Tuesday, August 20, 2013

LOL! Veena Malik calls 26th January a 'Black Day' for India!

The self-proclaimed hottest actress of Bollywood Veena Malik has surely got herself invited into yet another controversy. This time the actress has proven herself to be dumb enough to not knowing about the basics of the country, where she is working. Veena Malik has been driving to every nook and corner of the Hindi film industry to prove her mettle and one thing that she has no idea of is the 'Republic Day' of the country now where she resides.
During a recent interview she was asked about the significance of 26th January, the actress gave a dumb response confusing India's Republic Day with Mumbai 26/11 attacks. The actress even went to extent of terming 26th January as a black day in the history of humanity. The actress is seen saying, "I think 26th January is the darkest patch or shall I call it a Black day not only for India but for the entire humanity". The nation is laughing their hearts out over her dumb expression where she requests the concerned reporter to explain his question again. The video of her interview has gone viral on Internet; with viewers calling her dumb an actress who should limit herself to just screens and not use her brains.

India in uproar over rupee's fall

By Rama Lakshmi
The Indian rupee is in a free fall, and the nation is aflutter. Almost every day, Indians are waking up to alarming headlines about their currency hitting a “historic low” or a “lifetime low.” Last week, on what was dubbed “Black Friday,” the currency sank to a record level, and Indian media carried pictures of workers in Mumbai’s financial district clutching their heads in dismay. With the country’s stock market tumbling, the rupee fell further Tuesday. It is down about 15 percent against the U.S. dollar since May — from more than 53 rupees to the dollar to more than 63. The currency has become a powerful metaphor for India’s rapidly sliding economy. The rupee has triggered countless jokes and political mudslinging, and, like everything in India, it has generated astrological speculation, too. Some superstitious Indians have blamed the slump on the new symbol for the rupee, unveiled last year. Experts on vastu shastra, an ancient Indian design practice similar to feng shui, say that the symbol debuted on a day inauspicious for the stars and that the horizontal line across the symbol appears to “slit the throat” of the currency. Some economists, meanwhile, blame the rupee’s recent misfortune on plans by the U.S. Federal Reserve to begin scaling back its massive effort to stimulate the U.S. economy, which has tended to keep the dollar weak compared with other currencies. And some blame the Indian government’s mismanagement of the economy. India is grappling with a huge budget deficit, and the country has foreign exchange reserves to pay for only seven months of imports. Economic growth slowed to a dismal 5 percent last year, the lowest in a decade. Prices are spiraling. Foreign investors are no longer lining up; some are even packing up. To stem the decline in the rupee, the government raised short-term interest rates, capped overseas investment by Indian companies and announced a weekly auction of government bonds, worth about $3.6 billion. But the government, which is nearing the end of its term, appears to have woken up only after about two years of what critics have called “policy paralysis.” Even the appointment of a high-profile economist from the University of Chicago, Raghuram Rajan, as the chief of the Reserve Bank of India this month did not help calm the rupee. Powerless so far to rein in the wayward rupee, the government even pleaded with gold-obsessed Indians to stop buying the metal, because it drains foreign exchange reserves. “If I have one wish which the people of India can fulfill, it is ‘Don’t buy gold,’ ” Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters in June. “Every ounce of gold is imported. You pay in rupees. We have to provide dollars.” Five years ago, the rupee’s value was rising as never before, propelled by a soaring economy. What was described in the media here as the “roaring rupee” became a symbol of a nation’s proud march toward its economic ambition of becoming a global powerhouse. The rupee’s fall might be harming the country’s collective psyche, but the greatest impact has been felt at the street level, with the country’s poor and middle class struggling with the inflation in food and fuel prices as imports become more expensive. Shankkar Aiyar, an economic commentator, said the government’s pursuit of policies that are politically popular but fiscally irresponsible has “wrecked the script of the India story and crippled the potential of what was once touted at Davos [the World Economic Forum] as the ‘fastest-growing free market democracy.’ ” In the run-up to national elections, scheduled for next year, the rupee has also become a campaign issue. “When India got independence, the rupee was at par with the dollar, one for one,” opposition politician Narendra Modi said at a public meeting last week, launching an attack on the government. “Sixty-seven years down the line, where is the rupee now? . . . Today, India’s finance minister’s age is equal to one dollar.” Rajdeep Sardesai, the host of a prime-time news debate on CNN-IBN, was equally gloomy Friday. “It is increasingly apparent that the falling rupee now mirrors the state of our republic, graying before its time,” he said.

U.S: Low-Wage Workers Call For National Strike

Retail and fast food workers called out for a nationwide strike today to take place Aug. 29. The workers and their supporters have been staging strikes in Chicago, New York, Kansas City, Detroit and other cities across the country for months demanding a hike in the minimum wage to $15 an hour and the right to unionize. Hundreds of workers and several labor organizations in Chicago recently participated in two days of walkouts and protests earlier this month. Nancy Salgado, a single mother who has worked at a Chicago McDonald’s for the past 10 years said in a press release: “We are united in our belief that every job should pay workers enough to meet basic needs such as food and housing. Our families, communities, and economy all depend on workers earning a living wage.” Organizers say the strikes will hit fast food chains like McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King, as well as retail outlets such as Sears, Macy’s and Dollar Tree Stores. Chicago’s protests at the beginning of the month saw walkouts at some of those locations along with Whole Foods, Sally Beauty Supply, Walgreen's and others. Supporters of the strikes say that large corporations can afford pay increases for rank and file employees when the industry sees $200 billion a year in revenue. "It’s time for these big fast-food and retail companies to pay up. They can afford to pay us more and have a responsibility to ensure the workers who keep their businesses booming don’t live in poverty," said Latrice Arnold, a Wendy’s employee from Detroit. Recent data has suggested low wages from big box retailers and fast food chains hurt American taxpayer’s—regardless of whether or not they’re a low wage worker—because thousands of employees are also on government aid. CNN Money reported in June that one study showed 3,216 Walmart employees, America’s largest private employer, were enrolled in public health care programs in Wisconsin. Additionally, demographics of low wage workers has changed over the years. While the assumption might be fast food chains are staffed with younger people looking for some extra cash, the Economic Policy Institute released a study that showed 8 out of 10 workers making $7.25 an hour are older than 20, and half those work 40 hours a week. Researchers from the EPI told the Washington Post “It is clear that the bulk of minimum wage workers are mid- or full-time adult employees, not teenagers or part-times.”

