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Israel, Saudi Arabia admit secret diplomacy for first time

Israel and Saudi Arabia have held five secret meetings since the beginning of 2014 to discuss the common threat Iran posses to the region, it was revealed for the first time Thursday at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, according to Bloomberg.
Although the two are considered to be historic enemies, with Saudi Arabia refusing to recognize the Jewish State's right to exist, they never-the-less have engaged in a campaign of clandestine diplomacy in an effort to thwart the Islamic Republic's growing influence in the Middle East. 

Dore Gold, slotted to be the next director general of the Foreign Ministry, and Anwar Majed Eshki, a retired Saudi general and ex-adviser to Prince Bandar bin Sultan and the former Saudi ambassador to the US, both addressed the Washington think-tank event, according to Bloomberg.

"Our standing today on this stage does not mean we have resolved all the differences that our countries have shared over the years," Gold said, adding "But our hope is we will be able to address them fully in the years ahead." 

The five bilateral meetings over the last 17 months occurred in India, Italy and the Czech Republic. One participant, Shimon Shapira, a retired Israeli general and an expert on the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, was quoted as saying :"We discovered we have the same problems and same challenges and some of the same answers."

Shapira described the problem as Iran's activities in the region, and said both sides had discussed political and economic ways to blunt them, Bloomberg noted.

Questions About US Cyber Attack: Not Just Who, But Why

The White House says it cannot say that China-based hackers carried out the massive cyber attack on the federal agency responsible for collecting background information on millions of government employees and issuing security clearances.
Spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday that he could not “get into any conclusions” about who or what country might be responsible while the government is investigating the matter. “We’re dealing with a persistent adversary and in some cases, the less they know about what we know about what they did, the better.”
But some officials and analysts believe China-based hackers, with possible links to the country’s government, are behind the attack that has targeted the personal information of as many as 4 million current and former federal government workers held by the government’s Office of Personnel Management [OPM].
Former FBI agent Brad Garrett is one: “The initial read that it is coming from the Chinese, the questions, is it state-sponsored.  It is a private entity?  Or are these just hackers?”

The Chinese government said this kind of speculation is jumping to conclusions. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Friday, it is irresponsible.

“We hope the U.S. can stop being constantly paranoid and making groundless accusations, but instead show more trust and cooperation in this field.”
Not Only Who, But Why

It would be somewhat uncommon for Chinese state-affiliated hackers to target the personal information of government employees, says Rob Pritchard, a cyber security specialist at the Royal United Services Institute.
"Typically, state-sponsored espionage has gone after technology and more traditional secrets - foreign policy decisions, things like that," Pritchard told VOA. "I think it's unusual for state-backed hackers to go after personnel details."
As the human resources office of the U.S. federal government, OPM might be seen as a high-value hacking target. Its computers store sensitive employee information such as social security numbers, payroll data, job descriptions, performance reviews and family information.
Such information could be of value either to criminals, who could sell the data for financial gain, or to state-sponsored hackers motivated by nationalistic concerns, says Pritchard.
Officials would not say what type of information was accessed or stolen. Nor was it clear if specific government employees were targeted, or if the hackers simply swept up large amounts of employee data for later use.
When asked about the speculation that the hackers may have been compiling a data base of Americans’ personal information, Earnest reiterated that the White House is viewing the attack as a threat to national security.
“We take this very seriously, and I think that’s why you’ve seen such a serious response from the federal government in reaction to it.”
OPM says it detected the security breach in April before it took what it calls an "aggressive effort" to implement tougher controls. It says the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security are investigating to determine the full extent of the damage.
OPM said it will notify all current and ex-federal employees whose information may have been compromised. The agency will offer those workers access to credit reports and monitoring, and identity theft recovery services at no cost.
US lawmakers react
The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, California's Adam Schiff, said the OPM attack is most shocking "because Americans may expect that federal computer networks are maintained with state of the art defenses."
U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a Republican and a member of Senate Intelligence Committee, said the data breach amounted to a foreign power seeking information on U.S. employees who have security clearances for access to sensitive information.
Collins told ABC News from the information she has received, the attack was very sophisticated and bears the hallmark of either China, Russia or Iran. 
Cyber security specialist Pritchard said the attack "demonstrates that for all the money the government is spending on cyber security they're still not getting it right."
Other attacks
The OPM cyber attack may be the biggest, but is not the first time hackers gained access to federal government computer systems.
Unclassified computers at the White House and State Department have been hit. Some databases at OPM were struck by hackers nearly a year ago. And Twitter and YouTube accounts of the U.S. central military command were struck earlier this year.
The Internal Revenue Service, which is responsible for tax collection, said last month that hackers stole information on 100,000 U.S. taxpayers.
Cyber warriors have also attacked such commercial giants as the Sony Pictures movie studio, Target and Home Depot stores, the EBay on-line auction site and JP Morgan Chase bank.
Some of the attacks have been blamed on North Korea, Russia and China. Experts said China has shown a particular willingness to get its hands on U.S. industrial and trade secrets.

