Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Music Video - Beyoncé - Haunted

President al-Assad and Pakistani Senate chairman stress on int’l collective action to fight terrorism

Terrorism was chief among the issues that were tackled during a meeting between President Bashar al-Assad and Chairman of the Pakistani Senate Syed Nayyer Hussain Bokhari on Tuesday.
Discussions focused on the necessity of adopting a principled stance to have all countries fight terrorism, with stress being laid on the need that the international community shoulder its responsibilities in this regard through encouraging collective action to help in uprooting this scourge which has become a threat to all.
A mission, both sides affirmed, should be carried out without affecting the sovereignty of countries and peoples’ right to self-determination without any foreign interference.
President al-Assad stressed in the course of the meeting, which was attended by Speaker of the People’s Assembly Mohammad Jihad al-Laham, that parliamentary cooperation among countries is of great significance as parliaments represent peoples and work to achieve their interests.

He stressed to Bokhari, who is on a three-day visit to Syria, Damascus’s support to the latter’s efforts in enhancing parliamentary work.
Syria, the President said, also supports Bokhari’s efforts seeking to turn the Asian Parliamentary Assembly, over which he is currently presiding, into an “Asian Parliament” that could be able, in cooperation with other parliaments, to work more effectively for finding solutions to the regional and international issues.
Bokhari, who is accompanied by a delegation on his visit that started yesterday, expressed confidence that the step to forge an Asian Parliament would help achieve positive results on various levels for the peoples of the Asian continent.
He also hoped that stability and peace will prevail in Syria as soon as possible.

Video Report - Are U.S. allies secretly funding ISIS?

Saudis ‘would let Israeli jets use their air space to attack Iran’


Saudi Arabia is prepared to let Israeli fighter jets use its airspace if it proves necessary to attack Iran’s nuclear program, an Israeli TV station reported Tuesday, highlighting growing ties in the shadow of Tehran’s nuclear drive.
Riyadh’s only condition is that Israel make some kind of progress in peace talks with the Palestinians, Channel 2 reported Tuesday, citing an unnamed senior European source.
“The Saudi authorities are completely coordinated with Israel on all matters related to Iran,” the European official in Brussels said. Jerusalem and Riyadh do not have diplomatic ties, but unconfirmed reports have swirled for years of coordination between them against the common enemy of Iran, a partnership that may ramp up should the world powers reach a reportedly emerging deal that would allow Tehran to continue enriching some uranium.
The report claimed the Saudi authorities had made their position clear in various unspecified diplomatic discussions on the matter.
“The Saudis have declared their readiness for the Israeli Air Force to overfly Saudi air space en route to attack Iran if an attack is necessary,” the TV report said. All that they ask is “some kind of progress” on the Palestinian issue.
Being able to use Saudi airspace would allow Israeli planes a shortcut to reach Iran without having to fly around the Persian Gulf, taking up precious time and fuel.
According to the dispatch, Israel and Saudi Arabia also share intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program at a very intimate level and the Saudis are no less worried by details coming out of the Geneva talks than Israeli leaders, who have loudly spoken out against the talks.
Tuesday’s report comes amid increased tensions between the White House and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over how best to tackle Tehran’s nuclear program.
Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany — known as the P5+1 — have been seeking a comprehensive accord with Iran that would prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb in return for an easing of economic sanctions.
Netanyahu has warned repeatedly that the Islamic Republic must not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons, although Iranian officials insist the nuclear program is purely for civilian use.
There is a heightened sense of urgency as the clock ticks down towards a March 31 deadline to agree on a political framework for the deal. Read more: Saudis 'would let Israeli jets use their air space to attack Iran' | The Times of Israel http://www.timesofisrael.com/saudis-said-to-mull-air-passage-for-israeli-jets-to-attack-iran/#ixzz3SiMKGBGJ Follow us: @timesofisrael on Twitter | timesofisrael on Facebook

