Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Video Report - #CometLanding: Rosetta's Philae touches down on Comet 67P

Music Video - Naghma _ - اولین، نخستین آهنگ نغمه

India mass sterilisation: ‘my wife died in tremendous pain’

Jason Burke
Husband of one victim of botched operations speaks out as protesters take to the streets to demand chief minister’s resignation
Thirteen women who died in a mass sterilisation campaign in India spent their last hours in “tremendous pain”, relatives have said.
About 80 women attended the free government-run camp in the central state of Chhattisgarh on Saturday where they underwent laparoscopic tubectomies, usually a straightforward surgical procedure. About 60 fell ill shortly afterwards, officials said, with 20 still in a very serious condition. The death toll is expected to rise.
Family members have claimed the women were pressured to accept 1,400 rupees (£14), the equivalent of two weeks’ work for a manual labourer, to undergo the procedure.
“The [health workers] said nothing would happen, it was a minor operation. They herded them like cattle,” Mahesh Suryavanshi, the brother-in-law of one casualty, told the Indian Express newspaper.
Such camps are held regularly across India as part of a long-running effort to control population growth.
Four doctors and officials have been suspended and police have registered a criminal complaint.
The dead included a woman who had given birth only days before. Others were reported to have been suffering from anaemia, severe asthma and diabetes. None appeared to have been properly examined before the operation. Ramavtar Suryavanshi, husband of one victim, described how his wife was told she would be home by sunset and back to work in the fields within two days with the equivalent of about 10 days’ wages as a manual labourer in her pocket.
Instead, the 35-year-old mother-of-five was incapacitated within hours of having the surgery and died “in tremendous pain” within 20 minutes of being admitted to hospital the next morning.
Survivors were described as being in a state of shock by KN Choudhary, a doctor at Chhattisgarh Institute of Medical Science, where several women are being treated.
The operations were carried out by a doctor and his assistant in about three hours. He has been described as highly experienced.
A suspended official said the daily target for one team was 40 sterilisations “but the number of operations held on Saturday was double that figure”.
The state’s surgeons have been debating whether to continue with Chhattisgarh’s sterilisation schedule, which has an annual target of 180,000 set by the central government, officials said.
Health workers, including doctors, are paid for each operation completed. Basics such as disinfectant are in short supply and are watered down to save money. Corruption is rife.
The exact cause of the deaths is not yet clear but officials said they suspected infection caused by unclean surgical equipment. Government guidelines recommending that a surgeon should not use a single instrument for more than 10 operations appear to have been ignored. The women were discharged immediately and given no follow-up care, reports said.
Another possible cause of the tragedy was contaminated medicine. Drugs within the public health system in India are often badly prepared, with varying dosages, or out of date. Regulation of the vast drug manufacturing sector is limited.
“Preliminary reports show that the medicines administered were spurious and also the equipment used was rusted,” Siddharth Komal Singh Pardeshi, a senior local government official, told Reuters.
The state government of Chhattisgarh, one of India’s poorest states, sent a plane to Delhi overnight to pick up a team of doctors “to ensure no time is lost” in treating the patients, the national health secretary, Lov Verma, told the Press Trust of India agency. Furious protesters took to the streets in the state capital of Raipur on Wednesday, smashing up cars and demanding the chief minister resign. Many appeared to be workers from the opposition Congress party, observers said.
Local governments in India often offer incentives, such as cars and electrical goods, to women volunteering for sterilisation. Health advocates worry that paying women to undergo sterilisation at family planning camps is dangerous and, by default, limits their contraceptive choices.
India’s family planning programme has traditionally focused on women and experts say male sterilisation is still not accepted socially. “The payment is a form of coercion, especially when you are dealing with marginalised communities,” said Kerry McBroom, director of the Reproductive Rights Initiative at the Human Rights Law Network in Delhi.
Pratap Singh, commissioner of Chhattisgarh’s department of health and family welfare, told Reuters that the state’s sterilisation programme was voluntary.
The state government has announced compensation packages of 400,000 rupees for the families of the women who died and 50,000 rupees for those in hospital. Payments are customary in such cases in India.
“I would have been happier if they gave her the right treatment instead of giving her the money,” said Suryavanshi, the widower.
Sterilization and population growth
No government has successfully formulated policies to manage India’s population growth, which stands at 1.6% a year, down from a high of about 2.3% in the 1970s.
That decade saw aggressive sterilisation campaigns that have stigmatised family planning ever since. India is forecast to become the world’s most populous country in 2030, with numbers approaching 1.5 billion.
India was the first country in the world to introduce a population control policy in the 1950s and has missed successive objectives ever since.
Though large numbers of young people can be an economic advantage, a combination of unfulfilled aspirations, scarce land and water, overcrowding in growing cities as well as inadequate infrastructure could lead to social tensions and political instability.
One problem is a gender imbalance, a result of selective abortion of girls. In some communities there are fewer than eight women for every 10 men, with the ratio skewed even further among younger people.
A 2012 report by Human Rights Watch urged the government to set up an independent grievance redress system to allow people to report coercion and poor quality services at sterilisation centres. It also said the government should prioritise training for male government workers to provide men with information and counselling about contraceptive choices, but despite the recommendations to the government problems persist on the ground.

Afghanistan: President Ghani Delegation Hopeful of Islamabad Visit
The Afghan delegation to accompany President Ashraf Ghani in his visit to Pakistan have expressed optimism about the Islamabad visit, believing they will achieve Pakistan's honest commitments in bringing peace to Afghanistan.
Pakistan's sincerity to Afghanistan's peace efforts is at the top of the agenda to be discussed with the neighboring country, said the delegation who will visit Islamabad on Friday.
These statements are expressed as Pakistan has been accused several times of not contributing honestly to Afghanistan's peace efforts.
But now the new Afghan President is hopeful of a positive outcome of his first visit to Pakistan, a country which has been accused globally of supporting insurgency.
"As far as I know, peace and security issues are at the top of our agenda," said Nematullah Ghafari, a delegation member. Alongside the security issues, the officials of the two countries are said to also discuss economic and transit matters.
"Economic matters are also part of these dialogues," another delegation member Sayed Farukh Shah said. "As long as Afghanistan does not reach economic and political stability, Pakistan will continue to interfere in our internal affairs."
According to analysts, Pakistan can play a vital role in Afghanistan's peace and stability, however, on several accounts Islamabad's role has been doubtful.
Former President Hamid Karzai during his 13 years of rule travelled to Pakistan several times but failed to persuade Pakistan to stop backing insurgent groups in Afghanistan.

