Saturday, January 10, 2015

Music Video - Ariana Grande, The Weeknd - Love Me Harder

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Obama turns focus to Internet security, privacy

President Barack Obama will highlight plans next week to protect American consumers and businesses from cyber threats, a month after the most high-profile hacking attack on a U.S. company.
Internet security became a national focus after a cyberattack on Sony Pictures that Washington blamed on North Korea. The attack and subsequent threats of violence against theaters prompted Sony to scale back its release of "The Interview", a comedy film that depicts the fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
A White House official said on Saturday Obama would announce legislative proposals and executive actions that will be part of his Jan. 20 State of the Union address and will tackle identity theft and privacy issues, cybersecurity and broadband access.
On Monday, Obama will present plans "to improve confidence in technology by tackling identity theft and improving consumer and student privacy" in a visit to the Federal Trade Commission, the official said, on condition of anonymity.
Obama will host members of Congress from both parties on Tuesday to discuss common goals for the economy and national security, the official said, as the Democratic president prepares a speech that will be his first to the U.S. Congress since Republicans won the Senate in November elections.
Later he will visit the Department of Homeland Security's cybersecurity nerve center to promote voluntary information sharing between government and private sector and industry to fight cyber threats "while protecting privacy and civil liberties", the official said.
The National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center monitors threats to the country's critical infrastructure, including energy and chemical plans, emergency and financial services and government facilities.
In Iowa on Wednesday, Obama will propose new steps to increase access to affordable, high-speed broadband across the country, the White House said.
Last week, the president highlighted economic issues and plans to help Americans, including a proposal to make two years of free community college tuition to students. That plan, and its $60 billion price tag over 10 years, immediately faced skepticism from Republican lawmakers on Friday.
Obama floated the education idea on the third and final day of a tour to promote agenda items being prepared for his State of the Union address.

Pakistan - Former president Asif Ali Zardari strongly condemns Rawalpindi blast

Pashto Music - TOREY GOTEY - Sardar Ali Takkar

Continue protests, jailed opposition leader tells Bahrainis

In a short phone conversation with his family, Sheikh Salman, who leads the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, the country’s main opposition bloc, said people’s demands are legitimate.
Bahraini forces detained Salman on December 28, two days after he was re-elected as the party’s leader.
He was remanded in custody on January 5 for two more weeks, pending an investigation into charges, including seeking to change the regime by force.
The arrest has sparked massive public anger in the tiny Persian Gulf sheikdom.
On Thursday, Bahraini regime forces launched another heavy-handed crackdown on protesters who had taken to the streets in the capital city of Manama to protest against Salman’s detention.
The troops attacked the protesters and tried to disperse them with tear gas and rubber bullets. Some protesters were severely injured during the crackdown.
Al-Wefaq has said regime forces use excessive force against peaceful protesters. It has said they shot people directly in the head during a protest in Bilad al-Qadeem, a suburb of Manama on Thursday.
Since mid-February 2011, thousands of protesters have held numerous rallies in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power.

