Tuesday, May 6, 2014

India election 2014: Narendra Modi say India and Pakistan should be allies in war on poverty

India and Pakistan should be allies in the war on poverty, says Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist leader expected to become India's next prime minister.
Narendra Modi has offered a new era of economic cooperation with Pakistan, if it stops terrorist attacks on India from its territory.
In an interview with The Times of India, the Bharatiya Janata Party leader and chief minister of Gujarat said both countries faced a common enemy in widespread poverty which they could tackle to together if a new trust could be established.
If he becomes prime minister when the results of the biggest election in history are announced next week, on May 16, he is ready to write a "new chapter" in relations between the nuclear neighbours if Islamabad can first demonstrate its commitment to peace by stopping terrorist attacks being launched from its soil.
His comments will be welcomed in Pakistan, where senior officials last month told The Telegraph they would like Mr Modi to become prime minister because they believe only an Indian government under a strong leader will be able to reopen talks and make progress towards normalising relations.
India and Pakistan have fought four wars since their independence from Britain and partition from one another in 1947. Relations had been improving until the 2008 Mumbai attacks when Lashkar e Taiba terrorists sailed to India's commercial capital by sea from Karachi and massacred more than 160 people in a three-day rampage. Dr Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, accused elements within Pakistan's security apparatus of supporting the attacks, which brought the enemies close to a fifth war.

Pakistan:YouTube ban: Resolution unanimously passed in National Assembly

The Express Tribune
A resolution seeking the removal of the ban on YouTube was unanimously passed in the National Assembly on Tuesday, Express News reported.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MNA Shazia Mari presented the resolution in the session of the National Assembly today. The government had blocked the video-sharing website YouTube in Pakistan on September 17, 2012, following a controversial film. During the session, State Minister for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Saira Afzal Tarar suggested that a committee be formed to decide whether the ban should be removed or not.
Mari protested against the ban, demanding immediate action from the government in this matter and said it affected students and businessmen negatively.
She criticised the government for not taking any steps to unblock the website, saying “YouTube is essential to get advanced knowledge and information, but the government is pushing the people towards darkness by putting a ban on this important facility.” PPP MNA had previously stated, “It is really disappointing that the government is ignoring this issue and trying to shift responsibility. YouTube is a source of knowledge for a large population of Pakistanis, particularly students and young professionals.”
“The distribution of laptops sans technologically advancement would not serve any objective of this scheme”, she stated. “It is the duty of the Pakistan Telecommunication Community (PTA) to filter the controversial sites and open useful content for the growing number of internet users”, she maintained.
Today, Tarar further stated that government wanted to lift the ban on YouTube and said that it was not possible to remove all the content considered ‘objectionable’ from the internet or YouTube.
“The government is as interested as the opposition to come to a solution for unblocking YouTube, but it is a sensitive issue,” Tarar said.
Government will not be an obstacle in this and will support the initiative to lift the ban, claimed Tarar. She said that the Supreme Court has even asked the government to lift the ban by blocking all the controversial movies, but it is not possible technically. No date has been given as to when the ban would be removed as yet.
Other countries
“Pakistan is the only Islamic country where YouTube services are blocked,” Mari told The Express Tribune. Other Islamic countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia who had also imposed a ban on the video-sharing site for the same reason unblocked it after taking necessary measures, she explained asking for an uplift of the ban. She further added that after launching next generation services such as 3G and 4G there is no reason to block YouTube.

