Monday, November 11, 2013

Army makes new gains against Takfiri militants across Syria

The Syrian army has reportedly managed to make new gains in its fight against foreign-backed Takfiri terrorists in two strategic areas in the crisis-hit country. On Monday, the Syrian troops carried out a military operation against the Takfiri militants in the key neighborhood of Barzeh, located north of the capital, Damascus, Syria’s official news agency, SANA, reported. Meanwhile, reports further said that the Syrian army units recaptured most of the areas around the International Airport in Syria’s the northwestern city of Aleppo. A military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the facility will soon become operational after a one-year closure over the fierce fighting there. “All of the area southeast of the airport is in the hands of the army,” said the source, adding that it is “now possible” to reopen the facility. On Sunday, the Syrian soldiers regained full control of a strategic base, dubbed Base 80, near Aleppo International Airport following days of heavy clashes with the foreign-sponsored Takfiri groups. The recent gains came a few days after Syrian troops managed to take control of the towns of al-Sabeineh al-Kubra, al-Sabeineh al-Sughra and Ghazal near the capital on November 7. The towns were among the most important positions for militants on Damascus outskirts. The Arab country has been gripped by deadly unrest since 2011. According to reports, the Western powers and their regional allies -- especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey -- are supporting the militants operating inside Syria. The United Nations says more than 100,000 people have been killed and millions displaced in the foreign-sponsored turmoil. The world body has recently warned that over nine million people in Syria are in need of urgent humanitarian aid.

