Monday, May 19, 2014

China-Russia relations at all-time high, says Putin ahead of Shanghai visit
Kremlin chief aims to seal long-discussed gas deal and will encourage Chinese investment in Russia during trip to Shanghai this week
. Amid a crisis in relations with the West over Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin is moving to bolster ties with China.
Russia saw relations with Beijing as a top priority and their ties now were the best ever, Putin said in an interview with Chinese media released by the Kremlin before his trip to Shanghai today. He said a deal on Russian natural gas exports to China was close to being signed, and would allow Russia to diversify its export routes and let China meet its growing demand for energy.
Russia, which sends most of its gas exports to Europe, has sought to develop an export link to China, but the two nations have been locked for nearly two decades in talks over price.
Moscow speeded up work on the contract after the United States and European Union slapped travel bans and asset freezes on members of Putin's entourage over Russia's annexation of Crimea and threatened to impose harsher sanctions.
"In the context of the turbulent global economy, the strengthening of mutually beneficial trade and economic ties, as well as the increase of investment flows between Russia and China, are of paramount importance," Putin said.
A deal would secure Beijing a key chunk of supply as demand for the cleaner burning fuel is set to surge.
Putin said that Russia wanted more Chinese investment, in particular in a free-trade zone in the far eastern port of Vladivostok.
"Obviously, we are interested in Chinese businessmen making use of these opportunities and become one of the leaders here, since both Russia and China will benefit from an accelerated development of the Russian far east," he said. Li Lifan, a Russian and Central Asian affairs expert at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said Russia needed Chinese capital to develop its far east.
Even though the price of Russian gas may be higher than Beijing's original estimation, the government could demand more favourable down payment conditions, Li said.
Li Xing, a Russian affairs expert at Peking University, said hopes were high that the deal could be signed despite sanctions imposed against Russia.
But he added: "It is uncertain because the price is still an important issue." Li Lifan said Russia would also solicit Beijing's support on Crimea, amid the unrest in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Moscow activists want to join Russia.
"Putin wants China's support," Li said. "China may boost economic investment or participate in infrastructure projects in Crimea, but it's unlikely it will offer strong political support."
Li said Beijing may want Russia's support in handling South China Sea disputes and its row with Vietnam, even though a Sino-Russian military drill in the disputed waters was unlikely.

U.N. envoy warns of social collapse in parts of eastern Ukraine

With less than a week before elections in Ukraine, a U.N. envoy warns that the eastern region of Donetsk could fail if nothing is done to stem the lawlessness there.

Kabul Hosts Trilateral Summit With Pakistan, NATO

A meeting was held between Afghan, Pakistani and NATO officials on Monday in Kabul to discuss regional security issues.
Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman General Zahir Azimi said that the talks were aimed at overcoming security disputes along the controversial Durand Line that divides eastern Afghanistan from Pakistan. Tensions between Afghan and Pakistani forces on either side of the border have increased recently.
The meeting was attended by Afghan Army Chief Sher Mohammad Karimi, his Pakistani counterpart General Raheel Sharif and the commander of foreign forces in Afghanistan General Joseph Dunford.
"In the meeting the head of the Pakistani army said that they were prepared to work jointly against terrorism and for security during the election and peace negotiation process," Gen. Azimi said.
But other members of the Afghan government, including many experts on the issues at hand, were not very optimistic about the trilateral meeting. Without any tangible resolutions being pursued, they said, such a meeting would only be a waste of time.
"Unfortunately, these kinds of meetings have been held several times in many countries, but they never have a positive impact and security issues alongside the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan were not settled," Herat MP Ahmad Behzad said.
Mr. Behzad emphasized the importance of the two South Asian neighbors coming to agreement before involving their foreign allies. "The important thing is that there should be a firm determination first in Afghanistan and Pakistan and later on among the allies of Afghanistan."
Islamabad and Kabul have long been in conflict over the Taliban insurgency, which Afghan officials, backed by a great deal of independent research, have said the Pakistani military and intelligence services nurture. However, as militant violence within Pakistan's own borders rises, leaders in Islamabad have started to express greater interest in furthering peace talks with the insurgent group.
Still, many Afghans remain skeptical about Pakistan's commitment to peace.
"On the one hand, these trilateral meetings are held at times in Pakistan and at times in Afghanistan, but on the other hand, we have witnessed attacks and interference from Pakistan," MP Fawzia Kofi said. "We also saw increase in terrorist attacks particularly during the elections."
"I think the Afghan government must not waste time with these meetings and must not open the door for Pakistani influence," she added.
This is the 37th trilateral meeting that has been held to settle security disputes between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

A New Dawn for Afghanistan?

By Sanjay Kumar
Despite political uncertainty, a new optimism is becoming evident among the people of Afghanistan.
When I met Haidi Amanullah in Kabul last year he was planning to wind up his business and relocate to a safer place, either India or Canada. He had already sold one of his two houses and was seeking a buyer for the second. Like some of his friends, he was all set to seek asylum in a third country, fearing for his future in the country of his birth.
So it was a surprise to see him again in Kabul almost a year later. Busy dusting his dry fruit shop in the Shahr-E-Naw district of the capital Kabul, Amanullah presents a different face. Gone was the worried, downcast look; on this day, he exudes a new confidence and temperament.
“I know you are surprised or rather shocked to see me here again. I also don’t believe that I am still in Kabul. The mood has changed in this country. Don’t you sense a new kind of feeling sweeping the country?” asks the 31-year-old shopkeeper when I meet him two days after the April 5 elections.
He is not the only one expressing this sentiment today, unprecedented though it might be for the war-torn country.
After three years in India, Hamid and his wife Ameena returned to Kabul in February this year and resumed their professional careers. When they were last in Afghanistan, Ameena’s activism in support of women’s rights had invited threats from fundamentalists. In 2010, she survived an attack by the Taliban but was forced to flee to Delhi with her husband. Instead of living a life in hiding she decided to return home and piece their lives back together.
“You know the country I left in 2010 and the country I came back to in 2014 are not the same. Four years ago there was this worry about the future of the country, people were concerned about the impending departure of the international troops, we were worried that the country might lapse into the chaos of the 1990s, there was this tension of the Taliban reasserting themselves again. But now the mood is different. The elections have given a new hope.”
Ameena continues: “For the last three months I was just testing the water here but after the elections my decision to stay back in the country has strengthened. I feel more confident than before, although some skepticism remains.”
This feeling of change is evident almost everywhere one goes in Afghanistan. The very fact that voter turnout was so high, at about 60 percent, despite threats from the Taliban underscores the desire Afghans have to alter the discourse in their country.
“How long one can live in fear of the Taliban? The violence and uncertainty has taken a toll on Afghanistan. The new generation who is exposed to the world outside want to see their country in the same way. They want to feel proud of their country,” explains Hameed, a journalist working with a radio station in Herat.
Masuma, a tour guide in Bamiyan, feels the same way. This 22-year-old graduate has received professional training as a tour guide and wants to earn living by showing visitors the wonders of Bamiyan.
“You know, I stood three hours in a queue to cast my vote. My vote was both a vote for change and a vote against the Taliban. Bamiyan does not need any other industry, tourism is enough for the people of this region to prosper. For that to happen peace is mandatory and I hope the new president will usher in a new era in Afghanistan,” she says.
A similar sentiment is shared by Abdullah, who returned to Bamiyan from Iran last year to start a hotel: “Afghanistan needs to stand as a self-confident nation and by voting despite the Taliban threat we want to demonstrate our frustration with such medieval forces who have ruined the nation and defamed such a wonderful country.”
Nonetheless, Afghanistan watchers remain cautious. The feeling is that the change in Afghan public attitudes has been remarkable but uncertainty remains.
“I think what has happened in Afghanistan is remarkable but it fundamentally does not address the problems facing the country. You have to wait and see what happens when the whole electoral process is completed,” observes Martine van Bijlert, a fellow at Afghanistan Analysts Network, a Kabul-based think tank.
She adds: “It is difficult to figure out the Taliban’s silence after the elections. Perhaps they are trying to figure out how to respond to the situation.”
Indeed, there has been a relative lull in the activities of the armed opposition after the elections. No doubt heightened security is one reason but analysts point also to a change in public attitudes towards the Taliban.
A senior Afghanistan government official, speaking to The Diplomat on condition of anonymity, notes: “The very fact that southern Afghanistan, a base of the Taliban, also participated very enthusiastically in the elections despite the threat, shows that the extremist groups are now wary of getting isolated in their own land. So they are biding their time and rethinking their strategy.”
“Times have changed. People in Afghanistan are aware of social media, they interact on these sites and spread information. Television has reached almost every household and political debates serve to inform people. In this new age it is no longer possible to get by on simple medieval thinking. The aspirational class wants a new deal, a new life in their country and they are very vocal about it,” says Sajad Urya, one of the senior editors of the English newspaper, Daily Outlook Afghanistan.
To sum up the popular mood, Salma Zoya, a student of English literature in Kabul university, turns to William Wordsworth’s celebrated poem, “French Revolution”:
“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven.”