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Pakistan - Metro Bus or Mars: The problem with our priorities


1969 was the year, when the United States succeeded in landing humans on the moon – our closest neighbour in space – and safely bringing them back to Earth.
The United States, being the most technologically advanced country on Earth, put that feather in its hat about 45 years ago.
What was the condition of India and Pakistan at that time? The two countries had already fought two battles, and were about to plunge into another one in 1971.
While the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was established in 1969, the same year when humans set foot on the moon, Pakistan’s Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) was established in 1961 – eight years before its Indian counterpart.
SUPARCO was set up by the most famous of all Pakistani scientists and the country’s only Nobel Laureate: Dr Abdus Salam.
Dr Salam had advised Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan, then President of Pakistan to establish a Space Sciences Research Wing within Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. This later turned into SUPARCO in 1964.
In 1960, President John F Kennedy had announced that the United States planned to land an American on the moon, and bring him safely back to earth before the decade was over.
Dr Tariq Mustafa, a scientist at Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission’s, writes in his memoir that for this project, NASA needed to map the wind conditions at the upper atmospheric region above the Indian Ocean.
In mid-September 1961, Dr Abdus Salam and Dr Tariq Mustafa held a meeting with NASA officials in Washington. On the occasion, NASA offered help to Pakistan in the development and launching of rockets to map the atmosphere above Indian Ocean, on the condition that any data acquired from the research on upper atmosphere will be shared with NASA.
  Dr Abdus Salam helped set up Pakistan
Dr Abdus Salam helped set up Pakistan's space organisation before India had founded theirs.
Pakistan quickly bagged the offer, and started working on the project. On 7 June 1962, Pakistan launched an unmanned rocket, Rehbar-I from Sonmiani, with assistance from NASA.
Dr Tariq Mustafa led the team working on this project. With this experiment, Pakistan became the third country in Asia, first in South Asia, and only the 10th country in the world to have conducted such a launch.
According to a report of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, before the June 1962 launch, NASA had started training Pakistani scientists at Wallops Island and the Goddard Space Flight Centers. It also put up fellowships and research associate programs at American universities for "advanced training and experience" in the field of space.
In subsequent years, however, Pakistan’s space program severely lagged due to the political turmoil which enveloped the country.
India built its first satellite Aryabhata, and launched it in 1975. Pakistan built its first satellite Badr-I and launched it in 1990.
India is now independently developing satellites, launching them on its own, and is the first nation to put its orbiter in Mars’s orbit in the first attempt. Meanwhile, Pakistan is still limited to Geographical Information Systems (GIS), remote sensing, and communication satellites.
The Paksat-1R, launched in 2011 is Pakistan’s latest satellite, that was funded, designed, built, and launched by our friend in need, China.
Pakistan’s only fully functional satellite is this communication satellite. So much for a national space agency in the 21st century.
Putting aside NASA and the European Space Agency, ISRO too started off with resources similar to Pakistan, and I will argue, with even lesser expertise than Pakistan.
SUPARCO was ahead of all other Asian nations in the space race, but what happened to us then?
On September 24, when India's Mars Orbiter Mission, or Mangalyaansuccessfully entered the Martian orbit, I was completely overwhelmed with happiness. Why?
Because as a person deeply interested in science, scientific achievement anywhere around the world – even if it is in some far off island in the Oceania – the achievement humbles me.
But at the same time, I think about Pakistan, the country whose passport I hold, and whose National Identity Card gives me an identity.
Pakistan is now nowhere in the space race.
Pakistan is nowhere near eliminating polio.
Pakistan is nowhere in literacy.
Where is Pakistan?
Pakistan’s education budget was, in actual terms, reduced by 11 per cent in the recent budget, whereas other countries are investing more in health and education.
It is obvious that the nation’s priorities are wrong.
I am not a critic of infrastructure projects, but roads, mass transits, flyovers, schools, and colleges are things Pakistan should’ve built a long time ago. The current focus should’ve been on education, science, and technology, with emphasis on space technology.
Why space technology? Because this is one area where technological advances require such intensive research on every subject, all the way from electronics to human biology, that every new project propels forward not just the field of space research but all other sciences touched by it.
Historically, we have seen several discoveries in one field or another as offshoots of space programmes.
For example, it was the US space shuttle’s fuel pump design which led to invention of the artificial heart. The heart has now been transplanted to more than 20 people.
The algorithm developed for sharpening the images acquired from the Hubble Space Telescope now helps sharpen the images of mammograms for treatment of breast cancer patients.
Dresses to keep the body temperature controlled for patients in certain diseases were inspired from astronauts’ spacesuits.
That is why the US spends billions of dollars on NASA every year; not just for an obsession with space, but for technological prowess overall, which ultimately translates into more development for people.
A number of people are still bashing India on failing to eliminate poverty before reaching out for Mars.
I will respond by saying Pakistan has neither eliminated poverty, nor reached Mars.
It is about time that the government reconsider its priorities.
Policies and funding allocations in our federal budgets need a revision. SUPARCO’s budget should be increased. It had potential in the past, and it still does! I met some great scientists from SUPARCO in a public fair once and was amazed at the enthusiasm of these people.
SUPARCO can still take the lead in the regional space program, if the government puts its attention towards it.
I am sure that if India has reached Mars in its first attempt, Pakistan will reach a new horizon too, in its first attempt, if it makes one.
And who knows if that horizon is as far as Pluto?
Let’s keep the hope alive.

