Monday, October 27, 2014

Bahrain: Release activist facing three years in jail for ‘insulting’ tweets

Bahrain’s authorities must immediately release Nabeel Rajab, a prominent human rights activist who has been detained over tweets he posted that were deemed insulting to the Ministries of Interior and Defence said Amnesty International, ahead of a verdict in his case on Wednesday.
“Convicting Nabeel Rajab would be a terrible injustice. It would only be further proof that respect for the right to freedom of expression in Bahrain is under attack,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.
“Prosecuting anyone merely for peacefully expressing their political views is a clear form of repression and a brazen violation of their rights. Nabeel Rajab is a prisoner of conscience, he must be released immediately and the charges against him must be dropped.
“Since the 2011 uprisings the government has repeatedly reassured the international community that Bahrain is on the path to reform but the arrest of Nabeel Rajab shows that promises of greater freedoms remain a distant hope. The outcome of his trial on Wednesday will be a true test of the authorities’ genuine commitment to human rights.”
Nabeel Rajab is the President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and the Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights. He was arrested in October after posting comments online about reports that members of Bahrain’s security forces had joined the Islamic State armed group in Iraq. He has been charged with “publicly insulting official institutions” and faces up to three years in jail.
Bahraini legislation criminalizes insulting or disrespecting heads of state, public figures, the military, government institutions or national flags or symbols.
During the first hearing in his case on 19 October Nabeel Rajab explained that he was merely exercizing his right to freedom of expression and as a human rights activist would only ever do so peacefully. He denied the charges against him and said he had not committed any crime. Only his older brother was allowed to attend the court session, the rest of his family was denied entry. He has been detained at al Hoora police station since his arrest.
Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the Bahraini authorities to repeal articles in its Penal Code that criminalize freedom of expression but so far these calls have fallen on deaf ears.
Shortly after his arrest, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights called for Nabeel Rajab’s release. Only the governments of Norway and the USA have so far publicly demanded his release.
“The silence of the international community over human rights violations in Bahrain is deafening. Governments with close ties to Bahrain, in particular the UK, and who claim to be pushing a human rights reform agenda must speak out publicly and denounce the arrest of Nabeel Rajab and other government critics,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.
Nabeel Rajab returned to Bahrain on 30 September after a two month advocacy tour across Europe to highlight the human rights situation in Bahrain. He had previously served a two-year prison sentence in Jaw Prison on charges of participating in an “illegal gathering”, “disturbing public order” and “calling for and taking part in demonstrations” in Manama “without prior notification”. He was released in May 2014.
Other activists in Bahrain have faced prosecution for exercizing the right to freedom of expression. Activist Nader Abdulemam was sentenced to six months in prison last Wednesday for 'insulting' a figure of worship after he made comments on twitter about Khaled bin al-Waleed, a companion of the prophet Muhammad.
Human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, who is heavily pregnant, was arrested on 14 October for tearing a picture of the King of Bahrain in court and is currently under arrest and on trial for “publicly insulting the King”. Similarly, Ghada Jamsheer, a women's rights activist, is facing trial for comments she made on twitter denouncing corruption in King Hamad University Hospital.
Amnesty International has been calling on the Bahraini authorities to drop charges in all these cases and release these activists as they are held merely for peacefully expressing their opinion.

Saudi Arabia jails three lawyers for tweets criticising judiciary
A Saudi Arabian court sent three lawyers to prison for terms of between five and eight years on Monday for criticising the country's judiciary and justice system in messages on Twitter, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
Since the 2011 Arab uprisings, the U.S. ally has grown increasingly intolerant of any dissent or criticism aimed at the government, the country's ruling Al Saud family or the official clergy which provides judges for its Sharia Islamic courts.
The three lawyers, who were not named by local media, were convicted of prejudicing public order through tweets which contained opinions against the ruler, and expressed contempt for the judiciary and undermined it, SPA reported.
Reform of the kingdom's judiciary and legal system is a main battleground between arch conservatives and relative liberals. It is seen as important by both human rights activists who want to improve legal safeguards for defendants and foreign investors who want sentencing to be more predictable.
King Abdullah announced changes to the judicial system in 2007, including non-Sharia training for judges, the introduction of specialised criminal courts and a means of officially recording verdicts, a prelude to establishing precedent.
Conservative judges, clerics and some officials in the Justice Ministry have strenuously attempted to block the reforms, however, because they see them as undermining Islamic law, liberal lawyers and other legal sources say.
Saudi judges have this year passed death sentences on five members of the country's Sh'ite Muslim minority for their part in anti-government protests and riots. They also handed a 15-year jail term to rights activist Walid Abu al-Khair for criticising the authorities. The rulers of the world's top oil exporter fear any public expressions of dissent could evolve into direct anti-government protests, which they see as a security risk at a moment of such high regional tension, say analysts.
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Video Report - Battlefield Kobani

