Friday, November 6, 2015

British jet with 189 passengers on board 'dodged missile' while approaching Sharm El Sheikh

A Thomson flight carrying 189 passengers had to dodge a rocket as it approached Sharm El Sheikh, it has been reported.
The London Stansted flight was said to have come "within 1,000ft" of the deadly missile and only avoided it after the pilot took evasive action.
It eventually landed safely and the passengers on board were not told about the brush with certain death.
The incident came two months before a Russian airliner crashed after taking off from the Egyptian resort on Saturday killing all 224 on board.
It is thought a bomb planted by terror group Islamic State is the most likely cause of the tragedy prompting the UK to suspend all commercial flights to and from the resort on Wednesday.
The Department for Transport has confirmed the incident involving the British jet which happened on August 23.
A source said: "The first officer was in charge at the time but the pilot was in the cockpit and saw the rocket coming towards the plane.
"He ordered that the flight turn to the left to avoid the rocket, which was about 1,000ft away," reports Mail Online.
It is thought the five members of cabin crew only found out about the incident after landing and were offered the chance to stay the night in Egypt.
However they are said to have chosen to head straight back to the UK.
The source added that the missile that nearly struck the Thomson jet was also spotted by another of the carrier’s planes as it approached Sharm El Sheikh.
It is reported they were told the rocket was from an Egyptian military exercise but has created fear following Saturday's incident.
The Foreign Office is advising against travel to the northern Sinai region of the country after the Russian jet came down and UK flights have been suspended.
Thousands of stranded Brits still in Sharm El Sheikh began flying home on specially charted flights ordered by the British Government today.
A government spokesman said: " We investigated the reported incident at the time and concluded that it was not a targeted attack and was likely to be connected to routine exercises being conducted by the Egyptian military in the area at the time."
In a statement, Thomson Airways confirmed that an event was reported by the crew of flight TOM 476 on 23 August 2015.
It added: "Upon landing into Sharm el-Sheikh, an initial assessment was conducted and the event was immediately reported to the UK Department for Transport (DfT) in line with established protocol."
"The DfT conducted a full investigation in conjunction with other UK Government experts. After reviewing the details of the case, the investigation concluded that there was no cause for concern and it was safe to continue our flying programme to Sharm el Sheikh."


A clothes store in Northern Saudi Arabia is selling T-shirts with ISIL's logos in a bid to promote the extremist Takfiri ideology.
The Saudi officials were quoted by al-Khalij Online news website as saying that a store in Hail province in Northern Saudi Arabia has been selling clothes with the ISIL logo.
According to the report, the clothes that have been produced for children including mock suicide vests.
Saudi Arabia is the staunch supporter of the ISIL terrorists who are fighting against the Syrian and Iraqi people.
Also on October 5, dozens of Saudi clerics in a statement called for supporting the war against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as well as Iran and Russia, which are backing Syria in its fight against terrorism.
The Saudi clerics’ letter used sectarian terms against the regional quadripartite coalition members and blamed the West for not providing Takfiri militants in Syria with anti-aircraft weapons.
The foreign-sponsored conflict in Syria, which flared in March 2011, has claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people and left over one million injured.

U.S. warships' activities in South China Sea detrimental to mutual trust: Chinese FM

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Friday that the activities of U.Swarships in SouthChina Sea are detrimental to China-U.Smutual trust and have provoked regional tension.
Wang made the remarks during a telephone conversation with his U.Scounterpart JohnKerry at the latter's invitation.
China is seriously concerned over the issueWang saidurging Washington to come backto the right track of proper management and control of the differences through dialogueand consultation.
Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to the United States in September has createdimportant opportunities for both countries to develop their relationsWang said.
Thus to ensure the healthy and stable development of bilateral tiesthe two countriesshould put their focus on improving the coordination and implementing the importantconsensuses reached by leaders of the two nationsrather than expose their ties tounnecessary interruptionsthe Chinese senior diplomat said.
On the Syria issueWang said China holds positive views over the nine-point agreementreached lately in Viennaadding that under the current circumstancesto accelerate thepolitical settlement process of the Syria issue has been of urgency.
China holds that efforts should be made to coordinate the actions of all parties concernedin combating terrorismto consolidate the partial ceasefire and to realize the stop ofoverall military action in a gradual mannerto resume the political reconstruction processwith the core issue being an inclusive national reconciliation dialogueand to activelypromote humanitarian aid and economic reconstructionWang said.
China is willing to actively participate in the political solution of the Syria issuehe added.
As regards the Iran nuclear issueWang said the implementation of the comprehensiveagreement is in line with the common interest of the international communityadding thatChina is willing to keep close coordination with all parties concerned and play its due rolein this respect.
For his partKerry spoke highly of China's positive role in the settlement of the Irannuclear issuesaying that the United States wishes to work with China and coordinate withall parties concerned to implement the comprehensive agreement.
The two sides also agreed to maintain close contact on relative issues.