Urdu Music - Naheed Akhtar - ZINDA RAHEIN TOU KIYA

Attack on aid workers reflects rising danger in Afghanistan

The killing of nine humanitarian staff by unknown gunmen has led to calls for better protection in the country known as deadliest place to deliver aid.

As the conflict in Afghanistan shows no sign of abating, local humanitarian workers are finding themselves increasingly in the line of fire – or at the mercy of violent criminals.
The latest such attack came early on Tuesday, when unidentified gunmen shot dead nine Afghan employees of the Czech NGO People in Need in northern Afghanistan.
Ross Hollister, country director for People in Need, said the attackers stormed the organisation’s guesthouse in the district of Zari, in Balkh province, at around 1.30am, where they killed two drivers, two security guards and five project workers, including eight men and one woman. Two others survived the attack.
Hollister said the victims had been killed “execution style”, with several of them shot as they slept in bed. The organisation has suspended its Afghanistan operations temporarily.
The incident adds to grim statistics that make Afghanistan by far the deadliest country in the world for aid workers. According to the UN, 57 aid workers were killed in Afghanistan last year.
This year is set become even more brutal, with 26 aid workers killed and 17 injured so far, according to statistics released by Acbar, a coordinating body for NGOs in Afghanistan.
“Killing an aid worker is killing support for the Afghan population,” Justine Piquemal, Acbar’s director, said. “There [has been] a real difference from last year – an awful and real increase.”
As international NGOs gradually scale down activities in Afghanistan, their local staff have remained in some of the country’s most dangerous regions.
Hollister said People in Need had worked for 12 years without security incidents in Balkh province, which is not a hotbed of insurgency, “so it [the attack] really came out of nowhere”.
However, Zari district is ethnically diverse, with deep-running, political faultlines and armed groups belonging to various factions.
While its motives are unclear – and theTaliban has denied responsibility – the attack reveals the complex set of risks that face aid workers in Afghanistan, where ideology, local politics and historic grievances all play a part, as does simple criminality.
“What we can say with clarity is that humanitarian workers are more vulnerable,” said Mark Bowden, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Afghanistan. “They work on the frontline in many cases. Secondly, they are more noticeable in terms of what they do in the community, and in some instances, some groups believe they are on the wrong side.”
He added: “If you’re working for an international organisation, people know that you have international backers, and you can be an easier commercial target or criminal target.”
Apparent disagreements within the Taliban about who should be regarded as civilians are also a factor. Senior Taliban leaders are said to have a broader definition than some younger militants of which humanitarian workers deserve protection.
However, the Taliban generally seemed to approve of the killing last December of 12 deminers in Helmand province, as well as the kidnapping of 19 deminers in April. The mine clearers worked for Sterling, an American commercial contractor, which is likely to have classified them as foreign agents in the eyes of the Taliban.
The Taliban also claimed the attack on a hotel in Kabul on 13 May, which killed 14 civilians, including six aid workers, on the basis of targeting “foreign dignitaries”.
Following the attack, Georgette Gagnon, the UN’s human rights director in Afghanistan, said the Taliban’s actions could amount to war crimes. “Taliban statements on avoiding civilian casualties ring hollow when we set them against the latest killings,” she said.
With cash-strapped militants looking for funds, kidnappings are also becoming more common. Acbar said 40 aid workers have been abducted so far this year.
The bodies of five of them, who worked for Save the Children, were found in April in the mountains of Uruzgan province, 40 days after they had been kidnapped.
Relatives of the victims said the kidnappers first demanded the release of five Taliban prisoners. When the authorities refused, they demanded the equivalent of £400,000 in ransom, which the families didn’t have.
“I was proud that my son worked for his own people … He never thought it was dangerous,” said Mualem Rahmatullah, the father of 27-year-old Rafiullah Salihzai, in a recent interview at his home in Tarin Kot.
Mohammad Tawoos Penham, whose brother’s corpse was found with one eye gouged out and bullet wounds to his chest, buttocks and back, urged humanitarian organisations to continue their work, despite the dangers.
“[The] Taliban and terrorists don’t want Save the Children to continue their activities in Uruzgan,” he said, “but they should help the children who are still here.”
He asked organisations to provide better security, such as armed guards, for their local staff. But equipping NGOs with that level of security would defy their purpose in the first place, said Bowden. “They wouldn’t participate in the community and do what they set out to do,” he said.
People in Need’s Hollister agreed: “The cornerstone of our security here is acceptance by the communities where we work. We remain neutral, impartial and not religious. But on some level there is nothing you can do.”

