Tuesday, February 17, 2015

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Obama: 'Law is on our side' despite immigration ruling

President Obama said Tuesday he disagrees with a Texas judge whose ruling blocked his immigration actions, and his administration will appeal.
"The law is on our side and history is on our side," Obama said in the Oval Office. He said his actions to defer deportations for potentially millions of migrants will improve a broken immigration system.
The administration is suspending its plans to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for legal status, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said. Until that ruling is overturned on appeal, "we recognize we must comply with it," he said.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen's decision late Monday blocked implementation of Obama's policy that would have granted legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants, allowing them to get driver's licenses, work permits and other government benefits.
Hanen's ruling came just as one of those executive actions was set to take effect Wednesday. That's when about 300,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the USA before age 16 — and who have lived here since 2010 — were eligible to apply for legal status. An additional 4 million who came to the USA as adults would become eligible in May.
The ruling comes as Congress debates how to extend funding authority for the Department of Homeland Security. House Republicans have passed a bill that would fund the department through September but block funding to enforce any of Obama's executive actions. Senate Democrats threatened a filibuster, and the White House threatened a veto.
Other executive actions Obama announced last November are not affected by the court ruling, and Homeland Security will still defer the deportation of undocumented immigrants considered a low priority by the administration.
"This is something that we necessarily have to make choices about, because we have 11 million people here who we're not all going to deport," Obama said. "They are American by any other name except their legal papers."
In a 123-page opinion, Hanen ruled that the Department of Homeland Security took an illegal shortcut by failing to allow public comment on the new policies. Despite the public perception that Obama made the policy change through executive order, Hanen said, decision-making responsibility actually falls to Johnson — and he has to follow the notice-and-comment rulemaking process in the Administrative Procedure Act.
Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department is examining the opinion to determine the best way to proceed.
"I think that we have to look at this decision for what it is. It is ... a decision by one federal district court judge," Holder said at the National Press Club on Tuesday. "I have always expected that this is a matter that will be ultimately decided by a higher court — if not the Supreme Court, then a federal court of appeals."
An appeal would go to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. As of late Tuesday, the government had not requested a stay of the decision.
The case could have a long procedural road ahead. The judge's ruling did not address the merits of the immigration policy or Obama's right to change how immigration laws are enforced without congressional action. Rather, the judge said he was simply keeping the current system in place while both sides in the lawsuit argue the case.
"Despite the anti-immigrant rhetoric in the judge's 123-page opinion, the temporary injunction itself is narrow," said Stephen Yale-Loehr, a Cornell University law professor. He said the administration is likely to prevail on the merits because federal courts have often given the president broad authority to shape the enforcement and implementation of immigration laws.
The plaintiffs in the case — Texas and 25 other states that filed suit in December — argue that Obama's immigration actions violated his constitutional responsibility to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed."
"We live in a nation governed by a system of checks and balances, and the president's attempt to bypass the will of the American people was successfully checked today," said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in a statement. He filed the lawsuit when he was state attorney general.
The injunction applies to a program known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA. The program allowed undocumented parents of lawful U.S. citizens or permanent residents to defer deportation and seek job benefits.
Texas has standing to bring the lawsuit, the judge ruled, because the federal action would make thousands of newly legalized immigrants eligible for Texas driver's licenses. The state charges $24 per license, but they cost nearly $200 for the state to process — in part because of federal mandates under the REAL ID Act of 2005. That means extending federal benefits imposes a cost on the states.
"If the preliminary injunction is denied, plaintiffs will bear the costs of issuing licenses and other benefits once DAPA beneficiaries — armed with Social Security cards and employment authorization documents — seek those benefits," Hanen wrote. "Once these services are provided, there will be no effective way of putting the toothpaste back in the tube should plaintiffs ultimately prevail on the merits."
The judge made clear that his ruling does not apply to the almost 700,000 teenagers and young adults granted legal status under the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.
Hanen, a district judge sitting in Brownsville, Texas, was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2002.
"The plaintiffs were very careful in where they brought this action, to a district court judge on the border," said Laura Foote Reiff, an immigration lawyer at Greenberg Traurig. She's the chairwoman of the National Immigration Forum, which has advised the White House on immigration policy. "I think the standing issue is a huge one. And the states that brought this case were very clever."
The 25 states joining Texas in the lawsuit are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Unless it's overturned on appeal, the ruling could delay implementation of the executive actions by at least six to 12 months, Reiff said. That's the amount of time it would take to allow public comment on the policy — which could be struck down by the court in a final ruling.
Immigrant rights groups noted that the injunction was temporary and procedural and urged undocumented immigrants to prepare to apply to the president's program.
"Our communities need to be ready to benefit from this," said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, which filed a legal brief supporting the president's plan. She called the court challenge a "political lawsuit" aimed at causing confusion and fear among eligible immigrants.
In his comments in the Oval Office, Obama said he acted on immigration last year because Congress did not.
"With a new Congress, my hope has been that they now get serious in solving the problem," he said. Instead, Congress has made "threats to defund the Department of Homeland Security, which would make it even harder for us to protect our borders and keep our people safe."
The court ruling could give Republicans a way out of the impasse over Homeland Security funding by handing them a big win that allows them to drop the provision that would block funding for the executive actions.
"Some Republicans might see this as an opportunity to declare victory and pull out," said Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in California. "Others, however, will see it as an opportunity to declare war and press ahead harder than ever. The question is which sentiment will prevail in Republican ranks."
Tuesday, both sides were digging in. House Republicans, led by Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, renewed their demand that the Senate take up the House-passed Homeland Security bill. Senate Democrats insisted on a "clean" bill without any immigration provisions.
"It's perfectly appropriate to take this issue to court, but it is completely unacceptable for Republicans to hold up funding for the Department of Homeland Security while the case wends its way through the legal system," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement.
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, a prospective GOP candidate to succeed Obama,said in a Facebook post that Obama "overstepped his executive authority and, in turn, hurt the effort toward a common-sense immigration solution." He said the ruling should bring Obama and Congress back to the table to work out an immigration bill.

