Wednesday, July 29, 2015

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Pashto Music Video - Khyal Mohammad & Mah Jabeen - Sterge De Kachkol Krra Wakhla

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A dreadful wakeup call for Turkey

The attack in Suruç is a dreadful wakeup call for Turkey. It’s a shame that this call comes at the expense of so many lives, most of them young people - 24 of which were university students. Looking at the picture of these idealistic young girls and boys, who only wanted to take aid and friendship to Kobane and comparing them to the pictures of rabid militants from radical Islamic groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), one has to be totally blind not to see who provides hope and promise for a modern Turkey that is respected internationally.

It boggles the mind therefore to think that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government could have in anyway, directly or indirectly, given passage to or turned a blind eye to the activities of groups like ISIL or al-Nusra in the hope that they would expedite the downfall of Bashar al-Assad and his regime in Syria. This is not the sort of thing responsible governments do.

The U.S., Pakistan and Saudi Arabia aided the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1970s and 1980s, in a bid to undermine the Soviet Union, and succeeded to an extent, but just look at what they ultimately spawned for themselves. There are tomes that have been written about this. The Taliban, al-Qaeda, and 9/11 are all the products of that era. Daily Cumhuriyet’s headline commentary on the Suruç attack on July 21 carried a very apt title when it quoted a Turkish saying: “Feed the crow so it can turn around and poke your eye out.” 

It is equally mind boggling that the AKP, with help from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, should have provided grist to the mill, which claims that the Syrian Kurds are somehow more dangerous for Turkey than ISIL. The time has come for the AKP to not only act more decisively together with Turkey’s allies against real and immediate threats to the country, but also to stop politicking in thinly veiled bid to promote its Islamist ideological worldview.

Religion has to be sent back to the private domain where it belongs. In other words, it is time for Turkey to return to its secular mode of governance for the sake of the country as a whole, rather than trying to promote an agenda which less than half the population supports. Erdoğan himself told the Egyptian satellite channel Dream TV in 2010 that secularism is not irreligion. 

“Secularism is definitely not atheism. I recommend a secular constitution for Egypt,” he said, after the country’s dictator Hosni Mubarak was toppled.  “I, as Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, am a Muslim and not secular. But I am the prime minister of a secular country. In a secular country, people have the freedom to be religious or not,” he said (For the original Turkish story:

Wise words but he did not stand behind them. He went on to say that he wanted to see a religious youth emerge in Turkey. Well, it is clear that a portion of the Islamic youth he desires to see in this country is not just religious but also deeply vengeful, carrying no respect for human life. 

Turkey was always a predominantly conservative and religious country – not unlike the U.S. - even when it adopted a secular form of government. This is why such remarks from Erdoğan always made people think that he was after more than he was claiming.  But using politics to impose religious values on society as a whole has not brought any advantages to Turkey, which is a heterogeneous country when it comes to creeds. 

The June 7 elections have given the AKP a chance to change tack and work for the better of the country as a whole. A grand coalition with the Republican People’s Party (CHP) is a historic opportunity in this respect that should not be wasted for the sake of promoting the religious worldview. Suruç should act as a wakeup call in this respect. It remains to be seen if the AKP will use this opportunity or squander it.

Chinese embassy’s letter to New York Times regarding China-Philippines Dispute Over South China Sea

By Gao Yinan 

Editors notes:
In responding to an editorial of New York TimesThe South China Seain CourtZhuHaiquanPress Counselor and Spokesman of Chinese Embassy in the U.S.Apublishes thefollowing letter on New York Times on July 28 to clarify Chinas position and approachtoward solving the South China Sea issue.
China-Philippines Dispute Over South China Sea
JULY 28, 2015
To the Editor:
Your July 17 editorial "The South China Seain Court," about the arbitration case raised bythe Philippines over rights to the South China Seais not fair.
Chinaa latecomer to land reclamationhas been exercising utmost restraintBut thestatus quo has long been broken by the Philippines and some other claimantswhich builtfacilitiesincluding military oneson the reefs owned by China.
China calls on relevant parties to shelve their differences and engage in joint developmentin the South China SeaActually in 2005, Chinathe Philippines and Vietnam conductedjoint marine seismic survey in some areas of the seaIt would have set a good precedent ifthe Philippine government had not changed its mind.
Chinas approach toward solving the South China Sea issue is to have direct dialogue andnegotiation between claimantswhich is more effective and sustainableChina and thePhilippines had tried such talks beforebut the Philippine side unilaterally stopped themin 2012. Our door remains openand we are engaged with the Association of SoutheastAsian Nations in establishing a code of conduct to ensure peace and stability in the SouthChina Sea until the disputes are settled.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea gives no country the legal right toextend its exclusive economic zone to other countrys territoriesWe do not believe thatthe arbitration court has jurisdictionand as a member of United Nations Convention onthe Law of the SeaChina is entitled to exclude any third-party compulsory settlement.
Press Counselor and Spokesman
Chinese Embassy

