Saturday, December 8, 2012

Syria Rebels Tied to Al Qaeda Play Key Role in War

BAGHDAD — The lone Syrian rebel group with an explicit stamp of approval from Al Qaeda has become one of the uprising’s most effective fighting forces, posing a stark challenge to the United States and other countries that want to support the rebels but not Islamic extremists. Money flows to the group, the Nusra Front, from like-minded donors abroad. Its fighters, a small minority of the rebels, have the boldness and skill to storm fortified positions and lead other battalions to capture military bases and oil fields. As their successes mount, they gather more weapons and attract more fighters. The group is a direct offshoot of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Iraqi officials and former Iraqi insurgents say, which has contributed veteran fighters and weapons. “This is just a simple way of returning the favor to our Syrian brothers that fought with us on the lands of Iraq,” said a veteran of Al Qaeda in Iraq, who said he helped lead the Nusra Front’s efforts in Syria. The United States, sensing that time may be running out for Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, hopes to isolate the group to prevent it from inheriting Syria or fighting on after Mr. Assad’s fall to pursue its goal of an Islamic state. As the United States pushes the Syrian opposition to organize a viable alternative government, it plans to blacklist the Nusra Front as a terrorist organization, making it illegal for Americans to have financial dealings with the group and most likely prompting similar sanctions from Europe. The hope is to remove one of the biggest obstacles to increasing Western support for the rebellion: the fear that money and arms could flow to a jihadi group that could further destabilize Syria and harm Western interests. When rebel commanders met Friday in Turkey to form a unified command structure at the behest of the United States and its allies, jihadi groups were not invited. The Nusra Front’s ally, Al Qaeda in Iraq, is the Sunni insurgent group that killed numerous American troops in Iraq and sowed widespread sectarian strife with suicide bombings against Shiites and other religious and ideological opponents. The Iraqi group played an active role in founding the Nusra Front and provides it with money, expertise and fighters, said Maj. Faisal al-Issawi, an Iraqi security official who tracks jihadi activities in Iraq’s Anbar Province. But blacklisting the Nusra Front could backfire. It would pit the United States against some of the best fighters in the insurgency that it aims to support. While some Syrian rebels fear the group’s growing power, others work closely with it and admire it — or, at least, its military achievements — and are loath to end their cooperation. Leaders of the Free Syrian Army, the loose-knit rebel umbrella group that the United States seeks to bolster, expressed exasperation that the United States, which has refused to provide weapons throughout the conflict that has killed more than 40,000 people, is now opposing a group they see as a vital ally. The Nusra Front “defends civilians in Syria, whereas America didn’t do anything,” said Mosaab Abu Qatada, a rebel spokesman. “They stand by and watch; they look at the blood and the crimes and brag. Then they say that Nusra Front are terrorists." He added, “America just wants a pretext to intervene in Syrian affairs after the revolution.” The United States has been reluctant to supply weapons to rebels that could end up in the hands of anti-Western jihadis, as did weapons that Qatar supplied to Libyan rebels with American approval. Critics of the Obama administration’s Syria policy counter that its failure to support the rebels helped create the opening that Islamic militants have seized in Syria. The Nusra Front’s appeals to Syrian fighters seem to be working. At a recent meeting in Damascus, Abu Hussein al-Afghani, a veteran of insurgencies in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, addressed frustrated young rebels. They lacked money, weapons and training, so they listened attentively. He told them he was a leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, now working with a Qaeda branch in Syria, and by joining him, they could make their mark. One fighter recalled his resonant question: “Who is hearing your voice today?” On Friday, demonstrators in several Syrian cities raised banners with slogans like, “No to American intervention, for we are all Jebhat al-Nusra,” referring to the group’s full name, Ansar al-Jebhat al-Nusra li-Ahl al-Sham, or Supporters of the Front for Victory of the People of Syria. One rebel battalion, the Ahrar, or Free Men, asked on its Facebook page why the United States did not blacklist Mr. Assad’s “terrorist” militias. Another jihadist faction, the Sahaba Army in the Levant, even congratulated the group on the “great honor” of being deemed terrorists by the United States. Even antigovernment activists who are wary of the group — some deride it as “the Taliban” — said the blacklisting would be ineffective and worsen strife within the uprising. To isolate the group, they say, the United States should support mainstream rebel military councils and Syrian civil society, like the committees that have sprung up to run rebel-held villages. The Nusra Front is far from the only fighting group that embraces a strict interpretation of Islam. Many battalions have adopted religious slogans, dress and practices, in what some rebels and activists call a pragmatic shift to curry favor with Islamist donors in Persian Gulf countries. One activist said he had a fighter friend with a fondness for Johnnie Walker Black who is now sporting a beard to fit in. Not all religiously driven rebel groups embrace the Qaeda vision of global jihad, the International Crisis Group said in a recent report. Some have criticized the Nusra Front as serving the interests of the Assad government, which seeks to paint its opposition as terrorists and foreigners. The Nusra Front is the only Syrian rebel group explicitly endorsed by Al Qaeda in online forums, the report said. The group gained prominence with suicide bombings in Damascus and Aleppo in early 2012 that targeted government buildings but caused heavy civilian casualties. It was the first Syrian insurgent organization to claim responsibility for suicide and car bomb attacks that killed civilians. Many of its members — Syrians, Iraqis and a few from other countries —fought in Iraq, where the Syrian government helped funnel jihadis to battle the American occupation. In Iraq’s Diyala Province, a former member of Al Qaeda in Iraq said that a leader and many members of the group were fighting in Syria under the Nusra Front’s banner. An Iraqi security official there said they travel through Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey to Syria. “They are well trained mentally and militarily,” Major Issawi, the official in Anbar, said. “They are so excited about the fighting in Syria. They see Syria as a dream coming true.” Syrian fighters also have Iraq experience. Abu Hussein, a commander of the Tawhid and Jihad brigade, which is not slated for American blacklisting and has taken a leading role in many battles, said he fought with Al Qaeda in Iraq for six years. “I decided to return to Syria because our people need me,” he said, adding that his group was attracting secular young men because it could provide ammunition, training and medical care that non-jihadist groups could not. A 35-year-old Syrian musician who gave his name as Hakam said he decided to join an Islamist fighting group because he saw how well it planned and fought and “how determined and professional they are.” He said that he had rarely prayed and had been a drummer in a casino — he apologized for mentioning the word, which had become distasteful to him — but that now he was pious and newly disciplined. He said that the group’s goal was an Islamic state in Syria ruled by strict Sunni Muslims, and that it would fight any secular government. “Our mission won’t end after the fall of the regime,” he said. Some Syrians have complained of Nusra fighters trying to impose religious strictures on others. But Brian Fishman, a fellow at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, said that the Nusra Front appeared to have learned from the mistakes of Al Qaeda in Iraq, which alienated Iraqis with its sectarian attacks and grisly beheading videos. The Nusra Front appears to be refraining from attacking other Syrian groups, with the exception of clashes with Kurds in the north, where some rebels believe a major Kurdish militia sides with the government. Thamir al-Sadi, an Iraqi from Diyala who joined the regular Free Syrian Army, said that would change, predicting infighting after Mr. Assad’s fall. “After the fall of Bashar there will be so many battles between these groups,” he said. “All the groups will unite against al-Nusra. They are like a snake that is spreading its poison.”

