Thursday, August 21, 2014

Malala Promotes Universal Education at UN

Global education advocate Malala Yousafzai joined the U.N. secretary-general Monday to mark the 500 Days countdown until the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals. The teen activist has inspired other young people with her commitment to making education available to children everywhere.
Five-hundred young people gathered at the U.N. Monday to encourage political leaders to keep up the momentum as the clock counts down to the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals of eradicating extreme poverty, hunger and other obstacles to development and healthy lives.
Their focus was the second of the eight goals - achieving universal primary education. And their motivational speaker was Malala Yousafzai, the courageous young Pakistani girl who survived a Taliban assassination attempt for wanting to go to school.
Malala said her dream is still to see every child go to school and she encouraged other young people to get involved in making it happen.
“We should believe in the power of our voice and we should believe that yes, it can really bring a change,” she said.
The young advocate has had a busy year. She has visited Syrian refugees in Jordan and met the parents of school girls abducted in Nigeria, all while promoting her Malala Fund which empowers girls through education.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Malala on Monday, saying she is a “daughter of the U.N.’ He encouraged other young people to follow her example and raise their voices too.
“One may think, I’m just a young girl or a young boy, I don’t have any power, but each and every one of you can make a difference,” he said.
Ban said that the world is experiencing so many “fires burning” at once, and the U.N. is working to extinguish them. He said there is a “flame of hope” as well, which are the Millennium Development Goals.
While all eight will likely not reach their targets in time for the 2015 deadline, the U.N. is looking beyond that timeframe to carry on a post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

What does the escalation of the Russia- Ukraine dispute mean?

With the escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine and the increasing sanctions on Russia, Ukraine and Russia are facing a critical decision. Whether to keep the confrontation going or begin to compromise is a tricky decision for both.
With 280 Russian trucks heading for the border between Russia and Ukraine, the Russia- Ukraine dispute is getting worse. Ukraine doubts Russian claims that the trucks are loaded with humanitarian assistance such as food and medicine. The result is that the trucks have been intercepted on the border of Russia and Ukraine.
Reporters from The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph said they saw 23 Russia armored cars cross the border into Ukraine. The secretary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization hastened to declare that its allied forces had also seen Russian trucks enter Ukraine.
Tension between Russia and the western countries is rising. The foreign Affairs Committee of the EU delivered a declaration that any unilateral Russian military action would be a brazen breach of international law. Russia accused the West countries of thwarting its humanitarian assistance.
The White House has declared that it remains unclear whether Russian soldiers have invaded Ukraine, and has warned Russia against entering Ukraine without the permission of the latter. Concerned at the possible damage to the European economy, EU countries have urged Russia not to escalate the dispute.
The escalation of Russia-Ukraine dispute is an indicator of the level of distrust between the West and Russia. The sanctions imposed on Russia are harmful to both Russia and the EU. The US economic sanctions against Russia are a blow to the economy of Russia as well as that of Euro-zone area. If its trucks are not allowed to enter Ukraine, Russia, in an effort to save face, will continue to make further trouble in eastern Ukraine.

GoPro Moscow base jump: Int Min releases 'Stalin star-painter' escape footage

Moscow police made public Go-Pro footage shot by the possible painters of a star on the iconic Stalin skyscraper in downtown Moscow. Police detained a group of four daredevils, who parachuted off the building, and charged them with vandalism for painting the spire in the yellow-blue colors of the Ukrainian flag.

Afghanistan: Mission Impossible or Mission Accomplished?

