DWS, Sunday 5th October to Saturday 11th October 2014

DAWN

WIRE SERVICE

DWS, Sunday 5th October to Saturday 11th October 2014

The DAWN Wire Service(DWS) is a free weekly news-service from Pakistan’s largest English language newspaper, the daily DAWN. DWS offers news, analysis and features of particular interest to the Pakistani Community on the Internet. DWS is sent by e-mail every Saturday.

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National News

PM visits hideouts cleared of militants

From the Newspaper

MIRAMSHAH: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited on Thursday a bazaar in North Waziristan’s Miramshah town where he saw the militant hideouts destroyed during the Zarb-i-Azb military operation.

MIRAMSHAH: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited on Thursday a bazaar in North Waziristan’s Miramshah town where he saw the militant hideouts destroyed during the Zarb-i-Azb military operation.

Accompanied by Chief of the Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif, he was taken to various areas of the headquarters of North Waziristan and shown operational and residential quarters which had been occupied by terrorists.

The prime minister visited the destroyed underground command and control centre used by militants to carry out operations in various parts of the country.

Mr Sharif was also shown the media cell used by the militants to spread messages through social, electronic and print media and the place where suicide bombers recorded their farewell messages before going out on their killing missions.

He saw the weapons, ammunition, communication equipment, survival kits, suicide vests and medical equipment used by the terrorists.

BRIEFING: The prime minister was briefed on the Zarb-i-Azb operation by army officers. He was informed that over 1,000 terrorists had been killed and 90 per cent area of the volatile agency cleared of militants.

The Air Force, artillery units and Special Services Group have played a key role in the success of the operation and added a new chapter of chivalry to the country’s military history.

Mirali, Dekan, Boya and Dattakhel have been cleared, the militants’ command and control centre destroyed and a large quantity of weapons and ammunition recovered from hideouts, including multi-barrel rocket launchers, automatic rifles, mines and bomb-making and communication equipment.

The prime minister was also informed about the facilities being provided to the internally displaced persons at the Bakakhel camp in Bannu. Around 2,517 families are living at the camp and they have access to clean drinking water, food, electricity and other essential items.

The government has paid Rs15,000 to each family.—APP

Abdus Salam adds from Bannu: Gen Raheel Sharif, Corps Commander Peshawar Lt Gen Hidayatur Rehman, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Sardar Mahtab Ahmad Khan, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch attended the briefing.

Addressing the troops after the briefing, the prime minister said the ongoing fight against militants was the most difficult and complex stage of the war.

“The enemy in this war is invisible and strikes from hideouts,” he said, adding that morale of security forces was very high and they would win this war.

He said the country would be safe, peaceful and prosperous after this conflict. He congratulated Gen Raheel Sharif on the successes achieved in the operation and paid tribute to soldiers who had laid down their lives in the line of duty.

Addressing the displaced people at the Bakakhel camp, Prime Minister Sharif said his government would utilise all available resources to ensure early rehabilitation of the IDPs of North Waziristan.

He said the tribal people had rendered great sacrifices for the security of the country and their sacrifices would never be forgotten. “We want the rehabilitation and reconstruction process to start soon in North Waziristan.”

He assured the IDPs that the current scenario in North Waziristan would be changed and massive reconstruction activities would be launched. Miramshah would be developed into a model town. He said the government would provide all resources to the army for the rehabilitation programme in the area.

He said the youths of North Waziristan would be trained in vocational and technical institutes.

Later, the prime minister exchanged Eid greetings with the IDPs and prayed for their early return to their homes and comfortable lives.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2014

Two women among three killed in Indian firing

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

SIALKOT: Three more civilians, two women among them, were killed by unprovoked Indian shelling on the border villages of Rorki-Harpal and Zafarwal along the Sialkot Working Boundary on Thursday.

SIALKOT: Three more civilians, two women among them, were killed by unprovoked Indian shelling on the border villages of Rorki-Harpal and Zafarwal along the Sialkot Working Boundary on Thursday.

The death toll rose to 13 in four days of intensified shelling by the Indian Border Security Forces (BSF).

According to Chenab Rangers officials, Rukhsana Bibi, 36, Mohammad Azam, 41, and Naseem Bibi, 35, were killed on the spot when heavy mortar shells fired by the BSF hit their houses in Rorki-Harpal and Zafarwal.

Imran Sadiq, Iqbal Hussain, Bashir Ahmed and Saleema Bibi were injured by the Indian shelling in Chaprar, Bajwat and Harpal sectors. Rescue 1122 personnel took them to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Sialkot.

A total of 42 people were injured by the shelling. The condition of two of them was stated to be critical.

As many as 38 animals were also killed.

They said Chenab Rangers were retaliating effectively and responding in a befitting manner.

Tariq Naqash adds from Muzaffarabad: The Line of Control remained relatively calm on Thursday, but officials said the situation was still “unpredictable”.

“We are gearing ourselves up for heavy shelling… They (Indians) may resume it any time,” said Chaudhry Shaukat Ali, Deputy Commissioner of Kotli district, which has been witnessing skirmishes and artillery duels since Monday.

Local people said they had been spending sleepless nights since the hostilities mounted at the unmarked dividing line in Kashmir.

“We could not even celebrate Eidul Azha because of the cross-border shelling,” said Haji Azad, a resident of Nakyal sector in Kotli.

Shaukat Butt, a resident of Battal sector in the neighbouring Poonch district, said he feared the skirmishes and artillery duels might intensify in coming days. “When shells fall on houses panic is bound to grip the residents because it restricts their movements and cripples their daily lives.”

Deputy Commissioner Ali said the authorities had not ordered evacuation of people from vulnerable areas, but a number of families moved on their own to their relatives in comparatively safe areas. “We are discouraging the evacuation because it can lead to chaos,” he added.

He said the ongoing spate of shelling was aimed at diverting international attention from India’s failure to provide relief to the Kashmiris hit by the worst-ever floods in a century. “India has not only failed to help the marooned Kashmiris, but is also subjecting them to torture for protesting against its failure.”

Mr Akbar said India’s “ill intentions” had been exposed after it asked the United Nations Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan to close down its office in New Delhi.

“We call upon the UN observers to visit the LoC to see for themselves the hostilities being committed by the trigger-happy Indian soldiers,” he said.

He warned that a further delay in ceasefire could spell disaster. “God forbid, if the escalation leads to a full blown war it will not be conventional because both sides are nuclear-armed.”

He urged India to realise the sensitivity of the situation.

Meanwhile, the All Party Kashmir Coordination Council, a loose alliance of political and religious parties and representatives of the APHC, has announced that it would hold rallies across Azad Kashmir on Friday to condemn the unprovoked and indiscriminate Indian shelling on the unarmed civilian population along the LoC and Working Boundary.

APP adds: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif distributed on Thursday compensation cheques of Rs75,000 each among 23 people injured by the Indian shelling on Sialkot border villages.

He distributed the cheques during a visit to the Sialkot CMH.

He also announced Rs500,000 each for the families of those killed by the Indian shelling.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2014

Times have changed, warns Modi

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi cautioned Pakistan on Thursday that times had changed and ceasefire violations that New Delhi accuses Islamabad of carrying out across the Line of Control and adjoining international border in Jammu and Kashmir, would not be tolerated, reports said.

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi cautioned Pakistan on Thursday that times had changed and ceasefire violations that New Delhi accuses Islamabad of carrying out across the Line of Control and adjoining international border in Jammu and Kashmir, would not be tolerated, reports said.

“Today, when bullets are being fired on the border, it is the enemy that is screaming,” Mr Modi told an election rally in Maharashtra where state polls are scheduled to be held on Oct 15.

“The enemy has realised that times have changed and their old habits will not be tolerated,” Mr Modi was quoted as saying.

The Indian Express said the remarks were in response to political opponents who have charged the prime minister with not speaking directly about this week’s clashes — the worst in a decade.

Mr Modi took a different view. “When there is a challenge at the border, it is soldiers who answer with fingers on the trigger; it is not for politicians to respond.”

The comments also came a day after Mr Modi raised hopes for an early end to the flare-up when he said: “Everything will be fine soon.”

Also read: Footprints: Back from the brink

Indian analysts, including a former envoy to Islamabad, blamed Pakistan for starting the heavy ordnance exchange across the border but added that the flare-up was tame compared to the relentless firing, which went on almost daily prior to their 2003 ceasefire agreement.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah differed with the government’s decision not to hold any flag meetings between the two militaries during the current upsurge. “The government says there won’t be any talks until Pakistan stops firing completely. It is precisely when the firing is on that we need to talk not when the guns go silent.”

Indian media is by and large aligned with the government narrative as usually happens in similar situations elsewhere.

Local reports said that overnight Indian forces retaliated to Pakistan’s gunfire and mortar bombs on about 50 border security posts. There was intermittent fire on Thursday.

Defence Minister Arun Jaitley reinforced the narrative. “If Pakistan persists with this adventurism, our forces will make cost of this adventurism unaffordable for it,” he was quoted as saying.

Indian theorists are many, and one such posited that Pakistan’s aggression based on the need to shift attention from its politically volatile landscape — Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has confronted huge opposition protests. Others believed Mr Sharif was too powerless to have any say.

Some Indians also believes that Pakistan wants to use the attacks to help militants infiltrate Kashmir.

Meanwhile, Mr Jaitley was quoted as ruling out talks with Pakistan and he praised Indian forces for a “commendable” job in the “face of these unprovoked acts of aggression”.

Mr Modi apparently joined Mr Jaitley in congratulating Indian forces for “responding to aggression with courage”.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2014

Exchange of allegations continues: Desire for peace should not be misunderstood: Asif

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif said on Thursday that Pakistan’s desire for peace and goodwill should not be misunderstood.

WASHINGTON: Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif said on Thursday that Pakistan’s desire for peace and goodwill should not be misunderstood.

After several days of clashes in the disputed Kashmir region and along the Working Boundary, the defence minister’s office issued a statement in Islamabad, warning the Indians that Pakistan was capable of responding “befittingly” to their actions on the border.

The minister, who is visiting the United States, later spoke to Dawn and urged Indians not to further escalate the situation, noting that the Indians have also been violating the Working Boundary between the two countries.

“Our demonstration of goodwill and desire for peace should not be misunderstood,” he said. “We are still desirous to have lasting peace in the subcontinent and find a lasting solution to the Kashmir issue.”

Mr Asif recalled that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also expressed this desire in his speech to the UN General Assembly in New York two weeks ago.

“We are desirous of pursuing peace, but what India is doing is harming our efforts,” the minister said. “It is discouraging peace.”

Mr Asif refused to guess what was causing the Indians to demonstrate such a belligerent behaviour.

“I don’t know what are their compulsions,” he said while noting that India had also postponed talks between foreign secretaries of the two countries scheduled in May.

“These violations, the loss of life and property, it is a bad omen for peace in the subcontinent,” he said.

Mr Asif said that Prime Minister Sharif made “a great gesture of peace and goodwill” by visiting New Delhi to attend the inauguration of his Indian counterpart earlier this year.

The prime minister did so because “he believes there are benefits in peace for the common people of the subcontinent and that it creates an environment for meeting their basic needs.”

The defence minister pointed out that both India and Pakistan were nuclear states and must behave responsibly.

“What Indians are doing is not befitting to a nuclear state. It is against the spirit of democracy and it does not suit a big economic power,” he said. “They must behave like the way they are required to.”

Asked if the PM’s UNGA speech, in which he raised the Kashmir issue, had upset the Indians, the defence minister said Mr Sharif had only reiterated Pakistan’s stated position for the last 67 years. The speech also highlighted the prime minister’s commitment to the Kashmir cause, he added.

“We have not said anything beyond our stated position and whatever the PM said was in accordance with UN resolutions on Kashmir.”

Asked if this war-mongering would soon end and good sense would prevail, Mr Asif said: “We hope that this is a temporary phase. It will fizzle out and we will return to more constructive measure for building peace.”

Talking about the dangers of an India-Pakistan dispute flaring into a nuclear conflict, Mr Asif said: “There must be a realisation, on the part of the Indian government, that it becomes incumbent upon states possessing nuclear weapons to demonstrate responsibility and caution.”

In the earlier statement issued by his office, the minister said that Pakistan did not want the situation on the borders of two nuclear neighbours to escalate into a confrontation.

“India must demonstrate caution and behave with responsibility,” he said.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2014

KP challenged OGDCL sale with ‘unclean hands’: centre

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: Accusing the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government of approaching the Peshawar High Court (PHC) “with unclean hands” for the resolution of a dispute, the federal government on Thursday rushed an appeal, challenging the high court’s Oct 3 interim order staying privatisation of the Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL).

ISLAMABAD: Accusing the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government of approaching the Peshawar High Court (PHC) “with unclean hands” for the resolution of a dispute, the federal government on Thursday rushed an appeal, challenging the high court’s Oct 3 interim order staying privatisation of the Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL).

Realising the urgency of the matter, the appeal will be taken up on Friday by a two-judge Supreme Court bench consisting of Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan and Justice Gulzar Ahmed.

Know more: High court stays imminent sale of OGDCL shares

The Cabinet Committee on Privatisation (CCOP) as well as the Privatisation Commission (PC) had decided to put 10 per cent or 322 million ordinary shares of the government in OGDCL on sale for international and domestic investors on Oct 3, 2013 and Jan 8-9, 2014 respectively. Before the decision, the PC’s board, on April 22, 2014, had even approved the appointment of a consortium consisting of Messers Merrill Lynch International, Citigroup and KASB Bank to act as financial advisers for the sale.

But the decision was challenged by the KP government before the PHC, and a division bench of the court stayed the federal government’s decision on Oct 3.

Also read: OGDCL earns record Rs124bn in FY14

Now, the federal government through a petition jointly submitted by the petroleum secretary, OGDCL and the PC, has asked the apex court to suspend the high court’s interim order.

The appeal deplored that the KP government, while challenging the privatisation process, concealed important facts with mala fide intent and thus invoked the discretionary jurisdiction of the high court “with unclean hands”, especially when it was not an aggrieved party.

Therefore, the KP government was not entitled to any discretionary relief, the appeal urged while highlighting that the provincial government was legally obliged to implead the federal government as a party, which it did not, in the first litigation before the high court. This was necessary since the original decision was made by the federal cabinet.

The appeal reminded the apex court that the constitutional change brought about by the 18th Amendment in Article 172 of the Constitution was prospective having no bearing upon the existing commitments and obligations. The constitutional provision suggests that any property without any rightful ownership of a property will vest in the government of the province where it is located as well as the federal government.

The federal government’s interest in exploration and production through OGDCL was created much earlier to the 18th Amendment and it is protected under the existing commitments and obligations as provided in Article 172(3) of the Constitution, the appeal explained.

It contended that Article 172 uses the expression “jointly vested” and explained that vesting of natural resources in the respective provinces and the federal government was in fact a public trust. Those resources belong to the people of entire Pakistan.

The KP government’s challenge before the high court, the appeal argued, was totally misconceived and based on an incorrect interpretation of Article 172 of the Constitution, and the high court should not have ventured to enter into this political thicket by passing the stay order.

Know more: Workers threaten to disrupt oil, gas supplies if OGDC privatised

Likewise, the KP government, in its challenge before the high court, levelled false allegations of corruption and malpractices against a large number of institutions, including the federal government, the appeal argued.

Denying vehemently the allegations of corruption levelled by KP government, the appeal pleaded that those allegations were pure questions of fact and could not be decided by the high court in the exercise of its constitutional jurisdiction under Article 199 of the Constitution.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2014

10 civilians killed in 3 days of Indian firing

Baqir Sajjad Syed

ISLAMABAD: Tensions between Pakistan and India simmered over Eid holidays as clashes along the Line of Control (LoC) and Working Boundary (WB) left 10 people dead on the Pakistani side.

ISLAMABAD: Tensions between Pakistan and India simmered over Eid holidays as clashes along the Line of Control (LoC) and Working Boundary (WB) left 10 people dead on the Pakistani side.

The clashes that started on Sunday in the Jandrot sector spread to most of the sectors along the LoC and WB by Wednesday evening and sporadic exchanges of fire were taking place.

The intensity of skirmishes, which were taking place all along the LoC and WB, was unprecedented, according to a military official.

The worst-affected sectors were Harpal, Dhamala and Charwah along the WB and Jandrot (Kotli), Hot Spring (Bagh) and Beduri (Rawalakot).

“During the past three days Indian troops repeatedly resorted to unprovoked firing all along the WB and LoC, which has resulted in the death of 10 Pakistani citizens and injuries to another 40,” a military spokesman said.

Nine of the 10 were killed in areas along the WB and three of the injured were said to be in critical condition.

The spokesman said Pakistani troops responded “befittingly” to the Indian violations. “Fire coming from across LoC or WB is being met with an effective response.”

The casualty figure on the Indian side was said to be eight.

“The prime minister has convened a meeting of the National Security Commit­tee on Friday, Oct 10, to discuss the recent ceasefire violations by India at the Line of Control and Working Boundary,” a Foreign Office statement said.

“The government of Pakistan has lodged a strong protest with the government of India through diplomatic channels and called for restraining its forces from constant violation of the ceasefire. This was the sixth violation, occurring on a daily basis since Oct 1. Indian forces violated from Akhnur, Dawar, Gulmerg, Jammu, Dawar and lastly, from Charwah sectors,” a Foreign Office spokesperson said.

The issue was raised with the UN Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan and a visit of the observers to the affected areas was being arranged.

Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz said in a statement: “Pakistan government has been exercising utmost restraint and responsibility… Unfortunately, all our efforts to secure peace and tranquillity on the Line of Control and the Working Boundary have elicited no cooperation from the Indian side.”

Meanwhile, in India where Pakistan is blamed for starting the clashes, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is reported to have given a free hand to his National Security team and military to aggressively respond to the violations.

Pakistan and India had on Nov 25, 2003, agreed to observe ceasefire along all areas of WB, LoC and the Actual Ground Position Line in Jammu and Kashmir.

The ceasefire accord was by and large observed by both sides for several years. However, Pakistan military says, Indian hostility has gradually increased since 2010 making lives of civil population living in closer vicinity of the LoC and WB difficult.

Military officials say the escalation along the LoC is according to a well thought out and deliberate plan. Indian troops committed 86 ceasefire violations in 2011, 230 next year and 414 last year. According to military figures, Indians have resorted to unprovoked firing for about 224 times on both LoC and WB and killed 13 people on the Pakistani side this year.

Some find the violations along the WB perplexing because the boundary in the region is non-controversial. Incidents of violations by the Indian side along the WB this year have been 42.

Munawar Bhatti, a former additional secretary of the ministry of foreign affairs, said Indians treated WB, which separates disputed (Indian administered) Kashmir from Pakistan territory as the international boundary since 1971.

DGMOs of both countries met in December last year, which witnessed the highest number of violations since the 2003 accord, to resolve the issue of increasing ceasefire violations. A decline in ceasefire violations by Indian side was observed after the meeting.

But, military officials say, the calm on LoC and WB did not last for more than six months. Indians restarted unprovoked firing and shelling in June this year except for a brief lull last month due to floods in both parts of Kashmir.

Mr Bhatti said recent upsurge in skirmishes along the LoC and WB was linked to upcoming elections in Indian occupied Kashmir.

“The violations and the accompanying hostile statements by Indian leadership is aimed at motivating the support base before the elections,” he said, adding that the expected delay in polls in Kashmir would provide more time to the Indian side to hype up sentiments.

The BJP government is looking at winning a majority in the Kashmir assembly so that it could fulfil its manifesto pledge of revoking the special status given to Kashmir under Indian constitution’s Article 370, Mr Bhatti said.

An Indian journalist, asking not to be named, said elections in Haryana and Maharashtra were equally important for BJP for which Mr Modi is trying to sound tough.

Chairman of the Senate Defence Committee Mushahid Hussain too believes that the hard line adopted by the BJP government towards Pakistan, including the ceasefire violations, are meant to “shape the elections in Kashmir” by appealing to Hindu extremists through Pakistan bashing.

BJP government’s hard-line on Pakistan is evident from cancellation of foreign secretaries talks in August; tough statements by Prime Minister Modi and Indian Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag; tough stance on terrorism during US visit; and increased ceasefire violations.

Senator Mushahid fears that India-Pakistan ties normalisation would be on hold for some time now.

Defence analysts believe that violations by India are meant to blame Pakistan for infiltration and threat emanating for India from non-state actors from within Pakistan. At the same time, they say, Indians through this move can widen the wedge between Pakistan civilian and military leadership by promoting Pakistan Army as a violator of LoC sanctity and a hurdle in India-Pakistan trade ventures. This aspect is particularly important in the context of strained civil-military ties.

Our Correspondents add from Sialkot and Muzaffarabad: Nine civilians, including three of a family and two women, were killed and more than 33 others, including children and women, were injured in unprovoked shelling by the Indian Border Security Forces on villages of Bajra Garhi, Charwah, Meraajkey, Harpal, Sucheetgarh, Chaprar and Bajwat during Eid days.

The residents of these villages, along with their livestock and other belongings, have moved to safe places.

A woman was killed and at least five civilians were injured in Azad Kashmir by Indian shelling, officials said.

Razia Bibi, 19, was injured on Tuesday night in Darra Sher Khan village of Poonch district, police official Navid Kabir said. Later she died on way to a health facility in the neighbouring Kotli district.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2014

Toxic liquor claims 23 lives in Karachi

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

KARACHI: Twenty-three people, mostly young men, died and 22 others were admitted to hospital in a critical condition after they consumed home-made toxic liquor in different parts of Karachi during Eid holidays, officials said on Wednesday.

KARACHI: Twenty-three people, mostly young men, died and 22 others were admitted to hospital in a critical condition after they consumed home-made toxic liquor in different parts of Karachi during Eid holidays, officials said on Wednesday.

Sindh Excise and Taxation Minister Gayan Chand Asrani suspended Karachi’s excise director for having failed to keep check on the illegal business and city police chief Ghulam Qadir Thebo appointed DIG east to investigate the matter within three days.

The DIG suspended SHO Sharafi Goth where most of the liquor production facilities were spotted.

“We have identified a few spots and people as well who are responsible for that toxic liquor supply,” said DIG east Munir Sheikh.

“Initial findings have convinced us that there are more than one production facility and distributor involved in this particular product. We have identified a few people behind the tragedy and hope to get them very soon.”

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2014

Diamer-Bhasha ‘smartest choice’ for Pakistan: US

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: US officials and investors pledged support for the 4,500MW Diamer-Bhasha dam on Wed­nesday, calling it Pakistan’s “smartest choice” for economic development.

WASHINGTON: US officials and investors pledged support for the 4,500MW Diamer-Bhasha dam on Wed­nesday, calling it Pakistan’s “smartest choice” for economic development.

The remarks, made at a one-day conference on the dam, encouraged Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to say that Pakistan would soon overcome its energy problem.

“We have demonstrated our commitment, have acquired land and done the preliminary work,” he said. “The investors should come forward with the confidence that it’s a win-win situation for them.”

Know more: Marketing Diamer-Bhasha dam

Later, briefing the Pakistani media, Pakistan’s Ambassador Jalil Abbas Jilani said the project would recover its cost in eight years and “start giving dividends”.

“More than 30 years in the making, the Diamer-Bhasha dam has the potential to accelerate broad-based economic growth across Pakistan,” said USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah.

“By convening this meeting, we hope to unlock opportunities for US businesses and investors, which will help make the dam a reality.”

“Investment in Diamer-Bhasha dam is the smartest choice for Pakistan,” said Daniel Feldman, US Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Mr Feldman assured more than 120 investors and business representatives that the White House and the State Department were committed to backing Pakistan’s efforts for meeting its economic and energy needs.

The finance minister told the investors: “We will offer whatever facilities you need because we need both the dams, Bhasha and Dasu.”

Ambassador Jilani gave a brief outline of the two projects.

Diamer-Bhasha will produce 4500 MW of electricity. It can also bring about “a revolution in agriculture,” by storing 8.1 MAF of water. It can water almost 30 million acres of land and can mitigate the adverse affects of floods.

It will also support other existing projects and enhance the life of Tarbela dam by 35 years.

The government has not only acquired land for the project but also has compensated those who would be displaced.

The total number of people affected by this project will be less than those affected by the Tarbela and Mangla dams.

The government has already done a study on possible environmental and social impact of the dam while the United States will do another study.

Minister for water and power Khawja Mohammed Asif, Secretary Finance, Secretary EAD and chairman WAPDA also attended the conference.

Ambassador Jilani said that although Pakistan was still trying to overcome the security problem, “security is no more a major concern for investors.”

He clarified that nobody in the international community had taken India’s objection to the project that it was being built on a disputed land – seriously.

“It’s not an issue, here in the US or anywhere else. No country can veto this project,” the ambassador said.

“This is being built within the parameters of the Indus Water treaty.”