Assad's warnings start to ring true in Turkey

When Sunni rebels rose up against Syria's Bashar al-Assad in 2011, Turkey reclassified its protégé as a pariah, expecting him to lose power within months and join the autocrats of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen on the scrap heap of the "Arab Spring".
Assad, in contrast, shielded diplomatically by Russia and with military and financial support from Iran and its Shi’ite allies in Lebanon's Hezbollah, warned that the fires of Syria’s sectarian war would burn its neighbors.
For Turkey, despite the confidence of Tayyip Erdogan, elected this summer to the presidency after 11 years as prime minister and three straight general election victories, Assad’s warning is starting to ring uncomfortably true.
Turkey’s foreign policy is in ruins. Its once shining image as a Muslim democracy and regional power in the NATO alliance and at the doors of the European Union is badly tarnished.
Amid a backlash against political Islam across the region Erdogan is still irritating his Arab neighbors by offering himself as a Sunni Islamist champion.
The world, meanwhile, is transfixed by the desperate siege of Kobani, the Syrian Kurdish town just over Turkey’s border, under attack by extremist Sunni fighters of the Islamic State (IS) who are threatening to massacre its defenders.
Erdogan has enraged Turkey’s own Kurdish minority – about a fifth of the population and half of all Kurds across the region – by seeming to prefer that IS jihadis extend their territorial gains in Syria and Iraq rather than that Kurdish insurgents consolidate local power.
The forces holding on in Kobani are part of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), closely allied to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a 30-year war against the Turkish state and is now holding peace talks with Ankara.
Meanwhile, Turkish tanks stood idly by as the unequal fight raged between the PYD and IS, while Erdogan said both groups were "terrorists" and Kobani would soon fall. It was a public relations disaster.
It drew criticism from NATO allies in the US-led coalition, which has bombed jihadi positions around the town in coordination with the PYD. It also prompted Kurdish riots across south-east Turkey resulting in more than 40 dead.
At the same time, Turkey's air force bombed PKK positions near the Iraqi border for the first time in two years, calling into question the 2013 ceasefire declared by Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed PKK leader. PKK commanders warned that if Turkey let Kobani fall, they would go back to war.
Yet now that the United States has dropped arms to Kobani’s defenders, Erdogan has been forced to relent and open a Turkish corridor for Peshmerga fighters from Iraq to reinforce Kobani.
Turkish officials fear this will provoke reprisals in Turkey by IS, activating networks it built during the two years the Erdogan government allowed jihadi volunteers to cross its territory to fight in Syria. Almost anything Turkey does now comes with big risks.
The polarization within Turkey along sectarian and ethnic lines - which analysts say Erdogan has courted with his stridently Sunni tone as communal conflict between Sunni and Shi'ite rages to Turkey’s south - is easy to detect in the poor and deeply conservative district of Fatih in Istanbul.
“I prefer to have IS than PKK in control of Kobani,” says Sitki, a shopkeeper. “They are Muslims and we are Muslims. (But) we as Muslims should be ruled by the Koran under Sharia law."
Another local shopkeeper, Nurullah, 35, broadly agreed:
“The only mistake the government has made is to open the door to Kurdish refugees. PYD and PKK are the same, both terrorists. How do (the Americans) have the nerve to ask us to help PYD?”
“Of course Islamic State has sympathizers here because they are wiping out the PKK,” Nurullah continued.
Nearby, a bearded Arabic-speaking man who declined to be named said it made sense that “Turkey as a Sunni nation supports IS over the crusaders”, a hostile reference to the US-led coalition against IS of which Turkey looks an unwilling party.
The increasingly overt Sunni alignment of Erdogan’s Turkey is, paradoxically, contributing to its isolation, at a time when the United States has won the support of the Sunni Arab powers, led by Saudi Arabia, in the campaign against IS.
Partly, that is because Erdogan and his new prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who as foreign minister was the architect of Turkey’s eastward turn away from the EU, continue to champion the pan-Islamic Muslim Brotherhood, ousted in Egypt last year and banned across the Gulf.
But it is also because of Ankara’s ambivalence towards IS, which some in Turkey’s government saw as a bulwark against its three main regional adversaries: the Assad regime, the Shi'ite-led government in Iraq, and the Kurds.
“Their policy is making Turkey look completely isolated”, says Hugh Pope of the International Crisis Group.
Yet there is a wide consensus that Erdogan and his Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) tried and failed to take a leadership role as the turmoil of the Arab Spring swept across the region and have ended up by infecting Turkey’s secular republic with the sectarianism plaguing the Levant.
"From a zero problems policy (with neighbors) to zero neighbors,” said a headline in the leftist Evrensel newspaper in reference to the AKP policy of entente with neighboring states.
Behlul Ozkan, a political scientist at Istanbul’s Marmara University, says the Erdogan government has supported Islamist movements in the Middle East to establish a sphere of influence and play a leadership role.
“When the Arab Spring started, Davutoglu saw it as an opportunity for his imperial fantasy of establishing the Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood) belt from Tunisia to Gaza.
"They are obsessed with destroying the Assad regime. They see IS as an opportunity for Turkey since it is fighting its enemies on three fronts: against Baghdad’s Shi’ite-dominated leadership, against Assad, and the PYD, which is an affiliate of the PKK.”
Soli Ozel, a prominent academic and commentator, said the Erdogan government's initial expectation was that the Muslim Brotherhood would come to power in Syria.
“Turkish officials believed a year and a half ago they could control the jihadis but they played with fire. This was a policy of sectarianism and they got into something ... they couldn’t control, and that is why we are here”.
Other commentators and Turkish officials say Western and Arab powers that called for Assad to be toppled but refused to give mainstream Syrian rebels the weapons to do it are to blame for the rise of Jihadis in the resulting vacuum.
“They (Turkish officials) bet on Assad to fall and when they lost, instead of backing off they are doubling down,” says Hakan Altinay of the Brookings Institution. “They are not the only culprits. The international community is also a culprit in this affair”.
But uppermost among Ankara’s fears is the prospect that Syrian Kurds led by the PYD -- newly legitimized by their alliance with the United States -- will establish a new Kurdish entity on Turkey’s frontiers, which will incite Turkey's Kurds to seek self government.
“In the realpolitik of all this, IS is fighting all the enemies of Turkey -- the Assad regime, Iraqi Shi'ites and the Kurds -- but the spillover effect is that it is now paying the price in terms of its vulnerability on the Kurdish question,” says Kadri Gursel, a prominent liberal columnist.
Cengiz Candar, veteran columnist and expert on the Kurdish issue adds: “If Syrian Kurds are successful and establish self-rule they will set a precedent and a model for Turkey’s Kurds, and more than 50 percent of Kurds in the world live here”.
Turkey is thus caught between two fires: the possibility of the PKK-led Kurdish insurgency inside Turkey reviving because of Ankara’s policy towards the Syrian Kurds; and the risk that a more robust policy against IS will provoke reprisal attacks that could be damage its economy and the tourist industry that provides Turkey with around a tenth of its income.
Internationally, one veteran Turkish diplomat fears, IS “is acting as a catalyst legitimizing support for an independent Kurdish state not just in Syria but in Turkey” at a time when leading powers have started to question Turkey’s ideological and security affiliations with the West.

Hong Kong society loses most from Occupy Central

The student groups of Occupy Central such as the Hong Kong Federation of Students had planned to hold a "referendum" but suddenly canceled it yesterday. Wang Dan, an activist during the 1989 political incident, openly supported the protesters, while saying that he was not so positive that the campaign would have its demands met. It seems that the Occupy Central movement will continue for some time and the mayhem in Hong Kong will continue.
The Chinese government attaches great importance to the movement, as Beijing holds responsibility for Hong Kong's prosperity and stability. Wherever in China there is mayhem, the central government needs to shoulder the responsibility.
Most Chinese mainlanders don't have to worry about Hong Kong's future. Many mainlanders go to Hong Kong to sightsee and shop because it is a developed society and belongs to China.
However, Hong Kong is now in a mess, thanks to the confrontation with the central government initiated by some forces with the backing of the West. When the central government refuses to accept their demands, they will become a joke. Gradually, the mindset of mainlanders has changed. The mainland public has a new understanding of Hong Kong through these recent developments. The mainland has previously suffered from the chaos brought by the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) and the 1989 political incident and has gained some immunity to it. Now it is Hong Kong's turn. The mainland public does not hope for a tumultuous Hong Kong, but people don't fear that Hong Kong may become a mess. Its economic importance to the mainland is not irreplaceable.
Look at how mainland audiences launched a boycott of Hong Kong actor Chapman To. Occupy Central has made the mainlanders realize that social chaos is the root of all evils. In the eyes of many, celebrities who support Occupy Central oppose the country.
Occupy Central has generated an unexpected impact. It has united mainlanders once again. People are more convinced that Western forces are trying to intervene and there are people willing to serve them at the cost of our national interests.
In the mainland, there are some who place high demands on Hong Kong while worrying about it, but at the same time more people feel indifferent. They didn't impose much pressure on the central government to resume order in Hong Kong. But if the chaos in Hong Kong results in the central government losing control over it, the mainland public will never give their consent.
For every day Occupy Central lasts, the bigger loser is Hong Kong society, not Chinese society. If the Occupy Central forces want to confront the central government, they don't have advantages in terms of strength and time. Perhaps it is for mainstream Hong Kong society to decide how long the current turmoil will last.

