Friday, March 14, 2014

Irish music plays for PM Kenny, Obama in U.S. Capitol visit

Pros and Cons: St. Patrick's Day 2014

Malaysia Airlines plane : Analysis shows 2nd possible Indian Ocean path for airliner

A classified intelligence analysis of electronic and satellite data suggests Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 likely crashed either in the Bay of Bengal or elsewhere in the Indian Ocean, CNN learned Friday.
The analysis conducted by the United States and Malaysia governments may have narrowed the search area for the commercial jetliner that disappeared a week ago with 239 people on board.
If accurate, it would offer one of the first firm details about what happened to the airliner when it disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, leaving little trace of where it went or why.
The intelligence analysis was proof enough for the United States to move the USS Kidd, a guided missile destroyer, into the Indian Ocean and Indian officials to expand its search effort into the Bay of Bengal.
The theory builds on earlier revelations by U.S. officials that an automated reporting system on the airliner was pinging satellites for hours after its last reported contact with air traffic controllers. Inmarsat, a satellite communications company, confirmed to CNN that automated signals were registered on its network.
An aviation industry source tells CNN that the flight's automated communications system appeared to be intact for up to five hours, because pings from the system were received after the transponder last emitted a signal. Taken together, the data point toward speculation in a dark scenario in which someone took the plane for some unknown purpose, perhaps terrorism.
That theory is buoyed by a New York Times report that the Malaysia Airlines plane made several significant altitude changes after losing transponder contact.
Malaysian military radar showed the plane climb to 45,000 feet soon after disappearing from civilian radar screens, the newspaper reported, citing an unnamed person familiar with the data.
Then there's the theory that maybe Flight 370 landed in a remote Indian Ocean island chain. The suggestion -- and it's only that at this point -- is based on analysis of radar data revealed Friday by Reuters suggesting that the plane wasn't just blindly flying northwest from Malaysia. Reuters, citing unidentified sources familiar with the investigation, reported that whoever was piloting the vanished jet was following navigational waypoints that would have taken the plane over the Andaman Islands.
The radar data don't show the plane over the Andaman Islands, but only on a known route that would take it there, Reuters cited its sources as saying.
The movie-plot theory seems more complicated and unlikely than one in which the plane -- its flight crew perhaps incapacitated -- simply flew on until it ran out of fuel or faced some other problem. But it's one that law enforcement has to check out, former FBI Assistant Director James Kallstrom said.
"You draw that arc, and you look at countries like Pakistan, you know, and you get into your 'Superman' novels, and you see the plane landing somewhere and (people) repurposing it for some dastardly deed down the road," he told CNN's Jake Tapper on Thursday. Aviation experts say it's possible, if highly unlikely, that someone could have hijacked and landed the giant Boeing 777 undetected.
The international airport in Port Blair, the regional capital of the Andaman and Nicobar islands, has a runway that is long enough to accommodate a 777, according to publicly available data.
But the region is highly militarized because of its strategic importance to India, Indian officials with knowledge of the operation tell CNN, making it an unlikely target for pirates trying to sneak in an enormous airplane with a wingspan of more than 200 feet. Denis Giles, editor of the Andaman Chronicle newspaper, says there's just nowhere to land such a big plane in his archipelago without attracting notice. "There is no chance, no such chance, that any aircraft of this size can come towards Andaman and Nicobar Islands and land," he said. The Malaysian government said Friday that it can't confirm the report. And a senior U.S. official offered a conflicting account Thursday, telling CNN that "there is probably a significant likelihood" the plane is on the bottom of the Indian Ocean. The jetliner, with 239 people on board, disappeared a week ago as it flew between Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Beijing. The flight has turned into one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history, befuddling industry experts and government officials. Authorities still don't know where the plane is or what caused it to vanish. Suggestions of what happened have ranged from a catastrophic explosion to hijacking to pilot suicide.
Among the things being considered is whether lithium batteries in the cargo hold, which have been blamed in previous crashes, played a role in the disappearance, according to U.S. officials briefed on the latest developments in the investigation. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release details to the media. If the batteries being carried on the plane caused a fire, it still doesn't fully explain other anomalies with Flight 370, the officials say.
Details of the search
Malaysian officials, who are coordinating the search, said Friday that the hunt for the plane was spreading deeper into both the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.
India has deployed assets from its navy, coast guard and air force to the south Andaman Sea to take part the search, the country's Ministry of Defense said Friday.
Indian search teams are combing large areas of the archipelago. Two aircraft are searching land and coastal areas of the island chain from north to south, an Indian military spokesman said Friday, and two coast guard ships have been diverted to search along the islands' east coast. Indian officials are also including part of the Bay of Bengal in their search, officials said.
As of Friday, 57 ships and 48 aircraft from 13 countries were involved in the search, Hussein said. China, which said it would be extending its search, said crews have searched more than 27,000 square miles (about 70,000 square kilometers) of the South China Sea without finding anything. On Friday, the United States sent the destroyer USS Kidd to scout the Indian Ocean as the search expands into that body of water. "I, like most of the world, really have never seen anything like this," Cmdr. William Marks of the U.S. 7th Fleet said of the scale of the search. "It's pretty incredible."
"It's a completely new game now," he said. "We went from a chess board to a football field."
Other developments
• "Seafloor event":
Chinese researchers say they recorded a "seafloor event" in waters around Malaysia and Vietnam about an hour and a half after the missing plane's last known contact. The event was recorded in a non-seismic region about 116 kilometers (72 miles) northeast of the plane's last confirmed location, the University of Science and Technology of China said. "Judging from the time and location of the two events, the seafloor event may have been caused by MH370 crashing into the sea," said a statement posted on the university's website. However, U.S. Geological Survey earthquake scientist Harley Benz said Friday that the event appeared to be consistent with a naturally occurring 2.7-magnitude earthquake. • Malaysian response: Authorities continued to defend their response to the crash. "A normal investigation becomes narrower with time, I understand, as new information focuses the search," Hishammuddin Hussein, the minister in charge of defense and transportation, said at a news briefing. "But this is not a normal investigation. In this case, the information we have forces us to look further and further afield."
However, Bob Francis, a former National Transportation Safety Board official, is one of several experts who have questioned how Malaysian authorities have handled the situation.
"The Malaysians are not doing a superb job of running this investigation," he said. "And they apparently give you some information, and then they withhold information. How much are they relying on and listening to the Europeans and the NTSB who are there with more expertise? I don't know, but I think you know we've got a mixture of a very strange situation that happens to be in an environment, a regulatory environment, that really isn't capable or isn't running an investigation the way it should be run."

No deal reached at U.S.-Russia talks on Ukraine crisis

No major agreement was reached Friday at the U.S.-Russia talks on Ukraine in London, as both sides refused to back down from their previous stances towards the stalemate in Ukraine. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov held separate press conferences after their talks which lasted for about six hours in London. Lavrov said Russia and the United States did not have a "common vision" on the crisis in Ukraine, while emphasizing that Russia will respect "the will of the people of Crimea" the results of the referendum in the region on Sunday. While both sides described their talks as "constructive", major disagreements regarding Ukraine remain unresolved between the two countries. At the press conference, Kerry said Russian President Vladimir Putin is "not prepared" to make any decision on Ukraine yet. "After much discussion, Foreign Minister Lavrov made it clear that president Putin is not prepared to make any decision regarding Ukraine until after the referendum on Sunday," Kerry said. Kerry said the United States and its allies "respect" Russia's legitimate interests in Ukraine, but insisted that there is "a better way" for Russia to pursue the interests. "There are legitimate interests, historical, cultural...strategic. There are real interests. All of us, who are joined together in the EU and the extended contact group, understand that interests and we are prepared to respect them," he said. Moreover, the U.S. official stressed that international and multilateral norms are needed to solve the Ukraine crisis. Kerry reiterated that his country will not recognize the outcome of the referendum in Crimea, describing the upcoming vote as "illegitimate". "The President (Obama) has made it clear that there will be consequences if Russia doesn't not find a way to change course," Kerry added. Crimea, a Ukrainian autonomous republic, will hold a referendum Sunday over its future status. British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Friday warned that the European Union (EU) will take "further measures" if the U.S.-Russia talks over Ukraine crisis in London make no progress.