Paris attacks increase concerns over foreign fighters returned home

Coordinated attacks by multiple gunmen in Paris this week have revived concerns in France, and the rest of Europe, about the threat posed by European citizens who may be inspired or deployed by armed groups abroad.
More than 12,000 foreign fighters have fought in Syria since the beginning of the country’s civil war in 2011, with as many as 700 of those believed to be from France, according to a report by the Soufan Group (PDF). One of them, Frenchmen Mehdi Nemmouche, killed four people at a Jewish museum in Brussels in May 2014. Growing worries about further attacks prompted French and Western officials last summer to crack down on Western nationals leaving for foreign battlefields.
Many French fighters who have joined the fight in Syria have grown disillusioned with the reality of life under such hardline groups as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and sought clemency on their return. That has prompted a wide debate in France about whether authorities should be lenient, in an attempt to gain intelligence from returned fighters, or prosecute them as potential security threats.
The radicalization of Frenchmen Cherif, 32, and Said Kouachi, 34, the two brothers suspected of carrying out the Charlie Hebdo attack on Wednesday who were killed in a shootout with police on Friday, began well before the conflict in Syria. Cherif was arrested in 2005 when he tried to go fight the U.S. and its allies in Iraq. He was convicted on terrorism charges in 2008 and served 18 months for his role in helping to funnel fighters into Iraq.
Amedy Coulibaly, an associate of the brothers who French authorities say killed a police officer in the Montrouge section of Paris on Thursday and then took five hostages at a kosher grocery store in eastern Paris on Friday, spent time with the younger Kouachi in prison, where he too became radicalized. Coulibaly also died in a shootout with police on Friday, during which four hostages were also killed.
While the details of Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers’ links to international armed groups are not yet clear, there is growing evidence of their ties to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the group's affiliate in Yemen. U.S., Yemeni and French officials said Said traveled to Yemen in 2011 and reportedly fought with AQAP. Some reports suggest he met with radical cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen responsible for the group’s online propaganda who was killed in 2011 by a U.S. drone strike.
During his standoff with police on Friday, Cherif Kouachi told French television station BFM-TV that, "I, Cherif Kouachi, was sent by Yemen's Al-Qaeda." In online messages, AQAP praised the Charlie Hebdo massacre and, after the two brothers were reported killed, claimed responsibility for the attack.
While authorities have not released any information about what, if any, operational role AQAP may have had in planning the assault, the group has planned previous attacks against Western targets. In December 2009, for example, AQAP sent Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian national, on a mission to take down an American airliner flying to Detroit using a bomb concealed in his underwear.
France has the largest Muslim community in Europe, with a population of 5 million, and it has struggled to address both the disillusionment of second- and third-generation Muslim immigrants and the rise of far-right parties that have found electoral success by campaigning on anti-immigrant platforms. Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism analyst with the Swedish National Defense College, told the Associated Press that “the sectarian tensions in the Middle East are mirrored in our cities in Europe,” adding that “there is a much sharper polarization of society.”
However, Andrew Lebovich, a New York-based researcher and analyst, cautioned against embracing a “directly causal relationship” between foreign conflicts and violence at home. Given the large number of foreign fighters in the Middle East, “So far there is a relatively low number of foreign fighters who have gone on to commit attacks in the West,” he said. It is much more likely, Lebovich noted, for returned foreign fighters to become active in jihadist groups in Libya or Egypt.
Citing examples from Afghanistan to Bosnia, Lebovich said that the incidence of foreign conflicts being used as either de facto training grounds or opportunities to hone skills for subsequent attacks elsewhere was not a new phenomenon. "People are going to take advantage of that foreign experience," he said, adding, that the conflict in Syria “may accelerate and intensify that trend.”
Meanwhile, the Paris attacks have also highlighted the competition between ISIL and Al-Qaeda. A report from British Channel 4 news on Friday said that a leading cleric for ISIL claimed that his organization, not Al-Qaeda, was behind the French attacks. Both groups have actively praised the Charlie Hebdo massacre on social media, a sign of the ongoing branding war between militant groupswho capitalize on such attacks to attract new recruits.

Thousands Protest Anti-Muslim Rallies In Germany's Dresden

Tens of thousands of people are protesting in the eastern German city of Dresden against racism and for an open society.
The protests Saturday came in reaction to weekly anti-Islamic demonstrations that have been taking place for months in Dresden.
The weekly rallies are organized by a group calling itself Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West, or Pegida. Those rallies have been attended by up to 18,000 people, but Saturday's counter protests mobilized more than twice the crowds — around 35,000 protesters.
Police and city officials couldn't immediately be reached for comment, but German news agency dpa reported Dresden mayor Helma Orosz telling protesters that their city "won't be split apart by hatred."
Chancellor Angela Merkel had previously called on Germans not to participate in Pegida rallies.
People hold up posters reading 'Je suis Charlie - Aber nicht Pegida' (I am Charlie - But not Pegida) during a rally on January 10, 2015 in Dresden, eastern Germany. (ARNO BURGI/AFP/Getty Images)
dresdenA banner reading 'Wall of friendship without borders' can be seen in the foreground as thousands of people take part in a rally on January 10, 2015 in Dresden, eastern Germany. (ARNO BURGI/AFP/Getty Images)
A poster reading 'Nous sommes Charlie' (We are Charlie) can be seen as thousands of people take part in a rally on January 10, 2015 in Dresden, eastern Germany. (ARNO BURGI/AFP/Getty Images)
A sign reading 'Help the refugees!' can be seen in the foreground can be seen as thousands of people take part in a rally on January 10, 2015 in Dresden, eastern Germany. (ARNO BURGI/AFP/Getty Images)

