Saturday, August 1, 2015

US Secretary of State Kerry begins Middle East tour

US Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Egypt on the first leg of his Middle East tour. Kerry will also hold a meeting with his Russian and Saudi Arabian counterparts in Qatar and attend a Gulf summit.
United States Secretary of State John Kerry hosts a State Department ceremony to release The 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report in Washington July 27, 2015
(Photo: REUTERS/Gary Cameron)
Ties between Washington and Cairo have been tumultuous since the popular revolt against former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The United States has been particularly critical of President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi's repression of the supporters of his Islamist predecessor, Mohammed Morsi.
The relations between the two countries have begun to improve somewhat, with Washington lifting sanctions on military aid for Egypt in March.
John Kerry will hold strategic talks with Sameh Shoukri, Egypt's foreign minister, on Saturday before heading to Doha. The dialogue will be the first between the two countries since 2009, and comes days after the United States announced that it would begin the delivery of eight F-16 fighter jets to Cairo.
The top US diplomat is also expected to raise the issue of human rights violations with his Egyptian counterpart.
"We'll certainly be discussing the issue of the political environment, human rights issues while the Secretary is in Cairo. That is an important part of our regular dialogue," a US State Department official said.
Concerns about Iran
In Doha, Kerry will attend a meeting of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members and try to allay fears among the US's Arab allies about Iran's nuclear deal with world powers, which was sealed on July 14 in Vienna.
Many Gulf states are weary about Iran's growing closeness with the United States.
The GCC foreign ministers and Kerry will also discuss the conflicts in Syria and Yemen. The US State Department confirmed that Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would meet on the GCC sidelines.
Kerry, whose Middle East visit does not include a stop in Israel, will leave for Southeast Asia from Doha.

President Obama to speak at Las Vegas summit

President Barack Obama will be the keynote speaker at the National Clean Energy Summit later this month.
The annual summit, now in its eighth year, brings together clean energy advocates, business leaders, students, public officials and decision makers in an effort to advance the clean energy economy.
Organizers of the summit credit the president for making progress in addressing the threat of climate change on a global level and has increased the use of wind and solar energy domestically to reduce carbon emissions in record numbers.
Some topics that will be discussed during the summit will be job creation through renewable energy initiatives, energy independence and empowering Americans to develop existing clean energy resources, the summit said.
“MGM Resorts International believes in the need for businesses to make a conscious effort to reduce their carbon footprint,” said Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International. “President Obama has made significant strides in this space and has been a strong ally in the fight for clean energy.”
President of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Len Jessup added, “President Obama has prioritized funding for important clean energy research and education activities that are making a positive impact in Nevada.”
Nevada Senator Harry Reid said, “It will be a good conference and President Obama will really be the touchstone of how good it will be.”
“National Clean Energy Summit 8.0: Powering Progress” is co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Harry Reid, Center for American Progress, the Clean Energy Project, MGM Resorts International and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Among the summit’s past speakers are Hillary Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenegger and many more. Speakers for this year’s summit include Senator Reid, secretary of energy Ernest Moniz, President of Electric Operations at Pacific Gas and Electric Company Geisha Williams.

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President Obama’s Racial Renaissance


