Sunday, February 26, 2012

Banned drinks: No Shezan, Pepsi at Punjab University

The Express Tribune

“Coca Cola converted to Islam a year or two back apparently, but not the other beverages, well not yet”, says Khalid* laughing. “Shezan is manufactured by Ahmadis so we can neither sell the beverage nor their jams, and Pepsi is still a Jewish drink, so it is banned.”

Khalid*, a canteen salesman at the new campus of Punjab University (PU) is referring to the unofficial ban on select beverages at the university campus by the the Islami Jamiat-e-Talba (IJT) — an ongoing protest that was formulated after the publishing of controversial Danish caricatures of the Prophet (PBUH) in 2005.

The IJT, the student wing of the Jamat-e-Islami is known to interfere in the management of not just students affairs at Punjab University but the faculty as well. One duty the IJT assumes as its own is to control what is sold, where and to whom. Their control of such matters ensures that even while discussing regulations forced by the IJT on canteens, Khalid was scared of being seen speaking to this scribe or being overheard commenting against the IJT.

For years only “Shandy Cola” was allowed to be sold on campus, a drink that students found “tasteless”. Shezan a local product was also banned by the IJT because the manufacturers were Ahmadis. This ban on beverages was partially lifted in 2008, however, canteen workers, owners and students say beverage distributors pay the IJT for permission to sell specific products.

Javed Sami, Residential Officer Punjab University who is in charge of canteen contracts and what will be sold at the new campus claims “Shezan is not sold because it is not in demand any more. If you look around, many shops do not sell Shezan. That is why it is not available at the campus canteen.”

The IJT cabinet’s new President Rai Haq Nawaz says “We just represent the students, and because Shezan is owned by Ahmadis, the students do not want it on campus and that is why we do not allow it.”

Aside from banning beverages, the IJT also plays the role of moral police at PU. The reason why Muhammad Aslam* had to stop selling shawarmas at his tuck shop was because the IJT told him that “too many male and female students hang out” outside his shop and eating this food item was their excuse. Aslam, who has been running the tuck shop at PU’s new campus for 12 years says he could sense an ultimatum when given one from the IJT.

Given that he had been roughed up and had his shop closed down on more than one occasion, Aslam was forced to stop sale of shawarmas. Aslam claims that the reason he was targeted was because he asked members of the Jamiat cabinet to return Rs 18,000 which they owed him.

“They used the excuse of opposite sexes mingling to shut me up” said Aslam.

Haroon*, a BS student and former IJT member says “I remember we as a group used to go to canteens and eat as much as we wanted to, then the group told the canteen workers that our Nazim would pay, but those payments were never made.”

Haq Nawaz the IJT President refutes this. “We have to control the quality of food items being sold, so sometimes we even close down the canteens which we think are not meeting the standards,” he said.

To this end, a “Food and Price Control Committee” has been set up by the IJT. The price list with the IJT logo, signed by the current chairman of the committee Nauman Zafar, an IJT member and student at Law College is pasted outside every canteen, tuck shop and cafeteria on campus including those in the hostels.

The IJT says this price control committee is formed by their organisation, the students, and canteen workers, but the PU administration denies this.

Sami says “the IJT is lying, they are trained to lie and I say this on authority that the committee is formed by us and our representative heads it.” He adds that “the ban on beverages was lifted by the current VC as well.”

These official and unofficial authorities at the campus add to the woes of the canteen owners, who say that in order to open a canteen, they speak to the Residential Officer and then to the Jamiat as they need the permission of both.

Hanif* who works at a hostel canteen says he goes to the IJT for increasing the rates of food items or cooked dishes.

“We go to the Jamiat cabinet and request them to increase the charges because we go in loss or end up making sub-standard food. Sometimes they listen to us.” He confirms that “the canteen owners have at times paid the IJT to let them sell a particular food item.”

Haq Nawaz rejects this claim. “we are not involved in any kind of business on campus, it is part of our organization’s rules.”

Student opinion

It is not just the ban on select beverages, but also the control that the IJT has over administrative affairs such as canteen food which students are bothered by.

Ahmad* a student of (BS Hons) Bio Tech says “there should not be a ban on products because of a religious perspective, nor should there be a ban on Shezan because it is produced by so and so”.

Muhammad Shoaib wants the freedom to choose what he wants to eat or buy. A recent graduate of Mass Communication, Shoaib says “I don’t like that I am not allowed to buy the brands that I want because there is an organization of students, a group of thugs which does not get along with them (the product distributors) because they do not pay them the extortion money.”

Female students while complaining about the lack of choice at canteens also find the segregated canteens an inconvenience. Sehrish Mehmood says when she goes to the boys only canteen, the workers refuse to sell them anything.