Ethnic minorities in UK discriminated at work

A report from British Parliament says that ethnic minority women suffer from discrimination in employment. Some of them have even decided to remove their hijabs and adopt an “English” sounding name in order to find a job. Minority ethnic women are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as white women. MPs found that Pakistani and Bangladeshi women are particularly affected with 20, 5 % of them unemployed, 17, 7% for black women and only 6, 8% for white women. The report says also that many ethnic minority women have abandoned and deselected themselves from the jobs market because of discrimination.

How Obama's Cabinet might change

President Zardari: Govt is determined to equip children with education

Radio Pakistan
President Asif Ali Zardari says government is determined to equip the children‚ particularly the girls‚ with education. He was speaking at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham where he has gone to enquire about the health of Malala Yousufzai.
He said our response to the attack on Malala Yousufzai is to further promote education and fight the extremist mindset in the country. The President said the government would continue Malala's mission to promote girls education and defeat those‚ who wanted to deny the girls their rightful place. Appreciating the courage and conviction of Malala the President said that the nation's spontaneous response to the cowardly attack on her and her friends demonstrated that the people of Pakistan rejected extremism and militancy. He said that the nation is proud of Malala and her schoolmates Shazia and Kainaat. The President thanked the British Government and the management of Queen Elizabeth Hospital for providing best possible medical care to Malala Yousafzai. The Medical Director of Queen Elizabeth Hospital informed the President that Malala is steadily progressing. The President accompanied by Aseefa Bhutto Zardari then met Malala Yousufzai and remained with her for some time. Malala Yousafzai thanked the President and Aseefa Bhutto Zardari for prompt arrangements for her evacuation and subsequent treatment at the best hospitals in Pakistan and the UK. She said that Shaheed Benazir Bhutto was her role model and she would endeavour to follow her footsteps. Aseefa Bhutto Zardari presented a shawl to Malala on the occasion.

Egypt's Morsi rescinds controversial decree
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has annulled a decree he issued last month expanding his powers, an official told a Cairo news conference. A referendum on a draft constitution would however still go ahead as planned on December 15, said Selim al-Awa, an Islamist politician acting as spokesman of a meeting Morsi held earlier on Saturday with other political leaders. The constitutional decree is annulled from this moment," al-Awa said. He said that constitutionally, Morsi was unable to change the date for the referendum. But he added that, if the draft constitution were rejected, a new one would be drawn up by officials elected by the people, rather than ones chosen by parliament as for the current text. The decree and the referendum were at the heart of anti-Morsi protests that have rocked Egypt in the past two weeks. At least seven people have been killed in the unrest, as demonstrators opposing and supporting Morsi clashed near the presidential palace. Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros, reporting from Cairo, said the withdrawal of the decree was a "huge development", but "for the opposition, this may only go half way in terms of their demands being met." "The big question now is how the opposition will respond." 'Meaningless' move Khaled Dawood, the spokesman for the National Salvation Front, one of largest opposition parties in Egypt, said annulling the decree was "relatively meaningless". "The key issue of securing the process of adapting of the constitution is done," he told Al Jazeera. "Unfortunately I don't think the president is leaving us any other option than to escalate our opposition. Asked whether the opposition's goal was to unseat Morsi, Dawood said: "This is definitely not in our agenda at all. Our agenda is basically limited to having a new draft constitution that everybody is satisfied about before going to a referendum. "We respect he was elected with 51.7 per cent of the vote, but 48 per cent did not vote for him. That means that he has to compromise, he has to build consensus." Several of Morsi's political advisers have resigned after the decree was issued on November 22. The country's main opposition parties say the draft constitution is biased and have rejected Morsi's call for dialogue. Earlier on Saturday, Egypt's military gave warning on "disastrous consequences" if the political crisis gripping the country was not resolved through dialogue. "The path of dialogue is the best and only way to reach agreement and achieve the interests of the nation and its citizens," the military said in a statement. "The opposite of that will take us into a dark tunnel with disastrous results." The military statement was issued as demonstrators fenced off an administrative building in Cairo's Tahrir Square. It also came after the state-run newspaper Al-Ahram reported that Morsi would soon authorise the armed forces to help police keep order.

Malala's interview on geo Tv ... Feb 5, 2012

Photo: Pakistan president visits Malala at hospital
Pakistan's president has visited a British hospital where a 15-year-old schoolgirl is being treated after being shot in the head by a Taliban gunman. Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital says Asif Ali Zardari met with doctors treating Malala Yousafzai during a visit Saturday.
It said that the leader was briefed about Malala's medical progress, before having a private meeting with the girl's father and brothers. Malala was airlifted to the hospital after she was targeted on Oct. 9 by militants in the northwest Swat Valley. The Taliban targeted Malala for criticizing the militant group and promoting secular girls' education, which is opposed by the Islamist extremists.

Aishwarya Rai: The return of the queen?

The Queen of Bollywood, and one of the most beautiful women in the world, talks for the first time about courting controversy on-screen, her weight, and whether she will return to film. Sir David Frost travels to Mumbai to meet Aishwarya Rai, one of Bollywood's biggest stars. Rai discusses her rapid rise to fame: "I was virtually invited into the industry with very good assignments." She also talks, for the first time, about her first on-screen kiss, saying: "You're going to get me to talk about something I haven't, in any of my interviews." After much acclaim at home, Hollywood came calling for her global pulling power. But her conservative Indian background held her back from raunchier roles. Rai tells Sir David why she turned down a chance to star opposite Brad Pitt in Troy: "The very material on celluloid involved a lot of lovemaking scenes that I wasn't comfortable with." She married into Bollywood's most famous family. But when Rai became a mother four years later her fans turned on her for failing to lose weight quickly after the birth of her baby. "I was comfortable and that's why I've been who I've been. If I did think it was a big deal I would've been in hiding or would've done something about it," she says. And, over a meal together, she tells Sir David: "I've never dieted. Never." She talks about her favourite home cooked meal, and introduces Sir David to Indian cuisine. Rai talks about India's new middle class and its burgeoning desire for more real-life films tackling taboo topics. "We have a lot going on creatively. It's a very interesting time because the audience is diverse and the opportunity is tremendous," she says. And, she tackles the question all of her fans want an answer to. After a two-year break from the big screen, will she return? "I'd love to." But, she cautions: "The day I'm bored, if it does not excite me I will not make the time." She sits down with Sir David in the heart of Bollywood to talk about her life, address her fans' criticisms and explore the role of new Indian cinema.

