Friday, August 31, 2012
The 120-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) had gathered this week in Tehran for a two-day summit. On the agenda are the Syrian crisis, human rights and nuclear disarmament. Iran hopes the high-profile event will prove that attempts by the West to punish it economically for its disputed nuclear programme have failed.But there is already discord over Syria when Mohamed Morsi, the Egyptian president, called for "solidarity with the struggle of the Syrian people" against what he called Bashar al-Assad's "oppressive regime". Iran is a key backer of the Syrian government, and Morsi's speech prompted the Syrian delegation to walk out of the meeting in protest. The US and Israel have tried to discourage members of the NAM from attending the event in the Iranian capital. The NAM summit, held for nations not allied to any major power bloc – is seen as a tool to advance the interests of developing nations. Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, outlining clearly what was at stake in the Syrian conflict, called on all states to stop supplying weapons to all sides in the Syrian conflict, saying: "Now we face the grim risk of civil war, destroying Syria's rich tapestry of communities. Those who provide arms to either side in Syria are contributing to the misery. Further militarisation is not the answer." On Wednesday Ban met Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, and expressed concerns about Iran's human rights record and urged Khamenei to take concrete steps to prove Iran's nuclear work is peaceful.Khamenei who also spoke at the summit, accused the UN Security Council of being outmoded and controlled by the US, and reiterated Iran's rights to a peaceful nuclear energy programme. He said: "I repeat that [Iran] is not developing capabilities for nuclear weapons, but also will not overlook the rights of its people and their need for access to peaceful nuclear energy. Our motto is nuclear energy for all and nuclear weapons is for none. We stand by both of these mottos, and we know that breaking the bias views that some foreign countries hold about the production of nuclear energy and the underlying fundamentals is to the benefit of all nations." In this episode Inside Story asks: How will the NAM summit boost Iran's image? Joining presenter Veronica Pedrosa for the discussion are guests: Sadegh Zibakalam, a political analyst and professor of political science at the University of Tehran; Mustafa Alani, the director of security and defence at the Gulf Research Centre; and Mehdi Khalaji, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a scholar of Islamic studies. "We are not talking about Iran's isolation, economic or domestic problems. We're talking about the NAM being held in Iran. Obviously any third world regime would have made propaganda…whether or not the NAM has a role to play today has nothing to do with Iran." Sadegh Zibakalam, a political science professor, the University of Tehran
The Express TribuneDefying the increasing international pressure to isolate Iran, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari talked trade, investment and energy with his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, on the sidelines of the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
Two weeks shy of the world leaders' summit at United Nations, Pakistani Christians from NYC (PCA) & Philadelphia (PACA, CLOP, PACF) join in protest against the daily atrocities committed against minorities of Pakistan
http://news.yahoo.comAn adolescent boy and a young girl have been beheaded in two separate incidents in Afghanistan, local officials and police said on Friday, in the latest brazen attacks that have raised fresh questions about a splintering Taliban. A 12-year-old boy was kidnapped and killed in southern Kandahar province on Wednesday, his severed head placed near his body to send a warning to police, said provincial governor spokesman Jawid Faisal. The brother of the boy, neither of whom were named by officials, was a member of the Afghan Local Police (ALP), a U.S.-trained militia charged with making Afghans in Taliban strongholds, like Kandahar, feel more secure, Faisal said. "It's a Taliban warning to the ALP and to others who support the government," Faisal said of the killing, which happened in Kandahar's Panjwai district. Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf denied the group was involved. Separately, a 6-year-old girl was beheaded in eastern Kapisa province on Thursday, said provincial police chief Abdul Hamed. "We are not sure if she was beheaded by her family or the Taliban, but we know the Taliban control the area," Hamed said of the killing in Jalukhil village. He added that he could not send investigators to the area out of fears for their safety. The murders follow the shooting or beheading of 17 young revelers attending a party in southern Helmand province this week, which officials said was the work of the Taliban, a charge the group also denied. That massacre raised fresh concerns about Taliban leaders' grip on their scattered fighters, amid on-again, off-again peace moves by the group with the Afghan government. It also suggested that there are grassroots insurgent fighters who are not in a mood for compromise. "What we're seeing could be a new tactic by the Taliban to behead civilians to intimidate the population," said Faisal. In Kandahar's Zhari district, officials also said on Friday that a 16-year-old boy accused by the Taliban of spying for the government was beheaded and skinned in late July. Such incidents highlight the difficulty that Taliban leaders have in enforcing discipline across an estimated 20,000 fighters spread from Afghanistan to Pakistan. The central Taliban leadership is trying to improve the group's image in case it wants to push forward tentative reconciliation steps and perhaps even enter mainstream politics. But some militant units are hard to control, roaming the countryside and attacking those deemed immoral. NATO will withdraw most of its combat troops by the end of 2014, leaving Afghan forces in the lead security role.
