Saturday, July 28, 2012

Retiring Envoy to Afghanistan Exhorts U.S. to Heed Its Past

The American diplomat most associated with the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan says that American policy makers need to learn the lessons of the recent past as they weigh military options for the future, including for Syria and Iran: Remember the law of unintended consequences. ¶ Recognize the limits of the United States’ actual capabilities. ¶ Understand that getting out of a conflict once you are in can often be dangerous and as destructive for the country as the original conflict. “You better do some cold calculating, you know, about how do you really think you are going to influence things for the better,” said Ryan C. Crocker, 63,
the departing ambassador to Afghanistan and one of the pre-eminent American diplomats of the past 40 years. Even as he retires fighting an exhausting illness, Mr. Crocker cannot help keeping his mind at work on the crisis spots that have defined his career — in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Iran and Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Mr. Crocker, a wiry, intense man who for years was a dedicated distance runner, is retiring at the end of July after a career that began as the last American troops were leaving Vietnam and is ending as the curtain closes on an era of American state-building that has mostly fallen short of the results policy makers had hoped for. In Iraq, the dream of a peaceful and democratic ally in the Arab world is giving way to a renewal of violence and an authoritarian government that lists toward Iran. In Afghanistan, the future is uncertain and hangs on dozens of “ifs” — if the elections are fair enough, if the Afghan security forces can fight off insurgents, if the government can become self-sufficient. In the years ahead, Mr. Crocker sees, if anything, an increasingly fraught foreign landscape in a world set afire by war and revolution, a chapter bound to frustrate the best intentions and most sophisticated strategies of the United States. Although he speaks Arabic and has spent a lifetime immersed in the Arab world and Afghanistan, Mr. Crocker is deeply skeptical that Americans on foreign soil can be anything other than strangers in a strange land. “We’re a superpower, we don’t fight on our territory, but that means you are in somebody else’s stadium, playing by somebody else’s ground rules, and you have to understand the environment, the history, the politics of the country you wish to intervene in,” he said. Although publicly Mr. Crocker has sometimes presented the glass as half-full when assessing the situation in foreign countries, fellow diplomats say that his private analyses tend to be stark and unromantic — a vision shaped by his 38 years of experience in which he confronted over and over the limits of American power and the hostility of many in the world to what the United States stands for. In 1983, while a political attaché in Lebanon, he was in his office when a delivery truck loaded with explosives slammed into the American Embassy in Beirut, killing 63 people, including 17 Americans. He was one of the first on the scene to walk through the smoldering wreckage looking for his colleagues. A year earlier, in Lebanon, he was the American diplomat who walked through the Sabra and Shatila camps after 800 mostly Muslim refugees were slaughtered there by Christian militias. He used a transmitter to tell his colleagues back in Washington about the carnage around him. In 1998, his residence was attacked while he was ambassador to Syria. Though he was away, his wife, Christine, was inside the house. She has almost always traveled with him, even to war zones, and accompanied him to Baghdad despite the dangers. But she has not been with him in Afghanistan. Most recently in Kabul, Mr. Crocker was in the embassy when it came under siege by suicide bombers armed with rockets who positioned themselves in an unfinished apartment building and shot at the embassy in an attack that lasted 19 hours. With all that in mind, Mr. Crocker, who has a wry sense of humor, is generally leery of predictions in chaotic situations. “You know my hackneyed line — that an extreme-long-range prediction is a week from Thursday,” he said.Mr. Crocker, the child of an Air Force family, was born in Spokane, Wash., but spent time growing up in Morocco and Turkey as well as Canada. After obtaining a degree in English literature from Whitman College, he joined the State Department, and the next decade set the pattern of the rest of his life, toggling between service in the Arab world and work in Afghanistan and Pakistan.He started with Persian language training and was sent to Iran, and he then pursued Arabic training, joining the elite ranks of the State Department’s Arabists. He was one of the Arab world specialists in the State Department who expressed deep worry at the Bush administration’s march into Iraq. He and William J. Burns, then special assistant to the secretary of state, prepared a secret memorandum in 2002 examining the risks associated with an American invasion. Titled “The Perfect Storm,” it reportedly outlined a possible situation in which ousting Saddam Hussein would unleash long-suppressed sectarian and ethnic anger and draw the regional players — Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran — into the violent brew. The analysis described with striking accuracy the disintegration of Iraqi society that came to pass. In 2007, Mr. Crocker was nominated as ambassador to Iraq to fix the deadly and chaotic situation. He worked hand in hand with the new American military commander, Gen. David H. Petraeus, in what became a remarkable partnership of two men with deeply different backgrounds. They were both sold on the need for a surge of American troops there, and convinced that the United States had a responsibility after entering Iraq not to abandon it to a worsening whirlwind of sectarian violence. In Iraq, and later in Afghanistan, Mr. Crocker managed to build trust with difficult political leaders with precarious holds on power. When Mr. Crocker arrived in Afghanistan a year ago, President Hamid Karzai was angry and alienated about what he felt was disrespect by American and other international officials over his troubled 2009 re-election, among other things. Mr. Crocker, who had known him since 2002, was able to persuade him of the benefits of a strategic partnership agreement with the United States, a vital step for the Americans toward an eventual military withdrawal, despite extensive lobbying against the deal from neighboring Iran and Pakistan. He noted how struck he was by reports that even though many members of the Afghan grand council meeting to decide on the strategic partnership had been paid off to vote against it, primarily by Iran, the council decided to approve it anyway. “What basically happened is they pocketed the money and voted the way they wanted to,” he said, with a touch of admiration. “Intimidation doesn’t really work terribly well with most Afghans.” Beneath Mr. Crocker’s rigorous analysis is a feeling for those who are vulnerable, including ordinary people who in fiery parts of the world are too often collateral damage. As he contemplated the widening violence in Syria he sounded sober, even bleak. “I worry greatly that the minorities, the Alawis and the Christians, are going to be in for a very awful time,” he said, adding that he fears as well that if Muslim hard-liners take over, “the repercussions for Syria, for Lebanon and Iraq, I think, can be pretty serious.” As for the United States’ ability to sway the situation, he was again reflective. “We’ve been writing memos to policy makers with the subject line ‘Levers on Syria’ for decades,” he said. “Well, you know, the reality was those levers didn’t exist.” Now, he added: “I’m not sure we can do much to influence it.”

