Wednesday, April 23, 2014
President al-Assad to scholars: Clergymen have pivotal role in consolidating true concepts in face of wrong terms
President Bashar al-Assad said Wednesday clergymen and scholars have pivotal role in consolidating true concepts against wrong terms because the most dangerous attempts which target the region and Islamic world are the West attempt to strike ideology and faith in society through gradual change in terms. President al-Assad, meeting a group of scholars, clergymen, mosque preachers, affirmed that stances of clergymen who have showed courage and high national responsibility in face of the big pressures to which they were subjected in order to change their stances or abandon the word of right are appreciated stances.
The President added that scholars' steadfastness was a basic factor in the Syrian society struggle. President al-Assad said an example on the west's attempt to change the terms is to separate Arabism with its human and civilized concept, not ethnics from Islam, aiming at creating a state of destabilization on the social and political levels.
The President affirmed that the plague which hits the Islamic world is the plague of political Islam, adding that its collapse has returned Islam to its normal role, namely, Dawah (inviting for true Islam.) President al-Assad said combating terrorism and extremism won’t be only through condemnation or refutation, but through consolidating principles of true Islam though innovating the religious mentality to keep up with society development through using brain, logic and dialogue which is open to the other, based on conviction, not intimidation.
The President pointed out the basic role of scholars and clergymen in Syria and Bilad al-Sham to achieve this goal in light of the fact that Islam in Bilad al-Sham was and still is the basis which protects the true Islam. President al-Assad affirmed the need for institutionalizing the religious work away from individualism to create a broader vision and overcome mistakes, adding that the first step taken in this regard was establishing jurisprudence of the crisis in order to strengthen the common ideological bases as Muslims in the face of fatwas of sedition which try to divide our societies.
http://www.globaltimes.cn/Is it for containing China? This is a question that will be haunting the whole of East Asia during US President Obama's ongoing trip to this area. Tokyo and Manila hope it is, but the facts will prove it is only their wishful thinking. Obama's four-country visit should have been done last October. But it was delayed because of the debt ceiling crisis and government shutdown. When voices about the US declining are rising dramatically, the top priority of Obama's trip is to reassure its Asian allies to keep their faith in Washington. Washington keeps declaring that it doesn't pick sides in terms of the Sino-Japanese and Sino-Philippine territorial disputes. But it explicitly shows favor for Tokyo and Manila when frictions in these areas take place. Washington tries to kill two birds with one stone by supporting its allies while avoiding irritating China, a delicate way to maintain the balance between business profits and political influence. Obama putting off the October trip has already sent a signal that Asian allies must make way for US domestic affairs. While in order to revive its declining economy, the US depends much more on China than these allies. Washington cannot bear a strategic confrontation of containment and counter-containment with China. China's Asia policy keeps holding the strategic initiative with restraint. Washington and its allies' arrangements to contain China will probably end up in vain. They have no chips to bargain with China. In fact, both the US and its allies are calculating how to benefit from China's growth. China's rise has become the biggest variable in the Asia-Pacific strategic framework. China shows to the world that it is committed to utilizing its power in a peaceful and restrained manner, and the US has also basically recognized a stronger China. These two new developments are shaping a new Asia-Pacific order during China's rise. There will be a new balance in this area, and no countries are able to break it. Obama's rebalance toward Asia is a rearrangement of the US presence in this area to maximize its interests. But the US is not powerful or ambitious enough to contain China in this area, or even strangle China before it rises to be a global power. It is just an illusion for some Asian countries to contain China. In fact, there are many controversies concerning China's rise within the US-led alliance. Japan and the Philippines want a tough stand against China, but are also worried that Asia might become the victim of a Cold War-like confrontation between the US and China. Containing China is a plausible option for several Asian countries, but it will be proven impossible in the real Asian geopolitical game. Obama should know that his actions and remarks during this trip will keep making headlines, but he had better not stir up a situation that is even beyond his own control.
By Khurrum Anis and Augustine Anthony
Transmission of Geo channels have been blocked in many parts of the county. In Hyderabad, transmission has been shut in Saddar and Cantonment areas while in Karachi’s Malir Cantt, numbers of Geo Entertainment and Geo Super have also been changed. Similar complaints were received from Murree where all the channels of Geo have been snapped after directives from the Muree Station Headquarters. All Geo channels have been put on last numbers in Multan city and its Cantonment areas. According to reports, the transmission of Geo has been forcibly shut in different areas of Okara, Peshawar, Quetta and Dera Ghazi Khan.
