Monday, September 14, 2015

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Fresh Off Iranian Nuclear Deal “Victory,” President Obama Vows to Hit Climate Change Agenda Hard

President Obama has big foreign policy and climate change aspirations as 2015 begins to wind down and his administration prepares for the final year of his presidency.
According to Politico, President Obama’s National Security team has been “quietly building an agenda of action items” that the administration will focus on as it heads into its “lame duck” year. Top of the list? “Climate change.”
Buoyed by the success of his nuclear deal with Iran, President Barack Obama is preparing to move aggressively on other long-delayed priorities, including a major climate change summit this winter and his elusive quest to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.
Despite being seven years into the Obama administration, and the president being in what most consider to be “lame duck” status, President Obama plans to have a laser-like focus on foreign policy issues like fighting ISIS, reigning in Russia, and inking the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
A list of other foreign policy interests includes:
  • A better relationship with Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
  • Completing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal
  • Increasing counter-terrorism operations in Africa and Asia
  • Improve ailing relations with China
  • Iranian nuclear monitoring
  • Defeating the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh)
  • Russia’s involvement in the Ukrainian separatist movement
  • The continuing withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan
That’s quite a laundry list that has accumulated.
But President Obama and his administration have “no intentions of resting on our laurels,” one senior official told Politico:
“We have an ambitious foreign policy agenda that we’ll continue to pursue aggressively throughout the remainder of [the] fourth quarter of the administration.”
Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, told Politico that President Obama will increase his focus on the issues that will affect his successor:
“The last 16 months actually can be very important not only for this president’s legacy, but for setting up the next president’s administration. No matter what people say in campaigns, you’re most likely to see incremental change from administration to administration.”
The President’s latest major foreign policy “accomplishment,” the nuclear deal with Iran, was fought tooth-and-nail by Republicans and many Democrats.
In fact, the House rejected the deal on Friday, which included “nay” votes from all but one Republican (that Republican, Libertarian Thomas Massie, voted “present”) and 25 Democrats.
On the climate change front, the President is preparing for the United Nations Climate Change Summit, which is set to kick off on November 30th in Paris, and is expected to last 11 days.
In recent weeks, President Obama has already tried to bring climate change issues into the spotlight. Two weeks ago, the President traveled to Alaska where he attempted to raise awareness about man-made climate change, which included a speech at the GLACIER conference.

President Obama talks education, financial loan changes in Iowa

President Barack Obama is at North High School in Des Moines right now to hold a town hall meeting on college financial aid.
Obama was introduced by Russhaun Johnson, the student body president at North High School.
Obama talked about the importance of a college education and how it can earn you at least $10,000 more per year than just a high school education.
Obama's stop is part of the Department of Education Director Arne Duncan's annual back-to-school tour.  

Students should not be priced out of education, Obama said.  He said he's asking Congress to simplify and shorten the college loan application process.
Obama said he hopes that changes will help hundreds of thousands of more students get into college.
The president took questions from the audience that was packed with local high school students, parents and teachers.
When asked what advice he has given his own daughter, Malia, the president said he told her not to stress too much about getting into one particular college, keep your grades up until you get in and make sure you pass and finally be open to next experiences.
Duncan said his advice is to apply to 4-6 colleges, not just one.  He said the student's goal should not be to just go to college but to graduate college.
Air Force One touched down at Des Moines International about 1:30 p.m. Obama was met by Col. Mark Chidley, Commander, 132d Air Wing; Kim Reynolds, Lieutenant Governor of Iowa; Frank Cownie, Mayor of Des Moines; David Young, U.S. Representative and Angela Connolly, Chair, Polk County Board of Supervisors.

Pashto Music - GHAZALA JAVED

Afghanistan, Mexico designated as major drug hubs


President Obama on Monday designated 22 countries, including Afghanistan, Burma and Mexico, as "major drug transit and/or major illicit drug producing countries."
The White House was careful to note that countries working to combat the drug trade can still wind up on the annual list because of a "combination of geographic, commercial, and economic factors that allow drugs to transit or be produced."
Bolivia, Burma, which is now called Myanmar, and Venezuela were singled out as failing "demonstrably during the previous 12 months to adhere to their obligations under international counter-narcotics agreements," according to the presidential determination sent to Secretary of State John Kerry.
Obama also declared that helping Burma and Venezuela fight drug producing and trafficking is "vital to the national interests of the United States."
"[I]llegal poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is among the most difficult international drug-control problems," Obama stated, adding that it has been the world's largest poppy producer for 15 of the last 16 years.
Burma, which the Obama administration recently re-established ties with and is allowing U.S. businesses to invest in, and Laos are the next two biggest opium producers.
"[C]ountering illegal drug cultivation in Burma and Laos will require strengthening of state institutions and sustainable economic development," Obama stated.
Obama praised Colombia, Haiti and Peru for their efforts to stamp out illegal drug production and trafficking.
"While Peru remains the top cocaine producer in the world, the Peruvian government has a comprehensive five-year counter-narcotics strategy to aggressively eradicate illicit coca, implement alternative development programs, interdict illicit narcotics and reduce domestic drug abuse," Obama stated.
Although not on the list officially, Obama said China's production of certain chemicals that can be used in synthetic drugs is of concern.
"The international community is also taking steps to focus attention on illegal drug activity in China, especially precursor chemicals produced in China that are diverted from legitimate commerce to criminal elements for the production of illicit plant-based and synthetic drugs," he stated.
The following 22 countries were designated as major drug producers or gateways for fiscal 2016, a list that is unchanged from last year: Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Burma, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.
Obama noted that next April, the United Nations is convening a special session focusing on combating drug production and trafficking globally.

