Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Paula Abdul - Dance Like There's No Tomorrow (Superbowl Pregame Show)

Obama awards 24 Medals of Honor

The final Canadian soldiers return home from Afghanistan

Miley Cyrus - "Party In The U.S.A."

China No.4 in global arms sales

China has become the world's fourth biggest supplier in major weapons over the past five years, notably replacing France, according to a Swedish research institute.
Analysts said the new ranking shows China's military industry has gained momentum, but that the main advantage of arms produced by China is the low price rather than core technology.
Chinese exports of major weapons increased by 212 percent during 2009-2013, compared with the previous five-year period, and China's share of global arms exports increased from 2 to 6 percent, said a report released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on Monday.
The three biggest exporters of arms were the US, Russia and Germany.
China supplied major weapons to 35 states in the past five years, mainly low and middle-income countries. Almost three-quarters of Chinese exports went to just three clients: Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, the report said.
China's rapidly developing military technology partly explains its expansion as an arms supplier, in direct competition with Russia, the US and European states, said the report.
"The progress in the military industry has been made due to the nation's increase in investments in the field," Shan Xiufa, a research fellow at the Academy of Military Sciences of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), told the Global Times. However, he noted that China mostly exports regular weapons. China's military industry can only be considered at the global second-tier level, distant from the first-tier countries such as the US, due to its lack of weapons with independent intellectual property rights. "Weapons produced by China are price competitive and the country is skillful in combining others' technology," Shan said, noting that it is a reflection of the country's relatively low innovative capability in general industry.
The US delivered more weapons than any other supplier in the past five years, to at least 90 recipients. Asia and Oceania were the biggest recipient regions for US weapons, accounting for 47 per cent of US deliveries, said the report.
"Chinese, Russian and US arms supplies to South Asia are driven by both economic and political considerations," said Siemon Wezeman, senior researcher with the SIPRI Arms Transfers Program, noting that China and the US are using arms deliveries to Asia to strengthen their influence in the region, reported Press Trust of India.
However, Liu Weidong, an expert on the US with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that China is not comparable with world powers in increasing political influence through arms sales.
"China will consider raising its political influence in the countries that import its arms, for example, it sells weapons to allies such as Pakistan or Myanmar, but the US is more assertive in maintaining its political influence through arms exports," he said. He noted that China holds an inclusive attitude as it is not at the same level with the US on expanding political influence by selling arms due to China's less competitive technology.
Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), has come under strong pressure from its NATO allies since it announced in September last year it would purchase China's HQ-9 long range surface-to-air missile system in preference to European, Russian and US alternatives. Ankara may yet rethink the potential $3.44 billion deal with China, Istanbul-based Hurriyet Daily News reported on March 11. The five biggest importers were India, China, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, said the report. Arms imports by states in Asia and Oceania increased by 34 percent between 2004-2008 and 2009-2013.
"China's lack of independent research and development in arms demands more imports of weapons, especially those with information-based technology, to realize the modernization of the army," Shan said, noted that it partly accounts for China's increasing defense expenditure.
Liu noted that Asian countries are gaining further ground on importing arms, reflecting the current potential for tension in the region.

President Obama to award 24 Medals of Honor

President Barack Obama is set to award America's highest military honour to 24 men previously denied the decoration because of discrimination. Only three veterans receiving the Medal of Honor on Tuesday are still alive, all of whom served in Vietnam. The rest will be decorated posthumously. The honours follow a 12-year Pentagon review of veterans affected by bias. The recipients include Hispanic, African-American and Jewish veterans of World War Two, Korea and Vietnam. On Tuesday afternoon Mr Obama will welcome the living veterans and family and friends of the deceased in a ceremony at the White House. Retired Sgt First Class Melvin Morris, who was wounded in Vietnam, told the BBC it would be "a nervous moment" standing next to the president. "I can't be nothing but proud," he said. "Even though it may come late, better late than never." Sgt Morris, 72, is being honoured for his courage as a strike force commander in combat near Chi Lang, Vietnam, in 1969. During a fire fight near a minefield, Sgt Morris rallied his comrades to retrieve the body of another commander who had been killed near an enemy bunker.
Climate of bias
In the first go, two men alongside Sgt Morris were wounded. He rescued them, then returned, under fire, destroying a machine gun position and three bunkers. As he brought the commander's body back to the US position, he was wounded three times. In addition to Sgt Morris, Specialist Santiago Erevia and Sgt First Class Jose Rodela will be given the Medal of Honor for their valour in combat in Tam Ky and Phuoc Long, Vietnam, respectively. A further five Vietnam veterans, nine Korean war veterans, and seven World War Two veterans will be honoured with the award posthumously. The Medal of Honor is usually awarded within three years of the action described in the citation. But a 2002 law mandated a search for Jewish and Hispanic soldiers who might have been passed over for the award in the 20th Century's climate of anti-Semitic and ethnic bias among the military brass. The law was later amended after the review found other soldiers whose actions merited the medal. The three-year time limit has been waived in recent years for Capt Emil Kapaun, an Army chaplain and Catholic priest who saved the lives of fellow US soldiers before perishing in a North Korean prison camp in 1951. And the widow of Specialist Leslie Sabo was given the honour by Mr Obama in 2012, four decades after his original recommendation was lost.

Pakistan: Disaster looming: Migrations begin from Cholistan

The Express Tribune
After drought hit the district of Tharparkar in Sindh, a similar situation seems to be developing in Cholistan, Punjab, where people have started to migrate to other areas.
With no regular rainfall since 2010, the vegetation and livestock in the desert are under threat – the remains of animals that have died of hunger and thirst dot the landscape of Cholistan.
Migrations have begun to other areas as grazing lands are parched and as fodder becomes scarce. Moreover, reservoirs of water have dried up due to extreme aridity.
An alternative water distribution system is in place in Cholistan but this system is closed for the last six years. The pipelines linked to pumping stations have become useless while their generators have lost their machinery.
However, if the government takes immediate action, this system can still be revived and Cholistan can be spared a Thar-like disaster. The people of the desert demand that the Punjab government take steps to help them before a calamity befalls them. Lest people of the area also start dying like their cattle.

Pakistan: Punjab opposition draws attention to Cholistan drought

The Opposition in Punjab Assembly filed an Adjournment Motion to the house on Monday to draw PML-N government’s attention towards famine-like situation in Cholistan desert of Punjab, SAMAA reported. The Cholistan Desert, also locally known as Rohi, sprawls thirty kilometers from Bahawalpur, and covers an area of 26,300 square kilometres. It adjoins the Thar Desert, extending over to Sindh and into India. Most of the areas in Thar Desert of Sindh are also facing the worst ever drought nowadays. Nearly 200 children have died of malnutrition and negligence over the past three months. Relief activities are underway in the district. Today, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf’s Opposition Leader, Mian Mehmood Rasheed, submitted an Adjournment Motion to the house, stating that drought is looming over Cholistan because the deserved are has not received rain since 2010. Seeking government’s assistance of the affectees, he stated that the locals have started migration from the area along with their domestic animals Reports said that hundreds of animals have died in the area due to disease, with acute water shortage across the Cholistan compelling locals to leave their homes.

Pakistan: Jinnah's vision by Afrasiab Khattak

“Jinnah’s vision was that of a secular and democratic country. Unfortunately the derailment of the state from his vision started immediately after his death.
The passage of the Objectives Resolution in 1949 provided the foundation for the efforts of extremists to turn Pakistan into a theocracy. In 1954, when the civil and military bureaucracies usurped political power, they opened the gates to subsequent political and constitutional distortions.
Ayub Khan’s martial law in 1958 removed every doubt about the intention of the Punjab-dominated ruling class. Crises of the system created by unconstitutional and undemocratic rule culminated in the country’s disintegration in 1971.
Hopes inspired by the country’s first legitimate constitution in 1973 were short-lived as military dictatorship raised its ugly head again in 1977. During Gen Zia’s 11-year rule, Pakistani state and society were comprehensively derailed as the dictatorship patronised religious extremism and sponsored ‘jihad’ to fight the war of Western powers in Afghanistan.
Religious extremism and ‘jihadism’ and the national narrative based on them have been eating into the vitals of Pakistan. If Jinnah were alive he would have great difficulty in recognising the country.”