Israel, Not Iran, Started Middle East Nuclear Arms Race

By: Bruce Riedel

The debate about the P5+1 agreement with Iran on its nuclear program has already produced a storm of angry rhetoric and a tsunami of opinion pieces. But one issue is notably absent from the debate: the fact that Israel has a nuclear weapons arsenal and sophisticated delivery systems that are decades ahead of anything Iran could develop in the foreseeable future. Iran should be constrained by a global regime from getting the bomb, but the notion that Israel is a weak powerless state like Czechoslovakia in 1938 is ludicrous.
The American intelligence community first detected the development of the Israeli nuclear weapons program through U-2 overhead imagery at the end of the 1950s. President John F. Kennedy pressed Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion very hard not to proceed with a weapons program, arguing it would precipitate a regional nuclear arms race. Under pressure from Kennedy, Israel agreed to American inspections of its French-supplied Dimona reactor, but then systematically blocked any serious inspection process. 
Israel has never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has never admitted it has a nuclear weapons arsenal. The United States stopped protesting the Israeli program in the Nixon administration. Neither Jerusalem nor Washington publicly discusses Israel's arsenal. If pressed, US officials refer to an alleged nuclear arsenal.
The Economist this year estimated Israel has 80 nuclear weapons in its arsenal. That puts it just behind India and far ahead of North Korea in terms of the number of bombs.
Israel has a triad of nuclear delivery systems. Its US-supplied F-15 and F-16 aircraft can deliver nuclear weapons anywhere in the Middle East. The Israeli air force has a well-deserved reputation as the best air force in the region with the best pilots. It has twice destroyed incipient nuclear programs in Iraq (1981) and Syria (2007).
France provided the early Israeli missile program with the technology for what is now the Jericho medium-range missile system. The latest version of the Jericho has a range of 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles), according to experts.
The German magazine Der Spiegel has written about the third leg of the triad: German-built submarines. According to Der Spiegel, these U-boats called Dolphins are equipped with nuclear-armed cruise missiles. Five Dolphins have been delivered so far, a sixth is due in 2017. They can target Iran from the Mediterranean and from the Arabian Sea.
Israel has a right to develop a nuclear arsenal; it has been at war since its birth. It lives in a dangerous neighborhood that is getting more dangerous and chaotic. It has chosen to adopt an ambivalent posture about its deterrent for decades.
But it is not an impotent defenseless country. To suggest it is a Czechoslovakia-like weak state facing Hitler's Germany in 1938 is to completely ignore the real balance of power in the Middle East. The Iranian deal may be flawed, but it is not Munich redux.
Moreover, Israel has the benefit of enormous amounts of American intelligence and military support, including more than $3 billion in grant aid every year. President Barack Obama has been very proactive in assuring Israel's qualitative edge over any combination of foes. He has made clear he is prepared to do more if Israel asks. 
The Iran nuclear deal will allow Tehran to increase its support to Hezbollah and Hamas. Both pose a threat to Israel. The Israeli military has demonstrated repeatedly that it is capable of dealing with these threats. The balance of power in both cases favors the Israel Defense Forces. Additional Iranian aid to Hezbollah will probably be used more in Syria to prop up Bashar al-Assad than to fight Israel.
Some have argued the Vienna deal will start a nuclear arms race in the region. In fact, a nuclear arms race has been underway in the Middle East for 65 years. Israel won it.
Others allege Iran is a crazy state that cannot be deterred like normal states. The history of the Islamic Republic demonstrates that Iran is a rational actor, however, not a suicidal one. For example, in the Iran-Iraq War, when Israel secretly armed Iran, the ayatollahs demonstrated a rational approach to war with Saddam Hussein. When confronted by a superior Iraqi army backed by the United States, Iran accepted defeat. Iran's preferred method of warfare is proxy wars where Iran fights to the last Lebanese, Palestinian, Syrian, Iraqi or Yemeni.
The debate about the Iran deal should be conducted within the context of an understanding of the balance of power in the Middle East. A comprehensive and thorough discussion of the balance of power should include Israel's real strategic situation. Hysteria is not the answer when the stakes are high.

#Yemen: Coalition Airstrikes Decimate Community

Saudi Arabia-led coalition airstrikes on Mokha is a war crime: HRW

Human Rights Watch has described the Saudi Arabia-led coalition airstrikes that kill dozens of civilians on Mokha city last week as a war crime.

At least 65 people, including 10 children, died and dozens were wounded during 30 minutes starting from 9:30 p.m. of July 24 when war jets repeatedly struck two residential compounds housing workers at a steam power plant and their families, the New York-based group said on Monday.

"The Saudi-led coalition repeatedly bombed company housing with fatal results for several dozen civilians," said Ole Solvang, senior emergencies researcher. "With no evident military target, this attack appears to be a war crime."

He called for United Nations Human Rights Council to create a commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of laws-of-war violations in Yemen.

Human Rights Watch visited the area of the attack a day-and-a-half later. "Craters and building damage showed that six bombs had struck the plant's main residential compound, which housed at least 200 families, according to the plant's managers. One bomb had struck a separate compound for short-term workers about a kilometer north of the main compound, destroying the water tank for the compounds, and two bombs had struck the beach and an intersection nearby," the organization said.