Hillary Clinton, Privately, Seeks the Favor of Elizabeth Warren

By Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin

Hillary Rodham Clinton held a private, one-on-one meeting with Senator Elizabeth Warren in December at Mrs. Clinton’s Washington home, a move by the Democrats’ leading contender in 2016 to cultivate the increasingly influential senator and leader of the party’s economic populist movement.
The two met at Whitehaven, the Clintons’ Northwest Washington home, without aides and at Mrs. Clinton’s invitation.
Mrs. Clinton solicited policy ideas and suggestions from Ms. Warren, according to a Democrat briefed on the meeting, who called it “cordial and productive.” Mrs. Clinton, who has been seeking advice from a range of scholars, advocates and officials, did not ask Ms. Warren to consider endorsing her likely presidential candidacy. Aides to Mrs. Clinton did not immediately respond to requests for comment, and aides to Ms. Warren could not be reached.
The conversation occurred at a moment when Ms. Warren’s clout has become increasingly evident. After the November election, Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, appointed Ms. Warren, a Massachusetts freshman, to a leadership role in the Senate; she led a high-profile effort to strip a spending bill of rules sought by large banks; and a patchwork of liberal groups began a movement to draft her into the presidential race.
Ms. Warren has repeatedly said she is not running for president, and she has taken no steps that would indicate otherwise. Still, she is intent on pushing a robust populist agenda, and her confidants have suggested that she will use her Senate perch during the 2016 campaign to nudge Mrs. Clinton to embrace her major causes: addressing income inequality and curtailing the power of large financial institutions.
The get-together represented a step toward relationship-building for two women who do not know each other well. And for Mrs. Clinton, it was a signal that she would prefer Ms. Warren’s counsel delivered in person, as a friendly insider, rather than on national television or in opinion articles. And for Ms. Warren, the meeting offered the opportunity to make clear what she believes are the most pressing national issues.
That Mrs. Clinton — who is currently developing her economic platform — reached out to Ms. Warren suggests that she is aware of how much the debate over economic issues has shifted even during the relatively short time she was away from domestic politics while serving as secretary of state.
Mrs. Clinton was often criticized by the right as a doctrinaire liberal during her husband’s presidency and, as a presidential candidate, ultimately ran as more of an economic populist than Mr. Obama did. But she is now seen by some on the left as insufficiently tough on Wall Street. That perception, denounced by allies as an unfair criticism, has stuck in part because of her husband’s policies, and because of the lucrative speaking fees she has collected from financial firms and private equity groups since she left the State Department in early 2013.
The meeting in December fell two months after a more awkward encounter: Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Warren crossed paths at a Massachusetts rally for the Democratic nominee for governor there last year, Martha Coakley. At that event, Mrs. Clinton repeatedly described Ms. Warren as a champion against special interests and big banks; Ms. Warren, in turn, barely acknowledged Mrs. Clinton, who was the featured guest, in her remarks.
Both Mrs. Clinton and her husband appear eager to keep a close eye on Ms. Warren; Bill Clinton in the past has appeared sensitive about her oblique criticism of his deregulation of financial institutions. Beyond policy differences, the Clintons are eager to demonstrate that they, like Ms. Warren, appreciate the economic difficulties many Americans are facing.
The December meeting recalled another private session between Mrs. Clinton and a Democratic upstart: In 2005, shortly after he was sworn in to the Senate, Barack Obama paid a visit to Mrs. Clinton in her Senate office. In that instance, though, it was Mr. Obama who was seeking counsel.