Bahraini activist 'Mohsen Al-Majid' reports torture in detention

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its concern over reports of the security forces’ continued practice of torture and degrading treatment as a primary means of extracting confessions from those arrested on politically motivated charges. The family of the detainee Mohsen Ebrahim Al-Majid, 27 years-old, stated that he was subjected to torture and inhumane treatment by security officers during interrogation at the Criminal Investigation Directorate in order to force him to confess to killing a Jordanian policeman in Dimistan village.
In the details of the incident, the family stated that their son had been arrested from his aunt’s house on Sunday 14 December 2014 at 2:00 am police officers and men in civilian clothing; the entire home was searched. Al-Majid was transferred directly to the Criminal Investigation Directorate where he was reportedly subjected to beating and threatened with electrocution. Al-Majid told his family that he was beaten with a wooden plank that had nails in it on his back and hands. On his way to the Criminal Investigation building, police officers directed sectarian insults at him.
Al-Majid also stated that he was interrogated in order to extract a confession to his participation in the killing of a Jordanian police officer in the area of Dimistan village on 11 December 2014. He was threatened with further torture if he refused to confess to the crime. When Al-Majid denied the charges against him, the interrogators took turns beating him until his left ear drum was punctured, and his testicles became swollen from repeated being kicked. After a reported three days of this treatment, and Al-Majid continued insistence on denying the charges against him, the interrogators stripped him of his clothing and sexually harassed him. The officers reportedly threatened to shoot him in the buttocks with a gun. Al-Majid feared for his life, and made a confession to what the officers asked of him. However, despite his confession, the officers continued to beat him. He was transferred to another building where a Jordanian officer and others beat him with a plastic hose and metal parts. Al-Majid was then taken to a municipal building – the same place where the death of the Jordanian gendarmerie policeman took place – where he was dictated the confession and started acting out the incident. He was extremely fatigued and exhausted at this time. Later, in the Public Prosecution Building Al-Majid stated that the Public Prosecutor also threatened to throw a glass bottle in case he decided to deny the charges against him.
Al-Majid has also been a victim of enforced disappearance for nine days. After his arrest, the Criminal Investigations Directorate asked his family not to return to their office after they made several to ask about his whereabouts and well-being. The family went to The General Secretariat for Grievances who in turn visited Al-Majid in detention; however officials did not provide the family with any information about his wellbeing or whereabouts.
Al-Majid is not the first individual to be tortured in the Criminal Investigation Building; the Bahrain Center for Human Rights has documented many cases where people report that they were subjected to torture and degrading treatment in the Criminal Investigation Directorate, in addition to threats made at the Public Prosecution Building, in order to force them to confess to fabricated charges. In the month of December along, at least 30 individuals have been subjected to enforced disappearance, including Al-Majid, according to the documentation of the BCHR. These disappearances ranged between several hours and 13 days. In addition to this information, international organizations, among them Amnesty International, emphasized that torture in Bahrain is still ongoing concern and there are still prisoners of conscience in prison. The BCHR believes that the security forces’ persistence in using torture had transgressed the international treaties and conventions signed and endorsed by Bahrain, which it has to abide by especially those relating to criminating torture and inhumane treatment.
Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and all other relevant international associations and human rights organizations to apply pressure on the government of Bahrain to:
End the practice of torture as a means to extract confessions, and to provide guarantees for the safety and security of detainees;

Investigate all credible claims of torture, and hold accountable those found to be responsible for this practice, particularly the higher ranking individuals who ordered or supervised the practice;

End the practice of enforced disappearance, and depriving arrested individuals of their right to a lawyer, and contacting their families. 
1. End the practice of torture as a means to extract confessions, and to provide guarantees for the safety and security of detainees; 
2. Investigate all credible claims of torture, and hold accountable those found to be responsible for this practice, particularly the higher ranking individuals who ordered or supervised the practice; 
3. End the practice of enforced disappearance, and depriving arrested individuals of their right to a lawyer, and contacting their families. 