The ambassador pointed out that a large chunk of the $12 billion the World Bank gave for economic development in Pakistan was for the energy sector.

The government had already spent $400 million on the project, had established an authority, built a residential colony for the workers and was now working on three model villages for those who would be displaced.

“We are serious about this project and trying to complete it within the stipulated period,” he said.

At another briefing to the media, US Ambassador to Pakistan, Richard Olson, said that while “everyone acknowledges challenges in the security environment in Pakistan,” it would not affect this project.

“The country has had democracy for six years, there was successful transition of power and the current political debate was also within the Pakistani constitution,” said the Ambassador when asked if Imran Khan’s sit-in could also have an impact on the project.

“We are supporters of the constitution, democracy and the rule of law.”

David Larry Sampler, who heads the Pakistan and Afghanistan section of USAID, said the investors were aware of “ups and downs of Pakistani politics” and had done business in other similar places.

Mr Sampler also disagreed with the suggestion that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan could also affect the Bhasha dam project.

“The US is not exiting from Afghanistan. We will continue to be robust and engaged in Afghanistan,” he said. “Our interest in this region remains strong.

Greg Gottlieb, head of the USAID mission in Pakistan, said US investors were interested in a wide variety of energy projects as the United States continued to work with the country to help it overcome its energy deficiency.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2014

14,000 Fata youths to be inducted into army: COAS

Bureau Report

PESHAWAR: Chief of the Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif has announced a “Fata youth package” under which 14,000 youths from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas will be inducted into the army over five years.

PESHAWAR: Chief of the Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif has announced a “Fata youth package” under which 14,000 youths from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas will be inducted into the army over five years.

The army chief made the announcement during a visit to a camp for internally displaced persons in Frontier Region Bakakhel.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement that before visiting the camp, Gen Raheel offered Eid prayers with troops in Wana, South Waziristan, and then went to Miramshah, the headquarters of North Waziristan, to meet troops.

He expressed satisfaction over the progress made in the Zarb-i-Azb military operation.

Commander 11th Corps Lt Gen Hidayatur Rehman received the army chief in Wana.

An area of over 80 kilometres of the volatile tribal agency, including Miramshah and Mirali, has been cleared of militants. Over half a million people have left their homes and moved to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Unveiling the package, Gen Raheel said Fata youths would be brought to the mainstream to utilise their potential. Of the 14,000 youths, he said, 1,000 would be inducted into the army in six months.

He said 1,500 children from Fata would get free education in army public schools and colleges. Seats have been reserved in cadet colleges for Fata students.

To enhance their technical skills and make them vibrant citizens, Fata youths, especially IDPs, would be trained in technical institutes being run by the army in all major cantonments. Gen Raheel said that arrangements were also being made for overseas employment of the youth from Fata.

He expressed the hope that development and prosperity in Fata would open avenues for the local people to make contribution to a peaceful and progressive Pakistan.

Commenting on the package, retired Brig Mohammad Saad said it was a symbolic step taken by the army which was working hard to restore and rehabilitate tribal areas. He was of the opinion that it was actually the job of the political government to take such steps to bring about a positive change in the lives of tribal people.

During the Ziaul Haq regime, the procedure for induction into the army was changed and people were inducted on provincial basis.

“The people of Fata started going to the Middle East for jobs, instead of applying to the army because of the change in rules,” he said. He stressed the need for initiating economic activities in the poverty-stricken tribal region.

During his interaction with troops, the army chief praised their spirit and commitment to sustaining the operation with a remarkable degree of success and said that with the level of determination demonstrated by the army and citizens, terrorism would be eradicated from the country.

He paid tribute to the martyrs and the wounded who rendered sacrifices for the defence of the country.

Meanwhile, the ISPR said the army had dispatched four tons of meat for the IDPs on Wednesday. The meat donated by the people of Islamabad and Rawalpindi was sent to Bannu after proper processing.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2014

22 die in drone attacks

Bureau Report

PESHAWAR: In a surprise escalation, US drones carried out four missile attacks in different areas of North Waziristan Agency since Monday, killing at least 22 suspected militants and wounding several others, official sources said.

PESHAWAR: In a surprise escalation, US drones carried out four missile attacks in different areas of North Waziristan Agency since Monday, killing at least 22 suspected militants and wounding several others, official sources said.

Drones hit targets in Shawal and Dattakhel areas of the conflict-stricken tribal agency where Pakistani forces have been carrying out air and ground strikes against local and foreign militants.

A day before drone strikes, Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif visited North and South Waziristan Agencies where he expressed satisfaction over the gains Operation Zarb-i-Azb has made since it started in June.

US drones have carried out 10 attacks in North Waziristan since the beginning of the military operation in the area.

Sources said that remote-controlled planes targeted compounds and vehicles in Shawal and Dattakhel areas adjoining the Afghan border.

Attacks were carried out in Koonr Ghar in Shawal on Tuesday.

The sources said that a compound owned by a tribesman, Mustaqeem, was attacked in which six people were killed and four injured. Four missiles were fired at the compound.

An hour later, two missiles were fired at a target on a hilltop in Dattakhel area, killing three people and injuring five.

On Monday, the house of a tribesman, Habibullah, in Shawal was attacked. The strike left five people dead and six others wounded.

Unmanned planes fired two missiles at a house in Mangrati area of Shawal subdivision on Monday night. Eight people died and several others suffered wounds in the strike which also destroyed a car parked in the courtyard.

The reports could not be verified through independent sources as media has no access to the area.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2014

Bilawal — PPP’s last hope in Punjab?

Atika Rehman

KARACHI: As Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari prepares to take political flight, party officials say the young leader will be repositioned to Lahore to try his hand at redressing the bruised Punjab chapter of the party.

KARACHI: As Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari prepares to take political flight, party officials say the young leader will be repositioned to Lahore to try his hand at redressing the bruised Punjab chapter of the party.

“He will be spending considerable time in Lahore,” a party source close to Bilawal told Dawn.

“As a leader, he wants to revive and reorganise the party.” He added that Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari might accompany his son on some days, but Bilawal would be mostly reaching out to local office-bearers on his own.

Know more: Bilawal apologises to party workers for unexplained mistakes

“He wants to know his people,” the PPP official added. “Zardari did not have time to go to Punjab. Bilawal now has the time to do that.”

For security reasons, he did not disclose where Bilawal would be residing, although it is expected that the chairman will be working out of the Lahore Bilawal House.

With the PPP bearing the brunt of what is dubbed the ‘PML-N friendship alliance’ in the ongoing political crisis, the Punjab leadership of the party feels the chairman needs to focus attention on ignored and disgruntled workers in the country’s most important province.

PPP leader and former Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan says Bilawal’s move to Lahore is the party’s last-ditch endeavour to breathe life into the ailing Punjab chapter.

“The elders of PPP as well as the youth feel Bilawal is the only hope for them. If he does not break the status quo and challenge policies of the PML-N, there will be a disaster in Punjab,” she told Dawn.

She added that no party could grow or be sustained without a strong presence in Punjab which she said was the “backbone province” for remaining politically relevant.

“PML-N has always focused on this specific area, never on Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan… always on this specific political platform because this is the trendsetter province.”

Punjab was neglected by the PPP in the recent past, she admitted. “I met Zardari yesterday and pleaded the case of the people of Punjab. Only those political parties will occupy space in Punjab who will pursue aggressive politics. Punjab is not the place to teach morals or democracy — if you notice only movies based on themes of aggression and revenge are a hit. Characters like Maula Jatt and Nurie Natt have mass appeal.”

She also said that the PML-N had succeeded as an influence in the province because it had successfully cultivated its bureaucratic structure for political power.

When asked how 26-year-old Bilawal will fare in unchartered political territory like Punjab, having been exposed partially only to Karachi politics, she said, “Even Benazir Bhutto was from Karachi. It is not that he[Bilawal] is not aware of the political structure of Punjab. His mother, his genes and his blood have sensitised him about the geo-political situation of Punjab. Even though it is a big challenge to divert that political clout in his favour, I am sure he is capable of tackling this.”

“If Bilawal is mentally prepared that he has to really create his own space and identity in the future of the coming political landscape, he has to separate himself from the PML-N friendship alliance. It is not a sellable alliance,” Ms Awan said.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2014

Zardari in surprise meeting with Chaudhrys

Amjad Mahmood

LAHORE: PPP Co-chair­man and former president Asif Ali Zardari continued his political meetings for the third day here on Sunday. The most surprising engagement of Mr Zardari was a luncheon meeting at Bilawal House with leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q.

LAHORE: PPP Co-chair­man and former president Asif Ali Zardari continued his political meetings for the third day here on Sunday. The most surprising engagement of Mr Zardari was a luncheon meeting at Bilawal House with leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q.

Matters relating to the Islamabad sit-in and possibility of mid-term elections came under discussion.

“We discussed all current issues, including mid-term polls, and considered various aspects of the national political scenario,” PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi told reporters after the meeting.

Know more: Zardari refuses to take on PML-N

“Mr Zardari wants continuation of the democratic process and that there should be no unconstitutional or undemocratic change in the system. We told him that we are also in favour of continuation of the political process,” Chaudhry Shujaat said.

The PPP leader, he said, wanted political forces to work together to save the system.

The PML-Q has been actively supporting and participating in the sit-ins and some allege that the Chaudhry brothers were behind the so-called London plan.

Chaudhry Shujaat said everyone, including the PPP leadership, was worried about the political situation because the economy was being adversely affected and the working class was the worst victim.

Answering a question about the possibility of mid-term elections in near future, he said he could not say anything at the moment, but added that he saw resolution of the current political crisis soon.

In the evening, Mr Zardari met at the Defence residence of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani a group of PPP leaders, particularly those who are opposed to the policy of ‘friendly opposition’ being pursued by the party leadership.

However, Mr Gilani said it was a meeting between two families and had nothing to do with politics.

Mr Zardari, who had arrived in Punjab on Friday, will celebrate Eidul Azha in Lahore.

A PPP leader who did not want to be named said the former president had come to Lahore with the main objective of ensuring maximum participation from Punjab in the Oct 18 Karachi public meeting to be addressed by Bilawal Bhutto.

The massive gathering attracted by the PTI at its recent meetings in Punjab and one in Karachi seems to have unnerved the PPP leadership, particularly Mr Zardari who, according to the PPP leader, does not want to see his son belittled in the number game.

Mr Zardari, he said, aspired to play the role of a statesman and hand over the party’s charge to his son.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2014

Fearing crackdown, Hong Kong protesters pulling back

Reuters

HONG KONG: Pro-democracy protesters remained in a tense stalemate with the Hong Kong government late on Sunday after authorities warned they were determined to get the Asian financial hub back to work after more than a week of unrest.

HONG KONG: Pro-democracy protesters remained in a tense stalemate with the Hong Kong government late on Sunday after authorities warned they were determined to get the Asian financial hub back to work after more than a week of unrest.

Some protesters left the Mong Kok area of the city, pulling back from the scene of recent clashes with those who back the pro-Beijing government. But many hundreds more remained, disputing reports on social media that their leaders had called for them to leave.

Also read: Hong Kong protesters defy authorities, hold huge peace rally

“We’re afraid there may be a police crackdown, so we came here to support. The more people we have, the harder it is for the police to clear (the area),” said Lester Leung, 25, who said he was ready to stay on the streets all night.

Fearing a crackdown as city leaders have called for the streets to be cleared so that businesses, schools and civil servants could resume work on Monday, other protesters who have paralysed parts of the former British colony with mass sit-ins also pulled back from outside Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s office.

By late Sunday evening, reporters estimated around 4,000 protesters had gathered in Admiralty, the main area they have occupied over the past week at the heart of the government district — far fewer than those who rallied there the previous day.

Over the past week, tens of thousands of protesters have demanded that Leung step down and that China allow them the right to vote for a leader of their choice in 2017 elections.

Beijing is fearful that calls for democracy in Hong Kong could spread to the mainland. The Communist Party leadership has dismissed the protests as illegal, but appears to have left it to Leung and his government to find a solution.

In Mong Kok, a gritty, working class neighbourhood where scuffles broke out between protesters and supporters of the government over the weekend, prompting police to use pepper spray and batons, some in the pro-democracy camp mixed defiance with pragmatism.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2014

Seven killed in Karachi ‘encounter’

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

KARACHI: Seven militants, suspected to be linked to the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, were shot dead in a reported encounter with police in Sohrab Goth area on Sunday afternoon.

KARACHI: Seven militants, suspected to be linked to the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, were shot dead in a reported encounter with police in Sohrab Goth area on Sunday afternoon.

According to Additional Inspector General Ghulam Qadir Thebo, three of the suspects killed in the exchange of fire were involved in a suicide attack in which SP Chaudhry Aslam of the Crime Investigation Department was killed on Jan 9.

One of them was the mastermind, the other did reconnaissance of the route of the police officer and the third prepared explosives-laden vehicle used in the attack.

Amin, a brother of the alleged suicide bomber Usman, was among those killed in the encounter, Malir SSP Rao Anwar said.

Police sources said that Amin was also suspected of having arranged an explosives-laden vehicle used in a recent attack on the Special Investigation Unit’s Farooq Awan in which the SSP was injured and two passersby were killed.

In the evening, four policemen and five other people were injured in a roadside bomb blast in the city’s Orangi Town area.

An improvised explosive device attached to a parked motorcycle was detonated near a police post in Frontier Colony, an official said.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2014

Three bodies with bullet wounds found in Jhal Magsi

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

DERA MURAD JAMALI: Three bullet-riddled bodies were found on Sunday in Jhal Magsi district of Balochistan.

DERA MURAD JAMALI: Three bullet-riddled bodies were found on Sunday in Jhal Magsi district of Balochistan.

Levies force shifted the bodies to the district hospital.

“The bodies are in bad shape because they are at least one week old,” Arbab Magsi, Tehsildar of Jhal Magsi, told Dawn.

The bodies were found in an area close to the Qambar-Shahdadkot district of Sindh.

Also read: ‘Security agencies have failed to change ground realities in Balochistan’

Mr Magsi said the deceased could not be identified, but there were reports that they belonged to the Jamali tribe.

He said two families of the tribe lived in the mountainous area of Qambar-Shahdadkot district.

He said there were reports that members of the two families fought over some dispute in which three men belonging to one family were killed. One of the families had since left the area, he added.

“We are investigating and the situation will be clear soon,” Mr Magsi said.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2014

Kidnapped Balochistan ANP leader returns

Bureau Report

PESHAWAR: Arbab Abdul Zahir Kasi, a senior leader of the Awami National Party kidnapped in Quetta about a year ago, was set free here on Sunday.

PESHAWAR: Arbab Abdul Zahir Kasi, a senior leader of the Awami National Party kidnapped in Quetta about a year ago, was set free here on Sunday.

He proceeded to Islamabad after his release.

ANP general secretary Mian Iftikhar Hussain said he came to know about the development when Mr Kasi had reached Islamabad. “We spoke with him briefly,” he added.

Mr Kasi had been kidnapped from Patel Road in Quetta on Oct 23 last year when he was going to his relatives’ home. Party sources said he would soon fly to Quetta.

According to them, tribal elders and other people had been trying for his release but it was unclear whether he had been recovered by security personnel or set free by the kidnappers. It is also not known if any ransom had been paid.

“Only Mr Kasi can tell us the whole story, the ordeal he underwent and how his release came about,” an ANP leader said.

He is the second prominent person to secure freedom after having been kidnapped reportedly by militants.

The Islamia College University’s Vice Chancellor Muhammad Ajmal Khan was released on Aug 28 after remaining in Taliban’s captivity for four years. Officials have not disclosed details about his release.

But the Taliban claimed that the vice chancellor had been released in exchange for the freedom of their three leaders.

The Taliban are also suspected of holding Ali Gillani, son of former prime minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani, and Shahbaz Taseer, son of slain Punjab governor Salman Taseer.

Saleem Shahid adds from Quetta: The kidnappers had demanded a huge amount of money for the release of Mr Kasi but the ANP leader is reported to have directed his family and elders of his tribe not to pay any ransom.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2014

US drone kills five in SWA

AFP

PESHAWAR: A US drone strike on Sunday killed at least five suspected militants in South Waziristan Agency near the Afghan border, officials said.

PESHAWAR: A US drone strike on Sunday killed at least five suspected militants in South Waziristan Agency near the Afghan border, officials said.

The attack happened in the Kundghar area of Shawal district in the tribal region which is considered a stronghold of the Taliban militants.

“A US drone fired two missiles targeting a centre run by Uzbek rebels, killing five militants,” a senior Pakis­tani security official said.

Another security official confirmed the attack and casualties but said the identity of those killed in the strike was not immediately known.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2014

Qadri invites people of twin cities to Eid prayers at sit-in

Irfan Haider

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Dr Tahirul Qadri said that his party would distribute sacrificial meat among people affected by recent floods and persons displaced by the army operation in North Waziristan.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Dr Tahirul Qadri said that his party would distribute sacrificial meat among people affected by recent floods and persons displaced by the army operation in North Waziristan.

Addressing the participants of his party’s sit-in here on Sunday, Dr Qadri said it would be the first and perhaps the last Eid in the country’s history celebrated at the Constitution Avenue.

Dr Qadri invited the people of Islamabad and Rawalpindi to offer Eid prayers at the sit-in.

Also read: PTI, PAT urged to allow workers to celebrate Eid with families

“I invite the residents of the twin cities, including army personnel, lawyers, media representatives, members of civil society and police officials, to offer Eid prayers along with me at 8am,” he said.

A few animals would be sacrificed ‘symbolically’ at the Constitution Avenue and hundreds of others at Dhoke Kala Khan, near the expressway, because “we don’t want to create unhygienic conditions at the Constitution Avenue”, he said.

“We will bring cooked meat for the participants of the sit-in, while women supporters will prepare dishes at the venue,” he said.

Although the PAT chief has allowed thousands of his followers to celebrate Eid with families in their native towns, hundreds of people belonging to several districts stayed at the Constitution Avenue to celebrate the festival there.

Some PAT supporters said it was not easy for them to decide to celebrate Eid in such difficult circumstances but it would be a memorable Eid for them.

“We are struggling to create awareness among the masses about their rights and we are hopeful that our struggle will make a major difference in the next elections,” they said.

Addressing his supporters, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan reiterated that he would not leave the sit-in till the prime minister resigned.

“Mian Sahib, you can take some more time, a month or two, but eventually you have to resign because the nation is not ready to accept a ‘fake prime minister’ who got himself elected through massive rigging in last year’s elections,” he said.

He announced to offer Eid prayers behind Dr Qadri.

Earlier, PPP Senator Rehman Malik, who is a member of the parliamentary jirga mediating between the government and the protesting parties, told reporters after meeting the PAT chief that the jirga members would meet the prime minister to discuss “developments” in the dialogue process.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2014

AJK civilian injured in Indian shelling

The Newspaper’s Staff Correspondent

MUZAFFARABAD: A civilian was wounded in Azad Jammu and Kashmir by Indian shelling on Sunday.

MUZAFFARABAD: A civilian was wounded in Azad Jammu and Kashmir by Indian shelling on Sunday.

Indian and Pakistani troops traded ‘heavy’ fire along the Line of Control from 4am to 8am in the Battal sector in Poonch district, with the former targeting a newly-established military post in Darra Sher Khan village, a police official told this correspondent on phone from the area.

“Indian troops used heavy weapons… The shelling was intense, rather more than intense,” he said, adding that Pakistani troops had effectively responded.

The official said that a 14-year old boy was injured after a fragment of a shell hit him in the head. He was taken to a hospital in the neighbouring Kotli district.

An ISPR statement said that the Indian troops violated the LoC ceasefire on Sunday morning, by resorting to ‘unprovoked firing’ with mortars and heavy weapons in Poonch and Kotli.

Pakistani troops appropriately responded to the firing, it added.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2014

Govt delays convening of NA, Senate sessions

Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD: The government plans to convene sessions of the two houses of parliament in the third week of the current month.

ISLAMABAD: The government plans to convene sessions of the two houses of parliament in the third week of the current month.

Sources told Dawn that the government wanted to convene the sessions soon after Eidul Azha but had to delay it because of foreign visits of National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Senate Chairman Nayyar Bokhari.

Mr Ayaz Sadiq went to Cameroon on Sunday morning to attend the 60th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference (CPC) whereas Mr Bokhari will represent Pakistan at the 131st Assembly of the International Parliamentary Union (IPU) to be held in Geneva from Oct 12 to 16.

The sources said that because of the prevailing political crisis and the issue relating to resignation of the protesting PTI legislators, the NA speaker could not join the parliamentary delegation which had left for Cameroon on Thursday.

An official of the National Assembly Secretariat said the speaker was due to return on Oct 11, but added that there was a possibility that the speaker might cut his visit short and return a day earlier.

The official said the visit was important because Pakistan would be hosting the next year’s CPC.

The Senate chairman will lead a 12-member delegation to the IPU assembly in Switzerland. It includes Leader of Opposition in the Senate Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, PPP’s parliamentary leader Raza Rabbani, ANP’s Abdul Nabi Bangash, PML-N’s Sardar Zulfiqar Khosa, former minister and MNA Ghaus Bakhsh Mahar and Raza Hayat Hiraj.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Rabbani, who was elected to the IPU’s Executive Committee last year, said that after the IPU assembly, the committee would meet on Oct 16 to review a draft proposal prepared by a sub-committee about IPU’s future relationship with the United Nations.

He said the executive committee would discuss the document keeping in mind that independence of the IPU should not be affected by its relations with the UN.

Mr Rabbani, who is also PPP’s deputy secretary general, said he would also represent his party at a conference of the Socialist International which also is scheduled to be held in Geneva.

The Socialist International is a worldwide organisation of social democratic, socialist and labour parties. Established in 1951 in Frankfurt, the organisation has 168 political parties as its members. The PPP is the only member of the organisation from Pakistan.

With its secretariat in London, the Socialist International convenes meetings and conferences and issues statements and press releases.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2014

Suicide attack kills six in Quetta

Saleem Shahid

QUETTA: Six people, a woman and a child of Hazara Shia community among them, were killed and at least 24 others injured in a suicide attack here on Saturday night.

QUETTA: Six people, a woman and a child of Hazara Shia community among them, were killed and at least 24 others injured in a suicide attack here on Saturday night.

It was the second bomb attack to have hit the city in hours. Earlier in the morning, a pick-up bomb blast on Spiny Road, apparently aimed at a police vehicle, left seven people wounded.

“It was a suicide attack,” IGP Balochistan Muhammad Amlish said about Saturday night’s incident, adding the suicide attacker blew himself up in Aliabad area of Hazara Town.

Sources said there was tight security in and around Hazara Town. Yet the suicide attacker managed to enter the Aliabad area and detonated his explosive vest at a square of the main market.

The powerful blast killed three people on the spot and injured over two dozen others. The dead and the injured were taken to the Bolan Medical College (BMC) Hospital and Combined Military Hospital (CMH). Two of the injured died in the hospital.

“Six people have been killed and 27 others, including six children, were injured in the suicide attack,” Capital City Police Officer Abdul Razzaq Cheema said, adding that the dead included one woman who succumbed to her injuries at the CMH.

However, a leader of the Hazara Democratic Party, Bostan Ali, said that two women had been killed in the attack. A child also succumbed to his injuries at the CMH late in the night, he added.

Sources said a large number of people were busy in Eid shopping in Aliabad when the suicide attack took place.

Law-enforcement agencies personnel cordoned off the area after the explosion and started investigation. It was the fourth suicide blast to have hit Hazara Town over the past two years.

The head of the attacker was recovered from a nearby girls’ school and other body parts were found at the place of the attack. Police shifted them to the hospital.

The blast was so powerful that it was heard in the entire city, creating panic among citizens. Shops were closed.

Shia organisations and the Hazara Democratic Party condemned the attack and announced seven days of mourning.

The blast that occurred at Spiny Road in the morning left seven people injured.

“A Suzuki pick-up was used for the blast,” police said, adding that a police officer was passing through the area when the vehicle carrying the explosives was detonated.

DSP Mohammad Naeem and his guards escaped unhurt in the blast which badly damaged his vehicle.

Seven people, who were injured in the blast, were admitted to the BMC hospital.

A spokesman for the banned Baloch United Army, Mureed Baloch, calling from an unknown location, told mediapersons that his group was responsible for the bomb blast.

However, no one claimed responsibility for the suicide attack till late night.

Reuters adds: Last year, members of Quetta’s Hazara Shia community staged a sit-in in protest at their lack of protection, refusing to bury the bodies of people killed in a bomb blast in a Shia commercial area of the city.

The banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militant group has carried out many gun-and-bomb attacks on Hazaras in the past.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2014

Six die in blast at Kohat taxi stand

Abdul Sami Paracha

KOHAT: Six people were killed and 17 others injured in a remote-controlled blast at a taxi stand here on Saturday, officials said.

