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Trump Allows High-Tech U.S. Bomb Parts to Be Built in Saudi Arabia

By Michael LaForgia and Walt Bogdanich 

 When the Trump administration declared an emergency last month and fast-tracked the sale of more American arms to Saudi Arabia, it did more than anger members of Congress who opposed the sale on humanitarian grounds.
It also raised concerns that the Saudis could gain access to technology that would let them produce their own versions of American precision-guided bombs — weapons they have used in strikes on civilians since they began fighting a war in Yemen four years ago.
The emergency authorization allows Raytheon Company, a top American defense firm, to team with the Saudis to build high-tech bomb parts in Saudi Arabia. That provision, which has not been previously reported, is part of a broad package of information the administration released this week to Congress.
The move grants Raytheon and the Saudis sweeping permission to begin assembling the control systems, guidance electronics and circuit cards that are essential to the company’s Paveway smart bombs. The United States has closely guarded such technology for national security reasons.
Multiple reports by human rights groups over the past four years have singled out the weapons as being used in airstrikes on civilians. One attack, on a Sana funeral home in October 2016, led the Obama administration to suspend bomb sales to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
The new arrangement is part of a larger arms package, previously blocked by Congress, that includes 120,000 precision-guided bombs that Raytheon is prepared to ship to the coalition. These will add to the tens of thousands of bombs that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have already stockpiled, and some in Congress fear the surplus would let the countries continue fighting in Yemen long into the future. The move also includes support for Saudi F-15 warplanes, mortars, anti-tank missiles and .50-caliber rifles.
The emergency declaration, invoked in part because of tensions with Iran, prompted a broad bipartisan pushback from lawmakers who were concerned not only about the war, but also about whether the Trump administration was usurping congressional authority to approve arms sales.
A group of senators that includes Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican, Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican, and Robert Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat, announced on Wednesday that they would introduce 22 separate measures expressing disapproval of the deals.
“Few nations should be trusted less than Saudi Arabia,” Mr. Paul said in a statement on Thursday. “In recent years, they have fomented human atrocities, repeatedly lied to the United States and have proved to be a reckless regional pariah. It is concerning and irresponsible for the United States to continue providing them arms.” In the House, the Foreign Affairs Committee has scheduled a hearing for next week in which members plan to question R. Clarke Cooper, the State Department official whose bureau licenses arms exports.
“The Saudis and Emiratis have become so intertwined with the Trump administration that I don’t think the president is capable of distinguishing America’s national interests from theirs,” said Representative Tom Malinowski, a New Jersey Democrat who sits on the committee. “The administration has presented us no evidence that Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. face any substantially new or intensified threat from Iran that would justify declaring an emergency.”
Mr. Malinowski, a top human rights official under President Obama, said the bombs were for use in Yemen, not for defending the Saudi or Emirati homeland from Iran, as some Trump administration officials have suggested. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
A Raytheon spokesman said there was nothing unusual about the production arrangement.
“Industrial participation by local partners has been an element of international sales of military equipment for decades,” said the spokesman, Mike Doble. “These activities and related technologies are governed by the Arms Export Control Act, controlled by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, and conform to all licensing rules and restrictions of the United States government.”
Defense contractors have established close ties with the Trump administration, and key executives from several companies, including Raytheon, have made their way into high-ranking positions. Raytheon’s former vice president for government relations, Mark T. Esper, was confirmed as Army secretary in 2017.
The defense firm has also cultivated ties to the Saudi government. During President Trump’s visit to the kingdom in May 2017, Raytheon signed an agreement to work more closely with the Saudi Arabian Military Industries Company, a holding company owned by the country’s sovereign wealth fund. It was unclear whether the new production deal fell under that plan.
The production agreement took some lawmakers by surprise. Representative Ted Lieu, a California Democrat and an outspoken critic of the Yemen war, said it seemed “to serve no purpose other than to forfeit our technology and prevent future congressional oversight.”
The arrangement, which would effectively outsource jobs, appears to be at odds with Mr. Trump’s position that arms sales are important because of the American jobs they create.
Rob Berschinski, a senior vice president at Human Rights First, an advocacy group, said the administration’s decision was “about siding unreservedly with favored Middle Eastern authoritarians, no matter who they kill or how they repress their citizens.” Mr. Berschinski, a former deputy assistant secretary of state, added, “It has nothing to do with American jobs.”
Congress had been informally blocking the sale of the smart bombs at least since May last year, when Mr. Menendez and Representative Eliot L. Engel, the New York Democrat, expressed concerns over how the Saudis were using the weapons in Yemen. Opposition intensified after American intelligence officials concluded that the Saudi government played a role in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi dissident and columnist for The Washington Post.
But then, last month, on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, Mr. Trump took the rare step of declaring an emergency to push these weapons out the door.
In a May 24 letter, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified congressional leaders of the emergency declaration, waiving congressional review of the weapon sales. Mr. Pompeo said he took into account “political, military, economic, human rights and arms control considerations.” The State Department on Monday disclosed more details to Congress, including the nature of the arms sales.
“If Saudi Arabia is able to develop an indigenous bomb-making capability as a result of this deal, it will undermine U.S. leverage to prevent them from engaging in indiscriminate strikes of the kind it has carried out in Yemen,” said William D. Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, a think tank.The authorization paperwork signed by Mr. Pompeo offers no timeline for the shared operations to get underway, and Raytheon representatives have said they are still negotiating over details with the Saudi government, according to a congressional aide.Aside from potentially providing the Saudis with more bombs to use in Yemen airstrikes, the arrangement raised security concerns among lawmakers, who were seeking assurances that the Saudis could prevent the American technology from falling into the wrong hands.
Both Republicans and Democrats also noted that it called for creating manufacturing jobs in Saudi Arabia that might otherwise have been located in the United States. And they expressed worry that the Saudis might eventually copy the technology and use it to produce their own weapons, which they would be free to use in Yemen or sell to whomever they chose.
The Saudis have been carrying out regular airstrikes in Yemen since March 2015, when Houthi rebels overthrew the Saudi-backed government. The war has created what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, pushing millions to the edge of starvation and leading to the spread of cholera and the deaths of thousands of civilians.