Mohammad Shafiq Hamdam
Since August 2003, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has been engaged in Afghanistan to conduct security operations, train and develop the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Since then seven NATO summits have been held, the eighth and last NATO summit in the format of ISAF will be held at Newport, Wales on 5 September 2014.
The ISAF mission is a first of its kind; both in terms of numbers of troop contributing nations and geographical location. This decade was a historic one for NATO and the organisation has grown unprecedentedly. Since its engagement in Afghanistan the organisation has grown from 19 to 28 member countries. For the first time NATO allies had to take action under the Article Five of the treaty, which is the collective self-defence act. During this decade of war against terror more than 21,000 Afghan civilians, 13,000 ANSF, 3,500 international forces dead. There is not an exact figure of the allies’ expenditure in Afghanistan, but it runs into billions of US dollars. Over all this was the biggest ever mission of the organisation and a test for the allies.
The primary objective of the Alliance has been to enable the Afghan authorities to provide effective security and ensure that the country can never again be a safe haven for terrorists. Today Afghanistan has 352,000 strong Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Their determination and dedication can’t be questioned. But for long-term sustainment of those forces they are in need of equipment and training.
Launched in 2011, the transition of full security responsibility is due to be completed at the end of 2014 and ISAF’s mission will end. To avoid any gap and for the sustainment of the ANSF the Afghan government and NATO allies agreed at the Chicago Summit for a follow-on mission to train, advise and assist the ANSF after 2014.
In the Chicago Summit Afghan government and the International Community agreed on an estimated annual budget of US$4.1billion for the ANSF. The model for the total ANSF size was envisaged a 228,500. The recent assessment of the Afghan government shows that the size is not enough, so they will urge for US6 billion in the upcoming summit. However it was mutually agreed in the Chicago Summit that the funding for the ANSF will be reviewed regularly against the developing security environment. But these pledges are condition based. The condition is clear and that is a legal framework for the presence of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan after 2014.
On the political side, NATO has contributed a huge amount in Afghanistan. It secured the constitutional Loya Jirga or grand council and support Afghan forces to secure all the elections since 2004. NATO has significantly contributed to the reconstruction and development efforts by the Afghan government and the international community. The large footprint of NATO across the country has enabled humanitarian and aid organisations to contribute in very remote areas of the country. And this was an opportunity for millions of Afghans in these very remote areas to raise their voice and to be heard in the country and around the world. NATO diplomats have served alongside the military and the NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan has played a significant role to connect NATO capitals with the Afghan government as well as to reach the neighbouring and regional countries.
Afghanistan is located in a region between four imbalanced nuclear powers. And it’s been in a vulnerable position throughout history because of the importance of its geopolitical and strategic location. So in order to strengthen peace, security and stability in Afghanistan, it is a wise decision to have a partnership with the world’s most powerful military and political organisation. Regional counties should also acknowledge that the presence of NATO in the region has significantly contributed to their own security and stability.
Of course there are still terrorist threats and there is violence in some of the neighbouring countries, but that could have been worst if NATO was not in the region during the last decade. So the presence of NATO in Afghanistan is not only in the interests of Afghanistan, but also in the interests of all the regional countries. In addition, it will not be a wise decision for NATO to turn its back on Afghanistan. The investments made in the last decade should not be in vain. NATO should also acknowledge and define its mutual interest in Afghanistan with its partner.
The NATO-Afghanistan Enduring Partnership, signed in 2010 at the Lisbon Summit, has opened a wider platform. But because of the security transition process, the enduring partnership was not expanded. Meanwhile NATO has been negotiating with the Afghan government on the Status of Forces’ Agreement (SOFA) for its new mission. The Resolute Support Mission (RSM) will be a vital mission for the support of the emerging ANSF and for NATO’s goal, which is to ensure that the country can never again be a safe haven for terrorists.
It’s for the current and new Afghan administration to consider the relationship and co-operation with NATO and the US a vital and urgent one. Such a partnership can be an assurance of the ANSF sustainability and security in the country and wider region. Any strong relationship with NATO is an access gate for Afghanistan to all 28-member allies as well as an assurance of a sovereign state free from any possible interferences of any country. Likewise NATO will also mutually benefit from having a relationship with a country, where billions have been invested and a country that has an important role for the security of the Alliance’s citizens.
Many legitimate concerns of the Afghan government, including the controversial issue of civilian casualties during NATO operations, independent operations and other matters has been increasingly addressed and there will be no room for such a concerns after completion of the current ISAF mission. So the Afghan government and NATO should be able to enter a new, comprehensive, closer, stronger and mutual relationship. It should be based on mutual commitment and long-term cooperation with full respect to the sovereignty of Afghanistan. The relation which can possibly make Afghanistan a NATO member country in the future.
This is a desire of Afghans to continue their relationship with the US and NATO allies. The endorsement of the Strategic Partnership and Bilateral Security Agreements with the US by more than 2,500 representatives of the Afghan people from across the country at the consultative Loya Jirgas last year and in 2011, are clear examples. There is no doubt that there is a mutual need for long-lasting and stronger relationships between Afghanistan and its partners, and these are needed sooner rather than later.
Hence it’s up to the current and new Afghan administration to immediately finalise the Bilateral Security Agreement with the US and an agreement with NATO in order to allow the continuation of this historic relationship. That needs to be done urgently, before or during the NATO Summit in Wales. Then this Summit can be another historic milestone for the Afghanistan-US and NATO relationship.

