Wednesday, March 25, 2015

World War II - Distorting history is unacceptable

By Yan Yuewen

The entire world remembers the history of the world's anti- Fascist war and the ChinesePeople's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression.
But some important questions about the war must be clearly answeredWho launched theaggression at the beginningWhat dark motivations led them to start the warHow didallied nations unite in the strength of justice and how much did they sacrifice to fight forfreedom of humanityThe history of World War II (WWII), including its achievementsand lessonsshould be remembered by all nationsLegally binding internationaldocuments signed during and after the warpostwar trials of war criminals as well ashistorical research conducted over the past 70 years compose an undisputable foundationof the world's shared memory.
At presentsome Japanese politicians have brazenly attempted to distort WWII history,intending to relieve Japan of responsibilityThe world should be alert to these provocativeremarks and acts.
History cannot be reversedJustice will speak itselfHoweverwe must maintain vigilantagainst any actions that would seek to distort historical verdicts and deny the fruits ofvictory.
According to a recent survey conducted by Japan's leading newspaper The YomiuriShimbunonly 5 percent of the surveyed Japanese citizens said that they are "fully awareofthe Japan-provoked aggression and the Pacific WarAround 44 percent of therespondents said that they "know a littleabout the warAnd another 49 percent of therespondents answered that they are uninformed about the historyThe survey also showedthat education and school textbooks are the main ways for students to learn the truth ofpast warfare.
History should not be recklessly tampered withSuch acts are anathema to internationallaw and justiceThe postwar arrangement clearly confirmed Japan's responsibility foraggression in WWIIand Japan admitted it unconditionally.
The Cairo Declarationjointly released by the United StatesChina and Britain onDecember 1, 1943, stated, "The Three Great Allies are fighting this war to restrain andpunish the aggression of Japan."
The Potsdam Declaration (or the Proclamation Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender),jointly released on July 26, 1945 by the United StatesChina and Britain with the SovietUnion joining laterstated that Japan shall enforce the Cairo Declarationand alsodeclared the elimination "for all time of the authority and influence of those who havedeceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest." Thedeclaration went onsaying, "We do not intend that the Japanese shall be enslaved as arace or destroyed as a nationbut stern justice shall be meted out to all war criminals,including those who have visited cruelties upon our prisoners."
Japan accepted the terms of the Potsdam Declaration in the Imperial Rescript on theTermination of the War issued by Japanese Emperor Hirohito on August 15, 1945 and theJapanese Instrument of Surrender signed by Japanese delegates aboard the United StatesNavy battleship USS Missouri on September 2 of the same year.
Admitting its historical aggression and reflecting on the responsibility for war is aprecondition for Japan to reconcile with its Asian neighboring countries that sufferedunder its military campaigns in WWII.
The China-Japan Joint Statement issued on September 29, 1972 stated, "The Japaneseside is keenly conscious of the responsibility for the serious damage that Japan caused inthe past to the Chinese people through warand deeply reproaches itself."
The China-Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship signed on August 12, 1978 confirmedthat the 1972 Joint Statement "constitutes the basis of the relations of peace andfriendship between the two countries and that the principles enunciated in the JointStatement should be strictly observed."
The China-Japan Joint Declaration released on November 26, 1998, stated, "Both sidesbelieve that squarely facing the past and correctly understanding history are the importantfoundation for further developing relations between China and JapanThe Japanese sideobserves the 1972 Joint Statement between the government of the People's Republic ofChina and the government of Japan and the August 15, 1995 Statement by former PrimeMinister Tomiichi MurayamaThe Japanese side is keenly conscious of the responsibilityfor the serious distress and damage that Japan caused to the Chinese people through itsaggression against China during a certain period in the past and expressed deep remorsefor this."
In a joint statement on advancing strategic and mutually beneficial relations in acomprehensive waysigned on May 7, 2008, China and Japan announced that the twosides resolved to face history squarelyadvance toward the futureand endeavor withpersistence to create a new era of a "mutually beneficial relationship based on commonstrategic interestsbetween Japan and China.
From the perspective of either international system or bilateral relationsadmittingaggression in the past and reflecting on the responsibility for the war is what Japan mustdoOn the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the victory of the world's anti-Fascist warand the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggressionif Japaneseleader denies the history of aggression in his commemoration statementit will jeopardizecurrent international order and severely harm China-Japan relationsAs wellit will havea bad influence on Japan's development and its status in the international community.
Any retrograde step should not be taken on understanding historyIf Japan acts willfullyand unscrupulously on the historical issue for shortsighted intentionit will swallow thebitter pill at last.