Saudi Arabia sentences man to death for renouncing his Muslim faith

An Islamic court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a man to death for renouncing his Muslim faith and posting a video on a social media site which shows him ripping up the Koran before hitting it with his shoe.
The unnamed man in his 20s, from Hafr-Al-Batin, posted a video on social media site Keek which allegedly shows him ripping up Islam's holy book and hitting it with a shoe.
He has now been sentenced to death for denouncing his Muslim faith and 'various other acts of blasphemy.'
A source who was in the General Court during his hearing said: 'In the video he cursed God, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his daughter Fatimah and ripped a copy of the Holy Qur'an and hit it with a shoe.
'The death sentence was issued after his apostasy was proven,'  the English-language daily Saudi Gazette reported today. 
The Hafr Al-Batin branch of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice arrested the man last year and his case was forwarded to the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution.
Saudi Arabia follows a strict school of Islam and gives the clergy control over its justice system.
Under its interpretation of Sharia, apostasy demands the death penalty - as does other religious offences like sorcery - while blasphemy and criticism of senior Muslim clerics have incurred jail terms and corporal punishment.
Executions in Saudi Arabia are usually carried out by public beheading.
International rights groups say the Saudi justice system suffers from a lack of transparency and due process, that defendants are often denied basic rights such as legal representation and that sentencing can be arbitrary.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2966768/Saudi-man-sentenced-death-video-hitting-Koran-shoe.html#ixzz3Shyk2utj
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Video - President Obama: Diplomacy the key to diffusing Mideast threats

Video - Secretary Kerry Testifies Before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Foreign Operations

How Netanyahu's speech to Congress has jeopardised US-Israel relations

The White House is agitating in support of Binyamin Netanyahu’s opponents in next month’s Israeli election as his plan to attack Barack Obama’s Iran policy in an address to the US Congress continues to backfire on the Israeli prime minister.
The Obama administration has engineered a series of highly visible snubs of Netanyahu – from refusing a White House invitation and levelling accusations that the Israeli government is not trustworthy to a humiliating leak about new limitations on intelligence sharing – just weeks before the Israeli leader faces a tight general election.
Top administration officials, including Vice-President Joe Biden and the US secretary of state, John Kerry, have made a point of meeting Israeli opposition leaders who have seized on the dispute to characterise Netanyahu as jeopardising relations with Israel’s most important ally.