Pashto Music - Hesab Ketab | Abdul Ghani Khan | Sardar Ali Takkar | حساب کتاب | عبدالغني خان | سردارعلي ټکر

Pakistan’s Pashtun Crackdown Echoes Bangladesh War

Pakistan is increasing its crackdown on a civil rights movement demanding security rights and accountability for alleged grave abuses against the country’s ethnic Pashtun minority.
But as more leaders and activists of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, better known by its initials, PTM, are killed, injured, beaten, arrested or forced into hiding, Pakistan’s political discourse is showing echoes of the creation of Bangladesh.
Nearly half a century ago, Bengali grievances in the former East Pakistan Province resulted in the dismemberment of Pakistan and the independence of Bangladesh in 1971. Since then politicians, activists, and scholars evoke the tragedy to remind the country’s powerful military not to go too far in suppressing dissent from minority ethnic groups.
“Grievances of [the Pashtuns] should be solved politically, not with force," Khwaja Asif, a Punjabi politician and senior leader of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, told the parliament after PTM activists were killed by military fire in late May.
He urged Islamabad to cautiously handle ethnic “fault lines” because the country has paid a high price for failing to answer to diverse ethnic groups.
"Our history of the past 72 years is tragic. We have made mistakes. The mistakes in East Pakistan caused the separation of Bengal,” he told lawmakers.
“Unrest in Balochistan has continued on and off for many years," he continued, alluding to the simmering separatist insurgency in the impoverished but resource-rich large southwestern province. During the past two decades, thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced by militant attacks and military sweeps.
Asif, a former foreign minister, acknowledged Islamabad has “exploited” the Pashtun homeland in western Pakistan for decades. Pakistan’s powerful military used parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan Province to host Afghan anti-Soviet rebels in the 1980s and shelter the Taliban after their hard-line regime in Afghanistan was toppled in 2001.
Most of these militants were based in the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which was merged into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa last year. The PTM emerged from FATA, which was the epicenter of Islamabad’s domestic war on terrorism. Militant violence and military operations killed tens of thousands of civilians and forced millions of Pashtuns to leave their homeland since 2003.
"The grievances of [former FATA residents] should be solved politically, not with force," Asif said.
But the clampdown on the year-old movement that has demanded security and rights for Pakistan’s 35 million Pashtuns, the second-largest ethnic group among the country’s 207 million people, is relentless.
On June 7, Abdullah Nangyal, a senior PTM leader, was arrested by counterterrorism police in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s southern city of Tank. He is among the nearly three dozen PTM leaders and activists arrested on charges of defamation, sedition, and terrorism.
The crackdown on the PTM followed a late April pronouncement by the military’s spokesman. On April 29, Major General Asif Ghafoor told journalists that “time is up” for the PTM because it was playing into the hands of Afghan and Indian spy services.
But nearly two weeks earlier, PTM leaders Manzoor Pashteen and Mohsin Dawar, a lawmaker, had held a meeting with a special committee of the Pakistani Senate.
“The committee members declared the PTM’s demands to be just and consider it necessary to find a lasting solution to them,” an April 16 statement by the Senate said, adding that Pashteen urged the committee to address their grievances including forced disappearances, mine clearance in FATA, and the formation of a truth and reconciliation commission.
Since its emergence in February 2018, the PTM has relentlessly campaigned for an end to illegal killings, many of them allegedly by the security forces and harassment of Pashtun civilians across the country. The movement has also demanded that authorities present to court thousands of victims of forced disappearances while forming a commission to address Pashtun grievances arising out of Islamabad’s domestic war on terrorism.
“Having a different [opinion] is the basis of a democratic process,” the Senate statement said.
Ghafoor, however, warned journalists against covering the movement. “When we straighten their language and when they [the PTM leaders] are exposed, then you can keep them on TV 24/7,” he said.
