Friday, November 13, 2015
A series of apparently coordinated attacks have rocked central Paris, resulting in at least 140 deaths. Aside from several separate shootings, police also confirmed explosions near a Paris stadium, and a now resolved hostage situation.
At least six separate violent incidents have taken place in Paris on Friday night, including several shootings and explosions. The French station BFM TV claim the death toll could be in excess of 60 people.
Gunfire near a restaurant in the vicinity of Paris’ Place de la Republique has killed at least 11 and injured at least seven people, according to BFM TV and police sources. People in the vicinity reported seeing several bodies lying on the ground.
The attack happened at the restaurant's terrace, according to France 24 reporter at the site of the first shooting. Dozens of shots were fired, according to witnesses who described the scene as a “nightmare”, the Liberation newspaper reports.
A second shooting took place several minutes later near Bataclan, a theatre at the 50 Boulevard Voltaire in the 11th department of Paris. At least 15 people are believed to be dead in this attack.
Dozens of people were taken hostage at the concert hall, with the terrorists shooting indiscriminately, local media reported.
Paris police eventually stormed the building, killing at least three terrorists. However, according to reports, the death toll from the hostage situation might be as high as 100 people.
In what appears to be a separate incident, two or three explosions were reported near the Stade de France stadium in St. Denis. Police have cordoned off the area and have evacuated the stadium, according to the publication.
At least 3 people were killed by the blasts, two of which police have confirmed were suicide bombings.
The stadium was hosting a football friendly match between France and Germany, which was attended by the French President Francois Hollande. The President was rushed out of the stadium and is personally dealing with the unfolding emergency situation, officials told France 24.
Amid the “unprecedented terrorist attacks” that have resulted in dozens of deaths, French President Francois Hollande has declared a state of emergency and announced that France will close its borders.
Famous Journalist of Pakistan Nazeer Lagahri while answering questions related to Punjab government and Sharif Brothers’ links with banned terrorist groups and slow speed of NAP, in a program named ‘Abb Tak with Masood Raza’ telecasted from Channel 24, said “Punjab Government has open relations with banned terrorist groups due to which it is not willing to take any action against these terrorists or target them with the NAP”. He said “This is now an open secret that there are centers and networks of banned terrorist groups (LeJ, Sipah e Sahaba and others) in entire Punjab, especially in Southern Punjab and Punjab government has given them complete freedom in Punjab.
While answering another question, Nazeer Lagahri said “the speed of NAP has slowed down due to government’s schemes. Sharif brothers had also taken support of these very banned terrorist groups to succeed in elections, in the past as well. In such situation, how Punjab government could take action against the forces that has helped it to acquire power”.
He also raised question upon the NAP and said “The groups that have been banned by the UN, have cases registered against them in various countries of the world and have openly accepted the responsibility for killing hundreds and thousands of Pakistanis, are still taking part in Local Bodies Elections in entire Punjab but no action has been taken against them”.
“Pakistan Muslim League-N, especially Sharif brothers’ relations with these terrorist groups are not hidden from anyone”, he added.
As the military called for greater civilian cooperation to fight terrorism in the country, Awami National Party (ANP) chief Asfandyar Ali Khan has said no institution is allowed to pass judgments relating to the performance of other institutions.
In a letter to President Obama, the foundation expressed "serious concerns" about the human rights violations committees by Pakistan army and its subsidiary agencies, in action against rise of religious extremism and providing continued support to extremist terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba headed by Hafez Saeed to expand their network in Sindh province of Pakistan.
"Pakistan's military is continuing to play its double standard in its war against terror with international coalition partners especially the US," the Sindhi Foundation said in its letter to Obama.
"They are out to settle scores with its Sindhi political dissidents and nationalist activists who are vehemently opposed to Pakistan army's hobnobbing and patronage of the Jihadi extremist groups," the letter said.
The foundation in its letter appealed the US President to ask his administration officials to raise the issue of human rights violation by Pakistan army in Sindh when the army chief visits the US.
General Raheel Sharif is scheduled to meet top defense leaders of the US next week. He is also scheduled to travel to Florida for meeting the leadership of the US Central Command.
"I would like you to pre-condition all continues non-humanitarian aid provided by United States to the improvement of the human rights situation and crackdown against Hafeez Saeed terrorist network," said Sufi Munawar Laghari, executive director of the foundation.