WE finally have the president we thought we elected: one who talks directly and forcefully about race and human rights.
When President Obama took the podium at theannual convention of the N.A.A.C.P. in Philadelphialast month, he sounded like the leader I’ve been waiting to hear since his first inauguration in 2009. It was almost as if Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow,” and the former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. had hacked his computer and collaborated on his speech.
Many of Mr. Obama’s admirers and critics have hungered for straight talk on race since he his election. But since taking office, the president had been skittish on the subject and had mostly let it lapse into disturbing silence.
As we prepare to mark the first anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., this country continues to grapple with what feels like an onslaught of black death.
But now we are doing it with a president — our first African-American president — who has found a confident voice on race.
What led to his racial renaissance? And, more important, how can this shift be more than words? Beyond his incisive rhetoric and funding for police body cameras, can he take action that will leave the black citizens of this country better off when their first black president leaves office?
I believe the same confidence that has led the president to not only change his tune, but sing in a far more comfortable register, will lead to the necessary action: greater federal pressure on police departments, for example, further Justice Department investigations of police units plagued by racial bias and comprehensive judicial reform that removes from local prosecutors the decision to charge a cop in the killing of an unarmed civilian.
In large part, the president’s shift is the surge of history, the play of contingent factors that reveal, even force, a president’s hand, rushing him to the bully pulpit in ways that only a few months ago may have been inconceivable. Police killings of unarmed black citizens and the rise of the #BlackLivesMatter movement have pushed the president in the right direction, along with a steady undercurrent of principled black criticism. It is easy to understand the president’s initial hesitation to engage race. The last thing he wanted to do, initially, was offer the nation a self-portrait of presidential leadership that drew exclusively from color. The right wing had made furious efforts to demonize him as a man unworthy of assuming the mantle of national leadership. The assaults from political figures who portrayed him as a cipher, or a monkey or, later, the police officers who cracked jokes at his expense, proved the toxic atmosphere.
“I am subject to constant criticism all day long,” the president told me in an Oval Office interview back in 2010. “And some of it may be legitimate; much of it may be illegitimate. Some of it may be sincere; some of it may be entirely politically motivated. If I spent all my time thinking about it, I’d be paralyzed. And frankly the voters would justifiably say, ‘I need somebody who’s focused on giving me a job, not whether his feelings are hurt.’ ” Mr. Obama said then that a great deal of the resistance he faced from the Tea Party had more to do with anti-government emotions rather than strict racial animus, even as he understood how the two intertwined. “Are there probably elements within that movement that focus on my race? I think that’s probably the case. I don’t remember any other president who was challenged about where he was born despite having a birth certificate.”
The president often practiced the politics of racial sublimation: He took the energy of race and redistributed it over the political landscape in a host of racially neutral projects — Obamacare, primarily — which could have racial benefits without an overt message of aiming policy at minority communities. This was an uneasy alliance of amnesia and avoidance, and no matter the surface calm, racial tensions were percolating beneath. When they erupted in police killings and black resistance, Mr. Obama’s path to public proclamation was cleared.
Bracing racial rhetoric, in tandem with targeted public policy, can make a big difference in how race is lived. The president has already made a push for prison reform. In his N.A.A.C.P. address, he argued that instead of devoting $80 billion to incarceration, we could invest in pre-K and jobs for teenagers, both of which would return the investment far more grandly than a life diminished behind bars.
Mr. Obama has also sought to aggressively enforce legal bans on residential discrimination — making cities accountable for the use of federal housing funds to reduce racial disparities. He has finally become more willing to grant pardons to prisoners who were often unjustly saddled with life sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.
And in light of the hostilities between minority groups and the police, the president summoned a group to recommend incremental changes, some of which he adopted, such as the call for body cameras. Each effort is commendable and in some ways overdue. But something bigger is called for.
We need a new Kerner Commission report that is updated for our day, paying special attention to how black people are viciously targeted by unethical police practices. It’s true that calling for a commission might not seem like the most systematic fix. But a serious investment in assessing the state of inequality and systemic racism in America — numbers behind the trends the president spoke about when he eloquently eulogized the slain Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney in Charleston, S.C., in June — will show us clearly what work is left. And it will be harder to ignore, less ephemeral than mourning or protests.
In our conversation several years ago, the president told me that he aimed to speak about values that everyone could rally around. “At its base what’s always been strongest about the civil rights movement has been when it said, ‘Yes, there is a unique problem here that arises out of race and slavery and segregation. But when you lock us up, you’re imprisoning yourself in some fashion,’ ” he said.
Last November, the nation saw the spectacle of a black president giving a news conference on one side of a television split screen while in Ferguson, tear gas and sirens swirled around a crowd protesting the failure of a grand jury to indict a police officer in the death of an unarmed black teenager. Mr. Obama was stern, his gaunt visage strained by the relentless thrum of events, events that possessed a remorseless logic of black suffering as their end.
The president appeared to be, as he had often stated, not the president of black America, but, instead, the president of the United States, which seemed to be disuniting as he spoke.
In the months since, he has found a way to be both the president of all America while speaking with special urgency on life for black Americans. When Mr. Obama is free to tell the truth about race and the condition of black America, he is free to be the best president he can be.

