Tuesday, July 22, 2014

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Isis militants 'seize Iraq monastery and expel monks'

Islamist militants in Iraq are reported to have seized an ancient monastery near Mosul and expelled the monks./blockquote>
Local residents said monks at the Mar Behnam monastery were allowed to take only the clothes they were wearing.
The monastery, which dates from the 4th Century, is a major Christian landmark and a place of pilgrimage.
Christians have fled Mosul after the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) told them to convert to Islam, pay a tax or face death.
Isis has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq and said last month it was creating an Islamic caliphate.
Mosul itself is now said to be empty of Christians.
The Mar Behnam monastery is run by the Syriac Catholic Church and is near the predominantly Christian town of Qaraqosh, to the south-east of Mosul.
Ancient landmarks like Mar Behnam show how deeply embedded Christianity is in the culture and history of Iraq. Just as in many other Arab countries, churches and monasteries are a timeless part of the landscape.
For years, though, Christians have been warning that their hold in parts of the Middle East is weakening. In Iraq, the lightning seizure of large parts of the country by Isis has been a frightening new threat. Thousands have fled Mosul, leaving it for the first time without a Christian community, after Isis gave them an ultimatum to submit to its authority or face death. But if Iraqi Christians face penalties and discrimination under Isis, other religious sects are faring even worse. Yazidis and Shia Muslims risk being taken out and killed on the spot for their beliefs.
A member of the Syriac clergy quoted the militants as telling the monastery's residents: "You have no place here any more, you have to leave immediately."
He said the monks asked to be allowed to save some of the monastery's relics but the fighters refused.
Local Christian residents told AFP news agency that the monks walked for several miles before they were picked up by Kurdish fighters.
Earlier this month, Isis issued an ultimatum in Mosul, citing a historic contract known as "dhimma," under which non-Muslims in Islamic societies who refuse to convert are offered protection if they pay a fee, called a "jizya".
"We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract - involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword," the Isis statement said.
Isis issued a similar ultimatum in the Syrian city of Raqqa in February, calling on Christians to pay about half an ounce (14g) of pure gold in exchange for their safety.
Iraq is home to one of the world's most ancient Christian communities but its population has dwindled amid growing sectarian violence since the US-led invasion in 2003.

Video: President Obama Signs the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

Nearly 40 kids infected with polio in Syria, Iraq: UN

Thirty-eight children have been paralyzed by polio in Syria and Iraq since October last year and there is a high risk that the disease will spread further in the Middle East, the United Nations says.
“It is now even more imperative to reach every child multiple times, and to do whatever we can to vaccinate children we could not reach in previous rounds," said Maria Calivis, regional director for the Middle East and North Africa at the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), in a report on Tuesday.
The disease, which broke out in Deir al-Zor, the largest in the eastern part of Syria, has infected 36 people in the crisis-hit country so far. Most of the Syria cases were recorded in Deir al-Zor, but others were in Aleppo, Idlib, Hama, and Hasakah. "Right now we estimate that there are 765,000 children inside Syria who live in areas that are hard to reach. And as long as we don't get full and regular access to these children, the chances of polio spreading further will continue to exist," said Juliette Touma, a spokesperson for UNICEF. The two cases in Iraq are children living around the capital Baghdad. Between December 2013 and June, a polio vaccination campaign was launched in seven countries of the Middle East, which reached a record 25 million children, according to UNICEF and the World Health Organization. A second phase of the campaign is planned to take place from August.

