Sunday, November 16, 2014

Bahrainis protest regime’s detention of activists

Fresh protests have hit different areas across Bahrain with the protesters condemning the regime's detention of pro-democracy female activists.
On Sunday, the protesters took to the streets in the northeastern island of Sitra, the nearby area of Eker, and the villages of Samaheej and Tubli to demand an immediate release of female protesters arrested at their homes over the past few days.
In Eker, the Bahraini regime forces fired teargas to disperse the protesters.
Similar protests were also organized on Friday in Sitra, and in the villages of Samaheej, Malkiya, and Abu Saiba.
The regime arrested 13 female activists for expressing their disagreement with the upcoming parliamentary elections in the Persian Gulf state. Two of them have been released and the other 11 are still in custody.
Most of the female activists were arrested last week after the Bahraini interior ministry accused them of "preparing an anti-regime referendum on the day of the legislative elections," AFP quoted an activist, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The activist further noted that a number of men were also arrested.
The regime plans to hold the elections on November 22, despite ongoing protests against the ruling Al Khalifa family.
Since mid-February 2011, thousands of protesters have held numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling on the royal family to relinquish power.
In March 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to Bahrain to help Manama quash the anti-regime protests.
Scores of Bahrainis have been killed and hundreds of others injured and arrested in the ongoing crackdown on peaceful demonstrations.
The Persian Gulf Arab state has been under criticism by human rights groups for its harsh crackdown on anti-government protesters.
In June, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights censured the Manama regime for human rights violations. A total of 46 members of the international body expressed deep concern over the Al Khalifa regime’s crackdown on peaceful protesters.

Obama Condemns Islamic State’s Killing of Peter Kassig

Islamic State militants released a chilling videotape on Sunday showing they had beheaded a fifth Western hostage, an American aid worker the group had threatened to kill in retaliation for airstrikes carried out by the United States in Iraq and Syria.
President Obama on Sunday confirmed the death of the aid worker, Peter Kassig, a former Army Ranger who disappeared more than a year ago at a checkpoint in northeastern Syria while delivering medical supplies.
Mr. Kassig “was taken from us in an act of pure evil by a terrorist group,” Mr. Obama said in a statement from aboard Air Force One that was read to the news media in Washington.
In recent days, American intelligence agencies received strong indications that the Islamic State had killed Mr. Kassig. The president’s announcement was the first official confirmation of his death.
“Today we offer our prayers and condolences to the parents and family of Abdul-Rahman Kassig, also known to us as Peter,” Mr. Obama’s statement said. The president used the Muslim name that Mr. Kassig adopted after his capture, making the point that the Islamic State had killed a fellow Muslim. He acknowledged the “anguish at this painful time” felt by Mr. Kassig’s family.
The footage in the video released Sunday was of poorer quality than some of the group’s previous, slickly produced execution videos.
The video shows a black-robed executioner standing over the severed head of Mr. Kassig. Though the end result of the footage was grimly familiar, it was strikingly different from the executions of four other Western hostages, whose televised deaths were carefully choreographed.
In the clip released early Sunday, the Islamic State displays the head of the 26-year-old aid worker at the feet of the man with a British accent, who appeared in the previous beheading videos and has been nicknamed Jihadi John by the British news media. Unlike the earlier videos, which were staged with multiple cameras from different vantage points, and which show the hostages kneeling, then uttering their last words, the footage of Mr. Kassig’s death is curtailed — showing only the final scene.
“This is Peter Edward Kassig, a U.S. citizen of your country. Peter, who fought against the Muslims in Iraq while serving as a soldier under the American Army doesn’t have much to say. His previous cellmates have already spoken on his behalf,” the fighter with a British accent said. “You claim to have withdrawn from Iraq four years ago. We said to you then that you are liars.”
Analysts said that the change in the videos suggested that something may have gone wrong as the militants, who have been under sustained attack from a U.S.-led military coalition and have faced a series of setback in recent weeks, carried out the killing.
“The most obvious difference is in the beheading itself — the previous videos all showed the beheading on camera,” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former director of the Center for the Study of Terrorist Radicalization. “This one just shows the severed head itself. I don’t think this was the Islamic State’s choice.” He added: “The likeliest possibility is that something went wrong when they were beheading him.”
Among the things that could have gone wrong, analysts surmise, is that the extremists did not have as much time outdoors as they did when they killed the others. The United States announced soon after the first beheading in August that they would send surveillance aircraft over Syria and residents contacted on social media have reported seeing objects in the sky that they believe are drones.
The first four beheadings were carried out in the open air, with a cinematic precision that suggests multiple takes, filmed over an extended period of time. Carrying out a similar level of production as surveillance planes crisscrossed the skies above would result in extended exposure — heightening risk.
Another possibility, Mr. Gartenstein-Ross said, is that Mr. Kassig resisted, depriving the militants of the ability to stage the killing as they wanted.
“We know that this is a very media savvy organization, and they know that you only have one take to get the beheading right,” he said.
An Indianapolis native, Mr. Kassig turned to humanitarian work after a tour in Iraq in 2007, where he served as an Army Ranger. He was certified as an emergency technician, and by 2012 he returned to the battlefield, this time helping bandage the victims of Syria’s civil war who were flooding across the border into Lebanon. Later that year he moved to Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, where he founded a small aid group and initially used his savings to buy supplies, like diapers, which he distributed to the Syrian refugees who were flooding into Lebanon.
In the summer of 2013, he relocated to Gaziantep in southern Turkey, roughly an hour from the border, and began making regular trips into Syria to offer medical care to the wounded.
He went missing on Oct. 1, 2013 when the ambulance he and a colleague were driving was stopped at a checkpoint on the road to Deir al-Zour, Syria. He was transferred late last year to a prison beneath the basement of the Children’s Hospital in Aleppo, and then to a network of jails in Raqqa, the capital of the extremist group’s self-declared caliphate, where he became one of at least 23 Western hostages held by the group.
His cellmates included two American journalists, James Foley and Steven J. Sotloff, as well as two British aid workers, David Haines and Alan Henning, who were beheaded in roughly two-week intervals starting this August. Mr. Kassig was shown in the video released in October that showed the decapitation of Mr. Henning.
The previous videos of beheadings produced by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, appeared to be filmed in the same location, identified by analysts using geo-mapping as a bald hill outside the city of Raqqa. Each video was relatively short — under 5 minutes on average — and included a speech by the hostage, where he is forced to accuse his government of crimes against Muslims, while the masked killer stands by holding the knife.
By contrast, Mr. Kassig’s death appears in the final segment of a nearly 16-minute video, which traces the history of the Islamic State, from its origins as a unit under the control of Osama bin Laden to its modern-day incarnation in the region straddling Iraq and Syria. In one extended sequence, they show a mass beheading of captured Syrian soldiers — filmed with long close-ups of details like the shining blade of the executioner’s knife which mirrored the high production quality of the first four beheading videos.
The parts showing Mr. Kassig’s body is amateurish by comparison with both the footage of the soldiers being killed and previous executions of Westerners.
“The final Kassig execution section is definitely different from previous videos,” said Jarret Brachman, a counterterrorism expert who advises the United States intelligence community. The “message to President Obama from Jihadi John is sloppy, jumbled and redundant. His joke about Kassig having nothing to say seems like a defensive way of covering up the fact that they don’t have a video of his actual beheading or weren’t able to make one.”
In the months leading up to his death, Mr. Kassig seemed to know the end was near.
In a letter to his parents smuggled out this summer, he describes his fear: “I am obviously pretty scared to die but the hardest part is not knowing, wondering, hoping, and wondering if I should even hope at all,” he writes. “Just know I’m with you. Every stream, every lake, every field and river. In the woods and in the hills, in all the places you showed me. I love you.”

