Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Video - Global independence activists pledge support for Scotland

VIDEO - Kerry calls out anti-war protesters: 'You ought to care about fighting ISIL'

Video Report : Kerry: Fight against IS group not a repeat of Gulf, Iraq wars

Video - UK: 'Yes' campaigners rally outside Scottish Parliament

#VoteYes - #Scotland’s Moment of Destiny

On Thursday, my country, Scotland, decides whether to remain a part of the United Kingdom or go it alone as an independent sovereign nation. I have been a vocal advocate of the Yes campaign, and spoke at its start in Edinburgh in May 2012.
Last week, during a brief break from appearing in “Cabaret” on Broadway in New York, I flew to Glasgow to do some last-minute campaigning. The day I arrived, the Yes campaign had taken the lead in a major poll; the outcome is now too close to call. The atmosphere is extraordinary. The whole country is engaged as never before.
There has never been anything so politically important to me. I enthusiastically became an American citizen because I wanted to vote in elections here, but even that pales in comparison to my passion for Scotland’s voting to control its own future.
I wasn’t the only one who felt compelled to speak. Last weekend, Queen Elizabeth II admonished Scots to “think very carefully” about the decision we have to make.
Did you think we needed telling, ma’am?
This is unfortunately emblematic: Scots feel they’ve been patronized and disrespected for far too long, not just by the monarchy, but by other institutions like the BBC and the Westminster government.
This is not about hating the English. It is about democracy and self-determination. Scotland is weary of being ruled by governments it did not vote for. The Conservative Party has virtually no democratic mandate in Scotland, yet too often, Scotland has been ruled by a draconian Tory government from London.
In 1997, Labour held a promised referendum on whether Scotland should have its own Parliament. The country voted overwhelmingly Yes. In 1998, the Scotland Act made devolution a reality — the opportunity, though circumscribed, for Scotland to make its own decisions and define for itself what it truly valued.
Sixteen years on, the differences between the basic tenets of Scotland and those of its southern neighbors are palpable: Unlike the rest of Britain, Scots still enjoy free higher education and free medical prescriptions. Even as parts of the National Health Service south of the border have been dismantled or privatized, Scotland’s is still intact and prized. There is an exceptional commitment to the arts, too — most visibly with the formation of the National Theater of Scotland.
The most striking achievement of devolution has been the change in people’s confidence and spirit I’ve seen on visits home. We no longer feel at the mercy of a privileged elite hundreds of miles away. Now, we want to complete that process and take full charge of our nation’s destiny.
So why don’t all Scots vote Yes? Well, change is hard, and scary. Seeing the use of fear as a political tool, it becomes clear why the country is divided and the polls so close. Scots have been told that an independent Scotland may be denied membership of the European Union; the irony of hearing this from a Westminster government that is seriously considering exiting Europe has not gone unnoticed.
Being told, also, by the leaders of all three main political parties that Scotland cannot use sterling after a Yes vote, for no reason other than spite, smacks of the way many Scots felt that Westminster perceived us all along: stupid and easily bullied. Several major banks threaten to move their operations to England if we vote Yes — but Westminster has put pressure on corporations to talk up anxieties.
Why does the United Kingdom so urgently want to keep us? Obviously, nobody likes being jilted. A Yes vote would represent a crushing rejection of the Westminster political establishment.
The left has tried to emotionally blackmail Scots, telling us that our absence in future general elections would abandon the remainder of the union to indefinite Tory rule. The reality is that every Labour government for decades would have been elected even without the Scottish vote.
The Conservatives know how unpopular their policies are in Scotland, so they limit their exhortations to emotional appeals. Prime Minister David Cameron teared up when he spoke recently of a “painful divorce.” And I thought we were supposed to be the sentimental ones!
Despite all the cant to the contrary, the reality is that Scotland is an economic asset to Britain. Since the 2008 financial crisis, Scotland’s finances have been healthier than the rest of the United Kingdom’s, with relatively higher revenues, lower spending and smaller deficits. Of course, we also have oil, lots of it. And huge potential for renewable energy, besides.
Distilled, the essence of the choice is this: The Yes campaign is about hope for a fairer, more caring and prosperous society; the No campaign says only: better the devil you know. I am an optimist.
Westminster’s leaders, like the rest of the world, may have only just cottoned on, but independence is a step we Scots have been contemplating carefully for a long time. After 16 years of devolution, we don’t need training wheels any more. We can go it alone.