Video - President Barack Obama (FULL) Interview - BBC News - Jul 23, 2015

President Obama's Weekly Address: Celebrating Fifty Years of Medicare and Medicaid

Pashto Music - Sardar Ali Takkar - زه چه تللی یا دَوم زړه می نړیږی ـ حافظ الپورے

Afghanistan’s Peace Process: A Long Road Ahead

Balochistan: Short-Term Interests Precede Over Long-Term Development Goals

By Safiullah Shahwani
The 46 billion dollar Pakistan-China Economic Corridor promises progress in the long run that Balochistan, Pakistan’s southwestern province, has always struggled for. But for now, it is the short term needs that weigh heavy on the minds of people and politicians in the province.
“Clean drinking water is not available to the people of Gwadar and their lands are being grabbed and allotted to influential people,” said Agha Hassan Baloch, spokesperson for Balochistan National Party Mengal (BNP-M).
Baloch said that the Pak-China Economic Corridor would remain secondary to Baloch needs till the pressing issues facing the local population are solved. ” [Else] the Economic corridor would mean nothing to them.”
Pakistan and China inked the agreement on mega development project during the state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Pakistan in April 2015. The Pak-China Economic Corridor will connect the Gwadar Port in southwestern Pakistan to Xinjiang in northwestern China through a network of highways, railways and pipelines to transport oil and gas.
The Corridor is an extension of China’s proposed 21st century Silk Road initiative – also known as the Belt and Road Initiative (OBOR), a development strategy that focuses on connectivity and cooperation among countries primarily in Eurasia. As of 2012, there are 93 independent countries in Eurasia. This includes all 48 countries of Europe (including the island countries of Cyprus, Iceland, Ireland, and the United Kingdom), 17 countries of the Middle East, 27 countries of Asia (including Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, Philippines, and Taiwan), and one new country now often associated with Oceania – East Timor. Thus, nearly half of the world’s 196 independent countries are in Eurasia. The region comprises 71 percent of the world population – nearly five billion.
Seen as the largest overseas investment by China, the project will also open trade routes providing China direct access to the resource-rich Middle East and Central Asia. The project is expected to be completed in three years. It is seen as a “strategic game changer” in the region, that will make Pakistan, a close ally of China, richer and stronger as a country that will serve as an entry point for the corridor.
After the deal was signed in April, it sent ripples through the political, economic and social spectrum of Pakistan’s polity. There has been a controversy over Punjab, Pakistan’s biggest province in terms of population and resources, changing the route of the corridor to secure its interests at the cost of small provinces. Some of the most strident criticism came from Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces where politicians seemed concerned over the route and a proposed change therein, leading to multiple All Parties Conferences in Quetta and Islamabad.
Opposition leader and Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl Rehman (JUI-F) parliamentary leader Maulana Abdul Wassey said they still had reservation over the Pak-China Economic Corridor. “The Federal government did not allocate the budget for corridor in 2015-16 budget,” said Wassey. “The federal government should deliver on its promise made by the Prime Minister Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif in All Parties Conference in Quetta. The federal government has abandoned the old route and is considering the new route.”
According to media reports, a total of 51 agreements were signed in different fields during Xi’s visit to Pakistan, including infrastructure projects, energy generation, agriculture, education, telecommunications and research. Of the 51, 30 agreements were linked to the strategic corridor, regarded as the biggest connectivity project between the two countries after the Karakoram Highway built in 1979.
The proposed corridor will shorten the route for China’s energy imports from the Middle East by about 12,000 kilometers. The CPEC will link China’s underdeveloped far-western region to Pakistan’s Gwadar deep-sea port on the Arabian Sea, based in Balochistan. The province that has long been demanding control over its resources has seen plans related to development of the Gwadar Port as a possible conspiracy on part of the center to take over the strategic port.
“If the federal government is sincere with the local Baloch population, it should transfer the port authority to them and appoint their educated youth on executive posts in the authority,” said Baloch.
He said the local Baloch population was threatened by the influx of non-locals in the province which would reduce them into a minority.
“If measures are taken to secure their position by not including non-locals in voter lists, not issuing local certificates, domiciles and national identity cards to to them [non-locals] from their [Baloch] constituencies, then they [the Baloch] may feel comfortable with the mega development projects,” said Baloch.
JUI’s Wassey said that the economic corridor and Gwadar port development projects were different in nature, adding that the corridor would bring development to the region.
“An era of development will usher in after the corridor’s completion, leading to establishment of factories, development of mega cities like Karachi, Islamabad, changing the Baloch and Pashtun areas into an economic hub which would ultimately lead to change in standards of life for good,” said Wassey.
He said that the reservations of the people of Gwadar should also be addressed before the initiation of the work on the corridor.
Nasrullah Zairey, a Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA) associated with Pashtunkhwa Mili Awami Party (PKMAP) said his party still had reservation about the economic corridor.
“The federal government did not allocate funds to the old route which sends a message to the provincial government that the federal government is now considering a new route,” said Zairey.
He said that the prime minister had promised during the All Parties Conference in Quetta that the corridor aimed at development of Balochistan and progress of its people. “The federal government’s such attitude can be seen as anti-Baloch and Pashtun move,” Zairey added.
He said that if the economic corridor is pursued via old route, it would bring about revolutionary changes in the region stretching from Balochistan to Kashgar, providing employment through trade links with Central Asian Republics (CARs). The economic development would lead to improvement of education and health facilities, he added.
Zairey termed the reservations of the people of Gwadar valid, adding that coalition government in Balochistan would take people of Gwadar in confidence about all future development projects.