Fatima Mushtaq, a student (BS Honors) in the department of Philosophy says they get caught between the VC administration and the IJT. “If they want a segregated canteen why do we even study in a co-ed institute? Why can’t the university decide who will make such decisions for us, the administration or the IJT.”

Shabaz Sharif Da health mininster:82 dengue cases reported in Punjab

82 suspected dengue cases have been reported in Lahore and 13 other districts of Punjab.According to the sources, number of suspected patients of denuge has reached 59 in different hospitals of Lahore.
The Health Department stated that several teams are working in Punjab to curtail the spread of dengue virus.According to the experts, appropriate measures were not taken by the Punjab government to stop the spread of dengue.

As Syria prepares to vote on new constitution, some still support Assad

The Washington Post

Syrians are set to vote Sunday in a referendum on a proposed new constitution, part of a process of purported political reform that President

Bashar al-Assad’s opponents have derided as cosmetic and irrelevant in the face of violence by government security forces and a growing armed insurrection.

Despite the 11-month-old uprising and calls for Assad’s departure by the United States, European countries and many Arab nations, however, numerous observers report that the president maintains substantial support in Syria.

A significant portion of the population is likely to vote in favor of the draft constitution, in a show of support for Assad, said Fawaz A. Gerges, director of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics.

“I think one of the major mistakes that many of us have made is that we have underestimated the power base of Assad,” Gerges said. “I think he has at least 30 percent solid support.”

Among members of the president’s minority Alawite Muslim sect, Assad’s influence remains strong, Gerges noted, in many cases because of a fear of violent retribution at the hands of the largely Sunni opposition if the president were to be ousted. A report by a U.N.-appointed commission last week documented instances of the armed opposition groups known as the Free Syrian Army torturing and executing members of the mostly Alawite pro-government “shabiha” gangs and killing their relatives in revenge for shabiha attacks.

Assad has cultivated good relationships with some tribal leaders within the Kurdish ethnic minority, Gerges added, as well as with leaders of the Druze religious group, who, despite influential Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt’s support for the opposition, fear they, too, could be victimized under a new and more religious regime.

And Christians, having watched the targeting of churches and worshipers by Islamic extremists in neighboring Iraq, have expressed fears that the uprising in Syria will take a fundamentalist turn. They are mostly siding with Assad because they have been safe under his rule.

“They may not be very enthusiastic. . . .Their support is mainly because they are scared of the alternative,” said Nikolaos van Dam, author of “The Struggle for Power in Syria,”noting that there are some dissidents within all the minority communities, although many were in prison or exile. But he, too, put the baseline of support for Assad at a minimum of 30 percent.

Van Dam said that although Sunday’s referendum has been overshadowed by violence, the draft constitution at issue contains measures — including allowing political parties other than the ruling Baath Party — that would have been seen as marking a considerable step forward after 40 years of rule by Assad and his father, had they been achieved without loss of life.

“Of course, to have a referendum under these circumstances is not very favorable,” he said, pointing out that voting would be “stupid” in parts of cities such as Homs, which has been under artillery bombardment for three weeks and has seen fierce clashes in the streets. Fifty-two people, including 16 government soldiers, were reported killed Saturday across Syria, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“But I think it’s important that we take it seriously,” van Dam said. “Ending the Baath Party is the first step toward ending the regime.”

Activists within Syria disagree on the referendum’s significance. “We need actions,” said a man in Damascus who goes by the nom de guerre Moaz al-Shami. “We need military help to support the Free Army. We need humanitarian organizations to enter Syria immediately.”

But despite growing international concern about the violence, arming the opposition still seems a distant prospect, and many actors are still calling for dialogue.

International leaders and Syrian opposition groups known as the “Friends of Syria” met Friday in Tunisia to discuss ways of resolving the crisis, but a final statement issued after the meeting expressed little more than vague support for the opposition and endorsed a plan to create humanitarian centers in neighboring countries.

The statement called for further dialogue with the Syrian government, and the Syrian National Council said last week that the prominent opposition group “sees that a political negotiation with the acceptable members of the Syrian government is still possible and is likely the best way to achieve the desired goal of regime change.”

According to van Dam, Syria’s allies, particularly Russia, could be key interlocutors in a dialogue process — despite having been roundly criticized by leaders including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for their support for Assad.

Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said he doubted that most Syrians were taking the referendum seriously. “They know the nature of the regime,” he said. “It’s still a security state dominated by Alawites.”

But the lack of enthusiasm at the Tunis meeting for directly aiding the opposition in part reflected the fact that Assad still has some support, Tabler added. “It’s in the international community’s interest to bring down the regime, but how long that takes, I don’t know,” he said.