The clampdown began on May 26, when the army announced three people had been killed after a group led by PTM lawmakers Ali Wazir and Dawar attacked a military checkpoint in the western North Waziristan tribal district, which borders Afghanistan.
But PTM leaders and eyewitnesses countered those claims. Dawar said gunfire from the soldiers killed 13 protesters and injured scores of others soon after he and Wazir had reached a protest site after going through two check posts in the remote village of Khar Qamar.
The military arrested Wazir in Khar Qamar while Dawar surrendered to a counterterrorism court in Bannu a few days later. Dawar and Wazir are currently in a prison in Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s capital. Their arrests have been followed by the arrest of scores of PTM activists in various cities while the police violently ended the movement’s sit-in protest in Peshawar on June 3.
CIVICUS, a global civil society alliance, says it has “documented systematic attacks against the PTM with scores of peaceful protesters arbitrarily arrested, detained, and prosecuted on spurious charges, while protests by the PTM have been obstructed.” In a June 7 statement, it called on Islamabad to “end their judicial persecution” of Gulalai Ismail, a PTM leader and human rights activist.
Since its emergence as the homeland of South Asia’s Muslims in 1947, Pakistan has struggled with movements claiming rights for ethnic groups. In Bengal, where a popular movement had favored the creation of Pakistan during the British Raj, the resentment against the new country began with a harsh crackdown on students protesting for language rights in 1952.
By 1971, the Bengali grievances had snowballed into an independence movement after Pakistan’s military dictator Yahya Khan failed to transfer power to their leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, and imprisoned him. His Awami League political party had swept the parliamentary election in December 1970.
But Khan responded by launching a military operation against the Bengali nationalists in March 1971. “Kill 3 million of them, and the rest will eat out of our hands,” Khan is reported to have said before launching the offensive formally called Operation Searchlight.
The nearly nine-month war ended with a defeat for the Pakistani military when its forces surrendered to the Indian military in December 1971. Hundreds of thousands of Bengalis were killed in the war, which forced 10 million to flee to India while another 30 million were displaced.
For many Pakistani politicians, journalists, and scholars, the debacle became a byword for what can go wrong when the military attempts to crush popular movements.
In recent decades, economic woes and political grievances among the minority ethnic groups have mounted. Some leaders of the Pashtuns, Baluchi, Sindhis, and Mohajirs have opposed domination by the Punjabis, Pakistan’s largest ethnic group. With a population of more than 110 million, the eastern province of Punjab claims a lion’s share of resources and dominates Pakistan’s fledgling economy. The Punjabis dominate national institutions such as the parliament, government bureaucracy, and the armed forces and claim a majority of national elites.
“We are not ready to live in Pakistan as slaves for one minute,” said Pashtun nationalist leader Mahmood Khan Achakzai. He told supporters on June 7 that the onus of ensuring that Pakistan continues as a federal democracy is on the military.
“If the Pakistani military refuses to abide by the constitution, why should we follow it?” Achakzai asked. His Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party announced protests against the crackdown on the PTM in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the northern Pashtun-populated regions of Balochistan on June 8.
Adil Najam, an international relations professor at Boston University, counts the PTM as Pakistan’s top problem. He urged Islamabad to adopt a cautious approach toward the movement.
“The implosion and unraveling we are seeing will make it difficult to count who committed the [first] mistake,” he told the Talk4Pak website. “The question now is, do we as a nation, [security] institutions and the PTM, instead of only focusing on the mistakes, can we engage in building bridges?”
He says the Pakistani government and military need to extend a positive gesture to the PTM.
“Two of their lawmakers who campaigned for victims of forced disappearances have now become missing persons,” he said, implying that Islamabad should release Wazir and Dawar as a goodwill gesture.

