Wednesday, August 26, 2015
The United Nations has warned of the increasing number of children killed in the Yemeni conflict, saying those who survive will form “a lost generation” as a result of the traumatic experiences of the crisis.
“Children are paying an unacceptable price, and the ever mounting death toll tragically underscores the need for urgent action to protect them and other civilians,” said United Nations Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui on Tuesday.
Yemen has become “another stark example of how conflict in the region risks creating a lost generation of children, who are physically and psychologically scarred by their experiences, deprived of educational opportunities, and who face an uncertain future,” she added.
The UN official also lashed out at the Saudi regime for targeting civilians in its 21 August airstrikes on the southwestern Yemeni province of Ta'izz, which claimed the lives of 65 civilians, including at least 17 children.
“Parties to conflict must abide by their international legal obligations to distinguish between civilian and military objects, and take precautions to avoid and minimize civilian casualties,” Zerrougui underscored.
She also voiced concern over the educational situation of children in the war-ravaged Arab state as the new school year is about to kick off.
“As the start of a new school year approaches, the conflict is severely curtailing children’s access to education,” Zerrougui warned.
According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), 114 schools have been completely destroyed and 315 others partially damaged in Yemen since the beginning of Riyadh’s military campaign in late March. This is while some 360 schools have turned into refuges for the families who have fled their homes as a result of the deadly conflict.
On March 26, Saudi Arabia began its military aggression against Yemen – without a UN mandate – in a bid to undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement and restore power to the fugitive former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh.
The conflict has so far left about 4,500 people, including 402 children, dead and thousands of others wounded, the UN says.
The Communist Party in Moscow has proposed slapping a 25-year moratorium on the renaming of streets and squares, and the removal of monuments. Attempts to delete facts from people’s memories are harmful to Russian history, the party says.
“The city committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation demands to stop the political sabotage targeting the victories and heroes of the Soviet Union and the whole millennium-long history of our motherland. We ask to introduce a 25-year moratorium on any topographical renaming and on removal of monuments,” Kommersant daily quoted the proposal as saying.
Controversial historical issues are often used by Russian political movements to get public attention and secure support. Among such topics are the suggestion to remove Vladimir Lenin’s body from the Mausoleum on Red Square, to reinstall the monument to KGB founder Felix Dzerzhinsky on a square in central Moscow and to rename the metro station and city district currently named for the Bolshevik who supervised the execution of the Romanov family in 1918.
The Communists also said they disagree with the very concept of a memorial to victims of political repressions currently being pondered by Moscow city authorities. They said that future monuments must commemorate not only of those who were unjustly prosecuted during the Soviet period, but also of victims of all other regimes.
The committee emphasized in its address that the Communist party was not against the idea of a monument to victims of repression, but that it should be erected to all those who have suffered from various arbitrary actions of the authorities.
The Communists’ appeal was released about a week after Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev approved the concept of state policies aimed at remembering the victims of political repression. The government said in an explanatory note that the main objective of the document was to improve the cooperation between state authorities and the institutions of civil society, and the creation of better conditions for the country’s development.
The proposal calls for citizens to have free access to various archives documenting repression, and to for the building of monuments and memorials to victims open to all members of the public for free.
Kommersant reported that the Communists made their proposal shortly after the administration of the Voikovsky District in Moscow held public consultations over the possible renaming of the district and the Voikovskaya metro station. Both the district and the metro station are named for Bolshevik official Pyotr Voikov, who worked in the Cheka, the first Soviet security service, and was in charge of detaining Tsar Nicholas II and his family, and then of their execution and the disposal of their bodies.
A joint commission dealing with renaming places in the city is due to make a decision on the possible renaming of the district and metro station by the end of September.
