Monday, October 19, 2015

'Mars Buddha' Rock Formation Sends Imaginations Running Wild

Another day, another discovery on Mars -- although this one is up for debate. Some enthusiasts say the discovery of the "Stunning Martian God" is proof intelligent life has existed on the Red Planet. The area in questions was found in a photo from NASA's Curiosity rover. We've spotted rock formations on the Red Planet resembling everything from faces, animals and even a floating spoon. Go ahead and add an area that looks a lot like a Buddha statue to that list. "I think we have seen this statue before, but never this close up. This is a better view of it and shows a face and head turned to its right, with breasts and a plump stomach, shoulders. Very remarkable detail in this photo," Scott Waring, who runs a UFO sightings site wrote. "This photo alone should be enough to convince the United Nations that intelligent life once existed on Mars." The so-called "Mars Buddha" has sent imaginations running wild, though not everyone is buying it. A more likely explanation for the curiously shaped rock formation is pareidolia, the phenomenon where humans interpret a pattern or meaning in something even though it's not actually there.

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Poor Branding Is Not Pakistan's Biggest Problem


In anticipation of the visit to Washington by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, scheduled for October 21-23, Pakistan's public relations machinery has gone into over-drive to build expectations of a new partnership between Pakistan and the United States. Americans are expected to overlook everything that has happened in the past -- from the notorious Dr A.Q. Khan's nuclear proliferation to support for the Afghan Taliban to the discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad -- and embrace this 'important, valuable and strategic ally' of the United States.

A recent piece on the Forbes website, titled "Pakistan-U.S. Nuclear Weapons Talks May Lower Chance Of Nuclear War With India" argues that Pakistan should be given a civil nuclear deal similar to the one given to India in 2005. The article builds upon a Washington Post column by David Ignatius who sought to remind Americans that they cannot afford to forget Afghanistan and Pakistan and in the process hinted at a civil nuclear deal, much coveted by Islamabad, as a means of winning over the trust of Pakistan.

The Ignatius piece was clearly an attempt to reignite interest in Pakistan at a time when Washington appears almost to have forgotten the nuclear-armed country where US marines located and killed Osama bin Laden only four years ago. But the Forbes article went farther in painting Pakistan as a victim of American foreign policy amnesia and was written by a University of Baltimore Professor, Charles Tiefer, who is not exactly known for direct expertise on South Asian affairs. allows contributors to write and post directly on the website, which is whyan expert in government contracts, as Prof. Tiefer is described on the University of Baltimore website, could indulge his love for Pakistan without editorial scrutiny. In the last five months, has had four articles on Pakistan and all of them have been positively disposed -almost to the point of being puff pieces. That is absolutely the opposite of how other media outlets have been reporting on Pakistan for a while.
An earlier Forbes piece by Tiefer, in 2015 titled 'Today's India-Pakistan Armed Tensions - Will New U.S. Military and Nuclear Aid to Modi Inflame Them?' argued that the United States should not see India as a counterweight to China as that would "inflame India-Pakistan armed tensions." Had the professor known as an expert in government contracts argued that it would be bad for U.S. government contracts, at least he would have been simply making a wrong argument about his own subject. In this instance, he only revealed his ignorance of the history of U.S.-Pakistan and U.S.-India relations.

The Americans provided Pakistan with weapons to fight communism from the 1950s to the 1980s. The Reagan administration hoped a militarily strong Pakistan would feel sufficiently secure to keep its promise of not building nuclear weapons. Instead, Pakistan used American weaponry to initiate wars against India in 1965, 1971, and 1999, failing to win any of them and running back to the US to ask for more assistance. Pakistan's covert war against India continues unabated.

Since 9/11, Pakistan has received $23 billion in civilian and military assistance ostensibly to fight terrorists while the US State Department remains unable to certify to Congress that it is, in fact, acting against all terrorist groups operating from Pakistan's soil. Unlike Pakistan, the US has no complaints against India of harboring global Jihadi terrorists or of exporting nuclear material to third countries. India's bilateral trade with the US ($50 billion in 2014) is ten times the size f Pakistan's trade with the US ($5 billion). Still Mr. Tiefer argues that the US should not give 'military aid' to India to keep Pakistan on America's side.

Ironically, India has rarely sought or received American military aid, with notable exceptions like in the aftermath of the 1962 India-China war. India is not asking for and the US is not giving India military and nuclear aid. Instead India is purchasing American defense equipment that will help American companies and provide jobs to Americans. More importantly India has never used any weapon - bought or given- through a terrorist proxy ever, even against China or Pakistan.