#Balochistan: Pregnant woman dies due to lack of maternity care

The lack of maternity care and medical negligence lead to the death of another pregnant Baloch woman during pregnancy and labour pains in Alandur area of Turbat’s Buleda region of Balochistan’s district Kech on Thursday.
According to details, due to lack of medical facilities for the health services in Buleda the woman was brought to Turbat Hospital in critical condition where the doctors advised that she should be transferred to Karachi immediately.
The woman could not reach to Karachi and died on the way.
Two months ago another woman had also died in Buleda during her pregnancy because of the lack of antenatal and maternity care facilities.
It is pertinent to note that Tehsil Buleda in district Kech is the constituency of Zahoor Buledi the Provincial Minister for Finance and Information.
He had recently claimed that the ‘current government has been releasing handsome funds for health sectors’. However, local people continue to suffer and there has been no positive change in their lives.

2019: پولیو کیسز کی تعداد گذشتہ تین سال کی مجموعی تعداد کا 55 فیصد #Pakistan -

پاکستان میں 2019 کے پہلے پانچ مہینوں میں رپورٹ ہونے والے پولیو کیسز کی تعداد گذشتہ تین سالوں کی مجموعی تعداد کا 55 فیصد ہے۔
سرکاری اعداد وشمار کے مطابق سب سے زیادہ پولیو کیس خیبر پختون خوا اور قبائلی اضلاع میں سامنے آئے۔ حیرت انگیز طور پر پنجاب میں بھی تین بچوں میں پولیو وائرس کی موجودگی کی تصدیق ہوئی۔
سرکاری اعداد و شمار کے مطابق گذشتہ تین سالوں (2016 سے 2018) کے دوران پورے ملک میں مجموعی طور پر 40 بچوں میں پولیو وائرس کی تصدیق ہوئی تھی، جبکہ 2019 کے پہلے پانچ مہینوں میں پولیو سے متاثرہ بچوں کی تعداد 22 ہو چکی ہے۔
وزیر اعظم کے پولیو سے متعلق فوکل پرسن بابر بن عطا نے پولیو کیسز کی تعداد میں اضافے کی واحد وجہ والدین کا بچوں کو ویکسین پلانے سے انکار قرار دیا۔
اس سلسلے میں انہوں نے امریکہ کی مثال دی، جہاں حال ہی میں خسرہ وبا کی شکل اختیار کر چکا ہے۔
نیویارک سمیت امریکہ کی 26 ریاستوں میں تقریبا ایک ہزار بچے خسرہ جیسی خطرناک بیماری سے متاثر ہو چکے ہیں۔
انڈپینڈنٹ اردو سے گفتگو میں بابر نے کہا: ہم اس وقت انکار کے زمانے میں جی رہے ہیں۔ جس کی وجہ ویکسین سے متعلق غلط تصورات ہیں۔
پاکستان میں نئے پولیو کیسز کے حوالے سے خیبر پختون خوا اور اس ملحقہ قبائلی اضلاع سر فہرست رہے۔ جہاں مجموعی طور پر سال رواں کے دوران ابھی تک پولیو کے 16 کیسز کی تصدیق ہو چکی ہے۔
پولیو سے متاثرہ ان 16 بچوں میں سے نو کا تعلق خیبر پختون خوا کے مختلف علاقوں اور سات کا قبائلی اضلاع سے ہے۔2018، 2017 اور 2016 میں خیبر پختون خوا سے رپورٹ ہونے والے پولیو کیسز کی تعداد بالترتیب دو، ایک اور آٹھ تھی۔

اسی طرح، 2017 میں قبائلی اضلاع سے پولیو کا کوئی کیس رپورٹ نہیں ہوا تھا، جبکہ 2018 اور 2016 میں یہ تعداد بالترتیب چھ اور دو رہی تھی۔گذشتہ تین سال کے دوران مجموعی طور پر 40 پولیو کیس سامنے آئے جبکہ 2019 کے صرف پہلے پانچ مہینوں میں یہ تعداد 22 ہو چکی۔