Urdu Music Video - MALA - AKALE NA JANA -

Pakistan - Child marriages

The persistence in following barbaric cultural traditions is a sad reality in modern-day Pakistan, with child marriage close to the top of the list of customs that must simply be done away with. Young girls are regularly forced to become mothers and are subjected to socially-accepted sexual exploitation in the absence of stronger legislation against the practice of child marriage. To date, one in four girls is married before the age of 18 in Pakistan. A joint project of Save the Children and Oxfam called “Bachpan Bachao” was recently launched to curb the practice of child marriage in Punjab and Sindh. More than 40 per cent of Pakistani brides are under 18, whereas eight per cent of adolescent married women are already mothers between the ages of 15 and 19, according to statistics discussed at the project launch. Meanwhile, Unicef, in its “State of the World’s Children Report 2014” has said that seven per cent of girls in Pakistan are married while under the age of 15.
Although we are faced with such disturbing statistics, little has been done to prevent child marriages. Punjab, the most populous province, has yet to pass legislation against this practice, despite the success seen on this front in Sindh last year when the provincial assembly abolished it. The UN estimated last year that more than 140 million girls younger than 18 will be married to men as old as 60 in the next decade and most of these marriages would be in South Asia. Pakistan should not allow itself to become a hub for child marriages, where minors, under coercion and violence, are married — often young girls to men much older than them. Such practices cannot be justified as this is nothing more than permissible sexual abuse and often just a means of using girls as a financial transaction or to compensate for a male family member’s crime. If we ever want to see a country where there is gender equality and women empowerment, this room for exploitation must be closed.