Treaty to accept Crimea, Sevastopol to Russian Federation signed

Russia and Crimea have signed treaty of accession of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol in the Russian Federation following President Putin’s address to the Parliament. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin requests parliament to ratify the agreement that would see both Crimea and the city of Sevastopol joining Russia. “I ask you to consider the adoption of two new subjects of the Federation: Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol,” Putin told Parliamentarians.
Crimea was represented by Prime Minister Sergey Aksenov and Sevastopol mayor Aleksey Chaly, who signed the treaty. The two were accompanied by Crimean top official Vladimir Konstantinov. “Since the adoption of the Russian Federation Republic of Crimea in structure of the Russian Federation two new entities - of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Federal importance Sevastopol – have been created,” the text of the treaty reads.
The Treaty enumerates 10 articles which will come into effect after ratification. Russia will guarantee that the people who live in Crimea and Sevastopol will be given the right to keep their native language as well as the means and conditions for learning it. Thus, article 3 of the treaty stands that there will be three official languages in Crimea and Sevastopol: Ukrainian, Russian and the language of Crimean Tatars. Starting from the day of accession, the people of Crimea and Sevastopol are considered as Russian citizens, according to Article 5. As it was agreed, the transition period will be acting till January 1, 2015. During this time, both sides will resolve the issues of integration of the new subjects “in the economic, financial, credit and legal system of the Russian Federation.”Crimea has already officially introduced the ruble as a second currency along with the Ukrainian hryvna, which will remain an official currency until January 1, 2016.
National elections to the state bodies of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol have been slated for September 2015. Until then the now acting Parliament of Crimea and the Council of Ministers of Crimea as well as the Legislative Assembly of the city of Sevastopol will continue their work. The document will be sent for approval to the constitutional court, and then to ratification in the parliaments of the two countries. Russian lawmakers will meet with a parliamentary delegation from Crimea and Sevastopol on March 19 to review strategic aspects of cooperation, including "the prospects for the political and financial establishment of the Republic of Crimea." "A number of lawmakers will meet with our colleagues from Crimea and Sevastopol at 10:30 local time (0630 GMT)," said the speaker of the lower house of Russia's parliament, Sergey Naryshkin. "I suggest lawmakers wear the Ribbon of St George at the meeting with their colleagues, as we did today," he added. Treaty signing came after President Putin’s address to the Federal Assembly. Putin stressed that the results of the referendum, in which more than 83 percent of Crimean residents came to polling stations and more than 96 percent of those voted for rejoining Russia, leave no room for equivocation.
The referendum on independence in Crimea was conducted in strict accordance with democratic principles and international law, he pointed out. He dismissed criticism of the Crimean referendum, citing Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence as an example of self-determination praised by the West. The president recalled the history of Crimea, saying its cultural, religious and spiritual ties bind it with the peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, which explains the attitude Russians have towards the peninsula. "There are graves of Russian soldiers on the peninsula whose courage enabled Russia to make Crimea part of the Russian Empire in 1783," Putin said. "Russians, Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars and other peoples lived side by side in Crimea preserving their originality, traditions, language and religion." He said Crimea had dark pages in its past, particularly the persecution of Crimean Tatars and other minorities in the USSR. The authorities of Crimea seek to recompense for those ills. "There was the period, where the Crimean Tatars experienced injustice· It is necessary to adopt political, legal measures to finalise the process of rehabilitation of the Crimean Tatars. The measures should restore their rights, their good name fully," Putin said. One such move would be accepting the language of Crimean Tatars as an official language in Crimea on a par with Russian and Ukrainian.
Putin lashed out at former Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, under whose rule Crimea was attached to Soviet Ukraine without any regard for Crimeans’ wishes and in violation of the laws of the time. Crimean separation from Russia was reinforced again after the split of the Soviet Union, Putin said. This could be partially blamed on Moscow too, as it hailed the so-called “parade of sovereignty” of the Soviet Republics. Russia has since respected the results of the USSR’s dissolution, including Crimea being part of Ukraine. Russia’s position was based on the assumption that Ukraine would remain a friendly partner respecting the historic ties between the two countries. Russia continues and will continue to view these relations as very important, the president said. Putin criticized several governments in Kiev for neglecting average Ukrainians, seeing the country as a source of profit. He said he sympathized with Ukrainians who took to the streets of Kiev in protest against President Yanukovich, whom they saw as profoundly corrupt. But the current authorities who replaced Yanukovich after an armed coup are to a large degree controlled by radical nationalists, Putin stated. Those same radicals have voiced threats against Ukrainians who resist their rule, particularly those living in Crimea. Turning a blind eye to those threats and the moves of the current authorities, which violated the rights of ethnic Russians in Ukraine, would be betrayal on the part of Russia, Putin said.

Pakistan: Communalism in Sindh

THE sad reality in today’s Pakistan is that religion can easily be exploited to fuel the flames of communalism. The unfortunate events that transpired in Larkana over the weekend amply reflect this. The circumstances were similar to numerous other incidents that have occurred across the country: rumours of the desecration of religious material or blasphemy — often unsubstantiated — spread like wildfire, leading to mob violence directed at members of minority communities or even Muslims in some cases. In this instance, violence flared in the Sindh town after rumours spread on Saturday that a Hindu man had allegedly desecrated the Holy Quran. In reaction, a dharamshala was set ablaze while statues of Hindu deities were also damaged. The violence spilled over into Balochistan’s Nasirabad and Jaffarabad districts, where protesters tried to attack temples. Quick reaction by the law enforcers prevented the rioters from entering Hindu localities, though some shops belonging to the minority community were set on fire. What makes these events all the more ugly is the fact they occurred in the run-up to Holi festivities.
Though extremism has not affected Sindh on the same level it has other parts of Pakistan, it has nevertheless made inroads in a land known for its Sufi culture and plurality. In the recent past, there have been several incidents that point to the growing impact of extremism. These include the alleged abductions and forced conversion of Hindu women, as well as the disinterment of bodies of Hindu men from cemeteries containing graves of both Hindus and Muslims. Sectarian outfits have also been active in the province. But as the weekend’s incidents show, despite the violence the administration was quick to move in and calm things down, though it could be argued that it was not quick enough, or else the dharamshala and other vandalised property could have been saved. Yet when matters as sensitive as religion are involved and in situations where the mob can play judge, jury and executioner, a stronger effort needs to be made by the state and society to work for communal harmony.
Political parties, especially the PPP, that have influence in Sindh as well as civil society must be on their guard to prevent extremism from further poisoning Sindh’s culture. Everyone from the prime minister and the PPP chief on down have condemned the incident and called for steps to protect minorities. But the state’s focus must be on the source of trouble. The administration must take firm action against the elements that try and stir up religious hatred while community and religious leaders need to work to promote harmony and isolate communalists. There is still time and hope that Sindh will preserve its pluralistic traditions. The province’s rulers must remember that if the forces working to spread extremist thought are left unchallenged, Sindh’s complexion may well change — and sooner than they expect.

Afghans turn to Pakistan for health care

By Ashfaq Yusufzai
The Taliban's insurgency in Afghanistan has caused Afghans to travel to Pakistan for proper medical treatment.
At the Rehman Medical Institute (RMI) in Peshawar, 51-year-old Afghan national Hashimzada explained how he had travelled 84km from Jalalabad to undergo a medical examination for his unrelenting kidney pain. "We regularly come to Peshawar to seek treatment because the Taliban destroyed the health facilities back home," Hashimzada told Central Asia Online. RMI, a private hospital, treated more than 80,000 Afghan patients in 2013, most of whom were forced to go there because of Taliban destruction of Afghan facilities. North West General Hospital (NWGH) Peshawar last year received 88,000 patients, according to hospital data. About 50% of patients at free medical camps in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) came from Afghanistan, Dr. Muhammad Kamran, the head of mobile hospitals in FATA, said. "Last week [the camps] received 543 patients from Kunar and Jalalabad in Bajaur and Khyber agencies," he said. "As in FATA, the Taliban have destroyed health facilities in Afghanistan, causing Afghans to visit our camps." Afghans comprised 10% of outpatients and occupied 15% of the beds in KP hospitals last year, Dr. Mukhtiar Ali at the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Health Directorate said.
Taliban tactics cause flight of doctors
The Taliban's campaign against quality health care has led to the destruction of 654 facilities and driven countless doctors out of their profession. Hashimzada recounted the story of how the Jalalabad surgeon general left after the Taliban beat him because he did not have a beard. His departure left a population of 300,000 without a surgeon. Akbar Nawaz, a Kandahar-based journalist, remembered a story about how the Taliban caught a surgeon operating on a woman, so they blackened his face and paraded him through the streets. That surgeon subsequently fled to Germany, Nawaz said.
Shortage of doctors, facilities
The country is dealing with chronic shortages of both medical personnel and facilities, experts say. "There are only 8,000 doctors for a population of 30m in Afghanistan," Raees Shinwari, a Kabul-based World Health Organisation (WHO) official, said. "The country should have at least 50,000 doctors." Meanwhile, more than 30,000 Afghan doctors have been working abroad, he said. "Local doctors have been leaving the country since 1996 when the Taliban seized power and placed restrictions on female doctors, nurses and technicians," he added.
Cost to Afghans
Being forced to travel abroad for treatment has saddled many Afghans with a heavy financial burden. "The majority of the patients can't afford treatment and transportation to Peshawar, but they have no other option," said Zargai, a Kabul-based grocery vendor who brought his wife to NWGH. "She has improved a lot, but we ran out of money," he said. "Now I am taking out loans to complete her treatment." "We pay for accommodations, medical procedures and medication, all because of the Taliban's follies," he said. "The situation is ... pathetic." Not only are Afghans facing the financial burden, but some are paying with their lives. The female population is the hardest hit, Dr. Mukhtiar Ali said. One indicator of his assertion is Afghanistan's high maternal mortality rate – 330 deaths per 100,000 deliveries, according to UNICEF, part of which is undoubtedly linked to the lack of care.
Slowly rebuilding
Afghanistan has not stood idly by while its healthcare infrastructure suffered. "We have been trying to restore the health system with the help of donor agencies, but it will take time," Saleem Samadi, an official at the Afghan Public Health Ministry, said. Meanwhile, Afghanistan is working with Pakistan. "We signed an agreement with Pakistan under which it is imparting training to 50 doctors, nurses and paramedics in diagnosis, management and treatment of HIV/AIDS," Samadi said. “We have also been sending medics to Pakistan for training in treatment of TB and malaria patients," he said. "We have trained more than 500 medics who are working ... across Afghanistan."

