Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Video: Deadly Tornado Outbreak Tears Across South

George Clooney's Fiancée Is a Human Rights All Star – And She Should Speak Up on Bahrain

By Sara Yasin
It looks like George Clooney, the man famed for being a confirmed bachelor, will be marrying hot shot human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin.
It's the stuff that romantic comedies are made of: A hunky Hollywood playboy with a long list of ex-girlfriends finally decides to settle down after a whirlwind courtship with a brainy, accomplished and beautiful human rights lawyer.
News of the engagment has, of course, meant a dig into Alamuddin's past and the 36-year-old's long list of impressive accomplishments that make it clear that Clooney is the one that's marrying up: She graduated from Oxford, has a law degree from NYU and worked on some high profile human rights cases, including those of controversial Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
But there's one potential spot on her human rights record: Alamuddin served as a legal adviser to Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa back in 2011, when the government commissioned an inquiry into human rights abuses following a violent crackdown on popular protests that first began on February 14 of that year, called the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI).
Since then, it's become clear that the BICI, and its subsequent report, were used to whitewash the country's human rights situation. According to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, 95 people have been killed by security forces since the start of unrest and more than 30 of those have happened since the report's release.
The country still sees clashes between security forces and protesters, and the question of torture, as documented in the government BICI report, has yet to be adequately addressed according to Human Rights Watch. In fact, according to Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, none of the report's 176 recommendations have been fully implemented.
Alamuddin is no longer a legal adviser to Bahrain's king, but she co-authored a book arguing for an Arab Court for Human Rights, which will be based in Bahrain — a move that is certainly eyebrow-raising, given the country's human rights record.
According to pro-government newspaper Gulf Daily News, Alamuddin was part of a training program in Bahrain to "help professionals in Bahrain's judicial system achieve international standards in human rights law."
Those are the very same courts that have yet to offer concrete justice for victims of human rights abuses. According to a Human Rights Watch report released in 2012, entitled "No Justice in Bahrain," "grossly unfair military and civilian trials have been a core element in Bahrain’s crackdown on pro-democracy protests."
Alamuddin has the ear of the Bahraini government, as well as the eyes of the world. She's been working on serious human rights issues in Syria, as well as on drones. Perhaps it is time for her to press Bahrain to take its human rights violations seriously too.

State Dept: Kerry regrets ‘apartheid’ word choice, not sentiment

‘We’re in a holding period now that Israel has suspended peace talks,’ says spokeswoman, as April 29 deadline for peace deal passes.
US Secretary of State John Kerry’s late-night statement Monday on his use of the word “apartheid” came in light of the unfair and inaccurate spin placed on his employment of the incendiary term, State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said Tuesday. Amid a firestorm of criticism from Jewish groups and US legislators alike, Kerry had acknowledged Monday that, “If I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two-state solution.
At the same time, Psaki defended the message behind Kerry’s original Friday evening comments. “He doesn’t disagree with the notion that many Israeli leaders have stated, regarding their concerns about a unitary state and a range of impacts that it could have,” Psaki said.
Speaking to the non-governmental Trilateral Commission, Kerry warned Friday that “a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens — or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state.”
His comments were attacked by a wide spectrum of Jewish organizations, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called for Kerry’s immediate resignation. Some right-wing Israeli MKs also castigated Kerry for using “apartheid” in the context of Israel.
The US secretary, Psaki said Tuesday, regretted his word choice but not necessarily the sentiment.
“He knows that the power of words can create a misimpression, even if it is unintentional,” she said. “He is not naïve about the games played in Washington. Many people used his comments out of context to distort his records.”
“Perception is important,” Psaki elaborated. “The fact that people were perceiving his comments as a lack of support for Israel it is absurd and inaccurate and something we couldn’t allow to stand.” During a regularly scheduled press briefing, Psaki also commented on the fate of the peace process. April 29 was the target date originally conceived for the achievement of a final agreement, when the sides agreed to resume talks last summer.
Over time, it became increasingly clear that a final agreement was impossible within the original nine-month framework, but US interlocutors still hoped that the sides would agree to continue talks — and possibly agree on an interim framework — by the late-April deadline.
Last week’s announcement of plans to form a Palestinian unity government with Hamas and Israel’s ensuing decision to freeze talks put a damper on those plans.
“There is nothing special about the [April] date now, given that Israel suspended negotiations,” Psaki reflected. “We reached a point in which a pause is necessary. We are in a holding period.”
Still, Psaki stressed, Kerry “has not a moment of regret about every ounce of time he’s spent on this effort.”
“He continues to believe that a peace process is to the benefit of the Palestinian and Israeli people and the American people,” she said, adding that he will resume wholehearted involvement should both sides be ready to “make the decisions that are necessary.”
Although she stressed that the sides had made progress during the nine months of talks, Psaki said that she was not aware of any plans to bring the American negotiations team led by Ambassador Martin Indyk back to the region.
Read more: State Dept: Kerry regrets 'apartheid' word choice, not sentiment | The Times of Israel http://www.timesofisrael.com/state-dept-kerry-regrets-word-choice-not-sentiment/#ixzz30KwThtG9 Follow us: @timesofisrael on Twitter | timesofisrael on Facebook

U.S.-Russia war of words on Ukraine

U.S. and Poland launch military exercises as a war of words heightens between Washington and Moscow over Ukraine.

Second set of US sanctions against Russia not related to situation in Ukraine

The EU's new sanctions against Russia can be explained by the fact that Europe is trying to find those responsible for the processes ongoing in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said. New EU sanctions against Russia occur as Europe is trying to find someone to blame for the processes taking place in Ukraine. "As for the second set, it is not even clear what it is about, I can hardly explain what is the reason for it, because there is no link between what is happening now in Ukraine and Russia", Putin told reporters.
He expressed his view that the Western partners "used the force scenario to find solution to the Ukrainian crisis, and then realized what it leads to. So they are trying to find someone to blame now." "But I have to say that Russia has nothing to do with it," said Putin.
The President has again criticized the West in the absence of logic. "I consider the first so-called set to be an unfriendly and illegal act in relation to Russia, which is certainly detrimental to the US-Russian and Russian-European relations. It is absolutely obvious when we talk about the second set", Putin said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin believes there is no need for Russia to impose its own sanctions on the EU and the US in response to their sanctions against Russia but warns of their possible consequences for Western companies' presence in the key sectors of the Russian economy.
"The government has already proposed some response steps, and I think there is no need for this. But if something of the sort continues, we will certainly have to see carefully who works in the key sectors of the Russian economy and how, including in the energy sector," Putin said in taking questions from journalists following a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Minsk on Tuesday.
"We really wouldn't like to resort to any response steps, and I hope this won't be necessary," he said.
Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_04_29/Second-set-of-US-sanctions-against-Russia-not-related-to-situation-in-Ukraine-Putin-4642/

