Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Non-Muslims in Nowshera on Monday demanded the government give them what they described as the right to elect their representatives so people subscribing to various religions can play their due role for the betterment of the country. They also pledged to form a provincial committee to improve coordination at interfaith and intra-faith levels during the upcoming elections. The committee will act as a vehicle to highlight issues of minorities and convince upcoming elected representatives of necessary legislations. The observations were made by participants of a focus group on minority rights and the electoral process conducted by Peace Education and Development Foundation (PEAD) in collaboration with Global Human Rights Defence (GHRD). In the discussion – attended by a large number of adherents of different faiths – the role of non-Muslims in the politics of Pakistan was analysed. Participants examined the separate and joint electoral process, the role of non-Muslim members of parliament and whether they worked towards the betterment of minorities. Communication within and between different faiths practiced in Pakistan was also discussed. Rehmat Lal, a senior Hindu representative and former councillor, told participants indigenous non-Muslims “fully supported the Pakistan movement and are loyal citizens of the country, but unfortunately they have always been neglected by authorities and society for the last six decades.” “We have no permanent residential addresses and all our addresses are stated as temporary in NICs (National Identity Cards),” claimed Rehmat. Before 1947, Hindus made up 26% of the population of Pakistan. This decreased to 15% after partition and the number continues to decrease rapidly, said Parvaiz Bhatti. “We are living in a state of insecurity. Non-Muslims have been discriminated against on the basis of religion and faith since the inception of Pakistan, but our mouths remain sealed due to certain factors.” Bhatti added minorities in Pakistan suffer as a result of “selection” instead of “election”. “The so-called representatives belonging to other religions in assemblies are not true and genuine representatives because they are not elected by votes; they are only selected by political parties for their own benefit. This is a clear violation of Article 226 and open discrimination,” asserted Bhatti. Shamoon Masih criticised the claim ‘minorities are considered as equal citizens in Pakistan’ stated in the 1973 Constitution, which, he said, also maintains the president of Pakistan cannot be a non-Muslim. According to the 18th Amendment, no one belonging to a minority religion can be the prime minister of Pakistan, he added. “Moreover the frame of selection has been set for minorities to keep them as political slaves under the major political parties; minorities have been deprived of economic and social opportunities. Nobody is there to safeguard their rights due to non-representation in the assemblies.” Sham Lal said Hindus live under miserable conditions. “Different political parties have come into power, but none eliminated or addressed any of the major issues faced by minorities.” “The present system has turned us into second-class citizens and the sense of inferiority is increasing by the day; we have no voice in assemblies, no voice in society and no voice in the policy making processes,” lamented Sham. PEAD and GHRD held a similar focus group in Peshawar on March 4. Followers of other faiths analysed the current system of choosing minority representatives wherein political parties submit a list of candidates to the Election Commission of Pakistan. The commission then allocates minority seats to a party based on the number of general seats it secures in the elections.
Dr. Nazir S Bhatti, President of Pakistan Christian Congress PCC said that Christian who are seeking Selection for Parliament in election 2013, will be not Christians but converted Muslim after signing nomination papers which very first time seek to sign preserver of Islamic laws in Pakistan as oath. Dr. Nazir Bhatti quoted comments of prominent lawyer Ghulam Mustfa Lakho "42 DAYS in Pak General Election-2013. This Election is free from the chains and/or curse of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights! It has no room for secularists and/or free thinkers. All candidates for National Assembly and Provincial Assemblies are bound to declare on oath in the Nomination Form that they "will strive to preserve the Islamic Ideology which is the basis for the creation of Pakistan.” In such situation, it would be difficult to prove that all candidates have taken false oath. In this so-called fair, free and transparent Election, all candidates are, without exception, the believers and “preservers” of the “Islamic Ideology”. Is it Pre-poll rigging? Or it is Legal Framework Order for Pre-poll rigging? Thanks to the oath taken by all the candidates, it may be safe to say that the Pak General Election-2013 is the Election OF the believers and “preservers” of the “Islamic Ideology”, BY the believers and “preservers” of the “Islamic Ideology” and FOR the believers and “preservers” of the “Islamic Ideology”. The Pak Land or the Land of the Pure is purified from the pollution of secularists and/or Free Thought forces, it is the graveyard of such forces; hence, silence, no protest on this point in Pakistan! Not only so, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Watch Network Worldwide including United Nations is also silent on this point involved in the Pak General Election-2013" in a letter to US Senators of Pennsylvania and US Commission on International Religious Freedom, PCC Chief Nazir Bhatti wrote: Pakistan Christian Congress PCC Petition to Repeal Blasphemy law and Election instead of Slection on Reserved Seats for Women and Minorities in Pakistan Election of 2013. The poor, oppressed and persecuted Pakistani Christians need urgent support of your honor, US Congress and US Adminstration to press upon government of Pakistan to end misuse of blasphemy law against religious communities in Pakistan. I wish to bring in your notice that Pakistan Christian Congress PCC filed a lawsuit in Lahore High Court in 1998, to repeal blasphemy laws and vows to continue its leagal struggle against blasphemy laws in Pakistan. Sir, The violence rose on pretext to blasphemy laws after imposition of Joint Electorate which empowers Muslim parties to Select Christian representation in parliament after 2002, national general elections. The incidents of Gojra and Korian village Muslim mob attacks and burning of Christians alive, killing of blasphemy accused Christians in court compunds and jails and rising numbers of registration after Selection of minorities representation have proved that Christians have lost voice in democratic institutions. sir, We appeal your honor to write to government of Pakistan to hold elections on 10 Reserved seats for minorities and 60 Reserved seats for women in National Assembly of Pakistan which are being undemocratically and unconstitutional filled through Selection by Muslim parties in parliament. The Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan bar such Selection when Article 226 of it says that all seats of parliament shall be elected with secret ballot. sir, We invite your intervention to hold free, fair and trasparent Election 2013, in Pakistan; Its very important to note that Pakistan is heading towards Talibanization when all candidates for National Assembly and Provincial Assemblies are bound to declare on oath in the Nomination Form that they "will strive to preserve the Islamic Ideology which is the basis for the creation of Pakistan.” it means the next parliament will be of believers and preservers of Islamic Sharia law in Pakistan closing doors for interfaith harmony, religious freedom and practice of Universal Human Rights decleration. It must be warning bell for US and democratic world that Pak Land or the Land of the Pure is purified from the pollution of secularists or Free Thought forces to turn it safe heaven for Islamists, Jihadists and extremists. Sir, 41 days are left in Pakistan Elections of 2013, and we hope that You shall take action to secure true democracy and human rights in Pakistan. PCC have already filed a Petition to US Congress which have been signed by more than fifty US citizens to repeal blasphemy laws and election on reserved seats.
