Sunday, July 23, 2017
By Sune Engel Rasmussen
Sources say US gunship bombed checkpoint just 30 minutes after police unit retook it from Taliban. A US gunship has killed at least 12 Afghan policemen in a friendly fire airstrike in Helmand, according to local officials.
The incident is a setback for the US-Afghan fight against the Taliban in the embattled province, and comes as the US administration and its Nato allies are preparing the deployment of several thousand additional troops to Afghanistan. Since 2001, Helmand has consistently been the deadliest province for both foreign and Afghan forces. Since the international drawdown in 2014, the Taliban has seized territory across the province, leaving the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, and the economic hub, Gereshk, as some of the only areas still in government hands.
The attack occurred on Friday afternoon, when, according to local police sources, an Afghan police unit retook a checkpoint captured by the Taliban on Thursday. Due to apparent miscommunication, a US gunship bombed the police unit 30 minutes later, according to police sources. The spokesman to the provincial governor, Omar Zawak, said the number of killed and injured was not yet clear. Helmand’s police chief said 12 members of the Afghan National Security Forces died in the strike.
The incident followed a week of intensified US airstrikes in Helmand. The US air campaign in Afghanistan has reached a level not seen since 2012, when there were almost 10 times as many US troops in the country.
According to Bill Salvin, spokesman for the coalition forces in Afghanistan, the US has conducted more than 50 airstrikes in the province over the past five days.
In June, the US surpassed the total number of aerial attacks in Afghanistan last year, with 1,634 airstrikes conducted primarily in the south – in and around Helmand – and against Islamic State groups in the east. Following Friday’s incident, the coalition forces said in a statement: “We can confirm local security personnel aligned with Afghan government forces were killed in an airstrike in Gereshk district in Helmand province late this afternoon.”
“During a US supported [Afghan defence forces] operation, aerial fires resulted in the deaths of the friendly Afghan forces who were gathered in a compound… An investigation will be conducted to determine the specific circumstances that led to this incident.”
The deaths in Helmand added to a particularly bloody day for the Afghan police.
In the northeastern Badakhshan province, the Taliban killed at least 32 members of the local police and government-aligned uprising groups in a push to capture Tagaq district. Some of the people killed were murdered after the Taliban surrounded a house they were staying in, while the rest were shot in an ambush, said Abdullah Naji Nazari, the head of the provincial council.
The granddaughter of slain Punjab Governor Salman Taseer is collecting funds for the family of the jailed Aasia Bibi, the woman accused of blasphemy Salman Taseer defended and was murdered over by his own security guard, the infamous Mumtaz Qadri.
Meera Shoaib, the daughter of the former Governor’s daughter Sara Taseer, is operating a crowd funding page for the family of Aasia Bibi on the website generosity. The website works on a platform in which people can set up pages for any private or public cause which needs financing. The page is then shared and spread through the relevant communities which chip in to the cause and help the person or thing in need. As of now, the page for Aasia Bibi has managed to collect $3147 in 3 months from the donations of 34 people. But the Taseer family has only now publicised the effort after their first success in the venture: buying a rickshaw for Aasia’s family so they may be able to sustain themselves.
The rickshaw, according to the official page of the campaign, is only the first step towards helping Aasia and her family who is still jailed in Multan. The campaign argues that Aasia’s family has been finding it impossible to get employed because of the taboo surrounding them and the donations will go a long way in making them sustain themselves.
Meera Shoaib describes the effort as aiming to raise money for the sustenance, legal fees, and jail visitation for the (Aasia) family.” She describes her inspiration to take up the project in the words “For many years, I’ve struggled to find the best way to contribute to the cause my grandfather gave his life for.” Meera goes on to urge people to help the family saying “In Pakistan, even $20 can feed a family for four days. Your contribution, however small, can mean the world to them.”
The generosity page describes the story of Aasia Bibi and the injustice she faced at the hands of the courts and the blasphemy law. It also talks about the struggle of Salman Taseer and what he did to try and help Aasia when she was in the depths of her trouble, and the price she had to pay for it. Meera Shoaib aptly closes the page story with the words “This campaign is to keep alive the legacy my grandfather left. This campaign is for you, Abba.”