Morsi calls for constitution to move ahead

Military will not allow Egypt to “fall into a dark tunnel”

The armed forces have confirmed its support for a national dialogue to solve the current crisis. The statement, released on Saturday by the armed forces official spokesperson said, “the dialogue approach is the best way and only access to a consensus in the interests of the nation and its citizens. The opposite would get us into a dark tunnel with disastrous consequences, which we will not allow.” The statement also asserted that in order to address the current crisis the people should work within a legal and democratic process “which we agreed upon and accepted to move to the future accordingly.” President Mohamed Morsy announced an initiative to hold talks with opposition leaders, which took place on Saturday. However, the National Front for the Salvation of the Revolution, a coalition of non-Islamist and moderate political groups rejected this invitation. The statement expressed “sorrow and concern for the developments of the current situation and the status of the divisions… which threaten the pillars of the Egyptian state.” Waleed El Haddad, a member the Freedom and Justice Party, said in his opinion, “[the armed forces] are sending a message to the people that they are not biased towards a specific camp and are focusing on the legitimacy of the democratic process.” Jermeen Nasr, a founding member of Al-Dostour Party, believed the statement was “an indirect warning for the Muslim Brotherhood, President Mohamed Morsy and whoever represents the executive authority to reach a solution with the revolutionary civilian faction concerning the current situation in Egypt to prevent a civil war.” The statement confirmed that the armed forces called for people to “express their views peacefully, away from all forms of violence, which is currently taking place in the country.” “Failure to reach a consensus and the continuation of the conflict will not be in favour of any of the parties, the entire homeland will pay,” warned the spokesperson. Supporters and opponents of Morsy clashed in front of the Presidential Palace on Wednesday night that led to the deaths of six people, according to the Ministry of Health. “The military institution always sides with the great people of Egypt,” the statement concluded.

Egypt’s Leader Seen on a Path To Martial Law

Struggling to quell street protests and political violence, President Mohamed Morsi is moving to impose a version of martial law by calling on the armed forces to keep order and authorizing soldiers to arrest civilians, Egyptian state media announced Saturday. If Mr. Morsi goes through with the plan, it would represent a historic role reversal. For decades, Egypt’s military-backed authoritarian presidents had used martial law to hold on to power and to punish Islamists like Mr. Morsi, who spent months in jail under a similar decree. A turn back to the military would also come just four months after Mr. Morsi managed to pry political power out of the hands of the country’s powerful generals, who led a transitional government after the ouster of the longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak. The flagship state newspaper Al Ahram reported that Mr. Morsi “will soon issue a decision for the participation of the armed forces in the duties of maintaining security and protection of vital state institutions.” The military would maintain its expanded role until the completion of a referendum on a draft constitution next Saturday and the election of a new Parliament expected two months after that. Imposing martial law would represent the steepest escalation yet in the political battle between Egypt’s new Islamist leaders and their secular opponents over the Islamist-backed draft constitution — a standoff that has already threatened to derail Egypt’s promised transition to a constitutional democracy. Calling in the army could overcome the danger of protests or violence that might disrupt the planned referendum and the parliamentary election. But resorting to the military to secure the vote could undermine Mr. Morsi’s hopes that a strong vote for the constitution would be seen as a sign of national consensus that could help end the political crisis over the Islamist-backed charter. Mr. Morsi has not yet formally issued the order reported in Al Ahram, raising the possibility that the newspaper announcement was intended as a warning to his opponents. Although the plan would not fully suspend the civil law, it would nonetheless have the effect of suspending legal rights by empowering soldiers under the control of the defense minister to try civilians in military courts. There was no sign of military tanks in the streets on Saturday evening, but the military appeared for now to back Mr. Morsi. Soon after the news of the plans, a military spokesman read a statement over state television that echoed the reports of Mr. Morsi’s planned decree. The military “realizes its national responsibility for maintaining the supreme interests of the nation and securing and protecting the vital targets, public institutions, and the interests of the innocent citizens,” the spokesman said, emphasizing the “sorrow and concern” over recent developments and warning of “divisions that threaten the state of Egypt.” “Dialogue is the best and sole way to reach consensus that achieves the interests of the nation and the citizens,” the spokesman said. “Anything other than that puts us in a dark tunnel with drastic consequences, which is something that we will not allow.” Moataz Abdel-Fattah, a former adviser to Egypt’s transitional prime minister who is close to Defense Minister Abdul Fattah el-Sisi, suggested that the generals might have prompted Mr. Morsi to announce the possibility of martial law as a warning to all the political factions to end the crisis. “The military is saying, ‘Do not let things get so bad that we have to intervene,’ ” Mr. Abdel-Fattah said. “In the short term it is good for President Morsi, but in the long run they are also saying, ‘We belong to the people, and not Mr. Morsi or his opponents.’ ” The military’s return to the streets at Mr. Morsi’s request would be a turn of events that was almost unimaginable when he took office in June. The top generals had pushed for months to maintain a role in Egyptian politics and to limit the president’s powers — in part, their supporters argued, as a safeguard against an Islamist takeover. After taking office Mr. Morsi spent months courting the generals, sometimes earning the derision of liberal activists for his public flattery of their role. In an August decree, he relied on the backing of some top officers to remove the handful of generals who had insisted on maintaining a political role. And then last month, despite the protests of the same activists, the new Islamist-backed draft constitution turned out to include protections of the military’s autonomy and privileges within the Egyptian government, suggesting an understanding between the two sides that may now come into effect. Under the president’s planned martial law order, the defense minister would determine the scope of the military’s role, Al Ahram reported. Military officers acting as police officers would be authorized “to use force to the extent necessary to perform their duty,” the newspaper said. The move would cap an extraordinary breakdown in Egyptian civic life that in the last two weeks has destroyed almost any remaining trust between the rival Islamist and secular factions, beginning with Mr. Morsi’s decree on Nov. 22 granting himself powers above any judicial review until the ratification of a new constitution. At the time, Mr. Morsi said he needed such unchecked power to protect against the threat that Mubarak-appointed judges might dissolve the constitutional assembly. But his claim to such unlimited power for even a limited period struck those suspicious of the Islamists and fearful of a possible return to autocracy. It recalled broken promises from the Muslim Brotherhood that it would not dominate the parliamentary election or seek the presidency. And his decree set off an immediate backlash. Hundreds of thousands of protesters accusing Mr. Morsi and his Islamist allies of monopolizing power have poured into the streets. Demonstrators have also attacked more than two dozen Brotherhood offices around the country, including its headquarters. And judges declared a national strike. In response, Mr. Morsi’s Islamist allies in the assembly rushed out a draft constitution over the boycotts and objections of the secular minority and the Coptic Christian Church. Then, worried that the Interior Ministry might fail to protect the presidential palace from sometimes-violent demonstrations outside, Mr. Morsi turned to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups to defend it, resulting in a night of street fighting that killed at least six and wounded hundreds. The draft charter, ultimately rushed out almost exclusively with Islamist support, stops short of the liberals’ worst fears about the imposition of religious rule. But it leaves loopholes and ambiguities that liberals fear Islamists could later use to empower religious groups or restrict individual freedoms. Mr. Morsi’s political allies, in turn, accuse their secular opponents of seeking to scrap democracy because the Islamists won. On Saturday, Mohamed Badie, the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual guide, held a news conference to argue that the group had been the victim of its opponents’ attacks and not an aggressor, at times almost pleading with its opponents not to let their fear of the Islamists keep them away from negotiating a resolution to the crisis. “I am telling everyone, ‘Do not hate the Muslim Brotherhood so much that you forget Egypt’s interest,’ ” he said. “You can be angry at us and hate us as much as you want.” But he added: “Protect Egypt. Its unity cannot take what is happening right now.”