@YesScotland - ‘More than 40 per cent of Labour voters back Yes’

MORE than 40 per cent of Labour voters are backing Scottish independence, Yes Scotland’s chairman Dennis Canavan told a rally in Glasgow today as the two campaigns prepare for the final push in the referendum campaign.
Mr Canavan told a cheering crowd shouting “yes we can” that if the campaign can get 50 per cent of Labour voters then Scotland “will vote for independence”.
He also said that ahigh turnout of voters of more than 80 per cent will ensure victory for independence.
The 200 independence supporters gathered in Buchanan Street also heard from actress Elaine C. Smith that the campaign will focus on “the forgotten communities” of deprived estates Craigmiller and West Pilton in Edinburgh, Easterhouse in Glasgow and Torry in Aberdeen to win the referendum.
Ms Smith said: “It [a Yes victory] will make Scotland a beacon of hope for the rest of the world.
It will show that money is not the only thing that matters.”
With the crowd chaning “hope not fear”, she added: “I don’t want to live in a world where Utopia is not on the map. Even if we don’t reach it let’s lift anchor and set sail.”
Other celebrety backers at the event were Emma Pollock, Martin Compston, Sam Heughan and Ricky Ross.
Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins praised “the biggest grassroots movement in Scottish history” but appeared to concede that Yes might lose the campaign.
He said: “Even if we lose we will have changed Scotland.”
Speaking to journalists after the event Mr Canavan said that “private polling” for the Yes campaign showed that they had got 42 per cent of the Labour vote.
He went on: “If we get at least 50 per cent of Labour voters on our side then we will win and we are approaching that figure now.”
He said that “traditional Labour voters, women voters and people of my age, senior citizens” hold the key for victory.
He also claimed that “seven out of ten previously undecided voters have decided to vote Yes”.Suggesting that a Yes vote could be built in the West of Scotland, he went on: “We are getting a very good response in Glasgow. I have heard that Edinburgh is slightly more problematic.”
But he said that thee key to the campaign was “the abandoned communities”.
He pointed out that when he was first elected as an MP in 1970s turnouts were often more than 80 per cent but now in many constituencies have dropped to less than 50 per cent.
He blamed the poll tax for leading many people to deregister and Labour under Tony Blair for “abandoning traditional Labour values”.
He went on: “There are many people in deprived areas of Scotland who feel let down especially since the advent of Tony Blair. “We are finding now that many of the people in the housing schemes in Scotland are more and more coming on board with the Yes campaign.”
He said he expects a “massive” turnout of “well over 80 per cent” across Scotland “with people who have never voted before”.
He added: “If we get a turnout over well over 80 per cent we will win.” Mr Jenkins was also confident that the campaign to target traditional Labour votes with a message of social justice and fears over the future of the NHS had succeeded. He said: “I am hopeful tomorrow that 50 per cent or more of people who normally vote Labour in Scotland will vote Yes.”

#YesScotland - "Labour values can only continue to exist with a Yes vote"

#YesScotland This is our one opportunity. Let's do this!

#YesScotland - This is our time. Let's do it.