2MN UK homes in fuel poverty, Energy Rights Bill launched

On Monday the House of Commons will launch the Energy Bill of Rights, advocating both fair pricing and sustainable energy sources. The campaign, pioneered by Fuel Poverty Action, aims to make energy “fairer, affordable” and “sustainable”.
The Annual Fuel Poverty report by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) suggests the inability to afford energy bills killed 10,000 Britons in 2013. It also found over 2million UK households are living in fuel poverty. This accounts for 10.4 percent of the population.
While the figures for 2014 constitute a reduction of almost 5 percent since 2011, fuel poverty still affects 30 percent of unemployed households.
The eight point manifesto launched on Monday tackles prominent issues surrounding fuel poverty. Most significantly, campaigners wish to hold the government responsible for the provision of environmentally friendly energy and the continued supply for those living in poor conditions.
No Dash for Gas said the Bill “unites what politicians have tried so hard to pull apart” – the need for affordable energy and the environmental concerns surrounding fossil fuels.
“As we face another freezing winter, millions are preparing to self-disconnect, and ration heat and food, while the big energy companies rake in eye-watering profits from burning expensive and climate-destroying fossil fuels,” a Fuel Poverty Action spokesperson told RT.
The manifesto states that the standing charge for energy should be abolished, together with calls for a complete boycott of fracking and other unsustainable practices.
It further claims that access to energy is a basic right and that consumers who are unable to pay their utility bills should not be immediately disconnected. They believe power should be shifted from the provider to the consumer.
“Countless [men and women’s] physical and mental health paid the price of living in fuel poverty,” the Fuel Poverty Action spokesperson told RT. “With the government seemingly disinterested in taking any serious action on the issue, we are seeking to establish Energy Rights as a way to protect ourselves from fuel poverty and the brutal for-profit energy system.”
According to the Annual Fuel Poverty report, the overall number of people living in fuel poverty is forecast to rise in 2014, largely due to the expected increase in fuel prices.
The worst affected areas in the UK are the West Midlands and East Midlands 15 percent and 13 percent respectively live in fuel poverty. The South East and East have the lowest proportion, with 8 and 9 percent.
The bill has won the sponsorship of Green MP Caroline Lucas and Labour left-wingers Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnel.
Lucas, the main sponsor of the bill, is a staunch advocate of renewable energy, and on October 22 called for MP’s pensions to be divested from fossil fuels.
Former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has voiced concerns, however, that committing to more environmentally friendly forms of energy will constitute an unsustainable level of investment.
The Bill has already been endorsed by groups such as Climate Revolution, Campaign Against Climate Change, Quakers, UK Uncut and the World Development Movement.

Video Report - Topless Femen activists chased through Paris streets by riot police

Video Report - Foreign troops leave Helmand province in Afghanistan

U.S : - How congressional hawks plan to kill Obama’s Iran deal

By Trita Parsi
Negotiations with Iran over the future of its nuclear program have not even concluded yet some members of Congress are preparing to manufacture a political crisis over a deal. Their beef? President Barack Obama may initially bypass Congress and suspend sanctions imposed on Iran to make a deal possible and only later ask lawmakers to end them permanently when it is determined that Iran has complied fully with its obligations under the deal.
Of course, many of the lawmakers complaining about the potential presidential end run voted to give him the right to waive sanctions when they passed sanctions legislation in 2010 and 2011. And, of course, only Congress can lift the sanctions permanently, so there wouldn’t be any circumventing to begin with.
So what’s really going on?
It’s very simple: If you prefer war with Iran over a deal with Iran – even one that would prevent it from building a bomb — your best and possibly last opportunity to kill the deal is immediately after the nuclear talks have concluded. That’s when distrust of Iran’s intentions will remain pervasive and when its commitment to carry out its side of the deal will still have to be demonstrated. Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor pursued this tactic in January after an interim agreement was reached in November last year.
Ironically, Iranians, too, seek an immediate vote on lifting the sanctions, though for reasons quite different from hawkish lawmakers in Congress. The hawks want a quick vote the better to kill the deal. The Iranians want a quick vote the better to get permanent sanctions relief sooner.
In the middle is the Obama administration, which is seeking a path that would make the deal durable by offering Tehran reversible economic relief at the outset of the deal with a promise to make it permanent once Iran has fully delivered on its end of the bargain.
And that is precisely what congressional opponents fear: Obama’s strategy will persuade the Iranians to accept significant limits to their nuclear program, allow inspectors to roam its nuclear facilities and cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency on compliance — paving the way for a final nuclear deal and permanent sanctions relief for Iran. Such a scenario would undermine congressional opposition because the Iranians would be allowed to prove over at least the course of a year that they are a trustworthy partner living up to their commitments under the deal. A vote soon after a deal is struck in November would keep distrust alive.
The taming effect of Obama’s diplomacy with Iran on Congress was visible in July. When the nuclear talks failed to reach an agreement, negotiators extended them for four months. Most lawmakers expected the extension would open the door for the hawks to derail the process by pushing new sanctions. But unlike the sanctions gambit in January, the new legislation was designed so as not to violate the interim accord, which would have given Tehran a pretext to exit the negotiations and undermine the ongoing diplomacy.
Yet contrary to expectations, the four-month extension did not generate a political showdown over diplomacy and sanctions. Three factors explain why the hawks ended up losing the fight even before it began. First, the focus of the hawks was divided between the interim deal and defending Israel over its war with Hamas. Second, supporters of the president’s diplomacy had prepared the ground in Congress and mobilized resources in defense of it. And third, and perhaps most important, the interim nuclear deal had been a success.
According to all accounts, the Iranians had delivered on all their promises and commitments. They had not dragged their feet. They had not tried to cheat. Six months of continued good news had cleared much of the poison out of the atmosphere in Congress and rendered anti-Iran measures far more difficult to pass.
The hawks in Congress have learned their lesson. They now fear more good news coming out of the nuclear talks in Vienna. To kill these negotiations and pave the way for war, they need a vote now. Not later.