Rasmussen proposes Russia-NATO Council meeting after Ukrainian May elections

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen proposes a Russia- NATO Council meeting to be scheduled after next week's early presidential election in Ukraine. During his monthly press-conference, Rasmussen said that NATO has not yet received Moscow’s response to his proposal.
"On the one hand, we’ve blocked all practical cooperation, on the other, we have a cooperation channel, which is the Russia-NATO Council through which we can exchange diplomatic messages. After the crisis began we had a meeting on 5 March when we put forward the initiative of the following meeting next week but we have not received Russia’s response yet," Rasmussen said at the press-conference.
As a NATO source told RIA Novosti, the Council meeting to discuss the situation in Ukraine could be held on 27 May. Rasmussen also told journalists that he cannot see the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Ukrainian border so far. He stressed that he would be the first to appreciate such a step. The Russian president’s press-service reports that, due to the termination of the scheduled springtime military training that took place on firing grounds in the Rostov, Belgorod and Briansk Regions, Vladimir Putin ordered the Minister of Defence to return the troops participating in the exercise to their bases and continue combat practice on local training grounds.
NATO has proposed May 27 as the date for a NATO-Russia Council meeting to discuss the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, a source in the alliance told RIA Novosti on Monday. "The Russians have proposed a meeting to discuss the situation in Ukraine," the source said on condition of anonymity. "We have suggested May 27 as a date and now we are awaiting their answer," the source said.
The western backed junta in Kiev, installed in February this year after years of planning by the US/CIA/USAID/NATO/EU and billions of dollars spent on NGOs, destabilization teams, installing and paying for puppets and training, arming and backing far right nazi paramilitary groups and paying mercenaries from the Greystone private CIA army, may finally be showing the first signs of what has to be its imminent demise. Unless the breakup of Ukraine was the plan all along (which may be a possibility) the imminence of that demise should have been forecasted, as well as the fact that the Ukrainian people would never support nazis in power. Knowing US foreign policy and their disasters all over the world one might then assume that Ukraine was just another failed US operation of historic proportions carried out by ignorant myopic planners delusional in their own invincibility.
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Iranian actress in trouble over Cannes kiss
Iranian actress Leila Hatami has angered authorities in Tehran by kissing the Cannes film festival's president on the cheek, an act seen as affront to the "chastity" of the Islamic republic's women. A photograph carried by Iranian media shows Hatami kissing 83-year-old Gilles Jacob at the opening of this year's festival.
"Those who attend intentional events should take heed of the credibility and chastity of Iranians, so that a bad image of Iranian women will not be demonstrated to the world," Deputy Culture Minister Hossein Noushabadi said, quoted by the website of state broadcaster IRIB. "Iranian woman is the symbol of chastity and innocence," he added. Hatami's "inappropriate presence" at the festival was "not in line with our religious beliefs".
Born into a family with a background in cinema, Hatami gained worldwide fame for her role in Asghar Farhadi's A Separation, which won the 2012 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. She is on the jury this year at the annual Cannes festival in southern France but lives in Iran.
According to Iran's interpretation of Islamic (sharia) law, in place since the 1979 revolution, a woman is not allowed to have physical contact with a man outside her family. Jacob has attempted to prevent the furore in Iran, explaining that it was "a usual custom in the West." "I kissed Mrs Hatami on the cheek. At that moment, for me she represented all Iranian cinema, then she became herself again," Jacob tweeted.
"This controversy over a usual custom in the West has therefore no reason to be."

New Pashto Singer Karishma Shahzadi Tappy 2014

US Charges 5 Chinese Military Hackers in '21st Century Burglary'

Five Chinese military officers were indicted by the U.S. today and charged with hacking U.S. companies to steal industry secrets about nuclear and solar power in what one official called "21st century burglary."
It's the first time ever that the U.S. government has formally accused another nation of using the internet to break into U.S. businesses and the indictment could carry enormous diplomatic implications.
The most serious charge of economic espionage includes a maximum 15 year prison sentence, although it is unlikely that China would arrest the suspects and send them to the U.S. for trial.
The five officers are members of China's Peoples' Liberation Army and they are accused of hacking into Westinghouse, subsidiaries of SolarWorld AG, Alcoa, U.S. Steel Corp. and other companies between 2006 and 2014. The secrets they allegedly filched were related to nuclear power, solar and metals industries.
The charges were filed in the Western District of Pennsylvania where U.S. Attorney David Hickton said, “This 21st century burglary has to stop."
John Carlin, assistant attorney general for national security, said, “State actors engaged in cyber espionage for economic advantage are not immune from the law just because they hack under the shadow of their country’s flag.”
U.S. intelligence officials have long believed that the Chinese government has been engaged in a state-sponsored campaign to hack U.S. interests and steal research and development. U.S. officials insist such efforts affect national security.

