Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Massive 8.0 quake off Chile sparks tsunami alert for Pacific coast

Rasmussen: it would be "historic mistake" for Russia to move further into Ukraine

NATO's chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen says further Russian intervention in Ukraine would be an ''historic mistake'' that would isolate Russia even more.

Pipe Dream: No quick energy-fix if EU plugs Russian gas pipelines

President Obama Congratulates 2013 World Series Winning Boston Red Sox

Turkey: Constitutional Court orders authorities to unblock Twitter

The Constitutional Court has ordered authorities to unblock Twitter, saying the decision violated the rights of users who had appealed the decision. Regarding individual complaints, the court has unanimously ruled the ban is a violation of free speech guaranteed by Article 26 of the Constitution.
"Everyone has the right to express and disseminate his thoughts and opinion by speech, in writing or in pictures or through other media, individually or collectively," the article states.
The decision was immediately delivered to the Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) and Turkey's Transport, Maritime and Communication Ministry with the demand that they follow the order. The court also ruled that legal fees be paid to the applicants.
With the ruling, authorities must immediately unblock Twitter in Turkey, according to Metin Feyzioğlu, the president of Turkey's Bar Associations (TBB), who spoke to daily Hürriyet. "If they don't abide by the ruling, we will file a criminal complaint against the TİB by attaching the ruling of the Constitutional Court" Feyzioğlu added.
The ruling will also be used as a precedent for similar cases in the future, experts have said. If the court ruling is respected, authorities will not be able to impose blanket bans of this kind.
The individual complaints were separately filed by Ass. Prof. Dr. Kerem Altıparmak, Prof. Dr. Yaman Akdeniz and Sezgin Tanrıkulu, deputy chair of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Turkey blocked access to Twitter on March 20, hours after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed to close down the social media platform in a campaign speech.
The Turkish government subsequently blocked YouTube, widened the ban and started to practice a controversial DNS policy despite a previous court decision ordering the unblocking of the site. After an initial spike, Twitter usage in Turkey decreased almost 50 percent.
A Turkish court ruled March 21 that it could not “repeal the ban on Twitter” as the government’s blocking of access to the social media platform was “an executive decision, not a judicial verdict.”
The Ankara 15th Administrative Court later issued a stay of execution order for the Twitter block after a number of complaints were filed to courts last week.

Afghan H-bomb: Record opium harvest, billions burn in 'war on drugs'

Finding a solution to the thriving heroin production in Afghanistan has been on the back burner ever since the Americans occupied the country. The new Afghan president who will be elected next weekend will have to battle record opium harvests. Since the US came down on the Taliban and occupied Afghanistan in 2001, heroin production in the country has surged almost 40-fold. One year ago the estimated number of heroin addicts dying due to Afghan heroin in the preceding decade surpassed well over one million deaths worldwide. Last year, Afghanistan harvested a record quantity of opium. The annual report of the International Narcotics Control Board maintains that Afghan poppy fields now occupy a record 209,000 hectares, a 36 percent increase from 2013. Today more than half of the provinces in Afghanistan are growing opium poppies. Reports say Afghanistan is responsible for production of around 80 percent of the world's opium and heroin.
Heroin takes toll on Afghan society
Yet the country’s probably most disastrous problem is that the Afghan people not only produce record amounts of opiates, they are actively consuming them, with a heroin vortex sucking in more Afghanis every year. According to the UN, 1 in 30 Afghani is a drug addict – that’s over a million people in a 30-million population. This makes Afghanistan not just the main producer, but at the same time one of the world’s leading drug consumers.
The new Afghan president will have to find ways to save his people from domestically produced drugs, which also form the backbone of the national economy.
Despite declaring war on drugs in Afghanistan, all efforts to disrupt the production of heroin have not helped to solve the problem in the slightest, with more drugs flowing out of the country every year. Earnings from the trade are clearly considered worth the risks. And Afghan heroin is spreading in all directions, and in particular – Russia.
Because the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headed by the US remains the dominant power in Afghanistan for the second decade now, Russia has been repeatedly asking Washington to curb heroin production in the Afghan mountains, albeit with poor results. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin blamed the ISF for doing almost nothing to eradicate drug production in the occupied country. At the same time the US maintains that since 2002 it has spent $7 billion on fighting drug production in Afghanistan, and allocated $3 billion on agricultural programs trying to encourage Afghan nationals to grow other crops in place of the opium poppy.
In 2014 things deteriorated with the escalation of the political crisis in Ukraine and the Russia-US row over Crimea separating from Ukraine to reunite with Russia. The US introduced sanctions against Russia and a number of its officials, thus breaking many contacts established over the years.
The new blacklist included the head of the Russian Federal Drug Control Service, Viktor Ivanov, who also co-chairs the Russia-US Presidential Commission workgroup on countering the illegal drug trade. Russia’s anti-drug tsar accused Washington of attempting to hide its responsibility for the drug crisis in Afghanistan.
NATO has also announced that it is suspending all military and civilian cooperation with Russia over the Ukrainian crisis. On Wednesday news came that NATO is giving up its joint program with Russia, which is currently teaching Afghan helicopter pilots. Washington also intends not to buy original spare parts for Russian-made helicopters used by the Afghan army.
Although NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced that the alliance will continue cooperating with Russia in countering drugs in Afghanistan, the real future for such cooperation looks grim, particularly after the US President’s deputy drug czar, Michael Botticelli, refused an invitation by his Russian colleague to come to Moscow, citing Russia’s actions in Crimea as the major reason.
The lack of international dialogue could allow this business to grow even further, Dr. Bidit Dey, an expert on Afghanistan from the University of Northumbria told RT.
“The West, and of course the US in particular, have to set aside all geopolitical interests when it comes to global security,” Bidit Dey said, stressing that “There is a lack of cooperation between Russia and the West and that would be a huge threat to Europe’s security and also to overall social stability.”
While Washington is trying to avoid shouldering the responsibility for allowing heroin production in Afghanistan to burgeon, there is growing agreement that this deadly business simply can't go on forever.
With the presidential election set in Afghanistan for April 5 and the American troops expected to leave the country by the end of 2014, does the world stand a chance for a real change?