Corpses rot everywhere as Philippine typhoon survivors beg for help

Bloated bodies lie in the streets, in front of houses, on bridges, in the water, wherever the giant wall of water happened to dump them when Typhoon Haiyan hit.The desperate survivors scrounging for food amid the mountains of debris use cloth to shield their noses from the overpowering stench of rotting corpses. Some relatives have been trying to bury their dead, but in too many cases, there is no one to cart away the corpses littering the city of Tacloban, which was all but decimated by on one of the most powerful storms to ever make landfall.
"Those are dead people in front of our house and the smell is awful," a woman told a reporter from The typhoon struck Friday with 147-mph winds and a 20-foot fall of seawater. Authorities estimate the storm killed 10,000 or more people, but so far no one has been able to count all the bodies. And with shattered communications and transportation links, the final count was likely days away. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said "we pray" it does not surpass 10,000."I don't believe there is a single structure that is not destroyed or severely damaged in some way - every single building, every single house," U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy said after taking a helicopter flight over Tacloban, the largest city in Leyte province. He spoke on the tarmac at the airport, where two Marine C-130 cargo planes were parked, engines running, unloading supplies.Authorities said at least 9.7 million people in 41 provinces were affected by the typhoon, known as Haiyan elsewhere in Asia but called Yolanda in the Philippines. It was likely the deadliest natural disaster to beset this poor Southeast Asian nation.
"Help. SOS. We need food," read a message painted by a survivor in large letters on Tacloban's port. In the ravaged city, residents stripped malls, shops and homes of food, water and consumer goods. Officials said some of the looting smacked of desperation but in other cases people hauled away TVs, refrigerators, Christmas trees and even a treadmill. An Associated Press reporter said he saw about 400 special forces and soldiers patrolling downtown to guard against further chaos. Kennedy said Philippine forces were handling security well and U.S. troops were "looking at how to open up roads and land planes and helicopters" in order to bring in shelter, water and other supplies.Still, collapsed roads and bridges, and streets clogged with debris, have made it hard for relief workers to reach the survivors lining up for food, water and medicine, "We are so very hungry and thirsty," a woman with tears rolling down her face told a BBC News reporter. She said she had been sleeping by a roadside because her house was flattened by the storm Other survivors were anxious to get word to relatives. "Please tell my family I'm alive," said Erika Mae Karakot as she stood among a throng of people waiting for aid. "We need water and medicine because a lot of the people we are with are wounded. Some are suffering from diarrhea and dehydration due to shortage of food and water." Philippine soldiers were distributing food and water, and assessment teams from the United Nations and other international agencies were seen Monday for the first time. The U.S. military dispatched food, water, generators and a contingent of Marines to the city, the first outside help in what will swell into a major international relief mission. Emily Ortega, 21 and about to give birth, said she clung to a post to survive after the evacuation center she fled to was devastated by the 20-foot storm surge. She reached safety at the airport, where she gave birth to a baby girl, Bea Joy Sagales, whose arrival drew applause from the military medics who assisted in the delivery.The wind, rain and coastal storm surges transformed neighborhoods into twisted piles of debris, blocking roads and trapping decomposing bodies underneath. Cars and trucks lay upended among flattened homes, and bridges and ports were washed away. "In some cases the devastation has been total," said Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras. Those caught in the storm were worried that aid would not arrive soon enough."We're afraid that it's going to get dangerous in town because relief goods are trickling in very slow," said Bobbie Womack, an American missionary from Athens, Tenn. "I know it's a massive, massive undertaking to try to feed a town of over 150,000 people. They need to bring in shiploads of food." Womack's husband, Larry, said he chose to stay at their beachside home in Tacloban, only to find the storm surge engulfing it. He survived by climbing onto a beam in the roof. "The roof was lifting up and the wind was coming through and there were waves going over my head," he said. "The sound was loud. It was just incredible." Marvin Daga, a 19-year-old student, tried to ride out the storm in his home with his ailing father, Mario, but the storm surge carried the building away. They clung to each other while the house floated for a while, but it eventually crumbled and they fell into churning waters. The teen grabbed a coconut tree with one hand and his father with the other, but he slipped out of his grasp. "I hope that he survived," Marvin said as tears filled his eyes. "But I'm not expecting to find him anymore." Philippine President Benigno Aquino III declared a "state of national calamity," allowing the central government to release emergency funds quicker and impose price controls on staple goods. He said the two worst-hit provinces, Leyte and Samar, had witnessed "massive destruction and loss of life" but that elsewhere casualties were low.Haiyan hit the eastern seaboard of the Philippines on Friday and quickly barreled across its central islands, with winds that gusted to 170 mph. It inflicted serious damage to at least six islands in the middle of the eastern seaboard. The storm's sustained winds weakened to 74 mph as the typhoon made landfall in northern Vietnam early Monday after crossing the South China Sea, according to the Hong Kong meteorological observatory. Authorities there evacuated hundreds of thousands of people, but there were no reports of significant damage or injuries. It was downgraded to a tropical storm as it entered southern China later Monday, and weather officials forecast torrential rain in the area until Tuesday.The Philippines, an archipelago nation of more than 7,000 islands, is annually buffeted by tropical storms and typhoons, which are called hurricanes and cyclones elsewhere. The impoverished and densely populated nation of 96 million people is in the northwestern Pacific, right in the path of the world's No. 1 typhoon generator, according to meteorologists. The archipelago's exposed eastern seaboard often bears the brunt. Even by the standards of the Philippines, however, Haiyan was an especially large catastrophe. Its winds were among the strongest ever recorded, and it appears to have killed more people than the previous deadliest Philippine storm, Thelma, in which about 5,100 people died in the central Philippines in 1991. The country's deadliest disaster on record was the 1976 magnitude-7.9 earthquake that triggered a tsunami in the Moro Gulf in the southern Philippines, killing 5,791 people.

Obama Honors Veterans At Arlington National Cemetery

President Obama highlighted the near end to "America's longest war" in Afghanistan but warned the country to never forget its "sacred obligations" to those returning home in uniform, in his Veterans Day address at Arlington National Cemetery. Thanking those in the 9/11 generation for serving "tour after tour after tour" abroad, the President praised the newest group veterans for bringing "the core of al Qaeda ... on the path to defeat" but reminded the nation that the duty to veterans should remain a top priority - just weeks after lawmakers were slammed for allowing military death benefits to lag during the government shutdown.With the blazing sun shining on the gathered guests Monday in Virginia, the President celebrated the near conclusion of the 12-year-old Operation Enduring Freedom - though a small band of U.S. troops, estimates suggest fewer than 10,000, will remain in Afghanistan after the end of the year. "Even though this time of war is coming to a close, our time of service to our newest veterans has only just begun," the President said.At Monday's ceremony, Obama also marked the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War and paid tribute to 107-year-old Richard Overton, among the oldest living veterans who served in World War II. "This is the life of one American veteran, living proud and strong in the land he helped keep free," Obama said of Overton, who received a standing ovation. First Lady Michelle Obama, dressed in a long black coat, joined her husband for the remembrance ceremony as did the Bidens and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Before the event at Arlington, the Obamas hosted a group of veterans, including Overton, for a White House breakfast.
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Syria crisis: Saudi Arabia to spend millions to train new rebel force

