Wednesday, July 24, 2013
A video of an 11-year-old Yemeni girl's account of escaping her arranged marriage has gone viral. In the 3-minute clip, Nada al-Ahdal says she would rather die than get married at her age and calls the potential marriage "criminal." According to a report in NOW Lebanon, Nada fled to her uncle when her parents agreed to marry her to a Yemeni expatriate living in Saudi Arabia. A version of the video with English captions received more than 5.6 million views in two days.
http://www.egyptindependent.com/An opinion poll conducted by the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research “Baseera” on the extent to which Egyptians sympathise with protests staged in support of ousted President Mohamed Morsy showed that 71 percent do not sympathise with the protesters, while 20 percent sympathise with them. 9 percent said they did not have a specific position with regards to the protests. The head of the center, Maged Othman, said that the opinions of 2,214 citizens aged 18 and above were collected by telephone. The opinions of Egyptians from around Egypt were solicited on Saturday, 20 July and Sunday, 21 July. 21 percent of residents of rural areas sympathised with the protesters while 67 percent did not. In urban areas, 17 percent sympathised with the protesters while 77 percent did not. Residents of Upper Egypt accounted for the largest percentage of sympathisers with 27 percent of residents sympathising with them compared to 15 percent in Lower Egypt and 16 percent in urban governorates. Men showed less sympathy for the protests, with 78 percent not sympathising with the protesters compared to 65 percent of women. A larger percentage of women failed to state a position on the protests, with 15 percent giving a neutral opinion compared to 3 percent of males having a similar position. Sympathy for protests seemed inversely proportional to age, as 24 percent of the youth aged 18 to 29 sympathised with the protests compared to 14 percent for those aged 50 or above. Sympathy increased among people with a higher educational level. 18 percent of those with below intermediate education degrees sympathised with the protesters while 26 percent of those with a university degree or higher sympathised with them. 14 percent of those with below intermediate education stayed neutral compared to three percent of those who possess a university degree or higher.
Extremists are not just trying to overthrow Assad but to set up an Islamic state on Israel’s doorstep, general warnsAn extensive global jihad center is developing right on Israel’s doorstep, the IDF’s head of military research Aviv Kochavi said Tuesday evening, warning about throngs of Islamist fighters streaming into Syria.“In front of our eyes, right in our backyard, a global center for jihad is developing, which can affect not only Syria and Israel but also Lebanon, Jordan, and the Sinai Peninsula, and can radiate to the entire region,” the major general said at a graduation ceremony for intelligence officers.“Syria is one of our biggest enemies,” Kochavi said, “and it’s becoming a regional center for jihadis — who are also enemies of Israel.” For example, Jabhat al-Nusra, or the Nusra Front, a radical group fighting Assad in Syria, announced that it had merged with al-Qaeda’s branch in Iraq in April. Kochavi also warned that some of the groups aligned with the Syrian rebels are not fighting for the same goal as the rest of the opposition. “The extremist Muslims and jihad fighters being drawn there are no longer merely trying to overthrow [Syrian President Bashar] Assad but to set up a religious Islamic state,” he explained. He acknowledged that, in the long run, the “winds of change” in the region could bring opportunity and growth, but said that, for the time being, Syria was the “most disturbing example” of a growing risk. Kochavi’s comments came as officials in Washington are debating greater involvement in the Syrian conflict, and specifically whether to arm the Syrian rebels, and as the United Nations Security Council is gearing up for an informal meeting with the Syrian opposition to explore ways to end the war. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, wrote in a letter to two top Senators Monday that establishing a no-fly zone to protect Syrian rebels would require hundreds of US aircraft at a cost of more than $1 billion per month, with no assurance that it would change the momentum in the civil war there. IDF officials have previously stated that the Syrian conflict doesn’t appear to be ending any time soon, particularly as foreign jihadi fighters are flocking to the country. Meanwhile, Israel’s new fence along the Syrian border is expected to be completed next month.