Afghanistan: Abdullah Promises Equality Under Law

During the last day of election campaigning, presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah spoke at his last campaign before Saturday's election in Kohdaman, a district of Kabul, promising to implement equality under law if elected as president.
He says with the implementation of equality under the rule of law will rescue Afghanistan from its current situation.
"If elected as president, we hope to fulfill the aspirations of the citizens by implementing the law equally so Afghanistan can get out of its ongoing problems," Abdullah said.
He expressed concerns about the possibility of electoral fraud emphasizing to the crowd that his team will not accept fraudulent ballot boxes.
"We want to address the IEC: ballot papers must be available to all eligible voters. The election commission should remember that we do not accept imaginary ballot boxes," Abdullah said.
Abdullah also encouraged the people of Kohdaman to participate in Saturday's election.
According to the law, Wednesday marks the end of the candidates' campaigns leaving only three days until Election Day.

NATO Commander: Troops will stay in Afghanistan post-2014

By Mick Krever
International forces will remain in Afghanistan after the currently scheduled withdrawal at the end of the 2014, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Philip Breedlove, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday. “I think you will see a very large ISAF combat mission changed to a smaller but continued resolute support, train, advise and assist mission at the end of the year,” General Breedlove said, referring to the International Security Assistance Force. “NATO’s mission doesn’t end [after 2014]; NATO’s combat mission ends, but our train, advise, assist mission begins, and this is very important to remember.” Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who will soon end his term of office, has refused to sign an agreement to keep foreign security troops in the country after 2014. Amanpour has interviewed all three leading presidential candidates – Abdullah Abdullah, Zalmai Rassoul, Ashraf Ghani – and each one has told her that he is in favor of signing a deal. Political leaders in the U.S. have issued stark warnings about American troops in the country, warning that without an agreement the U.S. will have no choice but to prepare for withdrawal. “Were the political figures in the United States,” Amanpour asked, “sort of blowing smoke up everybody’s skirts?” Breedlove said he and his colleagues “have planned a drawdown that gives our decision-makers – both U.S. and NATO – that decision space to get through the election period, so that we can get to an elected president, sign the required documents, and then move sharply into preparations for and then transition to the resolute support mission.”

WHO Says Afghan Polio Cases Linked To Pakistan

By RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan
The World Health Organization (WHO) says new polio cases in eastern Afghanistan are related to cross-border transmission from neighboring Pakistan. Oliver Rosenbauer, a representative of WHO's Global Polio Eradication Initiative, told RFE/RL on March 31 that although "tremendous progress has been achieved in Afghanistan," the country will remain at risk of infection as long as the polio virus circulates in neighboring Pakistan. Last week, the UN organization declared that polio had been eradicated from Southeastern Asia. But the crippling virus remains endemic in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria. There also have been outbreaks in conflict-hit countries like Syria. The Taliban has opposed vaccination efforts in many areas of Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan that are under the militant movement's control.

