Sunday, March 16, 2014
Former President Asif Ali Zardari has taken notice of Larkana incident in which a Hindu Mandir and Dharam Shala were burnt down after an alleged desecration of Holy Quran. In a Statement former President said that protection of Holy places of minorities is a responsibility of the state. He instructed Sindh government to take every measure to safeguard life and properties of minorities and restore law and order. He also asked the government to investigate the incident thoroughly and should not allow anyone to disturb peace and harmony between people of different religions in the province.
Exit polls showed that some 93 percent of residents of Ukraine’s autonomous republic of Crimea voted on Sunday for seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia. Voters were asked just two questions on the ballot – printed in the Russian, Ukrainian and Tatar languages – to secede from Ukraine and request annexation by Russia, or to remain part of Ukraine with expanded autonomy for the region. Only 7 percent of voters chose to restore the 1992 Crimean Constitution and remain an autonomous republic within Ukraine, said the Crimean institute of political and sociological research, which conducted the exit polls at 150 voting sites in Crimea and 50 sites in Sevastopol, a city with a separate administrative status from the rest of the peninsula. More than 59,000 voters took part in the exit polls. According to Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov, 85 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the referendum. Frants Klintsevich, a member of United Russia party and observer at the Crimean referendum, told RIA Novosti that the Russian parliament will consider Crimea's annexation as soon as possible. "I think all the legal procedures may be completed by the end of March," Klintsevich said. Sunday’s referendum, widely expected to pass with an overwhelming margin, is at the center of the most serious geopolitical showdown between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War. Ukrainian and Western leaders have denounced the referendum as illegitimate and unconstitutional, while Moscow insists the Crimeans – a majority of whom identify as ethnic Russians – should be allowed to determine their own destiny. Western leaders have threatened targeted economic sanctions and visa bans against Russian officials responsible for violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine if Crimea secedes and is annexed following the referendum.The political crisis in Ukraine erupted in November following a step back by President Viktor Yanukovych from closer ties with Europe. Months-long protests in the country's capital Kiev that repeatedly turned deadly eventually led to his ouster by a vote of parliament February 22. Crimea, along with several other regions in Ukraine, has refused to recognize as legitimate the new leadership in the country.
By Balasubramaniyan Viswanathan Recent revelations pointing to links between Al Qaeda and the Indian Mujahideen have surprised many counter terrorism experts. These revelations have largely come in the form of a charge sheet filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) of India, stating that the Indian Mujahideen leadership has been on the lookout for an opportunity to establish links with Al Qaeda and the Pakistan Taliban. This alliance, if it takes shape or has already materialized, will have huge ramifications for the security and stability of the South Asian region as a whole. Unequivocally, this development would be pertinent to policymakers in India as it would directly impact the country’s internal security. However, apart from India, there would be another country with cause for concern: Pakistan. Pakistan has been at the center of the war on terror owing to its proximity to Afghanistan. It is also home to different fundamentalist and terrorist constituents who have varied interests and objectives. They are can be broadly divided as follows: Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda and the Taliban have used Pakistani territory in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) for sanctuary or as a strategic retreat when faced with NATO operations in Afghanistan. Their primary objective is to overthrow the Afghan government. Pakistan Taliban. The Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), better known as the Pakistan Taliban, is based in and around the Waziristan area. Their main objective is to overthrow the Pakistani state. Kashmiri Militants. Groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) are some of the more prominent groups whose interest is geared towards jihad in Kashmir and elsewhere in India. Their principle objective is to “liberate” Kashmir from India. Given the existence of groups with such divergent objectives, Pakistan has been known to support some groups with various ideological bents in one way or another. However, Pakistan has more consistently supported non-state actors from the Kashmiri coterie as an unofficial foreign policy measure against India. On the other hand, Pakistan was instrumental in supporting the Afghan Taliban prior to the 9/11 attacks. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are the only countries which recognized the Taliban government in Afghanistan. However, Pakistan’s honeymoon with the Taliban ended soon after the 9/11 attacks; even if elements within the Pakistani armed forces are still sympathetic to the Taliban and Al Qaeda cause. An ample testimony to this is the discovery of Osama bin laden in Abbottabad, located in northeastern Pakistan. Common sense dictates that this would not have been possible without some official Pakistani help. These instances point to assistance from certain influential pockets within the Pakistani government, who are opposed to the US-led war on terror and have tacitly supported these groups in all forms. The US focus is predominantly on the Afghan region and areas dominated by the Pakistan Taliban in Pakistan’s western frontier. US cooperation with the Pakistani government is against Al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, and the Pakistan Taliban, all of which threaten US interests. At the same time, The United States has outlawed Kashmiri Jihadi groups like LeT, HM, and JeM. Notwithstanding the ban on Kashmiri groups, these outfits have continued to thrive thanks to tacit support from elements of the Pakistani government. Given this backdrop, the current nexus between Al Qaeda and Indian Mujahideen is bound to upset Pakistani plans towards India. The underlying principle buttressing this theory is manifold, including: the clash of ideology between various jihadi outfits in Pakistan; lower recruitment for Kashmiri-based jihadi groups; non-availability of plausible deniability or arms-length alibi; and the burden of breeding a new homegrown group in India. Pakistan has been riddled with conflicts between various jihadi groups due to their ideological divide. On one side of the ideological divide are groups fighting in Afghanistan like Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and deobandi-driven Pakistan Taliban, which aids and abets the former two. On the other side are the groups like LeT, JeM and HM which fight in Kashmir. The most prominent among the Kashmiri groups is the LeT which is driven by Ahl-e-Hadith ideology of Islam, in direct contrast to the deobandi school of Islam practiced