خیبر پختون خوا میں پولیو کوآرڈینیٹر کامران آفریدی کے مطابق: شہر پشاور دنیا بھر میں پولیو وائرس کا سب سے بڑا ذخیرہ (ریزروائر) بن چکا ہے۔
بین الاقوامی ادارہ صحت (ڈبلیو ایچ او) نے اپریل میں پشاور کے بعض علاقوں سے ماحولیاتی نمونے حاصل کیے تھے، جن کی لیبارٹری میں جانچ سے ثابت ہوا کہ پشاور اور اس کے گردو نواح کے بعض علاقوں میں پولیو وائرس بڑی تعداد میں موجود ہے۔
کامران آفریدی نے انڈپینڈنٹ اردو سے گفتگو میں کہا کہ ایسی صورت حال میں ویکسین پلانا ہی اس بیماری کو ختم کرنے کا واحد حل ہے۔
آبادی کے لحاظ سے پاکستان کے سب سے بڑے صوبے پنجاب میں بھی پولیو کے حوالے سے صورت حال غیر تسلی بخش اور تشویش ناک ہے۔
پنجاب میں 2017 میں صرف ایک بچے میں پولیو وائرس کی موجودگی کی تصدیق ہوئی تھی جبکہ 2016 اور 2018 میں کوئی پولیو کیس رپورٹ نہیں ہوا تھا۔
مئی 2019 تک پنجاب میں تین نئے بچے پولیو کے جان لیوا وائرس سے متاثر ہو چکے ہیں۔
اسی طرح، سندھ میں بھی گذشتہ سال کے ایک پولیو کیس کی نسبت اس سال کے پہلے پانچ مہینوں میں تین بچے پولیو کا شکار ہوئے۔ البتہ بلوچستان میں اس سال کوئی نیا کیس سامنے نہیں آیا۔
پاکستان، افغانستان اور نائجیریا کے ساتھ دنیا کے ان تین ملکوں میں شامل ہے جہاں ابھی تک پولیو وائرس موجود ہے۔ بین الاقوامی ادارہ صحت کسی ملک میں متواترتین سال تک
پولیو کا کیس سامنے نہ آنے کی صورت میں اسے پولیو سے آزاد (پولیو فری) ملک قرار دیتا ہے۔
بابر کا کہنا تھا کہ اکثر والدین پولیو ویکسین کے حوالے سے جھوٹ بولتے ہیں۔ انہوں نے بچوں کو ویکیسن نہیں پلائی ہوتی لیکن پولیو ٹیموں سے کہتے ہیں کہ ویکسین پلا دی ہے۔
’پولیو ویکسین نہ پینے والے یہی بچے اس جان لیوا وائرس کے پھیلنے کا باعث بن رہے ہیں۔
انہوں نے مزید کہا کہ صورت حال مایوس کن ہے، لیکن حکومت اس سلسلے میں پرعزم ہے اور پولیو کو ہر صورت ختم کرنا ہو گا۔
مستقبل کے لائحہ عمل سے متعلق بات کرتے ہوئے بابر نے کہا: ہم لوگوں میں پولیو سے متعلق شعور بیدار کریں گے۔ ’لوگوں کو بتانا اور منوانا ہو گا کہ پولیو خطرناک بیماری ہے اور اس کا واحد بچاؤ ویکسین ہے۔

#Pakistan - A wake-up call for polio eradication

Every year, the government of Pakistan resolves to rid the country of polio. Government leaders and senior officials reiterate their commitment to eradicating the virus. However, the gap between what we want accomplished and what we actually accomplish remains wide.
Those seeing laudable “progress” in Pakistan’s polio programme should look at the latest report by the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee. During a session convened to deliberate upon the international spread of poliovirus at WHO headquarters, the committee expressed grave concern at the significant increase in wild poliovirus cases, particularly in Pakistan (21 cases reported so far this year, compared to 12 in 2018 and eight in 2017). The IHR has proposed a further three-month extension in travel restrictions on the country. What was to be the final stand against polio virus in Pakistan has apparently turned into a losing battle. It is hard today to say which is worse: the fact that transmission of virus has branched out across the country with clusters found all the way from Karachi to Lahore or the state of bliss that allows our authorities to turn a blind eye to its goal hanging tantalisingly within reach and yet not attained. Nigeria and Afghanistan remain the only two countries beyond Pakistan, which have yet to eradicate a disease reminiscent of the 20th century.
Last year, the Independent Monitoring Board on Polio, which works on behalf of international donor agencies and issues reports on the performance of the countries every six months, had pointed to “eradicat(ing) the virus in the sewage because it (virus) could bounce back any time.” Despite international pressure, it took the government about seven months to bring itself to following its recommendations. Instead, it remained engaged in a biter brawl with Afghanistan over who was to blame for transmission of poliovirus.
The fact that poliovirus strain found in sewage in Iran close to the international border with Pakistan shares significant traits with those found in Karachi calls for deep introspection.
Pakistan should have known better than to lower its guard, especially after making such great strides in the years gone by. Looking forward, the country needs to strictly focus on its flaws in its strategy and sinister disinformation campaigns that are causing problems for vaccination workers. The latest example of this was the pandemonium in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in April after malicious rumours were spread of polio vaccine causing harm to children. The authorities were late to react and the damage has been substantial. There is a need to debunk such misplaced notions about vaccine safety. The media should also lend a helping hand in this regard.
The crisis should be seized as an opportunity to reinvigorate the drive and eradicate the disease with greater determination and diligence. Only a united and confident Pakistan can eradicate poliovirus. 

