Monday, June 22, 2015

Pashto Music - Sardar Ali Takkar, Ghani Khan - Makh de tabaana sta

Why Afghanistan Needs Pakistan


I served two tours of duty in Afghanistan. During my first deployment in 2009, I was the Chief of Plans for ISAF Joint Command working under U.S. General David M. Rodriguez. During my second tour in 2010, I assumed command of combined Team Uruzgan, a diverse force of coalition soldiers from ten countries, including Australia, Singapore, France, New Zealand, and the United States (see: “Shades of Gray in Afghanistan”).
These two deployments in the country revealed to me the extent to which fear of Pakistan permeated all Afghan discussions pertaining to national security and that such a pervasive angst had the potential to undermine our joint efforts in combating Taliban insurgents. Here are two brief examples.
In October 2009, the Afghans were in the process of training and equipping their sixth Afghan National Army Corps, the 215th Corps.  With the support of ISAF and NATO, this major combat unit represented a significant increase in combat capability.  The unit was designed to help bring security to the southern and eastern regions in Afghanistan and serve as a counter balance to the Taliban safe havens in Pakistan.  The deployment location and mission of the 215th Corps was a critical strategic decision worthy of significant analysis and debate at the highest levels in Kabul.
After exhaustive analysis which examined the Taliban disposition, Afghan National Army force allocation, and a review of critical information associated with the most pressing threats to the Afghan government, the recommendation of the Afghan Army staff, supported by ISAF, was to station the 215th Corps in the vicinity of Helmand Province. This decision was made to relieve the hard pressed 205th Corps in Kandahar and double the Army’s effort in the most threatened area of Afghanistan. Eliminating the Taliban presence in Kandahar was seen as essential to the success of the over-all mission.  Establishing a major Army headquarters in Helmand with the new 215th Corps would enable to 205th Corps to concentrate its forces on the most critical region.
The plan as designed was approved and executed, achieving dramatic results in Kandahar. After two years of fighting with the 205th Corps focused in Kandahar and the 215th focused in the adjacent Helmond province, the Taliban had largely been eliminated from Kandahar. Yet, the plan as briefed by the Afghan Army staff was approved only after heated exchanges and pointed discussions centered on whether the Corps should be focused on Taliban insurgent activity or against a potential armored attack from Pakistan directed at seizing Kabul.
The deep seeded mistrust and historical animosity between Afghan and Pakistan leaders directly influenced the planning for critical Army unit mission assignments and could have prevented what turned out to be a substantial gain against the Taliban.
In August 2010, Provincial Governor Khoday Rahim was holding a district wide Shura the isolated village of Chora in southern Afghanistan. This was his first visit since the accidental death of the district governor, Rosie Khan, and it turned into what seemed like a giant episode of the “Jerry Springer Show.”  Rosie Khan’s son, Mohammad Dawood Khan, had taken over as the district governor and the provincial governor was going to discuss challenges to local security and economic growth. At the Shura, the tribal elders and other leaders of the district met with the governor and other Afghan and Coalition leaders, including the police chief, Brigadier General Gul, the army commander, Brigadier General Hamid, and the National Directorate of Security chief, General Zakaria. The pointed discussions lasted four hours in the shade of the district center building in temperatures in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Chora’s leaders raised issues about Taliban influence, water sharing agreements, the need for education and health care requirements. The Provincial Coalition leaders — myself included — received these points, offered updated information and pledged to do everything possible to help the city improve to the maxim extent possible.
The most memorable comment came from an older leader, who looked to be in his eighties.  As is the custom, he got up from his seated position on the floor to address the assembled Shura. He began by stating that the source of all problems in Chora stemmed from Pakistan. Unsurprisingly, he asserted that the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence agency was responsible for the Taliban, created all internal challenges with the Afghan government and was at the heart of problems with development and governance throughout Afghanistan. After a 45-minute monologue, he concluded with the conviction that the only reason Pakistan had nuclear weapons was to use them on Afghanistan prior to an all-out invasion and occupation.
The distrust of Pakistan permeates discussions and drives decision making from the outer districts like Chora to the highest levels of government. The accusations regarding Pakistan’s support to the Taliban, ISI support and manipulation of critical Afghan functions, and long standing territorial disputes are forefront in the minds of political, military and citizen thinking.
President Ashraf Ghani attacked this notion head on. Prior to assuming the presidency of Afghanistan he recognized that peace and stability in Afghanistan was only to be achieved with full cooperation with the Pakistan military establishment as well as the civilian government. His landmark visit to the Pakistan Minister of Defense in November 2014 exemplifies his dedication to reversing the friction between the two Central Asian countries.
Ghani has made several additional visits to Pakistan. He has empowered his ministries to engage closely with their Pakistani counterparts. Working to bring a regional approach to economic development as well as military cooperation against both the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban are at the forefront of his aspirations. Reducing the 16 day transit time for fresh produce to get from Kandahar to Karachi; approving long term multi entry visas; improving the transshipment process and border crossing point operations; capitalizing on Afghanistan’s vast mineral and agricultural opportunities; and improving cooperation on implementation of  the Central Asia South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project (CASA 1000), the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Natural Gas Pipeline (TAPI) Project, and the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) among others, are all on the president’s economic high priority list.
On his military priority list, he has pledged to work with Pakistan on reducing the Taliban’s safe havens on both sides of the border. He must eliminate or at least reduce the influence and perception of influence of the ISI. The cooperation between Afghan and Pakistani militaries has improved dramatically but needs to be expanded to the Haqqani network and other insurgents who are not yet targeted. Leaders of both countries acknowledge these challenges and pledged to work toward mutually beneficial solutions.
During a recent trip I took with the EastWest Institute to Islamabad, senior leaders at the ministerial and presidential level confirmed the necessity and the commitment to move forward together to improve cross border cooperation against common enemies and to make demonstrable progress toward regional economic cooperation. Much work needs to be done. Each Pakistani ministry recognized that the window of opportunity opened by Ghani would stay open only so long. They all understood that the Afghan President had taken significant risks in reaching out to both Pakistani military and civilian leaders. These risks must be rewarded quickly by concrete and verifiable actions that could be used as compelling evidence of Afghan and Pakistani cooperation in both military and economic terms.
The Pakistani ministries and senior political leaders are committed to achieving increased cooperation with Afghanistan and taking advantage of the excellent opportunity afforded them. Afghanistan’s patience and Ghani’s political capital are not infinite. Cooperation across the border is a vital component to long-term regional security. Both Afghanistan and Pakistan need to demonstrate commitment to mutually beneficial actions by achieving tangible results quickly.