Video - Putin on leaving G20 early: Long way home, Monday is working day

Video - Australia: Putin calls economic blockade of East Ukraine a "big mistake"

Video - Obama: 'Strong Week for American Leadership'

Democrats expect Obama to veto pipeline bill if it passes Senate

A Democratic leader said on Sunday a single vote could determine the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S. Senate this week but that President Barack Obama was likely to veto the bill even if it passes.
The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives on Friday approved the pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, and the Senate is expected to consider it on Tuesday.
The 45 Republicans in the Senate need to find 15 Democrats to join them in voting for the pipeline in order to send the bill to Obama. The legislation circumvents the need for approval of TransCanada Corp's $8 billion project by the Obama administration, which has been considering it for more than six years.
"It's within a vote or two," Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said of current Senate support, speaking on CNN's "State of the Union."
"I've done the counts and I can tell you it appears it may succeed or fail on a procedural vote with one or two senators making a difference.
"We are one vote short as we left last week. I know they're burning up the phone lines and emails trying to find that vote to support the procedural move. I don't know how successful they've been."
The pipeline's backers say it will create jobs and lower gasoline prices but opponents are concerned about its environmental impact. A court in Nebraska is considering the pipeline's route through that state. The decision to approve the pipeline or not rests with the State Department because the pipeline crosses an international border.
Obama has indicated he might use his veto if the bill does get through Congress. He said on Sunday in Australia, where he was attending a G20 summit, that the State Department evaluation and legal process should "play itself out."
"Every indication is the president will veto an attempt to pre-empt the regular process of reviewing the permit for this pipeline," Durbin said.
Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said on "Fox News Sunday" he also expected Obama to veto the Keystone bill if it is approved. "Our information is that they're leaning that way but I don't have a hard assurance," he said.

U.S. - Confrontations await Obama after productive trip

AP News
After a productive trip abroad, President Barack Obama headed home Sunday on a collision course with Republicans on immigration and an oil pipeline project, showdowns that threaten prospects for cooperation over his remaining two years in office.
The contentious immigration debate could mean a year-end fight over keeping the government running, if some GOP lawmakers get their way.
On the foreign policy front, there is a Nov. 24 deadline in nuclear negotiations with Iran, and questions are surfacing within the administration about whether to overhaul U.S. policy toward Syria.
Given his faltering political support in the U.S. and his party's recent election losses, his trip to China, Myanmar and Australia appeared to offer respite.
The president, who was due to arrive in Washington late Sunday, basked in policy breakthroughs with China and warm welcomes in Myanmar and Australia.
"I intend to build on that momentum when I return home," Obama said at a news conference before heading home.
When Obama set off for the Asia Pacific, both the White House and Republicans were suggesting that the GOP's decisive takeover of the Senate could pave the way for bipartisan breakthroughs. But just two weeks after the election, that optimism largely has faded, making it increasingly likely that Washington will churn through two more years of gridlock.
Republicans attribute the swift shift in tone largely to Obama's plans to move forward with executive actions on immigration that potentially could shield from deportation about 5 million immigrants who are living in the United States illegally. The president has pledged to announce the measures before year's end; he could act shortly after returning to Washington.
The incoming Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has warned that such executive actions would "poison the well" with the new Republican-led Senate and could prevent the GOP from working with Obama on other potential areas of agreement.
Republican leaders are considering what to do if Obama presses ahead. More conservative members want to use upcoming spending bills to block the president, but that could set the stage for a showdown for another government shutdown.
Obama said that possible threat would not dictate his timing in flexing his powers. He said is main concern "is getting it right."
The fight over the Keystone XL pipeline that would run from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast also has political implications for the president, not just with Republicans but also his own Democratic Party.
Democrats see passage of a bill forcing construction of the project as a last-ditch effort to save Sen. Mary Landrieu, who faces a runoff election next month against GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy in oil-producing Louisiana.
The House passed a measure to move the project forward on Friday, and the Senate is set to act. But Obama has all but threatened a veto, repeatedly saying the only way the pipeline can be approved is after the completion of a long-stalled State Department review.
"We have to let the process play out," he said.
On Iran, Obama faces a deadline to reach a final agreement in sensitive nuclear negotiations. High-level talks in Oman last week failed to make major headway, potentially setting Obama up for a choice between pursuing another extension or abandoning the diplomatic effort.
The president has asked the Congress to start debating a new authorization for his airstrike campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, though he expects the legislative effort to pick up next year when Republicans take control of the Senate. The debate comes as Obama faces questions from within his own administration, including from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, about the effectiveness of the military operation, particularly in Syria.
Hagel said in a memo to White House national security adviser Susan Rice that Obama needed a clearer strategy for dealing with embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad.
White House officials have denied that Obama is undertaking any formal review of his Syria strategy and the president said Sunday that he was not considering ways to oust Assad.
Also on the agenda: getting the Senate to confirm his nominee for attorney general, federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch. The White House is not pushing for that in the postelection session of Congress, and says the president is leaving the timing up to Senate leadership.
Democrats are reluctant to push a fight with an empowered GOP over the process and White House officials say they are confident Lynch will be confirmed even with Republicans in control. The GOP takes over in January.

Pakistan: The PTI’s hatred for all

Afiya Shehrbano
Politicians commonly attack their opponents because at the end of the day, they have to compete against and beat them in order to win power. Unfortunately, to this end, too many depend less on their own credible achievements and more on discrediting, demeaning and delegitimising their political opponents and competitors.
On the other hand, media commentators, analysts and opinion-makers, while not expected to be objective, are meant to offer an independent perspective. Such analysis should not resort to name-calling, personalisation, accusations and irresponsible claims.
Accordingly, this article should not be characterising Imran Khan and his followers as permanent or fundamental haters of opposing activists, feminists, liberals, Christians, Ahmadis or any minorities or indeed of PTI-critics. However, when a political stance becomes a consistent pattern and revealing thought-process, then it is worthy of challenge and serious objection by calling it what it is. The PTI harbours a clear and revealing hatred for practically all people who do not support the PTI, for ‘lesser’ or non-Muslims and liberal women and their feminised politics.
The recent spate of contempt for Pakistani individuals and institutions, as expressed not just by Imran Khan but also his party’s official spokesmen and women (which include entertainers and celebrities as key thinkers), is not just a symptom of political hatred, it is revealing of the fundamental base of the PTI’s politics.
Many have commented on the social media misbehaviour of the PTI supporters. However, public commentary, statements, positions and accusations are part of the formal and on-the-record discourse. These statements and positions also make history – a discipline that the PTI leadership is critically deficient in and which allows them to make it all up as they stumble along their unravelling.
While many amongst us have been scathingly critical of the same institutions (the judiciary, the Election Commission, the media, NGOs) and even the leadership of the PML-N and the PPP, the difference is that the purpose of critique is always to lend ideas so as to improve these or enhance their functions and strengthen justice, service delivery, democracy, information dissemination, education or rights for the people. It has not been to derail, destroy or denigrate just because we aren’t getting our way. Different from criticism, critique does two things – it points out specific existing problems in any system or text and/or it points out what is missing from these altogether.
Unfortunately, the PTI leadership offers neither critique nor criticism. Instead, its analysis depends on accusations, indictments, threats and an alternative that is defined by the replacement of existing governance with their own party, instead. This is why the call of the ‘revolution’ (that is fast becoming a compromise) is still holding on to the confused and negative slogan of ‘Go Nawaz Go’ even though the PM’s resignation is no longer considered the path to liberation. Similarly, the slogan for ‘Aavay Aavay Imran’ defies logic because he is already in power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and, unless there’s a military coup or the party is actively rather than symbolically resigning, is going to stay there for the next few years.
The deflation of the party’s outer apparatus comprising dharnas and political performances by way of slogans, song and dance has revealed an ugly and startling ideological core. The essence of the PTI shows no inclusive or pluralistic thinking but instead exposes the instinctive self-love and sense of privilege and superiority that its leaders spout daily.
This attitude leads it to attack chief justices and judges rather than critique the specific judgements or lacunae in the judiciary or of procedural law. It leads to attacks on media channels that do not actively support the PTI, while blindly supporting the most vicious and misogynist anti-democratic media personalities who sponsor the party. It leads to attacks on personalities such as Asma Jahangir, not on the mullahs who encourage vigilantism, jihadist organisations who attack the Hazaras or the Taliban who have terrorised the country. Even the Jamaat-e-Islami no longer does that.
This ideological impulse leads the PTI to launch patriarchal jokes attacking the supposed lack of testosterone-inspired politics of opposition leaders but does not censure the machismo demonstrated by its own male leaders – and some women too. The PTI limits its notion of women’s empowerment to that of PTI women who can support its dharnas through public participation but of whose politics we know nothing and who have no feminised voice in decision-making or leadership positions in the party itself.
Revealing too is how one of the PTI’s lawmakers attacks minorities as non-Muslim lesser Pakistanis. The PTI leadership offers vague condemnations of violent acts in the name of religion but does not take any legislative initiative to reform the laws that enable such acts. Recall Imran Khan’s refusal to amend the Zina ordinance, too.
Historical amnesia leads the PTI leaders to contradict themselves as they repeatedly invoke then recant their reliance on the military establishment in order to fulfil their ‘democratic’ ambitions. By pulling the tailcoats of the army they forget the lessons of the 2012 Asghar Khan case and the role of the agencies that is part of public record now. That and the Muneer Report, the Charter of Democracy, the constitution and a plethora of human and women’s rights reports are invaluable sources that the PTI may educate itself on.
Most damaging of all has been the PTI reduction of the notion of revolution itself. Revolutionary ideals have historically risen above parochial interests and for freedoms, equality and liberation or independence towards redistributive wealth and justice. Instead, the PTI commotion has simply been counterrevolutionary in all senses. They struggle neither for the freedoms nor equality nor redistribution of wealth for the people but just ‘liberation’ from an electoral result and the imagined ‘justice’ of gaining power for themselves.
The question is: what’s in it for the majority that is Pakistani women and their emancipatory causes and the minorities that are the most vulnerable in Pakistan – especially, when they are so symbolically and literally loathed and reviled by the PTI?

