Saturday, April 12, 2014


A demonstration in Rome turns violent when protesters throw rocks and firecrackers at police
Anti-austerity protests took over parts of Paris and Rome on Saturday, with one demonstration in Rome spurring violence when protesters threw rocks, eggs and firecrackers at police, with at least one person injured.
Tens of thousands of people took part in protests in central Paris and Rome, organized by hard-left parties opposed to government economic reform plans and austerity measures.
Police in Rome armed with batons charged members of a large splinter group — many wearing masks and helmets — and also used tear gas to push back the crowd, with protesters fighting back with rocks and firecrackers. One man lost a hand when a firecracker exploded before he could throw it.
There were dozens of lighter injuries among police and protesters, and at least six arrests, police said.
The protest was organized as a challenge to high housing costs and joblessness as a result of Italy's long economic slowdown. The procession made its way peacefully through central Rome until the more violent element wearing helmets started throwing objects at police near the Labor Ministry.
In Paris, protesters marched from the Place de la Republique, some carrying banners attacking President Francois Hollande with slogans such as "Hollande, that's enough," and "When you are leftist you support employees."
French police said that about 25,000 joined the protest, which follow new Prime Minister Manuel Valls' unveiling of a plan Tuesday to make tax and spending cuts, vowing to bring down France's public deficit and following on the heels of pro-business reforms announced earlier this year by Hollande.
"This is the first demonstration of the left-wing opposition against the government," Olivie Besancenot, spokesman of the New Anti-Capitalism Party, told i-Tele TV channel.
The turnout, however, was well short of protests in Paris last year in opposition to same-sex marriage that drew hundreds of thousands. The French Communist Party, on its Twitter account, estimated Saturday's turnout at 100,000. The protest in Rome was smaller, drawing several thousand, according to witnesses. They called for more affordable housing and took aim at 39-year-old Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his plans to reform labor rules to make it easier for companies to hire and fire employees.
"The problem with the Renzi government is that since it took power, even though he is supposedly of the left, his policies are of the right," said Federico Bicerni, a 23-year-old from Modena with a temporary work contract who is also the youth head of the Italian Marxist Leninist Party.
"They are reducing democracy. Renzi's labor reforms will worsen the situation for workers without job security, hitting young people when they are already struggling. The rage of the people in the squares today is justified," he said.
Renzi, who took power in February, is seeking to make sweeping reforms, including tax cuts, to revive Italy's ailing economy where youth unemployment has risen to well over 40 percent.

President Obama and Vice President Biden’s 2013 Tax Returns

Jay Carney
Today, the President released his 2013 federal income tax returns. He and the First Lady filed their income tax returns jointly and reported adjusted gross income of $481,098. The Obamas paid $98,169 in total tax.
The President and First Lady also reported donating $59,251 – or about 12.3 percent of their adjusted gross income – to 32 different charities. The largest reported gift to charity was $8,751 to the Fisher House Foundation. The President’s effective federal income tax rate is 20.4 percent. The President pushed for and signed into law legislation that makes the system more fair and helps the middle class by extending tax cuts to middle class and working families and asks the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share. In 2013, as a result of his policies, the President was subject to limitations in tax preferences, as well as additional Medicare and investment income taxes, for high income earners. The President and First Lady also released their Illinois income tax return and reported paying $23,328 in state income tax.
The Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden also released their 2013 federal income tax returns, as well as state income tax returns for both Delaware and Virginia. The Bidens filed joint federal and combined Delaware income tax returns. Dr. Biden filed a separate non-resident Virginia tax return. Together, they reported adjusted gross income of $407,009. The Bidens paid $96,378 in total federal tax for 2013, amounting to an effective tax rate of 23.7 percent. They also paid $14,644 in Delaware income tax and Dr. Biden paid $3,470 in Virginia income tax. The Bidens contributed $20,523 to charity in 2013, including contributing the royalties received from Dr. Biden’s children’s book, net of taxes, to the USO.

