Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Music: Leja Leja Re - Ustad Sultan Khan & Shreya Ghoshal

India: Modi eyes decisive majority after Indian exit polls

India's triumphant right-wing opposition said on Tuesday it was headed for a decisive majority in the world's biggest election after exit polls showed its hardline leader Narendra Modi closing in on victory.
Stock markets surged to record highs on hopes of a business-friendly government under Modi after a decade of rule by a left-leaning coalition, while US President Barack Obama said he looked forward to working with the new administration in New Delhi.
"Modi at Delhi Gate" said a headline in the Mail Today, while the Hindustan Times read simply "Exit Polls: Enter Modi" after a flurry of surveys released after voting ended on Monday pointed to a big win.
All forecasts showed Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies trouncing the Congress party which has been in power for a decade, and most indicated they would seal a narrow majority.
Results are due on Friday, with some still cautioning against over-confidence in a BJP victory given notorious forecasting errors at the last two general elections.
Modi was keeping a low profile, but senior BJP figures struck a bullish note by predicting the opposition would win more than 300 of the 543 seats in parliament although it was willing to work with additional partners.
"These elections have been fought on a hope that the country will get a good, stable government," V K Singh, a former army chief of staff who is now a senior BJP leader, told reporters at party headquarters.
"After May 16, we will be open to working with any, all entities that wish to work with us for the country's well being and development."
Asked about the exit polls predicting a majority for the BJP-led alliance, Singh replied: "We may perform even better than this."
Party spokesman Prakash Javadekar predicted that the BJP-led alliance would get more than 300, echoing Modi's chief lieutenant Amit Shah.
"My personal view is that we will get around 300 seats," Shah said.
"We will still be open to support and collaboration from any party that wants to work with a government that is committed to work for the nation," he told the Headlines Today network.
Reacting to the end of five weeks of voting that saw a record turnout of 551 million people, Obama said India had "set an example for the world".
"We look forward to the formation of a new government once election results are announced and to working closely with India's next administration to make the coming years equally transformative," he added.
Modi's election would present a headache for the US, which refused to deal with him for years in the aftermath of religious riots in the state of Gujarat in 2002 shortly after he became its chief minister.
More than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in the violence, which critics say Modi did little to stop, even though a court-appointed investigation team cleared him of any wrongdoing.
Washington only ended its boycott of Modi in February when Nancy Powell, the outgoing US ambassador to India, met him for talks in Gujarat.
European countries also refused to deal with him for years in the wake of the 2002 riots, for which Modi has refused to apologise.
Foreign and domestic investors have few misgivings about his past, however, and appeared in no mood to heed the warnings about unreliable pollsters.
"The expectation is that (the BJP alliance) will get to form the government comfortably and even if they need more allies they will not present a stumbling block for reforms," Harendra Kumar, head of Mumbai-based brokerage Elara capital, told AFP.
The Bombay Stock Exchange index, also known as the Sensex, showed gains of nearly two per cent at one stage, hitting a new record high before dipping slightly in early afternoon trade.
The Sensex has now gained around 22 per cent since the BJP chose Modi as its prime ministerial candidate in September. New data on Monday showed that industrial production shrank in March for the fifth time in sixth months, underlining the scale of the challenge for the next government in reviving growth.
Modi has largely steered clear of Hindu nationalist rhetoric on the campaign trail, promising to concentrate on development by rolling out the red carpet to companies and restore badly battered business confidence.
While a sweep by the BJP had been expected, the predicted scale of defeat for Congress was still striking, with exit polls showing support for the party, which has ruled India for most of the post-independence era, at an historic low.
Party leaders have dismissed the surveys and remain defiant in public, insisting that Friday's results will surprise the pollsters and hand the Congress-led alliance a third term in power.
They have begun rallying around Rahul Gandhi, the latest generation of the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, who has led his first national election campaign -- widely panned as lacklustre and uninspiring. Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said party president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul's mother, as well as local Congress leaders had fought the election together and shared the responsibility for the outcome.
"It is all collective," he said.

Bahraini prince accused of torture may lose immunity in UK

A Bahraini royal family member might be stripped of his diplomatic immunity in the UK after an opposition protester, who accuses him of involvement in torture, has been given permission to challenge his immunity from prosecution.
The judicial review proceedings were brought by a Bahraini citizen in Britain after Bahrain's pro-democracy uprising in 2011, which was violently crushed by the al-Khalifa regime.
In 2012, the UK's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) gave Prince Nasser immunity, a decision now challenged as “erroneous in law.”
Earlier the CPS said that the prince, who is now 27 years old, did not enjoy immunity from his royal status as his household was separate from that of the king, but he still had functional immunity as commander of Bahrain's Royal Guard, a post he has held since 2011.
Up until last week, the prince's identity hadn’t been revealed. Now, in the case that is due to be heard later this year, if found guilty he could be arrested in the UK, a country he regularly travels to.
The claimant, who has been granted asylum in the UK, remains anonymous. He is known only as FF and claims he was badly beaten and given a prison sentence after participating in protests in the Gulf state.
The arrest and prosecution of the prince was sought by FF's lawyers, based on section 134 of the UK’s Criminal Justice Act of 1988, under which torture carried out by a public official is an offence.
With confidentiality restrictions now set aside by a court order, there are still no comments from Bahraini officials.
When contacted by the Financial Times, the Bahrain embassy in London said that as the case questions legal grounds of an English prosecutorial decision, "Bahrain is not a party to the case and therefore it would be inappropriate for it to comment," adding that the underlying factual allegations are considered by Bahrain to be "both false and politically motivated.”
The 2011 protests in the island country of Bahrain were crushed by the government, but violence hasn't stopped in the kingdom. Protests led by the Shia-majority continue against the minority Sunni al-Khalifa monarchy.
In November 2012, Amnesty International criticized the US and UK for refusing to condemn human rights violations committed by Bahrain. The Gulf Arab state is an ally of both nations.
A report from the human rights watchdog accused Washington and London of criticizing the country’s monarchy without actually withdrawing support. It called on the US and Britain to “match their condemnation with action, instead of satisfying themselves with the narrative of reform while ignoring the reality of repression.”
Meanwhile, Prince Nasser's father, King Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa, will be visiting the UK this week to take part in the Royal Windsor Horse Show. A London conference celebrating Bahrain is also planned, with The Duke of York Prince Andrew as the keynote speaker.

Putin, Erdoğan and the West lost in translation

The European Union’s enlargement commissioner, Stefan Füle, confessed in a recent interview that the European Union had contributed to the current conflict in Ukraine by “failing” to understand Russian President Vladimir Putin’s past statements about the legacy of the U.S.S.R.
“We didn’t take seriously the message that President Putin sent to us when he said a couple of years ago that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was the biggest catastrophe of the 20th century,” said Füle in an interview at RFE/RL’s Prague headquarters.
“At the 2008 Bucharest NATO-Russia summit, I was in the room when Putin said Ukraine was an ‘artificial country,’” Füle added. “Half of us laughed, half of us didn’t understand. But we understand now. We’re not laughing anymore.”
When some prominent opinion leaders, including representatives from the Turkish press, tried to convey the message to the EU that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was “an authoritarian ruler; a wolf disguised in a democratic sheep’s clothing,” I’m sure many in the EU laughed as well. I bet no one is laughing now when they hear about Erdoğan; apart from those who do not want to see Turkey as a member, obviously.
Füle’s remarks made me recall another anecdote recounted by the former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who met Russia’s current leader Vladimir Putin when he was the head of the Committee for External Relations of the Saint Petersburg Mayor’s office. According to Kissinger, Putin blamed Mikhail Gorbachev for the dissolution of the Soviet Union. “He was a weak leader,” Putin told Kissinger, adding that the Soviet Union would not have been dissolved if it had been headed by a strong leader.
“Wow,“ I recall claiming in disbelief when I first heard of Kissinger’s anecdote, which was told to me by a Turkish diplomat, just as I said “wow” quietly when Gülnur Aybet, a professor of international relations, told me in an interview that Russia wanted to act as a “benign power.” Russia does do not look benign to the West yet, and as Aybet said, Russia does not see anything benign about what the Western powers are doing either.
Aybet’s analysis made me realize once again how we can get “lost in translation,” as nation-states have different sets of norms.
EU is a normative power, whereas Russia is a Realpolitik power, Aybet said, adding that while Russia has always been wary of NATO and EU expansion, it was much more alarmed by the EU’s expansion than that of NATO. In other words, Russia is more afraid of spreading values than marching armies.
“Because values can put people on the streets. Weapons can confront another army, but with normative power, Russia is not quite sure how it works. Russia is much more of a Realpolitik power. It exerts influence through power. It does not understand institutional normative power, which is what the EU is,” Aybet explained.
I thought of this explanation when I watched Erdoğan’s reaction to the speech of Metin Feyzioğlu, the head of the Turkish Bar Association (TBB), during the Council of State’s 146th anniversary. I think it is disrespectful of Feyzioğlu to make his speech much longer than he was allowed, especially in view of all of the scheduled programs of all the state dignitaries. It is also debatable whether one can find his speech politically oriented. But was Erdoğan’s the right way to react? To get up, raise your voice, insult, show your teeth, turn your back, leave the place and promise not to have a similar scene again; ruining all the bridges for dialogue.
He behaved exactly like that during the Gezi protests. Erdoğan just doesn’t understand the normative power of “democratic dissidence.” He does not know how it works, so he deals with it in the only way he knows, exerting political power and showing his political teeth.