http://mediacellppp.wordpress.com/Patron-in-Chief of Pakistan People’s Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, has strongly condemned the terrorist attack in Barrage Colony of Sukkur, which resulted into loss of precious human lives while injuring many others. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that elements involved in such flagitious act were the enemies of Pakistan. “It was not just an act of terrorism, but an act of war,” he said, “and people of Pakistan will continue to fight miscreants till their logical end.” While expressing profound grief and sorrow over the loss of several innocent lives, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari sympathized with the bereaved families. He also prayed the Almighty to grant eternal peace to the departed souls and courage, patience and strength to the members of affected families to bear the irreparable loss.
http://www.montrealgazette.com/A police official in Pakistan says gunmen using explosives have attacked a compound housing the offices of the country's top spy agency, killing one person and wounding others. Deputy inspector general Javed Odho said Wednesday that the gunmen exchanged fire with security officials into the night at the compound in the Sukkur district. Odho said there were multiple blasts before gunmen attacked the offices. Odho said at least one person was dead and about 20 others wounded. Odho said it seems the regional office of Pakistan's top intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, was the target of the attack on the compound, which houses other government offices as well. Agency officials could not be immediately reached for comment, though they typically don't speak publicly with journalists.
PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan said Wednesday that his party was evaluating if they should contest the presidential election following the Supreme Court decision to hold polls on July 30. Addressing a news conference alongside PPP leaders including the party’s presidential candidate Raza Rabbani, Ahsan added that PPP had also lost the May 11 general elections due to a conspiracy. Ahsan echoed Rabbani’s statement that the presidential campaign had been affected due to a change in schedule.
“My eyes are up here,” she snaps at the reporter as, mid-conversation, his attention drifts away from her face towards her chest. He giggles; she shrugs it off as just another display of myopic male mentality. Sadly, these incidents are not uncommon; female broadcast and print journalists share that discrimination and harassment shadow work – in the newsroom, or out in the field. Of sticks and stones
Afghanistan’s first and only female governor and a humanitarian worker from the Kachin minority in Myanmar are among this year’s recipients of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award. Habiba Sarabi was honoured for helping build a functioning local government and pushing for education and women's rights in Afghanistan's Bamyan province despite discrimination and poverty. The organisation she founded, Lahpai Seng Raw, helps rehabilitate damaged communities amid armed conflict.orgisation The Ramon Magsaysay Awards announced Wednesday honour three individuals and two organisations for changing their societies for the better. They are named after a popular Philippine president who died in a plane crash in 1957.
By Greg Miller The CIA has begun closing clandestine bases in Afghanistan, marking the start of a drawdown from a region that transformed the agency from an intelligence service struggling to emerge from the Cold War to a counterterrorism force with its own prisons, paramilitary teams and armed Predator drones. The pullback represents a turning point for the CIA as it shifts resources to other trouble spots. The closures were described by U.S officials as preliminary steps in a plan to reduce the number of CIA installations in Afghanistan from a dozen to as few as six over the next two years — a consolidation to coincide with the withdrawal of most U.S. military forces from the country by the end of 2014. Senior U.S. intelligence and administration officials said the reductions are overdue in a region where U.S. espionage efforts are now seen as out of proportion to the threat posed by al-Qaeda’s diminished core leadership in Pakistan. The CIA faces an array of new challenges beyond al-Qaeda, such as monitoring developments in the Middle East and delivering weapons to rebels in Syria. John O. Brennan, the recently installed CIA director, has also signaled a desire to restore the agency’s focus on traditional espionage. “When we look at post-2014, how does the threat in Afghanistan and Pakistan measure against the threat in North Africa and Yemen?” said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss government deliberations. “Shouldn’t our resources reflect that?” U.S. officials stressed that the CIA is expected to maintain a significant footprint even after the pullback, with a station in Kabul that will remain among the agency’s largest in the world, as well as a fleet of armed drones that will continue to patrol Pakistan’s tribal belt. The timing and scope of the CIA’s pullback are still being determined and depend to some