Monday, September 29, 2014

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What Bilawal Bhutto must do...

By Sarmad Palijo
For the last few days, we’ve been reading much about Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s trip to South Punjab’s flood affected areas. This, after the announcement of his plans to contest the 2018 general elections from his family constituency in Larkana, is seen by many as the launch of his own political career.
Seeing Bilawal walk among the people (as against his previous public appearances, which saw him sitting on top of distant stages), was indeed heart warming and a welcome sign during the increasingly partisan polarisation in national politics.
A few weeks ago, I wrote on these pages about Thar’s disastrous famine and voiced the people's desire to see Bilawal personally going to them to bring them hope and support. Surely, now, the trip to Multan and Chiniot has corrected the balance lost in Thar.
This increased interaction in Punjab between the people and the Chairman of the PPP feels like a breath of fresh air amidst the stale politics of Right vs Right that has been playing out in Islamabad. Bilawal’s move in Punjab will give life to the diminishing Left and also allow Punjab, and in extension, the whole country to have a more vibrant and pluralistic political landscape.
Bilawal visits Chiniot flood-hit areas by dawn-news
Indeed, while the Right, including PML-N and PTI, was pushing for dialogue with the Taliban, it was young Bilawal who, stood on the historic Makli Hills, and called for national action against unrelenting extremist militancy.
One hopes that Bilawal's foray into Punjab is not as calculated as PPP’s critics allege and that his interaction with the people of South Punjab was not a stage managed photo op; because only a genuine connection with the public who have been left at the mercy of old feudal politics can save PPP from a complete rout in the region.
Polls rigged from Karachi to Khyber, says Bilawal by dawn-news
The road to political glory for Bilawal in Pakistan’s complex and dangerous politics lies not only in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar, but also through the old broken mud houses and flooded fields of Sindh, Punjab, KPK and Balochistan; for Bilawal, it lies not through the high walls of the big houses of Defence and Bahria Town, but through the broken hearts of unfortunate millions of brick kiln workers and fishermen of the Ravi and Keti Bandar.
It was they who carried Benazir in their hearts through hell and high water, and it is them who will follow Bilawal to all ends if he chooses to follow them too, through their miserable existence and be with them in person and heart.
Roman emperor Julius Caesar once famously sat under a towering statue of Alexander the Great, in Spain, and cried because at 35 years of age, Caesar thought, he had not achieved anything compared to Alexander, who had conquered the known world at a younger age.
Similarly, at 26 years of age, expecting Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to fix our problems is a deeply flawed aspiration.
But then, logic dictates that those with the best of opportunities must be expected to present the best results.
Unlike Caesar’s conquests, we need Bilawal to conquer the hearts and minds of Pakistan. We need a Bilawal who is more Soreh Badshah, (Sibghatullah Shah Rashdi, who challenged the British during the famous Hur uprising at a very young age) and less Rahul Gandhi, who has failed to inspire India.
And we also need a Bilawal who, despite the huge burden of expectations, builds his political career brick by brick, mile by mile, by visiting all corners of Pakistan and listening to the people he wants to serve; and also by distancing himself from advisors who themselves stay behind high walls and armoured vehicles.
While Bilawal wears the golden handcuffs of privilege and position that don’t allow him easy access to the common man, he must know that in Sindh, under the PPP government, development has been dismal; that sometimes, up to 80% of development funds are distributed among the corrupt bureaucrats, politicians and contractors; that even the remaining 20% funds, at times, are misused to satisfy a stakeholder in some form and shape.
Sindh is fast losing infrastructure and hope. If the PPP is to impress Punjab, which has seen better development under the Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif, it must drastically change its public development policy and curtail massive corruption within its ranks.

Pakistan fails to curb polio, 10 more cases surface

Pakistan has completely failed to curb the menace of polio virus in the country as 10 new cases of the deadly epidemic have emerged in the country. So far 184 kids have been affected by the virus this year in Pakistan. According to Ministry of Health, Polio virus has been detected in 10 more kids.
2 of the kids belong to Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KPK), 2 from FR Bannu, 2 from Karachi while 4 belong to Khyber Agency. In Gadap Town Karachi, polio virus has been found in a 12-month-old boy and 2-year-old girl while the kids belonging to Khyber Agency are aged 6, 7, 12 and 15 months. In 2000, 200 cases of polio were registered in Pakistan. Pakistan is just 16 cases short of breaking its 14-year old record.

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Kurds say Turkey not doing enough to stop Islamic State