U.S. - White House warns Christie and Cuomo over Ebola quarantine rules

Dominic Rushe and Lauren Gambino
White House officials warned the governors of New York and New Jersey of the “unintended consequences” of quarantining all medical workers returning from west Africa, as a political crisis deepened on Sunday over how to counter public fears about the spread of Ebola in the US.
Amid a barrage of criticism from aid organisations, medical experts and the mayor of New York, the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, and his New York counterpart, Andrew Cuomo, have defended their plans, which provide for the mandatory 21-day quarantine of anyone returning from west Africa after direct contact with people suffering from Ebola.
But on Sunday evening Cuomo struck a less hardline tone, saying returning healthcare workers could be quarantined at home and receive twice-daily monitoring from medical professionals. The state will also compensate for any lost wages.
Cuomo also referred to healthcare workers returning from Africa as “heroes”, and said his administration would encourage more to volunteer.
Earlier in the day in New Jersey, Kaci Hickox, a nurse who was detained on Friday despite testing negative for Ebola, described her treatment as “inhumane” and said she had been made to feel like a criminal.
The White House made it clear that it objected to the hurried introduction of “policies not grounded in science”.
The tougher rules were introduced hurriedly on Friday by Christie and Cuomo after it emerged that a New York doctor, Craig Spencer, had moved widely around the city in the days before he tested positive for Ebola.
Spencer, who worked for Doctors Without Borders in Guinea, is now in isolation at Bellevue Hospital. Hickox was stopped at Newark airport in New Jersey just as the new rules were announced.
On Sunday evening Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, hit out strongly against her treatment. “The problem is this hero, having come back from the front, having done the right thing, was treated with disrespect, was treated with a sense that she had done something wrong when she hadn’t,” he said.
De Blasio, who was speaking at a press conference at Bellevue, added: “We respect the right of each governor to make decisions that they think are right for their people. But we have to think how we treat the people who are doing this noble work and we must show them respect and consideration at all times. And we owe [Hickox] better than that and all the people who do this work better than that.”
The White House indicated that it was urgently reviewing the federal guidelines for returning healthcare workers, “recognising that these medical professionals’ selfless efforts to fight this disease on the front lines will be critical to bringing this epidemic under control, the only way to eliminate the risk of additional cases here at home”.
“We have let the governors of New York, New Jersey, and others states know that we have concerns with the unintended consequences of policies not grounded in science may have on efforts to combat Ebola at its source in West Africa,” an administration official said.
The governors’ moves created another political crisis for the Obama administration, which is already facing criticism of its handling of the Ebola crisis in the run up to the midterm elections.
Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, on Sunday became the highest-ranked administration official to officially comment on the crisis. She told NBC: “We need to make sure [returning healthcare workers] are treated like conquering heroes and not in any other way.”
Power, who was in Guinea’s capital Conakry on the first leg of a tour through the three West African nations hardest hit by the epidemic, said: “All of us need to make clear what these health workers mean to us and how much we value their services, how much we value their contribution.”
In New Jersey, Hickox, who returned from a stint working for Doctors Without Borders in Sierra Leone, appointed a lawyer to free her and called her treatment “inhumane” and “poorly planned”.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Disease, said quarantining health workers could have the unintended consequence of stopping US aid workers from tackling the disease at its source in West Africa.
“There’s a big, big difference between completely confining somebody so that they can’t even get outside and doing the appropriate monitoring based on scientific evidence,” he said on CNN. “The harm is that it is totally disruptive of their life. We want them to go because they are helping us to protect America to be over there.”
Ebola cannot be transmitted until someone with the disease begins to display symptoms; even then it is only transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids.
A spokesman for Doctors Without Borders said a total of 52 people from the US had worked with the organisation in west Africa on the Ebola response since it began in March. The spokesman said 31 Americans were currently working in West Africa, with 20 due to return sometime in the next four weeks.
A spokesman for SIM, Palmer Holt, said the international missionary organisation had one American doctor in Liberia, “who is planning to return to the States soon, but if he has to undergo mandatory quarantine, he may not be able to do that, as his plan is to do a brief visit and then quickly return.”
Christie has so far defended his position, believing he has public opinion on his side. Illinois followed New York and New Jersey in introducing a 21-day quarantine on Friday and on Saturday Florida announced three weeks of testing for aid workers returning from affected areas. On Sunday, Christie said he expected quarantine of workers to become “national policy sooner rather than later”.
The new policies infuriated city officials in New York, who had drawn up meticulous plans to deal with potential Ebola patients in the wake of criticisms of the way Dallas officials handled the case of Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to be given a diagnosis of Ebola in the US, whose treatment was widely seen to have been bungled.
Duncan died on 8 October; two nurses who treated him contracted the disease and have since recovered.
New federal rules were also set to come into force Monday. Those plans and those prepared by New York have been thrown into disarray by the governors’ surprise moves.
De Blasio said New York was “fully prepared to handle the crisis”, and added: “There is no reason for New Yorkers to be alarmed. This is a very difficult disease to contract.
“It takes an extraordinary amount of direct and physical contact to contract this disease.”
From Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will require any traveler returning from the affected West African countries to report their temperatures to their local health authorities. Travelers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone will be required to report every day for the 21 days following their departure from West Africa, the length of time in which Ebola can remain dormant.
They will also be required to tell officials where they will be staying in the three weeks after they arrive and to hand over a list of relatives.



Urdu Music Video - Mehdi Hassan - Ek Husn Ki Devi Se Mujhe Pyar Hua Tha

Farzana Naz - Afghan Pashto song

Pashto Music Video - Homayun Sahebzai - Jar Mast Mehbobe

Pakistan: We have forgotten IDPs: ANP chief

Awami National Party (ANP) chief Asfandyar Wali Khan said Monday that IDPs should be sent back to their homes in areas which were declared as clear by the Pakistan army, adding that an announcement in this regard should be made today and not tomorrow.
While addressing a jirga from North Waziristan, Khan said that it seemed displaced persons had been forgotten in the grand scheme of things, and added that the most important thing was to overcome the losses suffered by school-going students as "a student will make tomorrow's Pakistan".
The ANP chief said that there should also be reserved seats in schools, colleges and universities for displaced persons.
Nearly a million people vacated the North Waziristan tribal region as military operation, Zarb-i-Azb was launched following a brazen militant attack on Karachi's international airport. The operation was aimed at wiping out longstanding militant strongholds in the area.
According to July 08, 2014 statistics by Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA), the total number of the displaced persons registered with the authorities was 787,888. The total number of families counted was 62,493, including 211,549 male and 236,883 female members, while the number of children was 339,456.
Moreover, as many as 2,437 displaced families comprising 19,806 individuals have also migrated from Khyber Agency, according to FDMA.
On the other hand, the army has refused to give a timeframe for winding up the ongoing operation. While talking to reporters on Oct 23, Major General Asim Bajwa said the operation was bearing fruit as most areas had been cleared of militants.
He, however, added that the people displaced from the conflict zone would be allowed to return to their homes soon "but before that the volatile region will be cleared of mines and improvised explosive devices planted by militants".