India, Bangladesh swap lands to end historic border dispute

After nearly seven decades, India and Bangladesh have officially swapped more than 150 pockets of land. The move follows a historic agreement signed earlier this year.
One minute past the stroke of midnight on Saturday, India and Bangladesh ended a decades-long border dispute by swapping contested lands.
While an agreement to swap 162 islands of land - 111 in Bangladesh and 51 in India - was officially signed by Dhaka and New Delhi in June, the handover did not occur until Saturday.
The deal was originally agreed on in 1974 following Bangladesh's war for independence from Pakistan.
However, India's parliament did not approve the agreement until earlier this year.
The land swap affects around 50,000 stateless people, who have now received citizenship after nearly 70 years in limbo.
While most of the residents of the swapped lands celebrated their newfound citizenship, around 1,000 people living on the newly Bangladesh side have opted to keep their Indian citizenship.
India has said that they have until November to leave their homes and be resettled in the state of West Bengal.
India's External Affairs Ministry said in a statement on Friday that the day "marks the resolution of a complex issue that has lingered since independence" from British colonial rule in 1947, reported AP news agency.

Is Faryab Province Quickly Slipping From Afghan Government Control?

By Bruce Pannier
The situation in Afghanistan's northern Faryab Province, which borders Turkmenistan, has become critical. Militants who started attacks in the province in early July have seized more than 100 villages in little over a week.
On July 15, the chief of the Faryab Provincial Council, Sayed Abdul Baki Hashami, told RFE/RL's Turkmen Service, known locally as Azatlyk, that local pro-government paramilitary groups are retreating in almost all areas of Faryab and that the provincial capital, Maymana, is in danger of falling to militants.
Hashami said these local pro-government forces, which he called the "People's Resistance Front," are the province's only defense against enemy forces in Faryab. Despite government promises to launch an operation in the province to repel the militants, he said, there are no signs on the ground of that happening.
"They [the government] continue to say every day that we have sent forces and will start a [military] operation," he said, adding that the only help local militia forces have received came from the Directorate of National Security and it was "only their support that has allowed the People's Resistance Forces to hold ground."
"We don't have a government in Faryab" at the moment, Hashami said. He added that district centers are still under the control of pro-government fighters but "outside district centers, most areas are under Taliban control."
Hashami mentioned that militia forces had been fighting militants in Faryab's Almar district for two weeks, and he credited lawmaker Fathullah Qaysary for coming to the area a few days earlier with supplies of ammunition. Hashami said Qaysary saved the militiamen in Almar from perishing, but he also said pro-government fighters were forced to withdraw, abandoning 32 villages to the Taliban.
'Desperate Situation'
Afghanistan's Tolo TV reported on July 14 that "the Taliban have taken control of 30 villages in Qaysar district, 40 villages in Almar district, and 35 villages in Shirin Tagab district over the past three days."
Hashami said that in Almar, the Taliban and their foreign militant allies burned the homes of anyone suspected of belonging to or helping pro-government fighters.
Hashami said people in the province are "in a desperate situation" and blamed a lack of government support. "I've been telling the government dozens of times that these areas are going to fall to the Taliban and the situation is deteriorating. I told the interior minister, the defense minister, and the presidential administration," Baki said.