by the Afghan groups. These ideological divisions have led to deep schisms on whether to participate in the Kashmiri jihad or the one in Afghanistan. These divisions have intensified the attrition levels of hardcore jihadi fighters from the Kashmiri conflict to the Afghan theatre. For instance, two important LeT members, namely Major Abdul Rahman who was heading the Karachi setup in LeT and Major Haroon in charge of training LeT cadres, deserted LeT in order to fight in the Afghanistan conflict. Both have served in the Pakistani army and have refused to fight the Taliban during the war on terror. Such insubordination stands testimony to their hardcore jihadi mentality which is by no means exhaustive in the Pakistani army establishment. Thus, this ideological divide expedited the process of jihadi exits from Kashmir-centric groups. This in turn diluted the strength and focus of the existing Pakistan-supported Kashmir-centric groups like the LeT, JeM, HM, thus negating the leverage which Pakistan has over India on the Kashmir issue. Such was the desperation of the LeT and Pakistan’s ISI, that in order to hold LeT together, spectacular attacks such as the 26/11 Mumbai assault were orchestrated. LeT scaled up the enormity of the 26/11 Mumbai assault from a two-member team to a ten-member team, choosing multiple targets instead of the original solitary target. This was done in order to appeal to the jihadis, lift their sagging morale, and also veer them away from the Afghan conflict. Another benefit which Pakistan reaped from the Mumbai attack is that the spectacular nature of the attack diverted attention away from Pakistan’s own domestic issues. Pakistan has been using the Indian Mujahideen to fill the gap created by these jihadi outfits and regain lost momentum against India. While the Indian Mujahideen has been instrumental in conducting at least ten attacks across India in the last eight years, LeT has conducted only three attacks, including the 2008 Mumbai assault, and JeM only one. Al Qaeda, considerably weakened by US operations, has outsourced its terror strategy to a series of affiliates. Reports indicate that Al Qaeda may train Indian Mujahideen cadres in return for their facilitation in moving arms to Myanmar. Al Qaeda would gain access to a new theatre in Myanmar by using Indian Mujahideen as a bridge. In turn, Indian Mujahideen could gain from Al Qaeda’s tactical expertise. Pakistani nervousness over such an alliance is palpable. According to the interrogation statement of David Coleman Headley, Pakistan has been preventing the integration of Kashmiri jihadi outfits like LeT with Afghan-based outfits. This is again corroborated by Yasin Bhatkal, the co-founder of Indian Mujahideen, who was arrested last year. Bhatkal in his interrogation report has stated that Pakistan’s ISI has warned Indian Mujahideen against any connections with Al Qaeda. A possible explanation to this could be to insulate Kashmiri-based groups from a possible US action by virtue of their association with Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Conclusion The alliance between Al Qaeda and Indian Mujahideen is a marriage of convenience, where al Qaeda needs a new theatre and the Indian Mujahideen needs new expertise to escalate its attacks. This is consistent with Al Qaeda’s principle of integrating new theatres like Iraq, Syria and Somalia etc. If it bears fruit, this would be Al Qaeda’s first ingress into the Indian subcontinent. In return, Indian Mujahideen would gain strategic depth. Hence, the nexus between Al Qaeda and Indian Mujahideen is a definite force multiplier for both these entities. The Bodh Gaya (a sacred place for Buddhists) blasts last year in India appear to tacitly reflect such an arrangement, though it cannot be confirmed independently. This could be a retribution attack arranged under this alliance, protesting the suffering of Rohingyas in Myanmar. Regardless of whether the alliance is in place now or in future, it would leave policymakers in India desperate to break it up as quickly as possible. At the same time, even more so than in India, it would be Pakistan hoping that the alliance falls apart.
Official tallies from Crimea’s referendum are expected on Monday, but the end result is already fairly certain: A breakaway from Ukraine. The only question in what manner will Crimeans choose to become Russian -- either directly or in steps. That is, by first voting for independence and then declaring Crimea as part of Russia as their first "free" act. But what happens after that is anything but certain. All eyes will be on Russian President Vladimir Putin, who could either annex the strategic peninsula outright — a process that could take up to two weeks — or simply recognize the desires of the Crimean people without formal annexation. In their failed, last-ditch effort at diplomacy in London on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Secretary of State John Kerry repeatedly that his boss, Putin, would only make a decision on what to do with Crimea after the referendum. By then, Putin will be facing a lot more pressure from the West: the 28-member European Union on Monday is expected to vote for a wave of sanctions against Russia. The targets of those sanctions — mostly Russian and some Ukrainian individuals and entities, though not including Putin himself — will have their visas banned and European bank accounts and assets frozen, effective immediately. If Putin does then moves to annex Crimea, another wave of sanctions, this time economic and more painful, are supposed to kick in. But Kremlin watchers like Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the Russian quarterly "Russia in Global Affairs," notes that Putin has already decided to annex Crimea, and that no Western sanctions will deter him. "Putin doesn't care about what others will say," said Lukyanov. "And the West is demonstrating political dementia thinking that these individuals will be terrified by visa bans and asset freezes." Lukyanov also bets that the Kremlin has every chance of winning — or at least stalemating — a "war of sanctions" against the U.S. and European Union. "We’re talking about pretty tough people,” he warned. “And if no one wants to negotiate with them, they will take what they consider to be theirs." Another big unknown: Will Putin use Crimea as a jumping board to launch Russian forces into restive chunks of Eastern Ukraine, under the guise of protecting Russian "compatriots" caught up in — Ukrainians would say stirring up — ethnic violence? This worries Russian daily "Kommersant" foreign affairs editor Sergei Strokan, born in Ukraine. "My feeling is that the ‘Beyond Crimea’ option for Putin is something we may well see translating into reality in Ukraine’s future," said Strokan. But others see Putin stopping the land grab once Crimea is in his hands. They believe the recent build-up of Russian forces along Ukraine’s border and even Saturday’s incursion into mainland Ukraine by dozens of Russian troops - to commandeer a Crimean natural gas pumping station - are signals to the Ukrainian government in Kiev. "It’s part of a campaign to put more pressure on Ukraine," said Andrei Soldatov, a Russian security analyst and blogger, "and to send a clear message to Kiev — leave Crimea alone or we can take more." Whatever is up the Russian leader’s sleeve, he seems to be holding all the cards. And — as always — has left everyone guessing.
Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated on Sunday that the secession referendum in Ukraine's Crimea complied with international laws and promised to respect the region's decision on whether to join Russia. Western countries have called the vote by the mostly Russian-speaking region illegal and have warned of sanctions against Moscow, saying the referendum is being conducted at the barrel of a gun as Russia built up its troops in Crimea. In a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin said the referendum complied with international law, including Article 1 of the U.N. Charter which states the principle of self-determination of peoples. "It was emphasized that Russia will respect the choice of Crimean people," a Kremlin statement said. In the Crimean peninsula the polling stations are to close at 1800 GMT. Provisional results will be released late on Sunday with the final tally expected a day or two later. Putin and Merkel also discussed the possibility of sending Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observers to Ukraine to monitor the situation, the Kremlin said. According to Merkel's spokesman, Putin welcomed the German chancellor's proposal to swiftly expand the existing OSCE presence in Ukraine, especially in East Ukraine. The Kremlin's statement only said there was a "constructive exchange of views on the possible deployment in Ukraine of a large-scale OSCE mission to monitor the situation." As Crimean were casting their votes, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk vowed to track down and bring to justice all those promoting separatism in its Russian-controlled region of Crimea "under the cover of Russian troops". [ID:nL6N0MD0H1 ] After Moscow-backed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was overthrown in Kiev, deadly violence erupted in the country's east, with dozens of people hurt in clashes in the city of Donetsk. Putin expressed his concerns about an escalation of tensions in the southeastern regions that he said were caused by radical groups in "connivance with Kiev's authorities". Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged his U.S. counterpart John Kerry on Sunday to use the influence of the United States to encourage authorities in Kiev to stop what he called "massive lawlessness" against the Russian-speaking population. In their second phone conversation in two days, Lavrov and Kerry agreed to seek a solution to crisis in Ukraine by pushing for constitutional reforms there, Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement. It did not go into details on the kind of reforms needed except to say they should take into account the interests of all regions of Ukraine.
President of Pakistan Christian Congress PCC , Dr. Nazir S Bhatti have robustly condemned Muslim rabble attacks on worship places and properties of Hindus in Larkana city in Sindh.
The Muslim rabble blazed Hindu Temple and homes of Hindus in city of Larkana when some burnt page of Muslims’ Holy Book “Quran” were found in front of a home of Hindu. Dr. Nazir Bhatti articulated worry on attack of Muslim rabble on Hindu properties without verification that who set burnt pages of Quran. “It is dangerous trend of horror and extremism by Islamists that now Hindu community is targeted in Larkana which is city of enlighten Muslim leaders like ZA Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto” added Nazir Bhatti There were unpleasant incidents of Muslim rabble attacks on life and properties of Christians in Punjab after legislation of blasphemy laws but it is first occurrence in Sindh where Hindu community is targeted on excuse of blasphemy laws. - See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/terror-of-alleged-blasphemy-enters-in-sindh-after-damaging-christians-in-punjab/#sthash.S7FylqnI.dpuf
By Joel Achenbach, Chico Harlan and Ashley Halsey III It was a good night for flying, with benign weather all the way to Beijing. Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, the red-eye from Kuala Lumpur, climbed for 20 minutes and leveled out at 35,000 feet, cruising at 472 knots over open water. “All right, good night,” the pilot said to air traffic controllers behind him in Malaysia. He was supposed to say hello soon to the controllers ahead of him in Vietnam. The handoff never happened. Flight MH370, with 239 people aboard, went silent. The transponder — the radar beacon that identifies a plane and its location — stopped transmitting. So did another communication system that sends engine data to computers on land via satellite. To the extent such a thing is possible, the Boeing 777 became a ghost plane, a modern-day Flying Dutchman. More than a week later, what happened inside that plane around 1:21 a.m. local time on March 8 remains unknown — but investigators now believe it was not an accident. Satellite information indicates that the plane flew for another seven hours, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Saturday, and he said the movements of the plane as tracked by military radar were “consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane.” He said there is renewed focus on the people onboard, including the cockpit crew. If the plane stayed airborne for seven hours, that would suggest that it flew until it ran out of fuel, or close to the limit of its range. That’s about how long a plane with fuel for a six-hour flight to Beijing can fly. No longer is the search focused on the waters between Malaysia and Vietnam. A multinational fleet of ships and planes is scouring vast stretches of the Indian Ocean and much of mainland Asia. In a typical aviation disaster the search narrows with time, but this one has expanded to cover immense areas of the world’s third-largest ocean and its largest continent. By the prime minister’s count, 14 countries, 43 ships and 58 aircraft are looking for the plane. Many of the countries that have joined forces have been at each others’ throats in recent years in territorial disputes over the South China Sea. The investigation of Flight MH370 has drawn an improvised team of aviation agencies from Malaysia, China, the United States and Britain. American officials from the FBI, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have converged on Kuala Lumpur. So far no one has a solid “theory of the case,” as lawyers say. Mechanical malfunction — say, a sudden decompression that renders everyone onboard unconscious but lets the plane continue to fly — is still possible. A fire, perhaps from lithium batteries in the cargo hold, is another possibility. But investigators suspect the disappearance could have been the result of a criminal act by a cockpit intruder or by someone in the crew. If that’s the case, there’s no obvious motive, no obvious perpetrator, no organization taking responsibility, no clear red flag about anyone onboard and nothing but speculation on how the hijacking or sabotage might have been carried out. The most essential question — where is the plane? — is unanswered. U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials are reluctant to jump to conclusions about what happened to the plane because there’s no crime scene and no evidence it was an act of terrorism. “We haven’t found the plane yet,” one official said. Asked whether the aircraft could have been hijacked, another official answered: “Where are the demands?” With a near-vacuum of solid information about the plane’s fate, speculation has flourished, and increasingly elaborate and exotic scenarios are floating about on TV and the Internet. Grieving relatives of the passengers, many of them staying in a hotel in Beijing and growing increasingly angry and dismayed by the lack of information, are left to hope that one of these improbable scenarios is true — that this is a stolen plane, and that somehow there was no crash but instead a landing on a secret runway, perhaps some abandoned jungle airstrip from World War II. That stretches credulity for most aviation experts. The potential route into