India's Gandhi mocks rival Modi over wedlock confession

Pro-federalization activists take over govt buildings across Eastern Ukraine

Thousands of pro-federalization activists have rallied in cities across Eastern Ukraine, calling for greater sovereignty of their region from Kiev. Activists have formed militias that helped anti-Maidan protesters seize several government buildings.
Pro-federalization activists occupy city council, police HQ in Slavyansk
Activists in Slavyansk, a city in eastern Ukraine located in the north of the Donetsk region with a population of 120,000, seized the police headquarters and the city council building Saturday. Police said Anti-Maidan protesters also seized the local office of Ukraine’s Security Service, the SBU.
They hoisted a Russian flag on top of the police HQ, Slavyansk Mayor Nelly Shtepa said. “As I negotiated with the activists today, they explained that they represent the Donetsk regional people’s militia. They said that they oppose Kiev authorities and today they are negotiating with them” she said.
Shtepa added that the people of the city support the activists’ calls for a referendum on the region’s federalization, and are urging the police to side with the people. If the authorities in Kiev will “try to suppress the uprising, many civilians will die, this cannot be allowed,” Shtepa said.
There are reports that the activists in Slavyansk have taken up weapons. However, one of the members of the Donbas people’s militia told media that no one was hurt during the storm of the police HQ, adding that the government building will be under their control until a referendum is held. Ukraine’s coup-imposed Interior Minister Arsen Avakov wrote on his Facebook page that the raid on police HQ was carried out by masked men with guns. He promised that the government’s answer to the raid would be “very harsh.” Avakov added that a Special Forces unit has been deployed to the scene. Anti-Maidan protesters stopped two buses full of security forces which were heading from Donetsk to Slavyansk, Rossiya 24 TV channel reported. After negotiations, the security forces turned back to their Donetsk HQ. “I can’t say there was a conflict between the police and activists, the latter just accompanied the Special Unit forces back to their HQ,” said a Rossiya 24 correspondent, who was at the scene.
Berkut Special Forces side with Donetsk people
In Donetsk, officers of the former Berkut special riot police unit refused to obey orders from Kiev and move to crush a pro-federalization takeover in Slavyansk. Instead Berkut officers sided with the people of the region, offering them security and protection.
Berkut forces occupied police headquarters in Donetsk. Tying St. George ribbons to their uniform, the special unit said that they supported the demands of the local population and refused to obey their command. Berkut fighters arrived at the building of the Internal Affairs building of the city.
“Berkut has always been and will remain with its people,” a representative of Berkut said as he addressed the crowd, Youtube video shows. “I want to assure you, that if you're faced with threats, any type of a threat, we will all rise up and come to your rescue,” the representative continued to loud cheers from the crowd, with applause and chants of “Berkut! Berkut!”
In the morning opponents of the Kiev authorities tried to take control of regional prosecutor's office, with a few managing to enter the building for negotiations. The protesters were demanding for Donetsk regional police chief to resign. Conceding to demands, the head of police Major-General Konstantin Pozhidaev announced his resignation.
Supporters of federalization returned to the regional state administration building which they continue to hold since the beginning of the week.
Administration, police HQ seized in Kramatorsk Pro-federalization protesters have also occupied the police headquarters in the town of Kramatorsk, Donbas region, reports Itar-Tass. Around 50 armed protesters entered the building and several warning shots were heard, but witnesses and hospitals did not report any injuries. Yet, local Ukrainian media claimed that one person has been wounded. "According to preliminary information shots at the Kramatorsk police station were fired from Makarov pistols and Kalashnikovs. There is one wounded," Novosti Donbassa reports not citing their source. Following the takeover, almost immediately a spontaneous rally assembled in support of the anti-Kiev activists.
As the anti-Maidan forces secured the building they addressed the crowd, saying that they had to occupy the premises against Kiev’s “corrupt” police chiefs. “Common policemen will continue serving the people of Donbas,” they announced. The self-defense force also promised to protect the region and the citizens of the town from the “Kiev junta”, Youtube video shows.
“We are the people that rose up to kick-out the Kiev corrupt police force,” a man from the video says, as the crowd cheered him on. “We will serve the people of the Donetsk region.” Earlier on Saturday, a Donetsk Republic flag was raised at the city administration building, as the anti-Maidan rally took place in the city, showing their support for independence of the Donetsk Region.
Kramatorsk is a city of some 200,000 people in Donetsk Region in eastern Ukraine. The city is an important mechanical engineering center in Ukraine.
Amid the protests calling for Ukraine’s federalization, acting president Aleksandr Turchinov sacked the head of the SBU security service for the Donetsk region, Valery Ivanov, on Saturday, according to a decree published on the presidential website.
Kharkov, Ukraine's 2nd largest city, marches for federalization
Protests also took place in Kharkov, where hundreds of pro-federalization activists gathered in the city center demanding a regional referendum on broader autonomy from Kiev.
At the same time supporters of the Kiev authorities have also held a march with many witnesses reporting large crowds from the ultra-nationalist Right Sector.
Police officers managed to detain four men, two of which came from Western Ukraine, wearing bulletproof vests at the Kharkov train station, who tried to smuggle a cardboard box in with homemade explosive devices. Druzhkovka, Krasny Liman, Konstantinovka, Snezhnoe, Mariupol - all stand up against Kiev In other smaller towns across Ukraine's Donetsk region, activists have also taken over local administration buildings and police HQs. In Druzhkovka, a town of 60,000 people, activists have managed to seize power at the local police headquarters after a rally. Gathered outside the HQ, they shouted, “As long as we're united, we will be victorious.”
Earlier on Saturday about 20 men also secured the police department of the Krasny Liman, a town of around 20,000 people in the Donetsk region.
"There is no armed seizure of the building. As you can see, the city police station is closed. People gathered here to prevent provocations. Because this is our city and we don't want any riots. Everything is ok and calm,” Andrey Bobrov, Donbass militia activist told RT Ruptly. The town of Konstantinovka with 80,000 people and Snezhnoe have also seen pro-federalization uprisings on Saturday, local media reports. In the city of Mariupol, in southeastern Ukraine a rally has also been held in support of the Donetsk regional authorities.
Unrest has gripped eastern Ukraine after the EuroMaidan protests in Kiev, which resulted in a coup on February 22. People in Donetsk, Kharkov, Lugansk and other cities are calling for a referendum to decide on the status of the Donbass regions.

French foreign minister on historic visit to Cuba (0:58)