Lavrov: If Kosovo is a special case then Crimea is also

Kerry: Russia has historical, cultural, legitimate and strategic interests in Ukraine

The Spirit of St. Patrick in Washington, DC

Pakistan: Ahrar-ul Hind claims Peshawar, Quetta attacks

The Ahrar-ul Hind, a splinter group that broke away from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has claimed responsibility for the bombings in Peshawar and Quetta which left 19 people dead including children.
The spokesman for Ahrar-ul Hind claimed responsibility for the attacks to a foreign news outlet.
Ahrar-ul Hind
The until recently unheard off Ahrar-ul Hind claims it was associated with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and other militant organizations but broke off ties after the TTP engaged in talks with the Pakistani government.

Pakistan: Zardari, Bilawal condemn attacks

Former president Asif Ali Zardari strongly condemned the attacks on security vehicles in Peshawar and Quetta, in which nineteen people were killed and dozens injured.
In a statement Zardari said that the continuous acts of terrorism in all parts of country will only strengthen the nations and security forces resolve to fight the militants. He called for forging unity so that this coward and brutal enemy are defeated once for all. He paid tributes to the brave security personnel who are offering extreme sacrifices so that our men, women and children can live in peace. He also prayed to Allah for grant of eternal peace to the departed souls and early recovery of injured. He also expressed sympathy to the bereaved families.
Patron-in-Chief of Pakistan Peoples Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has also strongly condemned the attacks on security vehicles in Peshawar and Quetta. In a statement, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that such cowardly attacks could never weaken the resolve of our law enforcing authorities and the nation, to continue pursuing their struggle against the scourge of militancy and terrorism. He paid tributes to the brave security personnel who are offering extreme sacrifices so that our men, women and children can live in peace. Bilawal Bhutto also prayed to God for grant of eternal peace to the departed souls and early recovery of injured. He also expressed sympathy to the bereaved families.

From his Pakistan hideout, Fascist muslim Uighur leader vows revenge on China

Entrenched in secret mountain bases on Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, Uighur fighters are gearing up for retribution against China to avenge the deaths of comrades in Beijing's crackdown on a separatist movement, their leader told Reuters.
China, Pakistan's only major ally in the region, has long urged Islamabad to weed out what it says are militants from its western region of Xinjiang, who are holed up in a lawless tribal belt, home to a lethal mix of militant groups, including the Taliban and al Qaeda.
A mass stabbing at a train station in the Chinese city of Kunming two weeks ago, in which at least 29 people were killed, has put a new spotlight on the largely Muslim Uighur ethnic minority from Xinjiang, where Beijing says armed groups seek to establish an independent state called East Turkestan.
Beijing has called the Kunming bloodshed a "terrorist attack" carried out by militants, and says separatists operate training camps across the rugged border which abuts Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In a rare but brief interview, Abdullah Mansour, leader of the rebel Turkestan Islamic Party, said it was his holy duty to fight the Chinese.
"The fight against China is our Islamic responsibility and we have to fulfill it," he said from an undisclosed location. "China is not only our enemy, but it is the enemy of all Muslims ... We have plans for many attacks in China," he said, speaking in the Uighur language through an interpreter. "We have a message to China that East Turkestan people and other Muslims have woken up. They cannot suppress us and Islam any more. Muslims will take revenge."
Mansour spoke on a crackly line using a mobile phone with an Afghan SIM card in a brief statement which gave Reuters no chance to ask about the Kunming attack.
The separatists hide mainly in the troubled North Waziristan region, where they are treated by their Pakistani Taliban hosts as guests of honor, militant and Pakistani intelligence sources say.
The Turkestan Islamic Party, which China equates with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), keeps a low profile in Pakistan. Unlike the Taliban, it almost never posts videos promoting its activities or ideology. Its exact size is unknown and some experts dispute its ability to orchestrate attacks in China, or that is exists at all as a cohesive group.
Getting hold of leaders such as Mansour is almost impossible and interviews are usually very brief and conducted from undisclosed locations through a Pashto-speaking translator. Pakistani intelligence sources say they number about 400 fighters, and are clustered around the remote Mir Ali area, sharing bases with other foreign insurgents, particularly Uzbeks, who speak a similar language. In Afghanistan, two security reports sent to expatriates working there this year warned of attacks on a Chinese hotel, Chinese companies and other targets in Kabul. There have been no attacks so far. According to Afghan Taliban sources, there are about 250 Uighur militants in Afghanistan's Nuristan and Kunar provinces.
"They live here with us but are always concerned about their people and mission in China. They are nice people, good Muslims and the best fighters," a senior Taliban commander said.
He added that Uighur militants were not fond of guns, and resorted mostly to knives and daggers. China has stepped up security in Xinjiang after a vehicle ploughed into tourists on the edge of Beijing's Tiananmen Square in October, killing the three people in the car and two bystanders. China labeled it a suicide attack by militants from the region. Mansour released a Uighur-language video weeks after the Tiananmen incident, calling it a "jihadi operation" by its holy warriors.
For Pakistan, China is a valued friend in a region it views as potentially hostile. It is keen to demonstrate a commitment to weeding out what Beijing calls separatists, but its security forces are already stretched fighting Pakistani Taliban militants. Rehman Malik, Pakistan's former interior minister, said that about 20 Uighur militants were captured and handed over to China on his watch in 2008-2013.
"Pakistan and China are great friends. There are no secrets between us. When I took over as interior minister, I took on this subject in close association with my partners in China," he said. "The present government is also aware of the whole thing."
Many Uighurs in the energy-rich Xinjiang region which borders ex-Soviet Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, accuse Han Chinese of stifling their culture and religion. More than 100 people there have been killed in unrest in the past year, according to Chinese state media reports. But the Chinese government has provided little evidence that the Kunming killings or any other incidents that Beijing has labeled terrorist attacks have been linked to outside forces.
Some experts have suggested that the low-tech nature of the weapons the assailants used in Kunming and the location of the attack point to a lack of external backing and weakly organized revenge killings as opposed to coordinated international terrorism.
The Kunming attack has put China on edge and prompted concerns over rising discrimination against Uighurs across the country. Exiled Uighur groups have repeatedly called for transparent investigations into such incidents and say they should not be used as excuses for further repressive policies on Uighur communities. Hundreds of Uighurs migrated to the lawless areas of Pakistan about five years ago after they were squeezed out of their homeland by a Chinese crackdown, Pakistani security sources say. Their numbers are believed to be much smaller now.
"The Chinese militants in the tribal areas are mostly clerics and fighters. They have their families here and are mostly focused on Afghanistan," said one Pakistani Taliban commander.
Saifullah Mahsud, head of the Pakistani think tank FATA Research Center, which has extensive sources in Pakistan's tribal areas, agreed their power and capacity to carry out major attacks are exaggerated by China.
"It's survival, basically. They can't go back," he said. "This is the only place where they are welcome."
But attempts by Taliban insurgents to carve out new hideouts in northern areas of Pakistan near China's border have helped create a new corridor for Uighurs leading into their homeland.
"In the last couple of years, Taliban militants have got nearer and nearer to the Chinese border," said Mahsud. "There has been a lot of movement there. Perhaps that gives them the logistical support that they require to cross over into China."


Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid have disassociated themselves from the attacks and said his group will abide by the month-long ceasefire announced earlier. But the Question here arises that if we take their word , that they are not doing the Suicide Attacks and Planted attacks , then why is the PML – N Government in collaboration with the supporters of Taliban , Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf ( PTI ) , Jamaat e Islami ( JI ) , Jamiat e Ulema e Islam – Sami Ul Haq ( JUI – S ) , Sipah e Sahaba Pakistan (SSP / ASWJ ) , have initiated a Dialogue with them , as if the Government is bound to give concessions to them in the name of Peace in the country , while the country is still under attacks , and the Innocent Pakistanis are still being Killed in By Suicide Attacks , and on the Other Hands the Armed forces are being ordered not to take any action against the perpetrators , as all the terrorist who have their Hide Outs in the North Waziristan . But the Dangerous Scenario is that the PML – N Government which is sponsored by the Saudi Government , and at the same time Sponsors of Taliban Terrorist, and Now as the Defenders of Pakistan , have started to take some action against the terrorist of North Waziristan , and have done some surgical strikes to counter the threat. So as these terrorist thought they can even be Killed , so they have begged to their Saudi Sponsors that their Lives should be spared , as they are there only to Kill Innocent Pakistanis , while No action should be taken against them either by the LEAs or the Judiciary , which is also very evident from the Past Practices of the Government , and also by the No Action Plan by the Armed forces of Pakistan . As the Government is trying to prove that these terrorist are Mightier than the Armed forces of Pakistan , and if Amnesty is not declared to these Terrorist , in the Name of Peace then they Might Kill all the Armed forces of Pakistan and Might take Over Pakistan , which is a very Treasonous thought being imposed by the Present Rulers and the supporters of these Taliban Terrorist . So as now even it is learned that the Saudi Government and the UAE Govt , has tried to Buy back the Loyalty of the Loyal Pakistani Armed Forces by Giving a Loan of around USD1.5 Billion , to make sure NO Action is taken against the Enemies of Pakistan , and the Terrorist Loyal to Saudi and UAE Governments
And now there are again Reports that the Dialogue with the Taliban are being conducted on the grounds that they will be given concessions and the authority to implement their So called “ Sharia “ in the areas where they have stronghold , like FATA , which clearly Indicates that now the same scenario of the 1970 is being tried to be Replayed

Pakistan: Vicious violence: 21 killed in bomb and suicide attacks

After a brief lull, deadly violence came back to haunt Pakistanis on Friday. At least 21 people – mostly civilians – were killed and nearly 100 wounded in bomb and suicide attacks targeting law enforcers in the northwest and southwest of the country.
A bomb was remotely detonated in downtown Quetta minutes after vehicles carrying paramilitary troops drove past. Police confirmed that at least 11 people, including a woman and a child, were killed and around 42 others wounded in the attack that took place in front of Science College on Jinnah Road.
“The victims included nine civilians and two Balochistan Constabulary personnel. A passenger bus, two auto-rickshaws and four cars were destroyed in the blast,” Quetta’s Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Abdul Razzaq Cheema told The Express Tribune. According to the Bomb Disposal Squad, the explosive device weighed eight to ten kilogrammes. “It was an improvised explosive device (IED) strapped to a bicycle which was parked near an electricity pylon,” an investigator told The Express Tribune. “The bomb went off two minutes after vehicles carrying paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) troops passed by the area,” he added. “Apparently, these vehicles were the target.”
Since the bombing took place near Zarghoon Road, where Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat workers were staging a large gathering, some officials speculated that the party might have been the target. Investigators, however, dispelled such speculations.
Jinnah Road is a hub of businesses, shopping areas and restaurants. A passenger bus and several private vehicles were travelling on the road when the blast occurred. “We struggled to pull out the body of a rickshaw driver from his burning tri-wheeler,” a rescuer said, adding that the rickshaw was gutted and five passengers on board were burnt to death. The explosion was heard five to 10 kilometres from the bombsite and the windowpanes of several shops and buildings, including Science College’s, were shattered due to its impact. “The floor shook as we heard the blast and as we got closer to Science College, we saw people crying and others lying in pools of blood,” said a local resident, Muhammad Shahid. The casualties were driven to the Provincial Sandeman Hospital, Civil Hospital and Combined Military Hospital. Medics at the Sandeman Hospital confirmed that they have received 10 bodies and more than 25 injured. One of them expired during the course of treatment.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast that took place after more than a month of relative calm in the provincial capital.
Over in Peshawar, a suicide bomber targeted a police armoured personnel carrier (APC) in the Bata Tal area, on the edge on the city. At least 10 people – including two women – were killed and 45 others wounded in the attack. The APC was parked at a gasoline station in a crowded marketplace, hardly a few metres away from Khyber Agency on Bara Road. “Eight policemen were on board the APC – but all of them survived with minor injuries,” SSP Operation Najeebur Rehman Bagvi told The Express Tribune. All the casualties were passers-by or shoppers at the market. They were ferried to the Hayatabad Medical Complex and Lady Reading Hospital where medics confirmed the death toll. Khan Muhammad, a resident of Bara, recalled the deadly explosion. “A thick cloud of smoke and dust covered the area for nearly 15 minutes after the blast.” Fearing a second attack, police opened indiscriminate fire before cordoning off the area. “The firing made the rescue operation very difficult,” he said. Meanwhile, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan central spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid disowned the blast, saying that none of their members or the groups associated with them were involved. Talking to journalists from an undisclosed location in Miranshah, he said the TTP was committed to the ceasefire.
Separately, an official of the Sarband police station to which the APC belonged said that some of his colleagues were constantly receiving threats from the Lashker-e-Islam militant group. “Sub-inspector Bukhari Shah was in charge of the targeted APC. He had survived another militant attack in the Mattani area last year so he was most likely the target,” he said. AIG Special Branch Shafqat Malik, who also heads the Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS), said the bomber carried at least eight kilogrammes of high explosives in his suicide vest.

Former President Zardari condemns attacks on security vehicles in Peshawar and Quetta
Former President Asif Ali Zardari strongly condemned the attacks on Friday on security vehicles in Peshawar and Quetta, in which nine and eleven people were reportedly killed and dozens injured. In a statement the former President said that the continuous acts of terrorism in all parts of country will only strengthen the nations and security forces resolve to fight the militants. He called for forging unity so that this coward and brutal enemy are defeated once for all. He paid tributes to the brave security personnel who are offering extreme sacrifices so that our men, women and children can live in peace. He also prayed to Allah for grant of eternal peace to the departed souls and early recovery of injured. He also expressed sympathy to the bereaved families.