Afghanistan beat Pakistan 3-0 in 'symbolic' football clash

Afghanistan's footballers have triumphed over Pakistan 3-0 in a friendly match, the first international game played in Kabul in a decade. It was the first game between the two countries in the Afghan capital for 30 years and hopes were high it might also help ease political tensions. The match was billed as an indication of Afghanistan's return to normality after decades of war. It ignited fierce patriotic passions on both sides and was broadcast live. The BBC's Karen Allen in Kabul says the friendly was being seen as a deeply symbolic moment.Afghan and Pakistani political leaders are due to meet for critical peace talks next week. "It shows that after a very difficult period we are returning to normality," Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF) Secretary General Sayed Aghazada told FIFA.com. "Afghan football has improved in terms of organisation and infrastructure, and we now believe that football can play an even bigger role in our country." Pakistan Football Federation Secretary General Ahmad Yar Khan Lodhi said he expected the game would help deepen the relationship between the two countries. Pakistan head coach Zavisa Milosavljev told the BBC that his aim was to get international exposure for youth players and players "who don't play continually". "Pakistan also has problems," he said. "We haven't played a single match in Pakistan." Football was not banned during the Taliban's rule in Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001, but during their time in power they used the old Ghazi stadium in Kabul as a venue for executions, stonings and mutilations. Ranked 139th in the world, Afghanistan had last played at home in 2003 against Turkmenistan. Pakistan's team is ranked 28 places below Afghanistan and has not played in Kabul since 1977. "The main goal of this game is to build good relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan," said Afghan coach Yousuf Kargar, AFP news agency reports.

Pakistan: Student transportation: More than 100 girls’ colleges in Punjab lack buses

More than 100 girls’ colleges in the province, including 11 in Faisalabad division, do not have buses to pick and drop students, The Express Tribune has learnt. Women’s colleges in Faisalabad division that lack buses are: Government Girls College Saifabad, Government Girls College 122-JB on Sargodha Road, Government Girls College Jhumra City, Government Girls College Gulshan Colony, Government Girls College Mureedwala, Government Girls College Mamu Kanjan, Government Girls College Sahianwala, Government Girls College Rajana, Government Girls College Lalian, Government Girls College Bhowana and Government Girls College Jhang City. An Education Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said that the government had decided to provide buses to all girls’ colleges in the Punjab. He said announcements had also been made at these colleges last year. He said, in June 2012 the Higher Education Department was given the task to prepare a report regarding 274 girl colleges and 205 boy colleges of the province providing the number of students enrolled, location of the colleges and the state of public transport. He said the department had recommended 195 buses in total for 116 girl colleges. In February 2013, he said, the government provided buses to 44 colleges in the Punjab. He said students of several colleges, including, the Government Post Graduate College for Women on Kutchery Road in Multan and Government Post Graduate College for Women Satellite Town in Gujranwala, had protested against the government for not being given buses. He said the number of students at these colleges was 6,392 and 5,576, respectively. The department had recommended six and five buses for these colleges, he added. He said none of the 11 girls’ colleges in Faisalabad were on the list. Mahnoor Shah, a student at the Government Girls College in Jhang City, said the college management had annocuned that the school would get a bus in February 2013. She said most students came from villages, where it was difficult to get a bus. She said rickshaws to the city were expensive. She said some of her college fellows had dropped out because of the transport problem. Ghulam Fatima, a student at the Government Girls College Bhowana, said that her daily commute to the college cost Rs200-Rs250. Colleges Director Rana Munawwar Khan told The Express Tribune that an updated list of colleges that did not have buses had been forwarded to the government. He said he hoped these colleges would get at least a bus each soon.

Al-Qaeda's technical hub busted in Lahore

Intelligence agencies have busted Al-Qaeda’s international technical hub in Lahore on Tuesday. Two alleged terrorists linked with the group were also arrested during the raid. As per details, the suspects are allegedly involved in the kidnapping of former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani’s son Ali Haider Gilani. Former Punjab governor Salman Taseer’s son Shahbaz Taseer was also abducted with the communication assistance of the network. The communication centre was being run through sophisticated digital devices and was serving communication needs of the extremists. The group was also engaged in maligning the Pakistan Telecommunication Limited Company (PTCL) and other private mobile phone operators of the country by using their SIM cards. The suspects had been engaged in mobile phone tracing of their victims and were planning to kidnap son of a key political figure, sources said. Bilal Latif, Shahid Jabbar, Umair Nadeem, Tariq and Imran ae also mentioned in their target list. Sources revealed that the suspects belong to Hasan Gull and Daud Shah Group, the sub groups of Al-Qaeda.