Balochistan: How Kidnapping Doctors Hurts the Patients

While Sunday’s kidnapping of Bolan Medical College (B.M.C.) associate professor Dr. Din Mohammad Baloch has triggered a fresh wave of insecurity among Balochistan’s doctors, the ensuing strike called by physicians across the province has caused enormous suffering for the common citizens. On Friday, almost all hospitals in Quetta did not admit patients for regular treatment. Only the emergency wards functioned while sick women and children were heard crying for help in futile attempts to gain medical attention. Doctors went on a strike after the government’s failure to comply with an earlier demand that their colleague, who was kidnapped in Mastung district on July 22, should be recovered within 24 hours. Dr. Sultan Tareen, Balochistan president of the Pakistan Medical Association (P.M.A), had announced the ultimatum during a press conference at the Quetta Press Club on Thursday where he was also accompanied by Dr. Shahnaz Baloch, the B.M.C. Principal. Dr. Baloch’s is a case of kidnapping for ransom. The kidnappers initially asked for Rs. 50 million for his release but eventually agreed to bring down the demand to Rs. 8 million. Yet, the saga does not seem to end any time soon as there are no signs of willingness, or maybe the ability, on the part of the victim’s family to pay ransom to the kidnappers. Three things should worry us about this kidnapping. Firstly, it took place in the electoral constituency of Balochistan’s Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani. The P.M.A says it suspects some elements in the government are responsible for the kidnapping. The doctors are raising fingers at the government either for its alleged involvement in the kidnapping or for the “mild attitude” of authorities in terms of their lack of action against elements responsible for this event. Mustung has become the kidnapping and car-snatching capital of Balochistan. The district would not have turned into the hub of crimes if Mr. Raisani had taken personal ownership and responsibility of the issue in the first place. Secondly, the kidnappers are demonstrating brazen bravery by using regular cell phones to communicate with the abducted doctor’s family. This indicates that the confidence level of criminals has significantly risen. In the past, criminals, insurgents and other groups used to use satellite phones to communicate with the media and other relevant people. Now, they are so much convinced of the police system’s weaknesses that they are fully confident that their whereabouts will not still be located even if they make phone calls via local cell phone connections. It shows an abysmal level of crime investigation mechanism available in Balochistan’s policing institutions. Granting so much space to criminals implicitly translates into inviting dire trouble for citizens. Thirdly, Dr. Baloch’s kidnappers have reportedly asked the family to pay them the ransom in Jacobabad, a town in Sindh province bordering Balochistan. This shows that kidnappers and criminals in one province are also connected with their counterparts in other provinces of Pakistan. It is a pity that criminals from Balochistan are connected and facilitated by similar groups in the Sindh province but we see no signs of cooperation between the police forces in various provinces, including Balochistan. Once a kidnapped person is taken to another province, it becomes much more difficult to find their whereabouts in another province where one would require a totally different set of skills and expertise (such as knowledge of the local geography, language and demography) to access the safe houses of the criminals and secure the release of a kidnapped citizen. These are extremely hot summer days in Quetta and other parts of Balochistan which coincide with Ramzan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. Several patients, who were not attended at Quetta hospitals on Sunday fainted. There were large queues of sick and, worst of all, helpless people who were not being attended. Such strike calls are essential to draw the attention of the government but they come up with a heavy price for the ailing citizens. People in need of urgent medical assistance are very likely to go to less qualified doctors or those who apply traditional methods of treatment. Thus, the cost of this strike is too high which may lead to the death of many innocent people. The government of Balochistan should expedite efforts to locate Dr. Din Mohammad Baloch and make sure that doctors are provided full protection. While the government endeavors to release Dr. Baloch, we strongly urge the government and public representatives to simultaneously continue discussions to explore options that will soften the terms and conditions of the ongoing strike. Common people should not be compelled to pay the price of criminals’ actions and government’s failures.

Pakistan: President, PM, enjoy constitutional immunity

Federal Law Minister Farooq H Naek has said that the court orders do not apply to the president and the prime minister as their official decisions have constitutional protection and cannot be challenged. Speaking to media representatives after visiting the Sindh High Court on Saturday, he said all the decisions of the president and the prime minister have constitutional protection under article 242. Naek said that running a government is the executive’s job, making a law is the parliament’s job while the court’s job is to ensure the implementation of the laws. He, however, said that the government respects the Supreme Court and does not want any clash between the institutions.

Pakistan: Mehsud IDPs hope to find a way back home

The Express Tribune News Network.
Given the option to continue living in camps in D I Khan and Tank, or returning to their homes in South Waziristan Agency, many internally displaced persons (IDPs) have chosen the latter, despite threats from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). At the moment their hopes of returning to a peaceful existence seem doomed. The TTP have distributed pamphlets in South Waziristan, issuing death threats to the Mehsud IDPs, stating that the agency is a war zone where its militants are fighting against security forces. Security forces launched ‘Operation Rah-e-Nijat’ in 2009 in South Waziristan, dividing the Mehsud between those who joined the TTP and those who turned to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa for refuge as IDPs. The result has been a bitter conflict, even within their individual families. The origins of the TTP can be traced to the Mehsud tribe, while many of the party’s leadership and foot-soldiers hail from South Waziristan. At their camps, Mehsud IDPs in D I Khan and Tank move from one ration centre to another in a desperate attempt to meet their basic household needs. Shahbaz Khan, 72, from South Waziristan told The Express Tribune that his son joined the TTP in 2009 after the military operation and he has not heard from him since. “The war in our region has turned our lives into hell. I lost a son when he joined the militants. I am dependent on rations given to IDPs in relief camps to feed my family of 13,” he explained, holding his walking stick in one hand and a water cooler in the other. In the aftermath of TTP threats, repatriating IDPs has proved to be a difficult task for the government. Despite this, the Pakistan army and political administration of South Waziristan began returning the Mehsud IDPs to their respective areas on July 16. “Each of these families were provided with transportation, a six-month ration and Rs25,000, among other necessities,”assistant political agent of the Ladha sub-division of South Waziristan, Nawab Khan Safi, said. The Mehsud IDPs face a difficult reality. On the one hand, they faced hard times in their respective camps, while on the other they are unsure about their homes, which could have been destroyed during the military operation in their areas. Despite this looming uncertainty, hundreds of IDPs gathered in the registration centre to return home. On July 18, Phase 5 of the IDPs repatriation was completed under the supervision of security forces and civil administration authorities. Some 1,118 families, including 4,874 individuals have begun returning to their homes in the agency. It seems that both the economic and political structures of the Mehsud tribe have been deeply uprooted by war in the region.