Jacob Resneck
A crowd stands within earshot of the gunbattles raging between the Islamic State and Kurdish militias across the border in Syria. With a scarf concealing his face, one young man helps peel back the last set of barbed wire that divides Turkey and Syria.
He, like many in this crowd of thousands here, is itching for a fight.
As fierce battles rage over the mainly Kurdish city of Kobane, the West is worried it could be the next Syrian city to fall to Islamic State militants.
Villagers with family on both sides of the border are worried about their loved ones and are fed up with how Turkey is handling the situation, saying the government has mainly focused on keeping the Kurdish minority from aiding fellow Kurds in Syria.
"We would protect the people in Kobane and fight the Islamic State, but the Turkish police are helping the Islamic State — by preventing people from crossing the border," said Memet Sipan, a professional singer at the border trying to get across.
Another villager at the border, Suleyman Celik, 55, said, "The Islamic State is slicing babies, burning villages, they are killing children, they are beheading people. They do this is the name of Islam, but they are not Muslims."
U.S. airstrikes have targeted the Islamic State in nearby villages since Saturday, destroying a building held by militants and two armed vehicles at the Kobane border crossing, the Pentagon said.
While Turkey's rhetoric against the Islamic State has increased, it continues to keep its territory off-limits to the U.S.-led coalition conducting airstrikes against the militants.
This is causing friction with both Washington and Turkey's Kurdish minority. Villagers here blame Turkey's earlier open-door policy for jihadists wanting to topple Syria's regime with actually ending up helping the Islamic State rise to power — from a local militia in Iraq to a powerful force threatening the entire region and the West.
These allegations underline the deep mistrust of the Turkish government among the Kurdish population on both sides of the border. This stems from a guerrilla war in Turkey between the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) since the 1980s that has killed tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians from all sides.
Kurdish leaders in Turkey insist that Turkey must allow their people to cross into Syria to fight the Islamic State and deliver humanitarian aid.
"At first people were frightened of the Islamic State because of the horrible images in the media, like beheadings and such," said Kamuran Yuksek, 34, a leader in the pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party, on a visit to the nearby administrative capital Suruc. "But now people are becoming desensitized, and they are willing to fight them."
A precarious cease-fire remains on a knife's edge between Turkey and the outlawed PKK — listed as a terrorist group by the U.S. and Turkey. And Turkey distrusts the Kurdish militias that operate in its borderlands.
That tension is coming to a head. On Friday, a small group of Turkish soldiers on the border allowed some people in the crowd to cross into Syria. The soldiers were outnumbered by demonstrators bused-in from cities across Turkey by pro-Kurdish political parties. Within an hour, Turkish soldiers re-sealed the border after hundreds of riot police arrived and fired tear gas at crowds on both sides of the wire.
Friday's clashes were among several in recent weeks along the border and towns with ethnic Kurdish majorities. Turkey proposed a buffer zone of troops to help insulate the population, but Kurdish leaders are wary that the real purpose is to keep the PKK from strengthening in Syria.
That was alluded to Sunday when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, a rising threat. He also warned of the dangers of a rising Kurdish militancy by the outlawed PKK.
"Hey world, if you openly speak out against ISIS as a terrorist organization, why don't you openly speak out against PKK as a terrorist organization," Erdogan said at the World Economic Forum in Istanbul.
Local Kurdish leaders decry Turkey's comments about fighting religious extremism but barring people from joining the fight.
"Instead of helping the people with their fight for democracy, the (Turkish) government is attacking them," said local pro-Kurdish party leader Ismail Kaplan, whose town of Suruc has taken in more than 150,000 refugees in the past week. "This doesn't come to us as a surprise, as we know their ideology."

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Fury as Obama blames intelligence agencies for Isil surprise

By Peter Foster
With his foreign policy approval ratings at a historic low, Barack Obama meets furious reaction after blaming US intelligence agencies for failing to predict rise of Isil in Syria.
President Barack Obama was facing a fierce political backlash on Monday night after he blamed US intelligence chiefs for being caught by surprise by the sudden rise of the Islamic State (Isil) terror movement in Iraq and Syria.
In a highly unusual step, Mr Obama singled out James Clapper, his director of national intelligence, when asked by a television interviewer whether he had underestimated the threat posed by Isil after its fighters burst across the Syrian border into Iraq this summer, capturing large swathes of territory.
“I think our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” Mr Obama told CBS News.
The president’s apparent unwillingness to take responsibility for his administration’s failure to foresee the threat was met with disbelief by both policy experts and senior Republicans, who have long warned of the risks of ceding strategic space to the jihadists in Syria.
“This was the ‘dog ate my homework speech’,” Senator John McCain, the former Republican presidential candidate who has long called for Mr Obama to arm moderate rebel forces in Syria, told Fox News, adding that Mr Obama should follow other presidents and admit his mistake.
Every president in history had made a mistake, acknowledged it and then moved on. President Reagan with Iran contra, President Clinton in Bosnia, President George W Bush after the debacle in Iraq, when he started the surge - but it doesn’t seem to be in this president’s DNA,” he said.
Mr Obama’s foreign policy approval ratings are at a historic low, with almost 60 per cent of American disapproving of his handling of foreign policy – a number that has not improved since the president began implementing his strategy to “degrade and destroy” Isil.
Frederic Hof, the former State Department special adviser on Syria now with the Rafik Hariri Center in Washington, who argued for greater support for the rebels but later resigned in the face of White House opposition to the policy, said the intelligence community was not to blame.
“I very much doubt that the intelligence community was asleep at the switch while Isil was gaining strength in Syria,” he told The Telegraph, “None of this was exactly hidden from view.
“No doubt President Obama and his advisors were perplexed when it came to policy options, and no doubt the scope and speed of the Isil thrust into Iraq were surprising. But I doubt that the US intelligence community is to blame for any policy shortfalls."
The White House denied that Mr Obama was trying to shift the blame away from himself and onto the intelligence community. “That is not what the president’s intent was,” said Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, adding the president had “the highest degree of confidence” in the intelligence community.
However Mr McCain warned of ‘blowback’ from the intelligence community which already appeared to be moving to defend itself, with a former senior Pentagon official who worked on Isil intelligence assessments telling the Daily Beast website: “Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bullsh------.”