Pakistani Christians face the same treatment as Armenians during the Genocide

A congregation in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi is being threatened by Muslim criminals who want to seize the church’s land. The menacing group is trying to intimidate the Christian community by saying that they’ll accuse them of the highly punishable offense of blasphemy if they don’t vacate their church property and stop worshiping there, the Christian Post reports.
Members of the Jerusalem Church, a Pentecostal, 300-family congregation in Karachi, have informed International Christian Concern that they’ve been receiving deadly threats from a group of armed Muslim miscreants, who are known for seizing property from the poor and various targeted killings.
Church members said they were approached in May by the group and were told to leave the church and never return. However, the interaction in May was not the only time that church members were confronted by the group, according to one of the church’s pastors, Ilyas Masih.
“These Muslims have been pressuring the church people not to play musical instruments and asked the church leaders to stop girls from singing with boys in the church,” Masih explained. “Several times they stopped and threatened the worshipers and pastors for going into church for prayers and harassed the women in the past.”
“The Christians of the locality have responded in a brave manner and announced that they will die before they let them grab the church property,” Masih asserted.
John Nazareth Adil, a local activist, told ICC that the group of Muslims probably want to use the church property to carry out “their agendas.”
The congregation has submitted a request to the local police department for extra protection, however, the church is still being threatened, Masih said.
“Yet again a church in Pakistan faces harassment of its women and threats about how and when church services and worship should be conducted,” Wilson Chowdhry, president of the British Pakistani Christian Association, told The Christian Post on Tuesday. ”
“The threats that involve blasphemy are common in Pakistan and Muslims of Pakistan … if any Christian is accused of blasphemy then the whole community has to suffer,” Gill asserted. “Last month, the Muslim mob of about 500 attacked Christians’ homes [in Lahore] on pretexts that one Christian man burned some papers on which Islamic text was written,” Sardar Mushtaq Gill, a leading Pakistani-Christian human rights lawyer said.
Chowdhry explained that most Christians who flee Pakistan do so because of religious persecution and they end up in Malaysia, Sri Lanka or Thailand, and added that each country has a population of about 10,000 Pakistani asylum seekers.
But in most cases, those seeking refugee status in those countries are not recognized as refugees and are often arrested and fined.
“This treatment of [Pakistani] Christians is not unlike the treatment of Armenian Christians, who later faced the awful extermination during the Armenian Genocide as quoted by Lemkin. Just like Turkey before them, Pakistan denies that Christians face brutality, persecution and hatred, and Britain, as a nation, due to vested interests, remains shockingly silent,” Chowdhry contended.
“I hope we do not see a repeat of the mass killings faced by our Armenian brothers and fully understand why Christians in their droves are fleeing Pakistan despite being re-persecuted in other nations such as Thailand, where there is said to be 10,000 Pak-Christian refugees. It is time the world listened to the stories that the victims are desperate for humanitarians to hear.”