Riyadh 'fighting two wars in Syria' as new force Jaysh al-Islam excludes al-Qaida affiliates in bid to defeat Assad regime
A fighter from Jabhat al-Nusra poses at a checkpoint in Aleppo. The Saudi effort is focused on Jaysh al-Islam and excludes al-Qaida affiliates such as Jabhat al-Nusra. Photograph: Stringer/Reuters Saudi Arabia is preparing to spend millions of dollars to arm and train thousands of Syrian fighters in a new national rebel force to help defeat Bashar al-Assad and act as a counterweight to increasingly powerful jihadi organisations. Syrian, Arab and western sources say the intensifying Saudi effort is focused on Jaysh al-Islam (the Army of Islam or JAI), created in late September by a union of 43 Syrian groups. It is being billed as a significant new player on the fragmented rebel scene. The force excludes al-Qaida affiliates such as the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra, but embraces more non-jihadi Islamist and Salafi units. According to one unconfirmed report the JAI will be trained with Pakistani help, and estimates of its likely strength range from 5,000 to more than 50,000. But diplomats and experts warned on Thursday that there are serious doubts about its prospects as well as fears of "blowback" by extremists returning from Syria. The Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, is also pressing the US to drop its objections to supplying anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles to the JAI. Jordan is being urged to allow its territory to be used as a supply route into neighbouring Syria. In return, diplomats say, Riyadh is encouraging the JAI to accept the authority of the US and western-backed Supreme Military Council, led by Salim Idriss, and the Syrian Opposition Coalition. "There are two wars in Syria," said Mustafa Alani, an analyst for the Saudi-backed Gulf Research Centre. "One against the Syrian regime and one against al-Qaida. Saudi Arabia is fighting both." Saudi Arabia has long called publicly for arming the anti-Assad rebels and has bridled at US caution. It has been playing a more assertive role since September's US-Russian agreement on chemical weapons - which it saw as sparing the Syrian leader from US-led air strikes and granting him a degree of international rehabilitation. The JAI is led by Zahran Alloush, a Salafi and formerly head of Liwa al-Islam, one of the most effective rebel fighting forces in the Damascus area. Alloush recently held talks with Bandar along with Saudi businessmen who are financing individual rebel brigades under the JAI's banner. Other discreet coordinating meetings in Turkey have involved the Qatari foreign minister, Khaled al-Attiyeh, and the US envoy to Syria, Robert Ford. In one indication of its growing confidence – and resources – the JAI this week advertised online for experienced media professionals to promote its cause. The appearance of an "Army of Muhammad" – with its equally obvious Islamic resonance – appears to be part of the same or related effort proposed by Syrian Sunni clerics to unite disparate rebel groups into a 100,000-strong force by March 2015. It is too early, however, to see any impact of the Saudi move on the ground. "Militarily it's not significant," said one senior western official. "I don't see it producing any dramatic change yet. It's a political step. These new rebel formations seem to be relabelling themselves and creating new leadership structures. It's part of a quite parochial political game – and above all a competition for resources." But the Saudis are making an energetic case for their strategy – and playing on western anxieties. "The Saudis are saying that if you don't join the fight against Assad you will end up with a much bigger jihadi problem," said Emile Hokayem of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. "They are being a lot more proactive. That means taking the rebellion a lot more seriously and trying to develop as many proxies and allies as possible." Saudi assertiveness has grown along with unhappiness over US policy towards Syria and Iran, the kingdom's regional rival. Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former Saudi intelligence chief, described Obama's approach to Syria as "lamentable". Last month the Saudis cancelled their annual speech at the UN general assembly and turned down their first election to a security council seat in protest over the Syrian situation. The Saudis, like the Israelis, also fear a US "grand bargain" that leaves Iran free to develop nuclear weapons. Alani, echoing official Saudi views, warned of the risk from an emboldened al-Qaida unless more moderate forces prevailed in Syria. "Al-Qaida is getting stronger," he said. "It is undermining the Syrian revolution and giving the US an argument for not supporting it. It will backfire against Saudi Arabia and the Gulf sooner or later – like what happened in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq." Other experts argue that the kingdom is taking risks by being so proactive, relying on funding and weapons for influence, concentrating on military pressure on Assad without developing a clear political strategy and focusing on strengthening groups with an overtly Sunni character. "The Saudi leadership should be careful what it creates in Syria," Yezid Sayegh of the Carnegie Foundation warned in a recent commentary. "Muhammad's Army may eventually come home to Mecca." The effort also faces problems of capacity, coordination and delivery. "The Saudis and Qataris lack the means to shape insurgent groups," suggested Thomas Pierret of Edinburgh University. "They have a lot of money but very poor intelligence and human resources and organisational skills. They are very dependent on the western military. They are too used to having relationships with clients and using personal networks. "That's why they've been forced to turn to Syrian groups which already have military credibility. They are becoming less selective and more realistic and putting aside their reservations about who they support. But I doubt they are able to unify the whole thing. The Saudis say 'you should unite and we will give you money.' But some will end up getting more money than others and the coalition will break apart."