ټپه د پښتو ادب یوه ستره سپېځلې برخه ده. افراسیاب خټک

د کوټې پښتو نړيوال سیمينار پر دویمه ورځ سیاستوال او ليکوال افراسياب خټک خپله مقاله کې وايي، چې ټپه د پښتو ادب سپېځلتوب او معصومیت څرګندونه کوي چې د هاغه مهال پښتون ولس خپل خوالۍ او د زړه ارمانونه په یو څو لنډو ټکیو کې بیانول چې د ادب نړۍ یو تر ټولو ستر ژانار بلل کېږي. د ښاغلي خټک د مقالې يوې برخې وډيو د مشال خبریال خدای نور ناصر جوړه کړې.

Afghanistan - Taliban Free 400 Inmates In Prison Break

Taliban insurgents stormed a prison outside the Afghan city of Ghazni, 120 kilometers southwest of the capital, Kabul, killing guards and releasing more than 400 inmates. Suicide bombers apparently used a car to destroy the main entrance of the mud fort being being used as a prison. Ghazni's deputy governor, Mohammed Ali Ahmadi, said 80 inmates had been recaptured but 352 were on the run, including about 150 Taliban.

Afghanistan gunmen torch UN food trucks in latest attack on aid workers

World Food Programme distribution suspended in northern province after five vehicles ambushed by gunmen and workers held overnight.
 Gunmen in northern Afghanistan captured and torched five vehicles belonging to the World Food Programme (WFP) at the weekend, in another sign of the increasingly hostile environment facing humanitarian workers in the war-torn country.
The trucks, which were marked with WFP logos, were returning to Faizabad, the capital of Badakhshan province, from a food distribution point when an armed group stopped them. The gunmen held the drivers for one night and, after releasing them, burned the empty trucks. No group has taken responsibility for the incident, which the WFP said it was investigating. It said none of the drivers were harmed.
Recently, Badakhshan has been besieged by violence as insurgents have opened new fronts in their push to take territory in the north of the country. The WFP convoy was returning from delivering food to Yawan, one of the most remote and food-insecure districts in the province.
Afghanistan as a whole is suffering from severe food shortages. In a new report, a group of aid organisations that includes UN agencies said 8.8 million Afghans were food-insecure at the peak of this year’s lean season, the period before harvest when food stocks dwindle. Of those, 1.5 million – or 5.9% of the population – were described as “severely food insecure”, up from 4.7% last year. Households headed by women, who are often the widows or daughters of men killed in the conflict, are almost 50% more likely to lack food.
Even more worrying, said the report, is that the number of people who have had to take extreme measures to survive, such as taking their children out of school or selling their land, has doubled.
“When people resort to these measures, they have no resilience against future shocks,” said Claude Jibidar, country director of WFP. “These figures are extremely alarming, especially in a country where one third of all people are already food insecure.” The WFP has suspended all food distribution in Badakhshan until further notice.
In another attack in Jalalabad last week, a roadside bomb apparently targeting an Afghan army convoy damaged a Unicef vehicle. The attacks reflect the growing danger for aid agencies in Afghanistan, where humanitarian workers have been caught increasingly in the line of fire this year, or have been targeted by insurgents or criminals.
The surge in attacks has had severe consequences for one of the largest agencies working in Afghanistan. After two employees of German governmentaldevelopment cooperation agency GIZ were kidnapped – one in Kunduz in April by the Taliban, the other in Kabul in August by unknown gunmen – the agency, which also employs 1,600 Afghans, relocated a large number of its 180 international aid workers to Dubai and Germany. Others have been moved to northern Mazar-i Sharif, where the German army built large, secure facilities, while a small number remain in Kabul.
A spokesperson for GIZ would not go into detail about staffing numbers, but said: “Changes in staffing are part of GIZ’s security system, and allow for continuous engagement, even under changing circumstances.”
According to the UN, 57 aid workers were killed in Afghanistan in 2014. In June this year, nine Afghan employees of the Czech charity People in Need were shot dead in a guesthouse in Balkh province. In April, the bodies of five kidnapped Save the Children workers were found in the mountains of Uruzgan.
The rise in threats to aid workers is “very, very concerning”, said Dominic Parker, head of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) inAfghanistan. “There’s a high level of insecurity and a general concern [about] the lack of respect for humanitarian aid.”
Parker said organisations have been forced to increase their security. “We have to take high levels of security measures, which makes the distance between us and the beneficiaries difficult to bridge at times,” he said.
Most humanitarian agencies engage in some form of negotiation with insurgents to secure access and security for their staff. But current disarray within the Taliban has made that process harder. The Taliban has begun to fracture since the announcement in July of Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s death, and the emergence of groups loyal to Islamic State (Isis).
Parker said: “In some provinces, the splintering of armed opposition groups is a concern to us. You are not necessarily able to pass the message all the way down to all parties.”