Persecution Without Prosecution: The Fate of Minorities in Pakistan


    With religious persecution in Pakistan going unchecked, it is time for the United States to designate Pakistan a Country of Particular Concern.
     Sunday morning, March 15th, 22-year-old Akash Bashir volunteered to guard the gates outside of St. John’s Catholic Church in Lahore, Pakistan. As the service drew to a close, an armed gunman strapped with explosives sprinted towards the entrance, firing at the gate. Bashir and a fellow security volunteer managed to knock the attacker over. When the man tried to get up, Bashir tackled him, hugging him tightly as he set off his explosives a few moments later. Fifteen were killed, including Bashir, in twin suicide bombings that day, but witnesses said if not for Bashir’s bravery, the numbers would have been far worse.
    The story of Bashir’s heroism has, for the most part, never made it out of Pakistan. What has trickled into the West’s consciousness are only bits and pieces of the deadly tales of Pakistan’s religious minorities: 93 Ahmadi worshipers killed in 2010; 80 Christians slaughtered at the All Saints Church in 2013; 60 Shiite Muslims murdered at a mosque in Sindh in January; 43Ismaili’s gunned down inside a bus last month. The stories are horrific, but they hardly begin to convey the pervasive sense of dread that the nearly 40 million members of Pakistan’s religious minority communities live with on a daily basis.
    The problem has become so serious that religious minorities are fleeing the country in droves. As many as 10,000 Pakistani Christians (but official United Nations’ figures say 4,000) are now believed to be living “under the radar” in Thailand, fending off arrest by Thai police for illegal entry as they cling to the hope of making it through the grueling U.N. refugee resettlement process. International Christian Concern’s offices — an NGO that assists Christians who have been the victims of religious persecution — routinely get calls from Pakistanis around the globe pleading for help as they try to find any possible avenue of escape from an endless cycle of violence and discrimination.
    The tragedy in all of this is not simply the scale of human suffering, but the one-sided response of the Pakistani government. In 2013, thousands of enraged Sunni Muslim’s rampaged through the Christian neighborhood of Joseph Colony in Lahore, torching over 100 homes after a Christian man was accused of committing “blasphemy” against Islam. In the two years since, not a single individual from the mob has been convicted. Meanwhile the Christian accused of blasphemy, Sawan Masih, was arrested and sentenced to death, a penalty that is mandatory by order of the Federal Shariat Court. This example is consistent with a long-running pattern of prosecuting religious minorities while allowing those who persecute them to escape justice.
    Sawan Masih’s case is also an example of another seemingly intractable issue — Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws. Strengthened in the early 1980s under the rule of military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq, thousands have since been arrested and imprisoned under the draconian legislation, often used as an excuse to settle personal scores or whip up religious fervor against marginalized minorities. There are currently 14 people on death row for blasphemy, including at least four Christians, while another 19 people are serving life sentences. Those who are actually arrested for blasphemy are often the lucky ones. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 60 individuals have been murdered, often by mob violence, since 1990 before they could even be convicted of this so-called “crime.” In 2014, a young Christian couple pregnant with their fifth child was burned alive in a brick kiln by an enraged mob over a blasphemy accusation.
    The answer to all of this, at least from the United States’ perspective, is staggeringly simple. The U.S. State Department should use its authority to designate Pakistan a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC), a recommendation has been made repeatedly by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The designation, which according to the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act must be applied to any nation that “engages in or tolerates particularly severe violations of religious freedom” is the single most powerful message the United States can send to a country which consistently fails to protect religious minorities. The United States could then institute economic sanctions and other penalties until Pakistan reforms its policies, putting the appalling treatment of religious minorities in Pakistan at the front and center of U.S-Pakistan relations. Pakistan fits the definition of a CPC more so than any other nation on Earth, with perhaps the exception of North Korea. The United States is committed, both legally and morally, to uphold this fundamental right of religious freedom and do everything possible to stop the bloodshed. The United States must stop willfully turning a blind eye to the purification of all of Pakistan’s religious minorities and must utilize this crucial tool of U.S. foreign policy. Unless the Pakistani state, civilian and military, puts all its efforts into reforming laws to provide equality and protection to all its citizens, Pakistan must and should be designated a CPC, for the sake of the people of Pakistan.

