Friday, September 26, 2014

Pakistan: Metro Bus or Mars: The problem with our priorities

By Bilal Karim Mughal
1969 was the year, when the United States succeeded in landing humans on the moon – our closest neighbour in space – and safely bringing them back to Earth.
The United States, being the most technologically advanced country on Earth, put that feather in its hat about 45 years ago.
What was the condition of India and Pakistan at that time? The two countries had already fought two battles, and were about to plunge into another one in 1971.
While the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was established in 1969, the same year when humans set foot on the moon, Pakistan’s Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) was established in 1961 – eight years before its Indian counterpart.
SUPARCO was set up by the most famous of all Pakistani scientists and the country’s only Nobel Laureate: Dr Abdus Salam.
Dr Salam had advised Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan, then President of Pakistan to establish a Space Sciences Research Wing within Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. This later turned into SUPARCO in 1964.
In 1960, President John F Kennedy had announced that the United States planned to land an American on the moon, and bring him safely back to earth before the decade was over.
Dr Tariq Mustafa, a scientist at Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission’s, writes in his memoir that for this project, NASA needed to map the wind conditions at the upper atmospheric region above the Indian Ocean.
In mid-September 1961, Dr Abdus Salam and Dr Tariq Mustafa held a meeting with NASA officials in Washington. On the occasion, NASA offered help to Pakistan in the development and launching of rockets to map the atmosphere above Indian Ocean, on the condition that any data acquired from the research on upper atmosphere will be shared with NASA.
Pakistan quickly bagged the offer, and started working on the project.
On 7 June 1962, Pakistan launched an unmanned rocket, Rehbar-I from Sonmiani, with assistance from NASA.
Dr Tariq Mustafa led the team working on this project. With this experimental launch, Pakistan became the third country in Asia, first in South Asia, and only the 10th country in the world to have conducted such a launch.
According to a report of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, before the June 1962 launch, NASA had started training Pakistani scientists at Wallops Island and the Goddard Space Flight Centers. It also put up fellowships and research associate programs at American universities for "advanced training and experience" in the field of space.
In subsequent years, however, Pakistan’s space program severely lagged due to the political turmoil which enveloped the country.
India built its first satellite Aryabhata, and launched it in 1975. Pakistan built its first satellite Badr-I and launched it in 1990.
India is now independently developing satellites, launching them on its own, and is the first nation to put its orbiter in Mars’s orbit in the first attempt. Meanwhile, Pakistan is still limited to Geographical Information Systems (GIS), remote sensing, and communication satellites.
The Paksat-1R, launched in 2011 is Pakistan’s latest satellite, that was funded, designed, built, and launched by our friend in need, China.
Pakistan’s only fully functional satellite is this communication satellite. So much for a national space agency in the 21st century.
Putting aside NASA and the European Space Agency, ISRO too started off with resources similar to Pakistan, and I will argue, with even lesser expertise than Pakistan.
SUPARCO was ahead of all other Asian nations in the space race, but what happened to us then?
On September 24, when India's Mars Orbiter Mission, or Mangalyaan successfully entered the Martian orbit, I was completely overwhelmed with happiness. Why?
Because as a person deeply interested in science, scientific achievement anywhere around the world – even if it is in some far off island in the Oceania – the achievement humbles me.
But at the same time, I think about Pakistan, the country whose passport I hold, and whose National Identity Card gives me an identity.
Pakistan is now nowhere in the space race.
Pakistan is nowhere near eliminating polio.
Pakistan is nowhere in literacy.
Where is Pakistan?
Pakistan’s education budget was, in actual terms, reduced by 11 per cent in the recent budget, whereas other countries are investing more in health and education.
It is obvious that the nation’s priorities are wrong.
I am not a critic of infrastructure projects, but roads, mass transits, flyovers, schools, and colleges are things Pakistan should’ve built a long time ago. The current focus should’ve been on education, science, and technology, with emphasis on space technology.
Why space technology? Because this is one area where technological advances require such intensive research on every subject, all the way from electronics to human biology, that every new project propels forward not just the field of space research but all other sciences touched by it. Historically, we have seen several discoveries in one field or another as offshoots of space programmes.
For example, it was the US space shuttle’s fuel pump design which led to invention of the artificial heart. The heart has now been transplanted to more than 20 people.
The algorithm developed for sharpening the images acquired from the Hubble Space Telescope now helps sharpen the images of mammograms for treatment of breast cancer patients. Dresses to keep the body temperature controlled for patients in certain diseases were inspired from astronauts’ spacesuits.
That is why the US spends billions of dollars on NASA every year; not just for an obsession with space, but for technological prowess overall, which ultimately translates into more development for people.
A number of people are still bashing India on failing to eliminate poverty before reaching out for Mars.
I will respond by saying Pakistan has neither eliminated poverty, nor reached Mars.
It is about time that the government reconsider its priorities.
Policies and funding allocations in our federal budgets need a revision. SUPARCO’s budget should be increased. It had potential in the past, and it still does! I met some great scientists from SUPARCO in a public fair once and was amazed at the enthusiasm of these people. SUPARCO can still take the lead in the regional space program, if the government puts its attention towards it.
I am sure that if India has reached Mars in its first attempt, Pakistan will reach a new horizon too, in its first attempt, if it makes one.
And who knows if that horizon is as far as Pluto?
Let’s keep the hope alive.