#Pakistan - Number of Reported #Polio Cases in First Months of 2019 Up From 2018


The near eradication of poliomyelitis is one of the great public health achievements of the last century, but, in a new report detailing global progress made toward polio elimination, investigators say that the first months of 2019 have seen an uptick in cases of wild poliovirus compared with the same period in 2018.

More than 2.5 billion children have been vaccinated against polio since the start of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988, and since then the global incidence of polio cases has dropped by 99%. Today polio transmission continues in only 3 countries, and the new report published in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report details revised emergency action plans for polio vaccination in Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan, where polio continues to be endemic.

The new report details global cases of wild poliovirus (WPV) and circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV) and progress toward their eradication from January 1, 2017, to March 31, 2019. Since 2015 WPV type 2 (WPV2) has been declared eradicated, and no cases of WPV type 3 (WPV3) have been detected since 2012. There have also been no reported cases of WPV1 in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) African Region in 30 months. For the first time since 2014, however, the number of WPV cases reported in Afghanistan and Pakistan rose, from 22 WPV1 cases in 2017 to 33 cases in 2018. In addition, from January through March 2019 there were 12 cases of WPV type 1 (WPV1) reported worldwide, 4 more than the 8 cases reported during the corresponding period in 2018.

“The increase in WPV1 cases tells us 2 things,” study co-author Sharon A. Greene, PhD, told Contagion®. “First, our surveillance is sensitive enough to detect cases and to succeed in eradicating polio.  We must know where the virus is circulating.  Second, it tells us that children are not getting vaccinated. Inadequate immunization coverage, either through routine immunization programs or supplemental immunization activities must be strengthened to stop poliovirus circulation.”
Although 88% of infants worldwide age 1 or older had received 3 doses of poliovirus vaccines in 2017, that rate of coverage was only 60% in Afghanistan, 40% in Nigeria, and 75% in Pakistan. In addition, in areas where oral poliovirus vaccine coverage is low, cases of cVDPV are more likely to occur, and from 2017 to 2019 there have been 210 cases of cVDPV reported in 8 countries.

Through supplemental immunization activities, about 3.5 billion doses of oral poliovirus vaccine and inactivated poliovirus vaccine have been allocated in 5 WHO regions, and Greene described the ongoing challenges in polio vaccination efforts. “The largest hurdle in the last mile to WPV eradication is missed children in the delivery of polio vaccines. In countries with reported WPV transmission, there are steep challenges to reaching every child and successfully vaccinating them, including, inaccessibility, mobile populations, weak routine immunization, gaps in supplemental immunization activities, and vaccine refusals.”

Despite the recent uptick in cases, health officials say we’re closer than ever to reaching target goals for polio. “CDC and the global public health community know that we are on threshold of polio eradication,” said Greene. “Recent accomplishments include no detection of wild poliovirus in Nigeria for the past 33 months, and it is possible that the African Region may be certified WPV free in early 2020. We have the right tools for eradication. These strategies have succeeded in making much of the world polio-free. The final push requires us to double down on these efforts to ensure interruption of wild poliovirus.”

From Jinnah’s family to Nawaz Sharif: Pakistan thinks everyone is a foreign agent


Those who differ with the state in Pakistan aren’t people with opposing viewpoints but foreign agents.