KOHAT: Six people were killed and 17 others injured in a remote-controlled blast at a taxi stand here on Saturday, officials said.

An improvised explosive device containing ball bearings and weighing about three kilograms was kept in a ghee tin, they said, adding that terrorists left the tin near a wall of the taxi stand at Peshawar Mor.

The Suzuki pick-up stand is mainly used by residents of Shia-dominated villages along the Hangu Road.

The blast occurred at around 11am, killing six people and injuring 17 others. The bodies and the injured were taken to the nearby Liaquat Memorial Hospital.

Three vehicles parked at the stand were damaged by the impact of the explosion and traffic on Hangu Road and Peshawar Road remained suspended for quite some time.

Police cordoned off the scene of the explosion and called in the bomb disposal squad personnel who inspected the devastation and confirmed the IED had been planted in the ghee tin.

The local administration declared emergency at all hospitals in Kohat after the blast.

Bodies were handed over to relatives and later buried in Ustarzai, Alizai, Kachai and Chakarkot villages.

No group claimed responsibility for the bomb explosion.

The deceased were identified as Shabbir Ali, Qambar Abbas, Mehtab Hussain, Taimoor, Syed Shahzain Hussain and Emman.

The injured were Mohammad Hussain, Sajid Fareed, Shahzia, Mudassir, Shahan Hussain, Nusrat Hussain, Hassan Jan, Amir Hamza, Tahir Ali, Said Mohammad, Roohullah, Mohammad Hussain, Qasim, Sajid Ali, Ali Ghulam Mustafa, Salma and Baz Mohammad.

The city police registered a case against unidentified terrorists under sections 302, 324 and 427 and Explosives Act and Anti-Terrorism Act.

Fourteen people were killed and 16 injured when a bomb went off at the same place on Feb 23, 2014.

AFP adds: Fazal Khaliq, head of the emergency department at Kohat’s main government hospital, confirmed the death toll.

It is the second attack on a passenger vehicle to hit northwest Pakistan in a week.

On Thursday, a bomb blast on a coach in Peshawar killed at least seven people and wounded another six.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2014

Ramday sends legal notice to Imran

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

LAHORE: Justice (retired) Khalilur Rehman Ramday has sent a legal notice to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan for accusing him of influencing returning officers to rig last year’s general elections.

LAHORE: Justice (retired) Khalilur Rehman Ramday has sent a legal notice to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan for accusing him of influencing returning officers to rig last year’s general elections.

In his notice, the former judge of the Supreme Court has refuted the allegation and asked Mr Khan to tender an unconditional apology within two weeks or face both civil and criminal proceedings in Pakistani as well as British courts.

On Aug 11, Mr Khan had accused Justice Ramday of setting up an election cell at his home in collusion with former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to ensure victory of the PML-N in the polls.

He also alleged that the PML-N, after coming to power, rewarded Justice Ramday by appointing his son as advocate general of Punjab and getting his niece elected to the National Assembly on a reserved seat.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2014

Zardari refuses to take on PML-N

Zulqernain Tahir

LAHORE: Pakistan Peoples Party Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari has rejected some party leaders’ suggestion that the party should abandon its support to the PML-N as it was affecting its popularity in Punjab. Mr Zardari said he was at present more interested in protecting democracy than party politics because the nation was going through testing times.

LAHORE: Pakistan Peoples Party Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari has rejected some party leaders’ suggestion that the party should abandon its support to the PML-N as it was affecting its popularity in Punjab. Mr Zardari said he was at present more interested in protecting democracy than party politics because the nation was going through testing times.

“We are supporting the PML-N to protect democratic system. I don’t agree that our policy of reconciliation is damaging the PPP, particularly in Punjab,” he told the party’s office-bearers from southern Punjab and Lahore at a meeting in Bilawal House on Saturday.

Some of the participants had expressed concern over the PPP’s policy of “overtly” supporting the PML-N government. A participant told Dawn that some office-bearers spoke their mind freely before Mr Zardari, saying the party’s reconciliation policy was costing it dearly in Punjab.

“The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf is filling the vacuum left by the PPP. We are conceding space to the PTI. We should start openly taking on the PML-N government and its leadership on issues of public importance and play the role of an active opposition,” an office-bearer was quoted as saying.

Mr Zardari listened to their concerns, but told the office-bearers: “This is no time for such politics. The PPP will not compromise on democracy and supremacy of the constitution and parliament.”

He said he would visit other parts of Punjab soon to strengthen the PPP in the province. It was no more a stronghold of the PML-N as people were ready to take to the streets in protest against its policies, he agreed with the workers..

Mr Zaradri deplored the defection of Malik Aamir Dogar, secretary general of the PPP’s south Punjab chapter. “The late father of Mr Dogar had told him that he should never quit the PPP, but he did not follow his advice,” he said.

He said it was not good to put one’s own or the party’s interest above the country’s .

“They criticise our children who are Pakistani citizens though theirs are foreign nationals,” he said in a veiled reference to Imran Khan.

He said Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had decided to address a rally to be held in Karachi on Oct 18 to observe the seventh anniversary of the Karsaz tragedy. PPP workers from across the country will participate.

“Except the PPP which had a rich history of political struggle and sacrifices, all other political parties are a product of the establishment,” Mr Zardari asserted.

Prominent among the participants were former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and PPP leaders Qamar Zaman Kaira, Sherry Rehman, Sardar Latif Khosa, Makhdoom Shahabuddin, Samina Ghurki, Shaukat Basra and Faisal Mir.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Mr Gilani said the PML-N could not fulfil its promises. “Protests and sit-ins are part of democratic process and an objection cannot be raised to them.”

Had the PML-N government adopted the Zardari style of politics, it would not have faced the problems it was confronted with, he said.

Mr Gilani said the PPP had raised voice against rigging soon after last year’s general elections but nobody supported it.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2014

LG polls in three provinces not possible by Nov 15: ECP

Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD: An official of the Election Commission of Pakistan said on Saturday that local government elections in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were not possible by Nov 15.

ISLAMABAD: An official of the Election Commission of Pakistan said on Saturday that local government elections in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were not possible by Nov 15.

The LG polls had already been held in Balochistan in December last year.

Talking to Dawn, he said the Supreme Court, in its March 19 judgement, had given five months to the federal and provincial governments to enact laws and asked the ECP to carry out delimitation in Punjab and Sindh in 45 days.

He said the federal and three provincial governments were responsible for the delay and not the ECP.

The official said the commission had endorsed a draft law sent to it by the federal government with the observation that Article 222 of the constitution, which defined responsibilities of the ECP, should also be amended. “We are still awaiting a response.”

He said the provinces had yet to carry out the legislation.

He said the ECP could start the delimitation exercise only after an amendment to Article 222 and the process would require about 180 days.

He said 110 million ballot papers were to be printed for Punjab alone and the job would take about 45 days.

He said if the LG polls were to be held in November, their schedule should be announced by the middle of October.

The ECP official said the situation in Khyber Pakhtun­khwa was different as its law provided for delimitation by a delimitation authority and the exercise had already been carried out and notified.

He said the KP government was yet to enact the legislation and send a requisition to the commission for holding the polls.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2014

Smoke forces evacuation of passengers from plane

Bhagwandas

KARACHI: A Dubai-bound Emirates Airlines flight was cancelled and all the 82 passengers evacuated through chutes at the Jinnah International Airport on Saturday evening after the pilot detected smoke in the aeroplane.

KARACHI: A Dubai-bound Emirates Airlines flight was cancelled and all the 82 passengers evacuated through chutes at the Jinnah International Airport on Saturday evening after the pilot detected smoke in the aeroplane.

As soon as the Emirates Airlines flight EK609 started to push back from the terminal’s satellite, the pilot smelled smoke and immediately stopped the Airbus 320, informed the Civil Aviation Authority about the situation and asked the crew to evacuate the passengers.

The crew members immediately operated the chutes and evacuated the passengers. None of them received any serious injury while sliding down the chutes and landing on the ground.

The passengers were shifted to the terminal building.

CAA spokesman Pervez George told Dawn that fire tenders were rushed to the aircraft and soon everything was under control. He said that the pilot had only suspected smoke in the cockpit and taken precautionary measures. There was no fire.

He said the airport was not closed but some flights might have been affected.

A PIA spokesman said the airline’s flights PK306 and PK370, to Lahore and Islamabad, were slightly delayed.

Later, an Emirates spokesperson said: “Emirates flight EK609 en route from Karachi to Dubai has been cancelled due to a technical issue. After the aircraft was pushed back, crew detected smoke in the cabin. All passengers and crew have since disembarked the aircraft and have been rebooked on flight EK603 due to depart at 2330 local time.”

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2014

Kurds resist IS advance on key Syrian town

AFP

MURSITPINAR: Kurdish fighters supported by US-led air strikes held back militants attacking a Syrian border town on Saturday.

MURSITPINAR: Kurdish fighters supported by US-led air strikes held back militants attacking a Syrian border town on Saturday.

Dozens of militants of the Islamic State (IS) group, which has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq, were reported killed in the latest coalition raids.

The dusty Syrian town of Kobane on the Turkish border has become a key battleground between IS militants and their opponents, who include Kurdish fighters as well as air force personnel from the United States and its allies.

The US military said four air strikes hit the Kobane area overnight.

Fighting raged on Saturday as IS militants attempted to seize a strategic hilltop that would give them access to the town, activists said.

Mortar rounds pounded the town as smoke rose above it, journalists on the Turkish side of the border said.

“The resistance is continuing. The danger has not yet been overcome,” Sebahat Tuncel, a Kurdish member of Turkey’s parliament, told reporters after visiting Kobane.

Five militants were killed in American air raids near the town, as well as 30 more around Shadadi in north-eastern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

IS militants fired at least 80 mortar rounds on Friday into Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab.

The fighting killed at least 10 Kurdish militia members, said the Britain-based Observatory, which monitors the conflict.

But activist Mustafa Ebdi said Kurdish fighters had been buoyed by their success at holding off the assault so far, noting that the jihadists had hoped to capture the town by Saturday for the Eidul Azha festival.

“So far they have failed to enter the town,” Ebdi said.

IS began its advance towards Kobane on September 16, seeking to cement its grip over a long stretch of the border.

It has prompted a mass exodus of residents from the town and the surrounding countryside, with some 186,000 fleeing into Turkey.

In neighbouring Iraq, unidentified gunmen killed 10 soldiers and Shia-allied militiamen in two separate attacks in Diyala province northeast of the capital Baghdad.

American bombers and fighter jets also carried out five air strikes against IS in Iraq, the US military said.

Washington is leading a coalition of nations against the jihadist organisation, which has declared a “caliphate” in parts of Syria and Iraq.

Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan angrily rejected comments by US Vice President Joe Biden that Turkey and others in the region had financed and armed militant organisations in Syria.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2014

Footprints: King of the road

Saher Baloch

AS soon as a long line of people step down from a footpath near a flyover at Lalukhet Number 10 and start walking towards the main roundabout, calls of ‘Habib, Habib’ or ‘Bank Road’ can be heard amidst the sounds of horns and traffic.

AS soon as a long line of people step down from a footpath near a flyover at Lalukhet Number 10 and start walking towards the main roundabout, calls of ‘Habib, Habib’ or ‘Bank Road’ can be heard amidst the sounds of horns and traffic.

The calls are not made by bus conductors but by drivers of bike-rickshaws known as Qingqis parked in a row near the traffic intersection.

Positioning myself so that my head does not bang against an oversized stereo system near the roof, I sit at the back waiting for the Qingqi to set out for Habib Bank in Karachi’s SITE industrial area. With a motorcycle attached in front and double seats at the back, there’s enough space for six people. On the two corners of the vehicle’s roof, the driver has printed his contact numbers. Flowers hang from the other side. The driver asks for Rs10 from each passenger. On seeing me, he grumbles to his munshi that he’ll earn only half of what he aims to as men won’t sit at the back now.

As the rickshaw moves, it makes a few stops at various points to look for women passengers to fill the back. Instead, there is a man who asks for permission before sitting down. Shiny Qingqis can be seen at every stop the driver makes.

The number of buses has decreased on these routes over the years, says a passenger when I ask why he doesn’t take a bus from Lalukhet. “In a Qingqi, you can ask the driver to make a stop anywhere. Also it is airy and less cramped,” says shopkeeper Sulaiman Ansari. Turning around he gives the number of buses that used to take passengers along the same route. “Some of them still do but most take longer routes for the sake of more passengers and to earn a good sum. There is Seven Star, Bilal Coach, D-11 and D-1. A-25, X-3 and X-10 go from the overhead pul now and don’t stop near underpasses,” he says. This is where the Qingqi drivers are needed, most passengers say.

As we reach Habib Bank, munshi Mohammad Shoaib gets off near the Qingqi stand to count the number of Qingqis already on the go. “We have 150 rickshaws here,” he says, squinting in the afternoon sunlight. “We earn Rs300 from each rickshaw on a daily basis. But Rs100 goes to the traffic police officer and another Rs150 from each rickshaw goes to whichever political party is strong in the area,” he says, as another man asks him not to reveal too much. He, however, says they have “no issues with the bus drivers” — which is debatable.

After a recent scuffle between Qingqi and bus drivers near Jama Cloth Market on M.A. Jinnah Road, it was decided that Qingqis would now stand near the Numaish traffic intersection and not near the bus routes.

Though in most areas they stand in a criss-cross manner, at a roundabout near Safari Park, the Qingqis are parked in a line, with each vehicle given a number with a token. As soon as I ask a driver for some details regarding the system under which Qingqis operate, he squints at my notepad and pen, and questions, “TV wali ho? Mera rickshaw bund ho jayega ab?” Then he laughs and speaks about how last year under the supervision of Additional Inspector General of traffic police Ghulam Qadir Thebo there was a crackdown on unregistered and unlicensed Qingqis. “I sold my land in my village in Multan and bought this rickshaw for Rs110,000. I’d definitely get it registered and licensed,” he argues.

Bukhari says it was commonly thought the Qingqis would operate in and around the outskirts and not within the city “to control congestion”.

Apart from the bus routes taken over by the Qingqis, there’s the issue of “unpaid compensation”. “During a strike call, which is like a weekly event in Karachi, we are targeted by mobs. For every bus that’s torched, we are given Rs200,000, whereas we buy a bus for Rs2 million. I have written multiple times to the chief minister to look for a solution to this city’s transport issues. But there’s been no response,” he says.

Making a case for Qingqis the Karachi Qingqi Rickshaw Association president Safdar Shah says: “First, we don’t travel more than 14 kilometres. Women and students find this transport most comfortable. We have given repeated calls to get us regularised and to bring us under a proper system. We don’t want the Qingqis to be a nuisance. We already have a case pending in the high court; and we’ll pursue it to the end.”

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2014

Literature Nobel goes to French author

Reuters

STOCKHOLM: French writer Patrick Modiano won the 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature for works that made him “a Marcel Proust of our time” with tales often set during the Nazi occupation of Paris during World War Two, the Swedish Academy said on Thursday.

STOCKHOLM: French writer Patrick Modiano won the 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature for works that made him “a Marcel Proust of our time” with tales often set during the Nazi occupation of Paris during World War Two, the Swedish Academy said on Thursday.

Relatively unknown outside of France and a media recluse, Mr Modiano’s works have centred on memory, oblivion, identity and guilt. He has written novels, children’s books and film scripts.

The academy said the award of eight million Swedish crowns ($1.1 million) was “for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation”.

Little of his work is available in English but his roughly 40 works include “A Trace of Malice”, “Missing Person”, and “Honeymoon”. His latest work is the novel “Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier”.

Mr Modiano, 69, was born in the Paris suburb of Boulogne-Billan­court in July 1945, several months after the official end of the Nazi occupation in late 1944.

His father was Italian Jewish and his mother Flemish and non-Jewish. They met during the Occupation and that mixed heritage combined with moral questions about France’s relations with Nazi forces have played an important role in his novels.

“Ambiguity, this is one of the characteristics of his work,” said Dr Alan Morris, senior lecturer in French at Strathclyde University.

“There is an attempt to try and reconstruct some kind of story from the past, but it inevitably proves impossible.”

Mr Modiano has already won France’s prestigious Goncourt prize in 1978 for his work.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2014

Footprints: Back from the brink

Tariq Naqash

IT’S a bright sunny day in the picturesque village of Chakothi, hardly three kilometres from the Line of Control (LoC). At the fag end of September that heralds the advent of winter in high-altitude areas, such days perk up people. However, the mood in the cross-LoC Trade and Travel Terminal, some 800 metres ahead of Chakothi bazaar, is sombre.

IT’S a bright sunny day in the picturesque village of Chakothi, hardly three kilometres from the Line of Control (LoC). At the fag end of September that heralds the advent of winter in high-altitude areas, such days perk up people. However, the mood in the cross-LoC Trade and Travel Terminal, some 800 metres ahead of Chakothi bazaar, is sombre.

The terminal is the last spot where relatives of passengers travelling between divided Kashmir through the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service are allowed to receive or see them off.

Know more: Held Kashmir: submerged and suppressed

The prefabricated structure, with the roof painted green and the walls pink, sits on the edge of a sloped mountain that goes hundreds of feet down to the Jhelum River, coming from Srinagar where it has lately wreaked havoc that words fail to describe. Dreadfully swollen until recently, the river is comparatively calm now.

Given the cumbersome and time-consuming process, travellers are naturally happy when they are granted travel permits. However, as more than 150 passengers who travelled to Srinagar on or before Sept 1 on a four-week (extendable) permit were stuck there, after the deluge suspended trans-LoC travel from the Chakothi-Uri crossing point, the atmosphere at the terminal is somewhat serious as I reach there last Friday.

Normally, the crossing takes place on Mondays. But after a meeting between the authorities from both sides on Sept 24, a special bus was run on Friday to bring back 57 of the stranded passengers in the first phase.

As the two buses stop at the terminal premises and passengers start alighting, their body language expresses the pain and fatigue they have experienced since Sept 7, when the ‘Paradise on Earth’ was swallowed by floodwaters.

The joy of returning alive, however, is also noticeable, as many of them had a close shave. “We have been blessed with new lives,” Saqib Butt, a banker from Muzaffarabad, tells me. The 57-year-old travelled across on Aug 18 along with his spouse and a teenage son. They were staying at the Karan Nagar residence of his in-laws and had plans to return on Sept 8. Amid the manual scanning of luggage, he recalls the “harrowing experience”.

“When it started raining on Sept 6, none of us had the slightest idea that the downpour will usher in devastating flash floods,” he muses. “At about 9pm, we heard announcements from the mosques that the Jhelum has breached the embankment and that people should move upstairs. But we took the warnings lightly. When we got up at 4am for Fajr prayers, there was commotion across the neighbourhood as the water level had grown to four feet. By 1pm, it was 18 feet, submerging the ground floor.”

Along with 12 members of the host family, the trapped guests spent the next three sleepless nights on the second floor, rationing out the available food and water. “Since many houses in our immediate neighbourhood crumbled before my eyes, and ours was a 60-year-old house, I had lost all hopes of survival,” he says.

During those days, trapped residents waved red flags at army helicopters, but to no avail. The choppers were only airlifting government and military officials from the nearby civil secretariat, he claims, showing me pictures in his mobile phone of choppers hovering over the civil secretariat.

Eventually, they were rescued by local Kashmiri youth in a canoe on the fifth day. The rescuers took them to a hotel where they stayed for three nights and then they moved to their ancestral Pattan village. Their luggage was retrieved on Sept 26, two days before their departure.

Prof Amjad Hussain, an academic from Muzaffarabad, has an even scarier story to tell. Also trapped in an inundated house in Karan Nagar for three nights, when they were finally rescued by the local Kashmiri youth, their small craft lost balance, plunging his wife and one of their two children in the water. “Thankfully, the rescuers were able to immediately rescue them,” he says.

Saqib Butt was on his second trip to India-held Kashmir but there were some who had gone across the divide on a maiden tour. Among them were Khawaja Mushtaq Ahmed and his family, including his spouse and university-going daughter.

In his mid-50s, Ahmed runs a garment shop at Quetta’s Jinnah Road. His parents migrated to Pakistan after Partition, and he had gone to the Valley to meet his relatives only a week before the floods.

The house where they were staying in the Jawahar Nagar area was inundated on the night of Sept 6, and later partially collapsed. The family, however, had fortunately moved to another relative’s house earlier that very afternoon. “All of our belongings were swept away, including our documents,” says Ahmed. “But Rajbagh police station officials issued us duplicate papers, enabling our return.”

Ahmed had planned to buy gifts for his friends in Quetta, but returned with just the clothes on his back. Their luggage was almost insignificant. “This is the same shalwar qameez I put on for the dinner on that critical night,” he tells me, pointing to his wrinkled clothes.

Back in Muzaffarabad, the returnees are being visited by family members and friends. “You can hardly imagine how concerned we were about their safety, particularly after we lost contact with him,” says Khawaja Ayaz Qadir, a friend of Saqib Butt’s.

The travellers say they did not see any tangible help from the Indian army and that the trapped people were mostly rescued by local Kashmiris. For years, Kashmiris have been facing brute force and discrimination. Now, they are fighting calamity together.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2014

IS fighters make gains despite US-led air strikes

Agencies

MURSITPINAR: Islamic State (IS) fighters pushed into two districts of the strategically important Syrian border town of Kobane in fierce fighting late on Wednesday, Kurdish officials among the town’s defenders said.

MURSITPINAR: Islamic State (IS) fighters pushed into two districts of the strategically important Syrian border town of Kobane in fierce fighting late on Wednesday, Kurdish officials among the town’s defenders said.

“Tonight (IS) has entered two districts with heavy weapons, including tanks. Civilians may have died because there are very intense clashes,” Asya Abdullah, co-chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the main Syrian Kurdish group defending the area, said by telephone from the town.

Another PYD official said that despite continuing US-led coalition air strikes on Wednesday evening IS fighters had seized some buildings on the eastern edges of the town.

The militants were being held in the suburbs by fierce resistance from Kurdish forces defending the town, which has been under assault for more than three weeks, the official added.

As pressure grew for international action to halt the IS advance, France threw its weight behind calls for a buffer zone on the Syrian-Turkish frontier.

The top US and British diplomats said they were willing to “examine” the idea of a safe haven, but the White House later denied it was considering such a move.

And the Pentagon said air strikes alone were not enough to prevent Kobane from falling.

Ultimately, “capable” ground forces — rebels in Syria and Iraqi government troops — would have to defeat IS, spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said.

Kobane has become a symbol of resistance against IS, which proclaimed a “caliphate” across swathes of Iraq and Syria, carrying out beheadings and other atrocities.

Demonstrations in Turkey over Ankara’s lack of action to support Kobane’s predominantly Kurdish residents have triggered clashes in which at least 19 people were killed.

For the first time in more than two decades, a curfew was declared in six Turkish provinces after the unrest.

The three-week IS assault on Kobane has sent some 200,000 people flooding across the border into Turkey, and some residents said hundreds more remained two days after militants breached the town’s defences.

“There are 1,000 civilians who refuse to leave,” said activist Mustafa Ebdi.

“One of them, aged 65, said to me: ‘Where would we go? Dying here is better than dying on the road’.”

US and coalition aircraft targeted IS fighters near the town on Wednesday, launching six attacks to help the defenders, the US military said.

The strikes destroyed an armoured personnel carrier, artillery and several vehicles, Central Command said.

The sounds of heavy gunfire and mortar shells were heard from the Turkish side of the border, a reporter said, as fierce street battles raged.

An IS fighter carried out a suicide truck bombing in east Kobane, but there was no immediate news of casualties, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Observatory directory Rami Abdel Rahman said earlier that IS forces had advanced around 100 metres towards the town centre, but that fighting had subsided slightly.

But he added that IS group reinforcements were heading from Syria’s Raqa province.

The Observatory says about 400 people, more than half of them militants, have been killed in and around Kobane since the assault began in mid-September.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2014

‘Blood moon’ wows stargazers in Asia, Americas

AFP

WASHINGTON: Sky watchers in the Americas and Asia were treated to a lunar eclipse on Wednesday, a celestial show that bathed the moon in a reddish tint to create a ‘blood moon’. During the total lunar eclipse, light beams into Earth’s shadow, filling it with a coppery glow that gives it a red hue.

WASHINGTON: Sky watchers in the Americas and Asia were treated to a lunar eclipse on Wednesday, a celestial show that bathed the moon in a reddish tint to create a ‘blood moon’. During the total lunar eclipse, light beams into Earth’s shadow, filling it with a coppery glow that gives it a red hue.

The early phase of the eclipse began at 0800 GMT.

Nasa provided live footage via telescope of the eclipse, showing a black shadow creeping across the moon in a crawl that took about an hour. Only when the moon was totally eclipsed did the redness appear.

The Nasa website was peppered with Tweets bubbling with questions and comments on the heavenly phenomenon.