    Pakistan - #PMLN - Unfulfilled promises


    Critics say that the government only takes steps that are visible to the people, like the metro buses, laptops and loan schemes.
    The incumbent government is about to complete two years in office and claims to have improved the economy but the ground realities indicate harsh times for the people. In the general elections of 2013, this government promised to end power cuts within six months, improve law and order and reduce prices but its priorities have changed after coming to power. Pakistan faces a power shortfall of about 5,000 megawatts and, in the last few years, energy deficits have soared to 8,500 megawatts in the summers. The rural and urban areas only receive a few hours of electricity a day. A few months ago, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) had projected a gap of over 5,500 megawatts between the supply and demand of electricity and had forecast that the situation was likely to improve by 2019-2020. This report not only rejects the government’s claims of a load shedding-free Pakistan by 2017 but also predicts tough times for the people and industry.

    According to experts, the power cuts would badly affect government candidates in the forthcoming local bodies elections. The problems of the people have multiplied in the tenure of the PML-N. Fuel prices have been coming down for some time but they have again increased but on the other hand rates of food items remain unchanged. According to a recent report, the government has failed to control poverty, inflation and unemployment. The report, released by a non-governmental organisation, said that the government could not achieve targets for better disaster management, foreign policy and making a merit based policy for hiring and promotions.

     It has succeeded in achieving only 60 percent of these targets. The government has performed the worst in its efforts to control poverty. Only 22 percent of targets were achieved in the government's efforts to decrease poverty. It could achieve only 37 percent targets in controlling inflation. Regulatory departments have failed to perform their duties because the government has failed to transfer power to the grassroots level. Regulatory departments have achieved only 38 percent of targets. Only 32 percent targets could be achieved in the fields of healthcare, environment protection and the recoveries of utility bills and only 45 percent of targets were achieved in tax recoveries. It could achieve only 33 percent of targets for population control.

    According to an official survey, Pakistan could not increase its literacy rate in 2013 and 2014, which has dropped to 58 percent because of a poor showing by the Sindh and Balochistan governments. The overall literacy rate, estimated to be 60 percent in 2012-2013, has gone down according to Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey (PSLM). The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) carried out a survey from August 2013 to June 2014. The report provides information on key social indicators at the national and provincial levels with urban and rural breakdowns. The four provincial and federal governments spent Rs 537.6 billion, 2.1 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013-2014, highlighting the urgency to double the spending to address the root causes that keep children away from schools.

    The survey results also suggest the number of children going to primary schools has also dropped. The findings show that the parents' refusal to send their children to schools was the single biggest reason for children not going to schools, keeping four out of 10 children out of schools. Two out of every 10 children did not go to schools because the education was too expensive. Under the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Pakistan was required to increase its literacy rate to 88 percent by 2015. There has also been a deterioration in the availability of basic health facilities and the proportion of the population having access to clean water has also dropped. Only 55 percent of the population has access to sustainable water sources — down from 57 percent since last year. The country has missed the MDG goal of increasing this ratio to 93 percent. When compared with 2011-2012, the last surveyed year, the literacy rate in 2013-2014 remained stagnant at 58 percent. The male and female literacy rates have also stood still at 70 percent and 47 percent respectively.

    Critics say that the government only takes steps that are visible to the people, like the metro buses, laptops and loan schemes. It has largely ignored education and health. The government's priorities should have been health and education, not roads and bridges. The people wanted relief from the elected politicians. The government should deliver now or the people will lose faith in democracy. I will not hesitate in saying that the political parties only represent the interests of different sections of the ruling elite. I believe that the working classes need an alternative left party and a programme to replace this corrupt and inept political system that does not represent their interests. For a true democracy, we have to change the culture along with the system.

    Pakistan - PM should take notice of loadshedding in Karachi

    Former president and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari has said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should take notice of severe loadshedding in Karachi.

    In a letter written to the prime minister on Monday, Zardari said the Sindh government paid electricity charges amounting to Rs 2.4 billion to the federal government. “Sindh is experiencing loadshedding of 20 hours a day, and the federal government has not solved power issues in the province,” the letter read.

    Zardari said he had raised issue of power outages in his meeting with the prime minister in May, adding that the provincial finance minister had also written a letter to the Ministry of Water and Power, asking them to address the problem. “Loadshedding has made the situation difficult for a common man in Ramadan,” he wrote. The PPP leader asked the federal government to address the issue of loadshedding as soon as possible.

