Monday, July 21, 2014
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Monday that Beijing welcomes the just passed UN resolution on the recent crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine. Wang, who is accompanying Chinese President Xi Jinping in an ongoing Latin America tour, made the comments shortly after the UN Security Council adopted a resolution demanding safe and unrestricted access of international experts to the crash site. The resolution is in line with China's consistent position that an independent, fair and objective international probe be carried out to find out the truth, said the minister, noting that China played a constructive role in the deliberations and unanimous passage of the resolution. Stressing that the tragedy, which claimed 298 lives, should not be repeated, Wand said the current priority is to implement the resolution, especially to give international investigators full access to the crash site. The International Civil Aviation Organization should be allowed to play a key role in the investigation and its professional expertise be brought into full play, he said. Before the result is produced, he stressed, all parties concerned should refrain from making conjectures and prejudgment and, more importantly, avoid politicizing the issue. The crash further suggests that an early settlement of the Ukraine crisis is the fundamental way to maintain regional peace and stability, Wang said. "We urged all Ukrainian parties concerned to cease fire as soon as possible and conduct dialogue and consultation so as to seek a comprehensive, lasting and balanced political solution," Wang said.
The Russian military detected a Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jet gaining height towards the MH17 Boeing on the day of the catastrophe. Kiev must explain why the military jet was tracking the passenger airplane, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
“A Ukraine Air Force military jet was detected gaining height, it’s distance from the Malaysian Boeing was 3 to 5km,” said the head of the Main Operations Directorate of the HQ of Russia’s military forces, Lieutenant-General Andrey Kartopolov speaking at a media conference in Moscow on Monday.
“[We] would like to get an explanation as to why the military jet was flying along a civil aviation corridor at almost the same time and at the same level as a passenger plane,” he stated. “The SU-25 fighter jet can gain an altitude of 10km, according to its specification,” he added. “It’s equipped with air-to-air R-60 missiles that can hit a target at a distance up to 12km, up to 5km for sure.” The presence of the Ukrainian military jet can be confirmed by video shots made by the Rostov monitoring center, Kartopolov stated. At the moment of the MH17 crash an American satellite was flying over the area of eastern Ukraine, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry. It urged the US to publish the space photos and data captured by it.
In addition, MH17 crashed within the operating zone of the Ukrainian army’s self-propelled, medium-range surface-to-air ‘Buk’ missile systems, the Russian general said. “We have space images of certain places where the Ukraine’s air defense was located in the southeast of the country,” Kartapolov noted. The first three shots that were shown by the general are dated July 14. The images show Buk missile launch systems in about 8km northwest of the city of Lugansk – a TELAR and two TELs, according to the military official. Another image shows a radar station near Donetsk.
While the third picture shows the location of the air defense systems near Donetsk, he explained. In particular, one can clearly see a TELAR launcher and about 60 military and auxiliary vehicles, tents for vehicles and other structures, he elaborated.
“Images from this area were also made on July 17. One should notice that the missile launcher is absent [from the scene]. Image number five shows the Buk missile system in the morning of the same day in the area of settlement Zaroschinskoe – 50km south of Donetsk and 8km south of Shakhtyorsk," the Kartapolov said
The question that has to be answered is why the missile system appeared in the area controlled by the local militia forces shortly before the catastrophe, he stated. Images taken on July 18 show that the missile systems left the area of the MH17 crash, the military official said.