Afghanistan: We Will Protect People's Votes: Abdullah

At a meeting hosted by members of the Reform and Convergence Team on Thursday afternoon, presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah asserted that the audit process should bring justice, adding that his team will monitor every step of the process before making final decisions.
"We want the audit process to bring justice," he said. "I assure the people of Afghanistan that we are determined to protect their votes."
Moreover, Abdullah stressed on the significance of maintaining the legitimacy of the election process, stating that people's votes should not be tampered with.
"Defending votes is not about getting power; it is about defending the rights of the people of Afghanistan," he stated while claiming that his team has genuine votes from various provinces around the country.
Abdullah also emphasized that safeguarding people's trust is an important part of his leadership.
"The only thing we have is the people's trust; we will not give it up in exchange for anything," Abdullah stressed.
The statements came as recent disputes in the Independent Election Commission (IEC) have once again raised concerns and uncertainties about the future of the election process.
In addition, Abdullah urged on the political negotiations with Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai on the formation of national unity government, but maintained that the negotiations are not asking for privileges.
"The political process doesn't mean asking for privileges. Talks are underway and we will have a negotiation ready in the next few days."
But, Abdullah's second vice runner mate Mohammad Mohaqeq criticized the auditing procedures and declares the election commission as the main element behind the frauds.
"You saw the episode of the fat and skinny sheep's became the headline; Amarkhail resigned and left the sheep's for others, we have always said that Amarkhail and Saadat played a role in the electoral frauds, but no one listened to us," Mohammad Mohaqeq said.
Meanwhile, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai's team has asked that audit process and invalidation of votes are transparent and valid.
Abdullah and his rival Ashraf Ghani held a meeting on Wednesday focusing on the formation of the national unity government.

Pakistan: Asif Zardari arrives in Karachi

Former President Asif Ali Zardari has arrived in Islamabad today (Thursday) and is likely to call Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP) meeting in Karachi. According to details, the former president of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari has reached Karachi from Dubai in context of the current political rift between the government and the opposition parties. Previously, National Assembly’s Opposition Leader and PPP’s senior leader Khursheed Shah and Senator Aitezaz Ahsan were called to Dubai yesterday (Wednesday). Moreover, other leaders were supposed to reach there to discuss the current socio-political crisis in the country; however, as Asif Ali Zardari has arrived Karachi, all the political leaders are expected to reach there to meet the party’s co- chairperson to discuss the current socio-political situation and announce PPP’s stance over it. Previously, Zardari conducted an Executive Committee meeting in Dubai as well. As per sources, many leaders requested former President to reach Pakistan to discuss the current political situation.

Pakistan: Violence and democracy can never co-exist
By: Senator Taj Haider Secretary General PPP Sindh
The present crisis of the Right wing extremist politics of Pakistan is the direct result of manipulations made for rigging the last general elections. Those shouting themselves hoarse over rigging in the last elections were themselves the biggest beneficiaries of such rigging. They choose to ignore the fact that 3 political parties that were against religious extremism were not allowed to run an election campaign. The son of Prime Minister Gillani was kidnapped on gunpoint for holding a small election corner meeting in Multan (he has not been recovered till date) while PML(N) and PTI were campaigning in the legnth and breadth of the country unhindered and unharmed.
What difference militancy made in the results of the Elections can be gauged from the results of NA-1 Peshawar where the PTI chief Mr. Imran Khan had won by a lead of 70,000 votes in the general elections and had vacated the seat later. In the bye-elections held just 2 months later when the militants allowed ANP to campaign not only the PTI lead of 70,000 votes vanished but the seat itself was lot by the PTI.
The holy agitators also choose to ignore the findings of the Election Tribunal on the rigging committed by the PTI on PS-93, Karachi West. The Tribunal in its judgment on 7th August found that the sitting MPA, who is PTIs General Secretary Sindh Province, had changed the results of 7 polling stations, increased votes in his favour by more than 5,000 and reduced the votes of the JI candidate who was declared the ultimate winner by the Tribunal. The same Secretary General PTI took hundreds of PTI workers to Islamabad Dharnas and stood next to his Chief demanding “resignations and fair elections”. Stones are being pelted all around on others by PTI without realizing that they are themselves sitting in a glass house.
These were not elections. This was an arrangement worked out by the agencies (whom the PPP President Mr. Makhdoom Amin Faheem rightly congratulated on PML(N) election victory) and supported on ground by militants. This was an artificial arrangement, whose time was long past. This arrangement had to crumble down. The time for worn out ideas and their imposition at gun point is long gone.
Pakistan People Party had opted for continuation of the spirit of the Charter of Democracy. The spirit is that of reconciliation. It excludes dictation of the establishment. We had made PML(N) a part of the Federal Government. We were ourselves part of the Punjab Government. Unfortunately Mian Nawaz Sharif Sahib thought it better to part way and started using Judiciary and State Institutions to destabilize our elected government. While we were acting boldly to oust militants from Swat and other areas, these elements were provided safe heavens in Southern Punjab. Their camps were not dismantled and these very extremists provided militant support in Southern Punjab to deliver a solid PPP area to PML (N).
In the interest of continuation of democracy PPP decided not to protest on the streets. The highly abusive language used against us and our leadership by PML(N) hurt us. But at the present crucial juncture the language being used against PML(N) leadership is hurting us more. Continuation of the democratic system remains as ever our top priority. Democracy presupposes a civilized political culture, which is being ruined by these elements who have no stakes in the democratic system.
Can the commission appointed by the Honourable Supreme Court investigate all of more than 1300 seats of the Provincial and National Assemblies? The record has been so badly messed up as a result of arrangements made before the polls that it has become impossible to correctly identify the bogus votes. The fact that 3 parties who were against the extremist militants were not allowed to campaign while PTI and PML(N) enjoyed their full support is reason enough to call the election unfair. PPP has been saying that from the first day.
The most important question is, where do we go from here? PPP, the biggest sufferer of rigging believes in “politics of reconciliation”. Major successes for Democracy, the Charter of Democracy, the NFC Award, the 18th Amendment, the completion of the term of previous assemblies and the governments were all results of “politics of reconciliation”. “Politics of Confrontation” which does make headlines in the Media has always resulted in setbacks and loosing of all the democratic gains and ultimately in dictatorship. We have seen enough of it in 1999. We do not understand why the PTI and PML(N) who were the biggest beneficiaries of poll rigging are pushing the country to the same abyss through confrontation. Everyone stands to loose. There are no winners in this confrontation or in any confrontation for that matter.
Emotionalism has to make way for Rationalism. Violence and democracy can never co-exist. We shall have to jointly find way to exclude militancy and the role of agencies from the electoral system. The time for such a system has arrived. Attempts to postpone it will always result in one crisis after the other.
Source : Office of the Senator Taj Haider Secretary General PPP Sindh.