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Afghanistan : UN congratulates President Ghani on inauguration

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) congratulated Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai on his inauguration as the new President of Afghanistan.
UNAMA also reaffirmed its commitment to cooperate with the national unity government in Afghanistan’s progress to peace, stability and development. A statement released by UNAMA said, the UN applauds both President Ghani and the Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, for their pledge to work together to serve all Afghans through the national unity government and looks forward to the speedy formation of a new government. “Both President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah carry the nation’s expectations,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Ján Kubiš. “The many challenges facing Afghanistan can only be overcome through unity and statesmanship.”
“In addition to wishing both men success in their vital collaboration, I also take this opportunity to reaffirm that the United Nations remains a committed and supportive partner of Afghanistan,” Mr. Kubiš added.
Representing the Secretary-General, Mr. Kubiš attended today’s presidential inauguration accompanied by Deputy Special Representative and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative-designate, Nicholas Haysom.

Afghanistan's New President : Ashraf Ghani's Struggle

The iconoclastic anthropologist is taking over Afghanistan’s presidency with high hopes and big ideas.
hraf Ghani has this shtick that he performs for journalists who visit him: He opens his palms to you and says: "This hand is clean from corruption. The other is clean from blood."
In Afghanistan, that is saying something. However, Ghani's reputation is no longer squeaky clean. A three-month-long election crisis sparked by widespread fraud allegations ended on Sept. 21; Ghani was officially sworn in as president on Sept. 29. But the issues that prompted the grueling gridlock in the first place have not been entirely resolved.
An extensive vote audit declared Ghani the winner, and he and his rival Abdullah Abdullah signed a deal to form a "national unity government," in which Abdullah (or a nominee of his choice) becomes "CEO," a position akin to an executive prime minister. The deal was midwifed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who visited Kabul twice and reportedly called the two candidates a total of 27 times. However, top European and American officials have said the audit wasn't thorough enough, leaving original suspicions of mass fraud alive to sour Ghani's early taste of victory when he is inaugurated in Kabul today.
Foreign Policy met Ghani at his house in Kabul in early August while he was still deeply entangled in the election crisis. Dressed in his trademark crisp white shalwar kameez with black vest, his fingers fidgeting a string of amber prayer beads, Ghani spoke with the air of a lecturer.
People often come out of meetings with him with the sense that "he thinks he is the smartest guy in the room," as one Western diplomat puts it. "I have been given this enormous gift and I want to put it into service of the people who deserve a break from this viciousness. Politics to me is not a business, it's not a profession, it's not a profitable enterprise," Ghani said. "It is a calling."
After a bruising power struggle, the coalition government looks wobbly from the outset. The challenges facing the government are monstrous and Ghani doesn't need the bickering to continue in the months ahead. His first year in office will be defined by the difficult transition from heavy U.S. military presence to full Afghan authority and responsibility for security. He would know -- having headed from 2011 to 2013 the commission responsible for overseeing the transition -- that this process is not going too well.
One hurdle is the weak condition of the Afghan state that Ghani inherits from outgoing President Hamid Karzai. By ruling through personal alliances at the cost of state institutions, Karzai stayed in power -- and alive -- for 13 years. But he also boosted power brokers in the provinces who will fight Ghani if he threatens their economic and political interests. And there is a good chance the new president will. "The political class and other parts of society must accept to regard institution-building as the only guarantee for saving us from individualistic thinking and conduct in the running of the state," Ghani wrote in his campaign manifesto.
As co-founder of the Washington-based Institute for State Effectiveness, and co-author of the 2009 book Fixing Failed States, Ghani has discussed in detail how to reconstruct post-conflict societies. While he has much praise for his predecessor, Ghani blames Karzai for allowing corruption to bloom. "The corruption is a failure. Not building institutions is a failure. So there's a balance sheet. There are negative things but there are also positive." And while Karzai is not personally corrupt, Ghani says, his family is another matter.
"How the wider institutions have been shaped, how family members have behaved and others, that's part of a wider tolerance of corruption that is taking place in society," said Ghani. "And you need to ask [Karzai] as why he has not been more assertive on some of these issues." Corruption is only one of the ills plaguing the Afghan economy. Dependent on foreign imports and with little domestic industry to speak of, the economy was left close to comatose as financial activity stopped during the recent election impasse. According to the country's finance minister, the stuck ballot cost Afghanistan $5 billion in lost revenue and investment, and threatened to leave the government unable to pay salaries for civil servants.
Making Afghanistan self-sufficient is at the top of Ghani's agenda. "We want to generate one of the biggest construction industries in the region," he said. "We have enough marble to last the region for 100 years, but we are importing marble from neighboring countries."
Many of Afghanistan's problems come down to poor infrastructure. "Urban and rural Afghanistan are totally disconnected. Go to the market. 70 percent of the food is foreign imported, while 40-60 percent of our food rots between the field and the market because we don't have the system," Ghani noted.
Having spent more than a decade as an adviser to the World Bank, Ghani speaks the language of technocrats. ("Transformation and Continuity" sounds more like a working paper than a campaign slogan, for example.) He rolls out his plans meticulously, up to eight bullet points at a time, as if lifting them directly from the 309-page election manifesto.
And he looks to history to find suitable analogies for what he plans to do in Afghanistan. By asserting state control over the economy, he says, Afghanistan can grow like South Korea did in the 1970s and 1980s. To fight extremism, Afghanistan needs closer cooperation with Pakistan, molded on the European Coal and Steel Community, the post-World War II precursor to the European Union.
