Saturday, October 20, 2012
The US Special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman, Saturday arrived in Islamabad on a two-day visit for talks on variety of bilateral issues and peace process in Afghanistan, officials and diplomats said. The Pakistani Foreign Ministry says that the visit is part of the ongoing engagements between the two countries and that the two sides will discuss all issues of mutual interest as well as concern. The visit comes at a time when diplomatic efforts for solution of the longstanding Afghan problems are gaining momentum as the endgame approaches. Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States have also an exclusive group to explore ways to push for the reconciliation process in Afghanistan ahead of the 2014 withdrawal of foreign troops. His trip builds on recent engagements, including Secretary Clinton's meetings with Foreign Minister Khar in Washington and President Zardari in New York, as well as the recent US-Pakistan Law Enforcement and Counterterrorism Working Group convened in Washington, earlier this month. Before his arrival, Ambassador Grossman attended a meeting of the International Contact Group (ICG) for Afghanistan in Ankara on Friday, which agreed to further support Afghan progress on establishing the parameters of an inclusive and transparent election process, and noted continued strong international support for Afghan-led reconciliation. The ICG members reiterated the international community's commitment to support inclusive, open and transparent political and security transition in Afghanistan.
The Times of IndiaPakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) has claimed responsibility for an attack outside a popular hotel in Indian Kashmir that killed a bellboy, media reports said Saturday. The banned outfit said four of its attackers "lobbed grenades and opened fire" at an Indian army convoy as it passed through the highway where the Silver Star hotel is located, the Urdu language Kashmir Uzma newspaper said. "Four of our fidayeen (suicide attackers) attacked the army convoy in which one of the army vehicles was badly damaged," the daily quoted LeT spokesman Abdullah Gaznavi as saying over the telephone. The attackers "reached their hideouts safely", Gaznavi added. Heavily-armed gunmen stormed the Silver Star hotel on Friday after an abortive attempt to attack the army convoy, killing a bellboy and injuring two others, the Indian police said. Gaznavi, however, blamed "retaliatory firing" by the Indian armed forces for the death of the hotel staff member. The attack, the first in Srinagar since May, occurred on a day when several senior officials from the army, police, intelligence agencies and government met to review the security situation in the state. In the May attack, two motorcyclists fired on a group of army officers, injuring seven. The LeT has been blamed by India for the November 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people. It has denied any role in the attacks. Separatist violence that has wrecked the tourism industry in the Muslim-majority region has been at its lowest ebb since the insurgency began in 1989.
PUBLISHED IN ALJAZEERA,11 Oct 2012 12:23
When teenager Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban, Pakistan's media was warned to curb its coverage of the story.When news broke from Pakistan that a 14-year-old girl had been shot by members of the Taliban just for promoting female education on her blog, news organisations around the world jumped on the story. In Pakistan, however, they had to treat the subject with care. The Taliban warned local media to curb their reporting, or deal with the consequences. This is not just a story about one attack - it is a tale of how the journalistic environment in Pakistan has grown so dangerous. According to media watchdog groups, at least 20 journalists have been murdered since 2010 and not one of those cases has resulted in a conviction.
UN and Arab League envoy meets Syrian officials to ask for a brief halt to hostilities over Eid al-Adha holiday.
Former President Bill Clinton
http://www.telegraph.co.ukDespite a lifetime advocating women's rights, the US Secretary of State showed little patience with other mothers who struggle to juggle the dual roles demanded by modern life. 'I can't stand whining," she told Marie Claire magazine. "I can't stand the kind of paralysis that some people fall into because they're not happy with the choices they've made.
http://www.nation.com.pkAfghan President Hamid Karzai has warned there could be problems ahead over the crucial issue of immunity from prosecution for any American or Nato soldiers deployed in the country after 2014. The US-led Nato force of more than 100,000 troops is due to end combat operations against Taliban insurgents at the end of that year, but thousands of soldiers are expected to remain in Afghanistan to train and assist Afghan forces. The immunity issue, if Karzai’s warning is meant seriously and is not simply a tactical move, could be a deal breaker. In Iraq, Washington pulled out all its troops, leaving no residual force, after failing to get Baghdad to grant its soldiers protection from prosecution in local courts. In Afghanistan, the question is likely to come down to that needs the other most. The US wants a hand in preventing the country once more becoming a haven for Al Qaeda, and Kabul needs US help in the fight against the Taliban. Karzai said in a statement that he had told visiting Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen during talks in Kabul Thursday that the Afghan people might “not permit their government to grant immunity”. This would happen “if the war and insecurities continue in Afghanistan, Afghan borders are not protected, and the immunity for foreign forces comes on top of these issues”, he said. Karzai knows he has a bargaining chip in this negotiation, and his statement could be seen as a bid for even more cash and support from the United States and Nato countries after 2014 than has already been pledged.
http://www.bakhtarnews.com.afAfghan Ulema or religious scholars and prayers leaders in their sermons on Friday congregations said that since Pakistani cricket-turn politician has no knowledge about Islam he has no right to issue Fatwa, saying the former cricketer had issued the Fatwa for Jihad against Afghans with the support of Pakistani intelligence agency ISI. The Ulema pointed out that Afghanistan as a sovereign state is a Mujahid nation which defeated the former Soviet Union by Jehid and paved the way for the independence of central Asian countries. The Ulema or religious leaders have also unanimously termed Imran Khan’s Fatwa as satanic, enmity and strongly condemned it.