CHINA - Coronation from West won’t exonerate Tohti

Ilham Tohti, a former Uyghur lecturer at Minzu University of China, was given a life sentence by the Intermediate People's Court of Urumqi on Tuesday. It raised intense reactions from the West, especially from the US, whose Secretary of State John Kerry said he is "deeply disturbed" by the conviction. Some Western media even deliberately described Tohti as China's Nelson Mandela.
Tohti's trial and conviction have given them plenty of material to challenge China in the public discourse.
However, no matter how hard they try to push these convicted dissidents onto the moral high ground, Chinese society has got used to and no longer feels so sensitive to these tricks played by the West. China knows that they always use so-called morality and justice as a shield to cover their real intentions.
This shield harbors the people who attempt to go against the Chinese rule of law, among whom there are ethnic separatists and social saboteurs. If these people are given full freedom to undertake illegal activities as the West demands, one could not imagine how much damage they would cause to Chinese social order.
China does not pursue the same political system as the West, and history has proven that China made the right choice over its political path, compared with many other developing countries which have transplanted the Western system. Different political systems breed different laws, and as a Chinese citizen, Tohti has to observe Chinese law, by which his illegal acts shall be punished. It is none of the West's business to making carping comments.
The facts have demonstrated that Chinese rule of law is so powerful that jeering and displeasure from the West have met counteractive impacts. The West has witnessed China's growing assertiveness and strength and knows that "human rights" is no longer their trump card. They will become less determined to challenge China on this matter.
Scotland has just wrapped up a referendum over independence, and soon after, some voices at home and abroad started to call for the legitimization of separatism in China.
These irresponsible remarks concealed their ulterior motives and muddled the essential differences between Scottish independence and the Xinjiang issue. Even by instinct, we can imagine what a disaster it would be for China if it did the same as Scotland.
Chinese separatists must be fully aware of the red line drawn by the Chinese Constitution and criminal law. Tohti could serve as a lesson for them to realize what price they have to pay if they continue their dangerous pace.
These so-called dissidents had better clear their minds and see the growing difficulties if they still want to depend on the West to carry forward their advocacy. They should look at the big picture of China's rise and the improvement in China's rule of law, or a doomed failure is what awaits them.

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NHS 'crumbling before our eyes': UK patients wait up to a week to see a doctor

Unacceptably long waiting times to see GPs could endanger Britons’ health and have ultimately become a national crisis, the chair of the Royal College of GPs warns.
New RCGP analysis of NHS England’s biannual GP patient survey reveals that one in six patients are forced to wait at least seven days before they can see a GP or practice nurse. Such increasingly intolerable waits for appointments jeopardise patients’ health because there’s a higher risk that illnesses may not be detected quickly enough and opportunities to prevent them could be missed, said Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP).
The RCGP’s research indicates that patients across Britain will have waited for a total of 58.9 million GP consultations for a week or longer by the end of 2014 – a drastic rise of almost 50 percent from the 40 million who were forced to wait that long in 2012. Describing the statistics as “devastating”, Baker said waiting times are expected “to get even worse over the year ahead.” Baker argued there are simply too few GPs to cater for rising demands on their services, and doctors are increasingly overworked as British patients continue to suffer the consequences.
“Expecting patients to wait a week before they can be seen by their GP is unacceptable. We cannot gamble with people’s health in this way. Unless we invest substantially in expanding the GP workforce, general practice is at risk of going into meltdown, with the profession’s ability to deliver decent patient care increasingly compromised,” Baker said.
The percentage of Britons forced to wait for GP consultations longer than a week has risen steadily in recent years, according to NHS England’s GP patient surveys. While it was 13 percent in 2011, this figure had risen to 14 percent at the close of 2013. By mid-2013, it had increased to 15 percent and by mid-2014 it had jumped to 16 percent, the surveys revealed.
A separate opinion poll, commissioned by the RCGP, revealed that 50 percent of the 1,001 adults who were surveyed endorsed the view that current waiting times for family doctors were a “national disgrace”. Twenty-nine of the respondents said the last time they sought a GP appointment, they were forced to wait a week. And a mere 23 percent thought there are enough GPs to cater for the needs of the country’s growing and ageing population.
Almost 67 percent of those surveyed said GPs’ attempts to see 60 patients a day threatened the quality and level of care such family doctors can provide, while 60 percent suggested that GPs needed more NHS funding. Although Britain’s Department of Health has said it allocated £1 billion in “extra funding” to the NHS in the past year, the vast majority of this money was channeled into the nation’s hospitals.
Heavy workloads for GPs and an associated hazard of burnout is estimated to be a key cause of the decline in newly qualified UK doctors choosing to go into general practice. To compound matters, “the growing numbers of qualified GPs are choosing to emigrate, retire early or change medical specialty” in the face of “ballooning workloads and longer hours in surgery”, the RCGP says.
The RCGP estimates that the situation in Britain has become so desperate that over 1,000 GPs will be abandoning the profession annually by 2022, and the number of unfilled GP positions has almost quadrupled since 2010.
“Unless we invest substantially in expanding the GP workforce, general practice is at risk of going into meltdown – with the profession’s ability to deliver decent patient care increasingly compromised,” Baker said.
In response to Britain’s growing crisis in general practice, the RCGP and the National Association for Patient Participation (NAPP) have launched a campaign called, “Put patients first: Back general practice,” in an effort to increase the share of the NHS budget for general practice over the next three years.
Baker warns that general practice in Britain is “crumbling before our very eyes”, and the government needs to take urgent action. In an effort to encourage a policy shift to deal with the crisis, Baker and Patricia Wilkie, Honorary President and Chair of NAPP, issued petitions bearing almost 300,000 signatures from GPs, patients, and other practice colleagues to Downing Street this week.
In a recently published manifesto, the RCGP have also issued a number of policy demands to the government. The College called upon the government to commit to training 8000 extra GPs throughout England, and to incentivise young trainee GPs - issuing monetary bonuses to those who work in “under-doctored or deprived areas”.
Dr Mike Bewick, deputy medical director for NHS England, defended the government’s record, however. “GPs are working hard, but patients should be able to get appointments,” he said. “We want to give frontline GPs in clinical commissioning groups the power to invest more in primary care, while also modernising the way GPs work, with greater use of telephone, email and video consultations, as well as more flexible appointment times, including opening in the evenings and at weekends.”