Action News anchor Monica Malpass was on assignment Wednesday to interview President Barack Obama one-on-one at the White House. They discussed several topics, including the shooting of two TV news staffers during a live report in Virginia. A reporter, 24-year-old Alison Parker, and a photographer, 27-year-old Adam Ward, died in the shooting. The suspect, 41-year-old Vester Flanagan, who went by the name Bryce Williams when he was also an on-air reporter, died from a self-inflicted gunshot a few hours later. "It breaks my heart every time you read or hear about these kids of incidents," President Obama said. "What we know is that the number of people who die from gun-related incidents around this country dwarfs any deaths that happen through terrorism," the president continued. Monica also talked with President Obama about the recent agreement the U.S. and other countries made with Iran, to dismantle its nuclear program.
Hillary Clinton said Vice President Joe Biden has a "very difficult decision" to make about a 2016 presidential run and pledged to continue her campaign as normal in spite of speculation about another potential Democratic opponent.
Clinton reiterated that she has "a great deal of admiration and affection" for Biden, but wants him to make the right choice for him and his family following son Beau Biden's death earlier this year. Clinton, who attended Beau Biden's funeral, said she couldn't begin to imagine the "grief and heartbreak" Biden has experienced.
"He has to do what he has to do but I'm just going to continue with my campaign," Clinton said in Ankeny, Iowa today.
"I always thought this would be a competitive campaign. I don't think anybody should have thought otherwise and I'm going to run as hard as I can, trying to convince as many people as possible to support me and earn all the votes that I can in the caucuses and primaries."
Secretary of agriculture and former governor of Iowa Tom Vilsack also emphasized his love and admiration for Biden, but said he will stand with Clinton "until the last dog dies." Vilsack endorsed Clinton in an op-ed yesterday and stressed that the timing of his endorsement had nothing to do with the possibility of a Biden run.
Whether Biden runs or not, Clinton said, "I'm going to be running for president regardless."
Taliban fighters seized a district headquarters in Afghanistan's Helmand province on Monday despite repeated U.S. air strikes to repel them, adding to the insurgents' recent advances in a heavily fought over region of opium farms and trade routes.
Elsewhere in Helmand, a man in Afghan uniform opened fire in the former British base of Camp Bastion, killing two U.S. service personnel, before being shot and wounded. Another man in Afghan uniform was wounded in the return fire.
It was the second incident this year involving Afghan troops, or people wearing Afghan uniforms, shooting at foreign soldiers. No group has claimed the attack.
Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said the attacker opened fire on the vehicle in which the Americans were traveling. He gave no more details.
An Afghan regional official said the incident involved Afghan special forces firing on allies at the former Camp Bastion, which was handed over to Afghan forces last year.
Helmand's Musa Qala district fell after the Taliban overran police and army posts to retake a district straddling smuggling routes that was wrenched from them by British and Afghan troops eight years ago.
U.S. warplanes have been bombarding Musa Qala since the weekend, killing up to 40 militants, with two new air strikes on Tuesday. But they regrouped, chasing the district government out of town and confiscating weapons in what a spokesman for Afghanistan's 215th Maiwand Corps called a "tactical retreat" to protect civilians.
Coalition military advisors have recently been working with the 215th Corps, which based in Helmand capital Lashkar Gah.
"Afghan special forces, police and commandos have been deployed to Helmand in order to retake Musa Qala district. Foreign air strikes are backing our forces," said Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for the defense ministry.
In Afghanistan's first summer fighting season since foreign troops stepped back from combat roles, the Taliban have pushed into several districts in the North and South but have mostly struggled to keep hold of them.
Last week, Afghan forces pulled out of the town of Nawzad, the headquarters of a neighboring district that was also fiercely fought over when British and U.S. forces were stationed in Helmand, the country's main opium production center.
That means the Taliban currently control three districts in northern Helmand and have partial control of several others, including Kajaki, where they frequently disrupt supplies from a large U.S.-built hydroelectric dam powering the province.
"We left the district early in the morning because the Taliban were attacking from all sides," Musa Qala district Governor Mohammad Sharif told Reuters by telephone.
"We had asked for reinforcements for days but none arrived and this was what happened," he said.
In the years following the 2001 U.S. invasion that toppled the Taliban government, more than 400 British soldiers died in Helmand, several while defending Musa Qala. More than 350 U.S. Marines also lost their lives in the province.
