Sunday, February 14, 2016

Video Report - Turkish troops shell airport and village held by Kurds inside Syria

Video Report - Damascus confirms its army targeted by Turkish shelling, complains to UN

Assad Explains Why He is Not Ruling Out Turkish, Saudi Invasion of Syria

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad spoke to AFP news agency in an exclusive interview on the developments in Syria and the region.

Talking about a possible foreign ground invasion in Syria, Assad did not rule out the possibility of a Saudi, Turkish intervention saying, "Logically, intervention is not possible, but sometimes reality is at odds with logic, particularly when there are irrational people leading a certain state. That’s why I don’t rule that out for a simple reason: Erdogan is a fanatical person with Muslim Brotherhood inclinations. He is living the Ottoman dream. For him, the collapse which took place in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria is something personal."

"This threatens his political future on the one hand, and his fanatical Islamist ambitions on the other. He believes that he has an Islamist mission in our region. The same applies to Saudi Arabia. The collapse of the terrorists in Syria is a collapse of their policies. I tell you that this process is surely not going to be easy for them, and we will certainly confront it,” Assad said in an interview as cited by Syrian official agency SANA.

Talking about the current situation in Syria and the coverage of the Syrian crisis by Western media, Assad said, "The cause of this suffering is the terrorists, not the Russian shelling, as claimed by Western media, and when one cause for migration is the almost five-year-old embargo against the Syrian people, naturally my, and every Syrian official’s first task, is to fight terrorism essentially using Syrian capabilities, but also using our friends’ support in the fight against terrorism. That’s why I say the problem of Syrian refugees abroad, as well as the problem of hunger inside Syria, as you referred to it, is a problem caused by terrorism, Western policies, and the embargo imposed on the Syrian people."

Regarding Russia’s role in persuading him to step down, and whether he thinks there is a Russian-American deal on this issue; Assad said that Russians treat him with great respect.

“If we look at Russian policies and Russian officials in the same way we look at unprincipled Western officials and policies, this is a possibility. But the fact is the exact opposite, for a simple reason: the Russians treat us with great respect. They do not treat us as a superpower dealing with a minor state, but as a sovereign state dealing with a sovereign state. That’s why this issue has not been raised at all in any shape or form.”
Whether Russia and Iran will have permanent military bases in Syria, Bashar al-Assad said, “Having military bases for any country in Syria does not mean that Syria will become a satellite state to these countries. They do not interfere in issues related to the law, the constitution, nor to politics. In any case, the Russian base exists already, while the Iranians have not asked to have one. But in principle, we do not have a problem.”
During the interview Assad was asked if he intends to hold his post as president for life just like his father and if he doesn’t is he in the process of grooming a successor.

“First, the presidency is not a hobby that we enjoy. It is a responsibility, particularly in these circumstances. As to my selecting a successor, this country is neither a farm nor a company. If I want to remain president that should be dependent on two factors: first, my desire to be president, and second, the desire of the people. When the next elections come and I feel that the people don’t want me, I shall not stand. That’s why it’s too early to talk about this. We still have years before the next elections,” Assad said.

When asked how he thinks he will figure in history, as a man who saved Syria or a man who destroyed it, President Assad said, “This depends on who will write the history. If it is the West, it will give me all the bad attributes. What’s important is how I think. Certainly, and self-evidently, I will seek, and that is what I’m doing now, to protect Syria, not to protect the chair I’m sitting in.”

Talking about the Syrian army regaining control over Aleppo in the next few days, Assad said that it is not about regaining control over Aleppo, but the task is to cut the road between Aleppo and Turkey.
“Turkey is the main conduit of supplies for the terrorists. The battle has been going on now on more than ten fronts at the same time, from north, to south, to the east, to the Far East too, and to the west in Latakia. It was going on in Homs, and now it’s over. So, all these stages are moving in parallel.”

