Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pakistan: Imran trying to become political martyr
Spokesman Awami National Party (ANP), Senator Zahid Khan Wednesday accused Imran Khan, Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), of trying to become a political martyr following, what he called, PTI government’s failure in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In a statement, Zahid Khan claimed that Imran Khan only took action against the ministers of Qaumi Watan Party while he (Khan) tried to protect his own party’s ‘corrupt’ ministers. “Imran Khan should announce when he is going to sack the remaining 10 corrupt ministers of the provincial Cabinet,” he said. He demanded that the ministers removed today be also declared ineligible, saying the PTI’s provincial government has failed.

Karachi: Blast near Imam Bargah

A child was injured when a blast occurred near an Imam Bargah in North Nazimabad area of the city on Wednesday. A police officer said that the explosion was heard far-flung areas of the city. He added that a vehicle was also damaged in the blast. Police said that the blast occulted near an Imam Bargah in Pahar Ganj area.

Pakistan: Polio incidence higher than last year

This year’s polio cases have surpassed the last year’s tally of 58 to 62 with the relevant officials blaming it on the country’s failure to ensure quality polio vaccination, address immunisation refusal cases and reach all children under five years of age despite obtaining the $227 million loan from Islamic Development Bank for the eradication of the crippling disease. According to the officials, the country’s poor performance on polio front is also seen as a breach of the trust of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (B&MGF), which had pledged to pay seven per cent annual interest on the IDB loan on behalf of Pakistan besides playing a vital role in the grant of the loan after the international donors’ refusal to give more funds for polio eradication. Last year, Pakistan signed an agreement with IDB under which the latter began providing loan to the former in January 2013. In total, IDB is to provide Pakistan with $227 million worth of loan over a period of three years in as many installments. This year, North Waziristan and Khyber agencies and FR Bannu have reported 19, 17 and six cases respectively over the delicate security situation, while nine cases have surfaced in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, six in Punjab and four in Sindh. All this shows widespread circulation of the virus, the officials said. Previously, the polio programme suffered due to the involvement of foreign financial assistance, a factor which made clergy and the Taliban declare vaccination a Western ploy to render Muslims sterile. And now when the programme is totally funded by the government, polio cases have surged. Major reasons for it are vaccination refusal and no access to certain restive areas. According to the officials, the authorities in Fata are unable to vaccinate around 900,000 targeted children either due to the Taliban’s ban on vaccination in North and South Waziristan agencies last year or due to militancy and military action against militants in other agencies. They said the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department had been paying Rs500 per day to vaccinators for security reasons unlike other provinces, where workers vaccinating children against polio received Rs250 each, but even then, they were unable to convince parents of more than 35,000 children about vaccination. The officials said more than 32,000 vaccinators took part in polio campaigns, which cost the provincial government around Rs310 million in 2013. They said vaccination refusal was a major hurdle to polio eradication. An official said under the strategy, the provincial health department had to run three polio campaigns within four weeks of the detection of a case of the crippling disease in the surrounding locality. He said the surfacing of a fresh case determined polio-related activities. The official said first installment of IDB loan was secured in January this year, which was used for polio activities, including payment to field workers, purchase of oral polio vaccine and logistics. He said bulk of the loan was being spent in areas, which had reported polio cases but vaccination refusal and missed children cases coupled with the Taliban’s ban on polio campaigns hampered efforts to free the country from the crippling disease.The official said Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had urged Pakistani government to use the IDB loan for stepping up vaccination efforts to safeguard children against polio. They said in the past, the government had accused donor agencies of failure to eradicate polio but it could no longer point an accusing finger towards them as it had been solely executing the programme since January 2013.

Typhoon Haiyan: Grief and hunger dominate amid survival struggle

In the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, nights are often the hardest.
It's dark. It's wet. It can be scary. There's little to do and, for many, even less to eat.
"We don't have homes. We miss our homes, and we have nothing to eat," one storm victim taking shelter in a church told CNN, looking into the camera, tearfully appealing to viewers around the world: "We really need help now."
That help is coming, on military and civilian transports, by air and by sea. But much of it is piling up at airports.While relief organizations say they have been able to deliver limited aid to some victims, many CNN crews report seeing little sign of any organized relief effort in the hardest-hit areas.
Blame Haiyan and its unprecedented strength and scope, said UNICEF spokesman Christopher De Bono.
"I don't think that's anyone's fault. I think it's the geography and the devastation,"
he said.When it struck Friday, Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Yolanda, flattened entire towns, layered debris over roads and knocked airports out of commission. The storm destroyed at least 80,000 homes, according to the latest Philippine government accounting. Although estimates of the number left homeless vary, the Philippine government puts the number at more than 582,000. United Nations officials have warned of increasing desperation and lawlessness, They said the situation is especially dangerous for women and children. Some areas haven't even been reached yet, according to Valerie Amos, the U.N. under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief.There were, however, some successes. The road between the capital, Manila, and hard-hit Tacloban opened Tuesday, holding out the promise that aid will begin to flow more quickly. The U.S. Agency for International Development said it expected to deliver its first shipment of relief supplies to victims on Wednesday. The UN's World Food Programme began distributing food in Tacloban, handing out rice to 3,000 people on Wednesday, the agency said. But more than 2 million people need food, according to the Philippine government, and even Amos acknowledged the pace of relief has been lacking."This is a major operation that we have to mount," she said Wednesday. "We're getting there. But in my view it's far too slow. " On Tuesday, President Benigno Aquino III defended relief efforts, saying that in addition to all of the challenges of blocked roads and downed power and communication lines, local governments were overwhelmed -- forcing the federal government to step in and perform both its own role and those of local officials. Most of all, he said, "nobody imagined the magnitude that this super typhoon brought on us. "Decomposing bodies'' Throughout the devastation, bodies of victims lie buried in the debris or out in the open. The government hasn't counted them all yet, but initial fears that 10,000 may have died have subsided. The official death toll Wednesday morning stood at 2,275. Aquino told CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday that he expected the final number would likely be around 2,000 to 2,500. While they are gruesome reminders of the human cost of the disaster, the dead are not a major public health threat, said CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta. "From a pure health threat standpoint, there are bigger threats," he said. People need clean food and water. The slowness of delivery of food and basic medical aid is the biggest threat to lives, Gupta said. "There are people there right now who can be saved. And it could be as simple as antibiotics that cost a penny."The World Health Organization agrees with Gupta that the decomposing bodies are a secondary concern. "From a public health point of view, dead bodies do not cause infectious disease outbreaks," said spokeswoman Julie Hall. Clean food and water take priority, as well as shelter from the elements.
Unable to move on
But the psychological toll is heavy.
"I've seen dead people on the streets and the sidewalks," said 9-year-old storm survivor Rastin Teves. "It made me feel scared."It is important psychologically to collect the bodies, treat them with respect and bury them in locations where relatives can find the graves, Hall said. Survivors need to know where they are, to be able to grieve, move on and take care of themselves, she said. In Tacloban, survivor Juan Martinez can't do that yet. He sits in a makeshift shack where his home once stood. Nearby, the bodies of his wife and two children are covered by sacks. "I really want someone to collect their bodies, so I know where they are taken," he told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "I want to know where they are taken."