http://www.nationalreview.com/The Pentagon spent $2.89 million to build a food processing facility in Helmand Province in Afghanistan, a project of the Department of Defense’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations. This morning the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction unveiled a review finding that the facility has never been used and is not being maintained. The report from Inspector General John Sopko says the facility “could have been a success story.” Once a bombed cotton factory site in Helmand province, the aim was to turn the site into a cold and dry storage warehouse and packing facility – allowing the farmers of the province to ship and process their crops and produce and sell to more faraway markets. The Pentagon’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations began the project in 2010 and then passed it to the Army Corps of Engineers – hiring a contractor to build one cold storage and one dry storage warehouse, demolish two existing structures, make road improvements; provide on-site power generation and an electrical distribution system, a new water well and to remove mines and unexploded ordnances from the site. All of the work presumed that, upon completion, the Afghan government would be able to find a buyer or manage the facility itself. In May 2013, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the contractor’s finished work — 243 days behind schedule, but up to specifications. The contractor blamed the delays on security concerns, including “threatened and actual Taliban violence, difficulties transporting needed equipment across the border into Afghanistan, and difficulty getting experts on the installation and operation of the facility’s equipment to come to Afghanistan.” The facility, providing approximately 10,000 square feet of cold storage and 13,000 square feet of dry storage, was transferred to the Afghan government in September 2013. And then… not much happened. As the IG report notes, “potential investors told [the Pentagon’s Business and Stability Operations task force] that the Afghan district governor had asked for money from the investors and the construction contractor before leasing the property.” One potential buyer had his Kabul-based cold storage facility unexpectedly damaged and could not generate the funds to purchase the U.S.-built one. The Afghanistan government says it is still looking for potential buyers. Helmand Province is one of the world’s biggest sites for opium production and a region that frequently endures fierce fighting between the Taliban and its foes. In fact, it’s not clear who can get to the facility safely right now. SIGAR inspectors attempted to visit the Gereshk storage facility on two occasions—January and March 2014; both times International Security Assistance Force denied the request to visit the facility, citing high insurgent activity in the area. The Pentagon, in its written response to the IG report, noted that its own Task Force for Business and Stability Operations personnel “have been unable to travel to the site for more than one year.”
The Inspector General’s report recommends, “before approving future investment projects of any kind, [the Pentagon ensure there “are willing investor(s) capable of assuming ownership of and responsibility for maintaining constructed facilities; or, in the absence of investors, that the Afghan Ministry of Commerce and Interior is willing and able to assume those responsibilities itself.”
Uighur fighters are believed to be based in militant strongholds in ungoverned stretches of the Afghan-Pakistani border. Sun said he did not know how many were there but there had been hundreds before the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan to oust the Taliban in 2001.
"At the peak, there was about 1,000 people training there," Sun said, adding that many were killed or captured in fighting but most had fled. China says Islamist militants were behind a spate of recent attacks there in which about 200 people have been killed. Exiled Uighur groups and human rights activists say repressive government policies in Xinjiang, including controls on Islam and on Uighur culture, have provoked unrest. China dismisses that.
Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain in 2010 called Gaza “an open-air prison,” drawing criticism from Israel. But in reality, the vast majority of Gazans are effectively trapped, unable to seek refugee status across an international border. (Most, or their descendants, are already refugees, from what is now Israel.)A 25-mile-long rectangle just a few miles wide, and one of the most densely populated places in the world, Gaza is surrounded by concrete walls and fences along its northern and eastern boundaries with Israel and its southern border with Egypt. Even in what pass for ordinary times here, Israel permits very few Gazans to enter its territory, citing security concerns because suicide bombers and other militants from Gaza have killed Israeli civilians. The restrictions over the years have cost Palestinians jobs, scholarships and travel. Egypt has also severely curtailed Gazans’ ability to travel, opening its border crossing with the territory for only 17 days this year. During the current fighting between Israel and the Hamas militants who control Gaza, only those with Egyptian or foreign passports or special permission were allowed to exit. Even the Mediterranean Sea to the west provides no escape. Israel restricts boats from Gaza to three nautical miles offshore. And Gaza, its airspace controlled by Israel, has no airport. So while three million Syrians have fled their country during the war there, more and more of Gaza’s 1.7 million people have been moving away from the edges of the strip and crowding into the already-packed center of Gaza City.
