Thursday, December 27, 2012

Khyal Mohammad: Mugh you da Khybar Zalmi

China must and is able to withstand pressure

Since the United States adjusted its global strategy to return to the Asia-Pacific region, China-U.S. strategic relations and China's security environment has undergone significant historical changes. From a geopolitical perspective, since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. global strategy has gone through two major historical stages. In the first 10 years (in the 1990s), the strategic focus was on Eastern Europe. The main strategy was presented by the NATO’s eastward expansion and European Union’s eastward expansion. In the first 10 years in the new century (2000-2010), the strategic focus is to expand in the Middle East and Central Asia, with launching wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as its main strategy. Around the second 10 years in the new century, the United States has ceased its strategic task in Central Asia and the Middle East for a while. Despite that the war in Afghanistan and Iraq is not very smooth, the United States succeeded in overthrowing the anti-American regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq and established the pro-American regimes. Therefore, the strategic focus of the United States shifting from Central Asia and the Middle East to East Asia entirely followed its strategic step as planned. Since the adjustment of the U.S. strategic focus, a series of its strategic initiatives in East Asia can be summarized as follows: Politically establishing united frontline around China; making military deployment targeted at China; and undermining the economic influence of China. Out of the hegemonic geopolitical need, the United States will not allow the emergence of a unified geopolitical plate that is out of its control on the other side of the Pacific. In addition, the most developed and prosperous cities are gathered in the coastal region of southeast China, therefore the region is vital for Chinese economy. As the main transportation mode for China's foreign trade and energy supply is via the sea route, taking control of the transportation line from West Pacific Ocean to India via Malacca means seizing the lifeline of the Chinese economy. Therefore, it is necessary for the United States to put its strategic focus on Asia, especially East Asia, which is fatal for China.The strategic focus shifting on the Asia-Pacific region means that the United State has targeted China as its main objective of its global strategy in the current situation, pushing China to the position where it has nowhere to retreat or hide, but only accepts the truth. From the historical experience of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, there must be murder accompanied behind the containment. In Africa, the United States excludes China's economic interests and political influence; in the Middle East, it controls China’s energy throat; and in the neighboring countries of China, it seeks and supports a force to contain China. It even directly ruins the key to the security and the development of China in East Asia. Together with internal penetration, evolution and division of China, what the U.S. did is not simply containment with a purpose of stopping expansion, but a curb with the purpose of manipulation or even choke. There are only two ways for China to choose: Either withstanding the external pressure, taking an independent place in the multi-centered world pattern in the future; or following the step of the Soviet Union, and experiencing the survival ravages. The sharpness of the struggle is self-evident, but with 5,000 years’ cultural heritage and 63 years’ revolution achievements, China will be able to overcome the challenges.

Obama seeks deal as US 'fiscal cliff' looms

President Barack Obama has cut short his holiday and was returning to Washington as no deal appeared in sight to avoid the year-end "fiscal cliff" of higher taxes and deep spending cuts that could spin the still-fragile economy back into a recession. Obama's decision prompted Speaker John Boehner to reconvene the US House of Representatives on Sunday, December 30 through January 2, the final day of the current Congress, according to Reuters news agency. The US treasury secretary earlier warned that the government would hit its borrowing limit on Monday, the final day of the year. Obama made phone calls to congressional leaders late on Wednesday before leaving his Hawaiian vacation for Washington, the White House said on Thursday. The US appears to be headed over the fiscal cliff, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said on Thursday. He blamed Boehner for failing to agree on a compromise with the Democrats. He said Boehner cared more about keeping his position when the new US Congress comes in on January 3. On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told Congress that he would take "extraordinary measures as authorised by law" to postpone a government default. But he said uncertainty over the outcome of the fiscal cliff negotiations made it difficult to determine how much time those measures would buy. In recent days, Obama's aides have been consulting with Reid's office, but Republicans have not been part of the discussions, suggesting that much still needs to be done before Congress can pass a deal, even a small one, by Monday. At stake are tax cuts that expire on December 31 and revert to the higher rates in place during the administration of President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. That means $536bn in tax increases that would affect nearly all Americans. In addition, the military and other federal departments would have to cut $110bn in spending. The changes are part of a long-delayed need for the government to address its chronic deficit spending. Concessions demanded Obama has sought to include an increase in the borrowing limit, Boehner and other Republican leaders have demanded concessions in return. Top US Senate Republican Mitch McConnell said he will meet Obama on Friday at the White House. "I'm going to be down there at the president's meeting, and we'll see who else is there," McConnell told reporters Thursday, declining to say whether the other three leaders in Congress, including Boehner, would attend the meeting. The Senate is due in session on Thursday, although the immediate agenda includes other matters. The House has no plans to convene, following last week's rebellion in which conservatives torpedoed Boehner's legislation to prevent scheduled tax increases on most, while letting them take effect on million-dollar wage earners. Obama insists that no tax cuts be extended for anyone earning over $400,000 per year. Geithner said the negotiations over tax and spending policies made it difficult to predict how long he can delay reaching the borrowing limit. The absence of a specific timeframe may be intended to pressure Republicans to allow a debt limit increase in a potential budget deal. For now, Treasury will take several steps to delay reaching the limit. Geithner said it will stop selling Treasury securities used by state and local governments to support their own sales of tax-exempt bonds. That will keep the department from accumulating more debt. And the department will stop investing in government retirement funds. The two sides may strike a short-term agreement before New Year's that postpones spending cuts until spring, according to the Associated Press.

Saudi women hit back at segregation call
Saudi women who refused to leave a hall where men were seated at a literary club have defended their action as “the right thing to do”.
A group of conservative man who wanted to attend the “Saudi Elite and Alienation Issues” lecture this week at the Jeddah Literary Club protested against the presence of women in the same room as men and threatened to leave if they were not moved to another room. However, the women refused to move room and insisted on remaining in the main hall to listen to the lecture. “What happened was not right and cannot be tolerated,” Dr Amira Kashgari, a club member who was at the lecture, said. “We were surprised by the group of men who walked into the main hall. I think that they came in just to provoke another of their imaginary battles. The women who were at the hall are well known literary figures and intellectuals and nobody had the right to tell them to move out,” she said, quoted by local Arabic daily Al Sharq on Thursday.She said that the women were pained when the lecturer came over and requested them to move to another hall. “He had no right whatsoever to make the request,” Amira said. “The women had a brave and strong stance. One of them told him to go and speak with her father who was sitting at the front,” she said. No exclusion policy The club’s literary and cultural activities are open to all people without bias and discrimination, she said. “The club does not support an exclusion policy and does not monopolise views. Those who do not wish to see women in the club hall should simply leave and look for alternatives elsewhere,” she said. “The active participation of women in cultural activities is moving forward smoothly and should not be stalled by anyone nor should anyone meddle in their cultural and social activities,” she said. Fatima Ilyas said that she had expected the attitude by the conservatives. “I was really pleased with the reaction of the club chairman who refused to cater to the demands that we leave,” she said. “We are aware of course that there is tension between conservative groups and cultural institutions. I do wonder though about the reasons that make these men afraid of the presence of women. I believe that these people have a phobia of women,” she told Al Sharq. Choice For the club board member, those who do not appreciate the presence of women in the club should go to places where there are only men. “Women were really upset and disturbed about the incident, especially that they are classy women and strongly believe in their right to be wherever they want at the club. If a woman does not feel comfortable in the main hall where men are also seated, she can go to a separate room for women. It is a matter of free choice. The club is not a bastion form men. Those who want to exclude or expel women should go to their own bastions,” she said. Saudi women and their supporters have been engaged in an uphill struggle to assert their rights in various sectors.