Ukraine separatists seize second provincial capital, fire on police

Hundreds of pro-Moscow separatists stormed government buildings in one of Ukraine's provincial capitals on Tuesday and fired on police holed up in a regional headquarters, a major escalation of their revolt despite new Western sanctions on Russia.
New U.S. and EU sanctions packages, announced with fanfare, were seen as so mild that Russian share prices rose in relief. A small number of names were added to existing blacklists, while threats to take more serious measures were put on hold.
Nevertheless, Russian President Vladimir Putin responded by threatening to reconsider Western participation in energy deals in Russia, the world's biggest oil producer, where most major U.S. and European oil companies have extensive projects.
Demonstrators smashed their way into the provincial government headquarters in Luhansk, Ukraine's easternmost province, which abuts the Russian border, and raised separatist flags over the building, while police did nothing to interfere.
As night fell, about 20 rebel gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons and threw stun grenades at the headquarters of the region's police, trying to force those inside to surrender their weapons, a Reuters photographer at the scene said.
"The regional leadership does not control its police force," said Stanislav Rechynsky, an aide to Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, referring to events in Luhansk. "The local police did nothing."
The rebels also seized the prosecutor's office and the television center.
The separatist operation in Luhansk appears to give the pro-Moscow rebels control of a second provincial capital. They already control much of neighboring Donetsk province, where they have proclaimed an independent "People's Republic of Donetsk" and declared a referendum on secession for May 11.
The rebels include local youths armed with clubs and chains, as well as "green men" - heavily armed masked men in military uniforms without insignia.
Adding control of Luhansk would give them sway over the entire Donbass coalfield - an unbroken swath of territory adjacent to Russia - where giant steel smelters and heavy plants account for around a third of Ukraine's industrial output. It is the heart of a region that Putin described earlier this month as "New Russia", reviving a term from when the tsars conquered it in the 18th and 19th centuries. Most people who live in the area now identify themselves as Ukrainians but speak Russian as their first language.
Ukraine, a country of 45 million people the size of France, has a thousand-year history as a state but has spent much of the last few centuries under the shadow of its larger neighbor. It emerged as a modern independent nation after the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, with borders drawn up by Bolshevik commissars from territory previously ruled by Russia, Poland and Austria.
Its current crisis erupted after a pro-Russian president was toppled in February in a popular uprising. Within days, Putin had declared the right to use military force and dispatched his undercover troops to seize Crimea.
The United States and European Union accuse Moscow of directing the uprising with the intent of dismembering Ukraine.
"Today, Russia seeks to change the security landscape of eastern and central Europe," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a speech on Tuesday. "Whatever path Russia chooses, the United States and our allies will stand together in our defense of Ukraine."
Nevertheless, U.S. and European officials have repeatedly made clear they will not consider military action. The U.S. embassy in Kiev described the behavior of pro-Russian activists - who also attacked a rally of Kiev supporters on Monday with clubs and iron bars, and are holding dozens of hostages including seven unarmed European military monitors - as "terrorism, pure and simple". U.S. President Barack Obama, announcing new sanctions on Monday, said they were intended to change Putin's "calculus".
But so far they have shown no sign of restraining the Kremlin leader, who overturned decades of post-Cold War diplomacy last month to seize and annex Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula and has since massed tens of thousands of troops on the frontier. Russia has openly threatened to invade to protect Russian speakers, though it denies that it plans to do so.
Putin threatened on Tuesday to review the role of Western firms in Russian energy deals.
"We would very much wish not to resort to any measures in response. I hope we won't get to that point," Putin told reporters after meeting leaders of Belarus and Kazakhstan.
"But if something like that continues, we will of course have to think about who is working in the key sectors of the Russian economy, including the energy sector, and how."
Russia's RTS stock index rose 1.23 percent on Tuesday in relief that the latest EU and U.S. sanctions were so modest.

Saudi court upholds sentence against female driver

A Saudi appeals court has upheld a controversial sentence against a woman simply for driving a car.
On Monday, the court in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh upheld a previous sentence to jail the woman for eight months. The woman was also sentenced to 150 lashes.
She was additionally charged with resisting arrest and violence against police officers who detained her.
Although there is no specific law that bans women from driving in Saudi Arabia, women simply cannot apply for driving licenses and some have been arrested for driving.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are prohibited from driving. The medieval ban is a religious fatwa imposed by the country’s Wahhabi clerics. If women get behind the wheel in the kingdom, they may be arrested, sent to court and even flogged.
Supporters of the ban say allowing women to drive will threaten public morality and encourage them to mix freely in public.
Saudi women have, on many occasions, defied the ban in protest, calling on authorities to not deny them their basic rights.
In 2011, dozens of women took part in a campaign, dubbed Women2Drive, challenging the ban. They posted on internet social networks pictures and videos of themselves while driving.
In 1991, authorities stopped 47 women who got behind the wheel in a demonstration against the driving ban. After being arrested, many were further punished by being banned from travel and suspended from their workplaces.

Moscow asserts right to respond to US sanctions

Moscow retains the right to respond to sanctions imposed by Washington, but cooperation between the two countries is still possible, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday. "Russia retains its right to appropriately respond to the unfriendly steps against [Russia], including the introduction of any kind of sanction limitations against the Americans," according to a statement published on the Russian Foreign Ministry's website.
"At the same time, we believe that bilateral cooperation will be needed to resolve a wide range of issues on the international agenda and settle the crisis in various regions in the world," the statement said.
On Monday, the United States imposed sanctions, including asset freezes and visa bans, against 7 Russian individuals and 17 Russian companies linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin's "inner circle".
"The European Union followed the US move on Tuesday, announcing sanctions on 15 additional Russian and Ukrainian officials. Most of those listed in the EU sanctions expanded on the US list. Moscow has repeatedly warned that talking in the language of sanctions is "inappropriate and counterproductive" and warned its Western partners about the "boomerang effect" that sanctions would have.
Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_04_29/Moscow-asserts-right-to-respond-to-US-sanctions-Russias-FM-6353/

Russia Criticizes Western Sanctions

President Obama Holds a Press Conference with President Aquino of the Philippines

Pakistan: TTP kidnapped my son to avenge Swat operation, says Gillani

Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani said that his son Ali Haider Gillani was kidnapped to avenge the Swat Operation, a private news channel reported on Tuesday. Speaking to media in Lahore, former PM Yousuf Raza Gillani said that the release of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) captives as part of the peace process was a one-sided act. He added that Taliban told him that they are avenging the operation carried out in Swat. Gillani demanded Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to bring the video tape of Ali Haider in front of the masses. He claimed that he also has a video that will be surfaced soon. Gilani claimed that government and Army were not on same page and he demanded of the government to show another video of his son. He added that the video of my son was shown to give ‘clean-chit’ to Taliban, and spoiled my son’s case.
He further said that his son was also included in the list of missing persons and he can understand the feelings of families of missing persons.