EDITORIALMitt Romney wrapped the most important speech of his life, for Thursday night’s session of his convention, around an extraordinary reinvention of history — that his party rallied behind President Obama when he won in 2008, hoping that he would succeed. “That president was not the choice of our party,” he said. “We are a good and generous people who are united by so much more than divides us.” The truth, rarely heard this week in Tampa, Fla., is that the Republicans charted a course of denial and obstruction from the day Mr. Obama was inaugurated, determined to deny him a second term by denying him any achievement, no matter the cost to the economy or American security — even if it meant holding the nation’s credit rating hostage to a narrow partisan agenda. Mr. Romney’s big speech, delivered in a treacly tone with a strange misty smile on his face suggesting he was always about to burst into tears, was of a piece with the rest of the convention. Republicans have offered precious little of substance but a lot of bromides (“A free world is a more peaceful world!”) meant to convey profundity and take passive-aggressive digs at President Obama. But no subjects have received less attention, or been treated with less honesty, than foreign affairs and national security — and Mr. Romney’s banal speech was no exception. It’s easy to understand why the Republicans have steered clear of these areas. While President Obama is vulnerable on some domestic issues, the Republicans have no purchase on foreign and security policy. In a television interview on Wednesday, Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, could not name an area in which Mr. Obama had failed on foreign policy. For decades, the Republicans were able to present themselves as the tougher party on foreign and military policy. Mr. Obama has robbed them of that by being aggressive on counterterrorism and by flexing military and diplomatic muscle repeatedly and effectively. Mitt Romney has tried to sound tough, but it’s hard to see how he would act differently from Mr. Obama except in ways that are scary — like attacking Iran, or overspending on defense in ways that would not provide extra safety but would hurt the economy. Before Thursday night, the big foreign policy speeches were delivered by Senator John McCain and Ms. Rice. Mr. McCain was specific on one thing: Mr. Obama’s plan to start pulling out of Afghanistan at the end of 2014 is too rapid. While he does not speak for Mr. Romney, his other ideas were unnerving, like suggesting that the United States should intervene in Syria. Mr. Romney reportedly considered Ms. Rice as a running mate, and she seems to have real influence. But Ms. Rice is a reminder of the colossal errors and deceptions of George W. Bush’s administration. She was a central player in the decision to invade Iraq and the peddling of fantasies about weapons of mass destruction. She barely mentioned Iraq in her speech and spoke not at all about Afghanistan. She was particularly ludicrous when she talked about keeping America strong at home so it could be strong globally, since she was part of the team that fought two wars off the books and entirely on borrowed money. Ms. Rice said the United States has lost its “exceptionalism,” but she never gave the slightest clue what she meant by that — a return to President Bush’s policy of preventive and unnecessary war? She and Mr. McCain both invoked the idea of “peace through strength,” but one of the few concrete proposals Mr. Romney has made — spending 4 percent of G.D.P. on defense — would weaken the economy severely. Mr. McCain was not telling the truth when he said Mr. Obama wants to cut another $500 billion from military spending. That amount was imposed by the Republicans as part of the extortion they demanded to raise the debt ceiling. Ms. Rice said American allies need to know where the United States stands and that alliances are vitally important. But the truth is that Mr. Obama has repaired those alliances and restored allies’ confidence in America’s position after Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice spent years tearing them apart and ruining America’s reputation in the world. The one alliance on which there is real debate between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama is with Israel. But it is not, as Mr. Romney and his supporters want Americans to believe, about whether Mr. Obama is a supporter of Israel. Every modern president has been, including Mr. Obama. Apart from outsourcing his policy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on settlements, it’s not clear what Mr. Romney would do differently. But after watching the Republicans for three days in Florida, that comes as no surprise.