War amputees in Afghanistan face harsh lives of discrimination and poverty

By Erin Cunningham
No one knows how many there actually are. Decades of conflict have made tallying Afghanistan’s war-related amputees — the victims of land mines, unexploded ordnance and roadside bombs — essentially impossible, health officials say.
But as the battle between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters rages, humanitarian workers also say potent improvised explosive devices laid by insurgents are contributing to a significant rise in traumatic limb amputations for Afghan civilians and combatants.
And even as the population of Afghans who are missing limbs grows, amputees face discrimination and the harsh stigma of being disabled. Their families, too, often cannot cope with the strain of caring for severely disabled relatives in a country crushed by poverty and high rates of illiteracy.
“Socially and financially, their lives are destroyed,” Emanuele Nannini, program director at the Italian nonprofit Emergency, which operates health-care centers across Afghanistan, said of Afghan amputees.
From January to June this year, Emergency’s Center for War Trauma Victims in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, performed 69 amputations. The fiercest fighting between the two sides usually takes place in the warmer summer months.
Emergency then sends the amputees to the nearby International Committee for the Red Cross orthopedic facility for long-term rehabilitation. The patients receive vocational training and other support to reintegrate them into society. The ICRC said that between April and June this year, it admitted 351 amputee patients to its facilities across Afghanistan.
But for the most part, amputees “are completely dependent on their families, and they become a huge burden,” said Nannini, who is based in Kabul. “The real tragedy starts when they go home. If they don’t have a strong family, they become beggars.”
Indeed, the hardship that comes with the loss of a limb — or limbs — in a country that relies so heavily on agriculture and manual labor is particularly acute. Farmers can no longer toil. A mechanic without an arm loses his ability to tinker. A policeman cannot go out on patrol. When limbs are torn apart, livelihoods are mangled with them.
Mohammad Dawoud is a 22-year-old farmer from a village in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province — and his father’s only son. He was walking past a police checkpoint on the dirt road near his home this summer when he stepped on a buried IED, he said.
Doctors at Emergency’s hospital in Lashkar Gah amputated both of his legs above the knees. His fiancee knows what happened to him, but he has not yet heard from her, he said. Dawoud knows it is unlikely she will marry him now that he is handicapped.
“Life will pass somehow,” Dawoud said from his hospital bed in Lashkar Gah. “Maybe I will get some money and open a shop for tea and sweets in my village.”
“I used to grow pomegranates,” he said, recalling his life as a farmer. “But I never learned to read or write, because I never imagined I would end up like this.”

Afghanistan’s Unending Addiction

Over the last dozen years, the United States has poured $7.6 billion into combating Afghanistan’s opium production, and the results are now clear: The program failed.
This effectively leaves the Afghan economy heavily dependent on criminal enterprises, rising corruption that undermines efforts to promote democracy, and increased drug addiction among the Afghan people. The uncontrolled opium trade also provides the Taliban with up to $155 million annually, or more than one-quarter of the total funding for its antigovernment insurgency.
Yet this crisis is receiving far too little attention at a time when primary responsibility for the counternarcotics program shifts from the United States and its partners to the newly installed government of President Ashraf Ghani.
In a speech at Georgetown University last month, John Sopko, the special inspector general in charge of assessing American programs in Afghanistan, said: “By every conceivable metric, we’ve failed. Production and cultivation are up, interdiction and eradication are down, financial support to the insurgency is up, and addiction and abuse are at unprecedented levels in Afghanistan.”
The problem, as quantified by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and other agencies, appears to be getting worse. In 2012, Afghanistan produced 95 percent of the world’s opium, with much of the product going to Iran, Europe and Russia. The following year, Afghan farmers grew an unprecedented 209,000 hectares (more than 516,000 acres) of opium poppy, outpacing the previous high of 193,000 hectares in 2007.
The value of last year’s yield was $3 billion, up from $2 billion in 2012, a 50 percent increase in a single year. One province, Nangarhar, was declared “poppy-free” by the United Nations in 2008, but between 2012 and 2013, it had a fourfold increase in production.
The narcotics program embraced multiple strategies, including interdicting drug traffickers, eradicating poppy fields, strengthening the Afghan legal system to prosecute drug dealers, persuading farmers to grow alternative crops and establishing treatment programs for addicts. The Pentagon, one of the lead agencies in the effort, has pinned the failure to reduce cultivation largely on a lack of support from the Afghan government.
It must also be said, however, that American, European, Afghan and United Nations officials at times sabotaged their own mission by bickering over how the money should be spent and where best to focus resources.
It seems unlikely that the new and still fragile Afghan government will soon do better on poppy eradication than the United States and its allies, whose forces in Afghanistan are expected to be reduced to 15,000 by the end of the year. The one bright spot is that Mr. Ghani seems to have a vision for what needs to be done. His campaign platform frankly acknowledged that legal farming in Afghanistan is less profitable and less efficient than the drug trade because it lacks an organized system of markets, financing, skilled workers and irrigation equipment. He has pledged to modernize farming and develop new markets for legitimate crops and other products.
The American embassy in Kabul has said that the United States will help him in these efforts. The allies must pitch in as well. But one early order of business is to figure out where the counternarcotics strategy went wrong — why so much investment over the years has produced so little. An honest evaluation is a necessary first step to constructing a strategy that works and gives the new government a realistic shot at a building a productive economy and a stable nation.

Islamic State and Taliban flags in Kabul University demonstration

Dozens of university students participated in a demonstration in capital Kabul to protest against the alleged the blasphemy by a local English newspaper.
The majority of the rally participants were students of Islamic studies who condemned the newspaper for publishing a blasphemous article. The protesters were shouting slogans against democracy and were carrying flags of the Islamic State and Taliban group. They urged for the implementation of Sharia law through the real caliphate and insisted that the Kabul university students and lecturers are fed up of democracy.
A group of individuals were also arrested by Afghan security forces last week who were apparently supporting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in capital Kabul.
According to the security officials, the individuals were writing slogans in support of Islamic State in the walls of Kabul university. Though, the security officials are saying that the Islamic State has not managed to infiltrate in Afghanistan so far. However, insurgents belonging to a faction of the Hezb-e-Islami led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said earlier in September that they consider to join the Islamic State militants who are currently fighting in Syria and Iraq.
ٰٰThere have been growing concerns regarding the growth of extremism in educational institutes, specifically in Kabul university amid fears that the insurgent groups have infiltrated among the university students to hire them for insurgency activities in the country.

Video - Bilawal Bhutto Speaks in French, English and Urdu to a charged and responsive crowd in Paris

Music Video - Ghazal - WOH BATEIN TERI - TAHIRA SYED

Pakistan: Militants blow up school in Khyber

Militants blew up a school in Khyber tribal region's Bara tehsil early on Monday.
The unknown attackers planted the explosives in the school building which detonated with a loud bang, completely destroying Government Primary School, Sultan Khel.
There was no loss of life reported in the incident which took place in Bara's Akakhel area.
With the escalation in clashes between security forces and Lashkar-i-Islam (LI) militants along with intensified shelling of insurgent hideouts, Bara residents were left with no other option but to leave their homes in desperation and chaos and despite the imposition of a curfew.
Pakistan's military launched the operation named ‘Khyber-1’ last week with air strikes against LI hideouts in areas under the Mangal Bagh-led group’s control in Tirah and Bara.
The latest operation was launched amidst Zarb-i-Azb, a full-fledged military operation being conducted by the army against Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other militants in the North Waziristan tribal region.
Khyber is among Pakistan’s seven semi-autonomous tribal districts near the Afghan border, rife with homegrown insurgents and foreign militants. These are also home to religious extremist organisations including Al Qaeda.
The plains of Bara hold strategic significance for militant groups as they connect the agency to the outskirts of Peshawar. The area was being used by militants to put pressure on the provincial capital. In recent weeks, police and military posts in and around Peshawar have come under attack.
The key area also straddles the Nato supply line into Afghanistan.
Khyber also links several agencies to each other, serving as a north-south route within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). The region has been long fought over by a mix of militant organisations, including TTP, Ansarul Islam and LI.