Bahraini mourners say, The king must go

Bahraini mourners attending the funeral of a woman who died due to tear gas inhalation fired by Saudi-backed security forces have called for the ouster of the king and the Al Khalifa regime.

The 68-year-old woman, who died after regime forces fired tear gas at her house in Bilad al-Qadim, was one of the many victims of the Saudi-backed crackdown on demonstrators over the past year.

Meanwhile, on Saturday anti-regime protesters blocked major highways and streets and set tires ablaze in order to cause traffic jams to raise awareness and show solidarity with a detained human rights activist.

The campaign, dubbed Mourning Sky Two, was organized by the February 14 Youth Coalition to support jailed activist Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja, who is serving a life sentence. Khawaja has been on a hunger strike for two weeks.

The February 14 Youth Coalition says the action was also taken in memory of Hussain al-Bakali who was martyred during the revolution.

In a popular revolution, thousands of anti-government protesters have been staging demonstrations in Bahrain since February 2011, demanding that the Al Khalifa dynasty relinquish power.

On March 14, 2011, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates deployed troops to the Persian Gulf kingdom at Manama's request to help Bahraini security forces' efforts to crush the nationwide protests.

Scores of people have been killed and many more arrested in the Saudi-backed crackdown on peaceful protests in Bahrain -- a longtime ally of the United States and home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet.

Bahrain opposition says 'violations' on rise since probe

Bahrain's main opposition formation Al-Wefaq said on Saturday that a woman had died from tear gas inhalation, noting that "violations" by the authorities have increased over the past several months.

A woman in her 70s, "Abdat al-Hussein, died because of the excessive use of tear gas by security forces in Al-Sahla" region, said the Shiite grouping without giving further details.

It said "violations have increased" since the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) released its November report into Shiite-led protests in the Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom in February and March last year.

"Twenty protesters have lost their lives since the commission began its work" late last June, an Al-Wefaq statement said.

"Cases of arbitrary arrest have also increased as citizens are detained for 30 or 45 days without any charge," it said, adding that "security members who run over people, steal or break the law are not held accountable."

The BICI head said in November that security forces had used "excessive force" and tortured detainees in its month-long crackdown on dissent.

The report said that 35 people had died, including five from torture.

Syrians head to polls in referendum on new constitution

People in Syria are heading to the polling stations across the country to cast their ballots in a national referendum on a new constitution.
The polls opened at 7 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) on Sunday.
The new national charter would drop the Article 8 in the existing charter and will pave the way for multi-party parliamentary elections within three months.
Earlier this month, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad unveiled the proposed constitution as part of his reform efforts.
More than 14 million people over the age of 18 are eligible to vote in Sunday's referendum at the 13,835 polling stations across the country.
China and Russia, which have both vetoed resolutions against Syria at the UN Security Council, have expressed support for the process.
"China hopes that national dialogue and reforms will move forward in Syria," Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun said earlier this month.
"We hope that the referendum on a new constitution as well as the forthcoming parliamentary elections pass off calmly," Zhai added.
Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March 2011. Hundreds of people, including security forces, have been killed in the unrest.
Damascus blames ‘outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorist groups’ for the unrest, asserting that it is being orchestrated from abroad. The West and the Syrian opposition, however, accuse the Syrian government of killing protesters.

In Tunisia, Clinton cites promise of Arab Spring

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday warned of backsliding in the democratic transformations under way in the Mideast and North Africa, and appealed for countries in the region to fulfill the promise of reform offered by the Arab Spring.

In Tunisia, the catalyst for the tumult that engulfed the region last year, Clinton said the continued embrace of reforms would serve as a powerful example elsewhere. Her comments came amid concerns that transitions in Egypt and elsewhere are faltering and at risk of being hijacked by extremists.

Clinton called on Tunisians, particularly the young, to demand that their new leaders stay on the path of liberalization and openness.

"Protecting democracy is the duty of every citizen," Clinton said. "For young people here and across the region, this is a special responsibility. You were fearless on the front lines of the revolution, enduring tear gas and beatings. It takes a different kind of courage to be guardians of your new democracy."

Later, in Algeria, she carried the same message: "The people of the Maghreb are as talented, creative and hard-working as people anywhere in the world. They need and deserve the opportunity to make decisions on behalf of themselves because that is good for the dignity and rights of every individual and it is good for every society."

She spoke of the need for an accountable and effective government, a dynamic private sector and a vibrant civil society.

The Maghreb countries are Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania, and Morocco, Clinton's final stop before returning to Washington on Sunday.

Tunisia was the first Arab nation to topple a longtime autocrat when its former president fled the country a year ago in the face of protests.

"Transitions can be derailed and detoured to new autocracies," she told a town hall with Tunisian youth. "The victors of revolutions can become their victims. It is up to (you) to resist the calls of demagogues, to build coalitions, to keep faith in the system even when your candidates lose at the polls."