A 25-mile-long rectangle just a few miles wide, and one of the most densely populated places in the world, Gaza is surrounded by concrete walls and fences along its northern and eastern boundaries with Israel and its southern border with Egypt. Even in what pass for ordinary times here, Israel permits very few Gazans to enter its territory, citing security concerns because suicide bombers and other militants from Gaza have killed Israeli civilians. The restrictions over the years have cost Palestinians jobs, scholarships and travel. Egypt has also severely curtailed Gazans’ ability to travel, opening its border crossing with the territory for only 17 days this year. During the current fighting between Israel and the Hamas militants who control Gaza, only those with Egyptian or foreign passports or special permission were allowed to exit. Even the Mediterranean Sea to the west provides no escape. Israel restricts boats from Gaza to three nautical miles offshore. And Gaza, its airspace controlled by Israel, has no airport. So while three million Syrians have fled their country during the war there, more and more of Gaza’s 1.7 million people have been moving away from the edges of the strip and crowding into the already-packed center of Gaza City.
On Sunday, families were fleeing artillery barrages on foot, or being killed in their homes, as the Israelis pushed into the city’s Shejaiya neighborhood in an operation the military says aims to locate and destroy tunnels used by Hamas militants to enter Israel and carry out attacks. The chaos has made some outside observers ask why people did not leave earlier, before the ground offensive neared them. The Israeli military has said it has given Gazans every opportunity to avoid injury by calling on them to evacuate neighborhoods it is about to target. Leaflets were dropped in Shejaiya on Saturday, residents said, and a senior military official said warnings had begun days earlier. “Staying at home when you’re 100 percent sure there’s going to be fighting there is much worse,” the official said. “Be out for two or three days; it’s better than being in the battlefield.”
Still, many fled only when shells began flying. Israeli officials speculate that Hamas militants have threatened people with retaliation if they leave, using them as human shields. Gazans did not mention such threats as a factor — though some said that they did not feel free to criticize Hamas. Such fears did not seem to deter 81,000 people who have already fled to United Nations shelters, and tens of thousands more who have gone to relatives’ homes. But Hamas may have misled people into a false sense of safety. It proclaimed on radio and television that the Israeli warnings were part of a psychological operation, and urged people to ignore them. Some were surprised at how far west into the areas that received warnings the Israelis pushed on Sunday, having reasoned that only the eastern areas, closer to the border, would be seriously threatened. Another factor is that Gaza’s extended families can include dozens of people — half of all residents of Gaza are children — and moving is not as simple as packing a bag and running. Families are deeply rooted in their neighborhoods, and many lack potential hosts elsewhere. The Attars thought of selling their farmland near the Israeli border, to move somewhere safer, but they could not afford apartments in Gaza City, where the scarcity of land, especially near the sea, drives prices high. Also, the family depends on the land, growing vegetables and raising poultry for food and to make a living. And, Ms. Attar said, “It’s not just a house to sell and buy another; it’s our life and our grandparents’ life.” Under fire in Shejaiya, some residents said they simply did not want to heed the orders of a foreign government they consider an occupier, and preferred to stay in their homes. One man on Sunday, having escorted his family out from under shelling, declared, “I’m going back, I’m not afraid,” and began marching back into the smoking neighborhood. Only after his sister ran after him, pleading, did he reconsider.
by Israel TodayIn 2006 legislative elections, the Palestinian street overwhelmingly voted Hamas to counter rampant financial corruption in the Palestinian Authority. Now, after years of war-profiteering, it seems Hamas itself has become the premier Palestinian millionaires’ club. Very soon after seizing control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, Hamas and its allies began escalating rocket fire against the Jewish state. Given the severity of the Israeli reprisals, that wouldn't seem very good for business. But, in fact, it is. Over the past seven years, Hamas’ leadership has pulled in outrageous sums of money thanks to the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Most of the profits were the result of exorbitant taxes on the goods smuggled from Egypt in tunnels running under the Gaza border, or grossly overcharging for subsidized Egyptian fuel. Neither of those revenue streams would be possible without violently provoking Israel to lay siege to Gaza. Similarly, Hamas profits are threatened by the enormous quantities of humanitarian aid and other goods that Israel and the international community pump into Gaza every month, which is why numerous reports suggest Hamas blocks that aid from ever reaching local residents.