At Afghan Border, Graft Is Part of the Bargain

Some call them “the men who sit on golden chairs” — Afghan customs officials who preside over a vast ecosystem of bribery that stretches from dusty border crossings to the capital.
They have become fabulously wealthy by depriving their aid-dependent treasury of at least $500 million a year, according to the most conservative foreign estimates.
Unseating those kings of customs, or at least stemming their thievery, is now a job for President Ashraf Ghani as he takes up his campaign promise of fighting graft. Customs is a central factor in rescuing the ailing economy, and accounted for 26 percent of government revenue last year.
Yet in interviews with a wide array of Afghan and foreign officials who live with the issue, a picture emerges of such rampant bribery and extortion that corruption can no longer be described as a cancer on the system: It is the system, they say. And it is deeply enmeshed with Afghan politics.
“The water is dirty from the source,” said Khan Jan Alokozai, deputy chairman of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, citing a Pashto proverb. “Governors and ministers, businessmen and bureaucrats — everyone is involved.”
The scale of the problem is evident at Torkham, a major crossing point on Afghanistan’s southeastern border with Pakistan. Every day, up to 500 trucks trundle across the Khyber Pass, kicking up clouds of dust as they cross into Afghanistan and enter a customs apparatus that has been transformed by a decade of foreign assistance.
The trucks pass a giant X-ray machine delivered by the United States military. Western-trained officials assess their cargo for import duties. The paperwork is entered into a computer system paid for by the World Bank. American-financed surveillance cameras monitor the crossing.
Yet for Afghan officials, every truck represents a fresh opportunity for personal enrichment.
Border guards pocket a small fee for opening the gate, but that is just the start. Businessmen and customs officials collude to fake invoices and manipulate packing lists. Quantity, weight, contents, country of origin — almost every piece of information can be altered to slash the customs bill, often by up to 70 percent.
“The only thing you can’t change is the color of the truck,” said one customs official who agreed to meet after work to explain how the system operated.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared losing his job, said he had paid $5,000 to a customs administrator to secure his job, a low-level processing position, 10 years ago. It was a spectacularly good investment: He now makes up to $4,000 every month on top of his basic salary of $150. Similar positions now cost at least $15,000 and require political connections, he said.
Every official at the customs post in Torkham and in nearby Jalalabad, where customs fees are paid, is complicit in the scheme, he said — even the office cleaners. A day earlier, for example, 85 trucks filled with garments had passed through customs, costing the importer $1,400 per truck in bribes: $900 to the customs chief, $250 to the customs broker, and $250 to be divided among various customs officials who facilitated the clearance.
The official said he had chosen to speak out partly out of guilt, and partly because he had been inspired by Mr. Ghani’s election.
This system is why I have clean clothes and good shoes,” he said, pointing to himself. “But I know it is wrong, and I want to stop it. This money belongs to the martyrs, the disabled and the widows. But if I raise my voice, I will lose my job.”
At the customs headquarters in Jalalabad, the deputy director, Haji Baryali Gardi Wal, dismissed claims of corruption as “exaggerated,” describing them as the calculated provocations of Pakistani, Iranian and Chinese intelligence agents.
“Afghanistan has many enemies,” he said. “They want to embarrass us before the West to reduce the funds coming into our country.”
In Kabul, the deputy finance minister for customs and revenue, Gul Maqsood Sabit, echoed that claim. “Ours is a world-class system,” he said. “I admit there are problems. But we have come a long way.”
It is certainly true that, partly thanks to at least $290 million in foreign training and equipment, the system has made strong progress in the past decade. Processing times at customs have fallen sharply — to two days from 10 at Kabul’s airport, and to 90 minutes from 18 hours at Torkham.
And revenue has soared to just over $1 billion in 2012 from a paltry $50 million in 2003 — although it slumped last year because of uncertainty over the American military drawdown.
Yet the system still loses more money than it gains. American aid officials estimate that Afghanistan loses half of its customs revenue to corruption, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said in a report published in April.
One senior international official with long experience in customs reform said the figure was closer to two-thirds.
“For every dollar that should be collected, the trader saves 33 cents, 33 cents goes to the officials, and 33 cents to government coffers,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity under orders from his organization.
In conversation, Afghan officials casually reel out accounts of the ostentatious wealth enjoyed by senior bureaucrats and politicians involved with customs, usually involving expensive properties in Kabul, Dubai, Europe or Canada. Less prominent officials are also doing well. According to American aid officials, some customs leaders are reluctant to visit Kabul for training because they would lose too much money in forgone bribes.
Mr. Ghani, who vowed “strict legal action” against corruption officials in his Sept. 29 inauguration speech, is intimately familiar with the kleptocratic customs system — as minister of finance under President Hamid Karzai in 2004, he started the current modernization program. He will also be aware that previous attempts to clean it up have met with strong political resistance.
Under Mr. Karzai, criminal investigations into corrupt officials and businessmen were repeatedly frustrated through direct interventions from parliamentarians, ministers and even Mr. Karzai’s office, according to several Western and Afghan officials. Not a single senior customs official has been prosecuted for graft.
Other government departments view customs as a shakedown target, they said. Government auditors extort money from customs officials in return for a clean bill of health. Prosecutors accept cash payments to slow or derail corruption investigations.
If Mr. Ghani is to truly attack this powerful web of interlocking interests, his main obstacle is political.
A serious customs overhaul would hurt the interests of major tribal or regional power brokers with links to Mr. Ghani or the country’s chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah. The main border post in the north is controlled by Atta Muhammad Noor, the governor of Balkh Province and a prominent supporter of Mr. Abdullah. In the south, the powerful police chief of Kandahar, Gen. Abdul Raziq, has a tight grip on border posts at Spin Boldak, with Pakistan, and Nimroz, with Iran.
Aside from its sheer cost, endemic corruption is also a sign of pessimism among Afghanistan’s elites, whose hoarding of assets has been widely interpreted as a sign of worry as Western aid slows down and Western combat troops pull out. Mr. Ghani will seek to allay some of those fears by securing promises of continuing international aid at a donor conference due to take place in London late this month or early the next.
But he is also showing a steely hand on corruption. Just a few weeks into his tenure, he has already reinvigorated the stalled court investigation into the $900 million Kabul Bank fraud scandal. And he vowed to shake up the office of the attorney general, Mohammad Ishaq Aloko. “People must trust it,” he said in a Twitter message posted on Oct. 8.
But with the political situation still fragile, some here worry that Mr. Ghani may be moving too quickly.
“Corruption has become so interwoven with the political system in Afghanistan that it’s going to take years to undo,” one American official said. “And you can’t forget that Afghanistan is a treacherous place, where some actors are capable of anything.”