Pakistanis flee into beleaguered Afghanistan

Through three decades of war, waves of Afghans have fled their homes along the eastern border areas, many of them seeking shelter in the Pakistani tribal regions next door.
Last summer another wave of refugees surged through the area. But in a reversal, it is Pakistanis, not Afghans, who are fleeing war at home, reports the New York Time Online.
“There was fighting everywhere,” said Sadamullah, a laborer who fled with his family last month from Dattakhel, a district in Pakistan’s tribal areas. “There was shelling, and military forces were firing mortars on our villages. They carried out an operation in our area, and a woman was killed by them.”
Sadamullah, who like many tribesmen here has only one name, was speaking about the Pakistani military’s continuing offensive against Islamist militants in the North Waziristan region. The military has been clearing territory in the region since June, forcing an exodus of at least 1.5 million residents. As many as 250,000 of them have since crossed the border into Afghanistan, officials say.
The tribal communities on both sides of the border are Pashtun, and many of the refugees from the Pakistani side have found shelter with relatives or sympathetic families on the Afghan side, mostly in Khost and Paktika Provinces. In some cases, refugees have been able to rent or borrow a patch of land or a walled compound for their families and some livestock.
But the poorest — about 3,000 families, according to the United Nations refugee agency — are perched in Gulan Camp, a stretch of rough stones and reed bushes in the Gorbuz district of Khost, just a few miles from the border.
Canvas tents spread out toward the brown crags of the horizon. Women are cloistered behind flimsy screens, and children, who make up 65 percent of the camp population, dart in and out under the canvas flaps. The men have started building mud walls around the tents in an attempt to give better protection against the coming winter.
Most families came on foot, and often fled in haste with few belongings. Many tell the same story: a public warning by the Pakistani Army giving them three days to leave their homes, desperate negotiations as elders tried to win permission for civilians to stay, and then the terror of the artillery and aerial bombardments of their villages.
“We left everything — hens, ducks, carpets,” said a widow, Shakila Saidgi, who fled her village in June. “We slept on the way in the mountains.”
She said that Pakistani forces began bombarding her village in Waziristan at four in the morning, striking the mosque where the men were gathered for dawn prayer. Her nephew was among the wounded. “When the sun rose, we left,” she said.
Refugees arriving in recent days said the five-month-old operation was continuing and even expanding. They told of Pakistani jets bombing villages and the army firing artillery barrages.
“The fighting was between the Taliban and the government, but our villages were bombarded and that’s why the people got fed up and left the area,” said Musa Kalim Wazir, a shepherd from Tank village in Dattakhel district. People did not dare to return to their homes, because whenever the army came under attack by insurgents it responded by bombarding nearby villages, he said.
Afghan officials, still grappling with a host of problems of their own, not least a continuing insurgency and thousands of internally displaced, now face an added burden of a quarter of a million refugees from Pakistan whose presence is turning into a long-term prospect.
“Winter is already here and all of the refugees are facing a shortage of assistance,” said Muhammad Akbar Zadran, the governor of Gurbaz district. “A group of refugees came to my office, and they told me that different diseases were spreading among their children. If they don’t get urgent treatment then it is possible that in coming days we will witness a precarious situation.”
He said: “All of the refugees have many problems; they have come here with just the clothes on their backs, and they left everything behind. If the government and people don’t respond to their needs then it will be a great problem.”
Afghanistan’s latest trial comes amid growing refugee crises around the world and a global shortage of humanitarian funding. The United Nations appealed for $25 million to assist the Pakistani refugees through the end of the year, but assistance organizations have gathered only about $10 million, said Bo Schack, representative in Afghanistan for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
“There are so many other humanitarian priorities, and having refugees inside Afghanistan arriving from another country was not what anybody really expected,” he said in a telephone interview. “But this time we are seeing very significant numbers crossing the border in one go.”
“It may end up being another protracted kind of situation which clearly everybody would like to avoid,” he added.
For many of the refugees, Afghanistan represents a relief not only from bombardment but from the draconian rule of the Pakistani Taliban and foreign Islamist fighters. In North Waziristan, the militant groups had largely forced out any civilian or tribal leadership, in a brutal reign that left much of the local population alienated and frightened.
“If you did not help the Taliban or the foreigners, you were killed,” said Mushtaq, a refugee who goes by only one name.
Another refugee, who did not want his name used because he was afraid of reprisal, described years of hell as the militants took firmer hold in North Waziristan.
“They started harassing people a lot, and people became disenchanted,” he said. “Then they started killing people and accusing them of spying for the government. They were trying to terrify the people. They used to wear masks on their faces and they would drag out anyone they wanted and take him to their base.” The fear led some to join the militants for protection. “They created an environment so they could easily attract people,” the refugee said. “If someone joined them they would become powerful. Some of my relatives joined them.”
In that environment, much of the population supported the idea of a military offensive. Yet few said they trusted the Pakistani military, and their fears were borne out when they saw the militants escape ahead of the offensive and the bombardment. “The operation itself is right, but the way they conduct it is wrong, and it is harming me more than the fighters,” Umar Khan, a tribal elder who has represented refugees in meetings with Afghan officials, said in July. “It damaged my house, my village and my land. And I lost everything.”
By the end of October, he said he did not believe government figures of hundreds of Taliban killed. But he warned that the military was still killing civilians in the operation. “Waziristan has been completely destroyed by the military forces,” he said.
Afghans have long accused Pakistan of sheltering militants seeking to kill government and international forces in Afghanistan. Now, the concern is that some of those militants are still able to operate, and will seek to infiltrate the refugees.
Refugees have complained since the start that many militants escaped ahead of them and officials say some have settled on the Afghan side of the border. The issue has been a point of tension between the Afghan and Pakistani governments. “If our government and the international community don’t help these people on time,” Mr. Zadran warned, “then someone — in particular the Taliban — will get the chance to influence these people.”