In his two years as finance minister under Karzai, from 2002-2004, Ghani built the ministry from scratch, introduced a new currency, initiated the development of a new cell phone system, and created a widely successful large-scale anti-poverty program. This year, he had far more detailed plans than any of the seven opponents who ran against him in the first round.
In fact, his plans may prove overambitious, particularly after the lengthy election. As Kate Clark, a Kabul-based analyst points out, "Things have changed since he drew up his plans." With Abdullah on board, Ghani has a less free hand in appointing officials. And the election crisis has drained the patience and trust of the people. "[Ghani] doesn't come into office on a wave of popular support. And to make reforms, especially difficult ones, you need support," Clark says.
Most of his reforms will require a fight against provincial power brokers as well as a rigid bureaucracy, but Ghani is no stranger to using a bit of managerial muscle. He is known for having a hot temper and little patience for disagreement.
"When he was finance minister, he could unite the whole cabinet against him," says Scott Guggenheim, a colleague and friend of Ghani since the 1970s. "He hasn't been a team manager, but that's changing." Indeed, Ghani has a reputation for throwing angry fits over minor details. "He did have a reputation for being ferocious as finance minister," says Clare Lockhart, who co-wrote Ghani's book on failed states. "In part, I think that was deliberate, because how else was he going to clean up when he didn't have tanks?"
International partners have also been at the receiving end of Ghani's angry outbursts. In 2011, when he headed the transition commission, Ghani met with a group of a dozen or so international NGOs. A country coordinator for one of the NGOs recalls how, before the meeting, Ghani told all the attendants to turn off their cell phones. When one person's phone rang anyway, Ghani exploded.
"He didn't just start shouting, he completely lost it," says the NGO worker who asked not to be named. "I can't imagine a worse person to work for."
Still, temper aside, Ghani and his new CEO are expected to be better friends of the West than Karzai -- who in his last years in power turned increasingly conspiratorial and obstinate.
"[Ghani and Abdullah] will both be more positive and moderate in their expectations of what the West can deliver," says Franz-Michael Skjold Mellbin, the European Union's special representative to Afghanistan. "We are going to see a significant shift from Karzai who has been a very difficult partner for the West for a long time."
Ghani has promised to sign security agreements allowing U.S. and NATO troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014, something Karzai refused to do for over a year. But Ghani also has strong criticism for the West, particularly when it comes to international aid, which he says is designed to benefit foreign contractors rather than Afghan companies. By offering high salaries, foreign firms distort the job market and make it difficult for the Afghan government to hire skilled domestic labor, he says.
Having grown up in Afghanistan's Logar province, Ghani, who is 65, spent most of his adult life abroad. He got his first degree at 24 from the American University of Beirut, where he also met his wife, Rula, a Christian Lebanese-American. He left Afghanistan months before the 1978 revolution, in which many of his family members were imprisoned. Ghani continued to watch from exile as Afghanistan went through one miserable period of war and struggle after another.
While Ghani says he spent his years abroad "preparing meticulously for reconstruction of this country," some Afghans feel he got off easy by not participating in the suffering of his compatriots. He hasn't, as many Afghans put it, "felt the pain of the people." "Eighteen months of my father being in solitary confinement [in 1978] is not feeling the pain of the people? The first village that got bombarded was mine. There's no pain?" Ghani said in the interview, slightly agitated. His father served in various capacities under the monarchy. "10 million of us became refugees. Are they going to judge every person?"
After arriving in the United States in the late 1970s, Ghani earned a Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University, then took a professorship at Johns Hopkins. He gained American citizenship in 1990. (He later renounced it to run for president in 2009). While he was working at the World Bank, there were brief -- if not entirely convincing -- suggestions that Ghani could replace Kofi Annan as secretary-general of the United Nations in 2006. In 2013, Prospect magazine named him the second most important world thinker, ranking him higher than the likes of Paul Krugman and Slavoj Zizek.
But the foreign endorsements took time to pay off in Afghanistan. In his first presidential bid in 2009 Ghani pulled in less than 3 percent of the vote. Since then he realized, says Guggenheim, "that he needed someone who could bring in people along patronage and ethnic lines. Politics are dirty."
That dirty someone was General Abdul Rashid Dostum, an warlord from Afghistan's ethnic Uzbek community who is accused of a series of brutal war crimes during the war against the Taliban. In 2009, Ghani called Dostum a "known killer."
Five years later, Ghani chose Dostum as his running mate. He was promptly criticized for hypocrisy. Many Afghans, particularly among Ghani's Pashtun constituents, don't want to see Dostum as vice president and potential stand-in for Ghani, who has previously had a brush with cancer which forced him to have part of his stomach removed in 1996.
Dostum commands around a million votes from the country's Uzbek community -- approximately the same as Ghani's election win over Abdullah. Ghani, though, denies that such cynical calculus was behind his choice of vice president. He compares politics to bricolage, where an artist creates a work from whatever material is at hand.
"This is what I'm going to do with the country, we need to put the existing material to work," he said. "This country has suffered from a syndrome of exclusion. Politics is not a love marriage.... What I have shown during this campaign is a harbinger of how I am going to build peace. Consensus means bringing people together who are in the beginning different."
Nevertheless, some fear that Ghani may not be able to unite Afghanistan. Apart from Dostum's base, several prominent Pashtun nationalists have rallied behind Ghani. Some in Afghanistan, particularly Tajiks, the country's second largest ethnic group, worry that the new president will rule along ethnic lines and further divide the country.
Fawzia Koofi, Afghanistan's perhaps most prominent female MP who also worked on Abdullah's campaign, is not in doubt: "Yes, he might bring reforms," she says. "But he will divide the country."
Ghani seems unfazed by the criticism, and insists he will only appoint people based on merit. The elections have only made his most important issue all the more pressing: to convince the Afghan people to trust its politicians. "The key is that politics takes the place of violence," said Ghani. "That ballots are going to be much more important each year than bullets."