4 Reasons Elections Won't Fix Afghanistan

By Michael Kugelman
Saturday’s election may be critical, but Afghanistan isn’t about to become a stable state anytime soon.
Observers across the board—from think-tankers and diplomats (both current and retired) to journalists and election monitors—are describing Afghanistan’s April 5 election as critical for stability.
And for good reason. A successful election would be a democratic milestone, as it would mark the first time Afghanistan has experienced a peaceful transfer of power. A legitimately elected new leadership, particularly one seen as effective and above all clean, could conceivably help convince Afghans that their government is a better alternative to the Taliban—and thereby weaken recruitment to the insurgency.
It would also bring to power a leader not named Hamid Karzai—and therefore someone who would likely sign a bilateral security agreement with Washington, ensuring that a residual international military presence remains in Afghanistan after this year.
And yet a successful election is far from assured. On March 10, the Taliban promised “to use all force” at its disposal “to disrupt these upcoming sham elections.” Supporters of the top two candidates—Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah—have been targeted. Recent days have brought attacks on two different Afghan election commission facilities. Turnout could be compromised in a big way—though to their credit, many Afghans vow to defy the Taliban and vote anyway.
Equally troubling is the growing potential for fraud and other electoral illegalities—especially after a March 21 deadly assault on Kabul’s Serena Hotel prompted many international election monitors to leave Afghanistan. Last week, Afghan election officers accused government employees of using state resources to help the campaign of Zalmai Rassoul—the man thought to be Karzai’s preferred candidate. There’s even been speculation that Karzai could postpone the election in order to pursue a peace deal with the Taliban.
This is all quite unsettling. Yet here’s an even more sobering thought: Even if none of these things were happening, there would still be reason to worry. And that’s because no matter how free, fair, credible, and legitimate the election ultimately is (or is not), Afghanistan has a long way to go before it becomes a more stable state. Here are four reasons why.
1.Afghan military forces continue to be a work in progress.
Pointing to decreased levels of violence in numerous areas controlled by Afghans, optimistic observers insist that Afghan security personnel “are doing better than almost anyone expected.” Still, their capacities remain limited. In Congressional testimony in February, top Pentagon officials conceded that while Afghan troops are earning tactical victories on the battlefield, they struggle to hold cleared territory and still need much help in areas like transport and intelligence.
And then there’s the question of basic preparedness. In 2012, half of Afghanistan’s army was estimated to be addicted to drugs, and last year 65 employees with the main spy agency were fired due to opium addictions. Additionally, a staggering 95 percent of military and police recruits have been described as functionally illiterate. An investigation released in January by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction concluded that despite a $200 million U.S.-funded literacy program, half of Afghanistan’s military and police force will probably remain illiterate until decade’s end. Finally, perhaps most disturbingly, the Afghan army suffers from a 33 percent annual attrition rate. According to U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, 30,000 soldiers deserted in 2013—out of a total force of 185,000.
None of this inspires much hope that the Afghan military will be able to tame the Taliban insurgency—one that an international mission comprising some of the most powerful militaries in the world hasn’t defeated after nearly 13 years of trying.
2. Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan are still open for business.
The insurgency in Afghanistan is sustained by the haven its fighters—led by the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network—enjoy in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal agency. For years, Washington has pushed Pakistan to smash these sanctuaries to no avail. Finally, earlier this year, Islamabad suggested that an operation was imminent—though the government made it clear that only “anti-state” militants (those that attack Pakistan), such as the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), would be targeted. However, with a peace process now underway between Islamabad and the TTP, any operation appears to have been delayed indefinitely.
Pakistan provides the sanctuaries because it regards the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network as strategic assets that help contain Indian influence in Afghanistan. Unless Islamabad’s relations are miraculously normalized with New Delhi, this Pakistani objective is unlikely to change—particularly with India having tightened its ties with Kabul in recent years, including a strategic partnership agreement that calls for training and other non-combat support for the Afghan military.
Additionally, by eliminating the sanctuaries, Pakistan would also eliminate a key source of leverage over the Afghan Taliban—and give the group an opportunity to turn against its sponsor. Given the hostility evinced by many Afghan Taliban members toward the Pakistani security establishment—they’ve voiced their mistrust of Pakistan’s spy agency and chafed at being dependent on it—this is by no means an unlikely scenario. The usefulness of Pakistan for the Afghan Taliban would also decline if the security vacuum in Afghanistan left by the international troop departure allows the Taliban to re-establish havens in Afghanistan, rendering those in Pakistan superfluous. In effect, Taliban sanctuaries will likely remain in Pakistan unless they are reestablished in Afghanistan. Neither scenario bodes well for Afghanistan’s stability.
3. Afghanistan remains a magnet for regional militants.
Much has been said about how the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan is prompting anti-India extremist organizations active in that country in recent years (such as Lashkar-e-Taiba) to redirect their attention to India. Yet for now, and in all likelihood for the foreseeable future, militants are continuing to pour into Afghanistan. Afghan officials and Taliban commanders claim that since announcing a ceasefire with Islamabad on March 1, the Pakistani Taliban—already very active in Afghanistan—has been deploying fighters into the country. Meanwhile, Pakistani researchers estimate that “hundreds” of militants from Pakistan’s Punjab province—ranging from sectarian extremists to anti-India jihadists—have relocated to the tribal areas in preparation for assaults on Afghanistan. And Indian security officials assert that their chief indigenous Islamist militant threat, the Indian Mujahideen, “has branched out” to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Afghan Taliban.
Meanwhile, Central Asian extremists have their eyes on northern Afghanistan. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) is attempting to establish a base in the city of Kunduz. And according to journalist Ahmed Rashid (who has written extensively on Central Asian militancy), the IMU, in concert with Pakistani and Afghan militants, may be trying to secure Afghanistan’s entire northeastern corridor in order to establish a base for operations against Kabul. With Moscow ramping up its presence in Afghanistan through a series of development projects, Central Asian militants—most of whom dislike both Kabul and Moscow—have strong incentives to intensify their operations in Afghanistan.
4. The Taliban and its allies aren’t Afghanistan’s only destabilizing forces.
With so much emphasis on the violence perpetrated by the Afghan Taliban and its allies, it’s easy to forget that groups opposed to the Taliban insurgency fuel instability as well. In many areas of Afghanistan, particularly in the north and west where the Taliban’s presence is lighter, militia commanders (many of them U.S.-funded) have terrorized local populations. Not only do they assault and kill people, but they also make life miserable for locals in more subtle ways—forcing young men to help them fight the Taliban, seizing land, and stealing irrigation water. The kicker? Some of them are contesting the election. Six of the 11 presidential candidates—including two of the three favorites (Ghani and Rassoul)—have a warlord on their ticket (Abdul Rashid Dostum and Ismail Khan, respectively).
Some may argue that participating in the political process suggests peaceful intentions. However, early signs aren’t encouraging. In recent weeks, supporters of Khan clashed with Abdullah’s supporters, leading to several deaths. And electoral officials in Dostum’s home province have accused the strongman of being behind the recent disruption of a training seminar for local election workers.
None of this is meant to suggest that Afghanistan’s election is irrelevant for stability. A successful poll alone won’t make Afghanistan more secure, but it can potentially produce what is arguably the sine qua non for future stability: Strong leadership.
This means incorruptibility and an ability to deliver basic services and dispense fair justice. It also means an unwavering commitment to building Afghanistan’s military (and police) into a more sustainable force—one that can both perform basic functions and tame insurgencies (admittedly, it’s a task that will require much international support). Finally, strong leadership means the pursuit of delicate diplomacy: Maintaining partnerships with foreign donors and allies, hashing out differences with difficult neighborhood interlocutors (most notably Islamabad), and—most critically—reconciling its many feuding factions (including, ultimately, the Taliban) at home.
The problem, however, is that strong leadership could prove to be as elusive as stability itself.