Afghanistan's Karzai Blasts Pakistan

Rahim Sarwan

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai sat down Thursday with VOA Afghan service reporter Rahim Gul Sarwan in Kabul to talk about incursions of the Islamic State, as well as relations with the U.S., China and, most vociferously, Pakistan.  
The current Afghan government and Pakistan are trying to move past the animosity that characterized Karzai's time in office, and have signed a controversial memorandum of understanding between their intelligence services.

The move comes as the U.S. winds down its military mission in the country and China has shown increasing interest in boosting trade and other relations in the region, despite small but apparently growing support for the Islamic State there.
Rahim Gul Sarwan: How big a security concern does Daesh [the Islamic State group] present to Afghanistan? Are you concerned that Daesh is taking root in Afghanistan? Is Afghanistan prepared for the challenge.

Hamid Karzai: Daesh is not an Afghan-born body ... it is not indigenous to Afghanistan. It was created out of the circumstances and because of foreign interference on a very massive scale in Iraq and Syria.

If there is any Daesh element or elements in Afghanistan, if they are making progress in Afghanistan, it means they have clear foreign backing behind them. It means it’s a foreign intelligence agency providing support to Daesh for purposes beyond Afghanistan.

If Daesh ever grows in Afghanistan this means somebody from outside of Afghanistan is trying to create these forces in order to harm China, Russia and Central Asia.
RGS: Both Pakistan and India say they don’t want to engage in a proxy war in Afghanistan. Who is to be believed?

HK: We should not believe anybody as a nation, as a people. We should take matters into our own hands on this and not allow a proxy war in Afghanistan. And not allow it.

And we must not give an excuse to any of these countries to point the finger at the other country in Afghanistan. Pakistan has been doing this. We must tell Pakistan that they cannot blame India’s work in Afghanistan or India’s work against Pakistan from Afghanistan.
That Pakistan has created enough mischief! And when I say Pakistan, I mean the Pakistani military and intelligence, not the people. They ‘re as much victims as we are — the Pakistani people — in the hands of the same agencies in Pakistan. So not the Pakistani people. The Pakistani military and intelligence must stop creating excuses for the promotion of terrorism.
You must have heard  Admiral [Mike] Mullen of the United States, the retired admiral [and former Joint Chiefs Chairman], who a few years ago said that the Haqqani network is a veritable arm of the ISI [Pakistan's intelligence service]. It’s proven.