New anti-regime demo held in Bahrain

People in Bahrain have held another anti-regime demonstration, calling for an end to dictatorship and authoritarianism in the country. Protesters took to the streets across the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom including Dair, Tubli, Kawarah and Ma'ameer villages. The protests were largely peaceful with demonstrators also demanding equality and justice. In the village of Buri, however, demonstrators set fire to tires and clashed with regime forces who used tear gas canisters to disperse them. Meanwhile, a US-based pro-democracy advocacy group, Freedom House, has slammed Bahrain over the detention of an award-winning photographer, Ahmed al-Fardan. Fardan was detained on August 8 and beaten by security forces to prevent him from covering the recent demonstration in the country, the group wrote on its website. On August 14, protesters held anti-regime demonstrations across the country including the capital, Manama, chanting slogans against the ruling al-Khalifa regime. Clashes erupted in several areas between regime forces and protesters. Reports said that the security forces fired tear gas and birdshot to disperse protesters. The demonstrations came while Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa issued a warning saying that regime would “forcefully confront” and punish anti-regime protesters if they went ahead with their planned protests. The uprising in Bahrain began in mid-February 2011. The Al Khalifa regime launched a brutal crackdown on the peaceful protests and called in Saudi-led Arab forces from neighboring states. Meanwhile, Bahrain’s main opposition group, al-Wefaq, says that more than 200 people, including a woman and 19 children, were detained during the regime crackdown on protesters in July.

America Has No Leverage in Egypt

EGYPT has entered a dark tunnel, and it is difficult to say when, and in what condition, it will emerge. Many Americans, in the meantime, are outraged that the Obama administration has not exerted its supposed leverage, in the form of military aid, to pressure the Egyptian army to restore a democratic form of government. But it is time for some realism about that leverage. A yearly sum of $1.3 billion may seem persuasive, but this money has always been intended to secure foreign policy outcomes, not domestic political arrangements that the United States favors. (The State Department has announced that it will put “on hold” $250 million in civilian economic aid to Egypt; the annual military aid expenditure will remain untouched.) For $1.3 billion per year, America has ensured peace with Israel, priority access to the Suez Canal and, more recently, counterterrorism cooperation. This worked under the authoritarian regime of Hosni Mubarak and under the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi, with whom President Obama had an effective enough working relationship to broker a deal to end the latest outbreak of fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Despite the fact that American military aid to Egypt has always been intended as an inducement to strategic cooperation, successive presidents have been tempted to use it in other ways. But this aid has never succeeded in persuading Egypt’s rulers to govern the way Washington wants. Shortly after he took office in 1993, President Bill Clinton issued a not-so-veiled warning to Mr. Mubarak to reform the electoral process or face a cut in aid. Mr. Mubarak was unresponsive, and as violent resistance against him mounted, the White House backed off. The administration of George W. Bush fared no better. When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demanded that Mr. Mubarak liberalize the country’s political system to allow opposition parties greater representation, he responded by arresting the only liberal candidate with any name recognition in Egypt — Ayman Nour — for electoral fraud. (No one should doubt authoritarian rulers’ capacity for irony.) In response, Ms. Rice canceled an impending trip to Egypt, which led to Potemkinesque changes to the country’s election rules. These reforms faded quickly, paving the way, in conjunction with an economic downturn, to the mass protests that eventually resulted in Mr. Mubarak’s fall in February 2011. Just as pressure from Presidents Clinton and Bush didn’t succeed in bringing about domestic change, the alleged leverage supplied by American assistance failed to compel Mr. Morsi to heed Mr. Obama’s repeated warnings to adopt a more inclusive approach to governing a deeply divided Egypt in the past year. As far as Mr. Morsi was concerned, the need for his party to dominate Egyptian politics and escape the charge that he was collaborating with the West trumped not just the $1.3 billion on offer from Washington but also the $4.8 billion the International Monetary Fund was urging him to accept. When in history has a country the size of Egypt, with its proud history and self-conscious greatness, rearranged its domestic politics for the equivalent of just a billion dollars? A decade ago, Turkey began making bold constitutional changes, institutionalizing civilian control over the military and reforming the judiciary, but these steps were taken to meet the membership requirements imposed by the European Union — a status to which Turkey still aspires. Compared with the $1.3 billion America provides Egypt, E.U. membership promised incalculably greater rewards to Turkey. Indeed, if the E.U. had offered Turkey only what Egypt receives from Washington, the Turkish Army might still be running the country. However great its hegemony may have once been in the Middle East, America no longer enjoys a strategic monopsony. Today, there are other buyers of Egyptian cooperation who can outbid the United States. Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia together have pledged $12 billion to Egypt’s junta, and they have done so without the conditions that Congress places on American-appropriated funds. Of course, the White House could still do something symbolic, cutting off aid to assuage America’s moral critics. But presumably Mr. Obama hasn’t done this for two reasons. The first is to avoid making the United States the center of the story. If America cut all aid tomorrow, the Obama administration would be accused by all sides of undermining the country’s security and meddling in its affairs. Egypt’s current political crisis dates back to the 1930s, and it is one that Egyptians need to resolve themselves, without the distraction of American involvement. And since cutting aid is unlikely to work in any case, staking American prestige on such a doubtful outcome would be imprudent. The second is that as violence and repression in Egypt deepen, the White House will ultimately be compelled to respond, even if its options are at best symbolic and, at worst, counterproductive. Proponents of punitive action are correct to argue that the biggest threat America can wield is a cutoff of military aid. But this must be held in reserve for when things inevitably get worse. In the interim, canceling a joint military exercise with Egypt was the tactically sensible thing to do. Having fired this warning shot, the administration still has at least one round of ammunition remaining. Egypt’s nightmare will not disappear overnight; Washington needs to keep dry what little powder it has left.