mainland Asia goes through contested territory bristling with radar. This leads investigators to think a flight path into the remote Indian Ocean, away from radar installations, is more plausible. The Malaysian prime minister said the plane’s last communication with the satellite “was in one of two possible corridors: a northern corridor stretching approximately from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand, or a southern corridor stretching approximately from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.” A U.S. official with knowledge of the investigation, speaking on background with aviation reporters, explained late Friday that the satellite information comes from Inmarsat, a company that has put a geostationary satellite 22,300 miles above the Indian Ocean. The plane and the satellite were not exchanging any data during what the U.S. official described as a “four- or five-hour” period. The system onboard the plane that can communicate with the satellite is called ACARS, for Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System. For some reason it was turned off or became disabled early in the flight, before the shutdown of the plane’s transponder signal. But as with many such electronic devices, the ACARS system is never completely off. There is still an hourly “handshake” with the satellite. This hourly electronic embrace provided the clue that the plane was still flying. But where? The satellite doesn’t pick up the plane’s location. Instead, the satellite can discern the extent to which its antenna would need to be adjusted to pick up the strongest possible signal from the plane, the U.S. official said. The satellite doesn’t know where to point, just how far off from perfect its current antenna alignment is. This brings into play elementary school geometry: The plane, after many hours of flying, must be somewhere along the arc of a circle that has a diameter of thousands of miles. That leads to the prime minister’s explanation that the plane’s final handshake with the satellite occurred when the plane was somewhere out there in a “corridor,” either one stretching from Thailand to Central Asia or one sweeping down through the Indian Ocean. “We’ve never had to use satellite handshaking as the best possible source of information,” the U.S. official said. “Thirty-six hours ago we had not even heard of a satellite handshake.” Like ‘mowing your lawn’ Military searchers face a daunting task of trying to find evidence of an airplane that could be at the bottom of the sea anywhere in thousands of square miles of open water. “This is unprecedented,” said Cmdr. William Marks, spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed 7th Fleet, which is leading the operation to the west of Malaysia. He is stationed on the USS Kidd, a destroyer in the Indian Ocean. The United States also has two helicopters and two surveillance planes — the P-3C Orion and the P-8 Poseidon — helping to look for the airliner. In a typical day, surveillance planes go on nine-hour missions. The helicopters fly for about three hours, return, refuel and go out again. Marks compared the search process to “mowing your lawn,” where you move methodically in a pattern. “You can go in an up-and-down pattern. Or you can start in a point and do an expanding square. And loop around, getting bigger and bigger.” The latter method, he said, is used when there’s a likely search position. In this case, with so much ocean to cover and few clues, they’ve been going up and down. Back on land, Malaysian officials hold daily news briefings at the Sama-Sama Hotel, which is connected by a walkway to the main international airport terminal outside Kuala Lumpur. The deluxe hotel has an aviation theme; the briefings take place in a basement-level auditorium across from conference rooms named “Airbus,” “Boeing 1,” and “Boeing 2.” In every seat and pressed against the walls are 300 or 400 journalists. Two or three dozen cameras are set up in the back. The news conferences have the feel of an unruly classroom. An emcee arrives well ahead of the “guests” and lays down the ground rules: Domestic media ask questions first. No shouting. Silence is mandatory during answers. The briefings are conducted by the defense minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, and the civil aviation director, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman. Their answers have gotten more obfuscatory as the days have passed. Before the prime minister spoke Saturday, the emcee announced that there would be a statement only — no questions allowed until a separate briefing by other officials at 5:30. But the 5:30 news conference was cancelled soon thereafter on grounds that the prime minister had said all that needed to be said. “Go watch a movie,” the emcee told reporters. A simple hypothesis The initial assumption about the missing plane was simple and sad: The plane had gone down somewhere in the water where the Gulf of Thailand meets the South China Sea. Presumably, its wreckage would float to the surface along with an oil slick that would be hard for search planes to miss. When the first day’s search came up empty, experts recalled that the hunt for an Air France plane that crashed in the Atlantic in 2009 went on for several days before the first wreckage was found. But now multiple anomalies point to the possibility of a criminal act. First, the ACARS stopped transmitting as if someone had turned it off. Then, but not simultaneously, the transponder on the plane went silent. In a catastrophic malfunction, such as an explosion, these devices would more likely cease transmitting at the same time. Had there been a hijacking underway, the pilot could have turned the call sign of the transponder to 7500, a universal code for hijacking. That didn’t happen. Mikael Robertsson, co-founder of Flightradar24, a company that had a radar receiver on the Malaysian coast that tracked Flight MH370 as it flew toward Vietnam, said the disappearance of the plane during the handoff period between Malaysian and Vietnamese air traffic control could be significant. “If you are planning to do something strange or bad, this is a good time to do it,” Robertsson said. “No one is really following your flight between the handover.” Military radar showed that the plane turned west and flew back across the Malay Peninsula. A U.S. official said the radar showed that the plane climbed to 45,000 feet at one point and, as the official put it, “jumped around a lot.” Most theories about the case carry a logical flaw. For example, experts have discussed the possibility that a crew member with a death wish might have intentionally crashed the plane. But that would have required wresting control of the cockpit from other crew members, and it would not explain why the plane apparently flew for many more hours. A bomb explosion seemed plausible, but that would have showered debris and oil from 35,000 feet across such a wide expanse of ocean that it would be hard to miss. A senior U.S. official said authorities have gone over fingerprint records and found nothing suspicious about two passengers with stolen passports nor any sign of terrorist involvement. “The two things missing here are the plane and patience,” said Oliver McGee, a former senior Transportation Department official and a professor of mechanical engineering at Howard University. “People always want to find the solution to the mystery. It’s a natural urge.” Besides all the talk of satellites, pings, transponders, circuit breakers, and so forth, what investigators also have on their side are basic scientific principles, he said. Like everything else in this world, planes are bound by fundamental rules of science — things like fuel burn, lift, weight ratios and, not the least, gravity. “Planes don’t just vanish and don’t just fall out of the sky. They go up and they come down,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time,” McGee said. “People should be thinking more in terms of weeks and months.”