Japan Times U.S. President Barack Obama arrived Wednesday evening at Haneda airport at the start of a seven-day Asia tour in which he is expected to reaffirm America’s commitment to maintaining regional security. Obama is scheduled to hold a 105-minute summit Thursday with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and is expected to issue a joint statement reaffirming the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance as a stabilizer in the Asia-Pacific region. Obama will stay in Tokyo for 2½ days before moving on to South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines to meet with other top leaders. The cancelation of a previous Asia tour last October raised doubts about U.S. credibility as a regional partner. This trip is seen by many as a test of Obama’s ability to recover his reputation among Asian leaders. Obama, who has been portrayed by his critics as weak in his responses to international crises in Syria and Crimea, will be scrutinized closely by regional powers keen to gauge Washington’s willingness to take a proactive role in his administration’s “rebalancing” strategy, ostensibly designed to counter a resurgent China. In remarks published by the Yomiuri newspaper Wednesday, the president assured Japan that the Senkaku Islands are covered by a long-standing bilateral security treaty that obliges America to come to Japan’s defense. “The policy of the United States is clear — the Senkaku Islands are administered by Japan and therefore fall within the scope of . . . the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security,” Obama said in a written reply to the newspaper. “And we oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands,” he said. Japanese officials in Tokyo have said that, among key pledges, Abe and Obama will reaffirm the strength of the Japan-U.S. military alliance and oppose China’s “one-sided attempt to change the status quo by force,” — an apparent reference to Beijing’s muscle-flexing in the East and South China Seas. The level of detail Obama is willing to give in public — particularly on the U.S. position in relation to the Senkaku Islands dispute — will be a key focus of public attention in Japan. The islets, administrated by Japan but claimed by China, are also known as Diaoyu in Chinese. “We’d like to use (the Obama-Abe meeting as) an opportunity to send out a signal that the Japan-U.S. alliance is playing a leading role to contribute to peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a daily news conference Wednesday morning. “While the security environment in the Asia-Pacific region is becoming severer . . . an attempt to change the status quo with force in the background is not tolerable,” Suga added. Obama is also expected to use the Asia tour as an opportunity to shore up the strained trilateral alliance between the U.S., Japan and South Korea, aimed at maintaining stability in East Asia. “We encourage Japan to continue to work with its neighbors to resolve concerns over history in an amicable way through dialogue,” a U.S. Department of State spokeswoman said Tuesday in Washington during a daily press briefing. “We believe the strong and constructive relations between countries in the region promote peace and stability and are . . . in their interest and the interest of the United States,” she said. Suga appeared to downplay questions over economic issues during a news conference in Tokyo on Wednesday, as negotiators from the two countries continued last-minute efforts to narrow outstanding gaps over the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact. The two countries are unlikely to reach agreements on key issues, including tariffs on U.S. pork and beer exports and Japanese exports of automobiles, before the Obama-Abe meeting on Thursday. “We’d like to strengthen economic ties between Japan and the U.S., too,” Suga said. Obama’s visit as a “state guest” — the highest status afforded to the country’s foreign visitors — has concerned some Japanese diplomats, who appear worried that the U.S. may now be putting less emphasis on its diplomacy with Japan. First lady Michelle Obama will not be accompanying the president on the tour, though her one-week stay in China in March garnered huge amounts of media attention both in China and abroad. Obama’s itinerary in Japan remained unconfirmed as late as April 14. The president had originally planned to stay in Tokyo for just one night, but Washington extended his stay to two nights amid requests from Tokyo. A two-night stay is considered the minimum necessary to accord him the status of “state guest,” and arrange for ceremonies with Emperor Akihito. Speaking during the same news conference, Suga emphasized the significance of Obama’s visit, pointing out that this was the first time in 18 years Japan would be welcoming a U.S. president as a state guest. “This is a symbol showing (the fact) that the Japan-U.S. ties remain unshakable,” he told reporters. “I hope the personal ties (between Obama and Abe) will deepen (during this visit).”