Pakistan: Polio Spreads From Syria to Iraq, Causing Worries

Syria’s polio outbreak has now officially spread to Iraq, the first neighbor of the war-ravaged country to be hit by the crippling virus despite an ambitious Middle East inoculation effort, and global health officials warned Monday that dozens of vulnerable Iraqi children could potentially be infected.
The transmission of polio, a highly contagious disease that primarily afflicts children younger than 5 and can lead to partial and sometimes fatal paralysis, reflects one of the most insidious effects of the three-year-old Syria conflict, which has sent millions of refugees across the country’s borders and severely undermined its public health system.
For Iraq, the outbreak is the first time in 14 years that polio has appeared; the disease was absent even during the 2003-2011 war that began with the American-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.
A rescue worker carried an injured baby at the scene of a reported air strike attack in Aleppo last month.Report Cites ‘Devastating Toll’ on Health of Syria’s ChildrenMARCH 9, 2014 An Afghan health worker administered polio vaccines to children on the outskirts of Jalalabad last month.Rare Afghan Polio Case Tied to PakistanFEB. 11, 2014
World Health Organization officials said the first Iraqi polio case, that of a 6-month-old boy in Baghdad, was confirmed on March 30 by Iraq’s Ministry of Health and had the same genetic fingerprint as the virus that paralyzed 27 children in eastern Syria in October — both having originated in Pakistan, one of the few countries in the world where polio has not been eradicated. The Polio Global Eradication Initiative, a partnership that includes the W.H.O., reported two new Syria cases last week — in Aleppo and Hama, far from the original outbreak area.
Christopher Maher, the eastern Mediterranean manager of the W.H.O.’s Polio Eradication and Emergency Support unit, said that Iraqi officials had been immunizing children protectively since the Syria outbreak began, and that in light of the first confirmed case in their home country they were now expediting another scheduled round of vaccinations.
“At the moment, they’re madly preparing their response plan,” Mr. Maher said in a telephone interview. It takes multiple rounds of vaccine, taken orally, to immunize a child.
Iraq has an estimated five million children under the age of 5. While estimates vary on the number of infections for every confirmed case, and not all children develop symptoms, Mr. Maher said, “in all likelihood it would be dozens — you’ve got to assume there’s some extension of the transmission.”
The W.H.O. and Unicef said in a joint statement on Sunday that Iraq’s expedited polio response was part of a broader vaccination effort in the region, with the goal of reaching more than 20 million children this week. Lebanon and Turkey will participate later this month, and Jordan and the Palestinian territories will be part of future vaccination rounds, said Juliette S. Touma, a spokeswoman for Unicef’s regional office in Amman, Jordan.
“The recent detection of a polio case in Iraq after a 14-year absence is a reminder of the risk currently facing children throughout the region,” Maria Calivis, the Unicef regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in the statement. “It is now even more imperative to boost routine immunizations to reach every child multiple times and do whatever we can to vaccinate children we could not reach in previous rounds.”
The statement acknowledged that the effort had “yet to reach especially vulnerable groups such as children who are on the move fleeing violence from Syria or those living in the midst of active conflict.”
Some rights advocates and public health experts have criticized the W.H.O. and other United Nations agencies for adopting an accommodating policy toward President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who they contend has deliberately withheld inoculations against polio and other contagious diseases to insurgent-controlled areas.
Dr. Annie Sparrow, a pediatrician and deputy director of human rights at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, said in a study published in February that the polio outbreak in Syria was far more widespread than just the cases reported by the W.H.O. The health organization has disputed her findings. Dr. Sparrow said in a telephone interview on Monday that the most recent polio news from Iraq and Syria was both expected and alarming. “It should signal an absolute failure of the global eradication effort,” she said. Mr. Assad’s forces, she said, “have been bombing the heck out of the people of Aleppo instead of vaccinating them, which is what they should be doing.”
While Mr. Maher said the spread to Iraq was not in itself surprising, health officials were uncertain about its precise path to Baghdad, where the victim had no obvious contact with possible carriers from Syria, most of them refugees concentrated near Iraq’s border with Syria.
“It’s great if you have clear-cut chain of transmission so you can easily see how this would happen — maybe a refugee child,” he said. “But where you would expect to see the virus would have been in the northwest, and not down in Baghdad.” At the same time, he said, the confirmed case reflected the ability of the polio virus to find vulnerable victims, touching a child who had been part of “a pocket of under-immunized children in the community.”
Ms. Touma said the inoculation effort in Syria had made progress but was still failing to regularly reach an estimated 323,000 Syrian children at the highest risk of contracting polio, in areas of fighting or restricted access.
“The trick with polio is that we can’t give up, we have to do multiple inoculations continuously and as wide as possible,” she said.

Kuwait orders media blackout on 'coup' video

Media ban enforced on videotape allegedly showing former senior officials scheming to topple government of Gulf nation.
Kuwait has ordered a news blackout on a videotape allegedly showing former senior officials plotting to overthrow the oil-rich Gulf state's government.
State news agency KUNA reported on Thursday that the country's royal court had ordered that an investigation be carried out in secret.
"The attorney general has ordered that the investigation in this case should be confidential and ordered a ban on the publication of any news on the case in all media," including social networks and the Internet, attorney general Dherar Al-Asousi, was quoted as saying by KUNA.
The attorney general said his office was conducting "a probe into reports indicating the existence of a tape containing information and data implicating some people in plotting to overthrow the regime and undermine the authority of the emir."
Asousi said the ban was necessary because the issue "grossly harms national interests and national unity" as well as the investigation itself.
The appeal came after Sheikh Ahmad Fahad Al Sabah, a senior member of the royal family and former minister, was questioned by the public prosecutor for five hours about the tape, which he said he had handed over to Kuwait’s leaders.
Fahad Al Sabah said he told the prosecutor he had a videotape dealing with financial and political matters as well as the ruling family and regional issues.
On Wednesday, the royal court urged Kuwaitis "to avoid debating the issue and leave it to the public prosecution to take the necessary measures." The AFP news agency reported that MP Ali al-Rashed asked Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Sabah if the video included a plot to overthrow the regime and requested the names of the people involved in any conspiracy. A number of MPs and the opposition called for an immediate investigation into the issue and demanded that the government reveal the contents of the video.
Since 2006, the Gulf state has been rocked by a series of political disputes between parliamentarians and the government over preferential treatment to ruling family members.