Bombs hit two apartment buildings directly, collapsing part of their roofs. Other bombs exploded between the buildings, including in the main courtyard, stripping the exterior walls off dozens of apartments, leaving only the load-bearing pillars standing.

The organization said that it saw "no signs that either of the two residential compounds for the power plants were being used for military purposes." 

As Yemenis Starve, Saudi Arabia is Accused of War Crimes in the Country

As a unilateral 5-day humanitarian pause declared by the Saudi-led coalition bombing Yemen appeared to crumble, the aid group Oxfam said Tuesday that half of Yemen's population — almost 13 million people — is struggling to obtain food, and that some 6.5 million people are "on the brink of starvation."
Oxfam said that since the start of conflict between the coalition and Houthi rebels in March, an average of 25,000 additional Yemenis went hungry every day. The worst hit area is Saada governorate, a Houthi stronghold which has been bombarded relentlessly by coalition jets. Fifty percent of the people in Saada face "critical" levels of hunger, the group reported.
Even prior to the outbreak of violence, Yemen was the poorest country in the Arab world, and imported the vast majority of its food, predominantly by sea. Last year, the UN's World Food Program estimated that 10.6 million Yemenis were already food insecure.
Since airstrikes began on March 26, the Saudi-led coalition has installed a de-facto blockade of the country, leading to sparse supplies of basic necessities such as fuel, cooking gas and food like wheat and rice. While the UN and partner organizations are running desperately low on funds in Yemen, Oxfam said even with proper financing, the obstruction of commercial routes by the coalition would prevent locals from accessing the food and fuel they need to survive.
"These numbers are extremely alarming," Tariq Riebl, head of programs for Oxfam in Yemen, told VICE News. "People may just make a direct link to the conflict, but the actual reason for a lot of the food insecurity is the economic blockade."
"They are primarily suffering because imports are not coming in and markets are not functioning."
According to the UN, some 21 million Yemenis — 80 percent of the population — remain in need of assistance. Those who still have access to supplied markets report huge inflation in the cost of basic goods, with wheat flour doubling in price and cooking gas costing as much as 264 percent more than it did before the conflict. In many areas, there is insufficient fuel to run mills, pump water, and provide electricity for health facilities. That has exacerbated the country's existing water crisis; potable water is either unavailable or only supplied sporadically in 20 of Yemen's 22 governorates.
Riebl said coalition navies hold up practically every boat destined for a Yemeni port.
"The process it relatively unclear, so ships are discouraged from even venturing there, and those that do have huge delays getting their food into Yemen," he said.
Earlier this month, the UN's World Food Program said delays at the Red Sea port of Hodeida had caused it to discard a 3,000 metric ton shipment of wheat flour.
Since March 26, the UN has recorded 1,895 civilian deaths in Yemen, including at least 202 who died in the period between July 16 and 27. Earlier this month, the UN's human rights office said most of the casualties in recent weeks were caused by airstrikes, which have repeatedly hit markets and residential areas. Last Friday, just hours before the Saudi coalition announced the unilateral ceasefire, its jets struck two residential compounds at a power plant in the coastal city of Mokha. On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch, which recorded the deaths of at least 65 civilians, including 10 children, said the attack appeared to be a war crime. The group called for the UN human rights council to establish an international commission of inquiry — similar to the body formed after the war in Gaza last year — to investigate violations of international law in the Yemeni conflict.
The Saudi-declared humanitarian pause, which the Saudis said was requested by Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, was widely viewed with skepticism given its unilateral nature and the failure of a previous pause that was brokered by the UN earlier this month, and which was then roundly ignored by all sides. In announcing the pause, the Saudi coalition said it reserved the right to resume strikes in response to any Houthi military movement.
On Tuesday, airstrikes hit targets to the north of the southern city of Aden, which in recent weeks has seen the pushback of Houthi and allied forces by a combination of local militias and Emirati Special Forces with the backing of coalition air and naval strikes. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — the extremist group's affiliate in Yemen, which has not been targeted by coalition jets — was also reportedly involved in fighting against Houthi forces. After losing the city, the Houthis and their allies allegedly shelled a nearby town of Dar Saad on Sunday, killing almost 100 people — most of them civilians — according to Doctors Without Borders.
The Houthis hail from a Shia minority in Yemen's north that has long felt marginalized by successive Yemeni governments. During the 2000's former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh waged a series of wars against the group. Following his departure during the Arab Spring in 2012, Saleh began backing the Houthis, who grew increasingly assertive during Hadi's tenure. In March, during a Houthi offensive on Aden, Hadi fled to Riyadh, where he has since remained, ensconced among Saudi royals.
The Saudi coalition accuses Iran of backing the Houthis, and says the blockade is necessary to prevent Tehran from supplying their troops. In April, Riyadh announced it would meet the UN's entire $274 emergency "flash" appeal for Yemen. But the Saudis have yet to deliver the money, and the UN's overall request of $1.6 billion for Yemen remains only 15 percent funded.
On Tuesday, UN humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien told the Security Council that UN humanitarian agencies had depleted their reserves "in expectation of the original Saudi pledge."
"They are using their own resources," he told VICE News after the briefing. "There is a limit, they don't have endless resources."
The UN and the Saudi government say the transfer of funds is being delayed as nine separate UN agencies, including the WFP and the UN's development program, attempt to broker Memoranda of Understanding with Riyadh. Aid workers who spoke with VICE News say after the April announcement, the Saudis insisted on certain restrictions in how the aid is delivered — for instance limiting it to areas not controlled by the Houthis. O'Brien has said that any restrictions based on geography are not acceptable to the UN.
"As the UN, we have to have this ability to retain where we send it," he told VICE News on Tuesday. "We have to meet vulnerability and need and retain our impartiality, that's the key.
Earlier on Tuesday, VICE News asked Saudi Arabia's ambassador, Abdallah Y. al-Mouallimi about the delay. After initially stating that the money "is being disbursed right now," Almoalimi clarified that the transfer was "pending the signature of memoranda of understanding with the various organizations. Some have signed, some have yet to sign. It depends on the speed by which the UN bureaucracy works."
The Saudi government, the ambassador said, was ready to provide the money "as soon as Mr. O'Brien's people come over the sign the memoranda."
Asked about Almoalimi's comments, O'Brien replied, "You can say you are waiting for signatures on the document that may not be the agreed document between the two parties. In which case you can say I'm waiting but the other side doesn't want to sign."
Riebl, meanwhile, said the conversation has to be expanded to include the blockade, otherwise the impact of any effort will be insufficient.
"It's impossible to meet the need," said Riebl. "The solution has to be a lifting of the blockade and as much commercial access as possible. Then humanitarian agencies can on top of that try to directly reach those populations that don't have access."