Protests in the Philippines and Japan as Obama begins Asia visit.
http://www.voanews.com/Afghanistan's election commission has delayed releasing preliminary results from the country's April 5 presidential election to allow more time to investigate possible fraud. A vote count was expected on Thursday, but the Independent Election Commission said results will now be released on Saturday. Election officials say the extra time is necessary to ensure that possible irregularities are thoroughly investigated. Some seven million ballots were cast on election day. Partial results put former Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah in the lead with 44 percent followed by former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani with 33 percent. It is unclear whether Abdullah and Ghani will receive more than 50 percent of the vote in order to avoid a second round election. Abdullah was the runner-up in the 2009 election won by President Hamid Karzai, amid allegations of irregularities and ballot fraud. The winner of the April 5 election will replace Karzai who could not run again because of constitutional limits. The next president will oversee a transition during which a majority of international troops will be withdrawing from Afghanistan. Final election results are due to be released on May 14.
Amnesty International released a list of recommendations for Afghanistan's next president on their website Monday evening addressing the basic human rights of the country. In the recommendation to the future president, Amnesty International asks that he support human rights by implementing international treaties to bring justice to the nation. Amnesty International's recommendations were retrieved from their website and the list is as follows:1. Fulfill the Human Rights of Women and Girls This not only means protecting and promoting women's and girls' rights and security, but also supporting women's engagement so that they are not marginalized but are leaders and participants in this transfer of power. Currently, women's human rights defenders face threats, intimidation and attack without adequate government protection. Violence against women and girls continues to be rife across the country and implementation of the Law on Elimination of Violence against Women continues to be limited. The new president must make supporting ALL of women's human rights one of his top priorities. 2. Abolish the Death Penalty Trial proceedings in Afghanistan fall short of international standards of fair trial and by the end of 2013, more than 300 people remained on death row, with 174 death sentences issued in 2013 across Afghanistan. Judicial decisions are largely based on confessions from the accused, which are often coerced, including through torture or other ill-treatment. The new president must take immediate action to end the death penalty in Afghanistan. 3. Fulfilling Afghanistan's International Human Rights Obligations Afghanistan's Constitution explicitly commits it to abide by international conventions that Afghanistan has signed and by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The new president must ensure that Afghanistan abides by international law and support the work of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) to monitor respect for human rights in Afghanistan as well as to foster and protect it. 4. Ensure Accountability for Alleged War Crimes by Afghan and International Forces The new President must ensure that all allegations of civilian casualties and harm resulting from national and international military operations are fully investigated and that a credible independent mechanism to monitor, investigate, report and provide remedy is created. 5. Help Internally Displaced People According to UNHCR, there are around 600,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Afghanistan, largely as a result of the conflict. Many experience multiple human rights violations including forced evictions, inadequate housing and lack of access to affordable food, water, health and education, sometimes leading to further instability in otherwise relatively stable urban areas. The new president must ensure that all necessary measures are taken to minimize displacement in areas affected by military operations; and help expand access for humanitarian actors seeking to meet the emergency needs of all IDPs and displacement-affected communities. 6. End Impunity for Past Human Rights Abuses and War Crimes Inadequate investigations and accountability have hindered justice for past human rights abuses in Afghanistan. The new Afghan president must guarantee prompt, thorough, independent, and impartial judicial investigation of human rights abuses and war crimes, in accordance with international law and standards. 7. Protect and Respect Freedom of Expression The new president must protect and respect freedom of expression in Afghanistan. Since 2001, more than 450 journalists and other media workers in Afghanistan, including 54 in 2013, have been killed, injured, beaten, threatened or detained. Afghan journalists are finding it increasingly difficult to report on cases of corruption and criminal activity by government officials and members of the Afghan parliament, as well as reporting on cases of other human rights violations committed by the Taliban. After the release of the recommendation list, civil and human rights institutions inside Afghanistan call for the government to not only consider, but apply and practice these recommendations. "Based on the Afghan constitution the government is obligated to protect and respect human and civil rights of the citizens," Executive Director of Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said. "Like many other areas of social, cultural and economical issues there must be effective programs to support and develop human rights." Afghanistan Civil Society Foundation (ACSF) also welcomes the proposal asking the government to put it into practice. "Upcoming government must pay close attention and make it a priority to pledge international treaties," Head of Afghanistan Civil Society Foundation (ACSF). Amnesty International adds that Election Day in Afghanistan was successful calling the next five years a chance for great opportunity to implement these recommendations. The next president of Afghanistan is due to start his responsibilities in two months.