ISI’s work in creating radicalism, in promoting radicalism, in using radicalism as a tool of terrorism, as a tool of foreign policy vis-a-vis Afghanistan and also vis-a-vis India and other countries. It should stop it. It should engage in a civilized relationship with Afghanistan. Then we will respond.

RGS: What role can the U.S. play to end war in Afghanistan?

HK: Well, if it is sincere in the war on terror, if it is sincere in the war on terror, then it should begin to be concerned with the countries in the region, especially the big countries of the region — China, India and Russia — and see it as a threat to all and begin a true international and regional cooperation.

That also means redrawing their plans in Afghanistan, focusing more on the Afghan people and the development of Afghanistan, focusing more on the economic upliftment of Afghanistan and less and less on military means in Afghanistan.

RGS: You recently visited China. What role do the Chinese want to play in Afghanistan?

HK: The Chinese can play an extremely important role. The Chinese want to play a very important role. The Chinese are truly desirous of a peaceful Afghanistan of a stable Afghanistan and we in Afghanistan must provide all the help, all the tools, all the support for Chinese engagement in Afghanistan, for Chinese efforts in Afghanistan, for peacebuilding and for bringing economic development to Afghanistan.

Pakistan - People protest against prolonged power outage in Peshawar

Hundreds of people took to streets on Friday from Peshawar’s Hazar Khwani and adjoining areas to protest against prolonged power outages, Dunya News reported.
The protesters blocked the Ring road for traffic due to which vehicles enroute to Khyber Agency and Afghanistan were lined-up in long queues.
The people chanted slogans against Wapda and were holding placards on which various demands were written.
Police reached the scene to negotiate with the protesters after which they dispersed peacefully on getting assurance that their problem will be resolved soon.
However, the protesters warned the police that they will stage demonstration again if the government didn’t fulfilled their demands.

Pakistan - Safoora attack points to growing Lashkar-i-Jhangvi influence: investigators

Investigators probing the first attack claimed in Pakistan by the Islamic State group believe a notorious local sectarian group may have carried out the massacre as it seeks to expand its ties to the Middle East.
Gunmen stormed a bus in Karachi last month, killing 45 members of the Ismaili minority community in one of the deadliest incidents in Pakistan this year.
The slaughter was swiftly claimed by IS, marking the first time the militants, who have seized control of large areas of Iraq and Syria and declared a “caliphate”, said they were behind an attack in Pakistan.
Islamabad has officially denied that IS is operating in Pakistan, which has been wracked by Al Qaeda and Taliban linked violence for more than a decade.
But investigators believe the attack may have been carried out by the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ) as it seeks to expand its international influence — and get access to IS's rich funding.
LJ has emerged as the bloodiest and most ruthless anti-Shia outfit in Pakistan, which has seen a rise in sectarian attacks in recent years, mostly targeting Shias, who make up 20 per cent of the population.
“We are investigating the LJ connection behind the attack and one of the arrested suspects is linked to LJ,” a security official involved in the probe told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“LJ wanted to gain attention of IS for its financial needs and the attack on Ismailis provided the perfect choice as it got international attention."

Returning fighters

Senior intelligence officials and militant sources say LJ cadres have fought in Syria and returned inspired by IS, which has won global notoriety for its brutality and slick propaganda operation.
The returned fighters are working with a new generation of middle-class, educated, self-radicalised 'jihadists' to try to raise the black flag of the IS “caliphate” in Pakistan.
An intelligence officer who has tracked LJ for years said the group, based in the southern part of Punjab, had sent hundreds of fighters to Syria.
“The new cadre of militants going to Syria and Iraq, these militants are mostly educated people with middle-class backgrounds,” the intelligence officer told AFP.
Over the past decade the patchwork of militant groups that make up the Pakistani Taliban have largely focused on waging a domestic campaign against the government and armed forces.
But a former LJ militant who produces online propaganda material for terror groups said for young militants in Pakistan, all the talk now is of IS and the Middle East.
“Many jihadists particularly from Punjab went to fight in Syria and some died,” he said.
“Unlike the past, news from Syria, Iraq and Yemen is the most debated and shared item on extremist-militant forums in Pakistan."
Security analyst Amir Rana said LJ had fighters in Iraq since 2013, and even set up a training camp there.
“The ideological and operational association between Pakistani militant groups and IS is not new, Pakistani militants were part of IS since its inception,” he told AFP.
“The actual threat for Pakistan is the return of LJ militants fighting in Iraq and Syria, as they would add to the sectarian violence here."