“Regardless of whether we can do that or not, this is a goal we are seeking to achieve without any hesitation. It makes no sense for us to say that we will give up any part. The timeframe is dependent on two scenarios. Suppose that the problem is purely Syrian, i.e. that Syria is isolated from its surroundings, we can put an end to this problem in less than a year by moving on two fronts: fighting terrorism and political action,” Assad said.
“The second scenario – which is the case now – taking the shape of continuing supplies to terrorists through Turkey, Jordan, and partly from Iraq – because Daesh exists in Iraq with Saudi, Turkish, and Qatari support – naturally means that the solution will take a long time and will incur a heavy price. So, it is difficult to give a precise answer about the timeframe,” the Syrian president told AFP in an exclusive interview.
Regarding how many years it may take for peace to be restored in Syria, Assad said that it depends on how many years Turkey and Saudi Arabia will continue to support terrorism.

“The question is: how much longer will Turkey and Saudi Arabia continue to support terrorism? That is the question. And when will the West put pressure on these countries to stop supporting terrorism?” the president said.

Read more:

That Awkward Moment: US Presidential Hopeful Carson Uses Fake Stalin Quote

The things US presidential hopefuls do for attention can sometimes be not only awkward but also fake.

Ben Carson, at the CBS News Republican presidential debate that took place in Greenville, South Carolina on Saturday said a lot of things. His speech also included a quote falsely attributed to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, according to The Washington Post.

"Joseph Stalin said if you want to bring America down, you have to undermine three things: our spiritual life, our patriotism and our morality," Carson said.

But the problem is Stalin never said that, at least there are no official records to confirm the statement. Maybe retired surgeon Carson has made up a quote to compare himself with Stalin or he wanted to elevate his standing among his supporters by quoting a historical figure or he's got access to classified files of "untold statements of dead world leaders."

US media was quick to find Carson' closing statement — apparently one he prepared in advance — very "showy." It turned out that some time ago a motifake with Stalin saying these words went viral on Facebook. So there might be a reason why Carson made the false statement.

Prior to the embarrassing statement, Carson said that he and his fellow candidates should choose their words carefully.

"We should all be careful about what we say, but the fact of the matter is, let's not get so concerned about how offended our enemies are," Carson said on ABC's "This Week."
Well, though Stalin and Carson have never been coevals, the chances that Stalin will be offended by Carson's statement is close to zero.

Read more:

Putin holds phone call with Obama, urges better defense cooperation in fight against ISIS

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart, Barack Obama, discussed Syria in a phone call Sunday, with Putin stressing the need to establish better cooperation between the countries’ defense ministries in the fight against terrorism.
In the telephone conversation Putin said that is important to create a unified anti-terrorism front, rejecting “double standards,” the Kremlin press service said in a statement Sunday.
"In particular, the President of Russia noted the need to organise close working contacts between the Russian Defence Ministry and the US Department of Defence, which would make it possible to combat ISIS and other terrorist organisations in more effective and better-planned fashion," read the statement.
The two leaders also stressed the “importance of rapidly implementing humanitarian access to besieged areas of Syria and initiating a nationwide cessation of hostilities,” the White House statement says, adding that they “agreed that the United States and Russia will remain in communication on the important work of the ISSG.”Both presidents gave a positive assessment of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) meeting in Munich this week, which laid out a plan to end hostilities in Syria and start a real political process there.
Barack Obama also said that Russia should play “a constructive role by ceasing its air campaign against moderate opposition forces in Syria.”
Russian officials have repeatedly stressed that the country’s aerial campaign is directed only against Islamic State and other terrorist groups, including Jabhat al-Nusra, as well as other affiliated organizations that have been recognized as terrorist by the UN Security Council, and does not target moderate opposition forces.
The two presidents also discussed the situation in Ukraine. Putin expressed the hope that Kiev authorities would start taking concrete steps aimed at fulfilling their commitments under the Minsk Accords, including establishing direct dialogue with the Donbass region and carrying out constitutional reform.
"The conversation between Mr Putin and Mr Obama was frank and constructive," the Kremlin said.