Afghanistan Sees Increase in Poppy Cultivation

Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan hit a record high this year, rising by seven percent over the 2013 figure and accounting for 90 percent of the world's heroin supply, officials and the United Nations said on Wednesday.
The U.N.'s Office on Drugs and Crime said in a report that the increased cultivation could produce 6,400 tons (7,054 U.S. tons) of opium, or 17 percent more than in 2013.
Afghanistan's Minister for Counter-Narcotics Din Mohammad Mubariz Rashidi urged countries around the world to give fresh impetus to controlling the drug's production and trade.
"The international community must fight opium drugs and poppy cultivation in Afghanistan as seriously as they fight terrorism," he said.
The area used for poppy cultivation grew to 224,000 hectares (553,500 acres), 89 percent of it in nine provinces with a significant Taliban presence, the U.N. report said. The Taliban, which have been waging war against the Afghan government since 2001, are heavily involved in poppy cultivation and opium distribution.
The report said that the wholesale price of opium was falling because of increased supply, but the value of the crop was equivalent to 4 percent of the country's GDP, which is $22 billion.
Andrey Avetisyan, the UNODC's regional representative, said that with the end of the U.S. and NATO combat mission in December, the production of opium had to be tackled if Afghanistan was to develop its post-war economy.
"Without tackling the problem of drugs seriously, no serious economic achievement is possible to develop Afghanistan," he told reporters. "To help Afghanistan with economic development, we all together have to finally seriously do something with the threat of narcotics."
Billions of dollars have been spent on counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan in the past decade, including programs encouraging farmers to switch to other cash crops like wheat, fruit and saffron.
The support farmers receive from the Taliban, like fertilizer and cash advances, are strong incentives for poor farmers to stick with poppy rather than wait years for a return on lower-yield produce with uncertain markets and inadequate means of storage and transport.

More Victims of Pakistan’s Draconian Blasphemy Laws

By Faith McDonnell and Dr. Darara Gubo
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan appears to be vying with a few other nations (also Islamic) for the title of most egregious human rights violator in the world. Much of the evil perpetrated is the fault of the country’s blasphemy laws, part of Pakistan’s Penal Code, that have victimized both Christians and Muslims. The long, drawn-out persecution and oppression of Pakistani Christian mother of five, Asia Bibi, sentenced to die under those egregious laws is just business as usual for Pakistan. But the November 4, 2014 torture and burning to death of a young Christian couple near Lahore has been called “the worst religiously-motivated hate crime in Pakistan’s history.”
That is saying something, in a nation where Christians are commonly treated like second-class citizens – if not animals, where mobs of extremists have attacked Christian villages forcing the residents to flee or die, and where the small minority of courageous Muslims who stand up for Christians also become victims of the enraged. But it is hard to imagine anything more horrific than the murder of Sajjad Masih and his pregnant wife, Shama Bibi, the parents of four children. Accused of “desecrating the Koran,” the couple was held in a room next to the brick kiln where they were bonded laborers while the local mosques worked up the usual suspects, some accounts say 2,000, some say as many as 4,000. The Muslim mob dragged the couple outside, beat them, broke their legs so they could not get away, and threw them – still alive – into the kiln’s furnace.
Disturbingly, the same, or a similar fate, could await Asia Bibi, if Pakistan’s Supreme Court should overturn her death sentence. Her only hope would be to immediately flee the country with her family. Not sure what hope there would be for any Supreme Court justices who might pardon her. The High Court in Lahore did not venture into justice, most probably because they knew the repercussions they would face from Muslim “mobs.” Along with other religious freedom activists and human rights organizations we are outraged over the October 16, 2014 decision to uphold the death penalty against Bibi, who has been on death row for four years on the blasphemy charge. Bibi is the only woman this century to have been condemned to death for blasphemy. She also has a price on her head, offered by a radical Muslim cleric who is encouraging Pakistan’s Taliban to “finish her.”
What was the terrible crime for which Asia Bibi was arrested in June 2009? While picking fruit in a field, she stopped to get a drink of water from a nearby well. She offered a drink to another woman, but one of the Muslim women workers screamed that she was “contaminating” water that belonged only to Muslims. The situation escalated. Bibi was accused of making derogatory statements against Islam’s prophet Mohammed and dragged before the village imam. She was attacked and brutally beaten by a mob of outraged Muslims. Then she was thrown into prison where she has suffered from abuse, including more beatings by other prisoners as well as by guards. She now faces hanging unless charges against her are overturned by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Meanwhile, her husband, Ashiq Masih, and their children are in hiding.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws prescribe the death penalty for both desecration of the Qur’an (Section 295-B) – hence the justification for the vile crime perpetrated against Christian couple Sajjad and Shama (first names, to distinguish between the two women named “Bibi”) – and blasphemy against Islam’s prophet Mohammed (Section 295-C). The law is inspired by Sharia law and has been entrenched in Pakistan for years. According to the very brave Pakistani activists campaigning to end the abuse of the blasphemy laws, “the draconian Blasphemy Law is used for the miscarriage of justice; it is exploited ruthlessly by fanatics to settle scores with rivals and by religio-political parties to gain political leverage over administrative apparatuses.”
Muslim radicals have often threatened, attacked, and even killed blasphemy suspects and their family members, although nothing like what was done to Sajjad and Shama on the trumped-up charge of burning Koranic pages. In almost every case, suspects who have been acquitted have had to flee the country with their families. Islamists have also threatened and attacked lawyers, judges and police for defending or acquitting the suspects. As hinted at earlier, activists believe that the Lahore High Court judges may have rejected Bibi’s appeal out of fear for their own lives. Many of the Islamists demanding angrily Bibi’s execution were present in the courtroom. Such extremists have even killed politicians that called for the reform of the blasphemy laws.
Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab, opposed the blasphemy laws and defended Asia Bibi. He was murdered on January 4, 2011, shot 27 times by his own body guard, Malik Mumtaz Hussein Qadri, for his outspoken defense of Bibi and condemnation of the misuse of the blasphemy laws. Qadri was celebrated as a “hero” by the Pakistan Taliban and other Islamists. In contrast, when Asia Bibi heard of Taseer’s death, she “wept inconsolably” and a prison source reported that she repeated, “That man came here and he sacrificed his life for me.”
Then on March 2, 2011, our own friend, Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian member of Pakistan’s cabinet, was also killed for speaking out against the law and for Bibi. The cowardly gunmen (later the Taliban claimed credit for the murder) ambushed him just outside his mother’s home in Islamabad and riddled his car with bullets. In a video recorded just a few months before his assassination and released to the media after he was murdered, Bhatti, the Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs said, “When I am leading these campaigns against the Sharia laws, for the abolishment of blasphemy law and speaking for the oppressed, marginalized Christians and other minorities these Taliban threaten me. … I am living for my community and suffering people, and I will die to defend their rights.”
In a soon-to-be-released book by one of us, (Darara Gubo) entitled Blasphemy and Defamation of Religions in a Polarized World: How Religious Fundamentalism is Challenging Fundamental Human Rights (Lexington Books, December 16, 2014), the danger of the blasphemy laws to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the right to life of those accused of violation like Asia Bibi and so many others is described in detail. Pakistan and other member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have made efforts to introduce internationally binding agreements to protect Islam and Mohammed from blasphemy. Such agreements would violate universal human rights and would make it even more of a nightmare for anyone charged with blasphemy.
The bid for an international protocol against defamation of religions has faced opposition from Western countries pressured particularly by human rights and religious freedom organizations as well as other activists. But although the OIC has not been able to get this sort of agreement enacted, it has not abandoned its push to protect Islam. In 2011, the United States actually joined Turkey in what was called the “Istanbul Process” to create HRC Resolution 16/18 to “combat intolerance, discrimination and incitement to hatred and/or violence on the basis of religion or belief.” Many believe that by doing this the United States has actually legitimized “the longstanding Islamic campaign at the UN to ban ‘defamation of religion,’ only with different terminology.”
And truly, as the cases of Asia Bibi, Sajjad and Shama, and other Christians and Muslims charged under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws prove, HRC Resolution 16/18 – if it were to become internationally binding – would only aid in the aggressive and abusive use of the blasphemy laws. Actions as innocuous as Asia Bibi’s taking a drink of water from a well that Muslims think is only for them, or of Shama allegedly burning pages of the Koran, could be considered “incitement” to violence.
In the wake of the horrific death of Sajjad Masih and Shama Bibi, we wonder what will become of Asia Bibi as she awaits her last appeal to the Pakistan Supreme Court. Both secular and religious human rights groups have launched petitions and letters on her behalf to bring justice and freedom to this Christian victim of religious persecution. Amnesty International, for example, has over 18,000 signatures so far on a petition to Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Christian organization the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has over 215,000 signatures on their petition to the Pakistani government. We can only hope and pray that Asia Bibi will be freed, and that she and husband, Ashiq Masih, and their daughters will be protected and provided with a place of safety where they can live in peace and freedom.