Scotland braces for historic independence vote

The campaign for Scotland's independence referendum went down to the wire on Wednesday ahead of a knife-edge vote that will either see Scotland break away from the United Kingdom or gain sweeping new powers.
The "Yes" and "No" camps mobilised thousands of volunteers to take to the streets across Scotland in a final push to win over undecided voters in a heated debate that has fired up Scots on both sides.
Three new opinion polls suggested a very narrow majority against independence but showed that the undecideds could swing it either way with just hours to go before polls open on Thursday at 0600 GMT.
"I'm really optimistic that if we do have independence, we can start building a society that works for all of us," said 24-year-old Sam Hollick, a "Yes" activist from the Green Party who was campaigning at a stand in Edinburgh blaring a song by Scottish band The Proclaimers. But at a "No" rally in Glasgow, former British prime minister Gordon Brown appealed to Scots' wartime patriotism and said voting against separation would still mean Scotland gaining much greater local power.
"We fought two world wars together," he told hundreds of supporters.
"There's not a cemetery in Europe that doesn't have a Scot, a Welshman, an Irish and an Englishman side by side. When they fought together, they never asked each other where they came from," he said.
'Cool heads'
Differences over whether to support "Yes" or "No" have divided families and lifelong friends and the Church of Scotland on Wednesday called for "a spirit of unity" and "cool heads and calm hearts".
The rise in support for the "Yes" campaign has also sent jitters through the financial markets, helping to bring down the value of the pound and dragging down the stocks of Scotland-based companies.
Scotland's pro-independence First Minister Alex Salmond has dismissed the economic arguments -- including what currency an independent Scotland would use as the Bank of England has ruled out a currency union -- as "scaremongering" by the "No" campaign.
In a letter to the people of Scotland, Salmond urged the electorate to seize its historic chance to end the 307-year-old union with England.
"Wake up on Friday morning to the first day of a better country. Wake up knowing you did this -- you made it happen," Salmond wrote. "It's about taking your country's future into your hands. Don't let this opportunity slip through our fingers. Don't let them tell us we can't. Let's do this."
But Heather Whiteside, a 21-year-old graduate from Glasgow University who came to see Brown at a campaign event in the city said the prospect of a "Yes" victory was "very scary".
"Nationalism is a bad kind of politics, it tries to create artificial barriers between people," she said.
'Torpedo' for Europe
A "Yes" victory would not mean independence overnight but would sound the starting gun on months and possibly years of complex negotiations on separating two deeply linked economic systems.
It could lead to Prime Minister David Cameron's resignation and would embolden other separatist movements around the world. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy weighed in on the debate on Wednesday, branding moves for independence like Spain's Catalonia region a "torpedo" to European integration.
"Everyone in Europe thinks that these processes are hugely negative," financially and economically, Rajoy told the Spanish parliament. All three polls in Wednesday's papers showed that going it alone would be rejected by 52 percent to 48 percent, with undecided voters excluded. But the results were within margins of error and many commentators have said the final outcome is "too close to call" ahead of time. Record numbers have registered for the referendum -- 97 percent of eligible voters -- and turnout is expected to be very high with officials saying it could be around 80 percent.
In Edinburgh, Fatima Somner, a 45-year-old cashier of Moroccan origin married to an Englishman, said she was hoping for a "No" victory.
"People who will vote 'no' are the ones who have money. Poorer people are going to vote 'yes'," she said. "They hope that things will change for the better for them. But it will be the opposite, everything will become more expensive!" But many said they were keen to make a final break with London.
"I've been ruled by Westminster governments for too long," said Frank Evans, a 62-year-old in Glasgow at a "Yes" rally filled with flags -- including one celebrating a famous Scottish victory over the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in the Wars of Independence in 1314.
"I am very confident. Yes, we'll win. I might be having a little bit of a dance in the city to celebrate," he said. Behind him a banner read: "Break the chains, Scotland". - See more at:

Music - Rahil Yousofzai - Rafti Rafti

Afghanistan : Female Journalist Killed in Balkh Province

Female journalist Palwasha Tokhi, who worked for Bayan, a local radio in northern Balkh province, was killed inside her home on Tuesday evening.
Tokhi had just returned to Afghanistan after completing her master's degree in Thailand two months ago.
According to Palwasha's father, Mohammad Khalil Tokhi, she was stabbed by unknown men who broke into their house when he was not home. She lost her life at a hospital in Mazar-e-Sharif.
"I don't know the reason behind this incident. We don't have any personal enmity with anyone," he added.
The Northern Journalist Association in Mazar-e-Sharif has strongly condemned the incident.
"We are deeply saddened by the murder of Palwasha Tokhi who worked for Bayan radio for five years," Gulab Shah Bawar, head of Northern Journalists Association in Mazar-e-Sharif, said.
Palwasha is the second journalist killed in Mazar-e-Sharif in the past two months. No one has been arrested in relation to either case yet.