Afghanistan female air force pilots left grounded

By David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times
The two women in their 20s were trained in the U.S. how to fly military helicopters, but in Afghanistan, they have been ignored and put off by the air force.
Unlike most women in Afghanistan, Sourya Saleh knows how to drive — but she's taken the wheel only with her brother beside her, out of respect for tradition. Her friend Masooma Hussaini is still learning. Both young women, though, are experts in a more demanding mode of travel: They've flown 204 hours each as pilots of military helicopters. The first female chopper pilots in Afghanistan since the Soviets trained a woman as a pilot in the 1980s, these two young Afghans are pioneers in a land where a resurgent Taliban is determined to deny girls the right to an education, and violence against women is on the rise. After 18 months of military helicopter training in the United States, 2nd Lt. Saleh and 2nd Lt. Hussaini have returned home as two polished, confident Afghan air force pilots. But they don't have uniforms, flight suits or an assignment. They haven't even seen a helicopter, much less flown one. Since returning here Oct. 28, they've spent their days at home with their families, reading, watching TV, shopping and helping with housework. A superior says their paperwork is "under review." "It seems we've been put on a very long vacation," Saleh said in nearly perfect English, honed by months in Texas and Alabama with American women who were also training to be military pilots. Saleh, 20, and Hussaini, 21, refuse to believe that the Afghan military has abandoned them. They prefer to believe that the country's nascent air force is just slow and bureaucratic, and that they'll be flying and serving their country soon. "I fought too hard for the right to fight for my country — I'm not going to stay home and wait," Hussaini said, picking at a chicken kebab in the women's section of a restaurant near her home in Kabul. "To not fly now after all we've accomplished for women would mean that everything we've fought for would be wasted." The pilots' imposed idleness elicits painful memories of their childhoods, when the Taliban government forced young women to stay at home, cooking and cleaning. Hussaini and Saleh were educated in secret, illegal girls' schools until the Taliban regime fell in 2001. "Things are much better now for Afghanistan, but there are still problems for women," Hussaini said. "Not everyone tells the truth about the situation. It's hard to know the truth." Hussaini is poised and forthright, with expressive eyes and a round face framed by a black head scarf. Saleh is more reserved, but speaks quietly and confidently, her smooth face lightly dusted with makeup beneath her head scarf. The two women dress modestly, with stylish Western-style winter coats, boots and handbags. Both are ethnic Hazara, a Shiite Muslim minority that has experienced persecution by Afghanistan's Sunni Muslim majority. In a country where burkas are still common, especially in the countryside, the two pilots are portraits of modernity set against a backdrop of harsh patriarchal domination. Afghanistan's women's affairs minister reported last month that "extreme or brutal violence against women" is on the rise, with 3,500 reported cases in the first six months of the year. "In Afghanistan, women cannot raise their voices," Saleh said. "We wanted a way to raise our voices for all women, and flying for our country does that." This month, two women who did raise their voices were assassinated. A high school girl was shot by gunmen on her first day as a polio vaccination volunteer, and a provincial director of women's affairs was gunned down four months after her predecessor was killed by a car bomb. Sexism is deeply embedded in Afghan society. Schoolgirls have been poisoned or doused with acid, and young women have been beaten and killed by male relatives for refusing arranged marriages to older men. Women who work outside the home are often threatened, or condemned as morally deficient. The Afghan military was slow to accept women, but it has admitted them in recent years under Western pressure. Today, about 350 women are in the Afghan military, according to NATO, almost all of them in administrative or support jobs. An Afghan army spokesman, Gen. Mohammed Zahir Azimi, put the number at nearly 1,000 — in an army of 187,000. In this environment, the accomplishments of Hussaini and Saleh are remarkable, especially because both come from conservative families with no history of military service. They didn't know each other when they enlisted three years ago after seeing TV ads in Kabul seeking women for the military. They were two Afghan girls who had never been away from home. The women graduated from officers' candidate school in Kabul, then took English classes. They received instruction in English and military technical language at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. At Ft. Rucker, Ala., they learned to fly U.S. Army OH-58 Kiowa Warrior scout helicopters. They are combat qualified, having passed courses in basic war skills and basic combat skills — "my favorite part," Saleh said. They didn't actually fire the Kiowa's air-to-air missiles, but performed combat simulations so that they know how to launch the weapons. Two other Afghan women flunked the U.S. pilot's course, they said. Saleh and Hussaini passed, and graduated in an elaborate ceremony attended by American military officers, and by soldiers and pilots from other nations. They expected a similar ceremony when they returned to Afghanistan in October, they said, but there was nothing. Only their families were on hand to greet them. When they asked to meet their Afghan air force commanders, they said, they were put off. They were not even told how many helicopters the Afghan air force has available. "Last week, they told us to come this week," Hussaini said. "This week, they told us to come next week. That's the way it's been. It's very frustrating." They did manage to meet Afghanistan's only other female helicopter pilot, the colonel who was trained in the '80s. Three other women have begun training as military pilots in Afghanistan, they said, two to fly helicopters and one to fly planes. Hussaini and Saleh are glad to be back with their families, but they miss the United States: the open culture, the free expression, the friendships with American female pilots, the food. (They keep up with American friends via Facebook and email.) They fell in love with pizza, Southern fried seafood and Mexican food — "just like Afghan food, only spicier," Saleh said. On Dec. 8, six weeks after returning home, Hussaini and Saleh were invited to the Afghan military air base in Kabul to finally meet their commander. (Their only other visit to the base was two weeks earlier, for a German TV interview.) The commander welcomed them and told them that he hoped to have an assignment for them in the future, they said. But there was nothing yet. They were not issued military uniforms, much less flight suits. They were told to call him in a couple of days. "We'll see," Saleh said afterward, shrugging. "We've heard a lot of promises." Col. Mohammed Bahadur Raiskhail, an Air Force public affairs officer, said the pilots are reservists and cannot be issued uniforms until they are assigned to an active-duty unit. He blamed bureaucracy at the notoriously sclerotic Ministry of Defense for the delay. Like any military, he said, there are time-consuming procedures that must be followed. In the case of the two young pilots, he said, "The fruit is not yet ripe." The military is eager to show off its new female pilots, Raiskhail assured the two women, especially after the U.S. paid to train them. They sat, arms folded, on a couch in the colonel's office. They were seated next to two Afghan women in smart green military uniforms, which only underscored their civilian clothes. Saleh and Hussaini bristled when the colonel suggested that the three other women training as pilots in Afghanistan had progressed ahead of them. "No," Hussaini told him. "We're ahead of them. We're the first for this air force." Raiskhail smiled. "They are brave; they are showing the world what young women can do," he said. "They've opened the door. Some day, we hope to have women commanders." The two pilots listened, but they did not seem encouraged. They stared straight ahead as the colonel spoke. Finally they mentioned that their piloting skills were atrophying by the day. The colonel, a pilot himself, agreed that one must fly almost daily to keep skills sharp. There was one more thing: The two women were trained on American helicopters. The tiny Afghan air force (Raiskhail would not reveal the number of aircraft; the website calls Afghan air force capabilities "extremely limited") relies largely on Russian-made helicopters. That would require several more months of training before the women could fly on active duty, the colonel said. "But I cannot say when," he said. The two pilots were free to go. It was a sunny day, ideal flying weather. But there was nothing for them on this base. They went back into the sunlit city to hail a cab ride home, where once more they would wait.

How to Rein in Bahrain?
In this New York Times op-ed, Bahraini human-rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja makes a powerful case that the US cannot simply overlook the repression taking place in this small Gulf state with which we are closely allied. She has personal credibility because of what she and her family have been through. She writes: My father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, was beaten unconscious in my apartment in front of my family, as a report last year by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry documented. He was then taken away with my husband and brother-in-law; they were all tortured. My husband was released in January, and my brother-in-law was released after a six-month sentence in late 2011; my father was sentenced to life in prison. He staged four hunger strikes; the longest lasted 110 days and almost cost him his life. (He was force-fed at a military hospital.) She herself was arrested and jailed earlier this month, charged with the “crime” of inciting hatred against the government. Yet, as she notes, U.S. protests over such clear violations of human rights have been negligible. This is understandable, because Bahrain is the home of the Fifth Fleet and a close military ally. There are also fears that the Bahraini opposition, mainly Shiite in a country ruled by a Sunni royal family, is a stalking horse for Iranian influence. That, at any rate, is what the Bahrain government would like us to believe; but from everything I saw during a brief visit to Bahrain earlier this year, most of the opposition, while undeniably Shiite, is fairly moderate and not interested in creating an Iranian-style theocracy. Ironically what is most likely to drive them into Iran’s arms is if the Bahrain government continues its policy of repression in cooperation with the Saudis. It is hard for the U.S. to apply pressure to Bahrain by cutting off arms sales (as Zainab Al-Khawaja suggests) or at least making them conditional on human-rights improvements. But it is also a step we need to seriously consider, lest we repeat the mistake we made with Egypt where we gave unconditional backing to another pro-American dictator, acting under the illusion that he could stave off the people’s demands indefinitely. He couldn’t, and, because we didn’t press Mubarak for reform, instead we got a revolution. That would be the worst possible outcome in Bahrain. Instead, we need to push for the royal family to turn their country into a constitutional monarchy, reserving some power over the armed forces while ceding most authority to the people’s elected representatives. That is the only long-term formula for stability in Bahrain and indeed throughout the Gulf.

Bahrain, a Brutal Ally

EARLIER this month, Aqeel Abdul Mohsen, 19, was shot in the face for protesting against Bahrain’s government. He was covered in blood, with the lower side of his face blown open, his jaw shattered, and a broken hand hanging awkwardly from his wrist. It’s one of those images that you wish you had never seen, and can never forget. After more than 10 hours of surgery, and before Mr. Abdul Mohsen regained consciousness, his hospital room was already under guard by the police. Had he been able to speak, he might even have been interrogated before going into surgery. Others have lain bleeding without medical attention while government security agents asked questions like: “Were you participating in a protest? Who else was with you?” Bahrain, a small island nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia, has been ruled by the Khalifa family for more than 200 years. It is also home to the headquarters of the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which patrols regional shipping lanes, assists with missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and monitors Iran as tensions in the region mount. The oppressed people of Bahrain joined the Arab Spring soon after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. With newfound hope, Bahrainis took to the streets on Feb. 14, 2011. Rich and poor, Shiite and Sunni, liberal and religious, they felt what it was like to speak freely for the first time in the capital, Manama, at a traffic circle with a pearl monument at its center. The Pearl Roundabout came to symbolize the Bahraini revolution. But this newfound freedom didn’t last long. The government’s security forces attacked the peaceful protesters, then tore down the Pearl monument. And in March 2011, troops from neighboring Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates intervened to suppress our pro-democracy protests. Going out on the streets, carrying nothing but a flag and calling for democracy could cost you your life here. Chanting “down with the dictator” could lead to your being subjected to electric shocks. Giving a speech about human rights and democracy can lead to life imprisonment. Infants have died after suffocating from toxic gases used by riot police. And teenage protesters have been shot and killed. It’s not unusual in Bahrain to find families with four or five members in prison at the same time. My father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, was beaten unconscious in my apartment in front of my family, as a report last year by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry documented. He was then taken away with my husband and brother-in-law; they were all tortured. My husband was released in January, and my brother-in-law was released after a six-month sentence in late 2011; my father was sentenced to life in prison. He staged four hunger strikes; the longest lasted 110 days and almost cost him his life. (He was force-fed at a military hospital.) But despite all these sacrifices, the struggle for freedom and democracy in Bahrain seems hopeless because Bahrain’s rulers have powerful allies, including Saudi Arabia and the United States. For Bahrainis, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between the Saudis and the Americans. Both are supporting the Khalifa regime to preserve their own interests, even if the cost is the lives and rights of the people of Bahrain. The United States speaks about supporting human rights and democracy, but while the Saudis send troops to aid the Khalifa government, America is sending arms. The United States is doing itself a huge disservice by displaying such an obvious double standard toward human rights violations in the Middle East. Washington condemns the violence of the Syrian government but turns a blind eye to blatant human rights abuses committed by its ally Bahrain. This double standard is costing America its credibility across the region; and the message being understood is that if you are an ally of America, then you can get away with abusing human rights. If the United States is serious about protecting human rights in the Arab world, it should halt all arms sales to Bahrain, bring Bahrain’s abuses to the attention of the United Nations Security Council, support a special session on Bahrain at the United Nations Human Rights Council, and begin a conversation about potential diplomatic and economic sanctions. The Obama administration should also demand that high-level Bahraini officials be held accountable for human rights abuses, and that nongovernmental organizations, United Nations human rights investigators and journalists be allowed to enter the country and investigate abuses. At present, the Bahraini government believes it has international immunity. It commits widespread human rights violations, and business continues as usual: the government continues to buy arms and negotiate lucrative deals, without having to face any real consequences. This is why the most prominent Bahraini human-rights defenders are languishing in prison. Until the United States starts to put real pressure on its ally, Bahrain’s government has no incentive to change. No matter the price, Bahrainis will keep demanding the very values — human rights and democracy — that the United States claims to stand for. It is an outrage that America continues to back a regime that tramples them.
Zainab al-Khawaja, an activist, was arrested and jailed earlier this month and charged with inciting hatred against the Bahraini government.