U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan after historic transfer of power

Afghanistan's new government plans to sign a strategic agreement Tuesday with the United States that would allow for approximately 10,000 U.S. troops to remain in the country after the U.S.-led NATO coalition’s mandate expires in December.
U.S. officials say the extended troop presence is needed to continue training Afghan’s 350,000 soldiers and police, and to conduct counter-terrorism operations.
The pact – which outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai refused to sign in his final months in office, fueling tensions with Washington – is expected to be signed by U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham and a senior member of the Afghan government.
Ashraf Ghani was inaugurated Monday as the country's new president, ending a months-long election dispute with the first democratic transfer of power in the nation’s modern history.
In his inaugural speech, Ghani pledged to fight corruption and called on the Taliban and their allies to join the political process and end more than a decade of war.
But the occasion was marred by a Taliban suicide bombing elsewhere in the capital, underscoring the challenges Ghani will face. Seven people were killed in the incident, which took place at a security checkpoint near Kabul’s international airport shortly before Ghani was sworn in.
“I am your leader, but I am no better than you,” Ghani said, quoting Islam’s first caliph, Abu Bakr Seddiq. “I err; hold me to account.”
Ghani, a former Afghan finance minister and World Bank official, thanked Karzai for his role in the transition -- including helping to broker a compromise after a disputed runoff election marred by fraud-- and for respecting Afghanistan’s constitution during his 13 years as president.
“Our people have shown that they desire peace and order,” Karzai said at a ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul.
As president, Ghani will head a government of national unity that will see Abdullah Abdullah, his election rival, take the new post of chief executive. Ghani said the unity government would be one of “representation” and thanked Abdullah for joining in the leadership.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry, who struck the deal to form a unity government in an urgent visit to Kabul in July, praised both men as "patriots" committed to the success of their country.
“Afghans have taken a moment of challenge and turned it into a moment of real opportunity,” Kerry said in a statement.
Following the oaths of office, Ghani signed an executive order naming Abdullah as chief executive and Ahmad Zia Massoud as special representative to the presidency. Massoud is the brother of slain former militia commander Ahmed Shah Massoud, who fought the Taliban and was close to Abdullah.
Until Monday morning it remained unclear whether Abdullah would participate in the inauguration. Members of his team were reportedly angered by the Ghani campaign’s decision last week to release results of the runoff election, which Abdullah maintains was marred by widespread fraud. The results, following a United Nations-supervised audit of all 8 million ballots, showed Ghani winning 55% of the vote.
Mohammad Khan and Mohammad Mohaqeq, who will take on the roles of deputies to the chief executive, were also sworn in by Ghani.
President Obama dispatched a delegation headed by John Podesta, his special counselor, to the inauguration. Other dignitaries attending included India's foreign minister, the president of Pakistan and representatives from Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, the Maldives and China.

Video - Ashraf Ghani takes over as Afghanistan's first new president in a decade

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Humanitarian attention during the ongoing Pakistan army offensive against militants in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) has focused on the roughly one million internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have fled. But a less accessible group of people exist: those who stayed behind.
“In each village where the conflict goes on, there are people who chose to stay – to look after homes or livestock,” said Hassan Ahmad*, an NWA IDP in Peshawar. “My cousin is among them.”
Many of those who decided not to flee are now far from basic services and humanitarian support. “We have been trying to get food supplies through to them, but the trucks from Bannu are not being allowed in,” said Safdar Dawar, president of the Tribal Union of Journalists. “The conditions are terrible.”
As a result of the military action, access to NWA is extremely limited, but Dawar estimates that close to 40 percent of the population has remained despite the army operation, a figure disputed by security officials.
“Those who stayed behind are desperate to keep their homes and property safe,” said Ahsan Wazir, based since late June in a camp in the Bannu District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. The 1998 census put the population at around 400,000 people, though that number recently has been estimated at around a million.
Ahmad said village homes were being demolished by armed forces, leaving hundreds without shelter. “There is also no medical aid since hospitals in Waziristan are based only in the main towns, Miramshah and Mirali, and these are not functional right now,” Ahmad said.
Several tribes who refused to leave their homes have been forcibly shifted, say some of the IDPs, and have still not been allowed to return home.
The FATA (the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies) Disaster Management Authority says more than 630,000 IDPs have been verified by the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) as displaced from NWA since late May, according to the UN Refugee Agency head of its Peshawar sub-office, Jacques Franquin. Around 74 percent of the displaced are women and children, says the latest humanitarian bulletin from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Very few humanitarian agencies currently work in NWA, according to OCHA. Instead, work has focused on IDPs in neighbouring areas.
“The situation in North Waziristan is very grim, we understand,” said Mingora-based human rights activist Shaukat Saleem. He said attempts had been made to send observers into NWA, but that this had not been possible so far because roads are blocked by the military.
“No one has been left behind”
The situation of those still in NWA has not been commented upon by the government or by other agencies.
State security officials deny anyone remains in NWA. “The population of North Waziristan is over one million, and no one has been left behind. There is no one guarding homes,” a security official told IRIN, asking not to be named. He said it was uncertain how long the military operation would continue.
People still based in North Waziristan, such as Ahmad, say the military is now in charge of all administrative affairs in the area. An administrative official who asked not to be named said the people who had chosen to stay behind had done so “of their own free will” and mostly consisted of young men, while women, children, and older people had been sent away. He said many felt it was necessary for them to remain – despite military warnings – to safeguard their belongings. Some say they are tired of repeated displacement.
One NWA resident who stayed behind and prefers anonymity says he is now deeply concerned about the women and children in his family that he sent away. “I worry all the time about my wife, who is expecting our third child, and about my two young children who are with her at the camp in Kurram Agency,” said the man from a village near Mirali, a major NWA town.
He said it was difficult to communicate with his family as mobile phone connections were poor, and often suspended in the areas where fighting continues. He had heard conditions at camps were “very poor” but was unable to leave to try and join his family because his elderly mother was unable to travel and also because many routes were blocked.
For now, the problems in NWA seem set to continue. Despite the gains that the Pakistan military says it has made, fierce fighting continues in many areas, according to media reports quoting the military, and it is unclear when people who have left will be able to return.
Meanwhile, those who have stayed on must cope with bombed houses and destroyed land, adding to their difficulties in eking out any kind of livelihood.