By Tushar Ranjan Mohanty
Five Policemen and a civilian were killed in an attack at the Zangli Checkpost on the Kohat-Peshawar road in the Badhaber area of Peshawar, the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), on April 21, 2014. KP Inspector General of Police (IGP) Nasir Khan Durrani asserted, on April 22, that the Badhaber attack was a repercussion of the Police’s search operation against terrorists on the outskirts of Peshawar. Police arrested several injured people from Peshawar hospitals in connection with the attack. Sources in the local Police claimed that all the suspects had bullets injuries and belonged to the Khyber Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
Elsewhere in the province, on the same day, a Police mobile van was targeted by an improvised explosive device (IED) at Farooq Azam Chowk in the Tehsil Bazaar of Charsadda town. At least three persons, including two Policemen, were killed and another 30 were injured in the explosion. District Police Officer Charsadda, Shafiullah Khan, disclosed that the explosive material had been planted in a motorcycle and the Police mobile van was the primary target. The dead also included a shopkeeper.
Further, on April 27, a Police constable, Siraj Gul, was killed while another constable, Akhtar Ali, was injured, when unidentified militants attacked them near the Bakhshu Pul area under the jurisdiction of Khazana Police Station in Peshawar. Senior Superintendent of Police-Operations, Najibur Rehman, lamented that Police personnel were deployed at spots where they were targets for terrorists due to the lack of protective gear, including helmets and bullet-proof jackets.
Meanwhile, on April 21 itself, the Provincial Police Department sought authority from the Federal Government to carry out operations in the tribal areas outside the Province. IGP Durrani stated that the long boundary from Bajaur Agency up to the South Waziristan Agency posed a serious problem for the settled towns of KP. Anybody could enter the settled areas and launch a terrorist attack, but Police pursuing them had to stop when they reached the FATA tribal belt.
The attack on the Police again demonstrated that, no matter how far the Government went with the peace-talk with the terrorists, the threat to the Police remained the same, even as gaping loopholes in the security arrangements persisted. Nevertheless, IGP Durrani asserted, on March 28, 2014, that the KP Police was ready to respond to any security threat in case peace negotiations with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) failed.
The Police, however, have been ineffectual in containing the terrorist campaign. On March 14, 2014, for instance, 11 persons were killed and another 45 were injured in a suicide attack targeting the Police in the Sarband area of Peshawar. Despite the ongoing Government-TTP peace-talks, a TTP splinter group, Ahrar-ul-Hind (AH) claimed responsibility for the attack. “We claim both Peshawar and Quetta attacks,” AH ‘chief’ Umar Qasmi declared, “We don’t abide by these talks and will continue to stage attacks.”
The TTP’s ceasefire which started on March 1, ended on April 10, with the terror group’s leaders alleging that there was “no positive response” from the Government. However, there was a series of attacks on the SFs during the ceasefire period as well. According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), 40 Policemen were killed and another 86 were injured in 23 incidents of terrorist attack on the Police in the first four months of 2014 in KP. Of these, three incidents occurred during the ceasefire period, including one suicide attack in which 14 Policemen were killed and 45 others were injured.
Overall terrorism-related fatalities in KP had been declining after 2010, but this trend was reversed in 2013. According to SATP’s partial data, KP saw at least 936 fatalities, including 603 civilians, 172 SF personnel and 161 terrorists, in 210 incidents of killing in 2013, as compared 656 fatalities, including 363 civilians, 195 militants and 98 SF personnel, in 170 such incidents, in 2012. The first four months of 2014 have already recorded 247 killings, including 151 civilians, 64 SF personnel and 32 terrorists, in 80 incidents of killing.
With total SF fatalities rising from 98 in 2012 to 172 in 2013, the number of KP Policemen killed also increased from 58 in 2012 to 91 in 2013. Out of 64 SF personnel killed in first four months of 2014, 40 are KP Policemen.
Since the start of Army operation in KP’s Swat Valley in 2009, a sizable number of Army troops have also been operating in Swat, Malakand, Dir, Buner and Shangla (exact numbers are not available). On September 14, 2013, KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak approved withdrawal of the Army from the Malakand Division, and the process of pulling out troops from Shangla and Buner Districts was scheduled to start from the following month. In a subsequent phase, troops were to be pulled out from Swat, Upper and Lower Dir Districts and other parts of the Malakand Division. On September 17, 2013, however, the Peshawar High Court stopped the KP Government from withdrawing the Army. Peshawar High Court’s Chief Justice, Dost Muhammad Khan, observed that the Army had been deployed in these areas for many years to restore peace, and its withdrawal would create a vacuum there.
Several senior Police officers also fell prey to the terrorists over this period. These prominently included:
May 24, 2013: Six Policemen were killed and a District Police Officer (DPO) and his guard were injured when terrorists attacked their vehicles with rockets on the Indus Highway in the Mattani area of Darra Adamkhel District.
October 14, 2012: Five SF personnel, including the Superintendent of Police (SP) Rural, Khurshid Khan, were killed, while 10 Police and FC men were injured when TTP terrorists attacked two check posts of the Mattani Police Station on the outskirts of Peshawar.
March 15, 2012: SP Abdul Kalam Khan was killed and five others were injured in a suicide attack on his car at Pishtakhara Chowk in Peshawar.
August 4, 2010: Additional Inspector General of Police Safwat Ghayur was killed in a suicide attack outside his office in Peshawar.
April 19, 2010: Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Gulfat Hussain was killed in a suicide attack in the Qissa Khawani area of Peshawar.
February 11, 2010: DPO Mohammad Iqbal Marwat was killed in twin bomb blasts outside a Police training centre in Bannu District.
June 5, 2009: Farid Hussain Bangash, DSP, Mardan (Rural), was killed in a gun-battle when terrorists attacked a Buner-bound joint Police and Frontier Constabulary (FC) convoy at Natian in Mardan District.
April 27, 2009: DSP Asmatullah Khattak and five of his bodyguards were killed on their way to Lakki Marwat from Bannu, when his van struck a remote controlled bomb on the Lakki-Tajazai Road in Lakki Marwat.
February 28, 2008: DSP Lakki Marwat, Javed Iqbal, was killed in a bomb blast in southern Lakki Marwat. Later, Iqbal’s funeral procession was attacked by a suicide bomber, on March 1, 2008, in his native Swat, in Mingora, killing over 60 people, including his son and another Police officer.
January 27, 2007: Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Malik Mohammad Saad and DSP Khan Raziq were killed in a suicide attack on a Muharram procession in Peshawar.
December 18, 2006: DIG, Bannu, Abid Ali, was killed along with his driver, while coming from Bannu to Peshawar, near Matani town on Kohat Road.
The Police in KP have a sanctioned strength of 78,320 and a population of about 22 million, yielding a fairly healthy ratio of 356 Policemen per 100,000 population. With the formation of the Special Anti-Terrorism Force and Special Prisons Force in October 2013, another two Police Forces have been introduced in KP, where a number of uniformed forces, including the Army, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the Anti-Narcotics Force, and the Excise Police Force, already operate.
On November 28, 2013, the KP Government renamed the Directorate of Counter Terrorism (DCT) of the Police Department, the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD), with an enlarged mandate, including intelligence collection, surveillance and monitoring, registration of terrorism cases, investigation of Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) cases, arrest and detention, and research and analysis. The strength of DCT has been merged into CTD, and the total sanctioned strength of CTD will be 2,350, including one DIG, 12 SPs, 43 DSPs, 153 Inspectors, 289 Sub-Inspectors (SI), 249 Assistant Sub-Inspectors (ASI), 314 Head constables (HC), 1,170 Frontier Corps (FC) personnel, and 119 Drivers. For operational purposes, seven CTD Police Stations (one at Capital City Police and one each at six Regional headquarters), will be established.
But the creation of the new Forces is yet to have a measurable impact on terrorism in the Province. According to statistics compiled by the Central Police Office in Peshawar, 1,002 Policemen had been killed in suicide attacks, bombings, ambushes, rocket attacks and other incidents, while fighting terrorists, since January 2006, according to a KP Police statement on April 2, 2014. More than 2,072 others were injured. Peshawar had the highest death toll among the 25 KP Districts, at 265. Kohistan remained the only District in the Province where no Police officer has been killed or wounded over this period. The worst year was 2009, when 201 Policemen were killed fighting terrorists. 31 policemen had already been killed in 2014 on the date of these disclosures. Despite the apparently healthy sanctioned strength, KP Police is riddled with deficits, particularly at the leadership level. About 60 per cent of posts for Grade 21 Additional Inspectors General (IGs), 56 per cent of grade 20 Deputy Inspectors General (DIGs) and 42 per cent of Grade 19 and 18 Assistant Inspectors General, Senior Superintendents of Police (SSPs) and SPs are vacant, or are being filled by junior officers, according to official statistics. IG Durrani disclosed, “We have asked the Federal and Provincial Governments on a number of occasions to post senior Police officers because a large number of positions are vacant in KP.” There are more than 73,000 Police officials in all the Districts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Further, sub-standard weapons at the disposal of KP Police have also raised a question mark on its fighting capacity. Very recently on April 22, 2014, the KP Police Department blacklisted four firms in connection with the supply of substandard weapons, ammunition and other equipment for the Police force. The KP Police had carried out the procurement of weapons, ammunition and other equipment for operational policing in 2008 and 2009 through competitive tenders. In addition to Majeed and Sons, which is already blacklisted, the name of its sister firms have also surfaced. These include Shayan-e-Sarhad Enterprises, Peshawar; Al Moiz Trading Cooperation Peshawar; Shahid Traders Peshawar; and Shaheer Trading Company Peshawar, according to an official communiqué.
The KP Government has announced several measures to revamp its Police Force to improve provincial security. KP Police implemented several changes at two Police Stations in the Province and declared them as models. All of the Province’s 210 Police Stations are to be converted into model stations within three years, commencing October 2013, Ehsan Ghani, former KP IGP disclosed. The model stations are well armed and staffed with enough properly trained officers. More sniffer dogs and bomb detectors will be added, allowing Police to stage random sweeps for explosives. In August, the Provincial Force recruited 1,300 Policemen in Peshawar, according to Ghani, who noted, further, “We need at least 8,000 more Policemen in the Province to meet the present challenges.”
In January 2014, the KP Government requested the Federal Government to categorize the Province as a “hard area”, so that KP could better cope with the law-and-order situation. Classifying KP as a “hard area” would make postings to KP more attractive for senior officers, since such postings are mandatory for promotions. The provincial IG of Police Nasir Khan Durrani lamented, “We have asked the Federal and Provincial Governments on a number of occasions to post senior police officers because a large number of positions are vacant in KP.” However, the requests have met with little result.
On March 17, 2014, KP Chief Minister (CM) Pervez Khattak announced a raise in the salaries of the provincial Police. Emphasizing that hundreds of Policemen had sacrificed their lives for the security of the people, he announced incentives and measures for improvement in the KP Police.
The steady stream of Police fatalities in KP indicate that the various measures implemented are yet to have a decisive impact on the ground, and that the Government continues to dither over other crucial pending measures.