Meanwhile, Meera Shoaib’s mother Sara Taseer was also active in promoting her daughters initiative and encouraged people to go out and fund the campaign to help Aasia Bibi’s family. Sharing a picture of the family standing in front of the rickshaw, Sara Taseer tweeted ” With pride and joy I bring you this image of Asia Bibi’s family. With corwd funding, has bought them this rickshaw so family can sustain.”
— Sara Taseer (@sarataseer) July 19, 2017
By Salman Ali
Feudal lords don’t want the children of the poor to get quality education in public schools. Hence they make no effort to improve the condition of these schools.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child and many of the global education goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, aim at ensuring the right to quality education, which, unfortunately millions of children and women around the world are deprived of. Globally, some 67 million children remain out of school. According to the EFA Development Index, Pakistan ranks 106 out of 113 countries. Similarly, despite Pakistan’s annual economic growth being 4.1 per cent, growth in expenditure on education is less than 2.5 per cent.
It is also mandated in the constitution of Pakistan to provide free and compulsory education to all children between the ages of 5-16 years and enhance adult literacy. But an annual report released by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) provides a glimpse into the performance of the education sector in the country, during the year 2016. According to the report, the year 2016 witnessed tiny improvements in a few areas of the sector, but continued to see a decline in many. The official figures showed that the number of out-of-school children decreased from 25 million to 24 million, but the adult literacy rate went down from 58% to 56.4%. There was only moderate improvement in the learning outcome score - from 2015’s 52.33% to 54.78% in 2016.
The most disturbing news of the educational year was that the federal and two provincial governments - Punjab and Balochistan - cut their budgetary allocations for the sector, despite showy claims of putting education first. On the other side, the United Nations Global Education Monitoring Report 2016, released in September last year claimed that Pakistan was 50-plus years behind in its primary and 60-plus years behind in its secondary education targets. That means the country is set to miss by more than half-a-century the deadline for ensuring that all children receive primary education. The report said that Pakistan had the most absolute number of children out of school anywhere in the world, including 5.6 million out of primary schools, around 5.5 million out of secondary schools (48% of lower secondary school age children), and a staggering 10.4 million adolescents out of upper secondary school. According to the HRCP report, in 2016 there was no record of 15,000 teachers, and there were over 900 ghost schools in Balochistn with almost 300,000 fake registrations of students.
A study titled ‘Pakistan’s Education Crisis: The Real Story’ noted that the United States, Britain and the World Bank poured money into Pakistan’s stagnating public education sector, but the number of children out of school is still second only to Nigeria. The data collected by the Wilson Centre, however, noted improvement in teacher absenteeism, which dropped from 20% to 6% in Punjab during the past five years.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has always claimed prioritising education and health. However, the HRCP report revealed that most of 28,000 schools in the province lacked basic facilities. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Independent Monitoring Unit said in its May 2016 report that 26% of the government schools did not have potable water facility, and 10% had no boundary walls, despite the province facing a sensitive law and order situation. Also, 11% schools have no toilets and 34% have no electricity connections.
The most disturbing news of the educational year was that the federal and two provincial governments — Punjab and Balochistan — cut their budgetary allocations for this, despite showy claims of putting education first Different districts’ performance across the country was reported very poor. In Balochistan, according to a report, released by the Academy of Educational Planning and Management (AEPAM), a federal government institution, more than 1.8 million children are out of school. The official data show that there are 13,279 government schools in Balochistan. Of these, 84% are primary schools with only 16% schools offering middle and higher education to students. Almost 54% of the total primary schools operate with only one teacher. Almost 26% government schools in Balochistan function with only one classroom. And across Balochistan, the condition of 83% of government primary schools buildings is "unsatisfactory". Moreover, the HRCP report notes with concern that the federal as well as provincial governments’ priorities seemed misplaced in the field of education.