Pakistan:CM Sindh orders operation against Fata IDPs, illegal seminaries
In its clear decision to stop the influx of IDPs, the Sindh government has directed the police to start wipe-out operation against these IDPs coming from tribal areas and also stop construction of illegal seminaries in the province. Chairing a meeting to review the law and order in the City especially in context of recent attacks on the worship places of Hindus in various cities of the province, the CM took serious notice of the IDPs influx from tribal areas of KPK to Sindh. He said Sindh was the only province where maximum numbers of IDPs had been infiltrated. He said two million aliens were residing only in Karachi which was giving birth to the crime.
Qaim also directed for setting up effective checking mechanism to stop the influx of IDPs at each entry and exit points of the province especially of Karachi and Hyderabad cities. The chief minister has expressed satisfaction on the performance of Sindh Police and Rangers. He said it was because of sustained targeted operation against the terrorism, targeted killing, extortion and kidnapping for ransom that law and order situation in Karachi was quite under control.
He stressed upon the identification of the force behind the religious and sectarian fanaticism in Sindh. He directed the Rangers and Sindh Police to conduct wipe out operation against these anti-state elements. Qaim said despite obstacles in stopping the sale of illegal SIMs, the LEAs had achieved remarkable performance in controlling the law and order in Karachi. He said the most heinous crimes had been substantially decreased and now the conviction rate had also been increased. Only in recent months, 60 convictions were awarded in heinous crimes which also include death sentence and life imprisonment while 70 convictions were awarded under the Arms Act to the accused challaned under targeted operation. He said without banning the illegal SIMs, the LEAs cannot perform properly. He directed the Sindh chief secretary to take this matter with federal government during the next meeting of national security at Islamabad.
Qaim while condemning the recent trend of attacks on the worship places of Hindu communities and creating religious fanaticism by provoking and irritating Muslims, termed it a conspiracy of anti-state elements who do not want peace, tranquility and brotherhood in Sindh. He said these activities of the criminals were linked with nefarious political designs. He vowed that the PPP government would foil the same with success. He directed for maintaining peace and harmony among all the segments of the society at any cost. Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon sought for taking strict action against the illegal water hydrants/water connections in Karachi. “This theft of water may cause big problem of law and order.” He condemned the sabotaging activities specially the blasts on railway tracks and sought action against these culprits.
He also pointed out the traffic problem in the City which has created a lot of problem for the commuters. He said the PPP government had established the Lyari Development Authority and had also provided the Lyari Development Package. He said he was optimistic that after restoration of peaceful atmosphere, the development activities would be accelerated in Lyari. The Inspector General of Sindh Police said a 3rd force was behind to create religious confrontation in Sindh. “We are after them and shortly they would be taken to task. Due to sustained operation against the criminals, big achievements have been made and even it left no option to gangsters other than to compromise with themselves in Lyari. We are after them and many criminals have either been killed or arrested in the encounters at Lyari,” he elaborated.
Karachi Additional IG Police Karachi Shahid Hayat while briefing the meeting said during the period of targeted operation, 9,421 cases with 11,806 accused had been challaned in different courts. He said 535 cases had been challaned only in the ATC Courts out of which conviction in 60 cases has been awarded. Giving the details of the arrested criminals, he said 270 accused had been arrested in murder cases, 165 had been arrested for targeted killings, 171 in Explosive Act, 80 for kidnapping for ransom, 212 for extortion charges, 1,233 for dacoities and robberies and remaining for other crimes. He said the law and order in Karachi including Lyari was improving.
“At present, 25 police pickets have been established in Lyari while 150 corps is being inducted in to the force deputed at Lyari. Now, the Sindh Police have started social and academic activities with the participation of communities by which the confidence of the people has been restored,” he added.