extent on how many U.S. troops President Obama decides to keep in the country after 2014. The administration is expected to reduce the number from 63,000 now to about 10,000 after next year but recently signaled that it is also considering a “zero option,” in part because of mounting frustration with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The CIA may be in a unique position to negotiate with Karzai, who has publicly acknowledged accepting bags of money from the agency for years. The CIA also has provided much of the budget and training for the Afghan intelligence service. The agency wants to maintain the strength of those ties. Even so, a full withdrawal of U.S. troops would probably trigger a deeper retrenchment by the CIA, which has relied on U.S. and allied military installations across the country to serve as bases for agency operatives and cover for their spying operations. The CIA’s armed drones are flown from a heavily fortified airstrip near the Pakistan border in Jalalabad. The CIA’s presence in the country has already dropped well below the peak levels of several years ago, when more than 1,000 case officers, analysts and other employees had been deployed to support the war effort and hunt al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. The CIA declined to comment on the withdrawal plans. “Afghanistan fundamentally changed the way the agency conducts business,” said Richard Blee, who served as the CIA’s senior officer in Afghanistan and Pakistan before he retired in 2007. “We went from a purely espionage organization to more of an offensive weapon, a paramilitary organization where classic spying was less important.” Some of the bases being closed served as important intelligence-gathering nodes during the escalation of the agency’s drone campaign, raising the risk that U.S. counterterrorism capabilities could deteriorate and perhaps allow remnants of al-Qaeda to regenerate. U.S. officials played down that danger. “There’s an inherent imbalance,” the administration official said. “The effectiveness of our operations has reduced the threat to the point that it’s entirely appropriate that we have a smaller counterterrorism footprint.” White House officials have been weighing a shift of some of those resources to other regions, including Yemen and North Africa, where al-Qaeda affiliates are now seen as more dangerous than the network’s base. The White House discussions have been part of the overall deliberations over U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan. The CIA drawdown coincides with Afghanistan-related personnel moves. The agency recently appointed a new station chief in Kabul, a selection that raised eyebrows among some because the veteran officer is known mainly for his tours in Latin America and had not previously served in Afghanistan. The top military post at CIA headquarters is also changing hands. U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Tony Thomas, who was in charge of Special Operations units in Afghanistan, is set to begin serving as associate CIA director for military support in September, replacing an Air Force general with drone expertise. Current and former U.S. officials familiar with the agency’s plans said they call for pulling most agency personnel back to the CIA’s main station in Kabul, plus a group of large regional bases — known as the “big five” — in Bagram, Kandahar, Mazar-e Sharif, Jalalabad and Herat. “The footprint being designed involves six bases and some satellite [locations] out of those,” said a former senior CIA officer who also spoke on the condition of anonymity. The agency may also rely on “mobile stations” in which a small number of operatives move temporarily into remote locations “where they trust the tribal network,” the former officer said. “Protection issues are going to be critical.” The base closures involve compounds along the Pakistan border, part of a constellation used by CIA operatives and analysts to identify drone targets in Pakistan. The bases, including locations in the provinces of Zabul, Paktika and Khost, have relied heavily on U.S. military and medical evacuation capabilities and were often near larger military outposts. Among them is Forward Operating Base Chapman, in Khost, where seven CIA employees were killed by a suicide bomber posing as a potential informant in 2009. It is unclear whether the CIA will pull its personnel out of Chapman, which remained active even after that attack. Administration deliberations over troop levels could also determine where the agency operates its drones. During the early years of the campaign, the aircraft were flown from Shamsi Air Base in Pakistan, but the agency moved most of its fleet to Jalalabad as public opposition to strikes mounted in Pakistan and relations with the government broke down. The tempo of the CIA’s drone campaign has already tapered off. The 17 strikes this year in Pakistan are far off the peak pace of 2010, when there were 117 strikes, according to the Long War Journal, a Web site that tracks drone attacks. Over the past decade, the campaign has killed as many as 3,000 militants and dozens if not hundreds of civilians, according to independent estimates. U.S. officials said that preferred