Turkey: No witch hunt in democracies: Main opposition CHP leader

Democracies champion principles of the rule of law and human rights and do not embrace “witch hunts,” the leader of the main opposition has said.
Main opposition leader Republican People’s Party (CHP) Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s words come as obvious criticism toward the prime minister, who vowed to fight against members of the pro-Gülen community inside the state, even though it would be considered a witch hunt.
“There are no witch hunts in democracies. Democracies include the concept of the rule of law. If there is a criminal, you take him or her to court with evidence,” Kılıçdaroğlu told reporters following his weekly parliamentary group meeting. Kılıçdaroğlu made this comment upon a question about Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s statement on May 11 that “If moving those who betrayed this country from one place to another is a ‘witch hunt,’ then yes, we’ll perform this witch hunt.”
Crimes are investigated adequately and within the rule of law under normal democracies, Kılıçdaroğlu said, adding “But [this attitude of], ‘I’ll do whatever I’d like to do; I can arrest whoever I want’ is not the right behavior. This can’t be done in democracies.”
‘We want first class democracy’
Underlining that the regimes of the 21st century favor the principle of separation of powers instead of an absolute power used by a single person with the media regarded as the fourth power after legislation, executive and judiciary, Kılıçdaroğlu said Turkey had re-entered the outdated “absolute power” period. “Nations that have been ruled by anger instead of wisdom have paid heavy costs. In 21st century Turkey, we do not want to pay such heavy costs. We want to be a first class democracy of the 21st century. The people of this country do not deserve third class democracy,” he said.
Recalling Erdoğan’s walkout of the ceremony on the occasion of the 146th anniversary of the Council of State as a reaction to the critical address of Metin Feyzioğlu, the head of the bar association, Kılıçdaroğlu said “A politician should listen to all critical voices. That criticism may not be right and be disturbing. But we’ll use our mind, we’ll be patient and we’ll listen carefully. We’ll draw lessons from all criticisms. You can be a statesman identity if you can handle it.”
‘Erdoğan a fake dictator’
“Why be afraid of words? They are afraid of thoughts. They even said ‘Books are sometimes more dangerous than bombs,’” Kılıçdaroğlu said and harshly slammed Erdoğan by saying “He cannot tolerate those who express their own views. He is a fake dictator.”


Antarctic ice loss "passed the point of no return" - scientists

- Vast glaciers in West Antarctica seem to be locked in an irreversible thaw linked to global warming that may push up sea levels for centuries, according to scientists. A new study by researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of California, Irvine, says the glaciers have ''passed the point of no return'' and there is nothing to stop the entire glacial basin from melting into the sea.

What Mr. Putin Can’t Control

If there were questions about the legitimacy of the separatist referendums in eastern Ukraine, the farcical names of the entities on which people were asked to vote — the self-declared People’s Republics of Donetsk or Luhansk — surely answered them. But the gathering rumble of violence accompanying the votes is serious and is driving the Ukrainian crisis in a direction that before long no one — not President Vladimir Putin of Russia, not authorities in Kiev, not the West — will be able to control.
A “round table” of Ukrainian politicians and civil groups and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, and the O.S.C.E. is reported to be preparing a “road map” to a peaceful resolution of the crisis. But unless Mr. Putin can and does rein in the secessionists in southeastern Ukraine, and unless nationwide presidential elections can take place in Ukraine as scheduled on May 25, the talks will have little meaning.
The fact that the referendums were held despite Mr. Putin’s urging last week that they be postponed suggests that events are already developing a momentum of their own. There is talk now among the pro-Russia secessionists of another referendum, this time on joining Russia. The Kremlin’s response to the referendums was ambiguous, saying that Moscow “respects the will of the population of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions” while urging that any follow-up be through dialogue between the government in Kiev and the separatists.
Mr. Putin has given every indication that his real goal is not to annex any more Ukrainian territory but to transform Ukraine into a federation under a weak and neutral Kiev government permanently dependent on Russia.
What that means is that even if the talks get underway, Kiev and its Western backers may well be confronted with unacceptable demands. Mr. Putin is likely to seek recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea; a level of regional self-government tantamount to partition; and guarantees against political and economic linkages to Europe.
Though some devolution of power from the center to the regions is unavoidable, Kiev must come out of the negotiations with a reasonable degree of central control and the freedom to forge normal relations with the West.
That will not be easy. Ukraine is broke, and Russia is claiming unrealistically large payments to continue supplying natural gas. The Ukrainian authorities have very few options at this point — any military action against the secessionists is certain to cause civilian casualties, which would invite Russian military intervention, but not responding to the separatists’ actions would encourage them to expand their control.
Yet Mr. Putin’s hand is not all aces. He must be aware that any Russian military drive into southeastern Ukraine would entail bloody resistance, serious trade sanctions, enormous costs and, if it led to annexation, a truncated but virulently anti-Russia and pro-West Ukraine.
While the Ukrainian crisis has sharply raised Mr. Putin’s standing at home, this could quickly change if actual fighting broke out. Even the modest sanctions already in place are provoking capital flight, choking foreign investment and slowing an already creaky Russian economy. And however hard he tries to shrug off Western opprobrium, Mr. Putin is not immune to the damage being done to his reputation, especially in Germany, the European country he seems to care most about.
In the end, there is no alternative to negotiations for either side. At this late stage, they cannot be another exercise in futility, like the last meeting in Geneva.
The O.S.C.E. must set out its road plan as soon as possible, and the Germans, above all others, must make clear to Mr. Putin that they won’t be lulled by more false promises; that unless he clears the way for presidential elections on May 25, gets his minions in southeastern Ukraine in line and really pulls back his armies, the European Union and the United States will impose sanctions that will cut Russia off for a long time from Western sources of technology, arms and finance.