Saudi Israeli alliance forged in blood

David Hearst
This Saudi-Israeli alliance is forged in blood, Palestinian blood, the blood on Sunday of over 100 souls in Shejaiya
There are many hands behind the Israeli army’s onslaught on Gaza. America is not unhappy that Hamas is getting such a beating. As footage of the scenes of carnage on the streets of Shejaiya was coming through, John Kerry said on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday that Israel had every right to defend itself and the US ambassador Dan Shapiro told Israel’s Channel 2 news that the US would seek to help moderate forces become stronger in Gaza, meaning the Palestinian Authority.
Nor is Egypt overcome with grief. Its foreign minister Sameh Shoukry held Hamas responsible for civilian deaths after their rejection of the ceasefire.
Neither matter to Netanyahu as much as the third undeclared partner in this unholy alliance, for neither on their own could give him the cover he needs for a military operation of this ferocity. And that can come not from a handwringing but impotent parent like the US. Such permission can only come from a brother Arab.
The attack on Gaza comes by Saudi Royal Appointment. This royal warrant is nothing less than an open secret in Israel, and both former and serving defense officials are relaxed when they talk about it. Former Israeli defence minister Shaul Mofaz surprised the presenter on Channel 10 by saying Israel had to specify a role for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the demilitarisation of Hamas. Asked what he meant by that, he added that Saudi and Emirati funds should be used to rebuild Gaza after Hamas had been defanged.
Amos Gilad, the Israeli defence establishment’s point man with Mubarak’s Egypt and now director of the Israeli defence ministry's policy and political-military relations department told the academic James Dorsey recently: "Everything is underground, nothing is public. But our security cooperation with Egypt and the Gulf states is unique. This is the best period of security and diplomatic relations with the Arab.”
The celebration is mutual. King Abdullah let it be known that he had phoned President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to approve of an Egyptian ceasefire initiative which had not been put to Hamas, and had the Jerusalem Post quoting analysts about whether a ceasefire was ever seriously intended.
Mossad and Saudi intelligence officials meet regularly: The two sides conferred when the former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi was about to be deposed in Egypt and they are hand in glove on Iran , both in preparing for an Israel strike over Saudi airspace and in sabotaging the existing nuclear programme. There has even been a well sourced claim that the Saudis are financing most of Israel’s very expensive campaign against Iran.
Why do Saudi Arabia and Israel make such comfortable bedfellows? For decades both countries have had a similar feeling in their gut when they look around them: fear. Their reaction was similar .Each felt they could only insure themselves against their neighbours by invading them (Lebanon, Yemen) or by funding proxy wars and coups (Syria, Egypt, Libya). They have enemies or rivals in common - Iran, Turkey, Qatar, Hamas in Gaza, and Muslim Brotherhood elsewhere. And they have common allies, too - the US and British military industrial establishments, Fatah strongman and US asset Mohammed Dahlan who tried to take over Gaza once, and will probably be ready to do so again.
The difference today is that for the first time in their two countries’ history there is open co-ordination between the two military powers. Abdullah’s nephew Prince Turki has been the public face of this rapprochement, which was first signalled by the Saudi publication of a book by an Israeli academic. The prince flew to Brussels in May to meet General Amos Yadlin, the former intelligence chief who has been indicted by a court in Turkey for his role in the storming of the Mavi Marmara.
It could be argued that there is nothing sinister about Prince Turki’s involvement in the Israeli debate and that his motives are both peaceful and laudable. The prince is a staunch supporter of a laudable peace initiative proposed by the Saudi King Abdullah. The Arab Peace Initiative supported by 22 Arab States and 56 Muslim countries would indeed have been a basis for peace had Israel not ignored it some 12 years ago.
Prince Turki waxed lyrical about the prospect of peace in an article published by Haaretz. In it he wrote: “And what a pleasure it would be to be able to invite not just the Palestinians but also the Israelis I would meet to come and visit me in Riyadh, where they can visit my ancestral home in Dir’iyyah, which suffered at the hands of Ibrahim Pasha the same fate as Jerusalem did at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar and the Romans.”
It's the means, not the end which expose the true human cost of these alliances. Prince Turki’s promotion of the Arab Peace Initiative comes at the cost of abandoning the kingdom’s historical support of Palestinian resistance.
The well connected Saudi analyst Jamal Khashogji made this very point when he talked in coded language about the number of intellectuals who attack the notion of resistance: "Regrettably, the number of such intellectuals here in Saudi Arabia is higher than average. If such a trend continues it will destroy the kingdom's honourable claim to support and defend the Palestinian cause since the time of its founder, King Abd Al-Aziz Al-Saud."
Peace would indeed be welcome to everyone, not least Gaza at the moment. The means by which Israel’s allies in Saudi Arabia and Egypt are going about achieving it, by encouraging Israel to deal Hamas a crippling blow, calls into question what is really going on here. Turki’s father King Faisal bin Abdulaziz would be turning in his grave at what the son is putting his name to.
This Saudi-Israeli alliance is forged in blood, Palestinian blood, the blood on Sunday of over 100 souls in Shejaiya.
- See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/saudi-israeli-alliance-forged-blood-601611381#sthash.jWELyK6W.dpuf

Developing Situation in Ukraine Unacceptable, Counterproductive, Destabilizing - Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that scenarios in the developing crisis in Ukraine are unacceptable, counterproductive and destabilizing the situation in the world.
“If we return to similar scenarios, as a whole, as I have already said, then this is absolutely unacceptable and counterproductive. This is destroying the modern world and order. Undoubtedly, such methods in regard to Russia won’t work,” Putin said during a Security Council meeting.
“Our people, our citizens of Russia won’t let that happen and they will never accept [this],” he said. At the moment Ukrainian authorities are carrying out a military operation in the east of Ukraine, fighting against the supporters of independence of southeastern regions, who refused to acknowledge the new government appointed after the coup back in February. Thousands of Ukrainians flee from the war-stricken regions to Russia seeking refugee status.
The European Union and the United States imposed sanctions against several Russian officials and companies over the Ukrainian crisis. Moscow responded with its own sanctions, releasing a list of US citizens banned from entering Russia.