She recalled her own political loss to now-President Barack Obama in the Democratic primaries in 2008 and how she had rejected calls from her supporters not to quit the race and ultimately accepted his offer to become America's top diplomat.

Tunisia was ruled for 23 years by the autocratic Zine El Abidine Ben Ali who espoused a secular ideology and imposed strict limits on political Islam. Since his ouster in January 2011, there has been a flourishing of Islamic groups and a moderate Islamist political party won elections in October.

In one of the largest demonstrations since tens of thousands marched through the capital demanding the ouster of Tunisia's long-reigning dictator, more than 4,000 members of the country's main trade union marched through Tunis and denounced the Islamist-led government. The demonstration was prompted by incidents at the union's offices around the country, which it blamed on members of Ennahda, the moderate Islamist party that won elections in October.

Clinton said the Islamists, along with other parties, must learn to govern together and uphold respect for rule of law, freedom of speech, religion and assembly, protect women and minorities, and "especially in a region with deep divisions within and between religions, avoid inciting sectarian conflicts that pull societies apart."

"There are those who question whether Islamist politics can really be compatible with democracy," she said. "Well, Tunisia has a chance to answer that question affirmatively and to demonstrate that there is no contradiction. That means not just talking about tolerance and pluralism — it means living it. And it's up to you to hold all your political parties to the same values."

"Protecting democracy is the duty of every citizen," Clinton said. "For young people here and across the region, this is a special responsibility. You were fearless on the front lines of the revolution, enduring tear gas and beatings. It takes a different kind of courage to be guardians of your new democracy."

She urged young people to be patient as reforms take hold, noting that economic progress often takes much longer than political change.

"Impatience is a characteristic of being young, but there is a need to be thoughtful about how we're going to secure the political and economic" gains, Clinton said.

Earlier, in meetings with Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki and Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, Clinton pledged continuing U.S. support for the country as it navigates the transition.

"We think Tunisia is proceeding in the right direction based on what we're seeing," Clinton said, "but we will continue to have a dialogue that raises questions as they arise."

Clinton was in Tunisia to attend a meeting on Friday of countries backing opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

In Algiers, Clinton noted that Algeria became an independent nation a half-century ago. "Now for the next 50 years, Algeria needs to assume its rightful place as a nation among nations where prosperity, peace and security are available for the people. And the United States wants to be your partner. A partner of your government, a partner of your economy and a partner of your civil society to see these kinds of positive changes occur."

Clinton met with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has said that elections set for May 10 would pave the way to rebuilding the state to one characterized by good governance and social justice. Mindful of electoral successes of their counterparts in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, Islamists in Algeria are predicting major victories during the election. But secular leaders have spoken of an "Algerian exception" to this trend, predicting the Islamists will not do well.

Algeria has not witnessed the mass protests calling for reform that ripped through other North African nations. But there is widespread discontent over the lack of jobs and housing in the oil-rich country. Algeria also has a history of rejecting political victories by Islamists.

A History of Women in Afghanistan: Then and Now


It may be surprising to know that women in Afghanistan participated socially, politically and economically in the life of their societies before the Taliban came into power.

In 1880 a woman called Malalai from a small village played a great role in the battle of Maiwand. She declared at the top of her lungs: "Young Love, if you do not fall in the battle of Maiwand, by God someone is saving you as a token of shame." This not only revitalised the Afghan fighters who had lost morale fighting the British in the second-Anglo war, but sent her down in history as
Afghanistan's very own Joan of Arc.

How did a woman like Malalai die on the battlefield as one of Afghanistan's greatest heroine but today women in Afghanistan face difficulty leaving their home without a male escort? Interestingly enough, women have played a huge role in the history of Afghanistan. In 1964, women helped draft the Constitution and there were at least three women legislators in Parliament by the 1970's. Women fulfilled roles as teachers, government workers, medical doctors, lawyers, judges, journalists, writers and poets up until the early 1990s. Moreover, women had constituted 40% of the doctors in Kabul; 70% of school teachers; 60% of Kabul University professors and 50% of the University students. It was not unusual for men and women to casually mingle at movie theatres and on university campuses. This is a far cry from little girls heading to schools today fearing an acid attack. Or 15-year-old Sahar
Gul being kept in a basement for six months, tortured with hot iron rods, her fingernails ripped out, all for resisting prostitution.

One particularly interesting segment in the history of Afghan women is during the 1960. The government oversaw various rural development programmes where female nurses were sent in Jeeps to remote areas and villages to inoculate residents from diseases such as cholera. The impossibility of this scheme today is almost too painful to consider. If it were to be pursued by the government now, the men in rural areas would scoff at the idea of their women travelling freely, entering the homes of male strangers, and in some cases, having to touch a strange man in order to treat him. Security concerns alone make such an effort impossible as government nurses (as well as UN and NGO medical workers) are regular targets for insurgent groups. Who cares if she is trying to save lives? She is a woman!