Syria skeptical of Turkey's motives in campaign against ISIL

Syria has expressed doubt about Turkey’s motives in fighting the ISIL terrorist group in Syria, amid Ankara’s ongoing airstrikes purportedly targeting the Takfiri terrorists in the Arab country.

In two identical letters sent to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and President of the UN Security Council Gerard van Bohemen, Damascus slammed Turkey for conspiring against Syria by “supporting terrorists that came from more than 100 countries through Turkey to join” militant groups such as the ISIL and al-Nusra Front, official SANA news agency reported on Wednesday.

The Syrian government further dismissed Ankara’s attempts “to depict itself as the victim and that it is defending itself while everyone is aware of what this regime has done in terms of providing all forms of support to terrorist organizations, violating relevant Security Council resolutions,” the letter added.
The ministry stated that ISIL steals goods and archaeological artifacts from Syria and sells them in Turkey with the full knowledge of the Turkish government in exchange for weapons, ammunition, and logistic support for its Takfiri elements operating in Syria.

Turkey trains and arms al-Qaeda-linked militants fighting in Syria, the letter said, holding Ankara “responsible for the shedding of Syrian blood and the humanitarian suffering of millions of Syrians inside and outside Syria” due to its backing for terrorism.

“Syria had often warned that terrorism knows no homeland or religion or borders, and warned its supporters that it will eventually backfire on them,” the letter read.

Referring to Turkey’s claims that it is hitting ISIL position in Syria, the ministry questioned Ankara’s intentions and said they might be “pretexts to attack Kurds in Syria and Iraq” or pursue “ulterior internal goals.”

This September 1, 2013, file photo shows a US Air Force plane taking off from the Incirlik Airbase, in southern Turkey. (AP photo)

Turkey launched the strikes in the wake of a terrorist bomb attack in the border town of Suruc, which claimed the lives of 32 people. Ankara blamed the Takfiri ISIL terrorist group for the blast.

The Turkish airstrikes allegedly targeted positions held by ISIL in Syria as well as those held by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Iraq. The Kurds have been engaged in a conflict in southeastern Turkey for years in a bid to gain self-rule.

However, Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Kurdish fighters currently battling against ISIL in Syria, said on Monday that “instead of targeting IS (ISIL) terrorists' occupied positions, Turkish forces attack our defenders' positions. We urge [the] Turkish leadership to halt this aggression and to follow international guidelines.”

Ankara's formal green light to US

Meanwhile, Turkey on Wednesday gave formal approval for the United States to use the southern Incirlik air base for conducting purported attacks against ISIL in Syria.

The turn in Turkey’s stance towards ISIL extremists comes as the country has been regarded one of the main supporters of Takfiri militancy against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, with reports showing that Ankara actively trains and arms the militants operating in Syria, and also facilitates the safe passage of would-be foreign terrorists into the country, which has been gripped by crisis since 2011.

Since September 2014, the US along with some of its regional allies has been conducting airstrikes against ISIL inside Syria without any authorization from Damascus or a UN mandate. The airstrikes in Syria are an extension of the US-led aerial campaign against purported ISIL positions in Iraq, which started in August 2014.