The first step toward defeating Islamist terrorism`


Op-ed: It is Europe’s free press, its freedom of expression, and thus its very civilization, that the Islamists behind the Paris attack seek to destroy. Only if the West internalizes the scale of the threat will it stand a chance of vanquishing it

Speaking to Israeli television from Paris on Wednesday night, hours after gunmen shouting “Allahu Akbar” had shot dead 12 people at the offices of the “Charlie Hebdo” satirical magazine, the French-Jewish parliamentarian Meyer Habib called the massacre France’s 9/11.
When Islamist killers targeted Jews in Toulouse in 2012 and Brussels last year, Habib recalled, “we warned that this would come to all of France. And to our sorrow it came…. We are in a fight,” he elaborated, “against jihadism, against this darkness.”

After four British-raised Muslims killed 52 civilians and injured 700 in coordinated bombings in London on July 7, 2005, numerous commentators and analysts likened that assault, too, to the Al-Qaeda attacks on America in 2001. But if that was Britain’s 9/11, it didn’t bring sufficient clarity of thought to the struggle against Islamist terrorism. It didn’t open enough eyes. Too many Britons, including too many leaders and policymakers, preferred a mixture of stoicism and denial to the imperative of rigorously confronting Islamic extremism. Too many preferred to blame prime minister Tony Blair for ostensibly inviting that day’s murders, including through his purportedly over-cozy relationship with the reviled George W. Bush and his backing of Israel. That was all far more convenient than acknowledging that Britain had a colossal problem with homegrown Islamic extremism, whipped up by British-based Islamic spiritual (mis)leaders. Almost a decade later, Britain has still failed to adequately tackle the rise of Islamist extremism at home, with a consequent stream of plots and attacks, and a flow of misguided young Muslims joining the ranks of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
The question is whether France, Britain and the rest of Europe, in the aftermath of Wednesday’s assault — a more calculated and specific attack than the indiscriminate murders in London — will now muster a more energetic, coordinated and effective response.
Islamist terrorism must be faced down determinedly whenever and wherever it threatens to strike. But it must all be addressed far earlier in the process, where its potential perpetrators are inspired and recruited
The struggle has to be waged at two levels — and Europe, thus far, has been failing in both. As my colleague Avi Issacharoff notes, the task of tracking the thousands of IS recruits who travel to the Middle East and back, and are all too demonstrably ready to murder “infidels” at home and abroad, is a nightmare mission for the intelligence agencies. But it becomes an impossible one unless, simultaneously, the process by which these killers are indoctrinated is tackled too. Islamist terrorism, that is, must be faced down determinedly whenever and wherever it threatens to strike. But it must all be addressed far earlier in the process, when its potential perpetrators are “inspired” and recruited.