Nearly 14 years later and after foreign forces formally ended their combat mission, the Taliban is still fighting a guerrilla war aimed at restoring their hardline regime.
Violence has increased sharply across Afghanistan since the coalition mostly withdrew in December, leaving a small contingent of about 12,000 NATO troops to train Afghan forces.
The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday said that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has failed to complete investigation into corruption cases of billion of rupees against Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, former PM Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Pervez Elahi even after 15 years.
In a report filed by NAB in SC, it has been disclosed that an enquiry into financial irregularities of Rs 126 million against PM Sharif and Punjab CM in the construction of Raiwind Road was started in 2000.
Another enquiry against Sharif was launched in 1999 concerning his alleged involvement in illegal appointments in Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). So far, none of the enquiries have been concluded.
Previously, Maj Gen (r) MH Ansari had filed an application with NAB, stating that several officers who were appointed have now retired.
The report also reveals that investigations against Hussain and Elahi for corruption of Rs 2.5 billion and accumulation of illegal assets started in 2000 but are still incomplete.
A three-member SC commission is reviewing NAB’s report.
Punjab government has once again proved its Shia enmity and arrested Shia leaders without any reason. According to reports, 22 Shia leaders have been arrested last night from different cities of Punjab including Bhakar, Sialkot, Gujrat, Wahari, Dera Ismail Khan and Nankana Sahab. They have been arrested by counter terrorism department and include leaders and members of Majlis e Wahdat e Muslimeen and Shia Ulema Council, Ulema and Zaakireen.
It should be clear that National Action Plan was formulated against terrorists but Punjab government has proved its Shia enmity by using it against Shia Muslims according to balance policy. However, they do not have any proofs against Shia Muslims. This action by Punjab government is in fact a way to provide relief to their Deoband and Wahhabi extremists and terrorists by painting the ongoing terrorism as a sectarian conflict, whereas everyone is aware of the fact that sectarian problems do not exist in Pakistan and it is engulfed in Deoband and Wahhabi terrorism.
On the other hand, the leader of Majlis e Wahdat e Muslimeen Allama Raja Nasir Abbas Jafri severely condemned the arrest of members of Shia organizations and demanded their immediate release, while talking to a news conference in Islamabad.
Strange that Rana Sanaullah brought up the threat to the Punjab Assembly and tried to play down the danger of terrorism in the province at the same time. His observations regarding seminaries are particularly interesting. Not a single madrassa in Punjab has any links with terrorists, he said, speaking no doubt after thorough investigation by relevant agencies. Why, then, should Punjab differ so seriously from other parts? The Sindh home department, for example, has just ordered action against 49 seminaries with alleged links with terrorist organisations. And just the day before Ch Nisar spoke of the centre’s concern about movement on suspect madrassas.
Why would Sanaullah want to give his province a clean chit on the madrassa question? Naturally his position will not be taken too seriously when many in the ruling party – including the late Col Shuja Khanzada – openly disagreed with it. By issuing such statements, the Punjab law minister not only weakens his party’s position, but also gives weight to accusations about his links with suspect organisations. If anything, militancy in Punjab is expected to provide one of the stiffest tests yet to Zarb-e-Azb as it becomes more complicated and intel-intensive. Many consider action here, where radical militants have long been housed, as the true litmus test for the operation.
As the Punjab government finds its feet after its home minister’s assassination, it must ensure NAP is, finally, properly implemented. Sidestepping crucial processes in the Plan – like madrassa funding, etc – will not only allow the enemy to strike more boldly, but also harm politically as people demand action. The ruling party is advised, therefore, to concentrate its energies on building on the momentum that is being generated. True, violence overall has come down since the operation began. Yet it is equally clear that much more needs to be done to eradicate terrorism and terrorists completely. Political correctness of the Rana Sanaullah mould will no longer successfully divert public opinion. The government will have to walk the talk, for itself and the people.
A recent defence agreement between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and India has arisen many questions regarding foreign policy of Pakistan as the proximity of the two is result of a ‘poor handling’ of affairs by the Foreign Office if not a complete failure vis-a-viz Arab world.