Afghanistan's vice president, Abdul Rashid Dostum, has reportedly cut short medical treatment in Turkey to return to Afghanistan. In comments to Azatlyk on July 15, Dostum spokesman Sultan Fayzi confirmed that Dostum would soon travel from Kabul to Faryab.
Fayzi said Dostum was "planning on meeting with the president, and after this meeting he is planning to travel to Faryab to observe the situation on the ground."
Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek warlord from the days of the Afghan civil war, was based in northern Afghanistan with a stronghold in Mazar-i Sharif. Fayzi said Dostum's presence in the north would encourage those resisting the Taliban, but he added that the deputy defense minister and the commander of Afghanistan's air force were already in Faryab.
Fayzi also said reinforcements, including helicopter gunships, would be sent to Faryab, and he vowed that the Taliban would be driven out of the province.
Fayzi and Hashami referred to the militants in Faryab as "Taliban," but other officials and military and paramilitary commanders in north Afghanistan have made frequent reference to "foreign fighters" operating there.
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) contacted RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, known locally as Ozodlik, and claimed that the IMU was in command of operations in northern Afghanistan, including in Faryab Province.
It was impossible to independently verify that claim, but Afghan officials have previously suggested the same.

Pakistan - Pray For Asia Bibi And All Christians Living In Muslim Countries Says Franklin Graham

Reverend Franklin Graham speaks out for Pakistani Christian woman on death row under blasphemy charges.
Reverend Franklin Graham, who is a prominent American evangelist, spoke out on the hair-raising issue of Asia Bibi suffering in a Pakistani prison under blasphemy charges.
Reverend Franklin Graham, on his Facebook page wrote: “It is hard to believe that Asia Bibi was sentenced to death for drinking water from the same cup used by her Muslim co-workers in Pakistan.”
“This is life under Sharia law. There are so many Christians around the world who are suffering right now because of their faith. For every story we hear in the news, there are multitudes more who are persecuted or killed because of the Name of Christ. Pray for Asia Bibi and for all Christians living in Muslim countries.”
Asia Bibi has been on death row since she was accused of committing blasphemy in June 2009 by her fellow-workers. Session’s Court in District Nankana, ruled capital punishment for Asia Bibi in 2010.
Her defence lawyers filed an appeal against the decision while she remained in police custody since then. During this period hearing of her appeal case was either rescheduled or delayed several times.
Recently, on July 22, the Apex court of Pakistan delayed her execution till next orders are issued. But sorrowfully, she might not even survive until formal final decision of her fate by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Asia Bibi is reportedly, suffering from internal bleeding. She has become so weak that she can hardly walk. Sources revealed that she coughs blood and is unable to eat. No medical treatment has been administered to her.
Bruce Allen from Forgotten Missionaries International said that an appeal has been filed at the Supreme Court of Pakistan for her bail on medical grounds, however, thus far, authoriites have not released recent information about the status of her case.
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Pakistani Hindu Woman speaks of forced conversion, denial to lodge FIR of rape, trafficking