A new school atlas published by the government of Pakistan's Punjab province has shown Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the Gilgit-Baltistan region as Indian territories. The education authorities rushed to recall the atlas from all elementary and high school libraries of Punjab. The government of chief minister Shahbaz Sharif has had to face criticism from academicians. Over 15,000 copies of the atlas had been delivered to school libraries so far. The education department said it would take action against all those responsible for printing, approving and distributing the atlas.
The Express TribuneThe district administration has declared a polio emergency in Hyderabad after discovering traces of the virus in sewage lines of some parts of the city. The alarming announcement was made by health officials at a meeting chaired by the deputy commissioner, Agha Shahnawaz Babur, on Thursday. They added that samples collected from some sewage pumping stations showed presence of the virus. “The samples collected from the area of Tulsi Das pumping station tested positive,” said the district health officer, Aslam Pecheho. Babur criticised health officials in the meeting, asking why over 120 vaccination drives had failed to win the city the recognition of being polio free. “This is an alarming situation for the citizens. We can’t expose our children to this crippling disease,” he said. The revelation comes amid international warnings of stringent checks on Pakistanis travelling abroad and the World Health Organisation’s public disapproval about the progress of an anti-polio drive. An earlier report by the WHO stated that the virus reemerged in Sohrab Goth, Badin, Gadap Town, Hyderabad city and Sukkur, which raises questions about the outbreak of the disease beyond Karachi. Hyderabad has so far added one polio case to the national tally of over two dozen cases this year. The upcoming three-day vaccination drive in the city will start from September 10. According to Pecheho, 829 polio teams will vaccinate 288,564 children up till the age of 5. Nationwide As reported by The Express Tribune on August 6, a total of 27 polio cases have been reported in Pakistan so far this year, with 13 of them from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, six from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, three each from Sindh and Punjab and two from Balochistan. These cases were reported from 15 different districts in the country. Apart from Sindh, sewerage water from Lahore, Rawalpindi and Peshawar also contained traces of the virus Karachi seems to have regained its status of being one of three high-transmission polio zones in the country. Sewage samples from multiple localities in the city continued to present traces of the virus in lab tests till 2011. However, the efforts of polio teams appeared to have paid off when later samples appeared devoid of the virus, allowing the city be stripped off its high-transmission status for a short period of time. The resurgence of the virus in the city’s sewerage system has been blamed on the failure of the latest nationwide polio campaign in July to reach thousands of children in Karachi and other trouble spots in the country. But one of the greatest challenges is the migration from rural areas to cities as people flee fighting in the north.