Pakistan: Polio-related travel ban

WHAT had looked likely for months has now become a reality: yesterday, after a meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee concerning the international spread of wild poliovirus, WHO said in a statement that the conditions for a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” have been met. “This situation,” it said, “could result in failure to eradicate globally one of the world’s most serious vaccine-preventable diseases.”
Pakistan finds itself in the dock yet again. It remains one of the world’s three remaining polio-endemic countries, and the Pakistani strain of the virus has been detected in several other countries. Notwithstanding all the work put in by the polio immunisation campaign over more than two decades, the situation continues to worsen. From the passive refusal to let the Oral Polio Vaccine be administered, we now have active and brutal aggression. Vaccinators have been attacked and murdered, health teams work under siege conditions, there are problems with the cold-chain storage and doubts over the efficacy of the vaccine. In the TTP-dominated tribal areas, a ‘ban’ on the vaccination has been imposed, and in other areas tribal elders have tried to use it as a bargaining chip. It’s hardly any wonder, then, that WHO has finally advised that restrictions be placed on people travelling from countries that could export wild poliovirus, which includes Pakistan. The measure was first proposed in 2011 by the Independent Monitoring Board for Polio Eradication, and India implemented it early this year.
The way forward is what it has always been: Pakistan needs to get its house in order, urgently. The means and motivation have to be found to further the OPV initiative. While adults stand a small chance of contracting the disease, it is children with whom this crippling virus has an affinity, and in immunising every child — with starter and follow-up doses of the vaccine — lies the only hope for eradication. The state must not only better organise the logistics involved in reaching every child, it must also accomplish the task that is perhaps just as daunting: taking control of the narrative. No other country is at a comparable place, ie witnessing a seeming resurgence of the disease, and therefore the bulk of medical research refers to risk-assessment in the context of a falling, or halted, incidence of polio. The travel restriction advisory means that more challenges have been created. The various political elements that declaim their passion for the ‘national interest’ need reminding that the best way of achieving this lies in closing ranks. They must if they are to ensure that future generations don’t face being crippled, and that Pakistan is not an international pariah because of its inability to control the spread of a disease that, just a year ago, had very nearly been globally eradicated.

Asif Ali Zardari calls for rooting out militants opposed to polio vaccination, also urges WHO to review travel ban decision

Co-Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party former President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed grave concern over the travel restrictions imposed on Pakistan by the World Health Organization (WHO) because of the continuous rise in polio cases in the country.
In a statement today the former President called upon the authorities concerned in the federal and provincial governments to step up efforts to contain the spread of polio virus and deal with an iron hand the militants and bigots opposing polio vaccination. The polio spread has been caused in no small measure by the armed opposition to it by militants and bigots, he said. “The travel ban resulting in increasing our isolation should serve to remind every one that the policy of appeasing militants will cost the country dearly”, he said.
The militants opposing polio vaccination want to incapacitate the future generations and we owe it to our children to root out the extremists, the zealots and the bigoted militants before it is too late”.
Mr. Asif Ali Zardari also called upon the Party workers and the civil society to protect the polio workers from any harm by the militants. “We salute those courageous men and women who have laid down their lives or suffered grievously in reaching out to the children to vaccinate them against polio. They are our national heroes and heroines and must be protected and honored”. He said that the PPP is committed to end this crippling disease from the country and save the children. He recalled that Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had personally led the country wide campaign beginning with administering polio drops to her own daughter Aseefa Bhutto Zardari who later became Pakistan’s Ambassador on polio eradication. Unfortunately the distinction of a polio free country that Pakistan earned during her time did not last long and the crippling disease has reared its head again.
The former President also called upon the WHO to review its decision. Polio knows no boundaries and fighting polio is a global responsibility that must be shared by the international community. The imposition of travel ban will only increase Pakistan’s isolation and not advance the global fight against polio, the former President said.