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Saudi Arabia Could Buy the Bomb

By Gedalyah Reback

Experts fear the first country to go nuclear after a deal won’t be Iran, but Saudi Arabia.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s most explicit warning of the dangers of a “bad deal” with Iran are not that Iran would immediately get the bomb, but that other countries in the region might accelerate efforts to catch up with Tehran.
According to Emily B. Landau of the Institute of National Security Studies, whose expertise lies in nuclear proliferation and armament, all eyes are on Saudi Arabia.
Following Iran, “Saudi Arabia is the #1 contender to get nuclear weapons because there is a perceived relationship there with Pakistan. Saudi Arabia has financed Pakistan’s ballistic missile program and there might be some arrangement already in place on nuclear capability,” she said
“Saudi Arabia might be able to buy a bomb from Pakistan.”
Ms. Landau emphasizes that she is not saying anything new here. The speculation that Saudi Arabia (as well as Egypt and Turkey) would go nuclear in response to Iran’s program is an old one. Still, Saudi Arabia’s motivation might be more pronounced because regional proximity to Iran and because Riyadh has the financial means to compete.
“Saudi Arabia is the most motivated to get a nuclear weapon because of the Persian Gulf ‘subregional’ rivalry. Egypt and Turkey also have the motivation to be contenders and are not comfortable with Iran having a strategic edge over them.”
She went on to say that Iran is not unique in its motivation to at the least reach the so-called “nuclear threshold” where it would take very little effort to flip a civilian program to a military one.
“The tendency of countries who are members of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is to build civilian programs first or to build the infrastructure that can be turned to military purposes. Remember, the technology used for enriching uranium for civilian energy is the same used in the process to create higher grades for weapons.”
Arutz Sheva asked her more specifically about Turkey, given that many experts feel Turkey is trying to gain more influence in the region. She could not say for sure that Turkey would assuredly try to launch a military nuclear program or follow the Saudis in buying a weapon, but the temptation exists.
“I can say in terms of motivation that, yes, because Turkey wants to have a more assertive role in the Middle East. This was less the case when Turkey was trying to become a member of the European Union, but over the last 10 years you can look at their interest in playing mediator in the Middle East.”
She outlines attempts to usurp Egypt as the primary mediator between Israel and the Palestinians as early as Operation Cast Lead (2008-09), though Cairo maintained that role.
When asked how any of these countries might actually gain from having the bomb if there was a very slim chance they would use it, she explained that even the miniscule chance a nuclear weapon could be used in combat forces armies and governments to recalculate their strategy.
“Israel is an assumed nuclear state but is defensive in the nuclear realm. I don’t think this will be the case with Iran. Iran has hegemonic ambition and would like nuclear weapons to serve its interests in expanding those ambitions throughout the region.”
She tried to illustrate an example to explain how Saudi Arabia might be hesitant to stop more explicit Iranian aggression. She considered the possibility Iran might try to conquer the tiny island of Bahrain, a strategic Saudi partner where the Sunni-controlled government dominates the lives of its Shiite majority.
“Let’s take a theoretical scenario where Iran wants to take over Bahrain. If Iran had nuclear weapons, no state might see the country as important enough to confront Iran coercively. When nuclear weapons are in play, mind-games are the reality. With the small, small chance that a state might use those weapons, there is deterrence.”
She noted Saudi Arabia is as nervous as, if not more so than, Israel. However, the Kingdom has not utilized its public profile as much as Prime Minister Netanyahu to make known its objections to the current direction of the Iran nuclear negotiations.
She emphasized that Iran getting the bomb will have real implications on every other Middle Eastern country’s ability to counter Iran in Yemen or Iraq or Syria.
“Particular to nuclear studies – as opposed to Middle Eastern studies – getting the strategic value of the nuclear weapon isn’t a function of using that weapon. Nuclear weapons have strategic value across the board for whatever state has them.”
“Weapons of non-use come into play in deterrent relationships – like the United States and Soviet Union or between India and Pakistan, today. They have an influence on the way states relate to each other.”
That last point is the primary motivator for a country like Saudi Arabia: equivalency. If Saudi Arabia has a nuclear capability, particularly one already past a nuclear threshold, it can protect against further Iranian moves like in Yemen or Iraq. Notably, it could also facilitate any Saudi military operations in those areas. Still, Ms. Landau refused to promise Saudi Arabia would launch any military operations against Houthi rebels in Yemen or get more intimately involved in the wars in Syria and Iraq.
“The motivation to get some sort of nuclear capability will definitely be strong. I don’t think they’re necessarily going to take action on multiple fronts though, especially at such a sensitive time when they feel Iran is at an advanced stage.”