At the same time, Hamas leaders have proved wildly successful fund-raisers in their travels abroad. And, since Hamas’ raison d’etre is the destruction of Israel, it would be kind of hard to solicit financial backing without lobbing a few missiles at the Jews every once in a while. So, where does all this money go? In recent media interviews, Professor Ahmed Karima of Al-Azhar University in Egypt noted that in recent years Hamas has blossomed into a movement of millionaires. According to Karima, Hamas can boast no fewer than 1,200 millionaires among its leadership and mid-level officials. That assertion was backed up by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who in 2012 estimated the number of Gaza millionaires to be 800. In particular, overall Hamas leader Khaled Mashal has amassed a fortune of $2.6 billion, the Jordanian media reported. A year ago, when Hamas’ parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, was ruling Egypt, the group’s Gaza leadership was less wary of flaunting its wealth, and the luxury real estate market was booming as a result. All of this is happening as many Gazans wallow in poverty and struggle with a 40 percent unemployment rate. Imagine how many new jobs could be created by all that money Hamas collects. Instead, the terror group is well pleased to see the people of Gaza suffer, both economically and as a consequence of its violence against Israel, all in service to Hamas’ ultimate goal.
by Israel TodayAn Israeli Muslim Arab has written to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressing that if the Jewish state truly wants peace, it must remove from power the terror groups that current hold sway over the Palestinian population, and instead deal directly with average Arabs who just want to live quietly. In a post on his Facebook page, Ali Shaban, who volunteered for combat service in the IDF and continues to do reserve duty to this day, urged Netanyahu to “act now, do not waver or fear. The Palestinians understand only force, and if you do not attack now, then you and me and all Israelis will pay a dear price.” Like many Israelis, Shaban wondered, “Why are you [Netanyahu] waiting? Are you waiting for more deaths? Are you waiting until the missiles hit Tel Aviv? Are you waiting for approval from Obama?” This Muslim’s recommendation? “Conquer Gaza. Conquer the West Bank. Overthrow Hamas and [Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’] Fatah. Establish and support a new leadership for the Palestinian people, a leadership that will seek peace and a better life for us all.” On Tuesday, Shaban was invited to appear on the popular Channel 10 morning show “Orly & Guy,” where he was asked about his unusual position. In truth, Shaban corrected his interviewers, a great many Arabs think like him. During his army service, Shaban said he has “met countless Palestinians at checkpoints and elsewhere in the disputed territories that told me they support peace and are fed up with the situation. But, they are afraid to speak because anyone who voices such an opinion is immediately labeled a traitor…and will be publicly executed.” When told by Orly that his letter sounds as though it were written by an extremist Jew, Shaban responded: “When I say that they only understand force, I am talking about the terror groups that are writing the rules of engagement. I do not know of a terror group that has an agenda of peace. They want to harm Jews, to destroy the State of Israel. Their eyes see only blood. …It is not possible to make peace with terror groups.”
