Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Happy Birthday Malala Yousafzai: Why We Should Educate Girls

Maria Sowter
Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai has become an icon for the fight for women's education and, despite being only just about to turn 16 on the 12th July, has been named one of TIME's 100 most influential people 2013. In 2009, age 11, Malala began her blog on the BBC Urdu site about life under the Taliban. The story that unfolded brought worldwide media attention to women's struggle for education, as well as securing Malala as a symbol of courage and hope when the Taliban's assassination attempt to shot Malala as she rode the bus to school failed.According to UNESCO statistics there are 61 million children around the world out of school, with the target for universal primary education unlikely to be met by 2015. Unfortunately, the majority of these children are girls, subjugated by their gender, who grow to make up two-thirds of the total number of illiterate people worldwide. There are many challenges being faced by young girls across the world that are preventing them from receiving an education. Much of this in an antiquated view of gender in developing nations, where a high number of girls are submitted to child marriage, and subsequently give birth at an early age, or are subjected to harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM). That more than 70 women and girls seek treatment each month in Britain alone following FGM shows the shocking predominance of the practice even among western cultures - despite it being categorised as a violation of human rights and having no medical health benefit. An estimated 10 million girls under 18 are married each year across the world. This action often removes young women from school and results in a teenage pregnancy that will kill or injure one million girls every year. A lack of education further endangers the lives of both mothers and their children when it comes to maternal healthcare, family planning and sexual health. Access to education has been demonstrated in reducing child mortality by 10 percent and the risk of contracting HIV and AIDS by half. By working to remove the economic, legal, political and cultural barriers the prevent women from learning there is the opportunity to greatly improve not only the lives of these women, but their families and the communities they live in also. Girls who receive an education are less likely to contract HIV and AIDS and to pass it on to their children, have lower child mortality rates, are better informed on nutrition and health practices and are more likely to send their own children to school. Even back at the turn of the twentieth century Dr. James Emmanuel Kwegyir Aggrey said, "If you educate a man, you educate an individual. If you educate a woman, you educate a Nation". The longer girls stay in school on average increases their potential wage income, which are then reinvested back into families and communities. With still so many women uneducated in developing countries, the economic potential for developing nations cannot be justifiably ignored. But women shouldn't just be educated for their economic benefit to the state. The fight for women's education simply comes down to a matter of human rights: the right for women to make their own choices when it comes to their bodies, marriage and family planning, and the right to attend school to receive an education. The question of why we should educate women isn't a gender specific issue, but is a good place to start in a quest for equality and universal primary education.

Malala Comes to the United Nations

By Ban Ki-moon
Malala Yousafzai may be one of the best-known students in the world, but she is also a teacher. This month she will mark her 16th birthday by coming to the UN and sharing an important lesson about education – particularly for girls around the world. Malala is the courageous young education rights campaigner from Pakistan who was targeted and shot by extremists on her way to school. After a long road to recovery, Malala is back and determined to keep making her voice heard. On July 12, Malala will be joined by hundreds of students from more than 80 countries in a unique Youth Assembly, where diplomats will take a back seat as young people take over the UN. They will gather to issue a global call for quality education for all. Education is a fundamental right, a Millennium Development Goal (MDG) and crucial to mutual understanding and global citizenship. Many of us did not have to learn this lesson from a book. We lived it. As a young boy in war-torn Korea, my school was destroyed. My classroom was in the open under a tree. We had little to eat, but we were hungry to learn. Our parents and our government knew the value of education. That understanding transformed my life and my country. In today's knowledge-based society, education is a foundation for the future we want: A world without poverty, violence, discrimination or disease. Building this future will require a new, concerted push. That is why I launched the Global Education First Initiative, with three priorities: to put every child in school; improve the quality of learning; and prepare children to grow up to be global citizens. Despite important gains, we have much work ahead of us to meet our education goals. Today's youth population is the largest in history. We must make the most of this pool of talent, energy and ideas. Yet, there are still 57 million children out of primary school. Many live in countries embroiled in conflict. More than 120 million young people between the ages of 15 and 24 lack basic reading and writing skills, the majority of whom are young women. In a swiftly evolving job market, too many young people leave school without the skills to earn a living. In far too many places, students like Malala and their teachers are threatened, assaulted, even killed. Through hate-filled actions, extremists have shown what frightens them the most: a girl with a book. We must do all we can to ensure that schools are safe and secure learning spaces. Nowhere in the world should it be an act of bravery for an adult to teach or a girl to go to school. When women and girls are educated, they accelerate development in their families and communities. For every extra year of schooling, a girl increases her future earnings by up to 20 percent. Many other statistics point to the importance of education. Economies grow. Health improves. Nations rise. But I also take my cue from listening to the aspirations of people. Wherever I travel, I ask women and men what the UN can do for them. The answer is very often the same: Education. In refugee camps, people tell me: “Get my children back in school.” In countries hit by earthquakes and other disasters, people insist: “Don't worry about me. Rebuild the schools so my children can learn.” Education is the pathway to saving lives, building peace and empowering young people. That is the lesson that Malala and millions like her are seeking to teach the world. International partners and governments must listen and act. As the global community works to speed up achievement of the MDGs and craft the post-2015 development agenda, we must ensure that we meet our children's dreams and aspirations for the future. On Malala's birthday, let us pledge to deliver the best gift of all – quality education for every girl and boy in the world. The author is Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Karachi: Chief security officer of Bilawal House, 2 guards killed in blast