Saudi special military unit assists Bahrain crackdown on protesters
We have learned that the specially trained military unit, named Fahud Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, has been operating in Bahrain to help the kingdom’s forces silence ongoing demonstrations against the decades-long rule of the Al Khalifa royal family. The unit is reportedly under the control of Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry and was founded when Nayef was serving as the kingdom’s interior minister. The Saudi forces were deployed to Bahrain in mid-March 2011, to help the Manama regime launch brutal crackdowns on peaceful protests. Saudi forces have also reportedly used Bahraini police uniforms when cracking down on protesters. The Fahud unit is also regarded as a full army, which is in charge of torturing prisoners in tens of detention centers across the country. It is now controlled by Nayef’s son, Mohammad bin Nayef Abdul Aziz, who was appointed as the country's Interior Minister last month. The Fahud unit was has been used by Saudi Arabia to crack down on protesters due to its notorious reputation in the region. The unit is also involved in the arrest, murder and suppression of people in the Qatif region of Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province, which has been rocked by anti-regime protests since last year. The uprising in Bahrain began in mid-February 2011. Dozens of people have lost their lives in the crackdown, and the security forces have arrested hundreds, including rights activists, doctors and nurses. Saudi Arabia has been also facing a rise in protests against arbitrary detentions and widespread demands for the release of political prisoners. According to the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, there are about 30,000 political prisoners in the kingdom. Saudi Arabia has also been rocked by anti-regime protests since February 2011 with demonstrators holding numerous protests in different parts of the country, mainly in the oil-rich Eastern Province.

'Honour killings' bring dishonour to India

The public beheading of a woman by her brother in Kolkata highlights a surge in so-called 'honour killings'.
The policeman jumped to his feet as the man walked into the station and placed the head of his sister, along with the butcher knife that decapitated her, on the table in front of him. The incident in Kolkata on December 7 was another killing in the name of "honour" and there has been a surge in such attacks over the past several months. Nilofar Bibi, 22, was only 14 years old when she left home in an arranged marriage. Alleging torture carried out by her in-laws, Bibi returned to her parents on November 28, but vanished days later. Her brother, Mehtab Alam, 29, had discovered his sister was living with an old boyfriend, Firoz, an auto-rickshaw driver. Alam stormed into the home and dragged Bibi onto the street in broad daylight. Passers-by looked on in horror as he cut off Bibi's head while saying "she had sinned and had to be punished". Alam left his sister's body in a pool of blood on the road, and calmly walked to the police station, her head in hand, to surrender himself. The siblings' family expressed support for Alam, saying they were proud he upheld their honour. In a country currently caught up in collective outrage over a gang rape of a medical student in New Delhi, Bibi's killing registered only a passing reference in the national media. But the coverage - or the lack of it - failed to hide the true extent of a scourge that bedevils many Indian women. In a similar incident, a 17-year-old girl, a resident of Khoraon village, Kaushambi in Uttar Pradesh, was hacked to death by her father for having an affair with a 20-year-old from another religion from the same village, on December 24. In the south, a 19-year-old woman in Sangameshwar village in Dharward, Karnataka, was allegedly killed and burnt by her parents on December 23.
Killed in the name of 'honour'
"Honour killings" are traditionally associated with developing countries with significant Muslim populations, and India has been no exception. "Killing is killing. It is unconstitutional and illegal, it's an offence. There is no 'honour' in killing," Nirmala Samant Prabhavalkar, a member of India's National Commission for Women (NCW), told Al Jazeera. Madhu Purnima Kishwar, founder of women's rights organisation Manushi, told Al Jazeera part of the problem is the language used to describe murder by family members, with women most often the victims. The term "honour killing" is meant to make the crime appear exotic, as something that happens only in the "uncivilised" non-Western societies, Kishwar said. "For example, when a jealous husband murders his wife in New York because he suspects her of having an affair, no one calls it 'jealousy murder'. In fact, that also could well be called an 'honour killing'," said Kishwar. She said the legal systems in many countries take a lenient view of such killings and treat them as "less serious" or "more justified" than other murders. Filmmaker Jean Claude Codsi recently screened his movie A Man of Honor at the Cairo International Film Festival. He noted it is hard to get actual figures on the number of such murders globally. "It is very difficult to work out the magnitude and number of the 'honour killings', as they are often disguised as accidents or suicides," said Codsi. He told Al Jazeera sexual deviance in families sometimes plays a role in the violence. "Often there are dark tales of incest behind the killings," Codsi said. A 2000 United Nations study estimated there are more than 5,000 "honour killings" worldwide each year. The National Commission for Women in India said it investigates 70-80 possible cases a month. "Though it is difficult to say how many are related to honour killings, a sizeable number is obvious," Prabhavalkar said. India's Law Commission proposed legislation in 2011 allowing for the prosecution of family members involved in "honour killings". It recommended making it a non-bailable offence, but disagreed with Supreme Court's suggestion that the death sentence be applied to all such cases. Women's rights activists criticise the role of local village councils known as khap panchayats who can rule on domestic disputes. In one case in 2007, a khap head in Punjab was said to have encouraged the killing of a couple because they were from the same gotra, or clan, which the khap had prohibited. The effectiveness of these councils in protecting the rights of women has been questioned. "These panchayats are not constitutional bodies. They are meant to settle disputes amicably. They cannot act like police or judiciary," Prabhavalkar said. Taking the initiative Women's rights activists say Indian police are not doing enough to tackle the problem of "honour killings". Timely intervention by authorities could prevent many deaths, they say. "Many times, police do not take complaints by the victims seriously," Prabhavalkar said. "They do not provide protection to victims, which in turn boosts up the morale of culprits. They take law in their hands." Several attempts by Al Jazeera to get a response from top police officials in Haryana state - notorious for 'honour killings' - failed. The law does catch up with those guilty of "honour killings" occasionally. This month, a court in Punjab sentenced three people, including a woman, to death for "honour killing" a young couple. Paramjit Kaur, the mother of the slain woman, and her two relatives had killed Rakesh Kumar and Pooja in Ferozepur district, Punjab, two years ago. And this July, a local court in Lucknow handed down the death penalty to seven members of a family for a 2006 "honour killing". In August, a court in Sonipat in Haryana state imprisoned for life a woman and her two sons for killing her 12-year-old daughter and 14-year-old niece. Chanchal and her cousin Raj Kumari were killed after their grandmother caught them with their 16-year-old cousin about two years ago. The "affair'' infuriated Vidya Devi, Raj Kumari's mother, and her two sons - Chand Varma and Suraj Varma - who took the girls to a secluded place and strangled them to death. They then threw their bodies into a canal near Badwasni village in Sonipat on June 26, 2010. Female mobile phone bans Sociologists and activists blame the killings to warped mindsets, as showcased by a recent ban imposed by village elders in the eastern state of Bihar on the use of mobile phones by women. The elders of Sunderbari village announced a $180 fine if a single women or girl is caught using a cell phone, saying the technology spurred sexual relationships, even extramrital affairs.
Married women face a $36 penalty.Chanchal and her cousin Raj Kumari were killed after their grandmother caught them with their 16-year-old cousin about two years ago. The "affair'' infuriated Vidya Devi, Raj Kumari's mother, and her two sons - Chand Varma and Suraj Varma - who took the girls to a secluded place and strangled them to death. They then threw their bodies into a canal near Badwasni village in Sonipat on June 26, 2010. Female mobile phone bans Sociologists and activists blame the killings to warped mindsets, as showcased by a recent ban imposed by village elders in the eastern state of Bihar on the use of mobile phones by women. The elders of Sunderbari village announced a $180 fine if a single women or girl is caught using a cell phone, saying the technology spurred sexual relationships, even extramrital affairs. Married women face a $36 penalty. Manuwar Alam heads a newly formed committee tasked with enforcing the ban. He said mobiles were "debasing the social atmosphere". "Even married women were deserting their husbands to elope with lovers. That was shameful for us," Alam said. "So, we decided to tackle it firmly." It was not the first time in India that village councils have banned women from publicly using mobile phones. A similar prohibition was imposed in August for girls below age 18 in Udaipurwati in Rajasthan state. In July, a female phone ban was ordered on the streets of Baghpat district in Uttar Pradesh state. Activist Kishwar admits parents and relatives have the right to be concerned about girls in the family. "We should avoid attacking people in different cultures without understanding the specific complexities of the situation," she says. Understanding the male mindset should obviously be the first step. But as Prabhavalkar says, perhaps the most necessary move is establishing gender sesitivity in Indian society. "This will do wonders in the long run," she says. And hopefully, "honour killings" will no more besmirch India's reputation. Manuwar Alam heads a newly formed committee tasked with enforcing the ban. He said mobiles were "debasing the social atmosphere". "Even married women were deserting their husbands to elope with lovers. That was shameful for us," Alam said. "So, we decided to tackle it firmly." It was not the first time in India that village councils have banned women from publicly using mobile phones. A similar prohibition was imposed in August for girls below age 18 in Udaipurwati in Rajasthan state. In July, a female phone ban was ordered on the streets of Baghpat district in Uttar Pradesh state. Activist Kishwar admits parents and relatives have the right to be concerned about girls in the family. "We should avoid attacking people in different cultures without understanding the specific complexities of the situation," she says. Understanding the male mindset should obviously be the first step. But as Prabhavalkar says, perhaps the most necessary move is establishing gender sesitivity in Indian society. "This will do wonders in the long run," she says. And hopefully, "honour killings" will no more besmirch India's reputation.

