Monday, November 3, 2014

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ISIL Takfiri elements freely present in Qatar: Report
Elements of the ISIL Takfiri group are freely present in Qatar despite the Arab country’s membership in the US-led coalition against the terrorist group, a report says.
According to a Monday report by Reuters, foreign diplomats in Doha have witnessed vehicles carrying the logos of ISIL Takfiri group driving around the West Bay, one of Qatar’s most affluent districts home to the majority of expatriates’ houses and businesses.
“Of course we were alarmed when we saw the logos, but we were told they were being watched closely by authorities and there isn’t much to worry about,” said one of the foreign diplomats who spotted the ISIL logos.
Elsewhere in the town of Umm al-Amad, north of Doha, some members of al-Tawhid Takfiri group, which fights against the Syrian government, reside in a huddle of farms and small mosques, the report added.
Although Qatar has joined the so-called US-led strikes against the extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, the Qatari planes merely flew a reconnaissance mission on the first night of the attacks and reports of the country’s airstrikes in Syria at later stages have not been officially confirmed.
According to a security source close to the Qatari government, Doha’s reluctance to join the US-led strikes in Syria was partly due to the fact that it was seeking to avoid targeting sites of the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front inside Syria.
Analyst contend that Qatar has joined the so-called coalition to placate its allies criticizing Doha’s support for extremist groups and at the same time the Arab country assumed a minimal role in the attacks in a cautious bid to preserve its sway over the Takfiri groups as long-term allies.
Takfiri groups “use Doha as an active launch pad for their media campaigns, communications and logistics which directly have an impact on the security of other Arab states,” said an Arab diplomat in Doha.
While Qatar provides a haven to extremist groups such as ISIL and Afghan Taliban, it hosts the largest US air base in the Middle East, owns swathes of Western real estate and is a key customer for Western military products.

Video Report - 'ISIS killing far more Muslims than they can admit'

Syria condemns positions expressed by French and Turkish presidents
Syria strongly condemned the positions voiced by the French and Turkish presidents following their recent meeting in Paris which showed the level of complicity between them in conspiring against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria in blatant contradiction with the goals and principles of the UN Charter and international law.
The positions in question were voiced during a joint press conference on Friday by French President Francois Hollande and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which Hollande reiterated calls for supporting terrorists in Syria whom he labeled “moderate opposition” and said that France and Turkey discussed cooperating to establish no-fly zones.
An official source at the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry told SANA on Monday that the course followed by the French and Turkish governments regarding Syria and the myriad forms of support they provide to armed terrorist organizations in Syria – in blatant violation of the Security Council’s counterterrorism resolutions – are responsible for the crisis in Syria, the shedding of Syrian blood, and hindering counterterrorism efforts, and this requires that the international community condemn the hostile behavior of the French and Turkish governments.
The source said that rather than interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, the French and Turkish leaderships should address the mounting internal crises in their own countries that are reflected by growing public discontent at their policies, adding that running towards foreign affairs to hide their failures will result in further moral and political downfall.

Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab: ‘I will not stop’
A Bahraini court Sunday freed prominent activist Nabeel Rajab but barred him from travel until his trial resumes over Tweets that were critical of state institutions, a judicial source said, as Rajab vowed to continue the fight for human rights no matter what happens.
After his release, a picture on his Twitter account showed Rajab in a car, smiling and flashing a “V” for victory sign, as his family said he arrived home.
The criminal court in Manama ordered Rajab’s release from custody and adjourned the trial until January 20, the source told AFP.
Last month, Rajab, director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) and co-founder of Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), was summoned for questioning by the cyber crimes unit at the Criminal Investigation Directorate.
A letter from the GCHR staff and Advisory Board members said the investigation, which lasted for 45 minutes, evolved around “tweets posted on his Twitter account that denigrated government institutions.”
The trial has been condemned by advocacy groups, including Human Rights Watch, which also called for the charges against Rajab to be dropped. Amnesty International said Sunday that “while we welcome that Nabeel Rajab has been released on bail, he should never have been detained in the first place.”
“The Bahraini authorities are merely obfuscating, meanwhile a man’s future hangs in the balance,” said Amnesty’s MENA deputy director, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.
In his first interview after his release, Rajab told Russia Today on Sunday that “human rights activists in this country [Bahrain] are the main target of the regime and its institutions” and that they “are forced to be silent.”
“Many people are behind bars today [in Bahrain] because of a tweet they have made or because of criticism they have written in a newspaper or online,” he said, adding that he was detained with over 4,000 political prisoners.
“We [activists] are suffocating. The regime doesn’t want us to speak up and criticize government institutions, although these institutions have been responsible for a lot of human rights violations.”
Rajab rose to prominence after taking a leading role in mass demonstrations in Bahrain in 2011 which asked for reforms in the Gulf kingdom.
He was jailed in May 2012 on charges of organizing and participating in illegal protests. He was released in May 2014.
Bahrain, with the help of Saudi Arabia, crushed the peaceful demonstrations that began on Feb. 14, 2011 inspired by Arab uprisings elsewhere, but has yet to resolve the conflict between the population and the monarchy oppressing them.
Asked whether he will continue campaigning for human rights, Rajab asserted that he “is now more determined” to fight until the end. “The struggle has to continue. We have been under the ruling of the Khalifa family for the past 200 years. Justice, equality and democracy are not free of charge … a lot of people have sacrificed their lives over the years and, compared to them, my imprisonment is nothing,” he explained. “Whatever happens, I will not stop,” he concluded.
Rajab is regarded as a hero among ordinary Bahrainis, with his portrait plastered on walls across the country alongside other political prisoners including Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a prominent activist and former president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, who was sentenced to life in jail for “plotting to overthrow” the dictatorship.
Last month, Abdulhadi’s daughter Zainab al-Khawaja was detained after a judge accused her of insulting King Hamad by tearing up his picture. Earlier this year, the Bahraini king, a long-standing ally of Washington, approved a law imposing a jail sentence of up to seven years and a fine of up to 10,000 dinars ($26,500) for anyone who publicly insulted him.
Zainab was a prominent activist during the 2011 protests, where she became known for publishing news of the uprising on social media especially after she called for international attention to focus on an estimated 3,000 prisoners believed to be behind bars in Bahrain on politically related charges.
Today, Bahrain has the distinction of being the country with the second highest prison population rate per 100,000 amongst Arab states in the West Asian and North African region.
There are over 200 minors held within these prisons, forced to stay side-by-side with adults, and a few have faced torture and sexual abuses.
Even though Bahrain, home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, quelled the 2011 protests, it continues to witness sporadic protests which often spiral into clashes with police.
Bahrain on November 22 will hold its first parliamentary elections since the uprising.
The polls have been boycotted by several opposition groups, including the main opposition bloc Al-Wefaq, which was banned by a court decision last week from carrying out any activities for three months.

Volleyball woman 'on hunger strike' in Iran

British-Iranian woman, jailed for trying to attend men's volleyball match, is protesting against her detention.
A British-Iranian woman jailed in Iran after trying to watch a volleyball match is on a hunger strike for the second time, reports say.
Ghoncheh Ghavami was sentenced to a year in jail after attempting to attend a men's volleyball match between Iran and Italy in Tehran in June, her lawyer told Iranian media.
The 25-year-old law graduate from London, is protesting against "what she called her illegal detention", her mother told the BBC.
Woman are banned from attending volleyball and football matches in Iran, which officials say protects them from lewd behaviour.
She was arrested on June 20 outside Tehran's Azadi Stadium, where she was taking part in a demonstration demanding that women be allowed inside to watch the international league match.
Ghavami was released soon after, but then re-arrested days later when she was called back to reclaim items that had been confiscated when she was first detained.
The status of Ghavami's case is uncertain because prosecutors have not confirmed her sentence, according to the broadcaster.
Ghavami previously went on hunger strike for two weeks before her sentencing, when she was detained for months before going on trial behind closed doors.
The human rights group Amnesty International says she has been held at the Evin prison, which has a reputation for brutality, and has spent time in solitary confinement.
Iran does not recognise dual citizenship, and treats dual nationals as Iranians.
Despite an international outcry against the case, last month, a 26-year-old Iranian woman was executed in Tehran for killing a man who she said had tried to sexually abuse her.