In the Middle East, the US is currently leading a coalition trying to counter territorial advances by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Israel is relentlessly battling the Islamist terrorists of Hamas in Gaza and in the West Bank, and knows that it must anticipate further rounds of conflict there and with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. But far too little effort has been devoted, in the Middle East, to dealing with those school systems, media and internet outlets, and religious leaders that are poisoning the minds of young Muslims — the impressionable children who grow up into the IS and Hamas suicide bombers and beheaders and masked gunmen of tomorrow. In Europe, too, pernicious spiritual leaders are too often allowed to preach hatred untroubled by the authorities; institutes of supposed higher education play host to extremist groupings; internet sites peddle unbridled hatred.
Increasing numbers of Jews in France are gradually concluding that there is no future for them there anymore; hence the rising number of French immigrants to Israel. In a moment of startlingly soul-baring candor from a highly successful British Jew, the director of BBC Television, Danny Cohen, vouchsafed in an interview in Jerusalem last month that “I’ve never felt so uncomfortable being a Jew in the UK as I’ve felt in the last 12 months. And it’s made me think about, you know, is it our long-term home, actually… You’ve seen the number of attacks rise. You’ve seen murders in France. You’ve seen murders in Belgium. It’s been pretty grim actually. And having lived all my life in the UK, I’ve never felt as I do now about anti-Semitism in Europe.” For the first time since the World War II era, when Israel was revived too tragically late to save the six million, this country is becoming seen as a necessary refuge for a growing number of fearful European Jews.
But the Islamist agenda is by no means limited to Jews and to the Jewish state. As Habib observed on Wednesday night, the jihadists “want to destroy all the infrastructure of France.” If the London bombings were a case of indiscriminate terrorism, Wednesday’s Paris atrocity was a calculated assault on free speech — the targeting of a publication that caricatured the Prophet Mohammed, dared to mock a deity. There are limits to satire and mockery, limits to freedom of expression, but Western civilization provides legal frameworks in which to weigh and enforce those limits. Islamic extremism allows for no such humor, no such mockery, no such tolerance. It is Europe’s free press, its freedom of expression, its very civilization, then, that was attacked Wednesday, that the Islamists seek to destroy. The stakes could not be higher.
The fight back is anything but simple, in large part because of the West’s insistent freedoms. That’s what tyranny and extremism do — they exploit freedom to engineer its downfall. They take advantage of open borders and tolerant legislation and earnest judicial procedures to travel unrestricted, to preach hatred, to arm and train, and ultimately to kill. The counter-struggle necessitates confronting extremist hierarchies all the way from the first sermon or Facebook post to the attempt at murder; it also necessitates empowering humane, tolerant elements, again, in education, media and religious leadership. It requires effective law enforcement at the most local, grassroots level. But it also requires Western nations to reorient their foreign policies at the highest levels, to reassess diplomatic relations with those countries that maintain educational systems and spiritual leaderships which breed Islamist intolerance and violence, and to use all the diplomatic and economic leverage they can muster to marginalize those dangers and to bolster more moderate forces.
Can Europe yet save itself? Can Islamic extremism be defeated? Not easily. But the necessary first step is acknowledging the extent of the problem and the challenge. Or, as Habib put in Wednesday, first “we have to open our eyes.”