Music: Ariana Grande - Problem

Afshan Zebi : Lokan Do Do Yaar Banaye


By Gurmeet Kanwal
Like Pakistan, the nation, its army has been passing through turbulent times. The army’s counter-insurgency operations in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa (erstwhile North West Frontier Province) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have not been going well; its establishments have been repeatedly attacked with at least some attackers coming from within; its relations with its NATO allies had plummeted to an all-time low after the spectacular US raid to kill Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad in May 2011; the morale of the rank and file is low; and, its senior leadership is once again at loggerheads with the political leaders of Pakistan.
Despairing at the role played by the Pakistan army in meddling in the country’s politics and governance in the context of the ‘memogate’ scandal in December 2011, then Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had called the army a ‘state within a state’. Though this phrase has been in use for long, many analysts are of the view that the Prime Minister got it wrong because, in Pakistan, the army is the state. In fact, the army and the ISI (the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate) together form the ‘deep state’.
The military jackboot has ridden roughshod over Pakistan’s polity for most of the country’s history since its independence. While Generals Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zia ul Haq and Musharraf ruled directly as Presidents or Chief Martial Law Administrators, the other army chiefs achieved perfection in the fine art of backseat driving. The army repeatedly took over the reins of administration under the guise of the ‘doctrine of necessity’ and, in complete disregard of international norms of jurisprudence, Pakistan’s Supreme Court mostly played along.
Almost since the birth of Pakistan, the army has effectively ensured that Pakistan’s fledgling democracy is not allowed to take deep root. The roots of authoritarianism in Pakistan can be traced back to General (later Field Marshal) Ayub Khan who promoted the idea of ‘guided’ or ‘controlled’ democracy. The concept of the ‘Troika’ emerged later as a power sharing arrangement between the President, the Prime Minister and the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS). The ‘political militarism’ of the Pakistan army imposed structural constraints on the institutionalisation of democratic norms in the civil society.
Some key national policies have always been dictated by the army. The army determines Pakistan’s national security threats and challenges and decides how to deal with them. Pakistan’s policy on Afghanistan and Jammu and Kashmir is guided by the army and the rapprochement process with India cannot proceed without its concurrence. The army controls Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme and the related research and development. The civilian government has no role to play in deciding the doctrine for nuclear deterrence, the force structures, the targeting policies and the process of command and control. The army Chief controls the ISI and decides the annual defence expenditure and all defence procurements. He also controls all senior-level promotions and appointments; the government merely rubber stamps the decisions. Lt Gen Shuja Ahmed Pasha, DG ISI, was given two extensions at the behest of the COAS and General Kayani was himself given a three-year extension.
In keeping with its visceral hatred of India and in order to weaken India, as also to further China’s objectives of reducing India’s influence in Asia and confining it to the backwaters of the Indian Ocean as a subaltern state, the Pakistan army has adopted a carefully calculated strategy of ‘bleeding India through a thousand cuts’. This has been given effect overtly through irregular warfare – the Razakar and Mujahid invasion of Kashmir in 1947-48 and Operation Gibraltar in 1965; and, the Kargil intrusions of 1999. A proxy war has been waged through ISI-sponsored militancy and terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and state-sponsored terrorism in other parts of India, like the Mumbai terror strikes in November 2008. In the 1980s, Pakistan had encouraged and supported Sikh terrorist organisations in their misplaced venture to seek the creation of an independent state of Khalistan.
The ISI provides operational, intelligence, communication, training, financial and material support to fundamentalist terrorist organisations like the Lashkar-e-Tayebba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) to wage war against India. Similarly, it provides substantial intelligence and material support to various Taliban factions like the North Waziristan-based Haqqani Network to operate in Afghanistan against the Karzai regime and against NATO-ISAF forces. This is done despite the fact that Pakistan is a major non-NATO ally in the so-called ‘global war against terrorism’ (GWOT). The killing of Osama bin Laden in the army cantonment of Abbottabad, where he had been housed by the ISI for almost five years, provided direct proof of the ISI’s complicity in anti-NATO activities.