Obama raises millions for 2012 campaign
The limousine ride from the White House last week took five minutes, delivering President Obama to the Mandarin Oriental hotel near L’Enfant Plaza at 5:49 p.m. Waiting for him were about two dozen donors who had paid a minimum of $60,000 each for a private “roundtable” that included presidential comments followed by a Q&A. By 6:48 p.m., Obama was back at the White House, headed toward the Oval Office. The estimated haul: at least $1.5 million, to be divided among his reelection campaign, the Democratic National Committee and several state parties.For rate of return on candidate time, that’s pretty sweet. Money moves through Washington like blood through arteries, and never more so than during election season. For Obama, that means leveraging his advantage as the candidate whose day job is in the heart of downtown. As his motorcade darts across the city, snarling traffic and sealing off sidewalks, it could be another dash for cash. It is part of a blistering fundraising pace in a campaign in which spending by both candidates and allied groups may exceed $2 billion. Obama’s Friday schedule listed three private gatherings with close-by contributors, including one at the Jefferson hotel, four blocks from his desk. Donors in New York and California have given more, but the Washington region, with its vast community of wealthy lawyers, executives, political operatives and players willing to fly in for a few minutes of presidential face time, offers big money virtually at Obama’s doorstep. Campaign officials will not discuss specific figures, but presidential schedules, statements and published reports show that Obama has raised at least $20 million this year by venturing no farther than 1.4 miles from the White House. Most of the forays have been to caucus with deep-pocketed contributors at nearby hotels, such as the Mandarin, the W and the Jefferson. Expand that radius by just a few miles and there’s millions more in the form of similarly brief but profitable visits — to private homes. On Jan. 31, after a fundraiser with about 50 donors at the St. Regis on 16th Street NW ($35,800 per person; estimated take: at least $1.8 million), Obama headed to the Chevy Chase residence of Stewart Bainum, chairman of Choice Hotels and Manor Care. For after-dinner remarks and questions from about 70 guests, Obama took in an estimated $2.5 million. At the Kalorama home of gay activists Nan Schaffer and Karen Dixon on Feb. 9, he secured about $1.4 million. Former DNC chairman and likely 2013 Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe hosted Obama at his McLean residence in April, with Bill Clinton as a featured guest. About 500 people paid $1,000 each for the reception. Eighty dinner guests wrote checks for at least $20,000. With recent reports showing Obama falling behind Republican Mitt Romney in the money chase, the local fundraising takes on added significance. Donors have been pelted with calls, with campaign bundlers searching for fresh sources of cash while doubling and tripling down on contributors who have not maxed out to their legal limit. “Someone on the national finance committee becomes your best friend until you write a check,” said Al Dwoskin, a Northern Virginia real estate developer and property manager. He joined about 20 other donors who paid at least $35,800 in January to join Obama around a polished wood conference table at the clubby Jefferson hotel. Obama is by no means the first White House incumbent to grab the low-hanging local fruit, and he has attacked it with zeal. Of the 111 fundraising events he has attended this year, 24 were in the Washington area. The second most frequently tapped venue has been California, with 14.“The city is set up for it,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which monitors campaign spending. “The apparatus is here, ready to mobilize.” Romney also has been active here. Last month, he held a $50,000-per-person dinner at the Georgetown home of real estate developer Bob Pence. On Romney’s behalf, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) drew several hundred donors to the Willard Hotel last Wednesday for a breakfast and discussion. And Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) recently hosted young professionals on the roof deck of the Homer Building, on 13th Street NW. Like Romney’s fundraising events, most of Obama’s interactions with the big donors are not open to the news media. Attendees at the Obama sessions say they usually begin with the president reviewing key issues, expressing particular concern about those over which he has limited control, such as gas prices, European finances and the Middle East. He also warns of the prodigious fundraising on the Republican side. “He was very candid about what he was up against,” said Donald Tucker, a Bethesda architect and developer who specializes in affordable housing. He attended the January dinner at Bainum’s home in exchange for his $35,800 donation. Questions from donors covered a variety of issues, including taxes and the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Exchanges can occasionally get edgy or awkward. “You had your turn — now it’s my turn,” Obama said, cutting off a donor at the Jefferson this year, according to one attendee. Some questions can elicit eye rolls. One person at the Bainum event asked how the president might recapture some of the magic of his 2008 campaign. Obama said, in essence: That was then, this is now. Contributors said the president’s remarks rarely surprise. In a world of iPhones and tweets, the risks of going off-message are too high. Obama probably learned that the hard way in 2008, when he said at a closed San Francisco fundraiser that small-town Pennsylvania voters “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them” to deal with their anger over the economy. The comments found their way into the media. (Now, on at least some occasions, donors are asked to surrender their phones before meeting the president.) “He stays within the party line,” said Denise Glassman, a Chevy Chase Democratic activist. “He’s not stupid.” She and her husband, who are neighbors of Bainum’s, contributed $35,800 for dinner in a heated backyard tent. With the flood of independent money in the race, the president has invested unprecedented energy in the cash chase. A study by U.S. Naval Academy political science professor Brendan Doherty found that through July 18, Obama held 183 fundraisers for his reelection committee and the DNC. That’s more than George W. Bush’s and Clinton’s combined during the last two years of their first terms. Obama campaign officials disputed Doherty’s calculus, saying that Bush and Republicans counted multiple events at a single site as a single fundraiser. While the Obama campaign prefers to talk about its tens of thousands of small-scale donors who contribute amounts under $250, the president’s schedule is peppered with examples of his pursuit of the big checks. He is a virtual regular at the Jefferson, slipping into the venerable Beaux-Arts hotel 11 times since January for donor gatherings. Neither campaign nor hotel officials discuss why it has become a fundraising venue of choice, although proximity and security are probably factors. It probably also doesn’t hurt that the hotel’s owner is a major Democratic contributor. In March, Connie Milstein, principal and co-founder of Ogden CAP Properties, and her husband, Jehan-Christophe de La Haye Saint Hilaire, each gave $75,800 — the maximum allowable individual donation.