Russia sets 4 conditions in return for aid to Ukraine

Ukraine should recognize Crimea’s independence, reform the country’s constitution, regulate the crisis in its eastern regions and guarantee the rights of Russian speakers if it wants to get financial help from Moscow, Russia’s finance minister has said.
“If Ukraine fulfils these four conditions, then Russia will be able to propose further steps on additional help both on financial and gas issues,” Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said after meeting with his German counterpart, Wolfgang Schauble, in Washington.
Deescalating tensions in eastern Ukraine should be peaceful, based on Ukraine’s legislation, “without discrimination against Russian-speaking population, without victims and bloodshed,” Siluanov said.
It is necessary for Ukraine to conduct constitutional reform, hold legitimate presidential elections and “form a government with which one may negotiate,” he said.
Ukraine’s gas debt is now estimated at over $2.2 billion. On Thursday, President Vladimir Putin wrote letters to the leaders of 18 European countries, including Germany and France, warning that Ukraine’s debt crisis had reached a “critical” level and could threaten transit to Europe. He also called for urgent cooperation, urging Russia’s partners in the West to take action. According to German Chancellor Angela Merkel "there are many reasons to seriously take into account this message […] and for Europe to deliver a joint European response.” In total, Moscow has subsidized Ukraine’s economy to the tune of $35.4 billion, coupled with a $3 billion loan tranche in December. Due to Ukraine’s gas debts, Gazprom revoked all discounts and is now charging $485 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas, a price Ukraine says it will not be able to pay.
The deteriorating economic situation is coupled with escalating tensions in Ukraine. The country’s Interior Ministry promised a harsh response to the riots in the east, especially in the “separatist regions” of Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkov. The coup-appointed authorities said they would arrest all violators, "regardless of the declared slogans and party affiliation."
Eastern and southern Ukraine have been showing discontent with the new government in Kiev for weeks. Tensions escalated Monday when protesters in several cities started seizing local administration buildings. Major protests took place in the cities of Donetsk, Kharkov and Lugansk, while smaller actions and some clashes were reported in Odessa and Nikolayev. After Donetsk activists proclaimed the region independent and demanded a referendum on its future status, Ukraine’s coup-imposed president Aleksandr Turchinov ordered the sending in of armed personnel and armored vehicles to the east.
At least 70 activists have been arrested in the course of the crackdown launched by Ukraine’s Interior Ministry in the eastern city of Kharkov. Most of them remain in prison, with 62 people detained for at least two months.
Sanctions are ‘counterproductive’ for all
At the G20 finance ministers’ meeting in Washington, sanctions against Russia’s alleged interference into Ukraine’s affairs dominated the background. While speaking with journalists, Siluanov said that he was against US and EU sanctions against Russian and that the widening of such sanctions would be “counterproductive” for all sides.
In the latest series of sanctions, leading Crimean officials were targeted; those, according to the US Treasury, who were responsible for organizing the March 16 referendum, which led to the peninsula leaving Ukraine and joining Russia.
Among the seven officials forbidden from entering the US or engaging in economic activity with America-based companies are acting Sevastopol governor Aleksey Chaliy, the head of the Crimean security service Pyotr Zima, and Mikhail Malyshev, the head of the electoral commission that oversaw the poll.
Additionally, US-based assets of Chernomorneftegaz, the former subsidiary of the Ukrainian state gas company located on the Crimean peninsula, will be frozen.
The US, the EU and several international groups have imposed sanctions on senior Russian officials. The US also introduced measures including a ban on exporting defense items and services to Russia to pressure Moscow over recent events in Ukraine.
The G7 group has voiced its readiness to introduce additional sanctions against Russia, if Moscow continues to “escalate” the turmoil in neighboring Ukraine, US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said.
Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry and parliament have repeatedly denounced the policy of sanctions as inappropriate and counter-productive.
Some Russian MPs have suggested the possibility of retaliatory sanctions against US businesses, but these ideas have not been implemented as they might harm all the countries.
“Sanctions hurt all countries. We do not intend to introduce reciprocal sanctions,” Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov told reporters during the International Eastern Forum in Berlin.
Meanwhile, the meeting between Russia, Ukraine, EU and the US to discuss the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine will take place on April 17 in Geneva, the office of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said. Proposals for Ukraine’s constitutional reforms will also be presented in Geneva. However, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday expressed concern that Ukraine’s southeastern regions were not being invited to take part directly in the discussions on a new constitution for the country. Siluanov said that similar concerns were voiced on Friday during a meeting with Treasury Secretary Lew.
He added that “Russia is ready to participate in supporting Ukraine together with the IMF and the European Union.” He also told Lew that Russia was concerned about Ukraine’s unpaid debt for supplies of natural gas.

Video: President Obama Delivers Keynote Address at Civil Rights Summit 2014

President Obama's Weekly Address: Ensuring Equal Pay for Equal Work

Ustad Awalimir: ''Da Zamong Zeba Watan''