Pakistan: Adjournment Motion moved in Senate over 1.5 billion dollars aid
An adjournment motion was moved in the Senate today to discuss whether the 1.5 billion dollars bailout by an un-named Muslim country was related to the change in the country’s policy of neutrality over Syria. The adjournment motion was moved by PPPP Senator Farhatullah Babar.
In a statement he said that the claim of national debts coming down by 800 billion rupees as a result of rupee rising in value against dollar following the 1.5 billion dollars bail out was most welcome but, ‘we need to be reassured there is no quid pro quo and trade off with a critical area of our foreign policy’.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar stated Wednesday that a Muslim country gave Pakistan 1.5 billion dollars towards ‘Pakistan Development Fund’ but the donor country did not wish to be identified.
The secrecy raises questions. We need to know when was the Pakistan Development Fund set up and for what purpose and what happened to a similar fund set up sometime back by the Friends of Democratic Pakistan. We also need to know whether it is outright grant, or aid or loan and on what terms and conditions, he said. There is no such thing as free lunch and relations between countries were guided by their national interests and based on a quid pro quo. There are issues that cannot be shrugged off, he said. He said that Syria had the potential of becoming Afghanistan of the Middle East and warned against any misadventure by changing course disregarding the catastrophic experience in Afghanistan next door. It would be a mistake of monumental proportions if we allowed ourselves to be sucked into the web of regional power politics in the Middle East.
He said that the alarm bells first rang by reports late last month that a Muslim country was in talks with Pakistan for supply of anti-aircraft and anti tank rockets to Syrian rebels.
He said that doubts linger as the joint statement issued after the visit of a dignitary from Middle East last month called for regime change in Syria as the joint statement called for the “formation of a transitional governing body with full executive powers enabling it to take charge of the affairs of the country”. He also disputed the assertion of the Advisor Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz that this formulation in the joint statement was in accordance with the recent Geneva 1 Accord over Syria.
He said that the Geneva 1 joint communiqué stressed ending violence and human rights abuses and “launch of a Syrian led political process leading to a transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people”. There is a sea of difference between a ‘political process leading to a transition’ as envisaged in Geneva 1 and ‘formation of transitional governing body with full executive powers’ as stated in the joint statement and there is an ominous ring to it, he said.

U.S. Commander Says More Focus On Haqqani Militants
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan says allied and Afghan forces are focusing more on going after the Haqqani militant network, which has threatened to disrupt the Afghan presidential elections in April.
Marine General Joseph Dunford said the United States was targeting the groups financing and freedom of movement.
He said Haqqani militants have been more active in the past few months.
The Haqqani network is blamed for some of the most high-profile attacks in Afghanistan. U.S. officials have repeatedly pressed Pakistani authorities to move more aggressively against the militants, who are based in North Waziristan and regularly cross the border to conduct attacks against U.S. and coalition troops.
Dunford told members of the House Armed Services Committee on March 13 that he would need 102 days to withdraw U.S. troops and equipment from Afghanistan and turn over any remaining bases to the Afghans.

Afghanistan: US still open to signing BSA: White House

The United States is still open to signing bilateral security agreement (BSA) with Afghanistan, the White House said Thursday, noting the delay in it would increase the risk.
“We are still open to signing a BSA,” the White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, told reporters at his daily news conference. “We have made clear what our preferred policy approach was and is, which is a mission that would be focused on counterterrorism and the continued training and support of Afghan security forces with a significantly reduced American troop presence as part of a NATO operation,” Carney said.
That is not possible without BSA signed by the Afghan government, he added.
“I think our views on this reflect what General (Joseph) Dunford said, which is that in order to maintain what we think would be the best policy option -- a limited troop presence there to focus on counterterrorism and training and support of the Afghan forces -- we need a BSA,” he added. “We negotiated one with the Afghan government and had as a target date for its signing the end of last year in keeping with what the
Afghan government had identified as the timeframe,” he added. He noted that “we have made clear, as the days and weeks have passed in 2014, that the further we move into this year, the more our ability to -- even if we were to sign a BSA later in the year, it would -- the later we sign it, the more constrained our presence and mission would be beyond 2014.”

'Toxic stew' of militants lurk in Afghanistan as NATO heads home

The soldiers were asleep when attackers struck their outpost, tucked in the mountains of Afghanistan's eastern province of Kunar and on the front lines of a deepening war between the army and a potent mix of militants.
Afghan officials say scores of militants killed 21 soldiers as they overran the tiny fortified base on February 23.
While the circumstances remain murky, the assault underscores the challenges Afghanistan will face as foreign forces withdraw to prevent hard-to-govern areas such as Kunar reverting to the militant safe havens they once were.
The diverse group of militants, including a small but stubborn contingent of al Qaeda fighters, will be all the more troubling if Western nations withdraw fully this year.
"We have the same concerns as everyone about 2014," said Wagma Sapay, a parliamentarian from Kunar, referring to the possible departure of all foreign forces, which would leave the Afghan police and army to face insurgents alone for the first time.
"Our security forces are not able to provide security for people alone."
U.S. officials reckon that about 50 al Qaeda militants remain in Afghanistan, operating from remote areas in Kunar and neighbouring Nuristan.
The two provinces are also believed to be home to militants from the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, the Hizb-i-Islami militant group, and dozens of other outfits. Kunar police chief Abdul Habib Sayedkhalil estimates that in his province alone there are 3,000 to 4,000 militants from 166 groups. "There's a toxic stew of bad guys up there," said Major General Stephen Townsend, who commands U.S. and NATO forces in eastern Afghanistan.
With Afghan President Hamid Karzai refusing to sign a bilateral security pact, the White House said last week that it would begin planning for a full withdrawal of its 33,000 troops at the end of 2014, despite a long-standing plan to keep a modest troop presence. The prospect of a complete drawdown has thrown into doubt U.S. plans for a post-2014 mission that would focus in large part on going after die-hard al Qaeda fighters, most likely through small special forces raids and air strikes. The commander of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, General Joseph Dunford, on Wednesday gave a bleak assessment of prospects in the event of a full withdrawal.
"Without the Resolute Support mission, the progress made to date will not be sustainable," Dunford told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, referring to a post-2014 NATO training and advisory mission.
A limited number of advisers was needed to train and assist Afghan forces, he said, adding that without help, Afghan forces would deteriorate and al Qaeda and others would see an opportunity to again establish Afghan bases.
Wooded, sparsely populated Kunar and Nuristan, bordering Pakistan's dangerous ethnic Pashtun areas, have long been ungovernable spaces. During the Soviet occupation in the 1980s, Soviet and the Afghan Communist troops struggled and failed to quell mujahideen fighters there.
The provinces have seen some of the U.S. military's fiercest fights since 2001 as it sought to stem the flow of weapons and militants from Pakistan, including a 2005 encounter in which 19 American troops were killed.
Today, many local officials blame widespread insecurity on the departure of foreign forces from almost all of their bases.
In Kunar, police chief Sayedkhalil said that while Afghan police and soldiers are able to secure towns and main roads, insurgents control mountains and remote or forested areas.
"Insurgents can't take on Afghan security forces directly, so they target them by planting roadside bombs and launching terrorist attacks," he said.
"Nuristan is covered with forests and lacks paved roads - providing security is not an easy task," said Hazrat Shah Nuristani, another lawmaker. He said provincial officials had repeatedly asked Afghan forces for help, to little avail.
Afghanistan's police and army say they have made some headway in the region, but the terrain and a lack of sophisticated equipment work against them. Haroon Yosufzai, an army spokesman for eastern Afghanistan, said Afghan soldiers were engaged in six operations against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Kunar, and more would begin soon.
"For Nuristan, right now we don't have a plan," he said. But Afghan forces still rely on foreign forces for air power, intelligence and logistics, important in areas to which troops and supplies need to be air-lifted.
It is unclear how much Afghanistan can do to eliminate safe-havens unless Pakistan prevents militants from regrouping, resupplying and directing attacks from within its borders.
"In Afghanistan, we defeated al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and his fighters, but we could not expand that fight beyond the Durand Line," said Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi, referring to the border with Pakistan.
Pakistan, mired in a bloody insurgency of its own, denies it harbours militants in its tribal lands along the border. Al Qaeda is considered a serious threat still because of its ability to inspire and train others. Afghan officials describe the group as the "brains" of the insurgency, while Townsend called it the "special forces" of Afghan militants - more skilled and better funded.
If U.S. forces do leave this year, Washington's ability to target al Qaeda fighters would be greatly diminished. However, it may not be eliminated: the United States could still target al Qaeda leaders with drone strikes or special-forces missions launched from outside Afghanistan.