Wagah attack suspects die in air strikes: Pakistan military

The Pakistani military has claimed to have killed 13 terrorists, including those involved in the Wagah border suicide attack, in aerial strikes, media reported.
The strikes were undertaken on Tuesday in the Daras area of Khyber Agency, on the basis of "credible intelligence about the presence of terrorists involved in the Wagah attack", Dawn reported citing an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement. Khyber is part of Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and is one of the eight tribal areas, which are known as "agencies" in Pakistan.
Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda-linked militants are believed to have carved out strongholds in this region.
During the strikes, fighter jets destroyed three militant hideouts including an ammunition depot, the report said.
Intelligence sources believe that the mastermind and handlers of the Wagah border terrorist attack might be among the dead.
Pakistani relatives gather beside the covered bodies of victims who were killed in bomb attack at Wagah border near Lahore. (AFP Photo)
The information, however, could not be verified independently.
At least 60 people were killed and over 200 injured when a teenaged suicide bomber blew himself up near the Wagah border in Pakistan on November 2 during the flag-lowering ceremony at the border.
Pakistani mourners carry the bodies of blast victims during a funeral in Lahore on November 3, 2014, a day after a suicide bombing that killed 55 at the Wagah border.
Claiming responsibility for the attack, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, had said that the attack was as much aimed at India as Pakistan.
The aerial strikes by the Pakistani military came as part of its offensive against local and foreign militants in the tribal regions of north Waziristan and Khyber.

Pakistan: ISIS posters come up near Sharif’s home

Posters, stickers and wall-chalking supporting ISIS have appeared some 15km from Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif's Lahore farmhouse, prompting authorities to launch a probe into the possible presence of the militant outfit in the city. The Lahore police have launched a search operation and took some suspects into custody after the display of ISIS posters and stickers inscribing 'Ummah of Khilafat Mubarik' in Nawab Town and Thokar Niaz Baig, some 15km from the Raiwind residence of Sharif. The wall chalking in favour of ISIS also appeared in Hunjerwal and Canal Road in Lahore. Police have registered an FIR for wall chalking and display of posters and stickers. "We have registered a case against elements involved in wall chalking and display of posters of ISIS. Police and other agencies have been launched an investigation into the matter to find out those behind it," deputy inspector general Punjab police Haider Ashraf said.

اے این پی کو 2013ءکے انتخابات میں الیکشن مہم سے روکا گیا: اسفند یار ولی

عوامی نیشنل پارٹی (اے این پی) کے رہنماءاسفند یار ولی نے کہا ہے 2013ءکے انتخابات میں الیکشن مہم سے روکا گیا۔ پریس کانفرنس سے خطاب کرتے ہوئے اسفند یار ولی نے کہا کہ ہمیں 2013ءکے الیکشن سے باہر رکھا گیا، عام انتخابات میں لوگ ووٹ مانگ رہے تھے اور ہم جنازے اٹھا رہے تھے، اے این پی اس معاملے پر پرامن احتجاج کرے گی۔ ایک سوال کے جواب میں ان کا کہنا تھا کہ نواز شریف کو نہیں بچا رہے لیکن کنپٹی پر پستول رکھ کر استعفیٰ قبول نہیں ہے۔

Pakistan: ''Why Am I Not Malala?''

Mirza Kashif Ali and his so-called association, All Pakistan Private Schools Federation (APPSF), badly wanted some attention, and now they’ve got it. It is yet another case of old men losing sleep over the achievements of a young girl, of a single book threatening to ‘destroy’ Islam, its followers and the world as we know it, of victims of paranoia discovering the ever-present conspiring hidden hand attempting to choke and kill, of orchestrated smear campaigns deliberately misrepresenting and misquoting a person in a bid to rouse emotions to counter intellectual discourse, of attention-craved groups and individuals brazenly demonising a universally acclaimed education activist for short-lived relevance. In many ways, it is the story of Pakistan’s finest heroes; revered and hailed around the world, marginalised and unacknowledged at home.
The APPSF ‘I am not Malala day’ stunt didn’t need much time to be exposed for what it really is; a publicity stunt. Other, far better-known and credible private schools’ associations have come forward and denounced the APPSF’s shenanigans as “uncalled for” and its claims, “nonsensical”. There was never any plan, put forth by schools or the government, to include Malala Yousafzai’s book in the curriculum. It would appear that the APPSF was passionately opposing a move that was never going to take place in the first place. As far as banning the book in school libraries is concerned, the limited scope of their influence will ensure that the book will not go unread. There was never really a need for Mirza Kashif Ali and friends to clarify that they are not Malala. One can’t imagine if anyone in their right mind would ever accuse them of being her, or anything like her for that matter. Never will they achieve half of what Malala has. Courage, character and intellect – they fall dramatically short on all accounts. Perhaps their campaign should be viewed as a cry for help; the sort that only invites pity. In that case, the more appropriate slogan could have been, “Why am I not Malala?”
It would be in error to dignify oft-repeated conspiracy theories floated by the self-appointed defenders of faith and homeland with a serious response. ‘Engagement with the opposition’ is overrated, and often misinterpreted. There was a time when heated debates used to take place between people who believed that the Sun revolves around the Earth and those who were right. Now, we entertain such ludicrous claims with ridicule or a medical prescription, if necessary. Conspiracy theorists should not be lent credibility by treating their arguments and fantastical claims with seriousness. It is reasonable to be concerned about the mental state of Mirza Kashif Ali and other members of APPSF, and efforts ought to be directed towards rescuing our children from their hands.