Girl Scouts is yet another tragic memory in Afghanistan's history. Students from elementary and middle schools emulated their counterparts in the USA learning about nature trails, camping and public safety. Little girls were encouraged to expand their skills and venture into new areas of study. Imagine a 'Girl Scouts' scheme taking place in parts of Afghanistan today; the brutish Taliban would cower at the thought of girls engaging in extracurricular activities that would broaden their intellect, never mind being in education in the first place. This delightful scheme disappeared entirely in the 1970s and is showing no signs of return.

Everything changed for women when the Taliban rose to power in early 1995 and set up a radical Islamic state in Afghanistan in 1996. We know that women and girls were systematically discriminated against and marginalised; their human rights utterly violated. This resulted in deteriorating economic and social conditions of women in all areas of the country. They were severely restricted in their access to education, healthcare and employment. Women who had led fruitful lives fulfilling roles as doctors and teachers, were now finding themselves destitute - some resorting to begging on the streets or even prostitution. In May 2001, a decree issued by the Taliban banned women from driving cars and women were continuously beaten and harassed for appearing in public. As little as an inch of foot or hand on display, or even the wrong coloured socks, would warrant an attack from the Taliban who patrolled the streets. My auntie once told me of a time she had been wearing white coloured socks outside. The Taliban who had stopped her beat her with end of an AK47 and told her to go home to change into black coloured socks that were less visible to the eye.

The struggle continues for women in Afghanistan today. The country has a 14 per cent female literacy rate; contrast this with a 99 per cent female literacy rate in the UK and USA. It is nothing short an abomination. This is almost unsurprising when 80 per cent of females lack access to an education centre. The Karzai government issued a law in 2009 that legalised rape within marriage as well as denying the right of women to "leave their homes except for legitimate purposes" or "working or receiving an education without their husbands permission." The law also diminishes the right of mothers to be children's guardians in the event of divorce and makes impossible for wives to inherit their houses and land from their husbands. How can women be expected to rise socially, politically or economically under such circumstances? Or even more fundamentally, how is a woman to feel an equal when she she is subject to rape by her own husband? These conditions are somewhat redolent of the abhorrent 'Jim Crow' laws in the US in the 1880s that restricted African Americans in every aspect of their lives.

Women face further adversity at the prospect of childbirth with a woman dying every 27 minutes due to pregnancy-related complications in Afghanistan. There are on average 1,600 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. But in the remote mountainous province of Badakhshan the rate is 6,500 per 100,000 - the highest recorded rate of maternal mortality in the world. Thus, it may not be an exaggeration to declare Afghanistan the worst place in the world to give birth. I will go on: 17 per cent of women have reported sexual violence, as many as 80 per cent of marriages are forced, and 8 million women and girls aged between 15 and 40 are suffering from depression.

The question that remains is: what hope is there for women in Afghanistan and has there been any progress that bequeaths hope for the future?

In 1977, Meena Keshwar laid the foundations for RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan which launched a bilingual magazine titled Woman's Message (Payam-e-Zan) in 1981 and organised events in the city of Kabul for several years to mark International Women's Day. In August 2002, Khatol Mohammadzai became the first female general to serve in the Afghan National Army. And from 2005 until early 2007, Malalai Joya served as a female parliamentarian in the National Assembly of Afghanistan, substantiating the fact that women can serve in positions of authority. A bodybuilding club for women was even inaugurated in
2005 along with a female boxing federation by Afghanistan's National Olympic Committee. In the 2004 summer Olympics in Athens, female athletes Friba Razayee and Robina Muqim Yaar represented Afghanistan for the first time in the country's history.

Even more promisingly, Afghanistan's Ministry of Education declared that more than 5.4 million children have been enrolled in schools, 35 per cent of them girls, by April 2008. This was however followed in November by an acid attack on school girls in Kandahar with over a dozen injured and left with permanent facial scares. Nonetheless, significant achievements were made in several political aspects: the government appointed its first female provincial governor Habibi Sorabi in 2005 and Azra Jafari became the country's first female mayor in 2009.

So what do all these achievements mean for the women of Afghanistan who are suffering under an extremely patriarchal society? Do they diminish the years of turmoil and subjugation? Certainly not. In fact, as Malalai Joya stated: "To all intents and purposes, the position of women is the same now as it was under the Taliban and in some respects the situation is far worse." However, history has proven that the female population was integral in shaping its course: women were needed, they were appreciated, and they were the heart and soul of Afghanistan. To understand their position now, we must look to then: if women could once constitute a meaningful fraction of society, they will again.