Surprises In Preliminary Afghan Election Results

by Frud Bezhan
The preliminary results of Afghanistan's presidential election are in, and reveal several surprises.
Dostum Fails To Deliver
When presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani named General Abdul Dostum as a running mate, it was seen as a shrewd political move. With the former Uzbek militia leader on his ticket as first vice president, the prevailing view was that Afghanistan's large Uzbek voting bloc would give Ghani a significant boost. Afghans traditionally vote along ethnic lines, and there was no reason to believe it would be any different this time around. But while Ghani finished second in the preliminary results released on April 26, enough to go to a second round if the results survive the lengthy complaints period, the tactic appears to have backfired.
Ethnic Uzbeks, who make up about 9 percent of Afghanistan's population, helped Ghani secure big victories in the province of Jowzjan (where he took 69 percent of the vote) and the neighboring Faryab (65 percent) -- each of which have large Uzbek populations.
Ghani did not fare nearly as well, however, in three other provinces with significant Uzbek populations. Ghani failed to garner 40 percent of the vote in Sar-e-Pul (39 percent), Samangan (27 percent) and Kunduz (38 percent). Instead, Abdullah Abdullah won a plurality in all three provinces, helping propel him to a first-place finish countrywide, with 44.9 percent of the vote.
Ghani's choice of Dostum was always a dangerous one, because he risked alienating some core supporters -- namely, youths and women, and voters from other ethnic groups -- in order to gain the Uzbek bloc.
The returns show, however, that Abdullah effectively neutralized that advantage.
No Hazara Split
Before the election, no one expected Abdullah to secure the majority of votes from Afghanistan's Hazara minority, which make up around 9 percent of the population. Many observers predicted the Hazara vote would be split among Abdullah, Ghani, and third-place finisher Zalmai Rasul (11.5 percent), all of whom included Hazaras on their tickets.
But it was Abdullah alone who took decisive victories in the majority Hazara provinces of Bamiyan (68 percent) and Dai Kundi (75 percent). And Abdullah was also the leading candidate in provinces with sizeable Hazara minorities, including Ghor (60 percent), Ghazni (54 percent), and Wardak (36 percent). He also finished a close second in Uruzgan (24 percent).
Observers have homed in on several factors for Abdullah’s strong showing.
One is his choice of Mohammad Mohaqeq, a powerful former Hazara warlord and ex-minister, as his second vice president. Mohaqeq, it appears, has more pull than the Hazaras chosen by Abdullah's main rivals.
Ghani's pick for second vice president is former Justice Minister Sarwar Danish (and he also secured the support of current second vice president Mohammad Karim Khalili). Rasul tabbed Habiba Surabi, the country’s first female governor, as his second vice president.
Observers have noted that many Hazaras have become increasingly disillusioned with the outgoing government -- and Khalili, in particular -- because of failed promises to improve infrastructure in impoverished Hazara areas. Some members of the minority are also angry at the government’s failure to carve separate provinces out of Hazara-dominated districts in Wardak and Ghazni provinces.
Another contributing factor to the result can be found in Hazaras' mistrust of Ghani, who is from a Kuchi background. The Kuchis, a nomadic Pashtun people, and Hazaras have clashed for centuries over land and grazing rights. Violence is still reported every year, especially during the Kuchis' seasonal ventures into disputed areas in spring. Afghan monarchs and governments, traditionally dominated by Pashtuns, have often sided with the Kuchis in the dispute. ​​
Pashtun Votes Swing
As expected, Abdullah won the majority of votes in the northern and western provinces dominated by ethnic Tajiks. Abdullah is of mixed ethnicity -- he is half ethnic Tajik and half Pashtun -- but is seen by many as a Tajik, mostly because of his past prominence in the Tajik-dominated Northern Alliance.
Seeing that Tajiks only account for about 27 percent of the population, Abdullah focused on improving his chances by securing a share of the Pashtun vote. Abdullah campaigned aggressively in the predominantly Pashtun south and east, talked up his Pashtun heritage, and named a Pashtun as his first vice presidential running mate.
Observers predicted that Abdullah faced an uphill battle to sway Pashtuns because many still see him primarily as an ethnic Tajik. Taking votes from other candidates -- all of whom were Pashtun -- was seen as a major hurdle, especially considering some had accused Abdullah of fabricating his Pashtun heritage.
But preliminary results show that he made impressive inroads in Pashtun areas. He managed to win the most votes in two Pashtun-majority provinces -- Farah (35 percent) and Wardak (36 percent). Meanwhile, he secured around one-fifth of the vote in the provinces of Nimroz, Helmand, Zabul, Logar, and Nangarhar. Before the election, observers said he had little chance of getting to double digits in those regions.
As expected, Ghani won the majority of votes in the eastern, Pashtun-dominated provinces. Rasul, meanwhile, secured a huge majority in Kandahar and fared strongly in several other southern provinces.