Supreme Court Of Pakistan Questions PM, CM And Other Ministers Over Kot Radha Kishan Incident

According to media report, the Apex court also issued directions to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Ministry of Interfaith Harmony and Establishment Division to present their explanations for not fulfilling the order of minority’s protection. Supreme Court questioned the government about its failure to implement SC’s order to protect the minorities in the country. A copy of SC’s decision has been sent to respective departments with proposals of various steps for the security of minorities.
Prior to this, Chief Minister Punjab Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif set up a 3-member committee to probe the incident of Kot Radha Kishan. A Pakistani Christian couple Shahzad Masih and his wife Shama Bibi were labourers and residents of Chak 59 village near Kot Radha Kishan were set on fire by an angry mob over accusations of blasphemy. Police registered FIR against 400 unknown people while police has been searching for more suspected men.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court had ruled previously that the government must take steps to protect the country’s Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, and other religious minorities. The then Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani acknowledged the persecution that non-Muslims in Pakistan face persecution and discrimination while he placed the blame directly on the leaders.
- See more at:

Pakistan's Shia Genocide : Shia trader Qazalbash shot martyred in Peshawar

A Shia trader Hassan Wajid Qazlbash has been shot martyred by pro-ISIS takfiri terrorists of Ahl-e-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat (ASWJ) in Peshawar on Tuesday, The Shia Post reports. Martyr Wajid Hassan Qazlbash was targeted in Qisa Khani Bazar area. He was sitting at his medical store where takfiri nasbi terrorists of pro-Taliban and pro-Daesh, outlawed ASWJ stormed into and opened fire upon him. He was martyred on the spot. It was second incident of its kind in a week in Peshawar city. Takfiri nabsi terrorists are freely perpetrating targeted assassinations of Shia notables.

Pakistani Christians: Justice for Shama & Shahzad

The more we hear about the killing of the Christian couple, Shama and Shahzad Masih, the greater grows the horror of what took place that day a week ago at Kot Radha Kishan. The six-year-old son of the couple, one of four small children orphaned by the incident, has given gory details of how his parents were beaten till they bled, tied to a tractor and dragged through the streets and then thrown into the brick kiln, dead or alive, we do not quite know, where their bodies were reduced to ashes. The children were dragged away to safety by their grandfather. The trauma of what they saw will live with them forever, and the Rs5 million compensation and 10 acres of land given to them by the Punjab chief minister will not change this, though in practical terms, it may make their lives just a little better.
But what of life for other non-Muslims in the country? What can they expect for the future? We have read already of the fear descending over minority communities in the wake of the brutal murders. We already know that a local cleric possibly acted to incite the violence in Kot Radha Kishan. The police, who have made dozens of arrests since the murders, say they were on that day spread too thin due to Ashura. This claim needs to be inquired into although this in no way absolves the police of the responsibility of protecting the unfortunate couple.
But surely, we should also be asking why local people did not act to save the young couple? Why did no one speak up for them? What happened at Kot Radha Kishan exposes a great deal about our society within which people can be killed without being given any opportunity to defend themselves. The poor, like the latest victims, who were unable to flee as they were bonded labourers, are perhaps the most vulnerable of all to abuse of this kind. Many questions need to be asked and answered effectively. We hope they will be.

Pakistan: Avoiding the worst

For months now Imran Khan has been demonstrating that we are living in an age defined by uncouth and ill-mannered leaders. He has been using foul language against the government, legislators, bureaucrats, the judiciary, the election commission and its members. He did not even spare the US ambassador to Pakistan or the Chinese government. The result is that no one in his right mind is ready to venture into any territory that might involve the opposition’s consensus for its initiation. First Justice (retd) Rana Bhagwandas, a former Chief Justice of Pakistan, refused to become the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and now it is Justice (retd) Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, again a former Chief Justice of Pakistan, who has declined the offer. The refusal of these two leading and highly respected members of the judiciary to head the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), throws light on the damage Imran Khan’s accusations have wrought to the democratic process. Thanks to Imran and his aspersions against anyone who fails to size up to his expectations of helping him become the country’s prime minister, the task of appointing the CEC may not be able to meet the Supreme Court’s (SC’s) deadline of November 13 (tomorrow). The disservice Imran has done to the country by making its institutions, it leaders and its laws controversial can become a thorn in the side of his own political career that might eventually pull him down, something that might already have begun.
Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani has put forward two conditions for considering becoming the CEC. One is that the ECP is made as independent as is the Election Commission of India. Two, he does not want his name to be challenged once finalised for the candidacy. As far as the first condition is concerned, no one can deny the importance of having an independent ECP, be it on the lines of India or not. But achieving this in a matter of days, since November 13 is the deadline by which the new CEC should be appointed as per the orders of the SC, is demanding the unachievable. The second condition though sounds cautious, considering the stature of a Chief Justice of Pakistan, and especially of someone who had already served as the acting CEC. The government is here as much to be blamed as Imran for acting unwisely and making the ECP controversial. Why is it that the government has to be pushed to abide by the constitution in nearly every case? The appointment of the CEC should have been completed when Fakhruddin G Ibrahim had resigned and without the goading of the SC. Let us see how the government goes about achieving this (seemingly) Herculean task, now that the deadline is looming over its head.