Pakistan: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa cabinet reshuffle depicts PTI’s confusion

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which formed coalition government in militancy-battered Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on May 31, 2013, still seems in confusion as described by its detractors. The latest ‘confusion’ is the reshuffle in the provincial cabinet.
The already large cabinet swelled further as five new ministers were given a green signal to join it. The new ministers include Ziaullah Afridi, Mushtaq Ghani, Qalandar Lodhi, Jamshed Kakakhel and Ikramullah Gandapur. Their portfolios are yet to be announced. Moreover, three lawmakers — Amjad Afridi, Shakil Khan and Akbar Ayub — were made advisors to the chief minister. After the most recent reshuffling, the PTI has managed to get the lion’s share, by having four ministers, three advisers and four special assistants. Awami Jamhoori Ittehad, another coalition partner, obtained a post of senior minister and special assistant while Jamaat-e-Islami got nothing.
The man at the receiving end in the wake of the reshuffle is no other than Shaukat Yousafzai. He was earlier holding the portfolio of health and now has been given the portfolio of ministry of industries. The portfolio of Yousafzai has been reshuffled for the second time. In the beginning, he was made provincial information minister and two months later he was made health minister, but now he will run the affairs of the ministry of industries. The KP government Spokesman Shah Farman during a press briefing, wherein he announced the cabinet reshuffle, claimed that reshuffle was based on the principle of performance.
Here rises a very important question: If Yousafzai was not capable enough to run the health ministry then why was he given a chance to wreak havoc with the ministry of industries? The industrial sector of the province is already on the verge of collapse owing to the deteriorated law and order situation.
According to Zahidullah Shinwari, president Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, dozens of businessmen have shifted from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to other provinces due to the burgeoning trend of kidnappings and extortion. The PTI government kicked out ministers of Quami Watan Party in November 2013, alleging them to have been involved in corrupt practices. However, not a single proof of their corruption has so far been made public, which also raises many questions. But in the case of Yousafzai, the critics say the party has shown leniency and instead of removing him from the cabinet for his alleged corruption, only his portfolio has been changed.
Reports are also circulating in the provincial metropolis that Yousafzai paid the price for not complying with the orders of a Punjab-based powerful lobby of the party, which wanted him to dance to its tune. Whether it is because of intra-party wrangling or poor performance, it has exposed the party to criticism. If one accepts that it was due to poor performance then how can he be given portfolio of another ministry? This is the point that gives credence to the assertion of its detractors who say it is the party of the confused people. The detractors are also of the opinion that testing new faces to run the ministries is not a step in the right direction. Shah Farman has already said that another ‘performance-based’ reshuffle may happen in the coming six months if the ministers failed to deliver, meaning that the party will continue giving the charge of the ministries to naive lawmakers.
Imran Khan seems to making endeavours to make his ministers ‘all-rounders’ but at the end of the day we may have jack of all trades but master of none. The rapid reshuffling will certainly affect performance of the departments on one side, while on the other it will also damage the party, as the PTI workers and even office-bearers have expressed unwillingness over giving portfolio of health ministry to a coalition partner. Apart from that, some of the PTI lawmakers seeking berths in the provincial cabinet are certainly unhappy for not picking them up for the job.

Pakistan: The enduring polio challenge

The World Health Organisation has formally certified India and ten other South Asian nations polio-free, excluding Pakistan and Afghanistan - two of the world's three countries where polio is endemic. A separate damning verdict for the country on this account came the same day from the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) of the Global Polio Initiative, describing the situation as a "powder keg" which could ignite widespread polio transmission. "If the current trend continues", said the IMB Chairperson in a letter to WHO Director-General, "Pakistan will be the last place on earth in which polio exists." Unfortunately, so far efforts to reverse the trend have not met with much success. The National Institute of Health in Islamabad confirmed on Thursday reports of three new polio cases in North Waziristan, the area most affected by the Taliban's ban on immunisation of children against the crippling disease.
The biggest setback to the immunisation campaigns, of course, has been caused by the Taliban who have been offering violent resistance not only in the tribal areas but also in parts of Karachi and Quetta. Since July 2012 they have killed over 32 anti-polio workers and their police escorts. Yet valiant efforts continue to be made to provide immunisation cover to children. It is hoped the issue is on the agenda of the government team holding talks with the Taliban. As worrisome as the situation is in Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa because of the Taliban, progress in other parts of the country too is a lot less than satisfactory, in fact alarming. A couple of months ago, a press report quoting a letter from WHO and UNICEF, partners in this country's polio eradication programme, talked of glaring operational irregularities. The letter said "missed and NA (not applicable) children pose the biggest challenge to Punjab as it tops the list of missed and NA children with the number reaching 134,877 in the campaign of September 2013, thus posing a formidable challenge to the polio eradication partners." The conclusion was based on a survey that showed out of a sample of 340 'missed' children in the province 205 were listed as unavailable during the national immunisation campaign days. If that was not bad enough, as many as 112 children could not receive anti-polio drops because vaccination teams never reached them.
Notably, polio drops have to be administered to children at multiple times to ensure immunity. If so many children have been completely missed the result can only be as bad as it is. Clearly, the field staff is responsible for criminal negligence of duty. Considering that Punjab is one of better run provinces there is reason to believe that things are not better in other parts of the country. It is about time provincial governments put their act together to redress the situation from both the givers and receivers' ends. Awareness drives ought to be intensified. And needless to say, an effective monitoring system should be put in place.

Pakistan to return Saudi favor with arms, combat aircrafts
Pakistan is trying to sell small arms and combat aircrafts to Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz said on Wednesday. According to media reports, Sartaj Aziz said that every country sells arms and as Pakistan has a booming arms industry, there are no grounds for criticism. Replying a question in an interview Aziz said there was no Syria-specific agreement at present. He said Pakistan is impartial over Syrian issue. “It is very sad that some people are spreading rumours about a couple of countries who want to help Pakistan. Whatever the previous military regimes did with the money they received is history and has nothing to do with us.” He said Pakistan wants to strike a balance in its relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran as ties with both countries have been at low ebb for the last five years, Sartaj explained. He said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif may visit Iran in May or June. About the generous $1.5 billion aid, he said, “The previous government left a big difference in the government’s budget and the balance of payments. Pakistan really needed it.”