How women of marginalised communities are suffering at the hands of influential people and the state has turned a blind eye towards their misery came to light at a press conference held on Friday.
Emmi, 30, and resident of Thatta city, is now looking for justice with the help of a non-governmental body providing legal aid to women and child survivors of violence and abuse.
Ironically, however, the police have not only refused to register an FIR on one pretext or another but also sexually harassed her. There is no action from the government side either that has been informed in writing about the case, according to her.
“When I took my complaint to the Thatta police, nobody took me seriously and the staff there started laughing. I was told to go to the house of DSP Makli for FIR’s registration,” said Emmi at the press conference organised by Madadgaar Helpline in its office.
She accused the police official of sexually harassing her. “I have been exploited for eight years and demand justice,” she said as tears rolled down her face.
Emmi’s troubles started when she became friendly with a man over the phone in 2008. The man that she identified as Shahbaz, a resident of Mirpur Sakro, later convinced her to meet him outside her house and kidnapped her with the help of another man, Ramzan.
“They took me to an unknown place where I was confined in a dark room for 20 days, beaten and raped. Then I was sold and taken to Nawabshah,” she said.
In Nawabshah, Emmy was forced to sign some papers to convert her from Hinduism to Islam and arrange her fake marriage with Javed Khaskheli who forced her into prostitution. She attempted twice to escape and was punished.
“I was burnt and initially admitted to a hospital in Nawabshah and later to the Combined Military Hospital in Hyderabad.
I was told that I should identify myself as the wife of Javed,” she told journalists, adding that she was also poisoned by his tormentors.
According to her, she spent about six years in Hyderabad in confinement during which she also met three girls brought for prostitution. She finally managed to escape on the second day of Eid and reached her home in Thatta. It came as a shock to her that her father, the only close relative he had, died following her kidnapping.
“With the help of a friend, I came to a court in Karachi where someone suggested that I should seek help from Madadgaar,” she explained.
She also showed a picture and the national identity card of one of his tormentors to media persons during the briefing.
Giving his remarks, Advocate Zia Awan said his organisation prepared a case for the victim and also contacted relevant police officials in this regard. But the police were not willing to register the case.
“On Thatta police’s insistence that the case didn’t fall in their jurisdiction and that the Mirpur Sakro police should be contacted, we asked the victim to go to the latter. But they also refused to register the case. Both police stations have accepted the complaint, though,” he said.
According to Mr Awan, it was after his NGO received no positive reply from the government side, including minister for culture Sharmila Faruqui, that it decided to highlight the case in the media.
“We have contacted police officials and a sitting minister to take action but all our attempts have been futile. What else an NGO could do. We are not a state,” he said in reply to a question.
“State inaction and justice denial is also a kind of terrorism. We want this case to be seriously investigated and culprits punished,” he said, adding that a number of cases had brought to his knowledge in recent months in which women were trafficked and used for prostitution.
The women, he said, were taken to Afghanistan via Balochistan.
“This case is just the tip of the iceberg. Most cases go unreported. In cases that reach us, often the victims are reluctant to talk to the media. There is a dire need to make the police and the justice system efficient,” he said.