A Romney Presidency Would Be a Threat to Peace We Cannot Allow
Barack Obama was the first president elected on a platform of withdrawing American troops from an ongoing war. Now, though political pundits and the reporters rarely mention it, Obama’s re-election depends on winning back the peace vote in November. This week the wars will will received a brief “cameo” role, according to the Los Angeles Times, because Mitt Romney is taking his campaign to London, Israel and Poland. The Hollywood analogy is apt: it’s as if the trillion-dollar wars can be cut and pasted from a choreographed script.Based on what little is known, a Romney presidency would return America to the Bush-era foreign and military policies. Romney’s key advisers include the neoconservatives who championed the Iraq War, resumed hostilities with Russia and at least rhetorical support for an Israeli strike against Iran. The hawks in the Republican wings include John Bolton, Randy Scheunemann and, in the background, the deep-pocketed Sheldon Adelson. Obama’s campaign team has tried for weeks to frame Romney as too willing to go to war, an argument, according to the New York Times, “that could be damaging if it manages to stick, since Americans have grown war-weary after a decade of combat.” While the election will turn on economic conditions, those have been defined through too narrow a lens. It is dishonest to compartmentalize the economy without totaling the trillions in unfunded war spending that has ballooned the deficit. The same arguments Obama uses against Romney on Bush-era Republican economics—that he promises a return to failed policies—can be made about Romney’s foreign policy; that his administration will recycle the failed policies of the neocons. Obama can link the wars to his economic crisis by noting that taxpayers will save $150 billion per year by winding down two quagmires (the combined direct costs of Iraq and Afghanistan since FY 2008 is in the range of $760 billion). He can accuse the deficit hawks of hypocrisy due to their profligate spending on unfunded wars. One reason for the disappearance of the wars from the presidential contest so far is the general lack of Beltway recognition of the peace movement as an interest group, especially as one that might sway an election. This is astonishing, since Obama owed his primary victories over Hillary Clinton largely to his stance on Iraq, and the Democrats won the House and Senate in 2006, according to the Gallup poll, because 61 percent of voters named Iraq as their top priority. Not that centrist Democrats took up the issue; it was as if when peace breaks out it should be treated as an allergy (or “syndrome”). More recently, grassroots networks have fortified Representative Barbara Lee and Representative Jim McGovern, who annually produce 100–200 House votes against Afghan funding or softer resolutions demanding accelerated withdrawals. Representative John Conyers, retiring Representative Dennis Kucinich and former Senator. Russ Feingold have relied on grassroots activism as well. The peace constituency is a discernible voting bloc defined by its pattern of behavior in 2006 and 2008. Its attitude this year could be an invisible margin of difference in battleground states. Certainly Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin have thousands of voters yet to be mobilized in the name of peace. If millions of dollars are spent routinely on trying to increase Democratic turnout among blacks, Latinos or union members, it is curious why no such attention is paid to getting out the peace vote. Of course, the peace movement is less an organized lobby than a fractious network of local networks, responding to ups and downs of crises, yet it remains capable of coming together as a discernible bloc in critical elections. It has no lavish offices or insider-lobbyists. MoveOn tried with mixed results to serve that role, before moving on to other issues. Peace activists often are reduced to being used as grassroots volunteers asked to make phone calls or write letters on behalf of legislation they never had a hand in writing. In Washington terms, they are not “at the table.” Nor are they recognized as a caucus in the Democratic Party. It is no wonder so many feel disrespected. Sensing they have no voice, many peace voters are fed up with Obama, the Democratic party and politics in general. They do not volunteer, are not energized and may not even vote. These voters tend to be white and isolated from the currents of loyalty to Obama that run deep in the African-American community. As detached independents, they lack the material interest in electoral outcomes that draws groups like organized labor into electoral battles. These voters—potentially non-voters—go so far as to complain that Obama and Romney are essentially identical, that Democrats and Republicans are Tweedledee and Tweedledum, even that Obama has been worse than George Bush. They dismiss as an illusion any overarching economic debate between Obama and Romney over corporate power and Wall Street. They implicitly believe that Democratic voters (seniors, blacks, Latinos, women, labor, environmentalists, LGBT activists, etc.) are mistaken in perceiving that the Obama-Romney difference matters. There are no “fringes” in a 50-50 election. Consultants on both sides claim that the November result will depend on turnout. Again and again, 1 or 2 percent margins are the difference between winning and losing. Elections are settled by fringes, at least as often as the more-targeted undecided. Democrats generally try to win elections, while the Republican Party, because it represents a fading demographic minority, is forced to steal them. The Republicans steal them primarily with money, but also with voter suppression and disenfranchisement laws that reduce turnout among the young, students and racial minorities. The Republicans are hoping to dampen or prevent turnout among anti-war voters just enough to squeeze themselves back into power. To win the election, Obama’s challenge is to ignore many—not all—of the traditional Democratic establishment insiders and reach out to the peace vote. To do so credibly, Obama will need to recognize that he himself has muddied (and bloodied) his message through his escalation of drone warfare, his secret counterterrorism programs and his embrace of the growing secrecy of state power. He cannot win the peace vote on a message of ending one war while escalating others, nor by promising transparency and then restoring the CIA to its 1950s role of secret wars and coups. Obama needs to “pivot” toward a peace platform while not appearing to flip-flop. In response, peace networks will have to awaken to a clear awareness of what is at stake. § He already stresses that he is ending two quagmires at a savings of trillions of dollars, which will be invested in jobs and domestic priorities; he needs to accelerate Afghanistan troop withdrawals and diplomacy before November election, to send a message that 2014 is a real deadline; and he needs to clarify that Afghanistan is not intended to become a sanctuary for counterterrorism and US bases in the region; § Obama needs to declare that he is ending the Long War, a counterinsurgency doctrine going back to the tiger cages in Vietnam that assumes fifty to eighty years of continuous combat against Islamic fundamentalism; § On these issues, he needs to demand whether Romney agrees, forcing Romney to answer whether he intends to bring back the Bush-Cheney-neoconservative policies once again. Those are the easy steps, positions Obama already has taken, and which more or less fulfill his pledges to wind down Iraq and Afghanistan. But events move on, and his pledges on Iraq and Afghanistan are not enough. The hard part is that Obama will need to carefully acknowledge that his own counterterrorism policies, while killing leaders and disrupting networks, have also spread insurgent cells to other countries, angered many millions of Muslims and led to a new era of warfare symbolized by drones, cyber-sabotage and revival of CIA clandestine wars. Obama understandably will seek to defend his policies, but—and here is the pivot—he needs to promise a review and overhaul of the 1973 War Powers Act, which Congress passed to check the imperial power of the Nixon presidency. The WPA is about the past; it does not encompass any definitions or provisions for transparency and accountability in the new era of warfare that has begun. Obama also can revive hope by progressing towards nuclear disarmament, a cause that goes back to his university years, against Romney’s stark defense of expanded nuclear options. Obama also will have avert a war over Iran while arguing that Romney—a close friend and former business partner of Netanyahu—would be more likely to support one for political gain. Obama should reiterate his promise of a “conversation” about the failed war on drugs that has left 60,000 dead in Mexico and threatens to become a covert war over many continents. Under increasing Republican pressure over national security leaks, Obama should avoid or resist any indictment or extradition proceedings against Julian Assange. Such a move would alienate a large number of peace advocates, civil libertarians, liberals and even journalists who well remember the Pentagon Papers trial, which ended in a mistrial and helped bring down Richard Nixon. Will these messages bring back the peace vote? Not on the scale of 2008—or even 2006, when the Republican hawks were dumped at the polls. Will Obama make any of this wish list part of his platform? At this point, it seems doubtful beyond his current pledge to end the two quagmires. But what if that’s not enough to bring back the peace vote? Nothing happens on its own without pressure from below. His evolving positions supporting the Dream Act students, marriage equality and gays in the military shows that the president can adapt. If the same coalition that fought for “healthcare, not warfare” during the past two years makes its presence known as early as the Democratic convention platform hearings and everywhere on the ground in battleground states, and if Romney is framed as a recycled Republican hawk, anything is possible.