“This is amazing. Thank you for this opportunity,” read a Tweet from the handle @The Gravity Dive.

“Is there any crime increase during this process? Any psychological problems?” wrote a person who identified herself as Alisa Young.

Just before the climax, Kathi Hennesey in California wrote, “Watching from San Francisco Bay Area. Just a sliver now.”

A Nasa commentator explained that during the total eclipse, if you were standing on the moon and looking at Earth, you would see it all black, with a ring of fire around it.

In Hong Kong, free viewing locations were set up on a promenade by the Hong Kong Space Museum for the public to observe the various phases on telescopes.

In Tokyo’s Roppongi fashion and entertainment district, enthusiasts performed yoga exercises under the ‘blood moon’. Many others had climbed atop the city’s skyscrapers to view the sky.

On Australia’s east coast, a live video feed set up by the Sydney Observatory was hit by cloud cover, thwarting some viewers.

In New Zealand, the moon was close to its highest point in the sky, according to Auckland’s Stardome Observatory and Planetarium, making for a view of the spectacle unobstructed by buildings.

In Hong Kong, hundreds of patient onlookers of all ages lined the promenade late on Wednesday hoping for a glimpse of the eclipse.

Many came armed with cameras and telescopes but on a cloudy evening in a city whose sky is rarely clear of pollution haze, it was visible only intermittently.

With tweets from across the viewing countries in Asia, one in New Zealand described the eclipse as “omg the sky is red right now… at 12:26 am in Auckland” with the hashtag “#sofreakingcoool”.

After clouds on Australia’s east coast, the Sydney Observatory welcomed a sighting with “We saw the blood Moon finally!”.

“Sydney skygazers didn’t completely miss out tonight, though the cloud did dampen everyone’s spirits early on,” said The Sydney Morning in a live report on the eclipse.

The event was not visible in Africa or Europe, Nasa said.

The eclipse is the second of four total lunar eclipses, which started with a first ‘blood moon’ on April 15, in a series astronomers call a tetrad.

The next two total lunar eclipses will be on April 4 and September 28 of next year.

The last time a tetrad took place was in 2003-2004, with the next predicted for 2032-2033. In total, the 21st century will see eight tetrads.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2014

First person diagnosed with Ebola in US dies

Reuters

DALLAS: A Liberian man who was the person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States died in a Texas hospital on Wednesday, his case having put health authorities on alert for the deadly virus spreading outside of West Africa.

DALLAS: A Liberian man who was the person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States died in a Texas hospital on Wednesday, his case having put health authorities on alert for the deadly virus spreading outside of West Africa.

About 48 people who had direct or indirect contact with the man since he arrived in the United States from Liberia on Sept 20 are being monitored, but none have yet shown any symptoms, according to health officials.

Know more: Ebola fear grips United States

“It is with profound sadness and heartfelt disappointment that we must inform you of the death of Thomas Eric Duncan this morning at 7:51 am,” Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas spokesman Wendell Watson said in an emailed statement.

Mr Duncan’s case has led to expanded efforts by US authorities to combat the spread of Ebola at its source in West Africa and raised questions about the effectiveness of airport screening and hospital preparedness.

Mr Duncan became ill after arriving in Dallas to visit family. He went to the Dallas hospital on Sept 25, but was initially sent home with antibiotics.

His condition worsened, he returned on Sept 28 by ambulance and was diagnosed with Ebola, which has killed more than 3,400 people in the worst-hit impoverished countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

“I am in tears. All of us are in tears,” Wilfred Smallwood, Mr Duncan’s half brother, said from his home in Phoenix, Arizona.

The current Ebola outbreak began in March and has killed nearly half of those infected, according to the World Health Organisation. Ebola can take as long as three weeks before its victims show symptoms, at which point the disease becomes contagious. Ebola, which can cause fever, vomiting and diarrhoea, spreads through contact with bodily fluids such as blood or saliva.

While several American patients have been flown to the United States from West Africa for treatment, Mr Duncan was the first person to start showing symptoms on US soil.

A nurse in Spain who treated a priest who worked in West Africa is also infected.

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday appealed to other governments to do more to help contain the spread of Ebola, urged countries not to shut their borders and told airlines to keep flying to West Africa.

“More countries can and must step up,” Mr Kerry said.

Shares of biotech companies linked to the development of treatments against Ebola reacted sharply on Wednesday to Mr Duncan’s death. Shares in Chimerix, whose experimental Ebola drug was being administered to Mr Duncan, tumbled 9.5 per cent to $30.08.

US-traded shares of Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp, whose treatment has been used in other Ebola patients, sharply pared losses, briefly turning positive after having fallen as much as 8.8 per cent earlier.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2014

Five Afghan men hanged for gang rape

AFP

KABUL: Five Afghan men were hanged on Wednesday for the gang rape of four women despite the United Nations and human rights groups criticising the trial and urging President Ashraf Ghani to stay the executions.

KABUL: Five Afghan men were hanged on Wednesday for the gang rape of four women despite the United Nations and human rights groups criticising the trial and urging President Ashraf Ghani to stay the executions.

Amnesty International slammed the executions as “an affront to justice”, while the European Union ambassador to Afghanistan questioned President Ghani’s commitment to human rights.

However, the ministry of women’s affairs in Kabul welcomed the hangings “as a step towards ensuring social justice and defending women’s rights, and a lesson for those who think of committing such crimes”.

There was no immediate comment from Mr Ghani, who faced strong public pressure to not delay the executions after he came to power on August 29.

The men were hanged in Pul-i-Charkhi prison near Kabul along with Habib Istalifi, head of a kidnapping gang.

“Today’s executions cast a dark shadow over the new Afghan government’s will to uphold basic human rights,” EU ambassador Franz-Michael Mellbin said on Twitter soon after the news broke.

The armed gang members, wearing police uniforms, stopped a convoy of cars returning to Kabul at night from a wedding in Paghman, a scenic spot popular with day-trippers.

The attackers tied up men in the group before raping at least four of the women and stealing valuables from their victims.

But the court process raised major concerns. The trial lasted only a few hours, suspects were alleged to have tortured before confessing, and Mr Karzai called for the men to be hanged even before the case was heard.

“The outcry and anger this case has caused is of course understandable… But the death penalty is not justice — it only amounts to short-term revenge,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific deputy director.

“The many fair trial concerns in this case only make these executions more unjust. It’s deeply disappointing that new President Ashraf Ghani has allowed the executions to go ahead.”

Before the executions, the UN High Commission for Human Rights had called on Mr Ghani to refer the cases back to the courts “given the very serious due process concerns”. The accused were found guilty and sentenced at a nationally-televised trial, which attracted noisy rallies outside the courtroom calling for the death penalties.

Applause erupted inside the courtroom when Kabul police chief Zahir Zahir also called for the men to be hanged.

“The horrendous due process violations in the Paghman trial have only worsened the injustices of this terrible crime,” said Phelim Kine of Human Rights Watch.

HRW said the case included a manipulated line-up for identification and a trial with little evidence.

Women’s rights have been central to the multi-billion-dollar international development effort in Afghanistan, but they still endure routine discrimination, abuse and violence.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2014

Pakistan urges UN to play role in resolving Kashmir dispute

Masood Haider

UNITED NATIONS: Citing ceasefire violations by the Indian army over Eidul Azha holidays, Pakistan on Tuesday called upon United Nations to exercise its “responsibility” in resolving the festering Kashmir dispute.

UNITED NATIONS: Citing ceasefire violations by the Indian army over Eidul Azha holidays, Pakistan on Tuesday called upon United Nations to exercise its “responsibility” in resolving the festering Kashmir dispute.

Addressing the UN General Assembly Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Masood Khan called upon the Indian government to immediately cease fire and help preserve tranquility and that UNMOGIP must be enabled to play its role in monitoring the ceasefire.

Ambassador Masood Khan said Pakistan was pursuing a policy of constructive engagement in the neighbourhood to resolve differences and to enhance economic opportunities for the region.

He said that longstanding, festering issues could not be swept under the carpet.

“As Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said before this assembly: The core issue of Jammu and Kashmir has to be resolved through negotiations, in accordance with the wishes of its people. In this regard, he reminded the United Nations of its own responsibility,” he added.

The Pakistani envoy said that in the ongoing fight against terrorism Pakistan was determined to eliminate this threat from its soil. “Our heroic armed forces are taking out terrorists, dismantling their hideouts and networks, and choking the vicious sources that feed them. Our entire nation stands united to defeat this evil force and its ideology of hate.”

On UN reforms, Pakistan reiterated that it should be comprehensive and that the Security Council should reflect the interests of all member states — small, medium-sized and large — and not the ambitions of a few.

He recalled what the prime minister of Pakistan told this assembly last month: “There should be no new permanent seats in the council. This will be contrary to the democratic character of this world body”.

Pakistan expressed support to the efforts of the international community to oppose the reign of terror unleashed by the ISIS, a phenomenon that does not have sanction of any religion or denomination and stressed the need to steer warring forces in Syria towards dialogue and reconciliation.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2014

Two Americans and German share chemistry Nobel for super microscopes

AP

STOCKHOLM: Two Americans and a German won the Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday for finding ways to make microscopes more powerful than previously thought possible, allowing scientists to see how diseases developed inside the tiniest cells.

STOCKHOLM: Two Americans and a German won the Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday for finding ways to make microscopes more powerful than previously thought possible, allowing scientists to see how diseases developed inside the tiniest cells.

Working independently of each other, US researchers Eric Betzig and William Moerner and Stefan Hell of Germany shattered previous limits on the resolution of optical microscopes by using glowing molecules to peer inside the components of life.

Their breakthroughs, starting in the 1990s, have enabled scientists to study diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s at a molecular level, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said.

“Due to their achievements, the optical microscope can now peer into the nanoworld,” the academy said, giving the eight-million-kronor ($1.1 million) award jointly to the three for “the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy”.

Mr Betzig, 54, works at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Ashburn, Virginia. Mr Hell, 51, is director of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Goettingen, Germany, and also works at the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg. Mr Moerner, 61, is a professor at Stanford University in California.

“I was totally surprised, I couldn’t believe it,” said Mr Hell, who was born in Romania. “Fortunately, I remembered the voice of Nordmark and I realised it was real,” he added, referring to Staffan Nordmark, the academy’s permanent secretary.

The Nobel judges didn’t immediately reach Mr Moerner, who was at a conference in Brazil. The American found out about the prize from his wife after she was told by The Associated Press.

“I’m incredibly excited and happy to be included with Eric Betzig and Stefan Hell,” Mr Moerner said.

Mr Betzig said he started to tremble when he saw an incoming call from Sweden, receiving the news with a mix of happiness and fear. “Because I don’t want my life to change; I really like my life, and I’m busy enough already,” he told journalists in Munich, where he was giving a lecture.

For a long time optical microscopes were limited by the wavelength of light and other factors, so scientists believed they could never yield a resolution better than 0.2 micrometers.

But the three scientists were able to break that limit by using molecules that glow on command. The advance took optical microscopy into a new dimension that made it possible to study the interplay between molecules inside cells, including the aggregation of disease-related proteins, the academy said.

The technology offers advantages over an electron microscope, which offers slightly better resolution but can’t be used to examine cells that are alive.

“You really need to be able to look at living cells because life is animate — it’s what defines life,” Mr Betzig said.

Mr Hell used these methods to study nerve cells to get a better understanding of brain synapses; Mr Moerner studied proteins related to Huntington’s disease; and Mr Betzig tracked cell division inside embryos, the academy said.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2014

Suicide bomber kills five police officers in Chechnya

Reuters

MOSCOW: A suicide bomber killed at least five police officers and wounded 12 others on Sunday during festivities for a local holiday in Grozny, the capital of Russia’s North Caucasus region of Chechnya, Russian news agencies reported.

MOSCOW: A suicide bomber killed at least five police officers and wounded 12 others on Sunday during festivities for a local holiday in Grozny, the capital of Russia’s North Caucasus region of Chechnya, Russian news agencies reported.

Chechnya has seen a period of relative calm under the strong-arm rule of Moscow-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov, and suicide bombings have been a rare occurrence in recent years.

The suicide attack took place at the entrance to a concert hall where festivities were planned to celebrate Grozny’s city day holiday, which is also Kadyrov’s birthday.

“Police officers who were manning metal detectors at the entrance of the concert hall noticed a suspicious young man. When the police officers decided to check the individual, the man blew himself up,” a local police officer told RIA news agency.

There were no reports of civilian deaths or injuries, RIA said.

Following Chechen separatist wars in 1994-96 and 1999-2000, the insurgency spread across the predominantly Muslim North Caucasus, fuelled by an explosive mixture of religion, and anger over corruption and alleged rights abuses.

The attack is the first major act of violence since the death of militant leader Doku Umarov who was killed in a clampdown during Russia’s hosting of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, on the western edge of the Caucasus Mountains.

Kadyrov, who became leader of Chechnya in 2007, has vowed to wipe out the militants but has faced criticism from human rights groups for the disappearances of those suspected of being linked to the insurgency and torture. He calls the accusations an attempt to defame him.

Kadyrov, who has been threatened personally by the insurgents who call themselves the Caucasus Emirate, said the suicide bomber had arrived at the concert hall dressed like a policeman.

The attacker was a 19-year-old from Grozny who disappeared from home two months ago, agencies repor­ted police as saying.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2014

Mass grave found in Mexico

AFP

IGUALA INDEPENDENCIA: More bodies were being pulled out of a mass grave in southern Mexico on Sunday as authorities worked to determine if 43 students who vanished after a police shooting were among the dead.

IGUALA INDEPENDENCIA: More bodies were being pulled out of a mass grave in southern Mexico on Sunday as authorities worked to determine if 43 students who vanished after a police shooting were among the dead.

At least 15 bodies have so far been dug out of pits discovered on Saturday on a hill outside the town of Iguala, 200km south of Mexico City, according to two police officers at the scene.

The grim discovery came a week after the students disappeared when a protest turned deadly. Witnesses in Iguala said municipal police officers had whisked several of the students away.

Inaky Blanco, chief prosecutor for the violence-plagued state of Guerrero, declined to say how many bodies were buried in the pits.

“We still can’t talk about an exact number of bodies. We are still working at the site,” Blanco told a news conference late on Saturday in the state capital, Chilpancingo.

The site was cordoned off and guarded by scores of troops and police.

More bodies were being recovered on Sunday, another officer said.

Juan Lopez Villanueva, an official from the National Human Rights Commission, said that six pits were found up a steep hill probably inaccessible by car.

Four forensic services vans left for the morgue on Saturday night carrying nine bodies in silver bags. Authorities are conducting DNA analysis to identify the victims.

The graves were found after some of the 30 suspects detained in the case told authorities about their location, Blanco said. The detainees include 22 police officers and gang members.

If the bodies are confirmed to be those of the students, it would be one of the worst slaughters that Mexico has witnessed since the drug war intensified in 2006, leaving 80,000 people dead to date.

The students from a teacher training college disappeared last weekend after Iguala police officers shot at buses that the group had seized to return home after holding fundraising activities on September 26. Three students were killed.

Another three people died when police and suspected gang members shot at another bus carrying football players on the outskirts of town.

A survivor said in an interview that the officers took away 30 to 40 students in patrol cars.

Blanco said investigators had confirmed suspicions that a criminal organisation, the Guerreros Unidos, was involved in last week’s crimes and that local police officers belonged to the gang.

Authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Iguala’s mayor, who has fled.

In Pueblo Viejo, a hamlet surrounded by forests and mountains, a resident said the region was dominated by a drug gang and that he had seen municipal police officers going up the hill in recent days.

“They were going up there back and forth,” said the resident, Jose Garcia, pointing to a location between two mountains where the graves were found.

Governor Angel Aguirre appealed for calm in his state, which is mired in poverty, gang violence and social unrest.

“I call on all (Guerrero state residents) to maintain harmony, non-confrontation, and avoid violence,” he said, offering his support to the families of those who were “savagely massacred”.

The missing students are from a teacher training college near Chilpancingo known as a hotbed of protests.

Thousands of students and teachers blocked the highway between Chilpancingo and Acapulco for hours on Thursday, demanding help from federal authorities to find the missing.

The police’s links to organised crime has raised fears about the fate of the students in a country where drug cartels regularly hide bodies in mass graves.

Around 30 bodies were found in mass graves in Iguala alone this year.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2014

India plans to block funds for ‘D-Company’ militants

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: After securing an agreement with the US administration to work jointly against Pakistan-based terrorist groups, Indian authorities are now focusing on one particular outfit, the D-Company.

WASHINGTON: After securing an agreement with the US administration to work jointly against Pakistan-based terrorist groups, Indian authorities are now focusing on one particular outfit, the D-Company.

Last week, the United States and India committed to taking “joint and concerted efforts” to dismantle terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, the Haqqani network and the D-company.

Know more: US, India vow to dismantle LeT, Al Qaeda

In a joint statement issued during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington last week, the two countries also vowed to disrupt all financial and tactical support provided to these groups.

Reports in the US and Indian media, however, suggest that India is focusing on one particular group, the so-called D-Company.

India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, who stayed back in the US after Mr Modi’s departure, was tasked to work out a joint strategy for implementing the agreement reached during the visit.

Media reports suggest that Mr Doval’s talks with US officials focused on the D-Company as India believes that it will be relatively easy to choke this group’s financial sources as it depends heavily on illegal means, like smuggling and money laundering.

The Indians acknowledge that it will be more difficult to take similar measures against groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, which raises money within Pakistan from a network of mosques and madressahs spread across the country.

The Indians have reportedly informed US officials that the D-Company allegedly generates billions of dollars in revenue from legitimate business activities such as real estate and bank overhaul transactions, as well as illegal criminal enterprises around the world, especially in India.

The Indians also claim that the group maintains business interests in UAE and Pakistan as well.

Such transactions, the Indians argue, can be easily traced and blocked with support from US intelligence agencies.

The Indians are also pointing out several D-Company concerns that can be put on a US Treasury Department’s terror list for blocking their assets.

India regards D-Company as the largest underground business in South Asia.

Several members of the group are on the terrorist and/or wanted persons list produced by the Interpol.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2014

Somali, African troops wrest back port town from militants

AFP

MOGADISHU: Somali troops backed by African peacekeepers on Sunday recaptured the last major port in Somalia held by the Shebab, removing a key source of revenue for the Islamist militia.

MOGADISHU: Somali troops backed by African peacekeepers on Sunday recaptured the last major port in Somalia held by the Shebab, removing a key source of revenue for the Islamist militia.

The move was another blow for Al Qaeda’s main affiliate in Africa and came just a month after the death of their leader Ahmed Abdi Godane in a US air and drone strike.

The African Union’s AMISOM force, which draws 22,000 soldiers from six nations, said Barawe, 200km southwest of Mogadishu, fell without “much resistance from the terrorist group”.

“The terrorists used the port there to import arms as well as receive foreign fighters into their ranks,” an AMISOM statement said.

“The group also used Barawe to export charcoal to the Middle East, a lucrative multi-million-dollar business that served as their main source of funding,” the statement said.

Provincial Governor Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur said the situation was “calm and the militiamen had fled before the forces reached the town”. “They could not put up resistance and have emptied their positions,” he said.

The Shebab exported charcoal through Barawe to Gulf countries, earning at least $25 million a year from the trade, according to UN estimates.

“What is very significant is that the ‘capital’ of the Shebab has fallen,” a specialist on Somalia said.

The specialist said the Shebab, who also lost control of the strategic port of Kismayo in October 2012, now had no major town in their hands.

The Shebab have vowed to avenge their leader’s death and continue their fight to topple the country’s internationally-backed government.

On Saturday, a Shebab commander, Mohamed Abu Abdallah, said the militia would maintain pressure on Somali and African Union forces even if the militia lost Barawe.

“Let me assure you that we will never leave around Barawe, the fighting will continue and we will turn the town into graveyards of the enemy,” he said, quoted by a pro-Shebab website.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2014

Australia beat Pakistan by six wickets in T20

AFP

DUBAI: Australia beat Pakistan by six wickets to win the one-off Twenty20 international here on Sunday.

DUBAI: Australia beat Pakistan by six wickets to win the one-off Twenty20 international here on Sunday.

Off-spinner Glenn Maxwell took a career best 3-15 and debutant Cameron Boyce (2-10) condemned Pakistan to their fifth lowest Twenty20 international total of 96-9 in 20 overs.

Australia knocked off the target for the loss of four wickets in 14 overs with opener David Warner hitting a robust 39-ball 53 not out with four fours and three sixes.

Of the Pakistani batsmen only debutant Saad Nasim (25), tail-enders Wahab Riaz (16) and Raza Hasan (13 not out) came good in an innings which only had four boundaries and no sixes.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2014

Muslims unite in fury at murder of Briton by IS

Mark Townsend

BRITISH Muslims have expressed fury and anguish in the wake of the brutal killing of Alan Henning by Islamic State (IS) militants, as the family of the Salford, north-west England, taxi driver said they were “numb with grief” at news of his murder.

BRITISH Muslims have expressed fury and anguish in the wake of the brutal killing of Alan Henning by Islamic State (IS) militants, as the family of the Salford, north-west England, taxi driver said they were “numb with grief” at news of his murder.

Many in the UK Muslim community had been hoping the aid convoy volunteer might be freed on the eve of Eidul Azha. Vigils had been held in his hometown and more than 100 high-profile Muslim leaders had appealed for him to be released. But the posting of a gruesome video, appearing to show his beheading, ended hopes and unleashed a torrent of condemnation.

Know more: Video shows IS beheading British hostage Alan Henning

Harun Khan, deputy secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain — the largest Islamic organisation in the UK, representing more than 500 organisations — said: “Yesterday was a huge day of significance because it was the day when people were seeking forgiveness and salvation. If IS really wanted to win the propaganda war, they would have released Alan. They are not really Islamic: nobody recognises them, and they are hijacking the religion.”

Kasim Jameel, from Bolton, who was with Mr Henning on the convoys and first interested him in helping the people of Syria, said:

“I’m totally heartbroken. What can you say? When you lose someone so important to you, you can’t put it into words. Everyone who knew him from the convoys just can’t stop crying — grown men with beards. We keep expecting him to come round the corner, and say, ‘I was only joking’.”

Mr Henning’s widow Barbara said she and their two children were numb with grief and that his murder had been the “news we hoped we would never hear”. In her statement she thanked everyone who had supported the family.

“I want to thank everyone who campaigned for Alan’s release, who held vigils to pray for his return and condemned those who took him. Your efforts were a great support to us, and we take comfort in knowing how many people stood beside us in hoping for the best. We as a family are extremely proud of him and what he achieved.”

David Cameron pledged that the UK would use “all the assets we have” to eradicate the fighters responsible for the “senseless” murder.

Speaking after a hastily convened meeting with senior defence, Foreign Office and intelligence chiefs, including the head of MI5, at his official country residence Chequers, Mr Cameron described Mr Henning as a man of “great peace, kindness and gentleness”.

But Mr Henning’s brother-in-law, Colin Livesey, said the government could have done more “when they knew about [his captivity] months and months ago”.

Mr Henning was kidnapped on Boxing Day last year, just half an hour after entering Syria, driving a vehicle full of clothing and food aid for Muslim refugees.

Filmmaker Bilal Abdul Kareem, who helped in the negotiations when he was first captured, also accused Mr Cameron of not doing enough to help. He added that IS knew the strength of opposition to the murder, but chose to “spit in the Muslims’ eye to show them who is boss”.

He revealed that a representative of Al Qaeda had appealed to the fighters holding Mr Henning to let him go just four days after they picked him up. “Nobody outside of IS thought this was a good idea. Nobody thought that it was OK to do this,” he said.

“The Al Qaeda representative went to go down and try to talk to them, and [when] he returned his face was different. He said something to the effect that these guys are really being difficult, really tough, but they did say they were going to release him. Everybody was anticipating that.”

Suleman Nagdi, of the Federation of Muslim Organisations, heard the news after returning from a vigil for Mr Henning in Leicester. “We have to disassociate from Islamic State,” he said. “There is nothing Islamic about these individuals, nor is it a state. My question to young people [who might be sympathetic to IS] is simple: who is living closer to the message of the Qur’an? Is it IS, or is it somebody like Alan Henning?”

By arrangement with The Guardian

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2014

Hong Kong protesters defy authorities, hold huge peace rally

AFP

HONG KONG: Tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators gathered for a mass peace rally in central Hong Kong late on Saturday, defying recent attacks against their ranks as the city authorities denied using paid thugs to harass them.

HONG KONG: Tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators gathered for a mass peace rally in central Hong Kong late on Saturday, defying recent attacks against their ranks as the city authorities denied using paid thugs to harass them.

Huge crowds streamed into the main protest site opposite the besieged government headquarters for a seventh night of their campaign for free elections in the semi-autonomous Chinese city, vowing to stand firm in the face of attacks on their ranks by aggressive counter-demonstrators.