Analysis: Arab Spring nations backtrack on women's rights, poll says

Arab women played a central role in the Arab Spring, but their hopes the revolts would bring greater freedom and expanded rights for women have been thwarted by entrenched patriarchal structures and the rise of Islamists, gender experts in the countries say. Almost three years after popular uprisings toppled autocratic leaders in one of the most conservative corners of the world, a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll on 22 Arab states showed three out of five Arab Spring countries in the bottom five states for women's rights (for the methodology behind the poll, please see Egypt emerged as the worst country to be a woman in the Arab world today, followed closely by Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Egypt scored badly in almost every category, including gender violence, reproductive rights, treatment of women in the family and their inclusion in politics and the economy. Arab Spring countries Syria and Yemen ranked 18th and 19th, respectively - worse than Sudan, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and insurgency-hit Somalia, which scored better on factors such as political and economic inclusion, women's position in the family, reproductive rights and sexual violence. Libya and Tunisia came in 9th and 6th. But while the situation is dire, some activists saw reasons for optimism. For one thing, the revolts led more poor women and those on the margins to be aware of their rights. Women's rights have traditionally been a concern of the "intellectual elite" in Egypt, where many are illiterate and live below the poverty line, said Nihad Abul Komsan, head of the Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights. "We used to suffer from the fact that talk of women's rights came across as talk ... limited to the creme-de-la-creme ladies of society," she told Reuters. "But the big challenge women faced led to women's issues being discussed on the street by ordinary women and illiterate women."
The questions to 336 gender experts invited to take part in the poll were based on key provisions of the U.N. Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which all Arab Spring states have signed or ratified. The polling took place in August and September. Egypt's ranking below Saudi Arabia, where women are banned from driving and need permission from a male guardian to work or travel, reflects widespread concerns about harassment, which was mentioned by almost every respondent as a major issue. A U.N report on women in April said up to 99.3 percent of women and girls in Egypt are subjected to sexual harassment. Samira Ibrahim, a pro-democracy protester who was subjected to an invasive virginity test while in detention when the military council was in power after Hosni Mubarak's ouster, said "harassment is the biggest problem facing us now". But the ranking also indicates a surge in violence and a rollback of freedoms since the 2011 uprising, experts said. The Muslim Brotherhood's rise to power in Egypt, culminating with the election of President Mohamed Mursi, angered many prominent activists who say the Islamist group infringed on women's rights. A year into office, Mursi was toppled in a military takeover after mass protests against his rule. While there is a slight improvement in political participation for women under the army-backed interim government, there is still a long way to go, some analysts said. "The whole image of women during Mursi's rule was that a woman is a mother who should be bearing children and that is the most important thing," Fatma Khafagy, who heads the Ombudsman office for gender equality in Egypt, told Reuters. "The whole discourse was against women's rights and gender equality." The Brotherhood warned that a U.N. declaration on women's rights could destroy society by allowing a woman to travel, work and use contraception without her husband's approval and letting her control family planning. "Things changed after Mursi was removed - for the better. At least these threats were not there. However, I do not see much increase in women in decision-making," Khafagy said.