U.S: Iowa activists provide early perceptions of potential Hillary Clinton presidential bid

By Dan Balz and Philip Rucker
Eleven Iowa Democratic activists had been talking about the state of the country, the politics of 2016 and a prospective presidential campaign by Hillary Rodham Clinton one recent night when they were asked two questions.
The first was who they would invite to a dinner party if they could pick from among four prominent Democrats. Six picked President Obama. Two each named Vice President Biden and former president Bill Clinton. Just one said they would invite Hillary Clinton.
Next they were asked who among that same group they would call first if they faced a family emergency. The response was overwhelming. Seven of the 11 said they would want Hillary Clinton at their side.
The responses crystallized nearly two hours of conversation and captured the range of Democratic sentiment about the politician whose possible candidacy is eagerly anticipated by those in her party. But a separate conversation with a smaller group of Republican activists highlighted the degree to which she remains a polarizing figure.
No state frustrated Clinton more during her 2008 campaign than Iowa, which launched Obama, then an Illinois senator, and dealt her a demoralizing setback with her third-place finish in the nation’s first caucuses.
Today, Iowa activists see her through a new lens. Democrats, including those who backed Obama in 2008, offer strong encouragement.
When Clinton ran the first time, Kay Hale, 62, a school bus driver, worried that Clinton “cannot bring the country together” and backed then-Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.) for president. Now she says of Clinton, “I think we’re ready for her now. . . . I think she’s proved herself. She’s earned it.”
At the same time, these Democratic activists offered cautionary warnings, saying Clinton must run a different kind of campaign and show a warmer side of her personality if she hopes to be successful.
“I think she’s going to have trouble with the middle class,” said Charles Crawley, 60, a technical writer. “She went to Wellesley College, Yale Law School, and from that point on she’s been in the upper class. She may have middle-class parents, but that was a long time ago.”
The observations in this article come from two sessions with Iowa activists. The first included the 11 Democrats from Linn County, around Cedar Rapids. The second was with a group of six mostly establishment Republicans in suburban West Des Moines, part of Dallas County.
Their opinions and observations are their own and are not meant to be representative of the broader electorate or a scientific sample. But because they are among the most politically engaged of Iowans, their views provide an early look at perceptions of Clinton in a state that brought her disappointment in 2008.
Of the 11 Democrats, one supported Clinton in 2008, while six backed Obama. But ask them today for a brief description of Clinton, and the responses are all positive. “Seasoned.” “Capable.” “Smart.” “Strong.” “Competent.” “Amazing.” “Intelligent.” “Experienced.” “Decisive.” “Tested.”
When Clinton ran in 2008, she had two big liabilities in Iowa. One was her 2002 vote authorizing President George W. Bush to go to war in Iraq, a vote she never truly recanted. The vote alienated the state’s liberal activists and put her at odds with Obama.
Among the Linn County Democrats, the Iraq issue has faded in importance. “I think some Democrats in Iowa may have put her in the penalty box eight years ago because of Iraq,” said Nate Willems, 34, a labor lawyer. “We’ve moved past that. . . . Time heals lots of wounds.”
On policy issues, these Democrats offered little to suggest that they fear that Clinton would be too hawkish for their tastes or that her economic ideas would be too centrist. Many expressed deep concerns about the growing divide between rich and poor in the country, but said they believed she would share that concern, even if she did not use the same kind of fiery rhetoric of someone such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
The other problem was a perception that she and her campaign entourage were aloof, distant and lacked a common touch. “Bad manners,” said Libby Slappey, 62, who is a fundraiser. That problem still concerned many of those around the table.
One after another expressed disgruntlement with the way that Clinton and her campaign conducted themselves in 2007 and 2008. “People felt like her campaign thought they had a sense of entitlement because they were the Clintons,” said Gretchen Lawyer, 41, a teacher and Obama volunteer.
Dale Todd, 57, a developer of affordable housing, said, “They just left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouth. The BlackBerry was more important than the contact with [people]. We would be sitting right here and they would be working their BlackBerry and you just felt like you weren’t getting through.”
“They were just going through the motions,” Hale said.
“It was like, we’re here and we can’t wait until we get out of here,” Todd responded.
The consensus among this group was that the Obama campaign outhustled Clinton in Iowa. “She was left in the dust by the organization of the Obama campaign, and I truly believe it emanated from the top,” Slappey said. “I truly believe that Barack Obama said to the next level, this is how I want my campaign to run, and that level said it to the next level. And it was a beautiful Amway kind of thing.”
Mike Robinson, 51, a registered nurse and former Linn County Democratic chair, defended Clinton. “I found her to be very genial. I met her on a few different occasions. I was very depressed, disappointed, when she was portrayed otherwise. She’s very kind.”
These Democrats may eagerly await Clinton’s candidacy, but all had advice for her about how to run a different campaign in 2016 than she ran in 2008.
“Come shake our hands,” said Kathy Robinson, 51, a property manager who was a Clinton supporter in 2008 when she lived in Illinois. “Talk to us. Ask us our feelings and ask our opinions. But come here more than once. Don’t ignore Iowa.”
Lawyer urged Clinton to “get in touch with regular people.” She noted that when Obama started out in Iowa, he and Michelle Obama were still paying off their student loans. “How long has it been since she [Clinton] was a normal person outside of public life?” she said, adding, “When was the last time she drove a car? I see that as a liability she needs to think about.”
Bret Nilles, 55, the current Linn County Democratic chair and a finance manager, said Obama’s campaign was more open. “Hillary’s campaign was more controlled,” said Nilles, who backed Clinton that year. “There was a sense that they were going to win it, so all they had to do was make the rounds.”
Laura Bell, 54, an accounts manager who supported then-Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (Ohio) in 2008, said, “I would want to encourage her to remember that there are people in this party [whose] opinions are closer to Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and do not forget about us.”
Todd said Clinton should “leave the consultants at home.” He recalled her first campaign: “When she would walk in the room and the entourage was larger than the group you’re meeting with, that didn’t go over well. But the reality is, these are the Clintons and it’s going to be tough to do what we are sort of used to.” Roy Porterfield, 63, an automotive service manager, defended Clinton against the perception that she holds herself above others. “She came from perfectly ordinary beginnings,” he said. “She didn’t grow up a Bush or a Rockefeller or whatever. I don’t think she’s lacking a common touch. . . . I see her as a perfectly good, solid, honest, ordinary citizen who just happens to have a brilliant mind and vast, useful political experience.”
The Republicans from Dallas County see Clinton as the inevitable Democratic nominee and as a worthy opponent who has bolstered her résumé since her first campaign for the White House. But when they were asked to offer a word to describe her, their answers reflected a sharply negative view of the former secretary of state, senator and first lady. “Political.” “Politician.” “Schemer.” “Tactical.” “Manipulative.” Only one offered a positive description: “Strong.”
Those in the group questioned Clinton’s honesty and said they did not trust her. They also see her as vulnerable on issues ranging from Benghazi to health care, citing her role in shaping her husband’s failed effort to reform the health-care system when he was president. “She’s tenacious, but she’s manipulative,” said Lisa Schneider, 41, who works at the governor’s residence in Des Moines as a communications and events coordinator. “I don’t think she would do right by the country. She has her own agenda, and she’s going to do whatever she wants to get there.”
Christina Taylor, 43, a physician, said, “I think there’s a trust issue with her. I think it’s a truthfulness or candor issue. We all say she’s very politically astute, politically savvy, she’s tactical. I think people have an undertow of wondering not only with Benghazi but even in her previous past — everything is to get the win and so, can you trust that she is being honest? I think people will continually question, is she telling me the truth? And you won’t know.”
“I think she would be polarizing, as polarizing as Obama has been,” added Charles Schneider, a state senator and Lisa’s husband. But Taylor acknowledged the potency of a Clinton candidacy. “I think women want a strong woman,” she said. “They’re willing to be a Hillary supporter because she’s the only one they’ve got to grab onto. Which is kind of sad, but I think that’s true.” These Republicans applauded House Republicans for their decision to launch another investigation of what happened in Benghazi in September 2012 and said the issue will not recede if Clinton is a candidate. “She was in charge of the State Department, and I think it’s not necessarily politics. I think the American people deserve to know the truth,” said Chad Airhart, 37, the Dallas County recorder.
Among the Democrats, Clinton engendered respect and admiration, but not the kind of excitement that surrounded Obama in his first campaign. When they were asked to name the most exciting person in their party, nine people were mentioned, but no one said Clinton. “I’m borderline enthusiastic already,” Porterfield said. “But do I think she’s exciting? No, not really.”
There was little appetite for a Biden campaign in 2016, though he is well liked in the state. On the question of whether a primary contest would be good for Clinton, there was division.
Todd said he hoped the Democrats could avoid a serious nomination contest in order to be better prepared for what he said would be “nuclear war” in the general election. “You need a powerhouse like a Clinton to be able to stand up to these forces, the Koch brothers, the way politics has changed from 2008.”
But Crawley said that even if Clinton faces no serious competition for the nomination, “she needs to consider herself the underdog. . . . If she comes in prom queen, this is a cakewalk to the presidency, the thing I’m worried about . . . is we’ve got a candidate over here who’s not being tested in some way. I think that can work against her in a general election.”