I wish to see Balochistan as an extremely secular region-AN IN-DEPTH INTERVIEW WITH MALIK SIRAJ AKBAR

Interviewed by Roshan Ghimire
Fate may have moved Malik Siraj Akbar from the bucolic terrain of Balochistan to the beltways of Washington D.C, but Akbar’s fight for Balochistan continues even though he is far from home. Akbar is a well- known journalist and a blogger from Balochistan, the largest province of the Pakistan. He was granted political asylum in the United States after facing threats for his writing. He is also the Editor-in- Chief of the Baloch Hal , the first online English newspaper of Balochistan, which is currently banned in Pakistan. In an exclusive interview with Story South Asia, Malik spoke about the issues of press freedom, human right violations and the future of Balochistan.
Q-Balochistan has been the epicenter for regional warfare and rivalries. How was Balochistan when you were growing up?
I grew up in Balochistan during 1980s and ‘90s. It was a peaceful time for Balochistan as the province recovered from the worst military operation of 1970s that claimed thousands of Baloch lives. But we lived in poverty, and a lack of basic facilities. There was also an on-going realization among the people of my generation that the Pakistani federal government exploited our province’s mineral wealth and we received nothing in return. We did not feel properly represented in any domain of life in Pakistan.
Q-You worked for a long time in Pakistan, as the youngest Bureau Chief of Pakistan’s leading Newspaper Daily Times for five years. You lived in Balochistan and filed many stories on pressing issues for several years. Can you tell us about your experience working as a journalist in Pakistan?
Working as a journalist in Balochistan is different from working elsewhere in Pakistan. One feels like the very news organizations that you work for sides with the federal government by default.
Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest province but it receives the least amount of editorial space in the mainstream national media. Editors censor the stories filed by Balochistan-based correspondents under the pretext of “national security”. For a reporter covering Balochistan, it is often frustrating that your editors and publishers censor so much of your reporting that the government no longer needs officials to perform this job [of censorship].
Q-After all the years working and reporting in Pakistan, what made you flee to the United States?
I did not flee to the United States. I came here in 2010 when the State Department awarded me a ten-month long Fulbright Hubert Humphrey Fellowship. While I worked here on my fellowship and regularly wrote about the conflict in Balochistan, the Pakistani government officially blocked theBaloch Hal, Balochistan’s first online English language newspaper that I had founded in 2009. Meanwhile, several Baloch journalists were killed by Pakistani authorities. The ban on my newspaper and the killing of fellow journalists in Balochistan alerted me that my life could also be at risk if I returned to Balochistan.
I had received death threats when I was in Balochistan in 2007 but I never thought that someone would be stupid enough to kill a journalist ­– only because they didn’t like a news story. But now when I turn back and recount the number of 20 plus reporters who have been killed in Balochistan, I realize that killing of journalists has unfortunately become a nightmarish reality of our profession in Balochistan.
Q-I have heard the Pakistani government is ruthless when it comes to censorship in Balochistan. The government banned your website The Baloch Hal on 2010. What exactly is the government trying to hide about Balochistan?
The government, rather the Pakistani military, has too much to hide about Balochistan. The military wants to control the national narrative on Balochistan. For years, the people of Pakistan had been fed a selective state-sponsored narrative about Balochistan, which depicts the Baloch people who want ownership of their natural resources as the “enemies of Pakistan” and “foreign agents”.
Just like the British colonial rulers, the Pakistani military in collaboration with the national media, tells the general public that they are actually in Balochistan to “civilize”, “modernize” and “develop” the Baloch, whereas we see this as a policy to plunder Balochistan’s mineral wealth and treat the province as a Pakistani colony. Hence, we chose to contest that official narrative and launched the Baloch Hal to tell the Baloch perspective on all critical issues. The government and the media try to tell the world that a small minority of people is seeking “provincial autonomy” in Balochistan, which is untrue, because the on-going Baloch movement seeks complete separation from Pakistan.
Our reporting and editorials predominantly focus on widespread human rights abuses in Balochistan that includes forced disappearances, torture and political assassination of political opponents.As journalists, we believe it is our responsibility to show our readers the actual picture instead of keeping them in darkness simply because the government wants us to do so.
Q-Violation of human rights is a big issue in Balochistan today. Thousands of men and women are missing from the province. The government blames Baloch Militants groups and other extremist for this. Others think government is responsible for the missing people. Who do you think is the real culprit?
Among all human rights abuses, currently the issue of enforced disappearance is the most alarming. Thousands of political activists who belong to the Baloch ethnic community have gone missing, while hundreds of them have been killed and dumped across Balochistan. Pakistan’s own Supreme Court has admitted time and again that the country’s intelligence agencies and security forces are involved in these extrajudicial arrests. But the judiciary does not have the teeth to bite the human right abusers. The people who have “disappeared” are severely tortured during custody, denied their basic right to hire a lawyer or face a legal trial. International human rights groups such as the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also blamed the Pakistan authorities for indulging in these extrajudicial operations.
There are two other fronts of violence and rights abuses in Balochistan.The Sunni extremists, led by an underground banned terrorist group the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, have claimed responsibility for the killing of hundreds of Shia Muslims. Most Shias in Balochistan belong to the Hazara ethnic community. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is believed to enjoy covert support from elements within the Pakistani security establishment and it receives funding from some oil-rich Arab countries.
The Baloch armed groups have also engaged in killing unarmed Punjabi civilians, university professors and journalists as a part of their ‘revenge strategy’ against the government. As a result of these attacks, thousands of Punjabis, locally known as “settlers”, have been forced to flee Balochistan.
People in Balochistan have been fighting for autonomy and local control of the province for a long time. Extremists are fighting for independence. Is separation a solution for Balochistan? What are people looking for?
For decades, Balochistan had been fighting for provincial autonomy while remaining within the federation of Pakistan. Since 2006, when prominent Baloch political and tribal leader Nawab Akbar Bugti was killed, the demand for provincial autonomy has transformed into an organized call for a separate Baloch state. Those who are calling for separation are mostly young educated people who no longer see a future for themselves in Pakistan. Baloch women have also begun to actively participate in the pro-independence movement.
The Baloch nationalist leaders can at best respond to your question whether or not separation is a solution to their problem. However, I am sure about one thing: no one anywhere in the world would want to live in a country where their children are routinely picked up, tortured and murdered by their own army.
Q-The formation of local government in the province may take months and years,” said Sultan Bayazeed, the provincial election commissioner (PEC) of Balochistan. How will this affect the future of the province?
Balochistan, just like the rest of Pakistan, does not have a strong local government because every new government restructures the overall local government system. During General Musharraf’s time, for instance, local governments were formed to provide support to the former dictator at grassroots level. Instead of focusing on building local institutions, Musharraf empowered people who unquestionably supported his regime. Local and provincial governments have also had serious differences on administrative and financial affairs.
There is an urgent need to build strong local government institutions that are autonomous and financially independent. Strong local governments will significantly address at least some of the basic challenges Balochistan currently faces in the area of law and order, health and education. Provincial government should only be responsible for legislation while development should be devolved to local level.
Q-Since 1972, Balochistan’s gross income has grown in size by 2.7 times. Outside Quetta, the resource extraction infrastructure of the province is gradually developing but still lags far behind other parts of Pakistan”. How does outside involvement in the province affect tensions? Do you think the area being resource rich affects local governance, or attempts at a peace?
Considering Balochistan’s distinct social, political and economic dynamic, development is one area that is very likely to evoke tensions. Development has always had different connotations for the local Baloch and Pakistan’s federal government. The Baloch interpret development as an activity that leads to employment opportunities and therefore an improvement in their living standards. For Pakistan, development has been a way to consolidate its military presence, cause demographic imbalance against the Baloch people. It is also a means for them to provide undisputed access to its Chinese allies to the port in Gwadar and to Balochistan’s gold and copper projects in Chagi District.
As long as Pakistan deprives the Baloch of the benefits of the province’s resources, development and foreign investment will have bleak prospects of success. For example, the Baloch nationalists have been blowing up gas pipelines for almost a decade now saying that their gas is being forcefully taken to other Pakistani provinces without giving the indigenous people a share. There have also been frequent attacks on the Chinese engineers working at the port in Gwadar. So, development can cause unrest and tensions in Balochistan, if all stakeholders are not on the same page.
Q-What are the basic challenges that people in the region face – given that it’s practically dessert terrain, life can’t be easy between water scarcity and conflict?
Balochistan is the richest Pakistani province in terms of natural resources but it is still one of the poorest regions in South Asia. It is Pakistan’s least educated province with extremely depressing social indicators on health and education. People do not have access to clean drinking water. Employment opportunities are tight and limited. The conflict has left hundreds of thousands of people internally displaced. The province needs attention and an improvement of infrastructure in almost every sphere of life. The Pakistani government looks at every issue from the prism of “national security” which means Islamabad does not easily encourage or allow international donors and non-governmental organizations to work with the communities in Balochistan.
Q-People who are critical of your work say you are running a blog and not a news site. As a journalist and an editor, how hard is it to maintain objectivity when you are working under constant life threats?
It is unimportant for us whether people describe us as a blog or a news site. What matters is the impact the Baloch Hal has had in terms of spreading awareness, formulating public opinion and reshaping English journalism in Balochistan. It is reassuring that today national and international journalists read our editorials to see what the Baloch have to say about any critical issue. For example, Al-Jazeera English and Foreign Policy recently quoted our work. CNN has republished our photographs while BBC World, Washington Post and Radio Canada International, have mentioned our work as an impressive example of online journalism from a conflict zone. No online publication in Pakistan has received such widespread recognition for innovative journalism. We have provided a platform to a new generation of young writers and journalists from Balochistan. As an editor, my job is to write editorials, political analyses and commentaries that are actually based on my several years of field experience. Unlike news reports, editorials are generally subjective as they reflect the newspaper’s policy. I believe in the Robert Fisk school of thought in journalism where I think editorials should clearly distinguish between “good guys” and the “bad guys”. As I said before, we are committed to giving a local Baloch perspective. Therefore, our editorials, by default, keep Balochistan’s interests supreme.
Q-Balochistan is in the middle of a cross fire between government officials, extremists and activists. As a journalist, do you think foreign intervention, or UN involvement is necessary?
The Baloch nationalists and the Pakistani military do not trust each other. Nor are they willing to take a step back from their stated positions. The intervention of international interlocutors such as the United Nations or the European Union has therefore become essential. Unless there are international guarantors, talks between the Baloch and the Pakistani state to bring peace and justice in Balochistan will not succeed.
Q-As a defender of democracy, what is your vision for Balochistan?
I wish to see peace return to Balochistan. Everyone I talk to is now exhausted with this prolonged conflict. Hundreds of precious lives have been lost and thousands are still missing.
I wish to see Balochistan as an extremely secular region where every citizen enjoys equal rights regardless of their ethnicity, color and religion. My vision for Balochistan is totally different from Pakistan’s vision. While Pakistan continues to Islamize its society, I wish to see complete separation of religion from politics. I would like to see Balochistan as the master of its own destiny, a place where our children don’t see security check posts and armed soldiers every morning when they step outside their homes to go to school.