The Committee to Protect Journalists is greatly concerned by actions brought by Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) against Geo Television today. In its complaint to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, the ISI accused Geo's parent company, the Independent Media Corporation, of conducting a "false and scandalous campaign undermining the integrity and tarnishing the image of state institution (ISI) and its officers." The media regulator has the authority to shut down broadcasters based on such complaints, and has done so under previous administrations of Pakistan. "We call on the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority not to act on this spurious complaint, and we call on Pakistan's security services to recognize the critical role of the media and exercise tolerance and maturity," said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator. "The ISI is free to rebut allegations in the media but should not try to censor coverage." Tension between Pakistan's military and intelligence communities and much of the media swiftly escalated following an assassination attempt on Geo TV anchor Hamid Mir on April 19. Mir was hit with six rounds from assailants on motorcycles as his car was traveling between Karachi's airport and the center of the city. Mir is severely wounded and recovering in the hospital. Geo TV has broadcast accusations that the ISI was involved in the murder attempt.
Pakistan's Defense Ministry has requested the country's top-rated television station be closed after the station alleged that Pakistan's intelligence agency was behind the attempted killing of a leading journalist. The ministry wrote to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority late on April 22 asking that it cancel the broadcasting license of Geo television. The ministry complained about broadcasts on Geo that alleged that the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) agency was connected to an assassination attempt on the station's popular talk-show host, Hamid Mir. Mir was shot three times while in his car on April 19 and is currently recovering in a hospital. The New York-based watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists posted a copy of the Defense Ministry's letter on its website that accuses Geo of launching "a vicious campaign, libelous and scandalous in nature."
http://en.shiapost.com/At least three more Shia Muslims have been martyred by Deobandi Takfiri terrorists of Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhagvi in different parts of Pakistan, The Shia Post reported on April 23, 2014. KARACHI: A Shia Muslim Ejaz Hussain s/o Najaf Shah, aged-36, was shot martyred afterhe was attacked in Nusrat Bhutto Colony area. The martyr was traveling to his duty as a Bank Manager. He was resident of Gilgit-Biltistan. His funeral prayer was offered at Miyanwali Colony Gilgiti Muhalla area of Karachi after Zohrain Prayer. DERA ISMAIL KHAN: In village Shah-Dawo area of Tehsil Paharpur the terrorists of Pro-Taliban Lashkar-e-Jhagvi killed a Shia Muslim Nazar Abbas. According to reports, a Shia Muslim Moharram ali has been abducted by Sipah-e-Sahaba (ASWJ) terrorists. FAISALABAD: The Takfiri Deobandi/ Wahabi pro-Taliban terrorists of banned Sipah-e-Sahaba shot martyred a Shia Youth Syed Ahsan Zaidi in Ghokowal area. The martyr was attacked on his shop. Last years two Shia brothers Jafar Ali Hyder Ali were also shot martyred at the same location.