Chief security officer of Bilawal House Bilal Sheikh and his two guards were killed and seven other persons were injured Wednesday in a blast near Guru Mandar area. The blast targeted a double-cabin vehicle belonging to the security squad of Bilawal House. Chief security officer of President Zardari Bilal Sheikh and 3 guards were killed in the incident, according to the hospital sources. The vehicle was completely damaged after the blast. Six policemen and an FIA staffer were also injured in the blast. According to police sources the attackers were following the vehicle of Bilal Shiekh and blasted it when it reached Guru Mandar market. However, the exact nature of blast could not be ascertained immediately but ball bearings were found scattered near the damaged vehicle. SSP Raja Umar Khatab said there was not much traffic on the road at the time of blast. Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar says slain guard Bilal Sheikh was not a government employee, but was working as one of the private security officers for Zardari. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Police said they were still investigating. President Asif Ali Zardari and PM Nawaz Sharif have condemned the attack as cowardly attack.

Detained Turkish demonstrators go on hunger strike

Turkish demonstrators, arrested at Istanbul’s Gezi Park, start a hunger strike to protest against the extension of their detention period. Almost 50 detainees went on hunger strike on Wednesday after prosecutors prolonged their detention. The detainees identified as representatives and leaders of workers' groups had been rounded up on Monday. The Taksim Solidarity Platform said they were taken into custody without any legal basis. Turkish police have arrested thousands of demonstrators since a renovation plan at Gezi Park sparked massive anti-government rallies in May. The Turkish protesters said Gezi Park, which is a traditional gathering point for rallies and demonstrations as well as a popular tourist destination, is one of Istanbul’s last public green spaces. The protests soon spread to other cities across the country and turned into calls for the resignation of the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan opponents say he has become increasingly authoritarian since coming to power a decade ago. Several people have been killed in the violent crackdown on peaceful protesters, who Erdogan has described as foreign-backed extremists and terrorists. On June 24, Erdogan praised the “legendary heroism” of police forces in quelling anti-government protests. The Turkish prime minister has faced international condemnation for his handling of the crisis. Turkish police have been also strongly criticized for using excessive force against the peaceful protests.

VIDEO: Egypt youths thrown off building by cruel pro Morsi islamist

EU observers express dissatisfaction over polls in Pakistan
The European Union election observatory team on Wednesday has expressed dissatisfaction over the electoral process of May 11 general elections in Pakistan. The EU team chief Michael Gahler, in a press conference said that the Returning Officers changed the polling staff at the eleventh hour, and the ECP had no record of it. The EU team remained in Pakistan from March 3 to June 4 and has freely prepared a comprehensive report on election process. The team said that Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has not fulfilled its responsibilities completely during the election and all the candidates were not given equal rights to contest elections. The general elections in Pakistan were held on May 11, 2013 that was won by Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N). Almost all the political parties alleged rigging during the elections. A religious political party Jamiat Ullema e Islam Fazal (JUI-F) issued a 'White Paper' recently against the alleged rigging and irregularities in the electoral process. Michael Gahler said that nomination papers of some candidates were rejected from one constituency, while on the other these were accepted and process of preparing results was very slow. He said that allegations of rigging started from the day one of elections adding that ECP should take all the responsibility of election process on its own shoulders.

Afghanistan: Decision on Troop Withdraw Not 'Imminent': White House
Jay Carney, the White House Press Secretary, said on Tuesday that a decision on the exact pace and numbers of the U.S. troop withdraw from Afghanistan is not "imminent." However, he said that a "zero option" for the U.S. troop presence post-2014 is still on the table. Mr. Carney said the US decision on troop presence in Afghanistan after the long-planned drawdown will be based on ongoing discussions between Washington and Kabul about policy objectives. He identified those objectives as being primarily two-fold: eliminating the remnants of Al Qaeda in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, and supporting the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in such a way that will ensure their ability to secure the integrity of the Afghan government. "We're in discussions with the Afghan government about options that also may include a residual force after 2014," Mr. Carney told reporters at a press conference in Washington on Tuesday. He emphasized that no decisions had been made, and would not be made anytime soon, but instead would develop out of a gradual dialogue between Kabul and Washington as events unfold around the peace process and security transition. Carney's comments come in the midst of a heated debate over the US' long-term military commitment to Afghanistan. On Monday, the New York Times reported rising tensions between President Karzai and President Obama, which according to some officials in the U.S. and Europe, have led to greater consideration being given to a faster troop withdraw in 2014 than originally planned, and even a "zero option" for a residual force post-2014. Animosity between President Karzai and President Obama came to a head after last month's Qatar office debacle in which an attempt to jumpstart negotiations with the Taliban ended with President Karzai refusing to meet with insurgent leaders, freezing Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) talks and accusing the U.S. of negotiating with the Taliban behind Kabul's back. US officials have said in the past that a small number of American troops would remain in Afghanistan post-2014 to advise, train and provide logistical support for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). The BSA talks were intended to work out the details. However, with the fate of those talks now tied to that of the stalled peace process – President Karzai announced that he would not re-start talks with the U.S. until the Taliban meets with the High Peace Council (HPC) – any formal coordination between Washington and Kabul on what a post-2014 U.S. military presence may look like seems more distant than Mr. Carney chose to let on. So while a decision on the exact details of the U.S. troop withdraw may not be "imminent," whether because the best approach to realizing policy objectives has yet to reveal itself as the reality on the ground continues to evolve or because BSA talks are frozen in place, the fact remains that the dynamic between Kabul and Washington has taken an obvious turn for the worse just as the two governments come into the inevitable final stretch of their decade-long partnership.