Pakistan Nurturing Terrorists Against Afghanistan, India: US Congress

Pakistan’s closed fist has now ultimately opened; revealing its new trickeries against some certain neighbors.
Former Pak President, Parwiz Musharaf acknowledged that his country’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) was behind the mishaps in Afghanistan through training, equipping and financing them for fueling a proxy war in the conflicted nation.
Before Musharaf’s confession, India announced that it would take an Issue to the United Nations in which Pakistan would be filled as the key terrorisms supporter; even the main hub of terrorist in the region. The decision was simultaneously welcomed by Russia and China expressing their support, just the proposal was taken to the UN. The decision of India and support announcement from the two powerful countries [Russia and China] forced Musharaf of confessing ISI’s involvement in training, equipping and sending terrorists to Afghanistan for keeping a proxy war continued. The US congress announcement on Pakistani terrorists’ support in an attempt to take ahead a proxy war in Afghanistan could have been originated from the fresh remarks of the Pakistani former president meaning that if the two powerful nations’ supported Indian resort to introduce Pakistan as the key terrorist supporter to the UN would make this fact clear that the US ever-continued cooperation with Pakistan was its hidden support to it.
Following Mushraf’s remarks, the US congress in a letter to the department of foreign asked for a change in the relation between US and Pakistan and demanded the outlay set aside for Pakistan to be suspended. Indeed Pakistani is now burning in the flame of war, it had torched for the Afghan people. This is a fact that the Pakistani government and the military had revised in their visions on Afghanistan, but the neighboring country is facing new ordeals—its tricks of supporting terrorism being revealed and suffering much from over $80billion of the loan it has to pay. The neighboring Pakistan is now deepened in the quagmire it had dug for the destitute Afghans. The recent exposure forced the Pakistani government to reopen a new chapter of economic bolstering with Afghanistan, instead of using it as proxy war hub against certain nations. The government of national unity should use Afghanistan as the key economic route and the main hub of link between southern and central Asian nations, in order to help the economic tattered nation move above poverty line and step forward to the country’s reconstruction. In order to reach the goal, there is a need for shaping honest and faithful cabinet to remain accountable for the government and the nation. No opportunists and corrupt individuals should be allowed in the country’s cabinet structure, as they had been witnessed looting the national properties and using the country’s wealth in the interest the aliens within the last system..

Afghanistan Wakes Up To Islamic State Threat

After consistently rejecting the idea, Kabul could no longer ignore what self-declared recruiters and fighters had been telling them for months -- the Islamic State (IS) group had indeed arrived in Afghanistan.
"Islamic State or those people who call themselves Islamic State are active in some areas and our intelligence reports confirm it and we cannot deny it," Interior Ministry spokesman Siddiq Sidiqqi admitted during a February 10 interview with RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan. 
The message resonated, particularly considering that it came just two days after Sidiqqi had urged media not to report on "a group that doesn't even exist in Afghanistan" because it could further IS's aims. 
But he said that national security forces were on top of the situation, offering assurances that "wherever they act we destroy them and don’t give them the opportunity to become active in Afghanistan."
Top Priority
As it turns out, even as Kabul worked to downplay talk of IS's arrival in Afghanistan, it was actively trying to ensure the import did not gain a foothold in the country.
The efforts paid off on February 9 when Mullah Abdul Rauf, who had publicly declared that he was recruiting for Islamic State in Afghanistan's southern Helmand Province, was killed in a military operation there.
Confirming the death of the former Taliban commander and Guantanamo prison inmate, Afghanistan's spy agency -- the National Directorate of Security  (NDS) -- said Rauf had been a top priority for a month.
The same day, the Islamic State's self-declared spokesman in Afghanistan, Abdul Qadir Wahidi (alias Abu Ibrahim Khurasani), spoke to Radio Free Afghanistan from a prison in the central Ghazni Province.
He said that he was arrested about two months ago by NDS officers when he appeared in Kabul for what he thought would be peace talks with government officials.
Wahidi said it was he who sent and appeared in a video to a Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent in September in which he claimed to represent a group called the Islamic Organization of Great Afghanistan, and expressed its willingness to fight for Islamic State "caliph" Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
A local official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Wahidi was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment for serving as Islamic State's spokesman and for his role in kidnapping a Ghazni official in late 2014.
Skeptics Abound
There has been ample skepticism about whether Islamic State is capable of carving out a place for itself in a militant scene dominated by well-established groups such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. 
Some pointed to cultural clashes that would erupt when outsiders adhering to a strict form of Wahhabism encroached on long-established tribal traditions in Afghanistan. Others asked whether disgruntled Taliban were simply saying they were allying themselves with Islamic State in order to gain street cred. And the possibility was raised that provincial officials were heightening alarm in order to attract more funding and security from Kabul. 
But as the discussion wore on, reports about the presence of Islamic State and Wahhabist, foreign fighters continued to trickle in.
Mohammad Jan Rasulyar, deputy governor of Helmand Province, claimed in late January that IS militants were active in Kajaki District, where Rauf was later killed.
Rasulyar said the Islamic State militants, who were carrying black flags to indicate their allegiance to Al-Baghdadi's group, were clashing with white-flagged Taliban.
"We consider both groups an enemy, both of them are enemies of Afghans and killing Afghans," Rasulyar said. "But, it would better for us if they would fight each other and our Afghans were spared from their evil."
A local resident, who spoke to Radio Free Afghanistan on condition of anonymity, said on January 26: "They have come here, spreading propaganda and talking a little bit about Wahhabis. Local mullahs are concerned."
To the west, in Farah Province, an official told RFE/RL that IS-linked militants had moved into a mountainous region in Khak Safed district.
"There are about 80 people in 10 groups, they are flying the black flag. They are training children to use weapons and when they come to the village, they spend their own money," district Governor Abdul Khaleq Norzai said on January 25. "They don’t take anything from others and don’t eat others' food. If something costs 10 afghanis they pay 20 afghanis for it."
Nipping IS In The Bud
"Worrisome" and "serious" appear to be the common refrain among Afghans and outside observers when discussing Islamic State's presence in Afghanistan.
The group's emergence comes as Afghan security forces and U.S. Special Operations forces are already engaged in increasing raids targeting Al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives, and as new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani tries to maintain security amid a drawdown of U.S. troops.
Speaking before a gathering of Afghan clerics in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif on February 13, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Afghanistan Mohammad Mohaqiq called on the Afghan government to take serious action to counter Islamic State's activities.
Military analyst Jawed Kohistani said that, if Kabul doesn't answer the call now, it will mean trouble by as early as this summer.
"They [IS recruits in Afghanistan] will resolve their problems with the Taliban, find resources to fund their activities, and will be prepared for offensive operations," he told Radio Free Afghanistan on February 13. "If [the government] doesn't make good use of the capabilities and abilities of its military forces and doesn't pay attention to intelligence, we will be confronted with enormous problems in the future."