Hillary Clinton Calls Mitch McConnell’s Stance on Supreme Court Nomination ‘Disappointing’

Hillary Clinton called Senator Mitch McConnell’s statement that the next president, not President Obama, should appoint a successor to Justice Scalia “disappointing” and “totally out of step with our history and our constitutional principle.”
Speaking at a Democratic fund-raising dinner in Denver, Mrs. Clinton denounced Republican presidential candidates and the Senate majority leader’s pledge to not allow Mr. Obama to replace Mr. Scalia, who passed away at a West Texas ranch on Saturday. “For any of us who needed a reminder of just how important it is to take back the U.S. Senate and hold onto the White House, just look at the Supreme Court,” Mrs. Clinton said.
“I know that our thoughts and prayers are with the Scalia family tonight and I am also thinking and praying for the future of our country,” she said. “It is outrageous that Republicans in the Senate and on the campaign trail have already pledged to block any replacement that President Obama nominates”
“Barack Obama is the president of the United States until Jan. 20, 2017,” she continued. “That is a fact, my friends, whether Republicans like it or not.” She pointed to the longest successful confirmation process for a Supreme Court justice, the contentious, 100-day hearing in 1991 after President George H.W. Bush appointed Clarence Thomas. “There are 340 days until the next president takes office so that is plenty of time,” Mrs. Clinton said.
Mrs. Clinton rebuffed the argument by Republicans that a Supreme Court justice should not be appointed in an election year. “Okay, but the confirmation for Justice Kennedy took place in 1988,” she said. “That was an election year and he was confirmed 97 to nothing.”
Speaking as the Republican presidential debate unfolded on television, Mrs. Clinton did not mention her potential Republican rivals but she did single out Mr. McConnell, the Republican from Kentucky, calling his comments on Saturday evening “very disappointing and totally out of step with our history and constitutional principle.”
“Now, just a few minutes ago President Obama said he would nominate someone to the bench and that is exactly what he should be doing,” she said. “And leader McConnell should follow the constitutional process.”

Video - Fact check: The ninth Republican debate

Video Report - Who will Obama nominate?