In Pakistan, army adamant on fighting the other Taliban

In the past few years, Pakistan's Swat valley has been occupied by Islamic insurgents, undergone a bruising counter-offensive by the army and then flooded by waters that washed away acres of fruit orchards and steeply terraced fields. In October last year, the valley which lies about 250 km (155 miles) north of the capital Islamabad was again in the global spotlight when Islamic gunmen shot schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai. Now, as villagers try to piece together shattered lives, the military is coming under pressure to talk peace with the Taliban, a ruthless Pakistani offshoot of the Islamic radical movement of the same name in neighboring Afghanistan. Civilian Pakistani leaders elected in May want to open a dialogue with the homegrown militants set on overthrowing the nuclear-armed state. They say the local people are fed up with the violence and that any talks will be legitimized by U.S. efforts to promote peace with the Afghan Taliban. But the powerful military, which has spent years chasing the Pakistan Taliban into ever-more remote hideouts, is in no mood to negotiate with militants who have killed thousands of soldiers and who they say cannot be trusted. Some villagers back that stand. "(The Taliban) doesn't accept the government's writ, they are not faithful to the constitution, how can a political party talk to them?" said Abdul Rehman, an elder in the village of Kalam, a former tourist hotspot high in the Swat valley and ringed by snow-capped peaks of the Hindu Khush. The village is famous for repelling Taliban attacks. "We forced them away, first on our own, then with the help of the army," Rehman told Reuters during a visit organized by a U.N. organization funding flood relief work in his village, which is set among pine forests and walnut orchards. The debate over whether to open peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban has taken centerstage in the country as U.S. troops withdraw from Afghanistan after a 12-year war against the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan's military leaders are at pains to distinguish between the Afghan Taliban, to which Pakistan maintains ties and which they argue can be seen as fighting against occupation, and its local imitators who they see as domestic terrorists. The Pakistani Taliban pledges allegiance to Mullah Mohammad Omar, the reclusive leader of the Afghan Taliban but Omar is careful not to be seen to attack the Pakistani state. The Pakistani Taliban's suddenly sacked its spokesman on Tuesday amid signs of strained ties between the groups. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his prominent rival Imran Khan both offered to talk to the Pakistani militants while campaigning for May's federal and provincial elections. While Sharif won the federal elections, Khan's party emerged victorious in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the province that includes Swat Valley and remains a hotbed of Pakistani Taliban activity. The information minister in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, formerly the Northwest Frontier Province, told Reuters that the provincial government had called a meeting of other political parties and stakeholders to prepare for peace talks.
"The United States has opened up a Taliban office in Qatar and is holding negotiations with them, and we are being told to continue to fight and die," Khan said last month during a visit to Peshawar, the province's violence-blighted capital. "For the last nine years we have relied on the army to bring peace, but instead the situation got worse," he said. "It's now time for politicians to resolve the issue." Khan's party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), says the violence in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is a reaction to U.S. drone strikes and pro-Washington policies by the army, and that talks are the only answer. But there is no easy solution. Most of the militants seek refuge in the neighboring Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) - districts strung along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan and run by central writ - and the provincial government cannot control the process. FATA is used as a base by the Pakistani Taliban, members of the Afghan Taliban and groups linked to al Qaeda. Sharif's federal government can only do so much. Pakistan's military largely has a free hand regarding internal security, and influences foreign policy, especially relations with neighbours. It is the army, its intelligence agencies and the Taliban itself who will decide whether to talk or fight. The Pakistani Taliban has shown interest in talks, but has stepped up attacks after a series of drone strikes on its leaders and also because it doubts the ability of the civilian leadership to convince the military to allow negotiations. "If we felt that the PTI government or the Nawaz Sharif government were in a position to take a serious step towards peace talks and can oppose the intelligence agencies, then we can seriously think about peace talks," the group's then spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said in a video released in June. So far, the military has shown no inclination to relax an offensive many officers feel they can win. "We have to take the fight to them," said a regional commander flying a helicopter over Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Just before the elections, army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani made it clear he would not talk to the militants unless they lay down arms and accept Pakistan's laws. "There is no room for doubts when it comes to dealing with rebellion against the state," he said in an April 30 speech.
Locals in Swat said there was good reason to mistrust the militants. A previous peace deal gave the Pakistani Taliban the breathing space it needed to take power in the valley and then extend influence into neighboring districts just 100 km from Islamabad in 2009. That summer, worried by the creeping proximity of Taliban territory to Islamabad, the army launched a full air and ground assault and government forces regained control in a month. But the operation displaced 2 million people, and later, many returned to nothing but dead livestock and flattened orchards. Floods that ripped through Swat the next year made things worse, destroying many of the tightly packed terraces where corn and wheat grow along steep mountainsides. Acute malnutrition among children has jumped by more than a third. Saifullah Khan Mahsud, an expert on the situation in FATA, says the army believes it has the Pakistani Taliban on the back foot and is biding time for a fatal blow in border areas like North Waziristan, where the militants and other global groups are holed up. "At the end of the day it is the military stance that is going to prevail," he said.