Read more: The first step toward defeating Islamist terrorism | The Times of Israel
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U.S. - Racial Isolation in Public Schools

New York’s schools are the most segregated in the nation, and the state needs remedies right away. That was the message delivered to the governor and the Legislature last week by the chancellor of the State Board of Regents. Minority children are disproportionately trapped in schools that lack the teaching talent, course offerings and resources needed to prepare them for college and success in the new economy.
This is not an easy problem to solve. But the state cannot just throw up its hands. It has a moral obligation to ensure that as many children as possible escape failing schools for ones that give them a fighting chance. And history has shown that districts can dramatically improve educational opportunities for minority children — and reduce racial isolation — with voluntary transfer plans and especially with high-quality magnet schools that attract middle-class families.
This problem is especially urgent in New York’s second-largest city, Buffalo, where federal civil rights officials are enforcing an agreement intended to expand minority access to the better schools in a dysfunctional system, which has suffered from years of abysmal leadership and middle-class flight. Today nearly half the city’s public schools either have low graduation rates or rank in the bottom 5 percent of state schools in math and English.
The United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights began its investigation of charges that the district was discriminating against nonwhite students in admissions to the better schools — those that choose students based on test scores and other screening.
As part of a sweeping resolution agreement with the federal government, the district hired a consultant who is studying the system with the aim of addressing “the root causes” of racial disparities in enrollment and admission rates at the special admission schools — known in Buffalo as “criteria schools.”
Among other things, this means going back to earlier grades to determine why children might not be getting the guidance, courses and information they need to gain access or admission to the criteria schools. The district did re-evaluate the applications of the children whose families filed the complaint and admitted those who were eligible, providing help and support where necessary.
One obvious step would be for Buffalo to expand seats in its eight criteria schools so that more children can benefit. But the federal civil rights agreement does not address the school system as a whole, which is still shortchanging minority children.
The irony of the Buffalo situation is that during the 1970s the city made great progress in addressing racial isolation in its schools. A court-ordered desegregation plan pushed Buffalo to create a much sought after system of magnet schools that improved prospects for poor children and attracted large numbers of middle-class families.
As The Times reported in 1985, the city was viewed as a national model for racial integration; educators who wished to learn the lessons of Buffalo’s success flocked to the city from around the globe. Things went downhill in the 1990s, however, when court supervision ended and Buffalo experienced severe fiscal problems.
The magnet schools that had been so popular were scaled back, alienating middle-class families once again. The decision to dismantle the model system, in other words, was a disastrous mistake. More recently, the Buffalo school system has been hobbled by a wasteful, outmoded teachers’ contract that provides unusually generous benefits and makes it difficult to manage the teaching force. The district has also suffered from inept leadership that has not met basic obligations. It has failed, for example, to file acceptable, legally required plans with the state for turning around low-performing schools. This week, The Buffalo News raised troubling questions about the accounting for funds earmarked for rebuilding the city’s crumbling schools.
The Cuomo administration alluded to the chronic problems in the Buffalo schools last month when it asked the Board of Regents what should be done about their “deplorable conditions.” Support appears to be growing for laws giving the state more authority to force policy changes on failing districts and to even appoint receivers to run day-to-day operations, which may be necessary in Buffalo.

President Obama's Weekly Address: America's Resurgence Is Real

Pakistan - PPP favoured establishment of army courts for country's sake

Former prime minister (PM) Yousaf Raza Gillani on Saturday has said that Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) voted in favour of the 21st Constitutional Amendment for the sake of protection of the country.
He expressed these views while talking to the media in Faisalabad.
Gillani also said that he respects PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s stance.


Notorious takfiri nasbi terrorists of outlawed Deobandi ASWJ/Sipah-e-Sahaba assassinated a Shia doctor in Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa province’s capital city Peshawar on Saturday.

Dr. Asim was sitting inside his clinic situated in Hayatabad area of Peshawar when the takfiri Deobandi terrorists stormed into the clinic and opened fire upon him. He embraced martyrdom.
Shia parties and leaders have condemned the targeted murder of Shia medical doctor in Hayatabad Peshawar. They demanded public hanging of the takfiri terrorists.

Pakistan - Aitzaz assails Fazl for retracting from his stance on military courts

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) senior leader Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan on Saturday assailed Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman for retracting from his stance in the multi-party conference over establishment of military courts in the country, DawnNews reported.
Speaking at a ceremony here, he said that Rehman had agreed to the collective decision on National Action Plan (NAP) taken against the backdrop of deadly Taliban attack on an army-run school in Peshawar that killed 150 people, mostly school children.
Establishment of military courts to decide terrorism related cases is a part of the NAP. The JUI-F chief has opposed the national strategy to tackle terrorism, terming the 21st Constitutional Amendment as a ‘collective suicide attack on democracy’ by parliamentary parties.
“Our stance against terrorism should be understood. Terrorists have been given an escape route through this law... for instance if any terrorist shaves his beard off and takes off his turban renaming himself as Saulat Mirza or Ajmal Pahari, then terrorism would be accepted and the terrorist would not be presented in a military court,” he said during a press conference on Thursday only to draw severe criticism from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).
A petition has also been filed in the Supreme Court, challenging the establishment of military courts. The petition states that the contentious amendment to establish military courts in the country is against the basic structure of the Constitution.
Speaking to the media today, Ahsan said instead of guiding Pakistan towards progress, “We are trying to take it back to the 13th century”. “In this day and age, people are being killed here for inappropriate length of their shalwars,” he added.
The PPP senator said that establishment of the military courts was the need of the hour. However, he added that his party does not want these courts to be used against politicians, nationalists and common criminals.
Ahsan said that the PPP has only supported the controversial constitutional amendment for the first time in its history to eradicate terrorism and extremism from the country.