Pakistan's VIP culture: Youth shoved by Governor Punjab’s security men

Security guards shoved a university student when he attempted to approach Governor Punjab during a convocation ceremony in Faisalabad, Samaa reported.
Samaa exclusive footages show a youth, carrying a file in his hand, manages to reach the stage and speaks out to Governor Chaudhry Sarwar over a complaint.
Following his brief conversation with the Governor, who was chief guest at convocation of Government College (GC) University Faisalabad, security guards pushed and dragged out the youth in a humiliating manner, and finally threw him out of the hall.
According to Samaa correspondent, the student, Ahsan, wanted to complaint the Governor about rejection of his admission form.

Pakistan: The attack on Karachi police

After a period of relative calm, Karachi was the scene of a car bomb attack last Thursday, and the target an officer of the special investigations unit, SSP Farooq Awan. Thanks to his bullet and bomb proof vehicle, Awan survived with minor injuries but two passers-by were killed and five other people were injured. This was the third failed attempt on the officer's life. Over the recent months, several other policemen have lost their lives in targeted killings. These attacks are an evidence of the ongoing security operations' effectiveness, and the risks police are taking in the performance of their duties. A lot more effort and time, though, is needed to eliminate the scourge of terrorism from this country.
A sectarian group Jundollah claimed responsibility for this latest act of terrorism. A few days earlier, the same group had claimed credit for killing the son of a prominent Shia scholar as well as a grenade attack on a police check post on the Shara-e-Faisal that left at least four policemen injured. In what looked like a reprisal attack, the incident was followed by another sectarian terrorist group killing a close relative of Mufti Naeem. According to the city's chief of counter-terrorism unit, Jundullah has become active after a gap of about one-and-a-half years. It is worthwhile to note that Jundullah, which for quite some time has been carrying out terrorist attacks in northern areas, especially Gilgit-Baltistan, is also known to have a nexus with the Taliban. The ongoing military operation in North Waziristan has achieved major success, putting the Taliban on the run. That seems to be the explanation why these terrorists have once again become so active in Karachi. It is pertinent to recall also that just recently head of the Punjab Taliban, Ismatullah Muawiya, issued an announcement, saying from now on the group is to lay down arms and focus only on preaching Islam and Sharia in Pakistan while continuing to engage in "practical jihad" in Afghanistan.
Clearly, the terrorists are in disarray. But they are not going to abandon their agendas and the violent means to accomplish them unless and until thoroughly defeated. The government's achievements in North Waziristan will come to a naught without elimination of these militants. As a senior military commander averred the other day, an intelligence-based counter-terrorism operation needs to be undertaken throughout the country. The police have a special role to play in it, and hence are vulnerable to targeted attacks. Luckily for the officer in the present instance, he was protected by a bomb-proof vehicle. Confronting militants in a city of over twenty million like Karachi would not be easy for any best prepared police force. But as various Sindh government leaders are now saying, the province's police are both small in number and ill-equipped to deal with the challenges at hand. The federal government needs to respond to the province's request for help in an urgent and appropriate manner. The situation in other provinces is not going to be an easy task, either. But it is a task that must be accomplished with patience and determination.

Pakistan: Blast in Tirah Valley kills 5, injures 3

The Express Tribune
A blast in Tirah Valley in Jamrud tehsil of Khyber Agency left five people dead and three others injured, Express News reported on Monday. The explosion took place in the house of a suspected terrorist. The scenic Tirah Valley has long been plagued by a turf war between rival extremist groups. The fighting has forced thousands of tribesmen out of the valley. Many of them are now sheltering in Peshawar and other tribal regions bordering Khyber Agency. In January, ten people, including three members of the outlawed Lashkar-e-Islam, were killed when a mortar shell exploded in the the Dars Jumat area of the same valley.