Mungh you da Khybar Zalmi-Khyal M

Pashto song Zo yam da truk driver

Dil Dhadke Main Tum Say - Runa Laila


Pakistan People’s Party with Army on Taliban issue
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) General Secretary Sardar Latif Khan Khosa reiterated on Tuesday that his party stood with the army on the Taliban issue, and termed the ongoing differences between two politicians as to whether the slain Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud is a martyr or not “poisonous for democracy”. The PPP leader issued a statement, reaffirming his party’s support for the army against the Taliban and said it had rendered countless services in defending the country. Khosa appreciated the armed forces for defending solidarity of the country from the internal as well as external aggression and said, “Such poisonous views of the leaders would not weaken army’s resolve in defending the motherland.” He also lamented the controversy created by the two leaders of religious/political parties. He added that this controversy has created division among political parties and religious-political parties which was not good for democracy. The PPP leader said that the “venomous statements” of the two leaders could demoralise the army, leaving the country “defenceless” and people at the mercy of terrorists who believed in enslavement, intimidation and elimination at gunpoint. He also expressed his abhorrence over the sense of proportion of the two leaders who believed that army soldiers fighting terrorists were not martyrs and even a dog killed by American drones was “shaheed”. “No one expects such a derogatory definition of shaheed,” he observed. Khosa extended his party’s full support to the families who had become victims of terrorism and deeply hurt by the statements of two “so-called political/religious leaders”. He said that reaction of the nation over the most “irresponsible statements” of Jamat-i-Islami and JUI-F leaders was indicative of the fact that people were with the armed forces in the war against terror. He made it clear that the PPP’s political philosophy was its commitment to “undiluted democracy” and support for the army.

Hakaimullah Mehsud Deobandi: Drone be upon him

by Rusty Walker
The recent U.S. drone attack that took out Hakeemullah Mehsud, a leader of banned Deobandi terrorist outfit ‘Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan’ (aka TTP), was a positive stroke for the liberal progressives in Pakistan, and a negative for the PML-N establishment. Hakeemullah Mehsud Deobandi followed the al Qaeda ideal of Jihad for a global Salafist-type Caliphate. These ideals conform to the Saudi-funding contingency that underlies most radical Takfiri groups in Yemen, Somalia, Egypt, as well as the Syrian rebels, along with Pakistan TTP, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), or, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat Deobandi ASWJ-D, and other Takfiri splinter global terrorists. The successful drone attacks target high-value terrorist combatants-the ones that historically have wiped out most opposition in the regions of KP and FATA, and still murder and threaten villagers, anti-Taliban, Christians, Ahmedis, Suuni, Shia, and other minorities in Northern Pakistan. The drones are largely doing the work of the Pakistani Army, who instead of using their world-class power to rid the terrorists who attack Pakistanis, elect instead to ignore the terrorists of FATA, Waziristan, Quetta and elsewhere, who perpetuate genocide on the Shia. It must be remembered that these self-appointed guardians of the Salafist radical religion are far from the moderate Sunni Muslim faith. These Jihadists fall under the protected Strategic Depth program still active in the regional policies of the ISI, Pak Army and the establishment. Why else would the government now want to negotiate with these murderers? It is as if the Taliban suddenly are credible and now an established Pakistan governmental group. They are terrorists. Terrorists should not be negotiated with, they should be isolated and killed, just as they kill innocents. These Salafists use cowardly methods to recruit the youth, some of whom are orphans, radicalized, some are even raped by the very clerics that teach them, and cajoled into new suicide bombers from Madrassas. The Pakistan Army, ISI and Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N protect the Deobandi radical Takfiri groups. These Wahhabists (Deobandi in Pakistan) are aligned with elected PML-N and have been, prior to election of Nawaz Sharif. More and more in Pakistan, the Takfiri Deobandis gain ground. The Pakistani Taliban are aligned with al Qaeda. The Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who is lauded by the establishment, a CJ who releases proven terrorists, a hero amongst us, like Malala, is ridiculed and subject to hideous rumors and conspiracy theories. Even the establishment news organizations are using appeasement to stay in favor. Worse are the recent reports of scandalous taking of under the table money from the government and military; money to perpetuate the bias towards establishment narrative. November 10, 2013, Jang published an interview of Ihsanullah Ihsan Deobandi, as if he were a valid spokesperson to be given free narrative for the public. Ihsanullah Ihsan is the spokesman for supposedly banned TTP. The moderate Pakistani Muslims that simply want to work, give their daughters and sons an education, find meaningful employment, raise the standard of living, improve infrastructure to Pakistan and with it, the Pakistani economy, increasingly, are being threatened and impeded in such basic human rights by Takfiri Deobandi organizations that are gaining ground under the current elected Taliban-friendly government.
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Bangladesh: Celebrating 10,000MW capacity