Pakistan: Two new polio cases confirmed in Sindh, N Waziristan
The total number of polio cases in Pakistan during this year has reached 28.
At least two new cases of polio virus were reported in Sindh and North Waziristan on Friday. According to National Health Department, 10-month-old Sajid of Miransha was confirmed have affected by polio virus as he was administered no vaccination. Meanwhile, another case was reported in Karachi where two-year-old Muzlfa of Baldia Town was confirmed to be polio virus victim. After confirmation of new cases, the total number polio patients has reached 24 in North Waziristan, three in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and one in Sindh.

Pakistan: The Taliban’s Unity of Purpose

By Asim Yousafzai
A lack of harmony between Pakistan and Afghanistan supports the militants’ unity of purpose.
Taliban and like-minded jihadis are becoming more united in their determination to impose their brand of sharia on both Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the help of their international mentors under the banner of al-Qaeda.
While the terrorists are racing ahead with this unity of purpose, the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan are divided when it comes to tackling the growing extremism. Islamabad is busy pursuing talks, while in Afghanistan “insider attacks’” are on the rise because the Taliban have managed to get members recruited by the Afghan security forces. The recent increase in the so-called green-on-blue attacks forced Coalition partners to suspend training of Afghan security forces.
Historical Background
South Asia, heir to the great Indus Valley Civilization, is reeling after three decades of war. The ongoing war in Afghanistan has already spread east, and extremists regularly operate across the Durand Line that separates Afghanistan and Pakistan. The security situation in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) is the worst in decades, with the Taliban in effective control. The adjoining Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KP) has seen its worst violence since the Afghan war began in 1979. Tens of thousands have been killed in attacks in these northwest Pakistan regions in recent years. Kashmir is a disputed region surrounded by Pakistan, India and China, and is the main source of the Indo-Pakistan proxy war in Afghanistan. Some of the current jihadi groups were trained in Kashmir and are now operating from Pakistan’s Punjab province. The deadly Mumbai Hotel attacks were carried out by one such group (Lashkar-e-Taiba) in 2008. The ultimate goal of these groups appears to be establishing an Islamic Caliphate, stretching from east Africa to southeast Asia, somewhat along the lines of the one present in the 8th century at the peak of Muslim ascendancy.
Pakistani terrorists currently operate under various names: Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Harkat-ul Mujahideen (HuM), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and many others. Besides the local, home-grown terrorists, there are a large number of fighters (mainly Uzbeks and Chechens) from Central Asia and Arab countries who are now permanently settled in FATA. They were part of the mujahedeen groups who fought against the Russians in Afghanistan.
New terror groups are surfacing on a regular basis to claim responsibility for the almost daily attacks on either side of the Durand Line. One such group, Ahrar-ul-Hind (AuH) was responsible for the recent brazen court attack in the capital Islamabad, in which a senior judge was killed along with many others. Irrespective of the number of characters in their names, they are united in their short term goal of imposing Islamic Shariah in south Asia.
Political Response in Pakistan
Religio-political parties in Pakistan such as Jumat-e-Islam (JI) and Jamiat-ul-Ulemai Islam (JUI) are staunch supporters of the Taliban. Though both JI and JUI enjoy little electoral support, they nonetheless have superior street power compared to the mainstream parties. Another mainstream political party, the rising Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led by former cricket star Imran Khan, is openly supporting the Taliban and is lobbying to open a Taliban office in KP. These three parties are the main source of oxygen and breathing space much needed by the Taliban and other terrorist groups. A NATO supply route was effectively blocked by PTI workers for several months before it was declared illegal by a high court in KP. After every terror attack, the leaders of these parties waste no time in telling their followers that a “foreign hand” (usually, the CIA, Mossad or India’s Research and Analysis Wing) was involved in these attacks in an attempt to sabotage the “peace process. The political party of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif strongly believes that the Taliban can be brought into mainstream politics through negotiation. The role of Pakistan’s premier spy agency (ISI) is to support only those Taliban groups that can later be used to exert influence in post-2014 Afghanistan.
The current piecemeal approach of both Islamabad and Kabul is to buy as much time as possible before the murky waters of 2014 become more transparent. Islamabad and Rawalpindi are meanwhile weighing their options to determine which Taliban groups to support and which ones to put on the chopping board. This approach will not succeed. The first round of “peace talks” between the Taliban and the Pakistani government failed miserably, as the attacks on civilians and military personnel could not be stopped. On the contrary, the Taliban have stepped up their efforts to dismantle state structures, and are increasingly bold on either side of the Durand Line.
Pakistan’s interior minister recently announced the country’s first ever “security policy,” which states that after every terror attack Pakistani forces will bomb militant headquarters in FATA. Strikes on a few locations will create more misery for the local populations and add to the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced.
International Scenario
The two economic giants India and China are anxiously watching the events unfolding in their backyards. China has clearly indicated that it will not tolerate a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. China is facing its own terrorist threat in its west, and it has blamed the Muslim separatists for the recent knife attack in Kunming. India is more concerned about its own home-grown terrorist groups, although the increasing Talibanization of Pakistan could severely cripple its economy.
This creeping Talibanization cannot be contained within Afghanistan and Pakistan; it is bound to spill over into India and China, at least. However, the developing situation in Ukraine could have a game-changing effect in South Asia. For one thing, Ukraine might be a bigger fish for NATO to catch than Afghanistan. For another, note the recent statement by the Pan-Islamist Jihadi group Hizb ut Tahrir: “The situation in Ukraine will not stabilize unless the Khilafah state is established for the Muslims.”
A complete U.S. and NATO troop withdrawal (the zero option) would be chilling for progressive and liberal minority forces in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Certainly, the upcoming Afghan elections and the NATO withdrawal will determine the security scenario in South Asia. In the complete absence of international forces, the Taliban can have a field day with those participating in the electoral process. Turnouts in the past have been extremely low and another low turnout this time will raise questions about the results. The credibility of the Afghan government has eroded over time and the political process is in danger of being overtaken by chaos and violence.
The mushroom growth of terror outfits represents an existential threat to the territorial integrity of South Asian nations. Islamabad and Kabul are going to need to take their efforts to another level.

Pakistan's Ahmadi Muslims Under Attack: : Police desecrate Kalima on gravestones of Ahmadis in Punjab

Ahmadiyya Times
“Ahmadis face discrimination in Pakistan, but those who persist in such treatment to Ahmadis dead should not forget that one day they have to appear in the Divine court.”
Incident in violation of Human Rights and human dignity; we strongly condemn it: Spokesperson Jamaat Ahmadiyya
Several personnel from Punjab police desecrated the Kalima (Muslim creed) written on the gravestones of Ahmadis in an Ahmadiyya graveyard of a small village, Chak no. 96 GB in Tehsil Jaranwala.
According to the details provided by Jamaat Ahmadiyya Pakistan, an opponent of Ahmadiyya community lodged a complaint with the local police that some writings on the gravestones of Ahmadis in the cemetery are hurtful to his feelings.
The local police summoned the Ahmadis and demanded they remove the Kalima from the grave markers which demand the Ahmadiyya community rejected. Thereafter, Mr. Saleem-ud Din, the spokesperson of the Ahmadiyya community says, a few policemen came to the cemetery and personally destroyed the tiles on which Kalima was written on seven gravestones.
The spokesperson strongly condemned the 'deplorable' act by the police and expressed the community's intense grief over this traumatic incident and called it in violation of human dignity and Human Rights. “It is deplorable that the administration, whose duty is to ensure peace in society and treat all equally, acts puppets of opponents of the Ahmadiyya community." "This is unlawful and immoral,” said Mr. Saleem-ud Din referring to the Order of the Supreme Court, of November 4, 1992 that conveys that Ahmadis have legal right to use words like Bismillah and such other Islamic terms. “Ahmadis face discrimination in Pakistan, but those who persist in such treatment to Ahmadis dead should not forget that one day they have to appear in the Divine court,” he added. -- Pakistan: Police desecrated Kalima on gravestones of Ahmadis in Chak 96 GB, Faisalabad