POLITICO poll: Stay out of Ukraine, Middle East

Amid deepening violence across Eastern Europe and the Middle East, Americans are recoiling from direct engagement overseas and oppose U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Ukraine by large margins, according to a POLITICO poll of 2014 battleground voters.
The survey provides a unique look at the foreign policy attitudes of voters who will decide the most competitive Senate and House races this fall. It shows an intensely skeptical view of American military intervention:
Asked whether the U.S should do more to counter Russian aggression in Ukraine, just 17 percent answered in the affirmative. Thirty-one percent said the current policy is correct and 34 percent said the U.S. should be less involved. The poll was completed before the downing last week of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, the civilian airliner that was apparently attacked over eastern Ukraine.
More than three-quarters of likely voters say they support plans to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016. Only 23 percent oppose the plan.
Forty-four percent of likely voters favor less involvement in Iraq’s civil war, versus 19 percent who favor more involvement and 23 percent who say the current level of involvement is appropriate.
A 51 percent majority said the situation in Iraq affects U.S. national security “a little” or “not at all.” Forty-two percent said it affects U.S. national security “a lot.”
Likely voters prefer less involvement in Syria’s civil war over more involvement, 42 percent to 15 percent. Twenty-six percent of likely voters support the current, limited level of involvement.
On the issue of foreign policy specifically, voters say they trust Republicans over Democrats by 7 points, 39 percent to 32 percent. Twenty-eight percent said they were unsure which party to trust.
The picture that emerges from the survey is consistent across issues of foreign policy and national security: Americans are profoundly wary of getting entangled overseas and seem to be skeptical of the value of projecting U.S. power on foreign conflicts. Republicans are modestly more hawkish than Democratic and independent voters, but a majority of self-identified GOP voters support pulling out of Afghanistan and maintaining or reducing involvement in Iraq, Syria and Ukraine.
In the big picture, two-thirds of respondents agreed with the statement that U.S. military actions should be “limited to direct threats to our national security.” Only 22 percent agreed with the statement that as a “moral leader,” the United States “has a responsibility to use its military to protect democracy around the globe.” Respondent Deborah Cantrell, a Georgia nurse who intends to vote for Democratic candidates this fall, said she supports pulling back from Iraq and Afghanistan and believes the situation in Ukraine is “very complicated.” “I think any time ethnic nationalism goes on, it’s really bad,” said Cantrell, 58. “I hope we don’t get terribly involved right off the bat because I’m not sure we can do anything to make it better. I generally don’t think we can go in and have people behave properly just because we’re there.”
Californian Eugene Diamond, a student who also works at a supermarket, blames President Barack Obama for the eruption of conflicts around the globe. “Obama’s afraid of everybody,” said Diamond, 24, a registered Republican. “I can’t wait until Hillary [Clinton] or anybody else comes in and gets this guy out.” The POLITICO poll, designed by SocialSphere Inc. and conducted by the research firm GfK, tested 834 likely voters in competitive U.S. House and Senate races. The poll was conducted online using GfK’s KnowledgePanel methodology, which is also employed by The Associated Press. The poll ran from July 3-13 and has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. While voters appear to have strong inclinations on foreign policy and on national security, it is unclear how powerfully those issues will weigh on the 2014 elections. Eighty-nine percent of respondents said that foreign policy would be important in determining their vote this year, but when asked to name the issue that would matter most, just 11 percent named foreign affairs, national defense or terrorism.
In contrast, 31 percent chose jobs and the economy as the most important issue, with 9 percent choosing health care and 8 percent choosing immigration. On the issue of foreign policy specifically, voters say they trust Republicans over Democrats by 7 points, 39 percent to 32 percent. Twenty-eight percent said they were unsure which party to trust.
In the 2014 elections, voters said they prefer Republican candidates over Democrats by 2 points, 39 to 37 percent. In May, POLITICO found the GOP with a wider, 7-point lead on the generic ballot. Part of the shift can be attributed to a greater share of Democrats in the new, randomly selected polling sample responding that they would be likely to vote in November. It also comes as Democratic strategists argue that the political environment has stabilized to some extent for their candidates, rather than continuing to deteriorate over the early summer. Still, voters continue to give a thumbs down to Obama and express continued concern over the larger direction of the country. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they disapprove of the president’s job performance, while 43 percent approve.
Of the president’s health care law, a majority say it should either be kept as it is (17 percent) or kept in place with modifications (38 percent). A 45 percent plurality says the Affordable Care Act should be repealed outright. Both parties in Congress remain intensely unpopular: Voters disapprove of congressional Republicans more than they approve, 73 percent to 26 percent. For congressional Democrats, it was 63 percent to 36 percent.
The foreign policy and national security results in the poll could be even more significant for the looming 2016 presidential contest than they are for this year’s House and Senate elections. Republicans have already begun drawing lines of internal debate around defense issues; several potential candidates, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, have emerged as interventionist voices, while Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is his party’s chief skeptic of foreign engagement.
On the other side, the leading Democratic presidential contender, Hillary Clinton, most recently served as Obama’s first secretary of state. Likely voters in the poll rated her conduct in the job negatively: 53 percent said her performance was “fair” or “poor,” and 42 percent said it was “good” or “excellent.”
Richard Beslaw, a onetime Ron Paul supporter from central Florida, said he wasn’t yet sure whether he would support the former Texas congressman’s son for president. But the 30-year-old pharmacy technician said he lines up with the more anti-interventionist view of foreign relations.
“I think all the soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq and a lot of overseas places should be brought back to the U.S. and used on the borders,” said Beslaw, who said he was concerned about the situation in Ukraine but didn’t see a military role for the U.S. there. “We should be at that table, involved in the investigation [of the downing of Flight MH17]. But as far as military action — no.”
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/07/politico-poll-ukraine-middle-east-109155_Page2.html#ixzz38DsfthWB