Pakistani Army : 1,200 militants killed during 5-month offensive

The Pakistani army has killed 1,200 suspected militants in an anti-Taliban offensive during the past five months, seriously reducing the group`s ability to carry out attacks, senior officers said on Sunday during a rare trip to the conflict zone.
The ongoing operation has targeted the militant stronghold in North Waziristan, a mountainous region that borders Afghanistan and has acted as a staging post for deadly attacks in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The offensive was launched as Western forces began withdrawing from Afghanistan.
In the centre of Mir Ali, the second largest town in the region, there was hardly a building untouched by the fighting.
Major General Zafarullah Khan, the officer in charge of North Waziristan, said that a widely-predicted wave of violence in response to the operation had failed to materialise.
"The action which was expected has not come," he said on Saturday, picking his way through shattered buildings as he pointed out places he said were used for torturing prisoners or producing propaganda videos. "Significant successes have been made."
The military had killed nearly 1,200 militants since the operation began, he said, but refused to show their pictures out of respect for the dead. Another 230 had been arrested, and around 132 tons of explosive recovered so far, he said.
Large amounts of weapons, ammunition and many vehicles had also been seized, he said, showing off a U.S.-made Hummer jeep whose windscreen had been shattered by bullets.
Many of the areas the military moved into had been booby trapped, Khan said, and soldiers were going house to house to defuse bombs.
"They have planted (them) in houses, they have planted (them) in the streets, they`ve planted (them) even in the trees," he said.
The militants generally rely on bombs and ambushes to engage the military rather than risking an open battle. On Sunday, officials said four soldiers were killed and at least eight were missing after an attack on their check post in North Waziristan`s Datta Khel region.
Khan would not be drawn on how long the operation might take. Most of the civilian population of North Waziristan - estimated are around a million people - were ordered to leave before the operation began.
Many now face a harsh winter away from their homes and businesses, reliant on food aid and cramped quarters with relatives. When they return, many will find their homes destroyed in the fighting.The Pakistani army has killed 1,200 suspected militants in an anti-Taliban offensive during the past five months, seriously reducing the group`s ability to carry out attacks, senior officers said on Sunday during a rare trip to the conflict zone.
The ongoing operation has targeted the militant stronghold in North Waziristan, a mountainous region that borders Afghanistan and has acted as a staging post for deadly attacks in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The offensive was launched as Western forces began withdrawing from Afghanistan.
In the centre of Mir Ali, the second largest town in the region, there was hardly a building untouched by the fighting.
Major General Zafarullah Khan, the officer in charge of North Waziristan, said that a widely-predicted wave of violence in response to the operation had failed to materialise.
"The action which was expected has not come," he said on Saturday, picking his way through shattered buildings as he pointed out places he said were used for torturing prisoners or producing propaganda videos. "Significant successes have been made."
The military had killed nearly 1,200 militants since the operation began, he said, but refused to show their pictures out of respect for the dead. Another 230 had been arrested, and around 132 tons of explosive recovered so far, he said.
Large amounts of weapons, ammunition and many vehicles had also been seized, he said, showing off a U.S.-made Hummer jeep whose windscreen had been shattered by bullets.
Many of the areas the military moved into had been booby trapped, Khan said, and soldiers were going house to house to defuse bombs.
"They have planted (them) in houses, they have planted (them) in the streets, they`ve planted (them) even in the trees," he said.
The militants generally rely on bombs and ambushes to engage the military rather than risking an open battle. On Sunday, officials said four soldiers were killed and at least eight were missing after an attack on their check post in North Waziristan`s Datta Khel region.
Khan would not be drawn on how long the operation might take. Most of the civilian population of North Waziristan - estimated are around a million people - were ordered to leave before the operation began.
Many now face a harsh winter away from their homes and businesses, reliant on food aid and cramped quarters with relatives. When they return, many will find their homes destroyed in the fighting.

Pakistan: Federal Govt is Depriving Balochistan of Revenue of Provincial Hospitals.

The revenue generated by the government hospitals in Balochistan is being transferred to the accounts of federal government, the Balochistan Point has learnt.
After 18th amendment of constitution, Health department has been transferred to provinces and the Balochistan government has the right over the revenue of government hospitals.
Federal government is depriving Balochistan government of the hospitals revenue in contravention of constitution of Pakistan.
Tens of millions of rupees are earned monthly by major government hospitals in Quetta such as Bolan Medical complex Hospital and Sandeman Provincial Hospital. Unfortunately, all of that goes in the pockets of federal government.
Government hospitals charge unreasonably high fees from the poor people of Balochistan for X-Rays, MRI and other complicated tests.
Government of Balochistan should bring this issue with federal government and ask for compensation for all the revenue taken by federal government after 18th amendment.

Pakistan: Schools teach Osama Bin Laden was a hero

By Mobeen Azhar
A hardline cleric in Pakistan is teaching the ideas of Osama Bin Laden in religious schools for about 5,000 children. Even while the Pakistani government fights the Taliban in the north-west of the country, it has no plans to close schools educating what could be the next generation of pro-Taliban jihadis.
"We share the same objectives as the Taliban but we don't offer military training. We work on minds. The Taliban are more hands-on," says Abdul Aziz Ghazi, imam of Islamabad's controversial Red Mosque.
"We teach about the principles of jihad. It's up to students if they want to get military training after they leave here. We don't discourage them."
Ghazi runs eight seminaries - madrassas as they are known - the first of which was founded after his father went on a journey to meet Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan.
"Osama Bin Laden is a hero for us all. He stood up to America and he won. He inspired the mission of the school," says Ghazi.
In one of the seminaries, the library is named in honour of Bin Laden, who was killed by US Navy Seals in Pakistan in 2011.
Ghazi, his mosque and his seminaries, have come a long way since 2007, when the Pakistani army was sent to lay siege to the radical mosque, and later stormed it. The events left 100 dead, including many militants, and Ghazi's younger brother, mother and son.
Ghazi himself became known as the "Burka Mullah" after he was caught trying to escape wearing a woman's face veil and robe as a disguise. Now 3,000 girls and 2,000 boys are studying at his institutions.
The syllabus is a heavy mix of Koranic recitation, Arabic and theology. Science, maths and arts are seen as "worldly" and barely feature. Many of the schools core texts have been written by Ghazi and printed within the seminaries' own printing room. The shortest courses are 12 months long but students can also enrol in an eight-year programme that delivers imam status upon graduation.
"The Taliban ran Afghanistan very well. They created a just society that was the envy of the world," says 24-year-old Abdullah who will graduate from the imam school next year.
He too cites Osama Bin Laden as his inspiration. His interpretation of Islam recommends stoning, public executions and limited access to education for women.
"We all have the same aim - to create a society in which there is no corruption. We want justice for everyone. The only way to achieve that is through Sharia law and an Islamic state," he says.
Abdullah is one of 18 imams who will graduate from the school in 2015, in order to carry these ideas into communities across Pakistan.
The Red Mosque
The Red Mosque was founded by Abdul Aziz Ghazi's father, Maulana Qari Abdullah. He supported the Taliban who were at the time fighting a war against the Russians. Abdullah raised his voice against religious minorities and pluralism.
Military dictator Gen Zia Ul-Haq was a regular member of the Red Mosque congregation.
Following the 2007 siege, documents were recovered from the Red Mosque revealing a relationship between the mosque and leaders of al-Qaeda, including Osama Bin Laden.
Today the Red Mosque seminary has more students than ever before and is currently undergoing extensive building work to accommodate about 1,000 more students from 2015.
The school provides free boarding, food and medical care to all its students.
As a result, the vast majority of students come from lower-income families, mostly from Pakistan's north-western tribal belt. Some parents rely on the seminary to provide full-time care for their children.
At the girls' campus, male staff teach girls from concealed concrete booths via a tannoy system - they may sometimes teach the students for five years without ever meeting or even seeing them.
Ghazi insists the school receives no big grants, only small donations.
"People contact me from across Pakistan to make a donation. Recently someone donated a house. Other people donate a few thousand rupees or a car. They donate because they support what we are trying to do."
In principle, the Pakistani state should provide a free education for all children who are of school going age, but the UN estimates that 5.1m children in Pakistan are currently not in any form of formal education - which means ripe pickings for the 14,000 madrassas in the country run by mosques and charities.
Abdus Samad, from the northern village of Gurzangi, has sent his 12-year-old daughter to the Red Mosque seminary - despite the fact that his brother was murdered by the Taliban, for refusing to join their ranks. "These days if you want to give your child an education you need to earn around 5,000 rupees (£31, $49) per month. If you have more kids, it will cost much more. How is a man like me going to afford that? I have a manual job and no fixed income," says Samad, who moved to Islamabad in fear of his life after his brother's death.
At the seminary, his daughter gets three meals a day, and medical treatment if necessary.
"People say the school has links with the Taliban but I think that's all politics," he says. "No madrassa really has anything to do with the Taliban. It's a place of learning. That's all."
Education Minister Baligh Ur Rehman makes a similar argument. Madrassas provide an important alternative to state education, he says, and "just because some children say they support Osama Bin Laden, that is not evidence of extremist teachings".
There are no plans, he says, to intervene at Ghazi's madrassas.
The Taliban divides opinion in Pakistan. The country has been becoming more conservative and the religious right is powerful. Many people would regard a crackdown on madrassas as a crackdown on Islam.
At the same time many ordinary Pakistanis are being forced to recognise - after incidents such as a failed attempt by militants to take over Karachi airport in June - that the Taliban does pose a threat to stability.
Earlier this year the government launched an anti-Taliban military operation in Waziristan - in the tribal areas close to the Afghan border - but it has shied away from concerted attempts to prevent the Taliban influencing Pakistani society.
The president who ordered the attack on the Red Mosque in 2007, Gen Pervez Musharraf, argues that this is a mistake.
"We spent a long time negotiating with the Ghazi brothers but they were holding Islamabad and the government to ransom. We had to take action," he says, in justification of his own actions, for which he now faces criminal charges.
"It's the responsibility of the current government to suppress terrorism and extremism. It has to be dealt with a strong arm. It's a mind-set and we have to take measures to control influencing of mind-sets."