Russian Sprinters Deny Podium Kiss was an Act of Protest

Russian sprinters Ksenia Ryzhova and Yulia Guschina said Tuesday they are outraged at the reaction to their now-infamous podium kiss at the world athletics championships and denied it was an act of protest against Russia's controversial anti-gay law. “Yesterday I got calls from probably 20 different media outlets and instead of congratulating us for the gold medal, they decided to insult me and Julia and the entire federation,” Ryzhova said at a Moscow press conference.
Ryzhova and Guschina are members of Russia’s gold medal-winning 4x400m relay team. A photograph of the podium smooch circulated widely in international media, with many outlets suggesting the kiss was a premediated act of defiance and a possible test of the law. Guschina slammed the image as the photographer's “sick fantasy.” Ryzhova also emphasized to reporters that she and Guschina are both married and have “no personal relationship.” “We’ve trained for eight years in the same group and there’s a really good friendship between us,” she said. The contentious law bans the promotion of homosexuality to minors, though there remains a great deal of uncertainty over how it will be enforced. Amid international calls for a boycott of next February's Sochi 2014 Olympics, the controversy hovered lightly over the world championships, with Russian pole vault great and reigning gold medalist Yelena Isinbayeva vehemently defending the law on Thursday only to say later her comments "may have been misunderstood." Swedish high jumper Emma Green Tregaro garnered attention that day when she painted her fingernails rainbow colors in support of gay rights during qualification. She competed in the final two days later with red paint after Swedish athletics officials told her doing so again might be in violation of IAAF conduct. The championships concluded on Sunday.

U.S: 'Raising minimum wage will not fuel inflation'

New York lawmakers adopted a draft law aimed at increasing the minimum wage up to $ 9 an hour earlier this year. But experts estimate family of four needs at least $11 to live above the poverty line. In Congress, 92% of Democrats and 62% of Republicans support the wage increase. However the increase of minimum payment would also have some very negative side effects. A higher minimum wage would mean higher prices at retail stores and restaurants. It would also prompt corporations to continue replacing American workers with foreign employees or with technology. The VoR spoke with Bill Schmick - an investment adviser representative with
Berkshire Money Management - an asset management and advisory company in Massachusetts.
Is it true that raising the minimum legal wage would somehow fuel inflation? Is there such a risk?
No, I don’t really think that raising the minimum wage will fuel inflation. Inflation right now in the US is low, it is so low in fact that the Federal Reserve Bank continues to monitor it and worries somewhat that it would decline further. So, no. And raising the minimum wage wouldn’t affect that many Americans. I would estimate 3-5% of Americans are receiving the minimum wage now. So, I don’t think that raising it would have any problem with inflation. As far as I know many argue higher minimum wage would undercut America’s competitiveness and kill jobs. Others object that arguing that the current minimum wage is already undercut America’s competitiveness by reducing the quality of the country’s labor force.
So, where do you stand in this dispute?
Let’s face it, minimum wages are basically domestic service jobs in the US. You cannot export those jobs because those jobs are at McDonalds and places like that. So, those jobs are here to stay, and either Americans are going to have those jobs or other immigrants will take those jobs but it won’t threaten America by exporting jobs anywhere, if you can understand what I am saying. You can’t buy a Burger King from China, it won’t work. So, a lot of the arguments on what a minimum wage will do in the US, the negatives of it are misplaced at best. The argument that corporations will hire less people if we raise the minimum wage, it really does apply especially if the economy starts to grow. Corporations say that now if the economy begins to grow, you are going to need more and more service jobs, it won’t matter if the minimum wage goes from 7 to 10 dollars, they are still going to hire those people because you have to remember who has those minimum wage jobs. Over 50% of people that have those minimum wage jobs are teenagers or spouses who are already employed. And that is increasing further. Yes, there is a significant minority of people who definitely do need those minimum wage jobs just to take care of their families, a lot of them would be single mothers that are forced to work but need more flexible hours. So, my belief is this – that the minimum wage should be raised because the income inequality issue in the US has become so severe between the haves and the have-nots, corporations aren’t going to voluntarily raise the income level of Americans, in fact they will continue to keep it down. So, if it takes the federal rule of the state government to raise the minimum wage, even though it won’t have a large impact, it will narrow the income inequality gap in America which continues to expand.
Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/2013_08_20/Raising-minimum-wage-will-not-fuel-inflation-expert-7944/

Afghan Independence Day marked in Islamabad

Afghanistan's Independence Day was celebrated at a hotel in Islamabad, with senior Pakistani officials attending the function, a spokesman for the Afghan embassy said on Tuesday. Former King Ghazi Amanullah achieved independence from Great Britain 94 years ago, though Afghanistan has never been a British colony. Zardasht Shams, a spokesman for the Afghan embassy, told Pajhwok Afghan News Ambassador Omar Daudzai, Pakistan's States and Frontier Regions Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch, parliamentarians and diplomats attended the event. National anthems of the two countries were played and a cake cut to mark the day, Shams said, adding a number of Pakhtun nationalist leaders and Pakistani politicians participated in the function. Prominent among the participants were Mahmood Khan Achakzai, Abdur Rahim Mandokhel, Afzal Khan Lala, ex-interior minister Aftab Sherpao, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Mushahid Hussain and Shahzada Adnan Aurangzeb. Apart from Afghan students, Qutbuddin Hilal, a member of the Gulbadin Hekmatyar-led Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan also took part in the function, arranged by the Afghan embassy.