By Laura Ungar In the latte-obsessed United States, tea is gaining ground as scientists and the public learn more about its benefits. A growing body of research suggests that the world’s second-most-consumed beverage — only water is more popular — helps prevent cardiovascular disease, burn calories and ward off some types of cancer. “We don’t clearly understand why tea is so beneficial, but we know it is,” said Thomas G. Sherman, an associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology at Georgetown University Medical Center. “There are lots of epidemiological studies, and so of course people see these studies and want to drink tea and gain these benefits.” Nationally, tea purchases have risen for 20 consecutive years, annual supermarket sales have surpassed $2.2 billion, and away-from-home consumption of tea has grown by at least 10 percent a year for a decade, according to the Tea Association of the USA, a New York-based industry group. On any given day, the association says, 160 million Americans drink tea. Although coffee is still king in the United States, change is brewing. Department of Agriculture statistics show tea drinking has increased as coffee drinking has declined: Per-person tea consumption was nine gallons in 2009, up from 7.3 gallons in 1980; per-person coffee consumption was 23.3 gallons in 2009, down from 26.7 gallons in 1980, about half what it was in the mid-1940s. And while studies also show that coffee is associated with many health benefits, including helping protect against diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, a typical cup has much more jitter-producing caffeine than tea does. Manelle Martino, co-owner of Capital Teas in Washington, said she has seen the explosion of interest in tea firsthand. Her sales of loose-leaf tea have risen substantially each year since she opened the business in 2007, she said. “We started the tea company with one shop. Now, there are six stores in the D.C. area,” she said. “People are becoming more health-conscious. You have baby boomers who are into preserving their youth. You see them wanting to take better care of themselves.” Tea and cholesterol Tea comes from the leaves of the warm-weather evergreen Camellia sinensis, and it is classified into five types: black, white, green, oolong and puerh. Experts say all are healthful. Many scientists link health benefits to tea’s polyphenol antioxidants, which protect against oxidative stress, but others say they don’t know exactly which chemicals or combinations of chemicals in tea produce the benefits. Sherman, for example, said there’s no evidence connecting tea’s antioxidants to beneficial effects, and he pointed to a study showing that black tea reduces LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol without affecting antioxidant levels, suggesting something else in tea is causing this. Numerous epidemiological studies — which establish correlation, not cause and effect — focus on tea’s role in reducing cardiovascular disease, the nation’s biggest killer. A 2004 paper in the Archives of Internal Medicine, for instance, looked at hypertension rates among people who drank tea for at least a year. The study, conducted in Taiwan, found that those who drank about four ounces to 20 ounces of tea a day had a 46 percent lower risk of developing high blood pressure than people who didn’t drink tea regularly. Another paper, published in 2002 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, culled through the results of a large study concerning chronic disease and found that people drinking the greatest amount of tea — more than 12 ounces a day — had barely half the risk of heart attack as people who did not drink tea. More recent cardiovascular research was presented in September at a symposium at the Department of Agriculture in Washington. One study found that black tea reduced blood pressure in all participants and counteracted the detrimental effects of high-fat meals in people with high blood pressure. “The more tea you drink, the better,” Sherman said. “It’s astounding, really.” Cancer prevention less clear As for cancer prevention, the evidence is less compelling. A review of studies published in the Journal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology last year suggested that consuming 10 Japanese-size cups of green tea a day helps prevent several cancers and protect against recurrence of colorectal cancer. And a 2006 review in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition of the beneficial effects of green tea noted studies linking tea to reduced risk of ovarian, prostate and breast cancers. But that review also cited some conflicting research. For example, two studies revealed a breast cancer benefit, one showing a decreasing risk among Asian American women with rising tea intake and another showing a lower risk of recurrence among Japanese patients who drank three or more cups a day. But a larger Japanese study of more than 35,000 women concluded tea intake didn’t affect the risk of breast cancer. And scientists at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center announced last week that black and green teas (and coffee) were among the foods and flavorings that affected a gene linked to cancer. But they said this doesn’t mean people should stop drinking tea and coffee, only that more research is needed. Studies have also examined whether tea affects weight loss. One, from 2004, found that caffeine, theanine and perhaps other components in green tea powder suppressed weight gain and fat accumulation in laboratory mice. There is also some evidence that drinking tea promotes digestive health generally. Gerry Mullin, an associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and author of “The Inside Tract: Your Good Gut Guide to Great Digestive Health,” said tea appears to help control glucose and insulin and keep the gastrointestinal system running well. “At the end of the day, these teas are anti-inflammatory in nature. They have anti-bacterial properties,” Mullin said. “They [boost] the immune system and provide a lot of different benefits.” That soothing cup Sherman’s wife, Guinevere Eden, loves to start her day with a soothing cup of tea. For the working mother of two preschoolers, the healthy brew conjures a quiet moment and a sense of well-being while stirring memories of her childhood in England. “First thing in the morning, it feels so good,” said Eden, 45, of Potomac. Over the course of a day, she said, she drinks five or six cups of tea. “That’s actually all I drink. I don’t drink coffee.” Tea experts disagree on how much tea to recommend for better health. Some say two eight-ounce cups a day, while others say five or more cups. Experts said tea’s relatively low caffeine levels make it possible to drink large amounts without the jitters, fast heartbeat and stomach upset that the same amount of coffee would probably induce. Black tea, which has more caffeine than green, oolong or white teas, has about half the caffeine of coffee. Still, experts advise against overdoing it, noting that tea, unlike coffee, contains trace amounts of aluminum. But according to the National Cancer Institute, while aluminum can accumulate in the body and cause neurodegenerative disorders, there’s no evidence of aluminum toxicity associated with drinking tea. Sherman said iced tea should provide the same benefits as hot tea, as long as it starts out as hot and is then cooled, not just brewed in the sun or made from store-bought powdered mixtures. He said adding milk to tea may not be as beneficial as drinking it straight, since there’s some evidence that protein in milk binds to the healthful chemicals in tea and prevents them from being absorbed. Sugar doesn’t seem to reduce tea’s benefits, he and others said, although it comes with problems of its own, such as empty calories that can lead to weight gain. Martino, of Capital Teas, said customers at her shops often ask about health benefits, especially after pronouncements by celebrity physicians such as Mehmet Oz. Whenever Oz mentions a certain tea, Martino said, “people come flooding in looking for that tea.” Erika Sanchez, a manager at the Dupont Circle Teaism shop in Washington, said customers do much the same at her shop — and then discover how many different types of teas are out there: “If you’re new to the tea world, it can be surprising.” America’s rising interest in tea has been attracting international attention. Sundeep Mukherjee, principal adviser to the Darjeeling Tea Association, said three-quarters of the tea from that region of India is exported, with up to 10 percent going to the United States, a portion that’s been rising over the last decade as health benefits become more widely known. “The tea industry is doing well,” Mukherjee said. “This is a product everyone drinks.”