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Keystone decision will test Trudeau's relationship with U.S. administration


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s “disappointed” U.S. President Barack Obama has rejected TransCanada’s application to build the Keystone XL oilsands pipeline, a decision that marks the Liberal leader’s first test in office juggling Canada-U.S. relations and the tricky energy and environment file.
The Obama administration’s decision Friday to kill the pipeline project – in part over concerns about “dirtier crude oil” from Canada – throws the spotlight on the new Liberal government and how it will balance energy development and environmental protection leading into an international climate change summit in Paris at the end of the month.
“We are disappointed by the decision but respect the right of the United States to make the decision,” Trudeau said in a statement.
“The Canada-U.S. relationship is much bigger than any one project and I look forward to a fresh start with President Obama to strengthen our remarkable ties in a spirit of friendship and co-operation.”
Speaking at the White House, Obama said the Keystone pipeline “would not serve the national interests of the United States” and that the project played an “over-inflated role” in the political discourse between Canada and the U.S.
Trudeau has supported the Keystone XL pipeline to get Canadian crude to international markets. However, he had also cautioned that until Canada found a way to responsibly and effectively price carbon, the Americans would delay and eventually decline the pipeline.
“We know that Canadians want a government that they can trust to protect the environment and grow the economy,” Trudeau said Friday in his statement.
“The Government of Canada will work hand-in-hand with provinces, territories and like-minded countries to combat climate change, adapt to its impacts, and create the clean jobs of tomorrow.”
The project has become an environmental lightning rod in both Canada and the United States over energy security and the environmental impacts of carbon-intensive oilsands production.
Obama said Trudeau was disappointed by the U.S. government’s decision but accepted that it’s theirs to make.
“While he expressed his disappointment, given Canada’s position on this issue, we both agreed that our close friendship on a whole range of issues – including energy and climate change – should provide the basis for even closer co-ordination between our countries going forward,” Obama said at the White House after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
“And in the coming weeks senior members of my team will be engaging with theirs in order to help deepen that cooperation.”
The White House’s decision ends, for now, a seven-year saga over a 1,900-kilometre pipeline that would have shipped 800,000 barrels of oilsands crude a day from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
The pipeline would run through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, before connecting with existing pipelines to carry the crude to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast.
Obama said his administration rejected the pipeline for multiple reasons, including: it would not make a meaningful long-term contribution to the American economy; would not lower gasoline prices; and that “shipping dirtier crude oil into our country would not increase America’s energy security.
“This pipeline would neither be a silver bullet for the economy, as was promised by some, nor the express lane to climate disaster proclaimed by others,” the president said.
In a statement, Kerry took a harsher tone, saying the pipeline “would facilitate the transportation to the United States of one of the dirtiest sources of fuel on the planet.”
Kerry said he spoke with Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion to explain his decision.
“As Secretary of State, I fully recognize the importance of this project to Canada, one of our closest strategic allies and energy trading partners. We consulted with our Canadian friends and I spoke with Foreign Minister Dion today regarding this decision,” Kerry said in the statement.
“While we understand the impact of this decision on Canada, I am confident that our close and long-standing relationship with Canada will continue to grow stronger in the years ahead.”
Russ Girling, CEO of Calgary-based TransCanada, said the company is disappointed by Obama’s decision and still believes the pipeline is in the best interests of Canada and the United States.
The project would create thousands of jobs, billions in economic benefits and be safer than transporting oil by rail.
“Today, misplaced symbolism was chosen over merit and science – rhetoric won out over reason,” Girling said. “Today’s decision deals a damaging blow to jobs, the economy and the environment on both sides of the border.
But Simon Dyer, Alberta director at the Pembina Institute, an environmental think-tank, said Obama’s decision should come as no surprise and further reinforces Canada need to establish federal greenhouse gas regulations for oil and gas development.
He also noted the Liberal party promised during the election campaign to modernize the National Energy Board’s review process, including having upstream carbon emissions included in environmental assessments for energy projects like pipelines.
“Addressing climate impacts is the new normal for major energy infrastructure projects,” Dyer said.