Pro-democracy protesters have taken to Hong Kong’s streets to demand the right to nominate who can run as their next leader in 2017 elections. Beijing insists only candidates it has approved will be able to stand.

Two of Hong Kong’s busiest shopping districts descended into chaos on Friday as angry opponents clashed with protesters, tearing down their tents and barricades, with widespread allegations amongst the pro-democracy crowds that triad criminal gangs had been brought in to stir up trouble.

Tensions remained high on Saturday with fresh clashes in Mong Kok, a densely packed working-class district of shops and apartments that saw some of the worst scenes of violence the previous night, with complaints of sexual assaults and attacks on journalists in the crowds.

Police said several suspected triad members were among those arrested after Friday’s clashes, but the city’s security chief angrily denied allegations that the government had called on the services of paid thugs in a bid to break up the mass protests that have brought key parts of the city to a standstill for a week.

Friday’s violence prompted student protest leaders to scrap talks with the government, scuppering hopes of a resolution to the crisis.

As night fell upon the usually stable financial hub, thousands chanted “Peace, anti-violence!” as they gathered in the downtown Admiralty district near government headquarters.

“The feeling is really strong tonight. You can see people are so calm — unlike in other countries where they burn things and destroy cars,” said 36-year-old protester Chris Ng.

“The police used tear gas and pepper spray against peaceful students — but where are the tear gas and pepper spray for those who use violence against us?” protester Lau Tung-kok shouted through a loudspeaker, to cheers from the crowd.

City authorities furiously denied working with organised crime groups to disrupt the protests.

“These accusations are made up and are very excessive,” an angry Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok told reporters, raising his voice.

But pro-democrat lawmaker Albert Ho said the police “seemed to show a lot of indulgence to triad activities”.

Triad gangs have traditionally been involved in drug-running, prostitution and extortion but are increasingly involved in legitimate ventures such as property and the finance industry.

Some are believed to also have links with the political establishment and there have previously been allegations of triads sending paid thugs to stir up trouble during protests.

China has accused democracy campaigners of destabilising the city. The People’s Daily newspaper, a Communist Party mouthpiece, said in an editorial on Saturday that the protesters were “daydreaming” over the prospect of change.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2014

First womb-transplant baby born

AFP

PARIS: A 36-year-old Swede has become the world’s first woman to give birth after receiving a womb transplant, doctors said on Saturday, describing the event as a breakthrough for infertile women.

PARIS: A 36-year-old Swede has become the world’s first woman to give birth after receiving a womb transplant, doctors said on Saturday, describing the event as a breakthrough for infertile women.

The healthy baby boy was born last month at the University of Gothenburg’s hospital. Both mother and infant are doing well.

Weighing 1.77kg, the baby was born by Caesarean section at 31 weeks after the mother developed pre-eclampsia, a pregnancy condition, according to the medical journal The Lancet.

Because of a genetic condition called Rokitansky syndrome, the new mother was born without a womb, although her ovaries were intact.

The surgeons said the case smashes through the last major barrier of female infertility — the absence of a uterus as a result of heredity or surgical removal for medical reasons.

“Absolute uterine factor infertility is the only major type of female infertility that is still viewed as untreatable,” they said in a paper published by the British journal.

The replacement organ came from a 61-year-old woman, a close family friend who had been through menopause seven years earlier. The organ was transplanted in a 10-hour operation last year.

The recipient underwent in-vitro fertilisation, in which eggs were harvested from her ovaries and fertilised using sperm from her partner, and then cryogenically preserved.

A year after the transplant, a single early-stage embryo was inserted into the transplanted womb. A pregnancy test three weeks later was positive.

The womb encountered a brief episode of rejection, but this was successfully tackled by increasing a dose of corticosteroid drugs to suppress the immune system.

“What is more, we have demonstrated the feasibility of live-donor uterus transplantation, even from a post-menopausal donor.” Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuester-Hauser syndrome — to give it its full name — affects approximately one in 4,500 newborn girls, previous research has found.

The options open to women with the disorder, or those who have had a hysterectomy, are adoption or having a baby through a surrogate mother.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2014

IS beheads second British hostage

Reuters

WASHINGTON: The Islamic State (IS) group beheaded British aid worker Alan Henning in a video posted on Friday, triggering swift condemnation by the British and US governments.

WASHINGTON: The Islamic State (IS) group beheaded British aid worker Alan Henning in a video posted on Friday, triggering swift condemnation by the British and US governments.

The footage on YouTube, and highlighted on pro-IS Twitter feeds, showed a middle-aged man in an orange jumpsuit kneeling next to a black-clad militant in arid scrubland, similar to past IS beheading videos of two American journalists and a British aid worker.

As in previous videos, Mr Henning appears to read from a script before he is killed. “Because of our parliament’s decision to attack the Islamic State, I, as a member of the British public, will now pay the price for that decision,” he says.

A male voice with a British accent says, “The blood of David Haines was on your hands Cameron,” in references to the slain aid worker and to Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron. “Alan Henning will also be slaughtered, but his blood is on the hands of the British parliament.”

Mr Henning, a 47-year-old taxi driver from Salford in northern England, was part of an aid convoy taking medical supplies to a hospital in northwest Syria in December last year when it was stopped by gunmen and he was kidnapped.

In response to the video, Mr Cameron said: “The brutal murder of Alan Henning by ISIL (IS) shows just how barbaric and repulsive these terrorists are. My thoughts and prayers tonight are with Alan’s wife Barbara, their children and all those who loved him.

“Alan had gone to Syria to help get aid to people of all faiths in their hour of need. We will do all we can to hunt down these murderers and bring them to justice.”

US officials said they had no reason to doubt the authenticity of the video, titled “Another Message to America and its Allies”.

“The US strongly condemns the brutal murder of United Kingdom citizen Alan Henning,” President Barack Obama said in a statement.

“Standing together with our UK friends and allies, we will work to bring the perpetrators of Alan’s murder — as well as the murders of Jim Foley, Steven Sotloff and David Haines — to justice,” Mr Obama said, referring to other captives killed by IS militants.

Near the end of the one-minute, 11-second video, the man in black introduces another hostage identified as American Peter Edward Kassig.

His parents later issued a statement confirming their 26-year-old son had been taken captive while doing humanitarian work in Syria.

“We ask everyone around the world to pray for the Henning family, for our son, and for the release of all innocent people being held hostage in the Middle East and around the globe,” Ed and Paula Kassig of Indianapolis, Indiana, said in the statement.

He was detained on Oct 1, 2013, while travelling to the Syrian city of Deir al-Zor while working for Special Emergency Response and Assis­tance, a non-governmental organisation he founded in 2012.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2014

Eidul Azha celebrated in Middle East

AP

MINA: Muslims in most countries of the Middle East and North Africa celebrated the start of Eidul Azha on Saturday as about two million pilgrims took part in one of the last rites of Haj here in Saudi Arabia.

MINA: Muslims in most countries of the Middle East and North Africa celebrated the start of Eidul Azha on Saturday as about two million pilgrims took part in one of the last rites of Haj here in Saudi Arabia.

Eid will be celebrated in Iraq, Indonesia and many other countries on Sunday.

Most Pakistanis will celebrate Eid on Monday.

In Mina pilgrims cast pebbles in a symbolic stoning of Satan.

“I feel good and satisfied with who I am and for the chance to come to Haj this year,” said Palestinian pilgrim Mona Abu-Raya. “I am so happy that I am here.”

Not all were as fortunate, however, Muslims from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea — the countries hardest hit in the Ebola epidemic — were not given visa by Saudi Arabia as a precaution against the virus, a measure that affected 7,400 would-be pilgrims from these nations.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2014

Editorial News

Absent civilian input on Fata

Editorial

PRIME Minister Nawaz Sharif may have made a historic visit to North Waziristan Agency yesterday, but optics and words of encouragement for the troops aside, what is the civilian government’s input on Fata?

PRIME Minister Nawaz Sharif may have made a historic visit to North Waziristan Agency yesterday, but optics and words of encouragement for the troops aside, what is the civilian government’s input on Fata?

A day earlier, army chief Gen Raheel Sharif perhaps unwittingly played up the contrast between the military’s eagerness to be seen to be doing something for the social and economic uplift of Fata and the civilian government’s near-total apathy.

Gen Sharif’s announcement that the army will, in token numbers, recruit soldiers from Fata and induct Fata schoolchildren and young adults into army-run schools and technical training institutes will not fundamentally alter the region’s socio-economic and security landscape. But that is not the point since the army cannot on its own transform the socio-economic and security realities of Fata nor does it have the resources to do so.

What Gen Sharif’s announcement did underline, however, was that at least the army leadership is thinking about matters in terms of the aftermath of the military operations, while all the prime minister’s visit did was to underscore that the civilians are not even attempting to think about Fata and what it will take to bring peace, stability and, eventually, prosperity and national inclusivity to the war-torn region.

Clearly, launching Operation Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan was not the preferred choice, possibly not even the decision, of the prime minister. Also, with nearly 200,000 troops estimated to be deployed in Fata and military operations ongoing in several areas as security remains elusive, the space for the civilians to help steer the Fata policy is not large. And all of that before even taking into consideration the troubled state of overall civil-military relations.

Yet, an honest appraisal of the situation in Fata will have to confront the reality that the country’s civilian leadership, be it the previous elected government or the present one, does not really understand the complexities of the tribal areas nor is it particularly keen on developing ideas about what to do with the region — even if it had the space in the civil-military domain to do so.

Surely though, Fata will never be stabilised and put on a firm, irreversible path to peace if military strategy — and the military itself — drives all policy. Set aside for a minute even the concerns about whether the security establishment has truly abandoned its good militant/bad militant policy and operational distinction.

No army — not even the best intentioned and resourced — is trained to revive and invigorate in socio-economic terms a region ravaged by war. That is a role for the civilian leadership. The army leadership may often shove aside civilians, but simply surrendering, washing their hands of policy issues and sulking isn’t the way to recover the rightful space the civilians should have. The prime minister and his party need to do better, much better.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2014

Rents and rackets

Editorial

THE recent controversy surrounding ‘on money’, or premium charges for the immediate delivery of automobile purchases, opens an important window on the key dysfunctions that ail Pakistan’s economy.

THE recent controversy surrounding ‘on money’, or premium charges for the immediate delivery of automobile purchases, opens an important window on the key dysfunctions that ail Pakistan’s economy.

The auto makers argue that new models of their vehicles see ‘overwhelming demand’ that they struggle to meet.

Consumers for their part wonder why the auto makers are so quickly overwhelmed given the extensive protections afforded to the domestic auto sector to shield their investment from foreign competition. Many end up theorising that the shortages of autos are artificially created by the companies to keep prices buoyant. The shortages, therefore, give rise to black markets, reflected in premium charges for immediate delivery.

What should be noted here is that both consumers and auto companies have a point. It is indeed puzzling why auto makers find it hard to ramp up production to keep pace with demand. But it is also a fact that our economy has massive hoards of ‘black money’, large cash-rich investors looking to place their funds in investments where supply and demand can be easily subverted, and with no questions about the source of funds.

Speculative buyers of this sort flock in huge numbers to real estate, commodities, stocks and sometimes even foreign exchange. The volumes involved in the latter categories are far larger than what we see in the speculative buying of autos.

The ultimate loser in this speculative frenzy is always the consumer, who has to reckon with high and volatile prices for essentials like housing and food on many occasions.

Periodically, we see the launch of whitener schemes, where these hoards of black money are offered amnesty to enter the formal economy with no questions asked, testifying to the powerlessness of the state before sums of dubious origin. Consumers are left trapped between rent-seeking investors on the one hand, and speculators on the other.

Ultimately, the menace of ‘on money’ for automobiles will only disappear once the auto sector is sufficiently incentivised to face up to the cold winds of competition. But draining the black money hoards into fixed investments is also a crucial priority.

Documentation measures and penalties can be effective in curbing the menace to a point. But eventually, larger reforms are necessary to prevent the accumulation of large sums of money outside the formal economy because these cash hoards can wreak terrible damage on the economy should they turn hostile.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2014

Liquor deaths

Editorial

IT is a tragedy that is thrown into starker relief by the fact that the sale and consumption of alcohol is restricted in the country.

IT is a tragedy that is thrown into starker relief by the fact that the sale and consumption of alcohol is restricted in the country.

The fact is, where there is a demand, there will always be a supply, as well as unscrupulous elements willing to cheat the gullible public.

That lives can be destroyed in the process matters little to the profit-seekers. The first week of the month saw over 20 deaths in Hyderabad as a result of the consumption of toxic liquor, or moonshine.

This resulted in the PPP-led Sindh government firing its excise and taxation minister, Mukesh Kumar Chawla, over what the senior party leadership termed as “the minister’s negligence in issuing licences to substandard wine shops”.

Given the scale of this incident, it would have been natural to expect a wider investigation, the assumption being that if tainted liquor was being sold on such a large scale in one city, other places might be facing the same problem. That, unfortunately, was not the case, and now Karachi finds itself confronting more than 20 deaths that took place over the Eid holidays for the same reason.

The newly appointed excise and taxation minister, and the station house officer of the police station within whose remit some liquor-production facilities were discovered, have been suspended, and a probe is under way.

Will it succeed and put the makers and distributors of moonshine out of business for good? One aspect of the matter in particular gives reason for doubt: DIG-East, Munir Sheikh, who heads the inquiry committee, conceded on record that at the individual level, there is police connivance in the deadly business. And, indeed, it is difficult to imagine anyone being able to run such a production facility on any sort of appreciable scale without the knowledge, if not active involvement, of local police authorities in urban areas.

Once again, the ball is in the court of the law enforcers. As they tackle the problem of such facilities, can they also clean up their own act?

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2014

Civilians in the crossfire

Editorial

THE escalating violence between Pakistan and India along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary in the disputed Kashmir region has, as ever, murky origins.

THE escalating violence between Pakistan and India along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary in the disputed Kashmir region has, as ever, murky origins.

India blames Pakistan, Pakistan blames India; meanwhile, the worst sufferer is the civilian population on either side of the divide.

More lives have been lost and with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reduced to urging India and Pakistan to resolve their disputes diplomatically and through dialogue, there is a very real fear that more violence could result in more lives lost in the days ahead. With the blame game continuing and with few independent sources to verify how violence broke out, there is though a sense that both sides are determined not to back down — though it is difficult to see why either side would want the conflict to spiral out of control.

For Pakistan, conflict in Kashmir cannot militarily be a goal at this juncture with the North Waziristan operation ongoing and strains on military resources because of overall troop commitments in Fata.

For India, with the Narendra Modi-led BJP government in Delhi eyeing gains in elections in India-held Jammu and Kashmir scheduled for November-December, prolonged conflict should not be part of a winning electoral strategy.

Yet, logic often does not work as it should in this most disputed of regions and, occasionally, events in Kashmir are tied to wider struggles that Pakistan and India may be engaging in. Consider that the Modi government has taken a decidedly tough line with Pakistan despite Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wanting to pursue dialogue while simultaneously struggling with civil-military issues at home.

The rapturous tone of the recent visit by Mr Modi to the US may have encouraged the Indian security establishment to pile further pressure on Pakistan. Meanwhile, on the Pakistan side, that very tone of Mr Modi’s visit and the successful inclusion of Pakistan-specific militancy concerns in the joint US-India statement may have rankled, and sections of the security establishment here may have decided that India, and the world at large, needs reminding that the Kashmir dispute is still very much alive and a flashpoint that should invite international attention.

The path to military de-escalation at least remains well-known. Purposeful and result-orientated contact between the directors general of military operations of Pakistan and India can help dampen the violence along the LoC and the Working Boundary — but will the two countries decide to activate that option themselves, or will the international community have to put pressure behind the scenes?

The approaching winter — while still distant in the present context — should also help dampen hostilities, though it remains to be seen if the elections will be held on time or postponed until the new year after an ongoing visit to Jammu and Kashmir by the Election Commission of India. As ever, little can be said with certainty on Kashmir.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2014

Support for IS

Editorial

The fact that the self-styled Islamic State is drawing fulsome praise from across the militant spectrum is hardly surprising.

The fact that the self-styled Islamic State is drawing fulsome praise from across the militant spectrum is hardly surprising.

After all, the terrorist group’s rapid rise and capture of territory in Iraq and Syria has granted it celebrity status within jihadi circles. So while there may be minor differences between various global militant groups — tactical, theological, level of ferocity — the general consensus seems to be that the IS model of waging ‘jihad’ is a successful one and worthy of replication.

A few days ago, the banned TTP — while still accepting Afghan Taliban supremo Mullah Omar as its spiritual leader — praised all militants in Iraq and Syria, including IS, terming them “noble” and “our brothers”.

Some time ago, pro-IS literature was also reportedly distributed in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata. Also, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a fanatical militant outfit responsible for a number of terrorist atrocities inside Pakistan, proclaimed it was “in the same ranks” as the so-called Islamic State.

Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram has expressed warm wishes for IS ‘caliph’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as have some militant outfits in Southeast Asia and North Africa.

While there’s little hard evidence that the above-mentioned statements signify that IS and other militant groups are forging some sort of grand global jihadi alliance, they do appear to be policy statements making the intentions of the militants clear.

They should serve as warning shots, alerting governments the world over to the potential havoc such groups can unleash should they join forces operationally. In many ways, IS is the new Al Qaeda; but considering that it actually holds territory makes the Islamic State even more dangerous than the terrorist franchise.

After all, Al Qaeda was successful because it was provided a safe haven by the erstwhile Taliban rulers of Afghanistan. Should IS consolidate its hold over areas it controls it will serve as a magnet for extremists from across the globe, with the potential to destabilise states across the Middle East and Central Asia, including Pakistan.

While Al Qaeda is now being regarded by many as a spent force, especially after the elimination of Osama bin Laden, IS has many of the trappings of a state and its battlefield successes have made it the talk of the Islamist world. Hence it is essential that governments, especially those of Muslim states, coordinate their efforts to deny IS the chance to operationally link up with sympathetic groups elsewhere.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2014

Eid shutdown

Editorial

The casual onlooker could be forgiven for thinking that Pakistanis have done everything that needed to be done, solved all equations and balanced all the ledgers, to turn to a day off without the slightest feeling of guilt. Yet what is worse is that this characteristic is also reflected in the approach of the state. True, the number of gazetted holidays — when institutions such as banks cannot open for business even if they wanted to — has been reduced from what it used to be.

The casual onlooker could be forgiven for thinking that Pakistanis have done everything that needed to be done, solved all equations and balanced all the ledgers, to turn to a day off without the slightest feeling of guilt. Yet what is worse is that this characteristic is also reflected in the approach of the state. True, the number of gazetted holidays — when institutions such as banks cannot open for business even if they wanted to — has been reduced from what it used to be.

Nevertheless, the state misses few chances to signal to the populace that there’s no need for the wheels of industry, banking, finance and so on to keep turning; that a cup of tea and rest can achieve the needful.

Take, for example, the shutdown over Eid earlier this week. The government had announced a national holiday for the day of sacrifice itself, followed by two more holidays. But the slowdown started from Friday and the employees of several government offices are sure to include the coming weekend as well.

Can the country afford lengthy shutdowns when it is not just losing revenue on account of work not done but is also delinked from the global banking and financial worlds? Consider just a couple of rough calculations: the daily turnover for the Karachi Stock Exchange varies from day to day, but the last figure recorded was Rs6bn.

The maths for a three-day shutdown is simple. Retail and wholesale contribute Rs13bn a day to GDP, while manufacturing is Rs14bn. Revenue has been forgone from many other sectors as well. But tell that not to the state of Pakistan and its citizens, both of which evidently feel that this country is so rich that a few days’ income lost is no problem at all.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2014

Flood assistance farce

Editorial

THE government has made a sudden appeal for cash assistance from donor agencies to deal with the destruction caused by the latest floods.

THE government has made a sudden appeal for cash assistance from donor agencies to deal with the destruction caused by the latest floods.

The appeal comes a week after the donors had been assured that no assistance would be required. It has been delivered to them through a bureaucrat in the finance ministry, instead of by the minister himself, who, it seems, is too busy in a roadshow to raise funds for the Diamer Bhasha dam project.

The donors want a detailed damage assessment, as well as an action plan for rehabilitating the victims, before the request can be entertained. The authorities say that a variety of flood relief funds have been set up by the federal government as well as the Punjab government, and the donors should simply deposit cash assistance into these.

This is the fifth consecutive year of floods in Pakistan, and each episode has seen an appeal for international assistance.

Meanwhile, the donor agencies and their respective governments are entitled to wonder what steps Pakistan has taken to increase its preparedness for what is clearly becoming an annual trend.

Have forecasting capabilities been improved? Have SOPs been created for the myriad government departments involved in managing the consequences of flooding while the disaster unfolds? Are rapid assessments drawn up in the aftermath of each episode? If so, why is there a sudden about-turn in asking for assistance this year?

The World Bank has offered Pakistan the services of state-of-the-art flood forecasting technology that successfully predicted the previous two flooding episodes with a 10-day lead time. But the offer has been greeted with complete disinterest by the government.

Currently, forecasts are issued with 48-hour lead time at best, which is grossly insufficient. Technology exists which can increase this lead time to 10 days and this technology has been offered to Pakistan.

Not only that, there is no single government department that is tasked with coordinating the response once a flood alert has been issued. Instead, the same game is played out every year, with a muddled and uncoordinated response once the flood peak actually arrives, followed by the same finger-pointing and blame game in the aftermath of the deluge.

Once the waters subside, the same appeals emerge to build more hydrological infrastructure as a flood-control mechanism. Donors might want to think twice about entertaining the request for cash assistance without a detailed plan of action.

They should insist that a proper disaster preparedness plan be drawn up first, which must include measures to upgrade forecasting capabilities as well as an action plan for coordinating the response once the flood alert has been issued. Muddling through the same disaster year after year, and following this up with requests for cash assistance and hydrological infrastructure, is turning into a farce. And nobody is laughing.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2014

LG poll mess

Editorial

THE Supreme Court’s ire is understandable. On Friday, the chief justice asked why his predecessor’s directive for holding local government elections by Nov 15 had not been carried out.

THE Supreme Court’s ire is understandable. On Friday, the chief justice asked why his predecessor’s directive for holding local government elections by Nov 15 had not been carried out.

The response by those representing the provincial governments in question was a pathetic resort to legal and administrative nostrums to justify inaction on the issue. And when Sindh’s assistant advocate general apologised to the chief justice, the latter replied he ought to apologise to the Constitution which had been violated. The chief justice wondered why the provincial governments had to wait for the judiciary to act instead of acting on their own.

The court seemed displeased when the Sindh AAG said he had prepared a draft law that would authorise the ECP to carry out the delimitation of constituencies. The chief justice asked why the law had not been made earlier, and that even if an ordinance were promulgated within a week, it would still not be possible to hold the polls by Nov 15.

The court was also witness to the KP government’s quarrels with the ECP when its advocate general said the election body had not agreed to the provincial government’s request for electronic voting and to hold the polls in phases for security reasons. As for Punjab, its additional advocate general blamed the federal government for failing to respond to the suggestions it had made with regard to the ECP’s power to delimit the constituencies.

The provinces’ recourse to administrative and semi-legal excuses betrays their anxiety to evade local government elections because they are not sure how the people will vote and provincial lawmakers feel their authority will be challenged.

While Punjab and Sindh had a problem with delimitation, KP had no such issue and should have gone ahead with the polls. Instead, the KP government, too, has fallen in line with the other two provinces, as if in an unholy alliance, to deny grass-roots democracy to their people.

The ECP too cannot escape the blame for this mess; it gave Jan 8 last as the date for the polls and then requested the court for a postponement since the date was unrealistic. However, the ECP’s point that delimitation is not possible without a census is valid.

For that exercise, it is the federal government that has to stir itself. In other words, all those who matter — the federal government, the three provinces and the ECP — have combined to deny grass-roots democracy to the people.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2014

PPP’s role in Punjab

Editorial

THE shoe is on the other foot now and the PPP in Punjab is finding that it pinches somewhat.

THE shoe is on the other foot now and the PPP in Punjab is finding that it pinches somewhat.

When the PPP led the coalition that was in power in Islamabad, the PML-N often suffered taunts from opponents and criticism from within over its so-called friendly opposition stance.

While history suggests that the PML-N was not unequivocally supportive of the PPP-led government in order to see through an important transition – the N-League quit the government soon after joining it in 2008; it led the long march that resulted in the reinstatement of chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and played a starring role in the ‘Memogate’ saga – by and large the party leadership was neither a fierce critic of nor attacked the PPP as it had in the 1990s.

Now, with the PPP nearly wiped out electorally in Punjab, various voices from Punjab in the PPP camp are calling for giving the PML-N a tougher time, with concern surely rising that politics in the province has become a two-horse race between the PML-N and PTI.