Is Pakistan Worth America’s Investment?

It doesn’t take much to stir controversy over America’s relationship with Pakistan. The latest dust-up involves $532 million in economic assistance that the United States expects to provide later this year. Last week, Pakistani officials jumped the gun by suggesting the money is closer to being disbursed than it is; the news annoyed India, which doesn’t think the aid is merited.
That is a familiar complaint. Since 9/11, the United States has provided Pakistan with billions of dollars, mostly in military aid, to help fight extremists. There are many reasons to have doubts about the investment. Still, it is in America’s interest to maintain assistance — at a declining level — at least for the time being. But much depends on what the money will be used for. One condition for new aid should be that Pakistan do more for itself — by cutting back on spending for nuclear weapons and requiring its elites to pay taxes.
Doubts about the aid center on Pakistan’s army, which has long played a double game, accepting America’s money while enabling some militant groups, including members of the Afghan Taliban who have been battling American and Afghan troops in Afghanistan. The relationship hit bottom in 2011 when Osama bin Laden was found hiding in Pakistan and was killed by a Navy SEAL team. But it has since improved. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to visit Islamabad soon.
After militants massacred 148 students and teachers at an army-run school in Peshawar last month, Pakistan’s government promised that it would no longer distinguish between “bad” militant groups, which are seeking to bring down the Pakistani state, and “good” militant groups that have been supported and exploited by the army to attack India and wield influence in Afghanistan. But there is little evidence that the army has gone after the “good” groups in a serious way.
This double game is a big reason that the administration has been unable to fulfill Congress’s mandate to certify that Pakistan has met certain requirements, including preventing its territory from being used for terror attacks, as a condition of assistance. Instead, officials have had to rely on a national security waiver to keep aid flowing.
There is a case for doing that. After much foot-dragging, the Pakistani army is finally battling militants in the North Waziristan region, and American officials say there has been real progress.
Also, Pakistan has allowed American drone attacks against militants along the border to resume, and is cooperating with the new Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani. Pakistan’s help is essential as Mr. Ghani pursues peace talks with the Taliban. It also counts as progress that Pakistan completed atransition from one civilian government to another in 2013 and that the current government, while fragile, remains in place.
American officials say aid has allowed them to maintain some modest leverage with Pakistan’s leaders and to invest in projects that advance both countries’ interests, including energy, more than 600 miles of new roads and support for democratic governance. But it makes no sense to subsidize Pakistan’s policy failures, which include an obsession with nuclear weapons, paltry investments in education and a refusal to seriously combat extremism.
Pakistan still receives more assistance than most countries, a holdover from the days when Washington mistakenly thought it might be a real partner. But the levels are declining and should continue to do so. Cutting aid precipitously would be unwise, but a managed decrease is in line with more realistic expectations about the diminished potential for bilateral cooperation.

Pakistan - Consumers paying Rs3-4 extra on petrol, diesel: report

The recent imposition of 5 per cent additional sales tax on petroleum products is putting an extra burden on consumers, who are paying Rs3 to Rs4 extra for one litre of petrol.
The government is expected to earn Rs17 billion more from this additional levy introduced on Jan 1, but it may result in some sort of increase in prices of other commodities.
The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is collecting extra Rs3.21 per litre on petrol, Rs3.53 on high-speed diesel, Rs2.76 on light diesel, Rs2.95 on kerosene and Rs3.77 on High Octane Blending Component (HOBC).
These figures were disclosed by top officials of the FBR during a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance the other day.
Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and the finance secretary were not present at the meeting.
FBR Chairman Tariq Bajwa argued in support of the increase in the sales tax, and stated that the department had powers to increase the tax rates without seeking parliament’s approval.
Senators Sughra Imam and Osman Saifullah Khan questioned the imposition of additional sales tax through SROs, and said they would challenge the decision in court.
They also questioned the role of OGRA in determining domestic oil prices, and requested for a special meeting to oversee the functioning of the authority.
Sardar Fateh Mohammad pointed towards some illegalities committed by the OGRA. However, OGRA Chairman Saeed Ahmad Khan stated that no illegal decisions had been taken by the authority.
At one point, FBR Chairman Tariq Bajwa claimed that the exchequer would face a loss of Rs68 billion because of oil price variations.
Similarly, he said that the government would have a net saving of $3.5bn (Rs350bn) on oil imports. On this disclosure, senators sought abolition of 5pc GST. But the FBR chairman’s tone was non-committal.
Senator Sughra Imam and Osman Saifuallah suggested for an overview from the finance ministry to see the actual benefits of oil prices to economy. The government should explain the real benefits of falling international oil prices, they said.