Obama Rejects Construction of Keystone XL Oil Pipeline


President Obama announced on Friday that he had rejected the request from a Canadian company to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline, ending a seven-year review that had become a symbol of the debate over his climate policies.
Mr. Obama’s denial of the proposed 1,179-mile pipeline, which would have carried 800,000 barrels a day of carbon-heavy petroleum from the Canadian oil sands to the Gulf Coast, comes as he seeks to build an ambitious legacy on climate change. “America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change,’’ Mr. Obama said in remarks from the White House. “And frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership.’’
The move was made ahead of a major United Nations summit meeting on climate change to be held in Paris in December, when Mr. Obama hopes to help broker a historic agreement committing the world’s nations to enacting new policies to counter global warming. While the rejection of the pipeline is largely symbolic, Mr. Obama has sought to telegraph to other world leaders that the United States is serious about acting on climate change.
The once-obscure Keystone project became a political symbol amid broader clashes over energy, climate change and the economy. The rejection of a single oil infrastructure project will have little impact on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, but the pipeline plan gained an outsize profile after environmental activists spent four years marching and rallying against it in front of the White House and across the country. Mr. Obama said that the pipeline has occupied what he called “an overinflated role in our political discourse.’’ “It has become a symbol too often used as a campaign cudgel by both parties rather than a serious policy matter,’’ he said. “And all of this
obscured the fact that this pipeline would neither be a silver bullet for the economy, as was promised by some, nor the express lane to climate disaster proclaimed by others.’’
The rejection of the pipeline is one of several actions Mr. Obama has taken as he intensifies his push on climate change in his last year in office. In August, he announced his most significant climate policy, a set of aggressive new regulations to cut emissions of planet-warming carbon pollution from the nation’s power plants.
Republicans and the oil industry had demanded that the president approve the pipeline, which they said would create jobs and stimulate economic growth. Many Democrats, particularly those in oil-producing states such as North Dakota, also supported the project. In February, congressional Democrats joined with Republicans in sending Mr. Obama a bill to speed approval of the project, but the president vetoed the measure. Both sides saw the Keystone rejection as a major symbolic step, a sign that the president was willing to risk angering a bipartisan majority of lawmakers in the pursuit of his environmental agenda. And both supporters and critics of Mr. Obama saw the surprisingly powerful influence of environmental activists in the decision.
“Once the grass-roots movement on the Keystone pipeline mobilized, it changed what it meant to the president,” said Douglas G. Brinkley, a historian at Rice University who writes about presidential environmental legacies. “It went from a routine infrastructure project to the symbol of an era.” Environmental activists cheered the decision as a vindication of their influence.
“President Obama is the first world leader to reject a project because of its effect on the climate,’’ said Bill McKibben, founder of the activist group, which led the campaign against the pipeline. “That gives him new stature as an environmental leader, and it eloquently confirms the five years and millions of hours of work that people of every kind put into this fight.’’
Environmentalists had sought to block construction of the pipeline because it would have provided a conduit for petroleum extracted from the Canadian oil sands. The process of extracting that oil produces about 17 percent more planet-warming greenhouse gases than the process of extracting conventional oil.
But numerous State Department reviews concluded that construction of the pipeline would have little impact on whether that type of oil was burned, because it was already being extracted and moving to market via rail and existing pipelines. In citing his reason for the decision, Mr. Obama noted the State Department findings that construction of the pipeline would not have created a significant number of new jobs, lowered oil or gasoline prices or significantly reduced American dependence on foreign oil. “From a market perspective, the industry can find a different way to move that oil,” said Christine Tezak, an energy market analyst at ClearView Energy Partners, a Washington firm. “How long it takes is just a result of oil prices. If prices go up, companies will get the oil out.”