Pakistan: PM's gas connection cut over unpaid bills

Gas supplies to the Pakistani prime minister's residence have been cut off over thousands of dollars of unpaid bills, it is reported.
The residence and office of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is said to be 4.7m rupees ($48,000, £28,000) in arrears on its gas bills, reports Dunya News TV. But the premier's office is apparently just one of several official buildings to be disconnected in the capital city, Islamabad. Parliament House, Parliament Lodges and the Federal Shariat Court are some of the other government buildings currently without gas.
All of the non-payers had been sent several notices but never responded, a spokesman for gas supplier Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited tells the Pakistan Tribune newspaper.
Ironically, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had been pushing for a zero-tolerance policy towards gas payment defaulters only days earlier. At a high-level meeting on Wednesday on electricity and gas theft, he called the practice unacceptable and said measures on a "war footing" should be taken against perpetrators, a statement from prime minister's office says.

Pakistan: No action on banned groups

IF banning terrorist and militant groups has not led to any credible or effective results, does that mean the government should quietly give up on the practice altogether? Or if the government is engaged in dialogue with the TTP leadership, does that mean that self-avowed splinter groups should continue to escape the state’s legal scrutiny or sanction? According to a report in this newspaper, the PML-N government has not banned a single militant or terrorist outfit since coming to office almost a year ago. A partial explanation could be the government’s avowed stance of pursuing dialogue with the outlawed TTP first, but, if true, it would be a thoroughly unsatisfactory explanation.
Even the government has suggested repeatedly that there is no guarantee that talks will succeed, while consistently also maintaining that all options remained open if talks eventually failed. So it would make sense to keep monitoring and officially labelling new groups that emerge during this phase. That way, swift — and, importantly, legal — action could be taken if talks fail.
Yet, it appears that another part of the explanation for the government’s inaction lies in the procedure for banning terrorist and militant groups: the interior ministry is in charge and the minister leading that ministry, Nisar Ali Khan, has hugely invested in the dialogue process to the point of tunnel vision and an inability to focus on other aspects of his job perhaps. For example, if the TTP splinter group Ahrarul Hind is what it and the TTP claims it is, then it deserves to be banned at the very least for the attacks it has claimed responsibility for.
If nothing else, it would give the interior minister and his negotiators some extra leverage at the negotiating table with the Taliban when it comes to demanding that the TTP rein in or hand over affiliates who are unwilling to talk peace. But the interior minister’s seeming willingness to give up every possible leverage he has in the talks process appears to prevail.
What can — and does — get overlooked because of the ineffective and sometimes non-existent implementation of the ban on certain groups is that it can be a rather powerful tool. At the very least, it gives the state the authority to clamp down on funding — a crucial lifeline for any group — seize bank accounts and make international travel for individuals difficult.
Those measures alone can have a significantly disruptive effect, and that’s before the advantages when it comes to investigations and securing prosecutions in the courts. To be sure, the ease with which groups evade existing bans by simply changing the name of their organisations needs to be looked at. Yet fixing the system of banning groups will only matter if the government shows some interest in the system to begin with.

The Rise and Fall of Pakistan’s Independent News Media

By Malik Siraj Akbar
A week after the shocking assassination attempt on Pakistan’s prominent television talk-show host, Hamid Mir, Islamabad has failed to locate and arrest the perpetrators. The Pakistani government has deflected attention from the whole issue of the attack on the senior journalist by instead recommending punitive action against Mr. Mir’sGeo Television, Pakistan’s biggest private news channel, for suspecting the involvement of the Inter-Services Intelligence, the country’s top intelligence agency, in an attack that has tremendously scared and outraged the journalist community in Pakistan.
It was less than a year that the world delightedly welcomed the first ever transition of democratic rule in Pakistan from one elected government to another through general elections that brought Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s center-right Pakistan Muslim League (P.M.L.) into power. It is ironic that now a democratic government has decided to move against the independent news media which was liberalized under Pakistan’s military ruler General Pervez Musharraf in early 2000s.
It is easy to speculate why Sharif’s government has chosen to side with the military instead of the media. Since the military enjoys overwhelming powers, including the ability to oust the democratic government, the latter believes it is not worth spoiling the relationship and trust of the military only to defend a journalist who vocally criticizes the army’s policies. In order to explicitly assure the military that it stands with those accused of masterminding the attack, not the victim journalist, the Ministry of Defense requested the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), the highest body in Pakistan that grants or revokes licenses of the news channels, to shut down Geo Television.
In the wake of the serious charges of the Ministry of Defense that Geo Television allegedly harmed Pakistan’s ‘national interest’ and disrespected the top intelligence agency by blaming them for the attack on Mr. Mir, PEMRA has now asked Geo Television to plead until May 6th why it should not be shut down.
While we await the submission of Geo’s official statement, the Pakistan army, in the meanwhile, has already unleashed an arm-twisting campaign to alienate the Pakistani public from Mr. Mir and Geo by accusing them of not being sufficiently patriotic. This is an old but a highly dangerous ploy applied by the army to punish its critics.
Furthermore, Dawn, a widely respected English language newspaper, reported that the cable operators in several townships taken Geo’s transmission off air in parts of the country. The army seems to be the driving force behind these repressive and punitive measures against the independent media.
Despite intense government pressure, Mr. Mir, who still has a long way to fully recover from his injuries, reiterated his charges against the I.S.I. in a statement read out to the media by his journalist-brother, Amir Mir, on Thursday. In one of his firstinterviews after being critically shot, Mr. Mir told B.B.C. Urdu that elements close to the Pakistani military establishment were threatening to attack him again.
“They are asking me to leave Pakistan,” he said, adding, “These are people who appear as friends but deliver the messages of my enemies.”
In an article Six Bullets and Seven Nights, Mr. Mir charged that Pakistan was run by the army chief instead of the elected government.
The attack on Mr. Mir highlights two concerning patterns of paranoid behavior in the Pakistani society. First, the Pakistani government and the public, in recent years, have developed this disconcerting attitude of blaming the victim. It has somewhat become the new normal and totally acceptable to blame the victim of a terrorist attack instead of condemning the oppressors.
For instance, when Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in 2007, General Musharraf said no one but Bhutto herself was to blame for her death because she stood up outside her car to wave to her supporters during an election campaign. In 2011, a large portion of the Pakistani public and the media blamed Salmaan Taseer, the governor of the Punjab province who was shot by his own security guard for disputing the infamous Blasphemy Law that mostly discriminates and penalizes the religious minorities in Muslim-majority Pakistan.
Pakistan’s right-wing media and conservatives also blamed Malala Yousafzai, the teenage education activist shot by the Taliban for her outspoken position on women’s education. While some conspiracy theorists insisted that the attack had actually never taken place, the others believed the west used her as a propaganda tool against Islam and Pakistan.
Charges on Mr. Mir of defaming Pakistan’s armed forces and pleasing ‘our enemy’ are absolutely congruent with this unreasonable mentality of blaming the victim.
Second, the Mir episode has brought into public attention a grim and dark side of the Pakistani news media: the willingness of some media houses to voluntarily succumb to the military’s anti-media measures hoping to be rewarded financially with government advertisements and awarded with medals of patriotism. ARY News, a private news channel and Express Group, which owns a private news channel and two newspapers, have attracted criticism for overtly siding with the military during this hard time on the media and reporters.
Refusing to be censored on the issue of the attack on Mr. Mir, senior Express News talk-show host and veteran journalist Imtiaz Alam resigned from his job on April 22nd. “It was Express TV/Express Tribune yesterday [alluding to the past attacks on Express Group] … it is GEO today and tomorrow it could again be Express or any other group,” he warned his bosses who, in their response, accepted Mr. Alam’s resignation but publicly accused him of “spitting venom, making wild accusations against the ISI”.
Likewise, ARY has used its platform to campaign against Mr. Mir. In one such show, the panelists of a talk-show questioned if Mr. Mir had actually been shot. They brazenly wondered why Mr. Mir was still alive and shot in the lower parts of his body, instead of his chest.
Shows that incite or glorify violence is not journalism. It is media-terrorism.
What we have seen during the past few days on Pakistan’s media landscape cautions us not to be overly optimistic about the future of that country’s “vibrant” news media. There is still a long way to go. The media faces extraordinary internal and external challenges. From within, sections of the media suffer from calamitous willingness to submit to the army pressure, chronic disunity and alarming lack of accuracy and professional accountability. On the external front, the media remains under such perpetual threats from the army and the Taliban that it will constantly remain vulnerable to censorship and even possible threats of permanent closure for being too honest.