Moreover, no Indian military operation has ever caused the death of Americans, whereas Pakistan's policy in Afghanistan has led to numerous American deaths, both civilian and military. Mr. Tiefer nonchalantly writes that the various Pakistan jihadi groups like Lashkar e Taiba and Haqqani network "work with Pakistan's powerful intelligence service, ISI" but does not see that as reason for the US to shun Pakistan.

He argues that if the United States continues siding with India against China this will "antagonize Pakistan" and lead "the potentially scariest confrontation in the world." In effect, he is saying that Pakistan's sponsorship of jihadi groups should not come in the way of it being an American ally but the US must not ally with India because of Pakistan's fear of India!!

The naiveté is hardly limited to the security arena. In August 2015, Forbes ran an article asking for a dramatic overhaul of US-Pakistan ties and pitching a US-Pakistan Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT). Another Forbes article attempted to sell Pakistan's threat of going deeper into China's embrace, changing the entire region around it, and insinuating that the United States should compete with China in currying Pakistan's favor.

The author of the first article, titled 'Pakistan: The Next Colombia Success Story?' Daniel Runde, too was a novice as far as knowledge of Pakistan is concerned. Had he worked on Pakistan for any length of time he would have known that Pakistan is the only American ally that has failed to sustain significant growth or human development even after receiving more than $40 billion in US aid since 1950

Mr. Runde should have examined why US aid to Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and even Europe under the Marshal Plan catalyzed their economies into self-sustaining growth while the largesse towards Pakistan only increased Pakistan's dependence. The reason lies more in how Pakistan spent that money, in how its military and intelligence service view their ties with the US and in how disproportionately large the military is to the size of the country's economy and any real threats it faces.

Mr. Runde suggests, that Pakistan suffers from "a terrible country brand." But certain harsh realities persist and are not just a 'branding' problem. The politicized Pakistan army may have conducted some military operations against militants responsible for attacks inside Pakistan but the Pakistani army is still following its old policy of sparing terrorists targeting India, Afghanistan and the United States. Sartaj Aziz, advisor to Premier Sharif on National Security and foreign affairs, has openly asked, "Why should Pakistan target militants that do not threaten the country's security?"

Despite dealing with Pakistan for decades some Americans still seem to believe they can change Pakistan's behavior by giving in to its demands or responding favorably to its PR efforts. Pakistan needs to change its militarized national mindset and is more likely to reform under fear of international isolation than in response to praise based on falsehoods. Both the U.S. and Pakistan might benefit more from recognizing the history of the relationship and correcting their course substantively instead of obsessing only about appearances.

رول بیک نا منظور سینیٹر بابر اعوان (وکالت نامہ)

Pakistan - Sargodha: Police fabricated false blasphemy accusation againt 24-year-old Christian

In keeping with details, court hearing of Naveed John, resident of Sargodha has been postponed because of the fact that the judge was on leave. Naveed was charged of 295-C (blasphemy law) over blasphemy accusations on October 8. It has been reported that Naveed is pining away behind the bars.

The defence counsel of Naveed is ready to defend him during the blasphemy suit. The legal team defending him, when appeared in the court for the hearing they were told that the judge was on leave and so the police would not present Naveed in the court nor will they present their findings over the case. Moreover, the case is scheduled to be heard on 20th October.

It was on October 8, that a police constable Muhammad Naeem lodged a complaint against 24-year-old, Christian, Naveed John claiming that he has seen Naveed disrespecting the Quran and Islam. Moreover, the claimant Muhammad Naeem said that Naveed John had a sword with Quranic verses engraved on it and he placed that sword next to his feet and legs. Thus by placing that sword next to his legs and feet he had shown contempt, thus committed blasphemy. Soon after an FIR no.619/15 was lodged, police hooked Naveed.

It has been learnt that Naveed had been praying for people with physical sicknesses and demon possessed people. He was know for this in his area and so people from other religions also came to him for prayers. The sword which has been the cause of the accusations was actually gifted to Naveed by one of his Muslim devotees which Naveed took from him and placed it in his prayer room.

On the other hand, the family of Naveed John are facing threats and are in fear of any possible attempt of revenge from the Muslims. Advocate Sadaf Saddique, Sakhawat Masih- elder brother of Naveed revealed that just a few days prior to Naveed’s arrest police arrived at their home and asked for a huge sum of money as a bribe, in return of providing them security.