Yasmeen Khan remembered


Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Information and Culture Mian Iftikhar Hussain has said that Yasmeen Khan was a legendary heroine of Pashto movies and her contribution to film industry will be remembered always.

He was addressing a function in the jam-packed Nishtar Hall on late Friday night. The event titled `A Tribute to Yasmeen Khan: Da Zama Warze Dee` was organised jointly by Culture Journalists Forum (CJF) and Culture Directorate of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The minister said that government would continue fighting against terrorism and extremism through promotion of cultural activities in the province. Ihtesham Toru, CJF president, in his remarks said that creating awareness among masses about importance of cultural identity, paying tributes to legends of arts and encouraging new talent were few basics aims of his organisation.

He demanded of the government to set up a gallery and Yasmeen Khan Endowment Fund for the welfare of the artists and take practical steps for promotion of art and culture of province.

He also called upon the minister to take serious notice of the shows, organised at different places in the name of so-called Pakhtun culture, which were distorting the image of the entire Pakhtun nation.

“There should be monitoring committees for these kinds of culture shows within the province and outside the country. They should not be allowed to proceed on foreign visits in connection with culture functions without the proper NOC of the quarters concerned,” he demanded.

Asif Khan, renowned Pashto film star of the yore days, paid glowing tribute to Yasmeen Khan and said that she was really a woman of Pakhtun dignity and contributed immensely to not only the art of film but also created a space for other Pashtun women aspirants in the field.

She always encouraged art activities and wanted that Pakhtun woman should be given a due place in the society, he added.

Film director Qaiser Sanubar on the occasion said that Yasmeen Khan was an icon of Pashto film industry and was truly an artist par excellence.

Jamil Babar, another actor of Pashto movies, said that Yasmeen Khan was an intelligent woman and used her talent for creative art and gave a new direction to Pashto filmmaking.

Earlier, a documentary on the life and contributions of Yasmeen Khan was shown that received great appreciation from the participants.

TV artists Arshad Hussain and Neelum Gul performed on poplar old songs filmed on Yasmeen Khan in her hit movies.

'Baloch fighting war of survival in Pakistan'

Terming a resolution moved by some US lawmakers for "self-determination" in Balochistan as a "positive" step, two key Baloch leaders living in exile in America said on Sunday that people of the province are fighting the "war of their survival" in Pakistan.

Nationalist leaders Waheed Baloch and Razzaq Baloch, in separate interviews to a news agency, said that for the first time the international community, the US in particular, seems to have listened to the voices of the people of Balochistan, who they alleged are experiencing genocide unleashed by the Pakistan Army and ISI in particular.

Their comments came as Republican representative Dana Rohrabacher and two other lawmakers recently moved a resolution in the US House of Representatives, saying Balochis - now divided among Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan – should "have the right to self-determination and to their own sovereign country; and they should be afforded the opportunity to choose their own status”.

The Obama administration, however, has said that the introduction of any resolution does not in any way imply US government's endorsement of any particular policy. "I think that (Congressional resolution) is a positive step. I appreciate those Congressmen who took this step and brought this question to the Congress, the American administration, people of Pakistan and the international media," Waheed Baloch, former speaker of Balochistan Assembly, said.

`Baloch fighting war of survival in Pakistan`
Stating that the Balochs are "fighting the war of their survival in Pakistan”, he said the top priority for the international community is to urgently stop the "genocide" of the people living in Balochistan who, he asserted, never accepted the merger of their province with Pakistan after the colonial British rulers left India in 1947 resulting in Partition.

"Due to its rich natural resources, Balochistan is the last economic hope of Pakistan. Islamabad is now targeting to change the demographic profile of Balochistan," he said.

"Pakistan is doing genocide of the Baloch people, in particular the youths...," alleged Waheed Baloch, who in the US heads Baloch International League for Peace and Freedom; a non-governmental organisation registered in Washington. Razzaq Baloch, general secretary of the Balochistan National Party USA, said the Congressional resolution on self-determination and a previous hearing in a Congressional sub-committee on human rights "violations" in the province is a positive development.

"Pakistan is using two things to control Balochistan. They try to terrorise our people, so that they can control our resources. They are trying to run the country with Balochi resources and American help," Razzaq Baloch said.

Razzaq, who now lives in Florida, said the international community has now started listening to the cries of the Baloch people.

He alleged that the government of Pakistan has used massive force to suppress the true voices of the Balochi people.

"They are using their military power. The jet aircraft were supposed to be used against the Taliban and terrorists and they are using them against us," Razzaq alleged.

Pakistan, he claimed, wants to control Balochistan because of its strategic location.