Egyptian Belly Dance

Afghan Pashto Song - By ARYANA SAYEED

Peshawar’s sole rabab maker recalls the tunes of old times

The Express Tribune
Musthaq Ahmed’s family has been making the rabab, a string instrument, for 200 years. But now Ahmed finds it increasingly difficult to stay in the profession. Ahmed’s ancestors moved to Peshawar during the reign of Abdur Rehman Khan in the late 19th and early 20th century. The instrument’s avid use in classical music in Pakistan had paved way for rabab makers, originating from Afghanistan, to settle in Peshawar. However, as contemporary music took over, these people lost their business and now Ahmed is the only rabab maker left in the provincial capital. The usage of the instrument in Afghanistan and the northwest Pakistan dates back to the 7th century. Ahmed is the son of famous rabab player and Pride of Performance recipient Samandar Khan. “I have learnt the art from my father and grandfather, who belonged to Afghanistan.” He now barely makes ends meet as there are too few buyers. One instrument costs between Rs5,000-Rs8,000 and takes up to seven days to make. Because of his meagre earnings, Ahmed’s eight children have had to quit school and find employment. The lack of use of this conventional instrument is a major reason in the decline of its sale. “There was a time when a Pathan’s hujra (guestroom) would be incomplete without a chillum (pipe) and rabab, but now trends have changed,” Ahmed told The Express Tribune. But there are more crucial reasons too. “The law and order situation in the city has greatly affected my business,” the artisan said. When insurgency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas increased, the number of rabab players in the province decreased.”Security problems have affected more than 70% of our business.” “When security problems worsened in Peshawar and cultural events came to a halt, the instrument lost its place in the public realm,” said Malik Nisar, a rabab player in Peshawar. Despite the tide going against him, Ahmed has not given up. He still has hope that the instrument will find its place again. “New musicians love rababs and some even buy it these days,” he said. Nisar added that upcoming musicians from Peshawar such as Khumaryan, Yasir and Jawad are using the instrument in their music.

Obama plans push for immigration reform

Early next year, the administration will campaign for a comprehensive bill that could include a path to citizenship for 11 million people living illegally in the U.S. As soon as the confrontation over fiscal policy winds down, the Obama administration will begin an all-out drive for comprehensive immigration reform, including seeking a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants, according to officials briefed on the plans.
While key tactical decisions are still being made, President Obama wants a catch-all bill that would also bolster border security measures, ratchet up penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants, and make it easier to bring in foreign workers under special visas, among other elements. Senior White House advisors plan to launch a social media blitz in January, and expect to tap the same organizations and unions that helped get a record number of Latino voters to reelect the president. Cabinet secretaries are preparing to make the case for how changes in immigration laws could benefit businesses, education, healthcare and public safety. Congressional committees could hold hearings on immigration legislation as soon as late January or early February. "The president can't guarantee us the outcome but he can guarantee us the fight," said Eliseo Medina, secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union, which represents more than 2 million workers. "We expect a strong fight." The focus comes amid new analysis of census data by the Pew Hispanic Center that shows illegal immigration is down and enforcement levels are at an all-time high. Democratic strategists believe there is only a narrow window at the beginning of the year to get an initiative launched in Congress, before lawmakers begin to turn their attention to the next election cycle and are less likely to take a risky vote on a controversial bill. "It's going to be early," said Clarissa Martinez de Castro, director of civic engagement and immigration for the National Council of La Raza. "We are seeing it being organized to be ready." The White House declined to discuss its possible strategy while still embroiled in the year-end battle over taxes and spending cuts. "Our focus is on the fiscal cliff," said a White House official who requested anonymity to discuss the matter. The official pointed to the president's remarks at a postelection news conference, in which Obama said he would turn to immigration very soon after the inauguration. But Republicans, including some who are in favor of immigration change, are pushing a go-slow approach. Rather than working on one comprehensive bill, Congress should pass a series of bills that help foreign entrepreneurs, technology workers, agricultural workers and those who were brought to the U.S. unlawfully as children, said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who is the highest-profile Republican Latino politician and is expected to be an important GOP voice on immigration. Small parts of the immigration issue should be tackled before addressing how to create a pathway to legal status for most illegal immigrants in the U.S., Rubio said Wednesday. "Portions of immigration reform can be dealt with quicker than others," he said. In conversations with congressional offices, White House officials have said the president would be "all in" on the issue and would want to push for a broad bill. But officials have not been specific about exactly how the president will use the bully pulpit or whether immigration will be a showpiece of the inaugural speech on Jan. 21 or the State of the Union address in early February. One of the key strategic moves still being decided is whether or not the White House sends Congress a piece of legislation or lets lawmakers take the lead in writing the bill. Republican challenger Mitt Romney criticized Obama during the campaign for not presenting a bill to Congress despite promising to pass an immigration initiative in his first term. One option is to dust off more than 300 pages of draft legislative language for a large immigration bill that went through a time-consuming Cabinet-level review in 2010 and was quietly handed to members of the Senate. The 2010 initiative, led by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), died in back-room negotiations when it was clear the senators couldn't muster the votes to get it passed. The draft language creates a renewable visa for illegal immigrants already in the U.S. and allows them to eventually get in line for a green card after they submit to background checks, learn English and pay back taxes and a fine. The proposal also would require employers to use a federal database to check workers' immigration status, among other provisions. Some lawmakers prefer that the White House not dictate the terms of the bill and leave the hard negotiations to an informal group with representatives from both parties as a way to avoid a contentious ideological fight in the committees, said two congressional staffers who were not authorized to speak publicly about the discussions. A bipartisan group of six senators met behind closed doors in the Capitol for 30 minutes on Tuesday night for what is expected to be the first of many meetings on how to get a version of the immigration bill through Congress. On the Republican side, the newly elected junior senator from Arizona, Jeff Flake, joined longtime immigration reform advocates Graham and John McCain of Arizona for the talks. The Democrats were Schumer, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois. But Angela Kelley, an immigration expert with the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington, believes that Obama will have to step into the limelight, as he has over budget negotiations, to get something done on immigration. "The congressional conversation has started," Kelley said. "It isn't something [Obama] can take his time on because the cameras and the microphones will be on him asking, 'What are you doing about it?' and he will have to have a ready answer."