Pakistan: Chairman of Baloch student Organisation abducted, comrades announce hunger strike till death
http://balochwarna.com/Senior Chairperson of the Baloch Student Organisation (Azad), Banuk Karima Baloch, revealed on Tuesday that the chairman of BSO-Azad, Zahid Kurd Baloch, has been abducted from Quetta on 18 March 2014. She said Zahid Baloch was abducted during a raid on a political meeting of the Organisation. She expressed these during a press conference outside Karachi Press Club where they set up a hunger strike on to death protest camp for the release of their chairman. She said, “We expect you [media/journalists] to make our voices heard in the right mediums around the world.” She added, “Baloch Students Organization - Azad (BSO-A) is a progressive democratic student organization that believes in peaceful struggle and has been striving for the Baloch rights including the right for freedom. In the struggle for these aims, BSO-Azad has been clear and open on its strategy since day one; which is, not only believing and advocating peaceful democratic struggle but also becoming an exemplary lead in it. “Although BSO-Azad has been strictly committed to its democratic struggle, powerful Pakistani state elements could never tolerate our mere existence. From past 5 years, there has been an unannounced deadly crackdown against BSO-Azad that has left hundreds of our peaceful activists being abducted and dozens extra judicially murdered. In addition, BSO-Azad has also been unlawfully banned to carry out any political activity. Despite all of these brutalities, BSO-Azad has not compromised on its principal of peaceful democratic struggle. “On March 18, 2014 at 5pm, Pakistani secret agencies and security forces abducted BSO-Azad Chairman Zahid Baloch also known as Baloch Khan from Quetta. I, along three other senior members of BSO-Azad are eyewitnesses to this incident of forced disappearance. Zahid Baloch was abducted in presence of dozens of other independent eye-witnesses. We did not disclose about his abduction because we hoped that they would bring him to surface at some point.” She said the Organisation was deeply concerned about Chairman Zahid Baloch's safety because life is under serious threat. She urged the UN and world organizations to play there vital role in safe recovery of all BSO-Azad leaders. She said: “After several CC meetings and thorough debates and discussions, BSO-Azad has decided to sit on a hunger strike till death protest against the abduction of student leader Zahid Baloch. This hunger strike till death will continue until Chairman Zahid Baloch is not recovered. “We urge the UN to assure protection of our hunger strike protesters as this is part of our peaceful democratic struggle. We urge world groups to build pressure on Pakistan and insure safe recovery of student leader Zahid Baloch.”
While much of the media, public, and politicians’ attention in recent days has centred on the attack on one prominent anchor from one prominent media house, the country’s ‘existential war’ against terrorism seems near forgotten. But a deadly reminder came this week in the form of an explosion near a police vehicle in Charsadda, killing three people and leaving over 30, including 14 policemen, injured. While scores of people were at the Tehsil Bazar when the explosion occurred, the target of the attack was clearly the police. Indeed, the attack is being seen as part of a larger campaign against police patrol teams who are visible, who are everywhere and who are not heavily armed - not just in Charsadda but all over Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and across the country. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast, but suspicion has fallen on Pakistani Taliban insurgents who often target law enforcement forces and public places with bombings and shooting attacks. The police are no match for the well-armed, well-trained, battle-hardened militants. Twelve years into the war on militancy, Pakistan’s police are chronically under-funded. This year’s federal budget gave the military about $6 billion and the police $686 million, a lopsided allocation mirrored in the disbursement of foreign aid. How many more such attacks will occur before the state decides to take note? For how long will the people of these troubled areas be left to defend themselves in a lop-sided battle they have little chance of winning? At a moment when the Taliban have called off their ceasefire with the government, shouldn’t the state be better prepared for such attacks? For a country in the stranglehold of terrorist violence, the police cannot remain under-equipped and poorly trained. The government can only stamp out terror if it invests in the police.
Who shot Hamid Mir? Amidst the condemnations, the recriminations, the fighting and the posturing this one essential question has been lost in the din. Everyone from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on down has had their say and most have come down on the side of justice and truth. Nawaz visited the Aga Khan Hospital to inquire after Mir’s health and promised to bring his attackers to justice. The Senate, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies passed resolutions condemning the attack and a judicial commission comprising three Supreme Court justices have been tasked with investigating the incident. Many everyday working journalists have taken to the streets protesting this obvious attempt to silence the media. All this should be reassuring, not just to Hamid Mir himself, but to the entire journalist community. Today it is Hamid Mir whose life is under threat; tomorrow it could be any one of us. But even though those in power have said the right things, there are many reasons to be wary. The biggest disappointment has been the reaction of small-minded media organisations – and some ‘journalists’ – who have used the near-death of one from their fraternity to push forward their agendas in the name of patriotism. The vendetta being pursued has reached such unprecedented heights that an experienced and veteran journalist like Imtiaz Alam, someone who has survived the many periods of media repression and has the scars to show for it, felt compelled to resign from his position as a talk-show host rather than be used in service of maligning a fellow journalist. The response from the military has been no better. The mere mention of the dreaded ISI was enough for the military apparatus to spring into action. The ISI is more concerned with protecting its own reputation and insisting that criticising it is out of bounds rather than finding those behind the attack so that its name can be cleared. Army Chief Raheel Sharif’s visit to the ISI headquarters seems designed to support the agency at a time when its performance and actions are getting a public airing. Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed has tried to play down talk of a civilian-military rift with the good intention of not letting things get worse. But for once state institutions need to move beyond their parochial interests. Who shot Hamid Mir? That is the only question everyone should be trying to answer.