BANGLADESH is celebrating achievement of 10,000 MW power generation capacity (installed) with colourful programmes. The government surely can celebrate its achievement in tackling the severe crisis of power generation and supply in the short term. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been busy inaugurating various development projects and a significant share of the new projects includes power plant projects. Latest in the series are laying foundation stones for five more coal fired power plants.
Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) website shows that the country had 4,942 MW (with a maximum generation capacity of 3,268 MW) installed power generation capacity on January 6, 2009, the day the present government assumed power. During 2009, per capita electricity generation was 183 kWh, which has been enhanced to 321 kWh per annum (including captive generation). Presently, 62% of the population have been brought under power supply coverage. As the installed power generation facilities are now able to generate 6,000 MW of power consistently, regular power outage for prolonged periods has been reduced significantly. If fuel supply could be secured, additional 1,000 plus megawatt electricity could be generated. BPDB reports that it received 790 million cubic feet of gas on November 10 but, despite having capacity, it had to generate 642 MW less power due to short supply of gas. At the same time, 470 MW power could not be generated due to supply shortages of diesel and furnace oil. It’s true that the share of fuel for power generation has been diversified (from almost 90% gas-based generation to multiple sources) during the tenure of the present government; but due to increased dependence on imported fuel oil, cost of power generation has increased. Government had to raise power tariff six times to reduce the subsidy pressure for power sector. Natural gas-based power generation capacity has come down to nearly 68% (6,587 MW). On the other hand, imported fuel oil based power generation has been enhanced to nearly 26%. The share of hydroelectricity and coal-fired power generation remains limited within 5%. Our country became grid connected with Indian power transmission line for the first time from October 5, and 250 MW power has been imported to our grid. It is expected that within the next few weeks 250 MW more electricity would start to flow from Indian to Bangladeshi power networks. One of the major vision statements of the government is to secure uninterrupted supply of electricity for all the citizens within 2021 at an affordable price. Implementation of the vision statement is significantly dependant not only on installations of new power plants but also on supply security of primary fuels. Developing adequate transmission and distribution systems commensurate with the generation capacity and consumers’ need offers major challenges. The government estimates that $ 18 billion investment would be required by 2017 to secure power generation capacity of 16,000 MW. To attain vision 2021, estimated 24,000 MW of electricity needs to be generated. The government wants to generate 20,000 MW coal-fired electricity by 2030. The Power System Master Plan 2010 (published in February 2011) set a target to produce 11,250 MW electricity from domestically produced coal and the remaining 8,400 MW from imported coal. Bangladesh will need to produce approximately 33 million tonnes of coal, while 25 million tonnes have to be imported from sources like Indonesia, Australia and South Africa. Both are huge challenges as the country lacks the facilities to produce big volume of coal (currently the only producing mine, Barapukuria, has a maximum of one million tonne of production capacity annually) and bulk coal import infrastructure. Arranging investments for developing coal-fired power plants capable of generating 20,000 MW power within 2030, and for the infrastructure development to import of 25 million tonne of coal (port facilities, inland water transport facilities, river dredging and maintenance, loading and unloading facilities for huge volume of coal etc) will not be easy. Apart from huge investment, Bangladesh will need technology and management capacity development in the coal sector. More surveys of major parts of our known coal fields (Jamalganj, Barapukuria, Khalashpir, Dighipara and Phulbari) are needed for assessing recoverable reserve of coal, mining methods and socio-environmental costs of mining the coal. Barapukuria mine has shown how difficult and costly coal mining is with underground methods of mining. It also showed that producing 5.2 million tonne of coal since 2005 with total dependence on international contractors and consultants did not help our local manpower to develop. We have not developed a single institute or department in the universities to produce mining professionals. We also lack the capacity to professionally scrutinise the technical proposals for evaluating coal mine development studies submitted by international companies. In line with the above, the target of securing 50% power generation with coal within 2030 is indeed a huge challenge. If we fail to adopt pragmatic policies supported by concrete actions in this regard, we may continue to struggle with the ongoing power crisis management. We intend to see materialisation of the vision 2021 — quality supply of electricity for all at an affordable price.

India: 'If you can't prevent rape, you enjoy it,' says India's top police official

Ranjit Sinha addresses a press conference at the CBI headquarters in New Delhi, India. Photograph: Mustafa Quraishi/AP India's top police official has apologised for saying: "If you can't prevent rape, you enjoy it," – a remark that has outraged the country. Ranjit Sinha, chief of India's Central Bureau of Investigation, made the remark on Tuesday during a conference about illegal sports betting and the need to legalise gambling. The CBI, the country's premier investigative agency, is India's equivalent of the FBI. Sinha said at the conference that if the state could not stop gambling, it could at least make some revenue by legalising it. "If you cannot enforce the ban on betting, it is like saying: 'If you can't prevent rape, you enjoy it,'" he said. The remarks have caused outrage across India, which in the past year has been hit by widespread protests following the fatal gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman on a bus in New Delhi. On Wednesday, Sinha said his comments had been taken out of context and misinterpreted, and that he was sorry if he had caused hurt. Angry activists, however, called for his resignation. Brinda Karat, leader of the Communist party of India (Marxist), said Sinha's comments were offensive to women everywhere. "It is sickening that a man who is in charge of several rape investigations should use such an analogy," Karat told reporters. "He should be prosecuted for degrading and insulting women." The New Delhi attack on the young woman last December caused nationwide outrage and forced the government to change rape laws and create fast-track courts for rape cases. Laws introduced after the attack make stalking, voyeurism and sexual harassment a crime. They also provide for the death penalty for repeat offenders or for rape attacks that lead to the victim's death.