Pakistan: Blast in Quetta kills 10, injures 35

A powerful explosion killed at least 10 people and injured 35 other on Friday evening in Quetta, the capital of restive Balochistan province, police said. Muhammad Jaffar, the Deputy Inspector General Police (Operations) said militants had planted explosive material inside a bicycle parked in the Science College Chowk area of Quetta.
He said the bomb exploded when a local bus was passing through the spot. However, another police official who requested anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media, told that target of the blast was a Frontier Corps’ vehicle, which narrowly escaped the attack. The injured were rushed to Civil Hospital and the Combined Military Hospital for emergency treatment. An emergency was imposed at both hospitals to treat the injured of the blast. The bodies were shifted to Civil Hospital Quetta for postmortem. “The dead bodies are yet to be identified,” Dr. Rasheed Jamali, the medical officer at the Civil Hospital. He said all senior doctors and paramedics had been called in to treat the injured. Thick-black smoke and roaring flames could be seen from a distance soon after the blast. Fire fighters rushed to the area to put out the fire. The strength of the blast smashed the window panes of nearby shops and shopping centers. The powerful explosion was heard far and wide causing panic in the city, which was already under the grip of violent attacks.

Pakistani Christian Protest Against Despoliation Of Under Construction Church

In Okara district people arrived from different villages assembled in Catholic Church G.T Road Okara. They were almost 800 in count.
People were in tension for the incident that happened nine days ago that cause’s critical condition. But still there is no development by police and Punjab government.
Before this protest Youhana Masih and other Christian leaders gave application to the Chief Justice and prime minister of Pakistan but they didn’t reply about it. So they diced to a arrange a huge protest against police and government of Pakistan. Many Muslim and Christian leaders like Younis Iqbal; founder and Chairman of Anjuman Muzareen Punjab (AMP), David Rahmit(AMP), Rev. Fr.Khalid Mukhtar, Main Nadeem Abas (AMP), Chief Organizer Punjab (PCC); Muhammad Akram, President Masiha Milat Party Lahore; Aslim Masih Sohatra, United Christian Progressive Society; Nadeem Parvez, Director United Christian Progressive Society; Dr.Yousal Mattu, Secretary General Peasants Women Welfare Foundation, Pakistan Rakhel Temina and President Pakistan Christian Congress, Shabaz Bhatti. They all address and emphasize to save minorities in Pakistan is duty of government of Pakistan. They explain that if government didn’t take any notice in two days they will call again all over the Pakistan.
The protesters start rally from Catholic Church and end on Okara Press Club.
- See more at:

Police under attack in Pakistan's largest city

From his home off a dirt road cluttered with trash in Pakistan's teeming city of Karachi, policeman Didar Ahmed's son shows the bloodstained jacket his father was wearing when gunmen cut him and three colleagues down in a hail of bullets last month.
Ahmed's brother Gulzar looks at the bullet-riddled garment with a blank stare. He recalled how days before his brother's death, they had talked about the rising dangers of police work as officers increasingly come under attack by criminal gangs and militants from the Pakistani Taliban. "He was sitting here and told me: 'The situation in the city is deteriorating so if something happens to me, you take care of my kids and family,'" Gulzar said.
Ahmed was one of 44 police officers killed during the first two months of the year in Pakistan's largest city, a particularly violent start to the year for the police. The force was already reeling from 166 officers killed last year — roughly one every other day and a four-fold increase from just five years earlier. Being a police officer has never been especially easy in this sprawling metropolis on the southern coast, where the population has surged from roughly 10 million in 1998 to some 18 to 21 million today — so much that an exact count has proven elusive to authorities. But recent figures suggest the profession has become even more perilous — in large part because the Pakistani Taliban and affiliated militant groups have gained a foothold here, police and analysts say. Police Chief Shahid Hayat says they are responsible for roughly 60 percent of the recent police killings.
Much of the focus on militancy in Pakistan since 9/11 terror attacks in the United States has been on the vast northwest tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, where the army is fighting militants. But as fighters increasingly move into settled areas of the country such as Khyber Paktunkhwa province in the north, and Karachi in the south, it has put immense strain on law enforcement agencies that are generally less well-funded and trained than the army.
"It's a big concern," said Hayat of the killings. He was brought in last September to oversee a new campaign to bring down the violence plaguing the city. Karachi's problems are extensive: extortion, kidnapping-for-ransom, targeted assassinations, and car theft, to name a few. Newly-elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, acutely aware of the city's importance to the country's economy ordered paramilitary Rangers and police to bring order to it.
Police have been killed on their way to and from work. Ahmed's family said he would put on his uniform at the station house so people wouldn't know his profession. Grenades have been lobbed at police stations and vehicles. In two of the most shocking attacks, the man dubbed the city's "toughest cop," Chaudhry Aslam, was killed in a bombing claimed by the Pakistani Taliban in January, followed by a roadside bomb that killed 13 police officers in February. To be sure, the Pakistani Taliban are not the only driver of the violence in the city. Karachi has been a cauldron of ethnic and political tension for decades, where political parties have militant wings, gangs make money through drug-trafficking, land grabbing and other forms of crime, and sectarian groups target the city's Shiite Muslim minority. Just Wednesday, at least 15 people were killed in a gangland shootout, and six police were wounded. Samina Ahmed from the International Crisis Group said it's not necessarily that the jihadi threat has grown, but that state control has increasingly withered in Karachi and other cities, allowing criminality and militancy to thrive.
"Large parts of Karachi can't be policed effectively because the police don't have the means — either the bodies or the technology," she said. "It's a megacity and megacities require efficient law enforcement and that is what Karachi lacks. So is it that the jihadi threat that can't be tackled or is it that the state isn't trying to tackle it seriously enough?"
Religious militants have long had a presence in the city, but it was generally used by them as a place to seek medical treatment, raise money through bank robberies or to recruit at the city's massive network of religious schools. But the combination of Pakistani military operations in the northwest starting in 2009, along with American drone strikes, drove many militants to seek shelter here among the city's large Pashtun population.
Raja Umar Khattab, an investigator with the police unit responsible for hunting down militants, knows the dangers of the job, his neck scarred from a roadside bomb that almost killed him. When the violence in Karachi began to rise, he said, militants first attacked politicians and activists from the Awami National Party, which has a strong presence in Pashtun areas. Dozens of ANP members were killed, and militants tore down flags from their offices. Then they turned their attention on law enforcement personnel, he said. "They are targeting police to bring down the morale of the police and to terrorize the police, and therefore they come on motorcycles in Karachi and run away after attacking two or three policemen," he said. The police are frank about the challenges they face. Hayat said he has roughly 27,000 police officers and generally about 9,000 are on protection duty for "VIP" individuals, like judges or businessmen or politicians. Some 3,000 to 4,000 officers will be in the field at any given time, yet only 1,500 have bulletproof vests. Station houses are often dilapidated and uninviting to citizens, who often view police with suspicion. Rights groups and analysts say police are sometimes complicit with criminal gangs and sometimes use excessive force.
Officers are quickly transferred, lessening the time they have to learn the job or the community. The paramilitary Rangers have been based in the city since the mid-nineties and have been an active part of the recent anti-violence campaign. While they're generally better-equipped and trained, critics say their presence has allowed the government to avoid investing the time and energy into improving the police force.
Many in the police say the operation so far has been a success because murders and extortion complaints have fallen. They said the police killings are an attempt to demoralize law enforcement. Khattab said there are now no more so-called "no-go areas" that police cannot enter. Hayat said the police are reinforcing stations in the most dangerous areas and have directed officers to only travel in two vehicle-convoys so they have more manpower to fight back. "They should at least have it in their mind that we're going to hit back, and we're going to kill them," he said.
Others are not so sure.
Amanullah Mehsood, a senior ANP politician in Karachi, said he can't even visit his wife and children in their Pashtun neighborhood of the city because the militants have threatened to kill him. He said few people in the Pashtun areas of the city trust the police or Rangers so they don't pass along tips. "The police come in an area and the TTP ... leave," he said, referring to the Pakistani Taliban's by its official name, Tehrik-e-Taliban. "Then the Rangers and police leave and the TTP is back."