This duplicitous working ethos of running with the hares and hunting with the hounds comes naturally to the Pakistan army and the ISI. In fact, during the Kargil conflict, the Pakistan army had earned the infamous sobriquet of ‘rogue army’ for asking its soldiers to fight in civilian clothes, returning badly mutilated bodies of captured Indian soldiers and refusing to take back the bodies of soldiers of the Northern Light Infantry killed in action on the specious grounds that they were Mujahideen.
Some of the powers usurped by the army over the years can be attributed to the political parties’ self-inflicted injuries. The shenanigans of the two main political parties – the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League – and widespread corruption led several times to the people’s complete disenchantment with the rule of PPP’s Benazir Bhutto and her father before her and PML’s Nawaz Sharif. In addition to poor political leadership, the failure of democratic institutions can also be ascribed to constitutional and judicial weaknesses and the unsatisfactory levels of socio-economic development. The people were disenchanted with the poor quality of governance provided by the Yousaf Raza Gilani/ Raja P Ashraf-led PPP government; it is to General Kayani’s credit that he did not stage a coup.
External factors have also led to the army playing a larger role than is warranted in a democracy. By arming the military to the teeth, the US has caused Pakistan to become a praetorian state in which the army plays a dominant role. It is only recently, in the face of the Pakistan army’s perfidious role in Afghanistan that the US government has begun to come to terms with its ill-considered policy. After the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers by NATO-ISAF forces in a border outpost in November 2011, US-Pakistan relations had hit a new low. The incident led to the Pakistan government’s decision to stop the flow of logistics convoys through Quetta and Peshawar, deny base facilities at Shamsi airbase and demand re-negotiation of the rules of engagement. In turn, the US government announced that it would withhold military aid to Pakistan.
The army and the Nawaz Sharif government were till recently at loggerheads over the government’s counter-insurgency policy, which had lacked cohesion. The army had been recommending to the government for quite some time that firm military action was necessary to deal with the menace of home grown terrorism, but the political leadership had disagreed. The commencement of a peace dialogue with the TTP by the government, allowed the terrorist organisation to re-arm, recruit and train fresh fighters. It also gave the TTP leadership the opportunity to cross the border into Afghanistan. In March 2014, the TTP offered a month-long cease-fire. The army honoured the cease-fire and refrained from active operations, but TTP factions fought on. On April 16th, the TTP withdrew its pledge and blamed the government for failing to make any new offers.
In the face of mounting public and army pressure, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reluctantly agreed to approve military strikes. He was apprehensive that General Raheel Sharif, the COAS, may unilaterally decide to launch an all-out offensive. The PM is now backing the army fully and has said that he will not allow Pakistan to become a “sanctuary of terrorists” and that the military operation will continue till all the militants are eliminated. On June 15, 2014, the Pakistan army finally launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb (sharp and cutting), its much delayed offensive against the TTP in North Waziristan. Two months after it was launched, the operation is yet to achieve its goals.
The precarious situation in Pakistan is headed towards a dangerous denouement. Imran Khan, Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party and Tahir-ul-Qadri, a rabble-rousing cleric, are leading a march to Islamabad. The likelihood of a military coup is being openly discussed again. The economy is in a serious mess. The funds are low, the debts are high, exports have dwindled to a trickle and the rupee has fallen to all time low of about 100 rupees to a dollar. Pakistan dependent on US largesse to meet its obligations for the repayment of its burgeoning debt. The beleaguered Prime Minister appears to be at his wit’s end.
The army remains central to the survival of Pakistan. Pakistan cannot survive as a coherent nation state unless the army gives up its agenda of seeking strategic depth in Afghanistan, its attempts to destabilise India through its proxy war and stops meddling in politics. The army must pull itself up by the bootstraps and substantively enhance its capacity to conduct effective counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations. The army has to realise that it has let down Pakistan and must make amends. In the national interest, the army must give up being a state within a state and accept civilian control, even if it does so with bad grace.