Distrust of the US and questions about the reliability of the US as an ally have persuaded Saudi Arabia and Israel to go public with their tacit alliance
Long gone are the days when Saudi Arabia was the only Arab country that had visa rules barring Jews from entering the kingdom and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal gave visiting US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger the Protocols of Zion, a 19th century anti-Semitic tract, as a gift. Saudi Arabia still declines to forge official ties with Israel as long as it refuses to withdraw from territories it conquered during the 1967 war. But perceptions of common threats have expanded long-standing unofficial ties to the point that both countries feel less constrained in publicly acknowledging their contacts and signalling a lowering of the walls that divide them.As states, Saudi Arabia and Israel share few, if any common values, despite some cultural values that are common to Wahhabism, the austere form of Islam adopted by the kingdom, and ultra-orthodox Jews. But they increasingly have common interests despite Israel’s current assault on Gaza attempting to crush the Islamist Hamas militia, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Both states perceive Iran, particularly one that is a nuclear power, as an existential threat; both also share a determination to defeat the Muslim Brotherhood as well as Al Qaeda-inspired groups and defend as much of the political status quo in the region as possible against change that threatens to replace autocratic regimes with ones dominated by Islamist militants.Breaching secrecy A series of recent events indicate that those common interests have made Saudi Arabia, which projects itself as a the leader of the Arab world, less sensitive about going public about relations with Israel in the absence of a settlement of the Palestinian problem. Israel, which has long accommodated a Saudi need for secrecy, is also becoming more public about cooperation between the two states. “Everything is underground, nothing is public. But our security cooperation with Egypt and the Gulf states is unique,” said General Amos Gilad, director of the Israeli defence ministry’s policy and political-military relations department. “This is the best period of security and diplomatic relations with the Arab. Relations with Egypt have improved dramatically” since last year’s military coup against Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brother. Describing Israel’s security border with Jordan, the only Arab state alongside Egypt to have signed a peace treaty with Israel, as the border between Jordan and Iraq, Gilad added: “The Gulf and Jordan are happy that we belong to an unofficial alliance. The Arabs will never accept this publicly but they are clever enough to promote common ground.” Despite repeated Saudi denials of any links to Israel and official adherence to an Arab boycott of anything Israeli, the kingdom signalled a relationship in recent weeks with an encounter in Brussels between former intelligence chiefs of the two countries and the first time a Saudi publisher has published an Arabic translation of a book by an Israeli academic. Step by step The exchange in late May between Prince Turki bin Faisal al Saud, a full brother of Foreign Minister Prince Saud who headed Saudi intelligence for 24 years, and General Amos Yadlin, a former Israeli military intelligence chief, constituted the most high profile Saudi acknowledgement of relations. Saudis and Israelis have met before in public but Prince Turki went out of his way this time to promote a 2002 Saudi-sponsored peace plan that offers Arab recognition of the Jewish state in exchange for a full Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and a solution for the Palestinians as a step-by-step process rather than a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. The exchange followed the controversial publishing of an Arabic translation of ‘Saudi Arabia and the New Strategic Landscape’ by Joshua Teitelbaum, a professor at Bar Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. While Saudi newspapers have long published columns by left-wing, dovish Israeli writers opposed to their government’s policy, Teitelbaum’s book was the first by a mainstream Israeli writer published by a Saudi publisher.
China's ruling Communist Party will step up ideological education of officials to prevent them from aping Western moral standards and strengthen their faith in communism to help in the fight against pervasive corruption, state media said. "Profound social-economic changes at home and abroad have brought multiple distractions to officials who face loss of faith and moral decline," the official Xinhua news agency cited a statement from the party's powerful Organisation Department, which oversees personnel decisions. "The conviction and morals of officials determine the rise and fall of the Communist Party and the country," Xinhua added, in a report late on Sunday. "Officials should keep firm belief in Marxism to avoid being lost in the clamor for western democracy, universal values and civil society," it said. The party has warned repeatedly that its members should not be lead astray by Western concepts of human rights and democracy, saying that China has the right to promote its own interpretation of such ideas to better suit its national condition and level of economic development. President Xi Jinping has mounted a sweeping campaign against deeply-rooted corruption since assuming office last year, warning, like others before him, that the party's rule could be threatened if it does not stop the rot from graft. The party has sought to curtail everything from bribery and gift-giving to lavish banquets to assuage public anger over graft and extravagance, and state media has published lurid accounts of officials with multiple mistresses and illegally amassed wealth. However, the party has shown no sign of wanting to set up an independent body to fight graft, and Xi has also overseen a tough crackdown on those who seek to challenge the party's right to govern or push for more freedoms. Xinhua said that party officials would have to receive education that "strengthens their political, ideological and emotional identity in socialism with Chinese characteristics". Officials will have to be "noble, pure and virtuous persons who have relinquished vulgar tastes", it added. "Chinese officials should safeguard the spiritual independence of the nation and avoid becoming an echo of western moral values," Xinhua said.
