Monday, May 5, 2014
The World Health Organization has slapped travel restrictions on Pakistan, Cameroon and Syria in an effort to control the spread of the crippling polio virus. Pakistan is moving quickly to make polio vaccines mandatory for all those planning to travel out of the country. WHO says those three nations should ensure all residents and long-term visitors get a polio vaccination prior to international travel. WHO’s Assistant Director General Bruce Aylward said the polio virus had been found widely circulating in other countries in 2013. Pakistan has the highest incidence of polio in the world, and the virus has been found in sewage water in Israel, Egypt and West Bank-Gaza, as well as in Iraq and Syria. Immunization plan Pakistan Minister of National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar told VOA the government is putting an immunization plan in place. “We are concerned about our international responsibility regarding the spread of polio, and we were already considering, along with our provincial governments, that we should make sure that all Pakistanis, before leaving Pakistan, should have these polio drops,” said Tarar. The WHO is recommending anyone traveling out of Pakistan should be vaccinated four weeks to 12 months prior to travel, and provide proof of inoculation. Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan are the three remaining countries in which the virus remains endemic. Because of a Taliban ban on vaccinations, and its deadly attacks on anti-polio health teams, national eradication efforts in Pakistan have suffered critical setbacks, and the virus continues to spread. Taliban deterrent Tarar said those areas inaccessible to health workers are the main reservoirs of the polio virus. A heavy Taliban presence has all but denied access to the tribal area of North Waziristan. Pakistan’s prime minister has asked the country’s military to help protect polio vaccination workers in the insurgency-plagued northwest. Although not legally binding, the WHO recommendation carries a lot of weight, said the organization's acting representative in Pakistan, Nima Saeed Abid. “Expectations are many countries will implement, but it depends on the member state to implement," said Abid. "I do not think member states would ignore these recommendations.” The World Health Organization said the spread of the polio virus is a public health emergency of international concern. The travel measures announced Monday are expected to remain in place until six months have passed without polio virus exportations.
The Express Tribune News Network.
Besides Raiwind, other areas in the city of Lahore only have one feeder to provide uninterrupted power supply, officials of the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) briefed the Senate Standing Committee on Monday.A senior official of the Lahore Electric Supply Corporation (Lesco) told the committee that no VIP is exempted from the load-shedding in Lahore, except the residents of Raiwind, where two feeders have been installed to ensure uninterrupted power supply. He stated that Raiwind was given double feeders because the prime minister and chief minister live there. Furthermore, he said that Rs 524 million and Rs 500 million are outstanding dues from the provincial and federal governments respectively. The Water and Sanitation Authority (Wasa) in Lahore has paid Rs 862 million of the Rs 1.5 billion outstanding, and the remaining will be paid by the end of this month. He said that there are no outstanding dues against the Governor House, the CM House and the Assembly Secretariat. The Lesco official also mentioned that Rs 2.27 billion is outstanding against the TMA, Lahore, due to which electricity for street lights has been disconnected. He also stated that at least 33 % line losses prevail in the Lesco system. PESCO: The officials from Peshawar Electricity Supply Company (Pesco) said that except for hospitals and the High Court building, no VIP office has been exempted from the load-shedding. However, the official stated that special generators are being provided for any important VIP event to ensure uninterrupted power supply. The Pesco official added that there is no more than one feeder installed in any VIP office in the province. According to him, various government departments in Peshawar are defaulters of Rs 1 billion to Wapda of which Rs 500 million was received recently following the disconnection of a driver and they have assured to pay the remaining amount by the end of this month. IESCO: The Islamabad Electricity Supply Company (IESCO) MD also said that there is no double feeder in any VIP building, and stated that they generate their own electricity via generators during load-shedding. He said that all the departments have started paying their dues after the disconnection drive. The MD added that CDA is the largest defaulter of IESCO with an outstanding due of Rs 2.13 billion. He said that out of the total outstanding against CDA, only Rs 319 million has been received. At present, 980mw of power is available with the system against the demand of 1600mw, and consequently, there is 10-12 hours of load-shedding daily. QUESCO: The Quetta Electricity Supply Corporation (Quesco) MD briefed the committee that the highest outstanding due of Rs 80 billion is against the provincial and federal governments in the head of tube well bills. Other than that, the outstanding due against the Quetta Police is Rs 133 million, while the education and health departments owe up to Rs 250 and Rs 435 million of defaulters, respectively. Circular debt: A joint secretary ministry of water and power told the committee that the circular debt has again surged to Rs 170 billion, due to which rental power plants have reduced the generation of electricity to some extent. Presently, he said, 10,700mw electricity is available in the system and till July and an additional power of 1800mw will be added to system from ongoing projects. Tariff rate to K-P: Committee chairman Senator Zahid Khan rejected the recent increase in the power tariff for the consumers in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (K-P). He also asked the K-P chief minister to take the issue to the Council of Common Interest (CCI) in light of the decision of the Supreme Court