Army units on Sunday gained full control over Yabroud city in Damascus Countryside, and now they are combing the city and eliminating explosives planted by terrorists.General Command of the Armed Forces said "After a series of successful operations, units of the Syrian Army, in cooperation with the civil defense, restored stability and security to Yabroud City and its surroundings in the northern countryside of Damascus." "Big numbers of mercenary terrorists who have been fortified in the city and used it as a passage for transferring weapons and terrorists into the Syrian interior were killed…and the Armed Forces are hunting the defeated terrorist gangs in the area," the General Command said Sunday in a statement. "This new achievement that led to the collapse of the armed terrorist groups comes as a continuation of victories accomplished by the Syrian Arab Army in al-Qalamoun area against terrorists' gatherings and dens, and it also constitutes an important link in securing the border areas with Lebanon, cutting off supply roads and tightening grip on the remaining hotbeds of the terrorists in Damascus Countryside, as it also contributes to boosting the security of the international road between the central and southern areas," it added. The statement concluded, "As the General Command of the Army and Armed Forces stresses that expelling terrorism from Yabroud area and its surroundings is a fatal blow to the terrorists, their supporters and funders, it reiterates its determination to hunt the remnants of the terrorists and eradicate their roots, save the homeland of their evil and restore stability and security to all over the homeland." Yesterday, SANA reporter said a unit of the armed forces killed a number of terrorists at the eastern entrance of Yabroud city. Mu’taz al-Rifaei, Ahmad Daher, Issam al-Nayef and Zakaraya Khudra were identified among the dead.
China on Sunday called for a political solution instead of confrontation after the United Nations Security Council failed to adopt a draft resolution on the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. "China does not agree to a move of confrontation," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in response to a question after the vote on Saturday. Russia vetoed the draft resolution, drawn up by the United States and backed by Western countries, that declared that a planned referendum slated for Sunday on the status of Ukraine's Crimea region "can have no validity" and urged nations and international organizations not to recognize it. "The vote on the draft resolution by the Security Council at this juncture will only result in confrontation and further complicate the situation, which is not in conformity with the common interests of both the people of Ukraine and those of the international community," Qin said, explaining why China, a permanent Security Council member, abstained from the vote. China always respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states, which is the long-standing fundamental foreign policy of China, said the spokesman. Qin said the Chinese side had taken into consideration the complex historical and realistic causes for the Ukraine situation in an inclusive and balanced way when making its decision. "In the current situation, we call on all sides to remain calm and exercise restraint to avoid further escalation of the tensions," Qin said, adding that what is most pressing now is finding a political solution. "China holds an objective and fair position on the Ukraine issue," said the spokesman. He said China will continue to mediate and promote dialogue to play a constructive role in bringing about a political solution to the crisis in Ukraine. Quoting China's permanent representative to the United Nations Liu Jieyi, Qin urged all sides to establish as soon as possible an international coordinating mechanism of all concerned parties to explore means to a political settlement of the Ukraine crisis. "All parties in the meantime should refrain from taking any action that may further escalate the situation," he stressed.
http://voiceofrussia.com/One of the international observers at the referendum which is currently under way at the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine, Enrique Ravello from Spain, notes that the voters’ turnout at the referendum is “incredibly high”. This referendum is being held to reflect people’s opinion on whether Crimea should remain a part of Ukraine or separate from it. “I have visited three polling stations,” Mr. Ravello says, “and I saw that as a rule, the voting is going on quite normally. In a radical departure from what some Western media sources are saying, nobody is putting pressure on anyone about how he or she should vote. Nobody is creating any obstacles to anyone from the point of view of the freedom of movement. By all appearances, people are feeling themselves quite free. They have all the necessary conditions to freely express their will.” “Some Italian media sources are saying that the airport of Simferopol, the capital of the Crimean autonomy, is allegedly controlled by Russian troops,” Enrique Ravello continues, “but I didn’t see even a single Russian serviceman. However, I was detained by the Ukrainian police for 3 hours, and another observer, from Belgium, - for 6 hours.” Enrique Ravello is a representative of Catalonia in the Spanish parliament. “On November 9, Catalonia is also planning to hold a referendum on whether to remain a part of Spain or not,” he says. “However, the Spanish government is trying not to let Catalonians hold such a referendum. Nevertheless, many people in Catalonia are still going to hold it.” “It looks like there is more freedom in Crimea than in Catalonia,” Mr. Ravello concludes. “The example of Crimea will inspire the Catalonians who want to freely express their will.” Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_03_16/No-infringements-of-freedoms-and-incredibly-high-turnout-at-Crimean-referendum-observers-8417/
ISLAMABAD, Peshawar and Quetta — all attacked after the outlawed TTP declared a ceasefire and all claimed by a so-called, previously unknown TTP splinter group, Ahrarul Hind. And still the government and the TTP are continuing with their dialogue-as-usual process. There are two separate sets of questions here, addressed to the PML-N government and the TTP. Start with the TTP. If a splinter group with national reach is implausible enough, the modus operandi of the Ahrarul Hind-claimed attacks has all the hallmarks of a TTP hit. Why then should the TTP’s claim that it has nothing to do with the attack be accepted without any proof? At the very least, given that even the TTP is not denying that the elements that constitute the Ahrarul Hind today were at some point a part of the TTP network, the militant group should be in a position to explain who this group is, how it operates and where its members are. Given the murky world of militancy in which cross-pollination between various strands and tactical cooperation are known to take place regularly, it could well be that the Ahrarul Hind has linked up with the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, for example, and is making use of the latter’s national reach. But even if that should prove to be the case, surely the TTP will have information that can help the state clamp down on this so-called splinter group bent on continuing with violence. A ceasefire can only prove meaningful if the TTP does all in its power to ensure that its present and former constituent units are abiding by its terms. If a group steps out of line and the TTP simply says that it remains committed to dialogue and upholding the ceasefire, that cannot be an acceptable state of affairs. The government has already seen that when it takes a firm line, the militant group does respond — as it does when it senses weakness on the government’s part. For the government, the original and more fundamental questions about its peace-through-dialogue approach have returned again — and remain, as ever, unanswered. Ahrarul Hind, if it is a real and separate group with its own agenda, has sprouted into existence because of the state’s long-running tolerance for and accommodation of militant groups. From the very beginning, when the state first began to sponsor non-state actors, it was apparent that splinter groups and new branches — invariably more virulent and violent than the parent organisation — would proliferate. The problem, then, is not the splinter groups but the state’s willingness to treat militant groups as legitimate stakeholders. The PML-N’s dialogue mantra will ultimately be just a slightly more nuanced form of the policy of appeasement if it allows militancy to coexist with the state structure inside Pakistan. That hasn’t worked in the past and it won’t work now either.