Pakistan - Plight of Education in Balochistan

Zafar ullah Musyani
On 5th September, Balochistan Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (BBISE) Quetta announced the annual result of intermediate exams. According to the chairman board only 7,710 students out of 26,880 passed the examination. Whereas 19,173 candidates failed in the exams. Likewise, this time the result depicted a dark future of Balochistan. And, it also evolved several questions in the minds. For instance, are the students of province that much inept that they can’t achieve passing marks only? Or, is it an unjustified way to push back the students of province? Or it is the failure of Balochistan government?
Whether it is because of the scantiness of talented students or inefficiency of government one thing is quite clear in the light of a natural law that “whatever the input, it’s directly proportional to the output.” Let’s examine the input of Balochistan Government. According to the Balochistan education department 1.2 million children are out of schools in Balochistan, 3,500 ghost-schools are there in the province, 40% primary schools have only one room, 80% primary and 40% middle and high schools lack toilets and 90% primary and 68% middle and high schools have lack of drinkable water.
Moreover, Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement (PSLM) survey conducted by Pakistan Bureau of Statics (PBS) ostensibly shows the inefficiency of government. The report says that in Balochistan literacy rate dropped by 3% to 43% in 2013-14, due to the decline in male literacy rate. Furthermore, three-fourth of women in Balochistan are illiterate, as per PSLM survey.
In addition, owing to the dearth of institutions and competent teachers, students from different districts are compelled to leave homes and live in Quetta. Where they withstand unimaginable and dire miseries, they don’t avail hostel facilities, don’t get to go in any library, because there is only one public library, which itself is in a sorry state. Further, Bolan Medical College (BMC) and University of Balochistan (UOB) administrators have also shut the doors of their libraries to outsiders.
Deteriorating standard of BBISE have also deprived the students of province of getting admission in the prestigious colleges and universities of Pakistan. Majority of passed students are given around 60% marks which are quite insufficient to compete with the students of other provinces whom it’s like a piece of cake to chalk up more than 80% marks. More ruefully, position holders in Balochistan always attain 900-950 marks out of 1100 marks. On the other hand, in other provinces toppers all the time attain more than 1000 marks.
Yes, and of course Yes, the ineptness and heedlessness of government is crystal clear from all the angles.
In nutshell, “Education is the most powerful weapon” we do know but unluckily don’t have the modus operandi to win and utilize it. Things that matter most should not be at the mercy of things that matter least. Quality education, competent teachers, transparent and advanced education system, facilitating the students and institutions, and libraries do matter more than the eye washing rallies and seminars for the eradication of copy-culture.
Unless and until government does not take decisive and considerable measures, it will be a distant dream to improve our educational standard.

Another example in Multan

Eyes wide shut
The mystery surrounding the Multan blast on Sunday – when a rickshaw-motorcycle collision caused an explosion that killed 11 and injured scores – is just another example of security agencies unable to get their act together even as Zarb-e-Azb is well into its second year. All that has been ascertained for sure so far is presence of willful foul play – from traces of explosive material and ball bearings at the blast site. Yet authorities are still clueless about much else; whether the rickshaw or the motorcycle was carrying the explosives, what (or who) might have been the original target, and how they got to such a packed locality with so much ease?
Long years of the war against terrorism have educated more or less everybody about the logistics of such attacks. Components are smuggled into target areas one by one, not all at once. It is at one, or more, of these stages that intelligence agencies pick up ‘chatter’, etc, to disrupt criminal networks. That the long list of Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) that were supposedly mobilised and integrated under NAP are clueless about this particular hit speaks volumes about their level of preparedness. And it doesn’t put the interior minister, who just the other day appreciated progress on NAP, in an enviable position.
A big part of the problem is Punjab’s ruling party itself. For far too long the government has shut its eyes to the rising wave of terrorism, and terrorist outfits, in the province, especially its southern belt. By refusing to appreciate the magnitude of the problem, the ruling N-league has allowed the problem to snowball to near unmanageable proportions. To make matters worse, the few among the government that do take the war seriously are allowed to end up like the late brave Col Shuja Khanzada; the brave home minister who took the fight to the enemy and paid with his life. Until and unless those at the helm pull up their socks and take this existential war seriously, Multan will not be an isolated incident.

