Tuesday, January 1, 2013
OTTAWA CITIZENIn a world that has recently seen governments toppled by movements that began on social media and with public protests, the angry reaction of Indians — male and female — to the culture of sexual violence in their country should not be underestimated. If rape and sexual harassment have seemed too deeply ingrained to ever change in India — where violence against women has often been shrugged off or ignored — the public’s unprecedented response to the brutal gang rape and death of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student is a sign that change will eventually come, as it must. India cannot become one of the world’s major democracies without basic rights and equality for all citizens — that includes political and justice systems that take violence against women seriously. India must listen to the growing chorus of voices calling the culture of sexual violence against women unacceptable. The reaction to the gang rape has already resulted in authorities at least appearing to take the issue seriously. Six men have been charged with murder. The victim, who has not been identified, had been waiting at a bus stop after seeing the film Life of Pi and, tired of waiting for the public bus, accepted a ride from the men who raped her. The assault, during which she was brutalized with an iron bar, lasted for hours. She died of organ failure in a Singapore hospital where she had been sent for treatment. Change will not be easy in a country in which the culture of blaming the victim is as deeply ingrained as is sexual violence. Rapes are frequently not prosecuted because officials argue the victim was asking for it or because she knew her attacker. Women who go to the police station to file a complaint are regularly urged not to, according to reports. And conviction rates stemming from rape charges have plummeted. Abhijit Mukherjee, a member of the Indian parliament and son of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, made comments about the protests that are telling about attitudes of those in power in India. He said the protesters were not students but middle aged and caked in makeup. He used the phrase “dented and painted” — one used by car mechanics — to describe them. His subsequent apology “to all those people whose sentiments got hurt by these sentences” suggest he doesn’t fully comprehend the growing public anger at India’s failure to properly address sexual violence. Failure to see the direction in which India must move will leave him and others like him behind.
The Baloch Hal,(Courtesy: Huffington Post) By Tarek Fatah As the joy of Christmas dawned worldwide from Manila in the east to Managua in the west, and places in between, the spirit celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace bypassed Pakistan. Most of the country was distracted by the frenzy of a cricket match against rival India, while its tiny Christian population was observing one of their darkest years ever. But the condition of Pakistan’s Christians on this, their “dark Christmas,” paled when compared to what was unfolding in the country’s southwest region at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. In fact, on Christmas Eve, the Pakistan Army launched a military operation in Balochistan that resulted in a massacre in the city of Mashkay. Balochistan is home to a 60-year-old, on-again, off-again armed insurrection fought by three generations of guerrillas seeking independence from Islamabad’s clutches. Deccan Walsh of the Guardian describes the conflict as “Pakistan’s secret dirty war.” While the world observed Christmas and Pakistanis were glued to their TV sets watching cricket, Pakistan troops in armoured personal carriers backed by helicopter gunships circled the town and claimed the FC (Frontier Corps) had “killed many BLF [Baloch Liberation Front] men.” Baloch politicians, bloggers and exiles, however, claimed the army action resulted in the death of 32 civilians. The Pakistan Military claims Mashkay had harboured guerrillas of the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF). The fact is, Mashkay is the hometown of the leader of the BLF guerrillas, physician Dr. Allah Nazar, who has given up his practice and has fled to the mountains from where he and his group of mostly urban nationalist youth have staged hit-and-run attacks on army checkpoints. The Pakistan Army, frustrated by its inability to quell the rebellion that has widespread support among the civilians of Balochistan, has now resorted to tactics of the U.S. Military in Vietnam, where entire villages were destroyed if it was suspected they had given sanctuary to the Viet Minh and later the Viet Cong. In the adjoining village of Mehi, birthplace of Dr. Nazar, the army is said to have expelled the population and set fire to several mud huts. Sporadic protests against the military operation have taken place in Pakistan’s major cities, but most of the country stays unaware of the massacres taking place in Balochistan, where over 14,000 young men have died or have disappeared in the last 10 years of conflict that has seen the assassination of many political leaders while others have fled the country into self-imposed exile. The chairman of Baloch National Movement (BNM), Khalil Baloch, criticized world powers including America and Iran for supporting the Pakistani state, adding that “their aid to Pakistan is being used against Baloch nation.” The most significant reaction came from