Wingsuit flyers glide over New York City

Four wingsuit flyers take to skies above New York City before landing on a barge in the Hudson River.

India's Hindu hardliners see 'one of their own' as PM

PAKISTAN: Three new polio cases from FATA bring total to 66 this year

The Express Tribune
Three children were diagnosed with poliovirus type 1 in Fata, bringing the total number of cases to 66 this year, Express News reported on Monday.
According to an official press release from Prime Minister’s Polio Monitoring & Coordination Cell, the presence of the virus was confirmed in three children.
Two of the cases were from North Waziristan while the third was reported from South Waziristan. The children afflicted with polio are six-month-old Afsa Bibi and 22-month-old Waqas from North Waziristan as well as 22-month-old Romana from South Waziristan.
In almost all cases reported from North and South Waziristan, the persons have never received an oral dose of polio vaccine, the press release states. No polio campaigns have been conducted in these areas since June 2012. The press release also mentions that 54 of the 66 cases of polio reported in the country have been from Fata. This tally includes 44 cases from North Waziristan, five from South Waziristan, two from Khyber Agency and one from Bannu. Nine of the cases have been from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and five from Sindh.
These cases have been reported at a time when the World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended that travel restrictions be placed on Pakistan, Cameroon and Syria for being the only three countries that are currently exporting poliovirus.

Pashto New Singer Laila Khan First Song " Za Laila Yama " 2014

After Lok Sabha elections defeat, what's next for AAP?

Pakistan Geo TV Charged under Blasphemy and Terrorists Laws

Today Pakistan police has lodged a case against against Geo TV owner, Mir Shakeel-ur Rehman, and Jang media group for showing a programme that allegedly consisted of content which had hurt religious emotions of millions of muslims across the world, an official said. Geo channel celebrated a fake marriage ceremony of scandalous actress Veena Malik with a religious song played in the background. In Punjab province yesterday, regional and sessions judge of Okara ordered that a case be lodged against Geo media group owner Rehman, anchor Shaistan Lodhi, actress Veena, her husband Asad Khatak and others involved in Programme.
Police officer Rana Aziz told Veena, her husband Asad and programme hostess shaista Lodhi were also named in the case filed with Margalla police station in the capital Islamabad.
He said, “They have been charged under Section 295 A, 295 C and 298 A of Pakistan Penal Code, which deal with insulting the religion, and Section 7 of anti-terrorism act.”
Protests Demonstrations have been held in some cities and demonstrators wanted registration of case against them under blasphemy laws, which recommend all-out death sentence.
Geo set has since postponed Lodhi’s programme and Lodhi has apologized to her viewers for hurting their sentiments. Today Geo published an apology on its Urdu paper ‘Jang’.
The channel management has already fired the whole team of the popular morning show, ‘Utho Gago Pakistan’. The Defense Ministry has officially requested Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, which controls media, to prohibit Geo for insulting the safety organizations. Furthermore, Geo TV also faces criticism from Imran Khan, former cricketer, for accusing him to be funded by foreign Government and works against national interests.
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Pakistan: Kalash girls’ miseries continue
Another Kalash gala concluded amid prompt and pedantry but the remote region bordering Afghanistan still lack far behind in social uplift in many spheres such as girls education.
The scenic area known for fabulous heed has absolutely no girls school or girls college leaving all the female population illiterate and in highly deplorable condition.
Lack of basic education for the females of the area is not a personal vendetta but a collective responsibility for all who claim providing fundamental rights to all and sundry in every nook and corner. Most of the girls, who want to get education have no other option but to go to boys schools and get their education upto matric in co-education system.
The unique Kalash Valley has exclusive characteristics, marvelous scenery, outstanding location and wonderful people living in peace from the hundreds of years in the outskirts of the city of Chitral in the northern areas of Pakistan yet there is dearth of female education living life of illiteracy and ignorance.
Astonishing to know, there is a no girls’ college; and what to say of a college, there is no high school for girls of this valley which seems a disaster to the half of the population.
One can draw a clear picture from the fact that without basic education to females, how can they actively participate to females, how can they actively participate in uplifting economy of the people of the valley.
A local journalist while highlighting the issues faced by the people of Kalash said that the government should do more to enhance or boost life condition of Kalash people. “Roads leading to Kalash valley are in a dilapidated condition and Kalash people pay more than Rs. 3000 for booking a cab for 22 KM road”, he said.
The conditions of Kalash Valley could be very perfectly analyzed from the fact that there is no college in Kalash valley, no girls’ high school in the valley, no mobile phone service.
The locals say that the health facilities are also equal to none as the only Basic Unit health of the area is also run by an NGO.
The economic dilapidated condition of the area could not improve until and unless, the concerned authorities reserve a quota for the locals in border police, Chitral scouts, Chitral police or in any other government jobs.
Another alarming fact is that the border police collect tax from the local and foreign tourists but on the contrary they do not spend money for the betterment or providing and improving civic facilities in the area.
It is feared that the Kalash culture will diminish if proper and concerted efforts are not made by the authorities as there is a dire need to focus on this area through out the year and not only during the festival days.

Pakistan:Addressing Sectarian Violence

There are two ways to address a political problem. One, you can solve the problem. Two, you can write a report about the problem. The former is hardly convenient. The latter does not require much more than repetition and stating the obvious. Consider the following points of the grand five-point plan the interior ministry has released to combat the spread of sectarian violence. Though conceding that 950 people have lost their lives to sectarian attacks in the last three years, and more than half of them have taken place in Balochistan, the very first point, a real revelation of a solution, says that a close eye will be kept on clandestine activities by employing such institutions as the police, intelligence and other law enforcement agencies. Only, this is the job description of the police, intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Its what they are supposed to do. In short, the first point states that law enforcement will now do its job. In the second point, the government recognises that sectarian violence is an internal national security threat by putting the acknowledgment into print in the National Internal Security Policy. In other words, the interior ministry released a document that said another document proved how serious the government is about sectarian violence being a priority. The third one nudges the pie a little bit. For 120 days at least, sectarian killing will be an offence covered under the Pakistan Protection Ordinance (PPO). In case point 1 fails, and the police is unable to comply with the rules of a proper investigation or prevention of the crime, they have the authority to throw anybody they want into jail and proclaim the case closed. In this way, point 3 will go a long way to reinforce how well point 1 has worked out. In point 4, the government has declared it will ban organisations that preach hate. (A couple of political parties come immediately to mind). Point 5 is not really a separate point but a 4 point plan hardly sounds comprehensive. Therefore, the final point states the distribution of hate literature too will be taken action against. (A couple of political manifestos come immediately to mind.) The report does not propose a single solution that carefully and analytically engages with the sectarian problem. It does not contain a shred of analysis, for example, regarding the killing of specifically Shia Hazaras in Balochistan. It uses words that mean nothing, talks of policies already in place that do nothing, and is basically a huge load of nothing. Not a single organisation has been banned since this government took the reins, and now it seems this report was all the government could come up with to dignify the lives and deaths of 950 Pakistanis. Well, its not enough. Not even close.