By Dr Ehsan Azari Stanizi
The West still has a chance in Afghanistan — if it toils for an indigenous solution to the conflict and prevent Pakistan from spoiling everything. An interview with Ehsan Azari Stanizai on the future of Afghanistan
Q: How much can we expect from the presidential election on April 5?
A: We have experienced two elections in the past, which were marred by extensive fraud. However, expectations this time have been high. It was demonstrated in the huge turnout across the country. Still, there have been two pitfalls as well. First, new political elite as well as power brokers in the country controlled most of the polling stations in the Afghan capital, Kabul and most of the provincial capitals. They might have forced locals to vote only for their own favourites. Second, in those areas where Taliban were in control or influential, people were unable to exercise their right to vote, for obvious reasons. There have been generally a mixed feelings of optimism and premonition. It is also clear that President Hamid Karzai is transferring power unwillingly, as he has no other option. His reluctance to relinquish power is evident from his desperate meddling in the elections by backing up Zalmai Rasoul, his feckless ex-foreign minister, from behind the scene. Karzai’s departure from power is similar to Babrak Karmal, who under duress from Russians stepped down from power in 1980s. Karzai shows no intention of leaving Kabul, however, Karmal was forced by Russian to leave Kabul for a Dacha in Moscow. Except for Ashraf Ghani, most of the main presidential candidates are string-puppets of the old Northern Alliance and very close to the seat of power in Kabul. If Ghani wins at the ballot box and Afghans accept his legitimacy, he can open a new chapter in the Afghan politics for bringing peace and reconciliation after decades of bloodshed and destruction. As an academic and intellectual, he knows better than anyone else that the presidency should be about salvation of Afghanistan. He also understands Afghan political history and knows that nothing can be done in a war-torn country, unless peace is restored first. With a genuine support from the West and having a truly expert working team, he could be a transformational leader and bring an indigenous solution to the Afghan tragedy. He gave voice to such a sentiment by his slogan of “renewal and change.” He is a charismatic leader and enjoys the support of the majority in the country, including disgruntled Afghan intelligentsia. His alliance with a notorious warlord, Rashid Dustam may be a skeleton in the closet, however, many Afghans see this union tactical and necessary at this juncture. However, this will be seen and my optimism about Ghani is cautiously optimistic.
Q: Will a non-Pashtun president urge the Pashtuns to join the Taliban as they did in the 1990s?
A: Pretty much so. For the past decade or so, Afghan ethnic minorities have been propelled to rule over the majority. The United State and its Western allies generated a ruling elite of warlords of old Northern-Alliance and Karzai’s family. The Northern Alliance was a motley collection of warlords and proxy militia who helped the American forces topple the Taliban regime in 2001. Leaders of the NA and coterie around it have ever since changed the Afghan political centre stage into a Russian roulette by using Karzai as a Pashtun façade, by opposing the emergence of a legitimate Afghan national leadership.
This created a radical discontinuity and imbalance in traditional Afghan power structure. This also increased susceptibility in the country for a rampant sectarianism, which, causing lasting damages to the ethnic and social fabric of Afghanistan. With Western incontrovertible support for the NA, marginalization of the Pashtuns escalated. Today, the Pashtuns identify their fate equal to the Roman Homo Sacer in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal areas.This marginalization on its part has been invigorating the Pashtun-based insurgency.
If Abdullah Abdullah, a blue-eyed boy of the American media wins the election, he will, no doubt, stir a new wave of ideologically motivated anti-Pashtun sectarianism in Afghanistan. Abdullah’s is committed to change the presidential system into a parliamentarian one, which is in fact an covert agenda for giving autonomy to some provinces by guaranteeing direct election of the governors. He has a penchant for expensive Western designer suits and ties and as a long-time Karzai’s foreign minister, hoarded huge illegal riches. In fashionable suits and ties, he looks more like a caricature of a Hollywood actor rather than a political leader. Another candidate, Zalmai Rasoul represents the business-owning faction of the NA and Karzai’s family. Abdullah or Rasoul in power would spark civil war in Afghanistan and worsen security situation throughout the country, especially now that the US and NATO forces prepare to leave the country.
Q: How would the new leadership deal with Karzai’s legacy?
A: In my view, Karzai’s legacy could be summed up in one word: an abject failure in every front. With his distinctive chapan coat and a karakul hat, he will be remembered as a colorful political leader installed by the West in 2001. Afghans and those who are familiar with the Afghan culture, understand that his clownish outfit symbolize his loyalty to the Northern Alliance. Karzai has always been a follower not a leader. He showed exceptional skills and proficiency in promoting a single bond between his supporters and cronies, and that is cash. This way he managed to hold together strong power-brokers and his family members. Corruption, kleptomania, demagogy and the world’s biggest heroine industry epitomize Karzai’s legacy. This legacy calls for a herculean task to be fixed.
Q: The NATO combat troops are evacuating Afghanistan while there is no sign of reconciliation and peace with the Taliban. Does this mean that NATO is sacrificing its one decade gains in Afghanistan?
A: If NATO just cut and run, I think that will be an obvious outcome. The Western forces haven’t been succeeded to bring a national discourse in Afghanistan for peace and reconciliation. Most importantly, they failed to take the war to its source. It is now an open secret that the Pakistani military and its intelligence organisation (ISI) are playing a double role in Afghanistan. From President Obama to Pentagon’s generals, journalists and experts have been repeating this for years. The truth is that Pakistan doesn’t want to see a stable Afghanistan and knows very well that a stable Afghanistan will ask Pakistan to leave the stolen Afghan land, I mean Pashtunistan. Undeniable historical evidences suggest that Pakistan has no lawful sovereignty on this Portugal-size land. This territory which is now the hotbed of international terrorism was given by the departing British Raj from Indian subcontinent to Pakistan’s military in 1947. In relation to the Afghan war, Pakistan has successfully created two narratives. For the Taliban, it is a powerful supporter of the global Islamic Jihad and for the Americans; it is fighting on the front line of war against terrorism. Pakistan is ramping up to use them as proxy forces in Afghanistan once the United States and NATO leave. On the other hand, it is both bizarre and funny when the United States is ceaselessly rewarding Pakistan with more than $2 billion each year. This money is part of Kerry-Lugar bill that the U.S. gives Pakistan in return for the latter’s assumed fight against terrorism. If this sickening policy remains unchanged after the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, the West has to brace itself for a grand strategic defeat in Afghanistan and the region.
Q: How do you view the Taliban and ISI bond and its future?
A: I think the opening of the Taliban’s political office in July 2013 in Qatar was a political milestone. Taliban celebrated this as their great victory, but it was the beginning of their isolation among the Afghan people and international community. They raced to Qatar with genuine Pakistani passports and a heavy Pakistani accents. Pakistan officially claimed to be the doorkeeper of the Taliban and also took credit for prodding the Taliban for negotiation. The Afghans sees ISI and Pakistani military as their greatest enemies and anyone who work with them as the ugliest traitors. I believe, the Taliban can get nothing from the ISI and they will be sold as cattle if ISI and Pakistani generals think they are no more needed as proxy.
Dr Ehsan Azari Stanizi is an Adjunct Fellow with the Writing & Society Research Group, University of Western Sydney (UWS)