Kuwait Minister Accused by US of Terrorism Funding Quits

Kuwait's justice and Islamic affairs minister has resigned, the local news service al-Rai said on Monday, after a senior U.S. official said he had called for jihad in Syria and promoted the funding of terrorism.
Last month Nayef al-Ajmi rejected the comments made in March by U.S. Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen as “groundless and baseless,” and was backed by the Cabinet.
But on Monday, Ajmi said the Gulf state's ruler had accepted his resignation, al-Rai said. Kuwaiti media reported last month that he had already offered to resign once, citing health reasons.
“I thank His Highness the Emir for accepting my resignation and for understanding my reasons,” Ajmi said according to an SMS alert from al-Rai, which gave no further details.
Attempts to reach Ajmi were unsuccessful. He has given statements to the private news group on the topic before.
Cohen said that Ajmi had “a history of promoting jihad in Syria” and that his image had been featured on fundraising posters for a financier of a Syrian rebel group linked to al-Qaida - the Nusra Front.
Kuwait has been one of the biggest humanitarian donors to Syria and Syrian refugees through the United Nations, but it has also struggled to control unofficial fundraising for opposition groups in Syria by private individuals.
Unlike some other Gulf states, U.S. ally Kuwait is against arming rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But it has tolerated fundraising in private houses, mosques and on social media.
In particular, some Kuwaiti and U.S. officials fear that campaigns that give militant Islamist groups funds to buy arms will not only fuel the violence in Syria but also stir sectarian tensions in Kuwait.
Like other Western countries, the United States considers that Assad has lost legitimacy for his violent repression of what began as a peaceful protest movement, but does not want to see him replaced by the more hardline Islamist groups that have gained ascendancy among Syria's armed rebels.
In another sign that Kuwait was reacting to concerns about Syria financing, a Kuwaiti official said a recent fundraising campaign backed by local clerics and politicians was illegal.
Munira al-Fadhli, an assistant undersecretary in the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, was quoted by Monday's English language daily Kuwait Times as saying that “our department does not authorize or license individuals to collect donations. Licenses are only given to official charities”. Fadhli said the recent “Syria Calls” campaign violated the law and legal action will be taken against its organizers.
“Syria Calls” describes itself as a “Union of Kuwaiti campaigns to support Syria” and is backed by well-known local clerics and opposition politicians. An online poster for the group does not make clear exactly what the money is for.

President Obama's Bilateral Meeting with President Mujica of Uruguay

US chides China over ‘provocative’ actions in sea dispute with Vietnam

The United States sees China’s introduction of an oil rig and several vessels in waters disputed with Vietnam as “provocative”, US Secretary of State John Kerry told China’s foreign minister in a telephone call on Monday. China claims almost the entire South China Sea, rejecting rival claims to parts of it from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.
“He [Kerry] said China’s introduction of an oil rig and numerous government vessels in waters disputed with Vietnam was provocative,” US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “He urged both sides to de-escalate tensions, ensure safe conduct by their vessels at sea, and resolve the dispute through peaceful means in accordance with international law.” China’s foreign ministry said there certainly had been provocative moves in the South China Sea, but that China was not the guilty party and repeated that it was the United States’ fault for encouraging such behaviour.
“We hope that the US side can carefully reflect – if they really hope for the Pacific Ocean to be peaceful, what kind of role do they actually want to play?” spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing. Hua said that Wang urged Kerry to “objectively and fairly” look at the South China Sea issue, and “act and speak cautiously”. Tensions rose in the resource-rich South China Sea last week after China positioned the giant oil rig in an area also claimed by Vietnam. Each country accused the other of ramming its ships near the disputed Paracel Islands. In separate remarks to visiting Singapore Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, Kerry said the United States was deeply concerned by China’s “aggressive act” in the dispute.
“We are particularly concerned - all nations that are engaged in navigation and traffic within the South China Sea, the East China Sea, are deeply concerned about this aggressive act,” Kerry said in the Monday meeting. “We want to see a code of conduct created; we want to see this resolved peacefully through the Law of the Sea, through arbitration, through any other means, but not direct confrontation and aggressive action,” Kerry added, according to a transcript of his comments released by the State Department. Speaking to fellow leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at a summit on Sunday, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said Vietnam had acted with “utmost restraint” and used all means of dialogue to request China remove the rig. Dung said China was slandering his country and committing dangerous violations. However the communique issued at the end of the summit by the 10-nation Asean group contained no criticism of China. Vietnamese state media said that Vietnamese and Chinese ships had again used water cannon on each other on Monday, though there were no injuries. Chinese spokeswoman Hua would neither confirm nor deny the new face-off, repeating that China was urging Vietnam to “end its provocative actions” and withdraw its ships.

China far from being "aggressive" in South China Sea

Contrary to an aggressive image painted by Vietnam and the United States lately, China has been quite restrained about what happened in the Xisha Islands last week. The trouble started when Vietnam attempted to stop a Chinese company from drilling in waters 17 nautical miles (some 31 kilometers) from China's Zhongjian Island and 150 nautical miles from the Vietnamese coast. Chinese companies have been operating in these waters for about a decade and the current operation is a routine continuation of that work. China considers the Xisha Islands and the waters around them an inalienable part of Chinese territory. From May 3 to 7, Vietnam dispatched 36 vessels, including armed warships, to harass the rig and interrupt drillings, deliberately and rampantly ramming Chinese boats as many as 171 times. How a country should respond to such harassment in its own territory may vary, but China's response has not crossed any line. According to Yi Xianliang, deputy director-general of the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China communicated through diplomatic channels with Vietnam 14 times from May 2 to 8. Vietnam was asked to respect China's territorial integrity, stop all forms of disruption and quit the scene. Clearly Vietnam did not heed China's request. Islands in the South China Sea, including Xisha Islands, were first discovered, named and administered by China. China's historical rights were respected by international law and in fact remained undisputed until the discovery of oil in the 1970s. To cut a share, countries like Vietnam have tried to muscle their way in. For instance, Vietnam unilaterally divided the waters around the Nansha Islands into sections and offered them to international bidders for oil exploitation. Over and above oil matters, Vietnam persistently harasses Chinese fishing boats and has tried to occupy islets in the waters. In face of these affronts, China has exercised great restraint and fully implemented the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which it signed with ASEAN in 2002. By antagonizing China and making the situation more complicated by dragging irrelevant countries into the issue, Vietnam seems to be ignoring its duty as an ASEAN member to follow the letter and spirit of 2002 pact and maintain peace and stability in the region. The consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries on friendship, cooperation and sensitive issue also appears to have been forgotten. Restraint as a good neighbor should not be misread as weakness. China is as determined as any other country to safeguard its sovereignty.

CHINA: The Philippines' tough stance can only end in embarrassment

This year, the Philippines' conduct on the South China Sea issue has been bewildering: At first, it pretended to be a victim of China's "threat of force", complained that China was preventing it from supplying the warship beached on the Ren'ai Reef, and accused China of refusing to accept arbitration on the issue. Then before the quest for sympathy had even had a chance to run its course, the Philippines suddenly adopted a hard line. On May 6, 2014, armed personnel from the Philippines detained a Chinese fishing boat around the Half Moon Shoal in the Nansha Islands, and on the same day a senior military official of the Philippines announced a so-called "Defense Plan of the South China Sea" through Japanese media channels.
The Philippines tough stance was not taken on a whim: their confidence to challenge China on the South China Sea issue stems from the belief that they have the protection and support of the US.
It is true that the US has signed an "Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement" with the Philippines. And the two countries are carrying on a joint military exercises "shoulder to shoulder", based on scenarios such as "coping with possible invasion" - an obvious dig at China. Therefore, the Philippines indulges itself in the belief that on the South China Sea issue, the interests and stance of the US and the Philippines are as one, and the US will pick up the tab for the Philippines' actions.
In fact, the Philippines has been blinded by its reliance on the US. It fails to see that the US is trying to protect its interests in the South China Sea, which includes the overall stability of the area. The US has tried everything it can think of to constrain China, while avoiding direct conflict. The US needs the Philippines to be its ally, but at the same time it attaches great importance to establishing a new-type great power relationship with China. During Obama's visit to the Philippines, he confirmed in public that the US has no intention of confronting China or restraining its peaceful rise. The American side emphasized that defense cooperation between the US and the Philippines targets terrorism, piracy, smuggling, natural disasters and other areas. Obviously, those areas do not involve China. The US deliberately keeps its policy vague as it is unwilling to provoke China overtly; it would be impossible for the US to help the Philippines attack China on the South China Sea.
China takes an unwavering stand on protecting its territory and sovereignty, and has no fear of provocation from any country. On the incident of the detained Chinese fishing boat, the Chinese coast guard arrived promptly on the scene, and China resolved the issue through diplomatic channels, requiring the Philippine side to release the crew and the boat and give a reasonable explanation.
After the Huangyan Island incident, China implemented regular naval patrols around the island and put an end to Filippino harassment of Chinese boats in the area. Making the same mistake again will do no good to the Philippines.
As a responsible country, China has the confidence and willpower to face interference from outside forces. The Philippines would be well advised to think carefully before acting.