90,000 kids homeless in UK: Shelter

A recent report shows there are around 90,000 homeless children in Britain, the equivalent of three in every school, Press TV reports.
The report, published by housing and homelessness charity group Shelter on Monday, was complied in accordance with analysis of the latest government figures on homelessness in the UK. “I believe that figure because I see a lot of people in my community that are homeless, so I think that it’s true,” said a UK citizen.
Following the report, Shelter said it would launch an emergency appeal in response to what it described as a “crisis.”
"In the 21st century, it cannot be right that homeless children are experiencing severe emotional distress, facing three-hour round trips to school and having to eat their dinner on the floor," said Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb.
The report also said that on average three children are homeless in every school in Britain.
“I don’t understand how you could have people or kids like that homeless on the streets and you want to complain about all of the madness that goes on in the streets. I mean we have got so many homeless people yet there are so many buildings being built up and redeveloped and stuff but none of those actually help these young people, It doesn’t make any sense, ” said another citizen.
The charity’s investigations also revealed that many children who had homes felt unsafe with their parents and reported exposure to drug and alcohol abuse, fighting, swearing, and racist language.

News Analysis: Attacks in U.S., Canada underscore danger of home-grown terror

by Matthew Rusling
A spate of recent terror attacks in the United States and Canada underscore the danger of so-called "lone wolf" terror attacks that appear to be on the rise in the West.
A gunman stormed Canada's parliament in Ottawa on Oct. 22 after killing an unarmed ceremonial guard outside the building and was later shot dead by security. The incident followed a recent attack whereby a man purposely rammed his car into two Canadian soldiers near Montreal, killing one of them.
Also this month four New York City police officers were attacked in broad daylight by a hatchet-wielding assailant. And last month a man in the U.S. State of Oklahoma beheaded a coworker.
In all these cases, the attackers were allegedly recent converts to Islam. While information is still trickling out, the attacks appear to be acts of terror, highlighting the danger the West and North America are facing from "lone wolves" with radical ideology.
From a law enforcement standpoint, "lone wolves" are nearly impossible to preempt. They do not belong to terror cells, which precludes the possibility of law enforcement infiltrating the groups or monitoring their movements. Attacks can usually be stopped only when they are already in progress, experts say.
Rather than taking orders from superiors, home-grown radicals are influenced by the hateful ideology spewed by terror groups including the al-Qaida and the Islamic State (IS), the latter having in recent months overrun vast swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria.
In his book entitled "A Battle for the Soul of Islam," author Zuhdi Jasser noted that several U.S.-born Muslims or naturalized U.S. citizens have plotted to attack the United States.
Other American radicals have traveled overseas to link up with groups such as the IS, part of a trend of Western nations' citizens joining up with terror groups abroad.
Jasser told Xinhua that it is Islamist supremacist ideology, rather than political events and grievances, that drives Islamist terrorism.
In a recent speech, U.S. President Barack Obama said the White House aims to tackle the extremist ideology that has inspired so much violence, although some are skeptical over whether the U.S. can have an impact.
Wayne White, former deputy director of the U.S. State Department's Middle East Intelligence Office, told Xinhua it would be difficult for Washington to battle the spread of such ideology, as the U.S. is perceived by many in the Muslim world as a "Christian" country.
Moreover, the invasion of Iraq, U.S. support for Israel and ongoing drone strikes in Muslim countries are widely unpopular in the Islamic world.
"Washington's ability to address the overarching issue of Islamic radicalism is extremely limited," White said.

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Afghanistan's President Drops His Tribal Name

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has decided to drop his tribal name of Ahmadzai and has asked all government departments and media to use his family name only.
A letter was sent last week by the Presidential Palace's administrative affairs office to all government departments telling them to drop "Ahmadzai" from official documentation, deputy palace spokesman Fayeq Wahidi said. The president had signed the letter, he said.
The Ahmadzai are one of the biggest Pashtun tribes in Afghanistan, based largely in the south and southeast of the country, though Ghani is from Logar province south of Kabul.
Tribal names are sometimes added to the end of a name to denote tribal and geographical affiliation.
Wahidi said Ghani wants to use the name that appears on his national identification card.

Post-US era: Afghanistan, a closer ally with China?

Zhang Dan
China and Afghanistan have recently engaged in a flurry of diplomatic exchanges, including Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s first state visit to China and an international meeting on Afghanistan held in Beijing on Oct. 31.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani paid a four-day state visit to China, starting Oct. 28. This was his first trip overseas since taking office in September of this year. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang extended him a warm welcome and pledged support for Afghanistan's reconstruction.
On Oct. 31, Beijing held its first international meeting on the subject of Afghanistan, the fourth ministerial conference of the Istanbul Process. During the meeting, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang pledged to offer 1.5 billion yuan ($244 million) in assistance to Afghanistan over the upcoming three years. He also vowed to help the country train 3,000 people of all circles in the upcoming five years, and provide 500 scholarships.
Ghani’s Beijing tour came only two days after the last dispatches of troops from the United States and the United Kingdom ended their mission in Afghanistan.
Is this a signal of a closer relationship between China and Afghanistan? Moreover, will China play a greater role than the United States in Afghanistan in the future?
A Chinese blogger wrote an article entitled 'China: from bystander to important player in Afghan issue' to elaborate on the future roles of China and the United States in the Central Asia country.
On Oct. 26, 2014, NATO officially ended its combat missions in Afghanistan. Troops from the United States and the United Kingdom held a ceremony on that day to transfer two military bases to the Afghan military. NATO’s announcement indicates that its 13-year military occupation of Afghanistan has officially come to an end.
On Oct. 28, just two days after NATO’s announcement, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani started a four-day visit to China at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping. This was Ghani’s first state visit since taking office. It aroused people’s attention when he chose to visit China over the United States for his first foreign trip as Afghan president.
The recent U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and Ghani’s visit to China together show that international power relations have shifted. Over the past 13 years, the United States prevailed over the Afghan situation. But now China is becoming a more important player.
The 13 years of war in Afghanistan cost the United States trillions of dollars, and provoked the rise of many terrorists cells in the Middle East. The U.S. won the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but gained little from their endeavors due to the large costs involved and new enemies created in the process of fighting these conflicts.
The recent diplomatic exchanges between China and Afghanistan have triggered jealousy from the West. The western media again labels China as ‘a free rider’. In fact, this is not free-riding. China simply rebuilds what the western powers have broken. China is a builder, first and foremost. That is why countries welcome China to participate in their reconstruction.
After the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the United States became the world’s only super power. By 2001, its global predominance was on the decline. The US planned to create a ‘global empire’ that could control the whole world for generations to come.
By occupying Afghanistan in the name of fighting terrorism after the Sept.11 attacks, the US attempted to achieve three purposes: the prevention of China’s influence over the Middle East, the interception of Russia’s influence in South Asia, and the eventual takedown of Iran.
The first two purposes were strategic, while the third one was the immediate intention. Its plan includes three steps: first, controlling Afghanistan, second, to encircle Iran by first controlling Iraq, and then, to take down Iran.
The U.S. was militarily unstoppable at that time. Therefore, under the pretext of ‘fighting terrorism’ and ‘upholding justice’, it waged the Afghan war after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. In 2003, it carried out the second step, invading Iraq. Even though the U.S. did not get UN authorization for the use of military force against Iraq, George W. Bush unilaterally launched the invasion of Iraq.
After the fall of Saddam's regime, the U.S. troops controlled Iraq. Its next target was Iran. Strategically speaking, if it could control Iran, then its status as a ‘global empire’ would be established. If that happened, the costs of these wars would be imposed on other countries.
Of course, Iran was prepared. On Feb. 9, 2003, more than one month before the Iraq war, then Iranian President Mohammad Khatami announced in a televised speech that Iran had discovered uranium ore and successfully extracted uranium. Iran began to use the prospect of having nuclear weapons technology to defend itself.
China, Russia, and the EU used the opportunity of solving Iran’s nuclear issue to delay the U.S. plan for war against Iran. Even at the end of George W. Bush’s term, the issue had not been solved. The U.S. was left in a very awkward situation. It could not go against so many countries and attack Iran, nor could it afford another war due to the country’s declining national power. Only until the 2008 international financial crisis broke out did the U.S. realize its decline and others’ rise, especially the rise of China.
At the end of 2008, the U.S. implemented quantitative easing (QE) to discharge its toxic assets. At the same time, it planned to adjust its national strategy. It intended to give China the No.2 position in the globe, helping itself manage the world affairs and shoulder more of its responsibilities. In that case, China would become the target of other countries, while the United States could still secure its crown. This was the motivation behind Barack Obama’s first visit to China in Nov., 2009. Obama put forward his proposal of the US and China jointly managing the world economy. Knowing it would make China a scapegoat, China rejected his proposal. Obama did not get what he wanted from this trip. His failure forced the U.S. to cope with the financial crisis with continued quantitative easing. In 2010, the U.S. established its strategy of rebalancing towards the Asia-Pacific region, and prepared to pull out troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.
China-Afghanistan cooperation began when the US prepared for withdrawal. As early as 2007, China Metallurgical Group Corporation and China’s Jiangxi Copper won the bidding for a cooper mine project in Aynak, Afghanistan. In 2011, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and the Afghan company Watan Group opened a joint-venture to explore oil and gas resources in Amu Darya Basin.
In 2013, China proposed the strategy of establishing the Silk Road Economic Belt, which was well-received by countries in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Shortly after being informed of this strategy, Afghan President Hamid Karzai visited China. This act alone indicates that Afghanistan attaches great importance to this strategy.
The U.S. has withdrawn its troops from Afghanistan, and China has successfully held the fourth ministerial conference of the Istanbul Process on Afghanistan. The U.S. withdrawal and China’s engagement show that America’s use of force has failed and China’s proposal for economic development is gaining approval. For this reason China will likely have a stronger influence in Afghanistan over the years to come.