Bangladesh Islamist War Criminal - Sayedee's Verdict - Sentenced to imprisonment till death
The Supreme Court today commuted the death sentence of Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee to imprisonment till death for his crimes against humanity committed during the country’s Liberation War in 1971.
A five-member bench of the apex court, headed by the Chief Justice Md Muzammel Hossain, pronounced the verdict at 10:06am by majority view amid tight security.
However, the chief justice did not disclose names of the judges who gave different opinions over the judgement of the 74-year-old Jamaat nayeb-e-ameer.
Attorney General (AG) Mahbubey Alam, the additional, deputy and assistant AGs, prosecutors and defence counsels and a good number of journalists were present at the Supreme Court Appellate Division Court-1 where the verdict was pronounced.
The International Crimes Tribunal-1 on February 28 last year sentenced Sayedee to death for killing Ibrahim Kutti and one Bisa Bali in Pirojpur in 1971, even though it had found him guilty on eight charges filed against him.
On March 28 last year, Sayedee filed an appeal with the SC seeking acquittal on all charges. The same day, the government submitted a separate appeal seeking Sayedee’s punishment on all the eight charges.
The other charges Sayedee was convicted of include his association with Pakistani soldiers to abduct three women and rape them, torturing people, looting and setting fire to the houses of Hindus, forcing them convert to Islam in Pirojpur, and forcing them to leave the country in 1971.
After the SC verdict, Imran Siddique, a counsel for Sayedee, told The Daily Star that they will file a review petition with the apex court seeking his client’s acquittal of all the charges once they get the copy of full judgement.
The SC bench on April 16 this year kept the appeals waiting for delivering judgment on them. The hearing went on for 48 days.
Protesting the Tribunal-1 verdict, the activists of Jamaat and pro-Jamaat student body Islami Chhatra Shibir last year went on the rampage in many places across the country that left several people dead.
The Jamaat-Shibir men in Bogra even tried to coax people into joining in by a propaganda that Sayedee's face was seen on the moon and that it was people’s holy duty to save the Jamaat nayeb-e-ameer.
This is the second crimes against humanity case appeal on which the Appellate Division announced a judgment.
On September 17 last year, this court had handed down the death penalty to another Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah for his wartime atrocities in 1971. Mollah was executed on December 12 last year.

What’s at Stake in Xi Jinping’s Visit to India

Rishi Iyengar
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in India Wednesday, making the first visit by a Chinese head of state in eight years, and underscoring the increasingly important economic and strategic partnership between the world’s two most populous nations.
China is India’s largest trading partner (although the trade deficit between the two countries has been widening), and trade and investment will undoubtedly be foremost on both leaders’ minds. Beijing has already outlined plans to build two industrial parks, with multi-billion dollar investments in both. There are also projects being discussed that will revamp India’s vast but outdated railway network.
“This visit presents a unique opportunity for Chinese industry to invest in India before Japan does,” said Swaran Singh, a professor at the Center for International Politics in Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) who specializes in India-China relations. “China will try and find a foothold for investment and technology transfer in this window.”
Modi’s recent visit to Japan was described as “successful” by the Indian media, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledging $34 billion in investments to India and Indo-Japan ties receiving a significant boost. The personal warmth between Modi and Abe was also evident, and although Modi and Xi connected during the BRICS summit in Fortaleza earlier this year, it remains to be seen how that equation will progress this week.
Singh says Xi’s visit will fundamentally focus on “projecting the personal chemistry of two very popular, strong, pro-business Asian leaders.”
He adds: “Both of them see themselves at the helm for at least a decade. They will show how the relationship has progressed to the next level.”
Geo-strategic cooperation between the two countries is slightly trickier, and has been marked by contentious border disputes and maritime disagreements. While China lays claim to the Indian border state of Arunachal Pradesh, India says that the Chinese-occupied Aksai Chin region is part of Kashmir.
However, it increasingly seems that the border disputes will not occupy much of the conversation between Xi and Modi, at least not publicly.
Lt. Gen. Ata Hasnain, a former Indian army officer who was part of a recent delegation to China, said the border issue was not brought up by the Chinese at all, and was largely ignored when he brought it up himself.
“My personal take is that China wishes to continue following a dual track policy of intimidating India along the LAC [line of actual control] and promoting cooperation,” he told TIME in an email. But Hasnain also says China is “keener than ever for partnership and continued dialogue with India,” a sentiment that has been expressed by the Chinese as well.
“Politically speaking, the major objective is to try and eliminate distrust and elevate mutual trust,” said Zhao Gancheng, director of the South Asia Institute at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.
India is also wary of China’s growing naval prowess and unhappy about Beijing’s perceived aggression in the Indian Ocean region. New Delhi could create a hurdle to China’s desire to establish a “maritime silk route” through Asia. Xi has already received the cooperation of Sri Lanka and the Maldives, both of which he visited en route to India, but Modi’s government is still on the fence.
“Even now, there is no clear view what will happen,” said Srikanth Kodapalli, a professor at JNU’s Centre for East Asian Studies. Kodapalli added that India’s location and presence makes its cooperation essential for the route.
However, India is far more enthusiastic about the proposed Bangladesh-China-India-Burma trade corridor, commonly known as BCIM, which experts say is another issue bound to come up during the visit. “The BCIM route will play a big role, and I hope India gives a positive response to that because it would benefit all four countries,” Zhao said.
Zhao also rubbished speculation that Xi’s overtures to India, and his decision to postpone his proposed Pakistan visit, signal a shift away from the historic Chinese ally. “The political climate in Pakistan is not appropriate for a head of state to visit right now, but Pakistan is a good neighbor to China and a very important element in its South Asia strategy,” Zhao said.