Pakistan: PTI In Lahore

The Khan Express continues barrelling forward. The massive show in Karachi was followed up by an even bigger one in Lahore; catchy music, a rowdy crowd, mass corruption, the usual fare. It seems that the ‘Dharna’ aimed at immediately ousting the prime minister has morphed into a nation-wide election campaign. The only caveat being that there is no election in sight. Furthermore, announced that his next rally would take place in Mianwalli. What does he aim to achieve out of this national campaign? It is not immediately obvious. This show of force comes as the numbers at Islamabad was dwindling dangerously low. It seems he need a change of scenery. Perhaps, realising that his middle class, urbanite support base can’t handle the rigours of hard street politics, and can’t attend the Dharna. He shrewdly brought the Dharna to them. Touring the major urban centres allows his Internet activists and couch analysts to come out in his support. His speech was the same speech we have been hearing for a month; low on policy, high on rhetoric. The only point that stood out was an appeal to people to burn their electricity bill as he had done.
It looks like Imran is adamant in continuing his misadventure with civil disobedience; a call that brought almost negligible response from his followers and severe condemnation from his opponents. Other PTI patrons have paid their bills including Jahangir Tarin and Shah Mahmood Qureshi. But this call is more specific. It is aimed at the residents of Lahore and asks them to do a specific action, burn their bills. Imran Khan is playing with fire here, failing to generate enough unrest in the capital to dislodge the Prime Minister; he is now trying to incite lawlessness in Lahore. Let’s look at the situation he imagines, people burn their bills, their electricity is disconnected, the government comes to collect the outstanding bills, people wallowing in heat react, get angry, fight. The police gets involved, and its business as usual. The people, even his own supporters, have been prudent enough to disregard such calls, let’s hope such logical thinking prevails again. Just because there will be a “Naya Pakistan”, doesn’t mean its going to be any less rotten. Naya Pakistan is just an obsession, the old in a shiny package, manufactured cheaply, hollow inside. Hollow objects make bigger noises, just like Khan’s speech in Lahore. There were no hopes that he would say anything or actual value, on ending his charade, on any compromise or step towards peace. And Khan did not disappoint.

Pakistan: Aitzaz advises Sharifs to avoid exposure in public
Senior leader of Pakistan People’s Party Aitzaz Ahsan has said that the sit-ins seem to pose no threat to the government. Aitzaz, a senior lawyer, talking to newsmen outside Lahore High Court Bar office, advised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to avoid public exposure, adding that the ‘Go Nawaz Go’ slogan emerges whenever they are seen in public.
Aitzaz said that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had been a big business party, while People’s Party represents the working classes. He said the PML-N policies are against poor, downtrodden masses, while the PPP makes policies to protect poor countrymen.
Replying a question, PPP senator said that he don’t want to respond to any utterance of Shaikh Rashid. He remained minister in each government, Aitzaz said. Imran Khan was initially saying that he would not offer even a peon’s job to Shaikh Rashid, while now he is his aide and advisor.

Pakistan: Attack in Sibi

Balochistan is witness to regular waves of violence. That blood is shed because of genuine grievances is news that should not come as a source of surprise to anyone familiar with the situation in the province. The latest incident was a remote-controlled bomb attack targeting a vehicle belonging to security personnel in the town of Sibi. The explosion killed one passerby and injured as many as 27 others although no one from the Balochistan Levies was hurt in the attack. Sibi lies on the main highway and railway lines, is the nearest town to the Marri and Bugti tribal areas and is also close to the Sui gas fields. The area is a conglomeration of communication and infrastructure lines. The attack itself was not a massive one when compared to previous episodes but it has jolted the complacent public into, once again, re-examining the problem in Balochistan and the sentiments being harboured by the Baloch insurgents.
Despite last year’s elections and the appointment of Abdul Malik Baloch as the Chief Minister (CM) of Balochistan, a man known as a moderate nationalist from whom the people held high hopes, the people of Balochistan have yet to see their grievances being addressed and the insurgents brought to the negotiating table. Mr Baloch has, sadly, been relegated to the status of mere ‘mayor’ of Quetta because he has been unable to do anything substantial to curb the rising nationalist tide engulfing Balochistan. This attack in Sibi is just a relatively mild example of this. Nothing has changed. No one has taken the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) to task for the deeply held suspicions that it is behind the missing persons and kill and dump policy being practiced with abandon in the province. Take, for example, the mass graves discovered in Khuzdar district in Balochistan. Bullet-riddled bodies do not just appear out of thin air; someone must have put them there and the Baloch accuse the FC.
This has been happening for years. The biggest, most resource-rich province in Pakistan is being subjected to mammoth atrocities whilst the people are kept underprivileged and deprived. No wonder the nationalists have always had a bone to pick with the government and the security forces. However, their sentiments have taken on a violent tinge after no political solution has been offered to them. What is the government waiting for? Does it not know that when such sentiments are allowed to fester, any third party, including a foreign one, may support separation — all those resources and the geostrategic location of Balochistan could prove extremely tempting. The new generation of nationalists will not beat around the bush. It is time to bring them into the fold of political negotiations. The costs to the country are too great to ignore their grievances.

Pakistan : Punjab police living up to their brutal reputation?