http://www.eurasiareview.com/By Zachary J. Rose It appears as though the latest attempt at reconciliation between the government of Pakistan and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistan Taliban, or TTP) may be falling apart without any new breakthroughs. However, given the strategic dimensions involved, one has to wonder if any stakeholders were holding out any real hope of a peaceful resolution in the first place. For several months, the government of Pakistan has apparently been attempting to end its conflict with the TTP, a militant insurgent network with ties to Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban. The TTP, which formed in 2007 and operates primarily in the northwestern regions on the afpak border, is fighting to impose strict Sharia law across Pakistan, and as such it rejects the country’s current constitution, which it believes fails to adequately enshrine Islamic law. Peace talks and reconciliation with the TTP were major campaign promises of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif prior to his election victory last summer. Despite government efforts, peace talks have failed to gain any momentum, with both sides continuing to engage in military actions against the other. Brutal executions and military strikes have often left the talks stalled or officially suspended. On March 1 the TTP agreed to a month-long ceasefire, during which time the peace talks could – it was hoped – make some real progress. Prime Minister Sharif is under a great deal of political pressure to end the fighting, which has resulted in thousands of deaths over the years. Despite their primary goal of overthrowing the Pakistani government and spreading Sharia law through jihad, the TTP has come forward with a few short-term, more realistic demands such as the release of several hundred prisoners, who the group claims to be non-combatants. Earlier talks produced a ceasefire extension until April 10, but more recently, the TTP has announced that the combat freeze will not be renewed past this date. Both sides have asserted that the talks will continue despite resumed hostilities, though it is unlikely that any serious discussion will take place. Far more likely is that the peace process will regress to its familiar form: paused or cancelled every few weeks in the wake of some new attack. It is still unclear what might have ever resulted from these talks. After all, the TTP’s ultimate objectives are completely unacceptable to Pakistan. Even if the TTP were to give up its goal of imposing Sharia law across the country, they would at the very least demand a full withdrawal of Pakistani forces from TTP-controlled tribal territory. Prime Minister Sharif could not accept these conditions – nor could the United States, which has shown no willingness to decrease its military footprint in the region. Show talks There are signs that this latest round of talks were an empty gesture by both parties. Whatever the prospect of success, Sharif is being pushed to the table by his constituents and by his own election promises. Whether or not anything substantive could be achieved through such a dialogue, he must be seen as at least making the effort, especially if he intends to eventually pursue a military option. The loss of life in such an action would be dire, and the TTP is not without its sympathizers among the people of Pakistan. Before engaging in a wave of aggression against the Taliban and paying a heavy price, Sharif has to first be seen as exhausting all other options. Likewise, the TTP is surely aware that the government cannot accept the majority of the group’s demands. The release of political prisoners is plausible, but anything more than that could scarcely be considered. Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid claims that the TTP had also asked for the establishment of a conflict-free zone and the suspension of security operations in that area. Purportedly suggested to build trust and relax the tension, these steps would effectively cede official control of state territory, which is something the government simply cannot do. It has been suggested that the TTP was prompted by insurgent partners, such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, to pursue the ceasefire. The reprieve may have provided an opportunity for affiliated insurgents to regroup in TTP-controlled border regions. In such a case, it would not matter to the Taliban what, if anything, the peace talks accomplished. Peace a threat to US-Pakistan relations These peace talks, however doomed, only put further strain on US-Pakistan relations. However unlikely, a successful peace deal would only harm US interests, as the Pakistan Taliban operates in partnership with the Afghan Taliban and other extremist groups. If the Pakistani military were to decrease pressure on the Taliban over the long-term, it would risk creating a safe haven which the Afghanistan branch could use for retreat and a new base of operations. It seems the United States is keenly aware of this fact. US cooperation has been limited during the ongoing peace process, apart