Pakistan - The army rules over Nawaz Sharif

With the Pakistan government completely marginalised, New Delhi must be extra cautious, and its moves carefully calculated

Nawaz Sharif seems fated to have an adversarial relationship with his army chiefs. He was first elected to office in 1990, heading an army/ISI-backed alliance of Islamist parties, but he was soon at loggerheads with his army chief, General Asif Nawaz, who died under mysterious circumstances. General Asif’s successor, General Waheed Kakar, duly sacked Sharif in 1993.
In his second term, Nawaz chose to force his soft-spoken and professionally respected army chief, General Jehangir Karamat, to quit. He then superseded several senior generals and appointed a ‘Muhajir’, Pervez Musharraf. Musharraf was joined by Sharif in leading Pakistan to disaster and diplomatic disgrace, following an ignominious defeat in the Kargil conflict. In the blame game and melodrama that followed, Musharraf overthrew, incarcerated and exiled Sharif.
The haunting persists
Sharif’s woes with the army and its chiefs continue to haunt him even in his third term. In November 2013, he bypassed and sidelined two senior and highly regarded officers including General Rashad Mehmood, whom he appointed to the largely ceremonial post of chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee. He then appointed General Raheel Sharif, who had a pretty ordinary service record, as army chief.
Nawaz again erred grievously in his assessment. He ignored the fact that General Sharif had been a long-term crony of his bête noire, Pervez Musharraf, against whom he had then initiated criminal charges. General Sharif’s elder brother, who was a highly decorated officer, was killed during the Bangladesh conflict in 1971. He was one of Musharraf’s closest buddies. Raheel Sharif received no end of patronage, to rise to highest ranks, largely thanks to Musharraf.
After assuming office, General Sharif has seriously undermined Nawaz Sharif’s image, credibility and power, both in domestic affairs, and in foreign and security policies. He started by sending word that the army would not tolerate any arrest, or detention of Musharraf. A terrified Supreme Court and a chastened Nawaz duly complied. This was followed by clear messages to Nawaz that he should not seek closer trade relations with India, or meet Pakistan’s desperate energy needs by getting electricity from India.
General Sharif also took charge of Afghanistan policy and even got the ever-obliging President Ashraf Ghani to call on him at the headquarters in Rawalpindi, during a state visit to Pakistan. Raheel Sharif deals with the Afghan president and others as though he is a parallel head of government.
State within a state
General Sharif has has totally marginalised the Nawaz government even within Pakistan. The army launched the Zarb-e-Azb operations against the Tehrik-i-Taliban, without formal government and parliamentary approval. These operations have rendered more than one million Pashtuns homeless and led to cross-border shootouts, across the Durand Line. It was Raheel Sharif who also turned down Saudi requests for assistance in Yemen and got the Pakistan parliament to rubber stamp what he wanted.
The army is now acting like a state within a state in Baluchistan, where it ignores the orders of the Supreme Court to produce the “missing” persons it had detained. In Karachi, it has become a law unto itself by getting the paramilitary Rangers to clamp down on the MQM. It has even launched an anti-corruption drive against the PPP by arresting a close Zardari confidante and aide, Asim Hussain. Worse still, the defence minister, Khawaja Asif, and former environment minister, Muhammad Ullah, openly accused former ISI chiefs Lt-Generals Shuja Pasha and Zaheer-ul Islam of attempting to undermine the Nawaz Sharif government by backing the anti-government agitation by Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party. Imran Khan’s former deputy, Javed Hashmi, has alleged that the then ISI chief, Shuja Nawaz, actually told Imran’s supporters in Islamabad to “surround and drag Nawaz Sharif out of his residence”.
It should have been obvious to New Delhi that the NSA level talks on terrorism were going to achieve nothing, as the Pakistan NSA has no say on the terror that the Pakistan army unleashes within and beyond Pakistan’s borders.
The strategy should, therefore, have been to not yield, either on the agenda of talks or on meetings with the Hurriyat, without giving Pakistan a chance to scuttle the talks and blame New Delhi. Pakistan’s policy, to which we have wrongly acquiesced in the past, is to tell the world that the Hurriyat Conference is the sole, authentic representative of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and that the elected government in Srinagar is merely an unrepresentative puppet of India. Allowing Pakistan to use visits by its leaders to India to achieve this aim by their meeting the Hurriyat leadership and not the State’s elected leaders, was a grave folly.
India’s mistake
The fundamental mistake that New Delhi initially made in dealing with the meeting of NSAs was to seek an agenda from Pakistan, instead of just saying that talks would be held according to the provisions of the Ufa agreement. Sartaj Aziz would obviously have raised the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. He could have been told that we would not respond, as the item was not on the agenda.
We could have added that the whole of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India, as enunciated in the unanimous parliamentary resolution of 1994. Likewise, after voicing our objections to a meeting of Sartaj Aziz with the Hurriyat, all that needed to be done was to slap detention orders on the Hurriyat leaders while they were in Delhi, after the arrival of Sartaj Aziz. He could surely have not called off talks after landing in New Delhi!
Nawaz Sharif is today a “lame duck” prime minister, incapable of independent decision-making, not just on issues such as terrorism, infiltration and Jammu and Kashmir, but even on issues such as trade, energy, connectivity and economic cooperation. Serious issues like terrorism and cross-border infiltration can only be addressed by the Pakistan army, in meetings between DGMOs, at which officials of the ministry of external affairs and intelligence agencies would participate. The DGMO meetings should be institutionalised. General Raheel Sharif can then be reminded regularly of his mentor Pervez Musharraf’s assurance that “territory under Pakistan’s control” would not be used for “terrorism against India”.
In the meantime, New Delhi’s response to infiltration and cross-border terrorism will have to be increasingly robust, as it was, prior to the ceasefire in 2003.

Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa : Ready-to-use school remains closed since 2009

It may have been ready to start educating children in 2009, but the doors of the Government Girls Middle School Urmar Bala remain firmly slammed in students’ faces.  
Urmar Bala is one of rural union councils of Peshawar district. Locals say the education rate for girls is only one-third that of boys and most of the female students end up dropping out after the primary level due to the lack of facilities.
GGMS Urmar Bala was approved by former MPA Khalid Waqar Chamkani in 2009 and locals donated two kanals of land so that girls could get an education. The building was about two kilometres away from the main settlements of the area.
However, the school’s doors are locked and it is devoid of all staff despite the fact that locals lodged several complaints with the education department.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Faridullah, a resident of Urmar Bala who donated land for the school, said he parted ways with his property for the sake of girls’ education in the area. However, he is disheartened to see that authorities seem least concerned.
“I have bulldozed my orchards and donated my land to this school, but my dream of girls’ education is yet to be realised,” he added.
Although he hails from an educated family, his three daughters are deprived of an education in the absence of a school. “I felt it was necessary to provide land for the school,” he added.
Faridullah said girls of this union council get educated till the primary level but cannot go to another UC for higher education. He urged the government to appoint staff for this school as it is ready and all kinds of facilities are available in this school.
GGMS Urmar Bala has four rooms and an open ground, as well as electricity, running water and toilets. Dropout rates for female students are also increasing fast in Urmar Payan, Badhaber, Mathra and Sharkira due to the lack of facilities.
Another resident, Zakirullah, said there are hundreds of schools in the district which lack basic facilities, but GGMS Urmar Bala has all the necessities. “And yet, it has been closed for the last five years,” he said.
“Every year, around 100 girls in this union council get primary education but cannot continue with their studies due to the lack of a high school.”
He pressed the elementary and secondary education department, its minister and area representatives open the school for girls.
When contacted, Peshawar District Education Officer Samina Ghani said the ownership of the land, on which the school is built, has not been transferred to the education department. She added the government approved the school and it is the responsibility of the communication and works department to construct the building and hand it over to education authorities. The officer said teachers will be appointed once the paperwork is complete.
She said thousands of teachers were appointed in Peshawar district while authorities have also advertised for other posts. Ghani said the matter of this school will be brought to the attention of authorities.
However, talking to The Express Tribune, the K-P Elementary and Secondary Education department Director Rafiq Khattak said he has no information on this school. He assured he would enquire about the school and investigate its prolonged closure.

Pakistan - Education conference: ‘290,000 children out of school in Lahore’

As many as 290,000 children between the age of five and 16 are out-of-school in Lahore, Alif Ailaan (AA) coordinator Umair Asif said on Thursday.
Citing the organisation’s District Education Ranking 2015, he said buildings of 127 public schools in the district were in poor condition.
Asif shared the data at the Lahore Education Conference 2015 at the University of Management and Technology (UMT), Lahore. Alif Ailaan had organised the conference in collaboration with the Kafka Welfare Organisation.
According to the AA ranking, Lahore district stands third in the country in terms of district scores for primary-level education. It was awarded a learning score of 62.54 out of 100. For middle-level education, the district was ranked 23rd.
Lahore also has the lowest student retention score of 69.69 in Pakistan, according to the ranking. In the infrastructure ranking, Lahore scored the least (83.96) points for condition of primary school buildings. It got 92.24 points for condition of middle-level school buildings.
Asif said that in Lahore district the literacy rate among girls in rural areas was 57 per cent. It was 78 per cent in urban areas.
Former MNA Fareed Paracha said the government should ban O-level and A-level in the country. “It should also provide quality education in Pakistan,” he said. He said that proficiency in English was often used in Pakistan to gauge the quality of education. He said there was a lack of research at all levels. He blamed the bureaucracy for the state of education.
Other speakers discussed the issue of access to good quality education in the country.
MPAs Sadia Sohail Rana and Sardar Hasan Mokal, UMT Social Sciences Dean Abdul Hameed, UMT Department of Education Chairperson Seema Arif, columnist Mujahid Mansoori and ASER Pakistan’s Saher Saeed also spoke on the occasion.