Video - Bill Clinton comments on the death of Justice Antonin Scalia

Video - President Obama addresses death of Justice Antonin Scalia

Pashto Music - Sardar Ali Takkar - ښه لګي - صاحب شاه صابر

The Winter Storms Of Northern Afghanistan

By Bruce Pannier

The situation in northern Afghanistan, in areas along the border with Central Asia, has been deteriorating for more than two years now. Local officials, military officials, and residents of the northern provinces admit there are districts near or at the border of Central Asia that are currently under the control of the Taliban and their foreign militant friends.
Winter, as it does, had led to a lull in fighting in northern Afghanistan. But in recent weeks a renewal of hostilities has seen power lines coming from Central Asia cut and some amazing allegations from Afghan officials about militants in the north and their ability to sustain their efforts.
RFE/RL's Turkmen Service, known locally as Azatlyk, assembled a "majlis," or panel, to discuss the recent developments in northern Afghanistan and how these developments are impacting neighbors to the north.
Azatlyk director Muhammad Tahir moderated the discussion. Participating from Kabul was Obaid Ali of the Afghan Analysts Network who recently visited Kunduz, one of the more restive provinces of northern Afghanistan. Joining the talk from Canada was Helene Thibault, professor at the University of Montreal's School of Public and International Affairs who has spent a great deal of time in Tajikistan doing research there and has authored many articles about the country. And I threw in a few comments also.
The panel first listened to an audio recording of Imomuddin Kureyshi, the head of the Imam Sahib district in Kunduz Province, who spoke with RFE/RL at the start of February.
"The people who make explosives and carry out suicide bombings are organized by Tajik and Uzbek militants. According to reports we have received from the intelligence [service], their numbers are about 200 in Imam-Sahib and Dashti Archi districts," Kureyshi said.
The Imam Sahib and Archi (sometimes called Dashti Archi) districts border Tajikistan.
Ali confirmed some of what Kureyshi said. Ali was in the Archi district and he said, "There they [foreign militants] have their training bases where they train Afghans, Taliban, and also other Central Asian fighters who came to Afghanistan." But Ali cautioned about the numbers of these foreign fighters. "I would like to mention that the number of Central Asian fighters or foreign fighters supporting the Taliban in Kunduz Province is not clear," he said.
Kureyshi had even more sensational news. "Some of them have even created a Tajikistan on the other side of the river. When militants come under pressure on the Afghan side they escape to their base in Tajikistan," he claimed.
Tajik border guards reject this claim. Thibault has been to the border area and she also found it difficult to believe militants would be able to cross from Afghanistan into Tajikistan because, she said, there is not much support for militant groups on the Tajik side of the border. "The connections between the two peoples are actually quite limited," Thibault explained. "Within [Tajikistan's] population there isn't much support for Taliban and even not so much interest in Afghanistan."
Reporting on the situation along the Tajik-Afghan frontier on February 3, Russia's TASS news agency quoted a "representative" of Tajikistan's State Security Committee as saying there were some 5,000 militants along the Tajik border in northern Afghanistan. Russia media has been prone to quoting officials and experts who provide dire and sometimes incredible assessments and information about the Central Asian-Afghan border region. But interestingly, the "representative" TASS quoted also mentioned "several hundred militants in the Imam Sahib district," which jibes with what Kureyshi told RFE/RL.
Ali said, "What I noticed particularly in Kunduz Province, the places or the areas where the militants are more interested to establish their bases, actually it's very close to the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border."
But on the other side of the border Thibault said that at the moment, "Tajik authorities are more concerned with internal politics than they are with external politics, especially the Afghan conflict."
Power Cuts
Moving further west, there has been fighting in Baghlan Province since late January. During that fighting the power line from Uzbekistan to Kabul, which provides more than 30 percent of Afghanistan's electricity, was cut, leaving the Afghan capital and other areas with limited or no electricity. And moving a bit more to the west, the power line from Turkmenistan to Faryab Province was also knocked out.*
These acts of sabotage in themselves would be bad enough but there is more to the story here. Members of the Baghlan provincial council said Minister of Borders and Tribal Affairs Golab Mangal made a deal with the Taliban that handed over the Dand-e Ghowri area, where the fighting has been going on, to Taliban control in exchange for promises to leave the provincial capital Puli Khumri alone.
There are accusations that similar deals between officials and the Taliban have also been made in Kunduz, Badakhshan, and Faryab provinces, again, all provinces that border Central Asia.
Tahir mentioned that Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum has not followed up on his pledge to drive the Taliban and their foreign allies from northern Afghanistan. Dostum led successful counteroffensives against militants last summer in northwestern Afghanistan, Dostum's native region. But there has been little evidence of a new push in recent weeks.
Ali concluded the discussion by saying, "this is the time the government needs to gain the ground." He followed that comment by saying, "If they [the government] lose it at this time it means that during the spring and summer the Taliban will obviously start their so-called spring offensive, so that will be very difficult for the government to fight against the Taliban in several fronts across the country."
The group discussed these issues and greater detail and looked at other issues of security along the Central Asia-Afghan border. You can listen to the full roundtable below:

'Mother And Father Sold Me' -- Afghan Children Reveal 'Heartbreak' Of Human Trafficking

They are young, vulnerable, and preyed upon by human traffickers. Each year dozens of children in Afghanistan are sold into slavery or even worse fates. Their families, usually very poor, hand them over to smugglers in exchange for the promise of cash. Some kids are even groomed as suicide bombers for the Taliban. RFE/RL spoke to two children who escaped from the clutches of the traffickers. (RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan)