Obama and Romney compete for Jewish voters

On a trip to Israel, Mitt Romney is trying to win over a tiny sliver of a small -- but powerful -- section of the American electorate. President Barack Obama is doing the same at home.But while Romney's trip is unlikely to change the broader presidential campaign against Obama, he's hoping to close the gap among Jewish voters. For all the wooing of American Jews in presidential campaigns, those who say Israel's fate drives their vote make up 6 percent of a reliably Democratic bloc. The tiny numbers are overlaid with an outsize influence. Campaign donations from Jews or Jewish and pro-Israel groups account for as much as 60 percent of Democratic money, and groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee can bring strong pressure on candidates. "This is going to be a close election. We are in a tight, tight race," said Democratic pollster Jim Gerstein. "But this race will not swing on the Jewish vote." The notion of being an American Jew has changed over the years. Jews have married outside their faith and ethnic enclaves have given way to integrated cities. In the process, Israel has faded as a driving issue in their homes and seems to have faded as a flashpoint in politics. "They're disconnected from their ancestral roots," Hank Sheinkopf, a New York-based consultant, said of Jewish voters. "People are becoming less observant so they're less tied to Israel, less tied to their faith, less tied to their history." In turn, Jewish voters look at the election through secular lenses. Although the campaign rhetoric skews toward them when the candidates talk about Israel, assuming that Jews vote based on U.S. policy toward Israel is a losing proposition. Romney also needs to show his commitment to Israel because the reliably Republican evangelical Christian vote also holds candidates to account on that topic. "Jewish Americans, like most Americans, have come to assume that mainstream politicians and elected officials will stand strongly with Israel so there's oftentimes no urgency that is reflected in the polling," said Robert Wexler, a former Democratic congressman from Florida whose district was heavily Jewish. "Even partisan people who cherish the American-Israeli relationship cringe when Israel is used as a political football," said Wexler, who was a co-chairman of Obama's 2008 campaign and now leads the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. That hasn't stopped Romney. "I think, by and large, you can just look at the things the president has done and do the opposite," Romney said earlier this year when asked about Israel. Obama has riled his critics, including Romney, by urging the Israelis and the Palestinians to make good on their promises to bring peace to the troubled Middle East. Specifically, Obama publicly has chastised Israel for continuing to build housing settlements in disputed areas and has pressured both sides to begin a new round of peace talks based on the land borders established after the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict.That has raised the ire of groups such as AIPAC, which feel he's been disloyal to Israel. Obama's strained relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- a longtime Romney friend -- hasn't helped that perception.The current administration has distanced itself from Israel and visibly warmed to the Palestinian cause," Romney told AIPAC's annual conference earlier this year, where Obama also spoke. Previous presidents have sided with Israel on all points, at least in public. "This is the most hostile president since the state of Israel was created," Romney supporter and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said recently. "He's demonstrated that hostility right from the beginning of his administration." Such language is designed to whittle away at the Democrats' long-held advantages and nip away at the 78 percent support Obama enjoyed among Jews on Election Day 2008. The Gallup polling organization reported Friday that Obama's standing stood at 68 percent among Jews, while 25 percent favored Romney. "They elected him with historic numbers but they have to look at how President Obama has handled the whole situation," said Rich Beeson, Romney's political director. "Voters can say, `I've not made a mistake, but he has not lived up to what he promised and it's OK to (vote for someone else).' Every vote that we can peel off from Barack Obama helps." That approach fuels the on-the-ground effort to continue Jewish voters' slide away from the Democratic fold. Romney allies at the Republican Jewish Coalition are planning a $6.5 million campaign to help GOP candidates, and Romney himself is looking to reach into Jewish communities in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina and Nevada. But the Jewish vote won't make a difference in this election. Exit polls show Jewish voters typically make up 2 percent to 4 percent of the electorate nationwide. In 2008, they were 2 percent of voters nationwide and Republican Sen. John McCain won just 21 percent of them. In 2004, George W. Bush fared a bit better, winning 25 percent of the vote, the largest share of the Jewish vote any Republican has earned since 1988. But that's not to say they don't have clout. "Jews are less important as voters than they are as activists and contributors. Jews provide pretty close to half of the money available to Democratic candidates," said Benjamin Ginsburg, a political science professor at Johns Hopkins University. And it's not as though Israel alone will even decide Jewish voters' preference. A survey earlier this year by the American Jewish Committee found only 6 percent of American Jews listed U.S.-Israel relations as their top priority. The economy was the top concern, at 29 percent, followed by health care, at 20 percent. "When it comes to determining votes in the American Jewish community, it is not a safe assumption that Jews are single-issue constituency that cares only about Israel," said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a pro-Israeli group that promotes a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through diplomacy instead of military action. "Jews are just like all other Americans. They're fully integrated in the United States. They are concerned about their jobs, their kids' education and just like all other voters, the voting patterns and approval ratings move in the context of the larger race," Ben-Ami said.

Turkey sets up secret anti-Assad rebel base with Saudi Arabia and Qatar - reports
Turkey is directing the rebel fight against Bashar Assad, after setting up a secret base on its border with Syria, with help from Qatar and Saudi Arabia. It devises tactics and supplies weapons for the uprising, according to Reuters sources. It is unclear how long the base, described as the “nerve center” of the anti-Assad campaign has existed, and its location is given only as Adana, a city some 100 kilometers away from the border. Adana is home to Incirlik, a huge air base run jointly by Turkey and the United States, though it is not clear whether it was used for this operation. "Three governments are supplying weapons: Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia," said the source, reportedly based in Doha, the capital of Qatar. The source claims the base was set up at the request of Saudi deputy foreign minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Saud during his visit to Turkey, which was open to the idea. Turkey then took control of operations once the base was established. “It's the Turks who are militarily controlling it. Turkey is the main coordinator/facilitator. Think of a triangle, with Turkey at the top and Saudi Arabia and Qatar at the bottom." Disunited and badly trained when the uprising against President Assad began 18 months ago, recently Syrian rebels have had a string of successes against the supposedly better-trained and better-equipped regular soldiers. They have held down large parts of the country and advanced on the capital Damascus earlier in July. An audacious suicide attack last week took out four of the most senior security officials in the Assad circle. These successes may have been made possible by the steady flow of arms from the Adana location, most of which appear to have been purchased illegally to cover the sponsors’ trails. "All weaponry is Russian. The obvious reason is that the Syrian rebels are trained to use Russian weapons, also because the Americans don't want their hands on it. All weapons are from the black market,” claims the source, which says arms are also obtained by looting loyalist weapons stores. Ankara has enjoyed a difficult diplomatic relationship with Assad, whose family has been in charge in Syria for 40 years, and so immediately backed the uprising. At the same time, Ankara has staunchly denied arming the rebels. It has also condemned the suicide attack on ministers as an act of terrorism. Meanwhile, the small but wealthy state of Qatar has already played a key part in helping topple the regime of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya last year, and was widely suspected of being involved in the Syrian civil war. Although the three countries involved have long been accused of arming the rebels, this is the first time specific information has emerged about a concrete center of operations. Turkey has also stepped up the war-mongering rhetoric against Syria, threatening to strike across the border. Ankara says it is alarmed by what it calls Kurdish terrorists who have established a foothold in northern Syria with a view to declaring autonomy. Dr. Ali Mohamad, editor-in-chief of the Syria Tribune blog, believes Turkey and the Gulf States are acting far beyond international law. “Saudi Arabia and Turkey seem to like the idea of the Middle East being controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, which they can control easily,” he told RT. “Thinking that this is their battle, it seems, gives them the privilege – that’s what they think. Nothing allows them to do so. This is against international law… And the question is, are they going to get away with this?”

Which way will the Philippines choose?

(People's Daily Online)
On the issue of South China Sea, there are only three ways for the Philippines to choose. First, rethink profoundly and resume friendly relations with China. In other words, the Philippines should strictly observe the principles of Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and promote the strategic cooperative relations for peace and development with China. After the tensions over Huangyan Island, the Philippines has done a self-examination that the government should focus on the domestic economic development and deal with tensions over Huangyan Islands properly. The Chinese side consistently upholds that before the dispute of South China Sea is resolved some nations concerned should actively discuss how to develop the related sea areas with each other while putting controversies aside, which is in line with common interests of the nations involved. If the Philippines chooses this way, it will embrace a bright future. Second, stir up new conflicts on purpose and lead the Sino-Philippine relations to a dead end. They include sending fishing boats, administrative ships and even naval vessels and airplanes to intrude into Huangyan Island and adjacent territorial waters and air space, illegal exploration and bidding of oil and gas in Chinese waters, harassment and arrest of Chinese fishermen who operate under normal conditions, promotion of the so-called "sovereign consolidation" on the islands illegally occupied by the Philippines, as well as " ASEANize" and "internationalize" the issue of South China Sea which means siding with the U.S. against China. However, this way will be narrower and darker. Of course, it cannot be excluded that the Philippines will tend to continue the third way. It hopes to maintain the relationship with China in attempt to benefit from China's rapid economic development while nibbling China's territorial sovereignty and ocean interests in the South China Sea. Specifically speaking, the Philippines intends to not only seek economic and trading advantages from China but also gain security guarantee from America. Importance to the Sino-Philippine relations is merely attached verbally. On the surface the Philippines is willing to resolve the disputes through peaceful means while it sabotages the relations in secret. In this way, the Philippines will play so many petty tricks as to create troubles for itself. Which way will the Philippines choose after all?