Freedom comes at a price, but for the media in Pakistan the price is rather high, almost unaffordable. Since 1992 about 80 journalists have been murdered and many more injured - an unenviable distinction that puts our country among the most dangerous places in the world for working journalists. And the irony is that no one gets caught and punished. Whether the judicial commission set up to investigate the murder attempt on the life of television anchorperson Hamid Mir will help bring to book the criminals we are not optimistic, given the track record of such moves. If anyone involved in killing a journalist or attacking a media house was ever punished there is no example. Of course, there is all the fury and fulmination over such incidents but nothing happens the day after, till there is another such ghastly incident. But this must come to an end. Media acts as the lungs of society and in today's Pakistan its role is all the more critical. Given the enormity of challenges to the lives of people - ranging from misconceived national 'interests' to political pressures to evil designs of the underworld - journalists and media houses are in the line of fire. But there is no escape for them from this high-risk obligation. So let this be the test case for the media to secure its constitutional right of informing the people and for the government to decide how far it can go in delivering on its constitutional responsibility to ensure the media's right to inform and the peoples' right to be informed. But how to go about it, for reasons not yet clear there are problems from the very word go. Within minutes of the incident the media house to which Mir worked for started accusing the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate particularly its head Lieutenant General Zaheerul Islam of masterminding the murderous attack. And, for that it copiously cited his brother and some of his colleagues with whom he had purportedly shared his fears. To an average viewer this was a bit unprofessional, in that a premier media outlet was maligning the country's premier intelligence agency and its chief even before the aggrieved party had filed its complaint with the police. Probably, finding it no more digestible the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) department which speaks for the armed forces and its branches including the ISI directorate returned the fire. Curtly rejecting this wild allegation the ISPR questioned its authenticity and warned that 'legal and constitutional litigation against this shameful allegation' was being deliberated. No less significantly, it asserted that the allegation by the concerned media outlet has 'resulted in gross insult and degrading of the army as an institution'. Realising, perhaps, that its channel has overplayed its hand, the media group issued a statement which 'clarified that it has not put the blame on any institution or section of any institution (read ISI)'. And that 'Mir had sent written and video statements to his colleagues and friends and members of family where security risks and threats to his life had been clearly identified... has been categorical in stating that some individuals in the security agencies have been after him for a while'. So, in essence, while the media group has disowned any role as a media house in what was broadcast by it, but has not disowned Mir's fears. Therefore, it is important that the ISI should help find the truth in the matter. It's just possible that having learnt that Mir has sent a video to a world body of journalists, accusing ISI of planning to harm him and whether some third-party or rival foreign intelligence outfit attacked him rightly assuming that ISI will earn the flak - who knows. For a change, therefore, the inquiry commission should seek help from all relevant quarters including the ISI and make public its verdict within the three-week mandated timeframe.
A three-member committee has been formed by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to review the application filed by the Defence Ministry against Geo TV network for alleging that an intelligence agency of Pakistan was involved in attack over its anchor Hamid Mir, a private news channel reported. On Tuesday, the Defence Ministry had moved PEMRA under PEMRA Ordinance 2002, section 33 and 36 for taking a legal action against Geo TV for framing allegations against Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). According to a statement, the ministry also provided the authority with the relevant evidence suggesting the media group’s involvement in tarnishing the image of the intelligence agency. “The news channel has breached the code of conduct by accusing Director General (DG) of the ISI Lt. Gen. Zaheerul Islam of masterminding the attempt on senior journalist Hamid Mir,” the statement said. It added that action would be taken against the channel’s editorial and management team. The PEMRA committee formed includes Pervez Rathore, Syed Ismail Shah and Israr Abbas. They will be reviewing the application and report to PEMRA with the facts. According to PEMRA officials, Geo TV network would be provided a full opportunity for explanation of the actions it is being charged for. On Saturday, Geo News’s anchorperson Hamid Mir was injured in attack by gunmen in Karachi. Geo News had showed a portrait of the ISI Chief Lt. General Zaheerul Islam, alleging that his agency was involved in the attack on Mir.