US and European airlines halt Israel flights

US and European airlines have suspended flights into Israel's Ben Gurion airport after a rocket landed one mile (1.6km) away.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered three US carriers that fly to Israel - Delta, United and US Airways - to halt flights for 24 hours.
European carriers Lufthansa, KLM, and Air France have also cancelled flights to Tel Aviv.
The move comes amid heightened scrutiny over flights near conflict zones.
Israel's Civil Aviation Authority director Giora Romm said: "We are working together with the FAA to demonstrate to them the level of confidence that we have in Ben Gurion Airport and to convince them to renew flights as soon as possible."
The FAA's prohibition only applies to US airlines. The agency has no authority over foreign airlines operating to or from the airport.
However, Lufthansa - which includes Swiss, Germanwings and Austrian Airlines - said it had decided to suspend flights to Israel for two days.
KLM and Air France also said they had suspended flights scheduled to depart on Tuesday.
However, Air France said a flight scheduled for Wednesday is still scheduled to depart.
Flight diverted
Delta said a flight from New York City to Tel Aviv was diverted to Paris on Tuesday after Israeli police confirmed that a rocket landed approximately one mile (1.6km) from Ben Gurion airport.
British Airways said in response to questions on Twitter: 'We are closely monitoring the situation. Our flights are currently operating as scheduled."
The halt in service comes less than a week after Israel began a ground operation in Gaza, and as airlines around the world re-think their flight paths over conflict areas in the wake of the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine.

Video : Afghan Tajik Music 2014

Afghan Car Buyers Urged to Defy the 'Curse of 39'

Afghans' aversion to the number 39 due to its mysterious connotations of prostitution forced the government on Tuesday to appeal for people to stop refusing vehicle licence plates containing the much-feared figure.
The "curse of 39" has struck repeatedly in recent years, returning as registration number combinations cycle over, with car dealers complaining they get stuck with vehicles that they are unable to sell due to a bizarre urban legend.
According to many Afghans, "39" got its bad reputation through a well-known pimp who was often identified by the number on his car plates as he drove around Herat, the western city that lies close to the border with Iran. The man's seedy image and illicit business meant that the number became associated with immorality. Apocryphal or not, the tale spread to other Afghan cities -- and the curse was born.
Now anyone seen sporting a "39" licence plate is in danger of being linked to the underground sex industry that is taboo in the devoutly Muslim nation.
The vehicle licensing system is now putting 39 at the front of plate numbers, causing a backlog of sales as potential buyers refuse to make a purchase that could bring ridicule.
"We cannot remove 39 -- this is illogical to remove a number from the whole system," interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told the Tolo news channel.
"The people should accept the number plates that contain 39 so that the process of registering cars resumes again.
"We cannot change the system, we have to change the people's mentality toward that number."
The Kabul traffic department, which issues licence plates in the capital, said it had 800 plates that no one would take.
"This has harmed our revenue," General Assadullah, head of the Kabul traffic department, told AFP.
"Revenue has gone down by a half this year. The process of distributing new number plates has been very slow because the registration is now beginning with 39 and people don't want to take them."
Buyers are alleged to pay bribes to avoid the number in new vehicles, while owners who do have 39 in their plates often doctor their plates illegally using white paint to change the digits.
"The people who fan this idea are those who are corrupt, and those who intentionally want to misuse it for their own benefit," said Sediq, implying that the rumour-mongers are those who benefit from accepting bribes.

Afghanistan was at risk of major disaster due to elections

The national security advisor Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta said Tuesday that the runoff presidential election had placed Afghanistan in a dangerous situation.
Spanta said an agreement to form a national unity government was key to rescue the country from an uncontrollable situation and end the political impasse.
He said majority of the people were pessimistic regarding a democratic process and half of the people were feeling discrimination due to an orchestrated election process.
According to Spanta, the issue had sparked rage and furor among the Afghan people which had put Afghanistan in a dangerous and uncontrollable situation.
He said the anti-government armed militant groups and terrorist networks would benefit more than any one else that could further destabilize the country.
The agreement to form a national unity government was reached between the two presidential contenders, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, following US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit. Kerry visited Kabul amid concerns that the disputed runoff election could endanger the stability of the country as certain allies of a presidential candidate had suggested a parallel government.