Pakistan: Unity to end terrorism

ANP President Asfandyar Wali Khan, reeling from the tragic assassination of a party stalwart, senior provincial minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour, at the hands of a suicide bomber, has called for a decisive strategy to combat the forces of terror wherever they exist, including their sanctuaries. He told a press conference at Peshawar on Tuesday that it was the job of the government to root out the evil and not his party’s responsibility; for it was not ANP’s war but a battle of survival for “all of us”. Calling upon all parties to help evolve a consensus on the issue, he said that his party had already nominated leaders who would contact different political parties and ‘national institutions’ to devise a comprehensive strategy for the purpose. Mr Asfandyar Wali Khan lashed out at the double standards of those who while not condemning these brutal acts of terrorism, cry hoarse against the drone attacks; he himself was a critic of drones in as far as they kill innocent civilians, but had invariably condemned all forms of militancy. Terrorism, a deadly hydra-headed monster unknown to the land not long ago, has swept across the length and breadth of it over a period of a decade or two, spreading its tentacles to engulf sectarian antipathies, ethnic rivalries and personal enmities and, thus, roiling the peace. The KPK and Fata, being closer to the theatre of war on terror, have to bear the main brunt of a backlash of Pakistan’s association in the war, has, as a result, suffered more and made more sacrifices in the form of civilian lives. The ANP President’s grief and outrage are shared across the country, there can be difference of opinion about his stand that it is the responsibility of the government to defeat terrorism, though, it ought to have support of political parties and various institutions in the country. In the south, Karachi, the most populous city of the country and composed of people hailing from all its parts and representing different schools of thought, is the scene where these despicable rivalries – ethnic, sectarian and personal – are being persistently played out. And yet, the authorities appear to be insensitive to this demonstration of aggressive assertion of fanaticism, as if it would die out on its own; instead, left unchecked, it has the tendency to assume ever more grisly form, as the country has to experience to its mortification. There is need for all pressure groups to urge the federal government to devise a comprehensive policy to effectively tackle the menace. Mr Asfandyar Wali Khan has also stressed upon political parties and others to come up with a strategy to put an end to this scourge. The nation is looking to its leadership in the hope that they sincerely strive to restore peace and harmony in the country through whatever means possible.

Benazir Bhutto....

Editorial: daily times
December 27, 2012 was the fifth death anniversary of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. As the nation mourned the brutal assassination of one of its most popular politicians, the Pakistan People’s Party’s leadership gathered at her mausoleum in Garhi Khuda Buksh to commemorate her life and struggle. The impact of her death not only changed the political scenario of the country, it also brought into sharp focus the extent to which the forces of extremism had become uncontrollable, particularly post-9/11 and General Pervez Musharraf’s mishandling of Pakistan’s role of an ally in the war on terror. Ms Bhutto on her return to Pakistan in October 2007 was a vocal opponent of the Taliban’s presence in her homeland and she declared an open war on the militant group, who after their hugely unpopular policies in Afghanistan were trying to form a stronghold in the tribal and border areas of Pakistan. The attack on Ms Bhutto’s welcome rally on October 18, 2007, which killed almost 200 people, was the first indication of how blood-tainted the future could be in a country still reeling from the losses incurred for being an ‘ally’ in a war in the neighbouring country and the utter mismanagement of the Laal Masjid incident. What transpired between October and December 2007 is anybody’s guess, but the tragic incident of Ms Bhutto’s murder on December 27 was a singular event that changed the face of Pakistan’s political structure in an overnight storm, the aftermath of which was the almost complete defeat of the PML-Q, Musharraf’s King’s party, in the February 2008 elections. The nation voted for the PPP while mourning Ms Bhutto and the party formed the government in the Centre with the full endorsement of all parties for the PPP candidate Yousaf Raza Gilani’s election as the leader of the house. Later, in September 2008, President Asif Ali Zardari was elected unanimously by the electoral college of both houses of parliament and the four provincial Assemblies. Five years later, the Benazir Bhutto murder case still remains unsolved. It is a matter of great concern for many supporters of the PPP and Pakistanis in general that the most prominent assassination in the history of Pakistan remains a mystery. What should have been the single most important investigation after the PPP government’s swearing in in March 2008 has remained incomplete and inconclusive. General Musharraf may have been behind the murder, as the PPP seems to have concluded belatedly, but the fact that no comprehensive investigation ever took place that would formulate an airtight case against the former general shows the ineptitude of the investigating agencies working under the incumbent government. On Thursday, when Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in his laudatory-cum-entry-into-politics address pointed a finger at the judiciary, protesting against its failure to take any substantial step vis-à-vis the investigation of Ms Bhutto’s assassination, the Chairperson needed to take into consideration the simple fact that the main responsibility of uncovering the details of Benazir Bhutto’s murder lies not with any court but the law-enforcement agencies working on the case. Interpol, on the Pakistan government’s request, may have helped with the investigation, but it would not do anything to extradite General Musharraf from the place of his present domicile and present him to a Pakistani court without persuasive evidence. The slogans for justice will all be in vain if there is no closure to this case. The best tribute to Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto on her fifth death anniversary would be the full and thorough investigation of her assassination. That is what her political successor, Bilawal, must demand of the government of his party. For her three children, Bilawal, Bakhtawar and Aseefa, the pain of the loss of their beloved mother may be lessened somewhat if her killers are brought to justice, and not a moment too soon.

Bilawal Bhutto makes political debut at emotional rally in Pakistan

He stood yards from the tomb of his mother, a two-time prime minister killed by Islamic militants exactly five years before, and that of his grandfather, a prime minister and president ousted in a military coup and hanged by a dictator, and told the huge crowd filling the open ground in front of the white domed mausoleum that there were "two powers" in his homeland, "those on the right path and those on the path of lies".
bilawal speech - 27th December 2012 by Malik_Jee On Thursday Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the 24-year-old only son of Benazir Bhutto and the heir to one of the most powerful, famous and controversial political dynasties in the world, made his formal debut in the turbulent and often lethal world of Pakistani politics at an emotional rally in a small village which is his family's ancestral home in the south of the country. "Bilawal has arrived. This was a huge step. It was make or break for him," said Nadeem F Paracha, a well-known columnist with Dawn newspaper after the speech. Less than three years ago, Bhutto junior was studying history and politics at Christ Church college, Oxford, a target for tabloid journalists but few others. Now he is probably the most high-profile target in a country hit by wave after wave of extremist violence. Bhutto spoke of the sacrifices made by members of his family, workers of the Pakistan People's party (PPP), and others such as Shia Muslims shot dead in ongoing sectarian violence and Malala Yusafzai, the 15-year-old schoolgirl and activist for girls' education who was shot and badly injured by militants in October and is now recovering in a British hospital. "How long you will go on killing innocent people? … if one Malala will be killed, thousands will replace her. One Benazir was killed; thousands have replaced her," Bhutto told the crowds. Observers noted that Bhutto's Urdu, the national language which he has had to hastily learn since his return to Pakistan to take up his political heritage, was, if still accented, much improved. "He does not believe in being the anointed prince. He wants to earn the respect of the party workers and of the people of Pakistan," said Farnahaz Ispahani, a former PPP member of parliament and a confidant of the Bhutto family. More than 5,000 police had been deployed to protect the event. Helicopters hovered overhead.Though only able to contest elections in September after his 25th birthday, Bhutto's presence will nonetheless be a powerful boost in campaigning over the coming months. "Bilawal grew up with his mother as his father was in jail for a long time. He went with her to rallies and was with her in top-level meetings. His beliefs – in pluralism, democracy, human rights – mirror hers," said Ispahani.Benazir Bhutto died when leaving a political rally in the northern city of Rawalpindi while campaigning for elections in 2007 after nearly 10 years in exile. Her killers have never been conclusively identified, though most experts and intelligence services believe Islamic extremists were responsible. The PPP won the postponed polls held after her assassination to gain power. Party officials told the Guardian on Thursday that Bilawal, who was educated at private English-medium schools in Pakistan and in Dubai after his mother went into self-imposed exile in 1999, would contest his mother's parliamentary seat when he was old enough. Last year Fauzia Wahab, a presidential aide and Bhutto family friend, said Bilawal carried "a heavy burden" as he "had the Bhutto genes". Benazir Bhutto's father, Zulfiqar, rode to power on an anti-poverty platform before being deposed and eventually executed in prison by the military dictator Muhammed Zia-ul-Haq in 1979. Both he and his daughter are routinely referred to as "shaheed" or "martyred" in Pakistan. Bhutto told the crowd on Thursday that the PPP stood for "food, clothes and shelter" for the common man, purposefully using a slogan from his grandfather's campaigns. Bhutto, who friends say reads history avidly, also appeared well aware of the potential cost of his new role. "The PPP is not just a political party. This is our life," he said.