In Syria, ranked fourth-worst in the poll, women's rights have been hit badly in a country torn apart by 2-1/2 years of civil war that has killed more than 100,000. "Women are suffering the most," said Susan Ahmad, an opposition activist who works in Damascus. "Many men died and women are playing the role of men to take care of their children." Many Syrian women worry about the influence of militant Islamists who have taken control of some rebel-held areas. "The only thing women want now is to be safe," said a woman who was a student in Damascus University when the revolt first broke out in March 2011 and who had joined some of the first protests that took place in the capital. "I feel like I have to wear a headscarf," she said. "We are scared of what Islamists will do ... The Islamists want women to cover their lives, not just their bodies." Women in Yemen are pushing for a minimum quota for representation in parliament in discussions at national reconciliation talks in a country still longing for stability nearly two years after a revolt ousted the president. Yemeni women in particular face an uphill battle for rights in the largely conservative country where child marriage is still common in rural areas. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which espouses an extremist view of Islam, is also a threat. "There are voices that are trying to suppress women as in other Arab countries," said 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Karman from Yemen, which ranked 18th out of 22 in the Thomson Reuters survey. "They are trying to obliterate ... her participation in the revolution and in building a mature civil society," she told Reuters by telephone from Sanaa. But she added conservative voices were "decreasing day by day".
Tunisian activist and blogger Lina Ben Mhenni, who has been nominated for the Nobel peace prize, said she was worried about women's status under the Islamist-led government. "The status of Tunisian women is worse under the Islamist-led government," she said. "Islamist extremists are playing the role of religious police and exerting pressure on girls." Last April, hardline Islamists threw stones and bottles at young women in a student hostel in Tunis to stop them staging a performance of dance and music. In Libya, two years since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, tribal and Islamist leaders are embroiled in a struggle over the post-revolution spoils. "I am worried that those who exploit Islam will come to power and want Libya to be like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Somalia," said Dina Razzouk, a Libyan rights activist. "It's a very fanatic and traditional society." The Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights's Komsan said momentum continued to build for improvements, however. "Advocacy for women's rights is much more active than before," she said. Amal Abdel Hadi, head of the board of trustees of the New Woman Foundation in Egypt, said it was important not to feel defeated. "These days it's very depressing, so if you don't push yourself to see the positive aspects that we are working for in the longer term, you die," she said. "The revolutions have not failed women because they gave women the chance to be there and to see that if they don't force themselves into the space, they won't achieve. We have to force it."

Ahmad Zahir (rakla sharab)


Miley Cyrus 'Smokes Joint' On Stage At MTV EMAs 2013

Miley Cyrus has caused a storm by appearing to light up a joint on stage at the MTV Europe Music Awards. The singer lit a hand-rolled cigarette as she accepted her best video award for Wrecking Ball at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam - where smoking marijuana is tolerated. The drug is not legal in the Netherlands, but smokers are not prosecuted for possession of small amounts and it is sold openly in cafes known as "coffee shops".Cyrus opened the space-themed show singing the song We Can't Stop while wearing a silver spandex suit and demonstrating her signature "twerking" dance move in a routine with a dwarf.
The 20-year-old, who is managed by Larry Rudolph - who also represents Britney Spears - had already caused a stir by arriving at the event in a revealing mini-dress emblazoned with images of murdered rappers The Notorious B.I.G and Tupac Shakur along with the words "please stop violence". He collected the global icon prize for lifetime achievement along with best hip-hop act, just a week after being declared artist of the year at the inaugural YouTube Music Awards. The 41-year-old had more cause to celebrate after scoring his seventh consecutive number one UK album with The Marshall Mathers LP 2 and took to the stage to perform Berzerk and Rap God - two tracks from his new works. "This is crazy. I want to say thank you to everybody over the years," he said. Rapper Eminem - real name is Marshall Bruce Mathers - emerged the biggest winner at the awards.Katy Perry won the award for best female singer, pipping Lady Gaga and Cyrus and collecting her third EMA prize in the process.
Claiming her prize, the US singer gave a dramatic performance of her song Unconditionally, suspended like a sequin-covered glitter ball nine metres (30 feet) above the set.One Direction had a good night, taking the prize for best pop, while Harry Styles, known as much for his singing in the band as for his celebrity girlfriends, was awarded best style. Thirty Seconds To Mars frontman Jared Leto reacted to his band's win in the best alternative category by calling for a minute of silence for those affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