Last Jew in Afghanistan faces ruin as kebabs fail to sell

Zabulon Simintov always removes his kippah, the skullcap worn by Jewish men, before entering his cafe in a dilapidated building that also houses Afghanistan's last synagogue. "Let me take off my cap, otherwise people will think something bad about me," Simintov said cheerfully as he descended grime-caked stairs to the ground-floor cafe.
In his 50s, Simintov is the last known Afghan Jew to remain in the country. He has become something of a celebrity over the years and his rivalry with the next-to-last Jew, who died in 2005, inspired a play.Mindful of Afghanistan's extremely conservative Muslim culture, Simintov tries not to advertise his identity to protect the Balkh Bastan or Ancient Balkh kebab cafe he opened four years ago, naming it after a northern Afghan province.
"All food here is prepared by Muslims," he said. Now the cafe, neat and shiny, faces closure because kebabs are not selling well - largely because of deteriorating security in Kabul that has made people frightened to eat out or visit the city. Simintov used to rely on hotel catering orders but even these have dried up as foreign troops begin to withdraw from Afghanistan, further weakening security and investment. "Hotels used to order food for 400 to 500 people. Four or five stoves were busy from afternoon to evening," he said. "I plan to close my restaurant next March and rent its space." At lunchtime, a single table was occupied, with a pair of customers ordering tender meat on long skewers and other Afghan dishes. Neither appeared to know about Simintov's history and said they came only because a cafe next door that made a special dish of Afghan noodles had shut down.
Little is known about the origins of Afghan Jews, who some believe may have lived here more than 2,000 years ago. A cache of 11th century scrolls recently discovered in the north provided the first opportunity to study poems, commercial records and judicial agreements of the time. The community was several thousand strong at the turn of the 20th century, spread across several cities but having limited contact with fellow Jews abroad. They later left the country en masse, mostly for the newly created state of Israel. Simintov's wife and daughters also left for the Jewish state, but he decided to stay behind with his Afghan "brothers".
A native of the western border city of Herat, the cradle of Jewish culture in Afghanistan, Simintov displays dog-eared posters and prayer books when he shows visitors around the dilapidated synagogue. He pulled a "shofar" - the ram's horn used for Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur, the day of atonement - from a dusty cupboard and blew into it with little effect. Simintov also maintains a nearby cemetery, marked by little more than a few broken pieces of stone in an unkempt yard. Other religions have fared even worse than Judaism. There are no Afghan Christians left, at least none who is open about it, and the only permanent church is inside the Italian diplomatic compound. There is a small Hindu population, but it is shrinking rapidly. Simintov's personal ill fortune is linked to the increasing risks of running a business. More than a dozen years since the U.S.-led invasion toppled the hardline Taliban movement to end its five years in power, fear of bombs, shootings and crime is still part of daily life. Simintov said the cafe had lost $45,000 and all the valuables collected by his father were stolen before the Taliban were ousted in 2001. He hopes that renting the cafe's space might generate enough money to renovate the synagogue. Much of the whitewashed building's interior, including the synagogue's floors and walls, are covered in a black film. It survived the Taliban, but the contents were ransacked. However resolute Simintov remains about practising his faith, he is embittered - even enraged - by misfortune and by the failure of the U.S-led NATO force to create conditions for peace and security without the threat of the Taliban. "It is better to see a dog than to see an American," he said. "If the situation in the country gets worse, I will escape."

