By Damien McElroy, and Ahmad VahdatNaeimeh Eshraghi
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
A granddaughter of Iran's first Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, has attacked the current regime's "deviation" from the goals of his revolution, criticised leaders for failing to allow democracy to flourish, and said she fears arrest and jail.
Al Jazeera US President Barack Obama has asked a team led by Vice President Joe Biden to offer "concrete proposals" to curb gun violence no later than January, following the killing of 26 people at a Connecticut primary school last week. Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, Obama said he would push legislation "without delay" after he received the recommendations. He urged the US Congress to hold votes on the bill soon after it is proposed. Obama said the issue of gun control was complex but that "if there is even one thing that we can do to prevent [shootings such as the Connecticut attack], we have a deep obligation - all of us - to try". He said meaningful action needed to be taken to curb an "epidemic of gun violence that plagues this nation every single day". "The fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing," he said. Biden, a longtime gun-control advocate, will lead a team that will include members of Obama's administration and outside groups. 'Weapons of war' Obama specifically mentioned that he felt it is currently too easy for people with mental instabilities to purchase assault weapons, which he referred to as "weapons of war". He also said action needs to be taken to close a loophole that allows sales to be made at gun shows without proper background checks. The president cited as a model for the new legislation a previous ten-year ban on assault weapons - military-style semi-automatics - that Congress allowed to expire in 2004. Notably, he said that he respected every US citizen's right to bear arms, but that there needed to be measures in place to ensure that only those who would use their guns "responsibly" would be allowed to purchase them. "Look, like the majority of Americans, I believe that the second amendment guarantees an individual a right to bear arms," he said. "This country has a strong tradition of gun ownership handed down from generation to generation." His comments come after twenty children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown last Friday by a man wielding a semi-automatic rifle. "There have been some concerns voiced by gun control advocates that the president was waiting too long, because right now the emotions of the moment are so raw, they think that this is the time to act. The president says that the American people have a longer attention span than that," Al Jazeera's Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington DC, said. Any renewal of the assault weapons ban, she said, would also in no way affect the estimated 200 million guns that have already been bought by individuals in the United States.
indiatimes.comProtests over Sunday's brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old grew in strength and fury on Wednesday, assuming unprecedented proportions in the city even as demonstrations took place in other parts of India. On Wednesday evening, the angry voice of Delhi's students quite literally shook the seats of power. Hundreds of students from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University and Jamia Milia Islamia, along with many concerned citizens, stormed into the Central Secretariat at Raisina Hill and forced a meeting with the Union home minister, seeking an explanation on the security lapses that led to the assault. Earlier in the day, protesters laid siege on the chief minister's residence and police commissioner's office, pressing ahead relentlessly until panicky cops opened up water cannons against them. The protesters, drenched to their bones on a chilly winter day, refused to budge. Meanwhile, the cops had cordoned off most of central Delhi to prevent others from joining the stir. In the evening, what started as a spontaneous protest march at India Gate around 6pm, suddenly gained momentum when students marched straight up to Raisina Hill, jumping police barricades and blocking traffic. They pushed aside barricades while the police force guarding the high security zone did little to stop them. The cops on duty looked shocked and overwhelmed by the protest. The students finally gathered in front of North Block, filling the air with slogans such as 'home minister hai hai, home minister jawab do'. They demanded a meeting with the home minister, threatening to continue the protest at the spot until he obliges. Minister, top cop feel the heat "What about the gang rapes in Haryana? How many of them get reported? What about Chhattisgarh activist Soni Sori who was brutally assaulted by police. We demand an answer for everything. Can you imagine that only 12% of the rape cases get converted to FIRs?" said activist Albina Shakeel. They also said that the culture of blaming women for 'provoking' sexual violence by being out late or wearing certain kind of clothes had to stop. "Women have the right to wear what they like, go out when they want. It's the police who need to do their job," said another protester. Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde agreed to meet some of the students who went to his residence and submitted a 10-point memorandum. It included suggestions on sensitizing the police force and fast-tracking the investigation and judicial process. "It's a shame that our home minister doesn't have any idea of the conviction rate of 26% on sexual offences or that just 12% complaints are converted into FIRs," said Lenin after meeting the minister. The crowd that had also gathered in front of Shinde's house promised to continue protests in coming days. In the morning, students from JNU, Amity University and DU blocked the main gate of the Delhi Police headquarters for more than over two hours. "The gang-rape victim dared to protest against lewd comments. She is a courageous woman. Yet, she was abused. Our confidence is completely shattered," said Akhila Singh, a member of AIDWA (All India Democratic Women's' Association) which organized the protest along with 14 other women's and religious organizations. The demonstration that began at 11.15am, finally ended after a group of women met police commissioner Neeraj Kumar and submitted a charter of demands that included increased police patrolling on the roads, fast-track courts to deal with rape cases, standardized investigation procedures, increased sensitization of police and immediate relief (legal and medical) and long term rehabilitation of rape victims. Among the protesters was Rajya Sabha member Jaya Bachchan, who also met the commissioner. "We have been assured that this case will be dealt with in a very, very severe manner. I hope the government too will pitch in as Delhi Police alone cannot complete all necessary work to ensure justice for the girl in the fastest possible time," she said adding that all citizens, including MPs, should contribute money towards the girl's treatment. The demonstration blocked traffic on the busy ITO crossing with massive snarls witnessed both on the Ring Road and the Bahdurshah Zafar Marg. Traffic was diverted in the process, with more than 100 cops keeping vigil at the headquarter gates. "We want Delhi Police to follow a set of procedures and guidelines as conviction rates are very low when it comes to rape," said Sudha Sundararaman of AIDWA. Assuring the protesters that strong action will be taken against the perpetrators, police commissioner Neeraj Kumar said: "Women representatives from various organizations have demanded a monitoring committee to check crime against women. I think such a committee is needed. It will be headed by a nodal officer and women representatives from NGOs." Students and women's organizations also organized protests at Jantar Mantar and India Gate. There were also protests outside the Vasant Vihar police station, where the case has been registered and where students from JNU led the protests. They also protested at the Saket court where the accused were produced Wednesday. "It is a historic moment for students here. We have pushed aside barricades and have gheraoed the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Now they have to answer. We will not move from here," said V Lenin, president of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Association (JNUSU). Student union members said that the protest was not just meant to demand an explanation for the recent gang rape in Delhi but also about the complete failure in ensuring safety for women around the country.
The Express TribuneWhereas some schoolchildren enjoy outdoor activities, that is certainly not the case with the students of Government Primary School Qaziabad in Kabal Tehsil. Come rain or shine, they are forced to take lessons in a tattered tent, exposed to harsh weather. Established in 1988, the school still lacks a proper building among other basic facilities. Currently, there are 197 students enrolled at the school from kindergarten up to third grade. However, they huddle up to take lessons under the same tent.
In a string of attacks across the country, five members of polio vaccination teams have been murdered – four in Karachi and one on the outskirts of Peshawar. All of the health workers killed were women, the youngest a 14-year-old volunteer. The victims, all Pakistani nationals, were working on behalf of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and its local partners. Tuesday was the second day of a nationwide three-day drive to eradicate polio, which is a very real crisis in the country. The Taliban had already threatened that they would target these brave health workers, saying they would ‘regret’ spreading infidel practices. The WHO has now suspended its polio vaccination programme in Karachi. It is being widely reported that the police had not provided any security to the teams of vaccinators. Considering the threats these polio vaccination workers had been receiving and their vulnerability – women travelling in difficult (and often remote) areas – there has been a remarkable lack of protection provided by any government agency. At the very least protection, should have been provided to those teams that were working in the most dangerous areas, which are well known to one and all. Not to have done so displays a serious abdication of responsibility. The deadly virus that killed these women is called ‘obscurantism’. The fight against polio in Pakistan is crucial to its global eradication, and if we are unable to contain it by vaccination then there is a serious possibility that WHO is going to impose a travel ban on Pakistan in the near future. This will mean that those who cannot provide proof of vaccination will not be allowed to enter countries certified as polio-free. It takes little imagination to understand what impact this would have on a population that is highly mobile and travels internationally. If the current or any future government is really serious about tackling the polio threat then they need to strengthen the resources of those who are working towards ensuring polio eradication in the country. There need to be public information films and notices across every media platform, print and electronic, to counter the regressive and dangerous tales of those who see polio vaccination as some sort of plot hatched by the infidels. A sustained public information campaign can be launched in schools, mosques and other public spaces. The obscurantists are not only busy bombing their way across large parts of the country, they now also want to condemn us to a life in a wheelchair or on crutches. The government has a choice to make: either we stop them or we become a crippled and sick nation.