Why Afghanistan Courts China

Last week, Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, traveled to China for his first state visit abroad. Mr. Ghani’s calculation — that Beijing could offset the decline in American and Western support — creates a long-term strategic conundrum: Can Afghanistan attract Chinese investment and security assistance while avoiding the perils of excessive dependency on Beijing?
Mr. Ghani’s outreach to China is driven by a combination of short-term realities and long-term goals. The Western drawdown comes at a time when the Afghan government is neither fiscally self-sufficient nor capable of defeating the Pakistan-backed Taliban insurgency. In the short term, there is little alternative to international assistance to keep the Afghan state afloat.
In the longer term, however, Afghanistan hopes to leverage two of the country’s assets to achieve genuine stability and self-reliance: its natural resources and its strategic location, wedged as it is between Iran, Pakistan, China and the Central Asian states. The development of Afghan infrastructure could turn the country into a regional land bridge. Afghanistan would enjoy unimpeded access to regional and global markets while collecting transit fees from the region’s commercial activity.
Washington’s long-standing support hasn’t been enough to bring the land bridge concept to fruition. Although the United States has spent $4 billion constructing roads, the project requires far more money and political stability. The Asian Development Bank estimates that an additional $2 billion of investments in roads and transmission lines is required — and even more for pipelines, railways and upgrading regional infrastructure. Yet continuing security challenges are diverting attention and resources from the initiative.
China is perhaps the only power with the incentives, resources and national will to make Afghanistan’s ambitious vision a reality. Beijing has already made sizable investments in Afghan copper and oil — including a $3 billion agreement to develop the Aynak copper mine. China is eyeing Afghan natural gas. Western companies, lacking sufficient state backing from their governments, have proven unwilling or unable to make comparable investments. If Beijing were to invest in the country’s infrastructure, new transit corridors would facilitate Chinese trade westward to Iran and the Middle East, and south to the Gwadar port in Pakistan.
Despite the fact that an Afghan land bridge would give Pakistan access to Central Asian markets and products, American pressure alone has not persuaded Islamabad to abandon its support for militants. Pakistan’s civilian leaders are increasingly open to a settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban. But the overall lack of progress on reconciliation is saddling the United States with the disproportionately large cost of supporting Afghanistan’s security forces.
Pakistani intransigence has strengthened Afghanistan’s case for engagement with China. Since 2001, China has largely stayed on the sidelines as the United States has assumed the heavy lifting on the counterterrorism front. China has pursued its economic interests in Afghanistan while benefiting from the security provided by the American military presence. At the same time, China has maintained friendly relations with Pakistan and has refused to lean on the Pakistani military to change its ways.
Recently, however, there have been signs that Chinese policy is changing. Beijing has indicated that it opposes the Taliban’s return to power and believes that the Taliban’s participation in the political system should be contingent on its renunciation of violence. China has even offered to mediate discussions between Kabul and the Taliban, a sign that it no longer sees its relations with Afghanistan simply as an extension of its ties to Pakistan. Beijing is also promoting the idea of a regional forum for Afghan reconciliation and favors establishing trilateral meetings between China, Afghanistan and the United States.
The Afghan government has so far welcomed Chinese efforts to promote reconciliation. The Taliban’s reaction, which will be influenced by the outcome of talks between Beijing and Islamabad, remains uncertain. Given that China, unlike America, has earned the Pakistani military’s trust over many decades, Beijing is better positioned to bring about a shift in Pakistani policy.
Security interests have been the most important factor in China’s reassessment. Beijing is belatedly coming to terms with the threat Islamic extremists pose to China’s territorial integrity. Terrorists in China’s restive Xinjiang province are training in Pakistani camps and honing military skills through their experience in Afghanistan. China fears that with the American withdrawal, Afghanistan will become a bigger sanctuary for anti-Chinese extremists. The fact that Chinese separatism is becoming a global Islamist cause has not escaped Beijing’s notice; the Islamic State has already vowed to “liberate” Xinjiang.
Economic and security aid from China is not without risks. Afghan institutions may not be strong enough to ensure that Chinese investors meet their contractual obligation to put Afghans to work, meet international environmental and health standards, and protect heritage sites.
And if America’s relations with China deteriorate, Afghanistan might be forced to make a choice. The threat of becoming dependent on China would be particularly acute if the United States were to disengage from Afghanistan. Indeed, during the early years of the Cold War, Afghanistan benefited from the simultaneous infusion of American and Soviet foreign assistance until Washington made a fateful decision to cede the country to Soviet influence.
These concerns are not an argument against expanding ties with China. But they underscore the geopolitical factors at play. Afghanistan must ensure that closer ties to China don’t come at the expense of its partnership with the West.
Washington will have to play its part by participating in the proposed trilateral forum. But it must avoid the temptation to abandon Afghanistan once again and thereby cede wider regional influence to China.

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Pakistan : US offers assistance to investigate Wagah blast

The United States on Monday condemned yesterday s terrorist act at the Wagah Border post.
In a press release, US Amassador Richard Olson stated that "on behalf of the American people, I extend my heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims as well as to the Government and people of Pakistan."
He said that this act demonstrates terrorists’ blatant disregard for life.
The United States remains steadfast in its commitment to the people of Pakistan in their efforts to counter terrorism, uphold the rule of law, and build a peaceful future for themselves and their children, he added.
The Ambassador assured to support Pakistan’s efforts to bring all those involved in planning and executing this attack to justice and offered to provide assistance to authorities investigating the tragic incident.

Pakistan - Former President Zardari felicitates Pakistan Cricket Team
Former President Asif Ali Zardari has felicitated Pakistan Cricket team on winning test series against Australia in Dubai. He also congratulated Pakistani nation for this achievement.
Felicitating the Captain Misbah-ul-Haq, team management and coaching staff, he said that every player of the team is lauded for their collective effort, specially the efforts of Younus Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq Zulfiqar Babar, which culminated in winning the test series against Australia. He said that this victory proves that Pakistani nation can deal with every situation against all odds.