The Express TribuneDisgruntled MPAs of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have decided to boycott parliamentary committee meetings until their grievances are addressed, The Express Tribune learnt on Tuesday. According to sources privy to a meeting, the pressure group has objections over two major portfolios given to PTI’s coalition partners in the government. The insider added a meeting was held among four pressure group lawmakers on Monday in the chambers of the assembly’s deputy speaker in which the MPAs expressed reservations on the allocation of portfolios. “The disgruntled members claim that by giving two major portfolios to coalition partners, PTI will have to face the public’s resentment,” the insider added. Requesting anonymity, a PTI MPA said the people of K-P gave PTI the mandate but the credit of governance will go to Awami Jamhoori Ittehad Pakistan (AJIP) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) since they have the health and local government ministries, respectively. “Are we not competent enough to run the health ministry,” the unhappy lawmaker questioned. He added the pressure group members will not attend meetings of parliamentary committees until their grievances are addressed. “Imran Khan promised that our issues will be addressed in three months, and notifications of the appointment of newly-inducted ministers into the provincial cabinet will be put on hold,” said the lawmaker. “People have expectations from us (PTI) but we will never be able to facilitate them, particularly in the matters of health and local government. This will be detrimental for us,” he added. Another PTI legislator said, “Our resignations are still with the deputy speaker and whenever we feel that we are being taken lightly, we will not hesitate to give a green signal to the deputy speaker to accept them.” “If one MPA leaves the assembly, the entire group will follow,” he added, reiterating the pressure group’s pledge.
The Express TribuneAs if the healthcare services available in the garrison city’s government hospitals were not already problematic, a dire shortage of nursing staff is making matters worse. Data provided by hospital administrations reveals that the nurse-to-patient ratio in the three hospitals ranges from 1:12 to 1:16 during duty hours. Speaking to The Express Tribune, Nursing Superintendent Mumtaz Begum of Benazir Bhutto Hospital said that the general wards were understaffed to the extent that only one nurse was on duty. “According to the Pakistan Nursing Council (PNC) criterion, there should be one nurse for 10 beds in general, and six nurses per patient in critical areas such as the intensive care unit, coronary care unit, emergency, dialysis and operation theatres. But here, one nurse is looking after two to five patients,” said Mumtaz. The 400-bed hospital has 155 sanctioned nursing posts, six of which are lying vacant. Moreover, 12 posts for head nurses out of a total of 26 have not been filled. The data provided shows that 4,000 patients visit the hospital daily. “On average, 300 patients are admitted every day, while 1,200 patients are treated in the emergency wards daily,” said Deputy Medical Superintendent Dr Muhammad Asif Raza Chauhan. “Each nurse is performing the duties of five nurses which is unfair on them and violates rules and regulations,” said a senior doctor at Benazir Bhutto Hospital, requesting anonymity. Considered the biggest medical facility of the city, Holy Family Hospital is also grappling with the overarching dearth of nursing staff. According to hospital records, the 864-bed facility treated around 1 million patients last year. It receives 1,500 patients daily, while 250 to 300 patients are admitted on a daily basis. There are currently 269 vacant posts, while 800 nurses are required. District Headquarters Hospital Deputy Medical Superintendent Dr Ijaz Sohail Chaudhry said, “Keeping in view the number of patients the hospital receives, the number of nursing staff is disproportionately low.” There are 120 nurses in the hospital, although it receives the bulk of the city’s patients relative to other hospitals, he added. However, he was unable to quote accurate figures. Earlier, Health Adviser to the Punjab Chief Minister Khwaja Salman Rafique had claimed during a press conference in Rawalpindi that at least 13,000 nurses will be recruited for hospitals across the province to improve health services. Citing this claim, the hospitals administrations have demanded the provincial government to start recruitment at the earliest to ensure the efficient provision of proper healthcare facilities. According to the PNC website, there are 24 public health nursing schools in the private and public sectors offering basic nursing health programmes. A report uploaded on the website mentions that one college of nursing was established in 1951, after which it took 30 years to add more. Three additional colleges were set up in late 1981, while another was established in 2001. It also mentions that over 2,000 registered nurses, 1,200 midwives and 300 plus lady health visitors are trained in the country every year.