Education at primary level particularity in public schools is somewhat satisfactory in cities but in rural or remote areas of the four provinces, the state of education is pathetic. This is because the tribal lords are still powerful and hold influence in the area where they have electoral power. They don’t want the children of the poor to get quality education in the public schools, which is why they make no effort to improve the condition of these schools.
NGOs have been working to get rural areas’ children registered in public or private schools but to no avail. For this to happen, well-groomed teams should be formed to give lectures to the parents so they can be convinced on the importance of education for their children. But first we need to get rid of the feudal lords otherwise the situation will remain the same.
By Afrasiab Khattak
The gloves are coming off as the creeping coup is entering its final stage and is going for the kill. We have been told that the JIT is an extension of the Supreme Court. We already know that it’s also an extension of the premier intelligence agencies of the country that are part and parcel of the security establishment. These power connections explain the inquisition type authority of JIT, which it has used with a vengeance. But it is becoming obvious that the attack is not confined to the “corrupt” Prime Minister and his family. Its target is the entire system that has evolved over a decade or so.
Of particular concern for the forces of dictatorship is the 18th Constitutional Amendment that was aimed at cleansing the Constitution of distortions and deformations imposed on it by martial law regimes of General Zia and General Pervez Musharraf. The aforementioned forces have never reconciled with the federal democratic and parliamentary system enshrined in the 1973 Constitution. They have never hidden their love for a centralised and authoritarian presidential system. They abhor devolution of power to provinces as it is an obstacle in the way of establishing a dictatorial grip over the country. It is in this context that the recent remarks of Imran Khan (IK), as a main spokesperson of the creeping coup, should be understood. Reading out from the script IK is saying that elections under the present Election Commission will not be acceptable to his party. His party has pulled out of the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral reforms which has already completed its work. Interestingly all the other opposition political parties are standing by these recommendations. But IK is hell bent upon creating the type of crises that would justify tempering with the system by the establishment.
It goes without saying that the PML-N government has also made a substantial contribution in creating the space for the interference of undemocratic forces by pushing the parliament to irrelevance during the last four years. That’s why Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif isn’t able to go to Parliament and use the forum to challenge the forces that are ambushing the Constitutional system. The ruling party has so far failed to take its own rank and file into confidence, what to talk of taking opposition political parties on board. PM’s record in rallying forces of democracy is dismal to say the least. In 2014 when all political parties including the opposition parties united to defend the Constitution and democratic system the establishment changed its strategy. Starting from the MQM it tackled opposition political parties one by one and made sure that there is no one in the field for putting up a straight fight. The Panama Papers provided a golden opportunity to stage the drama of “crusade against corruption”. Judiciary, as we are informed by Mr. Javed Hashmi, the former Chairman of PTI, was already in the loop. Interestingly the Apex Court did not summon Mr. Javed Hashmi to look into the serious allegations that he has publicly leveled more than once.
The most remarkable thing during this political high drama has been the hijacking of political discourse. As we all know Pakistan is faced with serious challenges. When confronted with the question, every political leader and media network agree that terrorism poses an existential threat to Pakistan. Failure in implementing NAP is history by now. Pakistan is also regarded by many in the world as a source of spreading terrorism and there are significant moves in the US Congress for declaring it a state sponsoring terrorism. Pakistan’s relations with three out of its four neighbouring countries are in extremely bad shape. Non-inclusion of backward areas of the country in CPEC is creating heartburn and alienation in areas destroyed by terrorism. Bloodshed is continuing in Balochistan and backing out of the government from implementing FATA reforms is creating serious doubts in the minds of Pashtuns about their status in Pakistan. But all these serious issues have been totally sidelined and political discourse is monopolised by a single issue, the Panama Papers. This is the most vicious aspect of political engineering used by the establishment and exposes the real faces of the self-proclaimed super patriots.
Be that as it may, the real question in the present crises is who will rule Pakistan? The elected Parliament or the security establishment? Pakistan will have to go through a struggle to decide this question and who is better suited to raise this question than the authentic leader of the Punjabi bourgeoisie!
By Enum Naseer