President Zardari visits Malala in Birmingham hospital

President Asif Ali Zardari accompanied by one of his daughters, Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, on Saturday visited Malala Yousufzai at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital where the teenage activist is undergoing treatment, DawnNews reported. The president said the people of Pakistan were proud of Malala and her bravery for not succumbing to terrorist threats. He further said that Malala had emerged as a symbol of committment for the elimination of terrorism, extremism and sectarianism from Pakistan. On Oct 9, Yousufzai, 15, was shot in the head by gunmen for raising her voice against the Pakistani Taliban and for allegedly advocating “Western, secular” values. After receiving treatment at hospitals in Peshawar and Rawalpindi, she was flown to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham where she is currently undergoing medical treatment. Yousufzai began standing up to the Pakistani Taliban when she was 11, when the Islamabad government had effectively ceded control of the Swat Valley where she lives to the militants.

Malala Yousafzai is mtvU Woman of the Year for her fight for women's education

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Pakistan tribal sources say U.S. drone strike kills al Qaeda commander

Tribal sources from Pakistan's northwest said on Saturday a U.S. drone attack had killed a senior al Qaeda commander in the latest blow to the militant Islamist group that has been targeted in many similar attacks. Abu Zaid was killed in the drone strike on a hideout in Pakistan's North Waziristan, one of the tribal regions near the border with Afghanistan, early on Thursday, the sources said. Zaid had just moved to the hideout a few days ago, they said. Pakistani security officials based in North Waziristan said they were aware of the death of a senior al Qaeda commander but could not confirm his identity or rank. Zaid replaced Abu Yahya al-Libi as one of al Qaeda's most powerful figures in June after Libi was killed by a U.S. drone strike. Ten others were also killed in that attack. Unmanned aerial attacks have crushed al Qaeda's network along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan but have drawn trenchant criticism in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Al Qaeda has been weakened steadily in Afghanistan and Pakistan since the killing of Osama bin Laden in a raid by U.S. special forces on a Pakistani garrison town in May 2011.

Malala Yousafzai drew a ‘red line’

I recently met the parents of Malala Yousafzai in Birmingham, England. Malala, who should be learning and laughing and doing what teenaged girls do, is instead lying in a British hospital, recovering after being shot and wounded in Pakistan by the Taliban for advocating girls’ education. Malala and I are both Yousafzai Pakhtun women, from the same town and the same clan. We are a generation and two continents apart, but the 15-year-old girl’s courage, determination and maturity has triggered hope and inspiration in me at a time when I felt that all was waning in the land of our birth, Pakistan.When I was 15 in the historic city of Peshawar, in the province of Pakhtunkhwa, my sisters and cousins could never have imagined a day when simply going to school would jeopardize our lives. We were brimming with confidence and optimism. Girls and young women were emerging to take positions of responsibility in government, social development and politics. Our colleges and universities were centres of learning and debate. I studied at a convent run by Irish nuns, and we spoke English and wore Western-style uniforms. Women felt safer in Pakhtunkhwa than anywhere else in Pakistan. Our people lived by the Pakhtunwali, a moral code that came into existence before Islam and that articulated the protection and honour of women and children. My family would travel to the Swat Valley, where we and many others kept summer homes to escape the heat. Swat was then a peaceful area, and women were well-respected. The Cold War was in full swing, and across the border where our other Pakhtun cousins lived was Afghanistan. The people on both sides were one, but a colonial border had placed us in opposing camps. Believe it or not, Afghanistan was a step ahead of us in embracing modernity and women’s rights. I remember travelling to Kabul through the Khyber Pass and seeing cafeterias and discos where American hippies and the local people would rub shoulders. Then, in the late 1970s, three regimes changed and the world would never be the same. In Kabul, the pro-Soviet Afghan nationalists were overthrown by the Communists. In Islamabad, a U.S.-backed general overthrew the elected government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. And in Tehran, a revolution saw Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomaini take power. By the time it was New Year’s Day 1980, my childhood optimism had come to a crashing halt. War, chaos and Islamic extremism slowly began its ascent, while women’s dignity, democracy and human rights went into a free fall. Malala Yousafzai was not yet born. But by the time she would open her eyes, almost nothing that I, as a Yousafzai, had witnessed or hoped for would be there to welcome her. Malala, however, could be the tipping point that will cause the pendulum to swing back to its centre. Millions around the world have risen to her call. Women and girls carry signs in the streets that claim “I am Malala.” In the words of her father, “Malala has drawn a red line between barbarism and civilization.” It’s for this reason that I have signed a Canadian petition asking the Nobel Committee to award the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai, and I appeal to all Canadians to do the same. I have not lost hope for Pakhtunkhwa or Pakistan. From my visits there, from seeing Malala and girls like Malala, I know the women have not lost their voice. They won’t let anyone take away what they have.

12 Illegal Radio Stations Shut Down In NW Pakistan
Authorities in Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province have shut down 12 illegal FM radio stations. The closures followed a provincial cabinet decision that called for closing down all stations operating without a government license. Qamar Ali, an official in Khyber Pahtunkwa's Home and Tribal Affairs Department, said the stations engaged in propaganda and were agitating for a rebellion against the government. He said the stations were run by various mosques and religious seminaries in the rural Swabi district near the provincial capital, Peshawar. Authorities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province see the illegal radio stations as a clear threat to government authority. Illegal broadcasts were blamed for helping instigate a bloody Taliban rebellion in the Swat Valley in 2007.

'Rule of law can end corruption in Pakistan'

Analysts say that corruption continues to go unbridled and unchecked in Pakistan as Transparency International has ranked Pakistan the 33rd most corrupt country in the world. Pakistan has gone from being the 42nd most corrupt country in the world in 2011 to 33rd in 2012. Analysts say that the new Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranking does not surprise them. The international corruption watchdog also declared Pakistan the seventh most corrupt country out of 97 in the rule of law index for 2012. Advocate Sohail Muzaffar, chairman of Transparency International Pakistan (TIP), told the media in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi on Wednesday all factors indicated "corruption in Pakistan was clearly on the rise." Muzaffar explained that the ratings of a country were based on "the rule of law, the cost of doing business, the judicial system, and the police's integrity and performance."
Trickle-down corruption
Many Pakistani experts believe the military is undermining the rule of law Karachi-based journalist Nasir Tufail told DW that it was not a “revelation” that Pakistan was considered one of the most corrupt countries in the world. He said as long as there was no respect for the rule of law in the country, Pakistan would plunge deeper and deeper in the quagmire of corruption. "Military dictatorships allowed corruption to flourish in Pakistan. The dictators needed justification for their illegitimate rule so they unleashed a culture of corruption, bought politicians and bureaucrats who could serve them," Tufail said, adding, "I am not surprised that Pakistan is in such a mess now." Nizamuddin Nizamani, a researcher and civil society activist, said that the corruption trickled down from the highest levels of state institutions to common tax payers. He also said that corruption had rendered state institutions dysfunctional in Pakistan. "People have lost trust in government and state institutions. They try to find ways to survive in the system by using corruption as a means to get things done." "What would a common man do in a country where corruption is a norm? Everybody dreams of becoming rich overnight. If there are no checks on corruption then you cannot stop people from doing things illegally," Tufail commented.
Anti-corruption movements
Some observers say a large number of educated urban Pakistanis from big cities like Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Rawalpindi believe corruption is the biggest impediment to progress in the country. They tend to hold their politicians responsible for the situation and are looking to the Supreme Court in the hopes that it has gained enough independence to try corrupt legislators and politicians. City-based anti-corruption movements, however, are also supported by right-wing parties and the private media, along with lawyers who initiated the so-called "Lawyers Movement" in 2007 for the restoration of sacked Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. The general perception in Pakistan is that the military and judiciary are not as corrupt as civilian politicians. "The foremost thing is to change the system. To eradicate corruption from Pakistan, we need to emphasize our morals and the accountability of politicians," Ahmed bin Mateen, a young Pakistani in Karachi, told DW. But Pakistani researcher and social activist Nazish Brohi said it was too easy to simply point fingers at the politicians. She mentioned that because politicians were elected representatives of the people, unlike the judiciary, the media and bureaucracy, they were therefore more accountable to the people than any other institution. "Politicians may be corrupt but they still have to answer to their voters." She called the anti-corruption movement in Pakistan "undemocratic" and said the movement should focus on other elements in society. "Most rural Pakistanis are not bothered about corruption. Corruption is not their foremost problem. They have other issues to worry about. In my view, the anti-corruption campaign is a very middle-class phenomenon in Pakistan." Brohi said that the Pakistani middle class believed state institutions were an obstacle to their "upward social mobility" and economic growth, so they wanted a system which bypassed parliament and bureaucracy.