the former chief minister of Balochistan, Akhtar Mengal who also heads the Balochistan National Party (BNP) and seeks a peaceful settlement. Mengal has written to Senator John Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the next U.S. Secretary of State, asking him to invoke “The Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009,” to immediately suspend all American aid to Islamabad. Mengal is referring to the U.S. law that carries John Kerry’s name and is better known as the Kerry-Lugar Bill. It authorizes the release of $1.5-billion per year of American aid to the government of Pakistan, but with one caveat: Every six months the Secretary of State has to provide assessments of whether Pakistan’s civilian government has effective control over the country’s armed forces, including “oversight and approval of military budgets.” In the letter, former chief minister Mengal told Senator Kerry, “there is clear evidence that Pakistan’s civilian government has lost ‘effective control and oversight’ over a military that is committing widespread atrocities and war crimes inside Balochistan.” Other exiled leaders in Toronto, London, Geneva and Dubai have expressed alarm at the Christmas Day campaign that is still underway, with no coverage in any of the national or international media. Zaffar Baloch, President of the Baloch Human Rights Council (BHRC) in Canada, condemned the Pakistan Army’s operation in Mashkay, Balochistan, saying it “is part of a broader plan of action to curtail the freedom struggle of the Baloch nation… and inflict a slow-motion genocide on the Baloch people,” echoing the words of scholar Selig Harrison in Le Monde. One tweet from an exile in Dublin, Ireland summed up the frustration of the Baloch. Faiz Baloch tweeted: “Dear America, your recent $700 million aid to Pakistan will be used for death & destruction in Balochistan. Jets bombarding from last 3 days.”
FRONTIER POSTFederal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira has asked the Minhaj-ul-Quran International chief not to link Pakistan to Tehrir Square.Talking to newsmen he said Tehrir Square movement was against a dictator while there is a democratic system if functioning in Pakistan where every voice of the people is being listened to, he added.Calling the army in aid of long march against the government is unconstitutional, condemnable and a dangerous thing. Meanwhile, talking to media after the birthday ceremony of the chairman of Baitul Maal Zamarrud Khan in Islamabad he said that democracy does not abolishes the basic rights of the people. Tahir-ul-Qadri too has the right to stage public gatherings and meetings but the process outlined in the constitution should be followed. Whatever suggestion over any institution Tahirul Qadri wants to offer, he should offer it to the government and it would be implemented as per the constitution and the law, he added. The government too favors electoral reforms and the present political set-up would complete its term, he said adding that if in the past the LNG contract should had be permitted there would be no CNG crisis today.
Associated PressMeasles cases surged in Pakistan in 2012, and hundreds of children died from the disease, an international health body said Tuesday. In recent days Pakistani officials said they launched an immunization campaign to reach children in the worst-hit areas. But the country still struggles with a beleaguered health care system, unsanitary conditions in many regions and a lack of education about how to prevent disease. All those factors make it difficult to combat infectious diseases such as measles and polio. Also, many oppose vaccinations, suspecting they are meant to harm their people. A spokeswoman for the World Health Organization, Maryam Yunus, said that 306 children died in Pakistan of measles in 2012, compared to 64 the year before. She said the jump was most pronounced in southern Sindh province, where measles killed 210 children in 2012. She said 28 children died there in 2011. The World Health Organization did not give a reason for the increase in deaths, but a provincial health official in Sindh said that the disease hit areas where poor families did not vaccinate their children. Provincial health minister Saghir Ahmed said 100 children died in Sindh province in December alone, mostly in areas where many people were not vaccinated. He said health officials recently launched a campaign to vaccinate 2.9 million children in the affected areas of the province and urged parents to get their children vaccinated. Many Pakistanis, especially in rural areas, view vaccinations campaigns with suspicion as a Western plot to sterilize Muslims. In December, nine health officials working to immunize Pakistanis against polio were killed by militants opposed to the campaign. Pakistan is one of three countries in the world where polio is endemic. Sindh province, the area hardest hit by the measles outbreak, has also been battered by repeated floods in recent years that have damaged hospitals and clinics. Measles is an extremely infectious disease spread by coughing and sneezing or personal contact. It causes a fever, cough and a rash all over the body. Most people who contract the disease recover, but it can be fatal for malnourished children. Complications from the disease can include blindness, an infection that causes brain swelling, dehydration and diarrhea, and pneumonia. According to WHO, 139,300 people died of measles worldwide in 2010.