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The spoils of peace in Afghanistan

By Renard Sexton
Days ago, the principal contenders to the Afghan presidency announced a power-sharing arrangement that will give both Ashraf Ghani, the declared winner of this year’s election, and Abdullah Abdullah, the runner-up, a governing role.
Achieving this accord is no small feat; if it holds, this will be the first peaceful transition of power in Afghanistan since 1973. Observers note that it was indeed the threat of violence from supporters of Abdullah, who claims to have been robbed of the election by malfeasance, that brought the deal to completion.
In practical terms the political bargain represents a divvying up of government posts – and their associated foreign aid and other patronage – among the two camps. Each leader will be able to reward a proportion of his supporters with plum positions and access, though for both in smaller measures than was expected. In the end, going to war over the election result was not worth it for either side, even though it meant giving up perhaps half of the government patronage apparatus to his rival.
Not so long ago such a “rationalist,” bargained solution was an impossible dream for Afghanistan. In 1992, shortly after the disintegration of the USSR, the Afghanistan Communist government under President Mohammad Najibullah was swept from power. The numerous armed opposition groups that had spent years trying to eject the Soviet-sponsored regime now had the opportunity to establish a unity government.
Two main factions competed for the top posts in the post-war government. Led by “Professor” Burhanuddin Rabbani and military chief Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Jamiat-e Islami represented Persian-speaking Sunnis (often lumped into the quasi-ethnic group “Tajik”) and their allies. In primary opposition was Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e Islami, which was largely Pashtun in composition.
The United Nations and Pakistan, along with the United States, attempted to pull together a peace settlement between the various factions in what becomes known as the Peshawar Accords, signed on April 24, 1992. Hekmatyar refused to participate, saying that he would not share power with Massoud, but the other major mujahedeen groups signed on, with Jamiat’s Rabbani as president and Massoud as minister of defense (Hekmatyar was offered to the post of prime minister).
The next week, Hekmatyar began to bombard the city of Kabul from his mountainside position on the southern outskirts of the city, using his heavy artillery. By this time, fighting had broken out between the various factions, with forces loyal to Massoud and ex-communists under Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum fighting against those of Hekmatyar and another faction of the former Communists. Hezb-e Wahdat and Ittehad-e Islami, both nominally affiliated with the government, also began fighting with each other.
Despite repeated efforts at bargaining between the parties, and some side-switching on the part of smaller groups, violence continued for two years. In March 1993, a deal was hammered out to share power between Hezb-e Islami and Jamiat until elections would be held in 1994, but this too soon fell apart.
By August 1994, the Pakistani ISI – the main interlocutor in Afghanistan by this point, the United States having almost totally withdrawn – gave up on a negotiated solution between Hekmatyar and Massoud and began organizing and supporting the Taliban as an alternative client.
The Taliban were also supported by Saudi money, including from Osama bin Laden. When the Taliban began their push northward from Kandahar in early 1995, Hekmatyar became trapped between the Jamiat-led government and the advancing Taliban forces and was forced to abandon his artillery positions, substantially reducing his firepower. The Taliban eventually took Kabul in 1996, on their way to controlling almost the entire country by the end of the decade, while Hekmatyar and Massoud spent the rest of the 1990s either on the run or fighting the new government.
What is so different today that a similar showdown did not occur? Many of the ethnic and regional cleavages that separated the parties in the early 1990s remain today, and there is a great deal of personal history. For example, Abdullah was one of Massoud’s closest advisers and associates and ran in part as a representative of Jamiat-e Islami.
First, political leaders in Afghanistan today have a great deal to lose if conditions descend into violence again. Rampant corruption and rent-seeking in the government is highly conducive to distributing patronage, which makes it a well sought after prize. Warlords and politicians, like the late Marshal Fahim, found that in the era of NATO occupation and foreign aid, entrepreneurship, corruption and profiteering pays far better than rural mafia activities.
Second, the parties have relatively good information about the military capacity of their rivals. In contrast, in the 1990s there was a great deal of covert information, leading to poor evaluations of the bargains that were laid on the table by negotiators. At the same time the CIA was quietly providing Massoud with $10 million to $12 million a year from 1989 to 1994, and he was earning tens of millions from taxes on gemstones extraction in Afghanistan’s northeast. Hekmatyar was getting CIA and Pakistani aid distributed through ISI estimated to be in the hundreds of millions, along with money from wealthy Saudis and taxes on the opium trade.
As University of California-Berkeley political scientist Robert Powell has noted, “War is least likely when the existing distribution of benefits reflects the underlying distribution of power.” When you do not know the distribution of power, it is hard to cut a deal over the benefits.
Lastly, the importance of the credible threat of withdrawing support for the government from outsiders — the United States, the UN and regional players — should not be dismissed. International partners, many of whom pay the bills, have a substantial stake in a settlement, which clearly played a role in leading both sides to sign on the dotted line.
Now that there is a new government in place, we will see how the spoils are divided, but expect them to go especially to those with the most power to disrupt the new arrangement.