ISI shifts underworld don Dawood Ibrahim to Pakistan-Afghanistan border

Sustained joint efforts by Indian and US security agencies seem to have driven underworld don Dawood Ibrahim into hiding close to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
Top sources in country's security establishment, involved in tracking the activities of the D-Company, said that Dawood had been whisked away from his high-security mansion in Karachi's Clifton area by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence ( ISI) and shifted to an undisclosed location close to the Af-Pak border.Indian intelligence agencies, keeping close tabs on movement of Dawood and his men, received specific inputs over the past few days about the gangster shifting base.
"Dawood seems to have gone completely underground. He has not been seen or even heard of interacting with his close aides. The Inter-Services Intelligence and Dawood appear under a lot of pressure," sources in the intelligence community claimed. Sources added that Inter-Services Intelligence appeared extremely wary of the new Indo-US cooperation to fight terrorism, with special focus on targeting the D-Company network.
This had come up during he extended dialogue between National Security Advisor AK Doval and state department officials in the US earlier this month. Sources said that cooperation on Dawood would be the first test of the partnership between the two countries with US playing a crucial role in choking the funds to the DCompany. The mastermind of 1992 Mumbai terror attacks and many more subsequently has business interests around the world, including in UAE, Africa and Pakistan. It is suspected that Dawood has been using money raised by smuggling narcotics to fund terror activities in Afghanistan and India.
Politicos reacted on Monday after ISIS shifted underworld mafia Dawood Ibrahim hideout to Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Condemning Pakistan for giving shelter to Dawood Ibrahim, BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said that it is clear that Pakistan is a terror manufacturing state. Congress leader Rashid Alvi said that the central government should take steps to bring back Dawood Ibrahim, so that he can be tried for his criminal activities. NCP leader Majid Memon said that the centre should look into the matter. CPI leader Atul Anjan slamming Pakistan for sheltering Dawood Ibrahim said that if Pakistan wants good relations with India then it should hand over Dawood Ibrahim to our nation.

ISIS And Pakistan
The so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is also known as al Dawlah al Islamiyah fi al Iraq wal Shâm or DAISH. This arrangement is also referred to as the Islamic State or IS in line with their aspirations to create a transnational geographical entity ostensibly on the basis of religion. The state was declared on June 29, 2014. Not surprisingly, its proclaimed leader, al-Baghdadi, quoted extensively from the writings of Maududi, founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), when he declared himself caliph of the entire Muslim world. Based on his unique interpretation of citizenship in Islam, Maududi put forward the idea of the universal citizen transcending nation or history. Maududi deliberately ignored the saying of the Prophet (PBUH): “Love for your country is part of faith.” Maududi thus took his cue not from religion but from the French Revolution that sought to create a state that in turn created its citizens. This flawed concept formed the basis of Maududi’s argument that full citizenship of an Islamic state was only available to Muslims and this principle has been adopted by ISIS, which kills and beheads in the name of Islam. Their mistreatment and oppression of religious minorities and extermination of dissenting Islamic theology also stems from this flawed deduction.
ISIS humiliates when it kills and dishonours the bodies of its victims. It captures through videos or photographs practices like mass executions and public crucifixions that it carries out in the name of religion, making a mockery of Islam. It uses religion as a tool to gain political weight that it cannot gain otherwise. Its hatred for democracy is therefore not camouflaged, intelligently branding it as a western idea. ISIS’s inception in a sham democracy like Iraq therefore holds no surprise as previously violent pseudo-religious extremists converged in places like Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan’s tribal areas and northern Nigeria.
Pakistan was created as a separate state for Indian Muslims from British India in 1947 and followed a parliamentary form of democracy. In 1949, contrary to the ideals of Jinnah, the country’s founder, the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan passed the Objectives Resolution that envisaged an official role for Islam as the state religion. Yet, despite this, the state retained most of the laws that it inherited from the secular British legal code that had been enforced by colonial British authorities. It, therefore, qualified as a target for local extremist organisations. The emergence of ISIS with global aspirations opens up room for not just an alliance of these terrorist organisations but also paves the way for the former’s physical presence through assimilation of local outfits. The recent teaming up of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP’s) Shahidullah Shahid with ISIS is a step in this direction. The TTP’s declaration was preceded by news that a local group by the name of Islami Khilafat had distributed pamphlets in Peshawar that were also sent to Afghan refugee camps and to eastern Afghanistan. These pamphlets purportedly came from Kunar province in Afghanistan. The pamphlet was titled Fatah (victory) and published in Pashto and Dari. The logo of the pamphlet has the kalma (the most prominent testament of faith), the historical stamp of the Prophet (PBUH) and a Kalashnikov assault rifle. A Pakistani security official was quoted as saying: “We came across them 22 days ago and we are aware of their presence here…Pakistani security agencies are working on the Pakistan-Afghan border and have arrested a number of Taliban fighters and recovered CDs, maps, literature in Persian, Pashto and Dari. We will not permit them to work in our country and anyone who is involved in this will be crushed by the government.” However, marking an increased ISIS presence here, just days ago, the local news showed an ISIS wall chalking in Karachi. This is disturbing; ISIS may very well view Pakistan with its strategic assets as a priceless target.
A Taliban splinter group, Jamaatul Ahrar, has declared its support for ISIS. Reuters quoted Jamatul Ahrar’s leader, Ehsanullah Ehsan, as saying: “We respect them. If they ask us for help, we will look into it and decide.” The formation of ISIS with its transnational ambitions may have been the tipping point for the Pakistan army to initiate Operation Zarb-e-Azb. The Pakistan army appears to have acted wisely and tried to eliminate prospective ISIS allies before they made a move here. Zarb-e-Azb was imperative in destroying TTP bases and infrastructure here. This operation has, however, opened up the possibility that terrorists who flee to Afghanistan and further to Central Asia may tie up with ISIS and provide it inroads into Central Asia, India and even China if they support the Uighur living in Xinjiang. ISIS is a real threat to the entire region, not just Pakistan.
Recalling Baghdadi’s frequent quoting of Maududi, the JI’s stance on ISIS should be an eye opener. The JI’s (India) bi-weekly Dawat carried in its August 22, 2014 publication an editorial note titled ‘DAAISH (ISIS): some points to ponder’. The note says: “Some people say that they are the agents of the US while some others are of the opinion that they are a tool in the hands of the enemies of Islam to drive a wedge between Sunni and Shia Islam. There are few others who call it a manifestation of predictions in the hadith (sayings of the Prophet [PBUH])…Objectively speaking, it will not be wise for Muslims to form a final opinion on the basis of speculations…Still, it is very necessary to welcome the announcement of the establishment of Islamic caliphate by the ISIS because Islamic caliphate is the aspiration of every Muslim and there has never been a disagreement on the issue among the Muslims in any period of history.”
JI’s love for ISIS and Baghdadi’s love for Maududi points to the presence of an organisation in our political mainstream that can provide recruits to this menace. Should we allow such an organisation whose father figure can be rightly labelled the father of ISIS, to continue to operate, is a question that our security agencies must ask. The mutual love of Maududi, Hasan al-Bana and the Ikhwanul Muslimoon (Muslim Brotherhood) is another reason for worry. The JI, which worked against the creation of Pakistan, is launching the so-called ‘Pakistan Movement’ from Minto Park on October 21 of this month, which may well be the start of a discreet campaign to galvanise support from unsuspecting innocent Pakistanis for any future DAISH action here. We need to be on guard. The country is already unstable due to incompetent governance and political agitation. The JI’s entry has more to it than is apparent.