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In the days since the United States and Iran concluded their landmark nuclear accord, much has been said about the deal’s geopolitical implications.
Most U.S. media coverage has focused on ramifications for the Middle East: How will Iran’s nemeses Israel and Saudi Arabia respond? WillMideast sectarian tensions increase? Will the accord embolden Iran and cause it to intensify its dealings with the likes of Hezbollah, or will it lead Iran to moderate its destabilizing activities in the Middle East? Will the deal serve as a springboard for greater U.S.–Iran cooperation in combating the Islamic State terror group? And, above all, will the accord actually halt Iran’s march toward becoming a nuclear power?
Far less attention has been paid to South Asia — a neighboring region where the deal’s implications are similarly complex, albeit with stakes that are not as high. Energy-starved Pakistan will have a golden opportunity to conclude a long-discussed natural gas pipeline deal with Iran. Islamabad will need to weigh the energy security benefits of a gas accord with the geopolitical risks of angering Saudi Arabia — a key Pakistani ally and staunch opponent of the deal. Earlier this year, Pakistan’s parliament boldly rejected Riyadh’s request for the Pakistani military to help the Saudis fight the Houthi rebels in Yemen, whom the Saudis believe to be supported by Iran. This was a rare case of Pakistan snubbing its Saudi ally, and such refusals are not a new precedent that Islamabad wishes to set. At any rate, given that the nuclear deal may sharpen tensions between Tehran and Riyadh, Pakistan may find it increasingly difficult to resist getting dragged into a widening Saudi-Iranian proxy war.
India, meanwhile, will be in a position to increase its oil imports from Iran. Iran was a top oil supplier for New Delhi before the Indians scaled back in deference to the U.S. sanctions regime. Also in the cards is an undersea gas pipeline that could deliver more than 30 million cubic meters of gas per day — an achievement that would bring energy but also some environmental relief, given India’s heavy reliance on dirty coal. At the same time, however, as the Brookings Institution’s Tanvi Madan recently noted, India could suffer if the deal destabilizes the Middle East: More than 7 million Indian nationals are based in the Middle East (mainly in the Arab Gulf), sending back billions of dollars in remittances. Pakistanis also have a sizable presence there, with nearly three quarters of their remittancescoming from the region.
And then there is Afghanistan. Here, the U.S.–Iran deal’s implications are less complicated and largely positive. Afghanistan could be one of the deal’s biggest beneficiaries, and for two major reasons.
First and foremost, Afghanistan’s economy stands to benefit in a big way.
In the coming months, New Delhi will likely begin developing the Iranian port in Chabahar, located on Iran’s southern coast. India wants to develop this strategic warm-water port to establish access to markets in Afghanistan and Central Asia — access that it does not have via Pakistan, which refuses to grant transit rights to India. More broadly, Chabahar would provide an important trade link for products from the Middle East and Europe destined for Afghanistan and Central Asia. And it would serve as a gateway to the Middle East and Europe for exports coming from Afghanistan and Central Asia.
New Delhi has envisioned this project for years, but sanctions on Iran had put plans on hold. After Washington and Tehran signed a provisional nuclear accord in April, New Delhi and Tehran concluded an MOU laying out preliminary steps for the port — including an Indian pledge to commit about $85 million to construct container and multi-purpose terminals. Now that a formal U.S.–Iran deal is in place and the relevant sanctions will presumably be removed, India is poised to initiate Chabahar’s full-fledged development.
The benefits for Kabul are clear. The port — in addition to facilitating more commerce with key trade partner India — will help open up new markets for Afghanistan in the Middle East and Europe, and present opportunities to diversify its list of trade partners. Presently, Kabul’s import and export partners are largely restricted to countries in South and Central Asia. In effect, the Chabahar project represents a potential economic bonanza for an economically troubled nation. According to Afghan officials, a fully operational port could generate trade volumes for Afghanistan totaling billions of dollars. That is no small sum, given that Afghanistan’s total trade volume has been barely $9 billion annually in recent years.
The timing could not be better. According to the World Bank, economic growth in Afghanistan was just 2 percent in 2014 — down from an average of 9 percent between 2003 and 2012. This is no surprise. The withdrawal of international combat forces has led to a contraction of the war economy in Afghanistan. Additionally, donor fatigue — fueled by Afghanistan’s deep corruption and troubled aid delivery systems, among other things — portends cuts in foreign aid. As of several weeks ago, the UN had receivedless than a third of the $405 million it requested from the international community to address humanitarian challenges in Afghanistan. Making matters even worse is that Afghanistan has recently suffered a significant decline in the value of its currency.
The second reason why the nuclear deal could be a boon for Kabul is the possibility of stepped-up U.S.–Iran cooperation in Afghanistan.