Afghanistan, Pakistan To Play Historic Soccer Game

Afghanistan and Pakistan aim to cast aside recent diplomatic tensions when Kabul hosts its regional rival in a soccer friendly for the first time in more than 30 years. Security is expected to be tight for the FIFA-sanctioned match, set to take place in front of a capacity crowd at Kabul's Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF) Stadium on August 20.
The Afghan squad, currently ranked 139th in the world, is favored over the 167th-ranked Pakistan. But Afghan national coach Homayoon Kargar says winning is not the most important outcome. "The match is only a friendly game. Even more important than the result is that we can, through soccer, create better relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan and restore our friendship," Kargar says. "As you know, diplomatic relations between the two countries have been increasingly troubled." Afghanistan's relations with its eastern neighbor have become severely strained in recent months, with both sides engaging in a war of words and cross-border violence. Wali, a resident of Kabul, welcomes the match but is pessimistic about its ability to bridge the two countries' differences. "I'm not convinced that the soccer game between Afghanistan and Pakistan will have a positive influence on the security situation in Afghanistan or relations between the two governments," he says. "The Pakistani government has a strategy toward Afghanistan and, until they achieve their goals, they will continue to interfere in Afghanistan's affairs." Others, however, are more optimistic. Jawed, another resident of Kabul, says he and his friends have all bought tickets to attend the game. Tickets cost between 100 and 300 afghanis ($2 to $5), and the 6,000-seat stadium is reportedly sold out. Jawed hopes sport can succeed where politics has failed. "I’m very happy about the game. God willing, it will be a success for Afghans and the national team," he says. "The relationship between the countries should be one of friendship and neighborliness."
'Return To Normality'
Organizers in Pakistan say the match will "create history" as the two national teams meet for the first time in 36 years. Afghanistan and Pakistan regularly held sporting events in the past, but diplomatic ties were cut after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The ensuing civil war and Taliban rule prevented the two sides from meeting on the pitch. Afghanistan last hosted an international soccer match in 2003, against Turkmenistan. Pakistan has not hosted a top-level international sporting event since Pakistani militants attacked a touring Sri Lankan cricket team near Lahore in 2009, leaving six Sri Lankan players injured and eight Pakistanis dead. AFF Secretary-General Sayed Aghazada has said the match with Pakistan has the potential to be a milestone in Afghanistan's sporting history. "It shows that, after a very difficult period, we are returning to normality. Afghan football has improved in terms of organization and infrastructure, and we now believe that football can play an even bigger role in our country," he told Fifa.com, the official website of soccer's world governing body. Soccer has surged in popularity since the end of Taliban rule in 2001. Soccer was not banned under the Taliban but the sport suffered and stadiums were routinely used as sites for public executions. The international friendly will provide a good test for both countries, which are competing at the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship in Nepal that will run from August 31 to September 11. Afghanistan is in Pool B alongside the Maldives, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka, while Pakistan is in Pool A with India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Afghanistan finished as runners-up to India in the last SAFF championship in 2011.

India: Fresh ceasefire violations by Pakistan

In fresh ceasefire violations, Pakistani troops on Tuesday opened fire from automatic weapons and mortars in Hamirpur and Mendhar along the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir, drawing retaliation from Indian troops. The Pakistani troops targeted the battalion in Hamirpur on Tuesday morning, sparking an exchange of fire, a Defence Ministry spokesman said. The Pakistani Army also fired at Indian forward posts with automatic weapons along the LoC in Mendhar sub-sector in Poonch district. Pakistani troops had on Monday fired in the same area, leading to exchanges between the two sides. Pakistani troops had earlier fired heavily on Indian posts in Hamirpur and Balakote border belts along the LoC in Poonch and also pounded civilian areas in Mankote and Mendhar belts. This year, there have been 82 violations by Pakistan till August. From August 6, there has been increase in frequency with 24 violations taking place including the tragedy in which five soldiers were killed in Poonch by Pakistani troops.

Pakistan: ‘Minorities stayed away from polls’

Ahmadiyya Times
“In a metropolitan city like Karachi, which is comparatively more vibrant, non-Muslims were forced to vote for a certain party.”
Apart from a handful of constituencies in Sindh with a significant non-Muslim population, minorities remained indifferent to the May 11 general elections in Pakistan, experts noted at a symposium held on Saturday. “We [minorities] are in a position where it’s easy for anyone from the ‘majority’ to come and threaten us. We get scared even by those who have no standing,” said Sabir Michael, a professor of economics at SZABIST. “In a metropolitan city like Karachi, which is comparatively more vibrant, non-Muslims were forced to vote for a certain party.” He was speaking at the conference titled “Expert Group on Communities Vulnerable Because of Their Beliefs” organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). The experts noted that major political parties, who claim to be secular, avoided fielding non-Muslim candidates from general seats even in their strongholds. Whatever few nominations they filed were mere “gimmicks to impress the international organisations”, they claimed. “A party like Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam nominated a Christian woman on reserved seats for females in Baluchistan,” said Zahid Farooq, a Christian social activist. “But parties, like the Pakistan People’s Party having a known secular bent, did not do it this time.” Speaking about rural electorates, Sham Kumar, a freelance journalist from Balochistan, said the feudal structure was so well-entrenched in the rural areas of the country that non-Muslim individuals did not even have an identity. “The feudal lords rule the roost no matter how many laws you come up with, the reality on the ground is different,” he maintained. Other speakers hailed the joint electorate system as the way forward for the “integration of different communities”. But the Ahmadiyya community resented the election commission’s decision of issuing a separate voter list for the community exclusively. “We boycotted the elections because of this discrimination,” said Masood Khan, a community spokesperson. The election commission printed a separate voter list for the Ahmadiyya community containing their names and addresses “jeopardising” their security, he said. “It was illegal and we did not have any platform to appeal against the decision,” Khan added. The observers also highlighted some of the key issues being faced by the minority communities, including the educational curriculum and the media’s lack of empathy. Inder Ahuja, a Hindu activist, claimed that minority students of class I and II were forced to learn the basic Islamic injunctions at government schools, as these were part of the compulsory syllabus. The media’s lack of attention toward the issues of the minorities was raised by Michael. He said the electronic media in the country was still in its early years but the whole industry had been hopelessly commercialised. “The minorities get airtime only during their religious festivals and sometimes on August 14 but they are ignored throughout the year.” Aijaz Qureshi, a rights activist, disagreed however. He said the regional electronic media, especially in Sindh, had regularly highlighted concerns like “forced conversions” and had constantly been at the forefront of minority cause.