Pakistan: Murder of Daniel Pearl - Anti-terrorism lacunae

The kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, the South Asia bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal, in 2002 is a dark blot on our reputation. The latest episode in this gruesome incident does not help our case. An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Islamabad has released one of the accused in the Daniel Pearl case, Qari Hashim, for lack of evidence. Qari Hashim was charged with the offence of being the go between, the man who arranged the meeting between the slain journalist and his kidnappers. The murder of Daniel Pearl was no ordinary crime; it was a blatant act of terrorism and ought to be dealt with in the same manner. By acquitting Qari Hashim, who had been under arrest since 2005, the court has failed to distinguish between an ordinary criminal act and an act of terror. One is unfortunately too used to seeing the prosecution’s case falling flat because of a number of factors, lack of evidence being one of them. It is a rather miserable situation in the country’s courts that witnesses and even judges are intimidated, the former to retract their testimonies and the latter to deliver manipulated verdicts..
It is also a given that gathering evidence in cases of terrorism is not as easy as in other circumstances. A massive amount of intelligence gathering is required and the only efficacious way to really tackle terror acts is to prevent them happening in the first place. With such a different canvas to build a case on, the prosecution needs to be at the top of its game and that is rarely witnessed in the Pakistani courts, including the ATC. It is imperative that, in this day and age of violent militancy, people accused and charged with playing a part in terror acts not be released back into society unless their innocence is proved beyond a shadow of a doubt. In that context it is a matter of satisfaction that Qari Hashim has been detained after his acquittal in preventive detention for 90 days under the MPO. This respite should be used to redouble efforts to find clinching evidence of his guilt. Terrorists are becoming more and more savage and bloodthirsty; they are a threat to society and we cannot just keep letting them go. The murder of Daniel Pearl was a ghastly one — beheading — and Qari Hashim was suspected of playing a major role in it as he was under arrest for some nine years.

Pakistan: Flaws in vaccination campaign contribute to worrying polio spike

Taliban militants have long been the scourge of Pakistan's polio vaccination campaign, attacking aid workers and the police who protect them as they distribute doses to children.
But experts say there is another reason for the sharp spike in cases of the crippling disease in Pakistan this year — government mismanagement.
The prime minister's polio cell was disbanded during 2013 elections, the new government delayed reconstituting it, and in recent months the prime minister has been consumed with protests in the capital that have only just ended.
“It's frustrating. Eradicating polio is not rocket science,” said Elias Durry, head of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) polio campaign in Pakistan.
“If we could have three to five months to have really good campaigns, then we could get rid of this disease,” he said. “We have been doing half-baked campaigns in high risk areas.”
Polio was meant be a thing of the past. A global campaign came tantalisingly close to wiping out the disease altogether.
Now polio, which can kill or paralyse a child in hours, is endemic only in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
So far this year, Pakistan has had 217 polio cases, a 14-year high accounting for 85 per cent of instances around the world.
The disease spreads easily from person to person, and Pakistan has already exported the virus to Syria, China, Israel and Egypt.
Experts say complacency is not an option and the government has called the situation an “emergency”.
Yet as the latest vaccination campaign kicked off this week in the broiling, garbage-strewn alleys of Karachi, vaccination workers said they had not received stipends from the provincial government for months.
Some have dropped out of the campaign in Karachi, a teeming city of 18 million people where the disease is entrenched.
As teams prepared to venture out on vaccination missions into some of Karachi's most dangerous streets, police deployed to protect them showed up late.
Vaccinators must wait, meaning they miss children. Sometimes only a third of children in an area are vaccinated, the WHO said, and low coverage fuels new outbreaks.
Taking responsibility
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took six months to appoint an official responsible for polio, and the government approved a funding plan only last month. That meant provinces did not pay workers their stipends of USD2.5 a day on time, said Shahnaz Wazir Ali, a polio adviser to Sindh province of which Karachi is the capital. “We had a loss of about nine to 10 months, which is a very big setback,” Ali said. Ayesha Farooq, the prime minister's appointee on polio, admitted there were problems, but said that payment arrears were down to provincial, not central government. Most new cases were in areas where security was poor so children had not been vaccinated, she said, and denied that Sharif was not taking the issue seriously. “We have got to take responsibility for our weaknesses,” Farooq told Reuters. “The quality of campaigns is something we will be paying close attention to.”
Police protection
For frontline polio workers, late pay is less worrying than lack of protection. Sixty-four people have been killed in attacks on polio teams and their security escorts since 2012, when the Taliban banned vaccinations in areas they controlled.
Their targets are women like 19-year-old medical student Asma Nizam, who received a death threat for taking part in the programme.
“A man came on a motorbike and said, 'if you want to save your life, you should go from here',” she said. The next day, militants killed five of her colleagues.
As she prepared to visit Karachi slums on a vaccination mission last Monday, police sent to protect Nizam were three hours late.
Pakistan's police are thinly spread, especially in crime-ridden Karachi where only 26,000 police watch over the huge city. Some are seconded as bodyguards for politicians.
“I have seen six police taking a VIP's teenager to the salon but they cannot spare any officers to protect the poor children of Pakistan,” one health official burst out in exasperation.
Karachi police spokesman Atiq Shaikh said the force was severely understaffed.
“Polio campaigns take 2,000 officers. But we always provide them with security even though we have some time constraints,” he said.
A further hurdle is caution among families offered the treatment. Some believe Taliban propaganda that says vaccinations are a Western plot to sterilise children.
Aiding polio's spread has been this year's military offensive in the tribal region of North Waziristan, which drove nearly a million people out of the conflict zone.
The mass movement allowed workers to vaccinate children previously unreachable. But families also moved to areas where vaccination coverage was patchy, allowing polio to reestablish itself in cities where it had been eradicated, experts say.
Children may need the oral vaccine up to 10 times for it to be effective. Many Pakistani children are malnourished or have diarrhea so the vaccine is not absorbed.
The unlucky ones may end up like Rafia, a chubby two-year-old with kohl-rimmed eyes. Her legs were partially paralysed after contracting polio this summer.
“She was vaccinated whenever they came,” said her father Ghulam Isaq, a shopkeeper. He massaged her tiny toes as a group of black-robed polio vaccinators looked on, only their eyes visible above black niqabs covering their faces.
“We need help even if we are poor,” Isaq said. “We are Pakistanis too.”