Biden, who is also president of the US Senate, and several Democratic members of Congress will be conspicuously absent from next week’s speech in which the Israeli prime minister is expected to effectively accuse Barack Obama of being duped by the Iranians in negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear programme and of endangering the existence of the Jewish state.
Aaron David Miller, who served six US secretaries of state as an adviser on Arab-Israeli negotiations, said the confrontation marks a further deterioration in an already dysfunctional relationship between Obama and Netanyahu. But Miller, who is now a vice-president at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, said the Israeli leader’s divisive handling has handed the administration an opening “to try to demonstrate how much the US-Israeli relationship is dysfunctional at the top because of Netanyahu” and an opportunity to press for “regime change”.
“If you asked John Kerry and Obama privately who they wanted to see as the next prime minister of Israel, it wouldn’t be Netanyahu. They prefer the [Israeli opposition] Labour party. There’s no question about it. This invitation-gate, as I’m describing it, has created an opening for them,” he said.
That opening has been seized upon, Miller said, to try to embarrass Netanyahu before the Israeli electorate by portraying him as untrustworthy and endangering the Jewish state’s most important diplomatic relationship.
The White House is particularly incensed that the Israeli ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, and John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, conspired to arrange the speech to a joint sitting of Congress without consulting the administration. Democrats accuse Boehner of ambushing the president as the Republicans push – with the backing of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington – to strengthen sanctions against Iran, a move Obama has warned “will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails”.
But it was Dermer, who was born in the US and worked as a Republican political operative before moving to Israel, who instigated Netanyahu’s address to Congress.
Netanyahu has defended the speech as a legitimate attempt to stop Obama from making concessions to Iran that the Israeli leader said will leave Tehran on the brink of being able to build a nuclear weapon.
“I am going to the United States not because I seek a confrontation with the president but to speak up for the very survival of my country,” Netanyahu tweeted.
But Netanyahu’s warnings of an imminent threat from Iran, already treated with scepticism, will have been further undermined by revelations in the Guardian this week that Israel’s own intelligence service, Mossad, contradicted his claim to the United Nations in 2012 that Tehran was about a year away from constructing a nuclear weapon.
Leading Democrats have described the timing of the speech as an “outrageous” attempt by the Israeli prime minister to bolster his support in the 17 March parliamentary election as well as an attempt to provide ammunition for Republican attacks on Obama.
Last week, the White House made an unusually direct attack on the Israeli government, accusing it of dishonesty in selectively leaking information about the Iran nuclear talks to the Israeli press in an attempt to discredit the negotiations.
“We see that there is a continued practice of cherry-picking specific pieces of information and using them out of context to distort the negotiating position of the United States,” said the White House spokesman, Josh Earnest. “There’s no question that some of the things that the Israelis have said in characterising our negotiating position have not been accurate.”
That led the US not only to take the unusual step of limiting the intelligence it shares with Israel about the Iran talks but to embarrass Netanyahu by leaking the move.
Biden and Kerry met Israeli opposition leaders on the sidelines of a security conference in Germany in a clear snub to the Israeli prime minister. Netanyahu will address Congress with a conspicuously empty chair behind him as Biden is making a hurriedly arranged trip to South America. A small number of congresspeople have said they will boycott Netanyahu’s address.
“All of these things have been wilfully orchestrated,” said Miller. “Number one to demonstrate how upset they are by this invitation but, number two, to take advantage of that fact to demonstrate to the Israeli electorate that Netanyahu’s mismanaging it.”
Two leading Democratic senators, Dianne Feinstein and Richard Durbin, this week wrote to Netanyahu warning that his speech “threatens to undermine the important bipartisan approach towards Israel”.
“It sacrifices deep and well-established cooperation on Israel for short-term partisan points – something that should never be done with Israeli security and which we fear could have lasting repercussions,” the senators said in the letter.
Howard Dean, the former Democratic party chairman, was unusually strident for an American politician in describing the Israeli prime minister as a “disaster” earlier this month.
“I don’t trust Netanyahu. I think he’s not served Israel well,” he told MSNBC.
Opinion polls in Israel show the public divided on the address to Congress with widespread suspicion that Netanyahu is using it for electoral advantage. The Labour party leader, Isaac Herzog – campaigning in coalition with other opposition parties under the Zionist Union banner – has called Netanyahu’s speech a “strategic mistake”, and accused the prime minister of using it for his own “political interest”.
Zahava Gal-On, leader of the small leftwing Meretz party, accused the prime minister of “impairing” Israel’s relations with the US.
Netanyahu’s Likud party has fought back with a campaign advert that suggests that if modern Israel’s founder, David Ben Gurion, had listened to the US state department in 1948, the state would never have been born.

Kerry in apparent jab at Netanyahu: Those bad-mouthing Iran deal don't know what deal is

US Secretary of State John Kerry defended the ongoing nuclear talks with Iran on Tuesday in comments that appeared to be directed at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
As Netanyahu accused the P5+1 group of world powersof giving Iran a green light to maintain the ability to make nuclear weapons, Kerry said that those bad-mouthing the deal are doing so prematurely, before the contours of the deal have been determined.

During a tour of the IDF's Southern Command,  Netanyahu said that "the information I have received in recent days reinforces our fears in regard to the emerging deal between world powers and Iran."

The deal would "allow Iran to become a nuclear threshold state. That is to say, with the agreement of the world powers, Iran will be given license to develop the ability to make a bomb," Netanyahu charged.

The prime minister again defended his decision to address the US Congress next week, saying that Congress "may be the final chance to block a deal between the world powers and Iran."