Pakistan Army chief in favour of Pervez Musharraf's foreign visit: Report

Pakistani Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif is said to have advised the government to allow former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, indicted for treason, to go abroad for treatment and to look after his ailing mother.
The possible exit of 70-year-old Musharraf was discussed during a meeting between Gen Raheel and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif yesterday. ISI chief Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam also attended the 'informal consultations' to decide the fate of the former President, Express Tribune reported today.
However, there was no official word on the high-level meeting.
"A well-informed security" official told the daily that Musharraf's name should be removed from the Exit Control List (ECL) after a clear verdict by the special court, which is trying the former army chief for treason charges.
Anybody whose name is on the ECL cannot leave the country without permission.
Musharraf was indicted on Monday by a special court hearing the high treason case against him, becoming the first-ever military ruler to face criminal prosecution.
The three-judge special court in its ruling stated it had no objections if the federal government removes travel ban on Musharraf for medical treatment.
"There is no legal issue left now and it is purely a political decision," said the official.
The official said that Gen Raheel told the Prime Minister that Musharraf's case now "should come to a close".
"The sooner the better," the official said, adding that Musharraf's 95-year-old mother was 'seriously ill' and he wanted to be with her at the earliest.
Another official pointed out that since Musharraf had already been indicted, the time had come to "move on", the report said.
"That is the message the army chief has delivered to the government," he added.
Musharraf was admitted to the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology, Rawalpindi, on January 2 after he complained of "heart problem" on his way to the court.
Speculation is rife here that Musharraf is likely to leave the country, as the army headquarters is reportedly pressing the government to pave way for the ex-general's safe exit from Pakistan.

Pervez Musharraf : A large can of worms

The trial of former president and COAS General Pervez Musharraf is reaching a climax one way or the other. On Monday the Special Court indicted him on five charges of violating the constitution, specifically that in his capacity as army chief he declared a constitutionally unjustified state of emergency and put the constitution in abeyance while suspending fundamental rights, and that he issued a provisional order empowering the president to amend the constitution. There follow three charges against him as president: forcing judges to swear an oath under the new Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) and trying to make two amendments to the constitution using the illegal powers obtained through his order as army chief. General Musharraf must by now be wondering why he ever came back to Pakistan, since the punishment for conviction on any of these charges is death or life imprisonment. Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif reportedly cancelled a high level security meeting to be briefed on the case and on negotiations with the Taliban, currently the two most important issues for his administration. However, it appears that both the government and the courts are looking for a way to end this matter quickly. Saudi pressure on Mr Sharif to do so is growing, with the Saudis reportedly saying that they would be willing to take General Musharraf in exile much as they did Mr Sharif 15 years ago. Currently the Special Court trying Musharraf says the authority to remove his name from the Exit Control List (ECL) and let him leave the country on humanitarian grounds to attend to his ailing mother lies with the executive, which in turn says that a Supreme Court (SC) order tied the executive’s hands by seeking guarantees of Musharraf’s presence in the country. The matter now appears to be in the hands of Mr Sharif, who may be loath to take this case to its logical conclusion for fear of turning the judiciary against him if he lets Musharraf go and the military against him if he doesn’t.
The fact that General Musharraf is being tried on different charges for actions under two separate offices highlights the constitutional delicacy of this case. Legal experts have noted that trying General Musharraf for declaring an emergency in 2007 while ignoring his coup in 1999 is like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, even if one accepts the argument that the coup was legitimised by a parliament that later nominated him as president. However, the problem lies in the precedents that have been set for coup makers in the past. In 1954 the SC upheld Governor General Ghulam Mirza’s dismissal of the Constituent Assembly based on the “doctrine of necessity” by which extra-constitutional actions are judged legal if the integrity of the state is severely threatened. In 1958, President Iskander Mirza’s coup was justified by the little known theory of “revolutionary legality”, which held that the unchallenged overthrow of the constitutional order meant a revolution in constitutional norms had occurred and the existing order was no longer applicable. This had significant bearing on court cases where defendants being tried under the 1956 constitution suddenly faced trial under different legal statutes. In 1972, 14 years later, General Yahya Khan failed to meet the standards for revolutionary legality since according to the court he never should have had the power to declare martial law at all. Yahya Khan was found to be a ‘usurper’ and all his actions were declared illegal, however Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was allowed to continue as president and prime minister despite being elected through a now illegal election before the breakup of Pakistan. More problematically, both General Ziaul Haq’s 1977 coup and General Musharraf’s 1999 coup were declared legal based on the doctrine of necessity, though the SC never ruled that either had revolutionary legality and therefore the constitution was still in effect. Given this history of constitutional revisionism, it seems that if the case goes to trial, the 1999 coup endorsement will raise some old and some fresh questions that will also compromise the standing of the judiciary. Meanwhile the questions remain of who decides when the constitution is in force and what constitutes a severe threat to the integrity of the state. This is what the SC must ultimately adjudicate on to clear the jurisprudential confusion worse confounded.