PAKISTAN: Stop the massacre in Balochistan by the military

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding the killing of around 40 persons in military operations in different parts of Balochistan province conducted yesterday (7 April) during which it has used helicopters for aerial bombardments. Among the casualties were women and children. The Frontier Corp of the Pakistan Army conducted the operation for the search of guerillas from the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA). During this year the FC has conducted several operations in their search for militants during which they have killed more than 100 innocent citizens. The provincial Minister of Interior Affairs stated that 30 to 40 insurgents were killed including women and children during yesterday’s operation. The Pakistan military and civilian government takes a very harsh view of the Baloch secular movement for the rights of their people. On the other hand they are appeasing the Pakistani Taliban who have killed more than 50,000 civilians and soldiers in different suicide bombings and acts of slaughter for the implementation of their version of Islam during the past ten years.
The BBC Service has reported that the Frontier Corp (FC) of the Pakistan Army has conducted operations against the Baloch militants in the Kalat district of Balochistan and the FC claims that it has killed dozens of insurgents and seized large numbers of arms and ammunition including rocket launchers, automatic weapons and hand grenades. The FC operations against Baloch citizens were conducted by a special wing of the FC under the command of the Inspector General of the FC, Major Mohammad Ijaz Shahid who is from Punjab province.
The nationalist groups and the Baloch Republican Party (BRP) told the media that a number of commandos from the Special Operations Wing of the Pakistan Army carried out an extensive operation in Kalat, Johan and the nearby mountains of Nushki. More than six helicopter gunships were used in the operation.
The BRP says Pakistani forces laid down heavy bombardments of the civilian populated areas where at least twenty innocent Balochis, including women and children have been killed. Some of the deceased have been identified as Safullah Baloch 8, son of Jan Muhammad Baloch, Nisar Gul 5 and two children of Baloch political activist Najeeb Baloch also martyred in the brutal bombardment by the Pakistani military. Over 20 houses belonging to civilians have been completely destroyed and more than two dozen innocent Balochis were abducted by the Pakistani military forces during the operation. As usual in these operations, the houses of poor Balochis were set ablaze and their livestock looted. It is reported from Mashkai that Pakistan’s army troops also carried out an operation in the Nokjho area of Mashkai yesterday. However, no exact figure of casualties has been received from Kalat and Mashkai as the affected areas are still under siege by Pakistani troops. The provincial Minister for Interior Affairs, Mr Sarfaraz Bugti, told the BBC that helicopters were used for logistic purposes only and not for bombardment. He also admitted that one helicopter was grounded when the insurgents retaliated.
Balochistan has remained under military operation in the presence of elected civilian governments. The Pakistan army runs its own parallel government and does not respect the autonomy of the provinces. During this year the FC conducted more than six operations in many districts of the province and killed more than 100 citizens including women and children. During these operations the FC arrested dozens of Balochis and their whereabouts at present are unknown. The bodies of many disappeared who were arrested during the operations have been found on the roadside bearing marks of torture.
On January 14, the army carried out a door to door operation in Dera Bugti and torched many houses. In Turbat, paramilitary forces raid a hostel and recovered letters. The Pakistan Army carried out a search operation in the Gopat area in Sui, Dera Bugti districts and burnt down several village houses during the operation in which they harassed women and children.
The Frontier Corps conducted a raid on the Atta Shad Degree college in Turbat and recovered materials included leaflets, banners and posters. The books include Nehru and Gandhi’s biographies as well as books about Balochistan independence. On 25 January, six people were killed by Pakistani security forces during military operation in Tasp area of Panjgur district. Pakistani military forces launched full-fledged operation in Tasp and Paroom earlier on Friday morning. Later the army extended it across Panjgur district. A large number of armored vehicles of Pakistani forces raided the Baloch villages in the Tasp, Panjgur and indiscriminately targeted the civilian populated areas. Six, including two women of Shahmeer Baloch’s family have been killed as army bombed his house in Tasp area in panjgur, BRP Media Cell reported. Sources said that Army is using Gunship helicopters and heavy artillery in Panjgur operation. Many houses of the Baloch villagers were destroyed due to heavy bombardment of Pakistani security forces. Similarly, abductions of two Baloch youths were reported in Sui.
On 3 March, a heavy military operation was carried out by the Pakistani Army in Shapuk and several other areas of Turbat, Balochistan.
Pakistani Army started a deadly military operation in Shapuk, Sami, Sherak and several other areas of Turbat Balochistan at midnight. Local sources said that large numbers of ground troops with tanks and heavy artillery besieged almost entire Turbat district and launched the operation. Residents of the areas including women and children were harassed and brutally beaten up by the personnel of ruthless Pakistan Army. On 23 March, the occasion of country’s Republican Day, The FC conducted a military operation in Kech of Balochistan during which five persons were killed and several women were injured during the raids at their houses. The deceased have been identified as Sameer son of Naseer kamalan, Haji Kamal son of Musa, Murad Hasil along with his two sons, Akram and Islam. While eight people Asim son of Gul Muhammad, Muheem son Asim, Sagheer son of Ameet, Meero son of Hussain, Imam son of Hussain, Aalim s/o Hussain, Perviaz son of Mazar Baloch and Jalal son of Mazar Baloch were abducted by Pakistani forces during operation from the Pidrak region..
On April 2 the Pakistani army carried out raids in the Gramkan area in Panjgur district of Balochistan and abducted eighteen persons including three members of same family.
According to the details available a large number of Pakistani army troops surrounded Gramkan and the adjacent villages and launched a deadly operation. Army personnel tortured and humiliated women as they resisted the abductions of their loved ones. Sources said that they also looted valuables from the houses during the operation.
Please write letters to the authorities calling on them to initiate a high judicial inquiry commission for the probe of military operations and extrajudicial killings of innocent persons. The operations against the Balochi people in the name of operations against terrorists must be stopped. Please urge the Pakistani government to withdraw the army troops including the Frontier Corps and other Para Military forces from the Punjab and make public the report of various commissions on the issues of Balochistan including disappearances and extrajudicial killings. The government must pay compensation to the family members of the persons killed as a result of the military operation.
The AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Question of Extra judicial killings and the Special Rapporteur on the rights of the indigenous peoples calling for their intervention into this matter.
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Pakistan: Balochistan’s Inherent Value