Speaking at a congressional hearing on the US State Department budget Tuesday, Kerry said in apparent answer to Netanyahu's recent warnings about the emerging deal, "I can't state this more firmly, the policy is Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. Anyone running around right now, jumping to say we don't like the deal, or this or that, doesn't know what the deal is. There is no deal yet."

Talks between Iran and world powers were set to resume next Monday, it was decided after Kerry and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif held talks in Geneva on Sunday and Monday. The sides are hoping to reach an agreement by March 31 that would answer concerns over military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief for Tehran.

"I caution people to wait and see what these negotiations produce. Since 2013 we have been testing whether or not we can achieve that goal diplomatically. I don't know yet. But it's the most effective way to solve the problem and we will prove that over the course of these next weeks and months," Kerry said Tuesday.

"The P5+1 talks have made inroads since the Joint Plan of Action. We've halted the progress of Tehran's nuclear program. We've gain unprecedented insight into it and we expect to know soon whether or not Iran is willing to put together an acceptable and verifiable plan," he added.

Obama Vetoes Keystone XL Pipeline Bill

President Barack Obama has officially vetoed a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, marking his third rejection of congressionally approved legislation during his six years in office.
The president notified the Senate of the veto on Tuesday afternoon.
The veto, which was long expected, came the same day that the GOP-dominated Congress formally submitted the bill to Obama, although it was passed by both chambers of Congress before the week-long Presidents Day recess.
The White House has said that the president opposes the bill because it would cut short an ongoing review process of the project by the State Department. Obama has also expressed some skepticism about how many jobs the pipeline would create.
Congress could override the veto if two-thirds of both the House and the Senate vote to do so, but lawmakers aren't expected to reach that threshold.
Republicans have accused the president of bowing to pressure from environmental activists who oppose the project. These advocates say the pipeline could cause spills and argue that it would increase the nation's dependence on fossil fuels.

Pashto Music - Fazal Malik Akif - Baraan Wai Baraan

Afghanistan Transfers Captured Uyghur Militants to China

Late last week, Reuters reported that Afghan authorities had arrested over a dozen Muslim Uyghur militants and turned them over to China. The report noted that Afghanistan wanted to “persuade China to use its influence with Pakistan to help start negotiations with the Taliban.”
The deal is evidence of China’s growing influence in the Afghan peace process as well as China’s involvement in ensuring better relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since Ashraf Ghani came to power in Afghanistan last fall, relations between Afghanistan and China have been growing considerably. Beijing is currently involved in setting a path forward for talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban (more on that process in my take from last week).
The Reuters report, in particular, included a very straight-forward acknowledgment from an Afghan security official of the tit-for-tat nature of the Uyghur militant transfer deal: ”We offered our hand in cooperation with China and in return we asked them to pressure Pakistan to stop supporting the Taliban or at least bring them to the negotiating table.” That statement should remove any doubt that Afghan officials don’t fully appreciate the role China can play in facilitating a sustainable peace process with the backing of the Pakistani government. Afghan officials made sure to let the Chinese know that the captured Uyghur militants “had trained in militant camps across the border in Pakistan.” Beijing has long been concerned about Uyghur militants using the poorly governed areas in Pakistan’s northwest for training and regrouping.
In a rare trip to Kabul last year, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made it abundantly clear that Chinese concerns about Afghanistan growing into a haven for Uyghur radicalism were a major point of China’s bilateral approach to Afghanistan. Ever since then, we’ve seen China approach Afghanistan more overtly regarding security cooperation. For Beijing, the ability of the governments in both Islamabad and Kabul to effectively counter terrorism within their own borders directly affects its own ability to control Xinjiang. During Wang’s visit, Afghanistan’s then-foreign minister, Zarar Moqbel Osmani, told Wang that Afghanistan “would never allow the ETIM [East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a Uyghur militant group] to take advantage of the Afghan territory to engage in activities endangering China, and will continuously deepen security cooperation with the Chinese side.” This recent deal represents a crystallization of that promise, albeit under a new government.
The deal with China also showcases Afghan authorities’ increasing willingness and ability to work across the border on counter-terrorism and security issues. In early January, Afghanistan captured Taliban militants involved with December’s brutal terror attack on a school in Peshawar and helped Pakistani authorities with their investigation of the attack. In early February, the Pakistani government and military formally commended Kabul’s efforts. All of this bodes well for cooperation across the Durand Line, which has historically been stymied by a combination of weak governance in Kabul and a Pakistani military establishment obsessed with countering Indian influence in Afghanistan.