In aftermath of scathing bin Laden report, Pakistan asks itself hard questions

By Wajahat S. Khan
The leak of a 336-page report investigating the security lapses that led to both Osama bin Laden’s extensive stay in Pakistan and the raid that killed him on May 1, 2011 shows that Pakistan has finally started asking itself some tough questions. The Abbottabad Commission, whose report was first obtained by Al Jazeera, was launched two years ago. The report is the most comprehensive Pakistani account to date of what went wrong in the Islamic Republic’s hunt for the world’s most wanted man.All of Pakistan’s major state institutions – the powerful military, its fearsome intelligence apparatus, its widespread police networks, and even its elected government officials – fall under the hammer in the unusually caustic report that found “gross incompetence” by all parties. It should come as no surprise that the report was not officially released. The frankness of the report is unprecedented for an official study commissioned by the nuclear powered Islamic republic that often blames foreign powers for all that ails its economy and its people. The report details bin Laden’s movements around Pakistan for almost a decade (from a major city, to a mountain resort, to small town, to a cantonment); the municipal permission to build an illegal structure that eventually became the mansion where he lived and fathered two children; the inability to follow up on intelligence shared by the United States; the lax attitude and negligence displayed by the Pakistanis that allowed the U.S. to conduct both the ground surveillance and the Navy SEAL raid that embarrassed the country; and even the inability of a policeman who once stopped bin Laden for speeding to recognize him. The details paint the picture of one of the worst intelligence failures in history. On bin Laden’s extensive stay in Pakistan, the report read: "Given the length of stay and the changes of residence of [bin Laden] and his family in Pakistan … the possibility of some such direct or indirect and ‘plausibly deniable’ support cannot be ruled out, at least, at some level outside formal structures of the intelligence establishment." On the failure of Pakistan's premier intelligence agency to gather information, the report said: "For the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] to say that it stopped its own search because it thought the U.S. had done so, showed both its naivete and its lack of commitment to eradicating extremism, ignorance and violence which is the single biggest threat to Pakistan." The country’s military is not happy. A ranking military official told NBC News, “We are going to find the leak. And he's going to wish he was [Edward] Snowden, living in an airport.” No government official has commented on the report and leading ministers did not respond to NBC’s request for comment. NBC News also reached out to the report’s four authors -- a former general, a former judge, a former diplomat and a former police official -- for comment, but none responded. The report’s leak has also been largely played down in Pakistan, a country known for its rambunctious media. “The Commission’s report has a healthy dose of skepticism that incompetence of this scale must involve duplicity,” said Cyril Almeida, a reporter for the daily Dawn newspaper. The Dawn published an editorial on Tuesday titled “No More Secrecy: Abbottabad Commission report” that urged the government to officially release the report so that corrective action and accountability can happen. Almeida cautiously praised the purpose of the report. “The report was key in reminding us of a narrative Pakistan often forgets, which is fixing itself,” said Almeida. “It said, 'Look guys, the national institutions of the country need a new script.' Something has to give. Or else, someone may come along, like [the movie] Zero Dark Thirty, and write a new script for us. And next, someone else will come along and unravel this entire project called ‘Pakistan’ for us.”

ISI Chief: Punjab govt led by CM Shahbaz Sharif protected the Deobandi terrorists who massacred Ahmadis in Lahore in May 2010
On May 28, 2010, Takfiri Deobandi terrorists (operating as Sipah Sahaba ASWJ-LeJ and Taliban) killed at least 93 members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim sect and injured around 100 others in attacks on two Ahmadi mosques during Friday prayer services in Lahore. In the leaded OBL report published by Al Jazeera, it has been revealed that according to ISI’s Chief General Pasha, PML-N led government of the Punjab province (a political ally of Sipah Sahaba ASWJ-LeJ) protected the terrorists involved in Ahmadi massacre: “The situation was increasingly becoming true of Lahore and other cities. In Lahore police protected those who attacked ‎#Qadianis last year (2010) and even directed them to the hospital where the wounded were being treated.The provincial Govt. had been informed of the situation but it took no heed of the advice and information provided by ‎#ISI no guards were assigned by to the hospital as venal political influence intervened everywhere.” General Pasha, OBL Report, Page 208 para 1 Although members of religious and sectarian minorities Shias, Christians, Ahmadis, Hindus and their places of worship have been attacked by Takfiri Deobandi groups (Sipah Sahaba, Taliban) on an almost regular basis in Pakistan, this was one of the bloodiest incidents in recent memory. After the attack on Ahmadi community and the Joseph Colony incident where 100-plus houses and shops of Christians were ransacked, looted and set ablaze by Takfiri terrorists, religious and sect minorities of Punjab, are worried for their safety. The situation on the ground is very uncertain for them since sectors of the media appear free to propagate hatred against non-Muslims and non-Deobandis, while terrorists freely roaming across Punjab. Meanwhile, the provincial government of Punjab is still maintaining close relations with militant groups while the pro-Islamist judiciary is releasing militants. Various media reports suggest that Pakistan Muslim League (N) nourishes the banned outfits in Punjab and recently in Punjab Budget 2013-14 it includes millions for Wahhabi terrorist group Jamaat-ud-Dawa aka LeT. Malik Ishaq Deobandi, the self confessed killer of Shias enjoyed Punjab government’s financial assistance and in election 2013 Lashkar-e-Jhangvi terrorists contested on PML-N tickets. Now, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha in his recent interview admitted, and criticized the provincial leaderships of the Punjab government, claiming the Punjab police had “protected those who attacked the Ahmadis on May 28, 2010.” According to the report, the former ISI chief claimed the police even directed the militants to the hospital where the wounded were being treated. “The provincial government has been informed of the situation but it took no heed of the advice and information provided by the ISI,” the report quotes Pasha as saying. In May 2010, members of the homegrown Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (an alias of ASWJ-LeJ Deobandi terrorists) attacked Ahmadi mosques in Lahore killing 94 people and injuring over 100. Gunmen also attacked a hospital where the injured were being treated the same day.