Afghanistan’s Failed Transformation

On Sunday, after months of bitter wrangling, the two leading candidates in Afghanistan’s presidential election agreed to form a national unity government. Ashraf Ghani, a Pashtun technocrat, is to be president, and Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister of mixed Tajik and Pashtun descent, is to be chief executive, a newly created post akin to prime minister. The power-sharing agreement came after an audit of the ballots cast in April, in an election widely believed to have been partially rigged. It has no basis in Afghanistan’s election law. And given the rancor that has come before, it may not hold very long.
This deal, which was brokered with help from Washington, is yet another makeshift compromise that only reveals the shortcomings of the United States’ 13-year presence in Afghanistan. But rather than admit these failures, American and NATO officials would have us think that democracy is gaining traction in Afghanistan, the Taliban insurgency has stalled and Al Qaeda is being defeated. All these arguments, of course, serve as an excuse for U.S. troops to start withdrawing at the end of the year, a plan that seemed wrong when it was made in December 2009 and is proving catastrophically wrong now.
John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, apparently is the only official in Washington who dares speak truth to power. In a Sept. 12 speech at Georgetown University, he said that Afghanistan “remains under assault by insurgents and is short of domestic revenue, plagued by corruption, afflicted by criminal elements involved in opium and smuggling, and struggling to execute basic functions of government.” His comments were largely ignored by the American media, and there was no immediate reaction from the Obama administration.
And yet anything less than a heavy dose of honesty and fresh thinking by Afghans and their Western supporters will almost certainly mean the relapse of Afghanistan into civil war and the emergence of groups even more extreme than the Taliban, as has happened in Iraq and Syria.
Moving from the lengthy U.S. military presence to full Afghan sovereignty was premised on the completion of four distinct transitions. But none has been successfully carried out, despite more than $640 billion in U.S. direct spending in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2013.
The most critical transition, the one on which everything else rested, was political. Rather than build state institutions or carry out much-needed electoral reforms, President Hamid Karzai spent his long tenure encouraging a form of crony politics that failed to sap the power of the warlords. He won a second term in 2009, after a vastly fraudulent election. The following year, according to U.N. officials, he asked that the United Nations stop supervising elections in the country, and Washington and NATO went along.
The second promised transition was military. U.S. forces were to hand over security matters to Afghan forces, proving that the new, U.S.-trained Afghan Army would then be able to hold back the Taliban on its own. Yet Interior Minister Mohammad Omar Daudzai told Parliament in Kabul on Sept. 16 that the previous six months had been the deadliest ever for the Afghan police. Today there is fighting in 18 of 34 provinces, Afghan and NATO officials have told me. In many areas, Afghan soldiers are barely able to secure their own bases, much less retake lost territory. Helmand, the critical drugs-producing province in southern Afghanistan, is at risk of being taken over by the Taliban. If it falls, all of southern Afghanistan might too.
The third failed transition has to do with economics. According to a senior Afghan official at the Finance Ministry, The Washington Post reported recently, the Afghan government is broke and needs an emergency $537 million bailout; it was barely able to pay more than half a million government employees this month. Money spent on schools and hospitals has dramatically improved education and health for Afghans, but these services remain dependent on foreign funding. There has been little large-scale investment in agriculture or basic industry; instead, the bulk of the economy has focused on servicing foreign troops and on their spending. And now the troops are about to withdraw.
When I first visited Afghanistan in the 1970s, the country was desperately poor, but it was almost self-sufficient in food and had a small yet thriving export trade in fruit, handicrafts, furs and gems. Today, Afghanistan imports much of its food and it produces very few commercial goods. The service economy, which is run by the middle class, has been collapsing, as both educated people and billions of dollars in capital have left the country. The resulting vacuum opens the way for the opium-fed underground economy to expand enormously, breeding crime and corruption.
The fourth contribution expected of the U.S. presence was insulating Afghanistan from foreign interference, which many Afghans fear as much as the Taliban. Iran, Pakistan and Russia, but also India, Saudi Arabia and other states helped fuel the civil war in the 1990s. The Obama administration pledged in its first term to negotiate a noninterference agreement among Afghanistan’s neighbors. But that, too, has not happened, and the country remains vulnerable to meddling from outside.
History will not look kindly on the legacy of the U.S. government and Mr. Karzai in Afghanistan. But this also means that Afghanistan’s new leaders can do better, and now, simply by acting responsibly — and working together to legitimize the results of this problematic election that has brought them to power.
The four-page joint agreement between Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah calls for convening a loya jirga, a traditional gathering of tribal representatives and elected district councilors, in the next two years in order to amend the Constitution to reflect the recent creation of the chief executive post.
But a loya jirga should be called as soon as possible, so as to promptly give constitutional cover to the power-sharing agreement between Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah. The assembly should also discuss how the present presidential system, which is highly centralized, could be improved and how electoral reforms can be made to prevent future vote-rigging. And the gathering should be convened before the parliamentary elections scheduled for next year: This would allow the legislators who are elected then to have some of the legitimacy that is lacking at present.
2015 is supposed to mark the start of Afghanistan’s “Transformation Decade.” But if the country is to even get to 2015 in one piece, its new leaders must act fast to correct course after the failed transformation of the last decade.