جماعت اسلامی پر پابندی عائد کی جائے ۔ بریگیڈیر محمود شاہ پاک فوج

Reclaiming Pakistan

THE grand narrative hatched by our elected representatives in confronting the challenge of terrorism is this: the life and security of Pakistanis is either at the mercy of the US or the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). That if the yanks keep provoking our terrorists, our lives and security will remain a legitimate target for the TTP. But if the yanks back off and let terrorists in Pakistan alone, the TTP will not be provoked into killing innocent Pakistanis and there will be peace. How does one explain the absolute abdication of responsibility by our elected representatives for the lives and future of Pakistanis? In other nations would leaders get away with holding a foreign country primarily responsible for the death of thousands of citizens, police officials and soldiers admittedly killed by fellow countrymen (other than Afghanistan of course that holds the ISI responsible for everything)? The US might be the big bad wolf it is made out to be, but its elected leaders have sworn no oath to protect the lives or interests of Pakistanis. And what is the great vision of our leaders for a secure and prosperous Pakistan? Let’s unite in hatred for the US in order to become a nation. You need to be no conspiracy monger to understand the US position. Post 9/11 the US resolved to take the war to enemies who had expressed the intent to attack the US and its citizens. Leaving aside the question of legitimacy, the US pre-emptive self-defence doctrine is built upon the idea of exterminating enemies before they are able to carry out attacks against the US. Al Qaeda is one such enemy, and the TTP is its joint venture partner, primarily focused on capturing the state of Pakistan but in the process also working with and providing sanctuary to Al Qaeda. So long as there is territory within Pakistan that the Pakistani state has no control over and that is used by terrorists to plan and execute attacks against the US, the US will keep droning them with or without Pakistan’s consent. And even if we cry ourselves hoarse about it, we will get no sympathy or support from the world because in an age where non-state actors have emerged as a key threat to state security, our friends and enemies alike are worried sick about our tolerance for non-state actors that have the ability and the desire to carry out attacks beyond our borders. A majority of terror incidents that make international headlines find some link back to Pakistan. If we were nurturing terrorists that were only attacking segments of our society, we might have had a point, no matter how morbid, to proclaim the sovereign right and freedom to deal with an internal menace as we please. If we raise the issue of illegality and immorality of the drone internationally in the context of killing of innocent women and children, the world might express sympathy and support for our concern and anger. But when we froth at the mouth for breach of sovereignty in the aftermath of a vicious terrorist such as an OBL being found and hunted within our territory by the US or a Hakeemullah being droned, the world gasps in horror over our disconnect with sanity and our disregard for the security concerns of other states and that of our own citizens. The drumming up of hatred and anger by our leaders for the evil world led by infidel America in the context of our domestic anti-terror debate cannot be explained away as misplaced nationalism or injured pride. What kind of a nation are we where a Munawar Hasan can condemn soldiers defending the flag and sacrificing their lives fighting ruthless terrorists as pawns of a foreign state, and declare the ringleader of terrorists to be a martyr even when his declared object was to attack the state, its soldiers and citizens into submission? By appointing Fazlullah as its new head, the TTP has tried to slap out of confusion those of us who believe that terrorism is simply a tribal response to drones and will wither away once strikes end and the US withdraws its troops from Afghanistan. But the TTP’s reality check might not be enough. What we are witnessing is our internal one-man’s-terrorist-is-another-man’s-freedom-fighter moment. We are a confused nation because we are not sure if militants killing our soldiers and citizens in the name of Islam and its glory are terrorists or freedom fighters. The TTP suffers no such confusion. Anyone who supports and defends the system of governance established under our Constitution and accepts the existing nation-state system and the international order under it is an apostate who deserves no mercy. If we wish to survive as a nation, we will need to make up our minds about our terrorists and our freedom fighters. We can quarrel over matters of detail, but we will need to agree on the foundational basis of our nationalism. In this conversation with ourselves we will need to revisit what we think Pakistan stands for and its ambition as a nation-state. Standing up for the interests of Pakistan where they conflict with those of the US is one thing, but punching above our weight and declaring ‘death to America’ as the purpose of our existence is quite another. Do we wish to create a Sunni theocratic state that will use force and terror to expand its territory in an effort to realise the dream of a pan-Islamic mega-empire dominating the world? Or do we wish to be an inclusive pluralist state comfortable in its skin and focused on realising the true potential of its citizens as a means to rising in the global hierarchy of states? Do we wish to be a state where Muslims, Christians and Hindus might be equally Pakistani, or one where Shias will need to pay jizya and concern for Muslims around the world will trump that for non-Muslims at home? Munawar Hasan and others of his ilk have picked their side. It is time for the rest of us to pick ours or fall in line.