Former President Zardari calls for tolerance and a watchful eye on sectarianism on Ashura
On the solemn occasion of Yom-i-Ashur on Tuesday the former President Asif Ali Zardari while calling for standing up to tyranny on the one hand and harmony and tolerance on the other has cautioned the people against those who were out to destroy sectarian harmony.
In a message on the occasion of 10th Muharram, the PPP Co-Chairman said that as the embodiment of nobility, courage and sacrifice, Hazrat Imama Hussain has a unique place in the history of Islam whose name will continue to inspire men and women anywhere particularly in the Muslim world.
Imam Hussain stands at the apex of those who have blazed the path of truth and righteousness with their blood, he said adding also “it is hard to find a parallel example of supreme sacrifice in the annals of history”.
An important lesson of Hazrat Imam Hussain (May Allah be pleased with Him)’s martyrdom is that oppression, tyranny, and falsehood must be resisted at all costs, he said.
Hazrat Imam Husain stood up to falsehood and tyranny and bequeathed a lesson to us to resist, for the cause of truth and justice, oppression and tyranny in whatever form it may rear its head.
He said tyranny and oppression manifests itself in different forms at different times.
The militants and extremists seeking to force their own bigoted views on innocent and unarmed people is also a tyranny that must be resisted, he said.
On this ‘Yum Ashur’ while paying homage to Hazrat Imam Hussain and the martyrs of Karbala we should also vow to resist the tyranny and oppression of zealots and extremists, he said.
The need for learning a lesson from the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain is greater today than ever before.
The former President also warned the people against rising sectarianism in the country which was shaking the foundations of the nation.
Condemning the sectarian strife and disharmony in the strongest terms Mr Asif Ali Zardari asked the people to rise above sectarianism and forge unity among their ranks.

How Young, Independent Women are Making a Space for Themselves in Pakistan's Music Industry

By Sabrina Toppa
At eighteen, Sara Haider started playing music by herself, singing Islamic songs and then transitioning into Pakistan's underground rock scene. Without any artists in her family, she trained in classical music at Karachi’s premier music institution (NAPA), but found difficulties navigating the country's male-dominated industry.
“Male musicians and boy bands were a huge barrier for me when I first started making music,” says Haider in an email interview. She was initially discouraged from performing songs deemed ’manly,’ but found a musical role model in 75-year-old Saffiya Beyg, a self-taught female eastern classic musician. “Learning under Saffiya was fantastic for me, particularly being a teenage girl who didn’t know how difficult it was to do this,” Haider says.
Three to four decades ago, women like Noor Jehan, Iqbal Bano, Farida Khanum, Abida Parveen, Nayyera Noor, Tina Sani and Nazia Hassan dominated the stage in Pakistan’s music industry, but things have changed as pop, rock and East-meets-West fusion bands have taken over. In this new musical order, young and independent female artists like Haider must chart their own paths. This is particularly true in a country where there are few formal music schools, and music is a hunar (skill) traditionally passed from generation to generation within families, if not through private classically-trained ustaads (teachers).
“Females in Pakistan do not have the same opportunities to do anything, least of all music,” according to Haider. She was born in the progressive mega-city of Karachi, a far cry from Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the site of a short-lived Taliban insurgency that proscribed music and dance. Yet, even in Pakistan's most liberal city, she notes that women in Pakistan cannot access the same musical opportunities as men.
“If a girl from a random Pakistani household told her parents she wants to be on stage with five male musicians and a mic in her hand every night, things wouldn’t go too well,” Haider says.
In Pakistan today, women often find themselves unable to pursue music careers because of conservative family attitudes, political insecurity, and gender inequality.
As Pakistan’s music industry has grown and formalized, it has moved away from classical music to pop and rock. The under-participation of women in Pakistan’s new music industry is emblematic of a broader gender gap. Pakistan holds the globe’s tenth-largest labor force, but suffers from chronic female shortages in the labor market. After Yemen, Pakistan ranks last in the world for equal job participation.
Where are the music schools?
In music, this inequality is partly rooted in lack of access to music education. South Asia's hereditary politics means musicians normally emerge from gharanas or musical families. For those born without a musical pedigree, music education requires tutelage from an ustaad, or teacher. The mentorship of ustaads, whose one-on-one support supplants formal education, is deeply entrenched in South Asia’s traditional music culture. With a few exceptions (like Safiya Beyg), Pakistan’s most illustrious ustaads are male.
Although women can become pupils of male ustaads, music activist Zeejah Fazli says conservative attitudes toward female mobility and purdah (gender segregation) generally constrain choices, making women more beholden to local ustaads.
“Women, who are not allowed to travel a long distance or to another city to work on her song at a decent studio, are usually dependent on the nearest or most approachable ustaad,” Fazli says.
According to Pakistani pop artist Zoe Viccaji, Western musical training is virtually nonexistent in Pakistan and hopeful musicians must rely on self-training.
“There's not really a music education system. I just started vocal training 2-3 years ago. Every year, I look at courses online,” Viccaji says.
In Pakistan, music is rarely incorporated into the national curriculum, leaving most students to learn on their own—though most never do. In a 2011 study in the Pakistan Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 90% of surveyed youth responded they did not play an instrument. Formal music institutions like Karachi’s National Academy for Performing Arts (NAPA) are rare, only emerging in 2005.
This makes anyone with musical talent in high demand, including women.
Indie singer-songwriter Natasha Ejaz, who has been teaching music for three years, says “Progressive families don't bat an eye before sending their daughters to learn to sing or play an instrument. Maybe parents feel comfortable sending their daughters to me because I'm a woman.”
Ejaz studied eastern classical music in Pakistan under the mentorship of Ustad Sultan Fateh Ali Khan and audio production in Malaysia’s International College of Music. “Not a lot of people expect me to know what to do in a studio and how to do it, but they see me do it and they take a back seat,” Ejaz says.
Although Ejaz is a successful music producer, it remains hard to find other female producers in Pakistan. Worse, with Pakistan’s national school system ignoring music education, ambitious artists have no choice but to self-teach, take expensive private classes, or go overseas for training.
“The music industry should be flooded with female producers, sound engineers, drummers, and guitarists–clearly, there are terrible barriers,” Haider says.
Absence of safe venues
Women impute career challenges to the countrywide political tumult and industry under-development—which, women point out, strain opportunities for men equally. Given the weak educational infrastructure and dearth of performance spaces, music opportunities universally suffer.
Pakistan’s political unrest also engenders a range of security quagmires that paralyze performances—often without warning. Last year, the U.S. State Department recorded 355 unique acts of terrorism alone in Pakistan.
“Every time you plan a concert, it inevitably deals with strikes or shutdowns,” Viccaji says. “For example, people discourage you on Chand Raat (eve of Eid) and tell you not to perform by saying ‘It’s a religious festival, playing music trivializes it.”
Although security challenges affect everyone, the absence of safe venues in Pakistan can be worse for female performers, who largely perform to crowds of men.
“It can get scary being surrounded by a sea of men and a handful of women — you just have to ask yourself how badly you want to do this,” Haider says.
Since most gigs are at night, Haider says women face additional security challenges. Performing during late hours can be regarded as unseemly by militant groups like the Pakistani Taliban.
“Musicians don’t work 8 am jobs. Our work starts later and ends later,” Viccaji says. Tinting her car windows, Viccaji often drives alone post-midnight in Karachi, one of the world’s most populated cities. Karachi is synonymous with street crimes and kidnappings in the eyes of most Pakistanis.
“Everyone asks, ‘how can you drive at 3-4 am in the morning in Karachi? You’re asking for something to happen.’ They’re fearful of the fact that you’re a girl. You’re not even safe from cops,” Viccaji says.
After studying in the USA, Viccaji became accustomed to walking alone on the streets, and said returning to Karachi required her to re-assess her safety metrics. Most of her peers requested that she take a male accomplice everywhere while performing, which she found disconcerting.
Viccaji is cognizant of the myriad ways gender shapes the way other industry professionals treat her. At the age of seventeen, Viccaji joined the band ‘Ganda Bandas‘ (Dirty Humans), but now performs as a solo artist, requiring her to make independent choices—without the help of men.
“Even when I was hiring a manager, I felt I was only taken more seriously when my father, a male figurehead, was there,” Viccaji says.
Viccaji recalls one embarrassing incident where she invited a male producer to her home for a meeting.“He later told me that ‘I’ve never invited to a woman's home alone—he had never experienced this before in Pakistan.”
“I'm constantly being mindful that as a musician you are working alone. As a female you have to be wary of the way you talk to guys, so there is no misreading. If I was guy, I can be sure that this is just space of work.”
Yet, more than gender, women report familial attitudes toward music determines access to music education and performance.
Haider says that among her own friends, the same trope of familial discouragement materializes to deter even the most talented women. “A good friend of mine sings beautifully. She picked up the guitar at 15 and wrote her own stuff at 17, but she belongs to an extremely conservative background,” Haider says. “She is educated and well-off—her parents let her go to school with boys and learn how to drive and wear jeans. But singing in front of a crowd or being on TV is out of the question. Stories like this are everywhere,” Haider says.
Looking ahead
“People channel their frustration and their hope into their music,” Haider says. “No matter what anyone says about the music industry in Pakistan, it’s a great force of emotion and catharsis.”
Despite the odds, Pakistani women who join its emerging music industry are embraced, Fazil says: “The industry is looking for women artists.”
And there are upsides to being one of the few women. Given the fewer women, Viccaji notes less competition. Once a woman attains a high status, such as Abida Parveen or Nazia Hassan, there is generally more appreciation for those who achieve high recognition and mass appeal.
“There aren’t many female musicians–there aren’t that many musicians in general in Pakistan, so there's a bigger possibility of more people hearing the music,” Viccaji says.