News Analysis: Pakistan's major anti-Taliban Waziristan offensive revives tension with Afghanistan

by Muhammad Tahir
When Pakistan launched its long- awaited major military offensive against the local Taliban and other foreign jihadists in their main sanctuary in North Waziristan last month, the army formally requested the Afghan security forces to boost border security to stop fleeing militants from crossing the border.
Pakistan had a valid reason for its request to the neighboring country as the Waziristan military push had also been a long- standing demand by the United States and Afghanistan.
It is believed that the operation may not achieve its required goals if the Afghan and NATO troops in Afghanistan fail to stop the militants from entering Afghanistan.
Kabul and Washington insisted that the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network used the Waziristan region as their major base for making plans and to carry out cross-border attacks on Afghan and NATO forces.
However, latest statements from senior Afghan officials suggest that they are dissatisfied at the outcome of the offensive so far as they argued that the "Pakistani forces only targeted Pakistani Taliban."
"The current military offensive in North Waziristan is unacceptable to the Afghan government. The operation is only against the Pakistani Taliban. Pakistani forces have neither taken any action against the Haqqani Network nor has it been disarmed," the Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Shakib Mustaghni said in Kabul on Monday.
The Pakistani Foreign Ministry did not directly react to Mustaghni's remarks. However its spokesperson, Tasnim Aslam, said that Pakistan has clearly stated that the operation in North Waziristan is against all terrorists.
"Afghans should focus on taking measures on their side of the international border, ensure that terrorists do not get sanctuaries on Afghan soil," she said in a text message to a Xinhua query.
Kabul and Washington have both accused the Haqqani Network for most of the attacks, including last week's deadly car suicide bombing in eastern Paktika province that killed more than 80 people, almost all civilians. They claim that Haqqanis have made North Waziristan their sanctuary for years.
Mustaghni also pointed figures at Pakistani security agencies when a reporter asked him at his weekly briefing on Monday about the growing incidents of violence in the country and the deadly Paktika car suicide bomb attack.
"Our security agencies have evidence that Pakistani security agencies are involved in the recent wave of terrorism in the country," he said, adding that the Haqqani Network carried out the Paktika attack and "the group has the support of Pakistani intelligence agencies."
The presence of Pakistani Taliban fighters in some of Afghanistan's border regions has already emerged as a serious security challenge for the Pakistani forces as they routinely launch attacks from the other side of the border.
In a latest attack, militants from Afghanistan attacked a Pakistani border post in Bajaur tribal region this month and killed at least three soldiers.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are once involved in a blame game at a sensitive time when their cooperation is urgently needed for the success of Waziristan offensive and peace in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, Taliban militants have increased attacks since they have launched their so-called annual "Spring Offensive" codenamed "Khaiber."
Both countries have suffered a lot of human and financial losses in their war against armed groups.
Afghanistan would completely take control of its security apparatus in few months as NATO is ending its combat mission and is devising a final exit strategy. The country is in the process of the first-ever transfer of power to an elected president at a time when it still faces serious security challenges.
The war-torn country will have to opt for tension-free relations instead leveling allegations against its neighbor, analysts say.
As instability in Afghanistan directly affects Pakistan, the latter will have to address to the security concerns of the Afghan authorities. Both countries have bilateral forums, and that would be the best venues to narrow down their differences, analysts say.

Balochistan: Two women wounded in Mastung acid attack

A mysterious group is active throwing acid on women in Balochistan and at least six women have become victim in two different incidents in Quetta and Mastung since yesterday. According to the details, unknown persons threw acid on two women in a shopping centre in Balochistan’s Mastung district on Tuesday. Armed militants threw acid on the faces of women on Chandni road area of Mastung city. The injured women were rushed to nearby hospital for treatment and later shifted Quetta’s Bolan Medical Complex Hospital as there were no specialized burns treatment facility in Mastung. Mastung is considered to be one of the sensitive districts of Balochistan, where sectarian militants and Baloch insurgents operate actively in the area. The attack comes a day after four women were wounded in a similar incident in Sariab area of the provincial capital city, Quetta. According to sources, a group of people is strictly against women to come out of home is involved in acid attack activities, but so far the security agencies have failed to eradicate the group.

Six Al Qaeda leaders killed in US drone attack: report

At least six Al Qaeda commanders were killed during the recent US drone attack in the Dattakhel area of North Waziristan tribal region, a report published in The News quoted leadership of the group as saying.
The head of the Al Qaeda victory committee, Sanafi al-Nasr, who is based in Syria, confirmed via a social networking site that six members from the group were killed in the July 10 drone attack.
The drone attack of July 10 was the first one since the army launched Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan on June 15.
The dead also included Al Qaeda’s local commander Mustafa Abu Yazid. However, at the time of the strike, it could not be confirmed who were the others among the killed.
Nasr is a Saudi national whose real name is Abdul Mohsin Abdullah Ibrahim Al Sharikh, the report said, adding that he is responsible for developing and implementing Qaeda’s strategy and policies.
Nasr was based in the Waziristan tribal belt before relocating to Syria.
While tweeting on the Qaeda members, Nasr named three of them — Taj Al Makki, Abu Abdur Rahman Al Kuwaiti and Fayez Awda Al Khalidi. He did not name the three others.
Makki from Saudi Arabia, Rahman from Kuwait and Khalidi were mid-level commanders and were important to the terror group due to their association with Nasr, The News said in its report.