from lip service. In late 2013, for example, emergent peace overtures with the Taliban were derailed when the US used a targeted drone strike to kill Hakimullah Mehsud, then-leader of the TTP, mere days before a government delegation was being sent to negotiate. Drone strikes persist as a controversial focal point for all parties, and the US has demonstrated that it intends to pursue its own military agenda despite any local backlash or official protest from Prime Minister Sharif. While these drone strikes are incredibly controversial in Pakistan, they are popular in an increasingly war-weary United States. They have proven effective in eliminating high-profile targets, and they do so while minimizing the loss of American life. They have also been valuable to President Obama politically by allowing him to demonstrate his resolve and efficacy in the global fight against terrorism. Bleak prospects for peace These peace talks have not made a very strong case for themselves. Both sides appear to prefer pursuing their military objectives while making a show of reconciliation only when it is politically or strategically convenient. Additionally, the peace talks have not received any support from President Obama, who clearly prefers to continue the drone strike program and is in no hurry to help Sharif keep his electoral promises. It is clear that an indefinite truce does not serve any player’s political or military interests, and as a result, more stalling, suspension, and equivocation can be expected for the foreseeable future.
By Sanjay Kumar
The Diplomat speaks with Abdullah Abdullah, the frontrunner in the Afghanistan presidential election.Until last year, the lane leading to Dr. Abdullah Abdullah’s house in central Kabul was open; today, the street is almost a garrison. Visitors are welcomed by security checkpoints, piles of sandbags, and new barricades. Some of the grocery stores along the lane appear to have been taken over by Abdullah’s security detail. All this new security in an otherwise quiet neighborhood is the mark of the rising profile of a man who many think will be the next president of Afghanistan. That thinking is supported by the results of the election on April 5, which at the current count has Abdullah with 45 percent of the votes case and his nearest rival, Dr. Ashraf Ghani, with 32 percent. The two leading candidates will move to a second round runoff on June 7. Given his commanding lead in the first round, Abdullah, a former eye surgeon and foreign minister, looks well placed. Should the runoff go to form, then Abdullah (53) would be the first ethnic Tajik (his mother is Tajik, his father Pashtun) to lead Afghanistan since 1996. That would be significant in a land dominated by the Pashtun, who are estimated to account for up to 45 percent of the population, compared with around 30 percent for the Tajik people. In fact, Abdullah is identified most closely with the Northern Alliance, which challenged the Taliban government between 1996 to 2001. A majority of the leaders of the Alliance were of Tajik origin and were recognized by the international community as a government in exile while the Taliban was in power. Abdullah was the foreign minister in that government, a position he also held from 2001 to 2005 under the governments headed by Hamid Karzai. Abdullah Abdullah recently spoke with The Diplomat’s Sanjay Kumar about his priorities as president, and his stance on the Bilateral Security Agreement. How do you view these elections? How important are free and fair elections for the stability of Afghanistan? We are concerned about the massive, industrial-scale fraud [seen in past elections]. I hope the experience of 2009 will not be repeated. That will damage the interests of the country. People will not accept this. They will not accept this. Free and fair elections are important for the future of the country. The credibility of the institutions are also at stake. Many things are dependent on the elections. What would be your first priority should you assume power in Afghanistan? Of course the emphasis would be on security and the rule of law. I want to present opportunities to the people. People should feel from the first day that reform has started. They will feel from the beginning that a new chapter in the history of Afghanistan has started. We will deliver the promises made to the electorate. How you are planning to bring security to your country—an issue which is of paramount importance to the people. There are quite a few things that will help security in the country. Credible elections are important for instilling a sense of security among the people and that you can see now. Of course you need to strengthen your institutions; governance is important. Security in Afghanistan has domestic, regional and international dimensions. Talking about the domestic sector I think the rule of law is important to bring much-needed change. But this you cannot achieve overnight. When people are hopeful and security is getting better then they will contribute. If there is a shadow of uncertainty, then the enemies of security will use this opportunity and that will lead to the worsening of the situation. I think the outcome of credible elections is to start not only dealing with the issues of security but also dealing with other challenges that Afghanistan is faced with. What is your plan to deal with the Taliban? They remain a major challenge to the stability and security of the country? How open are you to negotiations with them? First of all, the doors of negotiations are to be opened—genuine, serious negotiations. At the same time, [the Taliban] need to understand that if they continue with the path of