By Banuk Horaan Baloch
The vast mountainous desert region in Pakistan’s southwest is known as Balochistan, or Land of the Baloch. Covering 347,190 square kilometers, Balochistan constitutes 44% of Pakistan’s total landmass. In the North and Northwest lies the Durand line, dividing Balochistan and Afghanistan. To the West is the Iranian border, and in the North & East is the Indus River, which separates Balochistan from Sindh & Punjab respectively. South of Balochistan is the Arabian Sea, where the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz provides the shortest shipping route from the Middle & Near East to Central Asia. Balochistan has acted as a key strategic region essential to maintaining control of the surrounding regions. Soon after the British exodus from British-India and the subsequent partition of British- India, the newly formed Pakistan quickly annexed the region. Since the division of Balochistan through creation of the Durand line, the indigenous Baloch population has also been divided. Since its inception, the population of Pakistan has been mired in poverty and corruption. Pakistan has notoriously allocated funds and resources for their military rather than the development of civil infrastructure and social services. Additionally, Pakistan’s central government has deprived Balochistan of any benefits from the wealth of natural resources in the region. Despite an abundance of natural resources and substantial potential for development, Balochis live in poverty and the region is underdeveloped.
The Sui natural gas fields were discovered in Dera Bugti in 1952. By 1955 the Sui gas fields were commercially exploited. The Sui gas fields account for 6% of Pakistan’s total natural gas, producing over 604 million cubic feet (17.1×106 m3) per day. Experts estimate nearly 2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas remains in the Sui natural gas fields. As well as natural gas, Balochistan is also a major producer of coal. Over 90% of Balochistan’s coal is mined and dispatched to other provinces in Pakistan. Baloch coal can potentially fulfill extensive energy requirements providing electricity to an otherwise deprived communities.
The Chagai Mountain area of Balochistan produces vast quantities of copper and gold. Mining firms such as the Tethyan Copper Company Ltd and Barrick Gold Corporation operate out of the small Chagai town of Reko Diq, situated 70km North-West of Naukundi, near the Iranian border. The Antofagasta Group holds 50% of the Tethyan Copper Company Ltd. Tethyan has held a 75% interest in an exploration licence encompassing the Reko Diq deposit, with the provincial authority in Balochistan holding the remaining 25% interest, resulting in an effective interest for the Antofagasta group of 37.5%. The Reko Diq mineral deposits are estimated to contain 5.9 billion tonnes with an average copper grade of 0.41% and an average gold grade of 0.22 g/tonne. The Antofagasta group’s entitled share of these resources amounts to 2.2 billion tonnes.
As well as natural gas, gold and copper, Balochistan is also rich in Chromite, Barytes, Sulpher, Marble and Limestone deposits. Yet despite all the natural wealth of the region, the Indigenous population of Balochistan remains impoverished and destitute. A lot is written of the tensions and the armed conflict between Baloch militant groups and the central government in Islamabad. While undoubtedly the conflict is driven by ideological reasons, the lack of opportunities in Balochistan plays a part as well. The government of Pakistan would do well to bring more wealth and opportunity to Balochistan or it is doubtful that the conflict will resolve itself in the near future.

Pakistan: The sad state of Punjab hospitals

There is a common perception, based on public experience, that while Pakistan boasts some of the best medical professionals, patients often times suffer from complications due to poor quality of care in hospital wards, even in intensive care units. A press report about the conditions in Punjab hospitals confirms that perception. It points out a number of factors that account for poor quality of medical care in the province. Using information gathered from the administration of 12 major tertiary care hospitals in the province, the report concludes that there is no critical care specialist available in any of the government-run institutions. The reason is obvious: even though such specialists occupy important positions in teaching hospitals, they prefer to spend more time in private clinics collecting large sums in fees and/or through partnership profits.
As per expert opinion, one out of every ten patients in emergency wards usually requires attention in an intensive care unit. But all the major hospitals in Punjab have just 250 ICU beds. And other conditions too are a lot less than satisfactory. For instance, the World Health Organisation recommends one nurse for each bed in an ICU. In the province's public and private hospitals one nurse looks after three or more patients. The list of problems goes on and on. The Dental Institutions Recognition and Accreditation Standard Regulations, 2012, says that "at least 15 ventilators should be available for a 500-bed hospital". The report narrates the story of one particularly patient in need of a ventilator support. The family had to travel all the way from Sahiwal to the provincial capital for help only to discover that a major government hospital could not provide the needed support for being fully occupied, and the one private medical centre that admitted the patient in its intensive care unit did not have a ventilator. The patient died without getting the required treatment, but with a huge bill to be paid.
The episode underscores two sordid realities in the largest and relatively affluent province: one that important rules and regulations are being openly violated right under the nose of a chief minister who likes to be seen taking a hands-on approach to health issues. Second, the provincial government does not have its priorities right. There is greater focus on flashy, attention getting projects than on improving the quality of health care for a maximum number possible. Also, the system suffers from different weaknesses that need to be addressed effectively. The present trend of appointing senior health department officials and hospital executives on the basis of political connections must come to an end, making merit the only criterion for selection. The right person should get the right job. Equally important, the accountably mechanism needs to be strengthened. Anyone flouting the accreditation standards and rules set by the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council must be held to account in a manner that serves as a deterrent for all concerned.

Punjab Youth Festival: ‘Govt made false claims of records’

The Express Tribune
Pakistan Peoples Party MPA Shaukat Basra has filed a petition in the Lahore High Court, stating that the Punjab had made false claims that new records had been set and would be acknowledged in the Guinness Book of World Records during the Punjab Youth Festival.
Basra said this had damaged Pakistan’s reputation across the world. He said the national exchequer had also suffered. Basra alleged that contrary to the government’s claims, there was no contract between the administration of the Guinness Book of World Records and the government.
He said no GBWR representative had witnessed the activities. He asked the court to direct the government to provide records of the spending on festival activities. He also asked the court to stop the festival until the petition had been disposed of.

$7 million from Malala Fund for education project in remote areas

A number of people in the country may hold an uncharitable opinion about Malala Yousuzai’s worldwide efforts to promote girls’ education but the government has decided to make use of money from a fund set up by her for an education project.
The sceptics are not only laymen who doubt whether the young education activist was actually shot at by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) but also people holding powerful positions in the government who have downplayed her internationally recognised efforts.
The young Malala — who shot to instant worldwide fame after TTP militants attacked and severely injured her in Swat in October 2012 for promoting the cause of girls’ education — has set up the Malala Fund to “empower girls to raise their voices, unlock their potential and demand change”.
In February, the ministry of finance signed an agreement with the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation under which $7 million from the Malala Fund would be spent on an education project which would focus on remote areas of the country.
The 36-month project will be executed in three phases. A blueprint of the project will be prepared in the first phase which would last six months. Work on it started on March 18.
The second phase will be of implementation of the project and will spread over two years. Activities will be launched to widen girls’ access to education and improve the retention and completion rates of girls through improvement in quality of education.
The third phase will be of documentation.
From the day one when Malala was attacked, the TTP apologists came up with a conspiracy theory and said it was a CIA-managed incident to defame the country, although a TTP spokesperson had accepted responsibility for the shooting.
But the world rallied behind the cause of education for girls. Malala was showered with international awards for her courageous act and even nominated for the Noble Peace Prize.
On July 12 last year, she addressed the United Nations General Assembly and the event was dubbed as “Malala Day”. The response of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to her speech surprised many. He was reported to have said in a tweet: “Good speech by Malala, could have been better — seemed to be written for global consumption and tried to please everyone at home & abroad.”
The comment was criticised and the tweet was immediately removed.
In January this year, the PTI-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government barred Peshawar University from hosting a ceremony for launching Malala’s biography “I am Malala”.
This prompted Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan to criticise the government of his own party. Later, it came to be known that the government had stopped the university administration from holding the ceremony because of the fear of Taliban reprisal.