PAKISTAN: Ultimatum: Private schools in Panjgur closed indefinitely

The Express Tribune
All private schools and English-language centres in Panjgur district of Balochistan have been closed for an indefinite period following an ultimatum by a militant outfit opposed to co-education and Western-style learning.
Threatening with dire consequences, the armed group, Tanzeem-ul-Islam-ul-Furqan (TIF), had warned all private schools imparting co-education and Western education to immediately shut down. The schools were closed on May 13 for an indefinite period. The little-known TIF has become a source of terror for the people of Panjgur. On May 13, the outfit made a blatant show of power as four of its armed men intercepted the van of Major Hussain Ali, the head of a private school in Panjgur. “They forced the female students to get off the van and set it on fire. They said: ‘You are spreading obscenity by promoting the culture of co-education’,” Major Hussain told The Express Tribune.
“Earlier, we had taken their threats lightly. However, after seeing the confidence of these armed men roaming the road with impunity, I realised they can do anything and even kill me or my daughters,” he said. In Panjgur, there are around 23 private institutions, including schools and English language centres, which had been receiving threats since April 25. In the letters, the outfit cited the names of some of the leading educationists of the area. After frequent attacks on private schools by masked men armed with Kalashnikovs and pistols, the private schools and English-language centres were first closed on April 30.
After remaining closed for three days, the schools were reopened on May 3. However, following the incident of May 13, the heads of all educational institutions decided to shut down for an indefinite period. The heads of private schools also held a meeting with the district police officer, deputy commissioner and local clerics. “The clerics said they never opposed co-education or learning of English language,” said Major Hussain, who attended the meeting. The Panjgur police have lodged an FIR against unknown armed men under the Anti-Terrorism Act after the noisy protest held by teachers, political parties and students in front of the DC Panjgur office. They gave the cell-phone number to the police from which the threatening messages were sent.
According to the Panjgur police, the culprits involved in threatening the teachers will soon be behind bars. “We have reached very close to the group and will soon arrest them,” said Muhammad Murad, SHO Panjgur police station. “The government and law enforcing agencies are doing nothing to arrest the culprits, who stayed an hour on the main intersection and threatened schoolteachers,” Hussain said.
The Baloch Students Organisation (BSO) also condemned the attacks and said it is an attempt to radicalise the society.
The Balochistan government has also taken notice of the issue and directed the authority concerned to submit a report. “The government is very serious about this issue and has asked senior officials to investigate the incident,” Balochistan government spokesperson Jan Buledi told The Express Tribune.

Pakistan: Displaced dreams: For the Mehsuds, there is no place to call home

The Express Tribune
South Waziristan, the largest of the seven tribal agencies, chronicles the telling symptoms of war. Modest schools that were once part of the rugged landscape have been reduced to dusty debris. Hospitals, roads and simple housing localities are skeletal remains of once inhabited spaces.
For displaced Mehsud tribesmen, who comprise 70% of the local population, South Waziristan is no longer a place they call home, but instead a safe haven for Taliban militants mired in a decade-long battle with security forces.
“Eighty per cent of Mehsud tribesmen have fled to other parts of the country,” Rustam Shah Mohmand, former chief secretary of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) tells The Express Tribune. Of the agency’s estimated three million population, Mohmand reckons nearly 1.6 million now live in camps for ‘internally displaced persons’ (IDPs) – out of which three-fourths are Mehsud tribesmen.
“Many of them moved to earn their livelihood in Sindh – mainly Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur – while a considerable number shifted to different districts of K-P,” says Mohmand, who has also served as ambassador to Afghanistan and is a member of the government committee negotiating peace with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). While the displacement is owed largely to security operations and drone warfare targeting the Taliban’s central leadership and rank and file mostly drawn from the Mehsud tribe, Mohmand says the bloody strife has also destroyed sources of livelihood.
In part, he attributes the mass exodus to the breakdown of the Mehsud’s economic base because border trade with Afghanistan, which collapsed due to the volatile security situation, was the mainstay of local economy. “Militancy and the four major security operations that ensued in the stronghold of the TTP have caused colossal damage to the infrastructure and economy,” he says. With the agency in the grip of militants since 2004, Mohmand says numerous Mehsud businessmen and their families have shifted to Islamabad and Lahore.
Due to the absence of official records, the exact numbers of Fata IDPs is not known. But according to the United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) country profile for 2014, more than one million people have been displaced owing to security operations in Fata and K-P, especially since the Pakistan Army launched the Rah-e-Nijat operation in 2009. The Centre for International and Strategic Analysis (SISA) puts the number of families that fled South Waziristan at an astounding 36,000. According to the Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA), the total number of off-camp IDPs from South Waziristan, Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram and Frontier Region Tank is 704,623, while there is no record of those who migrated to Sindh and Punjab. While Mohmand appreciates FDMA and UNHCR endeavours to provide assistance to the displaced persons, he declares the efforts ‘extremely insufficient’.
Chairman of the Qaumi Watan Party Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao also admits that the Mehsuds are the most unfortunate victims of this war, and describes their living conditions in IDP camps as deplorable. “No one knows how long it will take for their homecoming dream to come true,” he says.
Mohmand also rubbishes the FDMA’s report that hundreds of IDPs from Fata have been returning to their homes during the last two years. “They will never return to South Waziristan as long as the security agencies are there and the Taliban infighting is ongoing,” he says.
According to a 2009 report by the Planning and Development Department of the Fata Secretariat, the tentative infrastructure, social and environmental costs in the aftermath of the security operation run into hundreds of millions of dollars.
For now, struggling Mehsud IDPs are left to make ends meet in temporary homes. In Islamabad, Rawalpindi and adjoining areas, the displaced residents are desperate to return to their homes as early as possible. Recently, a large number of them gathered to protest against the governor of K-P, whom they say has failed to arrange their return to the agency. They say that they have been living in rented houses with little income since 2009 when the security forces launched operation Rah-i-Nijat against the TTP. According to FDMA Director General Arshad Khan, 1,343 tribesmen have been repatriated to Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency from the Kohat camp in May this year. “Over 300,000 people have been displaced due to conflicts in Fata since 2008,” he said, adding that 150,000 are still displaced and reside in various camps.
Aftab Sherpao is sceptical about their repatriation. “I don’t see any likely return of these IDPs to South Waziristan in the near future. A few have returned to their homes but the majority is still waiting for a conducive atmosphere. They want to return due to the sense of insecurity that prevails in the IDP camps. I don’t think the security situation will improve in the coming days,” he says. He also expressed doubt about the success of the peace talks. “All the IDPs were expecting that successful peace talks between the government and the TTP would pave way for their repatriation, but there have been no positive results.”