Bahrain Scholars Denounce ‘Unjust’ Trial of Sheikh Salman

Prominent Bahrain scholars denounced the continued detention of the secretary general of the al-Wefaq opposition group, Ali Salman, on the eve of his trial by Al Khalifa regime.
In a statement released late on Tuesday, the scholars denounced as unjust the trial of Sheikh Salman, calling on the Bahraini regime to acquit al-Wefaq secretary general from all "fabricated accusations", Al-Manar reported.
The statement was signed by Sayyed Jawad al-Wadai , Sheikh Issa al-Qassem, Sayyed Abdullah Guraifi, Sheikh Mohammad Saleh al-Rabihi and Sheikh Hussein al-Satri.
The scholars said that such stance is based on the "true perception of the religion", noting that this position aims at maintaining stability in Bahrain and preserving the country from slipping into chaos and sedition.

In Turkey, Not Even Posters of Women Are Safe From Violence


After a deadly sexual assault on a minibus, a hidden-camera campaign gains new meaning.

On February 11, a 20-year-old college student named Ozgecan Aslan was riding in a minibus in the southern Turkish town of Mersin. When she was the last passenger still aboard the bus, the driver allegedly pulled over and attempted to rape her. As she fought him off, he allegedly bludgeoned her with a crowbar, stabbed her to death, and cut off her hands to hide the evidence.
The murder caused a nationwide outpouring of anger over the treatment of women in Turkey, a country that has long struggled with high rates of gender-based violence relative to European countries. As Christina Asquith, a journalist in Istanbul, noted in The New York Times, 27 Turkish women were killed in January alone, a 20-percent increase over the same period last year. In the days after Aslan's death, women marched across Ankara, Istanbul, and Mersin holding signs that read, "Enough, we will stop the murder of women!" Twitter soon erupted with the hashtags #OzgecanAslan and #sendeanlat, or "you must also tell." More recently, the #OzgecanAslan campaign has been used to draw attention to killings of women in Afghanistan and other parts of the world.
Activists say Turkish men routinely face relatively mild penalties when caught injuring or killing women. "In 2014," Asquith pointed out, "a man in eastern Turkey who stabbed his wife multiple times was given a reduced sentence after he argued she was wearing 'provocative' leggings and speaking with another man." Some claim that government officials are propping up a patriarchal culture that regards women as second-class citizens. In response to Aslan's murder, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan "encouraged men generally to protect women from harm, since women were 'entrusted to men by God,'” according to Istanbul-based journalist Emily Feldman. A 2013 Hurriyet Daily News survey found that 34 percent of Turkish men think violence against women is "occasionally necessary," while 28 percent say violence can be used to discipline women.
Even Turkish immigrants in Europe and elsewhere occasionally hew to these convictions, as Michael Scaturro wrote in The Atlantic. "We grew up in Eastern Anatolia hearing that when a woman makes a mistake, she is always wrong. That it's even okay to kill her," one 40-year-old Turkish man told Scaturro in Berlin. "And some people in our community still believe this."
A 2010 video created by the Turkish anti-violence group Mor Cati, or Purple Roof, attempted to raise awareness of violence toward women in a public way:

The group placed large posters of women jumping for joy, their arms and legs splayed out beyond the frame's borders, all around Istanbul. The text next to the women reads, "I want to live in freedom."
The organization then set up hidden video cameras, which purport to show male passersby kicking and ripping off the cutouts' arms and legs. Underneath their missing limbs, the text reads, "Not violence."
"The women in the posters were subjected to violence," the video creators say, "just like at home."
The clip has been making the rounds again on Facebook in the wake of Aslan's death. A Turkish version on the page of Karabuk University (posted shortly before the attack on Aslan) garnered more than 2 million views.
All of the standard caveats apply here: We don't know if any female pedestrians took a swing at the posters, or what percentage of the images were vandalized. We certainly shouldn't assume that lashing out at an art project has any correlation to wife-beating. And it's worth noting that in the aftermath of Aslan's death, groups of Turkish men have taken to the streets, too, with some wearing miniskirts to symbolize their rejection of traditional gender norms.
Still, in the video it's startling to see how little some of the men hesitate before beating up the images. The viewer is forced to wonder why they don't give it a second thought.
After Aslan's death, Mor Cati published a long blog post condemning gender inequality in Turkey. "You cannot assess Ozgecan’s rape and murder as independent from male violence and politicians who ... distinguish between ‘chaste’ and ‘unchaste’ women," the group wrote. "You cannot analyze rape by isolating it from its male perpetrator and patriarchy."