Afghanistan is on the brink

by Shaharzad Akbar

Afghanistan is worse off today than it was before the 2001 U.S. invasion, according to a report released last monthby the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).
The Taliban now controls about 30 percent of Afghanistan — more than it controlled at any other time since 2001. Public confidence in the Afghan national unity government is waning because of continued attacks in Kabul and the threat of violence from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The economy is in free fall. The partial withdrawal of foreign military infrastructure means that hundreds of thousands of people are now unemployed or soon will be. Corruption among government leaders remains rampant.
In Kabul people don’t need a 230-page report to understand the deteriorating security situation. On Feb. 1 a Taliban suicide bomber killed at least 20 police officers in an attack near a police complex, wounding 29 others. It was the latest in a series of assaults in the Afghan capital this year and yet more proof that the U.S.-led “war on terrorism” is not working.
A more effective way to combat violent extremism is to offer something in its place, and I don’t mean weapons. Every time a suicide bomber detonates his charge in Kabul, I am reminded that Afghanistan must do a better job on the battlefield of ideas. That is the only war in which we stand a chance of winning.
Young people in Afghanistan are looking for opportunities, hope and inspiration. And if they can’t find those things, they will leave. They are already fleeing the country in unprecedented numbers. “Afghans accounted for 20 percent of the million-plus migrants to the European Union in 2015, second only to Syrians fleeing their own civil war,” the SIGAR report said. Afghanistan issued more than 2,000 passports a day in Kabul last year, a sixfold increase over 2014, mostly to men and women under the age of 30, according to SIGAR. And last fall Afghanistan’s Refugees and Repatriations Ministry launched a social media campaign in an effort to stop the exodus of young people.
“Don’t go,” the ads implored. “Stay with me. There might be no return!”
But many Afghans would rather take their chances in another country than stay in or return to their homeland, where the odds are stacked against them. If 14 years of foreign intervention and billions of dollars in international aid have taught us anything, it is that answers to Afghanistan’s problems are not going to come from abroad. If we are to build a lasting and sustainable democracy, we will have to do it ourselves.
Afghanistan is on the brink. In some ways, the country has made great progress. Under Taliban rule, it had almost no independent media, and women were confined to their homes, deprived of the right to go to school, work or move about without a male companion. Today 28 percent of the Afghan parliament is made up of women. There are four female ministers in the unity government. And robust and diverse media are striving to hold leaders accountable. 
Despite Afghanistan’s worsening security situation, I remain optimistic about its prospects for peace and stability. I have no choice.This is my home.
But many of these achievements are under constant threat. Last month the Taliban bombed a bus carrying workers of Tolo TV, the country’s largest private broadcaster. Women’s political representation in urban areas has not improved the lot of rural women in conflict zones, who still struggle to earn a living wage or to access health care and education.
Afghanistan must restore its tradition of pluralism. It is a culturally, ethnically and linguistically diverse nation with a long history of tolerance. Afghanistan’s strong Sufi tradition emphasizes acceptance of other Islamic sects and religions. In fact, Afghanistan was home to a substantial Jewish population as well as Hindus and Sikhs for years before the civil war. Because of constant international intervention, Afghans have been coopted and mobilized to defend a political Islam that leaves little room for interpretation. But that is not who we are.
Afghans who believe in an open society, freedom of expression and political pluralism must do a better job of engaging with the public. A call for a return to our roots cannot come from above or from outside the country.  Afghanistan’s current leaders and their international supporters can’t be trusted to do the job.
We see the potential for this movement in civil society’s increasingly active role in daily life. Afghans overwhelmingly participated in the first round of 2014 elections despite security threats, illustrating their commitment to the democratic process. We stand with our free media in the face of Taliban attacks. And Afghan youths enthusiastically offer political criticism and commentary on social media, displaying their interest in politics and the future of their country. Afghans have the resources to counter radicalization, but the voices are currently scattered and fragmented. We must strengthen them by investing in better education and broadening support for civil society and political parties and movements.
In November we proved we can do this work. Thousands of people took part in a spontaneously organized march to protest the beheadings of seven innocent civilians, all ethnic Hazaras. The march was organized by youth and civil society leaders who did not make ethnic distinctions in their calls to participate on social media. Religious scholars and secular activists, city dwellers and rural residents, men, women — the only identity we concerned ourselves with that day was our Afghan identity, and the main rallying cries were against radicalization and terrorism and for peace and democracy. The march was one event, a spark, but it was a glimpse of the potential the new Afghanistan has for a broader public alliance for tolerance and pluralism.
It’s easy to quantify the effect of a suicide bomb by tallying bodies and body parts. But from my work as a women’s rights and rule-of-law campaigner, I know that it’s much harder to measure the results of advocacy. It may take generations for Afghanistan to embrace the democratic process, to learn how to disagree without resorting to violence and to protect the space for people to express their opinions freely without fear of repercussions or backlash.
Despite Afghanistan’s worsening security situation, I remain optimistic about its prospects for peace and stability. I have no choice. This is my home.