Furthermore, police threatened them that if they fail to give the amount demanded, the family would have to face dire consequences. Sakhawat Masih stated that Naveed did not ask for money from any one who came to him for prayer. In such circumstances it was not possible to give such a huge amount o the police, he said. He alleged that police arrested Naveed from a street and later on, the police raided the house and forcibly took the sword and fabricated the whole story.
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Pakistani documentary highlights plight of Ahmadiyya Muslim minority in the country

Titled ‘Strangers in their own land’ and ‘اپنی زمین پر اجنبی’ for English and Urdu segments respectively, the documentary is an initiative of the institute. It was screened at a closed-door event and was attended by its filmmaker Ali Aftab Saeed, human rights activists, and researchers, who opened the floor for discussion and encouraged feedback post-screening. The documentary is part of a report by the Jinnah Institute (JI) on religious persecution and impact of religious extremism on the status of freedom of religion in the country. The documentary revealed that over 41 Ahmadis were killed over the past few years without any reason. It went on to highlight their struggles and problems in the daily and professional life, and its impact on their peace of mind. Researcher: Rabia Mehmood The striking aspect of the documentary was how sensitively it presented the stories. It also features the views of scholars, human rights activists and lawyers on the issue. Rabia Mehmood, a researcher at the Jinnah Institute (JI) who was involved in the film, said the short documentary was for advocacy and based on ethnographic research carried out by the institute. “We felt the need to produce this documentary because it was necessary to show an audio and visual representation of the tales of persecution. The plight of religiously persecuted is so haunting that we wanted Pakistanis and the world to hear their voice,” she said. Saeed said he was contacted to make the documentary, but the initiative and the research was all done by the JI. “I was contacted by JI and since I feel strongly about the issue, I came on board. We travelled to Hazara, interior Sindh, Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad for the shoot,” he said. Film Maker: Ali Aftab Saeed The filmmaker further said that he thought he knew the struggles of minorities but he truly realized how grave the situation was while making the documentary. “Accepting a problem is part of solving it so I really hope this effort plays the role of a catalyst to bring change in the country,” he said. Speaking about the challenges faced while shooting on such a sensitive issue, Saeed told The Express Tribune that the biggest challenge was that none of the Ahmadis were willing to come on camera. This shows how they are living with fear of death in their own country, he added. “Eventually one person agreed but we had to hide his face for his own security,” he said. The documentary will be released on the internet in the next few days.

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Pakistan's Punjab police - ''Our Phoney Police''

The biggest fake staff scandal has hit the Punjab police, where at least 136 police officers have been dismissed from service and booked under the Anti-Terrorism Act. Several bogus officials had been performing security duty for the Prime Minister and other VIPs in the past. They had been employed by a gang of cops that gave jobs to a large number of unqualified jobseekers and had been actively operating in the Central Police Office for years with impunity.
This recruitment scandal is the most shocking in the history of the 180,000 strong police force, involving corruption worth millions of rupees. What is even more worrisome is the fact that such an elaborate network of bogus police officers had been operating at key government positions and have been protecting VIPs. Nothing can be said yet about their links with militant groups working against the state. Was this merely a matter of providing some job to make a quick buck on the side, or a more elaborate plan to infiltrate the already weak police force and use it for terrorist activities? Either way it is the utter failure of the Punjab government, which has been boasting of police reforms and transparency with which it functions.
It was learnt through reliable sources that the gang, headed by an assistant director and comprising superintendents, assistants and clerks at the IGP’s office, had issued fake appointment orders with real signatures and office stamps. The gang had collected bribes worth millions of rupees from unemployed youth to provide them with jobs in the police department. The phony appointments were made on the posts of sub-inspectors, assistant sub-inspectors and constables and that too in areas like Multan and other districts of the province from the Central Police Office.
It is often said by independent research groups, that the Pakistan Police is the most corrupt establishment in the country. The Punjab Police has been in the eye of the storm this year with anti police sentiment running high since the Kasur scandal also attributed to the utter negligence of the Police force and their failure to protect the citizens. Cases of torture, bribes, and unwarranted arrests are commonplace.
This is just another straw on the broken back on the camel that is our civilian security apparatus.
The police force is supposed to be the savior of the common man where instead, it is a source of fear and terror. The Rangers operation in Karachi was welcomed because of the utter uselessness of the police to bring the law and order situation under control. The police are making it too easy for the Rangers to come and take over the Punjab province as well, as they are failing at every level of accountability; internally and externally.