President Zardari: Elections will be held on time at all costs

Addressing a mammoth gathering on the occasion of 5th martyrdom anniversary of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh‚ the President said all arrangements have been completed to hold free‚ fair and transparent elections
President Asif Ali Zardari has assured that elections will be held on time at all costs. Addressing a mammoth gathering on the occasion of 5th martyrdom anniversary of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh on Thursday‚ he said the political parties should not have any concerns about the holding of next general elections. We will ensure transparent elections the way we ousted a dictator. He said all arrangements have been completed to hold free‚ fair and transparent elections. For this very purpose‚ we have put in place an independent election commission besides legislation has also been done to install a consensus caretaker setup. Under this legislation‚ the government and the opposition parties will hold negotiations for a joint candidate for the slot of the caretaker prime minister. This caretaker setup will remain in power for two or three months with the mandate of only holding elections. President Zardari said his party has never committed any excess against anybody nor will it allow commit excesses against anybody. He said we introduced politics of reconciliation to address all the problems. Following the martyrdom of Benazir Bhutto‚ there was a threat of civil war but we raised the slogan of 'Pakistan Khapay' [Long Live Pakistan] and strengthened the parliament. We took revenge of the martyrdom of Benazir Bhutto by strengthening the parliament and democracy. The president said Pakistan People's Party has always pursued the politics of principles. He said Asghar Khan case has exposed the real faces of our opponents. History will continue to unmask their faces in future as well. He said we did not take revenge from anybody but left it to the history to do the same. President Zardari said the present PPP government gave full independence to all sections of the society including the media. There was no political prisoner in the present government except PPP's own leader Hamid Saeed Kazmi. We have always demonstrated tolerance and harmony because it is the best course to silence the opponent forces. President Zardari said we will take along all the political forces. He said reconciliation policy was started by Madar-e-Jamhooriat Nusrat Bhutto when Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was in jail and she took along all the political forces on board to wage struggle against dictator General Ziaul Haq. The President said we have given a new criteria of tolerance and the coming political forces will have to meet this criteria. He said the time will prove that we have done the right job. He said all the political forces want to save democracy. He said there are political forces in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa‚ Balochistan and Punjab other than PPP who are determined to take forward democracy. He said we will not allow to run Egypt like model in Pakistan. He invited all political forces to contest elections.

Obama reaches out to congressional leaders on ‘fiscal cliff’ talks

With just five days left before the year-end “fiscal cliff” and pessimism mounting that a deal to avert it can be reached, President Obama returned to Washington on Thursday in an effort to jump-start talks after placing late-night calls to Congress’s four top leaders. Obama made calls from Hawaii late Wednesday to Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said. Obama was seeking an update on the state of fiscal cliff talks before departing on an overnight flight back to Washington, Brundage said. The White House provided no details about the conversations. The House is in recess pending action in the Senate, which convened Thursday amid a sense of gloom about chances for a deal to avert more than $500 billion in spending cuts and tax hikes set to hit in January. McConnell “is happy to review what the president has in mind, but to date, the Senate Democrat majority has not put forward a plan,” a spokesman for the Republican leader said. “When they do, members on both sides of the aisle will review the legislation and make decisions on how best to proceed.” Obama landed aboard Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews late Thursday morning Eastern time. Earlier, Reid opened the Senate’s session with a scathing floor speech castigating Republican leaders in the House for not calling their members back to Washington to restart negotiations. He called the chances of going over the cliff increasingly likely. Reid accused Boehner of putting a higher priority on keeping his job as leader of the House than on securing the nation’s economy. He said the only “escape hatch” out of the stalemate would be for Boehner to allow the House the vote on a measure adopted by the Senate over the summer to extend tax cuts for families making less than $250,000 a year. Boehner has said the Senate must move first, and he has asked Democrats to take up a bill passed by the House in August to extend the rate cuts for Americans at all income levels. He has put the House on 48 hours notice to return to Washington but has indicated he has no plans to ask members to return without Senate action. “Nothing can move forward in regards to our budget crisis unless Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell are willing to participate in coming up with a bipartisan plan,” Reid said. “So far, they are radio silent.” As a result, Reid said, the nation is increasingly unlikely to forestall tax hikes on nearly every American and deep automatic spending cuts on Jan. 1 — provisions that Congress approved in 2011 as a way to force compromise on a deficit-reduction deal. “It looks like that’s where we’re headed,” the Senate Democratic leader said. Reid said Boehner will not bring up the Senate’s bill because he knows it would pass on the votes of Democrats and a handful of Republicans. He charged that the House is now run as Boehner’s own “dictatorship.” “If we go over the cliff, we’ll be left with the knowledge that it could have been prevented with a single vote in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives,” he said. In response, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said: “Senator Reid should talk less and legislate more.... The House has already passed legislation to avoid the entire fiscal cliff. Senate Democrats have not.” He referred to the bill that the House passed in August to extend tax cuts for all income levels and to a bill passed in May that would avert part of the automatic spending cuts set to hit the military next month by shifting those cuts to domestic programs. House leaders have said the Senate bill that Reid wants the House to take up is not viable because measures that deal with revenue must, by law, originate in the House. Instead, the House leaders want the Senate to send back an amended version of the House legislation. Senate Democrats say the House leaders have the ability to waive the requirement that revenue measures originate in the House. If anything, hope for success appeared to have dimmed over the Christmas holiday. The House last week abdicated responsibility for resolving the crisis, leaving all eyes on the Senate. But senior aides in both parties said Wednesday Reid and McConnell had not met or even spoken since leaving town for the weekend. After failing to persuade their fellow Republicans last week to let taxes rise on income over $1 million, GOP leaders offered no guidance on the shape of a package the House could ultimately accept. “The House will take . . . action on whatever the Senate can pass, but the Senate first must act,” the leaders said in a joint statement. The White House, meanwhile, was working with Reid on an alternative package that would keep Obama’s vow to let taxes rise on income over $250,000. Top Senate aides said their approach also would protect millions of middle-class Americans from having to pay the costly alternative minimum tax for the first time and would keep benefits flowing to 2 million unemployed workers who otherwise would be cut off in January. The measure also could delay deep spending cuts set to strike at the Pentagon and other federal agencies next month. But aides said the scope of the package depends on negotiations with Senate Republicans, and the talks had yet to get off the ground. Unless the House and the Senate can agree on a way to avoid the fiscal cliff, economists fear that the more than $500 billion in automatic tax increases and spending cuts could spark a new recession. Financial markets, already unsettled by the prospect of dramatic tax increases and spending reductions, may also face a new battle over the limit on federal borrowing. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner announced Wednesday that the debt will hit the $16.4 trillion cap on Dec. 31, leaving roughly two months for Congress to raise it or default on the nation’s obligations.

News In 59 Seconds: Thursday, December 27, 2012

School blown up in Peshawar

The militants blew up a boys’ school in Mushtarzai village in the limits of Badaber Police Station on Wednesday, sources said. The sources said that explosive devices planted by militants at the Government Primary School for Boys in Mushtarzai went off and destroyed the building. However, no casualty was reported in the incident. The police rushed to the spot and started search operation but no arrest was made. Meanwhile, the police foiled a terror bid and defused an IED)planted near a gridstation on the Canal Road on Wednesday. A police official said that militants had planted an IED near the Board Bazaar. The rbomb disposal unit officials defused the IED, he added.

Over 24,000 Pakistani children die of Pneumonia every year: UNICEF

The Express Tribune
Over 24,000 children in Pakistan die of Pneumonia every year that is caused by a bacterium called Streptococcus Pneumonia, revealed a report by Unicef officials on Thursday. Unicef officials Dr Tariq Iqbal and Dr Aurangzaib Kamal revealed facts about Pneumonia at a workshop held to introduce a newly launched Pneumococcal Vaccine (PCV10). The workshop was jointly organised by Unicef, the government of Balochistan and Society of Social Development. “According to a survey report compiled from the data of government and private hospitals, about 663,000 Pneumonia cases are reported every year in Pakistan and over 24,000 children suffering from Pneumonia out of the total number of these cases die of the disease,” the officials said. They added that the maternal mortality rate at the national level is 272 out of every 100,000 and the child mortality rate is 94 out of every 100,000. They further stated that the annual maternal mortality rate in Balochistan stands at 785 out of every 100,000 and the child mortality rate at 89 out of every 100,000. The officials announced that Unicef, in collaboration with the provincial government, was going to introduce Pneumococcal Vaccine (PCV10) in January 2013.