Silent surge

LJ, founded in 1996, was behind some of the worst attacks on Shias in Pakistan's history, including two huge bombings in the southwestern city of Quetta in 2013 that together killed nearly 200 people.
The security official said the group was now seeking to expand its operations.
“LJ is growing from an anti-Shia organisation to an organisation with trans-national interests,” he said.
The group has been accused of carrying out attacks in Afghanistan and has also begun targeting Christians, Hindus and other Muslim minorities.
“For the last two years, there is evidence that the organisation is involved in attacking minorities in urban centres where they have established strong bases, especially in Karachi,” he said.
“But LJ has claimed responsibility for hardly any of those incidents — usually militant organisations with no structural or organisational existence have claimed responsibility for attacks carried out by LJ,” he added.
He said LJ maintained a strict cellular structure, with individuals in one unit unaware of the existence of others, and sometimes drew militants from other groups for specific missions.

Educated and radical

On May 20, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah announced the first arrests in connection with the Karachi bus attack.
He said four “highly educated” suspects had confessed their involvement, including a graduate of the city's prestigious Institute of Business Administration.
The detentions of the alleged plotters, who police believe coordinated the gunmen on the ground, caused some surprise in Pakistan, where militancy has been regarded as the preserve of the poor.
But the arrests come as no surprise for officials investigating the case.
The intelligence official overseeing the Karachi investigation said the abundance of extremist literature on the web was attracting educated people from the middle class.
Another senior intelligence official said people with strong academic backgrounds were being increasingly radicalised following the Syrian conflict.
“These 'educated jihadists' are embedded in society, they have normal lives and keep their ideologies alive through the Internet — that's why it is difficult to place tabs on them,” he said.

Pakistan - Metro In Islamabad

The Prime Minister inaugurated the Rawalpindi Islamabad metro bus service yesterday, fulfilling another of his dreams, as revealed by one of his loyal representatives from Rawalpindi to those gathered at the inaugural ceremony.
He further chose to let the congregation know that the PM expressed his desire to have such Metros in Pakistan while he was having a ride on the underground London Metro Railway.
While disclosing this passion of the PM to provide such services in the country , he naively uttered absolute ignorance of himself and his current leader of the historic circumstances and economic factors which turned London metro into reality.
The oldest rapid transit system in the world was launched in 1863, kept expanding and carried 1.
23 billion passengers in 2012/13.
Those were the days when the sun never set on the British Empire.
Heavily indebted, our country which the PM is leading, for the third time, after yet another controversial election, bears the world’s lowest possible performance indicators in economy and social services sectors.
Though a nuclear power, it stands entrapped in a war within its own boundaries while the society is struggling against the bigots who are targeting everything resembling sanity.
In such grim conditions, is it justifiable to spend such large amounts on services which can be viewed best as luxuries?
The 52 billion Rupees Metro project was reportedly undertaken without any feasibility or environmental impact study; which was produced only as an after-thought.
Most of the commuters travel to Islamabad from faraway places like Rawat, Bharakahu and Tarnaul.
These commuters have no direct access to the metro stations which are usually provided with feeding lines to facilitate passengers from a wider area.
There are no bicycle stands along the metro stations although a majority of the poor people still use this economical and healthy mode of transport.
The bus stations with glass all around are going to become ovens in the scorching heat during the summers.
The residents of the twin cities rightfully feel that it has devastated the environment and has been built in entire violation of the master plan of the capital city, which was once considered to be one of the most beautiful capitals in the world.
The Planning Commission owes an explanation to the public on all such issues while the political leaders need to modify and re-set their priorities; preferring the flow of expenditure to improve the current facilities with a focus to strengthen the law enforcement agencies as the top most priority.

Malala building opened at James Gillespie’s High School

PUPILS and staff at one of the Capital’s top performing secondaries are celebrating after a new teaching block was opened at their school.