Pakistan: 3 soldiers killed in Dattakhel clash, 27 militants taken down in air strikes

At least three soldiers were killed and four others injured on Sunday in a clash between militants and security forces in Dattakhel area of North Waziristan Agency, as airstrikes targeting militant compounds eliminated at least 27 suspected terrorists in the same region on Sunday.
The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that the dead also included an officer. It added that at least seven militants were also killed in the encounter.
Meanwhile, 27 terrorists, including some senior commanders and foreign fighters, were killed in precision strikes in Dattakhel area.
The strikes are part of the military’s ongoing operation in the restive tribal area.
The Pakistan Army says it has so far cleared “90 per cent” territory of North Waziristan Agency from militants since the start of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in June.
A total of 1,198 terrorists have been killed and 356 injured since the operation was launched five months ago, Zarb-e-Azb Commander Maj Gen Zafarullah Khan said on Saturday.

Pakistan - 'Can our leaders think?'

Ghazi Salahuddin
That Shaikh Rashid clip from Imran Khan’s rally in Nankana Sahib reverberated in talk shows this week. What a command performance it appears to be. An instructive piece of our political theatre. But does it reflect a plan to incite violence and create popular disorder in the country in the wake of the promised November 30 ‘assault’ on Islamabad?
Indeed, Imran Khan himself has stated that if his demands are not accepted by then, the present government would not be able to function after that show of people’s power. In that sense, we have another deadline to contend with. Thanks to the electronic media’s obsession with politics, a lot of excitement and suspense is likely to be generated in our living rooms.
The big question, however, is whether Imran Khan has a game plan to win his ‘naya’ Pakistan and does he know what it would look like? Where, for instance, would Shaikh Rashid belong in that arrangement? How many long marches, ‘dharnas’ and large public meetings do a revolution make? Or will it all end up in a heightened cycle of unrest, disorder and sporadic violence in the public sphere?
Irrespective of how one probes these issues, I am worried about the state of our society and how it has been brutalised by extremism and intolerance and obscurantism. And our politicians do not seem to have any time to look at these formidable barriers to social change. Insaf is what Imran Khan talks about all the time. But what about social justice and an ideological framework in which ‘the wretched of the earth’ can achieve their rights and their dignity?
This limitation is not restricted to one party or one leader, of course. Our entire political class seems unwilling to confront the antagonistic contradictions of our society. There are issues that cannot be tackled in the present environment of intolerance and bigotry. Then, in a collective sense, we do not apparently have the intellectual resources to build a ‘naya’ Pakistan. It is in this respect that I invoked the mindless harangue served at the PTI rally.
What I am attempting to argue is that Pakistan cannot move ahead without becoming more literate, more civilised, more human and more egalitarian. We obviously pay little heed to our moral and intellectual deprivations. Our leaders do not talk about culture and arts and institutions that promote higher values in society. Some of them do have pretensions of being highly educated but our leaders will not be found talking about books and ideas. They do not betray any knowledge of literature and history and the dynamics of social change.
In recent weeks and months, we have had two leaders breathing fire: Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri, though Tahirul Qadri has packed up his ‘dharna’. They are the ones who have sought popular support for their brand of change. Imran Khan has earned more credibility for his campaign and there were hints some time ago that his message was getting across to an increasing number of urban, middle-class youth.
What would you gather if you were to compile the speeches made by the two leaders for an understanding of their worldview and philosophy? Will those speeches project a thinking mind with a set of well-tuned policies stated in a popular idiom to educate the people? Do those speeches respond to the dreams and desires of the ordinary citizens of Pakistan? You may have some idea of this when you listen to the next speech of Imran Khan.
Perhaps we should not be worried too much about what may happen on and after November 30 because we have survived many similar deadlines. Tahirul Qadri had a greater sense of drama in this respect. Remember his act with the shroud? Imran Khan, though, was not far behind. One high point, early in his ‘dharna’ serial, was his proclamation of civil disobedience. Setting his electricity bill aflame was also a dramatic moment. His nightly performance, with the television cameras looking only in one direction, has become a routine. Are these the omens of a revolutionary upheaval?
When I talk about our cultural and intellectual deficits, I think specifically of our poor reading habits. We just do not read books and do not understand the value of dreams and ideas. And our leaders do not at all seem to be concerned about these things. In fact, one reason I have broached this subject is that I was reading on Friday the internet edition of The Guardian and there was this blog on ‘Love letters to Libraries’.
The write-up is based on the news that the city of Liverpool cancelled the closure of 11 of its 18 libraries following protesta – and a ‘love letter’ – by 500 writers, actors, artists, musicians, illustrators and educators. Can we have as many writers, artists and educators to demand the opening of at least one proper public library in Karachi – a city that exemplifies the consequences of the intellectual poverty of a people?
It is true that libraries and large bookshops are in danger after increasing digitisation of reading and of media. But reading habits have not declined and libraries are still protected by municipal authorities in developed societies. We were never acquainted with the idea that libraries play a special role in the cultural life of a community. Our universities are as barren in an intellectual context as Thar is in some other respects. The casualties we suffer on our campuses may be more tragic in the long run than the deaths of little children in Thar.
Do our leaders talk about the importance of learning and of building an intellectual infrastructure when they propose their vision of a new Pakistan? By the way, all our emerging leaders want to be a Bhutto. But ZAB was one leader who read books and dreamt dreams. I have various statistical measures to show how poorly literate we are and how impoverished we are in attributes of culture and civilisation. There are bound to be many different reasons why we are so backward in learning and creativity. Is being a Muslim society one of them?
With reference to our reading habits, I like to mention a lecture given last year by British author Neil Gaiman. It explained why using our imagination, and providing for others to use theirs, is an obligation for all citizens. The title of the lecture says it all: “Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming”. By this measure, we are not even entitled to a future.
Let me conclude with this quotation of Jorge Luis Borges: “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library”.