How many agents can one country house? The more the better.
It won’t be wrong to say that nowadays Pakistan is a safe haven for most foreign agents, even the ‘RAW’ ones.
The anatomy of a ‘RAW’ or foreign agent isn’t as complex as some would think. You are critical about the way Pakistan is run. You don’t buy the Pakistan version of history. You think deep down that raising your voice against the establishment will bring change, which you also know won’t happen in your lifetime. You demand constitutional supremacy over a powerful institution. You ask for equal rights for ethnic and religious minorities. You are vocal about the state’s proxy wars that threaten peaceful relations with neighbouring countries. You talk about women rights.
If you have checked all of the above, then you have arrived. Please consider yourself worthy of being labelled an agent.A few years back on a visit to Karachi, I had one of the weirdest conversations with a local journalist about philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi. The journalist didn’t seem too fond of Edhi’s work and went on to tell me how Edhi wouldn’t say his prayers and believed that humanity was his religion. This ultimately made him a ‘RAW agent’ for he wouldn’t use religion or nationalism for his services.
Similarly, human rights activist Asma Jahangir was vilified all her life as a foreign agent. Her only crime? Being a relentless fighter for rights and a valiant critic of the state. Disagreement with her was only channelled through maligning campaigns.
If her photograph with Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray from 2008 in India, wearing a saffron shalwar kameez, wasn’t enough to trigger seizures in ‘patriots’, there was another photo during the same trip, with then chief minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi. And, in our times, a photo is evidence for any kind of treachery.
This tradition of calling those who dissent an agent, traitor, infidel or even a blasphemer has continued for decades. Politicians, lawyers, authors, poets, journalists, human rights activists and academics who don’t agree with the set narrative of the state have been labelled agents in Pakistan.
Even Jinnah’s family was not spared. Jinnah’s sister Fatima Jinnah was once called an agent of Kabul by military dictator Ayub Khan. The esteemed list of traitors and foreign agents includes: Bacha Khan, Wali Khan, Ataullah Mengal, Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Mujibur Rehman, Nawab Akbar Bughti, Altaf Hussain and Nawaz Sharif.
What remains consistent in the past and the present is the award-giving body, those thirty-odd patriots.
When in 2016 the Nawaz Sharif-government warned the military to act against militants or face international isolation it became a huge scandal called “Dawn Leaks”. But when the current prime minister Imran Khan, in an interview with The New York Times, said that the Pakistan Army created militants, no one called Khan a traitor.
One hilarious charge against Sharif was that apparently there are 300 Indians working in his sugar mill and the majority of them are RAW agents. This allegation from opponent Tahirul Qadri was denied by the Sharif family, but then who cares about corrigendum. Even now the story is presented by ministers in news shows as proof against Nawaz.
When in an interview with Dawn, Nawaz said, “Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial?” a treason case was initiated against him.
Following India’s Balakot strikes, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari questioned the government’s action against terrorist organisations, he had said that the militants hadn’t been arrested, rather they had been taken into protective custody so that Indian jets don’t bomb them.
All hell broke loose and the hyper-patriotic news anchors were convinced that young Bhutto had a foreign agenda. So much so, that those who only tweeted out a chunk of his statement were also referred to as: “yeh bhi unhi ke hain”. The polite way of saying that they were also Indian agents.
Baloch leader Sardar Akhtar Mengal on the floor of the house last week said: “Eighty per cent of Pakistanis are traitors. If all politicians are traitors, then the people who voted for them are also traitors.”
The latest enemy of the state is the indigenous struggle for equal rights, the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, which has been labelled as an Afghan NDS and Indian RAW project. The founder of the movement, Manzoor Pashteen, asked: “How is demanding a peaceful life part of a foreign agenda?”
Accusing a marginalised ethnic group of foreign affiliation and threatening them with dire consequences with no proof to back the allegations has been the norm. The accused has to prove that they are innocent, the accuser doesn’t owe anyone any explanation.
Those who differ aren’t people with opposing viewpoints but foreign agents. The notion has been rampant in Pakistan and is not withering anytime soon. So, let’s just tell ourselves foreign agents and accept that the majority of the Pakistanis are on the payroll of CIA, RAW, NDS and live to fight another day.

#Pakistan - Four Army personnel martyred in N. Waziristan blast

At least four Pakistan Army personnel were martyred and four others injured during a blast caused by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Kharkamar, North Waziristan, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a press release issued late Friday.
"Terrorists targeted military vehicle through an IED planted on road. 3 officers and a soldiers embraced Shahadat. 4 soldiers Injured," the military's media wing said.
According to the ISPR, the martyred personnel include "Lt Col Raashid Karim Baig resident of karimabad, Hunza, Major Moeez Maqsood Baig resident of Karachi, Captain Arif Ullah resident of Lakki Marwat and Lance Havaldar Zaheer resident of Chakwal".
The Army's media wing further said: "This is the same area where forces had conducted search operations and arrested few facilitators.
"During last one month 10 security forces personnel have been martyred while 35 got injured including today's casualties," it added.

#Pakistan - Five killed in explosions in #Balochistan’s Ziarat

Five people were killed after two cars exploded in Ziarat on Friday. 
The first explosion occurred in Ziarat’s Kharwari Baba. The car was parked at a picnic point. Three people were killed and a woman and two men were injured.
Assistant Commissioner Major Kabir Zarkoon said that the deceased belonged to Karachi. They had gone to Ziarat for Eid holidays.
Two more people were killed in a separate explosion in Kawas. Six people were injured.
Zarkoon remarked that the deceased were Hazaras. They were returning to Quetta when the car they were travelling in exploded.
Security forces have reached the site and the road has been cordoned off.
The injured were first shifted to a district hospital and then taken to Quetta.
The assistant commissioner said that they suspect that the explosions occurred because of gas cylinders. However, the explosions are still being investigated.