VIDEO: Bilawal Bhutto speech - 27th December 2012

bilawal speech - 27th December 2012 by Malik_Jee
Bilawal was by his mother's side when she was re-elected in 1993

Benazir Bhutto's son steps into Pakistan's political spotlight

The 24-year-old son of the late Benazir Bhutto, groomed to take the reins of power in Pakistan, came of age politically Thursday, exactly five years after the assassination of his mother. Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari flexed his tender political muscles at a rally with his father, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, near the family home in Sindh province ahead of next year's elections. He delivered a political stump speech acknowledging problems in Pakistan, such as the devastation caused by floods. He also slammed the terror that led to his mother's killing and asked why there have been no convictions for the crime. He also backed Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani blogger who became an international cause celebre after she was shot by the Taliban in October this year for supporting the education of girls -- a practice much reviled and feared by Islamic militants.Bhutto-Zardari said that the government has adopted law that protects women in property disputes and from domestic abuse. He tied the assault on Malala to the killing of his mother, condemning and confidently rejecting threats. "To those who attack Malala, I say, if you attack one Malala, thousands of Malalas will be born," he said. "We are the followers of Bhutto. If you kill one Bhutto, a Bhutto will emerge from each household." For every Benazir Bhutto slain, or martyred, he said, "every woman will become a Benazir." "You will stamp out one lantern, then millions of lights will burn bright." Bhutto, the first woman elected prime minister in a Muslim nation, led Pakistan twice, from 1988 to 1990 and then again from 1993 to 1996. Both times she was prime minister, she was dismissed from office amid allegations of corruption. She was killed in 2007, shortly after returning to Pakistan from a self-imposed, eight-year exile to run in the country's general elections. Bhutto-Zardari lived most of his life in Dubai and London during his family's exile. After his mother's death, he was picked to serve as chairman of the Pakistan People's Party, the ruling political party. "Our party will never fear any terrorist," he told the crowd Thursday in Urdu, the Pakistani language that isn't his native tongue. "Our road is the road to democracy." His speech had a populist tinge and a warning to his party's enemies. "Bhuttoism is an ideology for the poor," he said. "You will cut our hands, but we will raise our flags. They will sew our lips, but we will chant, 'Long live Bhutto.' " After the speech, President Zardari, who also has been accused of corruption, took the podium after his son spoke, beaming with pride. "He has to learn with you. He has to learn about Pakistan, learn how to work with you, learn your thinking. And God willing, his elders and your elders are with him," he said. He told the crowd that Bhutto-Zardari's "education is finished, and his training has begun." "The nation is yours, it is with you, we are all with you, congratulations to Bilawal and the coming generations," he said. One Pakistani journalist was quick to praise Bhutto-Zardari for his command of Urdu -- seen as a political feat of sorts. Hamid Mir, speaking on GEO TV, said that Bhutto-Zardari "cannot speak Urdu clearly, and this speech was very impressive because he worked very hard to spontaneously deliver the speech in perfect Urdu." Five years on though, the Bhutto murder case remains unresolved. A Pakistani special prosecutor accused a court of dragging out the case against five men accused in connection with the December 27, 2007, killing of Bhutto. "Several times, the court has rejected our request" for hearings in the case, Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali, a special prosecutor with the Federal Investigation Agency, told CNN on Wednesday. The five men, who were indicted by an anti-terror court, are accused of having links to Beitullah Mehsud, the late leader of the Pakistani Taliban believed to be the mastermind behind the attack on Bhutto. The men are due back in court on January 5, Ali said. The special prosecutor has sent two letters to Interpol asking for the arrest of former President Pervez Musharraf, who has been accused of failing to protect Bhutto despite threats to her life. Musharraf has been in self-imposed exile in London and Dubai after leaving Pakistan in 2008. In August 2012, Pakistani authorities confiscated his property and froze his bank account. The former military ruler has denied having anything to do with
Bhutto's killing.
Bhutto survived an assassination attempt in October 2007 in Karachi during her homecoming that killed 139 people. The following December, she was killed in a gun-suicide bomb attack as she was wrapping up a campaign rally in Rawalpindi ahead of parliamentary elections. Mehsud, the alleged architect of the attack, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in August 2009 in Pakistan's volatile Waziristan province, according to authorities. He denied being behind the attack on Bhutto, according to statements released by his spokesman shortly after the former prime minister's killing. But authorities said Mehsud chose a teenager from his own tribe to act as the as the suicide bomber in the attack on Bhutto. The suicide bomber was taken to Rawalpindi by three members of the Taliban, who handed him over to two others who provided him temporary housing and gave him information on when and where Bhutto could be targeted, according to Ali, the special prosecutor.

Bilawal launches political career on Benazir’s fifth death anniversary

Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, the son of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and President Zardari, made his first major public speech on Thursday to vast crowds gathered in Garhi Khuda Baksh to mark the fifth anniversary of his mother’s the assassination. Hundreds of thousands of people, including Pakistan Peoples’ Party’s (PPP) workers, supporters and the party’s top leadership, had congregated at the Bhutto family mausoleum near Larkana in Sindh to pay their respects to the slain leader and witness what many have termed as the launch of her son’s own political career. “Today, I am with the martyrs at Garhi Khuda Baksh. I am with my mother and my grandmother. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto are still alive in our hearts even today,” said Bilawal. “Bhutto is an emotion, a love,” he said. “Every challenge is soaked in blood, but you will be the loser. How ever many Bhuttos you kill, more Bhuttos will emerge from every house.” Security was tight around the huge stage, adorned with the red, black and green tricolour of the ruling PPP, where Oxford-educated Bilawal spoke. In an impassioned speech, Bilawal – the third generation of his family to go into politics – vowed to continue his mothers fight for democracy, the struggle for the poor and against “anti-democratic forces”. “There are two kinds of powers in this country: that which prefers the path of dictatorship, and then there is the power of the people…On one side we stand up as a wall against the terrorists, and then there are those who are even afraid to take their names,” said Bilawal in a passionate speech. “We have chosen a very difficult path. Our path is the path of democracy, which Benazir taught us to walk on. We will go to the place where a bright and progressive Pakistan awaits us.” Police said more than 15,000 officers had been deployed at the venue, as well as some 500 government paramilitary forces.
Emergence of a new Bhutto?
Benazir Bhutto, twice elected prime minister, was killed in a gun and suicide attack after an election rally in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007. No one has yet been convicted of her murder. At her grave, women beat their chests and wept as they touched the tomb as a mark of respect and shouted “Long Live Bhutto” and “Bhutto was alive yesterday, Bhutto is alive today”. Bilawal was just 19 when his mother was killed, and his spokesman Aijaz Durrani said Thursday’s anniversary would mark the start of a new chapter in Pakistan’s political history. “This is his political career’s first public meeting. A new Bhutto is emerging today in the shape of Bilawal who has vision of his mother and grandfather and people are excited on his launching,” he said. A general election is due in the spring and though the 24-year-old Bilawal will be too young to stand – the lower age limit is 25 – he could act as a figurehead for the campaign. “Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, following in the tradition of generations, will prove to be an important turning point for democracy and politics,” Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf had said in a statement. “This journey will continue forward.”
“Trial of my mother’s grave”
Bilawal also took aim at Pakistan’s vocal Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, demanding to know why the Supreme Court could find time to deal with issues such as compressed gas and sugar prices but not punish his mother’s killers. “I asked the top judge, can’t you see the blood of Benazir Bhutto on the roads of Rawalpindi?” Bilawal said. “I, as an heir of Bhutto, ask why the killers of my mother have not been punished, while you have time to hold the trial of my mother’s grave.” The ruling PPP and the judiciary have been at loggerheads for more than two years over the Supreme Court’s attempt to reopen graft cases against Benazir and her husband President Asif Ali Zardari. The PPP regards the efforts as tantamount to putting the dead former prime minister on trial. Bilawal, who has been co-chairman of the PPP with his father since Benazir’s death, in May accused former military ruler Pervez Musharraf of “murdering” his mother by deliberately sabotaging her security. A UN report in 2010 also said the murder could have been prevented and accused Musharraf’s government of failing to properly protect Bhutto. The Musharraf regime blamed the assassination on Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who denied any involvement and was killed in a US drone attack in August 2009.

5th death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto

Pakistan marks the fifth anniversary of the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto on Thursday, with her son expected to launch his political career with a speech in the family s ancestral home town. Bhutto, twice elected prime minister, was killed in a gun and suicide attack after an election rally in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007. No one has ever been convicted of her murder.
Thousands are expected to gather at the family mausoleum at Larkana in the southern province of Sindh and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of Benazir and of President Asif Ali Zardari, is to make his first major public speech. The Bhutto family has been a force in Pakistani politics for almost all of the country s 65-year history. Benazir s father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto led the country from 1971 until he was ousted in a military coup in 1977. He was hanged in 1979 after being convicted of authorising the murder of a political opponent. With a general election due in the spring, analysts say the ruling Pakistan People s Party (PPP) is eager to introduce a third generation of the dynasty to the public. "It appears to be the formal launching of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari into politics," political analyst Hasan Askari told AFP. "Bilawal has symbolic value in the Bhutto family and Zardari would like this link to be used as symbolism in the election." As head of state President Zardari, who came to power in elections held a month after his wife s murder, is barred from leading the PPP election campaign. He is also hugely unpopular, tainted by years of corruption allegations. Though the 24-year-old Bilawal will be too young to stand if elections go ahead as expected in the spring -- the lower age limit is 25 -- Askari said he could provide a fresh new figurehead for the PPP campaign. The Bhuttos are an almost ever-present element in the rhetoric of PPP leaders, who frequently eulogise the party s two "martyrs" as champions of the common man s struggle against a repressive "establishment". Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said the country should "shun prejudices and maintain unity" to pay homage to Benazir. "Let us resolve to defeat the forces of extremism and terrorism and work for the progress and prosperity of the country," he said in a statement. Bilawal, co-chairman of the PPP with his father, in May accused former military ruler Pervez Musharraf of "murdering" his mother by deliberately sabotaging her security. A UN report in 2010 also said the murder could have been prevented and accused Musharraf s government of failing to protect Bhutto properly. The Musharraf regime blamed the assassination on TTP chief Baitullah Mehsud, who denied any involvement and was killed in a US drone attack in August 2009. There has been a surge in terror attacks in Pakistan in recent weeks. Brigadier Saad Khan, a former officer with the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, warned the Taliban may continue their campaign with an attack on events marking the anniversary.