Kerry says Obama to decide soon on US troops level in Afghanistan

The US Secretary of State John Kerry has said President Barack Obama will decide soon on adjusting the level of US troops in Afghanistan.
“I think the president is on the right track, and I think the evaluation that is going on now with respect to the adjustment of the troop (level) is appropriate. And the president will make his decision shortly,” Kerry quoted by Reuters said.
This comes as the US Defense Secretary nominee Ashton Carter had earlier this month that he would consider changing the current plans for withdrawing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of next year if security conditions worsen.
In the meantime, Carter visited Afghanistan earlier this week to meet American troops and commanders, Afghan leaders and assess whether U.S. withdrawal plans are too risky to Afghan security.
Carter said the withdrawal plan of US troops from Afghanistan will be discussed in further details during President Ghani’s visit to US next month.
He said the withdrawal plan was discussed during his to Kabul with the Afghan officials and insisted that the issue should be reconsidered.
The former US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said earlier in December last year that up to 10,800 US troops would remain in Afghanistan for the first few months of 2015 but the drawdown will restart and the number of US troops would be reduced to 5,500 by the end of the same year.

Gunmen Abduct 30 Shi'ites in Southern Afghanistan

Officials in southern Afghanistan say gunmen have abducted 30 men who are members of the country's Hazara Shiite Muslim minority group.
No one has claimed responsibility for the late Monday abduction, which officials say began when the gunmen stopped two buses on a major road in Zabul province.
An official with the bus company said the driver stopped for the gunmen because he believed they were soldiers. He said the kidnappers took the men, but left behind the women and children.
Afghan police said an investigation is under way to find out who is responsible for the abduction.
Hazaras have been the targets of bombings, kidnappings and other attacks in recent years by Taliban extremists and other Sunni extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

Millions of Pakistani infants short of anti-TB vaccination

Millions of infants in Pakistan will miss anti-tuberculosis immunization due to a countrywide shortage of Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine that protects them from tuberculosis.
The situation is more acute in Punjab province as the federal Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) did not provide BCG vaccine to the province for the month of February, Dawn Online reported Tuesday.
Under-five children form 15.2 percent of the population in Punjab, one of the most populous provinces of the country.
The federal EPI has categorically conveyed to the provinces that it has not yet received this particular vaccine from Unicef primarily due to its unavailability in the global market.
It is for the first time that infants have been denied BCG vaccine from February 1.
According to official figures, over five million children are born every year in Pakistan.
This vaccine is on the World Health Organisation`s (WHO) list of essential medicines, being the most important medication needed in a basic healthcare system.
Unicef has expressed its inability to ensure the supply of this vaccine to the federal government before April 2015 as its manufacturing had come down globally.

Indifferent To Problems Of Balochistan: Legislators Want Diplomatic Passports

At a time when people of Balochistan are suffering from plethora of problems, Members of Provincial Assembly (MPAs) of Balochistan demand diplomatic passports for speaker and Deputy Speaker of the assembly.
Yesterday, during the Assembly session a resolution was tabled by Health Minister Rehmat Saleh Balochistan which demanded Federal government to immediately issue diplomatic passports to Speaker and deputy Speaker of Balochistan assembly.
Apart from the resolution, MPAs also demanded that all members of the assembly along with their spouses and children should be issued Diplomatic passports for lifetime.
Other provincial assemblies of Pakistan have also passed similar resolutions in the past.
“This resolution proves the point that MPAs of Balochistan, especially those in government, are totally indifferent to the plight of people of Balochistan,” Sajjad Ahmad, An angry citizen told The Balochistan Point.
Sadiq Khan a graduate student told The Balochistan Point, “We are facing problems of Load shedding, kidnapping for ransom, unemployment but the most important thing for our representatives is to demand Diplomatic passports.”