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For Obama, a new twist in longest U.S. war

By Stephen Collinson

America's longest war just got a little longer for thousands of U.S. troops.
President Barack Obama's decision to keep 9,800 soldiers in Afghanistan through this year -- double what was previously planned -- represents an American bet that a new president, Ashraf Ghani, might finally be the reliable partner in Kabul who can solidify gains, such as they are, of the 14-year U.S. mission.
But though Obama has long pined for a dependable counterpart in Afghanistan and hoped for greater stability there, Ghani's arrival comes with a significant political price.
In order to bolster Ghani, who emerged as the winner after a U.S.-brokered settlement to a disputed Afghan election last year, Obama has had little choice but to accept his appeals for more U.S. troops to stay longer in Afghanistan.
And Tuesday's concession on slowing troop withdrawals sets up an even greater dilemma for Obama, who sees his historic role as concluding the expansive land wars he inherited in Afghanistan and Iraq. It also carries the risk of another misplaced gamble on another leader in the Middle East or South Asia who doesn't, or can't, deliver the friendly, solid leadership the U.S. desires.
So far, Obama and Ghani have been making a show of camaraderie.
    Ghani is basking in an effusive reception during a visit to Washington this week, a sharp contrast to the antagonism and treading on eggshells that characterized Obama's poisoned dealings with ex-president Hamid Karzai.
    And over and over, he is expressing deep gratitude for the sacrifices made by the United States to keep the Taliban at bay in Afghanistan,
    It is clear from the lavish welcome offered to Ghani -- a trip to Camp David, five hours in the White House and an address to Congress -- that the administration sees him as everything Karzai was not.
    Where Karzai was erratic, Ghani seems calm. Ghani favors a sharp Western business suit rather than the exotic flowing green robe that Karzai made famous. Where Karzai raged at civilian casualties in U.S. operations, Ghani is expressing deep and repeated gratitude for the price paid by the United States to keep the Taliban at bay in Afghanistan.
    "The people of Afghanistan recognize the bravery of your soldiers and the tremendous sacrifices that Americans have made to keep Afghanistan free," Ghani told a joint session of Congress on Wednesday to applause from the chamber.
    "We owe a profound debt to the 2,350 servicemen and women killed and the more than 20,000 who have been wounded in (the) service of your country and ours," he said. "Thank you for staying."
    Ghani's comments are part of a clear strategy to secure long-term U.S. support for Afghanistan's armed forces -- which now have primary responsibility for combat. He not only personally offered Obama praise but painstakingly singled out the long list of generals who have run the Afghan war, ambassadors appointed by Republican and Democratic administrations, and politically powerful lawmakers in both parties.
    In the short term, Ghani's visit does represent a tangible success for an administration that has struggled to rack up foreign policy wins, and a desire to cement Ghani in power will be one of Obama's goals.
    But later this year, or early next, Obama must decide whether to honor his vow to get every American -- save for a small detachment at the U.S. embassy -- home from Afghanistan or to pass on an enduring war to a third U.S. president when he leaves office in January 2017.
    "I think right now his intention is to stick to it. That's what he would like to do, and we know that is the legacy he would like to leave -- as the president who ended two wars," said Scott Smith, a former senior United Nations official in Afghanistan now with the US Institute of Peace.
    "But I think there is a very strong bipartisan consensus in Washington and on the Hill that it may be worth reconsidering this decision."
    Obama insisted at Tuesday's press conference with Ghani that the 2016 date for a full withdrawal was not negotiable.
    "This flexibility reflects our reinvigorated partnership with Afghanistan, which is aimed at making Afghanistan secure and preventing it from being used to launch terrorist attacks," Obama said.