Instead of blindly following Saudi Arabia, use scientific method for moon-sighting
Why do Muslims in USA, UK, Australia and other countries start their Ramzan based on Saudi moon calendar but keep their fasts based on local sun schedule? Can we put a stop to the self-created Deobandi-Barelvi, Shia-Sunni, Pashtun-Punjabi conflict in the name of moon-sighting in Pakistan, UK, USA and other countries? The dates of Ramadan and other Islamic months depend on the [local] sighting of the new crescent Moon. Can we put a stop to the Saudi-ization of Eid and Ramazan in Pakistan and elsewhere? Why can’t Muslims in Pakistan and other countries use modern technology to ascertain the visibility of crescent with naked eye or with telescope. Why do Muslims in USA, UK, Australia and other countries start their Ramzan based on Saudi moon calendar but keep their fasts based on local sun schedule?

10 things we learned from the Osama bin Laden report

1 Osama bin Laden's 10-year stay in Pakistan was a cock-up on the part of Pakistani intelligence, not a conspiracy. The Abbottabad commission said "collective incompetence and negligence" by the intelligence agencies was the main reason the al-Qaida chief remained undetected for so long. However, it could not rule out some degree of "plausibly deniable" support at "some level outside formal structures of the intelligence establishment".
2 A traffic policeman could have ended the hunt for the world's most wanted man soon after 2001. Long before Bin Laden and his family moved to Abbottabad he hid in Swat, a region north of Islamabad that was then still popular with tourists. While travelling with one of his two trusted Pakistani henchmen his car was pulled over for speeding. A few words from Bin Laden's bodyguard "quickly settled the matter". Bin Laden, who shaved his beard at the time, was simply driven away.
3 Bin Laden was fully aware of the need to hide from US spy satellites. Much has been reported about the difficulty the CIA had in determining whether the tall man pacing around the compound was the al-Qaida chief. He was even in the habit of standing under a grape trellis. One of Bin Laden's wives, who survived the attack on the compound and was interviewed by the commission, revealed another technique: he wore a wide-brimmed cowboy hat when outside.
4 Osama was a man of frugal tastes. Before coming to Abbottabad he had just six pairs of shalwar qameez, the long-tailed shirt suit that is Pakistan's national dress – three for summer and three for winter. He also had one jacket and two sweaters. The lack of possessions in the house prompted some Abbottabad locals to tell the inquiry that they did not believe Bin Laden had been at the house for long and that he probably moved between locations.
5 Pakistan suffers from "governance implosion syndrome". The problem of the country's dysfunctional and incompetent institutions are vividly illustrated time and again by the report's authors. Of particular concern is the unwillingness of the ISI, Pakistan's well-resourced military spy agency, to share important intelligence with the police. The former spy chief Ahmad Shuja Pasha told the commission: "We are a failing state even if we are not yet a failed state."
6 For the children, life was one of simple pleasures. None of the children were free to go outside the compound, but Bin Laden tried to entertain his grandchildren by encouraging them to compete against each other in tending their vegetable patches. He had less contact with the children of his two trusted Pakistani couriers. Supposedly they were kept in the dark about his true identity and told he never went to the bazaar because he did not have any money for shopping. Thereafter they nicknamed him Miskeen Kaka, or Poor Uncle. His cover was partly blown when one of the children saw him on a news report, prompting an immediate television ban.
7 Abbottabad is home to lots of soldiers – and terrorists. It is often referred to as a "garrison town" because of the presence of Pakistan's military academy. However, the report makes clear that terrorists also favour it. One resident told the commission that the town was free of terrorist attacks precisely because so many militant families lived there. A house belonging to Abu Faraj al-Libi, a senior al-Qaida commander, was raided less than a mile from Bin Laden's compound, the report said. Umar Patek, one of the Bali bombers, was caught in Abbottabad in January 2011. The report says it is very likely that he was helped by the same al-Qaida network that assisted Bin Laden, and his interrogation should have turned up "actionable intelligence".
8 Bin Laden did not pay property taxes and flouted local building regulations. The property was bought using a fake national ID card, the third floor was built illegally and the occupants did not pay taxes. The commission said all of these things should have attracted attention. Local officials blamed negligence, corruption and staff shortages. The report says: "Either OBL was extremely fortunate to not run into anyone [committed] to doing his job honestly, or there was a complete collapse of local governance."
9 Pakistan's spies deeply distrust their US counterparts. The evidence given by Pakistan's former spy chief contains fascinating insights into how the ISI views the Americans. According to Pasha, the "main agenda of the CIA was to have the ISI declared a terrorist organisation". He did not think the CIA refused to share intelligence with the ISI because they did not trust their Pakistani counterparts, but because the US wanted to deny Pakistan the credit for nabbing the world's most wanted man.
10 More details of apparent CIA activity in Abbottabad. These "ground assets" could have included personnel to guide the US special forces helicopters to the house. The report said "suspicious activities" included the cutting down of trees to clear the approach of the helicopters and the renting of a nearby house for people supposedly working for the United States Agency for International Development. Vehicles from the US embassy in Islamabad were spotted heading towards Abbottabad shortly before the raid.