However, a State Department review also found that demand for the oil sands fuel would drop if oil prices fell below $65 a barrel, since moving oil by rail is more expensive than using a pipeline. An Environmental Protection Agency review of the project this year noted that under such circumstances, construction of the pipeline could be seen as contributing to emissions, since companies might be less likely to move the oil via expensive rail when oil prices are low — but would be more likely to move it cheaply via the pipeline. The price of oil has plummeted this year, hovering at less than $50 a barrel. The recent election of a new Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, may also have influenced Mr. Obama’s decision. Mr. Trudeau’s predecessor, Stephen Harper, had pushed the issue as a top priority in the relationship between the United States and Canada, personally urging Mr. Obama to approve the project. Blocking the project during the Harper administration would have bruised ties with a crucial ally. While Mr. Trudeau also supports construction of the Keystone pipeline, he has not made the issue central to Canada’s relationship with the United States, and has criticized Mr. Harper for presenting Canada’s position as an ultimatum, while not taking substantial action on climate change related to the oil sands.
Mr. Trudeau did not raise the issue during his first post-election conversation with Mr. Obama.
The construction would have had little impact on the nation’s economy. A State Department analysis concluded that building the pipeline would have created jobs, but the total number represented less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the nation’s total employment. The analysis estimated that Keystone would support 42,000 temporary jobs over its two-year construction period — about 3,900 of them in construction and the rest in indirect support jobs, such as food service. The department estimated that the project would create about 35 permanent jobs. Republicans and the oil industry criticized Mr. Obama for what they have long said was his acquiescence to the pressure of activists and environmentally minded political donors. “A decision this poorly made is not symbolic, but deeply cynical,’’ said Senator Lisa Murkowski, the Alaska Republican who leads the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “It does not rest on the facts — it continues to distort them.’’
Jack Gerard, the head of the American Petroleum Institute, which lobbies for oil companies, said in a statement, “Unfortunately for the majority of Americans who have said they want the jobs and economic benefits Keystone XL represents, the White House has placed political calculations above sound science.’’
Russ Girling, the president and chief executive of TransCanada, said in a statement that the president’s decision was not consistent with the State Department’s review. “Today, misplaced symbolism was chosen over merit and science,’’ said Mr. Girling, whose company is based in Calgary, Alberta. “Rhetoric won out over reason.’’ The statement said that the company was reviewing the decision but offered no indication if it planned to submit a new application. If a Republican wins the 2016 presidential election, a new submission of the pipeline permit application could yield a different outcome.
“President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline is a huge mistake, and is the latest reminder that this administration continues to prioritize the demands of radical environmentalists over America’s energy security,’’ said Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president. “When I’m president, Keystone will be approved, and President Obama’s backward energy policies will come to an end.’’
As Mr. Obama seeks to carve out a substantial environmental legacy, his decision on the pipeline pales in import compared with his use of Environmental Protection Agency regulations. The power plant rules he announced in August have met with legal challenges, but if they are put in place, they could lead to a transformation of the nation’s energy economy, shuttering fossil fuel plants and rapidly increasing production of wind and solar.
Those rules are at the heart of Mr. Obama’s push for a global agreement. But advocates of the agreement said that the Keystone decision, even though it is largely symbolic, could show other countries that Mr. Obama is willing to make tough choices about climate change.
“The rejection of the Keystone permit was key for the president to keep his climate chops at home and with the rest of the world,” said Durwood Zaelke, the president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, a Washington research organization.