Zamurd Khan and PPP

by Zulfiqar Ali
A man drives in a vehicle with black windows. Enters the most secured area of the country. No one stops him. Then a PPP Jiyala shows bravery. Now all are saying that PPP had nothing to do with it. Sure it is his personal heroics but he is groomed and is PPP worker. If a PPP Jiyala does something wrong, then it is PPP culture. If PPP secures Karachi, then it is Naseer ullah Babar ( I admire him a lot and he never took sole credit) and Suddle DESPITE PPP. As long as Swat operation was not going well initially, it was PPP govt.’s fault. When it was successful, it was army’s success. Initially Balochistan was calming down. Then Gen Kayani and GHQ were heroes. Now it was PPP govt.’s fault. If there are no measles vaccines available in Punjab, it is bureaucracy’s fault malign the good name of PMLN. If water is accumulated in Karachi after rains, there will be 50 TV programs. Now in Lahore, sab ki maaN mar gai hai. Is there any difference how we treated League and Bhashani before?
- See more at: http://lubpak.com/archives/281573#sthash.YDjZK2dL.dpuf

Zamurrad’s sin: adding insult to injury

By Ayaz Amir
The emperor without his clothes; Government of the Mandate made to look foolish, in full view of a bemused and disbelieving nation; a lone gunslinger, with wife and children, at the centre of it all; and the government’s talk champion, undisputed in his field, Nisar Ali Khan, otherwise holding forth on everything from foreign policy to the state of the nation, missing from the scene of this heady performance. Not only not to be seen but, amazingly, not even to be heard. This drama – for once the word drama not out of place – goes on and on, for more than five hours…the setting, Jinnah Avenue in Islamabad but the audience, prime-time audience too, the entire nation, the government’s role throughout outstripping the bounds of the serious and becoming wild comedy. And if this wasn’t hilarious enough, into the TV frames walks Zamurrad Khan, patting the kids and, using this as a feint, lunging at the gunman, Sikander. Shots are heard and it’s all over. From the government’s point of view not only is this the wrong end to the drama, this is rubbing it in, because Zamurrad’s pedigree is all wrong. He, the St George to the rescue, instant hero hailed as a hero across the nation, is from the hated, discredited, not-to-be-mentioned PPP. If a script had to go wrong it couldn’t get more wrong than this. This is adding insult to injury.
Stunned into silence…all quiet on the PML-N front. But if most PML-N leading figures have not been able to bring themselves to say a good word about Zamurrad they have had the decency to remain quiet. Not so the party’s Admiration Wing, the media qawwals with soaring voices who sing Mian Nawaz Sharif’s praises day and night. Foam on their lips, wild anger in their eyes: how dare Zamurrad, and by extension the PPP, steal the honours of this comic evening? There’s almost a campaign afoot to malign Zamurrad. He was being stupid and foolhardy and it could all have gone horribly wrong. The gunman could have opened fire, blood would have flowed, and then who would have been responsible for the consequences? It’s hard to figure out what’s more funny, the drama as it unfolded, showing the best of our officialdom in a coma, or this wild-eyed reaction. It could have gone so horribly wrong. Ah, so true, as in every act of daring – a lone act like Zamurrad’s or something reckless on the battlefield – there is always the danger of things going wrong. But does anyone have to tell the qawwals that this is what risk-taking means? You take your chances. You know that your head might hit the rocks, that the chances of success are slight and the margin of error great. And yet the brave soul, the intrepid soul, the foolhardy soul who if he had any sense would stick to his bed or his armchair, takes his chance, plunging into the swirling waters. Have the qawwals never heard of Danton? At the height of the French Revolution, in the midst of internal turmoil and external invasion (the Austrian army was attacking from the east), what was Danton’s prescription to save the situation? “…il nous faut de l’audace, et encore de l’audace, et toujours de l’audace” – “We need audacity, and yet more audacity, and always audacity.” Much on similar lines Marshal Foch’s famous battle-cry in the First World War: “My centre is giving way, my right is retreating, situation excellent, I am attacking.” Let not the musicians forget that fortune favours the brave. Did fair lady ever warm to a timorous man? You can’t get a lady onto the dance floor, forget about anything more spectacular, without some pluck and daring…a smile on your lips, a slightly rakish manner. Horses don’t care for nervous riders. Women have never cared for cowards or narrators of cautionary tales (one reason for my less than stellar success in this sphere). Yes, Zamurrad’s folly could have triggered a minor massacre. But then Tariq bin Ziyad could have been defeated before the Rock of Gibraltar and, having set fire to his boats himself, never an action more foolhardy, how would he have escaped? Hannibal crossing the Alps, the Mongols riding so far away from home, Babur venturing into unknown India …(examples from history which are legion), foolhardy moves that could easily have gone wrong. And then who would have been responsible for the consequences? The Islamabad pantomime should have been allowed to go on. Zamurrad had no business trying to put on the stunt he did. But he pulled it off, at great personal risk to himself. Of the crowd gathered there he alone proved to be the man of the moment. That is what matters. The rest is irrelevant. And he was lucky, not a small matter. Napoleon, other things apart, wanted his generals to be lucky. Of course there will be more attempts to belittle Zamurrad. The PML-N has always been good at this sort of a thing. And the interior minister, with his gift for manoeuvre, will keep trying to obfuscate the issue. But the more he does so, the more he hurls threats at police officials for allowing Zamurrad to get near the gunman (and more on the same lines), the more attention will he draw to the comic performance of his own departments that eventful evening. But he is his own best judge and will do what he thinks is best. As close Nawaz Sharif adviser in 1998 he was instrumental in gifting Musharraf to the nation as army chief. He hasn’t apologised for that. He won’t apologise for this latest fiasco. Expect him instead to keep painting Zamurrad as the chief villain of this piece. Reminiscent of Goebbels really: keep repeating a thing, however outrageous, and people will come to believe it. Only problem in this case is that the nation was witness to this farce… in real time too. So the scope for revisionism, or exaggeration, becomes a bit limited. But think of the larger canvas. The PPP down and out, to the extent that no one ready to take its name in polite company; and the PML-N on the summit of things, expected to perform the unlikeliest of miracles. Now this shot-in-the-arm for the PPP; and for the PML-N a downsizer, revealing both party and emperor in their naked glory…all because of a character from Hafizabad called Sikander. Strange are the ways of Providence. Of the qawwals and their choreographers we need to put some questions. At this juncture of our history, Pakistan beset with as many perils as France was during its revolutionary period, turmoil within and the enemy not only at the gates but spread all over, does the country need more Nisar Ali Khans and Imran Khans, going round and round in circles, unable to give things their proper name, prophets of caution and dithering, or do we need some foolhardy souls as role models, who can come forward, holding their lives in their hands – role models like the winsome Malala Yousafzai or the overweight Zamurrad Khan? Our hearts should go out to Nawaz Sharif. He’s always had a transparent face, quick to show joy and depression. These days he looks so confused. And counsellors with a gift of the gab, always ready with silver-tongued answers, don’t help matters. He would have made a passable prime minister for ordinary times. If only these were ordinary times. But let us not lose heart and let us pray for some pale reflection of a Danton – we won’t get the real article – to teach a nation not too familiar with audacity the virtues of audacity. So here’s to Malala, and here’s to Zamurrad Khan, and in the desert of our desires may there be more like them.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa : The business of extortion quietly flourishes