Video Report : Chinese President Xi Jinping Visits India

ISIL's attempt to spill into Pakistan sets off warning bells

By Hasan Khan
An influx of more foreign militants will lead to more violence and will further destabilise life in the region, some observers say.
In the wake of news that the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) has dumped recruiting pamphlets in parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, observers and members of the public are urging civil society and the Pakistani government to keep ISIL from gaining a foothold in the tribal areas.
"If ISIL is able to carve out even a little niche in the north-west of Pakistan and south-east Afghanistan, it will be a formidable threat to regional peace," Dr. Khadim Hussain, a Peshawar-based analyst, told Central Asia Online.
ISIL pamphlets, urging Muslims to join their effort in establishing a supposed Islamic caliphate, have been spotted in parts of the border region, and stickers featuring the group's message in local languages have shown up. The move has alarmed residents and has analysts fearing that more violence and destabilisation will follow if a new wave of foreign militants comes.
The region already suffers from a sizable presence of militants from the former Soviet Union and Arab states.
The human and economic cost could far exceed that which Pakistan already suffered at the hands of al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists during the past decade, Khadim said. Also of concern is the apparent intent of ISIL to want more than a platform for terrorism.
"This time around, they [foreign militants] appear to intend to move toward state control," Khadim said, referring to ISIL's track record of proclaiming itself the government of Syrian and Iraqi areas under its control.
ISIL could cost the country lives, money and its culture
If ISIL is allowed to sink its hooks into the tribal region, Pakistan could suffer around round of immense human and economic losses, analysts warn.
More than 50,000 Pakistanis ahve died and the country has lost US $102 billion (Rs. 10.4 trillion) from 2001 through 2014 so far in the war against terror, according to the Economic Survey of Pakistan.
Already in Iraq and Syria, ISIL militants have shown that they have little regard for human life. ISIL has developed a reputation for, among other things, LINK mocking Islam, treating the elderly with disdain, oppressing religious minorities and recruiting children to fight.
From a human standpoint, analysts predict an upsurge in sectarianism, should ISIL infiltrate the area.
"If ISIL succeeds, then Pakistan shall be ready for bloody sectarian violence," Mansur Mehsud, a security analyst working for the Islamabad-based Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) Research Centre, said.
The terrorist group is capable of creating a civil war between Islamic sects as it has sought to do in Syria and Iraq, he said.
"ISIL would definitely declare war on [the most peaceful sects] if it succeeded in establishing itself in FATA and settled areas," Mehsud said. Zahid Hussain, author of The Scorpion's Tail: The Relentless Rise of Islamic Militants in Pakistan, echoed those concerns.
"The rise of ISIL ... could further fuel sectarian violence in Pakistan," he wrote in a recent news article.
ISIL has also been termed a "more lethal" militant group, intolerant of anyone who does not follow its ideology, Mehsud said. With its harsh treatment of everyone it considers an infidel, "[ISIL] would be a nightmare for Pakistan," which has a mix of Islamic sects, he said. Unique parts of Pakistan's culture – such as Pakhtunwali (the Pashtun moral code) – also will be destroyed if ISIL militants encroach in the border region, others say.
"ISIL means the rise of Salafist schools of thought, which will destroy our local social culture," Oun Abas Sahi, a South Punjab specialist on the militancy, said. ISIL specifically, and foreign militants in general, has no regard for local traditions, Khadim said in agreement.
'Turf war' among militants foreseen
Another troubling result of any inroads by ISIL into the tribal areas will be competition with al-Qaeda (AQ) for the support of local militants, observers predict.
"It [competition with AQ] might lead to a turf war between both terrorists syndicates, leading to serious security concerns," journalist and author Aqil Yusufzai said. Mehsud, though, predicted it would be difficult for ISIL to gain support in FATA or in the settled districts of Pakistan.
"The chances of ISIL's success in Pakistan are limited, as local militant groups would not like to work under foreign groups like ISIL or al-Qaeda," Mansur said. Foreign militants have lost much of their former appeal in Pakistan, Anwar Ali Bangash, an Islamabad-based journalist, said.
Foreign militants have a reputation for attacking vital state institutions in Pakistan and for brutally killing civilians and security officers, Bangash said, adding that such violence generates intense animosity toward the terrorists and makes it unlikely that many Pakistanis will give them the space to survive.