Video: Water cannon fight in South China Sea

Vietnamese and Chinese ships exchange water-cannon fire in the disputed South China Sea.

Donetsk celebrates newly-claimed independence from Kiev with fireworks

AP Top Stories May 13

الیکشن کمیشن کے تمام ارکان مستعفی ہوجائیں، خورشید شاہ

اسلام آباد سے جاری اپنے ایک بیان میں قومی اسمبلی میں قائد حزب اختلاف خورشید شاہ کا کہنا تھا کہ سیاسی جماعتوں کو مل بیٹھ کر معاملات ٹھیک کرنے چا ہیئیں انتخابی اصلاحات کا مطالبہ صرف تحریک انصاف کا نہیں پوری قوم کا ہے، عمران خان کبھی نہیں چاہیں گے کہ ملک میں آمریت آئے۔ ان کا کہنا تھا کہ عام انتخابات میں دھاندلی پر الیکشن کمیشن کو سابق چیف الیکشن کمیشنر فخرالدین جی ابراہیم کے ساتھ ہی مستعفی ہو جانا چاہیئے تھا۔ خورشید شاہ نے کہا کہ ایم کیو ایم کے قائد الطاف حسین پاکستانی ہیں، حکومت کو ایم کیو ایم کے قائد کو ہنگامی بنیادوں پر شناختی کارڈ اور پاسپورٹ ملنا چاہیئے۔

Exit Polls Prove the Modi Increment

For everything that is true of India, an old line goes, the opposite is also true. Keeping this caveat in mind would be useful while analysing the results of exit polls that were telecast on several television channels on Monday evening.
In bipolar democracies, exit polls rarely go wrong and are usually seen as near infallible. Yet even in such polities there have been occasions, in tight finishes, when exit polls have proved to be inaccurate. In India, exit polls - like opinion polls - suffer from the additional handicap of converting vote share to seat share in a three or four-cornered contest. Depending on the wasted vote - the extra vote a candidate gets in a seat that only adds to his or her winning margin but is not needed to simply defeat all other candidates - an individual party could find its numbers inflated or reduced in a state. (India Votes 2014: Complete Coverage)
Take Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP is projected to win about 40 per cent of the popular vote. This could yield it 45 of the state's 80 seats; it could as easily yield it 60. An analogy would be appropriate here. In the IIT entrance examination, the gap in scores - not to speak of the scholastic aptitude - of the candidate who finishes second and the candidate who finished 52nd is probably very tiny. Yet, that tiny gap can yield a very different rank. Something like this could well happen in an election.
While most of the exit polls gave the BJP a similar tally for Uttar Pradesh, states like Tamil Nadu, Orissa and Bihar threw up large variations, even if the overall, all-India numbers were within a narrow range for all the exit polls save one. Why did this happen? Frankly, attempting to decipher state or more so constituency-level results from a national sample makes for great television but is actually risky psephology. It is one thing to attempt a state-specific poll and choose a random sample from that state. It is quite another thing to draw up an all-India sample and then try and read its opinion in terms of state boundaries.
In the May 12 exit polls, the Rashtriya Janata Dal's seat performance in Bihar was recorded extremely unevenly. Similarly, in Orissa (total seats: 21), one exit poll gave the BJP 23 per cent of the vote and one seat, and the Congress 27 per cent of the vote and five seats. Another exit poll gave the BJP 10 seats. It is likely that the BJP vote percentage was within the same band for both polls. Both polls could be completely honest but only one can possibly be right (or of course they can both be wrong).
Given this, the exit poll data is more important for vote share than for seat predictions. The big picture to emerge from the exit polls is that the BJP is now head-and-shoulders above the Congress when it comes to being India's leading national party. In 2009, the BJP had an all-India vote share of 18.8 per cent. In 2014, the vote share is expected to almost double.
This is a dramatic jump and much more than the seats the party may or may not win, it suggests the impact Narendra Modi has had. For anybody with a doubt as to the protagonist of the 16th Lok Sabha election, the CNN-IBN-CSDS-Lokniti poll was revealing. A massive 44 per cent of NDA voters said they "would not have voted for the alliance had Modi not been the PM candidate of the BJP".
Most of the exit polls argue this incremental or Modi vote will be enough to take the NDA to a majority. They may or may not be right and may or may not have got their vote-to-seat conversions right. In that sense, they may have misread the quantum and impact of the Modi increment. Even so, it is unlikely that any verdict on May 16 will be able to completely deny the existence of the Modi increment. The man is now in a league of his own.

Obama hopes to work ‘closely with India’s next administration’

A Congresssional report last month confirmed, ”if Narendra Modi were to become Prime Minister of India, he would automatically be eligible for an A-1 (diplomatic) visa as Head of State, regardless of the purpose of his visit”
U.S. President Barack Obama congratulated the people of India on concluding the ninth and final phase of their national elections on Monday, and despite a nine-year visa ban against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the likely future Prime Minster of India, Mr. Obama said that he hoped to work “closely with India’s next administration to make the coming years… transformative.”
Praising India for setting “an example for the world” in holding the largest democratic election in history and underscoring shared values of diversity and freedom, Mr. Obama added that future cooperation would be built upon the “strong friendship and comprehensive partnership over the last two decades,” which made Indian and American citizens safer and more prosperous.
The President also said that his administration was looking forward to the formation of a new government once election results were announced, the lengthiness of which process would likely depend on the number of seats garnered by the BJP and its partners within the NDA umbrella and the vagaries of alliance formation.
While observers have noted that numerous sources of friction have plagued the bilateral relationship in recent years, the Obama administration is likely to expediently address the visa ban against Mr. Modi since 2005 if he does become India’s next Prime Minister.
Although his U.S. visa at the time was revoked under an automatic U.S. ban for foreign leaders viewed as “responsible for, or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom,” in Mr. Modi’s case his alleged complicity in the 2002 Gujarat riots, a Congresssional report in April 2014 confirmed, “if Narendra Modi were to become Prime Minister of India, he would automatically be eligible for an A-1 (diplomatic) visa as Head of State, regardless of the purpose of his visit”.

Women's rights barely a topic in Indian election

Katja Keppner
Rights activists have criticized the lack of focus in Indian elections on issues related to women's safety, despite increasing violence against women in the South Asian country.
It is already the fifth time today that Rama makes a cross in the last column of the table that is displayed on her monitor screen. The column is reserved for sexual harassment. A 16-year-old girl has just informed her on the phone that she "was threatened with a weapon."
Rama works at "Helpline 181," an emergency service for women. "I like to work here," says the 20-year-old, adding that "in my own case, the police did not help me and I felt being left alone. By working here, I can help other women so that they have it better." Rama has herself experienced sexually harassment. For years, she was stalked and groped by a much older man, who was a family friend. When she finally told her mother about it, she persuaded Rama not to complain to the police.
Violence against women
All people working at the small "Helpline 181" office in New Delhi have had similar experiences. The facility was set up after the fatal gang rape of a young student in late 2012, which made international headlines and drew attention to the safety of women in the world's second most populous nation.
The center is open round the clock, with phones here ringing more than 2000 times a day. Students like Rama and other middle-aged women receive these calls. Some single mothers working here are fighting out their own court cases.
However, the situation of women in the country has not become a major issue in the recent election campaign, says Muneera, who has been working in a windowless room since the launch of the hotline, overseeing shift schedules and looking after serious cases, where women are in acute danger. "No major political party has seriously dealt with the situation of women," criticizes the 35-year-old mother. The general elections in India lasted for five weeks and the final phase of polling finally ended on May 12. Female electorate
Two friends Merja and Neema come to attend one of the election meetings of the opposition BJP's PM candidate, Narendra Modi, in New Delhi. They believe only Modi has the strength and the will to lead women to a better future. They wait for nearly three hours for Modi to take the stage. Eventually, at the end of his speech, the BJP leader touches on women's issues. "In this city," Modi says, "our sisters and mothers are no longer safe. Delhi has a lousy reputation and we will change that."
This is also the promise the presumed PM nominee of the ruling Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, is trying to sell the 400 million-strong female electorate.
Furthermore, the newly founded anti-corruption outfit, Aam Aadmi Party, has devoted a full chapter in its election manifesto to gender equality, and has given tickets to a number of female candidates, particularly in big cities, to contest the elections. Tokenism
Analysts such as Niranjan Sahoo from the Observer Research Foundation say that even when political parties speak about the lack of security for women, they do not mean that they seriously intend to resolve the situation. "It is simple tokenism, which the parties offer," he told DW, adding that "parties try to demonstrate that they are sensitive towards women's issues by fielding women candidates – who are often from influential families and therefore receive prospects for a political career - here and there."
However, Sahoo believes the election will be determined by other issues, such as economic growth and fight against corruption. This tendency is also confirmed by Khadijah Faruqui, director of the "Helpline 181." "Women's safety has become a buzzword. But this is again the concept of strong men, who think they have to protect women. What we actually demand is not security, but equal rights for us women," said the activist.