Such an outcome is far from assured, given the poisoned relations between the two nations over the last few decades, and caution is certainly in order. And yet the potential rewards are high. Better bilateral relations overall could significantly reduce the likelihood that Tehran will once again try to undercut the United States in Afghanistan, as it has done in the past by providing arms to the Taliban on several occasions. Already, with the nuclear accord now in place, Iran has less reason to fear that the United States may one day use Afghanistan as a staging ground for attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities, and therefore less reason to provide tactical support to the Taliban. This all bodes well for Afghanistan’s stability.
U.S. and Iranian interests in Afghanistan, which include combating the Taliban and promoting greater stability, are largely convergent. And it’s easy to understand why. Shia Iran has no desire for the Sunni Taliban to return to power — and it won’t soon forget the Taliban’s 1998 attack on Tehran’s consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif, which killed nine Iranian diplomatsand prompted Iran to mobilize 200,000 troops on its border with Afghanistan.
Tehran wants a more stable Afghanistan because instability intensifies narcotics production, which fuels Iran’s drug problems. Iran has one of the world’s highest drug use rates and is afflicted by a major heroin epidemic. Additionally, destabilization could increase already-heavy refugee inflows. Only Pakistan hosts more Afghan refugees than Iran. Furthermore, a deteriorating security environment, coupled with an increasingly fractured Afghan Taliban, could increase the influence of the Islamic State in Afghanistan. Even now, pro-Islamic State militants are battling — and defeating — Taliban fighters in Nangarhar province.
It’s important to recall that in the wake of 9/11, Tehran and Washington cooperated closely on Afghanistan. At the Bonn conference in 2001, it was Iran that broke a stalemate over the composition of Afghanistan’s first post-Taliban government. Several years later, according to journalist Barbara Slavin, Iran gave maps to Washington that revealed Taliban positions in Afghanistan and offered to train 20,000 Afghan troops as part of an American project to rebuild Afghanistan’s army. Of course, the two have competed in Afghanistan as well — and this goes beyond Iran’s past efforts to provide arms to the Taliban. In 2010, for example, Tehranreportedly sent bags of cash to President Hamid Karzai’s chief of staff as part of an effort to drive a wedge between Afghans and Americans. This should all be seen in the context of broader U.S.–Iran competition worldwide, which according to the Wall Street Journal has included Iran hiring Afghan Shias to fight in Syria on the side of President Bashar al-Assad.
We should not assume that the U.S.–Iran deal will magically lead to broader reconciliation; the relationship is burdened by too much lingering hostility and mistrust to expect such an outcome anytime soon. Still, it is possible that the two countries will now find ways to cooperate, or at least coordinate, in Afghanistan in areas that are mutually beneficial.
One possible area of cooperation is Afghanistan’s reconciliation process. Iran could join the United States in playing a behind-the-scenes role to encourage a fledgling peace process between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Another is some form of quiet coordination to address the Islamic State’s rising influence in Afghanistan. Two other possibilities, because they would involve working together more overtly, are admittedly less likely. Yet they shouldn’t be ruled out, given how consequential they could be for Afghanistan. One is counter-narcotics. In an era when opium harvests in Afghanistan have reached record-high levels, Iran and the United States could consider a new joint effort to slow down the drug trade. The other is coordinated development assistance projects. While Washington’s great largesse toward Kabul is well known, Tehran has quietly contributed as well — from $540 million pledged at a donor conference in 2002 to more recent funding of schools and media institutions.
Greater U.S.–Iran cooperation in Afghanistan will undoubtedly face obstacles that go beyond the troubled bilateral relationship. Some Afghansresent Iran’s presence in the country, regarding it as excessive meddling. Even some members of the Shia minority are wary of Iran, accusing Tehran of radicalizing their communities. Additionally, it is unclear if Tehran can establish the highly cordial relations with the present government that it enjoyed with the previous Hamid Karzai-led administration. Furthermore, the scaled-down U.S. presence in Afghanistan could constrain coordinated U.S.–Iran efforts in the country. Nonetheless, the U.S.–Iran deal opens up several potential new avenues for cooperation that could work in Afghanistan’s favor.
Even if the United States and Iran do increase their cooperation in Afghanistan, this won’t be a silver bullet for the conflict-ridden country. Many of Afghanistan’s core challenges — from corruption to insurgency — can only be solved with strong leadership and effective policies that must emanate from within. Additionally, some of the U.S.–Iran accord’s potentially deleterious consequences — particularly intensified Sunni–Shia tensions — could play out directly in Afghanistan, and to its detriment.
Overall, however, the deal could bring very tangible economic and diplomatic benefits to Afghanistan. This is refreshingly good news for a country going through some particularly difficult times of late.