Voice for Baloch Missing urges International Community to raise voice against enforced-disappearances in Balochistan

The Voice for Baloch Missing Persons leaders including Chairman Nasrullah Baloch, Vice Chairman Abdul Qadeer Baloch and General Secretary Farzana Majeed Baloch have urged Amnesty International, European Union, UN and other international Human Rights bodies to take to notice of enforced disappearances in Balochistan.
The VBMP leader said that Pakistani forces illegally abducted 19200 Baloch activists and more than 2000 among them have been killed and dump. “We have given proof and the documents about enforced-disappearances in Balochistan to UN representatives in Islamabad,” they said.
VBMP leaders said according their information at least 170 bodies were discovered from mass graves in Tootak area of Khuzdar and three bodies have been identified, whose names were in the list of missing persons. Only a proper and independent DNA investigation will confirm the true identity of the rest of the bodies found in mass graves. They alleged that there are mass grave of enforced-disappeared Baloch persons in Mashkail and other districts of Balochistan as well.
At a joint press conference at Quetta Press Club the VBMP leaders said that they are coordinating with the United Nations representatives to highlight the issue of enforced-disappearance in Balochistan.
They said: “We appeal the EU, United Nations, Amnesty International and all other international human rights organisations to put pressure on Pakistan for the safe release of Baloch student leader Zahid Kurd Baloch and save the life of Zahid Baloch.”
Expressing their lack of trust on Pakistani judiciary the VBMP leaders said: “we have no faith in Pakistani court and justice departments but we will continue to raise the issue of enforced-disappearance at all forums so the world can see that we have tried all peaceful and democratic means of struggle.”
They said state forces are continuously violating human rights in Balochistan and the VBMP has been peacefully protesting against the state atrocities in past five years. “Despite our democratic and peaceful struggle the state forces are continuing the Baloch genocide in Balochistan. They are abducting people from all walks of life and professions.” The relatives of Baloch abducted persons and victims of state’s kill and dump policy have been demanding for the safe recovery of their loved ones and if there are any cases against them they should be brought before and court and given the right to defend themselves, said VBMP leaders.
They said: “Pakistani state’s security forces and intelligence agencies subject Baloch prisoners to inhuman torture and kill them under-custody which is against international human rights conventions. At present thousands of Baloch including the leadership of Baloch Students are being tortured in custody of Pakistani forces.”
The VBMP leaders said that on 18 March 2014 Pakistani forces abducted Baloch Student leader Zahid Kurd Baloch in presence Banuk Karima Baloch and other BSO leaders. “Mr Kurd has been subjected to brutal torture on the spot being taken away.”
According to VBMP leader around 10 personnel of secret agencies and 300 FC personnel took part in joint operation for the arrest of Baloch student leader. They said it has been more than a month now that there is no news about Zahid Baloch’s whereabouts and his family, especially, his mother are extremely worried about his security because of the unearthing of mass graves and continuous kill and dump policy of state in Balochistan.
They said: “We know that area police station is scared to register an FIR against intelligence agencies and FC hence we urged the HRCP, other human rights organisations and the Supreme Court of Pakistan to order the police to register the case of Zahid Baloch’s abduction.
“We know that we will not get any justice as the door of justice in Pakistan has been closed for the Baloch people. They said the courts have already taken off the names previously missing persons from the official list but we will not be discouraged by such acts and will continue the struggle for the release of our loved ones.”
The VBMP leader said that honest and truthful journalists are being threatened by Pakistani security forces. The recent attack on Journalists Hamid Mir is a confirmation of such threats. Mr Mir has raised the issue of missing persons in Balochistan that’s why he was attacked.

Islamabad Police Brutality: Protestors Mistreated

When peaceful protestors of the missing persons issue tried to approach the Parliament building in Islamabad yesterday, the police responded with a baton-charge; firing and tear gassing the demonstrators. Many of these demonstrators were consequently wounded, along with six policemen. Additionally, the police attempted to confiscate the recording equipment of media houses trying to cover the incident.
Even though the PM has taken note of the incident and ordered that detained protestors be released, who should we believe was responsible for allowing the charge to go through? On whose orders was human rights activist Amna Masood Janjua arrested by the police? In functioning democracies, Parliament and other legislative buildings are venues for protestors the world over. Is this attack not symbolic of how little heard the Baloch voice is? Democracy guarantees the right to public protest, and the treatment of the missing persons as well as their relatives by a so called democratic Pakistani state, is appalling. Ironically, the issue of missing persons started during the military rule of Musharraf. Yet the democratic governments resorted to the same illiberal and undemocratic treatment of the Baloch. Not a single politician from any political party acknowledged the VBMP. However, the government did table the draconian PPO which will legalize these abductions.

Amna Janjua Arrested by GeoNews
There have been two kinds of reactions to the issue of the missing persons. Either the aggrieved respond with violence or else strive for justice non-violently. We seem to see enough of the latter, but the peaceful march of the Voice for the Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) lasted almost six months. The 72 year old Mama Qadeer walked 2000 km. Yet there was not much coverage in the media, especially the mainstream, Urdu channels and print. Presently, Johar Latif, a young man from the Baloch Student Organization is protesting the abduction of the organization’s Chairman, Zahid Baloch , and is slowly dying of his hunger strike. Why does no one cover this peaceful and dignified protest? There is no free media left to report from Balochistan. What occurred in Islamabad yesterday was a betrayal of democracy. When will we begin to separate our heroes from our villains, and stop demonizing the peaceful? Every conflict has its set of problematic parties, but there must at least be the recognition that alongside the violent dissenters, there exist scores of bereaved, peaceful protestors exercising their democratic, human right to demand answers, to demand safety for their families, and justice.