The Frontier PostIt is all politics, both the creation of the parliamentary commission on new provinces in Punjab and its rejection by the Punjab Assembly. Bluntly, both the PPP and the PML (N) are flirting playfully with something very serious. Creation of new provinces is a very serious matter which has to be taken in all the earnestness that the issue imperatively demands. But the two parties are just belittling it with their patently politically-motivated shenanigans. The PPP originally mooted the proposal of a Seraiki province. And the pundits screamed that it was sheer politics, and a bland electoral politics at that. The PML (N) first countered the move with the idea of a Bahawalpur province and now with the call for a Potohar province. And this too the pundits term as sheer politics. Whatever it is, with their politics of provinces the two parties are smiting into oblivion some of the very legitimate and pressing demands for a province. As for one, the popular demand of the tribal people for giving the status of a province to their Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). By every reckoning, theirs is an eminently justifiable aspiration and a rightful expectation. Not only they qualify to have a province of their own, be the criterion administrative, linguistic, ethnic, geographical, demographic or resources. For the present, their long-denied induction into the national mainstream has nevertheless been rendered an indispensable requisite no lesser for the supreme objective of preserving and strengthening the national security, stability and solidarity. Yet the long-cherished demand of our tribal compatriots has plainly drowned in the bottom of the din of the two parties’ politics of provinces. It should have been occupying the place of primacy. But cudgeled into such an insignificance has it been in the ongoing bout over the provinces in Punjab between the PPP and the PNL (N) that nobody talks even in passing of a FATA province. Then, it is not in Punjab alone that calls are coming out for carving it up into more provinces. Such calls are being heard in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan as well. And not all those demands can be shot down all like that. Some make an eminent sense and must be put to a very serious thought and scrutiny. Furthermore, smaller federating units with greater devolution of power demonstrably make for far more wellbeing of the citizens and the strengthening of the federation. In neigbouring India, they have gone for a massive exercise of craving out new provinces over the years, and are still continuing with this drill. And we too stand in urgent need of a similar reconfiguration of our land in the greater national interests. But this task palpably cannot be undertaken wisely and efficaciously by the political eminences, simply because their politics will inevitably enter into the task in a big way. Some nonpartisan people have to be involved decisively, as creation of new provinces doesn’t mean simply declaring a part of the land as a province. Intricate issues like its sustainability as a province administratively and financially, and getting a fair share of the resources from the mother province are involved. Hence, if the two parties are any serious about the creation of new provinces, they must agree, in concurrence with all the other political formations and groups, the establishment of a blue-ribbon commission to study and examine the various demands being voiced in the country for new provinces and put up its recommendations to the parliament for perusal and approval. It must be an independent commission comprising nonpartisan prominent public figures and experts. But if the two parties are only after politics, they may keep up with their funfair of establishing politically-inspired commissions, rejecting those commissions and calling for new political commissions. After all, supreme national interests come home to them only sparingly, if at all. They may have their abominable politics of provinces to the fill. The people give two hoots to their theatrics.
For a little unlettered girl to be investigated under any law at all for the crime of allegedly unwittingly burning the pages of the Holy Quran is intolerable As international and domestic outrage increases against the constant harassment of religious minorities in Pakistan, those who do not want to fundamentally change Pakistan away from intolerance appear to have developed their own strategy. They seem willing to resolve individual cases that get negative international attention or generate domestic outrage, without wanting to tackle any of the fundamental issues. The fundamental issue today is that Pakistan is continuing to become an intolerant society. When Rimsha Masih, an 11-year old poor Christian child reportedly suffering from Down’s syndrome was charged with blasphemy, it was part of a pattern of abuse of religious minorities. To treat it as an individual case or to make it into a child’s rights and mental illness issue is to take the heat away from the real problem. The real problem continues to be the day-to-day persecution, harassment and murder of Christians, Ahmadis and Hindus under Pakistan’s laws. Much of the legal paraphernalia of discrimination and oppression on religious grounds, including the blasphemy laws, are merely more extreme versions of laws introduced by the British. As Myra McDonald of Reuters has said, “Ironic, backers of blasphemy law defending a British law, inspired by the Old Testament.” The Associated Press reported on Monday that the All Pakistan Ulema Council, an organisation of Muslim clerics, held a joint news conference with the Pakistan Interfaith League. The Interfaith League has said that 600 Christian families have fled