Financier of Taliban-linked group shot dead in Pakistan

The chief financier of the Taliban-linked Haqqani network militant group has been shot dead in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, militant sources told Reuters on Monday. "Nasiruddin Haqqani was killed in Islamabad while travelling in a car with a few other unidentified people," one Taliban source said, adding that the attack took place on Sunday. "His body has been moved to North Waziristan." In June 2010, the United States sanctioned Nasiruddin and two other Afghans as "specifically designated global terrorists" for their activities.

Pakistan: Terror brings psychological problems for health workers too

Health care providers at the province’s major hospitals have been suffering from psychological problems because they frequently treat the victims of bomb and suicide attacks at the state-run hospitals, doctors and health workers say. The worst-affected of them are the paramedics, nurses and doctors at the Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar, which is home to a bulk of the victims of militants’ violence. “Yes, of course, the medical staff suffer from psychological problems such as stress and trauma because they have been involved in provision of first-aid to the injured from terror attacks,” chief executive officer of the LRH Prof Arshad Javaid told Dawn when asked by this reporter. He said that he had been receiving complaints that some nurses had psychological problems when they saw people with complex injuries. “It is very natural for the staff to develop problems when they see blood stained bodies of women and children,” he said. “Despite suffering from psychological problems, our staff have become so used to coping with casualties from the bomb and suicide attacks that they don’t feel any difficulty. It is the duty of the staff to provide prompt treatment to the critically wounded persons,” said Prof Javaid. Roidar Shah, president of the LRH Paramedical Association, told Dawn that they had been facing many problems while coping with mass emergencies in the hospital’s accident and emergency department (AED). “I often burst into tears when I see charred bodies of children. Being regular members of the health care providers attending the victims of terror attacks, many other colleagues have also made similar complaints,” he said. Mr Shah said that the staff involved in life-saving procedures in the aftermath of terror strikes ran a risk of developing psychological problems when they saw mutilated bodies of children and women. “However, we are professional people and focus on patient care, but the stress we suffer is also a reality,” he said. About 150 of 563 paramedics of the LRH rush to the AED when blasts occur, he said. “It is not possible for the routine staff to handle a mass emergency, therefore, we have developed a culture to reach the department soon after a blast or other such emergency to deal with load of patients through collective efforts,” he said. He said that the paramedics not only bandaged and conducted X-rays on patients, but also shuttled between the blood bank and CT scan room to ensure their best possible care. “I have several times seen in dream the charred bodies of children from bomb attacks,” said senior nurse Ms Gulfam. She said that prolonged violence had reshaped lives of the health professionals, many of whom treated them like their own people. “We have been witnessing the bloodiest scenes due to which sometimes it becomes difficult to have a sound sleep without taking pills,” she said. Dr Javed Khan, who is working at the district headquarters hospital, Mardan, said that one in 10 medical staffers had developed symptoms of some kind of psychological illness during the past five years. He said that he had examined dozens of staff members who required anti-depressants to recover from strain. “The staff receives a share of grief and trauma when they attend the people from terror attacks, but this does not affect their professional work,” he said.