Pakistan: WHO extends travel restrictions for 90 days

Warns of harsher measures if situation does not improve.
Travel restrictions imposed on Pakistan by International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee on May 5 this year for exporting poliovirus have been extended for further three months.
The committee will reassess the situation within three months and if the existing and additional temporary recommendations for the vaccination of travellers from Pakistan cannot be fully implemented by the time the committee next meets, it will consider additional measures such as entry screening to reduce the risk of international spread, said a statement issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The third meeting of the Emergency Committee under the IHR (2005) regarding the international spread of wild poliovirus in 2014 was convened by the director general through electronic correspondence from 2 through 7 November, 2014. Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Pakistan and the Syrian Arab Republic submitted an update on the implementation of the temporary recommendation to the committee for assessment.
Recognising the escalating wild poliovirus transmission in Pakistan, with more reported cases than at any time in the past 14 years and ongoing cross-border exportation of the virus, the committee provided additional advice to the director general for her consideration to reduce further the risk of international spread of wild poliovirus.
“Pakistan should restrict at the point of departure the international travel of any resident lacking documentation of appropriate polio vaccination. These recommendations apply to international travellers from all points of departure, irrespective of the means of conveyance (e.g. road, air, sea),” recommended the IHR Committee.
Pakistan should note that the recommendation stated previously for urgent travel remains valid (i.e. those undertaking urgent travel who have not received appropriate polio vaccination must receive a dose of polio vaccine at least by the time of departure and be provided with appropriate documentation of that dose).
It advises that in advance of the next meeting of the committee, Pakistan should provide to the director general a report on the implementation by month of the temporary recommendations on international travel, including the number of residents whose travel was restricted and the number of travellers who were vaccinated and provided appropriate documentation at the point of departure.
The committee noted that the international spread of wild poliovirus has continued since July 31, 2014, with at least three new exportations from Pakistan into neighbouring Afghanistan. There has been no other documented international spread of wild poliovirus since March 2014.
“The risk of new international spread from Pakistan was assessed to have increased substantively since July 31, 2014, as cases have escalated during the current high transmission season and there has been no significant improvement in the underlying factors that are driving transmission in the country. The risk of new international spread from the other nine currently infected states appears to have declined, with only two of those states having reported new cases since July 31: Somalia (1 case) and Afghanistan (7 cases, most of which were due to imported virus),” states the WHO statement.
The IHR committee recommends that the states currently exporting wild poliovirus: Pakistan, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and the Syrian Arab Republic should ensure that all residents and long-term visitors (i.e. > 4 weeks) receive a dose of oral polio vaccine (OPV) or inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) between four weeks and 12 months prior to international travel.
And ensure that those undertaking urgent travel (i.e. within four weeks), who have not received a dose of OPV or IPV in the previous four weeks to 12 months, receive a dose of polio vaccine at least by the time of departure as this will still provide benefit, particularly for frequent travellers. It also recommends this time to maintain these measures until the following criteria have been met: (i) at least six months have passed without new exportations and (ii) there is documentation of full application of high-quality eradication activities in all infected and high-risk areas; in the absence of such documentation these measures should be maintained until at least 12 months have passed without new exportations.
According to WHO officials, though the recommendations have been extended for all three countries - Pakistan, Syria and Cameroon - slapped with restrictions in May but Syria and Cameroon reported no cases since the committee last met on July 31, 2014 but Pakistan has reported over 100 cases since then.
The officials believe the statement indicates that the restrictions on Syria and Cameroon may be lifted and become harsher for Pakistan after three months when the situation would be reviewed by the IHR again.
Pakistan has reported this year 246 cases so far with Federally Administered Tribal Areas 158 cases, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 49, Sindh 25, Punjab three and Balochistan 11 cases. State Minister for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Saira Afzal and Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication Ayesha Raza Farooq, however, maintained the same restrictions imposed earlier will stay that Pakistan is already following. The WHO has just asked for provision of monthly data of vaccinated travellers and of those unvaccinated travellers who were barred to travel that will be provided to them, they added.

Pakistan's Christians - We were all there

Dr Haider Shah
When the state has itself declared in its laws that even in the 21st century its citizens can be arrested and given the death penalty if they do not subscribe to a particular set of beliefs, then in what way can we expect illiterate folk to desist from honour killing in the name of religion?
A handful of burnt bones were all that was left to establish the identity of a woman who was, until a while before, carrying a baby in her poverty-stung body. Her husband had vowed at the time of their wedding to “take her as his lawful wife to have and to hold, from that day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish until death do them part.” And, remaining true to his vow, his body’s ashes also lay now beside hers. What happened at Kot Radha Kishan is a sad story of various shades of human emotions: love, hatred, vanity, frenzy, hope, fear, tragedy. We can see it all there.
I am not in a rush to issue a self-comforting statement of condemnation against the perpetrators and then resume enjoying the usual perks of my life. If Ghalib’s soul had been watching the media coverage of the incident he would have summed it up all in one verse: “Jala hei jism jahan dil bhi jal gaya hoga, khuredte ho jo ab raakh justujoo kia hey?” (with the body consigned to flames the heart too would have burnt, so for what are you raking the ashes now?).
In the past one month, many incidents involving loss of life have occurred in Pakistan. On sectarian grounds, the Shia community was again targeted and on Wagah border a suicide bomber killed a large number of innocent commoners. However, the lynching of a Christian couple by a violent mob in rural Punjab tops the list for many reasons. In sectarian violence or terrorism, the deadly fallout is the outcome of one crazy individual who, in the process, also blasts himself. However, in blasphemy-ignited communal violence, the whole of Pakistani society lends its hand in the commission of the gory offence. When the state has itself declared in its laws that even in the 21st century its citizens can be arrested and given the death penalty if they do not subscribe to a particular set of beliefs, then in what way can we expect illiterate rural folk to desist from honour killing in the name of religion?
Laws represent the social consensus of a society at a given period in time. Jesus was charged with blasphemy and given the death penalty when he failed to satisfy the alarmed clergy of the Jerusalem temple. Sir Thomas Moore was beheaded for not following the new Church of England. In 1656, James Naylor was tried for blasphemy and then sentenced to flogging, branding and the piercing of the tongue by a red-hot poker. However, societies gradually improve their social consensus and sensitivities towards the idea of ‘holiness’ also keep changing. The debate on blasphemy continued in the UK and social consensus kept gravitating towards the side of freedom of expression. Blasphemy was restricted to only contemptuous, reviling, scurrilous or ludicrous matter relating to Christian figures as the law made a clear exclusion that “it is not blasphemous to speak or publish opinions hostile to the Christian religion, or to deny the existence of God, if the publication is couched in decent and temperate language.” The common law offence was, however, formally abolished through the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.
In UK society we saw a gradual evolution towards the repeal of the centuries old law of blasphemy. However, ironically, in Pakistan we find the opposite trend. Jinnah had assumed — arguably wishful thinking — that if Muslims lived in an independent state, the communal extremism trend that he had observed in the wake of the Ilm Uddin fiasco in the 1920s would vanish and all energies would be focused upon building a progressive and enabling state. In the Ilm Uddin case, Jinnah had pleaded for mercy on account of the accused’s young age and the fact that he was illiterate. The British Indian government then decided to insert section 295 A in the Indian Penal Code to discourage communal riots by making blasphemy against holy figures of any religious community an offence.
Fully cognisant of communal tensions, Jinnah still was not happy with this new insertion and expressed his fears in the select committee that the new law might stifle the genuine questioning of certain faith-related idiocies. The government, however, was harder pressed with maintaining law and order, and passed the new law. After Pakistan came into being Jinnah made his intentions for a progressive country very clear with his first speech to the Constituent Assembly. However, instead of gravitating towards an open and secular Pakistan, we registered the gradual slide towards an intolerant theocratic society. Zia introduced new blasphemy insertions into the old law, thus subverting the constitutionally guaranteed right of equality of all faiths in criminal law. Since then, our legislators are unable to change the law nor can our judges declare the law unconstitutional.
When a judge awards the death penalty to an accused, not for murdering another human being but just because the accused uttered some words that the hearer or reader found offensive, or when a member of one sectarian group sprays bullets on a congregation of another sectarian community, or when a mob accuses a man and then lynches him to a gory death, we can find the same sense of dehumanisation running through all these cases. The blood of all those killed on the charge of blasphemy is on our sleeves as we remained silent all these years while the demon kept growing in all directions.

Pakistan: IDPs in the crossfire

With famine in Tharparkar, floods causing mass displacement and daily butchery of minorities, somehow Pakistan has managed to touch a new low in the treatment of its citizens. On Thursday a scuffle broke out at a food distribution point in Bannu when IDPs from North Waziristan (NW) began protesting the lack of foodstuffs and distribution facilities. They eventually “stormed the distribution points, looting all the goods available”. Police and military personnel present began “aerial firing” to disperse the crowd, injuring 11 people and killing two. Officials say that 17 police personnel were also injured during the clash. On Friday, more protests erupted and after a police baton-charge, 92 IDPs were arrested and thrown into Bannu prison. Parliamentarian Marvi Memon held a ten-hour sit-in outside the prison to demand their release, which was eventually ordered by the judicial magistrate. Some 95,000 families from NW are living in refugee camps after fleeing the military operation Zarb-e-Azb that began in the Agency this summer. Many other families displaced by past fighting in Bajaur and Khyber have already been in camps for as long as six years. Others are living with relatives and friends in safer areas.
Is it any wonder that people in Pakistan turn to militancy? When the state itself is responsible for the most atrocious human rights violations and deaths, can people be blamed for drifting towards extremist groups that promise a better future? These lessons have apparently not been learnt. Institutional malaise that reflects a deep lack of concern for the people has become the standard modus operandi of the departments dealing with humanitarian problems. Some institutions bear a greater degree of culpability. The army began its campaign in NW after assuring the government that it would take responsibility for the IDPs and refusing international aid, which would have been forthcoming because of the goodwill earned by finally carrying out the much-needed NW operation. The federal government has been hampered by political problems as well as beset by crises ranging from power to polio, but could have paid better attention to the problems unfolding in the IDP camps. The National Disaster Management Authority is once again conspicuous by its absence. The greatest culpability lies with the completely absent provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government has focused on trying to unseat the federal government through protests while ignoring the desperate situation of almost a million people living in appalling conditions in KP. Its only practical action was to make limited cash distributions to IDPs in August this year. The PTI’s refusal to coordinate or even interact with the federal government because of its political ambitions is not only morally reprehensible it practically undermines the foundations of the fight against terrorism, which is premised on providing a counter-narrative to the terrorist ideology. Persecution and neglect cannot be the coins we use to repay Pakistanis who have implicitly rejected the terrorist ideology and put their trust in the country.