    But the president added: "This specific trajectory of the 2016 drawdown will be established later this year to enable our final consolidation to a Kabul-based embassy presence by the end of 2016."
    Holding off on that decision makes sense for Obama, simply because of the elevated political stakes.
    But he will soon face familiar charges from Republican opponents that he is once again making strategic military decisions for political reasons, not based on battlefield conditions.
    And he will have to weigh whether a full departure of U.S. troops would weaken the fledgling Afghan forces, diminish American leverage with the Ghani government and offer an opening to the Taliban and other extremist groups.
    A key driver of his decision could be whether Ghani turns out to justify the hopes that are being placed in him and whether his current truce with his election foe, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, holds.
    Ghani inspires confidence abroad, partly because he speaks the twin languages of the Western elite — English and Commerce. An ethnic Pashtun, he's an academic, who was educated at Columbia University, worked for the World Bank and is a former finance minister won approval among outsiders for his economic reforms. He also lacks the past links to warlordism and violence of many others who came to prominence during Afghanistan's war torn modern history.
    "Every indication so far is that President Ghani wants to work closely with the U.S. and shares a lot of U.S. concerns on issues like corruption and so on," said Nora Bensahel, a defense specialist at American University.
    Importantly, Ghani is also sending a message to his own domestic constituency that he wants American troops to stay -- a step that was not taken by former Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, another post-war leader in whom the U.S. placed disproportionate hopes, ultimately souring the relationship and solidifying Obama's intent to fully withdraw from that country.
    And there are no guarantees that Ghani, over the long-term will continue to enjoy the honeymoon that he experienced in the White House on Tuesday -- especially as political conditions in Afghanistan remain dangerous.
    "There's not going to be a meltdown in Ghani-Obama relations, but there could be a meltdown in Ghani-Abdullah relations or some other catastrophic event in Afghanistan that could change the whole picture," said Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution.
    "Ghani is not going to be able to be a miracle worker and fix all of Afghanistan's problems."
    The U.S. has been stymied by the depths of the rugged country's problems and complicated politics before. And there is a cautionary tale of a White House wagering too much on a promising Afghan leader.
    More than a decade ago, another urbane, bearded and smiling Afghan leader came to Washington, stood in the White House and Congress, and told Americans, still traumatized by the September 11 attacks in 2001, what they wanted to hear.
    That man's name was Hamid Karzai.
    "Ten years ago, a Karzai visit to Washington would have been greeted with the same kind of welcome and excitement and positivity that this first visit from President Ghani has," said Smith.
    But as the war dragged on, Karzai became embittered that the United States went to war in Iraq and seemed to turn away from Afghanistan.
    When Obama came to power, the White House adopted a hands-off approach with Karzai despite sending a surge of U.S. troops to try and finish off the Afghan war. Soon allegations of corruption around Karzai found their way into the U.S. press and the Afghan leader's relations with Washington went badly astray.
    Still, for now the untested Ghani may represent Obama's best hope of getting out of Afghanistan without another blemish on a legacy aimed at ending wars -- one that has already been tarnished by his decision to send troops back to Iraq to fight ISIS.
    "I do think the president has a very real choice to make. I don't think he is being forced into this by any pressure Ghani has put on him," Bensahel said.
    "He has a lot politically at stake."