Pakistan warns of civil war in Afghanistan if reconciliation process fails

With the United States efforts afoot to end the stalemate in talks with the Taliban in Doha, Pakistan on Tuesday cautioned against a prolonged civil war in Afghanistan if the Afghan reconciliation process failed and peace and stability could not be brought back to the war-torn neighbouring state through dialogue and negotiations. The deadlock in talks between the US and the Taliban over the latter’s office in Doha, according to Pakistani officials was unfortunate and they feel that a meaningful dialogue between all the stakeholders in Afghanistan must begin to resolve the Afghanistan issue. On condition of anonymity, a senior Pakistani official said they felt the Qatari authorities had mishandled the issue of the ‘Taliban Office’ in Doha. “The talks between Taliban and US officials could have been held at some different venue as well,” he said. The official also expressed concerns over the role of Afghan President Hamid Karzai in the Afghanistan reconciliation process and said he should play a constructive role in this regard. He, however, hoped that the Doha talks would soon resume and the current impasse would prove to be a temporary one. He said the Taliban had been accepted as one of the stakeholders in Afghanistan as a result of the Doha process. “The United States, the Afghan government, the Taliban and Northern Alliance are stakeholders in Afghanistan and there must be a dialogue between them,” he said. “The resumption of the Doha process is vital for the peace and security of Afghanistan,” he said, adding that if the reconciliation process failed to deliver, Afghanistan could plunge into a prolonged civil war. Asked about Pakistan’s contingency plan for its own security in case of any civil war erupting in Afghanistan, the official said Pakistan would take all possible measures for its border security and to avert any spill over effect of the war and strife in Afghanistan on Pakistani regions. He said Pakistan would continue to support the peace process in Afghanistan and it would not engage in blame games with the neighboring state despite the harsh and negative statements being directed towards Islamabad from across the western border. On relations with the US, the official said Pakistan wanted to move beyond Afghanistan in its relations with Washington, adding that the strategic dialogue between Islamabad and Washington that encompassed talks on cooperation in different sectors must be restored. On Indo-Pak ties and the ongoing fresh efforts by both sides for the resumption of the peace dialogue, the official said the Indo-Pak ties had a good start but it was accident prone. He said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif could have a meeting with his Indian counterpart in September this year in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly’s meeting but before that both sides were required to have fruitful engagements at the officials and ministers’ level. Another senior Pakistani official, who also sought anonymity, said the prime minister’s visit to China was very successful and it was evident from various agreements and MoUs signed during his trip to the friendly neighboring state. “The agreements signed in China will bring investment of billions of dollars to Pakistan and will help revive the struggling economy,” he said. To a question on any agreement on the understanding reached at on the construction of more nuclear power plants in Pakistan by China, he said the cooperation in field of civilian nuclear technology between Islamabad and Beijing and China was an ongoing cooperation and it started before China became the member of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a global body that regulated the issues related to nuclear proliferation and commerce. - See more at:

Abbotabad Commission findings

Daily Times
The Abbottabad Commission report was leaked by Al Jazeera on Monday. The controversial circumstances surrounding the assassination of Osama bin Laden warranted an inquiry due to which the Abbottabad Commission under Justice Javed Iqbal was set up. The commission submitted its findings to the previous People’s Party government under former Prime Minster Raja Pervez Ashraf in January. However, the report was swept under the carpet perhaps because the previous government was reaching the end of its tenure and it did not want to open up a new Pandora’s box. Also, revealing this report would have brought the role of Pakistan’s army and intelligence agencies under scrutiny and the previous government possibly wanted to avoid confrontation with the military. However, as fate would have it, the report has been leaked anyway. The report calls for an apology from individuals wielding authority, alluding to the leadership of military and civilian institutions who failed to play their part on May 2, 2011, a day on which Pakistan suffered immense humiliation. Due to the proximity of the compound Osama bin Laden was living in to the Pakistan Military Academy, there has been speculation over Pakistan’s possible role in harbouring the world’s most wanted man. On the other hand, there also has been speculation over the ease with which American Navy SEALs entered Pakistan’s airspace, raided the compound in which bin Laden was residing, caused a raucous in Abbottabad and left within three hours without being challenged by Pakistan’s military. An explanation was long needed to clarify what happened on the day bin Laden was killed and the Abbottabad Commission report begins to answer some questions at least. The report reveals that the reason behind bin Laden’s nine year long stay in Pakistan going unnoticed and the secret US raid on his compound was sheer ‘incompetence at all levels of government’. It cites a few incidents in which bin Laden could have been easily captured but was not due to the ineptness of security officials. One such incident was when a car in which bin Laden was travelling was stopped for overspeeding by a police officer but bin Laden, whose face wasn’t clearly visible as he was wearing a cowboy hat, escaped unnoticed as his driver quickly resolved the issue by paying off the officer. The report is particularly critical of the Pakistan’s premier spy agency, the ISI. It was revealed that the ISI acted unprofessionally, lacked commitment to fight extremism and also obstructed civilian spy outfits from carrying out their duties. The raid was seen as a huge intelligence failure. According to the report, ISI had abandoned its efforts in bin Laden’s manhunt as early as 2005 when it felt that the US’s interest in the matter had faded. Also, non-civilian spy intelligence agencies under the military refused to share intelligence with civilian agencies such as the FIA and the IB. The chief of FIA upon being questioned about the US raid on bin Laden’s compound by the Commission said that he wasn’t even aware of the mandate of his agency, let alone of any intelligence he might have regarding bin Laden. The IB also did not have a clue about the incident as its intelligence was based mainly on media reports. The fact that the Abbottabad Commission report was ignored by the previous government and similarly not brought into the limelight by the new government shows that our political leadership has not learnt from the past. The Hamoodur Rahman Commission report, which shed light on the 1971 debacle due to which Pakistan lost its eastern wing, was also conveniently brushed aside. Its findings, if implemented, could have saved us from repeating the same mistakes vis-a-vis Balochistan, which continue to date. The previous government should have discussed the findings of the report in parliament upon its submission. Also, the findings of the report should have been used for learning from intelligence lapses and lack of coordination between agencies due to which Pakistan had to suffer humiliation and its image was further tarnished. Most importantly, the individuals responsible for this national tragedy should have been held accountable. The leaking of this report may be a blessing in disguise for the nation as it has provided the civilian and political leadership with an opportunity to reflect on what happened on May 2, 2011.