New Pashto Song 2014

Afghanistan: Veiled reference gives an unusual insight into Kabul life

Nick Galvin
While westerners typically only look on from the outside at women wearing the burqa, artist Jennifer Gowen began pondering how the world might look from inside the traditional garb.
Back home in Caringbah after a month-long visit to Afghanistan in 2011, she was desperate to recapture what she had seen.
“The image that really stayed in my mind was of the women in their blue burqas weaving in and out of the crowds of men and boys,” she says. “Afghanistan is a very colourless country – the men wear mainly black and grey – so this is the only bit of colour that you see.”
She began experimenting with her own burqa, bought in a Kabul store, and became fascinated by the outside world as seen through the cloth “grille” on the garment.
“Women who wear burqas see the world differently from us western women,” she says. “They see it as a soft-focus blur of colours looking through the squares.”
The result of her experiments is a striking series of more than 40 works, many featuring an impressionistic interpretation of how the world appears from inside a burqa.
Gowen’s trip to Kabul with fellow artist Annette Tzavaras involved an unusual artistic “mission”. They each carried 25 artworks by a rollcall of prominent Australian artists, including Euan Macleod, Ann Thomson, Jiawei Shen and Lucy Culliton.
The works were to be shown at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in the war-torn city, in an event that turned out to be far more significant than either Gowen or Tzavaras realised. “When we got there it was a lot bigger than we expected,” says Gowen. “In fact, it was the first international exhibition to be held in the country since the fall of the Taliban.”
And the response from the locals, long starved of artistic input under the Taliban, was overwhelming. “We had about 220 people at the opening,” says Gowen. “We expected about 20 because it had rained for a day and a half beforehand turning the roads of Kabul to mud. That’s how keen they are.”
Gowen is unsure when or if she will return to Afghanistan but the country and its people occupy a special place in her heart and she continues to do what she can to help, in particular for the women and children there. “I had no idea the effect the trip would have on my life,” she says. “It was life-changing and has absorbed my mind ever since.”
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/veiled-reference-gives-an-unusual-insight-into-kabul-life-20140512-zr6g6.html#ixzz31aetdcfC

Set up Afghanistan war inquiry, MPs urge government

By Justin Parkinson
The UK government should set up an inquiry into "lessons learned" after troops withdraw from Afghanistan at the end of this year, MPs have recommended.
The Commons defence committee said ministers should plan for a "thorough" study covering the aims of the war and whether efforts had been "sufficient".
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond promised to "look strategically across the campaign" after the mission ends. More than 450 UK personnel have died in the Afghan conflict since 2001. An official inquiry into the Iraq war began almost five years ago and has still to publish its findings. This follows arguments between the panel, led by former civil servant Sir John Chilcot, and Whitehall officials over which documents can be disclosed.
In its report on Afghanistan, the Defence Select Committee said the Taliban insurgency in the country remained "a strong and persistent threat".
It said the Afghan government would need the continued support of the international community after most UK and other international troops left.
The committee warned of an "uncertain" future and said it hoped Defence Secretary Philip Hammond's prediction that the country would not descend into civil war would prove correct.
It said that, while there had been gains in the rights of Afghan women and girls during the years international forces had been in the country, progress remained "fragile". In contrast, the UK's counter-narcotics strategy had failed, with opium poppy cultivation in Helmand province soaring to record
levels as the troops prepared to leave. "We are concerned that this will continue to fund organised crime, and undermine the development of democratic government and governance," the report said. The committee called on the government to begin work towards the eventual publication of an official history of the Afghan campaign, as well as commissioning a more immediate "lessons learned" inquiry.
It said: "The study should set out what the political ends were, how they changed during the course of the campaign, and judge whether the ways and means, diplomatic, economic and military, were sufficient during the course of the campaign."
The committee also said: "A relatively small investment could have a significantly beneficial impact on future planning." A source told the BBC that the hearings for an Afghanistan inquiry would not necessarily take place in public and its findings could be shown only to ministers and Whitehall officials. One of the committee members, Labour MP Dai Havard, told the BBC: "It's not meant to be 'let's find a head on a stick and someone to blame'.
"It should be that Parliament says to the executive that it needs to address these issues. We have to learn from these experiences."
In response to the committee, Mr Hammond said: "As combat operations in Afghanistan draw to a close we can be proud of the contribution British forces have made to ensuring that the country cannot be used as a base for international terrorists to attack us and our interests. "We have a highly effective process for identifying lessons to be learned in near real time, but we will want to look strategically across the campaign as a whole to see what longer-term lessons need to be learned, once the mission is over." For Labour, shadow defence secretary Vernon Coaker said: "It is important the we learn the lessons from our involvement in the long and difficult combat operation in Afghanistan. "The evolving role of the armed forces over the course of the mission presented great challenges to the military, and we should examine these fully to ensure we gain an insight in to all aspects of what happened over the last number of years." Such decisions would be have to be made by a future government, they added.

545 children killed in Afghan conflict last year

According to United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) around 1,694 child casualties were documented in Afghan conflict in 2013.
UNAMA following a statement said Monday at least 545 children were killed and a furher 1,149 others were injured last year. According to UNAMA, the leading cause of death and injury of children was improvised explosive devices, which do not distinguish between combatants and civilians and are the biggest killer of civilians in Afghanistan. In the meantime, the Independent Human Rights Commission of Afghanistan (IHRC) Chief, Seema Samar said around 284 children have been killed as a result of surge in violence across the country this year.
Samar said the wave of violence in Afghanistan has dramtically increased this year and blamed the anti-government armed militant groups for majority of the civilian deaths which are occuring due to use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
She also criticized the anti-government armed militant groups for misuse of children specifically in armed conflicts and called on all parties involved in Afghanistan’s conflict to respect the human rights and avoid misuse of children. The UN special envoy for Afghanistan Jan Kubis also criticized the misuse of children and said the insurgent groups in Afghanistan are using the children for suicide attacks after washing their brains.
“The conflict has exposed children to armed groups that prey on their vulnerability and exploit them, and who use children to participate in active hostilities or as messengers and delivery boys – further exposing children to the dangers of war,” Kubis said.
This comes as the Afghan intelligence – National Directorate of Security (NDS) accused religious schools (Madrasas) in Pakistan for encouraging Afghan children to carry out suicide attack. NDS spokesman, Lotfullah Mashal said around 80 percent of the suicide attacks are carried out by children in Afghanistan. According to Mashal, around 20 to 70 Madrasas are operating in Pakistan which are only training the Afghan children for suicide bombing and called on United Nations to take necessary actions to prevent the use of children for suicide attacks.

Afghanistan: Abdullah Claims Fraudulent Votes Counted

The leading Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah's electoral team on Monday accused the Independent Elections Commission (IEC) of entering "more than half a million fraudulent votes" into the database, calling on the Electoral Complains Commission (ECC) to review their complaints.
The new waves of complaints come as the ECC is finalizing their two-week long review of allegations of fraud and making the final decision on how many votes to be invalided.
Addressing a press conference in Kabul, Dr. Abdullah's team showed several tally sheets mismatching the ones entered into the IEC database.
"We are talking about more than 900,000 votes that need to be cleared," said Abdul Satar Murad, a member of Dr. Abdullah's team. "530,000 fraudulent votes have been entered in the system and there is no information about the 400,000 other votes. The IEC needs to provide an answer."
Mr. Murad said that more than 400,000 votes are undocumented for, stressing that the IEC needs to provide details about these votes.
Abdullah's team demonstrated ballots from 61 polling sites that were filled with the same handwriting in favor of the second leading candidate, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, which was entered in the IEC's database.
Abdullah's team warned the IEC that if the commission does not properly and lawfully handle the procedure, the announcement of final results will be far from transparent.
In response to the allegations, IEC spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor said that their system is working effectively and honestly.
"The IEC trusts its own system and different organizations were also present monitoring the process," he said.
The election commission is scheduled to announce the final results of the April 5th presidential elections on Wednesday.