Pakistan - Opposition leader demands resignation of ECP members

 Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah said here on Tuesday that members of the Election Commission of Pakistan should resign after the election inquiry commission’s report pointed out serious lapses in the way the ECP conducted the 2013 general elections.
Mr Shah, who belongs to PPP, was speaking after presiding over a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee that he heads.
It may be mentioned that the demand was first made by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan during his first formal reaction to the commission’s report.

Khurshid Shah cites serious lapses in conduct of 2013 elections pointed out by inquiry commission

“They should quit their job and go home gracefully,” he said. But, he added, “it may not be easy for them to leave such lucrative jobs,” because “each ECP member is drawing not less than Rs 800,000 per month”.
Answering a question about the future of Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Mr Shah criticised the government for leaving the MQM in isolation.
“The MQM leadership should be engaged in dialogue,” he said, adding that the party should not be excluded from the mainstream politics.
“They are not traitors, they are Pakistanis and patriotic people,” he said. Mr Shah said the MQM leaders might claim to represent ‘Mohajirs’, but in fact their forefathers had settled in Pakistan and were buried here. Therefore, they are not immigrants and have equal ownership of Pakistan like other citizens of the country.
In the past, he said, the establishment had labelled Jam Sadiq as an Indian agent but when he left PPP he was made chief minister of Sindh.
Answering a question about Kalabagh dam, Mr Shah said there were many other dams in the pipeline. “The question of Kalabagh dam could be raised after construction of all these dams.”

Women’s education in a shambles: Is Pakistan suffering from a case of 'under-implementation' of policies?