The Express Tribune
What was once considered a Karachi problem has quietly crept into other parts of the country, including Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal belt, where it’s eating up already-fractured businesses.
Entrepreneurs and industrialists in Charsadda district have been receiving threats from unknown cell numbers or via letters to pay extortion money or face death. The size of the demand is usually proportionate to the value or size of the business. As yet, it seems most people who receive such demands have been silently paying them. While a decade of militancy and insurgencies has deeply dented infrastructure and forced industrialists to relocate to Punjab and other parts of the country, it seems now extortion may force many out of business. Refusing to pay up Standing up against armed extortionists is not an easy task, and it becomes even more futile when the police seem either complicit or inept. Atta Muhammad owns a local school and had been asked – the third such attempt – to pay Rs1.5 million as protection money. As a result his house was attacked thrice. In the most recent attempt, culprits lobbed hand grenades into his house. Muhammad had filed an FIR but the police were unable to provide any protection as, according to SHO Nasir Khan, “We are already short on resources; we cannot give security to every individual.” Muhammad is not the only businessman under attack. According to the Charsadda police, the owner of a CNG station on Mardan road was asked to provide the money demanded. When he refused, unidentified criminals planted a homemade explosive close to his residence and his station. Fortunately, no one was hurt in the explosion. Police, however, did not take any action. Another CNG station on Peshawar road was fired at when the owner refused to pay. His guard suffered injuries in the gunfire but, again, no one seems to be able to discuss if any action was taken to catch the criminals or protect the businessman. An associate of another businessman told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity that his friend received a phone call from the tribal region asking for Rs1.5 million. When the entrepreneur refused, he was targeted with an improvised explosive device. He also filed an FIR with the local police station, but while officials promised to investigate, their best advice was ‘be cautious in your movement.” Up in arms When extortionists stole another businessman’s vehicle and attacked his house on several occasions, he was enterprising enough to build a protection tower. He mans it himself during the night and has hired a guard for the day. Muhammad, the school owner, thought of a similar solution. While, in an earlier news report he said he would keep his resolve against such threats, he also pointed out he would be forced to take up arms for “self-defence” if the police failed to arrest the culprits. Subdivision police official Saleem Riaz Khan told The Express Tribune law enforcement agencies understand the gravity of the situation. “We have lodged FIRs against unidentified individuals and investigation is underway.” However, he was unable to share more information due to the sensitive nature of the matter. Victims say some calls can be traced to the tribal areas as well as to Afghanistan. While many file complaints, most people quietly pay up.