Pakistan - Poverty has little to do with radical Islam

By Ayaz Amir

Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Islamic State in Syria and the Taliban in Pakistan have not taken up arms to create a classless society. Their aim is not social justice. They have taken to the paths of violence, employing terror as a weapon of intimidation, in pursuit of an ideal shaped by a half-baked interpretation of Islam.

The zeal of the Sep 11 bombers was not driven by poverty. Many of the recruits to the cause of messianic or radical Islam are not victims of Third World poverty. Aafia Siddiqui was not a poster-girl of poverty. Nor is Mumtaz Qadri who shot the Punjab governor he was supposed to protect. 

Usman (now hanged) who led the attack on General Headquarters in Rawalpindi and the air force personnel who planned and executed the first attempt on Gen Musharraf’s life were radicalised not by poverty (by Pakistani standards they held relatively good jobs, jobs for which there are regularly thousands of applicants) but by a literalist interpretation of the faith. 

Pakistan is a poor country, with tens of millions living below the poverty line. If poverty was the spur to radical Islam Pakistan would have been conquered by the likes of Mullah Omar long ago.

From what evidence we have about the phenomenon, the suicide bomber picked up and trained for his deadly mission, or the foot soldier of ‘jihad’, may be from the lowest rungs of society but the terrorist masterminds, those in leadership positions – the Ilyas Kashmiris, the Hakeemullah Mehsuds, the Mullah Fazlullahs – have the rudiments of education, but in most cases no more than that.

Readers of ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ will recall the bandit leader, Luigi Vampa, leader of a fearsome gang of robbers on the outskirts of Rome. Vampa always has a book in his hands…Caesar’s Commentaries, Plutarch’s Lives. Do the commanders of radical Islam read the poets or the classics? Plutarch informs us that Alexander always slept with a copy of the Iliad by his side. Would Mullah Fazlullah ever have come across the Divan of Ghalib? Would he have ever looked into it?

I say this not in disparagement but only to point out that part of the problem with radical Islam is that its worldview is so limited. It is circumscribed by a literal reading of scripture and, for the more learned, a reading of the commentaries of, say, Sayyid Qutb and Maulana Maudoodi. Qutb was a very learned man as, in his own way, was Maudoodi. But it is not for everyone to react with warmth or sympathy to their ideal of the perfect society.