Pakistan: Culpable negligence & incompetence

The Abbottabad Commission Report posted by Al Jazeera on its website concludes that Osama bin Laden’s nine-year-long stay in Pakistan and the May 2011 secret US raid, in which he was killed, are because of ‘gross incompetence’ of the state institutions. To the total amusement of many, a 336-page classified report given by the five-member commission led by Justice Javed Iqbal has been released to a foreign website for the reasons best known to those who are handling this important national issue. The government owes an explanation to this effect any time it deems fit. Leaving aside the controversial move, the Commission believes that ‘culpable negligence and incompetence’ at almost all levels of the then government can more or less be conclusively established. The Commission unleashes a scathing criticism on the performance of the intelligence agencies saying that the well-resourced ISI acted unprofessionally, lacked commitment to fight extremism and obstructed the performance of other spy outfits. Despite public outcry over the secret operation of the US Navy “Seals” that killed OBL, the report says that ISI remained casual in tracking him and in investigating his death. The commission feels that the entire system became dysfunctional and described the situation as ‘Government Implosion Syndrome’. The Commission also slammed criticism on the FIA and Intelligence Bureau, finding the FIA chief unaware of mandate of his agency and IB head indulged in idle gossip. The MI chief admitted to his negligence in chasing high-value targets. The Commission has rightly pointed out mal-functioning of the Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. From the day one, every Pakistan had strongly suspected the role of Pakistan’s security system, its operators and particularly the intelligence agencies. Otherwise it is rather impossible for any foreign force to hoodwink the security apparatus of a country for well over three hours. The way Americans, their contractors, their agents and their troops acted on Pakistan’s soil, it looks as if the country was given to them on lease and official watchdogs were either asleep or making merry on official perks and privileges. The sovereign states do not tolerate all what Pakistanis had suffered. Indeed, in previous regime, the state machinery and its rulers were dysfunctional. With the change in the political hierarchy at the top, the visible change in policies is bound to come by. But it has been established beyond doubt, the intelligence agencies are run by either incompetent professionals or they lacked commitment to perform national duties which is why the terrorists and members of the banned outfits are toying with the security apparatus at their sweet will. Hence they should be done away with immediately, and in the light of the recommendations of the Abbotabad Commission, culpable negligence & incompetence of the top government officials should not go unpunished. Compromise on the national security is not acceptable come what may. Total revamping in all state institutions should be carried out to make them effective for safeguarding the lives of the people and the frontiers of the country.

Report reveals Pasha’s admission of Pak-US 'understanding' on drones

Pakistan reached an understanding with the United States on drone strikes targeting Islamist militants and the attacks can be useful, according to leaked remarks from a former intelligence chief. Pakistan publicly condemns US missile attacks on Taliban and al Qaeda operatives as a violation of its sovereignty, but the new revelations are the latest sign of double-dealing in private. They come in findings of a Pakistani investigation into how al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden evaded detection for nearly a decade, which were published by the Al-Jazeera news network Monday. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, who headed Pakistan's premier Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency at the time of bin Laden's killing in 2011, told investigators that drone strikes had their uses. “The DG (director general) said there were no written agreements. There was a political understanding,” the report said. The Americans had been asked to stop drone strikes because they caused civilian casualties, but “it was easier to say no to them in the beginning, but 'now it was more difficult' to do so,” it quoted the former spymaster as saying. “Admittedly the drone attacks had their utility, but they represented a breach of national sovereignty. They were legal according to American law but illegal according to international law,” the report quoted the ISI chief as saying. He also confirmed that Shamsi air base, in southwestern Pakistan, had been used for US drone strikes against people in the country. Pakistan ordered US personnel to leave the base after botched US air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November 2011. His interviews also laid bare extraordinary levels of distrust between Pakistan and the United States, particularly in 2011 when relations plummeted over the US raid that killed bin Laden and a CIA contractor who shot dead two Pakistanis. Pasha said US arrogance “knew no limits” and accused the Americans of waging “psychological warfare” over the whereabouts of Taliban leader Mullah Omar and bin Laden's successor Ayman al-Zawahiri. He quoted a US intelligence officer as saying “you are so cheap... we can buy you with a visa,” and said himself that systemic failures showed Pakistan was a “failing state”. The Pakistani report condemned the US raid as an “American act of war” and said the military should have responded much more quickly to a three-hour operation, 100 miles inside its territory. It was Pakistan's “greatest humiliation” since East Pakistan seceded in 1971, it said.