their homes and is campaigning to restore them to their abodes. In a separate story AP quoted Maulana Tahir-ul-Ashrafi of the All Pakistan Ulema Council as saying, “We demand an impartial and thorough investigation into the [Rimsha Masih] case. Strict action shouldbe taken against all those accusing the girl if she is found innocent,” he said. Mr Ashrafi also declared, “The government should make this case an example so that nobody will dare misuse the blasphemy law in future.” Therein lies the rub. Mr Ashrafi and his colleagues want this case to be used to end discussion about the need to reform the Blasphemy Laws. They want Rimsha Masih’s case to be investigated and decided under a law that has been so massively abused that it needs fundamental review. But they would rather get mercy for Rimsha without challenging the structure and process that makes oppression of religious minorities possible. For a little unlettered girl to be investigated under any law at all for the crime of allegedly unwittingly burning the pages of the Holy Quran is intolerable. But what is even worse for those who understand what Pakistan has become, especially those who belong to minority communities themselves or are citizens who have spent a lifetime fighting injustices with their pens as activists, as human rights lawyers, and as thinkers, is to exploit this case as mere eyewash. What makes this case of young Rimsha so different from other instances of false or unjustified cases filed under blasphemy laws? Why was there no joint platform before, why the focus on this one case alone? Because, as the Maulana remarked (as reported by AP), “At the news conference, the head of the clerics’ council, Maulana Tahir-ul-Ashrafi, told the outside world not to interfere, saying Pakistan would provide justice for the girl and her community.” Even after Rimsha has been freed, which we hope she will, the laws opposed by most of the civilised world will still stand. Why did the Maulana feel he had the right to speak for ‘Pakistan’? Perhaps because he was asked to do so by some in the state apparatus who do not want the case of Rimsha Masih hanging over efforts to ‘re-set’, yet again, Pakistan-US ties or around the forthcoming United Nations General Assembly meeting. But the deep-rooted problem of oppression and intolerance of religious minorities, to which one may add the ongoing organised killings (which some plausibly call genocide) of Shias, needs greater resolve than the temporary solution of solving an individual case within the framework of flawed existing laws. If our establishment showed the resolve to put Pakistan and the lives of Pakistani citizens, including those from religious minorities, before those of strategic depth and other such outdated concepts, then perhaps they could get on with the business of dismantling the jihadi groups that are often behind the mobs baying for blood in blasphemy cases. We cannot afford more courageous and crucial voices standing alone and being cut down like Shaheed Salmaan Taseer and Shaheed Shahbaz Bhatti. The larger issue has to be dealt with by the real powerbrokers in Pakistan, not just the case of a handicapped poor Christian Pakistan child. The writer is a suspended Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan who serves on the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Rights
A Pakistani court ordered a Christian girl accused of blasphemy to be held in prison for two more weeks as police finalise charges.Her lawyer, Tahir Naveed Chausdhury said the court's decision was procedural, since her initial detention ended a day earlier. He said he hopes to have her freed on bail tomorrow. Footage broadcast on Pakistan's Express News showed the girl in court covered in a white sheet to protect her identity.
Editorial: By Najam Sethi
Politics of power
Blindspots PTI’s economic policy
By:Aziz-ud-Din AhmadOne had expected the PTI chief not to make unrealistic promises as is the general practice among politicians before the elections. The nation has had enough of roti, kapra, makan type of gimmickry. It badly needs a way out of the cul-de-sac where the ruling elite, both civil and military, has landed it. Most of all it needs realistic programs rather than pies in the sky. To start with, Imran Khan has promised to turn Pakistan into a “modern welfare state where the fruits of development are shared by the entire nation and not just the elite”. A welfare state ensures a social protective system that includes a national health service, safety standards, labor rights and human rights in general. It has been described as a structure built to protect the individual "from the cradle to the grave". One would need little convincing that a welfare state needs to be kept in view as an ideal. To promise it as an achievable goal within an elected tenure when the wherewithal for the system is nowhere in view amounts to using the slogan as election stunt. A welfare state requires huge financial investment by the government in social sector. A prior requirement for this is a vibrant economy, a maximum employment of productive forces and high tax-to-GDP ratio. As things stand Pakistan is a-cash starved country and has to depend on foreign assistance to continue to function. It has a vast reservoir of unemployed labor which cannot be mobilized because of internal and external reasons. The former includes lack of education and training and the later absence of employment opportunities in the country. The tax-to-GDP ratio is among the lowest in the region. The five-pillar emergency reforms program drafted by PTI ignores vital issues that need resolution before Pakistan can take the first step towards the miles long journey on way to a “modern welfare state”. The country suffers from abysmal