India-Pakistan Relations: A Destructive Equilibrium

By Jordan Olmstead
Is there a way to avert the constant derailing of bilateral relations?
The seven-decade rivalry between India and Pakistan is often portrayed as intractable – with good reason. The countries were birthed out of a bloody partition that encouraged each to define itself in opposition to the other, and they have fought four wars since.
Even during peacetime, tensions are high. This year, though, encouraging overtures by newly elected prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi led some observers to cautiously hope that the two countries would step up cooperation on trade, energy, humanitarian, and environmental issues.
Unfortunately, other actors, most notably the Pakistani defense establishment and its terrorist proxies, are derailing the process. There are two reasons. First, they see further cooperation and integration between India and Pakistan as putting off negotiations to settle the Kashmir issue. Second, from a broader perspective, closer relations between India and Pakistan would undermine the perception, held by a substantial portion of the Pakistani public, that India poses an existential threat to Pakistan. Both the military and terrorists would lose their raison d’être if this were to occur.
Thus, a destructive equilibrium has emerged, in which both cooperative overtures and displays of deterrence by the Indian government have the potential to lead to a further deterioration of Indian and Pakistani relations. However, a new and more cooperative equilibrium could be achieved if India and reconciliatory elements within Pakistan’s government were able to establish patterns of cooperation on non-securitized issues, and prevent those issues from becoming securitized.
How did India and Pakistan arrive at this equilibrium? The answer starts, of course, in Kashmir, which has always been the primary point of contention between the two countries. Unfortunately, the Kashmir question is unlikely to be answered soon. While territorial disputes between states are usually bitter and persistent – states usually perceive competition over territory as a winner take all, zero sum proposition – Kashmir presents a particularly difficult case.
For India, its claim to Kashmir rests on three main arguments. First, during Partition the ruler of Kashmir “choose” India over Pakistan (albeit in distress), giving India a legal claim to the territory. Second, retaining control over Kashmir is essential to India’s identity as a secular democracy, which can accommodate different ethnic and religious groups across a wide geographic area. And third, if India lost control of Kashmir, it would encourage separatist movements across the country.
Pakistan counters that India’s claim is illegitimate because, as a Muslim country established for Muslims, Pakistan should control a region like Kashmir that is predominantly Muslim and that culturally shares more with what is now Pakistan than it does with India. Moreover, Pakistan refutes India’s claim to Kashmir on the grounds that India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru promised Kashmir a UN administered plebiscite in 1956. This promise was not kept, denying Kashmir the right to self-determination.
Unfortunately for Pakistan, Kashmir isn’t going anywhere. India has 500,000 soldiers in the region, and withstood a brutal insurgency in the 80s and 90s to retain control. Pakistan also lacks the military prowess to coerce India into ceding Kashmir, as evidenced by the wars Pakistan (largely) fought and lost in a bid to coerce India into making any substantive concessions on the issue.
Unfortunately for everyone else, Pakistan is unwilling to accept this reality. One of the few issues that a majority of Pakistanis rally around is Kashmiri independence. Adopting an unyielding stance on Kashmir helps tap into this popular support. However, the real problem stems from the Pakistani defense and intelligence establishment, and their terrorist proxies, exemplified by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
In her recent book Fighting to the End (The Pakistan Army’s Way of War), C. Christine Fair of Georgetown argues that “The ‘strategic culture’ of the Pakistan army is essentially unremitting hostility against India. The Pakistan Army believes that it is locked into a permanent, existential, civilizational battle against India.”
The Pakistani defense establishment is split between those who believe India merely seeks to undermine Pakistan and its security at every turn, and those who believe India has nefarious designs to “reunify” the subcontinent. The conflict in Kashmir serves as a salient symbol of this civilizational struggle; Pakistan’s loss of Kashmir to India plays a crucial role in the narrative that casts India as a threatening, unjust, and unreliable “other.”
More importantly, since Kashmir is such a potent symbol of India’s menace, it enables the Pakistani army to justify the massive amounts of resources devoted to it, and the outsized role played by the defense establishment in Pakistani society. Terrorist organizations like the LeT, which was established (and generously patronized by the Pakistani establishment) to wage covert war against India in Kashmir, are even more dependent on the conflict in Kashmir to justify their existence. Thus, even though Pakistan will never possess Kashmir, the Pakistani defense establishment and Pakistani terrorist groups have strong psychological and material incentives to continue the conflict there.
With the elections of Modi and Sharif, it seemed that Indo-Pakistan relations might turn a corner. Sharif, who expressed his “earnest hope” in a “brighter future” between India and Pakistan made normalizing relations with India a “central plank” of his platform, and attended Modi’s inauguration. When India cancelled talks between the foreign secretaries in retaliation for Pakistani meetings with Kashmiri separatist organizations Sharif sent a box of the “choicest Pakistani mangoes” to Modi in a bid to patch things up.
Unfortunately, “mango diplomacy” could not block the Pakistani defense establishment, which had been empowered after protests forced Sharif to beg for the army’s help, which he got in return for handing it control over the country’s defense and foreign policy portfolios.
The flashpoint, of course, was Kashmir. Many analysts, including Farahnaz Ispahani, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center and a former member of Pakistan’s parliament, argue that “[Sharif’s] moves towards better ties between India and Pakistan” angered the military and “may have resulted in the renewed clashes on the Line of Control.”
For its part, India is pursuing a “tit-for-tat” strategy, in which it is willing to cooperate if Pakistan shows the willingness, but will respond to aggression with aggression. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s defense establishment has no interest in cooperation.
The military will also use political means to stymie cooperative arrangements. For instance, while Sharif promised to extend Most Favored Nation trading status to India without preconditions, the agreement remains un-ratified; the Pakistani government now holds that India must restart a comprehensive “composite dialogue,” which includes the issue of Kashmir, before Pakistan will consider ratifying the agreement.
While populist protectionist impulses and distrust of India are partially explain this backtracking, a “substantial part of the business community, in particular small and medium sized enterprises fear being overwhelmed by cheap Indian goods.” Notably, many former Pakistani soldiers and officers own or are employed by these enterprises. Thus, the military has an incentive “protect their own” by pressuring the civilian government against ratification.
External factors also militate against movement towards a cooperative equilibrium. The NATO drawdown in Afghanistan is creating a space for increased competition between India and Pakistan, which both view Afghanistan as strategically important. Analysts also fear that the drawdown in Afghanistan will result in an influx of militants into Kashmir, something the Pakistani defense establishment may encourage, to prevent them from coming to Pakistan instead.
The recent incursion by the Pakistani military into North Waziristan pushed a variety of terrorist organizations, including the Punjabi Taliban, into Afghanistan, undoubtedly worrying India, as these organizations will work with the Afghan Taliban in their insurgency against the Indian-supported government.
Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent and the Islamic State also threaten to exacerbate conflict. Both groups are recruiting in Kashmir, and AQIS has threatened to launch attacks in India. Undoubtedly, increased militant activity in Kashmir, or Islamist terrorist attacks in India would deteriorate the relationship between India and Pakistan.
Glimmers of Hope
Still, there are glimmers of hope. Pakistan and India have managed to cooperate on “non-securitized,” non-zero sum issues like disaster response and energy, and the countries have made good faith efforts to deepen trade ties. India pledged relief to Pakistan after the latter’s devastating 2010 earthquake, and Pakistan reciprocated after recent floods in Indian administered Kashmir. The two countries have also discussed a proposal to share information about the level of rivers that run between the two countries to form an early warning flood system.
India and Pakistan also inked a gas sharing agreement, which encourages efforts to bind South and Central Asia together through the proposed TAPI pipeline, which would run through Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. The pipeline could help alleviate Pakistan’s chronic gas shortages, which cost the country 6 percent of its GDP a year.
These areas present opportunities for small clusters of Pakistani and Indian officials, businessmen, and think-tankers to cooperate on low-profile issues, and discuss the benefits of, and terms for, deeper cooperation on more substantive issues. Small wins in Track II diplomacy settings could spill over and push India and Pakistan towards a more cooperative equilibrium. A landmark study by David Axelrod of the University of Michigan found that the introduction of small clusters of individuals committed to establishing cooperative equilibriums, with a sufficiently high expectation of cooperating again in the future, can push large groups from non-cooperative equilibriums to more cooperative ones. Why? Over time, small cooperative clusters create broader institutional change, because those who employ them are ultimately more successful than those who employ uncooperative strategies.
While a full explanation of this phenomenon requires a background in game theory and a bit of math, an oversimplified “toy model” for this context would predict that cooperation between Indians and Pakistanis on non-securitized issues would heighten expectations that the two countries would cooperate on more issues, and more frequently in the future. This would give players more of an incentive to choose cooperative strategies when interacting with their counterparts. The higher the likelihood of future cooperation, the higher the incentive to pursue cooperative strategies in the present, since pursuing an uncooperative strategy in the present would place you at a disadvantage in future interactions.
However, the parties involved must prevent nascent clusters of cooperation from becoming “securitized.” Issues of national security are traditionally viewed as “zero-sum”: One party gains from the other party’s losses. Thus, if diplomats or technocrats allow the Indian or Pakistani defense establishments to securitize issues like water sharing or energy cooperation, compromises will become that much harder to reach, as any concession will be painted as possibly undermining national security. Thus, discussions over these issues should be kept quiet (and preferably held in Track II settings like think tank symposiums) and achievements should be publicized little, if at all.
The United States could help create an environment that is more conducive to cooperation by maintaining the largest possible military presence in Afghanistan that its agreement with Kabul allows until 2016, dissuading Pakistan and India from exacerbating their competition there (at least in the short run).
While this may not end the enduring rivalry between India and Pakistan, it’s imperative for the prosperity and stability of the region that opportunities for cooperation be pursued further. The most pressing issue is climate change, a transnational threat that requires transnational responses. For instance, Pakistan’s water supply is expected to shrink by 30 percent over the next 20 years, while its population is projected to nearly double by 2050. This could severely strain the vital Indus Water Treaty, which governs water sharing between the two countries. India also stands to gain through greater cooperation: Climate change threatens to wipe out 8.7 percent of India’s GDP through an increase in floods and droughts unless adaptation and mitigation measures are taken. India could become more resilient to floods by sharing river level information with Pakistan to form an early warning system, and by discussing best practices for making land and communities more resilient to climate change. The two countries could also jointly lobby major powers to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions further.
While traditional overtures between India and Pakistan may not help the relationship, discreet and adept diplomacy between NGOs and technocrats on non-securitized issues like energy, humanitarian operations, climate change, and trade could establish patterns of cooperation that steer Pakistan and India towards a less antagonistic, more cooperative, strategic equilibrium.