Asfandyar vows to defeat PTI in KP by-polls

Awami National Party (ANP) chief Asfandyar Wali Khan on Monday said since PTI chief Imran Khan has been keeping his silence over the deteriorating law and order situation, therefore he will face a historic defeat in the August 22 by-polls. Addressing a public gathering at Nishtar Hall in Peshawar, he said in the aftermath of Bannu jailbreak, Imran Khan had said that ANP lost the right to rule the province. “What does Imran have to say now about his right to rule the province after D I Khan jailbreak,” he questioned. The ANP chief said despite the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf government was informed 48 hours prior to the attack, it failed to prevent it. “The PTI chairman has advised his party leaders to not use a word of condemnation in statements issued after every terrorist attack,” he claimed. People of the province were deceived with slogan of a “new Pakistan,” said Asfandyar. “Is this the new Pakistan where ministers are afraid of attending funerals of even their colleagues in the provincial assembly,” he added. Speaking about the slain ANP leader and senior KP minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour, who was killed in a suicide attack in December last year, he said that Bashir Bilour was a brave man and never bowed down to the terrorist threats. “People of Peshawar should honour the sacrifices of Bashir Ahmed Bilour and vote for his brother Ghulam Ahmed Bilour in the upcoming by-election,” he appealed the masses. Asfandyar Wali said that Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl and ANP would jointly defeat the opponents in the August 22 by-polls and the PTI will face a stunning defeat in every district of the province. Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, the ANP candidate for NA-1 Peshawar, said that all the promises of the PTI were a mere drama therefore Pakhtun people will now vote for him. Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Abdur Rauf Jan of JUI-F and Zulfiqar Afghani of PPP also addressed the gathering.

Pakistan’s ex-President Musharraf charged with Benazir Bhutto's murder

Pakistan’s former president, Pervez Musharraf, has been charged with the murder of former premier Benazir Bhutto in 2007. The ex-military leader has denied all the charges set against him. "He was charged with murder, criminal conspiracy for murder and facilitation for murder," public prosecutor Chaudhry Azhar told AFP at the anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi hearing the case. Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was killed in December 2007 during a political rally in the city of Rawalpindi by a suicide bomber. The judge ruled that Musharraf was complicit in her murder because he did not provide adequate security during the rally. General Musharraf, who ruled Pakistan from 1999-2008, refrained from making any comments following his indictment. The case has been adjourned until August 27. The hearing was held in a special anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi close to the capital Islamabad. Security was stepped up for the hearing with hundreds of police deployed along the road leading to the courthouse and on the rooftops after Musharraf’s lawyers warned of threats to the former leader’s life.

Pakistan: Nawaz speech was a waste of time and inappropriate

Editorial:The Frontier Post...A speech so
Nawaz's maiden speech of his third term to the nation was ill-advised and ill-timed. He said what the nation already knew and had formed opinions on all issues and his government's steps to counter these. He gave no new hope to the nation, set no new targets for his government and had no new proposals which were needed to brought to the notice of the masses. He did not even seek populace support on some new and harsh steps his government could be about to take. One wonders what induced him to address the nation at this stage of his current term. In his third term as prime minister of the nation, he and his advisors should have known that a ruler when he makes a special occasion of addressing the nation, he raises the expectation of the nation. Such a speech is also delivered at time of new crises when the population's cooperation is sought. But there was nothing new in the speech. His invitation to Taliban for dialogue; his threat that his government had also the means to fight the menace with state power; his talk of corruption of the previous government; his lamentations at the breakdown of government institutions; the amount of accumulated debt on the nation; the examples of mismanagement in financial matters; favouritism and nepotism in government appointments; the shortage of electricity; the growing shadows of terrorism on the future of the country; his government's actions to control and bring about the end of load shedding, the list of power generation projects to be begun; the payment of circular debt; the success in increasing somewhat the power generation in the country; his offer to the provinces to provide all the possible help in curbing lawlessness and overcoming financials difficulties; his action to not act against the mandate of the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the installation of CM and governor in Balochistan who were not from his party; his directions to PML-N men not to join efforts to topple the government in Azad Kashmir and many other issues and the views of the PM and his party on these all have been not just reported in the media but have been thoroughly discussed on various forums. The speech did not create ripples of excitement among the masses, as what he said in his speech had already been initiated by his government or stated by him on various occasions during his two and half month rule. There is a reason that a prime minister gives the maiden speech of his or her term when the National Assembly elects him as the future leader of the country. Emotions are high and his or her supporters have as yet have not fallen into their daily drudgery and are ready to welcome and hang on to every word he or she says. More than playing for the gallery, the speech of the new prime minister sends a strong message of what policies the government will pursue and what is expected of the civil servants, the army and the people as the new government during the time when the manifesto of the party recently come to power is implemented. The speech sets the direction that the new government wants to lead. However, there were expectation regarding the PM's speech. His economic strategy was already revealed. His policy on terrorism was already announced by the interior minister. Nevertheless, the nation expected some breakthrough news, if not actual breakthrough, either in the situation regarding terrorism or on the economic front. The most that one can say is that he renewed his offer of peace talks with the terrorists which has its own value and at the same his threat that he had the power to exercise force in the matter may also serve the purpose somewhat. But he could have done all that during a press conference. He or his minister could also have in piecemeal reminded the people of the problems his government had inherited and the steps that were being taken. The speech was a waste of time and inappropriate and there was no occasion for it. It gave a negative impression about Nawaz Sharif's government. It rather deepened the thinking that the PM is not thinking of taking unusual steps in these unusual times for the country to get out of the many faceted crises it faces.