http://www.reuters.comGunmen ambushed and shot dead six Pakistani women aid workers and a male doctor on Tuesday, police said, and the charity they worked for said it suspected the attacks were linked to recent murders of polio vaccination workers. Their vehicle was raked with gunfire as they returned home from work at a children's community center run by Pakistani charity Ujala, or Light, said district police officer Abdur Rashid Khan. Their driver was seriously wounded in the attack. The shooting in Swabi district, about 75 km (45 miles) northwest of the capital of Islamabad, was the first attack on aid workers in the area. The victims worked at the center for aid agency Support With Working Solutions, whose head Javed Akhtar said they had told their other 160 staff to suspend work following the killings. The organization is involved in health education in underdeveloped parts of the country, Akhtar said. It had run a school and dispensary in Swabi and helped vaccinate children against polio, a disease that can cripple or kill within hours of infection. He suspected the shootings might be linked to a string of attacks on polio vaccinators last month. "This seemed to be part of the campaign against the polio drive by certain anti-polio elements," he said. Two weeks ago, gunmen killed nine health workers taking part in a national polio vaccination drive in a series of attacks. Most of the victims were young women earning about $2 a day. The Taliban said they did not carry out those attacks although its leaders have repeatedly denounced the vaccination program as a plot to sterilize people or spy on Muslims. Aid workers have frequently been kidnapped or killed in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation of 180 million that is struggling to contain a Taliban insurgency and plagued by endemic corruption and violent crime.
The Frontier PostThe national economy has made a little recovery in the first six months of the current fiscal owing largely to inflation rate going down to about 6.5 per cent, marginal expansion of the large-scale manufacturing, capital market boom, greater scope of regional trade, improved dollar inflows from the West, sustained growth in remittances and agriculture and the silent contribution made by citizens languishing in the informal sector. And if foreign exchange reserves did not further deplete, this momentum can be maintained. Although there has been a slight rise in consumer price index in December, inflation may remain the same or see a minor rise. It will, however, be manageable and the government may be able to achieve some of its goals in the current account, cash inflow and micro and macroeconomic management. Likewise, while risks are there, the Gross Domestic Product growth rate is still expected at 4.5 per cent by the end of 2012-13 against 3.7 per cent at present. However, rupee shedding value against the US dollar will continue to pose a threat to State Bank of Pakistan’s reserves and the overall banking sector’s corporate lending outflows. A sustained growth will reduce pressure on SBP which is preparing to pay the next IMF debt installment in March 2013. To a large extent, the stability of currency would also be tied to the government’s skill to manage this external factor. The economic recovery may also get a temporary spur from the possibility of huge election spending by the government, political parties and candidates for national and provincial assemblies next year. The vulnerability of the economy may persist in the next year unless the next elected government wastes no time in improving economic management through economic and administrative reforms. Because whatever the extent of economic revival in Pakistan, it is because political and democratic continuity that lent the corporate sector an assurance against any form of disruption. This pace will continue if transformation of political power is made on the basis of the popular mandate although the business has reservations about the ability of the political leadership in the country. The business in Pakistan is most likely to keep on performing because it is optimistic about a smooth change of guards after the parliamentary elections most probably in March 2013. When experts talk of economic reforms they actually mean documentation of economy, fair and just tax collecting machinery, arresting the pace of escalating cost of living and doing away with subsidies that is still as high as Rs52 billion a year. They also mean a continued supply of fuel and energy for their industries and commercial concerns. Other long term challenges include expanding investment in education and healthcare and reducing dependence on foreign donors.