`Baloch fighting war of survival in Pakistan`
"This is for the first time that someone in the Congress has recognised our plight. Both the Republican and Democratic party are supporting the Balochi cause. This is a positive thing for us," Razzaq said.

Asserting that it was for the people of Balochistan to decide their future, he said historically the province had never been part of Pakistan.

"We never opted to merge with Pakistan. Pakistan has occupied our land. They want to terrorise our people," he said.

"Now for the first time the civilised world has started listening to us," said Razzaq, who has been living in the US since 1993.

Balochistan: Mengal’s conditions for talks with Government


The BNP President, Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal, has demanded immediate withdrawal of combat troops from Balochistan, an end to the custodial killing of political opponents and release of all missing persons in custody of the Government functionaries, police or other security agencies. Only after this, he and his party colleagues will consider holding talks with the Government normalizing situation in Balochistan. It is natural that no Baloch nationalist will hold talks under the prevailing conditions, particularly when the detained people are killed in custody. There should be an improvement in the situation and a better and congenial atmosphere should be created for talks finding solutions to the Baloch conflict. We have been saying the same for the past many years and suggested to the Government to create a proper political climate in Balochistan for holding meaningful talks or restoring normalcy. Besides Government functionaries, officers from the defence forces, no political leader worth the name is supporting the policies of the Government in Balochistan. Even the President of Pakistan offered no comments on Balochistan situation! The allies of the Government had condemned the target killing by the functionaries and custodial killing of political opponents. In a way, the Government and the entire state apparatus is completely isolated on this issue and being criticized from all corners, including the allies of the coalition Governments at the Centre and in the Province of Balochistan. The Senate Functional Committee had gone a step further asking the Government to stop treating Baloch political opponents as enemies of Pakistan. In such a case, they will definitely look towards other countries for help, the Committee argued. Thus the demands from the BNP President are just and legitimate and without fulfilling those conditions, it is nearly impossible that any one will come forward and hold talks with the Government or attend the All Parties Conference proposed by the Prime Minister. We hope that the Prime Minister will announce certain measures before holding the APC or inviting the stake holders from Balochistan to sort out political and constitutional issues of Balochistan. The Baloch conflict has nothing to do with the so-called sense of deprivation, a term hated and deeply resented by the Baloch nationalists. Backwardness is rampant in Balochistan for more than two thousands years. It is not new or discovery by the Pakistani rulers. They are rightly demanding their political and constitutional rights for which they are protesting against the hostile policies of the Federal Government.

PPP candidate Wahida Shah slaps polling staff

PPP candidate Wahida Shah for Tando Muhammad Khan seat was shown by Dunya TV slapping a polluting officer while a police officer stands a silent spectator.
However, later the PPP candidates alleged that she did so because fake votes were being cast at the station.
She was also seen attacking an elderly voter standing behind her.
Even if rigging was going on, can a candidate or anybody else take law into their hands? It’s down to the Election Commission to look into it.
SSP Tando Muhammad Khan Muhammad Ali Baloch said that the police were looking into the matter. However, he said he had not seen the footage of the TV, but if any one lodged a complaint action could be taken.
On being prodded by Dunya News anchor, the SSP willy-nilly revealed that any one who interferes with official business can face a year-long prison.

Government’s response on Balochistan


President Asif Ali Zardari has said Balochistan is the topmost priority for the government and he is willing to visit the province to talk to the Baloch leaders. The president went on to say that he would make sure that the people of Balochistan became part of Pakistan’s society. He asserted that he was aware of the injustices to the Baloch people and would not abandon his brothers in such difficult times. With due respect, the manner in which the government has made the Balochistan issue its ‘topmost priority’ leaves much to be desired. The thrust of the government’s approach, starting from the president’s apology to the Baloch people for past excesses and leading up to the Aghaaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan Package, has been predicated on a deliberate and misplaced concreteness that relies on offering development to the troubled province’s youth without addressing the real ground situation. The elephant in the room that the government chooses to ignore is the fact that the present course in Balochistan is dictated by the military establishment. The policy of kidnapping, torturing and then dumping the dead bodies of nationalists all over the province is surely not the idea of the government, federal or provincial. However, neither government has been able in the last four years to restrain the military and intelligence agencies from their dastardly and arguably eventually disastrous course. Given this reality, what sort of reciprocity does the president expect on a visit to the province from the alienated Baloch leaders? And it should not be forgotten either that these are the moderate leaders who do not necessarily subscribe to the idea of separation and independence for Balochistan. That so far is the declared position only of the Baloch leaders in exile or in the mountains. Since there is little if any chance of a dialogue with those extremely angry and alienated elements, any presidential visit without dealing seriously with the complaints, immediate and long term, of the Baloch would once again prove an exercise in futility, a dialogue of the deaf, with neither side conceding the other’s point of view.