Post-Taliban Afghanistan, 12 years on

The picture in Afghanistan today is bleak: worsening security, ubiquitous Taliban presence, poor coordination between donors and the government, and a slowing economy
Exactly 12 years ago, on November 13, 2001 — just two months after the assassination of Ahmad Shah Massoud and the al Qaeda strikes in New York and Washington D.C. — Massoud’s forces entered Kabul after Taliban fighters fled the city the previous night. This came on the heels of desperate diplomatic efforts to prevent the Northern Alliance from occupying Kabul and taking over the reins of government. Why did the United States and its allies go to Afghanistan? U.S. troops went there to get rid of the al Qaeda leadership, and combat terrorists with a global reach. Operation Enduring Freedom was launched against terrorist entities and the states that harboured them. That was the reason for targeting the Taliban regime.
Intense operations
The United Nations Security Council mandated an International Security Assistance Force for the security of Kabul and its environs on December 20, 2001. ISAF has since been supported by 49 U.S. allies and partners. At its high point in 2011, there were 1,40,000 ISAF troops in Afghanistan, including 1,01,000 Americans, not counting contracted private security personnel. After such impressive marshalling of forces and intensified military operations, Afghanistan continues to remain among the greatest security challenges of our times. What happened? A 2009 Senate Foreign Relations Committee report blamed the 2001 Pentagon leadership for the “lost opportunity” of preventing Osama bin Laden’s flight from Tora Bora to Pakistan. Centcom Commander General Tommy Franks turned down a CIA request for a battalion of Army Rangers to assist a rag-tag force tracking bin Laden. Concurrently, in late November 2001, Pakistani planes were allowed to airlift from Kunduz hundreds of Islamabad’s advisers and troops, presumably along with some of the Taliban’s and al Qaeda’s leading cadres. A year or so later, the U.S. shifted its attention to Iraq, leaving the Afghan and Pakistan tasks unfinished. The U.S. and NATO initially believed that a strong Afghan Army was not required, since the Taliban and al Qaeda fighters had dispersed without a fight — as for those who fled, Pakistan would take care of them. Afghans are still reaping the consequences of this initial neglect. The blunder of sub-contracting to Pakistan the management of the Taliban resulted in the outfit’s fighters being nursed, nurtured and re-infiltrated into Afghanistan from 2005. Since then, Afghanistan has become an arena for experimentation in social and political engineering. The military campaign was first cast as a war against terror, then as a counter-insurgency operation. The advantages gained by the surging American troops and more muscular military action were defeated by the announcement of the exit strategy.
Opportunity lost
As for building Afghan capacity, little was done for several years. U.N. representatives on the ground advocated a ‘light’ international footprint. Rich countries were initially parsimonious in their commitments. In early 2002, Afghanistan was a relatively clean slate on which anything could be written, so long as the country’s well-wishers took account of its regional strategic space. But that was not to be. Paradoxically, after the Taliban recovered, regrouped and re-equipped itself in its safe havens and brought violence back to Afghanistan, a stepped-up civilian effort followed. The Afghanistan Compact, put together in London in January 2006, made nation-building the main focus of the future international effort. Its conceptual flaw was the vision to transform Afghanistan into the image of its benefactors. The instruments used to achieve this, such as the Provincial Reconstruction Teams, bypassed Afghan institutions and indigenous impulses. Afghan political leaders complained that the parallel structures created by the PRTs undermined their government. Between 2001 and 2009, the Afghan government incurred an expenditure of $5.7 billion through its own budget and institutions, compared to $41 billion committed for assistance to Afghanistan during the same period.
Extent of fraud
Audits point to the fact that contractor profits and consultant fees absorbed a substantial part of the international assistance. The 2008 U.S. Commission on Wartime Contracting reported that fraud alone could account for as much as $12 billion spent in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of this actually funded terrorism and insurgency in Afghanistan. “Every year, nearly $500 million flow into the Taliban kitty from western sources,” the former ISI Chief, Asad Durrani wrote recently. This was mainly by way of protection money. Moreover, all three pillars of Afghanistan’s transformation — security, governance and development — were undermined by the growing security deficit. Increasing Taliban attacks immobilised the fledgling state structures at all levels and undermined Afghan growth and development. As Asadullah Khaled, former Kandahar Governor and former head of the National Directorate of Security, told me on my first visit to Kandahar in February 2008: “It is not that the Taliban is strong; it is that we are very weak.” The picture in Afghanistan today is bleak: worsening security, ubiquitous Taliban presence, poor coordination between donors and the government, a slowing economy, and increasing insecurity. A complete exit of ISAF would be a catastrophe for the country, the region and the world. Such an exit would dampen the ongoing development effort, undermine the impressive social and economic gains achieved with so much effort and sacrifice, embolden the enemies of progressive change in Afghanistan, and possibly even lead to a reversal to the ancien regime of 2001, with serious security implications worldwide.
So, where do we, the world community, go from here on Afghanistan?
The international community should not abandon Afghanistan. It should not encourage the country’s partition or leave it to the mercy of those who are not accountable to the Afghan people. It should avoid acquiescing on exclusive rights over Afghanistan of any single power, or group of outside powers. The global community should abjure extra-territorial demands, defined in terms of a veto over decisions that Afghans themselves must make. Afghanistan’s neighbours should guarantee its independence and sovereignty rather than engage in acts that subvert them. A return to status quo ante should be avoided. Terrorist networks in the region, with their cult of suicide bombings, are ever more closely tied to al Qaeda and its associates. Their membership is more dispersed, diverse, and numerous than it was in 2001. Their restitution in Afghanistan might well lead to the unravelling of the state system in Pakistan, creating for India and the world an even bigger security challenge than the one we face today. We must strive to make Afghan security sustainable by supporting its security apparatus and dismantling the infrastructure of terrorism, both within the country and its border regions. Terrorism and insurgency have never ceased anywhere in the world where support, sustenance, and safe havens for terrorists and insurgents have been available in the contiguity. On development, the world should abandon the idea that it can come from outside. An environment should be created in which Afghanistan can develop itself. Afghan voices should be heard and space allowed for national leadership. We must work towards desirable outcomes, without tangling in processes internal to Afghanistan. Afghanistan will be economically sustainable when it becomes a trade, transportation, energy, and minerals hub in the region. The Afghan leadership had hoped to join SAARC six years ago, and that Afghanistan would soon become a land bridge linking Iran and Central Asia to China and the Indian subcontinent. The templates and action agendas for dismantling trade and transit barriers, and encouraging freer movement of goods, services, investments, peoples, and ideas, are already in place. It is the inability to operationalise them that prevents Afghanistan’s sustained stabilisation.
Hard task
In spite of multiple international back channels and the efforts of the Afghan High Peace Council, talks with the Taliban have not made much headway. Key players within the Taliban and Pakistan’s state structures are yet to be convinced that they should abandon their campaign to seize power by violence. It is a hard act to fight and talk simultaneously. While a lasting and permanent solution with them on board will be difficult, without them it will be impossible. Efforts for peace, re-integration, and reconciliation with the reconcilable must, therefore, continue. Afghanistan’s fragmented polity needs to look at reconciliation — between and among ethnicities, between Afghanistan and its neighbours, and between the government and those elements of the armed opposition ready to embrace democracy and the Afghan Constitution, respect human rights, and end ideological and organisational links with al Qaeda and its associates. As Rumi, the great Afghan Sufi sage said in his Masnawi 800 years ago: “Believe in God, yet tie the camel’s leg.”