Pakistan: Chaos, anarchy and madness

If the above title is not self-explanatory, all readers have to do is follow developments in recent days to check its veracity when describing the state of affairs emerging in the country. It all began with the attack on Hamid Mir, a most unfortunate incident, irrespective of one’s view of the man or his journalism. The TV channel he works for went overboard in broadcasting the allegation brought forward by his brother against the ISI and its chief. That lapse in editorial judgement could have perhaps been forgiven and forgotten as a knee jerk reaction in the heat of the moment. However, doubts about the quality of the TV channel’s editorial oversight were compounded beyond comprehension by the broadcast of a morning show that allegedly insulted revered persons in Islam, setting off a storm of protest, calls for and the actual registration of a blasphemy case in Islamabad against the channel, its owner, the anchor and chief guests, while courts were being approached all over the country for similar action.
This latest outburst of seething anger added to the already ‘spontaneous’ rallies and protests against the channel in various parts of the country and in support of the ISI, its chief, and the military in general. As if all this were not enough, the Cable Operators Association and Imran Khan too have joined the fray against the media group. A crescendo of voices is rising to ban the media house in question. Is all this reasonable, is it rational? Who does not know by now that the first casualty in any blasphemy accusation is rationality and civilised behaviour? A blasphemy accused can be considered a dead duck, literally. Even if justified criticism lies against the media group for its ‘adventurism’ against powerful institutions of state and its failure to take account of the circumstances surrounding the reaction to it by venturing into controversial religious terrain, does the punishment being advocated fit the ‘crime’? Another unfortunate fallout of this whole growing controversy is the role played by certain media groups in their shortsighted view of this as an opportunity to do down a rival. What they fail to comprehend is that their campaign against one media group could in future end up rolling back hard won freedom of the media all across the line. The media’s inability to stand together in solidarity against attacks on its freedom, albeit requiring a re-examination of how this freedom needs to be exercised with responsibility, may end up exacting a heavy toll from the media as a whole.
Blasphemy and the laws that govern it in Pakistan have become an increasingly dangerous and controversial terrain. The ease with which anyone holding a different view or reservations about the effect of the laws in nurturing intolerance, false accusation, mob attitudes and vigilante justice (a description it hardly merits), is at risk of losing life and limb. One does not have to travel far down memory lane to recall that Governor Salmaan Taseer, Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti and many others have either been killed or suffered irreparable harm to their lives if not very existence by the lack of safeguards against what can by now only be described as a tool of terrorising society at large by vested interests.
The deplorable aspect of the increasingly alarming direction the country is taking is the conspicuous absence (silence) of the government. Our elected representatives, whether in government or in opposition, have signally failed to provide leadership requiring courage and conviction in this rapid descent into chaos, anarchy and madness. Since the powers that be are paralysed by fear in this regard, it is up to the actual and potential victims of the madness overtaking us to band together and resist this rising dark tide of intolerance, giving someone a bad name and hanging them, and the threatened demise of anything resembling a civilised society. Barbarism in any form or in any guise must be resisted by the enlightened, liberal, democratic and progressive forces in society. Unfortunately these forces seem so scattered, weak and cowed down as to cast a dark shadow on the shape of things to come.

Pakistan: Bajaur students go to schools without books

The education department has not provided free textbooks to government schools in Bajaur Agency and the students have been attending schools without books since start of the new academic session in April.
Talking to Dawn on Saturday, students of various schools in the region showed concern over the loss of their precious time and non-seriousness of the education department to provide them free textbooks.
“We are just visiting our schools and sitting there without any purpose in the absence of books,” said Sibgatullah, an 8th class student of government high school Inayat Kallay.
Other students said that they were disappointed at the unavailability of textbooks as the management of their schools had promised to provide free text books by end of April.
“We were assured of provision of free textbooks, but unfortunately we have not received any books from the education department as yet,” said Gul Ahmad, a student of government high school Khar.
Nisar Khan, a senior teacher of government high school Badan Mamond and ex-president of Senior Teachers Association also expressed his concern over the delay in provision of textbooks.
“The undue delay in supply of free textbooks is a matter of serious concern for both students and teachers,” he said.
The tribesmen, parents of the students and social activists of the tribal agency have demanded of the authorities concerned to take the matter seriously and supply textbooks to all schools in the region.
Talking to Dawn, they said that on the one hand the government was claiming steps for the improvement of education in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, on the other it had failed to provide textbooks to the students in the region.
“It seems officials at the Fata Secretariat are not interested in promotion of education in tribal areas,” said Hanifullah Jan, agency coordinator of the Society for Protection of Rights of the Child.
The tribal elders have urged the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor to take serious notice of the matter and ensure provision of textbooks to students in the agency.
When contacted, a senior official in the education department, Bajaur, said that supply of textbooks from Peshawar had just started and the books would be given to all the government schools in the agency after completion of the checking process. “We have asked the principals, headmasters and head teachers to bring the lists of students in respective schools to the office of agency education officer till Monday so we could start distribution of the books,” he said.

Pakistan: Up to six hours of loadshedding as shortage rises to 2,100MW

Cities and towns and rural areas across the country faced up to six hours of loadshedding, despite closure of public and private businesses on Sunday.
The power shortfall rose to 2,100MW because of suspension of 350MW supply from two 220KV Guddo-Sibbi and Uch-Sibbi towers and transmission lines which were reportedly damaged in a terrorist attack.
But a spokesman for the National Transmission and Dispatch Company said the transmission lines and towers had been damaged by a windstorm, and not by terrorists. It caused disruption in power supply to large areas.
According to him, all power distribution companies (Discos) carried out four to six hours of loadshedding because of 2,100MW shortfall in the system. “On Sunday, the total generation stood at 11,200MW — 4,200MW contributed by hydel, 1,480MW by thermal and 5,460MW by independent power producers (IPPs).
Since the total power demand was 13,300MW, Discos had to carry out four to six hours of loadshedding in urban and rural areas to meet the 2,100MW shortfall, the spokesman explained.
He said repair of the damaged towers and transmission line was under way and they would soon be functional.
People in major cities and towns have been enduring several hours of outages after a short-lived respite between May 10 and 13.
“The zero loadshedding witnessed in those days was not less than a miracle for us since we had it after a long time. We had slept well and remained fresh,” Imdad, a resident of Garden Town in Lahore, told Dawn.
Meanwhile, talking to APP, Minister of State for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali claimed that the government was proactively executing diverse programmes to overcome the energy crisis.
He said the crisis was because of years of neglect, ill-planning and mismanagement.
After coming to power in June last year, he added, the government had faced multiple problems such as 12 to 18 hours of loadshedding, IPPs and Gencos (generation companies) running under-capacity (50 per cent to 70pc), circular debt of over Rs480 billion, a yawning gap between supply and demand (up to 4,000MW) and a “terribly inefficient” power transmission and distribution system.
The minister said the present government had taken a number of measures to resolve these issues, including successful initiation and implementation of the National Power Policy 2013, clearance of Rs480 billion circular debt, bringing additional 1,700MW to the national grid, improvement in demand and supply side management and development of cheap energy resources to achieve optimum results through short-, mid- and long-term projects.