The ribbon has been cut on the Malala Building at James Gillespie’s High as part of a £42.8 million redevelopment.
We revealed last month how pupils had decided to name the teaching block in honour of Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, now 17. She survived being shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in Pakistan in 2012. She was targeted because of her work promoting girls’ education.
Staff and pupils said they were “hugely impressed” with the new facility, which houses the main teaching area and features 57 classroom spaces with full-height glazing to maximise daylight and views.
Headteacher Donald Macdonald said: “It’s a wonderful facility – the design and layout is like no other school.
“There’s a real feeling of light and space with one side of every classroom glazed to allow in lots of natural light and giving views across Edinburgh.
“In fact the building’s been so well received that, despite being on exam leave, many senior pupils chose to come into the new building to study rather than stay at home.”
The opening is part of a rebuild which has already seen the construction of a nursery, two classrooms and a gym at James Gillespie’s Primary.
A synthetic pitch at Thirlestane Road has also been provided for use by secondary pupils.
The final phase will see the demolition of all remaining high school buildings to allow the delivery of new sports and performance blocks.
In addition, the A-listed Bruntsfield House at the centre of the campus is undergoing refurbishment.
Councillor Paul Godzik, the city’s education leader, who joined learning minister Dr Alasdair Allan to open the new block yesterday, said: “I know the staff and pupils are excited to be in the new teaching block which is really impressive.
“This is a modern, fit-for-purpose facility which is unique in Scotland with its courtyards and collaborative break-out areas and will deliver an unrivalled learning 
environment for pupils.
“Work is already under way on the sports and performing arts buildings which will be finished next year and give the James Gillespie’s community a school they can rightly be proud of for many years to come.”
Dr Allan said: “This is an exciting day for pupils and staff at James Gillespie’s High School and I was delighted to be at the official opening of the new Malala Building.
“The Scottish Government is committed to providing modern and sustainable new schools through our Schools for the Future programme and I’m pleased we could provide more than £20m towards the cost of this project.”
He added: “The design of the new school provides modern and inspiring spaces for pupils to learn in.”
Malala was awarded the Nobel prize last year.

Malala's attackers quietly freed by Pakistan


At the end of April, Pakistani officials told CBS News that 10 men linked to the Taliban had been sentenced to 25 years in prison for the attempted assassination of teen activist Malala Yousafzai in the country's Swat province.

Friday, however, it emerged that eight of those men were subsequently set free -- and may never have been convicted in the first place -- by a secret military court that found the evidence against them "had gaps."
A senior Pakistani intelligence source confirmed to CBS News' Farhan Bokhari that only "two of the ten suspects have been convicted," and said the other eight "have been freed because they did not carry out the shooting."
Officials from the Pakistani Embassy in London told CBS News later Friday that the eight freed suspects were acquitted because of a lack of evidence against them.
The current whereabouts of the eight men freed by the court, however, remained a mystery.
The two convicted suspects have been sentenced to life imprisonment, according to the embassy in London.
It was The Mirror tabloid of Britain which first reported the development in the story on Friday, saying it had tried to track down the 10 convicts in Pakistani prisons and uncovered the apparent inconsistency.
The official, who spoke to CBS News on the condition of anonymity, said the eight men released had been "held on charges of facilitating this crime, but in the end the evidence had gaps which is why they were freed."
Yousafzai was attacked in 2012 -- shot at close range in the head -- by militants for speaking out in support of girls' education. She was critically wounded in the attack, which took place on a bus as she returned from school in her native city of Mingora, in Pakistan's northern Swat valley. She was subsequently taken to Britain for specialized medical care.
Yousazai went on to gain international recognition for her bravery and last year became the world's youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
The details around the two original suspects who have in fact been convicted and imprisoned also changed Friday, with officials telling the Mirror and the BBC that they were the men who actually carried out the attack.
At the end of April, officials said the 10 had been convicted essentially as accomplices, and that the two primary suspects in the case were still at large; identified then as Ataullah Khan, an Islamic militant believed to have pulled the trigger, and Maulana Fazlullah, leader of the Pakistani Taliban. Both men were purportedly believed to be hiding in Afghanistan.
"We are actively pursuing those two," a senior government official from Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's office told CBS News in April. "Sooner or later, both of them will be caught or killed."
That official could not be reached Friday by CBS News for comment.
The trial which led to the two convictions which appeared Friday to actually have been carried out -- and the eight other reported convinctions -- were handed down by a Pakistani court which conducted the trial in complete secrecy, without any members of the media present.
Word of the convictions in April took the journalists of Pakistan, and the world, largely by surprise as there had been no talk of suspects even being in custody. Islamabad had come under increasing pressure to find and arrest the perpetrators, especially given the huge attention gained by Yousafzai's Nobel Prize win.