Islam under the Abbasid caliphs was a thing of vigour and colour, not just embracing but celebrating all aspects of life. The golden age of Islam, when learning and culture were honoured, would never have happened if its inspiration had come from the writings of Qutb or Maudoodi. Would they not throw into the fire the Arabian Nights?

Is there any place in the Taliban canon for the Tuzk-e-Baburi, the Rubaiyat of Khayyam or the immortal poetry of Hafiz? If the Taliban had the power would they spare the Mughal monuments of Lahore? Would they even spare the shrine of Data Ganj Baksh or the shrines of other saints? How would they look upon Waris Shah and his Heer, Khawaja Ghulam Farid and Bulleh Shah?

Communist revolutions everywhere, from the Bolshevik to the Chinese to the Cuban, put guns in the hands of an intellectual elite. The CIA-sponsored and ISI-assisted first Afghan ‘jihad’ put guns, Stinger missiles and an endless supply of dollars at the service of a bunch of mullahs…Hikmetyar, Sayyaf, Rabbani et al. Even as they stuffed dollars into their pockets, the mullahs said they were fighting for the greater glory of Islam. The Americans patted them on the back and went along with the gibberish.

Pakistan’s other half-read lot, its generals, congratulated themselves on their strategic brilliance, little realising that what they were pushing their country into was a prolonged festival of ignorance and bigotry.

No sensible society gives power to the priest or the maulvi. Give power to the priest and you end up with the Inquisition and the burning of perceived witches and heretics at the stake. Give power to the maulvi and you end up with the brutality of religious extremism in Swat and the tribal areas. Give power to the generals and they start imposing their strategic theories.

Musharraf committed no treason. If an earlier Supreme Court could endorse his coup, what grounds were there for a later Supreme Court to hold a proclamation of emergency as an act of treason? He committed something worse, stupidity. Even now he says (in his Guardian interview) that, yes, they propped up the Afghan Taliban. Were they out of their minds? Even as Taliban insurgents were sowing a trail of destruction in Pakistan, Pakistan’s ruling generals were helping other Taliban in pursuit of that chimera, India hostility. The idiocy of this is breathtaking. If Musharraf deserves to be tried it is for this.

Take your pick as to which has led to more destructive consequences: the literalism of the mullah and his narrow worldview, or the India-centrism of the General Staff? Is there no one to tell Pakistan’s generals that the fight against extremism (in all its forms) requires concentration of energy and focus, and that this is undercut by any flare-up of tensions with India? If India is funding the TTP, if it is interfering in Balochistan, then the foremost objective of Pakistani foreign policy should be to ensure an end to this interference.

How? By engaging with India, not by unleashing the hounds of Kashmiri intervention, via such holy entities as the Lashkar-e-Taiba, or whatever its latest incarnation may be.

As Hitler prepared to attack Poland he neutralised the Soviet Union by signing a peace pact with it, not out of love for Stalin but out of the necessities of the Polish situation. Necessity not fake sentiment dictates a sensible engagement with India. But bring up this subject and the typical Pakistani product of the Staff College or the National Defence University goes red in the face, losing all power of reasoning.

The extremist problem is only half-addressed by the use of arms. The other half must be addressed by better schools and colleges, more libraries, by a better ordering of economic priorities…away from the extravagant expenditure on unwanted mega-projects and more on job creation. Shouldn’t more money be spent on government schools and colleges? Don’t we need to recruit more teachers, male and female? Isn’t there a dire need to revamp our health services? Don’t we need more nurses and doctors? Here we have money diverted from the provincial health budget to the metro-bus project. Our proclivity for wasteful expenditure and unwanted things knows no bounds.

We can do without foreign donors and consultants. Indeed, Pakistan can never begin its journey towards the light if the last foreign consultant is not thrown out. Rely on your own skills or get help from such countries as Cuba. And let’s learn to live within our means. Islam, Islam, Islam we keep saying all the time. Well, one of the first tenets of Islam is simplicity. Why don’t we inculcate some of that in our collective existence?

Easier said than done, you will say, as the culture of shaadi ghars (marriage halls) and housing societies for the rich or the relatively well-off has already crossed all decent limits.