S. China Sea issue, where is Philippines’ restraint?

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said in his state of the union address on July 23 that the Philippines had shown “restraint” during the Huangyan Island stand-off in the South China Sea. It is ridiculous to say that Manila has shown “restraint.” Look what the Philippines has done. It has built a kindergarten on China’s Zhongye Island without the permission of the Chinese government, bid out oil and gas exploration areas in China’s territorial waters, sent warships to harass Chinese fishermen in the Huangyan Island waters, held joint military drills with the United States involving the exercise of retaking petroleum drilling platform, threatened to invite U.S. reconnaissance aircraft to patrol disputed areas in the South China Sea, and tried to take advantage of the South China Sea issue to “kidnap” the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The South China Sea would have been much more peaceful if without the successive little tricks of the Philippines. Restraint is one of the main principles established in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea signed between China and the ASEAN 10 years ago. According to Article V of the declaration, the parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would not complicate or escalate disputes nor affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from inhabiting currently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features, and to handle their differences in a constructive manner. Restraint requires the concerted efforts of both sides. The situation will worsen if one side exercises restraint, while the other refuses or pretends to do so. None of the Philippines’ dirty little tricks will change the fact that Huangyan Island belongs to China. As tensions have eased over the Huangyan Island dispute, China hopes the Philippines will take more actions that will help further ease the tense situation and promote the healthy development of China-Philippines relations. This serves the fundamental interests of both countries and their people, and will help promote peace in the Asia-Pacific region.

Russian FM warns of looming tragedy in Syria

Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov warns of “looming tragedy” in Syria’s northwestern city of Aleppo, accusing the West and some Arab states of urging armed battle. The Syrian government says outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorists are the driving factor behind the unrest and deadly violence while the opposition accuses the security forces of being behind the killings. Damascus also says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai demands handover, not demolition, of NATO bases

President Hamid Karzai and Afghan lawmakers called on the NATO coalition this week to stop demolishing Western military bases, saying that the facilities could be converted to schools, clinics and government offices. As NATO troops continue their withdrawal from Afghanistan, U.S. and coalition officials have begun to identify and dismantle bases that the Afghan army lacks the capacity to inherit or that are no longer operationally significant. Dozens more of the facilities, which range from one-room checkpoints to large operating bases, could be bulldozed over the next two years. Karzai has asked his defense minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak, to “take all necessary measures to stop the demolition of bases by NATO and make their handover possible,” according to presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi. Afghan officials in Kabul said they have been shut out of the process and have been forced to watch as some of the country’s most modern and best-fortified buildings are torn apart for no apparent reason. “They have spent lots of money for constructing the bases, and now they are spending more money for their destruction,” said Shukria Barakzai, a lawmaker. “We can use these bases for clinics, schools and for other administrative purposes.” NATO officials say that Afghan government officials do have an opportunity to claim bases before they are demolished but that they often do not act in time. NATO and U.S. forces engage “directly and regularly with the Afghan Ministry of Finance-led Base Closure Commission, who ultimately determines the disposition of bases,” said Lt. Col. Sarah Goodson, a spokeswoman for NATO forces. “On those occasions where the Afghan government does not desire a base which ISAF [the International Security Assistance Force] is leaving, the base is demilitarized and the ground is returned to its original state and appearance.” In June, the Reston-based firm Serco was awarded a three-year, $57 million contract to plan and document the dismantling of bases across Afghanistan. The company played a similar role in Iraq, where dozens of bases were shuttered rather than transferred to Iraqi control. To do the job, Serco will deploy teams that specialize in closing military installations. “It makes no sense to spend money to destroy a facility that you have spent money to build in the first place,” said Daud Kalakani, another lawmaker. Although the Afghan army is about 200,000-strong, U.S. officials say it lacks the logistical capacity to inherit the hundreds of bases that pepper Afghanistan, including many in isolated mountain ranges. Rather than spread the Afghan security forces too thin, U.S. and NATO officials are proposing a large-scale consolidation of bases. Some large installations are being downsized. And many will be dismantled — a process that can take weeks.

Peshawar University in dire financial straits

Financial woes of the University of Peshawar have enormously increased with officials blaming them on establishment of new government universities in the province and provision of small funding from the Higher Education Commission. A senior official told Dawn on Friday that the university, which was considered mother of all institutions in the province, faced a shortage of Rs864 million. “The university has lost 70 per cent of its revenue since new universities have emerged,” he said, adding that the current shortfall would increase if provincial government didn’t approve special grant of Rs500 million. Sources said the university was receiving maintenance grant from HEC, which released 50 per cent of the total grant committed in fiscal year 2011-12 adversely affecting financial health of the institutions. They said creation of new universities had resulted in squeezing scope and revenue of the UoP, which was established after creation of Pakistan but its jurisdiction had been confined to Peshawar district. They said the university was generating sufficient revenue through its affiliated colleges and other institutions. “Now, these colleges have been affiliated with the new universities. Some big institutions like Khyber Medical College, Frontier College for Women and Islamia College have been upgraded to universities affecting the university’s revenue,” a source said. Over the last decade, the government has established 17 new universities in the province. However, these universities, too, face serious financial and trained manpower problems. In certain cases, campuses have been converted into full-fledged universities. An official said recently, an associate professor had been appointed vice chancellor of the newly-established university in the province. He said in many universities, lecturers had been appointed heads of departments and faculties due to unavailability of qualified professors in the respective disciplines. Increase in the staff’s salary in line with the government announcement has burdened the university over two years. The government had announced 50 per cent increase in 2010-11 and then 15 per cent additional raise in 2011-12 and 20 per cent increase in the current fiscal year which overstretched budgetary deficit of the UoP. “The government takes credit for increase in salary but doesn’t compensate universities,” an official said, adding that the university was not in position to meet the gap by increasing tuition and other fees. “Being one of the oldest universities in the country, the UoP has around 14,000 students in morning and evening shifts,” an official said. He said the university was bearing the burden of a few constituent colleges and schools by its own resources. He added that these constituent bodies and affiliated colleges were a major source of the university’s income. The official said the university annually paid Rs100 million salary to staff and spent Rs10 million on electric supply, while its daily expenditure ran into millions of rupees. “The management has installed 30 power generators in faculties and hostels and each generator costs Rs8,000 a day,” he said. When contacted, UoP director (finance) Iftikhar Hussain said the management was taking certain austerity measures to narrow the gap between income and expenditure. “The university needs the provincial government’s help to pull itself out of financial crisis,” he said. The director said to cut its expenditure, the university had suggested a ban on purchase of new vehicles, renovation work, unnecessary expenditure and appointments.