By Salma Malik
The announcement of a drawdown timeline for US troops from Afghanistan predictably garnered mixed reactions. However, most of the issues that brought the US-led ISAF to the region still remain unresolved. Where on one hand Osama bin Laden’s killing is an ace for the US, the al Qaeda as an entity still remains. This leaves the second spoiler, the Afghan Taliban, as well as their faith brothers, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Both of them have the advantage of being sons of the soil. There is no timeline to chase, so they have the luxury to act as spoilers, keep the security profile turbulent in real time and wait for the ‘foreigners’ to exit. Though the Afghan Taliban has suffered significant losses, their structures, ability to recruit, and countrywide operations remain intact with new tactics and means to hold ground.
Afghanistan today is not the one left in the wake of the Soviet withdrawal and the faulty Geneva Accords. This is good news, as even in the worst-case future scenario, one cannot envision the international community leaving Kabul in the lurch. However it correspondingly gives rise to another problem: that too many actors with vested interests will turn Afghanistan into their proxy strategic playfield. For the moment, Afghans are happy with this international focus and seemingly positive attention, but the years to come may change this happy picture. A larger chunk of Afghan civil society, which is highly proactive in democratic nation-building, is drawn from the Afghan diaspora, who despite their best intentions may not be able to withstand a possible surge in militancy and violence in case a situation so arises. The law enforcement and security apparatus, ANSF, though much improved and stronger than before still has a long way to go and its performance post transition would at best remain a mixed bag, which given Afghanistan’s complex security dynamics, is not at all a good news. That leaves the ‘Afghan-owned and Afghan-led’ democratic and nation-building process, which like many of the ‘Made in US’ products leaves much to be desired. In a cross-section of Afghan nationals, there exists deep skepticism about the ‘Afghan-owned’ component largely missing from the frame, thus once again constructing a system that has very weak foundations.
Much depends on the results of the forthcoming elections. With all the presidential candidates and their affiliates minus incumbent president Karzai consenting to the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), Afghanistan requires a strong representative government with indigenous legitimacy and capacity to extend its writ outside Kabul without external props. Will the Taliban be willing to negotiate and agree to some non-violent power-sharing? There are serious doubts. What would be the impact of these developments on Pakistan? Though the Pakistani government is already in talks with the TTP (Pakhtun faction) and there is a temporary respite from the US drones, bombings and civilian killings have not reduced and nor has the US announced a complete termination of its drone attack policy. In fact most of the Taliban high shura has comfortably crossed over into Afghanistan and will remain there for as long as it suits them. Though the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban are pursuing their independent agenda, one must not forget their past links and the strength and resilience of their networks. In addition, the history of Pak-US relations is highly checkered, and even after eleven plus years, Pakistani society remains highly divided about whether this has been Pakistan’s war.
In case the talks with the TTP fail and there is a breach in the security framework that would result as a part of the agreement, would post-2014 Afghanistan be able to provide security cooperation to Pakistan, mainly in the shape of border closure, hot pursuit into ‘friendly’ territory to capture militants, intelligence-sharing and perceivable joint operations? With divergent perspectives and a strong sense of the other side being the spoiler, there is doubt that such a cooperative security regime could work. However, for the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban, the post 2014 timeline would actually be a welcoming notion. So long as there is an American security interest and presence, there is optimism for a better security framework. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan can conveniently dump their bad diplomacy on the US. It also acts as a balancer against a stronger Indian presence.
Though Pakistani decision-makers have reinforced the point that they have no reservations with New Delhi’s ‘legitimate’ interests in Afghanistan, they would always remain wary of any military or strategic role India has in Afghanistan. Realistically, every country, be it the US (Monroe doctrine) or India (Nepal, Bhutan), has similar concerns when it comes to its strategic interests. Afghanistan of the future holds increased economic and commercial activity and corresponding involvement of the international community, as well as pressure for increased transit and trilateral (India-Pakistan-Afghanistan) trade. Pakistan has to prepare itself for the changing trends and pressures. Ironically, the energy pipelines still remain somewhat elusive; a problematic profile for energy-stressed Pakistan specifically. The coming months are fraught with multiple challenges that need a sustainable, well-articulated and well thought-out approach. The 2014 exit timeline in fact heralds a new chapter in the region’s strategic relations, which would largely shape future dynamics.