First things first: why is Pakistan’s Railways Minister suddenly the man calling all the shots? We left a railways man in charge of air traffic control on the fateful day Tahir ul Qadri was to land in Pakistan. He’s the one assuring everybody of a vote recount, and he’s the one appealing to Imran Khan to change the day and venue of his demonstration. In the latest in his long list of extracurricular activities, Khawaja Saad Rafique is letting the nation know that the government doesn’t plan to use any force on the day of the PTI Long March. Apart from a gentle reminder to the government and the honourable minister of his actual designation and what it entails, let us focus on his latest statement for a moment: “the government will not use force to stop the PTI march.” The government will not need to sponsor the use of any force; force will be shown. Violence and chaos will ensue. It is a huge mistake the government is making- pitting PML-N workers and PTI activists against each other in the same place, at the same time, for seemingly “opposed” ideologies. The atmosphere will inevitably be charged and passionate from both sides. Emotions will run high, and like a band of puppeteers, government leaders behind their bullet proof shields will be able to manoeuvre the gathering into a mob that might cause more damage than any of us can imagine. On any given Independence Day, the spirit of a public holiday combined with the passions of the young, result in chaos and hooliganism on the streets. And once locked in a single arena, the “patriots” vs. the anti-heroes, could be dangerous to life and property. If the aim is the reaching of some form of theatrical conclusion, whereby two “armies” stand against each other in a face-off, it is a badly thought out gimmick. The government is advised in the interests of public safety if nothing else, to take the high road. If the PTI is not budging from its stance, the burden of responsibility falls squarely on the PML-N. Let the day begin and end quietly, without the indignities of a mob going at one another.
Pointing to a glaring injustice, PPP Senator Sughra Imam told the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice recently that the conviction rate for rape cases filed during the last five years has been zilch. A press report quoting the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan report for 2013, says that 2,576 rape cases were registered in Punjab, 127 cases of rape and three of gang-rape in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and 27 gang rapes in Sindh. Yet no one was brought to book. Frustrated with the situation female members of the Senate staged a protest walkout from the House last December. It is good to see that they have not given up on the issue. Talking to journalists after a roundtable discussion with representatives from bar councils, the committee chairman, Senator Kazim Khan, said "we will first determine why the conviction rate is zero and whether [there is something] in the laws, the judiciary or the legal procedure itself." Senator Imam has proposed amendments to the existing laws that deal with investigation recommending that any public servant who fails to carry out proper investigation in breach of his duties should be punished "with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both." Furthermore, she wants to strengthen the law pertaining to disclosure of a rape victim's identity, and to make breach liable with punishment with up to three years of imprisonment and fine. These changes should be helpful, but the real reason the conviction is so hard to achieve arises from a different source. As women's rights groups have been pointing out for several years, under the Zia era Hadood Ordinance a rape victim has to produce four pious male witnesses to prove the crime or risk being accused of fornication. Common sense suggests that no one will commit rape in the presence of four pious male witnesses. Hence, the intent of the Islamic command could not be what the law makes it out to be. It in fact protects a rape victim from false accusations of fornication. Which is obvious from the relevant Quranic verse that reads: "those who defame chaste women and do not bring four witnesses should be punished with eighty lashes, and their testimony should not be accepted afterwards, for they are profligates." Unfortunately, however, those who framed the law for Zia turned around the intent of the command to favour the perpetrator instead of the victim. The sad reality is that many in this society do not think much of this heinous crime against women. In fact, every now and then village councils order gang-rape of women as a way of keeping the weak and powerless in their place. A well-known example is that of Mukhtaran Mai. Also fresh in public memory is Dr Shazia Khalid rape case, which led to a major confrontation between the Bugti tribe hosting her as a guest doctor, and the federal government protecting an alleged uniformed rapist. In order to lead a normal life the victim had to take refuge in Canada. In comments reflective of a typical mindset the then president General Pervez Musharraf had outraged civilised sensitivities at home and abroad when he told a Washington Post interviewer "This [rape] has become a money-making concern. A lot of people say if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped." This mindset that trivialises the crime of rape needs to be changed. If the laws are strong enough to make conviction possible, attitudes will also change with the passage of time. Towards that end, the Hadood laws need to be brought in line with the true spirit of Islam. The Council of Islamic Ideology ought also to act in the same spirit rather than remaining insistent on a literalist approach and review its decision not to allow DNA evidence for proving rape.