Bilawal Bhutto : Will not be deterred by dictators or terrorists

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari addressed the rally here on the fifth death anniversary of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The PPP Chairman said his party would not abandon Pakistan nor would it allow a dictator to steal the rights of people or be deterred by terrorists. Bilawal said there were two powers in the country; those on the right path and those on the path of lies. He said the PPP had taken the difficult path of democracy and were taught to walk on this path by Benazir Bhutto. “We have brought democracy and we will be ones to protect it”. Bilawal added that the 1973 constitution had been restored and Pakistan would prosper under the leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari. The PPP Chairman mentioned several of the development projects launched during the tenure of the PPP government in his address. "The work of the PPP would not be complete until everyone was provided Roti Kaapra, Makan (Food,Clothes and Homes)". Speaking on Pakistan’s economy, Bilawal said the economic policies of the PPP were brilliant unfortunately this was a time of global recession. He added that despite facing several challenges such as terrorism, the economy of Pakistan was still standing on its own two feet. “Positive thinking is essential for Pakistan,” he said. Bilawal further said that the PPP was a wall in the way of terrorists. He spoke on the PPP’s support for an independent judiciary but said that the role of the judiciary was to provide justice not to govern. Bilawal said that the PPP was aware of the crisis in Balochistan and the government had passed laws which would benefit the province. He reiterated that the PPP wanted to work with all political parties and the policy of reconciliation was their biggest weapon. “There are some who only indulge in the politics of hate and think they can use this to gain power. But they don’t know that politics is the name of love not hate”. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari paid a tribute to his assassinated grandfather, mother and other PPP workers stating that the martyrs of democracy lived in his heart. Referring to Malala Yousafzai, Bilawal said that the militant mindset which attacked her needed to know that there were thousands of Malala’s in waiting.

Bilawal Bhutto : PPP would continue its struggle for welfare of masses

Radio Pakistan
Addressing a mammoth public gathering at Ghari Khuda Bukhsh‚ PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the PPP brought democracy to this country and it is fully resolved to defend it. Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has declared that the party would continue its struggle for welfare of the masses till provision of basic necessities of life to every citizen. Addressing a mammoth gathering at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh on the occasion of 5th martyrdom anniversary of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto on Thursday‚ he said the party has laid foundations of a system to provide employment to every youth‚ educate every child and ensure best possible medical care for every citizen. He said "Roti‚ Kapra aur Makan" has been and will remain the slogan of the PPP. Bilawal Bhutto said the PPP brought democracy to this country and it is fully resolved to defend it. He said Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto laid down their lives for the rights of the people and the party would never deviate from their mission come what may. The PPP Chairman said today Parliament is sovereign and power lies with the people and not with an individual. 1973 Constitution has been restored to its original form and powers have been devolved to the provinces. He said the country is now on its path to reach its cherished destination under the leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari. Bilawal Bhutto said his mother Shaheed Benazir had a dream to empower women and the present PPP Government has taken a number of initiatives including Benazir Income Support Programme and legislation for the purpose. He pointed out that under BISP a beginning has been made towards fulfillment of the goal of 'Roti‚ Kapra aur Makan' for every citizen. BISP is also taking care of needs of the poor to earn his livelihood through Waseela-e-Haq and Waseela-e-Rozgar. Bilawal said BISP is also fulfilling needs of the poor about education‚ training and health. He pointed out that the PPP Government faced enormous challenges due to global recession and terrorism but despite that our economy is standing firmly on its feet. Exports crossed 25 billion dollar mark this year‚ foreign exchange reserves stand at 14 billion dollar‚ KSE index has gone beyond 16‚000 points and inflation has come down from 25 to just 9 percent. He said Pakistan was wheat importing country but now is wheat exporting country. Bilawal Bhutto said all this is just a beginning and the PPP is committed to ameliorate the lot of the people. He said the PPP manifesto emphasizes that people are fountainhead of power and that is why the party is focusing on them. He said the PPP also sought an apology from people of Balochistan and decided that resources of the province would be exploited by the province and not the federation. He urged people of Balochistan to reject the negative mindset and not to leave Pakistan to such elements. The PPP Chairperson said the PPP believes in independent judiciary and has accepted all its verdicts. He asked the Supreme Court to decide the presidential reference in Bhutto case at the earliest. He also pointed out that after availability of Joint Investigation Team and UN reports in Shaheed Benazir Bhutto martyrdom case‚ the judiciary should also bring the culprits to book. Bilawal Bhutto said the PPP believes in taking all political forces along and reconciliation is its weapon. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the so called flag bearers of democracy tried to hinder the way of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. Our opponents have still not learnt any lesson from the past and they are still working to derail democracy in the country. However‚ they will not be allowed to succeed in their designs. He said the caravan of Pakistan People's Party will continue its march for the welfare and well being of the people and strengthening of democracy. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that blood of Benazir Bhutto is running in his veins and pledged that Pakistan People's Party will neither allow any dictator to snatch rights of the people nor the terrorists to terrorize the people. He assured that his party will continue to follow the mission of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He said the PPP is not only the name of a political party but also it is a life for the people. He said Shaheed Benazir Bhutto lives in our hearts and we will work for the accomplishment of its vision for Pakistan. -------- Addressing the public meeting‚ the former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that those who are hatching conspiracies against Peoples Party will fail in their designs. Enumerating achievements of PPP led government he said that under the leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari the PPP government achieved many goals like giving rights to the provinces‚ renaming Khyber Pakhtunkhwa‚ reforms in FATA rules and political freedom in the country. He said PPP is the heir of martyrs as Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed had said after Karsaz blast that she is the heir of these martyrs who sacrificed their lives for democracy in the country. The PPP leader Jehangir Badar said that Shaheed Benazir Bhutto courageously resisted the dictatorship and succeeded in restoring democracy in the country.He said that we would continue to work for fulfilling mission of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto.He asked the PPP workers to utilize their energy for winning the forthcoming general elections by the party. The PPP leader Raza Rabbani said that Shaheed Benazir Bhutto still rules over the hearts of the Pakistani people.He said Shaheed Zulifkar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto did not compromise on their principles.He said the PPP government has abolished anti labour laws. Referring to long march and tsunami ultimatums given by some political parties in the country the PPP stalwart Senator Aitzaz Ahsan said that PPP believes on ballots‚ not on swords. He said that the mindset which was behind the murder of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto played the same role in the murder of Bashir Ahmad Bilour. PPP leader Aftab Shaban Mirani said Shaheed Benazir Bhutto was not just politician but a states-woman who had a long term vision for Pakistan. President PPP Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa‚ Anwar Saifullah Khan said that Shaheed Benazir Bhutto is living in our hearts and we can never forget her. Chief Minister Gilgit-Baltistan Syed Mehdi Shah said that we renew our pledge to resist conspiracies against democracy. Addressing the public meeting‚ Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah said Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto laid down their lives for the rights of the people and supremacy of the Constitution. He said in line with the philosophy of Shaheed leaders‚ Sindh Government has provided jobs to over one hundred thousand youth and more would be provided if return to power again. He said the huge gathering is reflective of love of the people for Bhutto family. ----- PPP workers from Islamabad‚ Rawalpindi and adjoining areas today held a function at the place of martyrdom of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto at Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi. The speakers paid glowing tributes to Shaheed Benazir Bhutto for her services. Quran Khawani was also held at Liaquat Bagh this morning. PPP leaders and workers organised gathering at local level in all the four provinces‚ Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir where Quran khawani and fateha khawani was held for Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. ----------- Radio Pakistan is airing special audio/video marathon transmission titled "Zinda Hey Bibi" live from Larkana to mark the anniversary which will continue till eight tonight. It is being relayed on all the networks of Radio Pakistan including FM-93‚ Medium Wave‚ FM-94‚ FM-101 and NBS and website

Benazir Bhutto death anniversary: ‘We won’t take revenge, history will’

Slain former premier Benazir Bhutto’s fifth death anniversary was observed across the country on Thursday. The Muslim world’s first female prime minister, Benazir, was assassinated in a bombing on 27 December, 2007 at the end of a rally in Rawalpindi. A large public gathering was organised at Garhi Khuda Bux where President Asif Ali Zardari and his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari gave speeches. Bilawal formally began his political career with his speech. Zardari assured that free and fair elections will be held in the country, while Bilawal criticised the judiciary for not bringing his mother’s killers to justice. In other places across the country, people held vigils to pay tribute to Benazir.