Suicide Bomber Kills at Least 15 in Afghanistan

A suicide bomber riding a rickshaw blew himself up outside a checkpoint near a market in northern Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing at least 15 civilians, officials said, in the latest attack in the countdown to next month's presidential elections.
Nobody immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in the capital of Faryab province, but it happened in an area where the Taliban and allied militant groups are active. The Taliban have threatened a campaign of violence to disrupt the April 5 vote, which will choose a new president to lead the country as foreign troops prepare to end their combat mission by the end of the year.
The attacker was approaching a checkpoint where cars were being searched on a road leading to the governor's compound in Maymana, the Faryab provincial capital, when he detonated his explosives hidden in the rickshaw, the officials said.
However, most of the victims were vendors peddling fresh bread and other people at the busy roadside market area.
Deputy Governor Abdul Satar Barez said 15 people were killed and 46 people were wounded — 27 of them seriously — in the explosion that struck some 200 meters (yards) away from the governor's compound.
Women, children and employees of the nearby electricity department were among the casualties, Barez said but he couldn't provide an immediate breakdown.
"They killed innocent people in a place where locals were just trying to earn 10 Afghanis (about 20 cents) to buy a piece of bread. Most of the casualties were either selling bread or buying it," he said.
The Taliban have staged numerous attacks in Faryab, which lies far from their traditional strongholds in southern and eastern Afghanistan. In October 2012, a suicide bomber struck a mosque packed with senior regional officials in Maymana, killing 41 people.
Afghan civilians are frequently caught up in the violence as insurgents battle Afghan and international troops in an effort to undermine the Western-backed government. The United Nations said 2,959 civilians were killed and 5,656 wounded last year, a 14 percent increase from the previous year.
The Taliban deny that they target civilians, but the U.N. report blamed 74 percent of all civilian casualties last year on insurgents. The winner of the April 5 vote will replace President Hamid Karzai, who is barred by the constitution from seeking a third term.
On Tuesday, Karzai nominated Mohammad Yunus Qanooni, a well-known ethnic Tajik politician as his new first vice president. If approved by parliament, Qanooni will replace Mohammed Qasim Fahim, who died on March 9.

Pakistan: Drought also hits Cholistan

Hamid Mir in his programme ‘Capital Talk’ said on Monday that drought had travelled from Thar area of Sindh to Cholistan of Punjab province.
While talking on the report of Rana Mohammad Afzal telecast in the talk show, he quoted the drought affected inhabitants of Cholistan as saying that they had been facing numerous problems but the federal and provincial governments had completely ignored them and the people in large number were migrating to the other areas as they had nothing to save themselves and their livestock.
The people of the area said that they were victims of severe drought and all the rainwater reservoirs, commonly known as ‘Tobas’ had dried up and the people had no other option but to leave the area along with their cattle.
“We have nothing to secure our livestock, no water and fodder for our animals, as the government has not taken any measures,” a local person complained. Another inhabitant said that government was taking care of the drought victims of Thar but the people of Cholistan had been entirely neglected, adding, “We have not received any help so far, even from the Punjab government.”
The drought affected people said that a large number of people had left their homes and migrated to other areas along with the livestock and the migration was still going on.It is pertinent to mention here that remnants of the dead cattle could be seen in the report, while the people were migrating to the safe areas.
Saira Afzal Tarar, Minister of State for National Health Services, in the talk show said that the situation in Cholistan was not so bad and it could not be compared with the situation of Thar. “There is situation of drought in Cholistan but not so worse”, she added.
Tahira Abdullah, Human Rights activist, said that the situation of Cholistan was not different from Thar. “One should not do politics with starvation and drought, if someone’s home is burning today, tomorrow would be our turn”, Tahira Abdullah said.

Pakistan: Decade gone by: FATA still waiting for promised educational institutions

The Express Tribune
Former governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Iftikhar Hussain Shah might well be remembered as the man who took the initiative for architecting a new Fata. Shah inaugurated various educational institutions across the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and completed their basic plans; however, no practical work has been done since.
FATA Additional Director Education, Hasham Khan Afridi tells The Express Tribune that the projects, inaugurated in 2004, are still under consideration.
“FATA Medical College is under construction in Bajaur Agency; the land for FATA University in Frontier Region Peshawar has been purchased in Akhorwal; an engineering university has been announced for Bajaur; while Rs19 million has been paid to the political administration for the purchase of land for Cadet College in Mohmand Agency,” says Afridi, giving a list of seemingly abandoned endeavours.
The director claims the main hurdles to the completion of these projects are resistance from the local population and the prevailing law and order situation. He shares in Mohmand, the landowners are now demanding more money than what was promised at the time. Afridi adds there are certain elements in the FATA Secretariat that are responsible for the delay. Upper Mohmand Agency Assistant Political Agent (APA) Jamshed Khan confirms they had received money for the purchase of land for Cadet College, out of which about three million had been paid to the owner. “The project requires 800 kanals of land for construction,” Jamshed says, “The problem is that there are 114 owners of that land.” The rate was initially set at Rs25,000 per kanal, but was not paid at the time because all the owners could not be identified, says the APA. After a decade has passed, and the legitimate owners have been found, they are now not willing to accept the old rate; some claim that prices have gone up ten-fold.
Jamshed shares the political agent of the agency has put forward an application to the secretariat for an adjusted price to be decided, expressing hope that this would solve the issue and that work would soon commence. “I had decided on a rate with the government at the time when the project was proposed, but they did not pay on time,” says a landowner at the proposed site in Ghazi Baig of Mohmand, Sherzada Khan. “Now the rate has gone up in 10 years, and they cannot expect to buy the property at the same price.”
Sherzada says it is because of this that a majority of landowners have refused to hand over their lands to the government. He states his demand is now to be paid Rs250,000 per kanal and says he has appealed to the political agent Mohmand Agency, who is also the project director.
“If our demands are not fulfilled, we will not allow the government to construct the college,” Sherzada adds.
On the other hand, social activists in the region are stressing on the importance of the completing the project quickly. “The government should not have announced the construction of Cadet College in Mohmand if they did not have the budget to see it through,” says a local activist, Sajid Khan. Senator Hilal Rehman lays the blame on FATA Secretariat, claiming they are responsible for the delay of the project as they did not provide funds on time and continue to create hurdles.