2015 was the worst year on record for civilian casualties in Afghanistan

“I myself transported at least 16 dead bodies within the first hour,” he said.
At least 33 people were killed and at least 100 others injured in the April bombing in northwestern Afghanistan, one of many that contributed to the worst year on record for civilian casualties in the country.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported Sunday that 2015 was the deadliest year for noncombatants since the agency first began tracking civilian casualties in 2009.
The report documented 3,545 civilian deaths, a 4% increase from 2014, and 7,457 injuries, a 9% rise.
Once again, the fighting took the heaviest toll on what the U.N. agency called “the most vulnerable,” namely women and children, as casualty rates among both groups increased by double digits. The report documented 333 deaths and 913 injuries among women, a 37% overall increase on the year prior. Child casualties rose by 14% to 733 deaths and 2,096 injuries.Ali M. Latifi

When Yousef, 32, arrived at a central roundabout in Jalalabad one morning last spring, he was shocked by what he saw: A suicide bombing outside the local Kabul Bank branch had turned one of the city’s busiest areas into a site of unparalleled carnage.
As in the past, ground engagements between Afghan National Security Forces and the armed opposition were the leading cause of civilian casualties. Targeted killings and suicide bombings were the other leading causes. Anti-government elements were blamed for the majority of the casualties.
The April bombing in Jalalabad, which was claimed by a new group that says it has ties to Islamic State, represents the changing tactics of the armed opposition.
The past year has seen the opposition, led by the Taliban, stage more audacious attacks with increased targeting of the country’s major cities, many of which were once considered to be relatively safe.
The Taliban issued a statement Sunday denouncing the U.N. report, calling it "propaganda ... compiled at the behest of the occupying forces." It said the blame for civilian casualties "falls squarely on the shoulders of the Americans ... and the stooge Kabul administration."
Yousef, who only has one name, had moved to Jalalabad from smaller Sorkh Rod because of increasing violence there. But the violence followed him, erupting in one of the busiest places in the city.
He said he was on his way to run some errands that morning when he received a phone call alerting him to the bombing.
“As soon as I heard ‘there’s been a bombing outside Kabul Bank’ I rushed over,” he said. “Everything is near that roundabout—taxis to Kabul, the bank, shops. It’s one of those places where there is always crowds of people walking around.”
The U.N. mission documented a 16% increase in civilian casualties attributed to “anti-government elements” from suicide bombings and so-called “complex” attacks, which involve multiple attackers and weapons.

Pakistan's Interior Ch Nisar’s fantasy land

And on-ground reality
If the interior minister is indeed privy to landmark developments regarding madrassa reforms, they are so secret that even sections of the madrassa boards are still in the dark. Or, as the Wafaqul Madaris al Shi’a implied, perhaps Ch Nisar is taking merely holding of ‘several meetings’ as a sign of progress, even if there are still few points of convergence. And, for some reason, he did not care to shed much light on the ‘procedure’ that will be followed for registration. According to latest press reports, various ‘forms’ swung back and forth between the religious affairs and interior ministries and the provinces before the government suddenly announced ‘reaching an understanding’ on the issue.
The security czar’s take on Da’ish betrays a similar divorce from reality. The IB director must have had a reason for expressing such strong fears before the Senate Standing Committee on Interior, after all. Ch Nisar probably based his observation on the physical distance between Iraq/Syria and Pakistan. But in the proxy war landscape, it is patronage – funding, arming, guiding – of armed militias that counts. Surely Ch Nisar didn’t miss how a few armed and trained militants wreaked havoc in Paris recently. If Da’ish comes here, it will be through arms, funds, and direction, not by airdropping a brigade.
The proof of the pudding, at the end of the day, lies in the eating. Claims and counter-claims work only as long as the on-ground trends support them. And the string of attacks in the new year have caused considerable concern, especially since Charsadda; which fed fears that despite assurances there are still loopholes due to which even children are still at risk. Whenever the government has moved forcefully – be it in Waziristan or Karachi – there has been little need for marketing its success. A similar approach should be adopted on the matters of madrassa reform as well as containing outside forces looking for a foothold in Pakistan.