President Barack Obama has asked Congress to spend $100m on a new project to map the human brain in hopes of eventually finding cures for disorders like Alzheimer's. Mr Obama said the so-called BRAIN Initiative could create jobs and eventually lead to answers to ailments including Parkinson's and autism and help reverse the effect of a stroke. The president told scientists gathered in the White House the research has the potential to improve the lives of billions of people worldwide. He said: "As humans we can identify galaxies light-years away. We can study particles smaller than an atom, but we still haven't unlocked the mystery of the three pounds of matter that sits between our ears." BRAIN stands for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies. The idea, which Mr Obama first proposed in his State of the Union address, would require the development of new technology that can record the electrical activity of individual cells and complex neural circuits in the brain "at the speed of thought", the White House said. Mr Obama wants the initial $100m investment to support research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation. He also wants private companies, universities and philanthropists to link up with federal agencies in support of the research. And he wants a study of the ethical, legal and societal implications of the research. The goals of the work are unclear at this point. A working group at NIH, co-chaired by Cornelia Bargmann of The Rockefeller University and William Newsome of Stanford University, would work on defining the goals and develop a plan to achieve them that included cost estimates.
The Express TribunePakistan dismissed Afghan allegations that it was constructing a new checkpost along the border, claiming that the activity in question was renovation of an old checkpost, a statement from the foreign ministry read on Tuesday. Afghanistan had on Monday expressed grave concern about what it claimed the ‘Pakistani military’s unilateral construction and physical reinforcement activities’ along the border in the eastern Ningarhar province. It had also lodged a formal protest, as diplomatic tensions between the two uneasy neighbours continue to grow. However, responding to the Afghan claims, the foreign office spokesperson said that Pakistan has an old post called Gursal well inside Pakistani territory bordering Ningarhar province of Afghanistan, which is under routine renovation. “Under the recently signed Tripartite Border SOP, both sides are supposed to inform any new construction closer to border areas,” he said before adding that despite it being routine renovation work, Pakistan had shared this information with the Afghan side and with the Afghan delegation that visited Mohmand Agency on January 24, 2013. “The renovation of the post is primarily meant to interdict terrorists and criminals as well as better management of the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan.” About the Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin’s recent concerns about construction and physical reinforcement along the Afghan border, he said that they are “not in keeping with the spirit of the understanding on good border management and the recently signed Tripartite Border SOP.” “Better management of the border through strengthening border posts located in each other’s territory are in the interest of the two countries to have an effective check over terrorists and criminals.” Cross border attacks Responding to a query about the Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister’s concerns over rocket and artillery attacks in different areas of Kunar Province, the spokesperson said that these complaints have not been found to be correct as “no rocket or artillery shells have been fired by Pakistan Army in recent days.” The spokesperson added that Pakistan remains committed to extending all possible support and facilitation for peace, reconciliation and stability in Afghanistan.
http://www.west-info.eu/One percent of Swedes live in material poverty, according to a new annual Eurostat review that lists Sweden as having the lowest poverty level in the EU. In Sweden and in the EU at large, it is the unemployed who are most at risk of living in what Eurostat dubs “serious material poverty”. Bulgarians fare the worst, as 44 percent of its population are considered materially poor. The EU average was 9 percent.