    افغان ولسمشر کانګرس ته وینا وکړه

    د افغانستان ولسمشر اشرف غني په واشنګتن کې د کانګرس غونډې ته د چهارشنبې په ورځ وویل چې امریکا موږ ته هیلې راکړې، موږ هیلې نه لرلې ناامیده شوي وو خو تاسو موږ ته هیلې راوړې.
    افغان ولسمشر بیا زیاته کړه چې موږ په افغانستان کې یو متل لرو چې هیڅ تحفه بې ځوابه نه پاتیږي نو که تاسو له موږ سره مرستې کړې دي موږ هم له تاسو سره د ترورزم پرضد مبارزې ته اوږه ورکړې ده.
    اشرف غني چې د مارچ په ۲۲ له ولسمشر کیدو وروسته د امریکا لومړی رسمي سفر پیل کړ، کانګرس ته یې په وینا کې دا هم وویل چې هغه ګواښ چې موږ هره ورځ ورسره مخامخ یوو هغه ټولې نړۍ ته متوجه دی. په افغانستان کې د امریکایي ځواکونو د قربانیو ستاینه وکړه او ویې ویل چې تر ۲۲۰۰ ډیر پوځیان په افغانستان کې وژل شوې دي او موږ د دې قربانیو درناوی کوو، همداراز د امریکا د مرستو مننه کوو چې د دې مرستو له برکته نن په میلیونونو نجونې ښوونځیو ته ځي حال دا چې افغانستان ته د امریکایي ځواکونو تر تګ مخکې یوه نجلۍ هم مکتب ته نه تله. افغان ولسمشر بیا د زیږون پر مهال د ښځو د مړینې د کچې یادونه وکړه او ویې ویل چې د امریکا د مرستو له برکته دغه کچه هم خورا راټیټه شوې ده.
    اشرف غني د امنیت په برخه کې د اسلامي دولت ډلې ته اشاره وکړه او ویې ویل چې داعش په خپل سر دا هڅې نه شي کولی د دوی تر شا دولتونه دي او دا د امریکا دنده ده چې دغه دولتونه وپیژني. اشرف غني بیا زیاته کړه چې په اسلامي نړۍ کې اکثر مسلمانان د ترورستانو اعمال غندي خو لوی اکثریت غلی دی او غلې ورځ د منلو نه ده.
    د افغانستان د امنیت په اړه اشرف غني وویل چې د پاکستاني پوځیانو عملیات چې په خپله خاوره کې یې د مشکوکو ترورستانو پرضد پیل کړل د افغانستان پر امنیت ناوړه اغیز وکړ.
    افغان ولسمشر بیا په افغانستان کې د ښځو حقونو ته اشاره وکړه او ویې ویل چې په کابینې کې مو څلور ښځې نیولې دي. خو ستونزې ډیرې دي چې زموږ ۳۶٪ ولس د فقر په ټیټه کچه کې ژوند کوي.
    اشرف غني بیا وویل چې موږ باید سولې ته ورسیږو. ده وویل چې سولې ته در سیدو لپاره ما او ډاکټر عبداله عبداله د پاکستان، هند، چین، عربستان، متحد عربي امارات او ترکمنستان له استازیو سره خبرې کړې دي او دوی ټولو ویل چې موږ متقابل اړیکي غواړو او په سیمه کې ثبات غواړو.
    اشرف غني بیا وویل چې امنیتي ځواکونه مو پیاوړي شوې دي، له امریکا سره مشارکت لرو خو ستونزې هم ډیرې دي، د دغو ستونزو د مخنوي لپاره هڅې کوو.
    اشرف غني بیا امریکایانو ته ژمنه ورکړه چې د دوی مرستې به نتیجه ورکړي او افغانستان به د القاعده په قبرستان بدل شي او کله به هم افغانستان د افراطیانو به کور بدل نه شي.
    افغان ولسمشر د خپلې وینا په پای کې وویل چې خدای دې وکړي چې د امریکا او افغانستان اړیکي تل پاتې وي. دې وینا یو ساعت دوام وکړ

    Video - Afghan President Says Islamic State A Threat To Central Asia

    Afghanistan - Ghani Hails US Sacrifices In His Address to Congress

    Appearing for the first time before the U.S. congress where he received warm welcome, President Ashraf Ghani hailed the sacrifices of the United States for Afghanistan's security, progress and women's rights.

    In his address to a joint meeting of U.S. congress in Washington, Ghani highly appreciated the gains by Afghan women, linking the achievements to the U.S. sacrifices over the past 13 years.

    "On September 10, there was no girl attending school because it was illegal," Ghani noted. "But today, more than three million Afghan girls are attending primary schools."

    Stressing that educating Afghan women was a vital need of the country, Ghani once again expressed that educating an Afghan girl could change the next five generations.

    "Today in Kabul, the designs have been completed to provide a high quality education for women in our universities," Ghani said, emphasizing that the women must have equal access to economic opportunities as men.

    Referring to the violence against women, Ghani noted that Afghanistan had signed global conventions as part of its commitments to ending violence against women.

    Touching on the issue of peace talks with the Taliban, Ghani stated, "We will negotiate with the Taliban from a position of strength, not weakness."

    He warned that Afghanistan would be the "graveyard of al-Qaeda and their affiliates."

    "We will use the peace talks as an opportunity, and we will not let our achievements to be destroyed."

    Calling on the Islamic countries to speak out against extremism, Ghani declared that silence against extremism was not acceptable.

    "Afghanistan is joining a new consensus in the Islamic world to reject intolerance, extremism and war."

    Furthermore, he appreciated the continued U.S. support and sacrifices for Afghanistan and said the Afghans were seeking for long-term partnership with the United States.

    "More than one million Americans served in Afghanistan and paid a huge sacrifice," Ghani said, thanking to all the American military generals who led the US-led coalition mission in Afghanistan.