Pakistan - At least 11 dead as bomb targets passenger bus in Quetta; several hurt

At least 11 people lost their lives and at least 23 others including two children sustained wounds as a result of an explosion in a packed passenger bus here at Saryab Road on Monday, police officials said.
According to the SSP Operations, the dead and injured, most of them critically, have been shifted to a local hospital.
He said the explosion was carried out through a timed device, adding that at least 6 kilogram of explosives were placed at the roof of the bus.
An emergency has been imposed in all hospitals of the Balochistan capital.
Speaking in Geo New programme 'Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Saath', Chief Minister Balochistan Dr Abdul Malik Baloch condemned the attack. He said he also heard the loud explosion and ever since has been following the developments.
CM Malik confirmed that the timed device was used to carry out the explosion, which he added ripped apart the roof of the vehicle.
Police and rescue services reached the site of the blast immediately after the incident. The law enforcement agencies cordoned off the area and launched an investigation into the explosion.
The bus was crowded with passengers, most of them from the outskirts of Quetta, when the powerful explosion ripped through the bus.
The Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) also reached the blast spot and started collecting evidence.
Balochistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti said the battle will continue against terrorism until complete elimination of the menace from the country.

He said more steps will be taken to ensure protection to the life and property of the people.

Bilawal Bhutto hopes Thar Coal Project to ignite economic change in Thar & whole country

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party has said that Thar Coal Project was dream of his mother Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and he was hopeful that Thar Coal & Power Project being piloted by Sindh Engro Coal-Mining Company (SECMC) will be functional by 2018. “This project needs to bring great economic changes in the lives of people of Thar besides plugging the energy crisis prevalent across the country.”

PPP Chairman made these remarks at a brief about the Project given by Shamsuddin Ahmed Shaikh, Chief Executive Officer of SECMC at Bilawal House today. Others who were present at the meeting include Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Ministers Murad Ali Shah, Jam Khan Shoro, Senator Taj Haider and Jameel Soomro.

SECMC is own 51% by Government of Sindh and 49% by Engro Powergen Limited and its partners. Sindh government has already granted Sovereign Guarantee, which is waiting for endorsement of Federal Financial Ministry, besides the approval of State Bank of Pakistan and National Bank of Pakistan. SECMC is expected its financial close by next month.

With Investment of US $ 2 billion , Thar Coal and Power Project is Pakistan’s biggest project in terms of investment being taken by the private sector. This project is listed among the “Prioritised Projects” under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) based on readiness-expected to be completed by 2018.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was informed that Mining Project will be set-up an initial open cast mine of 3.8Mt/a in 38 months at the cost of US $ 845 million while two units of 330mw each will be installed as sub-critical mine mouth power plants on Thar lignite coal costing US $ 1.1 billion.

Shaikh briefed that required studies, agreements & contracts, regulatory requirements, equity financing updates, debt financing update and detailed engineering have already be completed and financial close of the project is expected in the last quarter of current year. Mining work is in progress at the site Block-II in Thar and so far 3.3 million cubic meters of Overburden has been removed digging 10 meters deep mine.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari stressed that interests of the local people of Thar may be given top priorities as he wants to see the benefits to lives of Thar people together with the completion of the project. He said that Thar Coal project should provide jobs to the locals and the dislocated communities may be rehabilitated all the civic amenities.

PPP Chairman was further briefed that Sindh government has already approved Resettlement Plan and resettlement of first village will be completed by the end of 2017, which will be a model for all Thar and Pakistan with health and education facilities managed by the company.

The officials also brief the Chairman about the idea to introduce Bio Saline Agriculture to provide round-the-year fodder to livestock, and solar-chillers for collection of milk from dozens of centers in Thar.