Sindh Minister for Social Welfare, Special Education and Women Development Rubina Saadat Qaimkhani opened the special vaccination campaign to protect people of Tharparkar from Polio and Hepatitis B and C viral infections.
The shameful manner in which the Punjab police dealt with a peaceful protest by nurses in front of the Punjab Assembly on Friday calls into question the raison d’être of the institution and its policies. Police baton-charged a group of nurses protesting the expiry of their contracts at various hospitals and demanding permanent employment. The brutal charge led to vicious beatings as the nurses rightly resisted an encroachment on their fundamental right to peaceful public assembly. Ten nurses were jailed overnight without charge, some were shifted to hospitals with serious injuries, none more serious than a seven months pregnant nurse, whose life and unborn child remain in danger from the excessive beating she received. The most gruesome aspect of the entire shambles was the behaviour of women police officers, who waded in with cudgels, pulling hair, and knocking nurses to the ground with savage pleasure and no empathy for their feminine compatriots. Is this what the Punjab police is meant to do? Beat peaceful and defenceless young women into unconsciousness or death in violation of their rights? Sadly, the structure, policies and history of the Punjab police point to the fact that this is exactly what they are meant to do. A descendant of the colonial police and organised around many of the same principles for suppressing public dissent, the institution’s barbaric nature is revealed on a daily basis. Earlier this week a young woman was forced to kill herself because police officers took no action against a group of men she alleged had raped her. In fact, most citizens assume that bringing a case to the police will hurt them more than not doing so. Friday’s events also show the indifference of politicians and officials to the welfare of citizens, and their inability to fulfil the basic requirements of governance. This is not the first time health workers have protested ad hoc arrangements. In 2012, young doctors across the Punjab protested similar treatment, and the issue was never fully resolved. The nurses protesting on the Mall for the past week have simple demands; they want their contractual agreements with government hospitals to pave the way for permanent employment, benefits and proper salaries. Many of them have worked on contract for six or seven years. The government demands they sit for examinations under the Punjab Public Services Commission. The range of solutions to the problem is virtually endless. A professional review board could be constituted to individually assess nurses, sifting those who should sit for examinations from those who are experienced enough to bypass them. Certain contracts could be extended, pay raises given across the board or in a phased manner according to each hospital’s need. None of these measures were considered. Instead the police was cut loose on protestors to do what they do best. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif took notice of the incident, so we will watch keenly if he follows through on his promise to punish the errant police officials and resolve the nurses’ issues.
Rangers and Police fired warning shots and resorted to tear gas as a frenzied mob set a Hindu Dharamshala on fire over alleged desecration of holy pages. Furious protesters attacked a Mandir and set the Dharmashala on fire while few of them surrounded the house of the Hindu man who was accused of burning the pages. Police and Rangers reached on the spot to protect the Mandir and imposed a curfew in different areas to bring the situation under control.The police claimed to have arrested the accused. Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Chief Altaf Hussain has said that attacks on the Mandir and properties of Hindu community were against Islam. Expressing sorrow over alleged burning of holy pages and ensuing violence in Larkana, he demanded of the government to arrest the accused and those involved in attacking Hindu temple. He called on the government to provide protection of life and property to Hindu community. Taking notice of the situation, Sindh governor Ishratul Eabad Kahan has asked the authorities concerned to ensure safety of the people and arrest the culprit involved in violent protests.
Without trial on the basis of the tarnished “blasphemy law” the Pakistani Christian was verdict to death. Asia Bibi, a mother of five was arrested in 2009 on charges of offending Muslim’s Muhammad and then verdict to death. The Catholic Church, international community, and several human rights organizations strongly protested against this pronouncement, which will now be examined by the Lahore High Court.