Yet, former president and PPP supremo Asif Ali Zardari has rejected the demands from certain quarters in the party and rightly so.

Firstly, Mr Zardari is right to emphasise the need for democratic stability and for the party to play its role in ensuring that anti-democratic forces do not encroach further on civilian turf. Secondly, many of the dissidents in the PPP camp can hardly claim to have the party’s interests ahead of their own: the names in the mix at the moment are known to have shopped around for tickets from other parties ahead of last year’s election and may have one foot out of the party already.

Thirdly, playing the role of a meaningful political opposition goes far beyond what the dissident camp is suggesting: essentially mimicking the PTI style of opposition politics. If the PPP is to revive its fortunes in Punjab, it will need a forward-looking and positive message as the days of surviving on rhetorical anti-PML-N politics are long over.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2014

Polio: our badge of shame

Editorial

THE sorry tale of Pakistan’s abysmal performance in practically all global development and welfare indicators is equalled, perhaps, only by the state’s stubborn, almost criminal, refusal to undertake the task at hand.

THE sorry tale of Pakistan’s abysmal performance in practically all global development and welfare indicators is equalled, perhaps, only by the state’s stubborn, almost criminal, refusal to undertake the task at hand.

Nothing, it seems can bestir the administrators of this country, regardless of whichever party is in power, into taking their responsibilities seriously.

Consider, for example, the fact that Pakistan made history on Friday: it broke its own record of polio cases, with eight additional cases being reported on this day, bringing this year’s tally — so far — to 202. The last time we saw such a high number of confirmations was in 2000, when 199 cases were recorded.

This regression is all the more distressing when it is considered that hardly 10 years ago, the indications were that the spread of the crippling virus was being brought under control in the country and there was hope that soon Pakistan too would join the majority of the globe’s nations that had proved themselves polio-free.

That this sorry state of affairs comes after international authorities concluded that Pakistan is in danger of reintroducing the virus to other countries, and the World Health Organisation recommended travel restrictions on unvaccinated travellers from Pakistan, is a damning indictment of the authorities’ lackadaisical attitude.

Almost all figures in political and bureaucratic circles have, at some point or the other, over the months past professed their recognition of the issue and their commitment to eradicating polio.

The fact that none of these people have subsequently put in any sustained action, or organised concerted and meaningful efforts, means that they were simply using it as a photo-op.

From Imran Khan to Maulana Samiul Haq, from Aseefa Bhutto Zardari to Maryam Nawaz, to say nothing of those directly involved such as the heads of the prime minister’s focal team for polio and the officials of the health department — all have professed their commitment to protecting future generations from this dreaded disease. And yet, there has been no sustained action at all; if anything, the issue only continues to worsen.

The travel advisory constitutes a reminder of the pariah status Pakistan faces if polio is not brought under control. While funds from international donors have been pouring in to bolster Pakistan’s own efforts and resources, all they have elicited are promises that have proved false and half-baked measures, such as the non-functional system of checking for vaccination certificates at airports.

The world could be forgiven for wondering what it will take to get Pakistan to put its own house in order in this regard. There is, perhaps, only one thing left to say now. The political classes are once again mulling over the shape of the country’s future; they need reminding that no future at all is possible with a crippled population.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2014

Sounding the alarm

Editorial

THERE was an unmistakable sense of urgency in the tone and choice of words of the Saudi grand mufti as he delivered the Haj sermon on Friday. Speaking to around two million hajis gathered in the plain of Arafat for the climax of the pilgrimage, Shaikh Abdul Aziz al-Shaikh sounded the alarm bell against the self-styled Islamic State without specifically naming the group. But the context of the sermon left little doubt who the cleric was referring to. Shaikh Abdul Aziz implored Muslim leaders to strike hard “the enemies of Islam” who were responsible for “vile crimes … and terrorism” driven by a “deviant ideology”. The Saudi preacher’s unease is understandable; after all, the expansionist IS controls considerable swathes of territory across the border in Iraq and in Syria, not too far from the kingdom’s northern frontiers. There are also credible reports that thousands of Saudi nationals are fighting for extremist groups in both Iraq and Syria. So the symbolism of using Islam’s most important global gathering of the year to sound the battle cry against IS has not been lost.

THERE was an unmistakable sense of urgency in the tone and choice of words of the Saudi grand mufti as he delivered the Haj sermon on Friday. Speaking to around two million hajis gathered in the plain of Arafat for the climax of the pilgrimage, Shaikh Abdul Aziz al-Shaikh sounded the alarm bell against the self-styled Islamic State without specifically naming the group. But the context of the sermon left little doubt who the cleric was referring to. Shaikh Abdul Aziz implored Muslim leaders to strike hard “the enemies of Islam” who were responsible for “vile crimes … and terrorism” driven by a “deviant ideology”. The Saudi preacher’s unease is understandable; after all, the expansionist IS controls considerable swathes of territory across the border in Iraq and in Syria, not too far from the kingdom’s northern frontiers. There are also credible reports that thousands of Saudi nationals are fighting for extremist groups in both Iraq and Syria. So the symbolism of using Islam’s most important global gathering of the year to sound the battle cry against IS has not been lost.

While the Saudi mufti’s call for action against the violent extremists is indeed timely, there are a number of factors that Saudi ulema, as well as clerics in other Muslim states, along with the governments of Muslim nations, need to ponder over to get to the root of the problem. After all, IS and other jihadi outfits have not sprouted overnight. In this particular context, in Iraq and Syria such groups have been used by foreign powers to destabilise the incumbent governments. If the Saudi and other Gulf Arab states have not directly been involved in creating and funding Islamist militant groups, they are certainly guilty of looking the other way as private funds from their nations have flowed into jihadi coffers. And now that the militant groups have become too hot to handle, Arab governments have launched an armed campaign against them. Pakistan has experienced a similar situation and is learning the hard way that patronising extremists can be a double-edged sword; the militants can just as easily turn their guns on their masters should things go awry. The Saudis and all other Muslim states need to realise that using jihadi proxies against other states is extremely bad foreign policy and can boomerang in horrible ways. Once this realisation sinks in at the official level, the grand mufti’s call can have greater impact.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2014

PTI’s hydel vision

Editorial

One of the better things that the PTI government in KP has done is to give a new push to microhydel power generation schemes.

One of the better things that the PTI government in KP has done is to give a new push to microhydel power generation schemes.

Most recently, their attempts to pursue the Gorkin Matiltan hydropower project (84MW) in Swat has met with resistance in the Central Development Working Party, a government department tasked with approving projects whose cost is less than Rs3bn.

Members of the CDWP, which is run by the PML-N federal government, say the project cost is too high, and that the cost of the electricity it will generate is also too high for a hydel project. They compare this project with another one in KP which was completed at slightly below the cost of Gorkin Matiltan.

It is hard to avoid the impression that the resistance to this project is political. If the CDWP members, which is chaired by the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, Ahsan Iqbal, are serious about comparing the project costs of Gorkin Matiltan with that of Duber Khwar, they should also note that the latter was begun more than a decade ago.

The first electricity ever generated in the territories we now call Pakistan was from a microhydel scheme in Renala Khurd. The next larger power generation was also a microhydel scheme in Malakand valley, built by the British in the 1920s.

There was a vision to provide much of Pakistan’s power needs through myriad such schemes in the canals and mountains, but it fell by the wayside with the arrival of American aid in the form of mega dams. The PTI government has recently given new life to the vision, and is taking concrete steps on the ground to implement it.

In return, the PML-N government, which never raised concerns about the cost of generation from the Nandipur project, is obstructing the scheme, arguing its costs are too high. Again, it is hard not to see this as obstructionist politics standing in the way of reviving a promising vision, and innovative approaches, to solving Pakistan’s power crisis.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2014

Columns and Articles

Trust and dependability

Faisal Bari

EVERY game has rules. Playing the game well is not measured only through winning and losing, it is also judged by how it is actually played. Breaking rules and getting away with it, even if that means a win, is not considered fair or desirable. Cleverness, within the rules, is acceptable, but pushing beyond the rules or the spirit of the game does not garner respectability for teams and players.

EVERY game has rules. Playing the game well is not measured only through winning and losing, it is also judged by how it is actually played. Breaking rules and getting away with it, even if that means a win, is not considered fair or desirable. Cleverness, within the rules, is acceptable, but pushing beyond the rules or the spirit of the game does not garner respectability for teams and players.

If players emphasise quality, put in hard work to prepare for the game, irrespective of winning or losing, they earn the respect of both spectators and their opponents. Winning or losing is not in the players’ control in any case; they can only control their intentions and attitudes and their level of preparedness, the means they will employ on the field and their effort during the game.

The outcome of a game is dependent on several factors and is not, usually, in the control of any one player — though, of course, there is a correlation between player preparedness, effort and outcome.

Our praise, thus, should not be dependent on outcomes alone. It should take into account how players have gone about playing the game. Player incentives should also not be based exclusively on outcomes, but on a broader set of objectives: preparedness, effort, talent and performance.

What holds for games, holds for most other areas too. How do we judge if a person has been and is worthy of public office? Does he/she play by the rules? Does he/she have the requisite training or qualification? Does he/she put in the effort? If so, they deserve to be in office. If not, they do not.

Those who do not have the right training, do not play by the rules and do not put in the effort, end up creating a trust deficit irrespective of the outcome. Trust has very interesting properties. It is built up slowly: a person has to be trustworthy in many actions and situations before trust is fully developed. But, even a single deviation, a single dishonest action can destroy trust that may have been built up over months or years. Once trust is lost, rebuilding it is even harder.

Currently, many of our institutions, organisations and individuals suffer from the problem. Does anyone in Pakistan believe figures that the government gives for inflation, GDP growth or unemployment in the country? Is it any surprise that people do not trust government figures and pronouncements?

Over the last 15-20 years how many times have government figures been challenged by international and national organisations? How many times has the government ended up with egg on its face when having to acknowledge its mistakes? And they have not emerged from these controversies unscathed — in terms of the loss of trust too.

Most recently there was a controversy on the GDP growth rate achieved last year as well as the one budgeted for next year. The government has not been able to resolve the issue. The IMF was given one figure and there was another one for the people in Pakistan. When this was pointed out, it was said that the figure given to the IMF was a ‘misprint’. Can anyone believe that a government would, while giving one of the most important figures to its main lender, allow a misprint to go through? And if it was a misprint why was nobody punished for the error?

Government efforts at calling it a ‘misprint’ have only increased the suspicion that the government has been trying to cover up things after being caught red-handed. Subsequent lies have only increased suspicions. The amount of energy that has gone into the controversy around the GDP growth figure recently, with the government giving different figures, holding information back from the people to suit the launch of bonds, trying to manage lenders and borrowers, and facing challenges from international as well as local observers, though significant, seems to have only lowered trust levels further.

Dependability is important for positions of leadership. But in conditions where trust levels are low, dependability suffers.

One reason why most of the current political leaders are not having a good time right now is that almost none of them enjoy any trust on the part of the population at large or even their followers. There seems to be sufficient circumstantial or real evidence over the real or presumed wrongdoing of all. The arguments, even from the supporters of one leader or another, are about their leader being the better of the lot or being the lesser evil or, at best, an untried entity. The issue of ‘let our turn come’ typifies these defences.

Lack of trust and dependability leads to fear as well. We fear giving power and authority to our leaders. All of our leaders’ actions, irrespective of intentions, lead to fears of corruption, nepotism and self-interest. This creates a vicious cycle of lack of trust and lack of empowerment.

We have tax officers to collect tax. But we do not trust them so we create space for officers who keep an eye on tax officers. Then we have the FIA keep an eye on the tax department as a whole. And then we have NAB to keep an eye on all. I am sure I have missed other agencies. Finally, there is the judiciary to ensure that the executive, as a whole, is kept in check. But has the entire system delivered more trust and dependability? Fear has only led to more fear and uncertainty.

How do we create systems where we elect and select people who have the right qualities for positions of power, authority and responsibility? How do we select or elect the right people? Clearly, trustworthiness is an important criterion to look for. But how is this quality to be selected? That will be ‘the’ question for the next election and beyond given the direction of the current political dialogue in the country.

The writer is senior adviser, Pakistan, at Open Society Foundations, associate professor of economics, LUMS, and a visiting fellow at IDEAS, Lahore.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2014

Near yet so very far

Asha’ar Rehman

THE privileged Bahria Town on the outskirts of Lahore is the place from where Asif Ali Zardari has been conducting his politics for the last few days — betraying containment more than ability and a desire for adventure. He has met a few odd people outside the coterie and there’s some suspense about what he could accomplish, an expectation based on his reputation as master of patchwork. There is little in terms of a direction having been found or cadres discovered or rediscovered.

THE privileged Bahria Town on the outskirts of Lahore is the place from where Asif Ali Zardari has been conducting his politics for the last few days — betraying containment more than ability and a desire for adventure. He has met a few odd people outside the coterie and there’s some suspense about what he could accomplish, an expectation based on his reputation as master of patchwork. There is little in terms of a direction having been found or cadres discovered or rediscovered.

The most significant ramblings have been away from the close circle, by those who have shown the courage to question PPP politics over and above the manners and etiquette imposed on them by the rules of dynastic politics. Without too much of an effort these ‘dissenters’ can be viewed as the true well-wishers of the party.

They are obviously different from dissenters of the past. They are not like those who had sided with Gen Ziaul Haq all those years back to save their necks. They cannot be compared with the patriots who were overtaken by a desire to rule alongside Gen Pervez Musharraf as the PPP leadership wondered how much and when it could cooperate with him.

If these past crossovers were seen to have come in defiance of the party’s justified and justifiable stands, the talk of exodus from the PPP today is primarily, if not solely, sustained by the ‘strange’ politics practised by its leadership. If in the past the less persistent and more impatient cadres left the party, today it is the insistent and eerily patient leadership that is distancing itself from the party.

Ultimately, the PPP dissenters might be lured away to join another party, the PTI being a likely new home for them. For now, however, when a Firdaus Ashiq Awan urges the PPP leadership to review policy she is identified as the party’s friend.

The PPP has been thinking. Its current approach is based on deliberations, with the famed Zardari acumen apparently providing it with finality. Occasionally, there are remarks that betray the various strands of thinking within the party.

In Lahore with Asif Zardari, party stalwart Makhdoon Amin Fahim did last week discuss the possibility of snap polls to resolve the crisis created by the dharnas in Islamabad. Soon afterwards, another prominent PPP leader, former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, also hinted at going to the voters mid-term as the most likely solution to the problem.

Another former prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, is a PPP politician who has managed a balanced path where he has openly criticised the PML-N for creating this PTI-PAT trouble for itself. Gilani, who is said to be quite close to Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, has reasons to complain about the strategy and tactics that Asif Zardari has employed to ensure for himself the illusion of a comfortable cruise, with questionable destination.

When Gilani was ousted as prime minster under a court decree, one theory quite popular among PPP ranks advised shedding the reconciliatory refrain and taking on the more traditional combative mode. That did not happen; Gilani has not only been protesting his sacrifice, he also had his sympathisers and those who thought he had adopted a sounder line in the given circumstances.

In recent times, the ex-prime minister from Multan has had to deal with other fallout linked with his party’s policy of not contesting political space with the PML-N. There is a by-election approaching in his city in which a man, until recently a Gilani lieutenant in southern Punjab, is vying for a National Assembly seat with PTI backing. He is going to take on Javed Hashmi and a PPP candidate.

Gilani’s own local preferences might have had a role in Amir Dogar — until recently an avowed PPP jiyala — choosing to slip over to the camp of the PTI. But this is not just a local case and unlikely to be an isolated one. The alienation that facilitates the PPP man’s defection has taken effect over time, the blame for which should lie with those who control the party nationally.

Bilawal Zardari has in recent times reacted to these undercurrents within the PPP. One of his much-talked about responses was an open letter to the party members, beseeching them to not ditch him. Unfortunately for the young man, his timing was off and his apology coincided with Imran Khan’s scaling of the Minar in Lahore.

The PTI, justifiably, thinks the PPP orchards are ripe for some seasonal plucking. Imran’s associates have leapt at the opportunity, wooing the jiyalas to their camp. The command of this PTI attack on the ‘Zardari party’ rests with Shah Mehmood Qureshi, ex-PPP. The PPP leadership which had chosen to not be overtly perturbed by the PML-N’s doings is now pitted formally against the PTI, which was unavoidable.

However, the unhappy and ignored PPP cadres might have been more willing to resist the PTI onslaught had their leadership been ready to grant them their wish of being vocal and combative against the PML-N. Bilawal is right in thinking that, alternately, they might decide to keep the old opponent and shift to a new party.

That will not be sufficient for the PPP. The task this time is not to awaken the supporters with an old mixture of cajoling and shouting. The supporters have to be found first.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2014

Legacy of tolerance

Anwar Abbas

UNCONTROLLED violence manifests itself at different points and in vastly different ways. Violence today suggests that tolerance is at a breaking point. Scratch the apparently God-fearing, ritualised and placid life of the 180 million or so people of this Muslim country and you will find a tangle of envy, suspicion, hatred and many insatiable animosities.

UNCONTROLLED violence manifests itself at different points and in vastly different ways. Violence today suggests that tolerance is at a breaking point. Scratch the apparently God-fearing, ritualised and placid life of the 180 million or so people of this Muslim country and you will find a tangle of envy, suspicion, hatred and many insatiable animosities.

All over the world there are manifestations of intolerance, xenophobia and religious and political extremism with deadly consequences for the lives and properties of people. What is even more deplorable is the incitement to religious and sectarian hatred when members of one religion or sect refuse to tolerate the beliefs and religious practices of others.

Is this consistent with the spirit of Islamic teachings and culture? Let us find out from history.

In an age dominated by narrow concepts of race and sect and class, the outstanding characteristic of early Islamic culture was its fine spirit of tolerance. This is true in spite of the centuries-old propaganda spread by ignorant and malicious quarters that Islam has a narrow and dogmatic ideology and that it was imposed on the world ‘through the sword’. This is perhaps the unhappy legacy of the Crusades when the two most important proselytising religions of the world, Islam and Christianity, confronted one another; propaganda was even then one of the great weapons of war.

Even in the 20th century a scholar like David Margoliouth, who wrote extensively on Islam, and a standard work like the Encyclopaedia Britannica have made statements about Islam and its Prophet (PBUH) which would be ludicrous if they were not tragic. Such statements deepen the misunderstandings and prejudices that make international concord difficult.

Those who wish to make a fair appraisal of the teachings of Islam are well advised to read Allama Iqbal’s The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Maulana Azad’s introduction of Tarjumanal Quran or Syed Ameer Ali’s The Spirit of Islam. Here is a paragraph from The Spirit of Islam characterising the supreme tolerance and justice of Islam:

“To the Christians of Nazareth and the surrounding territories the security of Allah and the pledge of His Prophet (PBUH) are extended for their lives, their religions, and their property — the present as well as the absent, and other besides; there shall be no interference with the practice of their faith or their observations; nor any change in their rights or privileges; no bishop shall be removed from his bishopric, nor any monk from his monastery, nor any priest from his priesthood, and they shall continue to enjoy everything, great and small, as heretofore; no image or cross shall be destroyed; they shall not oppress nor be oppressed; they shall not practise the rights of blood vengeance as in the Days of Ignorance; no tithes shall be levied from them, nor shall they be required to furnish provisions for the troops.”

Islamic culture derives its spirit of tolerance from the basic teachings of the faith. Islam does not teach or maintain that it is the only true religion, while all other religions are mere heresies. It is a part of a Muslim’s faith that every people and every age has had its prophets who showed the right path according to the needs of the times. The Prophet of Islam crystallised and completed the great work done by the earlier prophets and taught his followers to hold them in high esteem.

In the words of the Quran, every nation has been sent prophets. How refreshingly different is this view from one which consigns the followers of all other religions (and viewpoints) to the torment of hell. It ensures the fullest freedom of belief and worship to persons of all faiths.

By and large Muslims present a gratifying record of both practical and intellectual tolerance of other faiths, peoples and cultures. The intense religious fanaticism that characterised the Spanish Inquisition was conspicuously absent in Muslim countries where Jews carried out their religious pursuits unhindered. Intellectually Islamic culture borrowed large-heartedly from Greek culture. Indeed, the Hellenistic tradition, on which Western culture is based, did not come directly from the Greeks but through the Muslims who preserved it, added to it and passed it on to Europe when it emerged from the ‘dark ages.’

Those Muslims of Pakistan who wield the sword and the dagger, the bullet and the bomb would do well to recall Iqbal’s definition of a momin:

“He is sword against unrighteousness and a shield for truth…. Great is his forgiveness, his sense of justice, his generosity, his kindness. … Even in a fit of wrath, his temper retains its balance.”

The writer is a freelance contributor with an interest in religion.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2014

Privatised welfare

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

AMONG the many casualties of the propaganda war that continues to play out on our TV screens in the name of ‘revolution’ and ‘azadi’ is a meaningful countrywide debate over one of the elected government’s few consistent policy initiatives, the privatisation of state-owned enterprises.

AMONG the many casualties of the propaganda war that continues to play out on our TV screens in the name of ‘revolution’ and ‘azadi’ is a meaningful countrywide debate over one of the elected government’s few consistent policy initiatives, the privatisation of state-owned enterprises.

The planned floating of shares of the highly profitable OGDCL and PPL on the London and New York stock exchanges should, in particular, be garnering a great deal more attention than it currently is.

Privatisation has arguably been the flagship of the neo-liberal counter-revolution over the past three decades. Across the world, the state has slimmed down into a lean, mean capital-friendly machine, relinquishing res­ponsi­bility for public services such as transport, education and unemployment insurance.

Since the end of the Cold War multinationals have made a beeline for oil, gas and minerals in the former Soviet republics, as well as regions previously untouched by foreign exploration. For example, during the Musharraf years unprecedented access was provided to Chinese and other companies to initiate intensive extraction of natural resources in Balochistan.

Indeed, the ongoing mini civil war in the Baloch heartland cannot be understood without reference to what is a ruthless international struggle for control over a wealth of untapped minerals and energy resources. The Pakistani state is but one player in this game; even military functions that states previously monopolised can be subcontracted to serve larger profit-making purposes.

Oil, gas and precious minerals may be the most high-profile targets of private capital, but it is the divestment of basic services — those that directly affect ordinary people — that give rise to the process’ most insidious effects.

Privatisation of the health sector has arguably been the most scandalous affair, both because of the stealth with which it has been accomplished and its widespread impact. Today private foundations are amongst the biggest sources of money for research and actual provision of health services. The Gates Foundation itself contributes almost as much as the US and UK governments to global health, which gives it tremendous power to mould health policy regimes.

Quite aside from the preposterous resistance that exists in this country to rudimentary preventive healthcare such as polio vaccination, the political economy of international donors and NGOs that these donors fund demands serious interrogation; for instance, the CIA’s tracking down of Osama bin Laden under the guise of a vaccination programme seriously compromised the presumed neutrality of NGO activities in the country.

Privatisation of welfare in this country is significant for a different reason altogether. Anyone with some exposure to the Pakistani street knows that the religious right has a significant presence in everything from emergency health services to the collection of hides (ostensibly for the poor) during qurbani season. This has not happened by chance.

Progressives, my­self included, spend a lot of time eluci­dating the Pakistani state’s historic patro­nage of religious militancy. In doing so, we often neglect the just as important development of the right wing’s welfare capacities that have allowed it to capture social and political space to complement its militant presence.

While the relatively apolitical Edhi Foun­dation was for a long time the only credible provider of health services outside of the state, since the 1990s groups such as the Falah-i-Insa­niyat Foundation (read: Lashkar-e-Taibaa/Jamaatud Dawa) and Al-Khidmat Foundation (Jamaat-i-Islami) have emerged as significant players in the field.

Over the past few years these groups have grea­tly enhanced their visibility and reach in the immediate aftermath of earthquakes, floods etc. Eyewitness reports confirm that the religious right is given privileged access to otherwise restricted areas, which is to suggest deliberate manipulation by state functionaries.

A glaring example of this was in Awaran following the devastating earthquake there in 2013; the entry of foreign aid workers, journalists and even provincial government operatives was regulated by paramilitary and army officials, but the Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation was allowed unrestricted access.

These fronts for the religious right do much more than provide the health services which they otherwise discharge.

Certainly the handing over of the state’s responsibilities for health to the religious right is a deliberate political act, above and beyond standard neo-liberal orthodoxy. It is thus that many Pakistanis have internalised not only that basic services are the right of those who can pay for them, but also the legitimate claims of the religious establishment to being a parallel government because it is religio-political groups that demonstrate at least some political will as far as addressing working people’s everyday needs is concerned. This is why the struggle against the right wing is about much more than just defeating obscurantism.

The writer teaches at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2014

Populism’s second coming

I.A. Rehman

Populist rhetoric has been used to sustain the Islamabad dharnas long enough to justify an inquiry into its impact on the country’s politics.