Pakistan - #BilawalKiLalkaar - Bilawal attacks

After a long hiatus since his political career was launched in Karachi on October 18, 2014, during which the air was full of speculations about differences between him and his father Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari relaunched his long awaited political journey with an address to a PPP workers' convention in Lahore on Saturday, September 12. What was immediately noticeable about the tone and content of Bilawal's speech was the full frontal attack on the PML-N leadership and government. Forget the controversy about differences between Bilawal and Asif, this assault seemed to take its cue from the recent outbursts of the former president against the government. Bilawal launched into the Sharifs by claiming that the 'friends' of terrorists were ruling the roost in Punjab. Dilating on the change in the PPP's policy, he said there could be no 'reconciliation' with the sympathisers of the extremists or friends of dictators. He said the present rulers only realised the need for an operation against the terrorists after the Peshawar Army Public School bloodbath. Before that, they were attempting to hold talks with the terrorists. Bilawal questioned the attempts to paint the PPP in the colours of being involved in terrorist financing (a reference to Dr Asim Hussain's arrest and the allegations laid at his door) when the party was the first to take up cudgels against the terrorists. He reminded his audience that Operation Zarb-e-Azb actually started in 2008 under a PPP government when operations were launched in Swat and South Waziristan (both acknowledged to be successful in driving the terrorists out of those areas). How, he questioned, could such a party be put in the dock on charges of financing terrorism, and that too at the hands of a government that had betrayed signs of either being sympathetic to, or scared of, the terrorists. Lahore, the bastion of democracy, Bilawal argued, had been handed over to the sympathisers of the terrorists. On the economy, Bilawal lambasted the government for its anti-farmer policies, which were forcing farmers to commit suicide, burn their crops or dump them on the roads because they could not get a fair price for their produce. In contrast to his mother, Benazir Bhutto's attitude to the issue, when she once pledged to buy up farmers' crops in a crisis even if she had to dump them into the sea, the PML-N government was letting farmers die of hunger and rubbing salt into their wounds by diverting the state's resources towards showpiece projects like the metro bus. Bilawal warned the government that the common people would not allow you to rule if you do not solve their problems. He reminded Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif of his election campaign pledge to overcome load shedding within six months of coming to power or he would give up his name for some other. Bilawal wanted to know, more than two years down the road, what name the chief minister would like to be called by now. He castigated Shahbaz Sharif as neither a Khadim (servant of the people) nor Aala (great) (a play on the title the chief minister likes to be referred to as: Khadim-e-Aala). Describing the style of governance of the Sharifs as favouring only their friends and loyalists, some pertinent questions raised by Bilawal were why so many institutions were running without heads and others being led by visionless cronies appointed against merit; why the government has destroyed PIA and is unable to even pay the salaries of the workers of Pakistan Steel Mills; why the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was nowhere to be seen despite corruption being rampant on this government's watch, and why NAB was not investigating the Nandipur project scandal when the cost had risen from Rs 22 billion to 181 billion.

Bilawal has come out in Punjab with both fists swinging and all guns blazing. This change of tack was becoming visible of late since the Punjab PPP's long standing argument that the 'reconciliation' policy was damaging the political prospects of the party in the most populous province that was once its main (ideological and political) base were clinched by the recent spate of arrests and cases against the PPP's leaders. What remains to be seen, despite the obvious enthusiasm of the PPP's workers to have their young leader in their midst at last, is whether the new strategy can succeed in overcoming the graph of the PPP's decline in Punjab over many years. If Bilawal's remarks are any guide, it appears the party is groping its way back to its original élan of a party of the poor, peasants and workers. The response of this constituency will be watched with great interest in the days ahead. 

Pakistan - Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto condmns the Multan blast

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has condmned the Multan blast and expressed his deep condolences on the sad demise of precious human lives.
PPP Chairman expressed sympathies with all those families who lost their loved ones in the blast and prayed for the departed souls.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also prayed for the early recovery of all those injured in the incident.