MALIK TARIQ ALIPM Nawaz has been in power for almost 14 months, and other than mere announcements of mega projects, such as building highways, motorways etc, there has neither been structural reforms to revamp a decadent bureaucracy, improve tax collection, police reforms, nor investment in neglected and inadequate health and education sector. It has taken this government more than a year to appoint High Commissioner to the UK and there seems to be no intent to fulfill electoral promises of providing qualified and highly competent specialists to head state corporations, financial and regulatory bodies. It is this lack of decision making capacity which has led to further accumulation of losses and inefficiency in white elephants like PSM, PIA, CAA, EOBI, Railways, power distribution sector, FBR, NHA etc. The fact that PML-N inherited a collapsed infrastructure from its predecessor required them to take quick tough decisions, if economic recovery is to be achieved. Unless tax collection is increased, national debt will continue to pile, deficit will increase and this country cannot invest in development of human resources, which have shown a rapid deterioration in the past two decades and provided perfect environment for breeding terrorism. In sharp contrast Modi has embarked upon plans to change decadent bureaucratic setup that existed in the past 67 years to suit dynastic policies of Nehru family, under which institutionalised corruption had become a cancer. In just 30 days Modi has ordered building a fast track road with 50 posts along disputed China border and a $2 billion extension of Karwar Naval Base in Karnataka and radar stations in Andaman and Nicobar islands in Bay of Bengal. The Modi government has approved stalled decision to raise Narmada Dam height to 455 feet for more water storage, while approving free X-rays, CT scans and MRIs for the poor in all government hospitals.
In a move to keep a check on bureaucracy the government has ordered them to repeal all laws which hinder good governance, transparency and delays in file movement, while withdrawing all powers from gazetted officers for attesting documents following complaints of misuse. It has also issued instructions that in future only scientists and technical associates will be allowed to attend scientific and technical conferences in India and abroad, putting a total ban on any minister or bureaucrat to be part of such delegations.
In a move to fulfil his election manifesto PM Modi has ordered planting of 200 crore trees along one lakh kilometres of national highways, to provide jobs to 30 lakh poor youth, to put in place best qualified CEOs on merit to head almost every state owned enterprise or corporation. He has also approved revised strategy for kickstarting ambitious national optical fibre network to link 2.5 lakh panchayats and lower judiciary by March 2017.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have strongly condemned the ruling party Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) workers’ for an attack on the Faisalabad police. Commenting on the attack by the MPA’s supporters on a local police station in Faisalabad to get his men freed who were the proclaimed offenders and were arrested by the police, the PTI and PPP provincial leaders said that the arrested persons were wanted in serious crimes under the terrorism act. PTI backed the opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly while criticising the PMLN workers attack on the police and has announced to file a call attention notice in the assembly secretariat. He also termed it in a statement on Sunday as a result of bad governance of the Punjab chief minister who is not paying attention to the provincial law and order situation. While PPP Punjab Secretary General Tanveer Ashraf Kaira, in a statement, said that the law and order situation is getting worst as the days are passing and the law makers of the ruling party are equally responsible for taking the law into their hands. Kaira said that the flouting of the law by the ruling party’s MPA, apparently without legal consequences, shows the bad governance of the Punjab government that was running on expensive media campaign from the taxpayer’s money, to project its unsubstantiated performance. He said that the government of Punjab’s track record in other sectors was equally appalling.He referred to the disaster of the Nandipur Power Project that was lying idle after its inauguration with lot of fireworks, adding that it was no more contributing even a single MW in the national grid system. He reiterated that the Punjab chief minister had to eat a ‘humble pie’ when he recently announced that the PML-N would try to control load shedding by 2017. It may be recalled that during the election campaign, he committed publicly that he would control it in months and not in years. He observed that the credibility of this government had reduced to needle-point and the people were appreciating the PPP led previous coalition government when the load shedding duration was less than what they are facing now. He maintained that the Ramazan package of the Punjab government had also proved an utter disappointment because either the subsidised items were not available to the people and if they were available, they were of the low quality and not fit for human consumption.