Pakistan: Floods: prevention is better than relief and repair

While civilian and military teams struggled to rescue people from raging floodwaters of River Chenab on Sunday, at least 17 persons from a 40-member wedding party, including the groom, drowned as they tried to cross a flood-swollen river in Muzaffargarh district. The tragedy is all the more shocking given that it could have been avoided. The river condition did not permit safe passage, yet those in charge of the affair went ahead to cross it, apparently, urged on by a fatalistic tendency that characterises individual as well as governmental attitude in the face of imminent danger.
This year's floods produced by short-span heavy rains (overall, the seasonal rainfall has been lighter than usual) have caused widespread devastation in large swathes of Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Punjab. Floodwaters are now moving down southern region of Punjab and onwards into Sindh. According to the National Disaster Management Authority, so far 2.419 million people have been affected in Punjab and 38,238 in Azad Kashmir. Official figures put the death count in three regions at 289 and of the wounded 507; unofficial reports indicate actual casualties are much higher. Many more people are to suffer when the floods hit Sindh although the authorities there are prepared to deal with the situation. It is not the first time that floodwaters are wreaking so much havoc. This country lies within the range of annual monsoon rains, and hence is prone to floods. Yet there is no plan in place to avert the ever present threat. Like at such times before, cities in the flood path are being saved by blowing up river banks at selected points to create diversions, inundating rural areas. Underprivileged village dwellers are bearing the brunt of floodwater fury. They are losing lives, homes, crops and farm animals, and dealing with indefinite displacements.
Efforts are on to provide help to the affected people. It is not enough, however, to carry out rescue and relief operations after the impending calamity has hit. What is needed is a well thought-out plan to reduce the risk of floods and also to turn adversity into an advantage. Notably, the floodplains along major rivers, such as the 'Kutcha area' beside River Sindh, were meant to ease the stress of floodwaters. These areas have now been taken over by human habitations. Something needs to be done to reclaim the floodplains to allow for river overflows. Equally if not more important, instead of letting floodwaters to run into the sea, reservoirs need to be constructed to store them. The measure can reduce the size of a flood; and the stored water, aside from helping replenish underground aquifers, would be available for use in times of scarcity. As it is, Pakistan is counted among the world's water-scarce countries, and its problem is expected to get acute in not-too-distance a future. In fact, as per environmental scientists' predictions the phenomenon of melting glaciers is to bring about alternating spells of floods and droughts in this region, adversely impacting Pakistan's agricultural economy. Our policymakers and planners need to take notice and adopt effective measures to deal with the clear and persistent threat of floods, and environmentalists' dire predictions of even greater disasters. Considering the enormity of the challenge, there is no room for fatalistic resignation.

Pakistan: IDPs ignored in political standoff

A report released by a think tank has drawn attention to the plight of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) of North Waziristan Agency.
The 22-page report issued by Zalan Communications was launched on Tuesday at an event attended by tribal leaders, civil society representatives and aid organisations. It draws attention to some of the major issues and challenges the displaced population is facing. As part of the research, Zalan Communications had established a call centre in collaboration with the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) aimed at helping with coordinating relief efforts. Therefore, the findings of this report are based on insights received from over 10,000 IDPs who contacted the organisation.
According to the report, the political standoff between the government, the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has led politicians to ignore the plight of the displaced population. It added that in the absence of a specified time period for the conclusion of Operation Zarb e-Azb it is unlikely that any long-term strategy can be introduced to address the problems of displaced people. Speaking at the launch ceremony, North Waziristan IDPs Qaumi Committee Chairman Nisar Ali Khan Dawar said the people of North Waziristan have been forced to vacate their homes and are facing numerous problems.
He urged the government to adopt a serious attitude towards the IDPs and provide them with food and shelter – particularly during the winter. Furthermore, he asked the government to provide proper education facilities to the children of the IDPs. Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz MNA Marvi Memon said that a total of Rs 2.7 billion has been distributed among IDPs from the agency. While the federal government is playing its part, law and order, education and health come under the provincial government, she added.
She asked the provincial government to devote funds from the 1% of federal divisible pool for the province for the welfare of IDPs.