Pakistan - Lahore : Hepatitis – official machinery counts on ‘outdated’ figures

The Punjab Directorate of Health Services (DHS) seems indifferent to the plight of hepatitis patients despite knowing the fact that the chronic disease has been declared “most prevalent” in Pakistan.
A senior official has pointed out many flaws that are affecting the drive to curtail the chronic viral hepatitis in the largest province of the country.
He told Dawn that the DHS’ Hepatitis Control Programme was practically dysfunctional due to the negligence of the authorities concerned. The number of patients with all types of hepatitis virus was increasing manifold and this upward trend was going unchecked in Punjab, he said.
He cited some reports on the prevalence of this chronic disease that depict an alarming situation in Pakistan in general and Punjab in particular.
According to a recent World Health Organization report, he said, the world had been divided into three zones -- high hepatitis prevalent, intermediate, and low prevalent zones -- and “Pakistan stands in the intermediate zone.”
And it is feared that Pakistan is heading towards the first zone since the government is introducing flawed programme to fight this menace.
Similarly, the report said, all five hepatitis viruses were prevalent in Pakistan.
It said hepatitis A and E infections were endemic due to poor water and sewage systems. “Although the two viral infections occur in their sporadic form, mini-epidemics of hepatitis E occur regularly during monsoon rains and floods due to major contamination of drinking water with sewage.”
The WHO report further said it’s estimated that nearly four million people in the country had been exposed to hepatitis B virus and about eight million to hepatitis C virus. “Hepatitis D virus is prevalent in certain districts of Punjab, Balochistan and Sindh due to the existing hepatitis B cases and low coverage of hepatitis B vaccine in this high-risk population.”
On the other hand, the official said, the gravity of the situation could be judged from the fact that the Directorate Health Services of the largest province (Punjab) was managing hepatitis control programme on the basis of six-year old statistics. “Normally, fresh statistics are believed to be pivotal in devising effective strategies and policies for the success of a programme,” he said.
Gathered by the Pakistan Medical Research Council in a survey carried out in 2007-8, these figures were being communicated by the DHS in the official meetings, ceremonies and seminars as reference, he said. He said the Hepatitis Control Programme was also making strategies and planning on the basis of these ‘outdated’ statistics.
The official said the Punjab government had recently observed a week to create awareness about prevention and cure of hepatitis. The director general health shared statistics of the PMRC 2007-8 survey about the burden of the hepatitis disease in Punjab which shocked the medical and public health experts. The experts were expecting that the department would come up with fresh statistics about the disease’s burden.
Moreover, the official said, the Hepatitis Control Programme, launched in 2006, was being run on the basis of a PC-I despite being an “endemic issue”. The official said instead of making the programme a permanent feature of the health system, the PC-I was being revised every year. The PC-I took at least two to four months for approval every year and during this period the programme remained dysfunctional.
After devolution of the health chapter to the provinces, the federal government had time and again asked the provinces to look after the subject at their level. However, the Directorate made no effort to compile its own data to know the scale or ratio of the patients affected by the virus. “The Directorate has failed to establish authority or body at the provincial level to conduct fresh survey to update it about the actual burden of the diseases including hepatitis,” the official said.
The Directorate has been running the programme without its head for the last few months. Currently, the Punjab DG health is holding the portfolio of its director.
The official said the situation was also disturbing on curative side. “The Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is a relatively simple and inexpensive tool for diagnosing diseases. It is the only reliable method of diagnosing hepatitis C but unfortunately it is available in one teaching hospital – Jinnah Hospital – in Lahore catering a population of more than 10 million people,” he said.
An employee of the Jinnah Hospital told Dawn that the lab was collecting blood samples of only 50 patients daily for diagnosing hepatitis C. He said more than 150 patients visited the lab for this test but the institute’s management had fixed a quota of 50 due to limited budget and manpower.
“We receive blood samples from 8pm to 11am daily,” he said, adding that a PCR test for hepatitis C cost between Rs5,000 and 12,000 in the private sector. He said the hospital lab issued reports against each sample a month after receiving the blood sample due to rush of patients.
Health Secretary Jawad Rafique Malik said the department had various proposals to revamp the directorate. He said after devolution of the health sector to provinces, the Punjab health department had started registration of 100,000 more hepatitis patients from the level of the teaching institutes to the THQ hospitals. Earlier, only 50,000 patients were registered under the Hepatitis Control Programme.
He expressed his annoyance over the presentation of six-year old statistics by the health director general saying the programme management should consolidate data afresh.

Pakistan: Militancy in Khyber

The recently launched military operation in Bara may have been overshadowed by the bigger, months-old campaign in North Waziristan, but it is an important piece in the overall fight against militancy in the country for two reasons.
One, Bara tehsil’s proximity to Peshawar allows militants based in that part of the tribal areas to have an outsize effect on the security and stability of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s capital and largest city.
Two, the Mangal Bagh-led Lashkar-i-Islam had established a comprehensive fiefdom that had removed the region under its control for many years from nearly any semblance of being under the authority, or even influence, of the Pakistani state.
Unhappily, neither the army nor the civilian government has tried to explain much to the public about what the state is trying to achieve in Khyber Agency.
Contrast the publicity blitz — though often devoid of facts — that has characterised the North Waziristan operation.
Yet, piecing together what officials have said publicly — as during the Khyber political agent’s press conference on Monday — and military officials are claiming privately, it does appear that, unlike other mini operations in the past when the state has declared victory only to launch another mini operation a year or even a few months later, this time the army does mean business.
More resources have been deployed this time round and more thought appears to have gone into planning the operation.
It appears that the plan is to begin by retaking the Bara plains before moving on to the mountainous Tirah region. But it will not be easy, as the loss of over a dozen security personnel in the first days of the operation demonstrated.
While Mangal Bagh’s organisation has been weakened by defections and other losses, the TTP breakaway faction, Jamaatul Ahrar, has established a threatening presence in the agency.
Read: New TTP group 'Jamatul Ahrar' breaks away from Mullah Fazlullah
Moreover, with Mangal Bagh himself believed to be hiding out somewhere along the Pak-Afghan border, perhaps even on the Afghan side, the military has a hardened group of militant leaders to contend with — even after the elimination of Abu Jandal of the Ahrar faction.
As with all such operations, two related issues are worth highlighting.
One, Bara underlines, as though further emphasis was needed, the failed strategy of seeking to use criminals masquerading as Islamist militants as a buffer against militants fighting the Pakistani state.
While his relationship with the Pakistani security establishment has hardly been a friendly one, Mangal Bagh was certainly seen at various points as a better alternative to the banned TTP.
But such explicit or sometimes tacit deals only allowed for the expansion of militancy in Fata — because the so-called good Taliban or friendly militants always ended up creating more space for the TTP-type, anti-state militants, sometimes even opportunistically aligning with them. Second, there are a quarter of a million IDPs from Khyber — how much is the state doing to help them?