How best then to state the proposition? Even before strengthening Pakistan’s defences, how do we expand its mental horizons? What do we do about the philistinism now so rampant here? This is Pakistan’s foremost problem.

Pakistan - Bodies of kidnapped polio workers, police guards found in Zhob

Bodies of a polio worker, his driver and two Balochistan Levies constables kidnapped four days ago in Zhob district were found on Tuesday.
According to a Levies official, the polio worker, driver and Levies guards were shot dead before their bodies were thrown in a desolated part of Gowal Ismailzai area in Zhob district. “Some passersby spotted the bodies in Gowal Ismailzai and informed the officials,” he said.
A day before, on February 16, two suicide bombers blew themselves up in the same area while briefly encountering security forces during a search operation to find the polio team. The operation was jointly launched by Balochistan Levies and security forces in Barkwal and Murghab Kibzai areas, a Frontier Corps (FC) spokesperson had confirmed on Monday. The ambulance in which the polio team was traveling when it went missing was found from the area.
The deceased were identified as polio vaccinator Abdul Hameed, driver Abdul Samad and Balochistan Levies constables Mohammed Ayub and Mohammed Naseem. They all were residents of Zhob and a huge crowd had gathered at the hospital the bodies were taken to after they were found.
The enraged relatives resorted to aerial firing to express their anger. All the shops and markets in Zhob city were closed after relatives and people took to the streets. “The situation is very tense and people are angry at security forces who are unable to trace the culprits,” a senior official said when reached via phone.
The polio team went missing from Toda Kibzai area on February 13. Later that day Deputy Commissioner Zhob Nazir Mohammed Kithran had confirmed that the workers and they guards were kidnapped by Taliban extremists.
The killings are being considered as a serious blow to the state of security in Zhob district where forces have carried out several large-scale search operations since the beginning of this year.

Pakistan - Baldia factory fire - Delays In Justice

The special public prosecutor for the Baldia factory fire case, Shazia Hanjrah resigned on Monday. The reason behind her decision was the lack of cooperation from police officers investigating the factory fire case. MQM leader, Altaf Hussain, has said that if it can be proven that an MQM worker was behind it, he should be hung by all means. But can it be proven? Will the machinery of the law enforcement agencies and party politics let the truth come onto paper? Hanjrah has stated that the officers did not provide her with copies of witnesses’ statements in the case. She said that during the last hearing of the case, the investigating officers filed a list of witnesses in which the number of witnesses suddenly jumped from 870 to 940. Her decision to resign seems to be the only way that the difficulty of getting to the facts could be made public and it is a smart move on the part of the lawyer. In Pakistan, public pressure and sentiment is a huge driving force behind anything getting done.
While the finger has been pointed at the MQM for the Baldia factory fire, the finger can be broken… along with a few other bones. There are reports that Hanjrah could not continue with the case due to security risks and she has not been provided with security while traveling to and from the premises of the court. With Karachi’s track record of target killings, this is an understandable concern. Hanjrah had written to the government on the matter, but nothing was done.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has urged that action should be taken against culprits behind the Baldia factory fire. But such statements by him are a dime a dozen. The investigation is lethargic and the police unwilling. Addressing the participants of a provincial apex committee meeting held at the Governor House in Karachi, the premier criticised police officials for being slow to file charge sheets.
Meanwhile, court proceedings on the matter are a blur of incompetence as usual. The investigating and prosecuting agencies as well as complainant sides did not bring the JIT report on record of the trial court even on Saturday. The judge was furious at the investigation officer (IO) of the case for failing to file statements of witnesses in the case. IO Jahanzeb informed the court that there were around 950 prosecution witnesses and he had yet to record the statements of many of them. The judge was further exasperated over the delay on the part of the IO to submit the documents and asked him to complete the statements of witnesses and file them in the court on Feb 21. And so the slow process of justice trudges on without results.

Former President Asif Ali Zardari strongly condemns Lahore blast


Former President and Co-Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Asif Ali Zardari has strongly condemned the bomb blast near Police Lines in Lahore and expressed deep grief and sorrow over the loss of scores of precious and innocent human lives.
“The monster of terrorism continues to strike as entire nation has united to give it a final blow through unanimous and coordinated efforts of the country,” he added.
Asif Ali Zardari said there is no option except complete  defeat to the menace of terrorism, which has already given so much pain to the people of Pakistan.
He stressed that best medical facilities should be provided to the injured.