Pakistan - Imran's Politics - And now threatening civil war - No end to Imran’s shenanigans

One after another, there appears to be no end to Imran’s shenanigans
Over a month of sit-in and Imran Khan has yet to achieve his unrealistic aim of forcing Nawaz Sharif to resign. Right from the beginning the PTI chief miscalculated his strength as he had done earlier during the May 2013 elections. His claim to collect a million marchers turned out to be an illusion. While kicking off the March from Lahore on August 14 Imran reiterated his demand that the prime minister resigned and members of the Election Commission quit “before I reach Islamabad”. On reaching Islamabad he announced one date after another when the “third empire” was to raise his finger. This too turned out to be a fantasy.
The tactics Imran Khan employed during the sit-in failed to work. The lawn of the Parliament House and the road leading to the Supreme Court gate occupied by the protesters had to be vacated under Parliament’s pressure and the apex court’s orders. The protesters had also to vacate the front of the Prime Minister’s House. The vandalism inside the PTV Headquarters was universally condemned. Imran’s demand for resignation from PTI MNAs led three party parliamentarians to defect. The exposure of the forces behind Imran Khan’s protests by PTI President Javed Hashmi was a major setback for the party.
Encouraged by the ISPR statement that the army did not favour any political party embroiled in the conflict, the government initiated arrests of the protesters. On Tuesday while the PTI chief Imran appealed to the SC to play its role in stopping police brutality against the protesters, he also threatened of civil war in the country if justice was denied. Use of force by the government is unfortunate while Imran Khan’s indulgence in a dangerous fantasy would further weaken the PTI and bring bad name to politicians. The internal and external dangers facing the country require that the two protesting leaders and the government return to the negotiating table for purposeful talks leading to the resolution of the impasse.

Pakistan: Zarb-e-Azb: 40 militants killed in latest air strikes in NWA

Fresh airstrikes by Pakistan Military killed at least 40 terrorists, including unidentified foreign militantsearly on Wednesday in Dattakhel Tehsil of North Waziristan, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement.
Five militant hideouts were also destroyed in the strikes targeting them in areas of Kiza Madakhel, Datakhel, Ezark of NWA.
The airstrikes are a part of a military operation ‘Zarb-e-Azb’ launched in mid-June by Pakistan Armed Forces to eliminate local and foreign militants from the tribal area.
Pak Army says it has killed more than a thousand militants and lost 86 soldiers since the start of the operation, though the numbers cannot be independently verified as journalists do not have regular access to the combat zone.
Since June 15, airstrikes, artillery, mortars and ground troops have all been used to retake territory in North Waziristan tribal region, which had become a haven for fighters with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other militant outfits.

Malala, Sharmeen to receive first-ever Asia Game Changer award

Malala Yousufzai and Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy have been chosen from Pakistan by the Asia society for the first Asia Game changer awards to be handed out later this year at the United Nations.
According to details, Malala, the teenage child education activist who was shot in the head by the Taliban, has been selected for the award, “for continuing to dream, and fight for girls the world over, after living a nightmare.”
Chinoy, Pakistan’s sole Oscar winner, has been selected to receive the award for her “for eye-opening films that give voice to the voiceless.”
Asia Game Changer awards are bestowed upon individuals, organisations and movements that inspire and enlighten others on an annual basis. Asia society has named Jack-Ma, founder of Alibaba group, as the Game Changer person of the year.
A total of 13 individuals and organisations have been selected to receive the award this year.