Pakistan: Fate of Afghan refugees

MUCH hinges on the success of the new power-sharing deal in Kabul, including the fate of over a million Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
Along with the success of the ‘unity government accord’ between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, the return of the Afghan refugees to their homeland will be determined by how stable conditions are after the foreign forces leave.
Right now, the prospects for swift repatriation don’t look very bright. At a recent workshop organised in Peshawar by UNHCR and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees, participants were told that while 19,000 Afghans returned home in 2013, this year so far only 4,800 refugees had been repatriated.
This is despite the fact that the UN refugee agency has increased cash assistance to the displaced Afghans and provided them transport to cross the border. The slowdown is fuelled by fears of what may happen in Afghanistan in the months ahead. For its part, Pakistan, which hosts around 1.6 million registered Afghan refugees (and reportedly over a million unregistered individuals), has much on its plate already, including hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons.
Pakistan has been tackling the Afghan refugee crisis for over three decades; the UNHCR has acknowledged it as the “largest protracted refugee situation globally”.
This newspaper believes that repatriation should be voluntary — keeping in mind that without peace in war-torn Afghanistan, the refugees may not want to return. While the UN and those countries that have been militarily involved in Afghanistan must support Pakistan’s efforts to care for the displaced Afghans, there are steps authorities within the country can take to mitigate the problem.
For one, better border management is needed as currently, individuals can slip into Pakistan without much hindrance. People have been known to take money offered by the UN, leave for Afghanistan and soon find their way back to Pakistan. Additionally, there has been no coherent refugee policy at the national level, which is hampering efforts to effectively address the problem.

Pakistan : Killings of Hindu traders

Though our governments never fail to disappoint when it comes to catching and bringing murderers to justice, a mildly positive gesture was on display on Wednesday when the Sindh government ordered to constitute a committee that will probe into the case of two Hindu brothers who were murdered in Umerkot almost two months ago. The only eyewitness to the occurrence was their third brother who later on committed suicide. The incident, in which the victims were shot several times in an apparent robbery attempt, drew the attention of the public when Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) Member of the National Assembly (MNA) Lal Malhi and its Vice President Shah Mehmood Qureshi brought the issue to parliament. Not that parliament moved and did something productive, but the Sindh government did form a committee to probe into the matter. Much to the victims’ families disappointment and betrayal of public expectations, the committee came up with virtually nothing and not a single perpetrator was identified, let alone brought to justice. Thank God for those hundreds of people from the Hindu community who demonstrated in front of Karachi Press Club against these killings, and civil society and trade unionists who did not let the matter go unresolved and forced the government to look into the matter again immediately. Finally, Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah signed an agreement with a delegation consisting of several civil society activists and trade unionists to form a new committee under DIG Abdul Khaliq Shaikh that will inquire into the pending case and will submit its report within five days.
The kind of alienated and miserable life the minorities in Pakistan are living and the cruel disregard they receive from government officials hardly needs any proof that their plight is going unheard and unaddressed. It has become virtually a common practice for Hindu girls in Sindh being forcibly converted to Islam. The Hindu community generally is targeted consistently and frequently. It is unsurprising that many of these alienated people have been forced to leave this country and go to neighbouring India. The condition of other religious minorities across the country is no different, where Sikhs, Christians and Ahmedis are being targeted. Belated though it may be, it is nevertheless a welcome sign that the Sindh government is not wholly desensitised and has lent an ear to the plight of these minorities. Hopefully sooner rather than later, it will now unveil the culprits behind this and bring them to justice.

Pakistan : Waziristan operation: is it too late?