Populist rhetoric has been used to sustain the Islamabad dharnas long enough to justify an inquiry into its impact on the country’s politics.

This is the second time in Pakistan’s history that populist politics is being offered as the panacea for all ills, the first one being the populism of the PPP 47 years ago. A comparison between the two populist waves should be quite rewarding.

The PPP’s populism had quite a few extraordinary features. It had its roots in great turmoil at home and abroad. The people had taken to the streets not only to seek Ayub Khan’s ouster from power but to replace the system of controlled democracy imposed by the dictator with a representative government. They had risen in revolt against exploitation by the 22 privileged families.

The movement had also received a boost from the Vietnamese people’s heroic resistance to a superpower that had broken all records of aerial bombardment. The anti-imperialist wave that was sweeping the globe had not bypassed Pakistan. No discussion on the people’s plight was possible without reference to the country’s dependence on the controllers of the world capital.

The people had acquired ideas of freedom from Cold War shackles, the right to self-rule and social justice before they were picked up by political parties. One has to take a look at the political parties’ election manifestos of 1970 to realise the extent to which all parties, including conservative religious groups, were trying to woo the electorate from left-of-centre planks.

The founders of the PPP tried to harness public yearning for an egalitarian order by spelling out, in their foundation papers, the nature and scale of the change they wanted, or they thought the people wanted. It was in this milieu that matchless slogans, such as roti, kapra aur makan — food, clothing, and shelter — and jera wahway ohi khaway, (the land belongs to the tiller) gained currency.

This populist upsurge produced significant changes in social behaviour, especially among the underprivileged. The common man found his voice. The worker had learnt to talk to the employer during the anti-Ayub movement, now the tenant began to challenge the landlord.

Since the PPP’s populist demands were derived from the people’s experiences they helped the party secure an electoral victory beyond its expectations, thanks to its success in winning over activists from older parties who had been struggling for socio-economic change for many years.

Even this robust populism fizzled out. How this came about is not the subject of this piece. It is, however, necessary to point out that populism fails because it assumes the possibility of change as a push-button operation, without the support of social forces that understand the dynamics of change and are also capable of throwing up qualified cadres. These change-makers must be strong enough to defeat the forces of the status quo.

The present wave of populism is manifestly different from the earlier phenomenon. It comprises two different tracks. While Dr Tahirul Qadri has from the very beginning called for a change of the system of governance, Imran Khan’s objective at the start of his march was only the removal of the prime minister, followed by an independent probe into his allegations of rigging during the 2013 election. This process could lead to a fresh election but that was not an explicit part of the agenda.

Both the challengers have been relying on populist rhetoric with a view to strengthening their claim to power. Piqued by the criticism that his assault on the Sharifs represented a split in the Punjab elite, Imran Khan began recognising other federating units. As hopes of a quick victory faded away both Qadri and Imran Khan began discovering the plight of the underprivileged. When they talk of corruption and favouritism in administration or denial of education and employment to the youth or the failing economy of the agricultural community they touch on matters the people wish to see resolved without delay.

This populism without limits amounts to preparing a huge wish list that neither of the two challengers has tried to present in the form of a credible programme of action — and one fails to notice among the dignitaries that assemble on the containers for the daily drill the human material needed to translate dreams of a social revolution into reality.

While the dharna wish list is quite impressive the omissions are not only significant they also betray the principals behind the agitation. There is sympathy for peasants but land reform cannot be mentioned; labour is offered friendship but little is said about its right to collective bargaining; police are warned against committing excesses but there is no indication of a new plan for reform; and militant religiosity and the imbalance in civil-military relations are matters still outside the agenda for national uplift. The weaknesses of the present flush of populism hardly need elaboration.

Populist movements have a poor record of success and the cost of their failure can be heavy. Indira Gandhi’s populism, that earned Tariq Ali a citation in the Oxford dictionary, degenerated into arbitrary rule and an assault on the people’s basic freedoms. Similar will often be the result of populist campaigns for the simple reason that the expectations they arouse cannot be realised by pushing a button here or waving a staff there.

This is not to deny the contribution populism can make to the movement of ideas. The Democratic Party of the United States needed a man of Franklin Roosevelt’s will and calibre to profit from the manifesto of the Populist Party of America many years after that organisation had expired. His New Deal proved, perhaps for all times, that there can be situations when the lords of rightist politics can find in an opening to the left the only route to national revival. After all, the best of populism is often a pale reflection of left ideals minus the scientific foundations.

One wonders whether Pakistan’s present–day populists have the capacity to learn from the fate of their predecessors at home and abroad.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2014

Flooding priorities

Khurram Husain

IN the last five monsoon seasons, Pakistan has seen five floods. That means each year since 2010 has brought a massive flood that has affected the lives of millions of people in each case. Each flood has been caused by unusual rains. And the rainfall-producing storm systems in at least three of these years — from 2010 till 2012 — have been studied very carefully by a group of meteorologists who argue in their latest paper that these storms are not normal monsoon systems.

IN the last five monsoon seasons, Pakistan has seen five floods. That means each year since 2010 has brought a massive flood that has affected the lives of millions of people in each case. Each flood has been caused by unusual rains. And the rainfall-producing storm systems in at least three of these years — from 2010 till 2012 — have been studied very carefully by a group of meteorologists who argue in their latest paper that these storms are not normal monsoon systems.

For the last couple of months, I have immersed myself in a careful reading of papers from the cutting edge of meteorological research being carried out on Pakistan’s flood-producing storms and the anomalous weather patterns behind them. The first results from my readings appear in the latest edition of Herald, this newspaper’s sister publication, as two long format reports. In this column, let me give a quick synopsis.

Scientific studies of the Indian monsoon, on whose western edge we sit, began in the late 19th century by the British colonial government following a deadly drought that led to mass starvation across the subcontinent. The Indian Met Department (IMD) was created in the aftermath of that event, and its first two directors general — Messrs Blanford and Walker — were the first people to begin detailed scientific observations of the annual cycle of rains that sustained life in such critical ways across British India.

From the earliest observations, two different directions emerged. Blanford searched for a land-based link between the monsoon system and the weather patterns that produced the winter snowfalls in the Himalayas. Walker on the other hand, was the first to discern a link between a peculiar seesaw-like variation in atmospheric pressure between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. This seesaw mechanism came to be connected later with the phenomenon known as El Nino.

As the volume of meteorological measurements being undertaken increased over the decades of the 20th century, the two lines of inquiry initiated by these two men began to bear fruit. For most of the 20th century, meteorologists focused on the El Nino link and growing volumes of research output added more flesh to the proposition that the great Southern Oscillation, as the pressure reversal brought about by El Nino was called, holds the secret to forecasting the monsoon rains in India.

But forecasting the monsoon rains with any meaningful exactitude remained elusive, although it became possible to say with some measure of probabilistic certitude how wet the forthcoming wet season might be. Yet despite the increasingly technological sophistication of the data and the statistical models being used for meteorological observations, the IMD was wrong more often than it was right in its forecasts.

This year, for instance, the IMD forecasted a dry monsoon season, with below average rains and even the possibility of drought. A newly launched private weather forecasting service in India came to the same conclusion, citing the appearance of El Nino in the Pacific in April, saying that a drought is likely across North India with monsoons being far below average.

The CEO of the private service was even quoted, in July, saying if there are no rains in July then the monsoon will most likely fail. The drought was going to be particularly intense in the northwest, according to both of these services.

The Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) also acknowledged the appearance of El Nino this year in April, but hedged its forecast, saying “irregular rains” are likely this season.

The rains were certainly irregular. When they came they were so heavy as to submerge the provincial capital of the very region that the IMD and the private forecaster were saying would be at the epicentre of a drought. In fact, a report by Deutsche Bank, widely cited in the Indian media, looked in detail at the IMD’s forecasts over the last 20 years and found that they have been correct in only four years. A coin toss is more likely to give you a more accurate result.

The story has been largely the same every year since 2010. Why are the Met Departments having such a hard time detecting these storms with any meaningful lead time? This year, all Met Departments gave their flood alert barely 48 hours ahead of the flood peak, grossly insufficient time in which to organise a response.

Part of the answer takes us back to the differences between the approaches taken by Blanford and Walker. New research is finding out that the El Nino connection might be overstated, that the Indian monsoon interacts with weather systems in the Eurasian landmass as well as more distant systems. It’s also telling us that the very structure of the monsoon system appears to be changing, producing rainfall patterns that are entirely anomalous.

While details are contained in the longer report, for now it’s enough to say the following. Flood forecasting in an era of climate change is a crucial priority for us now. Five floods in five years are enough of a hint that our climate is changing in crucial ways. We cannot reverse the process, nor did we create it. But we must adapt to it, and adaptation begins by upgrading our forecasting abilities so we can have some lead time in which to prepare our response.

The technology to do this exists, and was offered to Pakistan last year by the World Bank, but the authorities were too busy in other matters to pay any attention. Instead each year’s floods have amplified calls within Pakistan for building more dams and barrages and other hydrological infrastructure to be used for management of floodwaters. But more infrastructure for flood management is pointless in the absence of longer and more reliable forecasts.

The writer is a member of staff.

khurram.husain

Twitter: @khurramhusain

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2014

Govern, or go

F.S. Aijazuddin

THERE are as many ways to skin a goat as there are to remove a political leader.

THERE are as many ways to skin a goat as there are to remove a political leader.

Fifty years ago, in October 1964, Premier Nikita Khrushchev, then on holiday in a seaside resort in Georgia, was summoned back to Moscow by his colleagues in the Soviet presidium. His once fawning subordinates charge-sheeted him, accusing him of “ignoring other’s opinions”, even of taking decisions “over lunch”. Khrushchev appealed to their friendship. “You have no friends here,” one of them retorted. When Khrushchev tried to salvage his sinking authority by admitting his mistakes, another shouted him down: “You listen to us for a change.”

Khrushchev had been in power for 11 years, the same span of time that another leader Mrs (later Lady) Margaret Thatcher was Britain’s prime minister. In November 1990, well into her third term, her leadership was challenged by a fellow Conservative Michael Heseltine. The leadership was put to a vote. Twice, Mrs Thatcher failed to get the required majority. Tearfully, she bowed out, yielding the post to John Major. A political observer commented laconically of Heseltine’s betrayal: “At least he stabbed her in the front.”

Imran Khan’s frontal assault on a third-term prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, owes little to British traditions of furtive balloting in committee rooms, or to bloodbaths within the Kremlin’s mute walls. It owes even less to the mob politics that brought down the Russian czar in 1917, and the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in 2011. It owes nothing to parliamentary conventions that because elected leaders are voted in, they need to be voted out.

Imran Khan’s PTI party has opted for the party game ‘Numbers’: Who can mobilise the largest crowd? His detractors dismiss the tumultuous gatherings at Islamabad first, then Karachi, Lahore and recently at Mianwali, as the power of a rent-a-crowd: earnest, vociferous but electorally flaccid.

His party stalwarts see the increasing surge of attendees at his rallies as a barometer of the disaffection of the public with the Sharif style of governance, as a reactionary gravitation.

Neither is wrong. An angry mob is the grimace of a disaffected public, just as a friendly crowd to a politician is as heart-warming as a muddle of Labradors is to a pet-lover.

It is probably some time since anyone in Pakistan’s political parties opened a history book. They are advised to read Elizabeth Longford’s biography of the Duke of Wellington (1972). She describes how in October 1831 a horde attacked Apsley House (his London home), given to him by a grateful nation for defeating Napoleon. The demonstrators broke its windows. She mentions: “The glass was mended in time for the Waterloo Banquet of 1833, but the Duke retained the shutters and to the end of his life was apt to raise his hat ironically and point towards them if a crowd began cheering him.”

It is also some time since anyone in our political parties re-read their manifestos, released with such fanfare in 2013.

The PML-N, then aspiring to become the government, made sky-scraper promises that defied the laws of architecture and soared above credibility. On energy, for example, it promised “to tackle circular debt and system losses[,] to end load shedding in the minimum time”, and ‘to invest US$ 20 billion to generate 10,000 MW of electricity in the next 5 years”.

On education, it vowed to declare a ‘National Education Emergency’ and promised to work with the provinces to achieve “100% enrolment up to the middle level and 80pc universal literacy”. Understandably, it avoided any mention of poll-rigging.

Interestingly, the 2013 election manifesto of the Zardari-Bhutto PPP-P began with a quotation by its founder Z.A. Bhutto: “We badly need to gather our thoughts and clear our minds. We need a political ceasefire without conceding ideological territory.” One wonders whether his grandson Bilawal had those sentences in mind when he drafted his public apologia to PPP sympathisers, released a fortnight ago.

In that unprecedented nostra culpa, he admitted that his party had “committed mistakes in the past” and almost pleaded with discontented acolytes “not to support any undemocratic party that backs extremism”. He urged: “There are other ways for registering a protest. You should not punish Pakistan and democracy for our mistakes.”

No one outside Bilawal House can know whether he consulted anyone older before issuing that statement. His parents — in adversity and in power — always followed Benjamin Disraeli’s sage dictum: ‘Never complain and never explain.’

It is becoming clear to a disaffected public that Nawaz Sharif’s ineptness will prevent him from completing his third term. It is also clear that a tireless Imran Khan and a dispirited Tahirul Qadri cannot uproot Nawaz Sharif simply through noisy sit-ins.

Political liquidations may have the same ends; what distinguishes them from each other are the means.

The writer is an author and art historian.

www.fsaijazuddin.pk

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2014

Not a priority

Asma Humayun

EACH year the world observes Mental Health Day on Oct 10; this year’s theme is ‘living with schizophrenia’, a major mental disorder, which causes significant impairment of function, and disability, immeasurable distress for the family and loss of productivity.

EACH year the world observes Mental Health Day on Oct 10; this year’s theme is ‘living with schizophrenia’, a major mental disorder, which causes significant impairment of function, and disability, immeasurable distress for the family and loss of productivity.

Mental disorders contribute to early mortality: suicide resulting from these disorders is a major cause of death for all ages. But, like most mental illnesses, early detection and treatment of schizophrenia is both possible and inexpensive. Mental disorders contribute 14pc of the global burden of disease. Over 70pc of this is borne by low- and middle-income countries such as Pakistan. This is because four out of five people with severe mental disorder do not receive any treatment.

WHO has declared mental health a ‘public health priority’ for developing countries. This means that the problem, while highly common, is preventable or treatable. Therefore, comprehensive efforts must be directed towards promoting positive mental health, preventing mental health problems, detecting disorders early and offering prompt treatment and regular follow-ups.

This far-sighted approach is holistic and directed at focusing on entire populations, not on individual patients or disorders. It is concerned with the entire system, not only the eradication (treatment) of a particular disorder. This approach stretches far beyond specialist-led psychiatric services based in tertiary-care hospitals or the private sector.

Pakistan’s mental health challenges are acute — as a nation facing internal and geopolitical conflict, socioeconomic convulsions and huge internal displacement triggered by war and natural disaster. These realities make it all the more necessary for the state to develop an effective emergency mental health response.

Existing mental health services in Pakistan need to be understood in the context of the official status of mental health in the country. The national mental health programme was first initiated in 1986. Mental health was very much part of the country’s 1997 national health policy, and since then it was supposedly an integral component of primary healthcare in subsequent five-year plans.

Unsurprisingly, this did not materialise meaningfully and was never revived at the provincial levels after the devolution of health to the provincial governments. As a result, there is currently no mention of a mental health policy and there’s non-existent priority for mental healthcare across Pakistan.

Currently, the mental health infrastructure exists mainly at the tertiary-care level in the form of academic psychiatric departments. These institutes focus on delivering hospital-based psychiatric care and train medical graduates in silos from primary healthcare or other community services.

Today in Pakistan, there are an estimated 400 psychiatrists to serve the general mental healthcare needs of 200 million people. As for special needs, for example of young people, who comprise almost half our population, there are only half-a-dozen trained child psychiatrists available. The role of psychiatrists has also been whittled down to undertaking clinical and teaching responsibilities in academic departments. These underdeveloped clinical services focus on a biological model of practice, and revolve around prescribing medications, often unscientifically.

The psychiatric service in Bannu is a classic example of the most peripheral Pakistani districts: a teaching hospital with a ‘professor’ who has no faculty or staff to support him; the professor himself carries an academic title but a non-academic job description; his time is largely taken up by administrative and medico-legal responsibilities; the quality of clinical care is far from satisfactory; there is little teaching/training conducted by the department. Mean­while, the medical college was closed for the summer holidays despite the huge IDP challenge there.

The growing trend of expensive specialist services in the private sector further contributes to the inequitable mental healthcare at the cost of developing public services, since most academic psychiatrists invest their time and energy in after-work lucrative private practices.

In the larger context of a failing healthcare system, poorly developed mental healthcare is often rationalised, almost defended. But now that the international community has rec­o­gnis­ed mental health as a priority, Pakistan cannot justify it as a misplaced priority in the face of its ineffective health systems.

Urgent attention is needed to make mental health a priority at the provincial level. This includes articulating and advancing a mental health policy that emphasises the need for integrating mental health in primary care, prioritising all specialised resources towards developing a public health approach to addressing this burden, redefining and broadening the role of mental health professionals, and enacting a legislative framework to support scientific and ethical services.

In systems where mental health is not a priority, adversity can provide a window of opportunity to review and strengthen existing services. It is time for us to act.

The writer is a psychiatrist.

econtactasma

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2014

A mindset frozen in time

Babar Sattar

PRIME Minister Nawaz Sharif betrays a mindset frozen in time when he says he doesn’t understand why people protest against him or seek his removal at a time when he is just warming up in his third term of being in power. Whether PTI will be able to acquire power to rule Pakistan or deliver the change it talks about is one thing. Whether it will be able to bring Sharif down through its incessant fulmination is another. “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come,” Victor Hugo said. Unfortunately for Nawaz, “Go Nawaz Go” is sticking.

PRIME Minister Nawaz Sharif betrays a mindset frozen in time when he says he doesn’t understand why people protest against him or seek his removal at a time when he is just warming up in his third term of being in power. Whether PTI will be able to acquire power to rule Pakistan or deliver the change it talks about is one thing. Whether it will be able to bring Sharif down through its incessant fulmination is another. “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come,” Victor Hugo said. Unfortunately for Nawaz, “Go Nawaz Go” is sticking.

Triggers for mass uprisings can never be predicted with scientific precision. Did all of France rise up in arms when the French Revolution transpired? Didn’t the collective American conscience accept the notion of ‘separate and equal’ in Plessy vs Ferguson (1896) only to reject it six decades later after Brown v Board of Education declared it unconstitutional? Does the US remember minority rights activists who came before Martin Luther King as fondly? Was Musharraf ousted and were judges restored because all of Pakistan — urban and rural — rose up for rule of law?

Those who believe that PTI’s agitation doesn’t seriously threaten Sharif’s regime because it is an urban phenomenon don’t appreciate that all mass uprisings are largely urban phenomena. Agitation-based change is no referendum. The ‘yes’ vote lost the referendum in Scotland. But while 45pc pro-independence Scots might be unable to form government, they sure can destroy a government that is formed if they insist on doing so. In other words, the numbers needed to destroy governments are always less than the ones needed to construct it.

Second, in protests, the intensity of commitment matters almost as much as the numbers. PPP created and cultivated the hyper-dedicated jiyala (who was unconditionally bound to Bhutto and Bhuttoism) in the late ’60s and ’70s that the party could rely on even in hard times. Their number has decreased over the years and the intensity of their commitment has now waned. PML-N, the other mainstream party, has never had this category of fervent followers devoted unconditionally to party ideology (or charisma?) of the top leadership.

PTI is the new mainstream party that has created zealots just like PPP did back in the day. It is the fervour of its zealots combined with the resonance of Khan’s message with the average Pakistani craving change that accounts for people thronging to PTI assemblies. How Pakistanis vote in an election notwithstanding, to think that PML-N or PPP can beat Khan at pulling crowds in 2014 is folly. What PPP/PML-N lack and what the PTI chief has are three things: intensity of core support, a rotting system Imran claims to be an outsider to and benefit of doubt.

Sharif doesn’t seem to understand the sentiment that PTI is riding on. One, while PML-N might not be guilty of causing all the failings evident in Pakistan today that Imran Khan keeps highlighting, the narrative woven by him and being bought by ordinary folks holds Sharif and other entrenched political players responsible for being abettors and beneficiaries of a broken system they are loath to fix. Khan has largely succeeded (with the aid of unpleasant harangue) in turning Sharif into a symbol epitomising the collective failings of Pakistan over the last 68 years.

Two, PTI might not have a credible plan to deliver the change it is promising, but people would rather be fooled by someone new than by the same folks again and again.

Three, many cautious supporters of PTI understand that Pakistan’s problems are multifarious and won’t be resolved with the ouster of Sharif. But even when people know they can’t get justice or have their problems solved instantly, they want catharsis. ‘Go Nawaz Go’ is providing cathartic relief to ordinary folks in the face of the miseries they experience on an everyday basis due to state failure.

Four, so long as PTI-PAT calls for immediate removal of Sharif seemed backed by hidden hands, many saw the confrontation from a civil-military lens. That cultivated sympathy for Sharif. Once the opportunity for military intervention (during the violent stand-off on Constitutional Avenue) emerged and passed, a sense grew that even if scriptwriters had encouraged the march as a plan to oust Sharif through the threat of khaki intervention, the plan has been shelved for now. Devoid of the civil-military lens, Sharif and his style of governance inspire little sympathy.

In other words, many wanted to prop up Sharif so long as he appeared to be the victim of undemocratic forces threatening the continuity of the constitutional order. But take the khakis out of the equation and the playing field seems tilted in favour of the incumbent Sharif, with his control over state machinery, resources and means of patronage and against the challenger Khan. Gathering hordes outside parliament and Prime Minister House was certainly not Pakistan’s finest democratic moment. But hidden hands can’t manufacture the multitudes hankering for rights, coming out to PTI jalsas in Karachi, Lahore and Mianwali.

PML-N seems oblivious to the angst and anger shared by ordinary Pakistanis at how Pakistan functions. Its response, that this is how things have always been, now seems callous. What we are witnessing is the tipping point of public disdain for our power elites’ abrasive and arrogant sense of entitlement. Khan might be focused on the unjust enrichment and indiscretions of our political elite sans PTI. But it is only a matter of time that public attention turns to others as well: the power, pelf, protocol and profligacy of all elites — generals, judges, babus et al.

Imran Khan isn’t about to stop adding fuel to the fire of public resentment. The khakis aren’t about to intervene, the judges aren’t about to induce regime change and Nawaz Sharif isn’t about to resign. Thus we are gridlocked. But what is worst is that when PML-N isn’t acting like all this will blow over without consequence, it is sulking over being asked to behave like fiduciaries of public authority handed to them as a trust. Growing public disquiet and a government living in its cocoon is unsustainable. Something’s gotta give.

The writer is a lawyer.

sattar

Twitter: @babar_sattar

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2014

Civil-military imbalance

Tariq Khosa

The security establishment is firmly in the driving seat. It is calling the shots with respect to the multiple internal security challenges facing the nation. Caught in a political quagmire, the civilian government has ceded the national security space to the military due to its weak leadership. Prolonged sit-ins by the PTI/PAT in Islamabad and massive public meetings elsewhere have caused governance paralysis.

The security establishment is firmly in the driving seat. It is calling the shots with respect to the multiple internal security challenges facing the nation. Caught in a political quagmire, the civilian government has ceded the national security space to the military due to its weak leadership. Prolonged sit-ins by the PTI/PAT in Islamabad and massive public meetings elsewhere have caused governance paralysis.

What went wrong, and so soon after the euphoria of the transfer of power from the fragile PPP-led coalition to the PML-N’s numerically strong government? The answer essentially lies in the nature of the civil-military relationship and its impact on the national security policy including internal security challenges. Since the ’80s the military establishment has had primacy over nuclear doctrine, foreign policy — especially where it relates to the United States, India and Afghanistan — and the use of militant proxies to further regional policy objectives.

Nawaz Sharif was twice dismissed in the ’90s at the behest of the military establishment when he attempted to tread the forbidden path. The basic mistake he made each time was his failure to promote good governance: cronyism, nepotism and patronage took precedence over merit, integrity and professionalism.

Moreover, given the firmly entrenched military-led national security narrative, he should have shown the sagacity to engage in a national dialogue to nudge the military leaders towards a peace-driven, economically viable and democratic vision for the future. He failed to do so. This proved his undoing in the past and he finds himself in difficulty yet again for not having learnt his lesson.

Just barely into the second year of his third stint, his government appears like a rudderless ship facing violent waves of discontent. The scorecard of his mistakes tells a sordid tale.

One, his selection of cabinet of ministers was poor and incomplete: he gave himself the portfolios of defence and foreign affairs in order to directly deal with matters of concern to the security establishment. Carefully selected full-fledged ministers in these key policy fields would have provided a cushion in the decision-making process.