Forced conversions, marriages spike in Pakistan

Sixteen-year-old Suneeta and her 12-year-old sister were walking home in March when they were kidnapped.The men who took them forced the girls to convert to Islam.“We were walking back to our house after working on the farm when men in a car came out of nowhere and dragged us in with them,” said Suneeta, who is Hindu and lives in Badin, a small city in the south of Pakistan. “The next thing we knew, we were in a shrine being forced to say the kalma (acceptance of Islam) by a cleric.”
The men who kidnapped the girls told their mother to pay the equivalent of $365 — an enormous amount for the poor farming family — or the men would marry off the girls.Their mother begged and borrowed from within the Hindu community and paid the ransom. She got her girls back.
The family considers itself lucky.
Every year, thousands of Hindu and Christian girls and young women are kidnapped in Pakistan and forcibly married, disappearing from their families. And while these forced conversions have been going on for decades, a recent surge in reported cases has brought the issue back into the limelight.Around 1,000 cases of Hindu and Christian girls being forced to convert were estimated in the province of southern Sindh alone in 2018, according to the annual report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
There are no concrete numbers for the rest of the conservative country, which is around 96 percent Muslim.
“This appears to be a systematic, organized trend and it needs to be seen in the broader context of the coercion of vulnerable girls and young women from communities that are already marginalized by their faith, class and socioeconomic status,” said Mehdi Hasan, chairperson of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. “The ugly reality of forced conversions is that they are not seen as a crime, much less as a problem that should concern ‘mainstream’ (Muslim) Pakistan.”
In the majority of these cases, the girls are under 18. And while marriage under the age of 18 is illegal in Pakistan, the law is often ignored.
Meanwhile, there is no law banning forced conversions.
Child advocates say there is a clear lack of will by the government to tackle the problem.
“The government has done little in the past to stop such forced marriages,” the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said in its annual report. “(The executive branch) asked lawmakers to pass effective legislation to end the practice,” the report added, but nothing happened.
Meanwhile, the parents of victims are often ignored by authorities and have few options, say civil rights activists.
“Injustice is being done … and there is no one here to listen to these poor people,” said Veeru Kohli, a human rights activist based in Sindh. “I’ve lost count of the number of cases that have come up every month.”
One case that made it to court was that of Shalet Javed, 15, a Christian from the city of Faisalabad in the east of Pakistan, who was kidnapped, raped, forcibly converted and married to a Muslim man in February.
“They forced me to become Muslim and married me off to a man named Zafar,” she told the Lahore High Court in April during a hearing on a complaint of kidnapping filed by her father, Javed Masih. “I ran off from the house where they kept me, and now I want to live with my parents.
“I am still a Christian,” she added.
Locals from Sindh province say that one reason the practice not only persists but is escalating is that powerful officials run the Muslim shrines and seminaries where Muslim clerics are converting and marrying off these girls.
They are shielded by the government, which is afraid of upsetting them in the tense, often volatile environment of Pakistani politics, in which an attack on a religious figure is seen as an attack on Islam and liable to draw out extremists.
Kohli, meanwhile, said the conversions operate like a factory assembly line.
“With the number of cases and with the impunity these cases have, it is evident that the forced conversions (are) a business being run like a factory,” she said.
Mian Abdul Haq, also known as Mian Mitho, a local political and religious leader in Sindh, is allegedly responsible for numerous forced conversions of girls, according to victims’ families and activists.
Speaking about a recent case in which two Hindu sisters, Reena Meghwar, 12, and Raveena Meghwar, 14, were abducted, converted and married off to Muslim men in Ghotki in Sindh, he said the girls voluntarily switched faiths.
“They wanted to convert, it was their own free will, and there is no point in stopping those who want to embrace Islam,” said Mitho.
Mitho denied accusations that Hindu girls are being targeted for conversion.
“Boys also convert, there are entire villages that convert,” he said. “This is just a conspiracy against Islam that Hindu girls are being forced to convert. They all convert on their own.”
Meanwhile, the case of the Meghwar sisters has ignited a debate across Pakistan about the issue.
After the girls were taken, their father, Hari Daas, tried in vain to get authorities to act. When that failed, out of frustration, he tried to burn himself alive in protest but was stopped before he could do serious injury to himself.
The government reacted, filing a complaint on kidnapping charges. However, when the girls were brought to the court with their husbands, they gave statements saying they married and converted without coercion.
The Islamabad High Court sent the girls home with their husbands.
“This is where the problem lies — girls in all these cases are threatened, and they will only give these kinds of statements,” said Kohli, who also said courts are not enforcing laws barring underage marriage.
“These so-called marriages are illegal and so are the conversions,” Kohli added.
As a result of the kidnappings and conversions, thousands of Hindus seek asylum in India every year. Others are thinking about it.
“We were saved once from the abduction but I am afraid that it will happen again to us,” said Suneeta, the 16-year-old who was kidnapped with her sister. “What if this time they come for us and there is no one to bring us back. We are not safe here in our own country.”