Pakistan - Zardari warns against dictatorial mindset

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari saluted the slain victims of the October 2007 Karsaz blasts at a ceremony on Sunday as the party’s co-chairperson, Asif Ali Zardari, vowed not to allow anyone to undermine parliament.
In a statement issued on the eighth anniversary of the tragic bombing which had left more than 150 PPP workers dead, the PPP co-chairperson and former president paid glowing tributes to those who lost their
lives when welcoming the party’s former chairperson Benazir Bhutto upon her return from an eight-year  self-exile.
Zardari said an important lesson of the democratic struggle was that dictatorship reared its ‘ugly head’ in different forms and in different manifestations at different times.
“A subtle and little noticed form of threat to democracy is when institutions and individuals exceed their constitutional authority and trespass into the domain of other constitutional institutions,” he said, adding that one must be vigilant against the dictatorial mindset that seeks to drive from the rear seat.
“This tendency must be exposed and fought [against],” he said. The party, according to him, “pledges to continue Benazir’s mission to banish extremism and root out dictatorship in all its forms and manifestations.”
The former president said parliament is a shield against dictatorship. “It must be strengthened, not undermined. The PPP will not allow anyone to undermine parliament. Let there be no doubt or mistake about it,” he said.
Zardari recalled that eight years ago the battle lines were clearly drawn between forces of democracy and the militants and extremists. “Since then, the battle lines have sharpened. The battle must continue till it is won,” he said.
PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto and his sisters – Bakhtawar and Aseefa – along with party workers gathered at the Karsaz monument in Karachi to pay homage to the slain PPP workers. Sindh CM Qaim Ali Shah also attended the event.
Sindh Information Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro said an FIR for the incident could not be lodged during the tenure of former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf despite court orders.
In her message on micro-blogging site Twitter, Aseefa Bhutto said: “Today we pay tribute to the martyrs who risked their lives to save our leader. We’ll never forget you.”
Her sister Bakhtawar also used social media to pay tribute to the Karsaz blast victims.  “We pay tribute to our martyrs. To those who defined bravery. To those who ran towards the flames to protect my mother. To those whose sacrifice ensured her survival. May they never be forgotten.”

Asif Zardari concerned over reports of harassing of ANP Senator Sitara Ayaz in name of accountability

Former President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed grave concern over the reports of harassment of a female Senator Sitara Ayaz by the Ehtesab commission of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and called for “dispelling the growing perception that accountability is being used to victimize opponents and for political re-engineering”.
The PPP has no tolerance for corruption and calls for across the board accountability of all he said in a statement today and added, “But any attempt to settle political scores or re-write the social and political landscape in the name of accountability is a worse form of corruption”.
“During the PPP government there neither were political prisoners nor witch hunting nor political victimization of any kind”, the former President said and added; “accountability must not only be above board but also be seen as such”.
Zardari said this responding to news reports that Senator Sitara Ayaz is being chased and hounded by the Ehtesab Commission of KPK where the rival party PTI is in power.
The former President recalled that some weeks ago the Ehtesab Commission also targeted former PPP Provincial Minister Liaquat Shabbab. The arrest and torture of Shabbab hailing from the Nowshera constituency of the chief minister Pervez Khattak raised serious questions about the motives behind his accountability.
A former provincial minister Ziaullah Afridi arrested for alleged corruption caused sensation when appearing in the provincial Assembly on a production order laid bare ‘proofs of corruption and smuggling’ by some members of the cabinet. No investigations were however made into the serious allegations, let alone taking action against anyone, he said.
Instances abound that give rise to the perception that the Ehtesab Commission is being used as a political tool by its political masters to achieve some political objectives.
He said that it was strange for the Ehtesab Commission to get into overdrive against Senator Sitara Ayaz at a time when the credibility of the Commission itself had been undermined by the disclosure that it has been arresting people even before it was duly constituted. Ziaullah Afridi was also arrested and sent to jail even before the Commission was duly notified.
Propriety, morality and legality demands that the Commission should have first clarified its own bonafides and legality before targeting opposition law makers, he said.
The accountability body of KPK and its political masters must be held accountable for arresting opponents for the past several months even before its establishment was notified.

Pakistan - 'PM should have taken parliamentary leaders into confidence before US visit'

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah has asserted that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should have taken the parliamentary leaders of different political parties into confidence before proceeding on his visit to the United States.

Talking to journalists here, he hoped that the prime minister would discuss Afghanistan and India issues with the US president and officials. Khursheed said that some federal cabinet ministers had been creating an awkward situation for Prime Minister Nawaz by reviving the dead issue of the construction of Kalabagh Dam.

He said that the people of three provinces had rejected the project and the assemblies passed resolutions over the issue. He urged the prime minister to take notice of the propaganda over Kalabagh Dam. He said that he had not yet contacted Dr Asim Hussain – former petroleum minister, who is in the custody of Rangers for alleged corruption.

He said that if the local bodies elections were to be postponed for five to 10 days due to Muharram, it would not affect the election process. Talking about the Karsaz incident, he said that it was the result of a security lapse of the then government.

Khursheed said, “We all salute the martyrs of the Karsaz incident, indeed all the martyrs of democracy, and vow to carry forward the democratic and egalitarian mission of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party as envisioned by its leaders Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto.”