Pakistan nominates SAARC Goodwill Ambassador for HIV and AIDS

Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has approved the nomination of Ms. Sharmeen Obaid- Chinoy, Journalist and Documentarion as principal nominee and Mr. Aisam Ul Haq, Tennis player, as alternate nominee, from Pakistan which would be conveyed to South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Secretariat for appointment of one of them as SAARC Goodwill Ambassador for HIV and AIDS, local media reported Friday. The approval was granted by the Prime Minister on a summary moved by Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the PM office said. The SAARC Secretariat has invited one or two nominations from each member state for appointment as SAARC Goodwill Ambassador for HIV and AIDS. The practice of honorary appointment of SAARC Goodwill Ambassador for HIV and AIDS has been in place since 2008 as part of the work plan for the SAARC regional strategy on HIV/AIDS. The SAARC Council of Ministers confers this honorary title upon leading well-known figures in the region. It may be added that Ms. Shabana Azmi, an Indian actress and social activist, and Mr. Sanath Teran Jayasuriya, Sri Lankan cricketer, have served as SAARC Goodwill Ambassadors for HIV and AIDS for the period 2008 to 2010. Ms. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, is a Journalist and Documentarian and the winner of Oscar Award as well as SAARC Film Festival 2012 for her documentary "Saving Face". Mr. Aisam Ul Haq, is a Tennis player and National Goodwill Ambassador of United Nations Development Programme as well as Youth Ambassador of Pakistan Red Crescent Society.

NAB references: reissues summons to Sharifs

An accountability court in Rawalpindi resumed hearing of a petition filed against Sharif family by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for reopening three corruption references against them. The three references include the alleged corruption cases of Hudaibia paper mills, Ittefaq Foundry and Raiwind farm. Counsel of the Sharif Brothers‚ Akram Sheikh objected to the NAB applications saying the references cannot be reopened as long as the stay order given by the Lahore High Court is in place. On this, Prosecutor General NAB argued that in 2001 the references were adjourned for an indefinite period because the Sharifs were in exile, adding that it is NAB s discretion to submit application for reopening of the cases. Later, the accountablity court reissued summons notices to PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and their families. The court directed the counsel of the Sharif brothers to submit the reply of his clients on the next hearing. Hearing of the case has been adjourned till September 15.

Judges should know their bounds

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Farhatullah Babar on Friday expressed concern over the remarks made by the Supreme Court judges about the parliament. While addressing the Senate session, Babar said that the ruling of the National Assembly speaker had been overturned and the dignity of the parliament was continuously being hurt. He said that the SC registrar had been summoned by the Public Accounts Committee but he had been avoiding appearance. Babar said the judiciary should also uphold the parliament in the same manner as the parliament holds the judiciary. He further said that the judiciary should exercise restraint by keeping in view its jurisdiction.

12 million Pakistanis infected with hepatitis

With a national prevalence of 4.9% for hepatitis C and 2.4% for hepatitis B, Pakistan is currently facing an epidemic of
viral hepatitis. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 12 million Pakistanis are infected with hepatitis, the major causes for the spread of which include frequent use of therapeutic injections, re-use of syringes, inappropriate sterilisation practices and poor hospital waste management.
In Pakistan, many patients have lost their lives at the hands of quacks, who are known for mismanagement of hepatitis. “Pakistan needs to institute strictest possible laws to end quackery so that unwary patients don’t end up losing their lives. Mismanagement of hepatitis B and C can lead to liver cancer. It is, therefore critical that only qualified specialists be consulted for treatment,” Dr. Tashfeen Adam, head of the department of gastroenterology at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) stated on the eve of World Hepatitis Day here on Friday. He said, there has been a 25% increase in the number of hepatitis patients reporting this year, as compared to last year, and attributed the same to rising public awareness.
Sharing relevant data, PIMS spokesman Dr. Waseem Khwaja disclosed that between 350 to 400 patients suffering from various digestive diseases are treated in the Out-Patient Department of gastroenterology at PIMS every day. Sixty percent of these patients are diagnosed with hepatitis, and 2% new cases are diagnosed while screening of surgical cases. Moreover, 2,300 patients have been admitted and treated for complications of hepatitis like bleeding, drowsiness, infections and coma, since January 1, 2012, and five percent of the hospital’s emergency is occupied by patients suffering from complications of hepatitis. Dr. Waseem said, 3,500 patients of hepatitis C are receiving free interferon therapy from Zakat and Pakistan Baitul-Mal funds at PIMS. Two types of free interferon injections are being provided to hepatitis C patients. The executive director of PIMS Dr. Mehmood Jamal also stressed the need for patients to consult qualified doctors for treatment of hepatitis. Research by WHO shows that hepatitis can be acute or chronic, and may result in serious complications or even death.
Viral hepatitis affects 1 in every 12 people worldwide. It affects those close to them too. Around 500 million people worldwide are chronically infected with two types of blood-borne hepatitis: hepatitis B and C. Approximately 1 million people die each year from related complications, most commonly from liver diseases including liver cancer. In the Eastern Mediterranean Region, 17 million people are living today with hepatitis C infection, and approximately 4.3 million people are infected with hepatitis B infection every year. The key message of World Hepatitis Day is that hepatitis is preventable. Everyone can get this disease, yet it rarely affects those who consciously guard against it. Hepatitis is caused by a group of viruses that infect the liver through either consumption of contaminated food and water or exposure to unsafe blood and infected body fluids. Everyone has a role to confront hepatitis. At the community and individual level, certain behavioural practices increase the risk of these infections substantially, for example reuse of razor blades and injection syringes by traditional healers and tattooists and harmful behaviours such as sharing needles and drug abuse. Provision of safe food and water would greatly prevent hepatitis A and E. Within health facilities, screening of blood and blood products, safe injection practices and clean dental work can significantly reduce the risk of infection from hepatitis B and C. On the occasion of World Hepatitis Day, WHO’s Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr. Ala Alwan has urged policy-makers, civil society, and health professionals to combine efforts to confront this silent epidemic. In a message, Dr. Alwan has drawn attention to the fact that the chronic nature of hepatitis B and C infection calls for strong focus on screening, care and treatment. “With early detection and appropriate management, it is possible to change the quality of life of millions of people who are living with this disease,” he has stressed.