Syed Kamran Hashmi
As embarrassing as it was, Pakistanis, having no clue of such a nexus, wished to fight the war against terrorism, united as one nation just like the US did after 9/11, but there was no one to fight for them.
While talking to the BBC last week about the North Waziristan operation, General Asim Bajwa, the director general of the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), disclosed that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had lost the capability of launching coordinated assaults. “Because terrorists have been scattered, they are only able to carry out random attacks,” he boasted. “The second level leadership of the banned TTP has been either killed or arrested during the operation,” he added. Rendering optimism about our future, this statement comes straight from the horse’s mouth and must not be ignored. It reinforces the commitment of our armed forces towards asserting the writ of the state even in those areas of the tribal belt, if need to be, where it was never established in the first place.
Not too long ago, there was a time when fear possessed the hearts of Pakistanis. Terrorists had struck all our major cities one after another, killing tens of people and wounding hundreds in every attack. From Peshawar to Karachi, the streets were packed with the fallen bodies of Pakistani men, women and children, their lives inexpensive and their blood dispensable. Yet the people in power did not show any resolve to bring the culprits to book, a strategy that allowed them to literally convert Pakistan into a slaughterhouse.
What made our reputation worse was the general impression both in the local and international press that the deep state and terrorist groups were in bed with each other — if not completely then at least on certain issues — even when the military installations and the offices of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) were targeted. As embarrassing as it was, Pakistanis, having no clue of such a nexus, wished to fight the war against terrorism, united as one nation just like the US did after 9/11, but there was no one to fight for them or, if nothing else, at least to try to keep them united.
Right wing political parties did everything they could to disunite the people. I am not sure why, although there are theories about them getting these instructions from Rawalpindi too, they always chose one of the following three options to misguide the people: deliberately hide the ground realities from the people, adulterate the facts with their personal opinions or simply deny them while looking the other way because what lay in front of them was too onerous to confront or too odious to be shared with ordinary Pakistanis. Often, they relied on lies about the local origins of most terrorists, their agenda to takeover the state apparatus and their association with international terror organisations like al Qaeda. In essence, they played an extremely divisive role. Further confusing their right leaning constituency, who although wanted to fight but was much more willing to identify the US as the enemy instead of a local militia, these politicians used terrorism as a political slogan to further spur anti-US sentiment, to score political points against their liberal yet more realistic rivals and to gain short term popular support.
Today, a few months have gone by since the operation began in North Waziristan. The military’s grip is firm on the undertaking, its morale high with the support of the nation and its death toll low because of superior technology and excellent planning, They have killed more than 1,000 alleged terrorists and they are satisfied with the speed and the extent of their victory. Notwithstanding that the top tier leadership of the TTP has managed to slip out of Miranshah into Afghanistan probably, we must admit that it will be hard for the terrorists now to recruit, train and motivate enough foot soldiers to launch new attacks in the battleground of Pakistan. If we all agree on this point, and believe that the backbone of the organisational structure of the TTP has been shattered by military onslaughts, then the real question we have to ask ourselves is not only how long it will take for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) to go back to their homes, what the cost of keeping them in relief camps is or what our strategy to rehabilitate them into their home districts is but to ask why we sacrificed 50,000 people — all those men, women and children who will never be able to reach their homes back to loved ones and why we waited for so long. I am seriously not ready to think that the people in power waited for almost a decade because they wanted to build a consensus or they believed in giving peace a chance or even that they held back to see the outcome of the dialogue process. They never wait, we all know that, nor do they care much about building a consensus or think high of negotiations led by the civilian authorities. And if they really wished for the nation to support them, they can modulate a consensus in a matter of a few hours, what to talk about days or weeks? Remember: it took them 15 days and one short video of a woman being flogged by the Taliban in public to bring the whole country onto one page for the Swat operation.
The question becomes even more significant when the operation in North Waziristan has not turned out to be a huge challenge for the military. Neither the death toll has been very high, as we have discussed, nor has the economy suffered because of the intervention. On the contrary, if there had been less political turmoil in Islamabad, the economy, according to some estimates, would have been growing at a faster pace than it has been in the last two or three years.
We also need to ask ourselves why the nation is still kept in the dark about this delay. Why did no one know about the obstacles? And if they have erred in their assessment — a mistake that has cost thousands of lives during the process — how can the nation make them accountable?

Pakistan : Plot to attack army officer: Nine suspected TTP men arrested in Islamabad

At least nine suspected terrorists, belonging to the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), were arrested during a raid carried out by security forces in Islamabad.
Upon receiving a tip-off regarding the presence of 14 terrorists in Sector G-10 of the federal capital, security forces carried out a raid in a mosque and arrested the nine.
Security agencies foil terrorist activity in... by dawn-news
Sources told Dawn that the arrested TTP terrorists were said to hail from the northwestern regions of Swat and Bajaur, adding that they were planning to target a senior military officer.
Islamabad is the federal capital of Pakistan and a number of search operations have been carried out in the city in the recent past.
It houses the Presidency, the Prime Minister House, the Parliament and the Supreme Court and authorities in the past have also claimed to have foiled attacks on the Parliament which lies adjacent to Aiwan-i-Sadr.
The city is no stranger to terrorist activity. Earlier this year in March, at least 11 people, including additional sessions judge Rafaqat Awan, were killed and 29 others were wounded during a gun and bomb attack in a court in the capital’s F-8 sector. However, of all the attacks it has witnessed, the bombing targeting the Marriott Hotel remains the most well-known.

Pakistan: Nine militants arrested from mosque in G-10 sector Islamabad

The security forces conducted a raid on Friday at a mosque situated in G-10 sector of Islamabad, and arrested nine militants belonging to the outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
The security sources said that on receiving a tip-off about the presence of 14 militants in sector G-10, the security forces carried out a raid in a mosque and arrested nine militants.
The militants belong to Swat and Bajaur areas, the security sources said, adding that the militants had planned to target a senior military officer.