Pakistan's Hypocrite President &Valentine’s day - ''No Love Lost''

The elusive President Mamnoon Hussain is rarely seen in public, and when he does make an appearance it is brief; he inaugurates this, christens that, and meekly returns to the President House. The President’s voice is reserved for matters of grave national importance; he urged PML-N and the PTI to make peace during the dharna, he cautioned the parliament over involvement in the Yemen war, and now he has lend his ponderous opinion to another crisis, Valentine’s day. Wearing a red tie and a scarlet pocket square the president denounced Valentine’s day as a “western tradition” that goes against Muslim values. The fact that he was wearing a western suit and speaking in a foreign language seemed to escaped the honourable president.
The President’s remarks are based on a very juvenile understanding of Valentine’s day and Pakistani culture, and his wildly speculative statements – such as linking the day to the increase in sexual crimes in India – is not only incorrect but ill befitting a person of his office. The expression of endearment towards loved ones is in no way against the culture of the subcontinent, or any culture for that matter. The most famous subcontinent literature pieces are epic love ballads like ‘Heer Ranjha’, and songs – folk and otherwise – treat love as their favourite subject matter. If literature and custom – the two most prominent indicators of ‘culture’ are rife with celebration of love, what makes Valentine’s Day so detestable? Does Mamnoon Husain object to the marriage anniversaries, birthday parties and a general exchange of gifts too, or is his ire reserved only for romantic relationships? Mr President needs to understand, Valentine’s Day is not all dance parties and dinner dates, and even if it was, he has no right no reason to object to it.
It is these kinds of puritanical actions that paint Pakistan as an extremist country. Western newspapers are having a field day with the President’s words, and will continue to do so. The President should stick to what he knows best; cutting ribbons and shaking important hands.


Pakistan Peoples Party Punjab on the instructions of the Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will hold a protest today (Sunday) in front of the Lahore Press Club at 2:00 PM over the killings of its workers.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leadership has condemned the killing of one of its workers in a clash with a rival political group in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Saturday.
At least one PPP worker was killed and four others were injured in the clash with activists from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in the Nakyal area of Kotli district, some 215 kilometres from Muzaffarabad.
According to police reports, the clash took place on the grounds of Government College Nakyal, where PPP workers had been preparing for a rally scheduled for the same day. Activists of the PML-N arrived at the venue and pelted the PPP workers with stones, killing Chaudhry Muhammad Munshi and wounding four others.
Reacting to the incident, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari accused the PML-N of resorting to ‘dictatorial tactics’. In a strongly worded statement, he said the ruling party had “let loose armed goons to mount murderous attacks on PPP gatherings ahead of the general elections.”
He called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to ‘bridle’ his ministers and restrain them from promoting violence and use of lethal weapons against opponents. “You [Nawaz] will be responsible for the consequences otherwise,” the PPP chairman warned.
He also demanded the perpetrators of the violence be brought to justice.
Bilawal’s father, former president and Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians President Asif Ali Zardari also accused the PML-N of having a ‘dictatorial mindset’ while condemning the incident.
“It has become a norm for the PML-N to kill opposition. This shows the dictatorial mindset of the [ruling] party’s leadership,” he said in a statement.
“Several PML-N leaders have been delivering hateful speeches against the PPP during their visits to Kashmir for some time now. The storming of a PPP convention today seems to be a result of this,” he added.
The former president asked the AJK government to compile and release a detailed report on the incident. He also called on the state’s authorities to book the culprits behind the attack as soon as possible.
Both Bilawal and Zardari expressed sympathies with the family of the deceased and said such ‘supreme sacrifices’ will not go to waste.