Pakistan - Violence against child workers

The media carried the other day a shocking image of an 11-year-old maid beaten black and blue by her employers. The girl child from Sargodha worked for the family of a well-educated Grade 18 federal government officer - someone expected to act civilised - in Lahore. The victim told her rescuers the family members used to beat her with a plastic pipe "even on false complaints of their children." Fortunately for her, someone alerted helpline of the Child Welfare and Protection Bureau (CWPB) about the cruel treatment, and a bureau team accompanied by the area police raided the house. They found marks of violence on her face and other parts of the body, and rescued her. Many others of their ilk are not fortunate enough.

During the recent years, there have been two reported cases in Lahore, in one instance a girl and a boy in the other, beaten so badly by their employers that they succumbed to their injuries. The cases came to light because of the extreme brutality resulting in death, which could not remain hidden. There surely are countless cases all over the country that go unreported, either because the children are too afraid to complain or the parents are too poor and powerless to do anything. Most of the children working as domestic help are girls since boys mostly work - generally in exploitative conditions - in public places and hence have comparative freedom to run away. Girls are more vulnerable to maltreatment, even sexual abuse. Public welfare organisations such as CWPB are important, but inadequate to look after the welfare of all children forced to work.

The government needs to step in with appropriate legislative and administrative measures to protect children from maltreatment, injury, and abuse. Child labour is a bane of pervasive poverty in this country. The poor routinely send their children to work to supplement family incomes. It is the responsibility of the government to provide them with protection. The least it can and must do is to fulfil its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that urges state parties, among other things, to ensure that "no child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." There are several laws in Pakistan prohibiting or regulating conditions for child labour in different sectors, including factories, shops and business establishments. But there is nothing to safeguard the rights of domestic workers who form a substantial part of the workforce. It is about time child workers, like in the present case; also get a legal cover against abuse. Legislation alone, though, will not help, as is obvious from the way the child labour laws in other areas are ignored. It is equally important to put in place administrative oversight. Registration of all domestic child workers must be made mandatory, and complaint centres established and publicised to facilitate rescue and remedial action.

Pakistan - PPP lambastes Imran on terming journalist fraternity as blackmailer


Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has condemned Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf Chairman Imran Khan for his senseless allegations on media in which he declared them as ‘Blackmailer”. PPP Media Cell In-charge Senator Saeed Ghani and PPP Sindh chapter information secretary Waqar Mehdi in a joint statement said that Imran Khan had become popular as leader only because of media, which kept him in limelight especially during his devastating sit-in politics at the behest of some third umpire or else his ‘Dharna’ scheme would have died in the very first hour.
They said Imran Khan was not a politician from any aspect and hence he seriously lacked regard for any national institution including the judiciary, election commission, political leaders and the working
He felt no ethical restrictions prior to uttering anything from his mouth due to which the speculations were now being taken as true piece of information that Imran Khan had seldom been in his senses.
The PPP leaders asked Imran Khan to immediately tender apology to thousands of working journalist he had held as blackmailer failing which PPP would be at the fore front of prot4est from journalists fraternity and would also raise the issue on all democratic forums.