Pakistan: IG Islamabad replaced for avoiding torture on marchers: sources

Inspector General of Police (Islamabad) Aftab Ahmad Cheema has been removed from post for not accepting government’s order to crackdown on protestors in the federal capital, sources told Dunya News.
According to the Ministry of Interior, acting charge of IG has been given to DIG Headquarters Khalid Khattak. According to sources, the government had ordered police to arrest Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri. Afterwards, IG Islamabad Aftab Cheema had directed police to avoid torture on the long march participants.
Police officials are confused over government’s contradictory orders against the protestors, sources told. As the news regarding IG Islamabad’s replacement surfaced, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi claimed police have launched crackdown on PTI workers.

Pakistan: Azadi march: PTI suspends talks with govt

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) has suspended the dialogue process with the government.
PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the Punjab Governor was informed about the suspension of talks with the government negotiating team. Qureshi held a telephonic conversation with Chaudhry Sarwar and told him that the PTI team will not come to the hotel for the negotiation.
The official page of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf also tweeted about the decision.
Explaining the reason, the PTI said the statements of federal ministers were deteriorating the environment for talks.
The PTI committee is currently present at the residence of Jahangir Tareen.
The second round of talks between Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the government were scheduled for 2pm today.
Earlier, member of the negotiation committee, Ahsan Iqbal said that both the parties have a consensus over not being a laughing stock. PTI has presented 6 demands before the government which shall be reviewed within the party and we’re hopeful for the dialogues to bear positive outcome, he added.
Vice Chairman PTI Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that PTI is a democratic party and they are not negotiating upon anybody else’s indication. The PTI and the government have both formulated their respective teams for negotiations. The team representing the government constituted governor Punjab Chaudhry Sarwar and federal ministers viz Pervez Rashid, Zahid Hamid, Ahsan Iqbal and Abdul Qadir Baloch whereas the negotiating team representing PTI constituted Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Javed Hashmi, Asad Umer, Jahangir Tareen and Arif Alvi.
The negotiations took place in a hotel in Islamabad after which Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that they had presented their demands before the government and would be awaiting for their response after consultation.

US offers $30mn in search for Haqqani leaders

The United States offered a total $30 million Wednesday in return for information on key leaders of the feared Haqqani militant network, blamed for numerous bloody attacks in Afghanistan.
“The Department has authorized rewards of up to $5 million each for information leading to the location of Aziz Haqqani, Khalil al-Rahman Haqqani, Yahya Haqqani, and Abdul Rauf Zakir,” the State Department said in a statement.
It also increased its previous reward offer of up to $5 million for information on the group’s leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, to up to $10 million.
The State Department added: “The group is allied with Al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban and cooperates with other terrorist organizations in the region.”
It said that the network was “the most lethal insurgent group” targeting the US-led NATO coalition and Afghan personnel in neighboring Afghanistan.

Pakistan: Déjà vu

By now, it is a well-known script. In the evolution of virtually every political crisis, there comes a point where the military leadership issues a carefully worded statement that is designed to come across as well-meaning and generous, but is in fact ill-advised and unnecessary.
On Tuesday, after watching silently from the sidelines as the latest political crisis to hit the country ebbed and flowed over several days, the army leadership decided to wade deep into the crisis and offer some political advice to the political leadership.
To some, the ISPR statement will simply reflect an obvious reality: there is a political impasse in the country and the political leadership needs to demonstrate “patience, wisdom and sagacity”. Note though that the ISPR had nary a word to say on constitutionalism, democracy and the rule of law. Instead, there was the usual martial language about sacred symbols of the state and the need to protect the national interest.
Place Tuesday’s ISPR statement in the proper historical context and it amounts to little more than big brother chiding the children of democracy to behave — or else. The ‘or else’ is always left unsaid, but the country hardly needs reminding about what it could be.
Without a doubt, the army leadership has grabbed with both hands the opportunity that the political leadership has created for it — perhaps even steered events from behind the scenes to the present impasse.
Conspiracy theories are manifold in Pakistan, but consider how quickly three forces converged on Tuesday to put democracy under pressure. Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri had, until the decision to move their separate sit-ins to a joint venue directly in front of parliament, kept each other at arm’s length since setting out from Lahore on Aug 14.
Yet, on Tuesday, the two leaders coordinated their entry into Islamabad’s so-called red zone to perfection — Mr Khan and Mr Qadri taking turns to whip up the crowds they had assembled and alternating playing to the TV cameras. Amidst the sudden bonhomie between the PTI leader and Mr Qadri came the ISPR statement that piled on the pressure on the PML-N government.
If such a chain of events in the realm of civil-military relations is still possible in this day and age, some of the responsibility must surely rest on the shoulders of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for time and again mishandling the situation and underestimating his political foes.
The latest mistake appears to have come after Imran Khan’s rally to Islamabad failed to gather the kind of support that the government was initially apprehensive about. As scorn and ridicule were heaped on the PTI and Imran Khan found himself isolated, the government again failed to seize the initiative.
Rather than urgently and decisively switch the focus to electoral reforms and strengthening of the democratic system, the government seemed more preoccupied with ensuring that Mr Khan’s so-called independence rally ended with minimal damage caused to the government.
The government’s mantra of being open to talks within the Constitution with any of its political opponents is almost meaningless at this late stage because the stakes have been raised so high. What was needed was some purposefulness and clarity by the government — instead, it meekly allowed protesters to camp outside parliament.
Yet, whatever the flaws in the government’s political strategy, it must not be forgotten — and cannot be stressed enough — that the origins of the latest crisis lie in an unwillingness of certain anti-democratic and also political forces to play by democratic rules.
As ever, in seeking to bring down an elected government, the short-term goals have completely overshadowed any consideration of the longer-term impact. It may be Mr Sharif who is in the cross hairs today, but if the PML-N government is brought down in this most perplexing, even obscene, of ways, the floodgates will surely open.
On the religious and political right alone are several forces who want nothing less than to reorientate the Pakistani state and society and to have a veto over any system of governance and policy choices that do not fit with their myopic, regressive worldview.
Is Pakistan really prepared to hand over state and society to such forces? Surely, the ouster of an elected government now will only embolden the dark forces that stalk this country.
From here on, the options are limited, but clear. There may be a push for a national government with a mandate to implement electoral reforms before holding fresh polls. The exact mechanism by which such a national government can come into being is uncertain, but it may be an option the PTI is still eyeing given that it has not formally triggered the resignation process of its MNAs.
The more desirable option is even clearer: all democratic forces, inside and outside parliament, must rally to the defence of a system under attack. Democracy is truly a system worth fighting for, till the very end if necessary.