Pakistan: Educational deprivation in a feudal culture

By S M Naseem
Typically, the big landlords are averse to seeing the children of the poor acquire education as it loosens their grip over them as cheap — often forced — labour
The heart-rending saga of the rape of an 18-year-old college student, Amina, from a poor labouring family in the feudal bastion of Muzzaffargarh in southern Punjab, and her subsequent despairing act of self-immolation as protest against the acquittal of the accused, must outrage any decent human being and shame every Pakistani. It seems, however, that society at large, especially the liberal elite, is becoming inured to such daily occurrences and incapable of displaying any reaction stronger than a temporary show of disgust and outrage.
The Chief Minister’s knee-jerk reaction of going to the dead girl’s house to douse the fire, which should have been extinguished much before the victim was forced to set herself alight, and announcing compensation to the victim’s mother, is nothing less than hypocritical and adds a blatant insult to the bereaved family’s grievous injury. It may have eased the Chief Minister’s conscience — besides projecting his image as a benevolent ruler of the Punjab — but it is hardly likely to assuage the grief of the family, much less to assuage the fears of those who live their daily lives watching the recurrence of similar, or even more gruesome, incidents perpetrated by a feudal culture that the elite wallows in
It is ironic to note that this incident occurred a decade after, and only a few miles away from where a similar incident occurred involving Mukhtaran Mai, which grabbed world attention and sparked a debate about rape and the protection afforded to the accused by powerful feudal lords aided by the police and civil administration. That landmark event has continued to resonate throughout the last decade whenever a major incident of rape, honour crime, child abuse or some similar bestiality has been uncovered by the media, but without any social follow-up to mitigate against the basic causes that are responsible for the occurrence of such dehumanising acts. It was at the pinnacle of the then military dictator Pervez Musharraf’s regime that the attitude towards rape became epitomised by his infamous outburst that Pakistani women ‘get themselves raped’ in order to obtain visas to foreign countries and acquire cheap publicity abroad.
Mukhtaran Mai has valiantly carried on her crusade against rape and injustice in feudal Pakistan with little collaboration from other NGOs and government organisations. She has continued to help and mentor other rape victims, including Amina, although her mission, centred on her village and financed by domestic and foreign donations, has made only modest headway. However, Mukhtaran Mai, despite her lack of any formal education, has the political sagacity to understand that the root cause of the recent wave of crimes against women is the feudal system and its social accessory, the biradari (communal) system. It is regrettable that both the political class and the NGO movement have failed to take any collective steps (legislative or otherwise) to launch a frontal assault on the feudal system. Indeed, some eminent social scientists seem to be in virtual denial about its existence in Pakistan. The failure to perceive feudalism as an existential threat to the universality of education, especially female education, as vividly exemplified by these two horrifying incidents, lies at the heart of the failure of myriad education policies, financed by billions of dollars of official aid, and voluntary efforts to improve our education system.
It is no coincidence that both these iconic cases of feudally-inspired and protected rape occurred in district Muzzaffargarh, a bastion of feudalism in southern Punjab with the lowest education ranking in Punjab (below DG Khan’s) and 76th in Pakistan, out of a total of 140 districts. Its inhabitants are among the most deprived and underprivileged people in the country, whose lives are almost totally at the mercy of a small number of feudal families who own most of the land. Hinjra, Qureshi, Khar, Gurmani, Jatoi, Gopang and Bukhari are the handful of families that since the establishment of Pakistan have dominated the electoral politics of the area (at both the federal and provincial levels).
A major reason for the continued dominance of these families is the deliberate exclusion of the population from access to education. Even where educational facilities existed in the past, they have decayed, become dysfunctional or disappeared through the deliberate actions of the feudal aristocracy and their collaborating petty bureaucrats.
Typically, the big landlords are averse to seeing the children of the poor acquire education as it loosens their grip over them as cheap — often forced — labour. It also deprives them of their main source of political power, especially during elections, as the poor — even those not directly dependent on them for sustenance — can be coerced and intimidated into voting for them. Although the political parties they belong to — it hardly matters which one — pay lip service to education and land reforms, the two most vital concerns of the rural poor, none are really sincere about them. In the legislative assemblies they are too busy pushing their own personal agendas and seeking more and more concessions that benefit their own class to really care about passing legislation and budgets to fulfil the promises they made in their manifestoes. One such promise, made in Article 25-A of Pakistan’s Constitution, is the Right to Education, which states that, “The state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such a manner as may be determined by law.” However, facts on the ground are in direct contradiction to the intent of that provision and its implementation is far from satisfactory.
Similarly, the oft-heard plaint that NGOs have become vocal standard bearers is to raise the share of education in GNP to 4 percent (in Pakistan, it has stood below 2 percent for over a decade). This remains just a slogan as the government’s priorities lie elsewhere and it is unable to generate enough revenues by taxing the propertied classes, especially the big landlords, who not only oppose land reforms, but also refuse to legislate on an agricultural income tax.
The experiences of the world’s premier market economies, the US and UK, bring out most forcefully the centrality of education, led typically by government initiatives, and radical land reforms as a precondition for sustaining economic and social development. The East Asian countries, including China, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, also adopted broadly the same strategy to promote their development.
Unfortunately, South Asia, especially Pakistan and India, have been left behind in the race for educational progress and economic development — the two are closely linked — by a variety of factors, many stemming from the divisive communal forces unleashed and nurtured under colonial rule that led to the partition of the country. In spite of the leading role assigned to education during the struggle for independence and pro-education rhetoric after independence, progress has been much slower in South Asia and more than half the population of schoolgoing age children still remain out of schools, with a much higher proportion of young girls among them. The colonial legacy of illiteracy and feudalism has persisted far longer than it should. Without erasing that legacy, it is unlikely that the wave of rape, violence and social injustice that is sweeping the subcontinent will recede.

Pakistan: Asia Bibi's appeal hearing postponed

Asia Bibi's appeal hearing has been postponed "to a later date". The Christian woman was sentenced to death without evidence on the basis of the 'blasphemy law'.
Set for today (03/18/2014), the first hearing was cancelled due to the absence of one of the two presiding judges. Under Pakistani law, two judges have to be present in death penalty cases for the entire trial.
The appeal process against Asia Bibi's conviction was announced on Friday, the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement told AsiaNews.
A mother of five, Asia Bibi was arrested in 2009 on charges of insulting Muhammad. In 2010, she was sentenced to death under the country's 'black law''. Since then, she has been waiting for her appeal to be heard, held in isolation at the women's prison in Sheikhupura (Punjab).
The High Court in Lahore, where the appeal is being heard, will have to decide whether the Christian woman committed a crime, namely drank a glass of water from a well owned by a Muslim.
As a result of this act, she was accused "of contaminating" the well, which was followed by a row with fellow workers and eventually the indictment for "insulting Muhammad."

Pakistan: A range of blasphemies

As in most cases, the events surrounding the arson of a Hindu temple in Larkana had a monetory aspect that is becoming clear. On Saturday night, gangs of hooligans burnt a Hindu temple to the ground after allegations of blasphemy were levelled at a young man from the local Hindu community, specifically that he was burning pages of the Quran. At this point one must ponder if religious minorities in this country are ignorant, insane, or just incurably stubborn since they apparently can’t stop burning pages of the Quran where everyone can see them. They must be suicidal to do so since allegations of blasphemy are sure to spark mob violence targeting anyone they are made against. Usually the police have to arrest the accused just to keep the mob from lynching them, and sometimes even this is not enough. However, the sheer banality of the allegation shows how standardised accusations of blasphemy in order to settle personal disputes have become.
In fact the law, which is supposed to keep people from inflaming religious sentiments, has been abused to the extent that often enraged mobs are expertly manipulated to conceal whatever the real motivation was behind the accusation. In this particular case, reports suggest that the allegation against the Hindu boy was made to prevent him pursuing a First Information Report (FIR) about a robbery at his house a few days earlier. The culprits were probably known to the man and apparently demanded he withdraw his case, otherwise they would accuse him of blasphemy. Most disturbingly, it seems as though the allegation was widely publicised via mobile phone texts and was broadcast on a local television station as well.
The range of institutional failures this incident represents is manifest. Reports say that gangs of young men on motorcycles formed the bulk of the mob; young, unemployed, frustrated men with no access to entertainment are historically prone to violence, and their participation is one aspect. The local television channel, if it broadcast the allegation, is representative of a puerile, irresponsible media. Participation of, and coordination by, local Muslim clerics can’t be ruled out, given growing religiosity and clerical power in the rural areas as well as past instances of their culpability. Even Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s tweet, that the incident was like an attack on Garhi Khuda Baksh, shows an appeal to feudal power and political sainthood that is deep-seated in the rural psyche. Most importantly, it shows the failure of the blasphemy laws as they stand to not only prevent insults to Islam, but also as enablers of instigators of mob violence for personal gain. At the very least, they should be amended so that false accusations as cover for revenge, land grabbing and other personal agendas are as heavily punishable as actual acts of blasphemy.