http://xfinity.comcast.net/A Democratic state lawmaker was arrested along with five other politicians Tuesday in an alleged plot to pay tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to GOP bosses to let him run for mayor of New York City as a Republican. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called it an "unappetizing smorgasbord of graft and greed" that reveals a New York political culture defined by a single rule: "Show me the money." Malcolm Smith, 56, who has served at times as the state Senate's majority and minority leader since becoming a senator in March 2000, was arrested along with Republican New York City Councilman Dan Halloran, 42, and four other political figures. Smith "tried to bribe his way to a shot at Gracie Mansion," Bharara said, referring to the official mayor's residence. "Smith drew up the game plan and Councilman Halloran essentially quarterbacked that drive by finding party chairmen who were wide open to receiving bribes." A criminal complaint said that in meetings with a cooperating witness and an undercover FBI agent posing as a wealthy real estate developer, Smith agreed to bribe up to five leaders of Republican Party county committees in the five boroughs of New York City so he could run for mayor as a Republican, even though he was a registered Democrat. Bharara said $80,000 in cash was promised or paid to Bronx County Republican Party Chairman Joseph Savino, 45, and Queens County Republican Party Vice Chairman Vincent Tabone, 46, who were both arrested Tuesday. The government said Halloran told the undercover agent that he wanted to get his "mortgage situation resolved" and to be named deputy police commissioner if Smith were elected mayor. Smith said in a statement that he'll be vindicated. His lawyer, Gerald L. Shargel, said his client denies wrongdoing. "Malcolm Smith is a dedicated public servant who has served both the state of New York and his constituents in an exemplary fashion," Shargel said. "He steadfastly denies the allegations that are contained in the complaint." Outside federal court in White Plains, N.Y., Shargel said the allegations in the criminal complaint "do not tell the full story." Halloran's attorney, Dennis Ring, said: "The councilman denies all allegations and looks forward to clearing his name and returning to court." Representatives for Savino and Tabone did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Running as a Republican in the New York City mayoral race is an attractive path for candidates because it is easier to get on the GOP primary ballot in a city crowded with Democratic politicians. The tactic was popularized by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who switched from the Democratic to Republican parties shortly before his first successful run for mayor in 2001. At least three current candidates for mayor switched their party affiliation to get on the GOP ballot. In Smith's case, authorities say, he wanted to get on the Republican ballot but keep his Democratic party affiliation, a move that would require written consent of three of the city's five Republican Party county chairmen. In court papers, the FBI detailed numerous meetings over the last year among the defendants, the undercover FBI agent and the cooperating witness, who pleaded guilty to federal charges last month in a deal aimed at winning leniency at sentencing. In a Jan. 25 meeting in Smith's car in Rockland County, the cooperating witness told Smith that buying the help of Republican county committee leaders would cost "a pretty penny" and asked if it's "worth any price," the complaint said. The FBI said Smith responded: "Look, talk to me before you close it. But it's worth it. Because you know how big a deal it is." Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, speaking Tuesday at an event in Buffalo, called the arrests "very, very troubling." "We have zero tolerance for any violation of the public integrity and the public trust," Cuomo said. New York Republican Chairman Ed Cox said the arrests were "deeply concerning." "The integrity of the electoral process for the voters of New York City must be preserved," Cox said in a statement. One candidate for mayor, billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis, said the arrests "point to a culture of corruption that permeates our city and state, corruption fueled by career politicians who put personal advancement before public service." Tabone is a lawyer for Catsimatidis' Red Apple Group, which owns the Gristedes supermarket chain and other businesses, and Tabone also is a consultant to the billionaire's campaign. Campaign finance records show Tabone has been paid $3,000 so far. Catsimatidis' campaign said on Tuesday that Tabone has been suspended from the business and his association with the campaign has been terminated. If convicted of conspiracy, wire fraud and violation of the Hobbs Act, Smith could face up to 45 years in prison. If convicted, Halloran faced the same potential penalty on charges of conspiracy and two counts of wire fraud. Tabone and Savino were each charged with conspiracy and wire fraud, which carry up to 25 years in prison. Jasmin and Desmaret were charged with mail fraud, which carries a potential penalty of 20 years in prison. Besides the mayoral plot, authorities said the investigation also revealed a scheme in which Halloran received $18,300 in cash bribes and $6,500 in straw donor campaign contribution checks to steer up to $80,000 in City Council money to a company he believed was controlled by those who paid him the bribes. In a third plot, prosecutors say, Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin, 49, and Spring Valley Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret, 55, agreed to accept financial benefits so that Smith could use his power as a senator to help obtain state funds for road work in the Rockland County village outside New York City that would benefit a real estate project that Smith believed was being built by the undercover agent's company in Spring Valley. Jasmin and Desmaret were arrested Tuesday. Representatives for Jasmin, and Desmaret did not immediately respond to comment requests. The defendants were all released Tuesday on a $250,000 bond.
Western hopes fade for agreement before 2014 pullout as negotiations in Qatar stallWestern hopes of leaving Afghanistan within reach of a peace deal when Nato troops pull out in 2014 are dimming, with planned negotiations in Qatar at a stalemate and Pakistan cutting back on support for talks. Afghans and foreigners across the political spectrum have been pushing hard for negotiations for several years, driven by concerns that the already-bloody insurgency could spiral into full-blown civil war when foreign forces have left. But as western generals and politicians who once dreamed of crushing the Taliban militarily have reconciled themselves to the idea of negotiating instead, the insurgents themselves have remained more elusive, attacking top government negotiators and refusing to publicly embrace talks. The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, visited the Qatari capital, Doha, at the weekend, where a handful of Taliban and their families have set up base since 2011, with the blessing of Washington, as diplomats seek neutral ground for potential negotiations. The emir of the tiny state, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, pledged his support for the peace process and unveiled plans for a Qatari embassy in Kabul, helping allay some Afghan suspicions about where the Gulf nation's loyalties lie. But notably absent from the two-day trip was any meeting with some of the Qatar-based Taliban themselves, who have denounced Karzai as the head of a "stooge administration". "Nobody from the Taliban side met with Karzai," the spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said bluntly after the visit, which also included a trip to an art museum to see an exhibition of Afghan handicrafts. Also looming over both Karzai's weekend travels and wider Afghan and western efforts to get around a table with the Taliban is the ambivalence of the Pakistani government, which in recent weeks