Pakistan: Unicef warned of polio funding cut

The chairman of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) has called upon the head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and fellow leaders of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to demand that the Pakistan government take transformative action to fix the country’s appalling polio programme.
In a letter to Unicef Executive Director Anthony Lake, IMB Chairman Sir Liam Donaldson warned that the initiative might have a tough time in obtaining funding in the future if the priorities of the programme were not rearranged to focus on ridding Pakistan of the curse of polio and focusing on immunisation as a top priority.
An official from the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) told Dawn that the letter was significant because it indicated that the IMB was quite serious about the implementation of its recommendations.
In a letter to Unicef Executive Director Anthony Lake, IMB Chairman Sir Liam Donaldson warned that the initiative might have a tough time in obtaining funding in the future if the priorities of the programme were not rearranged to focus on ridding Pakistan of the curse of polio and focusing on immunisation as a top priority.
An official from the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) told Dawn that the letter was significant because it indicated that the IMB was quite serious about the implementation of its recommendations.
“The report clearly indicates that IMB believes that all of Pakistan is threatened by the poliovirus and that the government is not taking serious measures to eradicate the menace,” he said.
An IMB report issued on Saturday called the Pakistan polio programme “a disaster” and recommended that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) be given the reins of the anti-polio drive in the country.
The report stated that the virus had been circulating in metropolitan areas such as Karachi and Lahore as well as the tribal areas, while samples from other major cities such as Hyderabad and Quetta had also tested positive for polio.
In this important communiqué, the IMB chair warned that failure to work on the recommendations made in the latest report would result in “hundreds of millions of dollars being spent every year solely to keep (the) Pakistan poliovirus out of other countries”.
The IMB emphasised the importance of each of the recommendations and said “we feel it is no time for small recommendations, or for prolonged reflection”.
Meanwhile, NDMA spokesperson Ahmed Kamal told Dawn on Sunday that while the authority was willing to take on the challenge of combating polio across the country, it would first have to be empowered to deal with the challenges posed by the crippling disease.
“If the government wants to hand over the polio programme to NDMA, it has to facilitate us,” he said, adding that the National Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Network had been working on health issues in collaboration with the provinces. For the NDMA to work effectively against polio, the network must be placed under the authority so that the authority had a mechanism to coordinate with the provinces, as health was now a provincial subject, he said.
Meanwhile, the IMB has expressed ‘profound disagreement’ with those who see “polio-free Africa” as the top priority of the programme. In the letter, Sir Liam also reiterates the IMB’s call for the implementation of the recommendation that “all countries introduce a requirement that travellers from polio-infected countries should produce a valid vaccination certificate or be turned away”.
The IMB’s reports go to the donor agencies that fund the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which is spearheaded by Unicef and includes the World Health Organisation, Rotary International and the US Centre for Disease Control. If the IMB concludes that any of the milestones or process indicators are ‘at risk’ or ‘missed’, relevant national authorities and implementing/donor partners are engaged to establish emergency corrective action plans.

Pakistan: Muhajir Or Native?

The Mutahida Qaumi Movement is acting more and more like the Muhajir Qaumi Movement, with its resignations and celebrations of a “Black Day.” MQM leader Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui had earlier criticised the PPP and accused them of indulging in the politics of hatred and ethnicity, but their resignations have made clear that they are still reliant on the politics of ethnicity. While Khursheed Shah has apologised, the focus is now not on the gaffs of the PPP but how the MQM continues to treat Karachi like its personal fiefdom with strikes and demonstrations that bring the city to a standstill.
The MQM is however, to some extent justified in pressing its demand for more provinces throughout Pakistan including Sindh. A single Chief Minister does not and cannot efficiently work for such a vast area and population. However, these demands can be presented and discussed by lawmakers and there needs to be consensus on any decision of such enormity. The trend of “dharna politics” needs to change. Populism is understandable, and people have a right to participate and protest, but once they have, once parliamentarians are in parliaments, can they not try to sort out these issues? What use are our representatives, when they refuse to represent us and make idols out of the likes of Altaf Bhai, Imran Khan and Bilawal Bhutto? Quitting governments is all about party politics and not about getting things done for the people. When the MQM was in power during the Musharraf era, there was no demand for separate provinces. Rather than politicians bringing politics out onto the street, they have to try and bring the people’s wishes into legislation. All of this also shows that people have zero confidence in the government of Sindh and so do those sitting in the provincial assembly.
The MQM need the “Muhajir” discourse to continue to keep control over the politics of identity and then claim to be a representative of that identity. The MQM wants to go national, but in doing so it cannot lose its Muhajir base. The ruckus over Shah’s slip-of-tongue is part of this politics, because his statement pointed to a removal of this identity, in the place of “nativeness”. Sure, Shah’s statement was insensitive, whatever the meaning truly was behind it. But let us not forget that Altaf Husain is himself a Muhajir, in his adopted country of the UK. By that logic, it all makes sense. A Muhajir movement let by a practicing Muhajir!

Pakistan: Malik urges Nawaz to order inquiry into London rally incident

Pakistan People’s Party leader Rehman Malik has demanded of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take notice of the incident at the Kashmir rally in London.
He said that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari raised voice for Kashmiris and had visited London to express solidarity with them. “Workers of a political party tried to harm Kashmir cause after taking money from India,” he claimed.
He said that cases should be launched against those who committed treason against Kashmir cause.
Malik was speaking to media at his residence in Karachi where he also urged the prime minister to order an inquiry into the matter.

Bilawal Bhutto attends Million March in London to pledge solidarity with Kashmiris
Chairman PPP, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari attended the Million March in London to pledge solidarity with the people of Kashmir and to reaffirm his unconditional support for their struggle for self-determination. The Chairman was received by a jubilant crowd who welcomed him on stage.
However, some miscreants attempted to sabotage the event by creating unrest. Despite all efforts by the London Police to secure and usher Chairman PPP off stage because of saboteurs’ violent behavior, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari stood resolute and responded ”These agents who are trying to damage the cause of Kashmir and intimidate me into leaving should know that I will not leave before completing my speech. This is not about me or you, this is about the people of Kashmir”. The Chairman also vowed that he shall not play partisan politics or diplomatic games with the futures and the lives of the people of Kashmir.