Pakistan - Mismanagement or corruption in Nandipur Power Project should be investigated

Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly, Khursheed Shah has said that PPP did not want politics of 80s and 90s, adding that the party is moving forward with the interest of Parliament, while the decision of Kashmir dispute must be made according to UN resolutions.
Talking to media in Multan, Khursheed Shah said that the country is facing the problems of poverty, inflation and power load shedding, for which government will have to take effective measures for their elimination. He said that Nandipur Power project was worth 22 billion rupees during PPP regime. He said that PPP does not belive in back-door politics.
Shah further said that PPP will always be on the front line to save democracy and Parliament. Beating each other with baton is not any politics, adding that PPP also did not want such friendly opposition which damage the democracy.
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Earlier, Syed Khursheed Shah has urged the Supreme Court of Pakistan to take a suo-moto notice on accountability court’s verdict against Sindh Assembly member Ali Nawaz Shah.
The opposition leader also said that even political opponents of the MPA have said that the minister is honest.
“Ali Nawaz Shah had refused to take advantage of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). The accountability court’s verdict against him raise suspicions that judgments are being given on basis of political differences”, the opposition leader said.
“It is alarming when the courts stop providing justice to the people in the country”, he added.

Pakistan press freedom under pressure from army

By Jon Boone
Journalists claim they are forced to self-censor criticism of the military after indirect threats from army officials
Hamid Mir knew one of the guests on his nightly television show had made a mistake the moment he blurted out the name of the country’s army chief without due deference.
“He just said ‘Raheel Sharif, Raheel Sharif’ without calling him general,” Mir says of a recent episode of his influential Capital Talk programme. “I knew immediately the words came out it would be cut.”
At a time of intense pressure on the media to cooperate with an army public relations campaign that is burnishing the image of General Sharif, channels routinely edit out or drop the sound on the mildest criticism of the military.
Even the country’s only Nobel peace prize winner, the schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai, was briefly silenced in early August when she said in an interview with Aaj TV that the prime minister had told her he was unable to spend more money on education because of pressure to fund military operations.
Mir fears that behind the pressure for self-censorship lurk “anti-democratic forces deliberately trying to undermine political institutions by giving more importance to the army.”
Leading journalists claim to have received indirect threats from army officials who warn them they are being targeted by terrorists or that their coverage is raising suspicions they have been compromised by the Indian intelligence service.
There is little doubt the military has rehabilitated its public reputation after the damage done to its popularity in the final years of the rule of Pervez Musharraf, the coup-making general forced from power in 2007.
Media workers say the current unbridled support for the army comes from the need to support the institution at a time when soldiers are dying in a war against Islamist militants. But it also reflects draconian new legal requirements placed on broadcasters. Last month the information ministry issued a sweeping code of conduct that made it a condition of a broadcaster’s licence to not air material that “contains aspersions against the judiciary or armed forces”.
Television stations were also required to have a “delaying mechanism” on live programmes to enforce the restrictions.
Last week the Lahore high court ordered Pemra, the country’s media regulator, to ban all coverage of the speeches and even photographs of the leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the country’s fourth biggest political party, which is reeling from an army-led crackdown in Karachi.
Altaf Hussain, who runs the MQM from self-exile in London, was accused in court of committing treason for issuing an incendiary speech in which he lambasted the army and hinted top generals were involved in corruption.
Most media companies need little encouragement to stay on the right side of the army given memories of all-out war with Geo TV in April 2014. The popular channel triggered military fury when it aired accusations that the head of the army’s intelligence wing had been behind the near fatal shooting of Mir, its star journalist. Cable television providers were encouraged to drop Geo from their lineup while advertisers deserted the channel.
Mir said his bosses tell him to avoid controversial stories because it will “make trouble for colleagues”. “They say mysterious people call the advertisers and tell them to stop advertising with Geo and then we won’t be able to pay salaries on time,” he said.
Even to suggest Pakistan’s army, with its long history of coups and indirect rule of the country, should stay out of politics is completely beyond the pale, said Mir.
The media has given little attention in recent weeks to a supreme court investigation of well-founded allegations of corruption within the army’s property empire. And there has been hardly any discussion of the slow progress in sending home the huge numbers of people displaced by operations against the Taliban in North Waziristan.
While the media enthusiastically covers stories about corruption and incompetence among civilian politicians, General Sharif receives fawning coverage. Last week Kamran Khan, one of the country’s most famous journalists, devoted much of his nightly show on Dunya News to what he claimed was a growing public clamour for General Sharif to be given a second term rather than be allowed to retire in November next year.
Pakistani journalists credit the general in charge of the army’s public relations department, Asim Bajwa, with crafting an image of Sharif as a dynamic general who was not afraid to take on the Pakistani Taliban.
Footage of Sharif visiting frontline troops or receiving foreign leaders in his office regularly push the country’s civilian leadership off the news bulletins. General Bajwa said his job was simply to “share genuine information with the people”.
“We are not asking the media to do this or that, or to censor anything,” he said. “People appreciate the work of the army because the reality on the ground is improving.”
Abbas Nasir, a former editor of Dawn, an English-language daily paper, said it was unlikely General Sharif would want a second term given the anger it would be likely to cause within the army. But overconfidence could yet lead to the repeat of the disastrous mistakes of the past.
“My worry is this completely one-sided praise, if it gets to the head of some military leaders, may lead us back to mis-adventurism, whether that’s a march on Islamabad or some sort of an attack on India,” he said. “If you are constantly told you are great, sooner or later you will believe it.”