appears to have backed away from support for the process. "Unfortunately Pakistan today is changing the goalposts on its support for the peace process once again," said the Afghan foreign ministry spokesman, Janan Mosazai. "Pakistan somehow decided now to put down certain preconditions for its support for the peace process which are completely unacceptable to Afghanistan and to any other independent country." The Afghan government says the demands are that ties with India be severed, that army officers be sent to Pakistan for training and that a strategic partnership deal be signed immediately. The deterioration in ties has already had an impact: one senior Afghan source said flights organised by Pakistan for militants to Doha had already been halted. Without transport for negotiators, talks are unlikely to get very far, and even if some do find a way to shuttle back and forth, the wider Taliban movement would be likely to struggle to directly oppose a government it relies on for shelter and other support. A string of initiatives including Pakistani releases of Taliban prisoners and plans for a meeting of senior clerics from both countries meant the year began in a haze of enthusiasm that now looks premature; behind the scenes, little has changed in a country determined to ensure a friendly regime across its eastern borders. "When optimism was prevailing about Pakistani attitudes, our human intelligence suggested that – on the ground – this optimism was not well-founded, and unfortunately we were proved right," the official said. Many western diplomats say they are convinced that the Pakistani military chief General Ashfaq Kayani, often seen as more powerful in security affairs than the civilian government, genuinely believes it is more important to have a stable Afghanistan than one that is compliant with Islamabad's interests. But they also questioned whether that change in attitude had made much real difference. A US source with long experience of negotiating with Pakistan said: "Part of the problem is that when Kayani gives an order, is it followed three levels down?" The Taliban in 2011 seized the chance to set up a base beyond their risky Pakistani headquarters, vulnerable to both pressure from Islamabad and cross-border raids by US forces. Qatar was attractive, not least because the movement has long looked to the Gulf for funding and, in the past, political support. Around 10 men have set up home with their families, a source with knowledge of the process said, and others come and go. But there has been no official confirmation that they plan to open an office or are willing to talk peace, despite expectations a few months ago that they would confirm their intentions with a statement welcoming peace talks. That would have been a huge step for an often fractured movement that has sworn it won't talk either to Karzai or while foreign forces are still on Afghan soil. The Taliban leadership is still smarting from rank-and-file anger over a failed prisoner exchange initiative with the US more than year ago. But the lack of any official embrace of the process is fuelling US and Afghan fears about the Taliban's true intentions in a place close to potential donors and convenient for putting out diplomatic feelers in an often sympathetic region. Karzai tacitly acknowledged the problem in a meeting with Qatari businessmen during the trip. "The Taliban peace process, when it is officially announced, the opportunities will multiply hugely," Afghanistan's Tolo TV channel quoted him telling the exclusive group. The Afghan government, which has been open about the fact that it would prefer Turkey or Saudi Arabia as a mediator, reacted badly to initial plans for an office in Doha. Karzai recalled his ambassador to Qatar and denounced the venture as scheming behind his back. He has softened his stance since then, but his government has repeatedly warned that it will tolerate the Taliban office strictly as an address for peace talks, and only if it is not used for fundraising or diplomatic activities. Western diplomats have also said their support for a Taliban presence in Qatar will be strained if the movement does not take more concrete steps towards embracing the idea of talks publicly, although they remain confident of behind-the-scenes support for negotiations. "There isn't anyone who doesn't think that a significant majority of them want to take part in the peace process," a senior western official with knowledge of the talks said. The group's dispersed, fugitive leadership made for slow decision making, the official added, but longer term there was still real hope of a peace deal, although it would be likely to come on the brink of Nato's departure or later. "It is conceivable that between 12 and 18 months from now the world could look different from a Taliban perspective," the official said. "Once Karzai has left office, with western troops vanishing, and the Afghan police and army doing a relatively decent job providing security, it might be easier for the Taliban to sell negotiations to their foot soldiers."
Secretary of State John Kerry's comments follow reports that North Korea plans to restart a nuclear reactor that it shut down more than five years ago.
http://www.brecorder.com/Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and other parties including PPP (Shaheed Bhutto) have finalized arrangements to observe the 34th death anniversary of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto falling on April 04. PPPP will start its function at the mid night of April 3 and in the early morning of April 04 there will be a public meeting to be addressed by the central party leaders at Bhutto House Naudero. This time it has been decided to hold death anniversary functions at district level. A documentary, depicting life and achievements of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto will also be screened on the occasion. Meanwhile, a torch bearing procession will be taken out by PPP(Shaheed Bhutto) from Al-Murtaza House Larkana on Wednesday evening to mark the occasion. The workers and leaders of PPP (Shaheed Bhutto) will also place floral wreaths on Bhutto's mazar on Thursday. The Chairperson of PPP (Shaheed Bhutto) Ghinwa Bhutto and others will also address a separate meeting in this connection at Garhi Khuda Bux Bhutto.
قبایلي سیمه شمالي وزیرستان کي د ګرېنډ وزیرستان امن جرګي او د سیمې نورو مشرانو لخوا لویه جرګه رابللې او وايي، چې له پو لېټېکل انتظامیې او پوځي چارواکو سره یې لیدلي او ورسره یې پر راوانو حالاتو او د ځايي ولس په مشکلاتو خبرې وکړي. د جرګي مشرانو مشال رېډېو ته وویل خواوشا یوه نیمه اونۍ کېږي چې پر سامان وړونکو ګاډو د بندیز له وجې له افغانستان سره پر کرښه وړلو راوړلو (ایمپورټ اېکسپورټ) کاروبار په ټپه ولاړ دی، او هلته خوراکي توکو بیې څو چنده زیاتي شوې دي چې ولس یې د بي زارۍ ترحده رسولی دی. د وزیر ستان امن لویې جرګې مشر ملک جانفراز مشال راډېو ته وویل، دولت هر څه بند کړي او د بشري حقونو سرغړونه کوي. دی وايي: ((د تېرې میاشتې له ۲۳ مې نېټې دولت په سامان وړونکو ټرکونو بندیز لګولی، غله نه رارسېږي، د بشري حقونو سرغړونه کېږي، د پښتو روایاتو سرغړونه روانه ده، چې د جنګ حالات وي پر عوامو خوراکي توکي نه بندېږي، موږ له ملګرو ملتونو (اقوام متحده) اپېل کوو چې د دولت لخوا هلته د بشري حقونو سرغړونې نوټس واخلي.)) قبایلي مشر او راوانو ټول ټاکنو له پاره شمالی وزیر ستان نه امېدوار مولانا ګل رمضان وايي د پولېټکل انتظامیې، پوځي او استخباراتي ادارو چارواکو ته یې د خبره په ډاګه کړې، چې د ځايي ولس مشکل ته پاملرنه وکړي او دوی نور د دولت پرضد په احتجاج مجبوره شوي، چې بیا نور څه جوړېږي دولت به یې ذمه داره وي. دی وايي(( کاروبار په ټپه ولاړ دی، د سیمې خلکو په کروړونو تاوان راوان دی، پر ولس یې هر څه بند کړي دي، چې لوی تاوان به ترې جوړ شي که د مشکل نور حل نه کړي، او بل قدم به یې خپل جمهوري حق دی چې ټول وزیر ستان به په احتجاج راووځي)) په سیمه کي موجود د پولېټېکل انتظامیې او پوځي چارواکي لا هم پر دې موضوع هېڅ نه وايي چې تر کومه وخته به دغه بندیز راوان وي. باده دې وي، چې د تېرې میاشتې په ۲۳مه نېټه د شمالي وزیر ستان پر ایشا امنیتي پوسته له ځانمرګي بریده پس شمالي وزیر ستان ته پر سامان وړونکو ګاډو بندیز راوان دی، چې له وجې یې د سلګونو په شمېر له سامانونو ډک ګاډي په نیمه قباییلي سیمه بکاخېل ولاړ دي، چې پکي دوایانې او نور خوراکي توکي شتون لري چې د خرابېدو ډېره اندېښنه یې ده.