violence they will be tackled, they will be dealt with by the people of Afghanistan and the government of Afghanistan. That part of the message is not clear at the moment. The government is asking for talks and negotiations without making it clear to the Taliban that if they are not giving up violence they will be dealt with firmly. So in other words the government of Afghanistan has spoken from a position of weakness that does not work. That needs to be changed. The relationship between Afghanistan with Pakistan is important in that regard. One has to focus on that as well, and the international community can play a role as well. They can facilitate the talks. Do you see a scenario in the future in which the Taliban is part of the government in Kabul? Theoretically that only can happen only when they give up violence and severe links with terrorist organizations and when they accept the constitution of Afghanistan. When they want to be part of the political process by maintaining their ideas without using violence, [then at] that stage the doors need to be opened for them to participate in the governance and political process. But we are far away from such a reality. One of the concerns of the Western world is the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA)? How open are you to this proposal? I think the BSA needs to be signed sooner rather than later. By not signing it the current administration of Afghanistan has created an atmosphere of uncertainty that has damaged Afghanistan and its interests a great deal. So this should be the priority for the future government. Karzai has openly said that he does not trust the United States. How do you see the relationship with the world’s sole superpower? The relationship has to be based on mutual trust. In foreign relations and relations with other countries, there will always be issues and no one starts with complete trust. Partnership is based on mutual trust. You cannot base relations with other countries on mistrust.
A story that may sound like a fairy tale has turned into a horror story for two Saudi Arabian princesses. They've been locked up in their palace by their father for speaking out against women's rights abuses in the kingdom.
United Nations puts the death toll from Friday's landslide in Afghanistan at up to 500 but local officials say the number in Aab Bareek village could be as high as 2,700.
An attack on a NATO supply convoy in Pakistan leaves at least two people dead.
The World Health Organisation on Monday recommended strict travel restrictions on Pakistan due to the rising number of polio cases in the country. The WHO said the spread of polio is an international public health emergency that threatens to infect other countries with the crippling disease. The public health arm of the United Nations, issued its new guidelines to fight the disease, recommending Pakistanis traveling abroad should present a polio vaccination certificate. The WHO also recommended similar restrictions on Syria and Cameroon — two other countries where the disease was previously said to have been eradicated but have recently been known to have been exporting the potentially disease. Pakistan is one of only three countries where the crippling virus is endemic. The other two countries are Nigeria and Afghanistan. In an announcement today, the agency described the ongoing polio outbreaks in Asia, Africa and the Middle East as an ''extraordinary'' situation requiring a coordinated international response. In a statement, the WHO said Pakistan, Cameroon, and the Syrian Arab Republic pose the greatest risk of further wild poliovirus exportations in 2014. The WHO recommended: “These States should: officially declare, if not already done, at the level of head of state or government, that the interruption of poliovirus transmission is a national public health emergency; ensure that all residents and long-term visitors (i.e. > 4 weeks) receive a dose of OPV or inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) between 4 weeks and 12 months prior to international travel; ensure that those undertaking urgent travel (i.e. within 4 weeks), who have not received a dose of OPV or IPV in the previous 4 weeks to 12 months, receive a dose of polio vaccine at least by the time of departure as this will still provide benefit, particularly for frequent travelers; ensure that such travelers are provided with an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis in the form specified in Annex 6 of the International Health Regulations (2005) to record their polio vaccination and serve as proof of vaccination; maintain these measures until the following criteria have been met: (i) at least 6 months have passed without new exportations and (ii) there is documentation of full application of high quality eradication activities in all infected and high risk areas; in the absence of such documentation these measures should be maintained until at least 12 months have passed without new exportations.” “Once a State has met the criteria to be assessed as no longer exporting wild poliovirus, it should continue to be considered as an infected State until such time as it has met the criteria to be removed from that category,” added the WHO statement. Polio usually strikes children under five and is usually spread via infected water. There is no specific treatment or cure, but several vaccines exist. Experts are particularly concerned the virus continues to pop up in countries previously free of the disease, such as Syria, Somalia and Iraq — where civil war or unrest complicates efforts to contain the virus. Some critics say the rapid spread of polio could unravel the nearly three-decade effort to eradicate it.