troop-level options would allow U.S. forces to remain at Jalalabad, in part so that the CIA’s flights could continue. But officials said the drones could also be shifted to airstrips at Bagram or Kandahar. The latter has already served as a base for stealth drones used to conduct secret surveillance flights during the bin Laden raid and over Iran. This year, President Obama approved new counterterrorism guidelines that call for the military to take on a larger role in targeted killing operations, reducing the involvement of the CIA. But the guidelines included carve-outs that gave the agency wide latitude to continue armed Predator flights across the border and did not ban a controversial practice known as “signature strikes,” in which the agency can launch missiles at targets based on patterns of suspicious behavior without knowing the identities of those who would be killed. The senior Obama administration official said the United States may propose a shift to military drone flights inside Pakistan as part of the discussions with Afghanistan and Islamabad over U.S. troop levels. The negotiations are seen as the “one shot you have” to raise the issue, the official said, adding that it was doubtful but “not impossible” that Pakistan would consent. Islamabad has never formally acknowledged its cooperation on the drone program and is seen as unlikely to allow a covert — if not exactly secret — CIA operation to give way to an overt campaign involving U.S. military flights. Despite the pullout of U.S. troops and CIA operatives, officials said the drone campaign in Pakistan and elsewhere is expected to continue for years. Mike Sheehan, the assistant defense secretary for Special Operations, testified recently that such counterterrorism operations will probably last an additional 10 years or more. The administration official said others believe the end is closer. The strikes will probably last “some period of years,” the official said. “But I don’t think you can project out five or 10.”
Targeting the innocent for ideological differences is a negation of Islamic teachings and a crime against humanity, observers say.Pakistanis were quick to reject Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) commander Adnan Rasheed's message to teen education activist and peace advocate Malala Yousafzai.Malala is a proud symbol of the Pashtun code of life, Acid Survivors Foundation chief Valerie Khan Yousafzai told Central Asia Online, adding that "extremists' allegations [against] her … are just rubbish" and that "Malala is an agent of change – and good change, for which we are all proud of her." Rasheed July 15 wrote a letter to Malala, now 16, in which he said that the October 9 TTP attack on her in Mingora was fully justified.
The US Department of State has said that Pakistan is an important partner in supporting a secure and stable Afghanistan, which is vital to the security of the region. "Pakistan’s own security and stability is tied to a successful outcome in Afghanistan and any steps that continue to build the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan, in our view, are very important", the State Department’s spokesperson Jen Psaki said during a daily media briefing here. To a question she said that the US was aware, of course, that Pakistan’s Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Mr Sartaj Aziz visited Afghanistan this past weekend. According to Geo News, without disclosing any specifics in terms of a date, she further said that the US Secretary of State John Kerry was likely to visit Pakistan shortly.
The Express TribuneIt was not the usual mad rush of passengers or the onslaught of porters that made Naveeduddin Khan anxious when he was about to board a train to Multan earlier this year. He was worried of how he was going to make it to his seat. As the situation unfolded, some men lifted him off the platform and put him on the train. Once inside, he crawled on his elbows, bruising his arms and gathering dirt and greasy lubricant, while making his way to the seat. Getting on-board this way was humiliating – the story of all handicapped passengers travelling via trains. But this episode was nothing compared to the embarrassment he endured while trying to book a flight on a private airline. “They don’t sell tickets to physically-challenged people,” he said angrily. “I had to cancel my family vacations to Islamabad as the airlines would not assist me.” Khan has a leg deformity due to polio disease. For within city commute, he drives his especially modified three-wheeler automatic car but when it comes to travelling to other cities, he finds himself with limited options as two private airlines in the country – Shaheen Air and Airblue – do not entertain people requiring wheelchair access. “Sorry, we don’t provide attendants and don’t allow wheelchairs inside the planes,” claimed a ticket-reservation operator at Shaheen Air. “Only those who can walk are permitted to travel.” The attitude is no different at Airblue. “Handicapped persons would have to get their own attendants to carry them and climb up the stairs to the plane,” said an Airblue official. Wheelchairs cannot be taken to the plane as “there is no space for it,” he added. Aviation rules Shaheen Air has no