Pakistan’s blasphemy law is a relentless guillotine for minorities
The number of Pakistanis being sentenced or killed for blaspheming against the accepted strain of Sunni Islam is on the rise
British citizens have been accused of blasphemy in Pakistan in the past year, both narrowly escaping with their lives. Masud Ahmed, an Ahmadi Muslim doctor, was arrested last November for ‘pretending to be a Muslim’, after a man posing as a patient recorded him reading the Quran.
Pakistan’s Constitution ‘officially’ excommunicated Ahmadi Muslims in 1974, with the Pakistan Penal Code barring the community from ‘using Islamic titles’, ‘posing as Muslims’, or ‘outraging the religious sentiments of Muslims’. In Pakistan you can be jailed for reading the Quran if you happen to belong to the Ahmaddiya sect.
Hundreds of people queued up outside the police station where Ahmed was held, vying to punish ‘the blasphemer’ with their own hands. Luckily, Ahmed got bail on the third attempt and is now living safely in Glasgow with his children and grandchildren. Mohammad Asghar, meanwhile, is still in Pakistan, after being arrested on blasphemy charges for proclaiming prophethood in January. Asghar was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2010 and is mentally unstable.
Whilst in jail he was shot at by a prison guard; the guard had been incited to act by former police officer Mumtaz Qadri, who was in the same prison for murdering Salmaan Taseer in 2011.
Taseer, a renowned businessman and the governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s most powerful province, was gunned down by Qadri, his security guard, for calling for reforms in the blasphemy law. Taseer had also publicly supported Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Prophet Muhammad in 2010.
Asia Bibi was sentenced to death by Lahore High Court last month, with all appeals to pardon her having been rejected.
While human rights activists were busy raising global awareness for Asia Bibi’s cause following last month’s verdict, a Christian couple was burnt alive for allegedly burning pages of the Quran. The woman was five months pregnant.
A similar allegation was launched against Rimsha Masih, a 14-year-old Christian girl, who managed to flee to Canada last year.
On Thursday, a Pakistani police officer killed a man with an axe for allegedly blaspheming against the companions of Prophet Muhammad. Meanwhile, two ostensibly secular Pakistani political parties, PPP and MQM, have been at loggerheads recently over blasphemy accusations, with PPP leader Khurshid Shah accused of blasphemy for labelling the word mohajir (immigrant) derogatory. Mohajir is the word that is used to describe Prophet Muhammad and his companions who migrated from Mecca to Medina.
Ironically, these two seemingly secular political parties have perfectly demonstrated how Pakistan’s blasphemy law is misused to settle personal scores. From Asia Bibi to the murdered Christian couple, blasphemy is being used as a garb with which to conceal petty animosities, at the cost of human life.
Some critics of Pakistan’s blasphemy law have suggested that it is a remnant of the British colonial past. Upon independence, Pakistan adopted the Indian Penal Code that was written for British India by Lord Macaulay in 1860. Article 295 of the Indian (and Pakistani) Penal Code protects all worship places, with Article 295-A added to quell any ‘deliberate and malicious’ attempts to outrage religious sentiments. The amendment was made by the British Raj as an attempt to curtail communal riots after Mahashay Rajpal, a Hindu publisher, was killed in 1927 for publishing a book deemed to be offensive to the Prophet Muhammad. In the 1980s, former Pakistani president and Islamist dictator Ziaul Haq added clauses 295-B and 295-C to the Pakistan Penal Code. These were Islam-specific and sanctioned the death penalty for blasphemy. Not only have the Islamic clauses made the blasphemy law irrevocable, they have further tightened the noose around Pakistani minorities by increasing incidence of blasphemy accusations. Between 1986 and 2013 there were 1,274 formal blasphemy accusations, compared to only 14 between 1947 and 1986. Pakistani Christians, Hindus, and Ahmadis have long been persecuted by these draconian laws. The Shia, who represent one fifth of the country’s population, have also come under fire recently. For the Shia there are echoes of the climate that in 1974 led Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the founder of PPP and Pakistan’s first democratically elected leader, to declare Ahmadis heretics. While the Ahmadis were apostatised for not following the mainstream interpretation of the ‘finality of prophethood’, the Shia are accused of heresy for not recognising the first three caliphs of Islam, who the Sunnis revere. Pakistani blasphemy law is becoming a relentless guillotine for minorities, with hardliners calling for all Pakistani Muslims to adhere to an identical and extremist brand of Islam, as flaunted by the likes of IS, al-Qaeda and of course Saudi Arabia. The law is not only a threat to British Pakistanis belonging to minority Islamic sects, but for any rationalist. Pakistan is one of 13 countries, all of which are Muslim majority, where apostasy or atheism is punishable by death. Although nobody has as yet been officially executed for blasphemy in Pakistan, many have been butchered publicly by people taking the law into their own hands. In the past two months alone, two Sunni Muslims – a defence lawyer in a blasphemy case, and a university dean propagating a liberal brand of Islam – have been murdered in broad daylight, clearly highlighting the threat that Pakistan’s blasphemy law poses to humanity.

More Threats for Pakistani Journalist Hamid Mir

Ayesha Tanzeem
A famous Pakistani journalist who survived an assassination attempt despite taking six bullets has received new threats based on his views on the Pakistan-Bangladesh relationship, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Bob Dietz, the New York-based group's Asia coordinator, says an “intense campaign” to denounce Hamid Mir started last week after he wrote in his weekly column that Pakistan should officially apologize to Bangladesh for atrocities committed in 1971, when Bangladesh seceded from Pakistan.
Mir's column appears in the Urdu-language Daily Jang.
Mir planned to attend an upcoming journalists’ conference in Bangladesh, hosted by Prothom Alo, which includes discussions on the issues of 1971. Last year in Bangladesh, Mir had referred to books written by Pakistan army officers that admitted to atrocities against Bengalis.
Hate material
In his email to CPJ, Mir says that soon after his visit to the Bangladesh High Commission, “mysterious people” began dropping CDs and DVDs of hate material to newspaper offices, and started tweeting against him, calling him an “enemy of Pakistan” and “agent of Bangladesh.”
Bangladesh has repeatedly demanded an official apology from Islamabad, and claims elements of Pakistan’s military committed war crimes against the Bengali population of what was then East Pakistan. Historians note that serious human rights violations were carried out both by Pakistan’s military and Bangladesh’s Mukti Bahini separatists.
"I wish to express to the Bangladeshi people sincere regrets for the tragic events, which have left deep wounds on both our nations," Pakistan's then-President, General Pervez Musharraf, announced to a state banquet during his 2002 visit to Dhaka.
Hamid Mir’s concerns for his safety are not unfounded. In April of this year, he was visiting Pakistan’s commercial, Karachi, when gunmen on motorbikes opened fire on his car, hitting him six times. He is still recovering from those injuries.
While he was unconscious in the hospital, his brother accused Pakistan’s powerful ISI spy agency for the attack, even accusing the agency's acting head, Lieutenant General Zaheerul Islam, of personally ordering the attack because of Mir's criticism over the disappearances of political activists in Balochistan province.
Mir’s employer, Geo, Pakistan’s biggest television news channel at the time, aired the accusation for hours along with a picture of Islam.
Divisive issue
Pakistan’s military, which controls the ISI, said that this amounted to defamation and demanded action. Public opinion was deeply divided. Many in the journalist community also criticized Geo for going overboard with its coverage. The channel was ordered off air for 15 days by Pakistan’s Electronic Media Regulatory Authority.
No direct link between ISI and the attack was found. A three member commission was set up by the prime minister to investigate the incident and release a report within three weeks. No report was issued.
Although Geo has been back on the air for several months, many believe the dispute between the powerful media house and the country’s military is still unfolding. CPJ's Dietz thinks the campaign against Mir may be another way of “continuing pressure” on Geo.
The atmosphere for working journalists in Pakistan has steadily deteriorated, according to both journalists and rights organizations like CPJ. Threats to journalists and their families come from multiple groups, including the ISI, some political parties, and extremist groups.
Asked if the latest threat against a famous journalist will add a chill to freedom of expression in Pakistan, Dietz replied: “No, the atmosphere is already chilled. It’s freezing cold, frankly. People are afraid all the time.”