Abolishing Polio's Hold on Pakistan

By Aseefa Bhutto
2015, the year Pakistan aspired to eradicate polio in, has seen six new cases emerge in just the first month.
For those who see Pakistan through "Homeland"-style stereotypes, the march of a polio epidemic simply adds to the layers of crises that we get branded with. But even for Pakistan-watchers who privilige nuance over sensation, the question of why our country continues to grapple with a disease that has been preventable for over half a century, certainly begs an answer.
With cases continuing to rise and violence against health workers becoming increasingly common, the threat posed by polio to our children is both great and unprecedented. There can be no argument on the level and urgency of focus needed on its eradication.
So what contributes to our country's ineffectiveness in eradicating this disease?
When talking about polio in Pakistan the first point of discussion is almost invariably the security threat that now just goes with the territory, as it were. Vaccinators today face serious security risks. However, while this is a key factor in why this disease continues to plague our nation, it is not the only one. Along with security concerns, there is also significant religious stigma, inconsistent government commitment to eradication efforts and, after years of targeted efforts, an element of campaign fatigue.
Perhaps the most important element in ensuring that the polio eradication campaigns have the best chance of success is unequivocal support from the government. Health care has consistently been an area of focus for PPP governments, illustrated by efforts like the Benazir Income Support Programme which has continued on under the current government and regardless of whether they change the name it was, is and always will be the Benazir Income Support Programme. Specifically for polio, PM Yusuf Raza Gilani and former President Asif Ali Zardari both endorsed the National Emergency Action Plan, launched in 2012. Polio cases dropped precipitously: according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Pakistan in 2014 had a total of 306 cases compared to 93 in 2013 and 58 in 2012. There was a clear and dedicated commitment to removing polio as a threat to our children.
With the transitionary impact of an interim caretaker government and suspension of the PM polio cell, an invaluable part of the momentum driving efforts to combat polio was lost. Surveillance, communication efforts and vaccination programmes faltered in all provinces. While some developments have been made under the current government, including the creation of a mandatory polio certification programme, lack of government oversight and checks on the system have led to abuses. Reports of families being charged for polio drops that are, and always will be, free are unacceptable and must be addressed.
Understandably, campaign fatigue has also become an issue. When meeting polio workers one of the complaints that arose during a campaign was, "why are you just giving polio drops? My children are at risk of other diseases and you came here last month". Both health workers and the people can see we have far more to deal with than one disease. If we can tackle the mind-set leading to refusals of polio drops, we can remove an entire disease and redeploy the resources to other areas within our health system that are desperately in need of them. Education is one aspect: everyone leader from across the religious and political spectrums claims to support the polio campaigns, however, it is still common to have drops rejected on religious grounds. We need these leaders to come out and join our country's health programmes and help secure our children's future.
And finally, security. The overwhelming threat faced daily by our health workers is a harsh burden that they deal with continuously. Since the first attack on polio workers there have been repeated attacks on polio workers across the country. Even without the security threat, we are a country that is struggling with human resources in health care as we face shortages in almost all fields. And yet, during my four and a half years as Polio Ambassador for Pakistan by the United Nations, I have witnessed the unwavering commitment of these polio workers in the face of such adversity and open hostility. One cannot help but be touched by their stories: one health worker I met had refused polio drops to her child who later contracted polio. Since that time she has gone door to door during every campaign in her province to try and spare other mothers from suffering the hardship she had to endure. Another worker takes her child with her during campaigns and proves to mothers in front of them that her child has taken it therefore they should. This was based on the example my mother Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto set when she gave me the first oral polio vaccination (OPV). Their stories and actions leave no doubt in my mind that we as a nation are capable of eradicating polio but we must focus our efforts on ensuring that the infrastructure of the health system will allow for the safe access of polio teams to every child, regardless of their location.
In order to achieve a polio free Pakistan we must have the will from the people, government and religious scholars. We need support from the government that they will keep our health workers safe and will fully commit to eradication efforts. We need to assure the people through our strong and targeted efforts that the campaign will be successful and we will have a healthier Pakistan because of it. And finally, we need to continue to speak out and denounce those endangering our children by claiming a threat exists in the drops. This will all manifest itself in different ways, from educational mass media campaigns run by the government to the resolution of a single health worker to carry on despite the daily threat, but each element contributes to ridding our country of polio. As a people, we have the ability to defeat this disease, but only if we work in unison.

Is Pakistan’s 'War on Terror' Out of Time?