Pakistani people are victims of terror, just like people in Paris are this week: Pentagon

A Pentagon spokesperson, while speaking of the common threat of terrorism to the US and Pakistan, said on Friday that “it is important to remember the Pakistani people have become and are victims of terrorism, just like the people in Paris are this week.”
“It is for Pakistan to continue the fight against terrorism in its own interest as Pakistanis have been victims of terror,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby during a press briefing in Washington.
He also said that the United States would continue to support Pakistan to eliminate the shared threat of terrorism, adding that military cooperation also continues to improve between the two countries.
“And it’s a common threat, a common challenge that we all have to continue to work on together and to look for ways to improve that cooperation. I will also tell you that cooperation with Pakistan and Pakistani military in general continues to improve,” Kirby said.
Responding to a question regarding Washington putting pressure on Pakistan, Kirby said, “It’s not about us putting pressure on the Pakistani government. It’s about the Pakistani government continuing to address this threat in keeping with their best interests and the interests of their people.”
“And it’s a shared threat, a shared challenge that we have, and we have maintained an interest in helping them deal with, and that will continue,” he added.
Further regarding militant sanctuaries, Kirby said it has long been an issue of concern for them. “It’s long been a topic of discussion with our Pakistani counterparts.”

Pakistan - Going Back To School

With the shadow of the Peshawar Tragedy still looming large, the question of reopening schools after a government mandated, extended winter break has been a tricky one. On one hand, keeping the schools closed has been a massive detriment to education, as well as being a tool for perpetuating the terror-induced paralysis intended by the militants. On the other, another Army Public School style attack would be completely devastating, and no one wants to shoulder the blame of rushing through the security appraisal which may have led to inadequate protection. The fears become more acute considering Mullah Fazlullah has issued fresh threats of attacks of greater magnitude. In this situation one would expect a thoroughly articulated and foolproof plan which takes in most contingences.
The government has issued directions to beef up security at schools, without compliance to which, the institutions will not be allowed to open. It has instructed institutes to raise their boundary walls and top them with barbed wire, hire experienced security guards, and install close-circuit cameras, a government inspection team will survey the preparation and give the go ahead. Even on face value these steps seem woefully inadequate. The Army Public School in Peshawar was already fortified, situated in Peshawar Cantt, a high security zone, and were manned by adequate security; yet it was still breached. Higher walls and security guards are intuitive options, but it is easy to circumvent these precautions. The greatest problem with this plan remains that the state has shifted all the burden to the institutions themselves; private schools and institutions are required to hire guards, install cameras and build boundary walls all on their own expenses. There will be countless schools which cannot afford such measures and the state has no fund to help them. Furthermore, this blanket policy of requirements is severely counterproductive, different institutes, because of their size, student strength or course choices, have different educational structures. Yet all are required to comply to the same standards. Small kindergartens opened in houses, evening cram schools, colloquially known as ‘academies’,  rural government schools and sprawling universities with several campuses have the same requirements to fill. Higher walls, CCTV, and guards are overkill for a kindergarten, yet completely inadequate for a university.
The state needs to take ownership and divert funds to the exercise, to ensure all institutes can ramp up security. Furthermore, instead of having a one-size-fits-all policy, it should give directions based on strategic value and perceived threats. Most importantly, the state’s focus should be on tackling this problem on their own through proper policing and intelligence gathering, not by shifting the burden to concerned institutions.