Pakistan: Load shedding intensifies as mercury soars across country

Prolonged power cuts have added to the misery of people who are already braving the increased temperature across the country and were forced to register their protest against load shedding in several cities on Tuesday, Geo News reported. Relentless load shedding of 12 to 14 hours is taking place in urban areas of Sindh while it’s 16 to 18 hours in rural areas. Citizens of Hyderabad staged a protest against power outages late on Monday night and demanded to put an end to unannounced load shedding.
A violent demonstration against 22 hour power failure took place in Larkana on Monday where police booked two thousand unknown persons in a case in Civil Line police station. Members of Wapda Hydro Electric Central Labour Union Sindh are observing a strike in many cities against the fierce protest. People in different cities of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan are also agitated over the unannounced and unabated power cuts.

Gabby Giffords Writes Moving Tribute To Malala For Time Magazine Influencers List

The Huffington Post | by Jessica Prois
Malala Yousafzai and Gabrielle Giffords both know bravery and perseverance. So it's only fitting that the former congresswoman was chosen to profile the Pakistani teen activist, named one of Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World" Wednesday. Giffords wrote for Time that she, like many people, draws inspiration and strength from Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012. "Malala is a testament that women everywhere will not be intimidated into silence." Giffords, who was shot in the head in Tuscon, Ariz. in 2011, also wrote that Yousafzai's courage is rare, comparing her to military members or global leaders: "I have seen courage in many places…but Malala’s courage is uncommon," Giffords wrote. Yousafzai advocates for young people worldwide through the Malala Fund, an organization that partners with local nonprofits to educate youth. She highlights the fact that is much at stake in providing education. UNESCO reports, for example, that a child born to a mother who can read is 50 percent more likely to live past age 5. The young education advocate spoke at the UN this past July and reminded viewers that everyone's voice matters in the fight for education: "One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world," said Yousafzai, who told CNN that she wants to become prime minister of Pakistan one day. The teen activist, who published her first book "I Am Malala" in October, was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize last year year. The Time 100 issue goes on sale Friday, April 25.

Malala makes it again to Time’s 100

Malala Yousafzai is among the world’s most influential people, according to a list published by the Time magazine on Saturday.
Malala, 16, is the only Pakistani on the list of people, who according to the magazine have inspired others around the world.
The list also includes a profile by another star, explaining why the person deserves a spot.
Former US Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford who was shot in the head in Tuscon, Arizona, in 2011 paying tribute to Malala praises the Pakistani activist’s courage and resilience.
Gifford wrote for Time that she, like many people, draws inspiration and strength from Malala Yousafzai, who was also shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012.
“Malala is a testament that women everywhere will not be intimidated into silence.” “I have seen courage in many places, but Malala’s courage is uncommon,” Giffords wrote.
In July, Malala spoke at the UN and reminded viewers that everyone’s voice matters in the fight for education. “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.”
The teen activist, who published her first book I Am Malala in October, was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize last year.
Giffiord wrote, “I have seen courage in many places in the thousands of our nation’s military members I have met and represented; in those who ran toward the gunfire in a Safeway parking lot on January 8, 2011; and in our leaders who take the tough votes because it’s the right thing to do, but Malala’s courage is uncommon.”
“In the face of oppression and bitter injustice, she demands education and opportunity. In the face of violence from the hands of cowards, she refuses to back down.”
Malala was also selected to write the profile of former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, a potential presidential candidate in the next election, who also figures on the list of world’s most influential people, calling her “a symbol of strength for women across the world”.
The Pakistani activist wrote, “It was she (Clinton) who famously said, ‘Women’s rights are human rights’. She not only spoke those words, but also dedicated her life to empowering women around the world through politics and philanthropy. She has been a source of strength for many women, including myself, my family and those who stood by me after I was attacked.”

Sindh Assembly passes Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Bill 2013

Sindh Assembly (SA) session on Monday passed the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Bill 2013 prohibiting marriage of children below 18 years.The Bill has recommended three years rigorous imprisonment for those who would be involved in such marriages. However the punishment would not be less than two years. Sindh Minister for Social Welfare Rubina SadatQaimkhani earlier presented the Bill. Special committee of the House prepared draft of the Bill. It reviewed this and other private bill in its meetings.Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) parliamentarian Sharmila Farooqi presented the private bill. With the passing of new bill, Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 stands cancel in Sindh now.Rubina Qaimkhani termed it historical event for Sindh as the House has approved the highly important Bill.She thanked all parliamentary parties, civil society and organisations of women who supported the Bill.Parliamentary leader of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Syed Sardar Ahmed said implementation of law was necessary if we wanted to save young girls from injustice.Parliamentary leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Samar Ali Khan said he felt proud to be a member of the House who passed such an important Bill.
Pakistan Muslim League-N parliamentary leader Irfanullah Marwat said the House has passed the important Bill. However it was necessary to implement in its real spirit.Sindh senior Education and Literacy Minister NisarAhmed Khuhro said now nobody in Sindh would have courage to enforce someone’s child to get marry in violation of the Bill.Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon told the House for the next three months, all advertisements of Sindh government would carry the message about this Bill. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Dr Sikandar Mandhro said representatives of civil society and legal experts were consulted for the draft of Bill.PPP MPA Nadir Magsi stressed the need to enforce the law. He said around 80 percent of underage marriages were not even reported. MPAs Sharmila Farooqi, Khawaja Izhar Ul Hassan, Nusrat Sehar Abbasi, Dr Seema Zia also praised the Bill.
Pakistan Muslim League (F) MPA Nusrat Sehar Abbasi tabled adjournment motion regarding copy cases in Sindh in examinations. However on getting rejected by the chair, opposition walked out from the House. Nisar Khuhro objected the word ‘copy culture.’ He said copy was not culture of Sindh. He said chief minister Sindh holds the authority of educational boards and CM has convened many meeting regarding the stoppage of unfair means in examinations.Sharjeel Memon told the House scarcity of water was not only Karachi’s problem, Sindh was also facing the same situation, he was replying at point of order by MQM’s MPA Saifuddin.Saifuudin told the House in Orangi Town, supporters of a religious political party attacked the water pumping houses. On this point Sharjeel said no one has authority to carry out such attacks. He said government was trying for equal distribution of water in Karachi.On call attention notice raised by MQM MPA Adnan Ahmed, Sharjeel said people of Sindh were braving hot weather and load shedding. He said ‘superman of centre’ Abid Sher Ali has started ordering disconnections of electricity in Sindh, which has enhanced the miseries of people.He said in rural areas of Sindh load shedding upto 16-hour was being carried out.
Crisis of water in Karachi started due to shortage of water in Hub Dam, however water supply was being started from Dhabeji pumping station.Talking to media person Nisar Khuhro appealed prime minister to take notice of 20 hours long load shedding in Sindh including Larkana. He said if shut down feeders were not made functional and unannounced load shedding was not stopped, the public representatives of Sindh along with masses would stage sit-in and protests in whole province.Khuhro said, “PML-N was taking revenge from PPP voters for not supporting party in May elections. Talking to media Samar Ali Khan said opposition parties in the House would nominate the candidate for opposition leader unanimously. Sindh Minister for Commerce and Industry Rauf Siddiqui said the objections on Karachi targeted operation would also be raised in future like we did in the past.