Over 1m un-registered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan

Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) Engineer Shaukat Ullah said that over one million un-registered Afghan refugees are living in Pakistan. The minister said that presently some 1.66 million registered Afghans residing in Pakistan, 37% of the population lives in refugee villages in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 69, Balochistan 10, and Punjab 1, while 63% live in urban and rural areas. The majority of the Afghan refugees come from five provinces in Afghanistan- Nangarhar, Kabul, Kunduz, logar and Paktya. 37% of registered Afghans refugees in Pakistan live in 80 refugee villages of which 79 are located along the borders with Afghanistan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces, he added. Shaukat said that 63% live in rural and urban areas. The Representative of UNHCR Neill Wright, informed that total of 3.80 million individuals have repatriated to Afghanistan between 2002 and 2012. PPVR is a comprehensive household survey that was carried out to assess the needs of the Afghan refugees in Pakistan. The survey commenced in September 2010 and by the end of December 2011, over 130,000 household had been interviewed by PPVR teams. The findings of the survey were made by public on November 28, 2012. The Government of Pakistan and UNHCR have a compilation of comprehensive household information on a significant number of Afghan households living in camps, urban and rural areas in Pakistan. The data contains information on demographic and social characteristics that include sex, age, marital status, religion, language, ethnic group, disability, population information such fertility and mortality, housing types, household asset indicating the wealth index, basic health, education that includes disparities between sexes, enrollment, mobility capturing intention to return to Afghanistan, livelihood remittances, economic activities including labour force participation, protection and security needs and water and sanitation.

Karzai’s disillusionment

Even though it came late in the day, 11 years after the US-led Nato forces began their operation in Afghanistan and just two years before they were due to withdraw, President Hamid Karzai’s accusation that it was the US and Western presence that was causing insecurity in the country merits soul searching by Washington. For a head of state who has been installed by the Americans to make such grave charge is no small matter; it speaks volumes of his disillusionment. While giving an exclusive interview to NBC News on Thursday, President Karzai said that terrorism would not be defeated by attacking Afghan villages and homes, a reference to the raids which the Western forces, particularly the Americans, are accused of carrying out, resulting in the deaths of Afghan citizens. One wonders whether war weariness in the face of little success against rag-tag guerrilla units of the Taliban has induced these forces to resort to taking vengeful actions against the local ethnic Pashtuns, as they have been known to be doing. Implicit in Mr Karzai’s remark that the Taliban have regained control of the areas from which they had been ousted, is the belief that the Nato/Isaf troops have failed in their bid to put down the insurgency. Indeed, the push for persuading the once enemy, the Taliban, to the negotiating table bears out Mr Karzai’s view. President Karzai’s frustration also stems from the US failure to put into effect the understanding which, he says, he had reached with President Obama during the course of the signing of strategic partnership agreement with the US, that the Afghan prisoners held by the Americans would be handed over to the Kabul authorities. Giving vent to his sense of betrayal, he rued, “We signed the strategic partnership agreement with the expectation and the hope.....(that) the nature of United States’ activities in Afghanistan will change,” and that the custody of these prisoners would be given to the Afghans. He went on to make an interesting observation that he did not know whether there was anything called al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, virtually negating the logic of the war on terror to continue and keeping foreign presence any longer. Impartial observers of the scene have, therefore, been advocating that it is time for the foreign troops to leave Afghanistan, the more so if al-Qaeda does not exist, as President Karzai maintains, or has been reduced to insignificance, as the US argues. Adding force to the argument for immediate departure is the re-occupation by the Taliban of the areas which they had been forced to vacate earlier, underlining the futility of the entire military operation. The withdrawal of the foreign element in the country would make for the situation to settle, paving the way for peace to prevail. And the only viable option appears to be to let the people of Afghanistan to decide their own future. It is a moment of reflection for Washington.

Pakistan blind cricket captain discharged from hospital after accidentally consuming diluted soap
The captain of the Pakistan blind T20 team (the world cup is currently on in Bangalore) who is partially visually impaired, accidentally drank diluted soap, which was kept in a plastic bottle on a table where usually mineral water bottle is kept at his hotel here on Saturday, official sources said.
The player, Zeeshan Abbasi, who is here to play for the first World T20 Cricket Tournament for the visually impaired, was admitted to M S Ramaiah hospital where he was treated and discharged late Friday afternoon. He said he was feeling well and that he would play the next match. Pakistan's team manager too has said that the matter has been resolved and that the hotel authorities have apologised. He added that the matter will not be taken forward. The apology, it is learnt, was issued immediately by the hotel and the Pakistan contingent accepted it. NDTV spoke to Sultan Shah, Chairman, Pakistan Blind Cricket Council who is currently with the team in Bangalore. Shah said, "We have accepted the hotel's apology and now all our focus is on the World Cup. If Zeeshan is up to it, he will play against Sri Lanka, tomorrow, otherwise day after against Nepal." Shah also sounded confident that his Indian counterparts would take care of the situation well. "We do not want to politicize the issue. We have a very good relationship with our Indian counterparts. The game must go on," said Shah. Meanwhile in latest development, the hotel staffer responsible for the 'mess' has been terminated. The sources tell NDTV that the house-keeping staff was cleaning the dining room and Abbasi consumed the diluted soap accidentally. He also immediately spat it out. The Pakistan squad though, continued with its 'duties' and was playing a match against Bangladesh despite the incident, being captained by, vice-captain Mohammad Jamil.