Pakistan: Sects in motion

Of late Punjab has witnessed some gruesome sectarian violence that provides the much needed reminder that Punjab is sitting on a sectarian powder keg. The killing of three Shias including an office bearer of the Shia Ulema Council and a prayer leader in two different Imambargahs at Gujranwala on November 8 before daybreak reveals once again the inability of the government to protect its citizens, especially in the month of Muharram. In the aftermath of Hakeemullah Mehsud’s death, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has pledged to carry out attacks across the country. What could have been better timing than to start their revenge orgy in Muharram. Taking the TTP lightly after what they have done to the country through their consistent and predictable behaviour can only be termed irresponsible. And if the government had considered small cities such as Gujranwala immune to terrorism because of their size or relevance, it has committed a double sin: one of ignoring the recent history of sectarian violence in relatively smaller cities of Punjab such as Bhakkar and Gujrat, and another of forgetting the arrest of a number of extremists from Gujranwala madrassas last month following the arrest of an al Qaeda operative from Punjab University. On the flip side, security in the bigger cites, since it has been stepped up, gives more reasons to the terrorists to aim for the smaller cities. This is no rocket science. For how long will this situation persist? We hear that new laws have been prepared to take on the culprits involved in terrorism. The reality however speaks a different language. We are as unprepared as we have been five years or ten years down the road from when terrorism began shaping up in this part of the world. The police have so far arrested nine suspects of the attack in Gujranwala, all belonging to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a group that has strong links to the TTP. A similar number of suspects have been arrested in Islamabad on a tip-off about an imminent attack in the capital city. This reactive mode of policing and intelligence has to be changed since it serves little or no purpose in preventing terrorism. This again is a reminder of our lackadaisical approach towards establishing a coordinated and all encompassing intelligence system. The miscreants at both the Imambargahs had conveniently sprayed bullets as there was no police in sight to protect the vulnerable victims. It is hard enough to find law enforcers during daytime on security duties, and hoping for them to be present before daybreak is perhaps wishful thinking. The prime minister and the president, down to various ministers, have as usual condemned the incident. There will, again as usual, be new statements of resolve on the part of the government to take the culprits to task, until a fresh wave of violence extracts another note of condemnation and a renewed promise to fight terrorism. This maddening circle is repeating itself without end. It is a simple equation, requiring perhaps repeated action to solve it, that the initial ten days of Muharram are inherently sensitive and a soft target for sectarian attacks. On top of this, considering one time of the day less dangerous than others is again reflective of the inefficient and ineffective anti-terrorism strategy. In fact Fajr prayers have often been used as the best time by the killers to target their prey easily; then why were these two Imambargahs not protected at that time? One is keen to know what the Punjab counter -terrorism setup is up to these days. One would also like to know about the follow up, if any, to the madrassas recently singled out by the Punjab government as most sensitive in regard to spreading sectarian hatred. And obviously the national security policy is still waiting to see the light of day. These are not trivial matters to be slept on as the government is doing so far. The sooner we get our act together on these. the better for the safety of the country.

Munawwar must tender apology: Sindh Assembly

The members of Sindh Assembly in one voice demanded from Jamaat-e-Islami chief Munawwar Hassan to apologise over his irresponsible and misleading statement, Geo News reported. Commenting on Munawwar Hassan’s statement, Sindh Assembly Speaker, Agha Siraj Durrani Monday said, “Our army is the one, which always defended Pakistan and the nation cannot tolerate anything against the national army”. Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)’s leader addressing the assembly session here said that remaining silent over Munawwar Hassan’s statement would be a criminal act, which the nation would never forgive.

Bilawal urges SC to take suo moto notice of Munawar Hasan statement

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said that Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Amir Munawar Hasan supports enemies of the state and are against the armed forces.
In his message on social website here Sunday, Bilawal Bhutto termed Munawar Hasan’s statement as ‘treasons statement’ and urged the Supreme Court (SC) to take suo moto notice of it.