After being entangled in the War on Terror for more than a decade, Pakistan is struggling to restore social stability. Peshawar, a hub city of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, located only 60 kilometers from the troubled borders between Pakistan and Afghanistan, looks like any other city in a developing country. Outdoor billboards featuring gorgeous women and fancy cell phones can be seen everywhere in the downtown area. The presence of armed police patrolling the streets, however, was a reminder of the potential for unrest. "It is Friday, a day on which Muslims routinely gather at mosques to pray. Crowds are often targeted by terrorists or political militants," warned an officer from the Pakistani army. The violence Pakistan's proximity to Afghanistan pushed it into a decade-long battle against Taliban militants. "Pakistan has gone through its worst times over the past years due to the War on Terror," said Hasib Rahman, 30, a bank employee. The war brought Pakistan's economy close to a standstill, he said. "Factories are hardly working due to an electricity and gas crisis. Other institutions are facing serious distractions due to lack of electricity." All this has caused Pakistan to be labeled one of the "most dangerous nations" in the world. In 2012 alone, Peshawar saw 140 terrorist attacks causing 170 deaths, according to a report in the People's Daily in February. After Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's death in May 2011, the US announced its plans to end the war in Afghanistan, and will withdraw all combat troops by 2014. But tensions are still high. During the Global Times' visit to Peshawar in February, journalists were protected by more than 20 armed security guards and not allowed to leave the car out of security concerns. The sacrifice "There used to be more than 30,000 terrorists when the Taliban was in its heyday (during 2008 and 2009), but now only about 3,000 were left," said Lieutenant General Khalid Rabbani, commander of the No.11 corps of the Pakistani Army based in Peshawar. The squad has carried out the majority of military operations of the war in Pakistani territory. The similarity in appearance between Taliban terrorists and Pakistani civilians has hampered the army's ability to determine terrorists' identities. They reside in the same tribal areas along an open boundary more than 2,000 kilometers in length, and they also share the same religious and daily customs, explained Rabbani. After being arrested, brainwashed Taliban youth are given an education and vocational training in a bid to deprogram them. At the same time, the Pakistani army has paid a huge price in this conflict. More than 3,500 soldiers lost their lives, and 11,235 were injured. Afghanistan issue "The instability of Afghanistan and the presence of US/NATO forces had acutely complicated the situation in the region, and the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan has been borne by Pakistan," said Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema, dean of the Faculty of Contemporary Studies at National Defense University in Islamabad. And even after the US withdraws all its combat troops by 2014, the stability of Afghanistan will still influence the future of its neighbor Pakistan. In Cheema's opinion, the withdrawal of US combat troops may lead to four likely scenarios for Afghanistan. "Taliban take over, division of the country, continued civil war and emergence of a stable Afghanistan." Relations between the US, China, India and Pakistan are also important factors for the future of Pakistan after the end of the war, said Wang Dehua, an expert on Pakistan issues from Shanghai Tongji University. For example, the US hopes India, which has seen strained ties with Pakistan over the disputed territory of Kashmir, will be more engaged in Afghanistan, while Pakistan is strongly opposed to seeing India play a major role in these issues, explained Wang. "Both the US and China can encourage the regional countries and the involved factions of Afghan society to negotiate and work out a solution for their country (after the war)," suggested Cheema. However, "the US must stop thinking of giving any major role to India." People's choice Another more urgent challenge facing Pakistan lies in the upcoming general elections. On March 16, Pakistan's parliament was dissolved. A caretaker administration will take over the country until the elections in early May. "I think the new government will face enormous difficulties but I am sure that things will improve considerably," said Cheema, explaining that "not only the troubles caused by the presence of US forces are likely to minimize, but the elections in Pakistan are expected to elect a better new government." In his opinion, this better government is the result of people's awareness of the value of their vote and the level of governance, a relatively independent media, active vigilance and the assertive role of the judiciary. "The new government would seek peace in both Afghanistan and FATA," he predicted, adding that securing peace on its western border and focusing more on the internal situation would be the new government's priority.
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/With the US withdrawal from Afghanistan looming large, neighbouring countries are hedging against bad outcomes in that part of the world. The jitteriness is palpable, with Afghanistan's neighbours all tying up with each other in different combinations as they scramble to contain what many fear a Taliban surge supported by Pakistan and extremism/terrorism spilling over its borders. China is teaming up with Russia and Pakistan on a trilateral on Afghanistan, and the first meeting is scheduled in a few weeks. This comes weeks after India, Russia and China sat down in Moscow to craft another trilateral dialogue whereby all the three countries would exchange information and coordinate positions on Afghanistan's future. The new trialateral allows Pakistan and China reaffirm their traditional ties, including showing India that their commitment to each other remains unalloyed. The Moscow meeting was the beginning of a bilateral track between China and India, a surprising and significant development, given that India and China are generally believed to be on opposing sides of Afghanistan's "Pakistan divide". A bilateral talks between India and China on Afghanistan raised eyebrows within the Indian system since the request came from the Chinese side. But it showed for the first time, that China too was hedging its bets regarding its "lips-and-teeth" relationship with Pakistan. Pakistan's ties with the Taliban show no signs of abating, despite Islamabad's own travails with them. None of the peace talks with the Taliban are going anywhere because Pakistan's ISI retains a stranglehold on them. And, Pakistan seems to be in a minority that believes the Taliban should be part of the power structure in Kabul. China's worries are centred on their concerns in the Xinjiang province and the threat of jihadi spillover from Afghanistan. But also China, like India, wants to protect its considerable investments in Afghanistan. In May China's CNPC will be extracting oil from its wells in northern Afghanistan. This could be the beginning of a resource boom for Afghanistan. India has theoretically invested in Afghanistan's Hajigak mines, but security concerns persist. An India-China bilateral dialogue could be the precursor of a joint approach to securing their investments in Afghanistan.