First and foremost, the government has to abandon the flawed notion that ‘development’ can trump politics in the province. No amount of announcement of development projects, schools and other institutions can mollify the estranged province. The government must talk to the military establishment to withdraw the hated FC from the province, stop the kill and dump policy, recover the missing persons under a lawful approach to dealing with them, and last but not least, find ways and means to talk not only to the ‘available’ Baloch leaders (albeit they too are reluctant to engage unless the conditions enumerated above are met) but also those in exile or in the mountains. All this requires a major rethink on the approach to the province’s problems. These immediate steps could transform at least the atmospherics and open up space for a genuine dialogue. Off the cuff announcements such as those by Interior Minister Rehman Malik that cases against the insurgent leaders will be withdrawn, only to be cast into the shadows of doubt barely a day later, are not helpful. They only serve to widen the credibility gap. The Foreign Office has chimed in with the usual mantra of a ‘foreign hand’ churning up trouble in the province. These claims are neither new nor, in the absence of any evidence, credible. They too only serve to stoke the fires of anger and alienation and make the apprehensions triggered by the hearing and resolution in the US Congress self-fulfilling prophecies. Restraint, honesty of purpose, a turn from repression to genuine dialogue is the only way forward. The present course portends disaster.

Polio campaign: ‘Parents will be prosecuted for resisting vaccination’

The Express Tribune

The Jhang district administration will prosecute people who refuse to let their children be immunised against polio in the ongoing campaign, District Coordination Officer (DCO) Muhammad Shahid Niaz told the media on Saturday.

The DCO has invoked Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in the district and directed officials to ensure that no child under the age of five years is left out of the three-day anti-polio vaccination campaign that began on Friday. He said action under Section 188 of the Pakistan Penal Code would be taken against parents who refused to let the Health Department teams administer polio vaccine to their children.

DCO Niaz said the decision to prosecute parents for non-compliance was taken following reports about a neighbourhood where families had been unwilling to let their children be immunised against the disease.

He said there were about 50 houses in the neighbourhood who had not allowed vaccination of their children during the previous two campaigns. “I have asked the elders of these households to cooperate with our teams and warned them of strict action if they did not let their children be vaccinated this time,” the DCO said. He said officials in charge of the campaign had been directed to report all cases where parents were not cooperating with them so that they can be prosecuted.

The DCO said officials found negligent during the drive would also be taken to task.

As many as 976 mobile teams have been formed in Jhang for the current campaign.

The teams will administer anti-polio drops to 353,560 children under the age of five. There are 36 supervisors and 184 area in-charges who have been deployed at rural health centres and identified dispensaries. They are directed to monitor and record progress in the campaign and report incidents where families refuse to let their children be immunised.

Five Health Department officials were recently suspended for negligence after polio was detected in a three-year-old girl in the district.

The action was taken after a test at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Islamabad confirmed polio in Sajida, a resident of Kholara, over two weeks ago.

EDO (Health) Khalid Islam had later confirmed that some areas of the district were missed in the previous vaccination campaigns.
Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant

Whoever, knowing that, by an order promulgated by a public servant lawfully empowered to promulgate such order, he is directed to abstain from a certain act, or to take certain order with certain property in his possession or under his management, disobeys such direction, shall, if such disobedience causes or tends to cause obstruction, annoyance or injury or risk of obstruction, annoyance or injury, to any persons lawfully employed, be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one month or with fine which may extend to [six hundred rupees], or with both; and if such disobedience causes or tends to cause danger to human life, health or safety, or causes or tends to cause a riot or affray, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to [three thousand rupees] , or with both.

Prime Minister Gilani interview: ‘Opposition will be consulted before polls’

The Express Tribune

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has said that the government will consult the opposition before holding the next general elections.

Talking to a select group of journalists on Saturday, the prime minister said the government would take into account the opposition’s advice and take practical steps, if they were in the national interest and for the welfare of the people.

Replying to a question about his strategy in the final year of his five-year term and before going to the polls, the prime minister said he had asked the finance ministry to prepare a people-friendly budget. He added that the ministry has also been asked to create 100,000 jobs this year.

The premier said that the government has taken short-term, mid-term and long-term decisions to resolve the power shortage.

He added that Rs50 billion has been cleared from the circular debt while the remaining amount would be cleared this year, so that full potential of power generation could be utilised.

To resolve the gas shortage, he added, Pakistan is committed to availing all possible means, including the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline and importing gas from Qatar.

Answering a question about consultations with US leadership, the prime minister said although Parliament would take the final decision on future foreign policy, as a responsible country, “Pakistan wants to have good and friendly relations with all countries on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect”.

About the expected decision of his contempt of court case in the Supreme Court, the prime minister said: “I will be martyr or Ghazi”.