Pakistan - Sidelining FATA

Afrasiab Khattak
Most of the twenty points of National Action Plan (NAP) for fighting and defeating extremism and terrorism in the country seem to be on the back burner for some time now but one of the most important points that is almost totally forgotten is the administrative and political mainstreaming of the Pashtuns living in the colonial construct FATA. If the experience of the last 68 years is anything to go by it is not difficult for the around ten million tribal Pashtuns living in the mountainous areas to figure out that they constitute a periphery in the state system, thus dispensable. For example when state needed “ volunteers” to fight in Kashmir in 1948, people of FATA living quite far away from the area with no knowledge of the language and geography were roped in to do the fighting. But there are few roads in the vast area, not a single university or medical college. Literacy rate is less than 20 percent for male and less than three percent for females. All other social indicators are also not much different.
Similarly we know that the entire country has suffered due to the bankrupt policy of “strategic depth “ in Afghanistan but the people of FATA had to pay the most terrible price. Their suffering was not just confined to being overwhelmed by the drug and Kalashnikov culture. The area was practically occupied by national and international terrorist networks who helped Afghan Taliban to conduct a fight across the Durand Line, all the spins and diversions about our “our forces are too stretched to act” or “ the general so and so being reluctant to order operation” not withstanding. God forbid if such a tragedy had befallen on even a single sub division of the core area (the Punjab) Pak state would not have waited even for a single hour to attack the enemy, throw it out and liberate the people of the area from its clutches. But FATA Pashtuns do not have such luck. As a consequence of these misguided policies millions of people from this area have become IDPs.The people of Pakistan, let alone the people of the world, have yet to know the full story of the worst victims of the barbaric terrorism in 21st century as FATA has remained a black hole, out of bound for the media coverage for the last so many years.
Be that as it may gravity of the situation becomes more evident when we realize that without properly integrating FATA into the state system there cannot be peace and stability neither in Pakistan nor in Afghanistan but the government does not appear to be even mulling any reform plan. Terrorist networks that create parallel structures and compete with the constitution based state system fill the vacuum created by the lack of full-fledged state system. The fact of the matter is that we have witnessed “ Fatafication” of parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa over the last few years. In the official documents administration officers mention as de facto FATA areas that are part of the province but where the government has lost its writ. During the last many weeks a similar development has appeared on the other side of the Durand Line where Taliban have undermined state’s writ. So what is the government of Pakistan waiting for particularly when defeating terrorism has become the declared objective?
It is ridiculous on the part of the present government to appoint yet another commission to prepare recommendations for reforms in FATA. Actually the area is over investigated. There have been so many commissions with so many reports during the last four decades without any implementation. There is an alliance of all major political parties of the country working for the last many years (which includes PML-N also) on a common platform of reforms in FATA. Interestingly the ruling party supports the 10 points reform agenda of the aforementioned alliance but instead of implementing the consensus program it has appointed a new body for preparing recommendations for reforms. The purpose is clearly to delay reforms, keep the status quo and gain time for squeezing the dying colonial system. The biggest obstacle on the path of reform in FATA is the black economy that thrives on the lack of full state control particularly the complete non-existence of judiciary. Millions of rupees originating from drug trade, smuggling and gun running change hands every twenty-four hours in almost every political agency. This money goes up and has anesthetic effect on the political will of the higher ups while mulling the reform agenda. In the past political administration had a monopoly over the black money. Now the powerful ones in the security agencies operating in the area have their share in the pie. Hence the new argument against reform is the “non conducive security environment“ for reforms. The fact of the matter is that reforms are now a prerequisite for the improvement of security.
It is very disappointing to note that FATA was not even mentioned in the debate about the urgent need for holding local government elections. Even the Apex Court that demonstrated a unique and laudable will for forcing the governments of different provinces to hold local government elections in accordance with constitutional provisions totally forgot FATA. Hiding behind the bad security is simply laughable. If elections can be held for National Assembly seats in the area in 2002, 2008 and 2013, why can’t we have local government elections? LG elections in FATA are important because the old system has completely collapsed and there is a vacuum that can be filled by the elected representatives of the people. In fact it is high time to decide the question of administrative status of FATA. Article 247 of the Constitution is a colonial legacy totally unjustified in an independent country. The sooner we get rid of it the better it would be for FATA, for Pakistan and for regional peace.