Pakistan's Hindus, other minorities face surge of violence

The mob arrived at around midnight, brandishing clubs. They smashed statues, looted gold artifacts and then set the Hindu temple in Pakistan ablaze.
An accusation of blasphemy sparked the attack in the town of Larkana, human rights activists said, part of a spike in violence against Hindus in predominately Muslim Pakistan.
March was the worst month for attacks on Hindus in 20 years with five temples attacked, up from nine during the whole of 2013, said Life for All, a Pakistani rights group. But it's not just Hindus who feel victimized. All of Pakistan's minorities - Hindus, Christians, Ahmadis and even Shi'ite Muslims - feel that the state fails to protect them, and even tolerates violence against them.
Many complain the problem has become worse since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is seen as more conservative and indulgent of Islamists than his predecessor, came to power last year.
This raises questions about the state's pledge to rein in the militants who launch attacks into India and Afghanistan. The neighbors say the extremists act with the complicity of Pakistan's security agencies. Islamabad denies that
on-Muslims make up a small fraction of the 180 million people in nuclear-armed Pakistan.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the hero of the country's creation as a haven for the sub-continent's Muslims, ushered in independence in 1947 with a promise to minorities that they would enjoy freedom of worship and equality without discrimination.
But for many members of Pakistan's minorities those words ring hollow.
The U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom said in a recent report that conditions in Pakistan had "hit an all-time low" and governments had failed to adequately protect minorities and arrest perpetrators of crimes against them.
"Pakistan is increasingly failing to protect its minorities for two broad reasons: principally, rising religious intolerance and the space ceded to violent ideologies," said Sherry Rehman, who was a government minister and ambassador to the United States under the previous Pakistani administration.
The security establishment has used Islamists for decades, against political opponents at home and to pursue aims in Afghanistan and against old rival India. But some militants, like the Pakistani Taliban, have turned on the state since Pakistan joined the U.S.-led war on militancy.
The government launched peace talks with the Taliban in February and rights activists fear that they and other militants have been emboldened by the talks to step up attacks on their minority-group enemies.
Activists also say the tolerance of militancy provides cover for opportunist attacks by those who just want to grab land, homes or businesses of minority neighbors under the guise of religion.
Hindus and members of other minorities say the situation has worsened since Sharif won an election last year. Sharif has close ties with Saudi Arabia, whose brand of conservative Wahhabi Islam is preached by many of the people who denounce minorities.
Saudi Arabia, the center of Sunni Islam, sees Pakistan as a bulwark against Shi'ite Muslim Iran and it has long supported hardliners in Pakistan. It recently gave the country a gift of $1.5 billion.
Whatever the cause of the surge of violence and abuse, many Pakistani Hindus in the richest province of Punjab are feeling beleaguered and increasingly looking to get out. More than 100 families are leaving for India each month, rights groups say. Among those who have gone were Munawar Jee's brothers and their families after his married sister was kidnapped last year. Her abductors got her certified as a Muslim convert and re-married her off the next day. Recanting Islam would mean she could legally be put to death. "Losing my sister is the biggest regret of my life," Jee told Reuters at his shoe shop in Punjab's Rahim Yar Khan district. He said he would soon join his family in India. Hindus say their women are easy targets for rape or forced marriage. Temples are attacked and looted. Accusations of blasphemy, punishable by death, are increasingly being used to drive Hindus from their homes, they say. Punjab, the prime minister's heartland, had until recently been a refuge for Hindus compared with some other areas. But the province has also become a power base for militant groups, many of which have been nurtured by the security agencies and appeased by the politicians seeking votes.
"The militant groups work with impunity as they enjoy support from the state functionaries. They cannot work without some level of support," said veteran rights campaigner I.A. Rehman.
If the militants' treatment of minorities can be seen as a reflection of the state's acceptance of the groups, then people hoping the security forces will follow through on government vows to crack down on those responsible for violence would seem wise to be cautious.
"It is difficult to say if the security establishment has come out of its 'good Taliban'/'bad Taliban' mindset," said prominent lawyer and human rights campaigner Asma Jahangir, referring to the military's propensity to accept some groups while fighting others.
Federal Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid did not return calls seeking comment on policy towards minorities. A Punjab government spokesman rejected the suggestion that authorities were not doing enough to help Hindus. "The government is committed to protect its religious minorities," said Shoaib Bin Aziz, adding he was not aware of an increase of Hindus leaving. He denied that the provincial government was soft on militancy. "Terrorists are not friends of anyone," he said. "The Punjab government does not have soft corner for any terrorist organization."
Hindu activist Kirshan Sharma said such reassurances meant little. The government was talking to the Taliban but refused to protect Hindus, he said.
"Pakistan has kneeled before the Taliban by holding talks," Sharma said. "What hope can Hindus see in the country's future?"