Former President Asif Ali Zardari and Chariman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari met senior party colleagues
Former President Asif Ali Zardari and Chariman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari met senior party colleagues to discuss current political situation.
Current political crisis be addressed through dialogue and within the framework of the Constitution: Former President Zardari
PPP leaders expressed concern at the short-sighted and high-handed tactics of the government and urged all parties in this conflict to resolve the issues at hand without recourse to further violence and the disruption of public life in the capital and country.
PPP leaders condemned the brutal murders in Model Town, Lahore, on June 17th 2014. The leaders demanded that an FIR be expeditiously registered in accordance with the law.
PPP observed that any unconstitutional path taken to resolve current stalemate will be detrimental to the future of democracy.
Former President Zardari lauded the services and sacrifices of the brave soldiers who were fighting on the front lines of terrorism.
Former President Zardari hoped that the country would soon be rid of menace of terrorism.

Zardari : PPP supports State, Constitution and Democracy
Former President Asif Ali Zardari has said that PPP is not with the Government, it is with the democracy and state. He said that PPP workers will come forward, if someone tries to capture parliament.
According to the details, CEC meeting of PPP was held in Dubai today. Co Chairman Asif Ali Zardari chaired the meeting. Khursheed Shah and Raza Rabbani couldn’t join the meeting due to unavailability of visa.
Meeting discusses the current political situation in detail. Talking to meeting, Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari said that PPP will defend democracy and state at all costs. He said that PPP has always been in the front row, when it comes sacrifice.
PPP has always been giving blood to democracy and state of Pakistan, whenever it required, he added.
He said that it was PPP, which gave 1973 constitution to the Nation.
He said that PPP knows how to defend constitution and Democracy.

Pakistan: Zardari, Bilawal reiterate their support for democracy
A very important Pakistan Peoples Party meeting ended in Dubai, which showed concern over the current political situation of the country.
According the details, A very important meeting of PPP leadership has concluded in Dubai. The meeting was presided by both Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari
Meeting decided that PPP would continue its support to parliament and democracy and defend them from any danger.
Talking to meeting, Asif Ali Zardari said that PPP will not allow to ambush on democracy.
Chairman PPP, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that democracy is the future of Pakistan.
Meeting was also attended by Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Yousif Reza Gilani, CM Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah,Rehman Malik, Mian Manzoor Watoo and Imtiaz Safdar Warriach.
Asif Ali Zardari will also meet the party leadership on Friday to discuss the situation in detail.