Pakistan : Education woes: 551 schools in FATA, FRs devastated by militancy, floods in 2013-14

By Asad Zia
At least 551 schools were destroyed in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Frontier Regions (FR) in 2013-14 due to ongoing militancy and floods. This was revealed in official papers issued by the FATA Secretariat regarding the Annual Development Programme (ADP) for 2014-15.
According to documents available with The Express Tribune, 362 boys schools and 189 girls schools have been destroyed in the tribal areas.
Going under
In Bajaur Agency, 85 schools—64 of which were boys schools and 21 girls schools—have been affected. Nearly 109 schools in Mohmand Agency were destroyed by militancy and floods, out of which 81 were for boys. At least 63 schools in Khyber Agency were destroyed in 2013-14; 35 of which were boys schools and 28 girls schools.
In Orakzai Agency, 168 schools were destroyed. At least 92 of these were boys schools. In Kurram Agency, 70 schools were destroyed due to militancy and floods. Nearly 54 of these were boys schools and 16 were girls schools
The documents added that 11 schools were razed to the ground in FR Peshawar. Five of these were girls schools.
During 2013-14, at least 28 schools were destroyed in FR Kohat. Out of these, half were girls schools. Five boys schools in FR Bannu, a boys school and girls schools in FR Lakki, nine boys schools in South Waziristan and another boys school in FR-Tank have also been affected.
Not nearly enough
According to the documents, only 85 educational institutions have been constructed so far in the region. Moreover, 152 schools are under construction and 229 remain non-functional.
According to another document issued by the FATA Secretariat, over Rs3 billion has been allocated for education in the ADP for 2014-15. It revealed Rs2 billion would be spent on 91 ongoing schemes proposed through the ADP whereas Rs1 billion would be set aside for the completion of 59 new projects.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, FATA Secretariat spokesperson Fazlullah said educational institutions in the tribal areas have faced increasing pressure as compared to other departments. As a result, the education sector has been given priority in the ADP for 2014-2015, he added. According to Fazlullah, Governor Mehtab Abbasi has issued special directives to give priority to the education sector in the budget and reconstruct the schools destroyed in Fata. A large number of schools are being constructed and special emphasis has been placed on the education of girls, he added.
The FATA Secretariat spokesperson said construction work has stopped in some areas due to militancy. However, he insisted that work will resume once the situation is under control.
An abysmal state
A FATA Education Atlas 2011-12 report released by the FATA Directorate of Education, Education Management Information System has provided key facts and figures on the education of girls in Fata.
According to the report, 124,424 girls were enrolled in 1,551 primary schools. Nearly 19,614 girls were enrolled in 158 middle schools. The report added 13,837 girls were enrolled in 42 high schools whereas 1,134 girls have been enrolled in five higher secondary schools in Fata.
The proportion of girls enrolled in schools stands at 7.5% in South Waziristan, 4.26% in North Waziristan, 21.03% in Kurram Agency, 4.75% in Bajaur, 5.72% in Mohmand Agency. In Orakzai Agency and Khyber Agency, the proportion of girls enrolled at schools stands at 5.15% and 16.13%, respectively.
Similarly, the proportion stands at 5.88% in FR DI Khan, 1.81% in FR Lakki Marwat, 2.28% in FR Tank, 1.07% in FR-Bannu, 24.09% in FR Kohat and 16.66% in FR Peshawar.

Bangladesh ‘saddens’ Nisar - And the situation back home?

Ch Nisar’s having quite an eventful ride to the cabinet shuffle. He always seems in the news for the wrong reason. It’s interesting that this time Bangladesh has saddened him, forcing him to speak out against the death sentence awarded to the Jamat e Islami chief there. But surely he realises that – the truth or otherwise of this statement being another matter – as interior minister his words and actions reflect very strongly upon the government. If, indeed, the government had a position on the matter, it should have been routed through the foreign ministry, even if that, too, is problematic in the present setup. The foreign office is reduced to a relic, there is no dedicated foreign minister, which means either the two advisors or the prime minister himself would have had to issue the statement.
It is equally interesting, and troubling, that the situation back home does not bother him nearly as much. He’s hardly visible after terrorist attacks; and considering how militant strikes are on the increase again, the interior minister should be more ‘visible’. He also does not have much to say when there are reports about his ministry, and its inability to improve internal security. Recently, his attitude has also hurt the alliance with JUI-F. His “inadequate response” to the attack on Maulana Fazl, as the party rightly pointed out, was typical of Nisar; rushing through press conferences on “petty issues” but remaining detached on important matters.
Significantly for the prime minister, especially now, it’s not just that his strategy of keeping ministries to himself hasn’t worked, it’s that those with full-time charge have not delivered either. And the interior minister is the perfect example, giving Nawaz much to think about as he decides about the shape of his new cabinet. Nisar, meantime, should devote his energies where they are more urgently needed. The lull after Zarb-e-Azb seems giving way to increasing incidents of terrorism. It is very important to get a handle on the blowback before it snowballs. And while Nisar is in charge, he should make sure the job is done in the right way.