Bilawal Bhutto to visit flood-hit areas of Punjab soon

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Punjab President Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo has said that party chairman Bilawal Bhutto will soon visit the flood-hit areas of the Punjab province to express solidarity with the flood victims and also distribute the relief goods among them.
Chairing a meeting of the Punjab Executive Council on Tuesday, he informed the party leadership about the upcoming visit of the party chairman. The meeting was attended by the divisional coordinators, districts and tehsil presidents, ticket holders hailing from the districts of Lahore, Gujranwala and Faislabad divisions.
Wattoo apprised the participants about his meeting with the party chairman and the co-chairman in Karachi where he went to receive trucks loaded with relief goods from the party leadership. He said that he apprised the chairman and the co-chairman about the flood devastations in Gujranwala and Faisalabad divisions and underscored the urgency of supplying tents in the area on urgent basis.
Immediately, the co-chairman issued instructions to purchase tents of five crores rupees for the people and handed over to the provincial party immediately for distribution among the shelter less people in the flooded areas. He appreciated the generous donations by the party high command and said that the arrival of 50 trucks of relief goods would greatly help the flood victims to overcome their difficult times.

Pakistan: LNG import: some questions

After almost a decade of trying, LNG imports are now closer to becoming a reality. In a recent news conference, Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said the project is “in its final stages” and even mentioned the prospect of an early commissioning.
Moreover, the government appears to have done the groundwork to develop a consensus around the allocations from the new gas, giving the vehicular CNG sector a large share of the imported gas, while diverting its allocations from domestic gas towards other sectors. In time, the minister said, all of the imported gas may end up allocated for vehicular use, freeing up domestic gas for the remaining stakeholders.
Some of the numbers floated by the minister need closer scrutiny. For instance, it is not clear how the imported gas will be only 5pc to 8pc costlier than the existing price.
If the minister is referring to the price at which the gas will be sold to consumers, then clearly there will be a subsidy element.
But if he is referring to the landed cost of the LNG, then it needs clarification what price the government is anticipating to pay in the spot markets, where prices are almost double what they are for domestically produced gas.
Likewise, the savings of $2.5bn in imports of oil that the minister claims will be realised as a result of allocating all imported gas for vehicular use needs to be explained.
Is his government thinking of sharply increasing the number of vehicles running on CNG after this decision is implemented?
If so, this would be adding to the folly of having encouraged the vehicular use of natural gas in the first place.
The ministry should release a breakdown of the numbers behind these claims, giving details of the cost at which the gas will be sold to the CNG station operators, and what cost they will be selling it on to end consumers.
If a subsidy is involved, it should also be made clear at the outset, as should data on how the $2.5bn of savings on oil import has been computed.
Nevertheless, it is encouraging to note that the government has finally managed to put some momentum behind the LNG import project.
The idea has languished in our political culture of recriminations for far too long now.
Admittedly, all parties involved do not feel fairly treated, particularly those who believe that their bids for the project were denied due consideration on political grounds.
But it is a positive sign for the country that the first consignment of imported gas may soon arrive to breathe new life into our energy-starved economy.
From here on, the overriding priority is to ensure fair play in decisions on allocations, and transparency and reform in pricing matters.
In the final analysis, our gas woes will only end once we learn to price the precious resource appropriately.

Pakistan: Number of polio cases reaches 158 after 13 more cases emerged

The number of polio victims in the country during the current year has reached 158 after 13 new polio cases were confirmed by the polio virology laboratory of the national institute of health.
Out of new polio cases, seven emerged in the volatile federally administered tribal areas (FATA), three in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and one case each in Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan.
Pakistan is among three countries where the crippling virus is endemic; the other two are Afghanistan and Nigeria.
In May, the Worth Health Organization (WHO) imposed strict travel restrictions on Pakistan due to increasing cases of polio in the country, making it mandatory for Pakistani citizens to carry a polio vaccination certificate during foreign travel.

PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto attends signing ceremony of MOU for Thar Coal between Sindh Govt & Asia Power
Sindh Coal Authority, Energy Department,Government of Sindh awarded Thar coal block-III-A & B for development of coal mine and power plant in Thar Coal Field through international bidding. M/s. Asia Power a company specially established for investment in Thar Coalfield registered at United Kingdom.
MoU signing ceremony was held at Bilawal House in the presence of Chairperson Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Faryal Talpur MNA, Shery Rehman Former Ambassador to United States of America, Sharjeel Memon Minister for Information, Mr. Murad Ali Shah Advisor to Chief Minister for Finance & Energy, and Chief Secretary Sindh. MoU was signed by Mr. Danish Saeed, Director General, Sindh Coal Authority and Mr. David M. Faktor, CEO of Asia Power (UK).