    Afghanistan-Pakistan: A Temporary Entente

    Pakistan - Two IDP’s lost their lives in Scuffle with Security Personnel

    Two Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) of North Waziristan lost their lives during a scuffle with security personnel’s on Sunday evening.
    According to sources, the tragic incident took place in the camp of IDP’s of North Waziristan, adding that the scuffle erupted when security personnel stopped some of the IDP’s at the camp main gate for security reasons.
    Sources said that during the security clearance hot words were exchanged between the IDP’s and security personnel which triggered protest, meanwhile security personnel opened aerial firing which claimed two precious lives.
    The hospital official said that 2 persons died and several others were injured during the protest and firing incident at the IDP’s camp of North Waziristan.

    #Shame #PTI - Sasta bazaars nowhere to be seen in Peshawar

    Despite the tall claims of provincial government and district administration to ensure availability of cheap edible items, government has failed so far to establish a single Sasta Bazaar in Peshawar. 
    Every year in the month of Ramazanul Mubarik, government was managing to set up temporary stalls to provide edible items at subsidized rates and these Sasta Bazaar had been available in all four towns of Peshawar but this time in Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government, the administration has ignored the masses to provide them relief while the shopkeepers and road side vendors are looting the masses by imposing self fixed rates of the commodities. 
    Though in historic Chowk Yadgar Peshawar, stalls have been made but shopkeepers are not available in these stalls. It was responsibility of the district administration to provide them incentives and subsidy to bring them to Sasta Bazaar to ensure relief to the poor but due to fear of losses, the business community and vendors abstained to bring their items to the stall. 
    In previous government of Awami National Party such stalls were available in four towns of Peshawar but this time the district administration failed to set up Sasta Bazaar at important points of the city where people were frequently visiting for shopping. 
    The well-off people can buy edible commodities of Ramazan even in expensive super stores but the common people are badly affected due to high prices of the commodities at ordinary shops. Huge rush on utility stores and long queue of the visitors forced the people to do shopping in open market.
    Some of the shopkeepers in Bazaar are selling substandard food items and rice as per the rates of the original items. One resident of Peshawar Gohar Khan told this scribe that Shopkeepers and profiteers cannot be stopped simply by imposing fine as they are earning a lot and giving fine in million is not difficult for them. It is prime responsibility of the government to ensure Sasta Bazaar on such important occasion as during month of Ramadan the consumption of every edible commodity is high and such situation needs government's attention to provide relief to poor segment of the population.
    Condemning the unannounced and excessive load shedding in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Provincial Information Secretary of Awami National Party, Sardar Hussain Babak asked the federal government take immediate measures to stop load shedding during holy month of Ramadan. 
    In a statement issued from Bacha Khan Markaz he said that both federal and provincial government must resolve their differences and provide relief to the masses. He added that during Awami National Party's government, numbers of power generation schemes were initiated but the incumbent provincial government has not taken steps to maintain work on the power generation projects. 
    He maintained that it is very regrettable to torture the poor masses in this scorching heat and Ramadan. He said that cursing and criticizing each other is very easy task but giving relief to the masses is indeed a difficult task in which both provincial and federal government failed. 
    He asked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to focus on the issue of energy crisis in the country and give relief to the poor masses in the holy month of Ramadan. He expressed the hoped that if both PTI and PML-N shun their differences then masses will avail every facility and would get rid of loadshedding.

    Paying tribute: PPP Peshawar celebrates Benazir Bhutto’s 62nd birthday

    The Peshawar chapter of Pakistan Peoples Party celebrated the 62nd birthday of the slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto at Peshawar Press Club on Sunday.
    Paying tribute to her struggle, Senator Rubina Khalid said, “The existing democratic set-up was made possible by Benazir Bhutto.” She added no other party has shown “the courage needed to render sacrifices”.
    Bhutto was a politician of international stature who took the country towards prosperity and development, Khalid added.
    LG loss
    The senator also spoke about the poor performance of PPP in the local government elections held on May 30, saying the party suffered setbacks due to internal differences.
    “Leaders within the party were [fighting over] vested interests; that dented PPP’s image of being a pro-poor party.” Since the party has no participation at the grass-roots level, added Khalid, it could not do well in the elections. She demanded the central leadership reorganise the party and get rid of such elements that hold the party back from being prosperous.
    The ceremony was also attended by former MPA Ayub Shah, district office bearers and other workers who vowed to maintain the standard set by Bhutto and work for the welfare of the country and its people.