Video Report - President Obama Delivers a Statement on the Keystone XL Pipeline

Down the drain in Afghanistan: Column

David A. Andelman

USAID and the Pentagon have poured millions into inefficient, corruption-riddled projects.

The United States is flushing hundreds of millions of dollars a year down the drain in programs in Afghanistan that often seem only to be aiding and abetting the Taliban or squandering U.S. taxpayer funds on items of little or no use to the Afghan people. Those are the conclusions in a succession of reports to Congress by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction that rarely attract much attention or action.
One State Department agency, USAID, pumped more than $137 million from 2011 to September into one program called, in typical Washington bureaucratese “Stability in Key Areas” or SIKA. The result? “The relationship between USAID stability programs and the insurgency ... found increased support for the Taliban when USAID stabilization programs were implemented in Taliban-controlled villages. Additionally, violence increased in government-controlled villages that received USAID stability projects,” the inspector general’s office observes.
Why might this be happening? Well, the report continues that “insurgents will purposely target villages because of stability projects,” and indeed suggests that the “Taliban substantially boosted its local popularity by allowing programming to take place in these villages.” None of this should be especially astonishing to anyone who understands what has been going on since the start of hostilities in America’s longest war — 14 years and counting. While, as in the case of the Iraq War, U.S. forces were initially welcomed as liberators, the United States all too quickly turned into occupiers. While American programs might have been intended to help build local infrastructure and industrial self-sufficiency, all too often they blundered into blind alleys.
One inspector general report points out that Afghanistan has vast mineral resources that could lead to economic self-sufficiency. Yet, as a result of competition and bungling between Defense and State Department initiatives, “the $488 million U.S. government investment in efforts to develop Afghanistan’s extractive industries could be wasted, and Afghanistan may not be able to generate the additional revenues it needs to meet its long-term budgetary requirements without continued international assistance.”
Then there’s the outright criminality. Last year, the inspector general’s office found contractors bidding on a nearly $1 billion Afghan Ministry of Defense fuel contract had met in Dubai to rig their bids and inflate prices for the fuel. After evidence was presented to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, the contract — worth $200 million in U.S. Army funds — was canceled. “With billions of dollars at stake, many times we have observed the absence of rudimentary management skills that should have been grounded on proper planning and a sound strategy,” said Special Inspector Gen. John Sopko, in response to questions from USA TODAY. Indeed, the waste and fraud embedded in many U.S. funded programs uncovered by Sopko’s investigators is staggering. Together, just his group’s investigations directorate, the federal law enforcement component of the agency, has accumulated $944.5 million in criminal fines, restitution, forfeitures, civil settlement recoveries and government cost savings.
“Among the best practices for development assistance includes determining that the intended recipient actually wants and needs the project in question,” Sopko added.
A special after-conflict United Nations assessment group led by a top German academic, Michael Daxner, went into village after village that had been “liberated” during the height of the conflict and found tales of ham-handedness that only led to bitterness and resentment. In one case, U.S. forces decided it would be “good” for a liberated village to have an elaborate new bridge in the middle of nowhere, far from the one destroyed in the fighting, instead of on the well-traveled path where the original bridge was located.
But it’s not only the misuse of funds; it’s the utter squandering of them. Take the inspector general’s latest revelation — that the Department of Defense's Task Force for Business and Stability Operations "spent nearly $43 million to construct a compressed natural gas (CNG) automobile filling station in the city of Sheberghan.” A similar station in neighboring Pakistan cost $500,000. But there’s more. Seems that Afghanistan doesn’t even have a natural gas transmission and local distribution infrastructure to support a viable market for CNG cars. And converting a car to run on CNG instead of gasoline costs $700 in a country where the average annual income is $690.
You would think that the least we could learn in a 14-year-old war is how to help the Afghan people without making our enemies more popular in the process. It would appear that the, very expensive, record suggests we haven't learned very much at all

Video Report - Enduring Damage To Historic Sites Follows Pakistan Earthquake


Armed terrorists Of Notorious Banned Outfit AhleSunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) on Friday shot martyred a Shia Man and injured another at Arbab Karam Khan Road Quetta , Balochistan.
According to the Shiite News Correspondent, The Saudi funded terrorist of Banned terror Outfit AhleSunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) aka Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan opened the fire on the Pro-Box Car AAW-512 Of Shiite elders at Quetta Arbab Karam Khan Road and killed Syed Jaffar Abbas son of Syed Asghar Ali and injured his brother Syed Tanveer Abbas residents of Kirani Road. The Injured Syed Tanveer Abbas was shifted at BMC Hospital Quetta for medical treatment.
The unabated killings Of Shiite Muslims have been witnessed in Pakistan from last three decades by the Saudi-funded terrorist of Banned outfits ASWJ, LeJ, Taliban, Jundullah and Takfiri seminaries. These Banned Takfiri Outfits have also enjoyed the patronaged of Pakistani establishment to victimize the Shiite Muslims of Pakistan on Saudi-Takfiri Agenda. More than 20,000 Shia Muslims were shot killed by the Takfiri terrorists in three decades but the families of the victims still waiting for justice.

The news from Kabul…bleak

Alissa J Rubin, a journalist, has written a dispatch in the New York Times about the situation in Kabul. It is eye-opening. Americans in the city, even the troops, no longer travel by road. If they have to go to the embassy from the airport and vice versa they take a helicopter ride. Most of the cafes and restaurants frequented by expatriates have closed down. Security contractors and aid workers are pulling out.

Long queues form every morning, starting from as early as 2am, outside Kabul’s lone passport office. The rush to get out of Kabul is getting desperate. This is a city under siege. And it’s quaint to think that the Americans have spent close to 715 billion dollars ever since their imperial entry into Afghanistan.