Pakistani Taliban plot with seminaries to assault capital: police

By Mehreen Zahra-Malik
The Pakistani Taliban will coordinate with Islamist activists at major seminaries in or near the capital, Islamabad, to launch attacks if peace talks with the government fail, police said in a report obtained by Reuters.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took power last year promising to end Pakistan's insurgency through negotiations. Talks got going in February but have achieved little.
The Pakistani Taliban, allied with but separate from the Afghan Taliban, are fighting to overthrow the government and impose a strict version of Islam on the nuclear-armed nation of 180 million people.
They called a ceasefire beginning on March 1 to facilitate the talks but it officially ended on Thursday. It is unclear if the ceasefire will be extended.
Police said in the report that two well-known seminaries would support attacks in the capital and its twin city of Rawalpindi if the talks break down and the military moves against Taliban bases in areas bordering Afghanistan. "If talks between the government and the Taliban fail ... like-minded religious seminaries and mosques have been given the target of fully contributing in carrying out attacks," police said in the report, which was prepared last month.
Police identified two well-known seminaries, or madrasas, on the outskirts of Islamabad. They said the two had already helped launch several attacks, including a 2009 assault on the army's headquarters in Rawalpindi.
One is led by a cleric called Azizur Rehman Hazarvi. It provides "brain washing courses and lessons on sacrificing oneself for jihad", police said in the report.
The other is run by Fazlur Rehman Khalil, who is on a U.S. terror watch-list and signed a 1996 fatwa or decree from Osama bin Laden in which he declared war on the United States.
At Khalil's seminary, commanders provide "jihadi weapons training classes" to students from the ethnic Pashtun tribal areas which have long been militant recruiting grounds, police said.
The two seminaries also host fighters who come to carry out attacks and help with "all last minute preparations", they said. Militant fighters have set themselves up with activists at hardline mosques in Islamabad before. In 2007, more than 100 people were killed when security forces assaulted the Red Mosque in the heart of the capital after well-armed fighters from the tribal areas and followers of the mosque's radical clerics running a Taliban-style movement refused to surrender. Police and government spokesmen declined to comment on the report but security officials who requested not to be identified said the information was correct. One police officer said 20 seminaries in Rawalpindi were being investigated for similar Taliban links.
Khalil denied any connection with the Taliban and said his seminary was being threatened by insurgents for being pro-government. "We openly believe that any attacks against Pakistan are wrong and against Islam," Khalil told Reuters. "Ask the police to show me one arrested person who is linked to my seminary."
The other cleric identified in the report, Hazarvi, was not available for comment.
The Pakistani Taliban spokesman was also not available to comment but a member of the Taliban leadership council said fighters were present in all major cities and would be "unstoppable" if the talks with the government broke down. "If the government attacks us in the tribal areas, we will kill them in the cities," he said. "By the grace of god, the Taliban today are more united and present everywhere."
A bomb in a market on the outskirts of Islamabad on Wednesday killed 24 people. The Taliban denied responsibility.
Despite Khalil's denial of militant links, police say he runs a faction called Ansarul Ummah, which draws support from several groups linked to al Qaeda. Investigators say Ansar is a front for the banned Harkat-ul-Mujahideen that Khalil founded in 1985. Harkat was one of several militant groups patronized by Pakistan's intelligence agencies, who have long considered such groups useful assets in case of war with arch enemy India and in promoting Pakistani interests in neighboring Afghanistan.
A cleric knowledgeable about hardline seminaries said he believed that Khalil had links with the Taliban and described him as a middleman for Taliban and government negotiators. Khalil's role in trying to get talks going has been reported in the media.
Muneebur Rehman, chairman of an alliance of seminaries, dismissed the findings of the police report and asked, if it were true, why authorities had not done anything.
"If this report carries evidence of seminaries collaborating with Taliban for attacks, the government must go ahead and take action," Rehman said.
But security officials say they are often hamstrung because judges are too afraid to sentence militants.
"Khalil has been arrested before but freed for lack of evidence," said a top official. "Is there even one judge in this country who can convict him?"

Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to show his performance instead of making allegations against PPP : Khursheed
Opposition leader in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah, Friday, urged Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to show his performance instead of making allegations against the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). Talking to media persons in Sukkur, the PPP leader lashed out at Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali. Khursheed Shah said commenting on Nisar’s statement is merely a waste of time. “We are no more in the government. You have been elected now,” he said.

Manzoor Wattoo reminds Shahbaz of ‘power antics’
PPP Punjab President Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo has invited Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to jointly set up a camp office close to Minar-i-Pakistan to protest massive loadshedding.
Reminding Shahbaz that he had publicly declared before the May 2013 elections that he would control the loadshedding menace within three to six months otherwise he would change his name.
“Shahbaz should admit his failure and honour his word because loadshedding has gone from bad to worse,” Mr Wattoo said here on Friday.
He said the PML-N government would make people cry this summer because the distribution companies had not purchased the transformers to meet emergency in view of the likely privatisation. “The distribution companies used to purchase transformers in thousands to meet the substantial increase in demand during the summer season as a large number of transfers get damaged due to heavy load,” he said.
Mr Wattoo said the state minister for water and power had failed to check electricity theft which showed his incapability. He pointed out that the government was resorting to over-billing to claim that recovery was going at a satisfactory pace.
These temporary measures would not yield positive results because the crisis situation was bound to surface sooner than later, he said.
Referring to the “mountain of circular debt“, he said it was going up with every passing day because Rs1b loss a day would trigger the crisis to horrendous proportions.