Afghanistan's poppy farmers plant record opium crop, UN report says

Emma Graham-Harrison
Despite 10 years of western efforts to curb production, a combination of economics and political instability means farmers in the world's largest heroin-producing country are as enthusiastic as ever for the poppy
Afghanistan's farmers planted a record opium crop this year, despite a decade of western-backed narcotics programmes aimed at weaning farmers off the drug and cracking down on producers and traffickers. For the first time over 200,000 hectares of Afghan fields were growing poppies, according to the UN's Afghanistan Opium Survey for 2013, covering an area equivalent to the island nation of Mauritius. Violence and political instability means there is unlikely to be any significant drop in poppy farming in the world's top opium producer before foreign combat troops head home next year, a senior UN official warned.
"This is the third consecutive year of increasing cultivation," said Jean-Luc Lemahieu, the outgoing Afghanistan director for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, which publishes the report. "The assumption is that the illicit economy is to gain in importance in the future."With conflict spreading to once-peaceful areas of the country and a critical presidential election scheduled for early next year, poppy fields provide both cash to networks of power-brokers and insurance to farmers at the bottom of Afghanistan's feeble economy. Portable and long-lasting, the high value per kilo of opium makes it attractive to families who fear they may need to flee, or see fields of conventional crops destroyed by fighting. The total harvest was probably slightly lower than the previous peak five years ago, mostly because bad weather meant each plant yielded less of the sticky narcotic. But the number of fields turned over to poppy is a more accurate gauge of farmers' enthusiasm for the crop and the government's ability to control it than the final production figures.In a bleak assessment of efforts to curb opium farming in a country that produces the vast majority of the world's supply, Lemahieu said the international community needed to stop thinking there was a quick fix to a complicated problem. "As long as we think we can have short-term, fast solutions to the counter-narcotics problem, we are doomed to continue to fail," he said. "That means first knowing this will take 10-15 years." Because the value of opium is so much higher than any other crop available to Afghan farmers, it has become the only way for many to cover the basic expense of large families. Although opium prices of around $130 per kilo are barely half their 2011 peak, they are still well above market rates after the last production glut of 2007, and may have further to fall. Many who grow the crop are aware that mullahs denounce production of the drug and the government bans it. But they say officials also grow the drug and religious leaders are always eager to claim a share of harvest income. "We doubt that it is forbidden, because if it is, why are the mullahs taking these taxes?" said the 53-year-old farmer Abdul Khaliq, who has been growing poppy in Helmand province for over a decade to support a family of nearly two dozen. "We are a lot of people, this is the reason we grow opium. If we do other work, we can't feed our family." Around half the poppy grown in Afghanistan is planted in Helmand, and the end of a UK-backed project trying to keep poppy out of the main valleys, or "food zone", brought increase in planting there, though crop levels were far below that in areas under insurgent control, the report said. "Opium cultivation in the food zone increased by half … [but] outside the food zone the extent of poppy cultivation was far greater," the report said. Eradication efforts slowed and became much more dangerous, with 143 people killed while trying to uproot crops, up by nearly half from a year before. Nearly 100 others were injured. Northern Badakhshan province was the only place in Afghanistan where authorities managed to destroy more than half of the poppy planted; elsewhere teams made small inroads to large harvests. One of the few bright spots was greater control of the drugs trade, with beefed-up drugs police seizing over 10% of production, up from just 3% or 4% a few years ago, Lemahieu said. But the country also needs to work out how to tackle a growing addiction problem from a product that was once used largely for export or in moderation as a medication. Now over 1 million Afghans – around 3% of the population – have an opium or heroin habit.
Case study: the poppy farmer
My name is Hedayatullah, I am 45 years old and there are 11 people in my family. I am from Marjah district and I have been growing poppy for twenty years. No one in our family uses opium, we grow it as a business. The imams often tell us it is forbidden to grow opium, but when we get our harvest they take a 10% tax. So we think they aren't saying these things because of religion and the holy Qur'an, other people are just telling them to say this. We know the constitution says you can't grow opium but with wheat or beans you can't make good money. Also the government officials grow opium themselves, and if they don't grow it themselves they rent out their land to farmers who grow it. If the officials don't care about the law, there is no reason for us to respect it. Under Taliban rule there was an order to stop growing opium, so I stopped for one year, but then the temporary government was set up and I started growing opium again. In the government-controlled area we farm 1 jerib (half an acre) per year, but in the desert we farm another 4 to 5 jeribs. Sometimes the government does military operations, but after they leave the Taliban take back control. Before I used to make 800,000 Pakistani rupees (£4,700) per year, but in the last two years it has gone down to 300,000 Pakistani rupees (£1,800).

Pakistan: Attacks on security forces in Bannu, Jamrud and Peshawar

At least three explosion took place on Wednesday in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Bannu, Jamrud and Peshawar areas injuring two policemen and as many Khasadar force personnel. Two members of the Khasadar force were injured in an explosion that occurred near a security checkpost in Takhta Beg area of Khyber tribal region's Jamrud Tehsil. Political administration official Ghyas said that unknown persons had planted an explosive device near the Takhta Beg checkpoint in Jamrud which exploded on Wednesday morning with a huge bang. He added that two personnel of the Khasadar force were injured in the blast and shifted to Hayatabad Medical Complex in Peshawar. Fear and panic gripped the area after the blast whereas a contingent of security men reached the site and cordoned off the area as a search operation went underway in the area. In another incident, two policemen were injured when militants attacked a police checkpost in Bannu. According to sources, militants fired 12 rockets at the police checkpost in the northwestern district of Bannu, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Police retaliated and managed to repulse the attack. Two police personnel, however, sustained injuries. At least, 20 police personnel were present at the checkpost at the time of the attack. The northwestern town of Bannu, which stands at the gateway to the semi-autonomous Waziristan tribal region, is 150 kilometres southwest of Peshawar, the capital of KP. The town has witnessed a number of attacks and was the scene of a massive jail break in April 2012 during which 384 prisoners escaped from its central prison. Moreover, an explosion took place near Achini Bala area on Peshawar's Ring Road. There were no casualties in the blast. A security forces convoy was travelling on Peshawar's Ring Road when a roadside planted bomb detonated in Achini Bala area. Security and rescue teams reached the site of incident. The area was sealed by security personnel who conducted a search operation as a probe into the incident went underway.

Parts of Peshawar to be sealed from today

The parts of the city will be sealed from Wednesday evening for the last two days of Muharram, officials said on Tuesday. The city will be sealed from Kohati to Gulbahar, Ashraf Road, Chowk Yadgar and Khyber Bazaar.
No vehicles will be allowed to enter these areas while pedestrians will be allowed after proper frisking and establishing their identity.