Veteran War Correspondent On Her Relationship With Benazir Bhutto

Christina Lamb, an award-winning war correspondent for "The Sunday Times" and author of five books, has spent 20 years reporting from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Africa, and South America. In 1991, her first book, "Waiting For Allah: Pakistan's Struggle for Democracy," chronicled Benazir Bhutto's rise to power to become Pakistan's prime minister. Lamb's third book in 2002, "The Sewing Circles of Herat," documented the plight of women in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. On the fifth anniversary of Bhutto's December 27, 2007 assassination in Pakistan, Lamb is finishing a three-year-stint as the Washington bureau chief for "The Sunday Times" and is preparing for her return to war reporting. RFE/RL's Ron Synovitz caught up with Lamb to speak about her relationship with Bhutto -- including her eye-witness perspective on an assasination attempt against the late Pakistani leader -- as well as Lamb's fears for Afghanistan's future.
RFE/RL: Let's talk about your career in journalism and some of the history you've witnessed in Pakistan and Afghanistan since the 1980s. For a start, could you tell us why you got involved in journalism?
Christina Lamb: Yes, I was always interested in writing. I loved to write. But I was also interested in seeing the world and going to different places, and it seemed like a great way of doing that. It's also a wonderful excuse. I'm a very curious person, and being a journalist you can always ask people questions anywhere about anything. So it enabled me to do that.
​​RFE/RL: One of your first interviews was with Benazir Bhutto in 1987 when she was living in exile in London -- before she was elected to her first term as Pakistan's prime minister. How did that come about and how did it impact your life?
Lamb: Benazir Bhutto had a huge influence on my life because when I started out, when I left university, I worked on the "Financial Times" as an intern. One day, the foreign editor couldn't go to a lunch of South Asian politicians that he was supposed to be going to. I was very interested in India. I'd written a thesis on Kashmir. And so he said to me, "Why don't you go to this lunch?" I sat at this lunch next to somebody who was secretary-general of the Pakistan People's Party, which was Benazir's party. He said to me, "Would you like to interview Benazir?" She was living in exile in London in the Barbican Center at the time. So, of course, I said yes. I went to interview her and it was actually when she'd just announced her engagement to [Pakistan's current president] Asif Zardari. So the flat was full of bouquets of flowers and it also made it very topical. Of course, I was very fascinated by her. She was an incredibly impressive, very courageous woman -- and we got on very well. She then went back to Pakistan and I went to work for a TV company in the U.K. A few months later, I came home from work -- a really miserable day in Birmingham, cold, wet, dark -- and there was this invitation on my mat written in gold script to her wedding in Karachi. Of course I went to that. It was my first time to go to Pakistan, and was a most amazing introduction because her wedding went on for a week, 10 days. It was a huge event. Very colorful, like something out of the Arabian Knights but also very political because at that time, she'd gone back to try to take on the dictator General Zia [ul Haq]. And so every night, after all the ceremonial parts of the wedding, there would be gatherings of her and her political colleagues discussing how to try and topple this dictator. So it was absolutely fascinating. As soon as I got back to the UK, I gave in my notice at the job I had been doing and went back to live in Pakistan.
RFE/RL: In 1998, after Bhutto's second government was dismissed amid corruption allegations and her party had been defeated in elections, she went into self-imposed exile in Dubai. But she returned to Pakistan in October 2007 to run again for prime minister. You were actually on the campaign bus with her on the day she returned to Karachi and was targeted by a double bombing that the authorities blamed on the Taliban. Can you describe what happened that day? Also, before she was assassinated on December 27, 2007, did she speak to you about who she thought was trying to kill her?
Lamb: Before she went back, I met her in London when she was announcing her return and she was talking about the fact that there had been these assassination threats. But I don't think that she really thought that anything was going to happen to her. She hadn't been in Pakistan then for 8 and 1/2 years, and it had totally changed in that time. I mean, I used to travel with her during elections sometimes back in the 1980s and 1990s, and then the biggest threat was somebody kind of jostling you. There was no idea that anybody was going to be blown up or anything like that. But in the time that she had been away, of course, suicide bombs had become very frequent in Pakistan. There were more victims there than anywhere. So when we arrived in Pakistan and got on the truck, we started driving, and there were thousands and thousands of people and it was an open-top truck. The route that they'd chosen went under bridges and through areas where there were all these people on tops of buildings. It felt incredibly exposed. I said to the head of security on the truck, "How can you possibly protect her?" And he said it was in God's hands -- which, frankly, didn't seem that reassuring. The things that they'd been provided -- jammers, for example, to try and make sure nobody could set off a bomb through mobile phones -- were not working. So there were concerns from the start. And we were on that vehicle for hours and hours. We left at about two [in the afternoon] and it got to late night, and it was dark. And the street lights kept going off, which made her very wary that something was going on. But it was still a huge shock when the bombs actually happened because the atmosphere was actually really lively. She was ecstatic, actually, to be back. It was what she loved doing -- being among the people. Then she'd gone downstairs to prepare for this speech that she would give when we arrived at [Muhammad Ali] Jinnah's mausoleum, which was where we were headed. Suddenly, there was this sound and we were all thrown to the ground. ​​​​There was a small bomb, or a grenade maybe even, to start with. And then, as people started to get up, there was a huge blast and we were all thrown to the ground and there was orange flame everywhere. There were, I think, 15 of us on top of the bus. Three people [on the bus] were killed. The rest of us were lucky. And then, she was taken out and taken straight to her old house. I then, with some of the other people, joined her there a bit later. She was obviously incredibly shaken and I talked to her a lot -- into the early hours of the morning. She, I think up to that point really, had never imagined something like that would happen. But she was then in a very difficult situation because it was quite clear whoever had done that was not going to stop at that. They would try and kill her again and again. She felt she couldn't leave. If she went back to Dubai where she'd been living, it would look like she was running away. And she'd gone back to try and be prime minister again. So she continued campaigning. But she did talk about who she thought had been behind it. She never bought the official line that it was one of the Pakistani Taliban -- Baitullah Mehsud -- because, first of all, he denied it. And they don't tend to deny things. They usually claim things. But secondly, she just felt very strongly that the "establishment," as she called it, the people in the military -- and particularly in the ISI, the military intelligence who had always been against her -- were the people who were really behind it. And she actually named several individuals.
RFE/RL: In "The Sewing Circles of Herat" -- you spoke with Afghan women about their lives under the Taliban, but also about their expectations the day after the Taliban fled that city. You also wrote an article for "The Sunday Times" in early 2007 saying Afghanistan "can still be saved." What do you think now about the hopes of those Afghan women? Have they been disappointed? Also, do you still think Afghanistan can be saved from extremism or descending back into civil war after the withdrawal of foreign troops?
Lamb: Obviously I'm very worried, with the withdrawal of troops coming over the next year, that women in particular -- the rights that they have achieved since the Taliban have gone -- will be lost. It's not great, the situation for women. But things are a lot better than they were. There are lots of girls going to school. There are women going to work. We've also seen a lot of assassinations of women in public positions. So they are taking a risk when they do anything. But it does feel like once the NATO troops leave or draw down to less than 10,000, it will be very, very hard for those women to be protected. We're already seeing that some of the old warlords from the 1980s when I first used to go to Afghanistan are now talking about rearming and trying to take over their areas -- whether it's Ismail Khan in Herat or [Muhammad] Fahim and Atta [Muhammad Noor] in the north. There's a lot of concern that Afghanistan will revert to some kind of a civil war where different areas are run by different people. Everything really hinges on the ANA -- the Afghan National Army -- and whether they really are in a position to take over the security of the country. And that is a big unknown. I mean, there was a report [recently] in the Pentagon saying that only one of 23 ANA brigades are actually capable of operating on their own without NATO's support. That obviously isn't very encouraging. Also, there are lots of these insider attacks where soldiers within the ANA have killed American or NATO soldiers. So that does leave some doubts about which side they are actually on and whether once the bulk of the NATO troops have gone, will they still stay in the ANA or will they switch over to the Taliban. I think in the south, where the Taliban are strongest, and in the east, you may well see ANA people deciding that the Taliban are there for the long term and that they're better off switching over to them. But it's still quite unknown because we don't know. I mean, the Americans are suggesting they'll have less than 9,000 troops after the end of 2014. We still don't know if there will be air support for the ANA. If they don't have air support, I think it will be extremely difficult for them to really secure their country. It's difficult to be optimistic, frankly, about what is likely to happen there -- sadly.
RFE/RL: After 20 years as a correspondent covering the world's conflicts, what is your perspective like now as "The Sunday Times" bureau chief in Washington? Are you itching to get back out in the field?
Lamb: I've been in Washington for nearly 3 and 1/2 years and it has actually been fascinating because almost all my career covering conflict has been largely covering things that were the result of decisions made in Washington. And I think it is extremely difficult, often, to understand those decisions. Frankly, they can often be quite baffling if you are in these places. Once you actually come here and see how things operate, and how much domestic politics decides everything -- I mean, it's kind of obvious. But until you actually live here, you don't quite appreciate it. And the fact that there are elections to Congress every two years, so, you know, domestic politics really plays a huge part in decision making. It's been very interesting to come and see the debate from this end; to hear the different parts -- the White House, the State Department, the military, the different perspectives on what they all think they are trying to achieve in these various places. And of course, to be here during the Arab Spring and how that really changed all calculations in the regions. I was talking to somebody very senior at the State Department on the Middle East the other day who was saying that in the past you knew how different actors in the region would react to certain things. And now, they just have no idea, really, who is going to do what. It's been a time of great turmoil. So yes, I am itching to go back to covering those kind of things. And I will be leaving here at the end of the year to go back to covering it. Well, in particular, I wanted to cover the withdrawal from Afghanistan. But also, following developments in Pakistan and Iran and whatever happens in Syria and in the rest of the region.