Pakistani Taliban pay youth to conduct terror acts

Militants are using token sums of money to lure impoverished youth to carry out bombings.
A young would-be suicide bomber has told investigators that militants are using monetary rewards to lure youths to commit bombings.
Shoaib Akhtar was arrested April 20 after trying to plant a bomb near a police check-post in Badhaber village, Peshawar District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), police said.
In the ensuing interrogation, he said the militants paid him Rs. 1,000 (US $10), case investigator Taj Muluk told Central Asia Online.
Pakistanis outraged that militants think they can 'buy' loyalty That the militants are using money to bring youths to their cause is giving Pakistanis more reason to hate how the insurgents operate.
"I can simply say it's the worst example of destroying the human race, unknowingly pushing [these youngsters] into hell," said Shagufta Malik, a female former member of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly and an ANP leader. It is yet another example, religious scholars say, of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants skewing the tenets of Islam to achieve their ends.
Shoaib trained to become a suicide bomber at Nala Kajori, a Lashkar-e-Islam stronghold, along with other teens, Taj said. The Bara-based militant group that recruited and trained him ordered him to plant a bomb near the Badhaber police check-post to test his ability and commitment before he could "graduate" to carrying out a suicide bombing. The militants offer money and other benefits to poverty-stricken teens and their parents, Taj quoted the youth as saying. After a preliminary investigation, Shoaib appeared before a Peshawar court May 3. The court handed him back to police for further investigation.
Citizens try to prevent youth from joining militants
Pakistanis have condemned militants for taking advantage of the country's youth, and some are calling for the country to take a more active role in countering the strategy.
The willingness of these children to carry out bombings for Rs. 1,000 shows the extent of their desperation, Peshawar-based researcher and human rights defender Farhat Khan said, stressing the need for the country to take a more active role in giving youth more hope for their futures.
Academicians, journalists and teachers play a vital role in educating youngsters against terrorist elements, Voice for Children of Islamabad Chairman Azhar Niaz said, noting that they should work with parents to ensure that children are learning proper principles at home.
Training children in useful skills also would be helpful, foMalik said, adding that such skill sets would improve their job prospects.
The KP Child Protection and Welfare Act 2010 is an effective piece of legislation for handling such problems, KP Child Protection Commission deputy chief Ejaz Ahmad said. "Child Protection Units have been established in 11 districts of KP to protect children from being used for terrorist activities," he said.
The commission not only protects children against such atrocities but also works to rehabilitate them and return them to normal life.

Pakistan: Another Christian Girl Kidnapped and gang raped for 3 days

Maria Sarfraz, 11 years old, was kidnapped and repeatedly gang raped for three days, according to Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan (SLMP), in Distt, Sheikhupura.
The Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Tassaduq Hussain Gillani took suo moto notice, few days back, of rape incident with a minor Christian girl in Daska village. The report was immediately demanded for unnecessary delay in provision of justice to the mourned family, police harassment and compelling the suffered family to reach at an agreement with accused rapist, indicated to be powerful politically, APP reported. In addition, the CJP further wanted thorough investigation report of this case from the Inspector General of Police Punjab, Khan Baig.
In the meantime, another gang rape case occurred in Distt, Sheikhupura. Maria Sarfraz, 11 years old, was kidnapped and repeatedly gang raped for three days, according to Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan (SLMP). Maria went to attend school but members of political party seized the girl and took her to another city. Her father Sarfraz Andrew went to the police station and registered a First Investigation Report (FIR) No. 272/14 on 25th April, 2014.
After three days, Maria was recovered and medical report proclaimed the she was being forcefully raped by the accused for three nonstop days.
Local police took Muhammad Safdar and Muhammad Mehboob under custody. The accused have political back ground and compelling the family to patch up.
The Girl’s grieved family had demanded justice from the CJP. Furthermore, the family wanted a strict legal action against the accused. They also argued to provide them with the security of life and properties claiming that rapist’s companions were intimidating them with terrible penalties for not compromising. Family members told that the accused has also threatened them to burn the houses of the local Christians in the surrounding area, if they don’t compromise with accused.
Chairman SLMP, Sohail Johnson, told that rape cases of Christian girls are being reported on regular basis in the country. We essentially need to stop their ongoing practice. He requested the CJP to take precise actions straightway. SLMP is providing legal assistance to the victim’s family. He further added, it is disquieting situation that courts in the country are unfair and reluctant in minority cases.
- See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/another-rape-incident-with-christian-girl/#sthash.sVQSlrKM.dpuf

Peshawar: Nurses of Medical Complex on strike, three patients expired

Nurses of Hayatabad Medical Complex called in a strike earlier and abandoned their duties, due to which three patients, including two women and one child lost their lives, Aaj News reported.
According to the reports, two women and one child was reported dead, when the nurses of Hayatabad Medical Complex abandoned their services and duties to provide immediate and adequate treatment to the patients of the hospital.
Meanwhile, the family member’s of the patients who lost their lives have claimed the authority to take a strict action against the nurses, who were suppose to treat the patients.
The family members of the patients, who lost their lives, due to this strike, protested in front of the hospital, whereas they also damaged a part of hospital and broke glasses during the protest.
After the tension gripped within the entity of the hospital between nurses and the family members, police took the charge and tried to negotiate with the family members, who later agreed upon a mutual point and ended the protest.
On the other hand, the nurses of Hayatabad Medical Complex claimed to carry on the protest against those doctors, who were involved in torturing incident, which took place earlier, whereas they have also asked the higher authority to take a strict action against those doctors.

Pakistan: No response yet from Imran on Iftikhar's challenge

There has been no response from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan to a debate challenge issued by Director Geo New Election Cell Iftikhar Ahmad to appear on his programme and substantiate allegations of Geo’s impartial election transmission of 2013. Over 250 hours (at the time this report was filed) have passed since Mr Ahmed issued the challenge to Imran Khan on May 02. Imran Khan had accused Geo News of playing a part in the alleged rigging of Elections 2013. Iftikhar Ahmad had invited Imran Khan and his team for a debate over the allegations. Iftikhar Ahmad said Imran Khan had issued a 100-page white paper over election rigging but did not mention the allegations against Geo News. He added that Imran Khan and PTI workers were continuously leveling allegations against Geo News.

WHO rejects Pakistan CIA fake vaccination claim

The World Health Organisation has rejected Pakistan's claim UN agencies were involved in a CIA fake vaccination programme to trace Osama Bin Laden.
A doctor accused of running the 2011 programme to help confirm the al-Qaeda leader lived in Pakistan is in jail.
Last week the foreign ministry alleged that UN agencies were involved in the campaign, claiming it led the public to doubt genuine polio vaccination drives.
The WHO says Pakistani officials now accept the statement was made in error.
The global health agency recently warned that polio has re-emerged as a public health crisis. Pakistan is particularly badly affected as one of three countries where the virus is endemic.
But Pakistan has also struggled to prevent attacks against polio workers administering the campaign and the Taliban - who view the immunisation programme as a cover for Western spying - have banned vaccinations in the tribal region of North Waziristan.
'Incorrect statement'
Dr Shakil Afridi was accused of using the cover of a door-to-door vaccination campaign to help the US find Bin Laden in 2011.
He was convicted of alleged ties to militant groups and imprisoned in 2012 - a move widely seen as punishment for his alleged role in the Bin Laden raid, which he denies.
But days after the WHO's most recent statement on the re-emergence of polio, a foreign office spokesperson told reporters that suspicion fostered by the CIA's fake vaccination programme was a major reason behind the rise in polio.
The foreign office said: "A fake campaign of vaccination was conducted in Pakistan in which the UN agencies were also used."
But the WHO has disputed this, saying it was "deeply concerned by the circulation of an incorrect statement that was made during a press conference".
It said that the statement "wrongly and erroneously alleged the involvement of United Nations agencies in events conducted by Dr Shakeel Afridi".
But it went on to say that following the UN's formal objection, it had received assurances from the government that the foreign office statement was "categorically incorrect".
On Saturday the lawyer for Dr Afridi told the BBC that he had quit the case after receiving frequent death threats.