Recruitment of retired military personnel by the armed forces’ welfare bodies for serving in Arab hotspots such as Bahrain is not official government policy, explains Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson Tasneem Aslam.
“Those who have been going to Bahrain to work in the armed forces have done so on their own initiative,” she adds.
“The government of Pakistan does not have an agreement to send a workforce to Bahrain. We do however have an agreement with Malaysia for sending workers there and negotiations are going on with Italy for a similar arrangement,” she said.
Aslam was responding to questions about a recent ad posted on its website by Bahria Foundation, an armed forces welfare body.
The organisation, which is headed by the Chief of the Naval Staff, ran the ad asking for people to apply if they were interested in working in Bahrain.
In the past, the Fauji Foundation, which is run by the defence secretary, has also recruited people for Bahrain. On Sunday, the advertisement on the Bahria Foundation website caused much confusion as the ad did not explain all the pre-requisites.
As many as 800 aspirants reached Bahria Foundation in E-8, only to be notified that the vacancies in Bahrain were for former servicemen only and that civilians could not apply.
Abdul Qudoos from Sialkot was one of those left disappointed.
“If the jobs were not for civilians, they should have mentioned it in the advertisement in the first place,” he said.
This however is not the first time retired security officials are being hired to work in Bahrain. A Pakistani resident, Shahid Sultan, who served in Bahrain for four years where he worked in an air-conditioning plant and the construction industry, said that his uncle had worked with security forces of Bahrain. “Just after the revolution in Egypt in 2011, the political temperatures in Bahrain also began to rise as the Shia Majority of society wanted more political rights. What added to the problem was the fact that the opposition in the country is comprised of the majority Shia population while the government is backed by Wahabi Saudi Arabia,” he said. “In order to deal with the restless opposition, the government began hiring a large number of former Pakistani soldiers. “They were preferred as they had served in Bahrain in the past also – but to train military personnel and so on.”
Saeed claims that he has not heard of “Indian or Bangladeshi soldiers” being recruited for these training jobs, adding that this is probably why the Gulf state looked towards Pakistan when it needed more personnel to control the protests held by the Bahraini opposition.”
“Former soldiers who have been working under the defence department of Bahrain get 430 Dinars a month which is around Rs120,000. They have to work just 10 days in a month. Those who serve in the police department have to work around 22 days in a month,” he added.
He also claimed that “a number of Pakistanis have died while working for the police department in Bahrain but the salary is so attractive that there is never shortage of Pakistanis for the jobs available,” he said.
According to him, there were some private recruiting agencies which come from Bahrain time to time and recruited directly. However he explained that these agencies were very expensive and charged high fees from the aspirants. Bahrain is a small Gulf state that is linked to Saudi Arabia with a bridge. An analyst for the Arab Media, Ali Mehr, told Dawn that it was an open secret that a large number of Pakistanis had been hired by the security forces of Bahrain and that many had died while trying to quell the protests. He added that one was killed just last week during a blast in a town (Daih).
“Initially Bahrain used to recruit Baloch people but now it has been recruiting former soldiers from all over Pakistan,” he said.
“The opposition in Bahrain has condemned the inclusion of Pakistanis in the security forces of Bahrain,” he said. An official of the Foreign Office, who did not want to be identified, said that it was expected that a senior government official from Bahrain will visit Pakistan in the next few days. “It is expected that defence and security agreements might be signed,” he said.
FO spokesperson Tasneem Aslam explained that the Pakistani who was killed last week was working in a community welfare department in Bahrain.

Pakistan:Violence under Blasphemy law enters in Sindh after targeting Christians in Punjab

Dr. Nazir S Bhatti, President of Pakistan Christian Congress PCC have strongly condemned Muslim mob attacks on worship places and properties of Hindus in Larkana city of Sindh province of Pakistan here today.
The Muslim mob burnt down Hindu Temple and homes of Hindus in city of Larkana when some burnt page of Holy Book of Muslims “Quran” were found in front of a home of Hindu community member.
Dr. Nazir Bhatti expressed concern on attack of Muslim mob on Hindu properties without confirmation that who set on blaze 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 incidents of Muslim mob attacks on life and properties of Christians in Punjab province of Pakistan after legislation of blasphemy laws but it is first incident in Sindh province of Pakistan where Hindu community is targeted on pretext of blasphemy laws.
It is index that Islamists are ready to spread violence under blasphemy law in Sindh province of Pakistan which is second phase to target Hindus who are second biggest minority in Sindh after Muslims while Christians are number two in population in Punjab.
According to Pakistan Tribune; enraged protesters set a Hindu Dharamshala (worship place) ablaze over the alleged desecration of holy pages in Larkana on Saturday. According to reports, a group of furious mob surrounded the house of a Hindu person who allegedly burnt the holy pages, and another attacked a Mandir and set Dharmashala ablaze. Rangers and Police rushed to the spot and fired warning shots and tear gas shells to disperse the protesters. Tension gripped across the metropolis following the incident and a curfew has been imposed in different areas to bring the situation under control. Sindh governor Ishratul Eabad Khan has taken notice of the incident and ordered the concerned authorities to immediately arrest those involved in attacking Hindu temple. He appealed the masses to remain peaceful and keep control over their sentiments. The governor also directed the law enforcement agencies to ensure the protection of life and property of citizens. Meanwhile, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain has strongly condemned attack on Hindu temple, saying the attacks on the worship places and properties of minorities were against Islam. He also demanded the immediate arrest of accused who allegedly desecrated the holy pages as well as those attacked the temple.

Pakistan: Girl forcibly married twice, gang-raped

A girl was allegedly kidnapped, forcibly married twice before being gang-raped and stripped naked in revenge for her brother's act.
Sanaullah, 22, son of Noor Muhammad of Mawar Bhattian, had allegedly eloped with the daughter of Mallah of the same village after the families refused to marry them.
The girl's family called Panchayat which decreed that Sanaullah's sister would have to marry Zahid Ali, brother of the girl who had eloped with Sana.
After the decision of Panchayat, accomplices of Zahid kidnapped Sana's sister from her house, held Nikah with her and divorced her after five days. Later, Zahid and his family gave her in the Nikah of Zahid's cousin Noor Ahmad. Some days later, four members of Zahid's family gang-raped her and subjected her to torture.
They stripped her naked, tied her with a tree in the village and called her parents to get their daughter back in return for their girl. The family got her back a month after her alleged kidnapping.
The girl approached the magistrate at tehsil Lalian who ordered her medical examination and registration of case.
Chiniot DPO Munir Zia confirmed a Panchayat had forced the victim to marry Zahid to avenge the act of her brother in February but neither she nor did her family approach the police for registering a case.
The girl submitted an application to the police on Monday and an FIR of kidnap and rape had been registered with Mohammadwala police station.

Five ways Pakistan degraded women

Pakistani women know to expect no special concessions. At any given moment in history, one or another political force, religious edict, or social problem is aiming directly at them, pointing fingers, attaching blame. Given this, most of them expected few good things to come out of the commemoration of International Women’s Day.
Sure, there would be some laudatory articles commemorating them, a few celebrations and gatherings here and there, providing neat opportunities for politicians and dignitaries to do their smiling and clapping bit, hand out checks to widows, listen to schoolgirls sing. A history of dealing with misogyny has meant a reality of low expectations. No one, of course expected anything to actually change for the better.
A lack of hope, however, does not equal adequate preparation for catastrophe. If things were bad on women’s day, a pragmatic Pakistani woman may have assumed, they would stay in their existing state of awfulness for at least the next week. As it turns out, they were wrong.
The week after women’s day has proven that new depths of misogyny are indeed possible and that they will be achieved in Pakistan, a country resolute in being the most woman hating place on the planet. Here a list of five steps the country took in this direction.
1. Recommended child marriage
On March 11th 2014, two days after the celebration of International Women’s Day in the country, Pakistan’s Council of Islamic Ideology (perhaps fearing that women had become empowered by the occasion), decided to deliver some decisive blows.
The Chairmen of the CII, Maulana Mohammad Sheerani, declared that children below the age of puberty could be married off and that international conventions prohibiting child marriage were un-Islamic and not applicable to Pakistan. In one statement therefore, Pakistani girls, even babies were left vulnerable to abuse, with their lives and futures now liable to being decided long before they could have any say in the matter.
This was not the limit to rage against women, on an earlier day, he had also declared that any law requiring a Pakistani male to obtain permission from his first wife for a subsequent marriage, were also un-Islamic.
2. Ignored a rape victim until she burnt herself alive
She was 18 years old and she was a survivor of rape in a country where rape victims can themselves be prosecuted. Over two months earlier, on January 5, 2014, she had lodged an FIR at the police station alleging that the accused Nadir Khan, along with four accomplices had raped her near Bait Mir Hazar Chowk.
On March 13, 2014, all five men were set free. On March 14, 2014, five days after International Women’s Day, she set herself on fire outside the police station, which had so callously denied her justice. She died of her burns on the same day.
3. Buried a woman alive
Sughra Brohi of village Hakim Khan Marri in Sanghar District had committed the crime of marrying a man of her own choice. The village panchayat met and the elders assured everyone that she would not be killed if she returned home. They lied, As soon as she returned home, she was assaulted by her own family. According to the Sindhi language daily, Kawish, she was buried alive in the graveyard of the Bheel community in the area. The grave was discovered and the news reported this last week. Area police are said to be investigating the case.
4. Beat up striking nurses
More than a hundred female nurses had been on strike for over five days outside the Punjab Assembly building. The nurses were protesting the firing of their colleagues who had been working on ad hoc or contract basis. On Friday March 14, 2014, the nurses all of whom were unarmed were baton charged by police.
News footage of the incident showed the women being charged and heavily assaulted by law enforcement. Several were injured and had to be hospitalised, and two were so critically hurt that they had to be admitted to the intensive care unit of an area hospital.
Despite, the use of undue and unjustified force by the police, those that were unhurt continued to mark their ongoing protest outside the Assembly building.
5. Called them good for cooking not for cricket

Shahid Afridi's views on women cricketers by f500454635 If the round-up of being buried alive, burned to death, raped and baton charged were not plentiful degradation for Pakistani women to bear in a single week, a public insult by a man crowned the country’s cricket hero, added one more degradation to the week’s dastardly mix. In an interview question, Shahid Afridi was asked about what he thought about the under 19 women’s cricket trials recently held in Karachi. The cricketer now revealed himself to be a male chauvinist; implying that “our women” were better kept in the kitchen, assumedly cooking up meals for their men.
With this list, the week ended, a series of blows, not unusual, not unique, but notable in their ability to represent, what is an entire nation’s inability to respect one half of its population.
In the dead and injured and degraded collected in this one week, is the reflection of a country in which every man considers himself unaccountable and unconnected to the miseries enacted every day and day after day on women.
The forces of law, of faith, of community, of Government and of entertainment, each one came together in this bouquet of misery and degradation, its stench and filth, exposing the rot that lies within.