A teenage activist recently shot and critically wounded by the Taliban risked her life to attend school, but the threat from the militant group is just one of many obstacles Pakistani girls face in getting an education. Others include rampant poverty, harassment and the government's failure to make education spending a priority. Both sexes have suffered from the lack of funding, but girls, who have somewhat lower rates of literacy and school attendance, are in a particularly perilous position. The Oct. 9 attack on 15-year-old Malala Yousufzai, who is hospitalized in Britain, showed that the barriers to girls' education are highest in Pakistan's northwest, where the Taliban are strongest. The militants have blown up hundreds of schools and kidnapped and shot education activists like Malala. The need for education is stark: — Only 40 percent of Pakistani girls 15 or younger are literate, according to the United Nations. — Roughly 50 percent of girls are enrolled in school, according to a report by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child. — Only one in five students is female in the semiautonomous tribal region along the Afghan border, the Taliban's main sanctuary in the country, according to the U.N. The Taliban and their allies are opposed to education that isn't rooted in their hardline interpretation of Islam and object to women working outside the home or traveling without a male escort. Militants destroyed or damaged at least 943 schools in the tribal region and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province from 2009 to 2011, according to Pakistani government figures. Some were targeted because they were used by the military, but many of the attacks were motivated by the Taliban's opposition to girls' education and schooling that doesn't follow their strict interpretation of Islam. "The Taliban have scared people," said Hamid Ullah Khan, a teacher from Lower Dir in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. "This is also one of the main reasons that women are not studying at schools in good number." The government has worked with the international community to rebuild some of the schools targeted by the Taliban. But the attacks dealt a blow to an education system that was already in shambles across the country, in part because of the low level of government spending. The education crisis is apparent in the schools' infrastructure. Only 39 percent of schools have electricity, and only 62 percent have bathrooms, according to the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child. Many Pakistani families are struggling to make ends meet, and if they have money for books, school uniforms or private school tuition, they often prefer to spend it on education for one of their male children. Bismillah Jan, a teacher from Mir Ali town in the North Waziristan tribal area, said most parents were happy to send their daughters to school, but many had large families and simply couldn't afford to send everyone. Many families in conservative areas of the northwest and elsewhere in the country worry about sending their daughters to school because they might be harassed on the way or when they arrive. Many also oppose their daughters having male teachers. The lack of bathrooms, especially separate facilities for girls, deters many parents who don't want their daughters to have to relieve themselves in a field. Groups that have had success in educating girls say they have focused on those parental concerns. The Karachi-based Citizens' Foundation is a non-profit institution that has built 838 private schools across Pakistan, including more than 100 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and southwest Baluchistan province, both conservative areas of the country with generally low female enrollment. About 50 percent of their students are women, according to statistics on their website. A former vice president for the organization, Ahson Rabbani, said the organization builds schools close to the community so students don't have to travel far to get there and constructs separate toilets for girls, boys and teachers. The schools are surrounded by a wall with a guard out front, and all the teachers are women from the same community as the students. Girls who get an education are more likely to send their own daughters to school when they grow up and have children, said Ghulam Zakia, principal at a government girls' school in the city of Rawalpindi, near the capital, Islamabad. When Zakia became principal 33 years ago, she had to actively lobby parents to send their daughters to the school, which has focused on building ties with the local community and hiring good female teachers. Now the school is so popular that even parents of some boys push to send their children there, forgoing the nearby government boys' school.