By Waqar Jappa
The condition of women’s education in Pakistan is miserable. The country has failed to provide good quality, equitable and sufficient education to half of its population. Both, the state and the society, are equally responsible for the sorry state of women’s education in the country. Lack of political will and vision, incompetent and insufficient faculty, poor infrastructure, social and cultural taboos attached with educated women, life threats to school going girls and frequent attacks on the women’s educational institutions in the tribal areas are some of the key factors behind the abysmal state of females education in Pakistan. If the current situation prevails, it will continue unleashing disastrous human, social, economic and political consequences on the state of Pakistan.  However, determined efforts in the way of improving education for women can certainly bring positive results for the country. Political will, vision and commitment, competent and sufficient faculty, implementation of proposals to enhance women’s education as recommended in the National Education Policy 2009, peace in tribal areas and establishment of a state owned educational television network can go a long way in turning the current appalling state of women’s education into a robust education system in the country.
Lack of political will, vision and commitment towards the implementation of educational polices is a major factor behind the sorry state of women’s education in the country. None of the successive governments have realized the grave consequences of not educating half of the population of the country. During the past sixty seven years of its independent life, Pakistan has had nine national education policies, five five-year plans, one free and compulsory education act, a constitutional amendment ( 18th) and dozens of other schemes, seminars and conferences aimed at improving the women education in the country. But, unfortunately, the state of women education in the motherland remains in a shambles. The reason is obvious: “under-implementation” of education policies. One is justified to say that women education has really made a great progress in Pakistan but on papers only.
Also, the poor state of women education in Pakistan is marred by multiple faculty related issues. Lack of a sufficient, well educated, well trained and motivated faculty is marring women education badly. There is almost one teacher available for ninety students. Teaching is not considered a sought after career in our part of the world. The young graduates after trying their luck in almost every other public sector job take up teaching as a last resort. They are not teachers by choice but by a sheer stroke of bad luck. Resultantly, these unmotivated, disenchanted individuals who are quite indifferent to the needs of students fail to make a positive impact on the learning process of the young minds. Moreover, the weak structure of pre-service training facilities of the newly inducted teachers takes its toll on the quality of teaching. Eventually, the entire education system and especially the women education suffer.
Adding fuel to the fire, lack of infrastructure like buildings, libraries, play grounds and furniture is yet another critical factor behind the abysmal state of education of women in the country. Lack of basic facilities in schools such as electricity, clean drinking water and toilets are additional deterrents which make the already bad situation worse. According to Pakistan Education Statistics Report 2012-13, out of 63,914 public schools for girls, 15.3% are without building, 7.1% are kacha schools,61% lack electricity, 42.4% lack latrines, 44.3 % lack boundary walls, 3.8% are declared dangerous while another 16.1% are in need if major repairs. This situation indeed shows nothing but the sheer criminal negligence of the state towards women’s education who make half of the country’s population.
The state of Pakistan undoubtedly, has been unable to provide sufficient, let alone good quality education, to women alone due to many reasons, some of which have already been discussed in the above paras. The Pakistani society too, has contributed in one way or another towards the appalling condition of women’s education in the country. The proceeding paras point out some of the social factors which have deterred the growth of women’s education in the country.
The deep-rooted social and cultural taboos attached with an educated woman are yet another reason behind the perpetual awful condition of the sector in the country. In a chauvinistic society like ours, an educated woman is seen as a threat to the social norms and cultural values. For, with education comes freedom – freedom to choose one’s own life partner. Education enlightens the mind and an enlightened mind questions the very legitimacy of brutal practices such as Vani, Karo kari, honor killing and marriage with The Holy Quran which are quite prevalent in the rural areas of the country. An educated woman knows her rights so she demands her right to inheritance. This is not acceptable in a patriarchal society like Pakistan. Consequently, women are kept away from education.
Also, girls are not sent to schools because parents see no sense in educating their daughters when their primary job is deemed to keep the house clean and raise children. This is partly because of illiteracy among the parents which makes them underestimate the importance of education and partly because of the fear of losing the family honor. Yes, the honor of the family (ghar ki izaat) is associated with girls in the rural areas. The parents think that their daughter might interact with opposite sex while going out to school and thus may cause a great harm to family honor. So, they choose not to send the girls to school in order to save the family honor. This is how social and cultural norms restrict the growth of women’s education in the country.
Closely associated with social and cultural taboos are the very conservative if not wrong interpretations of religious scriptures regarding women’s education by the powerful Molvi Sahb in the rural peripheries. It is a serious deterrent in the growth of women’s education in the country. Unlike the West, where the powers of the Pope have been restricted, Molvi Sahb in our part of the world still enjoys a great influence on the unschooled people. The concept of “Chadar aur Chardewari” which was introduced during the reign of Amir ul Momineen, Hazrat Zia ul Haq, the self-proclaimed messiah of Islam, still prevails. It is yet considered the only criterion by the Molvi Sahb as far as the question of getting education for women is concerned.  That means she cannot go out of the very four walls of the house. She can wear a uniform only that covers every single part of her body except eyes which is not a wise suggestion in this age and time. The prospects of getting higher education for her are equal to none. For, it has to be acquired alongside males and the intermingling of women with men is strictly forbidden in the Islam of a pseudo religious scholar. That means, precisely, no education for women at all! This is terrible.
The frequent attacks on girls’ schools, women universities and a recent surge in the killings of teachers by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in tribal areas has stunted the progress of women’s education in the country. There is a sense of fear and insecurity among the parents of female students. Resultantly, they have stopped sending their daughters to schools. According to the Pakistan Education Statistics Report 2012-13, 60% of the girls’ schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) have been severely damaged by terrorist attacks. The situation is worse in seven tribal agencies where Taliban hold a considerable control. The blowing up of the public schools and warning the parents on radio by Taliban not to send their daughters to schools where “Haram” education is given by the “un-Islamic state” of Pakistan is a routine matter in tribal agencies.
The attack on Malala Yousufzai – a sixteen-year-old education activist by Taliban back in October 2012 exposed the sick mindset of the so-called holy warriors of Islam. She was shot right in the head for the crime of promoting education in the area. Though, she has recovered now and has emerged as one of the youngest leaders in the World. However, it is yet to be seen whether she lives up to her promise of promoting education in the tribal areas or not. Given the current state of war there, the chances of improvement in the access and delivery of women’s education are bleak. 
The challenge faced by Pakistan is a daunting one. Imagine the future of a country with half of its population illiterate. It is a direct descent into chaos. Nothing more. Nothing less. The issue needs a serious thought by those at the helm of affairs. It has disastrous human, social, economic and political consequences for Pakistan. The economic cost of neglecting the education of the women is equal to a flood every year. The only difference is that it is a self inflicted one. Unemployment among women is rising with every passing day pushing more and more women into the poverty pool.
The growth in population is directly linked with illiteracy of the women. In a country like Pakistan where the population growth rate is already very high when compared with other regional countries, the little knowledge of the contraceptives and other population control measures leaves the women vulnerable to population growth. Moreover, an illiterate mother cannot play a constructive role in the upbringing of the children. Poor orientation of the children means perpetual backwardness of generations after generations!
The social evils like beggary and prostitution are the worst consequences of not promoting education among women. According to a Non Governmental Organization,(NGO) The Aurat Foundation, 90 percent of the women involved in the unethical business of prostitution are absolutely illiterate. It is also unfortunate that women with little literacy are more vulnerable to cruel customs and illegal practices of the society like Vani, Karo Kari, acid throwing, honor killing and denial in the inheritance than those equipped with good education.
Moreover, there is a zero percent chance of Pakistan meeting the United Nations millennium development goal on achieving 100 percent  enrollment at primary level for women. On the other hand, India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh are well on their way to achieve the same goal. India’s improvement ratio is ten times than that of Pakistan and Bangladesh is twice that of Pakistan.
But, despite the gloomy situation, determined efforts to improve the abysmal state of women education can certainly bring positive results for Pakistan. The way forward for Pakistan lies in turning the current sorry state of women education into a robust education system. Pragmatic steps like: Political will vision and commitment, implementation of proposals as recommended in the National Education Policy 2009 to improve the state of women education in the country, provision of infrastructure , competent and sufficient faculty, widening the network of educational institutions for women, removal of social and cultural taboos attached with women education, peace in the tribal areas, correct interpretations of religious scriptures by religious scholars, and  establishment of separate public educational  television network for the women will certainly go a long way in achieving a strong education system for women in the country.
To conclude, the sorry state of women education lies at the heart of multiple challenges faced by Pakistan. It is the result of decade’s misplaced priorities and criminal negligence towards underestimating the potential of half of the country’s population. Both the state and the society are equally guilty for providing an inhospitable soil for the growth of women education in the country. It has disastrous human, social, economic and political consequences for Pakistan. The time has come for the political leadership to leave their petty politics of non issues and concentrate on real issues. The time has come to realize that Pakistan’s transition into the global knowledge economy of the 21st century critically depends on improving the state of women’s education and not on incumbent government’s love affair with Red buses and Orange trains. One lives in hope that better sense will prevail among the “Shareefs” and concrete steps will be taken to improve the state of women’s education in the country.