Pakistan: PTI rally: Workers display indiscipline, fight with eachother

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) workers on Saturday fought with each other and displayed indiscipline at the PTI rally in Sahiwal.
The PTI workers, once again, displayed indiscipline at the rally. They fought and threw chairs at eachother.
The anarchic situation started to disrupt the orderliness of the rally when people pushed beyond, into the area that was dedicated for women participants of the rally.
The volunteers stopped them from doing so upon which the participants got infuriated and it triggered a tensed situation.
It has not happened for the first time in the PTI rallies, Nankana Sahib, Sahiwal and Multan have also witnessed such disorderliness before this.

Missing out: Peshawar stays out of crucial countrywide polio campaign

The Express Tribune
By Iftikhar Firdous
Although it is at the heart of a polio epidemic, Peshawar district could not be a part of a highly-crucial countrywide three-day emergency immunisation drive because of a range of issues, sources privy to the matter told The Express Tribune. The drive was supposed to be conducted in 76 districts across Pakistan after the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) criticised the country’s immunisation programme and a high-level meeting led by the prime minister renewed its pledge to eradicate polio.
Although the IMB report made a special reference to commencing the polio campaign in the high-risk Peshawar district, children in the provincial capital and its surroundings remained unvaccinated in the absence of a drive.
When contacted, Peshawar Deputy Commissioner (DC) Zaheerul Islam said the main reason was security. “We have to mobilise a force for the protection of vaccinators and since the forces deployed for Muharram duty had just returned they could not be assembled for this particular campaign,” he said.
However, he added there were other reasons too. “While polio campaigns in the rest of the country are three days long, in Peshawar they are one day long only,” he said, adding Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has its own dynamic.
According to an insider, Peshawar could not be a part of the campaign because of delayed payments to health workers who had participated in earlier drives. Without giving any further details, he said the payments are yet to be made by a “friendly country.” Around 755,000 children have been left unvaccinated due to Peshawar missing out on the campaign, said a senior official associated with the polio eradication programme.
He added a major cause for concern was internally displaced children from Khyber Agency who have recently entered Peshawar and its adjacent areas and are unvaccinated.
Putting the blame on lack of coordination between Unicef and the health departments, the official said the current strain of the poliovirus found in Peshawar is genetically linked to Khyber Agency.
A total of 238 polio cases have been reported so far this year, of these 153 are from Fata, 48 from K-P, followed by 24 from Sindh, 10 from Balochistan and three from Punjab.
The K-P government’s successful Sehat ka Insaf immunisation drive was replicated in the three-day-long countrywide campaign, but health experts believe the campaign will have to continue till not a single child is left unvaccinated.
Since a majority of this year’s cases have been reported from Khyber Agency i.e. 55, an immunisation drive in Peshawar is necessary so that the agency’s left out children are vaccinated. “There is no other solution but to vaccinate till the virus is eradicated,” said the polio official.

Viewpoint: Pakistan's social services are collapsing

Ahmed Rashid
New reports on Pakistan suggest the country still has a long way to go in tackling malnutrition, polio, lack of education, and terrorism. Guest columnist Ahmed Rashid says a tepid government response has only exacerbated such problems.
The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is facing a political and economic crisis and a spate of recent reports has highlighted the parlous state of the country's social services.
The government appears oblivious to chronic deficiencies in health, education and governance. If it addresses these issues, it is only to put out statements of denial about cause and effect and to clamp down on critics in the media.
A recent conference in Islamabad organised by the UN's World Food Program pointed out that 44% of Pakistan's population is facing malnutrition, 15% of whom suffer from acute malnutrition. As a result, some 11 million children under five will suffer from stunted growth. Other UN surveys that have been carried out and come to even more dire conclusions have so far not been published. According to some Western diplomats, this is because the government objects to them.
There is little recognition of the problem by Islamabad. Much of the cause for severe malnutrition is not the shortage of food, but its high cost which people can no longer afford.
Food riots have already occurred in Sindh and Balochistan provinces, and famine was declared last year in the Tharpaker desert area of Sindh, leading to an outpouring of support from civil society but few long-term plans for the region by the government. Such protests could spread to grain-rich Punjab province.
The water crisis across Pakistan is become more acute by the day, with vast areas of Sindh and Balochistan expected to be declared waterless in the next decade, while there is no management of excess water and floods during the monsoon season. The lack of water in Punjab's canal system built by the British Raj is already driving down food production in Punjab.
Polio crisis
Meanwhile Pakistan's campaign to prevent the spread of polio that afflicts young children has been termed ''a disaster'' by the Global Independent Monitoring Board for the eradication of polio.
In its latest report issued from Geneva on October 26, the Board says: "Pakistan's polio programme is a disaster. it continues to flounder hopelessly, as its virus flourishes.... Pakistan is now the major stumbling block to global polio eradication."
It calls the government's Emergency Operations Centre "a masterpiece of obscurity".
"It's frustrating, eradicating polio is not rocket science," Elias Durry of the World Health Organisation says.
Pakistan has had 217 polio cases this year, accounting for 85% of all instances around the world and the highest incidence in 14 years. Moreover, 64 vaccinators have been killed by the Pakistani Taliban who oppose the campaign, also a sign of inadequate protection by security forces. Nurses and support staff who carry out this dangerous work have not been paid for two months. Pakistan now faces the disgrace of having exported the virus to China, Syria, Egypt and Israel according to WHO, through carriers who went to these destinations.
WHO fears that if Pakistan refuses to act, more money will be spent on blockading Pakistan from other countries to prevent the spread of the virus than actually combating it.
However for more than a year the government has refused to acknowledge the scale of the disaster and kept facts hidden from parliament and the media.
The Foreign Office has issued disturbing and defensive statements accusing the international community of exaggerating the threat.
Only after the Board's recent report has Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reacted. While addressing the chief ministers of the four provinces on 4 November, he said he would give the Committee on Polio Eradication six months to make Pakistan polio-free.However even that statement was withdrawn a day later.
Rise in violence
Meanwhile 25 million children still do not go to school - the largest number of any country in the world. A new report by Alif Ailaan, a leading education campaign organisation states that only one in four children who do enrol in school make it to grade 10.
Half the children drop out by the fifth grade while conditions in schools are deplorable as many lack running water, toilets or even classrooms. Despite large-scale spending on schools by the Punjab government, not much has improved over the past few years.
There has been an alarming rise in the level of violence against all minorities in Pakistan, highlighted on 4 November by the mob killing of a Christian couple and the burning of their bodies on account of alleged blasphemous statements they made, when a more prosaic version of events emerged: they owed their employer money and he was exacting revenge.
Many of the social campaigns such as anti-polio and population control are unsuccessful because they are threatened by terrorists. Yet how can any campaign be mounted against extremism when there appears to be no strategic policy of zero tolerance for terrorism or a central authority.
The National Internal Security Policy, announced as a clearing house and central command for the anti-terrorist campaign, has not been heard from since it was announced in February.
The lack of a clear political strategy by the government has led to an ever greater policy and implementation failure on social issues.

Can Afghan President Ghani mend ties with Pakistan?