http://www.thenewstribe.comAs a continuity of the orchestrated attack on polio campaign teams, supervisor of the drive in Batgaram area was shot at and killed along-with her driver on Wednesday morning. Police sources said four motorcycle riders opened fire on the car, killing the health worker. The incident happened in the jurisdiction of Shabqadar Police Station and spread fear in the area. Polio campaign in the entire district has been halted following the incident. WHO operation suspended A polio campaigner who was shot and injured this morning in the Khazana area has succumbed to his injuries at the hospital. News reports said a total of four incident have happened in Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa today. Meanwhile, World Health Organization has halted anti-polio operation in the entire country.
DAILY TIMESA car bomb killed 17 people and wounded more than 60 in the Jamrud bazaar in Khyber Agency on Monday. Twenty-one cars and seven shops were also destroyed in the huge explosion. No claim of responsibility has been forthcoming but the cast of usual suspects must head the list of possible perpetrators. This is the third attack in Jamrud this year. Each one has yielded a fair crop of deaths and injuries. The attack on the Peshawar airport the other day and now this bombing are part and parcel of the terrorists’ counter-offensive to relieve the pressure on them in Khyber Agency where the military has been conducting an operation. As further evidence of the counter-offensive perception, on the same day, three soldiers were killed and another three wounded in clashes with terrorist attackers at a check post in Lakki Marwat. Another bomb was discovered and defused in time near Bacha Khan Chowk in Peshawar. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Information Mian Iftikhar Hussain has called for a full scale military offensive against the terrorists, who he thinks are now looking for soft targets, having seen the stiffened security forces’ response to the Peshawar airport attack. Another interesting new aspect that has been brought forward as a result of the Peshawar attack is that many foreigners, including Uzbeks and Daghestanis, were part of the group that carried out the action. The authorities have revealed that some of the 10 terrorists who carried out the attack on the Peshawar airport were Uzbeks, or certainly of Central Asian origin, and the by now infamous tattooed gentleman who has found widespread mention in the media, has been found to be from Daghestan according to a letter in Urdu found on his person after he was killed. This has led to the conclusion that the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) are now collaborating in their war against the Pakistani state. Mian Iftikhar surmises that this is because the TTP is running into difficulties now in recruiting people and is being forced therefore to rely on these foreign trainers to carry out actual actions. Certainly the big Bannu jailbreak earlier this year proved the TTP-IMU collaboration according to the respective claims of the two groups. The IMU is well known to have an al Qaeda connection. It follows therefore that the nexus of terrorist groups now enfolds a wide array of groups from the TTP to the Afghan Taliban to Central Asian and other groups that are aligned with al Qaeda. The terrorist fanatics have targeted polio campaign workers according to reports when these lines were being written, causing a halt to the immunisation campaign in Karachi. The terrorists are enemies of everything that a modern, forward looking society aspires to: education, healthcare, and an open, vibrant culture. These enemies of humanity, including women and children, and arguably enemies of the religion they purport to speak for, are the black vermin of our times, unleashed in the past by the unthinking obsession of the west to overcome communism through every and any means, and whose unintended consequences have drenched our country and the region and to some extent the rest of the world, in blood and gore. Without eliminating the threat they pose to everything civilisation stands for, there can be no good future for Pakistan, the region, or the world. This is the existential struggle of our times, and if we fall short, subsequent generations would be within their rights not to forgive us for blighting their future, perhaps beyond redemption.