Pakistan: Why Liberals Failed to Defend Malala

The Baloch Hal
By Malik Siraj Akbar
During last year’s SAFMA [South Asian Free Media Association] conference, Imtiaz Alam, the organization’s secretary general, grumbled with the chief guest, the then president Asif Ali Zardari, about the government’s inaction against the Pakistani Taliban. Mr. Alam went on to warn the president that if Islamabad did not quash the Taliban, the people of Pakistan would cajole the United Nations to intervene in order to rescue the country from the cruelty of the Taliban.
Zardari patiently listened to Mr. Alam’s complaint and also his naïve warning. But what the former president said in response merited significant attention. Zardari talked about the shortcomings within Pakistan’s liberal class. He explained how the right-wing was capable of bringing out tens of thousands of people on a short notice to rally for the causes they believe in. The former president taunted the liberal class for its lukewarm response to the assassination of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer and its aftermath. Some people even did not show up for Taseer’s funeral, Zardari recalled, because they feared being targeted by fanatics like Mumtaz Qadri merely for attending the burial of a man who had unjustly been accused of blasphemy and murdered in broad daylight. Taseer’s murder sharply polarized the public opinion in Pakistan but it also provided the liberals an opportunity to stand up and vociferously denounce extremism. They missed that opportunity simply because it literally took them weeks to realize what they had actually witnessed under their nose: Pakistan had just entered a distressing epoch of extremism that had permeated even among the country’s clean-shaven, English-speaking professional lawyers and social media users. I am immediately reminded of Zardari’s observations about the right-wing’s maneuvering capabilities and tactics when I follow their fresh diatribe against teenage activist Malala Yousafzai in the wake of the release of her autobiography I Am Malala. Deplorably, some private schools have already banned the book at their libraries because, according to one spokesman of the schools’ association, they do not want other girls to emulate Malala. The conservatives have convinced themselves that Malala is speaking the language of western countries without realizing that one does not have to be a “western-agent” to advocate girls’ right to education. It is already known how the religious class manipulates public sentiments by distorting facts and putting otherwise clearly stated things out of context. What has, nonetheless, flabbergasted me is the enormous resources available to the right-wing and the endless opportunities offered to them to appear on the television to champion unholy causes, including the call for violence. Space for free speech and preaching of liberal views has drastically shrunk in Pakistan in recent years. While seeing courageous people like Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy or Farzana Bari confront conservative commentators like Orya Maqbool Jan or Ansar Abbasi one does not know whether to accolade their courage or worry about their personal safety. Sometimes when I see them speak on television, I still feel these liberal thinkers are not being fully truthful. But then I also immediately remind myself that nobody wants to end up as the next Taseer. Amid the fresh controversy surrounding I Am Malala, one must concede the failure of the liberal intellectuals to adequately defend the book in television talk shows. This is either because of the fear for personal safety or the panelists’ ignorance about the overall context of the book. At least, two liberal analysts, who had been invited on television to defend I Am Malala, embarrassingly admitted that they had not even read the book. On the other hand, the conservatives appeared well-prepared: They had highlighted portions of the book and brought notes with them only to misrepresent and mislead the audience but, honestly, they still looked better than the unprepared liberals. Genuine challenges aside, the Left in Pakistan seems to be in a complete disarray and unprepared to fight back. Actually, the Left faces a fatal disconnect between theory and practice. Clearly, I Am Malala has not only put Pakistan’s right-wing into a limbo but it has also pushed the urban liberal thinkers out of their comfort zone. They do support Malala’s cause for education but still fail to fully understand what it means to be a Pashtun girl and flaunt about her ethnic identity and culture while snubbing the Pakistani etiquettes officially imposed upon us in our textbooks. At times, even liberal thinkers surrender before the official narrative. While Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy said in a talk-show that he’d rather ban The Satanic Verses in Pakistan, Farzana Bari, in another show, said she ‘personally’ believed the Ahmedyas were ‘Kafirs’. These are some critical issues on which the liberal class should speak rationally rather than being overwhelmed by their emotions while making judgments. Historically, the liberal class in Pakistan has predominantly been represented by western educated urban elite living in big cities like Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. They were either born in rich families where they inherited liberal life style by birth or they, otherwise, believed liberalism was good in theory because it helped to enliven drawing room discussions. The urban liberals may have heard of the hardships of people like Malala in rural Pakistan but they did not personally experience her struggle. Hence, even many liberals cannot fully explain what it means to be Ziauddin, Malala’s father whose biggest dream in life was to open a school and raise an educated daughter. In large cities, the Left and the Right lampoon Ziauddin’s struggle because they take a girl’s access to education for granted. Within Pakistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan are such places where liberal theory translates into practice. If Qadeer Baloch’s long march from Quetta to Karachi is not a practical manifestation of a struggle for liberal values then what else is? The Left and the Right in Urban Pakistan prefers to identify themselves as Pakistanis. They have little exposure to identity politics because the state of Pakistan has systematically crushed or discouraged ethnic identities. Hence, I can imagine why even a liberal from urban Pakistan would be bewildered when Malala identifies herself as a Swati and a Pashtun first before calling herself a Pakistani. Why should one be surprised? Didn’t we notice the semi-literate Baloch housewife from Awaran when she told a B.B.C. reporter, “this is Balochistan, not Pakistan.” I Am Malala is an educating account for Pakistan’s clergy but it also offers food for thought to the urban liberals to understand how old nations like the Baloch and the Pashtun view the world and how they wish to be identified. Liberals cannot defend Malala and people like her unless they experience her hardships and the context of struggle. Her book introduces the readers beyond the traditional textbook narratives although it also highlights the dilemma of a young girl trapped under multiple identities at the same time. Some accuse Malala’s father of putting words in her mouth. As a matter of fact, it is totally the other way round. Our textbooks had put one narrative in our mouth for six decades and I Am Malala introduces us to one part of our history and the forgotten heroes that the official narrative intentionally excluded. Personally, I would prefer to learn more about a Pashtun worrier and a Sindhi poet rather than learning about an alien Arab invader because I can hardly relate to the Arab culture. I Am Malala did make a sincere effort to educate a country suffering from an identity crisis. A sixteen-year old girl can only provide us food for thought. It is now for the liberal intellectuals to initiate an in-depth debate on issues that plague the Pakistani society. By not sufficiently countering the right-wing distortions, the liberals have, unfortunately, let the book and its authors down.