Two, he failed to appoint a professional national security adviser, giving the task to a political loyalist whose attention is divided between foreign affairs and national security matters. In order to avoid appearing before the Supreme Court, the additional charge of the defence ministry was given to another loyalist who is already responsible for dealing with the worst-possible energy crisis facing the nation.

Three, the National Security Committee, comprising relevant stakeholders from the security and intelligence agencies, has not been used as an effective institutional mechanism to formulate a comprehensive national security policy. Rather than holding regular meetings to develop policies at the institutional level, frequent one-on-one meetings between the prime minister and the army chief leave an impression that all is not well on the civ-mil front.

The newly established national security division under an able diplomat has remained redundant so far. There is no advisory council on national security issues to source ideas from a wide range of national experts. As a result, a cabal of serving security and intelligence officials lead this vital security arena. Moreover, parliamentary oversight on national security issues has been totally ignored and the resultant lack of transparency gives rise to conspiracy theories in the media.

Four, the first-ever National Internal Security Policy launched with great fanfare has not even been partially implemented. The National Counter Terrorism Authority has remained dormant since 2009 as the government has not been able to select a senior police officer as its chief. Moreover, the interior ministry wants to control Nacta, although legally it is supposed to work under the prime minister.

An intelligence directorate was also required to be established under Nacta for coordination between the federal and provincial security agencies for launching intelligence-based operations, but this has not happened for lack of ownership by the security establishment. A police-led CT task force at Islamabad has not been raised so far.

These failures of the civilian governments have led the military to fill the resultant gaps by not only leading intelligence-based operations across the country but establishing their own CT centre at Kharian for an institutional response to combating terrorism and militancy.

Five, the federal government and its agencies have failed to support the Balochistan chief minister in tackling the missing persons issue and other Baloch grievances. The kill-and-dump policy has not been abandoned by the private militias and their alleged patrons in the security agencies. In fact, a new round of tit-for-tat killings and attacks between the insurgents and security forces appears to have started with bodies of kidnapped Baloch activists being dumped near Panjgur and Turbat.

Six, the Karachi operation, initiated enthusiastically by the prime minister and the interior minister has practically been handed over to the provincial government. The prime minister could not post a provincial inspector-general police of his choice. With lukewarm support by the provincial government, the Rangers are clearly handicapped as a civil armed force representing the federal government and military establishment. Police too is paying a heavy price in terms of casualties due to lack of equipment and technology that the federal government could have provided.

In the absence of a law-enforcement approach, military means of eliminating criminals are reflective of a myopic approach to tackling organised crime. Even this strategy has failed to substantially reduce target killings and sectarian terrorism.

The abdication of civilian authority in national security matters can be fatal for democracy. Instead of empty words spoken in parliament, it is time to show leadership by strengthening institutions and promoting good governance. The constitutional commander-in-chief has to prove his mettle. It is time to lead the nation and not sulk under the khaki shadow.

The writer is a retired police officer.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2014

A timeless message

Prince El Hassan bin Talal

TODAY, the world appears full of divisions. Fault lines are emerging between people of different religions, sects and ethnicities. These divisions are being played out in a region where people of all faiths have coexisted in harmony since the earliest days of civilisation.

TODAY, the world appears full of divisions. Fault lines are emerging between people of different religions, sects and ethnicities. These divisions are being played out in a region where people of all faiths have coexisted in harmony since the earliest days of civilisation.

We cannot allow these divisions to harden. We must repay the debt we owe to our earliest civilisations, to the people of the Indus Valley and Mesopotamia. It is for this reason that today, on the holy festival of Eid, we take a moment to reflect on an important message from the Quran; a message that, alongside the principles of justice, equality and human dignity, has been instrumental in guiding the destinies of our families and entire nations.

The principle I refer to is that of consultation, of the ancient tradition of shura, of the rapidly fading art of conversation that is predicated on the respect for human dignity that is common to all our faiths.

The Quran clearly elucidates the importance of shura as fundamental to the relationship between the ruler and the governed. As evidenced in the story of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, it emphasises the soundness in the approach of engaging the opinion of others in public affairs.

“The Queen of Sheba said, ‘Counsellors, a gracious letter has been delivered to me. It is from Solomon, and it says, ‘In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy, do not put yourselves above me, and come to me in submission to God’. Counsellors, give me your counsel in the matter I now face: I only ever decide on matters in your presence.’ (Surah Al-Naml, 29-32.)

Notwithstanding that the message was manifestly clear in calling to worship God and surrender to His Oneness, the queen sought the opinion of her notables.

So why do we shun our ancient tradition of shura today?

The principle of shura applies to all Muslims. Why then do we allow ourselves to be ruled by our disagreements, rather than seek the path of consultation and convergence? Did the Prophet (PBUH) not say: “Disagreements among my ummah represent a mercy” — an allusion to the respect for diversity and pluralism, which has characterised Islamic civilisations since the earliest days?

I remember a Shia scholar once told me that in terms of the Salafi, we all, Sunni and Shia alike have an innate respect for the early generation of Muslims, the Al-Salaf Al Salihs. Similarly, I recall an erudite Sunni telling me that irrespective of our differences, if the word ‘Shia’ carries the connotation of following the example of the house of the Prophet, then we are all in some way Shia.

Sadly, even a cursory reading of the news today provides ample proof that we have veered away from the path of consultation. Our divisions are driving us further apart every day — driving a wedge between neighbours and forcing people from their homes. Millions, 70pc of them Muslims, are compelled to seek refuge in other countries.

I see displaced people every day in Jordan. Recently in Greece, I saw a displaced person selling antique items with exquisite calligraphic renditions of the words of the Messenger. “Ali is the finest of men, and the finest of swords is Dhu’l Fiqar.” This family had been bequeathed these priceless items from their forefather — but these cruel times, these times of division had forced them to part ways with their prized possessions.

To get out of this mess we need to embrace once again our proud tradition of shura. At the level of the UN, we need to pay heed to the words of Kofi Annan, who always stressed the importance of including all members of the Security Council in discussions. We must stop ignoring the role of Russia. At a regional level, even as we meet to discuss the path to peace in Syria, we must stop ignoring the views of our brothers and sisters in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Today’s divisions belie our tradition of pluralism. During the papal visit to Albania, His Holiness prayed in a church built by Muslims. Our ancestors knew that participating in a religious act was to open a window to the world, and it is critical we learn from their ways.

As we decide our fate in the light of the wisdom of the Eid feast, we have a choice. Either we follow the path of our ancestors — of encouraging diversity, developing mutual respect and seeking common ground, or we let our lands be taken over by the forces of evil.

Today, on Eid, let us be sincere with our Creator. Let us once again turn back to shura, to a world in which consultation prevails and where no one person, religion or sect monopolises decision-making.

The writer is an author and founder of the West Asia and North Africa Forum.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2014

Mind games

Zarrar Khuhro

YEARS ago, while buying provisions, I came across a man engaged in a heated conversation with the shopkeeper. He was complaining about how his latest business venture had failed. “It’s the Hindus that always conspire against me! They know that if I succeed I will become the greatest leader of the Muslims the world has ever seen. This is why they always make sure I fail.” The shopkeeper nodded sympathetically.

YEARS ago, while buying provisions, I came across a man engaged in a heated conversation with the shopkeeper. He was complaining about how his latest business venture had failed. “It’s the Hindus that always conspire against me! They know that if I succeed I will become the greatest leader of the Muslims the world has ever seen. This is why they always make sure I fail.” The shopkeeper nodded sympathetically.

On Sept 25, a prison guard Mohammad Yousaf shot Mohammad Asghar, a mental patient convicted for blasphemy. According to friends, Yousaf had previously claimed to have dreams and visions in which he received ‘religious guidance’. It was such a dream, said the local SHO, that compelled him to try and murder Asghar.

Just a few days ago, a person tweeted about how his colleague had pledged allegiance to the Daesh ‘Khalifa’ Omar al Baghdadi. He claimed to be part of a group in Lahore that had also pledged allegiance to Daesh and warned that his colleague was opposing Islam by refusing to join him. On investigation it emerged that this person was undergoing treatment for paranoid schizophrenia.

Delusions of being either chosen or persecuted are common in paranoid schizophrenia, which is what all three persons mentioned here seem to suffer from. In these cases, the delusions have taken on a distinctly religious character.

Religious delusions are not uncommon. An analysis of several surveys on mental health claimed that “a rate of 36pc of religious delusions was observed among inpatients with schizophrenia in the USA”. It also noted culture has a distinct impact of the prevalence of religious delusions, stating that there is a “higher incidence of religious delusions among schizophrenia patients in predominantly Christian countries than in other populations” and that the rate of religious delusions (among schizophrenic patients) in Germany was 21.3pc and 6.8pc in Japan.

The rate was 6pc in Pakistan. That figure may seem low, but that can also be explained by a lack of record-keeping on this issue. Certainly, conversations with mental health professionals do indicate there has been an explosion of mental illness in Pakistan over the last few years, though this may also be due to greater reporting of the issue itself.

Another interesting finding in the analysis that can relate to Pakistan is that in Egypt “fluctuations in the frequency of religious delusions over a period of 20 years have been linked to changing patterns of religious emphasis”. In short, times of greater national focus/debate on religion have seen higher incidences of delusions with religious content. Given that overt (and skin-deep) displays of religiosity are increasingly the norm in Pakistan we can expect the incidence to be fairly high.

When it comes to treatment of mental illness, it is interesting to note that religion can indeed play a part, though there are also cases where deeply held religious beliefs may in fact be a barrier to treatment. An article in the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services notes that some patients may indeed substitute faith for treatment, in effect worsening their conditions. Certainly, it has been noted that delusions with religious content seem more resistant to treatment than ‘conventional’ delusions.

The article concludes that while “Clinicians should not involve religion in treatment of patients who do not desire it … for patients who desire it and with whom the clinician has compatible beliefs, religion can be an invaluable adjunct to psychiatric care.”

While Freud consi­dered belief in a single god to itself be a delusion, in Pakistan many psy­chiatrists point to the desirability of a strong spiritual centre in keep­ing a patient grounded and some point to the efficacy of joint prayers and rituals to help build a sense of community.

It is important to note that such practices must not and cannot replace conventional treatment but can be used to supplement such treatments. This is also not to be confused with the practice of confining persons suffering from mental illness to shrines or leaving them in the hands of sometimes fraudulent, abusive faith healers.

But in a country with a severe paucity of mental health professionals, what is the way forward? One answer may be found in the hybrid system developed in India’s Mira Datar Dargah. Here, under the auspices of a mental health professional called Milesh Hamlai, faith healers and conventional psychiatrists have joined hands to treat thousands of patients.

The chains that were previously used to bind patients have been dispensed with and the healers and doctors seem to have arrived at some kind of middle ground between prayer and treatment, simply by keeping an open mind and focusing on the welfare of their patients.

The writer is a member of staff.

zarrar.khuhro

Twitter: @ZarrarKhuhro

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2014

The social contract debate

Muhammad Amir Rana

CAN the prevalent political unrest and discontent in Muslim societies be regarded as a desire for change? In other words, are Muslim societies in search of new social contracts?

CAN the prevalent political unrest and discontent in Muslim societies be regarded as a desire for change? In other words, are Muslim societies in search of new social contracts?

The militant struggle is all about a complete repla­cement of existing social contracts with an Islamic code of life. Both non-violent radicals and traditional religio-political forces are pursuing varying agendas ranging from Islamisation of their respective societies to reformation of and adjustments in constitutions in line with their perceived Islamic ideals.

Interestingly, these Islamist forces are not satisfied with the systems of democracy, controlled democracy or monarchies in their respective countries. Does the problem really lie with Muslim societies’ social contracts with their states, or is it the outcome of other pressures Muslim societies are subjected to?

While identifying the underlying unrest in underdeveloped or developing societies, academicians usually factor in pressures of rapid globalisation and a sense of increasing aspirations among people. It may be true in case of diaspora communities. Others underscore structural social, religious and political narratives and behaviours of these societies, which they believe are not compatible with the pace of changes taking place in the world. No doubt global changes affect our daily lives, positively or negatively.

The emergence of a new middle class is another aspect of the debate. Middle classes want political empowerment in their respective societies. Governance issues and increasing non-functionality of traditional delivery systems in Muslim countries is another factor. These and other factors of growing resentment among Muslim societies with their respective states and constitutions have combined with a dearth of scholarship.

Another important question is, should these factors — structural, internal or global — raise the need for subversion of existing social contracts or constitutions?

A social contract ensures harmonious socio-economic and political balance in a society and provides a framework for the formation of a government and laws and their enforcement. The Arab Spring has not been successful in many countries in terms of the formation of new social contracts.

Yemen is experiencing a different challenge in the formation of a new social contract, which is giving rise to questions of tribal and geographical representations in the constitution. Indonesia and Pakistan are among the Muslim nations where the constitutional reform process is intact and keeps ethnic communities together and tied to the state.

Even Muslim clergy in these countries is in favour of a continuity of the incumbent constitutional and democratic processes. A recent moot of leading religious scholars in Islamabad noted that Pakistan’s Constitution is a national-level social contract and in the light of Islamic teachings every Pakistani is bound to abide by it. Scholars also asserted that national-level disputes and conflicts, which are shared by all and not linked to particular religious sects or communities, should be settled on the basis of majority opinion. A minority cannot be granted the right to impose its opinion on the majority.

Although religious scholars do not regard democracy as a complete, ideal form of government, most of them believe it can be useful and effective for ensuring peaceful coexistence and pluralism in society. Interestingly, some religious scholars argue that even if rulers impose excessive taxes and force people to pay without legal justification for this, it is better for people to defend themselves by adopting peaceful ways than by revolting against the state.

The militants have different opinions and want to impose their version of the Islamic state through the use of force. The Constitution provides shields against militant, religious, anarchist, ultra-nationalist or ethnic ambitions that might seek to create imbalances in society.

The extra-constitutional power struggle within elites and powerful institutions creates confusion about the basic concept of a social contract. The extremists are the beneficiaries of such confusion and they use it for expanding their support bases across the country.

Muslim countries, especially Pakistan, cannot afford the subversion of their respective constitutions as the social imbalances and rise of violent and non-violent radicalism can completely transform the situation, which the radicals have shown they can achieve without paying a high price.

The writer is a security analyst.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2014

New converts to Imran

Cyril Almeida

THERE are worse things than drift, impasse and bland uncertainty — see, much of the rest of the world is seemingly going to hell — but it is awfully tedious.

THERE are worse things than drift, impasse and bland uncertainty — see, much of the rest of the world is seemingly going to hell — but it is awfully tedious.

Imran said this, Qadri threatened that, Nawaz did nothing, somewhere something semi-relevant happened. It’s difficult to get excited or agitated by any of it any more.

Pakistan usually does its crises high-octane and this slow burn struggles to hold the interest. Everyone knows it’s not going to end anytime soon and, at this stage, mid-term elections are the worst-case scenario.

If off-schedule elections are the worst thing on the table, that’s a buffet Pakistan will be able to digest without too much trouble. And even that seems like a distant prospect.

So we must make do with smaller matters. Like this business of why Imran’s agitation is resonating, perhaps not quite a groundswell as the PTI wants folk to believe, but definitely more than a trickle.

But what about the people who seem newly drawn to Imran, the ones who are willing him on and are ready to participate in his latest agitation, who neither hate Nawaz nor love Imran, but somehow have decided they care enough to pick sides in this fight?

Talk to them, listen to what they have to say and some themes emerge.

First, Model Town still rankles. Even though Qadri is there on Constitution Avenue, the protester newly drawn to Imran tends to start with Model Town.

Model Town was the original rupture, at least for the new protester. And Model Town is a powerful lightning rod because the crime was so manifest, the injustice so clear — no explanation is needed nor can responsibility be denied.

Second, it is the election. The new protester, the man or woman who last year was a last-minute voter or didn’t get around to voting at all, is angry about May 2013.

It’s not about specific rigging allegations or minutiae of ROs and stuffed ballot boxes; it’s a far more basic question that Imran has succeeded in making them wonder about: why should votes — any votes — cast legitimately not be counted?

What is this system which decides that since an overall result was expected anyway, why bother about some people being cheated out of their vote?

That grievance by the new protester is expressed in several ways and it has the power of simplicity, and principle, on its side.

Why do we have elections in the first place, where votes are counted and results tabulated, if it’s already known who’s going to win?

Or: if the PML-N wins a fresh election, so be it, but what’s this business about not being able to ensure that every vote is counted? What kind of democracy is this?

Why, in this day and age, are we to accept a process where some people’s vote gets counted and recorded accurately and others’ not?

And: what is the government afraid of? If they won, then why can’t they just satisfy Imran that they won fair and square?

What’s the harm in doing what Imran asks, the new protester is wondering, especially since everyone agrees that the process was flawed. What great principle is at stake which prevents votes from being recounted?

You can ask this new protester, the one drawn to Imran since the summer, all kinds of things. Was 2002 or 2008 fair? If 2013 was an improvement on 2008 and 2008 an improvement on 2002, then aren’t we at least moving in the right direction?

Is it not obvious that the army has, thanks to the endless protests, reoccupied much of the political space that ought to belong to the civilians? If elections are to be redone just because someone isn’t happy with the result, what kind of precedent would that set?

And the kicker, the weapon that the new protester can use to shoot down most questions: Imran is the only one saying this stuff — and that’s why he deserves our support.

Here’s why that’s so potent: it’s true.

Imran may be saying a lot of loopy things, he may come up with kooky ideas galore and he may not have much of a grasp on how to fix things, but in his basic, essential point he is right: the election was not free and fair nor was it completely transparent.

And Imran is the only one who is saying that is unacceptable.

You can explain why a credible and acceptable May 2013 was progress, why democratic disruption may help anti-democratic forces, why Imran didn’t come close to winning, but to those who have heard Imran and absorbed his basic point, how do you explain that tainted is OK, that they should get over it and move on, vote counted or not?

You can’t. Which is why Imran is resonating and there’s more than a trickle of new converts every week.

The writer is a member of staff.

cyril.a

Twitter:

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2014

Some solutions

Mohammad Ali Babakhel

EVERY Pakistani wants to find a solution to terrorism. At such a challenging juncture, the mere realisation that peace must be cultivated is itself a ray of hope, and the leadership can use this to its advantage.

EVERY Pakistani wants to find a solution to terrorism. At such a challenging juncture, the mere realisation that peace must be cultivated is itself a ray of hope, and the leadership can use this to its advantage.

The widespread impression that counterterrorism (CT) is solely the responsibility of the security forces and police is erroneous. It is a collective responsibility. Everyone — from ordinary people, the clergy, our political leadership to the bureaucracy and media — must be part of the long-term CT strategy.

The country’s CT strategy should focus primarily on the human aspect, including de-radicalisation and reintegration of extremists. The registration of citizens requires a more rigid and transparent process and ought to be linked up with all law-enforcement agencies.

The Foreigners Act 1946 needs parliamentary review, and deportation procedures need simplification. To displace illegal nationals, multilateral arrangements have to be worked out and the monitoring of foreigners requires a more organised effort. The National Alien Registration Authority must play its due role — as Nadra did in 2010 when it foiled almost 11,400 attempts by foreigners to obtain CNICs.

In terrorism, vehicular mobility plays a decisive role. When a vehicle is armed with an IED, it is being used as a lethal weapon. The preference is for vehicles that have been stolen or those on which duties have not been paid, referred to as non-custom paid. Such vehicles are easily available in parts of Malakand division, Fata and Balochistan. Since they aren’t registered, when they are used in a bombing it is almost impossible for investigators to proceed in the probe.

To evade tax, many vehicle owners retain them on ‘open transfer letters’. The government needs to impound such vehicles after a grace period of three months. They should be returned only after the payment of taxes and transfer to the real owners. Such an initiative will not only help fill the exchequer, it would also reduce the likelihood of such vehicles being used in terrorism.

Undoubtedly, technology is costly but at sensitive places such as embassies, schools, airports, military installations and police buildings, automatic number plate recognition can be employed.

Without communication, a terrorism mission cannot be accomplished. The government recently directed the country’s telecommunication authority to curtail the operation of Afghan cellular phones in Fata and parts of KP. This is a positive step since some 40,000 illegal Afghan SIMs were operating in Pakistan. To minimise the use of illegal SIMs, their registration should be linked to identity card numbers, biometric impressions, and a postal address. The number of SIMs per person should be limited to two.

All the provinces have their own anti-terrorism wings, but without effective coordination with other provinces. Thus, counterterrorism needs an integrated model to be administered by a unitary command structure. A national-level CT body that is present in all provinces will have no jurisdictional barrier.

The training of the police, too, is not keeping pace with the challenges. Militants undergo intense, goal-oriented training, in accordance with their needs but the training of our law-enforcement officials is modelled on the colonial fabric. Training modules must include dealing with would-be suicide bombers, IEDs, hostage situations, etc. Then organised information-sharing between the law-enforcement agencies, Nadra and the motor registration authorities is necessary.

Gaps within the criminal justice system must be plugged. The conviction rate in cases of terrorism presents a dismal picture, which requires urgent improvement. Pakistan also needs to revisit how to dry up the financing of terror organisations. The mere increase in manpower and resources cannot quell militancy; the task also requires missionary zeal, agility, preparedness, innovation and public cooperation.

The writer is a police officer.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2014

Stark contrasts

Ahmed Jan

A YEAR has passed since almost 100 innocent lives were lost and many people injured at the All Saints Church. The Peshawar incident still haunts and the shame and guilt linger on.

A YEAR has passed since almost 100 innocent lives were lost and many people injured at the All Saints Church. The Peshawar incident still haunts and the shame and guilt linger on.

In Pakistan, the Christian community is associated with practically everyone’s lives. As teachers and nurses, its members willingly serve humanity for a good cause. The majority of them live in rundown dwellings and contribute to the community by cleaning our streets and homes — a task that the majority population would rather stay away from. It is a pity that even though the Christians of Pakistan cause no harm and stay away from incitement of any sort, they, like members of other minority communities, still become victims.

The incident at the All Saints Church in the name of religion was probably a tragedy waiting to happen. Hate is a product of the fire of intolerance, which has spread ever since the advent of born-again followers of the majority faith.

Some years ago, Eid and Christmas were taking place concurrently. I visited a bakery in Peshawar to buy the usual Eid edibles. Two young Christian boys had come to buy a cake. They requested that ‘Merry Christmas’ be written on it. The owners blatantly refused to do so, saying, “We only write Eid greetings”. The teenagers did not have the courage to question this, as they ‘knew’ their place. The bakery may have had a sweet, honeyed or sugar-coated name but for me it left a bitter taste.

In terms of figures, Christians in Pakistan are believed to number a couple of million or so. The number of Pakistanis in the smaller UK population is not too different. However, these minorities in both lands present a study in contrast.

Muslims in Britain enjoy facilities beyond the rights they ever imagined in their native countries; Pakistani Christians are still waiting for their rights, which Islam guarantees them. In Pakistan, minority places of worship are attacked whereas in numerous places in Britain where the Muslim population has increased, churches are known to have been converted into mosques for the convenience of the community.

In British schools, classrooms during break can become a prayer room led by a nominated imam. Moreover, children at state schools have the choice to ask for halal meals in accordance with their Islamic faith.

In Ramazan, a TV channel broadcast the call to prayer every day during the entire month. The aim was to bring the practice of fasting to mainstream TV as non-Muslims saw Ramazan in terms of only physical hardship rather than as a ‘time of reformation’. Similarly, special programmes are aired, portraying Muslim family life in the UK during the holy month.

The openness to ideas and exchange of religious thoughts is so acceptable in Britain that in the past 10 years, statistics have shown that a large number of British people have converted to Islam, the majority of whom are young women.

In addition, there are several professional institutions offering education in Islamic finance, perhaps more than anywhere else in the world.

In the UK, I have been working as a language interpreter helping clients and organisations. Every day is a unique experience. On one particular occasion, along with some social workers, I met a young Muslim teenager who had been under the foster care of a Christian lady of East African descent.

The boy did not appear to appreciate the care and kindness offered by the lady and in fact passed critical remarks about her creed. I was too ashamed to translate the words but his disdain was obvious and had been observed.

After the meeting, when everyone had left, I apologised to the lady on the boy’s behalf. She was calm, remained dignified, and reminded me that she belonged to that land, which was once called ‘Habsha’, and the Christian king, Nijjashi, extended asylum to the newly converted Muslims.

On the other hand, the lady narrated another story of an Afghan boy whom she had taken care of as well as a foster parent, who had recently returned to his country. She praised him and said with a sigh that the young man had given her true respect and she considered him a genuine Muslim.

At the end, she looked up and said, the same God will judge us all.

The writer is a freelance contributor.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2014

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Pakistan is best

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