The history of disasters in South Asia reveals what is at stake in the face of climate change. Analyses of data for natural disasters — from the international disaster database EM-DAT, and covering hazards including droughts, epidemics, floods and landslides — shows that India is the country that has been most affected by these events since 1900, followed by Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. 
Every year, agricultural losses related to disaster cost Pakistan an average of US$15-20 million. This is due to poor governance, rural communities residing inside flood-prone areas, a lack of adaptive agricultural research and a resistance to changing what has become a ‘flood business’ — the government compensating those affected by floods and then resettling them back to the same flood-prone areas. This spells a need to rethink the country’s national framework for disaster management to protect its agricultural economy.
Rising disaster risk
According to EM-DAT data, the risk of natural disasters in Pakistan has increased over the past 100 years: four per cent (four events) of the global total of natural disasters occurred in the country during 1900-1947, rising to 64 per cent (79 events) during 1948-1990 and 32 per cent (40 events), in just the past 15 years, from 1991-2015.
Development policy has also changed, alongside these trends, over the past few decades. There is no doubt that Pakistan has shifted towards industries based on agricultural raw materials such as cotton ginning (separating fibres from seeds) or rice exports — much less agricultural growth is occurring among farming communities. The agro-industrial sector contributes around 21-25 per cent to national GDP (gross domestic product).
Wheat, cotton, sugar cane and rice are the crops of major economic importance for the country. Wheat is mainly grown in the Rabi growing season (October-May), which generally avoids the floods caused by monsoon rains that typically fall from June until September. It follows that extreme monsoon events and floods harm the national economy directly — through losses to life and of crops, livestock and houses — and indirectly, through the huge investments the government then needs to make to rehabilitate affected areas.
Cotton, sugar cane, rice and other high-value crops are mainly grown in Kharif season (July-September), when they are most at risk from the monsoon floods. Cotton contributes an average of around 1.5 per cent to GDP, with rice providing 0.7 per cent, sugar cane 0.6 per cent and maize 0.4 per cent.
The numbers on losses speak for themselves. During the flooding that took place in each of the past six years (2010-2015), Pakistan lost cumulatively more than an estimated 1,359,000 hectares of cotton, 372,000 hectares of sugar cane and around 1,391,000 hectares of rice. [2-4, unpublished data 2013-15]
“Although geospatial technology can help to map and monitor areas at risk of disaster, this is not enough. The adoption of policies to reduce the impacts of flooding needs legislation.”
Ibrar ul Hassan Akhtar
No doubt, the 2010 floods were the worst in terms of geographical extent and damage to crops. But they also highlighted the lack of a preparedness infrastructure and mechanisms in Pakistan.
Life on the edge
Systems that rely on satellite technology, such as remote sensing and geographic information systems, have helped improve the country’s management of disasters, through near-real-time situation analysis, coverage of a wider area than could be monitored physically on the ground, and through spatial analysis. Crucially, this technology has also enabled us to understand how many of the country’s rural population live inside or near flood-prone areas and rely on smallholdings for their livelihood.
In the province of Punjab, 531,000 hectares (4.4 per cent) of agriculture is practised inside the floodplain; in Sindh province, the figure is 489,000 hectares (7.4 per cent).
During the monsoon season, rising rivers can easily flood crops up to five to ten kilometres around the river channel. Geospatial analyses have identified several districts in Punjab and Sindh with significant areas of crops growing inside floodplains during the July-September flood season.
But although geospatial technology can help to map and monitor areas at risk of disaster, this is not enough. The adoption of policies to reduce the impacts of flooding needs legislation — to permanently relocate families to safer zones, adopt flood-resilient cropping practices as a preventive measure, and promote research into cropping systems adapted to floods. In essence, it needs a revised disaster-management framework.
Such a framework would also reinforce the role of technology, by promoting tools that are more time-effective and reliable. For example, conventional approaches to data collection in Pakistan rely on centuries-old administrative systems; they need to be revamped with state-of-the-art geospatial technologies that can visualise and measure every inch of land surface in the country.
Capacity building is important too: those running management systems lack proper technical skills, adding further to improper planning and the tendency towards unscientific approaches to tackling natural disasters.
Pakistan needs a framework that promotes proper assessments of climate change, develops mitigation strategies, maps risk-prone areas by classifying multiple disasters and supports research for agricultural adaptations that can add resilience to cropping systems. The country’s bureaucratic approach to disaster management needs to turn into a technocratic one.