New governments in Kabul and New Delhi will oppose truce of Pakistan with TTP

New governments in Kabul and New Delhi will strongly oppose any truce of Pakistan with Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and will blame Pakistan for using terrorists’ against them if anything happens inside India or Afghanistan. Forthcoming new President of Afghanistan, Abdullah, will have zero tolerance for the TTP or Taliban inside Afghanistan. Taliban who are 100% Pushtun had allegedly been involved in manslaughter of soldiers of the Northern Alliance and the massacre of people of Hazara, Tajik, and Uzbek communities, and these are ethnic groups Abdullah represents. The old narrative of Pukhhun Bhai (Pushtun brothers) will not work for Pakistan now, and the TTP will have a low acceptance level within Afghanistan from where it is operating right now. These are observations of political experts who are dealing with regional issues.
Pakistan went for general elections in 2013, while its two neighbors - one at its eastern border and the second on its western border - have also gone for elections this year. Pakistan’s foreign policy for the last 3 decades has been Pushtun Jihad centric at its western border and Jihadi centric at its eastern border.
The formation of Lashkars (Islamic Corp of fighters for Islam), importing and exporting Jihadis from and to all over the world and justifying radicalism has not only ruined the entire social fabric of Pakistan and killed around 55,000 people, it has damaged Kashmir’s cause internationally. It is unfortunate to say that protests rallies in favor of the Pakistan army against Geo Television had been organized mostly by banned organizations. It was done by these banned organizations to get support of the Pakistan army or to malign the Pakistan army - nobody understands for sure, because the Pakistan Army is fighting against terrorism and banned organizations and sacrificing its soldiers with every sunrise in tribal areas of Pakistan.
Modi is a popular leader having popular support, so he will act as a custodian of the people and will demand Pakistan to share investigations and proceedings of the Mumbai attack. One cannot compare Manmohan Singh with Modi. They are two different mind-sets and personalities.
On the western borders, if Abdullah Abduallah comes into power, he will demand Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism. Abduallah is half Pushtun and half Tajik, because his father was a Pushtun, but his mother was Tajik, and he has been fighting against the Taliban and Pushtuns since he joined politics. He is not Hamid Karzai who had a soft corner for Pushtun Afghan leaders. Abduallah is a very clear-minded person having a long affiliation with one party that the international media and Pakistan has been calling the Northern Alliance, but actually there was no Northern Alliance, but rather an alliance that should be called the “Anti-Pustun Alliance.” Pakistan should remember that its Pushtun-centric foreign policy can be harmful for Pakistan. Abdullah Abduallah will continue to have a trust deficit if Pakistan continues to post Pushtuns at important assignments as well as in the Ministry of Foreign affairs, Ministry of Defense, and Ministry of Interior. Non-Pushtun Afghans blame Pakistan that Pakistan always operates inside Afghanistan in internal affairs of Afghanistan through Pushtun operators who have personal, family, and ethnic relations within Afghanistan and work for the cause of Pakistan.
Abdullah Abduallah will strongly object any truce of Pakistan with Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and will blame Pakistan using TTP inside Afghanistan if the TTP and the government of Pakistan joins handouts of any deal between them. The Pushtun Taliban in the past were allegedly involved in mass slaughtering of the Northern Alliance soldiers, so the Abdullah government will have a zero level of tolerance for the Taliban of both sides.

PAK-INDIA: Army Jawan Killed in First Ceasefire Violation After Election

An army jawan was killed and two others injured on Sunday when they went to rescue a colleague hurt in a landmine blast, in the first major incident of firing by Pakistani troops at the border after the Narendra Modi-led BJP won the general election. The army said at around 10 am, Havaldar Vinod Kumar, a part of the Engineer Regiment, was injured while planting landmines on the Indian side at the Pallanwalla sector near the Line of Control. When a Maratha Light Infantry patrol team went to rescue him, Pakistani troops opened fire and wounded three soldiers. One of them later died. There have been several infiltration bids this month by Pakistani militants along the Line of Control. On May 10, two militants were killed in the Poonch sector, where infiltrators had tried to enter earlier on May 3. In 2013, 12 jawans were killed and 41 injured in the highest number of ceasefire violations - 149 - and firing by Pakistan troops along the India-Pakistan border. Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has expressed hope for good ties with the new government to be led by Narendra Modi. Mr Sharif has reportedly cited his working relationship with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the last prime minister to lead a BJP government, as a reason for his optimism.

پولیو کے خاتمے میں مدارس اصل رکاوٹ ، اعتزاز
سینیٹ میں قائد حزب اختلاف اعتزاز احسن نے دینی مدارس کو انسداد پولیو مہم میں بڑی رکاوٹ قرار دیتے ہوئے کہا ہے کہ شکیل آفریدی کی مہم کے باعث پولیو ورکرز پر حملہ جہاد قرار دے دیا گیا، انسداد پولیو مہم میں حصہ لینا اصل جہاد ہے۔ جہادی سوچ اور ذہنیت پاکستان کو پتھر کے دور میں دھکیل رہی ہے، حکومت پولیو کی بیماری سے متعلق شعور اجاگر کرنے کے لیے بھرپور مہم چلائے اور پولیو ورکرز کی یومیہ اجرت میں 10 گنا اضافہ کیا جائے۔ جمعے کو سینیٹ میں ملک سے پولیوکے خاتمے سے متعلق حکومتی اقدامات اور عالمی ادارہ صحت کے فیصلے سے متعلق تحریک التوا پر بحث میں حصہ لیتے ہوئے سینیٹ میں قائد حزب اختلاف اعتزاز احسن نے کہا کہ ایک مخصوص مائنڈ سیٹ پولیو کے خاتمے کی راہ میں رکاوٹ بن چکا ہےٴ اس کو تبدیل کرنے کی ضرورت ہے۔ انہوں نے کہا کہ پولیو ورکرز موجودہ صورتحال میں انتہائی مشکل حالات میںپولیو کے خاتمے کی مہم کو آگے بڑھا رہے ہیں۔ حکومت پولیو ورکرز کو تحفظ فراہم کرنے میں ناکام ہو گئی ہے۔ ملک سے پولیو کا خاتمہ انتہائی ضروری ہےٴ اس کے بغیر ہم عالمی سطح پر اپنے ملک کا تشخص بہتر نہیں بنا سکتے۔ اگر پولیو وائرس پر کنٹرول نہ کیا گیا تو پاکستان پر عالمی پابندیاں لگ جائیں گی۔ اعتراز احسن نے کہا کہ پولیو سے متعلق جو بھی سرٹیفکیٹ جاری ہو جعلی نہ ہو، ہمارے ہاں جعلسازی بہت ہوتی ہے۔ سینیٹر روبینہ خالد نے کہا کہ پولیو کے معاملے پر تشویش ہے یہ بڑا مسئلہ ہے، اس معاملے کو سنجیدگی سے لینا چاہیے۔ جے یو آئی ٟفٞ کے سینیٹر حمد اË نے کہا کہ ہر چیز میں مدارس اور جہاد کو مورد الزام ٹھہرانا درست نہیں۔ آپ ہر بات پر جہاد اور مدارس کا ذکر کر کے کسے خوش کرنا چاہتے ہیں۔ ریمنڈ ڈیوس اور شکیل آفریدی کے حوالے سے کیوں خاموش ہیں۔ وزیر مملکت برائے قومی صحت سائرہ افضل تارڑ نے کہا کہ ولیو کی صورتحال یہ ہے کہ فاٹاٴ شمالی وزیرستانٴ پشاور اور کراچی میں گڈاپ یونین کونسل ہے۔ پولیو ویکسین کا مکمل کنٹرول صوبوں کے پاس ہے۔ پولیو کی سب سے بڑی وجہ روٹین کی ویکسی نیشن کا نہ ہونا ہے۔ انہوں نے کہا کہ آمریت نے جو کانٹے بوئے ہیں وہ ہم کاٹ رہے ہیں۔ تمام صوبوں کو پولیو سرٹیفکیٹ کارڈ جاری کر دیے گئے ہیں تاکہ جعلسازی نہ ہوسکے۔ 27 ہزار افراد روزانہ بیرون ملک جاتے ہیں جن میں سے 17 ہزار افراد ہوائی راستے سے بیرون ملک جاتے ہیں۔ یکم جون کے بعد پولیو ویکسی نیشن کارڈ بیرون ملک جانے کیلیے لازمی ہو جائے گا۔ انہوں نے کہا کہ پاکستان کا 90 فیصد علاقہ پولیو سے پاک ہو چکا ہے۔ تمام سیاسی جماعتوں اور متعلقہ فریقین کو پولیو کے خاتمے کے لیے حکومت سے تعاون کرنا چاہیے۔ دریں اثنا سینیٹ میں اپوزیشن جماعتوں نے پی آئی اے کی نجکاری سے متعلق اطمینان بخش جواب نہ دینے پر شدید احتجاج کرتے ہوئے ایوان سے علامتی واک آئوٹ کیا جبکہ ڈپٹی چیئرمین صابر بلوچ نے پی آئی اے کی نجکاری سے متعلق سوال موخر کر دیا۔