Pakistan: Four killed and ten injured in Quetta blast

Express News
A loud explosion was heard in Quetta near Science College chowk , Express News reported on Friday. Four people have been killed and another ten injured in the explosion. A bus and a rickshaw were also destroyed in the explosion, but the exact nature of the blast is not yet known. Security officials and rescue teams have arrived on the scene. This is a developing story and will be updated accordingly.

Rawalpindi: Terrorists Attack Shia Leader In A Bid To Hide Their Blasphemous Graffiti
Takfiri terrorists of banned Sipah-e-Sahaba/Ahl-e-Sunnat wal Jamaat attacked a local Shia leader in Rawalpindi in what appeared to divert public attention from their blasphemous graffiti on Thursday. The fanatics of outlawed terrorist group Sipah-e-Sahaba/Ahl-e-Sunnat wal Jamaat wrote graffiti in which they perpetrated blasphemy of Hazrat Mohammad (PBUH), the last apostle and prophet of God. Shia Muslims reacted to their blasphemous graffiti and to hide their heinous crime, they attacked Saeed ul Hassan Rizvi, secretary general of the Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen, Rawalpindi chapter, and accused him of contempt of companions of Prophet (BUH), a baseless charge that banned takfiri terrorist outfits usually frame against the Muslims. The Deobandi fanatics of banned terrorist group have begun a demonstration at Sadiqi Chowk. They are trying to pressurize the police to register a fake FIR on their baseless accusations. Shia parties and leaders have warned the PMLN government to rein in the terrorists and launch a crackdown and military action to liquidate Taliban terrorists and their affiliates such as Sipah-e-Sahaba/ASWJ and LeJ.

Pakistan's Council of Islamic Ideology: ''' Skewed '''

The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) wants to formally legalise a social ill that is already prevalent in our society. Under the current law, the minimum age for marriage is 18 for boys and 16 for girls but this is observed only in the breach as cultural traditions have tended to have more weight than the force of written law. Now the CII has declared that there should be no age limit for marriage, declaring that a girl can be married off at any age and her wedding consummated once she reaches puberty. This is a ruling that is both inadvisable and ahistorical. As life expectancy has increased through the ages so has the socially acceptable age at which marriages take place. Girls who have barely reached their teens do not have the maturity to deal with the responsibility of marriage and those who are forced into it usually have to endure the marriage because their parents want to express tribal solidarity, keep property within the family or simply for economic reasons so that the child becomes someone else’s property. None of these reasons should be good enough for the CII to endorse a practice that we desperately need to wipe out.
The government has the authority to decide if it should accept CII recommendations. In this case the decision should be swift and simple. The CCI advised another change in the law which should be similarly rejected. Right now, men have to obtain permission from their current wives before contracting another marriage. The CII would prefer if men had the right to marry anyone without needing consent from those they are already married to. In the minds of the CII members, so long as the men are able to provide equal time to their wives the question of assent need not be considered. This recommendation, too, makes light of the rights of women since there are considerations other than time that a women would take into account before allowing her husband to take another wife. At a time when we should be devising ways to increase the rights of women, both on paper and in the unwritten traditions of society, the CII has instead taken the opposite tack.
We wonder why the CII and its members do not give their views on customs that involve the handing over of women to settle a dispute, such as ‘vani’ and ‘swara’, and against ‘honour’ killings or jirga-ordered gang rapes. These are undisputedly anti-Islamic. Yet even though such barbarities continue and are regularly reported, the CII has not seen it fit to comment on them. Priorities then are quite evidently skewed. There is much this body could do to create a state which stands closer to the ideals of Islam. Greater social equity would be one step in this direction. Yet these issues are ignored, and others raised which do not serve us well as a society. We need more safeguards for vulnerable citizens and a wider focus on the issues which contribute to injustice rather than a tunnel-visioned approach that keeps us locked in behind barriers, creates unnecessary controversy. The CII’s failure to take up issues that can contribute towards this is disturbing.
Its rulings, one should keep in mind, reflect only the view of some and do not convey a consensus view. These views must be rejected as antithetical to our human rights obligations. A new and better balanced CII may also be considered.

Pakistan ranks 8th in kidney diseases with 20,000 deaths every year

Pakistan Today
Capital Development Authority (CDA) Health Services Director Dr Hasan Orooj on Thursday said that 20,000 Pakistanis die of kidney failure every year. Addressing a seminar held on World Kidney Day, organised by Shifa International Hospital (SIH), Dr Orooj said that more than 43,000 persons die every year of organ failure in Pakistan with 20,000 of renal failure and around 23,000 people die of other organs’ failure, including heart, liver, lungs and pancreas, he added. He said Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is rapidly growing in Pakistan due to late diagnosis, high volume of kidney stone disease and increasing number of patients with diabetes and high blood pressure.
He said that health equity was crucial to achieve health care goals and ensure that every citizen gets health care services without discrimination in the country.
Shifa International Hospital (SIH) Consultant Nephrologist and Head of Nephrology Department Dr Farhat Abbas consuming junk and low quality food, self-medication and excessive use of medicine, low water intake, obesity, diabetes, hypertension and renal stones were a few causes of the kidney disease.
He added the disease can also be inherited and stressed to know all the possible causes of kidney diseases, living a simple and active life and adopting preventive measures to avoid complications.
He said that the best way to prevent kidney failure is early diagnosis of underlying disease and aggressive treatment.
Dr Farhat said that around 600 million persons worldwide have some form of kidney damage. CKD is predicted to increase by 17 percent over the next decade, is now recognised as global public health issue, he added. SIH Consultant Urologist and Director Kidney Transplant Dr Saeed Akhter said that the treatment of kidney failure is either hemodialysis or kidney transplant, whereas dialysis offers an excellent short time cure.
“Transplant is the option which gives the best chance of a good long term quality of life,” he underlined. Highlighting the importance of cadaveric transplant, he urged to donate kidneys and other body organs after death as a deceased body can save nine lives.
Consultant Nephrologist Khawaja Sayeed Ahmed said Pakistan is at number eight in the world in kidney diseases. He said toxic drugs and fake medicines have their own considerable share in kidney damage.
“It’s a myth that people cannot live longer after dialysis or kidney transplant, he added. You must opt for better treatment as early as possible,” he stressed.
Consultant Nutritionist Dr Rezzan Khan said that to avoid kidney disease diet, nutrition and lifestyle should be healthy throughout the life even if diabetes or blood pressure is under control.
She said that healthy kidneys remove waste products from the bloodstream while in chronic kidney disease waste products can build up in the blood. “Some of these waste products come from the food we eat. We may need to limit some foods to avoid complications,” she added.