World Looks Anxiously To Pakistan, Afghanistan And Nigeria To Eradicate Polio

Devin Thorpe
Polio, once a global monster, is now a cornered rat, lashing out in hopes of repopulating. Reduced 99.9 percent from an average number of cases around 400,000 thirty years ago, the number of global polio cases has been cut to around 400 annually. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative hopes to see the final case of polio either late this year or early next year. All polio cases, regardless of where they are found, now originate from three countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. You can count the number of cases this year in Afghanistan or Nigeria on your fingers; the end of polio there is clearly within reach.
All three countries have been impacted by conflict in recent years, making the battle against polio at this critical stage challenging. The battle is so pitched that the World Health Organization or WHO, declared a “public health emergency” in an effort to garner greater cooperation among countries to prevent the spread of polio, especially from the three endemic countries.
Rotary, one of the partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, along with the CDC, WHO and UNICEF with tremendous financial support from The Gates Foundation, has brought the three national Polio Plus Committee heads from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria to its global headquarters in Evanston, Illinois this week. Forbes has received an exclusive opportunity to visit with them live on Tuesday, July 22, 2014 at 4:10 PM Eastern. Aziz Memon of Pakistan, Dr. Abdulrahman Olatunji Funsho of Nigeria and Mohammad Ishaq Niazmand of Afghanistan will join us then.

Pakistan: Quetta Acid Attack : '' Crimes Of Ego ''

On Monday, four women were attacked in Quetta with acid thrown on their faces. This is a tragic habit that patriarchy has adopted in Pakistan and is at an all time high. The reasons behind the current attack are still undisclosed. These are not isolated events. In September 2011, four female teachers were attacked with acid in Quetta and no group claimed responsibility and no arrests have been made. Motivations range from male embarrassment, to proposal rejections to carrying out the will of God on “unchaste” women.
The most common type of acids used are sulfuric and nitric acid. A large social change that can give women country wide respect and right to life and choice seems to be impossible with the prevailing anti-feminist conservative patriarchal system. However, the smallest of controls on the sale, like the recording of a purchaser’s NIC can significantly reduce the incident of attacks. These chemicals are freely available. In Pakistan, Punjab has the highest reported number of acid and burn attacks. At least 65 per cent of the victims are women and girls and 15 per cent are children. The prosecution rate is only 35 percent. Though there was some discussion in Parliament in June to make a law against such crimes, there is no such movement in other provinces.
In this country, honor and “izzat”, mostly that of the male, have justified the physical and mental destruction of hundreds of women. There is consistent news of girls being buried alive, raped, killed, stoned and burned. Mostly the police either do not cooperate, or the girl’s family is too ashamed to demand justice. When subjective ideas like shame and honor hold more importance for society than human life and choice, the country hangs on the lowest rung of culture and civilisation. There should be no limit to the anger we feel for men who attack women in such a way; men with monstrous minds and evil egos who must be held to account for ravaging precious lives.

Pakistan: Fighting polio: Vaccinate displaced children, says WHO

The Express Tribune
Adviser to Chief Minister on Health Khwaja Salman Rafiq on Monday ordered that every child displaced from North Waziristan must be vaccinated against polio.
The adviser chaired a meeting to review anti-polio arrangements in the Punjab. He asked health officials to vaccinate children in Attock, Mianwali, Bhakkar and Dera Ghazi Khan on priority.
Rafiq asked the officials to immediately hold a meeting of the Provincial Task Force for Polio Eradication. Earlier, World Health Organisation representative Ubaidul Islam presented a report on the polio situation. He said a special polio drive should be launched in the cities where internally-displaced persons were staying.
He said a one-day polio campaign on July 17 in 23 “high risk” union councils of Lahore had been a huge success. He said 90 per cent of the designated areas were covered in the campaign.
Aslam Chaudhry from the Melinda Gates Foundation, Health Services Director General Zahid Pervaiz and Health Executive District Officer Zulfiqar Ali attended the meeting.
Health Secretary Ijaz Munir on Monday presided over a meeting to review progress on the development of Government Shahadra Teaching Hospital.
The secretary ordered posting of doctors to make the hospital functional by August 15. He said the hospital provided healthcare services not only to the people of Shahdara but also in adjoining areas.