The Baloch Hal NewsMembers of the Baloch community in the Pacific Northwest region of North America are holding a rally in Seattle this Sunday to protest human rights abuses in Balochistan. Baloch Dorazahi, one of the organizers of the event, said members of the Baloch community from Vancouver city in neighboring Canada will also join them in their protest. “Our main purpose is to raise a voice against human rights violations in Balochistan and to bring awareness in the people of the Pacific Northwest about what is happening in Balochistan,” Dorazahi said. The people in Seattle are very familiar with the dirty wars in South American countries in the 60s and 70s, Dorazahi said. “We want to tell them that similar kinds of crimes against humanity are also being committed in Balochistan right now.” Seattle is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest famously known for being the headquarters of tech-giants such as Microsoft and Amazon.com as well as the Boeing Company, world’s leading airplane manufacturer. The city is also believed to have the largest Baloch population in the country. The organizers aim to garner support for their protest from other communities in the area as well. In a Facebook event titled “PROTEST: Stop Human Rights Violations in Balochistan”, they are asking rights groups and civil society members to join them in their protest. “We want to show solidarity with the victims of enforced disappearance and their family members,” Dorazahi said while admiring the efforts of Mama Qadeer Baloch and Farzana Majeed of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, a Balochistan-based activist group of the relatives of the disappeared Baloch. Qadeer Baloch and Majeed of the VBMP, accompanied by women and children, travelled from Quetta on foot for four months and covered a distance of almost 3,000 kilometers before reaching Islamabad early this month. Their journey aimed at the safe recovery of their missing relatives. The VBMP puts the number of the missing Baloch close to 19,000 and alleges Pakistan’s intelligence agencies and their death squads for the disappearances. Pakistan’s government, however, denies the charge. The protesters on Sunday will also demand from the US government to stop Pakistan’s military aid, which they believe is used to crush the Baloch people rather than to fight the religious extremists in the northwest tribal regions of the country who pose a great threat to the whole region and world peace at large. The rally will start at 3 p.m. local time and will continue until 7 p.m. “American taxpayers’ money should not be used to commit gross human rights violations,” the organizers said in their Facebook event.
Eighteen year old Amina from Beet Meer Hazar village of district Muzaffargarh ended her life in front of the local police station of her village after denial of justice for being raped from a court. It is a state of shame for all of us as a nation. Not to mention how our rulers go to sleep in their spacious homes after such gruesome incidents? Everyday we read and publish news about girls being raped in different parts of the country but very rarely do we read news about the rapists being ordered to death from their necks. In most of the cases the reason that leads to the release of the culprits is the medical report prepared from a government run hospital and presented by the police in concern court which states that the “victim was not raped.” Same is the case of Amina, whose medical report stated that she was not raped. Courts have to go according to the files put up to them and files are prepared by the police or other investigative agencies. Police complains about the minor salaries they are paid and how they do not have enough money to even send their children to proper schools or get proper medical treatment for their ill children. Then what is the solution? The solution lies in the right direction of our rulers. Till our rulers not realize that it is them that the people of this country have to follow in order to seek the right direction, there is no chance that we as a nation will get anywhere good. Our rulers have to become symbols for the local citizens. Our rulers should see the faces of their own children in the children of an average Pakistani. Our rulers should feel that it was their own daughter, Amina who committed suicide after being raped and was denied justice. Chief Minister Punjab, visited the family of Amina and shared his sympathies with them. It is indeed a great gesture. But gestures are not enough. Will he promise that he will not sleep in his private luxury home till justice is provided to the soul of Amina? It is not such a big demand to be asked from the Chief Minister who is the ruler of the province in which Amina was raped. Chief Justice Supreme Court of Pakistan has also taken notice of this incident which is another great omen. But will he order that any rape case that takes place in any province of the country should be decided within six months and that medical examination should be done from two private hospitals instead of government run hospitals. Will he also order that Chief Minister himself should be on board of every rape case that takes place in his province? Today we are ashamed as a nation to see a first year old girl, a future of Pakistan, a poor soul, Amina burning herself to death after being raped and denied justice. Tomorrow we can feel proud to save another such incident from happening, if we take right steps in right direction and look at others children like our own.
Serious questions have been raised over the source and spending of a still unspecified amount in the much publicised Sehat Ka Insaf (Health for all) programme in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, according to documents available with Dawn. No one in the PTI-led provincial government appears to have a clue about the source and utilisation of funds in health initiative. Sehat Ka Insaf was launched last month with fanfare, billboards in Peshawar and a massive media campaign. But it soon courted controversy and ANP MPA Sardar Hussain Babak posted a question in the provincial assembly, demanding its details. Background interviews with officials in the health, finance and information departments drew a blank about the identity of the donors, amount of funds and spending mechanism.Senior Finance Minister Sirajul Haq, belonging to PTI’s coalition partner Jamaat-i-Islami, sent a letter to Health Minister Shaukat Yousafzai this week, seeking details about the programme. In the letter, a copy of which is available with Dawn, Mr Haq sought details about the source of funding, transfer mechanism and total allocation for the campaign. He also wanted to know about the major components of the campaign, its activities and timelines, implementing partners and their roles, expenditure break-up and details of the advertisement campaign. While Mr Haq declined to comment and Mr Yousafzai was not available to give his viewpoint, officials said the massive publicity campaign was being run from Islamabad through a Lahore-based advertising agency. Phone calls to the advertising agency, at its head office in Lahore, didn’t go through. The company’s senior executive said he would return with details about the campaign. Who short-listed the company, what criteria were used and whose accounts were being used to pay for the campaign is not known. “Where is the money coming from, to whose accounts it is going and who is authorising the spending and making payments? We have no clue,” an official said. But one official said the Rs240 million publicity campaign was being supervised by a close associate of PTI chief Imran Khan. “We have nothing to do with the campaign other than providing logistic support for the vaccination programme.” An official said the funding was coming from Unicef, but he did not know who had ordered the campaign, which accounts were being used to funnel the amount and whether or not any mechanism had been adopted to short-list the companies involved. Primary healthcare initiative Concern has also been shown by some official quarters over attempts by “a powerful lobby within the party” to get the contract of a $16m multi-donor trust fund for revitalisation of basic health units, rural health centres and Tehsil headquarters in six districts. So much so, that, according to credible sources, the issue may lead to the exit of the health minister. The sources said that Mr Yousafzai, who had reportedly refused to succumb to pressure, had been summoned twice to Islamabad by the party leadership in the recent past and informed about the decision. “He was summoned and asked to consider giving out the contract. He flatly refused. Chances are he may either be sacked or given another portfolio in a cabinet reshuffle in the next few days,” a senior PTI leader said. The sources said the lobby wanted the World Bank-funded programme in Lower Dir, Buner, Battagram, Dera Ismail Khan, Tor Ghar and Kohistan to be given to the Peoples Primary Healthcare Initiative without going through the bidding process. The PPHI -- a brainchild of Jahangir Khan Tareen, now PTI’s secretary general, based on his primary healthcare system in Rahimyar Khan -- was launched in 2005. The programme, which was launched throughout the country to strengthen basic healthcare, includes 573 BHUs in 17 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa under the umbrella of the Sarhad Rural Support Programme. The sources said that one of the principal supporters of the PPHI wanted the minister to award it the contract. They said the PPHI had initially participated in the bidding process but later withdrawn, but the contention is disputed by the PPHI. The health department, the sources said, wanted to contract out the initiative through open bidding. They point the finger at Mr Tareen. Mr Tareen, however, denied the accusation. He said that he had no link with the PPHI since 2008. He also denied having exerted pressure to support the PPHI. “This is absolutely wrong. I have nothing to do with PPHI now,” he said. He said his basic objection was over wastage of resources. “What the health department has proposed amounts to wastage of resources. Rs1.5 billion is a lot of money out of which Rs1.05bn has been proposed to be spent on raise in salaries, purchase of cars, workshops and consultancies. Only Rs95m has been set aside for infrastructure.” “This is against PTI’s ideology of providing good healthcare to people at their doorsteps. Some vested interests are involved to spread lies,” he said.