The Express Tribune Iran’s police chief has hinted that his country would seal its border with Pakistan any time. “It is very important to ensure security on the eastern border,” Brigadier General Ahmadi Moqaddam was quoted as saying by state-run IRNA news agency on Sunday. Iran’s southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan province borders Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province. Tehran has already put in place extra security along the border following the kidnapping of five border guards last month. “Sealing the eastern borders will soon result in major changes in Sistan-Baluchestan province. We will witness major changes and developments in this region by sealing the borders,” Moqaddam told journalists in Tehran. He vowed a ‘crushing response to any terrorist who dares to threaten’ the country’s border security. “We pursue any assassination and murder until resolving the problem,” he said while pointing to terrorist acts in Sistan-Baluchestan. Moqaddam referred to the emergence of Jeish al Adl terrorist group after Jundollah ringleader Abdel Malik Rigi was arrested and executed in Iran. “A new terrorist group has started operation to continue Rigi’s work since last year and it has committed murders in the southern parts of the country and they attack people under the cover of defending the Sunnis, while everyone knows that we are not practicing religious segregation and discrimination,” he said. “The people of that region are not happy” with the group’s operations either “because insecurity halts progress and advancement”, he added. Five Iranian border guards were abducted by Jeish al Adl in early February. Four of them were freed after two months, while the fate of the fifth one is not clear yet. Last month, President Hassan Rouhani in a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister’s Special Envoy Sartaj Aziz in Tehran underlined the need for the removal of security concerns at the two countries’ common border. “The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that security and tranquility in Pakistan is interrelated with its own security and tranquility,” Rouhani said during the meeting.
The purported Taliban intention to hold talks with the government and the government’s desire to bring the talks to some logical conclusion have fallen flat owing to mismanagement and lack of trust between both the parties. The inevitability of the lack of trust cannot be argued about any further. The frustration of Chaudhry Nisar with the Taliban’s committee for its flip flop method of working out a peace deal has revealed the absence of common areas of interest between the government and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Whatever has been done to appease the TTP by the government such as releasing its prisoners without reciprocity has failed to make any difference. Even when the ceasefire had been in place, the attacks never stopped. Low intensity hits were carried out to keep the government off-balance. The so-called dialogue process does not seem to have reduced terrorism. The policy of retaliation for any deadly attack, as has happened in the aftermath of the Islamabad fruit market explosion, seems to be the reason behind the relatively calmer atmosphere. Now that the TTP has pulled out of the ceasefire agreement and the Jamaat-e-Islami has said rather loud and clear that the Islamic clauses of Pakistan’s constitution should be implemented, the failure of the peace process has started looming. It seems that unless the dialogue toes the TTP’s line, the ambiguity surrounding the peace process would keep growing thicker. It is this ambiguity or the political objective of the Taliban’s committee that has forced Major Amir to pull out of the peace dialogue as one of the government’s mediators. According to Major Amir, a claim reinforced by Chaudhry Nisar, the Taliban are less to be blamed for the stalled dialogue than its negotiating committee that had been playing to the gallery for point scoring. It seems as if the Jamaat has taken over the lead position, huddling the mullahs together to decide about the fate of terrorism vis-a-vis the state. Of late the tension between the government and the army over managing the TTP had been exploited as well to stall the talks. The demand that the army is given centre-stage, suggesting that it is the army calling the shots and the government is simply hiding behind a facade, created even more confusion. For the unpredictability surrounding the peace dialogue, the government is to be blamed the most. If the desire is to keep violence at a minimum by keeping the TTP engaged in dialogue so that peace could be maintained, the government is digging a deeper grave to bury the country’s future.