Karzai’s other face

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has blamed the US and Nato for the insecurity and lawlessness prevailing in his country; in spite of that he has not been a strong supporter of the quick withdrawal of the foreign forces in his country. The Afghan president is guilty of doubletalk because even when he accused the foreign forces, he did not demand that Nato and US forces leave his country and as soon possible. However, the dire situation in his country affects not just the surrounding region but beyond; as such, his various statements, which seem to be aimed at the audiences on both sides of the fence, causes not just confusion but also worries people and nations with stakes in this area. The night raids of Nato forces on civilian Afghan population reminds people of Gestapo techniques. Deaths of innocent civilians, even students in their early teens, have been in the news. Instant murders of individuals referred to as 'armed enemies' or 'suspected Taliban' at the hands of foreign forces has been frequently reported. There is a feeling that the foreign forces are ready to take lives on mere and slightest of suspicions. What is more, there is also a feeling that the ANA personnel, who participate in these operations, are included to give some legitimacy to these night raids. There is resentment against all these atrocities even among the portion of the population that do not side with the Taliban. Death comes as suddenly to the innocent at the hands of the foreign forces as at the hands of Taliban. Karzai's statements against Nato and US forces, though based on facts, might be to appease the angry portion of his countrymen and women. His anti-US utterances might also be to give an impression of his independence from foreign influences. Karzai's harsh words might simply be to divert the attention of ordinary Afghans and the rest of the world from the many other problems the Kabul government is facing. While there have been unsubstantiated news of massive corruption in Afghanistan making rounds; recently, the Afghan Bank scandal involving millions of dollars have firmed the views about huge embezzlements in the government. There also are reports of NGOs becoming part of power politics in that country; so much so that they are playing a mediatory role between the Taliban on one side and Kabul and Washington on the other. The NGO's role in Afghanistan power politics gives the impression that there are large tracks of land inhabited by huge groups of people in that country where the writ of the government is not even at minimal level. If the Afghan president feels that Nato and US are the cause of turmoil and insecurity in his country, he should be the most ardent supporter of a quick and complete withdrawal of foreign troops; instead, his government has committed to a sizeable number of US troops to stay in Afghanistan even after 2014. Under the circumstances, it is hard to believe that Karazai's statement regarding Nato and US being cause of instability is anything more than rhetoric.

Karzai says attack on Afghan intelligence chief planned in Pakistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Saturday a suicide bombing that wounded his intelligence chief was planned in the Pakistani city of Quetta and that he would raise the issue with Islamabad. Karzai stopped short of blaming the Pakistani government directly. But he told a news conference he would raise the issue with Pakistan. On Thursday, a suicide bomber posing as a peace messenger wounded Afghanistan’s intelligence chief, Asadullah Khalid, in another sign that the government is struggling to improve security ahead of the withdrawal of Nato combat troops by the end of 2014. The Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, although it often makes exaggerated claims about attacks on foreign troops or government targets. Karzai said the militant group was not behind the attack in the heart of Kabul. “Apparently the Taliban claimed responsibility like many other attacks but such a complicated attack and a bomb hidden inside his body, this is not Taliban work,” Karzai said. “It’s a completely professional (job)…Taliban cannot do that and there are bigger and professional hands involved in it.” Karzai said he would discuss the issue with Pakistani officials during a meeting in Turkey. “This is a very important issue for us and we hope that the Pakistan government in this regard gives us accurate information and cooperates seriously, so the doubts we have end,” he said. Ties between Kabul and Islamabad have been strained by cross-border raids by militants groups and accusations that Pakistan on some level backs Afghan insurgent groups. Pakistan denies the accusations and says it is committed to helping bring peace to Afghanistan. The leadership of the Afghan Taliban fled to Quetta after their government was toppled in the wake of the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Balochistan PA's short sitting
The Balochistan Assembly is unique in many ways and to its credit it has some unique records. Its one-member opposition has never been able to attend its sessions, nor is there a Leader of the Opposition because the ruling coalition is in no mood to grant the lone opposition member, Yar Mohammad Rind, his due status. The ruling coalition comprises the most broadly represented leadership. Irrespective of highly conflicting and contentious stances on national affairs at the level of federation or in other provinces, the political elite of Balochistan is the one to enjoy the 'fruits of democracy' as they all sit on the treasury benches in an abounding ambience of bonhomie. The Balochistan Assembly is unique for the reason that almost all of its members, minus the one-man opposition in the house, are either ministers or advisors - after all what is left in politics if you don't have power. And on Monday, it set yet another record: it met for just less than three minutes and adjourned the session till the next day without doing any kind of business. Why did the Balochistan PA meet? It had met to receive a brief by Interior Minister Rehman Malik in complete violation of the Constitution. Under Article 110 of the Constitution, only "the Governor may address the provincial assembly and may for that matter require the attendance of the members". In this case, Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani had accepted federal interior minister's proposal to brief the house on law and order situation of Balochistan. Minister Malik, who is always anxious to brief the elected members in-camera, didn't turn up because of his 'very busy schedule'. But Chief Minister Raisani was not prepared to concede Malik's priorities and burst out deploring the "non-serious and undemocratic attitude" of the interior minister. Chief Minister Raisani was angry all the more for the reason that it was not so simple as one would think to call the Balochistan Assembly into session. Speaker of the assembly, Aslam Bhootani, had refused to preside over the house, arguing that the sitting chief minister and his government is unconstitutional in the wake of Supreme Court's order and he would not like to run afoul of the Constitution. And there is damaging split in Raisani's own party, PPP, over the question of his legitimacy. How much this house can then deliver on the critical challenges the law and order situation in the province of Balochistan one would be extremely sceptical. No wonder then Balochistan is in the ever-tightening grip of chaos and anarchy given the vulgar display of Byzantine politics. The question, however, remains as to what made Interior Minister Rehman Malik to ask for the Balochistan Assembly session and then not to show up at the eleventh hour. Was there a plot, as alleged by Sadiq Umrani who heads the Balochistan chapter of the PPP and is said to be the man who manoeuvred suspension of Nawab Raisani's basic party membership, to 'pitch the federation against the judiciary'? By not showing up in the assembly Rehman Malik has exhibited his political maturity, claims Umrani. But all this had happened to immense annoyance of Nawab Raisani, who would like to stick to power come what may. And in this desire he's not alone; the whole cabal of feudal lords, tribal chieftains and high-ranking clergy is with him, as shown by them last month when the house gave a vote of confidence to Nawab Raisani. On that occasion, they couldn't give too hoots about judiciary; they didn't care at all about it. No doubt, the Team Nawab's antics might have pleased some textbook of democracy. But have the elected representatives of Balochistan delivered on the mandate given to them by the people? Certainly not. Tragically, as Balochistan is gradually being sucked into a black hole of violence and lawlessness, the ruling elite is so much out of sync with bitter ground realities. What a simulacrum or a profoundly unsatisfactory imitation of democracy!

Pakistan and Kalabagh Dam can't go together

Addressing a public gathering here, he said that his party can never support the dam and rejects it even after the court’s decision. “Punjab must not act like a commander but should behave like an elder brother,” he said. Asfandyar Wali said that no consensus is needed on the controversial dam as it can never be allowed to be built.