Pakistan: Rape victim who set herself ablaze dies

A girl, who set herself ablaze in in Bet Mir Hazar area in protest against a police report which helped her alleged rapist obtain bail, succumbed to her injuries today, DawnNews reported. Sources told that she died at 9 am Friday morning. Moreover, the main accused in the alleged rape was rearrested today whereas the investigating officer was also arrested. Meanwhile, Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani took suo motu notice of the incident today. He moreover sought a report from District Police Officer Muzaffargarh and summoned Inspector General Punjab on March 17.
In his remarks, Chief Justice Jillani questioned as to what justice the Punjab government was providing to its people.
Earlier on Thursday, a local court had granted bail to the main accused in the alleged rape, following which the girl went to the Bet Mir Hazar police station and lodged a protest with an investigation officer for favouring the accused in his report. She had later doused her clothes with petrol and set herself on fire outside the police station in the presence of her younger brother. Some passers-by and policemen had taken her to Jatoi Civil Hospital. She had been later shifted to Nishtar Hospital in Multan because of her critical condition. Nishtar Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Shaukat Malik said the girl had sustained 80 per cent burns. According to sources, the 18-year-old girl was returning home from her college on Jan 5 when the accused, along with his four accomplices, allegedly raped her in a deserted area.

Blast targeting police kills seven in Peshawar

An explosion took place on Friday in Sarband, an area in the suburbs of Peshawar killing seven persons and wounding 15 others according to police sources, DawnNews reported. Those victims of the blast included women, children and police men. DSP (city) Banaras Khan talking to Dawn said that the blast appeared to have targeted a police mobile van and was carried by a suicide bomber. SP Cantt Faisal Kamran said that due to the sensitivity of the area, as it was situated the border of tribal areas, police personnel were using an armoured personnel carriers (APC) to conduct routine patrolling when they were targeted by the suicide bomber who was on foot. The victims were shifted to Lady Reading Hospital where an emergency was imposed. Casualties were also shifted to Hayatabad medical complex. Security personnel cordoned off the area as a probe into the incident went underway. According to the Shafqat Malik, AIG of the Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS), at least eight kilograms of explosives were used in the blast. Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, lies on the edge of Pakistan's tribal areas which have been labelled by Washington as the main sanctuary for Al Qaeda and Taliban militants in the country. The city has seen frequent attacks by militants in the past few years, with targets ranging from civilians to policemen and other law enforcement personnel.

Blast in in Peshawar,several feared dead

A blast took place in a bazaar in Peshawar on Friday. The explosion took place in the Sarband area of the city. Police and rescue teams are on the way.

Blasphemy law use on rise, led by Pakistan: US group

Governments around the world are increasingly invoking blasphemy laws, with Pakistan by far the country that jails the most citizens for allegedly attacking religion, a US report said Thursday.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government advisory panel, voiced fear that the rise in laws banning blasphemy was leading to punishment of people who merely express different religious views or who have been falsely accused.
The report found Pakistan used its controversial law at a level “incomparable” to anywhere else, listing 14 people on death row and 19 others serving life sentences for alleged blasphemy against Islam. Pakistan has never carried out the death penalty for blasphemy, but the report charged that the law, and the lack of procedural safeguards, has contributed to an alarming number of mob attacks and vigilante violence against minorities.
Egypt has seen a rise in use of such laws since the 2011 overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak, the report said.
Citing local activists, the report found blasphemy cases involved 63 people in 2011 and 2012 and disproportionately targeted the Christian minority.
The US commission opposes blasphemy laws, saying they “protect beliefs over individuals.”
”This trend of greater usage of blasphemy laws will surely lead to increased violations of the freedoms of religion and expression,” said Knox Thames, the commission's director of policy and research. “Governments will jail people, and extremists may kill others in the defense of undefined notions of religious sentiment,” he said, calling blasphemy laws “inherently problematic.”
Blasphemy is a sensitive issue for many Muslims. In Islam images of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) are forbidden.
Pakistan in the past has urged the United Nations to make blasphemy an internationally recognized offense.
The commission report also highlighted Bangladesh's arrests of three self-professed atheists last year and said Indonesia has arrested more than 120 people since 2003 for blasphemy, although they generally have not been prosecuted.
While blasphemy cases took place mostly in the Islamic world, the commission noted that Russia last year enacted a blasphemy law after punk band Pussy Riot put on a performance critical of President Vladimir Putin inside a cathedral.
The report also pointed to Greece, where a man was arrested in 2012 for blasphemy after mocking a late Orthodox monk on Facebook.

Rebels, Islamists form dangerous alliance in Pakistan's unruly southwest

One is a band of separatists fighting for independence from Pakistan. The other is a feared group of Islamists bent on killing Shi'ite Muslims whom they see as infidels. The two could not be more different in their goals and tactics. But in Pakistan's volatile, resource-rich province of Baluchistan, separatists have teamed up with radical Sunni Muslims in their fight against the Pakistani government.
The unlikely but dangerous alliance poses a new, unexpected challenge for Pakistan, already plagued by a growing Taliban insurgency on its western Afghan border.
"There is definitely coordination," said Baluch Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Ahmed Bugti. "Both militant groups share the common goal of fighting against the state."
The separatist rebels are considered less hardline compared with other groups, focusing on their political goal of independence.
They do not use religion as a rallying cry but accuse the government of stealing the province's gas and mineral wealth to the benefit of richer, more powerful provinces. They also accuse security forces of widespread rights abuses and cracking down on any forms of dissent.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), on the other hand, is a hardline group that specialises in attacks against minority Shi'ite Muslims. It believes Shi'ites deserve to die and should be exterminated.
"The two militant groups have been sharing tactical coordination in carrying out major attacks," a senior security official in Baluchistan told Reuters, requesting anonymity.
He said the LeJ had been spotted recruiting fighters among ethnic Baluch. It operates bases in the same area as the separatist rebels, an arrangement which has helped turn them into natural allies. Baluch separatists have also adopted an LeJ tactic of deploying small children to infiltrate difficult targets and place bombs. In a recent example of a coordinated attack, a bomb struck a security car on January 10, creating a diversion for a subsequent blast in a Shi'ite enclave which killed more than 100 people. "It's not a formal pact or alliance, but tactical cooperation," the security official said. "They help each other to coordinate attacks and extend logistical support, for instance by providing cars to carry out explosions." Baluch pro-independence activists have dismissed any link to the LeJ as state propaganda designed to tarnish their image. "No such evidence has ever been provided," said Malik Siraj Akbar, an activist and journalist who now lives in Washington.
In Islamabad, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wants to strike a peace deal with the Pakistani Taliban to end years of fighting in the ethnic Pashtun belt on its northwest frontier with Afghanistan. But peace negotiations broke down last month, raising speculation that Sharif might opt for all-out military action against Taliban hideouts in the lawless North Waziristan region. In Baluchistan, to the south of the Pakistani Taliban hot spots, sectarian and separatist violence remains largely unknown to the outside world.
A thinly populated land of deserts and mountains, Baluchistan borders Afghanistan and Iran and is virtually sealed off to foreigners. Getting reliable information is difficult and few officials speak on the record to reporters. Rebels believe the rest of Pakistan treats them like a colony. They have fought for their own independent secular homeland for decades. In response, security forces have waged a lengthy counter-insurgency to try to quash them. The last few months have seen a particularly sharp rise in coordinated attacks, causing hundreds of casualties among civilians and security forces, officials said.
"Both are feeding on poverty and extremism rampant in Baluchistan," another security official said. "They may be divergent ideology-wise ... but both are pitched against security forces."