Pakistan’s Unconvincing Strategic Shift By SADANAND DHUME
Ever since last year’s horrific attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan’s government has gone into overdrive to convince the world that its attitude toward terrorism has changed. As the argument goes, the Islamic republic is in the midst of completing a wrenching strategic shift away from fomenting terrorism and toward fighting it instead. But though this view appears to have become popular wisdom in Pakistan, it finds few takers elsewhere. In recent weeks, top U.S., Afghan and Indian officials have called on Islamabad to put a lid on a cauldron of jihadist groups that constantly threatens to bubble over.
Last month, the U.S. threatened to withhold $300 million of military aid to Pakistan after U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter refused to certify that it had acted adequately against the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network. On a visit to Islamabad, National Security Adviser Susan Rice urged Pakistan to do more against militants operating from its territory.
Many Pakistanis view international skepticism toward their country’s war on terrorism as evidence that the world refuses to give Pakistan a fair shake. The columnist Aisha Sarwari, for instance, accuses Western critics of peddling “orientalist jargon” and disregarding the sacrifice of Pakistanis “who have perished in the demonic war of terrorism.”
This notion of victimhood is misguided. In fact, the path toward changing global perceptions of Pakistan is straightforward enough. The Pakistani army only needs to show that it’s as much at odds with terrorists who attack Afghans, Americans and Indians as it is with those who attack Pakistanis.
This is not to suggest that nothing in Pakistan has changed. When it comes to fighting the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP)—the Afghan Taliban’s Pakistani cousins—Chief of Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif deserves credit for showing far greater resolve than his predecessors. Over the past 15 months, the army has pounded the TTP in its stronghold of North Waziristan. Just a few years ago, support for the TTP from Islamist-friendly politicians such as Imran Khan, and a fear that army morale would suffer in a fight with fellow Muslims, had made an attack on North Waziristan appear exceedingly unlikely.
Similarly, security forces have finally taken off the gloves with anti-Shiite militants who have enjoyed both political patronage and pockets of popular support for more than three decades. In July, police gunned down Malik Ishaq, founder of the anti-Shiite group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and 13 supporters in what was widely seen as an officially sanctioned execution. Analysts had long regarded Ishaq, accused of more than 100 murders, as too well connected with both politicians and the army to be touched.
For many Pakistanis, the army’s resolve contrasts favorably with the dithering of the political class, not least Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (no relation to the army chief.) To his fans, Gen. Sharif has emerged as a sort of South Asian Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the strongman who pulls his country back from the fundamentalist abyss. That Gen. Sharif comes from a family of war heroes who earned their spurs battling India only enhances his appeal.
Until a spate of attacks in Kabul last month soured relations, Pakistan could also point toward better relations with Afghanistan as evidence of change. Since he took office last year, President Ashraf Ghani put repairing ties with Islamabad at the heart of his foreign policy.
Unlike his predecessor, Hamid Karzai—a fierce critic of Pakistan’s role in destabilizing Afghanistan by backing insurgents—Mr. Ghani had seen Islamabad as part of the solution rather than part of the problem. But last month he accused Pakistan of continuing to provide sanctuary to mercenaries who “send us messages of war.”
What can Pakistan do to get the world to see its counterterrorism effort in a more sympathetic light? In Washington, a parade of visiting Pakistani diplomats and retired generals counsel patience. They portray their country’s fight against the TTP as evidence of a change of heart. Eventually, the argument goes, the army will move against all jihadists. Who can reasonably be expected to take them all on at one go?
The trouble with this story boils down to asking the world to trust Pakistan to do the right thing when it has spent at least the past 35 years doing precisely the wrong thing: arming, funding and training assorted jihadists to fight in Afghanistan and India.
Neither the Afghan Taliban and its affiliates nor the India-focused Lashkar-e-Taiba show any sign of losing their appetite for violence. That only bolsters suspicion that when it comes to terrorism the Pakistani army will always play both sides of the street.
Given this reality, perhaps it’s time for Gen. Sharif to try a different approach. He could quickly disarm skeptics by going after the terrorist groups widely regarded as the army’s jihadist proxies: Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Haqqani network. If, say, LeT founder Hafiz Saeed and the bloodthirsty Sirajuddin Haqqani were to meet the same fate as Ishaq, Pakistan could credibly claim to have overcome its credibility crisis.
For now, Pakistan doesn’t show the slightest inclination to touch the likes of Messrs. Saeed and Haqqani. Skeptics are right to dismiss Pakistan’s alleged strategic shift as nothing more than a clever move to dress up narrow self-interest as a profound national reorientation.