Pakistan: ''Taliban trap''

Naeem Tahir
The terrorist consortium of Fazlullah had several things to take stock of. They needed a respite from drones and air attacks, and time to collect their fragments. The time thus obtained was meant to strategise their actions when the withdrawal of US troops takes place from Afghanistan
“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall; Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.”
Under the leadership of Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the negotiating team and the Pakistan government have met the fate of Humpty Dumpty. This is not the first time that ‘politicians’ have tried ‘negotiations’ for peace. This is also not the first time that these Humpty Dumpty types have had a fall. However, this time, “All the kings horses and all the king’s men” may not be able to put Humpty back together again because kings and horses are reluctant and content to only ‘observe’.
It is baffling that the so-called ‘wise’ politicians fail to understand the strategies of terrorist outfits. They have fallen into the trap not once but several times. Wise men like our interior minister stay convinced that they know better! Before the month of ceasefire was over, media man Raza Rumi was attacked, Bilawal was threatened, airports came under threat and, above all, the Mazars of the Quaid and Iqbal, the symbols of Pakistan, have also been threatened. This is as far as the fate of the ceasefire goes. The recent meeting between the two sides is a gross failure. The terrorists have yet to commit unequivocally to release Shahbaz Taseer or Ali Haider Gilani and gave a fake list of their prisoners to the government as homework. Maulana Samiul Haq and Chaudhry Nisar may put up cosmetic touches of hope but the failure is obvious.
Since the wisdom of the politicians is not working, maybe a common sense perception will help. The Taliban/terrorist consortium is headed by Mullah Fazlullah who lives in the safe haven of Kunar. Kunar is that province of Afghanistan where the whole operation against Pakistan was planned under the expert advice of the top echelons of al Qaeda in 2004. Kunar provides a safe, unnoticeable entry into Pakistan’s Swat state area. Readers may recall how deeply the terrorists entrenched themselves in the Peochar mountains of Swat. They had several kilometres long caves in which they stored ammunition, set up a hospital and a guerilla-plus-suicide training camp before these were noticed. Mullah Fazlullah is a strategist; he organised a donkey-mounted mobile transmitter system for communication among his terror groups, controlled the mosques, and ordered ruthless attacks on schools. The Lal Masjid strategy worked and all those released were recruited by him. He trapped the politicians into negotiations in Swat and the politicians ran begging for peace. However, as soon as he had reorganised, Mullah Fazlullah threw out the political negotiators and started a bloody onslaught in Swat valley. It was the Pakistan army that had to be called into action. The army did a proper job and restored the area to the country and its people. Mullah Fazlullah escaped to Kunar.
At the time, the combined action of the Pakistan armed forces, including the air force and the US drones, broke the back of the Taliban terror consortium but Fazlullah became the Taliban’s new leader and came up with a new plan. The bait of negotiations was thrown again. Fazlullah must have been in total consultation with Mullah Omar and other al Qaeda strategists. One can see that in the situation of a fractured, damaged command structure in Waziristan due to the Pakistan army action, the terror consortium needed to take stock. For this, a breather was necessary and the negotiation bait was thrown. It was likely to be successful with the new set up of political governments having a soft corner for the Taliban. The bait succeeded, thanks to the political parties, Taliban supporter Chaudhry Nisar, and a nod from Nawaz Sharif. The undercurrent moving our politicians in this direction is primarily their fear of the armed forces. No doubt, the armed forces can clear this menace but then the image of the forces will rise and people will hold them in higher respect. Politicians do not want this to happen. So, with great fanfare, they pinned their hopes on negotiations and ignored many clear hints from the army and, hence, the army gracefully remained as observers.
The terrorist consortium of Fazlullah had several things to take stock of. They needed a respite from drones and air attacks, and time to collect their fragments. The time thus obtained was meant to strategise their actions when the withdrawal of US troops takes place from Afghanistan. The major need was to regroup and plan organised attacks on Afghanistan to take control and establish the government they had lost and, after attacks, retreat to the safe havens of Waziristan. They also needed to decide upon their future action in Syria, the Middle East and Europe. The changed situation in Egypt also needed a review. The terror consortium was also facing internal indiscipline. There are indeed several groups, said to be about 43 in number. They operate in loose association under the Pakistani Taliban cover. The Ahrarul Hind clearly announced their differences and spoiled the Fazlullah game by attacking and killing in the Islamabad courts. Later, they settled some terms and agreed to be quiet for a bit. The terrorists did their homework and put up impossible demands like wanting the Pakistan army to withdraw from Waziristan! Probably to create a state without Pakistan’s control? These are impossible demands, plus an expression of inability to accept Pakistan’s conditions. The negotiations failed and the terrorists could not care less because their purpose of an interim respite was served, and they must have developed future strategies. Now they can continue the bloodshed of Pakistanis. Therefore, expect renewed attacks and threats.
This is only common sense. The wise politicians can sugarcoat, compromise, cover up and deceive the public but their cosmetics must be seen through and washed off. The fact is that there are no solutions accept a final, organised fight by the armed forces. If some groups are willing to accept Pakistan’s constitution they should be given consideration — others must be eliminated. Yes, these are our enemies and must be eliminated completely. The blood of 60,000 innocent Pakistanis must be respected. The armed forces must do their duty to protect the integrity and safety of the nation without delay.