Pakistan's North Waziristan Problem: Wagah Blast Casts Doubts Over Army Offensive Against Militancy

By Avaneesh Pandey
At least 60 people were killed and over 150 were injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up near Pakistan's eastern border with India on Sunday in one of the deadliest attacks in Pakistan in recent years. Following the attack, the flag-lowering ceremony, which takes place every evening at the border in Wagah, has been suspended for a period of three days, making it the first such instance since the two countries went to war in 1971, according to media reports.
The latest attack comes at a time of heightened tensions between India and Pakistan, caused by a recent uptick in cross-border shelling along the disputed frontier in Kashmir -- about 425 miles north of the Wagah border near the Pakistani city of Lahore. But, the blast has highlighted an entirely different internal conflict in Pakistan completely removed from the country's long-running conflict with India.
Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesperson for the TTP-affiliated Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, said on Twitter: “This is the start of attacks,” adding: “The attack is the revenge of those innocent people who have been killed by Pakistani army, particularly those killed in North Waziristan.”
Two different militant groups claimed responsibility for the blast, reportedly terming it a reaction to the Pakistani military’s campaign against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, in the group's heartland in North Waziristan. Militants of Jundallah, an al Qaeda-linked group that was behind the killing of at least 78 Christians at a church in Peshawar in September last year, reportedly claimed responsibility for the blast, while Jamaat ul-Ahrar, affiliated to the Pakistani Taliban, also claimed responsibility.
North Waziristan is believed to be one of the last strongholds of the TTP and its local and international affiliates. And, almost all of the major attacks carried out in Pakistan and Afghanistan in recent years have been traced to groups based in this region.
In response, the Pakistani military launched an offensive in North Waziristan -- aided by American drone strikes -- named Operation Zarb-e-Azb in June, targeting militants of TTP, al Qaeda and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. At least 30,000 soldiers of the Pakistani army are reportedly involved in the offensive.
According to a report by Foreign Policy magazine, more than 500 militants have been killed so far by the Pakistani military in the region. However, Sunday’s attack has cast doubts over the effectiveness of the campaign in North Waziristan.
“One really doesn’t know what is happening,” Khalid Aziz, a former chief secretary of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province in North Waziristan, told The New York Times. “Very little real operational detail is coming out. The army says it has killed hundreds of people, including Uzbeks. But who, exactly, are they?”
Moreover, since the start of the operation in North Waziristan, over half a million people have moved out of the region. The army’s intensified focus on the offensive has also forced militants to shift base to other cities in Pakistan and provided them an opportunity to carry out attacks in other parts of the country, including Lahore and Islamabad, according to media reports.
However, Khalid Munir, a Pakistani security analyst, reportedly suggested that the latest attack is a sign of growing desperation among militants of the Pakistani Taliban.
“The militants are on the run. They can attack but not as frequently as before,” Munir told The Wall Street Journal, adding that the Taliban’s command-and-control base in North Waziristan had been completely destroyed.

Pakistan: Senator urges govt to tell people about Jundullah militant organisation.

PPP Sena­tor Rehman Malik urged the government on Sunday to immediately convene a joint session of parliament and share with lawmakers information about the Jundullah militant organisation.
“The prime minister must call a joint session of parliament to disclose information about Jundullah and to tell people about it,” he said in a statement which he issued to condemn the suicide bombing at Wagah border in Lahore.
The former interior minister urged the government to tell the nation about the “reality of Jundullah, an emerging dangerous terrorist organisation”.
In an apparent reference to the ongoing sit-in by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, he said it was the time for unity, not confrontation. “We as a nation must stand united along with the army to defeat terrorists.” Mr Malik called for an enhanced role of law-enforcement agencies during Muharram to prevent any untoward incident.
Condemning the Wagah attack, he said no words were strong enough to condemn the cruelty and brutality of these terrorists whom he always called ‘Zaliman’.
He said such attacks were aimed at destabilising the country “but we will not let these...enemies of Pakistan succeed in their nefarious activities and malicious aims”.
Taliban could not be appeased and must be condemned by every Pakistani, particularly the political leadership of the country, he said.
He expressed the hope that the ongoing Zarb-i-Azb military operation in North Waziristan would lead to rapid and absolute elimination of terrorism and extremism.

Pakistan - The IS threat

The flocking of fighters from all over the world to the Middle East to join the self-styled Islamic State (IS) poses a threat to the world that is bigger and more violent than the Taliban and al Qaeda. Pakistan too, with its dubious distinction in fostering terrorism in the past, is not spared such danger. Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Huassain on Friday warned the nation against the looming threat of IS in the country. Rightly so, since as a result of many Taliban commanders, including its spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid, pledging their allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph, serious concerns about the militants’ spreading network have emerged. A recent UN report says 1,000 militants are reaching Iraq and Syria each month, not only from Muslim countries but also from the west. The situation is frightening because once these battle-hardened fighters return to their countries of origin, they may present a serious terrorist threat. On the other hand, the steps taken by the world community to turn the tide of these flocking jihadists are proving to be far less than effective because the IS juggernaut keeps on thundering its way through Iraq and Syria. The Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani is on the verge of falling into IS hands. It is naïve of Turkey to think that IS poses no threat to it and therefore there is no need for Turkey to step in. Even though it has finally allowed the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces to pass through its territory to help save their co-ethnics, the fact that anti-Assad sentiment has still held it back from recognising IS as its enemy may come back to haunt it later.
To crush such a monster, first and foremost there needs to be a strong political will. Only then will the airstrikes and other military actions produce any substantial result. The current lacuna created by this ‘coalition of the unwilling’ of the US with its Arab allies is so far going in IS’s favour. The monster we are dealing with came through the doors that were opened by these very countries. Not only does Turkey need to join this coalition of Arab and western allies but others too should keep a close eye on the movement of citizens to such combat zones. Above all, Pakistan, which is already in the crosshairs of the Taliban and other extremist organisations, should wake up to the threat posed by IS’s growth in the country as another front in the war on terrorism would increase the challenge to be overcome.

Pakistan - Editorial : Wagah attack

IT was an attack that was waiting to happen. While few would have thought that the Wagah border, where an aggressive closing ceremony each evening is meant to whip up nationalist fervour, would be the target of the biggest attack yet by militants since the start of the military’s Operation Zarb-i-Azb, it is also true that it is the security forces and installations that are usually singled out by the militants.
However, while ordinary civilians often end up as victims because they happen to be near the venue, yesterday’s suicide attack raises the possibility of those who had come to watch the ceremony being deliberately targeted because of their perceived support for the security forces.
The attack has claimed dozens of lives, and the focus at the moment should be on ensuring the injured survive and that the families of the dead are taken care of. After that though the hard questions will have to be taken up once more — if the state’s security and foreign policy apparatus is willing to reflect on what the Wagah incident could mean for the country going forward.
The country clearly continues to be stalked by a complex, overlapping and dizzyingly varied militant threat. If internal security — peace, stability and the conditions for economic and social progress — is elusive it is because the state — the sum total of the civilian government and army-led security establishment — has an inadequate approach.
Even with the best policies in the world, Pakistan will not overnight become internally stable and secure. Operation Zarb-i-Azb has been treated as some kind of panacea in certain quarters, when, without a supporting anti-militancy narrative, it can only amount to surgery on a limb of a body with many afflictions.
Whoever it is that sent a bomber to kill Pakistani civilians (in these early hours the separate claims of Jundullah and Jamaatul Ahrar cannot be independently verified) the fact of the matter is that Pakistan has far too many groups with options when it comes to killing Pakistanis.
Until those groups are eliminated and until the steady, seemingly endless supply of suicide bombers, fidayeen fighters and sundry other militants is shut down, Pakistanis will not be safe. Unfortunately, there is little to suggest that the state knows how to rid Pakistan of the religious extremism, militancy and terrorism that has blighted this country for decades now.
Finally, insecure, often defenceless, as Pakistanis are inside their own country, the site of yesterday’s attack is also a reminder that Pakistan’s borders — east, west and southwest — are major flashpoints. Peace externally and security internally is the only recipe for a stable Pakistan.