Pakistan : Empowering women: PPP-led Sindh govt to recruit 1,000 female cops
More women’s police stations will be established in five districts and 1,000 female police officers will be recruited, said Sindh minister for women development and special education Rubina Qaimkhani at a press conference held at her office on Wednesday.
She announced the establishment of police stations in five districts. “The police stations will be established in Thatta, Umerkot, Sanghar, Nawabshah and Khairpur,” she said, adding that the fresh appointments of officers will be conducted on the basis of merit. She also said that trained female police staff will be posted at the new police stations.
“Apart from this, my department will also launch centres with women’s counters to facilitate the issues faced by women in various districts,” the minister said. She also lauded the efforts of Pakistan Peoples Party chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, saying that he was taking a keen interest in redressing the issues of women in Sindh.
Sindh police IG Ghulam Haider Jamali also addressed the press conference.
He said that they will advertise for the positions of 1,000 female police constables soon. A meeting was held between the police department and the women development department before the press conference. Among other issues, female empowerment was on the meeting’s agenda.

Pakistan: Co-Chairman PPP Asif Ali Zardari condemns Karachi Blast
Co-Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party former President Asif Ali Zardari has condemned bomb blast in Karachi on Thursday night that left two innocent passerbies killed and over 5 injured. The blast was aimed to target Senior Superintendent Police Farooq Awan who miraculously escaped.
Condemning the blast and the killing and maiming innocent people the former President said that incidents of terrorism and militancy have not and will not weaken the resolve to fight the militants to the finish. He paid rich tributes to valiant law enforcing personnel who are working tirelessly to create peace.
Former President also offered his deepest condolences to the bereaved families, prayed for eternal peace to those who lost their lives and speedy recovery to those injured.

IDPs - The Humanitarian Crisis in Pakistan Is Worsening

By John Knefel
Roughly half a million people have been displaced by the Pakistani government's military offensive into the tribal area of North Waziristan, and all signs show that the crisis will only worsen in the coming days and weeks. Many of the internally displaced people (IDPs) have sought refuge in nearby border towns, such as Bannu, and apparently have largely avoided government-established camps. The United Nations refugee agency has estimated that more than 180,000 of the effected people are children.
As the humanitarian crisis grows, there is increasing concern that Pakistan hasn't done enough to minimize harm to civilians as a result of the operation. "The military has not given enough time for evacuation," independent journalist Taha Siddiqui told VICE in an email. "More than half a million people escaped, many on foot, but were given only a few days of curfew relaxation, and therefore enough care was not exercised in this mass exodus to avoid any mishaps. Yesterday I encountered many IDPs in Bannu whose children had died on the way due to no help from the government during their evacuation in the heat, which is unbearable."
The operation, dubbed Zarb-i-Azb, began on June 15 following the breakdown in peace negotiations between the government and the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) after an attack on the Karachi airport by the TTP and Uzbek militants. That attack left 30 dead — including all ten militants — and served as a catalyst for the military to carry out the long-promised assault in North Waziristan, home to hundreds of thousands of civilians as well as a complicated constellation of militant and insurgent groups.
The State Department praised the operation shortly after it began. "We have long supported Pakistan's efforts to extend their sovereignty and stability throughout their country," spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a press conference. When asked by VICE on June 27 whether the government of Pakistan was doing enough to address the crisis, State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf praised the government's efforts. "The Pakistani government is working hard to address the IDP crisis, and has taken steps to ease the bureaucratic requirements for humanitarian operations," Harf said in an email. The US agency for international development has contributed $8 million to the relief effort.
The US has for years wanted Pakistan to dislodge the militant groups — some of which have attacked US forces in Afghanistan and some of which have carried out attacks against the Pakistani government — from their strongholds in tribal areas where the central government is virtually nonexistent. The Pakistani military and intelligence services have been vague about the precise target of the attacks, and it remains unclear whether the Haqqani Network — an affiliate of the Afghan Taliban who regularly attacks US forces in Afghanistan — is a target of the operation.
What, if any, role the US government is playing in the offensive is unclear. Harf, the State Department deputy spokesperson, said in a press conference on June 26, "These current operations are an entire Pakistani-led event." When asked by VICE to clarify whether the US is providing intelligence or military advice to Pakistan's military or intelligence services, the State Department declined to comment further. A spokesperson for the National Security Council also declined to comment.
Over the course of the peace negotiations between the Pakistani government and the TTP, the US refrained from launching any drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas for more than five months, which was the longest "pause" of Obama's presidency. But just prior to the launch of the Waziristan operation the US resumed the drone strikes, carrying out three separate attacks over a period of one week. Reuters reported two anonymous officials in Pakistan as saying that one of the strikes took place with "express approval" from Islamabad. Pakistan almost always condemns US drone strikes, and the anonymous claims were disputed by the Pakistani Foreign Ministry.
The drone program—which is run by the CIA — began in 2004 and has killed between 2,310 and 3,743 people, according to estimates from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. The program began with what some critics have called a "bargain-chip killing," when — according to the New York Times' Mark Mazzetti — the CIA killed a Pakistani insurgent (who posed no threat to the US) in return for access to Pakistani airspace.
The drone program has wreaked havoc on civilians in North Waziristan. Last fall, Rafiq ur Rehman, an elementary school teacher from the area, traveled to the United States to tell members of Congress about the drone strike that killed his mother. I interviewed Rehman and two of his children on that visit, and while we spoke, his daughter constantly drew pictures of drones flying overhead. Attempts to reach Rafiq to ask whether he had fled his home were unsuccessful.
Whether the Waziristan operation will be successful in significantly dismantling any or all of the militant groups remains in doubt. Many leaders of various groups, including so-called "good Taliban" who don't attack the Pakistani government, were given enough advance notice to leave the area. "These good Taliban who attack inside Afghanistan knew the op was in the offings from what I have gathered talking to locals, reporters, and military sources," Siddiqui, the independent journalist, told VICE.
"And so they moved out long before," he added. "And seeing their movement, the rest of the bad ones didn't stay put. Therefore the 300-plus-terrorists figure the military has given to media is highly exaggerated, and anyway, with no independent media access, there is no way to verify it."
Siddiqui said he's met with civilians who have been injured in the bombing raids, which he describes as "indiscriminate," but adds that it's impossible to verify how many civilians have been killed or injured. "Most complain about the army's aggressive action against civilian population, but there is no way to verify whether they are saying this because they are Taliban sympathizers," he wrote.
The assault in North Waziristan isn't the only recent attempt by the government to route out militants in the tribal areas. Pakistan's military carried out a much-criticized military operations in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan in 2009, the effects of which are still felt. "Even in previous operations in tribal belt," Siddiqui wrote, "the refugees remain homeless to date, even four to five years post op."