THE Punjab government, in response to a report in this newspaper, has furnished statistics pertaining to the last six months to show its commitment to tracking down militants and pursuing sectarian groups and hate-mongers in the province. It has also said that 3,500 cases have been registered against those who have resorted to activities such as delivering incendiary speeches and spreading hate literature. The official statistics and an accompanying statement, however, fail to inform us of what action it has taken on the piles of intelligence reports at its disposal about the growth of ‘sleeper’ cells of weapons-trained militants. There has also been the issue of allegations of an unannounced alliance forged by the ruling PML-N with a sectarian group made up of members of a proscribed outfit, ostensibly to ensure peace in the province. True, there has been some positive activity in recent weeks. The provincial police have reportedly traced and arrested perpetrators involved in some high-profile attacks — but the government has yet to crack down on militants and sectarian organisations operating out of the province. For instance, no action has been taken to remove sectarian slogans scribbled on walls across the province, including major cities such as Lahore and Multan. Banned organisations collect funds with impunity and, in certain cases, act as final arbitrators in commercial and family disputes. Hate speeches are common and sectarian literature is distributed without fear of action. Other provinces may face the same situation, but that has to change, with Punjab showing equal resolve to deal with the problem as any other. Punjab is the ‘birthplace’ of many sectarian and militant organisations. In the 1990s, it was at the centre of sectarian violence in the country. Violence has significantly declined in the province since the mid 2000s, but the militant organisations based in Punjab have grown both in size and operational capabilities and entrenched themselves deep in many parts. These organisations have cultivated close links with the banned Taliban in the tribal areas of Pakistan as well as in Afghanistan, and export cadres as well as violence to other parts of the country. In fact, some analysts argue, militancy in Punjab has elevated itself to an ideological phenomenon as violence has shifted to the conflict areas of the country. Or why would the strongest voices denouncing a military operation against the Taliban rise from here? The battle against militancy and sectarianism in Punjab cannot be won through half-hearted action. The government will have to increase its intelligence-gathering capacity and undertake a full-fledged operation to break up the underground networks of militant groups. More importantly, this fight will have to be fought on the ideological front as well.
News of our excesses has come out of Chaghai, Balochistan where, instead of preserving endangered wildlife, we are making every effort to wipe it off the face of the earth. It appears a Saudi prince has had the perverse ‘pleasure’ of hunting down as many as 2,100 Houbara Bustards in as little as 21 days, meaning that as many as 100 birds a day were killed for nothing more than ‘sport’. The prince apparently killed 1,977 birds and the remaining 123 were killed by other members of his entourage. The Houbara Bustard is a protected species and lives in wildlife preserves in Balochistan declared protected and safe areas. However, the prince also poached this bird in these protected areas. One would be forgiven for asking how this could even be possible but, lo and behold, the government has given these Saudi (and other Gulf) royals special permits allowing them to hunt the endangered bird. While in the larger scheme of things, considering the turmoil this country is going through, the issue may seem small to many, but it is the most befitting example of how we allow anyone of Saudi (or Gulf) descent to trample all over our sovereignty and right to protect what is ours. This is through no other fault but our own for not having the sense to protect this precious bird. This news has reached the media because of a report submitted by a divisional forest officer, detailing the hunting trip from January 11 to 31, 2014, right down to the number of birds killed per day. We should be thankful to this officer for revealing just how accommodating our governments are when it comes to pleasing the Arab sheikhs who have been given free rein to hunt the Houbara Bustard on our lands for years now. This is ironic considering that in their own countries, the Arab princes have declared the bustard a protected species and such violations are never allowed to occur. One wonders what the fate of the officer who compiled this report will be. It is not uncommon in our country to see people who do their job honestly and with a conscience get punished instead of rewarded. There are rumours that he has been ‘transferred’ from the forest department; one can only imagine his plight. The hunting of the threatened Houbara Bustard must come to an end; we must show some humanity and stop this butchery by our Gulf ‘friends’.