The Fate of Feminism in Pakistan

Bina Shah
On Feb. 12, 1983, 200 women — activists and lawyers — marched to the Lahore High Court to petition against a law that would have made a man’s testimony in court worth that of two women. The Pakistani dictator Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq had already promulgated the infamous Hudood Ordinance, which reflected his extremist vision of Islam and Islamic law. Now, it was clear to many Pakistani women that the military regime was manipulating Islam to rob them of their rights.
General Zia’s days are over, and parts of the Hudood laws pertaining to rape and adultery have been superseded by less objectionable clauses in Pakistan’s Protection of Women Act of 2006. But Pakistani women have yet to achieve what Madihah Akhter, writing in The Feminist Wire, an online magazine, identifies as “political, cultural and economic equality for women and a place in the constant struggle to define their nation.”
The reality of Pakistan’s women continues to confound easy categorization. They have been going to school and university, holding down jobs and earning money for several generations now. Yet they still live with widespread gender-based violence, society’s acceptance of women as property, and a widespread belief that they don’t deserve education, jobs or an existence outside the domestic sphere.
Neither Pakistan’s laws nor its social codes nor its religious mores truly guarantee women a secure place as citizens equal to men; such attitudes are preserved by patriarchal tribal and cultural traditions, as well as the continued twisting of Islamic injunctions to suit the needs of misogynists. Could feminism be the best antidote to this male chauvinism ingrained in modern Pakistani society?
Feminism has been alive in Pakistan since the country was born. During partition of the British Indian Empire in 1947, a Women’s Relief Committee, which oversaw refugee transfers between India and Pakistan, was founded by Fatima Jinnah, the sister of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founding father. Then Begum Ra’ana Liaqat Ali, the wife of Pakistan’s first prime minister, founded the All-Pakistan Women’s Association in 1949; that organization worked for the moral, social and economic welfare of Pakistani women. Ms. Jinnah ran in the presidential elections in 1965 and was even supported by orthodox religious parties, but lost to the dictator then holding the office, Gen. Ayub Khan.
In the 1980s, the Women’s Action Forum used activism to oppose General Zia’s myopic vision of Islam; today, Pakistani feminist collectives continue to protest violence against women, raise awareness about women’s education and political and legal rights, and lobby policy makers to enact women-friendly laws. The groundbreaking Repeal of Hudood Ordinance, the women’s empowerment bill and anti-honor-killings bill were all moved in Parliament when Sherry Rehman, a former ambassador to the United States and a renowned feminist, held the portfolio of minister for women’s development in the last decade. These and the anti-sexual-harassment bill were all eventually codified in Pakistani law over the next several years.
But many Pakistanis cling to the idea that feminism is not relevant to Pakistan — that it’s the preserve of the rich and idle or, worse, that it’s a Western imposition meant to wreak havoc on Pakistani society. Many Pakistani men and women believe that women’s rights need go no further than improvements Islam brought to the status of women in tribal Arabia in the seventh century. Men in Pakistan are not yet ready to give up their male privilege, and many Pakistani women, not wanting to rock the boat, agree with them. The Pakistani historian Ayesha Jalal calls it the “convenience of subservience” when elite and upper-class women marginalize women’s movements in order to maintain their own privilege.
The scholar Margot Badran has identified two threads of feminism in the Muslim world: 19th-century “secular feminism” and 20th-century “Islamic feminism.” Islamic feminism, pioneered by scholars like Riffat Hassan, Amina Wadud, Asma Barlas and Fatema Mernissi, seeks to reclaim Islam from male interpretations by using passages in the Quran to combat institutional misogyny. Islamic feminism as practiced in Pakistan is accessible to the middle and upper middle classes, who enthusiastically attend Quran classes held in Urdu, where they analyze verses and learn about the rights that the religion affords them. It also inculcates solidarity with Muslim women around the world. But with its emphasis on academic learning, it can limit empowerment to educated women, marginalizing the unschooled and the poor.
Pakistani feminists like Shahnaz Rouse, a Sarah Lawrence College professor, and Farida Shaheed, a sociologist who heads the Shirkat Gah women’s resource center in Pakistan, have done vital work in the field of Pakistani gender identity and class analysis, while Fouzia Saeed has been instrumental in raising the issue of sexual harassment. But their work, and that of other theorists and activists whose primary basis for feminism is not Islam, is often dismissed as favored only by an English-speaking elite with little relevance to greater Pakistani society.
Yet secular feminism has a more democratic scope; its proponents agitate for the rights of all women in Pakistan, non-Muslim as well as Muslim. It links to other feminist movements worldwide, not just Islamic ones, and is more pluralistic. By appealing to secular nationalism as well as Islamic modernism, it is not restrained by the need to base all thought in Islamic scripture, although secular feminists also use this powerful tool when necessary.
A feminist movement can succeed only when it mirrors the makeup of the women and the society for whom it operates. Pakistan needs a feminism that elegantly marries both strands of feminism — secular and Islamic — because that’s how Pakistan was formed: on both Islamic and secular principles.
The clinical psychologist Rubeena Kidwai said this about the status of women in Pakistan today: “Pakistani women are like bonsai trees, clipped and pruned and weighed down by the expectations of Pakistani society.” And Pakistan’s feminists are the only ones who can undo that destructive process, so that Pakistani women can flourish and grow to the heights of their human potential.