    Touching on the tragedy of corruption, Ghani emphasized that Afghanistan would become a self-reliant country by ending corruption.

    "I am pleased that we are reversing the decades of mismanagement," Ghani said. "We respect your [American] taxpayers, and will remove corruption."
    Ghani's speech to the congress was part of its five-day important trip to the United States where he is accompanied by CEO Abdullah Abdullah, cabinet ministers and high-profile government officials.

    The US-Afghan relations, which were strained during former President Hamid Karzai's presidency, are now said to have been improved following the first visit of Afghan leaders since the formation of National Unity Government (NUG).

    Earlier in a meeting with U.S. State Secretary John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter at Camp David, the Afghan leaders were promised funding of all 352,000 Afghan forces, and another aid of $800 million to unity government's reform agenda.

    Pakistan - Operation Khyber-II

    Heavy fighting continues in the Tirah area of Khyber Agency as the armed forces clash with militants affiliated with the terrorist Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) group. The ongoing Operation Khyber-II is aimed at clear militant strongholds in the agency, especially the Tirah Valley where militants led by Mangal Bagh have enjoyed control for several years. The LI recently entered into a formal alliance with the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). In November last year, militants in Tirah Valley publicly beheaded a man accusing him of spying for security forces, which just goes on to show how necessary it is for the state to regain control of the territory.
    ISPR has claimed that so far 80 militants have been killed while seven soldiers, including Major Gulfam, also lost their lives. However, certain reports suggest that the number of deceased soldiers could be higher. COAS General Raheel Sharif visited the injured troops and praised them for their sacrifices. Such gestures by the military leadership certainly help in keeping morale high. It is important to convey to those fighting for the country that their services are being acknowledged and that the nation is grateful.
    Perhaps the political leadership could do better on this front. There is more to it than issuing a couple of overused token statements. There is a war going on, but it certainly doesn’t appear so considering how little the government has done to build a narrative to own and assist the ongoing military action. Visit the families of martyrs, thank them for their sacrifices, and remind everyone why they are being made in the first place. Acknowledge and celebrating heroes is one of the many ways to counter villains. As the government of a country that continues to suffer from confusion and distractions, it should be a source of clarity and be able to provide a direction for the future. Unfortunately, the political leadership is falling short of what it is required to do.
    As far as the Khyber Agency is considered, despite stiff opposition, the military is advancing steadily despite overtaking key positions previously occupied by militants. Verification of reports from independent sources remains a serious problem owing to the media’s lack of access to the region. There is a need to devise a mechanism which would allow reporters some level of access to high-action areas. It is certainly not unheard of. Similar to other areas where operations have been carried out, thousands of families have been displaced, who need to be looked after. On this front too, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government and the federal government need to do more. Shifting blame doesn’t help the IDPs.

    Pakistan - In Chitral, home is the opium den for women and children braving cold


    They are not junkies or a group of friends, but family members smoking opium on a freezing cold evening in Baroghil Valley — a small town situated in the extreme north of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Chitral district.
    A traditional chillum (pipe) is passed from one member to another — including children — as they hunker on their knees, while thick smoke permeates the main room in one of Baroghil's households.
    A man smokes opium. — Photo by author
    A man smokes opium. — Photo by author
    “We smoke opium because we have no other option; it helps us to ward off the biting cold,” says Ahmed Tajik, a resident of Lashkargash village in Baroghil — where the mercury drops below -15°C in winter.
    While saying this, he puffs smoke in the face of his five- year-old son.

    70 per cent in Baroghil addicted to opium

    According to locals and researchers, more than 70 per cent of the population in Baroghil valley is addicted to opium smoking.
    A view of Baroghil Valley. — Photo by author
    A view of Baroghil Valley. — Photo by author
    The valley is situated at about 12,500 feet in the extreme northeast and is nearly 280 kilometres away from Chitral town — the headquarters of landlocked Chitral district. It is located at the junction of Hindukush, Karakoram and Pamir ranges and borders with Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Wakhan Patti.
    The mountainous valley comprises nine villages with nearly 4,000 households.