Pakistan: Hindus, Buddhists and Baha’is among IDPs

The Express Tribune
A total of 165 families of non-Muslims have been displaced from North Waziristan, according to the latest count by the Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA). Data gathered by the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) states that 114 Christian, 29 Hindu, 10 Baha’i and 4 Buddhist families are among those displaced.
Additionally, 10 families have been classified as belonging to ‘other’ religions. “The number of ethnic or religious minorities who were living in North Waziristan may increase as we receive more data,” a senior FDMA official told The Express Tribune. Registration of those displaced from North Waziristan has now ended in Bannu and Peshawar. In the second phase of the registration process, the government says it aims to transfer compensation to the registered families while also pinpointing marginalised groups who require assistance.
NADRA has verified 82 families as permanent residents of NWA, while 51 have not been verified as their addresses on their CNICs do not match; 32 families have not been verified due to ‘family rejection’. The names and addresses of these families have been kept confidential for security reasons.
The earliest references to Buddhist settlements in North Waziristan come from historian and archeologist Dr Ahmad Hassan Dani, who discovered the first Kharosthi (an ancient script used by the Gandhara culture) script in North Waziristan as well as a stupa in Speenwam Tehsil in 1966.
A senior official from the provincial archeology department who wished to remain anonymous said there is scattered information regarding archeological sites in North Waziristan. “It is an unexplored area and my only hope is that the valuable treasures here survive the conflict,” he said.
The number of registered families has dropped from 92,702 to 49,857 after NADRA’s verification process. Acting DG FDMA Abdul Majeed said the number may rise to 60,000. A number of people registered themselves multiple times and those living outside the agency also registered themselves as IDPs, he said. Majeed added that arrangements have been made for women or children who have travelled without a male relative or family and tribal elders are assisting political agents in identifying those without CNICs. While the registration process has been hampered by a lack of preparedness and a political tussle between the provincial and federal governments, officials in Bannu say that even though there has been a delay in relief efforts, competition between the governments has results in an increasing cash flow to IDPs.

HIV/Aids mortality rate rising by 11pc annually in Pakistan: report

Human Immunodefic­iency Virus/Acquired Immunodefi­ciency Syndrome (HIV/Aids) is claiming more lives in Pakistan than ever, says a first-of-its-kind analysis of trend data from 188 countries released on Monday.
There has been an 11 per cent increase in mortality rates from HIV/Aids in Pakistan, according to the study that examines data from 2000 to 2013. However, it reports a decline in the death rates from tuberculosis (TB) and malaria in Pakistan since 2000, when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were established to stop the spread of these diseases by 2015.
Published in The Lancet, the study Global, regional, and national incidence and mortality for HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria during 1990-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013 was conducted by an international consortium of researchers led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.
“Working closely with our WHO office, Pakistan has prioritised tackling tuberculosis and malaria, and I think we are seeing what happens when you invest in improving the prompt diagnosis and treatment of these deadly diseases. Now, we need to make sure that HIV/Aids does not take more lives in Pakistan than it already has,” said Prof Zulfiqar Bhutta, founding director of the Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health at the Aga Khan University and co-director at the Centre for Global Child Health at The Hospital for Sick Children, and one of the study’s co-authors.
The AKU was also represented by Dr Mohammad Imran Nisar, senior instructor of the department of paediatrics and child health.
Globally, HIV/Aids and tuberculosis kill fewer people than they have in the past and the decline in new cases and deaths from these diseases have accelerated since 2000.
Worldwide, deaths from HIV/Aids declined at a rate of 1.5 per cent between 2000 and 2013, while tuberculosis deaths declined by 3.7pc.
Pakistan, however, is experiencing the opposite with HIV/Aids, according to the study.
“Increasingly, more people have died from HIV/Aids since 1990. From 2000 to 2013, the country averaged a 15 per cent annual increase in rates of new HIV/Aids infections, ultimately rising from less than 1 case per 100,000 to 6.7 per 100,000.
“Far more Pakistanis die from TB each year (nearly 37,500 were killed by TB in 2013), but the country’s ongoing progress in reducing TB mortality rates starkly contrasts with its burgeoning HIV/Aids burden,” the study says. After adjusting for differences in population size and ages across time, researchers found that there were 277 cases of TB per 100,000 people in Pakistan for 2013. In terms of new cases, Pakistan recorded 151 TB cases per 100,000 that year. Mortality rates from HIV/Aids in Pakistan (1.5 deaths per 100,000), according to the study, were higher than what was found in Afghanistan and Iran for 2013 (each were fewer than one death per 100,000) but remained lower than in India (6.6 deaths per 100,000).
TB death rates in Pakistan (32 deaths per 100,000) were lower than those in India (58 deaths per 100,000), but were much higher than the TB mortality rates in Iran for 2013 (2.8 deaths per 100,000). “With progress in reducing HIV/Aids at the global level, success in particular countries and regions varied as their HIV epidemics peaked and declined at different times. “The rise in the rates for HIV/Aids in Pakistan, at a time when most countries are recording progress against the disease, exemplifies this finding and underscores the need for action.
But since HIV/Aids still claims fewer lives in Pakistan than other infectious diseases, namely tuberculosis, the country may have the opportunity to halt its epidemic earlier than other places could in the past,” it says.
Earlier and more effective treatment, the study points out, has also helped shorten the duration of tuberculosis infections worldwide. However, the authors note that aging of the population will lead to higher numbers of cases and deaths. In both Pakistan and at the global level, the bulk of tuberculosis deaths tend to occur in older age groups. The study also assessed trends in annual malaria cases and deaths throughout the world. From 2000 to 2013, Pakistan reduced its malaria mortality rates by an average of 4.6pc each year, recording 3,160 malaria deaths in 2013. Pakistan also had reductions, although less pronounced, in malaria cases, dropping 2.9pc annually between 2000 and 2013.
In comparison to many countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, where malaria claims tens of thousands lives each year (over 260,000 people died from malaria alone in Nigeria last year), malaria claims relatively fewer lives in Pakistan.
The global malaria epidemic peaked in the early 2000s, at 232 million cases in 2003 and 1.2 million deaths in 2004. There were 164.9 million malaria cases and 854,566 deaths due to malaria in 2013 worldwide.