The Frontier PostThe UN children's agency UNICEF and the World Health Organisation suspended work on campaigns against polio in Pakistan Wednesday after a series of attacks against workers.UNICEF spokesman Michael Coleman told AFP the two organisations halted polio work in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces on Tuesday after attacks in Karachi and Peshawar, but extended the suspension nationwide after fresh bloodshed on Wednesday. A supervisor of the anti-polio campaign and her driver were killed in the third attack on staff of the anti-polio campaign in Charsadda on Wednesday. Polio workers were also attacked in Peshawar and Nowshera, On Tuesday, four female workers of the anti-polio campaign were killed in Karachi while a 14 year old volunteer was killed in Peshawar.
REUTERSThree workers in a polio eradication campaign were shot in Pakistan on Wednesday, and two of them were killed, the latest in a string of attacks that has partially halted the U.N.-backed global health campaign to stamp out the crippling disease. Following the violence, the United Nations in Pakistan has pulled all staff involved in the immunization campaign off the streets, spokesman Michael Coleman said. Wednesday saw at least three separate attacks. In the northwestern district of Charsadda, men on motorbikes shot dead a woman and her driver, police and health officials said. Hours earlier, a male health worker was shot and badly wounded in the nearby provincial capital of Peshawar. He remains in a critical condition, said a doctor at the Lady Reading Hospital where he is being treated. Four other women health workers were shot at but not hit in nearby Nowshera, said Jan Baz Afridi, deputy head of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation. It is not clear exactly who is behind the violence but some Islamists, including Taliban militants, have long opposed the campaign, with some saying it is aimed at sterilizing Muslims. The Taliban have repeatedly issued threats against the polio eradication campaign and health workers said they received calls telling them to stop working with the "infidels". But a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, Ihsanullah Ihsan, told Reuters his group was not involved in the violence. On Monday and Tuesday, six female health workers were killed in attacks in the southern port city of Karachi and in Peshawar. The youngest was 17. The shootings, five of which happened in Karachi, home to 18 million people, led provincial health authorities to suspend the polio eradication campaign in the province of Sindh. But authorities in Khyber Paktunkhwa province, where the capital is Peshawar, said they would not accept a recommendation to suspend the campaign even as the United Nations ordered their staff to suspend work. "You know halting the campaign at this stage would create more problems as it's not a one-day phenomenon. If we stopped the campaign it would encourage the forces opposing the polio vaccination," said an official in the province, Javed Marwat. Despite this, many health workers told Reuters they would not be going to work until the security situation improved. The Taliban have repeatedly said the campaign is a Western conspiracy to sterilize or spy on Muslims or said the vaccinations could only continue if attacks by U.S. drone aircraft stopped. Their suspicions increased after it emerged that the CIA had used a fake vaccination campaign to try to gather information about Osama bin Laden, before he was found and killed in a northern Pakistani town last year. On Wednesday, Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said the campaign needed to go on. "We cannot and would not allow polio to wreak havoc on the lives of our children," he said in a statement. Pakistan had 20,000 polio cases in 1994 but vigorous vaccination efforts had brought the number down to 56 in 2012, the statement said. A global vaccination campaign has eradicated the disease from everywhere except Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. Polio can paralyze or kill within hours of infection. It is transmitted person-to-person, meaning that as long as one child is infected, the disease can be passed to others.
RADIO PAKISTANPresident and the Prime Minister have directed to provide full security to the Polio vaccination teams for the success of the campaign. President Asif Ali Zardari has directed the Chief Secretaries of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to conduct an enquiry into the incidents of killings of polio workers in Karachi and Peshawar. He also directed to provide full security to polio eradication teams so that they could continue the campaign without any fear. The President reiterated unflinching resolve of the government for eradication of polio from the country. Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf also directed the Interior Ministry to provide foolproof security to the polio teams. Chairing a meeting of Polio Task Force in Islamabad‚ he directed the concerned authorities to conduct an enquiry into the killing of polio workers in Karachi and Peshawar and bring the culprits to book. He paid tributes to the services of polio workers. Raja Pervez Ashraf said polio free Pakistan is the cherished goal of the government. He said this is the least we owe to our children and seeking a polio-free life is the fundamental right of the people. The meeting was informed that thirty four million children would be covered under the National Emergency Plan 2013 which will involve over twenty five thousand polio workers.