The Nuclear Implications of Iran-Pakistan Tensions

By Maysam Behravesh
Tensions with nuclear-armed Pakistan may influence Iran’s calculus regarding its own nuclear program.
The long-standing tensions between Iran and Pakistan over proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the use of militant proxies for regional power projection, and divergent geopolitical alignments remain one of the oft-neglected strategic factors that may influence Tehran’s nuclear calculus in salient ways. Such a consideration carries much greater significance today, when decade-long negotiations between Iran and P5+1 (Britain, China, France, Russia, U.S., and Germany) over the Iranian atomic venture have reached a very sensitive stage. Once they escalate into a systematic pattern, as suggested by developments over the past years, Tehran-Islamabad tensions will constitute a totally new security front for the Islamic Republic and are thus likely to exert a cynical impact on its nuclear logic.
Iran’s relationship with Sunni-majority Pakistan has often been one of restrained fear and loathing, dating back to the spring of 1998. In 1998, following nuclear tests by India, Pakistan conducted a series of atomic tests and thus became Iran’s sole neighbor with nuclear weapons capability. In August the same year, the Taliban forces — who had established their “Emirate” in Afghanistan after toppling the Afghan government with the assistance of Islamabad in 1996 — captured the Iranian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif and killed 11 members of its diplomatic and media corps. Alarm bells rang in Tehran, but threats of military action and a ceremonial deployment of troops along the border with Afghanistan was all that ensued in response. Later, it was discovered that the murders had been carried out by Sipah-e-Sahaba, a rabidly anti-Shiite militant organization with close connections to the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment. Pakistan’s nuclear status must have been in the minds of Iranian leaders and strategists, who stopped short of military intervention against the Islamabad-backed militants in Afghanistan. No wonder Iran rushed to help the U.S.-led coalition overthrow the Taliban government three years later.
Over the past decade, narcotic trafficking, banditry, kidnapping and cross-border attacks have been rampant in the Baluchistan region straddling Iran and Pakistan. Yet, the militant threat reached a turning point in October 2009 when a suicide operation by the “Jundullah” separatist group in the Iranian border town of Pishin claimed the lives of over 30 people, including two senior Revolutionary Guard commanders. Though the group’s leader Abdolmalek Rigi was later apprehended and executed in Tehran, bilateral tensions as a consequence of Sunni militant activity have recently escalated into deadly border skirmishes engaging conventional military forces of both sides. In mid-October this year, Islamabad filed a diplomatic protest with Tehran after attempts by Iranian security forces to chase militants across the border led to the death of a Pakistani Frontier Corps paramilitary and left four other soldiers wounded. Shortly afterwards and in an unprecedented escalation, the two sides exchanged mortar fire.
As a matter of fact, Iran does not have many friends in the region (hence Tehran’s obsessive defense of Bashar al-Assad in Syria), while its unique foreign policy vision in general and nuclear ambitions in particular have alienated and in some cases antagonized world powers. Nor does the Islamic Republic enjoy the protective cover of a powerful nuclear-weapons state (NWS) as in the case, say, of South Korea and Japan, both of which fall under the “nuclear umbrella” of the United States. If the Iranian leadership has drawn one single historical lesson from the bitter-ended Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), it is the realist maxim of “self-help”: they will have to fight single-handedly should any serious conflict or conflagration break out within their borders or beyond. This applies today as much as it did in the aftermath of the 1979 revolution.
Iran’s concerns about Pakistan’s atomic capability are mainly two-fold. As the “fastest-growing” arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world, Pakistani nukes — or more likely, sensitive nuclear technology — run the risk of falling into the wrong hands, given the embedded presence of Sunni militant groups throughout the land as well as the close ties between these groups and certain segments of the military-security establishment that generally oversees Islamabad’s nuclear activities. After all, Pakistan has a long track record in employing the export of militancy as an instrument of foreign policy making. As the foremost Shiite power in the Middle East, Iran sees itself as the immediate target in the eventuality of such scenarios due to its ideology but also its geographical proximity.
These fears have been intensified by the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (IS, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham) and the transnational links it is trying to foster with the Pakistani Taliban and Sunni jihadists in South Asia among others. Over a year into its inception, it is no secret today that IS is frantically scrambling to get its hands on weapons of mass destruction including chemical and biological agents, which the terror group has reportedly used against Kurdish fighters in the Syrian border town of Kobani and Iraqi forces in the Salahuddin province. IS and its like-minded Sunni sympathizers regard Shiites — particularly Iranians — as “Safawi” and “Rafida,” pejorative terms referring to those Muslims who are perceived to have deviated from the true path of Islam and dismissed the authentic Islamic tradition, hence more legitimate targets for “believers” than the Western “infidels.”
Tehran also has serious apprehensions about Pakistan’s strategic alliance with its archrival and Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia, which is largely driven by a common sectarian ideology. Riyadh has invested heavily in the Pakistani nuclear program and is believed to be able to obtain atomic weapons from Islamabad at will. In the words of a senior Pakistani official aware of the unwritten covenant between the two capitals, “What did we think the Saudis were giving us all that money for? It wasn’t charity.” Amos Yaldin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, has similarly observed that if Iranians manage to acquire nukes, “The Saudis will not wait one month. They already paid for the bomb, they will go to Pakistan and bring what they need to bring.” Yet Tehran’s worry is that, in certain circumstances, Riyadh may take such an action even without the materialization of an Iranian bomb.
What are the implications of all this for the ongoing nuclear negotiations? Arguably, this complex dynamic can act as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it may dispose the Iranian leadership to stand their ground firmly and leave ample space for deterrent action in the face of mounting threats in the neighborhood. Such a “tragic” view, needless to say, bodes poorly for the prospects of a comprehensive deal. On the other hand, it may persuade Tehran to lose no time facilitating an ultimate agreement over its nuclear venture, so it can integrate fully into the fold of international community and thus enjoy the normative checks and balances that keep states from transgressing each other’s national sovereignty and security.
What is beyond doubt, however, is that should talks fail, the Pakistan factor will play a more prominent role than ever before in Iran’s nuclear calculus.

Pakistan: LHC asks govt to remove Maryam from loan scheme

The Lahore High Court gave the federal government on Tuesday an opportunity to replace Maryam Nawaz with another individual as chairperson of the Prime Minister Youth Loan Programme.
“The chairperson has to be changed,” Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah observed during the hearing of a petition filed by Zubair Niazi, a local leader of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, against the appointment.
The judge, however, said the court was showing grace by giving a chance to the government to change the chairperson in a lawful and transparent manner.
During the hearing, deputy attorney general Amir Rehman presented academic credentials of Ms Maryam, but withdrew them after failing to answer a query whether the Ph.D. degree was actual or honorary. He said the details presented before the court were collected from the internet.
Justice Shah also expressed wonder over the combination of degrees – M.A. (English Literature) and Ph.D. in Political Science – earned by Maryam Nawaz.
Defending the impugned appointment, the deputy attorney general argued that the office of the chairperson was not a public office but a sort of focal person. He said holding of the chairperson’s post by Maryam Nawaz did not affect the disbursement of funds.
The judge asked the law officer whether a cook could be appointed as focal person in the name of prerogative. The court also rejected the argument that appointment of foreign ambassadors was also an example of the prime minister’s prerogative and observed that public money was involved in the instant case.
The court adjourned the hearing for two hours with directives to the law officer to come up with instructions from the federal government whether it was willing to consider the in-house change.
The deputy attorney general appeared before the court at 3pm and said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was on an official visit to Germany and would return on Thursday. He requested the court to defer the matter till return of the prime minister because his point of view was essential to answer the court’s query.
The petitioner’s counsel opposed the request, but the judge adjourned the hearing till Friday and directed the law officer to come up with a lawful and transparent mechanism for the new appointment along with academic credentials of Maryam Nawaz.
Earlier, the petitioner’s counsel argued that the appointment of Maryam Nawaz was a case of sheer nepotism. He said the appointment had been made in violation of law and several judgments passed by the Supreme Court. He said neither a public notice nor an advertisement was issued before the appointment.
The counsel requested the court to set aside the impugned appointment and pass a detailed judgment on the matter.