Peshawar: Two bodies in gunny bags recovered from Hayatabad

Two bodies were recovered in gunny bags dumped in drainage from Hayatabad area of Peshawar Tuesday morning, Local TV reported. According to police, the bodies of a man and a women bearing torture marks were found dumped in a drainage in Hayatabat today morning that were discovered after bomb disposal unit checked the suspicious bags. Police took the bodies into custody and transferred them to the hospital for identification and medico-legal formalities. The deceased could not be identified until the last report was filed.

Peshawar Under Attack: Two More Attacks

Five blasts in Peshawar in the last four days. Refugees from the Tirah valley were the target on this occasion, and were busy registering themselves for rehabilitation when the cowardly attack left five people dead and six injured. Attacks such as these serve to instil terror in a way that other targets do not accomplish. Any attack on security personnel, however tragic, is ultimately treated as collateral in the ongoing war between the state and the militants. But the loss of civilian life gives rise to a greater sort of insecurity, and failings. The mindless suicide attack on IDPs busy in the task of registering themselves, is an attack on a most basic organizational function of the state, and its harm and fear is tenfold because it exposes the state’s vulnerability at a fundamental level; in the inability to protect its most defenceless people.
In addition to this, yet another IED explosion led to the death of one soldier and injured three others. The war between the TTP and the state is not predicated on the ideas of conventional warfare. The job of the terrorists is virtually simple; all they need to do is plant an explosive and hope that the body count is high.
The government’s steadfast conviction to attempt to negotiate is a persistent indignity to the people that continue to lose their lives, and the lives of their loved ones. It is shameful that the TTP has accepted no demands since the talks began, and yet the government persists in holding a dialogue with murderers. When they promised to hold true to their ceasefire, they conveniently denied that they had any part to play in the attacks that took place during the supposed cessation of hostilities. Over 50,000 people have been killed since the terrorists starting conducting attacks on Pakistani soil. The only question is how many more will die, before the government sees their negotiating partners for what they are; criminals, psychopaths and cowards.

Pakistan: PTI Protests, Again

What exactly does Mr Imran Khan want? People started asking this question when the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) announced a protest rally to be held at D-chowk, Islamabad, on 11th May. After the rally, they are still searching for an answer. Ironically, the party which rallied large crowds across the country due to its appealing slogan of “change” appears unable to identify and adapt to changing circumstances. The last time the PTI held a rally at D-chowk, it didn’t have single seat in the Parliament. Now it has twenty seven, making it the third biggest party in the country. Then, it was a political outsider, an emerging third force, which was gearing up to challenge traditional political parties such as the PML-N and PPP. Now, it is leading the provincial government in the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK). It made sense for Mr Khan to chant slogans and raise havoc when that was all he could possibly do. Following the same strategy now when he has both the power and the platform to introduce reform will not have the same effect, as there is much more expected of him. If anything, it will be viewed as an exercise to evade responsibilities concerning KPK’s governance. Elections are over. Change has come. It may not be the sort of change that the PTI was hoping for but that doesn’t negate the reality of the situation.
And the reality is this: the PTI has come to represent everything it claims to be fighting against. The party which talks about freedom of speech deems it perfectly adequate for its leader to bash and call for action against a media group without offering any credible evidence. Not just that, its supporters carried a coffin labelled “Ban GEO”. Why wouldn’t they do these things when they are made to believe that a “foreign-funded news channel” stole their mandate? In any case, it reveals much about the prevalent mindset. The party asserts that it respects national institutions. But, its workers wreak havoc as they accompany Mr Khan to the Lahore High Court (LHC). Mr Khan himself uses derogatory remarks against judicial officers, and demands resignation from members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The PTI insists on the importance of rule of law, but wishes to resolve issues on the streets instead of following legal procedures. If there are glitches in the system, they will have to be corrected from within. But, why bother with that when one can gather a big crowd and make demands, some of which cannot even be entertained by the government due to legal constraints. The list of contradictions is long and consistently growing. History is full of epic blunders committed by men who meant well. The party is advised to reconsider its approach before it’s too late.

Pakistan: Is there a Khan plan?

At his protest rally at the D Chowk in Islamabad, where few had been allowed in the past to stage a political event, PTI supremo Imran Khan reiterated many of the points he has been repeating over the past few weeks. Long on rhetoric and short on logic, Khan’s speech was disappointing for those still looking for serious political content from the ‘third force’. Clearly, the only art he seems to have picked up from established political traditions is the one of filibustering. Consider his rigging charges – a year after the event. Even if Khan is right about his mandate having been hijacked in the four constituencies he identifies, the four extra seats wouldn’t have propelled him into Khursheed Shah’s seat, let alone the PM’s seat. So what ‘mandate’ is he referring to? Khan’s emphasis on the role of the Election Commission of Pakistan is also puzzling. Yes, the ECP should be transparent and accountable; yes, free and fair elections should be the rule; yes, electoral disputes should be resolved fast. But since Khan doesn’t like the verdict of the ECP, the courts and tribunals and is disappointed with their pace of work, should all these institutions be disbanded? Should every electoral dispute henceforth be sent to the awaam for collective deliberation and adjudication? And who, precisely, are the awaam? The Islamabad-based PTI yuppies or the KP imports? (And can non-PTI, politically active persons qualify as awaam?)
Khan once more accused Jang/Geo of conducting this rigging – even though the channel and other experts have on more than one occasion pointed out it is simply not possible for a media house to manipulate a national election, particularly in the manner he suggests was done. Announcing results at any point after votes are cast cannot alter which symbol is marked on the ballot sheet or the total cast for a particular party. In his attack launched in the manner for which Khan has now become noted, he once again brought up the – false – allegations of foreign funding for various campaigns run by the Jang/Geo Group and suggested this involves them in some kind of conspiracy. The allegations are absurd. After they have been replied to and cleared in the past in courts where the detractors and liars had to apologise, the repetition of these lies borders on a sickness that sane politicians should not suffer from.
The timing of Khan’s speech also merits consideration. His favourite topic – talks with the Taliban – is dangerously close to being eclipsed by “Geo’s … play[ing] with national institutions”; shouldn’t he have focused on need to resume dialogue, especially since KP – the current PTI bastion – is the most affected by the violence? For many years now, Khan has been droning about the drones and the need to stop attacks so that more ‘meaningful’ work can be done. Now that there is a reprieve, what’s the Khan plan? But he didn’t talk about any of these issues. Instead, his adoring supporters of not-the-usual-suspects variety were treated to a lengthy diatribe about Geo using funds from the UK, US and India to further “their” agenda against “national institutions”. Who made Khan the arbiter of who is or isn’t patriotic? And why must anyone – including Jang/Geo – have to prove their patriotism to Khan? Unfortunately, to Imran Khan’s mind, being unpatriotic is like being a blasphemer in modern-day Pakistan: the onus of proving otherwise is on the accused, not the accuser. And the quality of politics in the country is all the poorer for this stance.

PAKISTAN: Firing in Hangu leaves 2 teachers dead

The Express Tribune News
Unidentified men opened fire at a government school in Hangu, leaving two teachers dead, Express News reported on Tuesday. The incident took place in the Khan Bari area of the district. One of the teachers died at the spot while the other later succumbed to his injuries at the hospital. The police have reached the site of the firing, cordoned it off and started a search operation in the area. This is not the first time such an incident has taken place in Hangu. On February 10, unidentified militants had gunned down three teachers when they were returning from school in Kach Bandha, Hangu. Three days later, another primary school teacher was shot and injured by unidentified militants on the city’s outskirts. Hangu district lies on the border with Kurram and Orakzai agencies and is one of the most sensitive districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. It has seen several incidents of sectarian violence and terrorism in the past few years. Cases of kidnapping have also increased.