Pakistan: Waiting game

While government negotiators distance themselves from talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a high-level meeting on Monday morning, chaired by Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif, agreed to formalise an agenda for a final push in talks with the terrorists, even as a series of attacks in Karachi and other parts of the country over the last two days left several people dead. An explosion killed three peace committee members in Landikotal on Sunday, while a small bomb exploded inside a Karachi seminary on Monday, killing three children. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar reportedly told the meeting that either the talks needed to end successfully or then be taken to their logical conclusion, a statement that appears to highlight the government’s dwindling patience with the terrorists. Formalising an agenda shows the government is hardening its stance and that the faux-negotiations may soon end. That the government showed any patience at all is remarkable. While it began the process by trying to explore what grounds could be used as a basis for talks, the terrorists began by executing 23 kidnapped Frontier Constabulary personnel and bombing a police bus in Karachi. This confirmed the analysis of many commentators who said that the militant organisation is too committed to violence and its members too brainwashed by their brutal ideology to negotiate with a state they want to destroy and with people they want to kill. The military also believe the terrorists cannot be negotiated with, though they have patiently waited for the government to learn this for itself. After decades spent creating these groups, the military should know.
Further confirmation of the terrorists’ commitment to mass murder as a political tool is found in a letter sent by TTP Mohmand commander Omar Khaled Khorasani to the chief of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Sirajul Haq. The terrorist reportedly congratulated Mr Haq on his election to the party leadership and said that while the two organisations share a common ideology and goal, his organisation is committed to armed struggle and believes said ideology can only be imposed by force. It should be noted that Khorasani’s chapter of the terrorist organisation claimed responsibility for assassinating police counter-terrorism expert SHO Rafiq Tanoli in Karachi four days ago. Certainly, the JI and other religious parties share beliefs with the terrorists. Some commentators call them the ‘soft face’ of terrorists in the political mainstream. As a political party acceptable to the terrorists — and given their consistent failure at the polls — the JI has a vested interest in negotiations continuing. The terrorist ideological agenda is similar to their own hence they may try to create a political furore around military action. Both the JI and the terrorists say the government needs to be sincere since negotiations have reached an impasse, with terrorists demanding the military withdraw from South Waziristan and the release of almost 1,000 prisoners they claim are non-combatants. The government has released more than 30 people with no reciprocation in the release of terrorist-held hostages such as the sons of the former PM of Pakistan and the late governor of Punjab, Ali Haider Gillani and Shahbaz Taseer respectively, who are confirmed non-combatants. A recent video of Gillani in chains and begging for his life was debunked by his father. However, fears for these hostages’ safety is very real.
JI chief Sirajul Haq recently said, “The failure of the talks will be a failure for the whole country,” conveniently ignoring the inability of the terrorists to control their own ‘splinter groups’. On Sunday, the JI member of the terrorists’ negotiating committee, Professor Ibrahim, claimed that a “real dialogue was yet to begin” and the negotiations should continue no matter how many times they fail. Mr Haq meanwhile hinted at the possibility of a coup in an apparent attempt to drive a wedge between the military and the government, who are steadily converging in their perception of how to deal with the terrorists. Failure in the talks is measured in lives taken by the terrorists, and this is something the government is waking up to. With the military confident it can defeat the terrorists, the waiting game appears to be drawing to a close.

Lahore Transport Company hit by million-dollar dispute

Against signs of growing cooperation between Pakistan and China in various areas, a Chinese bus manufacturer is upset over the deal it has got from the Lahore Transport Company (LTC) which is owned by the Punjab government. The Chinese company, Ankai, has approached its embassy in Islamabad for help in resolving the issue. In case a resolution is not possible, it has warned that it will blacklist the LTC, and review its relations with the Punjab government.
In December 2011, the LTC signed an agreement with Ankai to buy buses. At the heart of the dispute is Ankai’s insistence that under the agreement it was to sell 575 buses to the LTC at a cost of $42.5 million ($70,000 per vehicle). These vehicles were to be delivered in various batches. Ankai was required to provide after-sale service in Lahore, for which charges were fixed.
The LTC purchased 350 buses from Ankai in three batches, which were then sold to various operators. The Chinese manufacturer accuses the LTC of backing out of its commitment of buying another 225 buses. The LTC officials tell Dawn the decision came after Ankai failed to meet the contractual obligation of establishing a state-of-the-art workshop in Lahore for maintenance. They say the LTC was never ‘bound’ to buy 575 buses from Ankai. “The agreement clearly states the government-LTC will buy up to 575 buses from Ankai,” LTC Chief Executive Officer Khwaja Haider Latif says with an emphasis on ‘up to’. “We were not bound to purchase 575 buses. Moreover the company’s after-sale service is very poor and they have not established the requisite workshop.”
A study of the agreement does confirm this LTC assertion. It says the LTC “will buy up to 575 buses” from Ankai. But while elaborating, the agreement’s clause 10.1 mentions that “Ankai will be responsible for timely manufacturing and supply of a fleet of 575 buses to the LTC in various batches”. “Why do they (the LTC officials) only focus on the part which mentions ‘up to 575 buses’. They must go through the explanatory clause,” says Azam Chohan, Ankai’s legal adviser on corporate affairs. Under the contract, the LTC was bound to pay a sum of $12,600 to Ankai against each bus’s maintenance cost (for 500,000km). The LTC is accused of not following this. “We are surprised that they have not paid us the so far calculated maintenance costs even when the buses we repaired at our workshop,” Chohan says. “What we have here is a state-of-the-art workshop, and we have been maintaining the 350 buses delivered to the LTC by Ankai. We are even providing service through mobile workshops to the buses which were part of the same fleet but were operated in Faisalabad, Bahawalpur, Multan, Rawalpindi and other cities of the province. We have a proof and will take the LTC to court on this.”
He also blames some senior LTC officials for blocking clearance of maintenance bills totaling Rs150 million.“This is a very serious situation,”
Chohan says. “Ankai has already manufactured the remaining 225 buses which are to be delivered to the LTC under the contract. These are worth millions of dollars. They are all parked at our warehouses in China.” He also shares with Dawn the contents of a letter Ankai has recently sent to the Chinese ambassador in Islamabad, requesting him to take up the issue with the Punjab government. “If there is no progress, the company will blacklist the LTC in China,” he says. For his part, LTC Chief Executive Haider Latif maintains it is Ankai and not the LTC which has failed to fulfill its contractual obligations. “Not only is their workshop not up to the mark, they have also been involved in overcharging the bus operators. They have ignored many reminders and even a legal notice that we sent to them,” he says. Latif says the complaints came from the private operators the LTC sold the buses to.
“Eventually, we decided to make some alternate maintenance arrangements. We found some vendors at Badami Bagh to directly import the parts from China. The arrangement was successful, but it did annoy people working with Ankai in Lahore.
“Increasing complaints from the operators’ and shortage of CNG are two reasons behind our reluctance to purchase more buses from Ankai,” he says. “As for the maintenance costs, we are ready pay Ankai as soon as they have that promised modern workshop here.”

Protest for missing persons continues in Islamabad

Relatives and sympathizers of missing persons, led by rights activist Amna Masood Janjua, vowed to continue their protest at Islamabad’s D. Chowk on Tuesday, SAMAA reported. Yesterday, police came out in full force against the protests. The law-enforcers used teargas shells and baton charged the protestors, including women. At least 12 protestors, Defence of Human Rights (DHR) chief Amna Masood Janjua among them, were detained after being rough handled by police. Meanwhile, Janjua held Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar responsible for the situation, saying that police could not take such extreme step without the orders of top officials. She opposed sacking of police officers due to the crackdown, and vowed to continue the sit-in unless her meeting with Prime Minister. The protestors gathered at the same spot today and continued the protest, chanting slogans against the government.