They experienced this before in Vietnam, Saigon, South Vietnam’s capital, falling to the North Vietnamese army within two years of the Paris Accords. The same thing is happening in Afghanistan or about to happen there, although not many people are willing to admit it yet in these stark terms.

At any rate, isn’t it odd that outsiders should be telling us what it’s like in Kabul? If we had any sense there would be Pakistani reporters permanently based in Kabul. But we thrive on ignorance. There should be Pakistani reporters in Delhi, Kathmandu, Dhaka, Colombo and Teheran, not to mention Kabul. But it’s like asking for the moon.

Anyone regularly watching our local TV channels wouldn’t have the foggiest idea what it’s like in the region. Kabul could be in Central America for all that most Pakistanis know about what’s happening there. And we think Afghanistan should lie in our sphere of influence. Whatever for? We can’t keep a single reporter in Kabul and we want to be its godfathers.

Private channels are into quickie profits and ‘infotainment’. Expect them not to throw money the wrong way. But what about the state news agency, APP, and that mother of all that is holy, Pakistan Television? What about our experts in the foreign office and the leading temple of national security, General Headquarters? Do they never think about such things?

Afghanistan’s defences against the Taliban are just not holding up. Afghans in leadership positions can rant and rave all they like about Pakistan but it is not Pakistan’s fault that the Taliban are on the march. The Taliban are no one’s puppets. They are playing their own game. If the Americans couldn’t defeat them with their endless resources and occupation army it is too much to expect that Pakistan can turn the Afghan tide. Since when did Pakistan become that powerful? Pakistan can help but it cannot turn matters around.

The one abiding lesson from the last 200 years of Afghan history – ever since the First Afghan War – is that the Afghans do their own thing and do not take kindly to outside interference or dictation. The Taliban have proved tough and resilient. The Afghan government and its security forces will have to prove equally tough – a match for the Taliban on the ground – if there is to be any hope of a negotiated settlement. You can’t lose on the battlefield and hope for victory, or even a draw, on the negotiating table.

But as the storm-clouds gather over Afghanistan, there are certain things that we could do. Now is the time to devote all our attention to the western frontier, the Durand Line. It is a porous border. It can’t be plugged entirely, not even with the best goodwill in the world, the geography just being too tough. But it can be made less porous if we treat the Afghan border as we treat the Line of Control in Kashmir or the Working Boundary next to Sialkot.

Despite the occasional sabre-rattling from the Indian side, our eastern border is static with heavy troop concentrations on both sides. But the western border is the more dynamic and dangerous one because danger lurks on the other side. The native Taliban, the TTP, fleeing their safe havens in Fata are now based there.

And the political leadership should have the imagination to do something about the constitutional status of the tribal areas. Isn’t it high time they were formally integrated into Pakistan? Wouldn’t the ordinary tribesman welcome this?

In socio-economic terms Pakistan is a land divided, the central Islamabad-Lahore corridor and the Karachi region far ahead of the rest of the country. Fata and Balochistan are in a slightly different century. Pakistan’s central security problem is not the threat from India – we have an adequate measure of that threat and have ample means to meet it. The central problem is to bring Fata and Balochistan closer to the rest of the country. The focus of development therefore should be on those far-flung areas and not, as is presently happening, the already relatively pampered urban centres of Punjab and Sindh.

But who’ll do the thinking? Is everything the army’s responsibility? This underlines the crisis of leadership in Pakistan. Those who should be taking the lead as far as these issues are concerned have their attention fixed on a narrow range of subjects: 1) the power crisis which of course merits the most careful attention but even on that front progress is not what it should be; and 2) a lopsided view of development emphasising eye-catching projects like metro-buses, etc.

Unfortunately, there is little prospect of any change in this equation. The civilian leadership will continue sailing in those waters where it feels more comfortable while Afghanistan, India, the Taliban, etc, will remain the army’s babies. And national direction on these issues will be set by the army.

It needs no professor of political science to tell us that this is not an ideal situation. It signifies an imbalance, a strengthening of the military arm and an atrophying of the democratic process. But this is how it is and although after the 2013 elections it was widely expected that Nawaz Sharif with his credible mandate and years of experience would be able to assert civilian authority, it hasn’t turned out that way.