poverty caused in the main by the skewed land propriety system. Most Asian countries on high growth trajectory had undertaken genuine and thorough going land reforms at an initial stage. In Pakistan, the two half-hearted attempts in the direction failed to produce the desired result as they were no more than eyewash. This has led to a situation where nearly 67 percent of Pakistan’s rural households are landless. This is in contrast to the decline in India’s rural poverty levels between 1987 and 2000 on account of far reaching land reforms. The PTI talks about revolution. There are, however, no radical measures in its program. Thanks the powerful landed interest enjoying dominant position in the party, the PTI feels no need for land reforms. Hence the curse of landlessness will continue to give birth to widespread rural poverty. Distribution of land through agrarian reforms can provide jobs to millions of people. What is more it can create a large market for local industry and promote trade. Big landlords use their huge earnings on foreign goods like fleets of cars, costly luxury items, travels abroad and villas constructed in Europe and US. The money earned in Pakistan creates jobs abroad while it breeds poverty at home. The small farmer who gets land will buy shoes, clothes and things of daily use and educate his children, thus promoting local production and helping raise literacy rate. The enhanced economic activity would boost state revenues. The PTI has promised to increase spending on education from 2% of GDP to 5% in five years. This is more than doubling the present expenditure. Similarly, spending on health will be increased from 0.86% of the GDP to 2.6% in a span five years. Primary health care to the poor people of Pakistan has also been promised. This is yet another unrealistic claim. Where are the funds for achieving the much desired goals? This year the government will spend Rs1.1 trillion – or more than one third of its total budget outlay – on servicing both the domestic and foreign debt. This segment of the budget has in any case to be paid under law. The next big item is defence expenditure. There is no details in the PTI program regarding how to cut down military budget. Unless this is done the promise to raise education and health spending at the proposed scale would remain moonshine. The official allocation for defence in 2012-2013 stands at Rs 545 billion which is highly misleading. Some independent estimates put the actual budget at Rs 800-900 billion, almost double the allocated amount. This is because the estimated budget does not include internal security expenditures, military pensions, debt on military loans, arms purchases, etc. A part of the defence budget diverted to education and health can do wonders. But who will bell the cat? And what does PTI VP Asad Umar mean when he says, “We want one education system for one nation.” Does he mean there will be a uniform curriculum and a single examination system? There are currently three parallel educational systems in the country. First, there are madrassahs or seminaries. In July this year, Wifaq-ul-Madaris Al-Arabia Pakistan declared that the number of students appearing in the examination was 212,490 of which 111,909 were girls and remaining 100,581 were boys. Will PTI make the curriculum of these madrassahs the standard for all students? As for as the madrassahs are concerned, they would resist any move to amalgamate them in either of the two other systems. Second, there is a government school system preparing students for Matriculation examination. Students from low income group go to these schools. The system has its own courses of study and examinations. Before Partition, the system produced outstanding students including two Nobel Laureates in Punjab. Now the system is in shambles. While it needs to be revitalized, it will take at least a decade before it is turned around. Third, there is a private school system preparing students for O and A levels. It is highly costly and only students belonging to the upper class can afford to join these schools. Should Imran Khan try to run government schools on the lines of the private schools, the expenses for the state would be unbearable. So only Imran knows what is meant by “one education system for one nation”. When it comes to improving the supply of energy, Imran Khan counts his chickens before they are hatched. At PTI’s seminar on electricity held in late February, Imran promised to halve the current power shortage and improve gas supply within two years and completely do away with gas and electricity load shedding by the completion of his five-year tenure. Many look at the promise as they do at Imran’s vow of halving the corruption within 9 days of coming to power. He has spelled out two ways to achieve self-sufficiency in power. First a “big bang governance” that would require putting all energy-related matters under a single ministry. Second, generating some 4,500MW through cheaper imported coal instead of furnace oil and achieve a total savings of Rs475 billion in the bargain. He sounds simplistic when says “right now work on Bhasha dam has been taken in hand”. Did nobody tell him that the sole work taken in hand on the Bhashja dam is a foundation stone laid by Yusuf Raza Gilani in December 2011? The World Bank continues to deny funding for the project raising the legal objection that the site of the dam is located in an area disputed between India and Pakistan. As long as Pak-India ties remain strained, there is little hope of any international financing agency or foreign bank putting its money in the project. Few believe that Pak-US relations during Imran’s tenure are likely to turn into a honeymoon. The writer is a former academic and a political analyst.