EDITORIAL: Daily TimesAfghan President Hamid Karzai released a rather biting statement on Thursday aimed at making Pakistan realise that the monster of extremism can turn on anyone at any time. Quoting the tragic example of Malala Yousafzai who was shot in the head by the Taliban 10 days ago, President Karzai pinpointed that Pakistan’s strategy of using extremist militants to do its bidding was taking its toll. He urged his Pakistani “brothers and sisters” to learn the lesson that using extremism as a tool was bound to have ramifications for the country. He described extremism as a snake that would not hesitate to turn around and bite anyone who used it against others. This statement was issued during a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Kabul. Whilst the words may be sharp, they carry a ring of truth and underlying urgency. President Karzai also took this opportunity to urge Pakistan to work together with Afghanistan to tackle the militant problem that has been devastating his country for decades and has started eating Pakistan from within over the last few years. Citing the example of Malala was very timely indeed. Maulana Fazlullah has been accused of being the mastermind of this attack. When the Pakistan Army launched its offensive in Swat in 2009, Fazlullah took refuge across the border in Afghanistan, given a safe haven by the Haqqani network. It is ironic that this is the same Haqqani group that Pakistan has given a safe haven to on Pakistani soil and allowed to operate in Afghanistan, at the risk of annoying its ally in the war on terror, the US. We supported the Haqqani group against NATO and the US forces in Afghanistan, allowing it to launch its offensives from the safety of Pakistan’s tribal regions. Now, it is the same network that is allowing the Pakistani Taliban to use Afghanistan as its base to launch terror attacks - like the one against Malala - inside Pakistan. This is the blowback of the proxy war project many predicted would come sooner or later. Now that it is here, Pakistan needs to revise its support for elements that are clearly supporting those who wish to tear this country apart. Fazlullah is a firebrand, known for his hatred for female education and extreme views against progress and equality. He is a barbarian who believes that children too are fair game in his bloodlust. Now that Malala is regaining her health, and with the world community behind her, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) continues its threats against her life. Any civilised approach towards dealing with these monsters is going to run up against a wall. It is time to fight fire with fire - a point that Karzai touched upon in Thursday’s press conference. It is time Pakistan changed its policy towards the militants and abandoned its delusion of ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan via these jihadi proxies. All these militants are on the same side, joining forces to pit country against country and neighbour against neighbour. It is time to do what is needed to end this menace once and for all, with Pakistan and Afghanistan joining forces to prevent these extremist militants from using the porous border to their advantage, hopping from one country to another, mocking the very idea of sovereignty. President Karzai is spot on. It is time to end this game before it consumes both neighbouring countries
The Express TribuneA second church was attacked in Karachi on Thursday within a space of 10 days as armed men barged into its premises during a blackout, vandalised it and fled with alms offerings. Since the beginning of the year, at least six churches in the city have been attacked, looted, fired upon or set ablaze. These churches are located in Christian slums surrounded by various ethnic communities. The latest church to fall victim to the growing intolerance was the Philadelphia Pentecostal Church of Pakistan, situated in a congested lane of Karachi’s Essa Nagri locality. On Thursday, armed men broke into the church during a power outage from a graveyard situated next to it, “The church was closed at that time. The men broke the windows, threw the Bibles on the floor and took away cash donations worth Rs40, 000,” said Rev Cornelius, the pastor of the church. This comes barely 10 days after the St Francis Church was attacked in the Old Haji Camp area by violent protesters demonstrating against electricity load-shedding. In a rare move, a blasphemy case under section 295-A was registered by the police against the mob. Past attack on churches in Essa Nagri Half of the targeted churches are situated in Essa Nagri – one of the largest Christian populated areas in the city. Bordered by ethnic groups and political activists, the locality, which is home to 30 churches, has witnessed a surge in criminal activities against minorities. A resident and a prominent leader of the Christian community, Michael Javed, said that the community had recently built five walls to separate their area from other communities. “But the police tore down one of the walls to make a gateway for people to go to their mosques. And the church got looted the very next day,” Javed said, adding that their community was being victimised because political parties wanted to take over the area to form their constituencies. The Seventh Day Adventist Church, also located in Essa Nagri was attacked in May when armed men barged into the area seeking an illegal electricity connection from a pole just before the evening mass was about to commence. A church member, Aftab Bhatti, tried to stop the men but resistance resulted in firing by the opponents at the church. “They desecrate churches on purpose knowing that it will hurt us most,” said Bhatti, who was shot in his leg. When the angered community went to the main road to protest against desecration of the church, they were treated with a shower of bullets by other community members, resulting in two more injuries. During the same month, another church in Essa Nagri, St Luke’s Church, situated opposite the house of minority parliamentarian Saleem Khokhar, was attacked. “Churches are being attacked to prevent people from practising their religion freely. We all are Pakistanis and our house of worship should be given protection and security,” Khokhar said, while adding that he too believed that political activists are creating a ruckus in Christian areas to pressure them to join their respective political parties. Earlier this year, a church was wrecked in Manghopir by a group of people praying in a mosque who were irked by schoolchildren singing hymns in the church. A representative of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Abdul Hai, said that the Taliban mindset is involved in attacking minorities and their houses of worship in the city. “They are the same people who are killing Ahmadis on one hand, and attacking churches to terrorise minorities,” he said. In most cases, minorities refuse to register FIRs fearing a reprisal, while the police try to play down the incident. Despite visiting the Essa Nagri’s Philadelphia Pentecostal Church of Pakistan, SHO Asif Munawar refused to comment on the matter, saying an investigation would be carried out when a case was registered.
Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham has released the first photograph of Malala Yusufzai