Pakistan - #PPP supported democracy, not Imran Khan

Opposition leader in the National Assembly (NA) Syed Khursheed Shah on Saturday said that Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has supported democracy and not Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan.
He expressed these views while talking to the media in Sukkur after visiting flood-hit areas.
Shah said that if situation worsens, there is a possibility of imposition of emergency in flood-hit areas.
He said that until now several camps are empty. Shah said that the affectees would have to leave their homes for safety. He also said that residents of Kacha area were given a beforehand warning.
The opposition leader said that flood affectees are being provided necessary items in relief camps.

India-Pakistan 'mango diplomacy' isn't fruitful

Shivam Vij
In a South Asian tradition, Pakistani leaders send mangoes to their Indian counterparts every year. The fabled 'mango diplomacy', however, does not really help lower tensions between the two neighbours, writes Shivam Vij.
On the occasion of Eid last week, Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reportedly sent a box of mangoes to Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.
But relations were not sweetened as a result.
The festival gift came even as India and Pakistan exchanged fire in the disputed Kashmir region, in which at least five civilians on both sides were killed.
"Sharif resorts to 'mango diplomacy' amid cross-border shelling," read anewspaper headline.
"Mangoes were delivered to Mr Modi through official channels even as Pakistan was accusing us of flying a drone into its airspace," the Hindustan Times quoted an Indian official as saying on condition of anonymity.
Mr Sharif sent 10kg of mangoes to Mr Modi, 15kg to Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and 10kg each to former Prime Ministers Atal Behari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh.
However, "mango diplomacy" is not working: it didn't reduce cross-border tensions, and on Monday, India blamed Pakistan for an attack on a bus and police stationin Gurudaspur in the northern Punjab state. Ten people, including a senior Indian policeman, were killed in the attack.
And earlier this month, tensions on the border meant that Pakistani soldiersrefused to accept sweets on the occasion of Eid from their Indian counterparts.

Annual ritual

The exchange of sweets between the two countries on festivals is as much a tradition as mango diplomacy - with one difference.
Pakistan sends mangoes to New Delhi every year, regardless of the security environment between the two countries, but India does not reciprocate with mangoes.
A spokesperson for India's foreign ministry refused to explain why India does not reciprocate Pakistan's mango diplomacy, or give any details of mangoes received by Indian leaders.
Sources in Pakistan, the world's fifth largest producer of mangoes, say that it is an annual ritual for Pakistan to send boxes of mangoes to heads of various countries, not just India.
Mango farmers in South Asia often send boxes of their produce to important people in their area, an act of sharing as much as showing off.
Pakistan, clearly proud of its mangoes, seems to be replicating the tradition of mango orchard owners at a nation-state scale.
Sources in Pakistan say the country sent a mix of various local varieties, such as Sindhri, Langda and Chaunsa, which are also found in India.
They also include a famous variety called Anwar Ratol.
Few people know that Anwar Ratol, too, hails from India. It takes its name from the village of Ratol, two hours east of Delhi.
Known as the king of fruits, mangoes originated in the Indian subcontinent, as indicated by its scientific name, Magnifera Indica. It is the national fruit of both India and Pakistan.
While India grows over 1,200 varieties of mangoes, Pakistan grows a third of that number.
India is the world's largest producer of mangoes, growing nearly eight times the quantity of mangoes that Pakistan does. But it is the quality that is a matter of intense dispute between Indians and Pakistanis.
"It would be a good idea for India to send mangoes to Pakistan's leaders too," says former diplomat and Congress party leader Mani Shankar Aiyar.
He immediately had second thoughts.
"Having served in the (now defunct) Indian consulate in Karachi, I can tell you that Indian mangoes would have a hard time matching theirs, unless we move in early with the Alphonsos," Aiyar said, referring to a particularly sweet variety of mangoes found in Maharashtra.
Many Indians proud of their mangoes would disagree with Mr Aiyar, who added that such measures were mere tokenism, fruitless because they do not come along with substantive talks and negotiations.
Pakistani political commentator Ayesha Siddiqa agrees with him.
"Mangoes and cricket, these are old tactics used to re-starting India-Pakistan talks. India and Pakistan seem to have nothing new to say to each other," she says.