Where he should have acted such as on the terrorism issue he chose to sit quietly, banging on about talks when any fool could have seen that talks would lead nowhere. And where he should have bided his time such as on the Musharraf treason trial he chose to rush in without properly weighing the pros and cons.

He thus squandered much of his political capital and the army lost little time in stepping into the breach. This is an old story by now but it is relevant in the Afghan context. The situation there poses a danger to Pakistan because if the Taliban become stronger, knocking in time at the gates of Kabul, our own Taliban – the Fazlullah and Khorasani brands and even elements sympathetic to the Islamic State – will have reason enough to be emboldened by the Afghan example.

Who’ll think about these issues? Who will decide what Pakistan should do? Will it again be the army and will the civilians keep swatting the flies on their desks? Pakistan needs leadership, firm and decisive leadership. God knows, it also needs an electric charge up its collective spine. And it needs to rethink India and take advantage of the witches’ brew being prepared there by the ruling BJP and its fellow-travellers. Who will do this?

Pakistan - Punjab Youth Festival Fraud

The Punjab Youth Festival is under investigation following allegations of widespread embezzlement and corruption, confirmed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) officials.
Allegations of such widespread fraud have overshadowed the success of the festival, where officials have wasted millions of rupees and paid suspiciously high prices for thousands of chairs and tracksuits for the participants.
The PTI has in this regard out-rightly questioned both the economic management of the festival and several of the records.
They said the government had planned to gather 400,000 people to create the world’s largest human flag and bought 200,000 tracksuits to make up the colours.
The event was cancelled and millions of rupees were wasted.
The Minister for Sports and Education Punjab, denied the allegations and said NAB Lahore Bureau had simply taken notice of media reports of the alleged embezzlement, without having any actual proof.
In Pakistan however, there is always a level of truth to such allegations, where we tend to often make a debacle out of any successful venture that takes place.
This is not the first project in Punjab that is suspicious for its large waste of money and resources.
The Sports ministry is the second Punjab ministry this week accused of fraud.
The Education Department is also under scrutiny.
NAB officials and the Sports Minister are now going head to head, to provide evidence for their positions.
Hailed as the world’s largest-ever youth festival, it is said that more than four million people took part in a series of events throughout 2014 to promote sports in Pakistan.
Yet, it is all a profit-making ventures- a profit not for Pakistan, but for private individuals.
It is time that there is a protest against such state managed activities, where corruption and lack of transparency has become routine.

Pakistan's Foreign policy crisis

One of the most critical and persistent failures of the Nawaz Sharif government has been the deficiencies of his cabinet, both in terms of personnel and performance. Despite criticism in this regard since 2013, the government seems to be incapable of appreciating the seriousness of this shortfall and has not made any moves to change the trend of giving multiple essential portfolios to one close insider. But most ministries at least get a minister in charge and their hierarchical structures remain intact. Shockingly however, the Foreign Office (FO) remains a store without a keeper and there is a distinct diffusion of responsibility, which has resulted in Pakistan’s foreign policy being a jumbled mess lacking any central vision or cohesion. Sartaj Aziz, the octogenarian involved in the bureaucracy and foreign affairs of Pakistan for more than half a century, has been given the role of a ‘special advisor’ to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and is the closest approximate of a functioning Foreign Minister. But, despite an opportunity in March to promote him to the Senate, he is not eligible to be a minister and as an advisor does not have final authority and has to contend with other such ‘special advisors’ to the prime minister.

The results of this dillydallying and a thorough lack of decisiveness in the arena of foreign policy has resulted in the continued fall of Pakistan’s influence and position internationally. The anti-India terrorism dossier shenanigans at the UN have predictably backfired and rather than winning over new allies, Pakistan seems to have lost old ones. A recent election to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) saw Pakistan fail to muster the required votes, in what is being termed by opposition Senators as a direct result of the headless FO’s debacles. It defies good reason that Pakistan of all countries, mired in conflict and in need of a proactive policy to win favour internationally, would pursue such an ad hoc approach towards foreign policy undeterred. After Pakistan’s refusal to join the Saudi coalition waging war in Yemen, the country has lost its stock with its traditional backers in the Gulf, and their ‘no’ votes seem to have contributed to Pakistan’s failure to secure election to the HRC. And the best solution the FO can up with is to insist the Supreme Court repeal the ban on the hunting of Houbara bustards. As ever, the failings of the civilian government provide space to the military, whose chiefs are stepping in and going on foreign ‘diplomatic’ tours on their own. Pakistan can no longer afford to put off having a responsible and proactive Foreign Minister who can implement a well thought through strategic foreign policy.