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is in Pakistan to improve ties with the neighboring Islamic country. But analyst Siegfried O. Wolf tells DW that Islamabad's regional interests will continue to be a stumbling block.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani arrived in Islamabad on Friday, November 14, on his first official visit after coming to power in September. One of Ghani's tasks is to improve bilateral relations with the South Asian nuclear power which have been tense for many years. Ghani's predecessor Hamid Karzai was openly critical of Islamabad's alleged lack of cooperation in countering the militant Islamist groups which have been launching violent attacks on the international and local security forces in the region for more than a decade. As the NATO-led international troops are withdrawing from the war-torn country, the future of Afghanistan looks more uncertain than ever. In this regard, Islamabad's cooperation with the new regime in Kabul is crucial for the stability Afghanistan.
Siegfried O. Wolf, a senior research fellow and lecturer in International and Comparative Politics at the University of Heidelberg's South Asia Institute, says in a DW interview that President Ghani can outline a roadmap for new Afghan-Pakistan relations but for that he will need the support of the Pakistani security establishment.
DW: Can President Ghani's Pakistan tour be a prelude to new and improved Afghanistan-Pakistan ties?
Siegfried O. Wolf: It depends on many factors. Over the decades, Pakistan's Afghan policy has not only been influenced by external factors, domestic considerations also play a big role. Afghanistan is an important country for Pakistan, whether there is a weak civilian government in Islamabad or a powerful military regime. The previous Afghan administration of Hamid Karzai did not have good relations with Pakistan, but President Ghani can outline a roadmap for new Afghan-Pakistan ties after the withdrawal of most foreign combat troops from his country. Having said that, I think it will not be easy for both Ghani and the Pakistani leadership to resolve core issues. Nevertheless, the most important thing at the moment is to resume talks.
Why is it difficult to resolve the core issues?
Despite the fact that both countries share many aspects in the areas of culture, religion and civilization, their bilateral relations have always been antagonistic for a number of historical reasons. Although there have been some improvements in ties over the years, these positive developments have not proven to be sustainable enough to substantially change the attitudes of the two countries towards each other. Deep mistrust, suspicion, resentment and bitterness between Kabul and Islamabad have caused this political deadlock.
It is surprising because Pakistan says that it wants a unified, peaceful and friendly Afghanistan. But Pakistan's strategic interests and regional policies always contradicted its claims. Instead of cooperating with each other, the two neighbors have been interfering in each others' internal affairs, thus hampering social, economic and political development of the region.
Afghanistan's main accusation is that Pakistan is supporting militant groups to destabilize its government, whereas Islamabad accuses Kabul of aiding insurgents in its resource-rich western Balochistan province. These suspicions are unlikely to go away soon because the Pakistani security establishment is convinced that Kabul wants to keep close ties with New Delhi.
Are Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his country's military leadership on the same page over Afghan policy?
It seems that PM Sharif has no clear policy on Afghanistan. And as far as Pakistan's Afghanistan policy is concerned, I don't see any conflict between the civilian and military leaders. Actually, it is one of the few areas where the Islamic country's politicians and generals are usually on the same page.
Is Ghani assuming a tougher stance against the Taliban than his predecessor Karzai? And is Pakistan going to cooperate with the new Afghan administration in this regard?
President Ghani will not have much room to implement a stricter policy against the Taliban and other Islamist groups. Apart from financial constraints, much depends on how Ghani manages his country's military, ensures civilian dominance, and continues to receive US backing. In this context, the rise of the Sunni militant group "Islamic State" (IS) in Iraq and Syria, and its expanding influence in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, might force Washington to keep close ties with the regime in Kabul. From the Pakistani side, much depends on the Pakistani army's willingness to fight terrorism. As long as Pakistan believes that certain militant groups can be used to achieve domestic and regional goals, the cooperation with Afghanistan will remain a dream.
Since the international troops are in the final phase of withdrawing from Afghanistan, how do you see Islamabad's role in the region in the coming months?
Until now Pakistan's security establishment has opposed the idea of India or any other country filling the power vacuum in Afghanistan. It seems that these security paradigms remain unchanged. Islamabad's future actions, therefore, might not be much different from what we have seen in the past.
Siegfried O. Wolf is a senior research fellow and lecturer in International and Comparative Politics at the University of Heidelberg's South Asia Institute.


By Beenish Altaf
For the aggressive behavior and provocative policies of an emerging nuclear so-called responsible state, it is worth noting in the current milieu. The existing elected government or more precisely BJP’s aggressive military posture concerns both China and Pakistan. It has been observed at the time of formulation of Indian foreign policy that the new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi is focusing the economy and many domestic issues along with re-formulizing its international relations; especially with the US regarding Indo-US Nuclear Deal, China and Japan and its unsettled relations with its western neighbor Pakistan.
There were some changes anticipated in the manifesto of BJP, it was proposed to expand its ‘web of allies’ and that it would adopt the policy of ‘zero tolerance’ on terrorism. Another blazing agenda on the manifesto was regarding its pledge to reconsider the nuclear doctrine of ‘no first use,’ which has actually sparked the storm all around.
Gravely, the border violations are once again on the screens and discussion forums around the globe. Albeit these border skirmishes transpire more or less rather frequently in spite of 2003 cease-fire agreement. Incidentally, the 2003 cease-fire agreement among India and Pakistan has been continuously and blatantly violated from the past few years. The Line of Control (LoC) and the Working Boundary (WB) between two nuclear armed states; India Pakistan is under tense spike and is subject of disobedience of the preceding agreements in this regard. A rapid and swift escalation of violence, stronger than the usual posturing from both governments and a departure from the usual methods of resolution are what sets the current conflict apart.’
It is worth mentioning here that the nature of confrontation has been changing on either side. Even though the unfortunate cases of cross border attacks is a time in and time out practice followed by Indian army that is, of course retaliated by Pakistan but the state of affairs regarding the strategy adopted by India this time, is pretty different. The hardliner BJP’s leader should be accredited fully, who proved himself the same, as that of BJP’s (formerly) perceived course of actions toward Pakistan notwithstanding to his pre-election campaign that pretended to restore firm ties with Pakistan.
The on-going tension at the LoC and Working Boundary actually, defines the future intentions of the newly elected democratic government. More specifically, it’s been transformed in the way Modi wants to shape its foreign policy towards Pakistan and vis-a-vis the region. The contemporary scenario in this regard, is stimulating a challenge to South Asian security that is already under huge stress due to the likely post-2014 emerging strategic environment. Indubitably, the destabilizing incident, not only deteriorate bilateral relations among both nations but also exacerbate regional stability along with the stronger intentions of re-shaping their military postures.
The eastern border has been a subject of testing field of India and Pakistan’s bilateral relation. It is truly acknowledged by the Indian policy makers and political analysts, that PM Nawaz Shareef approached India with a hand of friendship, but in contrast, the now and again aggressive statements by the Indian PM, doesn’t signals optimistic across the LoC. The episode of bullets and blood stormed off all the expectations at both sides of the border. Regretfully, the efforts of formulizing a diplomatic arrangement turned out to be worthless, for which a heavy attendance was ensured on the (so-called) invitation of Indian PM’s grand reception.
Adding to what, by now mentioned; the cancellation of peace talk’s in this regard added fuel to the fire, India would go with its cynical intentions whether these talks would have been proceeded as per scheduled or not. Leaving either parts’ accusation / argumentation aside, the recent episode of border firing and other provocations in the first year of new India political establishment, at the same time, in the last quarter of 2014 (where South Asia in post-2014 is subject to several regional and global challenges) is perceived internationally, that these acts are actually molding Indian foreign policy and political approach towards the gradual (intended) escalation of Indian military posture instead of normalizing its relations with Pakistan.
Nevertheless, Pakistan’s stance is quite clear by the response of Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Asif to his Indian counterpart Arun Jaitley’s warning that Indian forces would render any “adventurism” by Pakistan “unaffordable,” said that Islamabad has the ability to respond to Indian aggression, followed by what could be perceived as a veiled threat. Moreover, he said that we do not want the situation on the borders of two nuclear neighbors to escalate into confrontation. Nevertheless, the response from Pakistani military would must deter and restrict India from taking such provocative actions next time esp. the killing of innocent civilian.
The above could be assessed as a major step-in to bring change in Indian nuclear doctrine of ‘no first use’ as well since to re-consider the doctrine is on the manifesto of BJP’s potential political scheduling. No matter to what extent these states opt for economic and trade reforms, stability at the unofficial boundaries; LoC and the working boundary is of utmost importance for a real and long term peace. Evidently, early gestures and responses from both countries raised the expectations for a fresh start of India Pakistan relations but unfortunately due to the inherent nature, India neither kept the expectations up to the mark nor able to replace the image of Narendra Modi from a hardliner with an image of a neutral and rational leader. Albeit the efforts to fathom fragility in between India and Pakistan is not that much but still if any side wants to abate this cross-border bloody fireworks, the need of hour would be to fill the communication and understanding gaps among both.