Pakistan:Dissolving Council of Islamic Ideology

The Sindh Assembly has passed a resolution to do away with the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII). The recent recommendations given by the CII, all related to women, have caused hackles to rise in many people concerned with the protection of women in a society that still holds primitive views about them. A country where women are treated like dumb driven cattle, and their presence deliberately kept subdued, any law that reinforces their status as second-class citizens is adding more agony to their existence. The problem with the CII is that they are living in a state of mind that has become obsolete because of its anachronistic bent. Their restricted vision that denies science as the modern interpretive force to solve ambiguities that could not be done otherwise is hindering progress. To them, any man-made law that facilitates modern interpretation of Islamic laws is considered blasphemous and a blow to the integrity of Islam itself. First it was the DNA test that was denied as conclusive evidence in rape cases. Then the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961 that restricts a man to one wife by putting a condition of the first wife’s consent in the case of a second marriage came under fire. And lastly, defining the minimum age for marrying a girl under the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 was declared against Islam. Modelling themselves on the primitive tribal culture of yesteryears where marrying four women was considered justified with no age bar, the cleric finds it the best course to maintain what he defines as the spirit of Islam. Since there had been no DNA testing when rape happened in the ‘golden era’ of Islam, therefore this option could not be entertained either. Adopting a typical dogmatic approach with no thought process involved, clerics of the likes of Maulana Shirani have painted Islam as a religion that denies logic, reason and judgment. This interpretation has wrought havoc, with Muslims having become a source of nuisance because of decaying ethics. As far as contracting a second marriage is concerned, the condition of doing justice between wives is obligatory. And unless one is sure of giving equal rights, the desire to have two wives should best be shelved as is clearly enunciated in the Quran. In the case of adultery, the evidence to the act presented by four male witnesses is intended to protect women against false accusation. Marrying off a girl child when she is not able to protect the family or to take up the attached responsibilities is as well not recommended. The irony is that a religion based on knowledge is facing a dearth of clerics and scholars who have the intent and courage to contemplate things without fear of losing their influence and power that lies in a blinkered view of Islam.

Zardari denies asking for 'BB's jewellery'

Replying to a media query about a letter purportedly written by PPP Co-Chairman Asif Zardari to unnamed Swiss authorities through a Swiss lawyer, seeking return of a jewellery allegedly belonging to Benazir Bhutto, spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar has recalled that the jeweller, when summoned by the Swiss Magistrate, had already deposed at the time denying that the jewellery belonged to her. "Since the ownership of the jewellery has already been denied by the jeweller himself before the magistrate it is strange and illogical to assert that Mr Asif Ali Zardari has asked for the return of the jewellery that neither belongs to him nor to Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto," Babar said in a statement. Furthermore, he said that for the past several years since the case ended there has been no Swiss lawyer of Zardari in Switzerland through whom he is alleged to have approached unnamed Swiss authorities.

KHYBER PAKHTUNKHWA: 14 PTI MPAs form separate bloc
Fourteen members of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in the KP assembly have raised a banner of revolt against policies of their own government in the province and formed a separate faction. Qurban Ali Khan, the self-declared ‘focal person’ of the group, has claimed that a few other lawmakers are likely to join the ranks of dissidents. He declined to disclose the lawmakers’ names. “At present 14 lawmakers have formed a bloc and some others will join them in two or three days,” he said while talking to Dawn at the MPAs Hostel here on Tuesday. He was accompanied by Javed Nasim from Peshawar, who a few months ago had submitted an application to the speaker seeking a separate seat in the assembly. Without naming Chief Minister Pervez Khattak or any other senior leader of the party, Qurban Ali Khan said that incapable people had been inducted into the cabinet and accused them of being involved in irregularities. “Some people are trying to hijack the vision of Chairman Imran Khan,” he said and accused the party’s provincial leadership of having deviated from the PTI’s manifesto. He severely criticised the policies of the KP government and said the party chief had been kept in the dark and he might not be aware of wrongdoings of provincial leaders. He claimed that he had never tried to become a minister and his associates also were not agitating for power and position. “We did not join the PTI to become ministers or advisers. Our objective is to protect the party’s interest.” Qurban Ali Khan, who had left the PPP before last year’s general elections, was elected to the assembly on a PTI ticket from PK-16 Nowshera. Sources said the estranged MPAs held meetings on Monday and Tuesday to work out their line of action.The PTI has 54 members in the assembly. Sources said the recent induction into the cabinet of new members, particularly legislators from Hazara division who had joined the party after the elections, and the award of important portfolios to coalition partners had created a rift within the party. Shahram Khan Tarki of the Awami Jamhuri Itehad Pakistan (AJIP) was given the portfolio of health and Qalandar Khan Lodhi and Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani, who had joined the PTI after elections, were initially appointed adviser and special assistant to the chief minister and now made ministers.
“Health and education formed the backbone of the PTI manifesto. If the health sector has been given to the AJIP nothing worthwhile is left with the PTI,” said a member of the bloc. He alleged that important portfolios and positions had been given to ‘inefficient and dishonest’ people.
Qurban Ali said the disgruntled lawmakers did not want to form a forward bloc or join the opposition, although they had been approached by opposition parties.
“Our aim is to restore the image of the party and expose opportunist and corrupt elements.”
He said the issues would be brought to the knowledge of Imran Khan and “if action is not taken against opportunists we will have no option but to resign”. Earlier, Chief Minister Pervez Khattak told newsmen at the Governor House that he was unaware of any move to form a forward bloc in the party. He said it was an internal problem of the party which would be solved.