The Baloch HalSince the killing of Nawab Mohammad Akbar Bugti in a military operation in August 2006, elections in Balochistan have become a yardstick to measure the intensity of Baloch disillusionment with the Pakistani federation. Unlike the rest of Pakistan, elections in Balochistan are not merely about public representation, transparency and the accommodation of underrepresented voices in the so-called mainstream politics. Balochistan, after Bugti’s killing, has become a significantly different place and the dynamics as well as the requirements of the regional politics have remarkably changed. When Baloch separatists call for the boycott of the next elections, it does not in any way translate into resentment to the very idea of democracy and people’s right to vote. What they, as well as this newspaper, oppose is basically based on Balochistan’s unresolved disputes with the federation. Whenever Islamabad oppresses the Baloch people and does not take in consideration their will in making key decisions (such as the recent Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline and the handover of the Gwadar Port to the Chinese), the Balochs believe an election season is the best time to express their ‘democratic right” to cast a ‘vote of no confidence’ in the current Pakistani system. After all, developed democracies in the world, including the United Nations system, provide the people and the member states the right to ‘abstain’ from certain democratic exercises. For the Baloch people, election 2013 is the best time to show their ‘democratic right’ to ‘abstain’ from Pakistani polls. The people of Balochistan are not averse to voting but they are simply not ready to vote at this time. Another election that brings some nationalists and most old faces in power but still does not address fundamental issues relating to Balochistan will be a futile exercise. By participating in the elections, the ‘moderate’ Baloch nationalist leaders will be validating and legitimizing the massacre of Baloch youths during the previous ‘democratic government’. More than 300 missing Baloch people’s dead bodies were recovered during the P.P.P. regime. If that is what democracy provides then Balochistan should truly fear the kind of democracy Islamabad is enthusiastically contemplating to introduce us with. That said, democracy failed, as much as General Musharraf’s junta, to provide justice to Balochistan. They all mistreated the Baloch. Those who say that the boycott of elections by the Baloch nationalists will only increase the number of pro-federation parliamentarians have a solid argument. But participation in the election before punishing those ‘democratic’ leaders who committed human rights abuses in Balochistan, indulged in massive corruption and encouraged foreign countries’ exploitative initiatives will encourage and cement a culture of impunity and unconditional remission. That is precisely what is going to happen on May 11. By deciding to return to Pakistan and participate in the upcoming general elections, the Balochistan National Party chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal and National Party have clearly indicated that they are exhausted and can no longer continue their battle against the federal government. But were they ever in the forefront of the anti-Islamabad struggle? No, they were not. They only pretend to be the actual powers who could bring peace to Balochistan and those Islamabad should patronize and negotiate with. They perhaps now realize that they have done enough blackmailing of the central government and the time has come for them to get back to power. However, nationalist’s surrender does not mean that Islamabad’s behavior toward the Baloch people has also improved at any level or in any form. The two nationalist parties that boycotted the last general elections are more than welcome to contest polls as they are absolutely free to make their own decisions. What we see from their behavior is hasty and poor judgement of the conflict in Balochistan. It is ironic that even Sardar Akhtar Mengal, the B.N.P. president had also voted in support of a Baloch boycott of the elections during the party’s Central Committee Meeting in Karachi last week. He is only proceeding with the polls to respect the majority’s decision in the B.N.P. The problem with the B.N.P., on the other hand, is the penetration of some opportunistic and compromising elements in the party’s key position during the past four years when Sardar Mengal was on self-imposed exile. By opting for elections, the Baloch nationalist parties have significantly disappointed the Baloch masses who have always wished to deal with Islamabad in a dignified and honorable manner. This time, it is a sad case of absolute and unconditional submission to the federation. The B.N.P. can still do some damage control by asking the Election Commission of Pakistan to reschedule the elections in the province. This period should be taken to initiate dialogue with the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the Election Commission of Pakistan and major national political parties, particularly the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf to put forward a set of Baloch demands and recommendations. This is a unique opportunity to withdraw the Frontier Corps (F.C.) from parts of Balochistan, dismantle the death squads, recover the missing persons and punish those who have been involved in the killing Baloch youths with the help of Pakistani intelligence agencies. In addition, the Baloch nationalists, particularly the B.N.P., should publicly assert its stance on the Gwadar Port and its handover to the Chinese. Until these Baloch demands are met, elections will only perpetuate a flawed and repressive system that provides no relief to our people.
The Express TribunePakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) member Sakina Mengal attempted self-immolation during a press conference in Quetta on Tuesday for not receiving a party ticket to contest the upcoming elections, reported Express News. Mengal doused herself with petrol and was about to set herself on fire with a lighter when journalists and other people present at the conference intervened and stopped her. Mengal claimed that she has been with the PML-N since 2002 but the party ignored her. The police though arrested Mengal after the incident. Other members who were not awarded party tickets also staged a protest.