Pakistan: Supply of clean drinking water suspended in several sectors

The residents of several sectors of the capital stand deprived of the facility of clean drinking water during the holy month of Ramazan as the filtration plants are out-of-order. The Capital Development Authority (CDA) has not bothered to change the filters of several filtration plants in some sectors and this negligence on the part of civic body has rendered the filtration plants out-of-work. This way, the water supply has been suspended to the citizens. In certain sectors, including F6, G7, and G6, the old defective filters have not been replaced and the maintenance work on these plants has not been executed since the last several years therefore, they are now in shambles and are on the way to deterioration. The citizens of the capital have demanded of the CDA chairman to take notice of the situation and institute immediate measures for providing filters for the dysfunctional filtration plants.

Pakistan: Acid thrown on 4 women in Quetta

Faces and hands of victims severely burnt in attack near a shopping centre
Unidentified armed men doused four women with acid in the suburbs of the provincial capital leaving the victims’ hands and faces burnt severely, on Monday.
The women were returning to their homes at noon from the shopping centre for Eid shopping in Birave area of Killi Kamalu, a suburb, when the motorcycle riding unidentified men intercepted and threw acid, according to the Sariab Police. As a result, the four women, identified as Bibi Zulekha, Bibi Noor Jan, Bibi Safia and Bibi Ayesha, suffered deep burns on the faces and hands.
Eyewitness accounts recounted the women’s ordeal who screamed after the attack as the attackers fled. The women were shifted to the Civil Hospital.
The Kechi Baig Police reached the site shortly. Capital Police Officer Abdul Razaq Cheema took immediate notice of the incident and formed a committee under the administrative leadership of Sariab ASP Imran Shiekh who would analyse the incident and investigate the women’s families to reach a conclusion.
The police concerned of the area have also been issued directives to make the arrests of those responsible at the earliest. It may be mentioned that acid-throwing incidents had been condemned by social, political and religious and tribal quarters.

Pakistan: Surendar Valasai for a truly representative National Council for Minority Rights instead of a rendezvous of millionaires

Surendar Valasai, Advisor on Minority Affairs to Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron-In-Chief, Pakistan Peoples Party has asked the Federal government to keep in mind the diversity and ratio of population of the minorities in Pakistan before announcing National Council for Minority Rights.
“It is a step in right direction and minorities are grateful to outgoing Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani for the verdict, but Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and PML-N government should not establish a rendezvous of billionaires and millionaires instead the Council should portray as truly representative of all minorities including Christians, Hindus, Dalits, Sikhs etc as per their strength,” Surendar Valasai stated in a statement released here.
He said terms of references of the Council should be discussed thoroughly with the Leader of Opposition Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah and other Parliamentary leaders and the Council should not be a toothless tool and a mere formality. “Council must have clear powers to protect the rights of the downtrodden masses of minorities in real sense and punish those who deliberately victimize the minorities hiding behind fake and fictitious pretexts or personal enmities,” he added.
Surendar Valasai said country needs such an institution urgently to take up the growing issues of victimization of minority communities and desecration of their places of worship all over the country. “From misusing laws to settle personal scores against the individuals of the minority communities to turning their places of worship into grazing grounds, the Council should have the scope to cover and offer remedy for every issue.”
He appreciated the efforts and actions of PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for the protection of rights of minorities and his directives to the Sindh government for establishment of Police Task Force to guard temples, churches and gurdawaras in Sindh besides implementation of 5% job quota in letter and spirit.

Former Pakistan President Zardari to have Iftar with US vice president

Former Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari is going to have an Iftar dinner with US Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday. He reached Washington on Sunday evening and was received by Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Jalil Abbas Jilani. This was the first time in Pakistan’s history that a former ruler was given full diplomatic protocol by a Pakistani ambassador.
Zardari’s arrival was announced by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi at a think tank here in Washington.
He said that the government had decided to set a precedent by sending the ambassador to receive Zardari, adding that it was time that “political witch-hunting should come to an end”.