    Opium procured from Afghanistan

    Opium is not locally cultivated in Baroghil but smuggled from Afghanistan, which is the largest producer of the drug in the world.
    Wakhi tribes living in Baroghil are given to the traditional way of smoking. They prepare opium in a chillum, a process which takes about 30 to 40 minutes.
    "For a perennial effect, opium is mixed with aspirin and paracetamol," says local resident Amin Jan.
    "It is then put into the burning chamber of the chillum with a flaming piece of charcoal at the bottom which heats up the mixture. Then people inhale the fume through a pipe."
    The drug costs Rs1,000 per tola (11 gram). A tola lasts for about two to four days. Majority of Baroghil's residents spend their hard-earned money on buying opium.
    Women and children huddle together in their house. — Photo by the author
    Women and children huddle together in their house. — Photo by the author
    "The entire population in the valley is deprived of a basic livelihood with no access to health, education and other facilities," says Jan.
    He also states that a lack of entertainment activities in the area has compounded the addiction. "Heavy snow compels locals to remain indoors round-the-clock during winter; and given the lack of activity, they take to consuming the drug fervently."
    An elderly woman smoking opium. — Photo by author
    An elderly woman smoking opium. — Photo by author
    A traditional Wakhi house consists of one bedroom. "Opium is smoked in the main living room. After dinner, every house in the valley begins to reek of its smell," he adds.
    "Passive smoking triggers others, especially children, to take to the drug as well," he said, while sharing that he gave up on it some years ago.
    The addiction has created serious economical, physiological and health problems among locals.
    Local residents, however, say that opium usage is part of the Wakhi culture and can be linked back even before the creation of Pakistan.
    In the past few years, the remote valley has also gained an international reputation for freestyle unique yak polo which is played in July every year.
    People play a game of polo. — Photo courtesy: KP Tourism Corporation
    People play a game of polo. — Photo courtesy: KP Tourism Corporation
    Yak and cattle are the main sources of income in the valley. "Yak has a good market, but people spend mostly on opium,”said a native Zakirullah, who also quit opium smoking a few years ago.
    "I was a daily-wage worker for rich employers and would accept opium from my boss in exchange of salary. But I'm not the only one in line; there are dozens of young labourers taking opium instead of money.”
    According to Zakir, people nurture their animals only to sell them at a good price later, enabling them to buy opium for winter.
    A man smokes opium. — Photo by author
    A man smokes opium. — Photo by author
    “I became addicted to it during my childhood but I have given it up now. I still get urges when I see someone smoking,” he discloses, while explaining the nature of the addiction.

    Of brutal cold, cross-border movement and tradition

    For Amin and other residents, the reasons behind the high addiction rate are the brutal cold in the valley and the tradition itself which begins from a young age.
    However, local researcher, Dr Inayatullah Faizi, also sees free cross-border movement contributing to high opium smoking in the valley. “More than 80 per cent of opium is smuggled from Afghanistan,” he says.
    "When teachers and other government employees belonging to lower parts of the district are posted in Baroghil for 2-3 years, they also develop an addiction."
    Pointing out that people in the area are deprived of basic amenities in a modern world, he laments that the government is not taking a serious notice of the issue.
    "Locals perceive opium as a medicine and administer doses to children, especially when they have chest and cough problems," he says.
    In 2004, the Aga Khan Foundation had launched a rehabilitation centre to cure people of the addiction; however no visible results were seen due to a lack of funds. According to figures, 300 opium addicts, including women, were provided treatment.
    People undergoing rehabilitation at the Aga Khan Foundation camp set up in 2004. — Photo by author
    People undergoing rehabilitation at the Aga Khan Foundation camp set up in 2004. — Photo by author
    Officials supervising the centre said they were not satisfied with the rehabilitation process.
    “Almost 95 per cent of the rehabilitated people resumed smoking again,” an official of the rehabilitation camp told DawnNews.
    People undergoing rehabilitation at the Aga Khan Foundation camp set up in 2004. — Photo by author
    People undergoing rehabilitation at the Aga Khan Foundation camp set up in 2004. — Photo by author
    He said they had requested the authorities to seal the border in order to curb opium smuggling, but added that the government was reluctant to stop cross-border movement because majority of the border force personnel (BSF) were involved in smuggling as well.
    "Wakhi people are dependent on opium smoking and it has completely paralysed their lives."
    An official, who works at Aga Khan Health Services, visited Baroghil several times in light of the rehabilitation project and told DawnNews that funds are needed to control addiction in the area.
    "Without provision of funds and basic facilities, it would be very difficult to control the addiction," the official, who asked not to be named, opines.
    “Our dispenser at the health centre also became addicted to the drug and was arrested by police on charges of smuggling opium to Baroghil,” the official reveals.