PPP is a Party of poor and working classes: Bilawal Bhutto

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party said that PPP is a Party of poor and working classes and its very inception and presence itches Waderas and Jagirdars for protecting interests of downtrodden and weak.
PPP Chairman was talking to the delegations of Pakistan Peoples Party District Malir, South and West delegations, who called on him at Bilawal House today. Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah, MNA Faryal Talpur, Senior Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, Senator Sherry Rehman, other Parliamentarians and District Office-bearers and notables were present on the occasion.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that history is the witness that whoever stabbed the PPP in back ended up in humiliation and ignominy but Party always staged comeback with more vigor and strength.
PPP leaders from three districts of Karachi Division briefed the Party Chairman about the scheduled local bodies elections in the city besides the development process in the city and discussed the party matters as well. They said that PPP and workers are doing hard-work and expressed confidence that Party will great number of Local Bodies seats to induct a Jiyala as Mayor of the city.

All Pakistan Union of Press issue warning to PTI chief Imran Khan

Pakistan - Journalists protest Imran Khan’s harsh words

Journalists protested outside Chief Minister House on Thursday against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairperson Imran Khan and his defamatory attitude towards a TV reporter. On the directives of Khyber Union of Journalists (KHUJ), the demonstrators walked from Peshawar Press Club to CM House and condemned Imran’s harsh behaviour. They shouted slogans like, ‘Go Imran Go,’ and also demanded the PTI chief apologise to the reporter publicly and take back his “defamatory words”.

Addressing participants at the protest, KHUJ President Nisar Mehmood said Imran should not have used unkind words for the journalist. Mehmood was referring to Imran’s reaction to a reporter questioning his recent divorce. Mehmood said the entire community frowned upon Imran’s action and if he did not apologise and take back his words, the journalists will continue their protest. He also condemned the brutal killing of Tank-based journalist Zaman Mehsud and demanded the government immediately arrest the people involved in the murder. “Journalists should have freedom of speech,” he said. On the occasion, Peshawar Press Club General Secretary Fida Adeel said Imran is a public figure and people are interested in his personal life. “Since PTI publicly announced Imran Khan and Reham’s divorce, it did not remain such a personal matter after all,” he said.
Adeel added journalists had a right to pose questions to public figures and if the latter did not wish to reveal answers, a simple statement like, “Sorry, no comments on this topic,” should suffice. “Using this kind of language for journalists will ruin Imran Khan’s image,” he said. The general secretary also demanded Imran apologise to the journalist.
The past and present
Arif Yousafzai, the television reporter who was shut down by Imran Khan when he enquired about his recent divorce at CM House on Monday, said the aim of the protest was not to blame the PTI chief.  “I am a journalist and it is my right to ask questions at a press conference,” said Yousafzai. He urged Imran to apologise to him publicly. Earlier, an enraged Imran had said, “Those talking about someone’s personal life should be ashamed.”

#Peshawar medics' 'black day' call against Imran's statement fails

Doctors’ call to observe black day on Friday against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan’s statement has failed.
Peshawar medics had called for a black day today which demanded all colleagues to tie black ribbons around arms to condemn Khan’s statement. However, Lady Reading Hospital medics are performing duties indifferently.
In different areas of the city placards and banners have been put on display. The situation in Lady reading Hospital is different than other areas.
No medic has neither tied a black ribbon nor is protesting on cost of professional commitments.
No leader of different doctors’ organizations made himself available for comment on the situation. On other hand, HealthEmployees Coordination Council has not only termed Khan’s statement a contempt of court but has warned of taking it to roads also.
Among the resented groups also is Pakistan Islamic Medical Association.
Association’s president Dr Hussain Haroon has said that Khan should not have commented on the cases that are under trail in courts.
Few days earlier, PTI leader had held doctors responsible for failure to bring reforms in Khyber Pakhtukhwa (KP) hospitals.
It should also be mentioned here journalists’ community had also demonstrated protest outside the Peshawar Press Club on November 5. Khan apparently also offended journalists in a statement during the recent press conference in the KP city.
He had used strong language against journalists for speculating about his recent divorce with Libya-born Reham Khan.