After his retirement last December, former Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has comfortably settled into a government house next to his old official residence for six months. However, what is disturbing is that the renovation and maintenance work done at his ‘temporary’ abode has cost over Rs7 million. According to official details of renovation and maintenance at the residence of the former CJ available with Dawn, the amount has been spent on the purchase of new furniture, bathroom fittings, curtains, wooden floor and rugs. Just the purchase of new furniture cost Rs1.6m and renovation of bathrooms ran up a bill of Rs1.4m. The ex-chief justice, who retired on Dec 11, left his former official residence and was given house No 12 in the Judicial Enclave, where a judge of the apex court was residing. According to official details of renovation work, Rs1.6m was spent on the purchase of new furniture, Rs1.4m utilised on renovation of bathrooms, Rs0.6m on bathroom fittings, Rs0.27m on whitewashing, Rs0.75m on purchase of new curtains, Rs0.15m on supply of new rugs, Rs0.6m on construction of a shed, Rs0.35m on laying of wooden floor, Rs0.35m on purchase of floor tiles, Rs0.25m on roof treatment and Rs0.2m on purchase and fixing of marble slabs. It has been learnt that some of the work is still in progress and the details of these expenses will be known later. The opposition has already obtained information about what it termed ‘extravagance’ committed in the name of maintenance and brought the matter to the notice of parliament. An inside source said the former CJ, who gave a number of historical decisions during his five-year term in office, asked for renovation and maintenance work in his present official residence soon after he shifted his family there. The order was conveyed to the Pakistan Public Works Department (Pak PWD), which is responsible for maintenance work in many government buildings, including the Prime Minister House, the Presidency, Supreme Court building, Ministers’ Enclave and Judicial Enclave. However, a senior official of the Pak PWD, under whose domain the Judicial Enclave fell, refused to carry out heavy maintenance work in the residence. He said he did not have the funds required to meet the expenses of the extraordinary maintenance work. Later the case was referred to the Pak PWD headquarters and the department’s top brass gave approval for the work. The Pak PWD Director General, Attaul Haq Akhtar, said he was not aware of any expenditure in the house of the former CJ. He, however, said it would not be around Rs7m. “Normally we carry out petty maintenance work at government houses but not for that huge [an] amount. How is it possible that Rs7m have been spent on the maintenance of a three-bedroom house?” The DG said whatever amount had been spent on the residence of the former CJ had not been approved by him. “I have neither seen any such estimates nor approved them,” he claimed. In reply to a query, Mr Akhtar said the former CJ has been provided a house in the Judicial Enclave for six months, for which he was authorised. Opposition curious An opposition politician, Senator Farhatullah Babar, said he had sent a question to the Senate Secretariat asking for details of the amount spent on lodging, security and stay of the former CJ in his new house. “We have already invoked parliamentary instruments to find the truth behind reports of extravagance at public expense in massaging the ego of individuals. We will then [raise] the issue in parliament appropriately,” he added. “One is not surprised given the well-known penchant of the former CJ for protocol, security, pomp and show,” Mr Babar said. Supreme Court Registrar Dr Faqir Hussain told Dawn he was not aware of the maintenance and renovation work. The registrar agreed that he would reply to queries on the renovation work if they were e-mailed to him, but was unable to answer them even two weeks after the questions were sent to him. “I have checked such kind of renovation work at my end but could not find anything. I came to know that all such details would be available with PWD so it is better to contact the PWD people to confirm your report,” the registrar told this reporter.On the other hand, sources said the registrar was fully aware of the work done in the residence of the former CJ because he was coordinating with officials of Pak PWD on the matter. Information Minister Pervez Rashid, who also holds the portfolio of law, was reluctant to comment on the issue, saying he was not aware of any such renovation and maintenance work. He, however, said that maybe the condition of the official residence provided to Mr Chaudhry required such a heavy maintenance work. “If such a heavy amount has been spent on that house, even then it would be considered as value addition to an official residence that would be handed over to any other judge after six months’ stay of the former CJ.”
Nurses continued their protest demonstration and sit-in on the sixth consecutive day in front of the Punjab Assembly against government policies. They boycotted duties at OPD and indoor wards as well as emergency wards of all public sector hospitals of Lahore to protest against removal of nursing employees as well as non-regularisation of nurses in Punjab without getting any relief from the authorities concerned so far. Advisor to Chief Minister on Health Khawaja Salman Rafiq, Health Secretary Babar Hayat Tarar and DG Health Services, Punjab, Dr Zahid Pervaiz reached the venue and offered to give a fresh contract for a period of three years to nurses, but they refused to accept the offer. The protesting nurses alleged Health Department authorities and hospitals’ administrations had been pressurising them to call off their protest, but they would not call off their protest until the government accepts their demands