Echoes of Swat, Karachi: Militants set up ‘court’ in FR Peshawar to resolve disputes

Taliban militants have reportedly set up a ‘court’ in Maly Tangay, Frontier Region (FR) Peshawar. Even as locals disclose details of the militant group’s quasi justice system—ironically, set up to help locals with extortion—the FR’s political administration has denied the existence of any such court. Residents told The Express Tribune the Taliban leadership appointed a new ameer in FR Peshawar. Talha, hailing from Darra Adam Khel, has replaced the previous ameer Hazrat Ali. An elder, requesting anonymity, said, “They [the militants] have established a court in Maly Tangay, an area inhabited by Miam Khel which is a sub-clan of the Hassan Khel tribe. According to the elder, the court was set up a month ago and has been active since then. “We have been told that Talha has been appointed as the militants’ new ameer in the area and Hazrat Ali has been removed,” he added.
Opportunist extortionists
The elder maintained the risky security situation caused residents to remain in a constant state of panic, and local criminals have started taking advantage of the atmosphere of fear. “Militants target rich people, however, these criminals have started collecting money from small-scale shopkeepers and can ask for as little as Rs20,000,” he explained.
The situation is going from bad to worse and people are so afraid that they pay the money even after a single phone call, added the elder.
“The rules of the business are simple. You receive a phone call, negotiate the amount and pay it to a man you will be told to meet somewhere,” he said.
Why the quasi courts?
According to the elder, at least eight to 10 vehicles full of people visit the allegedly Taliban-established court daily. “I don’t think people go to the court to settle disputes. I think they go to negotiate the amount of the extortion money,” said the elder. He added most well-off families have left their ancestral towns for the relative safety of Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi—a refrain oft repeated. Administration on the look-out
On the other hand, the FR Peshawar political administration denied any such court had been set up. Assistant Political Agent (APA) Muhammad Arif told The Express Tribune they had not received any reports from locals about the supposed Taliban court in Maly Tangay.
“I personally visited the area and it is completely under our control,” said the APA. He said the administration had re-established levies check posts in Shamshatu and Bora and a third will be soon established in Hassan Khel.
“Our infrastructure had been destroyed by militants in the past but we are in the process of reconstructing it,” added Arif. The APA said extortion was a major problem but it had largely ended after a military operation in the area early this year. “We have told locals if someone threatens them and demands money, they should immediately come to us,” said Arif.

From a mutation: Peshawar reports highest number of chronic myeloid leukaemia patients

As many as 860 patients in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) are suffering from chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), a form of blood cancer, while every month 15 to 20 people are diagnosed with the disease.
This was stated at a seminar held at Hayatabad Medical Complex (HMC) on Thursday to mark World CML Day. The day is observed across the world on September 22.
Speaking at the seminar, Professor Dr Abid Jameel, the head of HMC’s oncology department, said there are 860 registered CML patients in K-P and at the moment HMC is treating 62.
Giving a rough idea of the spread, the doctor explained Peshawar has the highest number of registered CML patients, 116, followed by Mardan with 68 patients. There are 61 patients in Charsadda, 57 in Swabi, 53 in Swat, 43 in Lower Dir, 41 in Nowshera, 30 in Malakand and 24 in Kohat. Chronic myeloid leukaemia occurs due to a gene mutation in the blood cells. The mutation causes the production of large quantities of white blood cells in the bone marrow, which subsequently leads to more white cells in the blood, leaving little room for healthy white and red blood cells as well as platelets.
Jameel added in western countries the disease occurs mostly in patients above the age of 50. However, in Pakistan CML is more common in patients between the ages of 35 and 45.
Dr Jameel said the CML care centre established at HMC was a five-year joint initiative of Novartis Pharma Pakistan and the government of K-P, and in the past three years Rs8 billion has been spent on the treatment and rehabilitation of CML patients. However, for the last three months the project has been on a hold and the provincial government will hopefully restart it within a month, said Dr Jameel.
HMC Chief Executive Dr Mumtaz Marwat also highlighted the hospital’s efforts for the diagnosis and treatment of CML patients, saying they were providing free medicines and treatment facilities.