the North-Western parts of Pakistan. And, while the militants are desperate to redraw the demographics of the area, experts feel such adventures come with a heavy cost, signs of which are already visible.
“The killing of nine foreign mountaineers and other such terror activities have discouraged tourism in the area,” says Sher Ghazi, a development consultant from the Gilgit region. Not only that, Ghazi believes that if the area falls under the Taliban rule, it can be an international disaster which will further isolate Pakistan globally.
“China uses the trade route through the Gilgit-Baltistan province into Pakistan, and the Indian-administered Kashmir is nearby too. Such geo-strategic location should not fall in the hands of wrong people like the Taliban. Also, the government should pay attention to the growing extremism in these areas and take steps to ensure that sympathy for militancy within the State security apparatus is checked and stopped,” he adds.