Pakistan in the limelight again for all the wrong reasons: ''Travellers’ check''

Waqar Gillani
Being one of the three polio endemic countries, Pakistan is in the limelight again for all the wrong reasons
The World Health Organization (WHO) has put a restriction on all travellers from Pakistan to carry a polio vaccination certificate. After the initial confusion on whether this was a restriction or recommendation, the government has now announced that this international recommendation will be put into effect on all travellers from the country from June 1, 2014. The WHO restriction came in the wake of evidence that Pakistan has become the largest global source of polio infections. Pakistan is among the three countries that have received this directive — the other two being Syria and Cameroon. Together the three countries are said to have exported the virus recently.
According to reports, the prime minister has taken some administrative measures internally, after meeting with the National Coordinator for Polio Eradication Ayesha Raza Farooq. He has decided to seek help of the army to regulate the movement of people from Fata to settled districts only after polio drops have been administered to them. At the moment, only three countries in the world — Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria — are polio endemic, putting the rest of the world at risk. The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) travel restriction is the first of its kind because of polio in the three countries. Syria and Cameroon too are facing restrictions for polio outbreak. The current rise of polio in Syria is said to be because of Pakistan, while Nigeria imported that from Cameroon.
Only this year, the number of polio cases in Pakistan has gone up to 62 till mid May, with a majority of them from North Waziristan while the rest belonging to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Karachi. The spread of polio in Pakistan has been a big worry for the past few years. The number of polio cases in 2013 was 93. There has been a gradual rise in polio cases in Pakistan since 2007.
“Pakistan was the first country to face travel restriction because of failure to eradicate polio. Pakistan will have serious social and economic implications because of these restrictions. We will stand isolated in the world,” says Dr Tariq Bhutta, Chairman Pakistan’s National Immunisation Technical Advisory Group and member of two WHO regions on polio eradication certification commission.
The WHO had been warning Pakistan for the past two years but our governments did not take it seriously, he says. “A country like Somalia has controlled polio virus but we have failed.”
The virus strain of polio found in the country has affected many countries over the past two years, becoming a serious threat to the rest of the world. Pakistan is said to have transmitted polio virus to Middle East, Central Asia, and China. According to reports, China had to spend US$45 million to control that virus while the Middle East has spent several million dollars so far.
According to WHO findings, Pakistani polio virus has been found in Tajikistan, China, Palestine, Israel, Syria, Egypt and Iraq. It is turning into an epidemic in Syria and Iraq while it has been controlled in other countries because of high immunisation rate. It is also said to have travelled from Pakistan to Afghanistan because of the porous border, though some Pakistani authorities believe that it is Afghanistan that is exporting it to Pakistan.
The problem was compounded by the killing of Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011 followed by the arrest of Dr Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani doctor who allegedly helped CIA through a spy vaccination campaign for Hepatitis. Prior to this incident, the Taliban were only opposing the administering of polio drops to children but since December 2012 they have started killing the polio workers.
As many as 40 polio workers and security officials have been killed during anti-polio campaigns in the past several months. Pakistan’s health ministry and WHO have, in a joint statement, announced that all Pakistani travellers will be required to carry a valid polio vaccination certificate from June 1, 2014.
A template for the required vaccination certificate has been prepared. According to the health ministry, people travelling out of Pakistan can get vaccinated against polio from major public hospitals in cities as well as from District Health Offices, airports, seaports and cross-border checkpoints of neighbouring countries. The polio certificate issued to any one will be valid for one year.
The Minister of State for National Health Services, Saira Afzal Tarar, says the government would try to address the concerns of the WHO so that by the next assessment which is scheduled to be reviewed after three months the condition improves.
“We don’t take such matters of health seriously. Security concern and accessibility are two major reasons for this spread,” Dr Bhutta says. He maintains Taliban added to this crisis barring polio workers in tribal areas in 2012. He says among reasons of failure to eradicate polio, security is one. Pakistan has not provided vaccine to every child despite having sufficient dozes because Taliban have banned the entry of polio workers in many areas.
Rahimullah Yusfzai, a senior journalist based in KP, believes that accessibility due to lack of security is the main reason why tribal areas and parts of KP have become major polio reservoirs. He says vaccinators are under threat and banned from entering areas like North Waziristan. “I don’t think we cannot achieve hundred per cent target in the current situation but we have to do maximum. Such restrictions are aimed at putting more pressure on Pakistan to evolve a comprehensive strategy to eradicate this disease.” For those who travel frequently from Pakistan, it is an embarrassing situation after the allegations of exporting drugs and terrorism.
The Punjab and Sindh governments have prepared plans for setting up special counters for polio drops administration at district level and give free certification, which will be valid for one year.
“We have been put in an awkward situation,” says Tahir Hussain, a Lahore based regular international traveller. He hopes that there would be a transparent procedure for this certification. He fears there can also be a problem if people start getting fake certificates, alarming the embassies to come up with their own system to make sure the procedure is transparent.
According to the reports of Ministry of National Health Services, despite all the efforts, the December 2013 reports claim that more than 47,099 children failed to get polio drops in Pakistan because their parents refused vaccination. The real issue is Pakistan is to access its every child for vaccination. A few years ago, polio vaccination was put under the prime minister’s office for greater oversight but that too did not help.
Dr Bhutta says, “A neighbouring country like Iran’s routine immunisation coverage is above 95 per cent and India has become polio-free. In Pakistan, routine immunisation coverage is 55 per cent, and less in many areas like Balochistan.” Recently, wild polio virus has been found in sewerage in environmental sampling in the heavily populated cities of Lahore and Karachi. “It might take years to improve the situation,” says Dr Bhutta.
Dr Altaf Bosan, national focal person of prime minister’s polio cell tells TNS that all the affected areas in the country are somehow conflict zones including Karachi were an operation is going on. “The new strategy includes negotiations with those refusing or resisting vaccination, effective coordination from national to local level with greater role for the provinces.”
He says strict accountability mechanism would be evolved in districts where the vaccination ratio will be low to make sure a quality campaign. “If we make effective and serious efforts to targeting polio reservoir zones, we can overcome the endemic situation in a year,” Bosan hopes.