Pakistan: Questions about breach at Wagah abound

Questions were asked on Sunday whether the concentration of the civil administration and the law-enforcement agencies in the main city due to Muharram processions and majalis had made Wagah Border a relatively easier target for the suicide attack.
The attack shook the civil administration and the police banking on the army and Rangers for support in case of any major law and order situation. It also made them reinforce security arrangements to avert any such incident.
The incident terrified people and calls were made asking them to be more careful during Ashura processions.
Official sources in the Punjab government said a warning was issued four days ago, indicating a suicide strike at security personnel.
The incident made the administration and organisers of Muharram processions to revise their security plans. “The Muharram security is the top-most priority at this time of the year and everybody in the government is combat-ready. We have devised best possible security arrangements,” a senior official said.
He advised people to remain vigilant and inform the police about the presence of any suspicious person or thing around them, adding everybody should join hands against the threat.
Law-enforcement agencies had been alerted about the mode of possible attack at Wagah Border, an official told Dawn.
They were informed about a missing young boy who might be used as would-be suicide bomber.
“The blast site marked by the anti-state elements has surprised the police experts investigating the incident as it is the first incident of its kind in the high-security Rangers zone,” the official said.
Lahore CCPO Capt Amin Waince said the police had conveyed the threat about possible suicide attack to the Rangers at Wagah Border on Saturday night. The suicide bomber appeared to be in his early 20s and his hair and tongue had been sent for forensic analysis.
The police and Rangers were of the view that the terrorist blew himself up when he failed to reach the main parade venue.
DG Rangers Tahir Khan denied allegation of security lapse. “Had there been any loophole, the damage would have been much greater,” he said.
“No less than 6,000 people were present at the main venue for parade when the blast took place,” Rangers Public Relations Officer Maj Ijaz told Dawn. He said the incident took place 600 meters away from the main venue and it was close to Pak-India trade ground.
“The blast took place when several people were enjoying snacks at the shops of Civil Market,” he said, adding that the suicide bomber could not enter the parade ground due to security measures.
Meanwhile, police officials clarified that they had not issued any sketch of the suicide bomber as was broadcast by some private TV channels. A spokesman for the Lahore police said they had yet to find the head of the suicide bomber so there was no question of issuing his sketch.
A source said the suicide bomber might be of sleeping cell of some banned outfit. “Usually people in the sleeping cell have no criminal record,” he added.

TTP splinter groups claim Wagah attack; 60 dead

At least 60 people were killed on Sunday in a blast near the Wagah border, the responsibility of which was claimed separately by the outlawed Jundullah and TTP-affiliated Jamaat-ul-Ahrar outfits.

Lahore Wagah blast eye witness by dawn-news Victims include 10 women and seven children, while more than 110 people have been injured.
Punjab police chief Inspector General Mushtaq Sukhera told AP that the bomb exploded outside a restaurant near a paramilitary soldiers' checkpoint at Wagah border on the outskirts of Lahore city. He also added that the explosion could have been the result of a suicide blast.
Lahore police chief Amin Wains confirmed it was a suicide attack. “People were returning after watching the parade at Wagah border when the blast took place. Ball bearings were found at the scene,” he said.
Emergency has been declared at all hospitals in Lahore. Prime Nawaz Sharif has taken notice of the explosion and called for a report on the incident.
Wagah is the only road border crossing between the Indian city of Amritsar and the Pakistani city of Lahore.
An Indian security official told Reuters that the Indian side of Wagah border is “safe” after blast on Pakistani side.
The Jamaat-ul-Ahrar splinter group of the proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the Wagah border attack as its spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, speaking to Dawn on telephone from Afghanistan, said it was carried out by one of their men. When asked if it was more than one suicide bomber, he said one man carried out the attack.
"We will continue such attacks in the future," Ehsan said.
"Some other groups have claimed responsibility of this attack, but these claims are baseless. We will soon release the video of this attack," he said.
"This attack is revenge for the killing of innocent people in North Waziristan," the banned militant group's spokesman said.
Earlier Jundullah, another outlawed group which was behind a suicide bombing that killed at least 78 Christians at a church in Peshawar last September, had also claimed responsibility for the Wagah border attack.
The spokesman of the splinter group of the TTP Ahmed Marwat via telephone said that the attack is a reaction to military operation Zarb-i-Azb and Waziristan operation.
Jundullah and the much larger Pakistani Taliban are among loosely aligned militant groups that frequently share personnel, tactics and agendas. Claims for specific incidents are often hard to verify.
The group has claimed various attacks including the October 23 attack on Maulana Fazlur Rehman in Quetta .
On September 22, 2013, a twin suicide bomb attack had killed 127 people at a Peshawar church. This was the deadliest attack on the Christian minority in the history of Pakistan. Jundallah had wasted no time in accepting responsibility of this attack too.
18 Shia Muslims traveling from Rawalpindi to Gilgit-Baltistan on a bus in February 2012 were stopped in Kohistan and massacred based on their religious affiliation by individuals dressed in Military uniforms. Jundallah had also claimed responsibility for the act by contacting the media.
In June 2013, Jundallah had claimed responsibility for the killing of tourists and their Pakistani guide in Gilgit–Baltistan. The tourists were mountain-climbers who had hoped to climb Nanga Parbat. The dead included five Ukrainians, three Chinese, and their guide.
As most of the dead and injured were shifted to the nearby Ghurki Hospital, reporters said the premises was swarming with police, security agencies and the families of victims.
Hospital administration confirmed that at least 40 dead and over 50 injured have been received by hospital authorities. “We received 35 bodies including those of women and children and 60 to 70 were wounded,” Deputy Medical Superintendent of Ghurki Hospital near the Wagah border crossing, identified only as Dr Khurram, told domestic television channels earlier.
Later, medical superintendent Dr Iftikhar confirmed that over 100 people have been brought to Ghurki Hospital. More injured have been shifted to Lahore hospitals as GH does not have the capacity to treat further patients.

Wagah Border Terror: No parade ceremony, no citizens allowed for next 3 days

Dunya News - Wagah Border Terror: No parade... by dunyanews
As the whole country mourns the loss of terrorist attack, the Wagah Border administration announced that there will be no parade ceremony and citizens will not be allowed at the Wagah Border for next three days. The flag will be hoisted with simplicity, Dunya News reported.
The ceremonious parade at the Wagah Border Lahore attracts tourists and visitors not only from across the country but also from many parts of the world. For Pakistani visitors, it is a source of national pride to see the guards marching aggressively while hoisting the flags on both sides of the border.
Following the attack in Lahore, citizens feel as if their national pride has been targeted. Many have expressed resolve to still hoist the flag and participate in the ceremony with the same zeal as soon as the ceremony resumes.
The Wagah Border Lahore terror left as many as 55 dead and over 120 injured including women, children and members of Rangers force.
The banned terrorist organization Jundullah has been involved in prominent attacks including the recent attack on Jamait Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) chief Fazlur Rehman.
Prime Minister ordered immediate inquiry and summoned report from Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif and Director General (DG) Rangers. He directed the Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar to provide every possible care to the injured and families of those died in the attack.
Prime Minister also ordered Interior Minister to carry out prompt investigation of the attack and submit the report.
Shahbaz Sharif directed the provincial ministers Bilal Yasin and Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman to reach the hospital for care of the victims.

Indian PM condemns Wagah border suicide attack

Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi on Sunday condemned the suicide attack at Wagah border in Pakistan and sent out sympathies to the families who had lost their loved ones.
Modi prayed for quick recovery of the people who sustained injuries in the attack.
Earlier, an explosion following the parade at the Wagah border left at least 48 dead while over 50 others were injured.
IG Punjab, Mushtaq Sukhera confirmed that the explosion was a suicide attack.