Irish jokes: Still fair game for politicians

White House is ‘the ultimate on-call job’ for workers with children at home

By Juliet Eilperin
Just as she was about to begin a “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” game at her 6-year-old daughter’s birthday party last October, White House budget chief Sylvia Mathews Burwell received a call that she couldn’t ignore about the ongoing government shutdown. She handed off the tails to her best friend from college and ducked out.
“Then I was back, and I ran the piñata line,” the Office of Management and Budget director recalled in an interview, adding that the budget impasse coincided with her 4-year-old son’s birthday as well.
For Nancy-Ann DeParle, the moment came when her oldest son asked her not to serve as White House deputy chief of staff after she had spent nearly two years overseeing health-care policy. After mentioning it to President Obama aboard the Marine One helicopter, the nation’s chief executive invited the 12-year-old into the Oval Office to explain why Obama needed his mom for a little while longer.
And last Tuesday, a senior economist on the Council of Economic Advisers was briefing his boss, Jason Furman, and others on college costs when the meeting ran past 5:15 p.m., the time the economist was supposed to head to his daughter’s day care. An assistant passed Furman a note. “You have to leave,” Furman, who has two young children himself, told the economist. “I got what I need. We can always follow up tomorrow.”
Even as Democrats tout family-friendly policies as a top priority, those within 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. continue to wrestle with the fact that their own workplace often falls short of those ideals. Obama announced last week that he would host a White House Summit on Working Families on June 23, in part to ease “the burdens” working women face.
More than five years into the administration, the White House has taken several steps to make one of the most demanding offices in America more manageable for working parents. It has expanded paid parental leave, installed more nursing rooms within the complex and provides a low-cost, emergency day-care service. A few of its highest-ranking women — including Burwell, national security adviser Susan E. Rice and U.N. ambassador Samantha Power — have kids at home.
Aides acknowledge that the benefits offered to the well-paid, white-collar employees at the White House are far better than those available to most low- and middle-income Americans, who often have little time with their children because they are working long hours. But White House officials say they still struggle to reconcile their professional duties with familial duties.
The majority of top White House aides have grown children, no children or a stay-at-home spouse. That last category includes Burwell and Rice, whose husbands have taken breaks from full-time jobs as a lawyer and journalist, respectively. Senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer has publicly vowed to seek a better work-life balance after he ended up in the hospital twice last year, returning to work the day after being released after treatment for a mini-stroke.
“It’s just inherently not a family-friendly place,” DeParle said. “There’s just no way that life in the West Wing can be, when you’re leaving your house at 6:30 or 6:45 in the morning every single day and being in meetings going from 7:30 in the morning to 8:30 at night.”
Sixteen current and former White House officials said in interviews that they knew what they were getting into when they accepted their jobs, and they said that high-powered positions in law and business are similarly time-consuming. Both Mona Sutphen and her husband, Clyde Williams, had served in the Clinton White House when she agreed to be Obama’s deputy chief of staff for policy in 2009. At the time, they had a nearly 4-year-old daughter and a 1 ½-year-old son.
“We kind of knew this would sort of be a disaster on the home front,” said Sutphen, who served in the post for two years while Williams worked as political director of the Democratic National Committee. “I would not have been comfortable doing it for longer.”
Some White House aides deferred having children until they left. Camille Johnston, Michelle Obama’s former communications director, is a single mother who adopted her daughter after joining Siemens in 2010. She said at a recent event sponsored by Politico that leaving the White House allowed her “to start the adoption process, because I knew that I needed both more financial resources and, most likely, time.”
Senior White House officials earn anywhere from $80,000 to $172,200 a year, according to federal disclosure reports. That is higher than the average American’s salary although below what many top professionals earn in Washington’s private sector.
The work culture within the White House has begun to shift somewhat, driven by a president and his wife with two teenage daughters and a generation of men and women who are uncomfortable with the idea of putting their family responsibilities on hold.
On Friday, press secretary Jay Carney didn’t come in until mid-morning — missing five meetings, by his own count — so he could attend a school play involving his 8-year-old daughter, who helped narrate the tale of Pocahontas and John Smith.
Council of Economic Advisers member Betsey Stevenson spoke about the importance of keeping mothers of young children in the workforce in the White House briefing room Wednesday. She spent half of the next day at home with her sick child before going to the office. Stevenson — who has a 4-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son — negotiated over how to maintain her nursing schedule after the White House asked her to come on board. “What I would really like to convey to businesses and to the world, and what I think the White House has internalized, is that if you only choose to have the people who can be there 24-7, you’re going to miss a perspective,” she said in an interview. “You can’t staff the White House with only people have no kids, or who have grown kids, because you will miss a perspective, the range of voices you need to formulate policy that works for all people.” Outside the White House, an increasing number of women with school-age children are serving in Congress or seeking office. There are at least three senators and eight House members in this category, six of whom are Republicans and five of whom are Democrats. Democrats have seven women with young children, including Michelle Nunn of Georgia, running for the House and the Senate. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who was pregnant with her third child when she first ran for Congress and also chairs the Democratic National Committee, said she’s her party’s “chief mom recruiter, because we don’t have that many of us doing that.” At times, she has introduced candidates’ spouses to her husband so they can discuss what it’s like to manage at home during the congressional workweek. At the White House, making some concessions to family life has become more acceptable in part because influential men within the administration want it as well. The president has repeatedly told staffers that he endorses time away from the office, aides say. Carney, who also has a 12-year-old son, said he apologized to Obama two years ago for missing a presidential trip to attend his son’s play. “He just e-mailed back and said, ‘You made the right call,’ ” Carney said. Gene B. Sperling, who just stepped down as director of the National Economic Council, was notorious for working until midnight each day during the Clinton administration. But he now has a 7-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old stepson. When his staffer Brian Deese took five weeks of paternity leave during the 2012 fiscal cliff negotiations, he gave his aides strict instructions not to e-mail or call Deese under any circumstances. The attitude of supervisors “makes all the difference” said Deese, who is now OMB’s deputy director. The Obama administration has advocated a series of proposals aimed at promoting workplace flexibility. Obama also signed the Telework Enhancement Act in 2010, making it easier for federal employees to work from home, and has pushed for measures including paid sick leave as well as a more generous child-care tax credit. Liz Watson, director of workplace justice for women at the National Women’s Law Center, said it would be great if the White House could pilot “the right to request flexible workplace schedules,” which is the law in countries including Britain and the Netherlands. But even those with young children said there were limits to such policies at the White House, which Sperling described as “the ultimate on-call job.” Many current officials said they were lucky to have the support of family, friends and paid child-care providers who have pitched in while they were stuck at work. And they said that technological advances have made it much easier to work remotely.
The daughter of Tina Tchen, Michelle Obama’s chief of staff, was in sixth grade and her son was in college when she started in 2009; Tchen moved her nanny from Chicago to Washington.
“She’s still with us,” Tchen said. “That’s the way I’ve been able to do that, because I’ve had resources.”
And in addition to the events to which the Obamas invite staffers’ families — a Halloween party in the complex, basketball games, a fireworks viewing on the Fourth of July — there are the substantive ones that provide perspective. DeParle’s husband and two sons were with her in the House gallery the day the Affordable Care Act passed, a concrete reminder of why she had put in such late nights.
Still, Sperling — a consummate workaholic who left his White House job March 6 — said he marveled at his first Sunday night back home in Santa Monica, Calif. When his daughter woke up in the middle of the night and she fell back to sleep with her head on his shoulder, he said, he didn’t have to leave the way he usually did.
“It is the greatest feeling in the world,” he said, adding: “It just hit me that for the first time in years, nothing terrible would fall through the cracks if I just stayed with her. It was the feeling of being 100 percent there.”