Three provinces opposed construction of Kalabagh Dam: Asfandyar Wali

Radio Pakistan
President Awami National Party Asfandyar Wali Khan has said that three provinces have opposed construction of Kalabagh Dam in strongest words. He was addressing Anti Kalabagh Dam conference in Nishtar Hall Peshawar on Saturday. Asfandyar Wali Khan said we oppose the decision of Lahore High Court about construction of Kalabagh Dam. He said that the issue has already been buried in the past. Judiciary must respect sentiments of people of three provinces. Speaking on the occasion Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ameer Haider Khan Hoti said raising the issue of Kalabagh Dam is a conspiracy against Pushtoons which will not be succeeded. He said that construction of Kalabagh Dam is not acceptable in any condition. He said that we will attend consultative meeting in Islamabad and present our stand. Our representative says that provincial ministers‚ ANP leaders and large number of party workers attended the Anti Kalabagh Conference. They also chanted anti Kalabagh slogans.

Zardari's mission to Paris: "Stand up for Malala"
President Asif Zardari of Pakistan is in Paris spearheading the high profile UNESCO-co-sponsored global event 'Stand Up for Malala: Girls' right to education' on December 10. Just before the event President Zardari and his daughter Aseefa Bhutto Zadari had visited Malala in the hospital to enquire about her recovery, to convey prayers and best wishes of the people of Pakistan in person and to convey to her how proud entire nation was over her bravery and commitment to strive, to seek and not to yield under threats to kill from the blood thirsty terrorists. Malala has become a symbol of nation's pledge to root out terrorism, sectarianism, extremism and its determination to return the country to the liberal and tolerant vision of Quaid-e-Azam and martyred Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. Dark forces of obscurantism had struck what they thought a debilitating blow that would run panic among the peace-loving people of Pakistan. The Taliban killers believed had they succeeded in assassinating brave 15-year old Malala Yusufzai of Swat (Octover 9) half of their battle against education of girls and empowerment of Pakistani women would have been won. Allah, the Most Compassionate, willed otherwise. Malala is safe and steadily recovering thanks to expert medicare by Pakistani doctors followed by painstaking efforts by the doctors at Birminigham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Horrendous attempt on Malala's life - a teenager whose only fault, along with other hundreds and thousand of girls in Pakistan - was pursuit of modern education and enlightenment. An injured Malala has blunted lethal terrorist attack on her by showing rare resilience for a girl of her age by declaring that she being a follower of martyred Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto - who has been a role model for her - she would continue her sublime mission in accordance with the teachings of Holy Prophet Mohammad who had commanded his followers - irrespective of gender - to pursue education and knowledge even if they have to travel as far as China. Despite the murderous attack Malala is determined to pursue enlightened education to be a model and an example for others to emulate. December 10 Paris "Stand up by Malala" conference organized jointly by UNESCO and the government of Pakistan is coinciding with International Human Rights Day. This high profile event for the cause of making enlightened education available to all girls - irrespective of caste, creed, colour or country - has brought together representatives of governments, UN partners, international and bilateral organizations, foundations, donors, private sector, civil society, academics, religious leaders, eminent personalities, the media and other stakeholders in an effort to renew commitment and seek support for education of girls globally. President Asif Ali Zardari, along with Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Education and Chairperson Benazir Income Support Programme, is personally attending "Stand up by Malala" to ensure his own and his government's resolute commitment to the cause of promoting and universalising education for girls. Besides the UNESCO conference, the President will be having a briefing meeting with Director General UNESCO Iriva Bokova who is the host of the event. A Memorandum of Understanding to establish Malala Fund to promote education for girls is expected to be signed between Pakistan and UNESCO during this Presidential visit. Pakistan will provide seed money for the establishment of this fund. President Zardari will also meet French President Hollande to discuss bilateral issues during his three-day visit on December 9-11. Among other high-level International figures to participate in this conference include Jeam-Marc Aryalt, the Prime Minister of France, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Tarja Helnon former President of Finland, Michelle Bachelet Executive Director UN women education and Former President of Chile, Sheikh Abdullah Foreign Minister of UAE, Liela Zerrougui Under Secretary General and Special Representative of UN Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, Dr Abdulaziz Othoman Altwaiijri Director General ISESCO, Maria Arnholm State Secretary to Minister for Gender Equality and Deputy Minister for Education. British government is being represented by Baroness Sayeeda Warsi-- its first high profile Muslim Minister in the FCO holding as well the portfolio of Interfaith Relations and Human Rights. While the broader framework of Education for All (EFA) seeks universalisation of education for the less and under-privileged in line with the EFA goals and the priorities of the 'Education First' initiative, the overall objective of this event is to advocate for and promote right of girls to education, encompassing on all facets and all aspects of education, so that education becomes available and accessible to all girls. EFA framework will so moulded that it will be readily acceptable and adaptable to every country's specific needs and circumstances. Since Malala has come to be a global icon of hope and inspiration, defrosting the world-wide inertia, awakening and igniting a revolutionary reaction and mobilising support for education for girls globally, Pakistan's response has been quick, positive and a way forward to grapple the bull of illiteracy by the horns. President Zardari inspired by martyred leader Mohtarma Benazir Bhuto's desire to seek education for all girls and less privileged children, has been overly expressive of his determination to renew her and Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's commitment to provide meaningful impetus to encourage, to protect, and to promote education for girls in line with the objective of achieving EFA's goals. Being held beyond the frontiers of Pakistan encompassing all those who consider education for girls as a must for fostering equality of genders, the historic Paris conference "Stand up For Malala" is a landmark manifestation and commitment of Government of Pakistan to take this opportunity to wake up and mobilize the global support for inalienable right of education for girls all over the world. This unparalleled initiative of Government of Pakistan and UNESCO shall blossom into a trail blazer for 61 million children across the world, most of which are girls, who want to be educated but can not go to schools for reasons beyond their circumstances and resources. The sublime objective of the Paris "Stand up for Malala" conference is to sensitize the global community about the importance of education for girls and enormous challenges and obstacles encountered by those millions of them seeking education. It will also pave way beyond basic schooling for advance education for girls as an imminent policy. "Stand up for Malala" would go a long way in motivating, mobilizing support and commitment from various participants for giving an accelerated boost to the global agenda for education of girls.

Egypt’s Mursi to authorize army to take on security role
Egypt’s President Mohamed Mursi, facing street protests over his attempts to push through a new constitution, will soon authorise the armed forces to help police keep order, the state-run newspaper al-Ahram reported on Saturday. The daily said the cabinet had approved a legal measure under which the armed forces would help “maintain security and protect vital state institutions” and would be given powers of arrest, but did not say when it would be issued. The opposition was still staging protests around Mursi’s official palace, where clashes with his Islamist supporters killed seven people and wounded 350 earlier this week. Egypt’s military was the power behind all previous presidents and an army council temporarily took over after a popular revolt toppled Hosni Mubarak last year. However, Mursi pushed the generals aside in August, two months after he was elected and they have shown no appetite to intervene in the latest crisis in the most populous Arab nation.