Pakistan: Quick-fix Khan

Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri’s calls for revolution appear to be the cries of men who have never faced hardship. Their parties’ joint protest in Islamabad on Sunday brought thousands of people onto the streets, but the message was less heartening and the turnout less significant than at previous Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) rallies. The participation of women and supporters from the urban middle and upper middle class was noticeably lower. These were sections of the people who were attracted by Imran Khan’s promise of change, but have seen little change in his governance of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). His stance on the Taliban has alienated many of them. Imran Khan is right to want open government and demand accountability, but principles are easily confused with desires and in this he bears watching as much as any other politician. The message that Messrs Khan and Qadri are putting out is dangerously confused about these issues. Imran Khan’s personal, charismatic style and messianic promises to root out corruption and change the country in the blink of an eye are evidently populist appeals for an extra-constitutional deviation.
When calling for revolution, Tahirul Qadri should perhaps remember Mao Zedong’s admonition: “A revolution is not a dinner party.” For men who attend more dinner parties than revolutionary council meetings, it may be hard to grasp the reality of what ‘revolution’ might entail. Revolutions, unless colour-coded and approved by the US State Department, are mostly chaotic, bloody affairs that often cut off their own heads. Few revolutions in history have achieved what they aimed to in totality, although they often did mark historic turns and departures for the society that nurtured them. A revolution that follows a ‘framework’ is no revolution at all. It is a messy election. Observers of Pakistan’s economic and social indicators might argue that Pakistan is in the process of revolution as we speak. Growing public opposition to military rule, messianic leaders, personal power and the dubious extremist narrative of militant Islam can be juxtaposed with growing support for the right to choose in elections, the right to speak freely, and to hold to one’s own religion. Public awareness about these issues is spreading, thanks to an information boom that is part of a worldwide communications revolution. In a country where military rule (direct or indirect) has been the norm rather than the exception, and a region that has a long history of centralised, authoritarian leadership, people are easing back into the habit of making their own political choices and decisions. More people now understand that we cannot wait for a ‘father figure’ to solve our problems; rather we must personally invest and take responsibility for our choices in politics and the running of the state.
Imran Khan may want to consider another Mao Zedong quote: “We think too small: for the frog at the bottom of the well the sky is only as big as the top of the well. If he surfaced, he would have an entirely different view.” Imran Khan needs to take a breather from his vociferous attacks on a system that is flawed, but better than any alternative currently on offer. His view is becoming myopically restricted to the flaws of others while not recognising his own. The election tribunals that hear rigging cases have granted his lawyer numerous adjournments at his request, which has contributed to the delay in their verdicts. This was not mentioned in the protest yesterday and protesting will not hasten the process. What then is the purpose of the protest? His tirade against a television news channel, coinciding as it does with other attacks on an organisation that once supported him, seems ill advised and suspiciously in line with what parts of the military establishment are saying. Statements that the current government has achieved nothing are hyperbole. Nawaz Sharif’s experience is paying off. Pakistan’s economic and other indicators are taking a positive turn. Imran Khan’s lack of experience is undoubtedly the cause of his current frustration at not having been swept into power in 2013. His supporters hope for a quick resolution to our problems. However, the road to sustainable democracy is a difficult one. Pakistan has taken baby steps down that road in recent years. Its people are tired of constant political bickering and want some stability. In this light, aspiring ‘revolutionaries’ should consider whether they are acting for selfless or selfish reasons.

Pakistan: The unfortunate people of FATA

The Taliban do not want them back. This is what it looks like from the way the Internally Displaced People (IDP) from the Khyber Agency had been attacked at the Arbab Niaz stadium in Peshawar on Sunday. The IDPs were getting themselves verified in the makeshift government office in the stadium to claim sufficient food to take back home. The suicide attack khat killed four people was a message that in spite of all the tall claims of the government about Khyber being cleansed of terrorists and safe for its inhabitants to finally return, the ground realities are different. What would be the fate of those who had already returned to the Agency? Are they any safer? What awaits those planning to return? Will they too be killed just as many of their compatriots have been in the IDP camps, because this was not the first time that the IDPs had been attacked.
Terrorism in Pakistan morphs into as unusual forms as the position the government takes to deal with the terrorists. The so-called peace process is going nowhere. The ministry of interior has been giving muffled responses to questions about the progress achieved so far. At times it shifts the blame for this winding process to the coordinating committee appointed by the Taliban for their penchant to play to the gallery rather than to persuade the Taliban to behave like good boys. On another occasion the ministry is found baffled at the Taliban’s refusal to abide by the ceasefire and keeping to its undeterred position of attacking the state. Stripped of any meaning, the dialogue process seems a mere eye wash or could it be a Taliban strategy to buy time?
For how long will the people of FATA suffer? The situation is too much for them. They are neither safe in their own homes nor in the custody of the government. It has been found through credible research that the situation of the IDPs has been deplorable. They are living in one of the most unsuitable environments for human existence. Many of their children have died of contagious diseases. The government has always been indifferent to the tribal areas, treating them as if alien, whose culture does not allow any sophisticated dealing On the top of that we infested their areas with the Taliban who have now become a headache even for the government. It is not surprising that the Taliban are biting the very hand that once fed them.

PAKISTAN: Two new polio cases detected

Two new polio cases have been detected in the country.
An 18-month-old girl of a family which had shifted to Karachi from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in recent months is the latest victim of polio virus, sources in the Sindh health department and Prime Minister’s Polio Cell confirmed to Dawn on Monday.
They identified the girl as Hafsa, daughter of Marjan, a resident of Manghopir’s Sultanabad area, administratively in Gadap Town, where two cases were reported early this year.
Five polio cases have been found in Sindh so far this year, all of them in Karachi.
The other polio case reported on Monday is from North Waziristan, which is home to 160,000 unvaccinated children since August 2012.
The agency has recorded 41cases in the countrywide tally of 61 in 2014 so far. Six cases have been found in other areas of Fata, which is directly governed by the federal government.
Nine cases have been found in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa — five in Bannu and four in Peshawar.
Meanwhile, the army has started giving oral polio vaccine to children in North Waziristan for the first time since the Taliban banned vaccination there, according to sources.
The army has been holding free medical camps where children are being administered polio vaccines. Residents said people also brought vaccines from Bannu to Miramshah and other parts of the agency.
In Boya, Dosal and Esha villages, children have been vaccinated in the camps where people said they had not seen vaccinators since the Taliban banned the campaign.
Local authorities said that they had also planned medical camps in Kajoorai, Razmak, Dattakhel and Tall to offer diagnostic and treatment services to people by trained doctors and staff of the army.

Pakistan: Blasphemy case against lawyers

The Kotwali police have registered a First Information Report (FIR) under Section 295/A of the Pakistan Penal Code (blasphemy law) against eight nominated and 60 unknown members of the District Bar Association here on Monday.
A couple of days ago, on the orders of the Kotwali district police officer, the police had registered a criminal case against Kotwali Station House Officer Umar Daraz, ASI Mubashir and five other policemen for thrashing and keeping a lawyer Aftab Nadeem in illegal detention. When the police did not arrest the nominated accused police officials, the DBA members went on strike till the arrest of the SHO and his subordinates.
On the third day of the lawyers’ protest Arshad Mahmood, a resident of Basti Attawali, Jhang Sadar, through an application informed the police that during the protest some lawyers had shouted slogans with the name of SHO Umar Daraz and the mention of the name Umar had hurt the applicant’s religious emotions.
The Kotwali police lodged an FIR (No 294/14) against eight nominated and 60 unnamed lawyers under Section 295/A of the PPC.
Sources said it was an exceptional FIR in which the lawyers who were protesting against the police highhandedness were booked under blasphemy law. The issue would be taken up by Punjab and Pakistan Bar Councils.
Some DBA members alleged SHO Rana Umer Daraz belonged to Faisalabad and was a relative of a prominent Punjab minister. They alleged the police registered the case against the lawyers as a counter to the FIR against the SHO.
District Police Officer Zeeshan Asghar was not available for a comment on the issue.