Don’t be angry with Pakistan. Feel sorry for it

Aakar Patel

Hard to imagine it today, but in the 1960s Pakistan was ahead of India economically. With no industrial base, almost no mercantile communities in its most populous state, Punjab (the real talent being the Gujaratis in Karachi), and no particular natural resource, Pakistan was still clobbering India in growth. How?
It was unencumbered by romantic ideas of socialism in its leaders — indeed it signed up for military pacts against the communists — except in Bhutto’s brief reign. Pakistan liberalized much before India and its economy picked up.
The 1960s was Pakistan’s ‘decade of development’ and Huntington of Clash of Civilisations fame likened Pakistan’s leader of the time to ancient Greece’s great lawgivers. “Ayub Khan,” he wrote, “came close to filling the role of a Solon or Lycurgus on the Platonic or Rosseauian model.”
Such confidence was reposed in Pakistan that when it was partitioned in 1971, it was Bangladesh which was assumed to be in economic trouble (older readers will remember Kissinger’s contemptuous phrase, ‘basket case’). Today Bangladesh is growing faster than Pakistan and will soon have a bigger economy than its estranged brother.
So what went wrong? It was of course that Pakistan went into chaos that was deliberately created. In order to punish India in Kashmir it armed and empowered Pakistanis. And it ceded the state’s monopoly over violence (the one condition sociologist Weber describes as essential) to militias — entities described today, coyly but accurately, as ‘non-state actors’.
This strategy cost Pakistan its lead over India and turned it into a state unstable and dangerous to the world. The historian Stephen Cohen wrote that “Pakistan now negotiates with its allies and friends by pointing a gun to its own head.”
I am writing about this, to come tardily to the point, because of something our mighty are contemplating as a response to Pakistan’s mischief.
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar told army generals a few weeks ago that India should follow Pakistan’s strategy. His words were careful, but they were clear.
“I am of the opinion, it should not be taken as a government thinking, I always believe that if anyone harms you, he understands the same language… How, when and where should be of your choice but if someone is harming this country, then that particular individual or organization, I purposely used the words individual and organization, should also receive the pain of such activities.”
He added: “History tells us that those who damage you, if they don’t realize what pain they inflict, then they don’t change” and that the “basic principle is that until we give them pain, whoever they may be, until then, such incidents will not reduce.”
Bombed: Pakistan’s descent from boom state to basket case began when it decided to inflict a ‘thousand cuts’ on India
Bombed: Pakistan’s descent from boom state to basket case began when it decided to inflict a ‘thousand cuts’ on India
Asked if that means there was a change from the previous government’s policy, Parrikar said, “If someone comes and hammers you, you should keep quiet? Was that the policy? What I am saying is basically that history tells you that those who damage you, if they don’t realize what pain they inflict, then they don’t change.” Headley’s revelations this week have probably hardened Parrikar’s thoughts of vengeance.
Armchair Clausewitzes in our media and what passes for our strategic affairs community will no doubt be applauding Parrikar’s kindergarten approach. He should know, however, what Pakistan has done to itself in trying to harm India.
In recent years the average number of fatalities in India from terrorism outside our conflict theatres has been 10 (including terrorists killed) per year. The average in Pakistan has been 5,000 per year. Parrikar believes the mischief of India’s potential ‘non-state actors’ can be calibrated. In saying things like “I purposely used the words individual and organization” he means that in his plan Pakistan’s civilians will not be harmed. But how many civilians did Pakistan’s thugs go after in Pathankot?
When Parrikar says that Pakistan should also “receive pain” he should realize it is already in agony. India isn’t needed to do any damage. The Pakistani state has failed its population. It has ceded the economic growth story to India. Some of its cities are violent beyond belief. I have not met many Karachi residents who have not been mugged at gunpoint (one man told me he had been robbed a dozen times). This is because of the prevalence of guns and the surrender of the monopoly of violence by the state.
None of this was imagined by the fine minds who thought up the original plan to inflict pain on India called ‘death by a thousand cuts’ (who’s dying and who’s getting cut today?).
On a track-II visit to Islamabad a few months ago, I was talking to two ISI chiefs (nobody tell Arnab) about the decline of terrorism fatalities in India. “And see what the cost of that has been to us,” one of them said.
It is a cost Parrikar must consider coldly the next time his anger gets the better of him.