provisions for disabled persons under the conditions of carriage. However, the conditions do state that the carrier has the right to refuse passengers requiring special assistance. “We will have to load bridges to transport people requiring wheelchair access to planes,” a spokesperson for Airblue, Raheel Ahmed, said. “We don’t have them in Islamabad or Peshawar, and the ones in Karachi are always booked.” Ahmed explains the risk involved in transporting such passengers. “Even if we provide a porter to carry the disabled persons through stairs, a slip from the porter could cost the airline a lot of money.” Airblue’s spokesperson says that only the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has an ambulift – a crane to lift wheelchairs. “If we rent it from them, we will be charged in dollars.” Expressing regret over such a problem, he said that the airline did take special children for the Paralympics last year but they have limitations. “Airblue has an all-female crew. Even if we take such passengers, who would help them use the bathroom?” Meanwhile, Civil Aviation Authority’s spokesperson Mehmood Hussain said that it depended on the policy of the airlines of whether or not to assist such travellers. PIA complies with the rules of the US Department of Transportation on the travel of disabled persons. Under 14 CFR part-382 of the Air Carrier Access Act, airlines may not refuse transportation to people with disabilities. PIA’s spokesperson Mashood Tajwar confirmed that their attendants made sure that the handicapped persons were allowed on-board. Violation of human rights? Khan, who also runs the Disabled Welfare Association, has taken the matter to the Human Rights Commission (HRCP) of Pakistan. “Action should be taken against these airlines. Why are we being discriminated against? They should shutdown their operations if they cannot facilitate us.” HRCP coordinator in Sindh, Syed Shamsuddin, has written letters to both airlines, urging them to rectify their unfair policies.
Former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said he is ready to get arrested and sent to jail if he has done anything illegal. Talking to reporters outside the Parliament House on Tuesday, Mr Gilani said a perception was being created that he was being protected by the Punjab police. “Today I have come to Islamabad and ready for the arrest if anyone wants to do so,” he said. Mr Gilani said there was nothing wrong in appointing Tauqir Sadiq as chairman of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra), adding that decisions taken by him as prime minister were legal and constitutional and he was not afraid of consequences. He said as prime minister he appointed not only Sadiq but several other top-ranking officials as well, including the chief justice, army chief, air force chief and chief of the joint staff committee. It would be unfair to regard Sadiq’s appointment illegal and other appointments legal, he added. Answering a question about the role of the judiciary, the former prime minister said the judiciary should allow the government to function and, at the same time, the government should not interfere in the affairs of courts. Sources in NAB told Dawn that officials of the bureau were considering to seek accountability court’s help in responding to what Mr Gilani said on Tuesday about his arrest. They said that the former prime minister might be summoned by an accountability court for not cooperating with NAB in the case related to Sadiq’s controversial appointment. Media reports indicate that during interrogation Sadiq had unveiled names of several people who had played some role in his appointment, including former prime ministers Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf and former adviser to prime minister for petroleum Dr Asim Hussain. A senior NAB official who did not want to be named said that under the NAB ordinance the bureau could arrest a person if he or she refused to respond to its three notices but the action would require approval from its chairman. Because the position of NAB chairman was now vacant, he said, the bureau could not issue warrants for the arrest of former prime minister. On July 16 Mr Gilani defied the forth notice of NAB by saying that being a former prime minister he enjoyed immunity and could not be summoned by any investigation agency.
THE FRONTIER POSTThe Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) police arrested the close relative of PML-N’s MNA in a human smuggling case in Sargodha. According to details, the FIA police in a raid at Madina Town in Sargodha arrested the accused, Rashida Bano involved in human smuggling. Bano said to be a close relative of PML-N’s MNA, had taken Rs 700,000 along with GBP4500 from father of Noman Saleem in exchange for sending his son to England and giving him job there. After finding no job in England, the hopeless Nowman had to return back to Pakistan Meanwhile, the accused failed to send other applicants abroad as per promise, upon which Zubaida Begum, mother of the applicants, approached the FIA in Faisalabad against her for not returning the amount taken for visas. Faisalabad FIA registers a case after investigation and arrested the accused on the complaint of Zubeida Begum.