EDITORIAL:DAILY TIMESIn what must be the most positive piece of news in the run up to these milestone elections, a woman from the extremely underdeveloped tribal areas has gone against the odds to contest and appeal for votes. Badam Zari is the first female to become a candidate in Pakistani politics from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). She represents not just her constituency — NA 44 — but also the women who belong to the backward and oppressive society of FATA. The tribal belt is known as a very unfriendly place for women where they hardly venture out of their homes and, if they do partake in any activity that allows them even slight exposure, they are usually punished with very harsh consequences — sometimes even death. That is why this woman’s step to contest in these elections is not just a move forward for the women of the tribal belt, it is a very brave step indeed. This courageous lady says that she wants to see a change in how women are treated and that she wants to address their problems. The fact that she has broken a long held taboo about female political participation will already have worked wonders on improving how women see themselves in that society. However, whenever a woman ventures out of the comfort zone decreed upon her by the men of this patriarchal society, one has seen nothing but death and fear. Women from FATA are routinely made victims of ‘honour’ killings for little more than merely clapping their hands at a wedding function or being seen in the company of men. For a woman to stand up to this ridiculously closed society and to represent others like her is a wonderful thing indeed. Not for one moment, though, should we forget the very real danger she is in. Everyone, from the men of her society to the militants who look upon women with disdain and insecurity, she is a walking threat to their ideology. She must be given full security and protection — she is a moving target and her dream to represent the women of FATA can be obliterated by just one bullet. She is representing the right to franchise for many women who have been denied even basic human rights and she must be encouraged to realise her dream. Badam Zari could very well be the first in a long line of women who can change the course of how the female gender is treated in the tribal areas, and she may also be the first in a long line of defence against the militant enemy. She must be protected and emulated.
Associated PressSeveral dozen militants armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades attacked a power grid station in northwestern Pakistan before dawn Tuesday, killing seven people and taking four hostage, police said. The attack on the outskirts of Peshawar city occurred at around 2 a.m., said the local police chief in the area, Granullah Khan. The militants first killed two people at the scene of the attack and took nine with them, he said. The militants then killed five of the hostages as they were fleeing and were pursued by police, said the police chief. The bodies were found about a kilometer (half a mile) away from the grid station. Four of the abducted were still missing. The dead included three policemen and four government power workers, said Khan. The men still missing are all power workers. The grid that was attacked is located near Khyber, part of Pakistan's semiautonomous tribal region bordering Afghanistan, the main sanctuary for the Taliban in the country. It supplies electricity to a large part of Peshawar, and many areas of the city were still without power on Tuesday morning because the station was damaged in the attack. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. But Taliban militants waging a bloody insurgency against the government have staged scores of attacks against security officials, government personnel and civilians. The Pakistani military has launched dozens of operations against the Taliban in the tribal region, but the militants continue to carry out frequent attacks. The group has also made recent gains in an area of Khyber called the Tirah Valley, which potentially provides them easier access to Peshawar. There are concerns the militants could step up attacks in the run-up to parliamentary elections on May 11 in an attempt to derail the vote.
The deadline for the filing of the nomination papers for the next general election expired on Sunday. Over 10,000 candidates have filed their papers for 849 general seats of the national and provincial assemblies. In 2008 elections, over 15,000 candidates had filed the papers - over 10,000 for the provincial assemblies and around 5,000 for national assembly seats. The decline in nomination is understandable. The provision in the nomination papers has put up an in-built scrutiny on the candidates. The fear of strict scrutiny of nomination papers has seemingly kept thousands of aspiring candidates away from the electoral arena thus dropped the number of candidates to about two-thirds of those who had filed nomination papers in the previous general elections. It is a healthy sign that has been witnessed in the first phase of the elections. Much wanted purge and cleansing of the corrupt parliamentarians has set foot in the political process. Indeed, this is a first step in right direction. The completion of the first phase in a peaceful atmosphere must have encouraged the ECP personnel to perform their duty more authoritatively. Even more important aspect that has been observed is that the elections, considered being a domain of the rich, saw some degree of diversification-even some of candidates from the poor or lower middle class also turned up to submit their nomination papers. Amidst fears of terrorist attacks, on the last day for the filing of the nomination papers, a number of candidates turned to offices of the local Returning Officers in rallies; some rode on bicycles and others on push-cards. Notwithstanding the rich displayed their muscles in splashing cars and vans. The surprise of the day was witnessed in war-torn FATA. The people of the FATA are hard pressed against war on terror. The firing, suicide bombing and turf war have become an order of the day. A large number of residents of the area have been forced to abandon the houses and are living in badly managed so-called relief camps. Yet they showed their keenness to participate in the election regardless they win or lose. The area is virtually under control of extremists. In under-developed FATA, having no precedent of letting a poor male to take part in the election, two brave ladies came forth to file their nomination papers to contest the forthcoming elections of the National Assembly. First nomination came forth in Lower Dir and other in Bajour Agency. Both ladies, irrespective of win or loss, have written a new history of the elections in the country. A 40-year-old Badam Zari, wife of Sultan Khan, filed papers for NA-44, Bajaur and the other woman candidate Nusrat Begum wife of Karim Khan from Lower Dir, filed her papers for NA-34 constituency as an independent candidate. Fearless Ms Zari says she wants to do something for women of area what has never been done by any male member of the parliament before while Nusrat the district vice president of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf picked up the courage to contest the election when her party denied her ticket. She vows to fight for basic amenities to the people, especially women, children and minorities. No doubt it is a major development in the country and a rich reward for the nation that stood for democracy. The two brave ladies must have infused a lot of courage and conviction amongst the women folk of Pakistan putting across a message that the poor women too must stand up for their rights, challenging the writ of the rich families in the power corridors. The residents of the FATA, given the right to vote for the first time, undergo a change wherein now no one can stop even women from taking part in elections and exercising their right to vote. Indeed, the democracy has infused a new spirit amongst the people living in the far-flung areas-- no matter how hard hit are they by extremists or any body else. The two ladies, making a courageous move, deserve rich appreciation, strong support and fool-proof protection to groom their passion for the vote. The task of filing nomination paper is complete. In the second phase, the scrutiny of the papers will continue till April 7. It is a gigantic task but the Election Commission of Pakistan will meet the challenge in the given short time frame. Those who earlier used to manage to enter the assemblies by concealing facts now can be shown the door any time because the new mechanism will pose a constant threat of prosecution and conviction entailing disqualification for committing corrupt practices. New history of Pakistan is in the making, and the ECP led by weak and elderly Election Commissioner will be the founder of corrupt-free Pakistan.