Pakistan: Hepatitis — ‘It’s closer than you think’
Under the World Hepatitis Day theme “It’s closer than you think”, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is urging governments to strengthen efforts to fight viral hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver that kills about 1 million people every year. In addition, an estimated 500 million people experience chronic illness from their infection with hepatitis; it is a major cause of liver cancer and liver cirrhosis. “The vast majority of people infected with hepatitis are unaware, undiagnosed and untreated,” says Dr Sylvie Briand of WHO’s Pandemic and Epidemic Disease Department. “Only by increasing awareness of the different forms of hepatitis, and how they can be prevented and treated, can we take the first step towards full control of the disease and save thousands of lives.” Types of hepatitis There are five hepatitis viruses defined by types – type A, B, C, D and E. Types B and C are of significant concern since a high proportion of people infected with these viruses may not experience symptoms at the early stage of the disease, and only become aware of their infection when they are chronically ill. This can sometimes be decades after infection. In addition, these two viruses are the leading cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer, accounting for almost 80% of all liver cancer cases. People can get hepatitis from either infected bodily fluids or contaminated food and water depending on the type of hepatitis. * Types B, C and D are contracted through the blood of an infected person (e.g. through unsafe injections or unscreened blood transfusions) and in the case of hepatitis B and C, also through unprotected sex. * Type D only infects persons who are already infected with type B. * Types A and E are typically transmitted via contaminated water or food and closely associated with poor sanitation and poor personal hygiene (e.g. unwashed hands). Effective vaccines are available for all the virus types, except C. Given the scale of the epidemic - with 1 in 12 people infected - and recent advances in prevention and treatment, the World Health Assembly in 2010 designated 28 July as World Hepatitis Day. The Day serves to promote greater understanding of hepatitis as a global public health problem and to stimulate the strengthening of preventive and control measures against infection in countries throughout the world. New framework In preparation for this year’s World Hepatitis Day, WHO is launching a new global framework to tackle the disease. The Prevention and control of viral hepatitis infection: Framework for global action describes four areas of work to prevent and treat hepatitis infection. Raising awareness, together with promoting partnerships and mobilizing resources constitute the first of the four priorities in WHO’s new framework. The others are: transforming scientific evidence into policy and action; preventing transmission; and screening, care and treatment. WHO will work with its Member States and partners on all four priority areas of the framework to help expand access to prevention, care and treatment programmes to people who need it. The framework will guide the development of regional and country-specific strategies to combat hepatitis.


Balochs and other nationalists had been demanding national provinces on the basis of language, ethnicity and culture since the inception of Pakistan. They resented the administrative provinces saying that the national entities are senselessly divided only for the advantage of the British colonialists who misruled the region for over a century. Balochs fought 200 small and big battles against the Royal British Army over 100 years of colonial rule for their national rights and opposed the colonial set up in Balochistan. More than a million Balochs lost their lives in wars against the Britons. The present Baloch struggle is the continuity of that struggle and it’s not for jobs and packages, nor it is a problem of law and order as the Government leaders and public servants try to mislead the people in general. When Britons occupied Balochistan, they divided Balochistan into five parts—first given to Iran, second to Afghanistan, third to Punjab, fourth to Sindh and fifth is present-day Balochistan in which annexed Afghan territories are also included in order to defend the imperial designs of Britons. Baloch nationalists demanded unified Balochistan within the framework of Pakistan by merging Dera Ghazi Khan, Dera Ismail Khan, Jacobabad and its surrounding Balochistan settlement and merger of annexed Afghan territories, all non-Baloch areas, with Waziristan or FATA. Now the local Jamaat leader had come out with a novel idea instead of uniting divided Baloch territories, he wanted to deprive the Baloch of the provincial status of Balochistan as a bigger province. He demanded that there should five administrative units. He mischievously included Quetta into the unit along with the annexed territory of Afghanistan as if Quetta was also part of Afghanistan. Balochs had never claimed the annexed Afghan territory and considered it a part of the Pakhtun land thus it should be merged with Waziristan or FATA till a final decision they join a common Pakhtun Province within the framework of Pakistan. The Baloch capital of Quetta had never been a disputed territory and it is part of the Baloch mainland and there should be no confusion about it, at least for those claiming to be politicians and leading the major parties in this province. He took the plea that law and order situation is not good and thus Balochistan should be divided and major chunk of the unit, including Baloch Capital of Quetta, should go to his brother Pakhtun administrative unit. By and large, almost all the Ulema and religious scholars are first Pakhtun defending their petty Pakhtuns interests first and later they are Muslims. At least Pakistani politics proved this as the Pakthun Ulema had never defended the legitimate rights of the Balochs or other national groups for political reasons. They found pretexts to oppose the Baloch interests, including a single and grand Baloch province within the framework of Pakistan. Now we ask the Jamaat-i-Islami Amir that it is the policy of the party to deny provincial status to Balochistan and convert into simple five administrative units? We hope that it is not the policy of the party to deny Balochs the status of Province on any pretext and the Party still support the concept of federation with all Federating units enjoying equal rights. Pakistani State is a voluntary Federation of historic provinces consisting of Bengal, Punjab, Sindh, KPK and Balochistan. There are distinct nationalities and linguist groups are residing on their own territories for thousands of years. Pakistan was formed as a voluntary federation in which all the national groups are living together. The Jmaat-i-Islami had never supported the concept of One Unit, the involuntary sub-federation of West Pakistan, and joined the democratic forces in restoring the historic provinces of Pakistan. We hope that the Central Jamaat leader will clarify the party position before the country go to general elections where nationalists can make it a big issue considering it a deliberate move on the part of the establishment to oppose Balochistan as a single Baloch province.

Pakistan: Judiciary has become controversial

Daily Times
Judiciary has become controversial because it is legislating through its verdicts, said speakers at a discussion on ‘Who is Sovereign?’ The South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) organised the event on Friday. LUMS faculty member Dr Muhammad Waseem and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Secretary Information Shafqat Mehmood were the key speakers on the occasion. Speaking on the occasion, Waseem said the Supreme Court was doing ‘judicialisation of democracy’ as the un-elected institution ‘judiciary’ was trying to penetrate into politics by setting aside the legislature. He said the people were sovereign because they showed their will through elected representatives. He said the discussion was going on in many countries that who was sovereign. “In the UK, the politicians discussed that parliament was sovereign while in the US, the constitution was being discussed as sovereign. In Pakistan, the critics quoted the example of the US that the constitution was sovereign but originally the people’s will was sovereign,” he added. “The judiciary is legislating by giving verdicts,” he said, adding that the judiciary thought that the constitution was its last refuge so the former was using the latter as an instrument to undermine parliament. He said even the politicians have weakened the basic structure of democracy and the parliament which wanted to bring change in the society because they always looked towards the un-elected institutions like the army and the judiciary during crisis. He said the institutional imbalance had expanded in Pakistan and the independence of judiciary was made personal rather than institutional. In Pakistan, Mehmood said, every institution thought that it was sovereign but this concept or thinking was altogether wrong because they had limitations. He said some undemocratic institutions were trying to overpower the democratic institutions. He said every institution should work within its parameters.

Exile deal debate: PML-N leaders shy of face-off on television, says Memon

The Express Tribune
Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon said on Friday that Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) leaders are reluctant to appear on TV talk shows when there is a chance that the debate will cover the exile deal struck by the Sharifs with Pervez Musharraf. Talking to reporters in his office, Memon said that the leaders of PML-N have told TV anchors over the phone that they would not attend any programme where Sharjeel Memon is present, because he always shows up with copies of the deal signed by Nawaz Sharif. The PML-N was at first not even willing to accept that there ever was a plea bargain. But, now when the copies of the deal are being shown to the PML-N leaders, they are reluctant to face the fact that “their captain chose to desert the ship instead of facing trials and persecutions” like other party workers.