Pakistan: Stewing in its own juice

Wasn't this embarrassment avoidable? Couldn't the damage caused be warded off? The Abbottabad Commission had submitted its report to the government way back in January. And even though the government had announced while establishing the commission that its report would be made public, it just kept it under wraps. And now that a foreign television outlet has put out on its network what it claims to be the commission's report, the establishment is squirming and in a tizzy. Justice (Retd) Javed Iqbal, who headed the commission, has told a national news channel that stories in the western media on the commission's report are baseless and misleading. And the information minister says the report's leakage would be investigated and those responsible held to account but first it would be determined if what the foreign channel had aired was genuine or fiction. Couldn't the Islamabad establishment be saved of all this botheration had it released the report as promised to the public? Who, after all, would buy the establishment's version of the report when what it would require is the stretching of credulity to the limits of incredulity? Isn't then the establishment is stewing in its own juice? It really is beyond comprehension as to why had the establishment kept the report closeted for so many months when it should been brought to the public limelight imperatively. By every reckoning, the Abbottabad raid was a stunningly huge security collapse. It took hours to American naval special forces commandoes in sneaking into our territory aboard giant helicopters, carry out their mission and return to their base in Afghanistan. Yet our entire security apparatus was caught napping. And had not the Americans themselves intimated their Pakistani counterparts, our security leviathan would not have even known of the American raid to get Osama bin Laden. This damning operational unpreparedness of our security apparatus, particularly the military, which this raid manifested so chillingly was not just startling. It catapulted the people's concerns about the country's security sky-high. A yawning chink had been dreadfully exposed in the security apparatus's armour and a troubling sense of the country's easy vulnerability to foreign aggressive incursion settled on the public mind. The report was thus awaited eagerly by the people at large. And had it been made public, it certainly would have sparked an informed debate among the thinking class that would have surely help further refine the commission's recommendations. If there was something in the report that the establishment thought could compromise the national security that could have been held back. But the rest of the report should have been released. Now the advantage is with the foreign channel. Even if its version is a fiction or doctored, that will be taken to be true, while the commission's own report will be taken with a pinch of salt. That unfortunately is how the public mind works. The damage has been done and it will take enormous effort to undo it, if at all. The anti-Pakistan lobbies would certainly exploit it to the hilt to denigrate this country and demonise its institutions. And given their influence and clout, the establishment will really be hard put to offset their vilification campaigns. In any case, what matters the most is to consider the commission's proposals and recommendations to plug off the chinks that the Abbottabad raid exposed worryingly in the state's security armour. Indeed, right at the outset the commission's report should have been brought up to the parliament for consideration. But it was not, deplorably. Now that the cat is out of the bag, the report must be put up to the parliament where a bipartisan special parliamentary committee must scrutinise it thoroughly and submit it with its proposals to the parliament for discussions. The cabinet must review the commission's recommendations in the light of the parliament's report and formulate measures to make the country invulnerable to aggressive foreign incursions. That is the government's one real task now.

Pakistan: A catalogue of failures

The government of Pakistan would very much like to know who it was that leaked a copy of the report of the Abbottabad Commission that had looked into the circumstances surrounding the killing of Osama bin Laden – but it is not denying the veracity of the report that has been published online by Al Jazeera. The judge who headed the commission and wrote the report has stoutly defended it on TV saying he had done his job honestly and not blamed or protected any organisation. The story has been picked up around the world, and there will be tens of thousands of copies of the report downloaded by individuals. Several cats are now out of the bag. The report is long, detailed and scathing in its criticism of the intelligence services in particular, but speaks of a collective failure of Pakistani authorities as a whole without singling out any institution or individual for responsibility. The report raises many questions – one being a reference to strategic ground support that was provided during the American operation. Were they Pakistanis who were CIA assets, or Americans from the US consulate in Islamabad? We are not told, neither are we enlightened about how it was that four American helicopters were inside Pakistan for three hours without being challenged or, possibly, even detected by our own forces. The report is a catalogue of complacency, negligence and more than a hint that there was collusion from within that allowed the world’s most wanted man to live in Pakistan for almost a decade, move around with a support crew that arranged housing for him and his family within the limits of the Abbottabad Cantonment, and generally assume the sort of invisibility only otherwise seen in fantasy films. An entire neighbourhood, local officials and intelligence services, the police and the army itself all failed to notice the unusual three-storey house that was built a stone’s throw from the heart of the military establishment. For six years seemingly nobody noticed anything unusual about a house that was so clearly unusual. The report is equally scathing about the Americans for mounting the operation in the first place. However, what is now in the public domain is a grotesque display of failure and incompetence at every level of Pakistan’s civilian and military and intelligence institutions. The government has been sitting on the report since January, and its reticence about publishing it unedited is unsurprising now that the contents are revealed. A single page appears to have been redacted – the one on which names are named. This may in due course emerge as well, though whether anybody is going to pay with their jobs or reputation for this collective ignominy is unlikely in the extreme. The American raid to kill Osama bin Laden was, as was observed by an American and quoted in the report… ‘as easy as mowing the lawn’. Given the layers of failure that the Americans faced in pulling off the raid, it would be hard to disagree with his perception. Today there are more questions than answers but of one thing we may be sure – secrets are hard to keep in the age of the internet. And there is always going to be somebody willing to leak them – whatever the price. It is time the government owned, officially released and then did something about the report.