Pakistan - Police admits some madaris in Punjab receiving foreign funding

Punjab Police disclosed on Monday that certain religious seminaries are receiving foreign funding in the province but admitted its inability to collect the concrete evidence. A list of suspicious religious seminaries in the province which receive foreign funding is with the department. “The list is confidential”, the officials told the committee on Rules of Procedures and Privileges whose meeting was chaired by Senator Col (r) Tahir Hussain Mashhadi, who kept the list with himself rather than disclosing it in the meeting. 


Pakistan - Eight dead in attack on Lahore's Police Lines, TTP claims responsibility

At least eight people were killed and dozens injured in an apparent attack on Lahore's police headquarters on Tuesday, hospital sources told Dawn. The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) later claimed responsibility for the attack.
The spokesperson for the Jamaatul Ahrar faction of the banned TTP, Ehsanullah Ehsan, told Dawn that the attack was carried out by the splinter group.
The blast took place near the main gate of Police Lines in Lahore's Qila Gujjar Singh area. According to preliminary reports, it took place in a vehicle parked in the area, however, there are some unverified reports that it was carried out by a suicide bomber.
Huge plumes of smoke were visible in the air in the heavily populated area which was quickly cordoned off by security personnel.
Several vehicles parked near the site of the blast caught fire and window panes in nearby buildings were also shattered.
A police Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) was among those killed in the attack while the wounded also included a policewoman, according to police sources.
Inspector General Punjab Police Mushtaq Sukhera told media representatives that the target of the attack was police lines but chances are that the bomber may have been searched on his way inside so he exploded himself prematurely.
He added that, "Ever since operation Zarb-i-Azb began the army has been taking action against militants... and this was perhaps in reaction to that. We will examine CCTV footage to get more details on the attacker."
He further said that 5-8 kilograms of explosives were used in the blast.
Khawaja Salman Rafique, the Punjab government's adviser on health, confirmed that four people had died while 23 others were wounded in the blast. He added that the condition of one injured was reported as critical.
Giving a breakup of the patients, he said that six patients were admitted in Mayo Hospital, 13 in Ganga Ram Hospital and four others were brought to the Services Hospital.
Lahore DCO retired Capt Muhammad Usman told Dawn that the wounded also included women and a child.
DIG Operations Haider Ashraf told Dawn that it appeared that the explosion was a suicide blast. Initial investigation revealed that ball bearings were used in the bomb.
Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Amin Wains told media persons that the blast was most likely carried out by a suicide bomber.
He added that the target of the attack was the Police Lines but the security measures forced the bomber to detonate his explosives prematurely. Eye-witnesses said gunshots were heard from inside the Police Lines, however security personnel have said that the shots were only fired by members of the law enforcement agencies after the blast.Emergency was imposed in hospitals across Lahore and injured were being shifted to the Mayo and Ganga Ram hospitals in the provincial capital.
The site of the explosion lies close to the headquarters of Pakistan Railways.

Preliminary report

Police in Lahore submitted a preliminary report on the Lines attack to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
The report said police attempted to prevent the attacker from entering Lines. It added that six-eight kilograms of explosives were used in the blast.

FIR registered over attack

A First Information Report (FIR) was registered over the attack at the Qila Gujjar police station.
Today’s explosion comes nearly three months after a massive bombing near the Wagah borderclaimed over 60 lives in Lahore. The bombing at Wagah was followed by the terrorist attack onPeshawar’s Army Public School in December which claimed over 140 lives — with most of the victims being children and students at the institution.
The Dec 16 attack resulted in the formulation of a National Action Plan to counter terrorism which also saw a parliamentary consensus on the formation of military courts in the country as well as renewed resolve to counter religious extremism by cracking down on terror financing and regulating madrassahs. The government also rolled back the moratorium on capital punishmentfollowing which a number of convicted terrorists have been hanged in jails across the country.