One would imagine that after his recent ‘religious’ experience, Minister for Defence, Water and Power Khawaja Asif would have learnt the importance of not making absurdly optimistic claims, as himself stated in the context of load shedding. But it appears he has not. On Saturday the minister told the press that the terrorist command and control centre based in North Wazrisitan (NW) had been crippled and that the operation was proceeding as planned. However, given that the military has encountered relatively little resistance so far aside from isolated pockets, we have to wonder what the plan is. So far the military says it has cleared Miranshah and made inroads into Mirali while retaking and clearing the villages of Boya and Degan in the surrounding area. Four hundred militants have reportedly been killed but in the absence of independent verification, doubts are beginning to surface about whether the operation is as effective as is being claimed. The capture of Adnan Rashid, a high-value terrorist commander, in South Waziristan (SW) several days ago indicates that despite a tight military cordon of NW, many terrorists managed to escape, some to other Agencies, others across the border to Afghanistan. If true, this means that instead of being disabled completely, the terrorist strategy and planning infrastructure has moved as well, presumably to Afghanistan where the military says several of the Pakistani Taliban’s top commanders have fled, including its leader Mullah Fazlullah. While the military achieved the element of surprise in its targeted strikes before the operation, dealing a series of blows to the terrorists that were noticeably devastating, Zarb-e-Azb was trumpeted well beforehand, giving the militants time to disperse. Guerilla strategy is based on the principle of retreating in the face of overwhelming force; survival is in itself a victory for the asymmetrical fighter. It seems clear that while the operation has managed to deal a blow to the terrorists, it is not quite a coup de grace. Khawaja Asif’s triumphalism seems ill advised in light of this and with fear of backlash in the cities growing after the discovery of a terrorist hideout just a few miles away from the Prime Minister’s (PM’s) residence in Raiwind. From what we know about the terrorists, they are capable of operating in discrete and independent cells, designed to spread terror or strike high-value targets as they present themselves. If many have managed to escape then the operation is just beginning, Khawaja Asif’s claims notwithstanding. Speculation about the conduct and goals of the operation is also growing after a US drone strike on Saturday destroyed a militant training camp in Datta Khel, 40 kilometers north of Miranshah. Military officials denied that there was any coordination between the US and Pakistan but the resumption of drone strikes at the same time as the launch of the operation is conspicuous by its timing. Officials say that 15 members of the Punjabi Taliban and four Uzbek fighters were killed in the strike, including two “important” commanders. In the past such strikes were routinely condemned by the military and the government before reports emerged that Pakistan had on occasion asked the US to launch drones when high-value targets were identified. This caused uproar among the public about violations of Pakistani sovereignty, hence denials since then of cooperation between the two countries are largely seen as meant for public consumption. This should tell the government and military that the lack of information being given to the public is beginning to have a negative effect on the conduct of the operation itself. Polls say that most Pakistanis now view terrorism as a greater threat than the US. With NATO poised to exit Afghanistan, many people will be worried that without help from across the border, terrorism may not be eliminated. It is time for the military and the government to let the public know what they know and be clear about the results, goals, and concerns the operation has engendered. They must trust the Pakistani people because this is part of building the narrative against terrorism and creating a viable alternative to militant ideology. We do not want to see militants disappear from NW today only to reappear in Islamabad or Lahore tomorrow.