Ali Khan Swati had only heard of police brutality; on TV, in newspapers and from anecdotal chats with politically-inclined family members and friends.
But the 25-year-old was not prepared for what befell him when he stumbled onto a Punjab police checkpoint, near the H-9 weekly bazaar, on Wednesday.
Ever since Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri brought their protests to town, the capital has been overrun with policemen from different parts of the country.
Most notorious among them are the contingents of the Punjab police, sent to Islamabad to maintain order and fear on the streets.
Punjab police have an unsavoury reputation when it comes to highhanded tactics. Citizens of the capital, who are used to the courteous ways of the Islamabad police, usually find the unnecessary violence of the burly brutes from Punjab appalling.
But nothing could prepare Mr Swati for what he was about to experience at the hands of these ‘guardians of the peace’.
His car, which is adorned with a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf flag, was flagged down by a policeman at a checkpoint. Swati stopped and duly submitted to an inspection of his vehicle. When the policeman opened the boot, he was confronted with a stash of flags and buntings.
“Coming back around, he reached in the driver’s side window and pulling the keys out of the ignition, asked me to step out,” said Swati, who is an MBA student at a local university. “I had left my home in Sector I-8 and was on my way to F-11. It was around 10pm,” he recalled.
“That’s when he kicked me in the stomach. While I was still reeling from this blow, he began pushing me toward a prison van parked nearby. I began to run, because I wanted the kicking and shoving to stop,” he said, adding that all around him, he could see policemen rounding up young men on motorcycles and cars.
Once inside the prison van, he requested the policeman guarding the door that he needed to call home and explain what had happened. The policeman, an official of the capital police, obliged and that was how Ali Khan Swati’s parents found out that their son was on his way to Ramna Police Station.
In the meanwhile, Swati had told his captors he was related to former Senator Azam Khan Swati. Upon hearing this, the policemen took him out of the prison van and, telling him to get back in his car, got in the back seat and made him drive to the police station in sector G-11. This was around 11:30pm.
Half an hour later, three prison vans showed up at the police station to unload some 30 to 35 prisoners, all young men. Outside the station, a few worried parents paced restlessly.
Inside, in the small lawn, Ali Khan Swati and the other prisoners were kept on their feet for hours.
He said they were not allowed to drink water, use the toilet or move from the spot. All the while, they were taunted and abused by the Punjab policemen.
“Then they shoved us into a small cell that already had three other occupants. I was among the 15 who spent the night standing while another 17 sat until nearly 7:30am,” he said.
They found some respite when the station house officer, Jamshed Khan, returned to duty in the morning and let them out. “He was polite and allowed us to mingle,” he said.
The bunch that had been rounded up was a motley crew. There were four 10th graders, aged no more than 15 or 16. They had been returning from the Centaurus mall in a cab after an evening out when they were picked up. Ali Swati also recognized a chaat wallah, often seen at D-Chowk. The police had also booked both his sons and a nephew, who were also in their early teens.
“Two grade 18 government officers were also with us. They were over 30 and were the centre of attention for everyone. The Punjab policemen had roughed them up good. Their clothes were completely torn and their bodies were marked all over with bruises,” Swati said.
Mohammad Rizwan is another hapless citizen who suffered at the hands of the brutal policemen from Punjab. He and two friends - supporters of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl), were returning from prayers at the Lal Masjid in G-6 when they were picked up and bundled into a prison van.
Around 2pm on Thursday, the youngsters and some 25 others were taken to the Islamabad High Court. Ali Swati and five others were released after posting bail, set at Rs5,000.
Officers at the Ramna Police Station, when asked for a comment, told Dawn, “We had orders to make more arrests. We picked up anyone and everyone we could get our hands on,” he said.
A senior official, asking not to be named, said that the police department was worried by complaints of brutality against Punjab police personnel, adding that these complaints were being “looked into”.

Pakistan: No end in sight

IT’S a strange kind of impasse the country is trapped in. The PML-N government is trying to limp on from the ongoing crisis, but in a peculiar way: the government appears to think that if it ignores the PTI and PAT protesters, they will disappear in time.
Meanwhile, the PTI and PAT have been busy adjusting their anti-government protest strategy, with Imran Khan switching his attention from the sit-in on Constitution Avenue to a travelling protest each week in various parts of the country.
Clearly, the big loser in all of this is the country and any prospect of governance taking centre stage anytime soon. Consider that a summer of turmoil has morphed into an autumn of discord – and still there is no end in sight. Surely, this is not a sustainable scenario for a state and society contending with deep and complicated problems that only keep growing with time.
Part of the problem was and remains the PML-N itself. Even when it attempts to create a veneer of semi-normality, the government seems to be undone by itself.
The UN trip of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif last week could have been an opportunity to put forward a confident face, to show that the government is thinking long-term about economic, political and social issues back home. Instead, the trip was lacklustre with little real planning or foresight seeming to have gone into it. Perhaps that was because the trip was not a certainty until the last moment and most work at the UN General Assembly’s annual session is planned weeks and months in advance. But it does betray a larger point about the government’s performance so far: the promise and expectation has been so much higher than actual delivery.
In area after area, be it the power sector or administrative reforms or parliamentary performance, the PML-N simply seems mired in old ways, unable or perhaps unwilling to forcefully move the democratic project ahead. Unhappily, the PML-N still does not appear to understand that as the chief custodian of the democratic project, the onus falls on the party to strengthen democracy and improve governance in a manner that can address the wellspring of discontent among the population.
Yet, for all its shortcomings and placidity, the PML-N is in truth confronted by an opponent who is difficult to contend with.
For all his claims about wanting to rewrite the social contract and to improve governance, Imran Khan’s quest comes down to a single issue: ousting the PML-N from power so that the PTI has another shot at capturing power.
Raging against injustices – of which there are many, pillorying an under-delivering state – which it does, excoriating a government for not truly being democratic in spirit – which it isn’t, is all well and good, but it leaves a fundamental question unanswered: what is Mr Khan’s concrete and measurable plan for change? It’s not even that the PTI-led
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s performance has been less than stellar, but that Mr Khan does not even attempt to flesh out how, on what time scale and in which areas reforms would be prioritised and delivered.
Without any of that, how is the PTI any different from the status quo it lambastes?