Pakistani polio strain threatens Europe

The Pakistani polio virus strain, which has already affected five countries in the past 22 months, has now become a threat to European countries as well. The warning came from a reliable health journal of Europe: ‘The Lancet Medical Journal’. The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) had confirmed the presence of polio virus among children in northeast Syria. However, the Syrian government alleged that the virus had arrived from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) as Pakistanis from this part of the country were fighting along with the Syrian rebels. Dr Martin Eichner of the University of Tübingen and Stefan Brockmann of Germany's Reutlingen Regional Public Health Office in his article published in the journal noted that most European countries give polio vaccine once at the time of birth rather than giving immunisation repeatedly. “Since a large number of refugees are fleeing Syria and seeking refuge in neighbouring countries and Europe, there is now a chance the virus could travel into the areas which have been polio-free for decades,” he said. It is pertinent to mention that in January 2012, as many as 21 children were affected because of the virus in a Chinese province and it was confirmed that the virus came from Pakistan. In December 2012, the virus was detected in the Al-Azhar University, Egyt and it was again the Pakistani one traveled from Sukkur (Sindh). In March 2013, the same virus was also traced in Palestine and just after three months it was detected in Israel. Unicef has confirmed that the virus in Syria has been transmitted from Pakistan. However, it (Unicef) has not confirmed which part of the country it came from. A health expert requesting not to be identified said that Syria had been claiming that the virus was transmitted from Fata because it wanted to prove the foreign militants’ involvement in the country’s uprising. “According to our research, the virus which has been detected in Syria was the same that was traced in Egypt and it might have been transmitted from Egypt to Syria,” he said. Secretary, Social Services Fata, Aftab Durrani said that government of Pakistan knew that it was a very sensitive issue and Pakistanis could face traveling ban in Europe.

Blast near checkpost in Jamrud kills two Khasadar personnel

Two members of the Khasadar force were killed in an explosion that occurred near a security checkpost in Takhta Beg area of Khyber tribal region's Jamrud Tehsil on Wednesday, DawnNews reported. Political administration sources said that unknown persons had planted an explosive device near the Takhta Beg checkpoint in Jamrud which exploded on Wednesday morning with a huge bang. Two personnel of the Khasadar force were injured in the blast and shifted to Hayatabad Medical Complex in Peshawar. The security men however succumbed to their injuries. Fear and panic gripped the area after the blast whereas a contingent of security men reached the site and cordoned off the area as a search operation went underway in the area. In another incident, two policemen were injured when militants attacked a police checkpost in Bannu. According to sources, militants fired 12 rockets at the police checkpost in the northwestern district of Bannu, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Police retaliated and managed to repulse the attack. Two police personnel, however, sustained injuries. At least, 20 police personnel were present at the checkpost at the time of the attack. The northwestern town of Bannu, which stands at the gateway to the semi-autonomous Waziristan tribal region, is 150 kilometres southwest of Peshawar, the capital of KP. The town has witnessed a number of attacks and was the scene of a massive jail break in April 2012 during which 384 prisoners escaped from its central prison. Moreover, an explosion took place near Achini Bala area on Peshawar's Ring Road. There were no casualties in the blast.

Pakistan: Another Haqqani rubbed out

The assassination of the eldest son, Nasiruddin Haqqani, of the Haqqani Network (HN) leader Jalaluddin Haqqani in Bhara Kahu on the outskirts of Islamabad on Sunday night comes barely a week after Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Hakeemullah Mehsud’s death in a drone strike in North Waziristan. He is reported to be the fourth Haqqani brother to have been rubbed out by one means or the other. Two armed men opened fire on Nasiruddin, the chief financier and spokesman of the HN, as he was buying bread in the bazaar, stopped to make sure he was dead and then fled. Nasiruddin’s driver picked up the body and transported it to the Haqqani home near Miranshah, North Waziristan, where he is reported to have been buried. No claim of responsibility has surfaced so far, feeding the rumour mills fulltime. The TTP was quick to react, blaming the ISI for the assassination because they said, of Nasiruddin’s close support to Hakeemullah Mehsud. They also vowed to avenge his death. Other speculation centres on the usual cast of suspects, headed first and foremost by the US, which had declared the HN a terrorist group in 2012, in an ironic twist on the HN’s once blue-eyed boys status in the eyes of Washington during the anti-Soviet struggle in Afghanistan. Former US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen had categorised the HN in 2011 in testimony before Congress as a “veritable arm” of the Pakistani ISI. HN is considered one of the most deadly groups fighting the US, NATO and the Karzai Afghan government, with links to al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and a string of militant groups in Pakistan, including the TTP. The Pakistan army’s ISPR refused to comment on the assassination. The local police appeared clueless about whether the murder had actually occurred, and if it had, who was the victim, since the body was whisked away long before the police lumbered onto the scene. The local SHO has been suspended, but what good does that do when the incident is clearly a ‘black ops’ targeting by whoever was responsible. Some intriguing questions have arisen as a result of this incident. Some are describing it as a replay of the Osama bin Laden raid. It is being reported that Nasiruddin Haqqani had been living in the area for the last 3-4 years. Surely the intelligence agencies, if not the authorities, would have been aware of his presence. That will be the question that will once again be asked by the world. It will strengthen the conviction amongst wide swathes of international and domestic opinion about the establishment’s support for the HN. It will also once again resurrect the questions about the policy of the security establishment when this incident has once again highlighted the links of HN with a conglomeration of the Pakistani state’s enemies, including the homegrown TTP against whom the military is fighting. Nor should it be forgotten that all the reports speak of Maulana Fazlullah, the recently crowned successor of Hakeemullah Mehsud as the chief of the TTP, having found safe haven in eastern Afghanistan just across the border under the aegis of the HN. Internationally, it may ratchet up the pressure on Pakistan regarding its links with the HN. The complex play of forces in the Afghanistan (and now increasingly Pakistan) theatre shows the manner in which alignments have changed and shifted since the end of the Cold War. Yesterday’s allies (the US and the Afghan Mujahideen, including the HN) are today’s sworn enemies. Pakistan’s long standing policy of so-called ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan to be gained through armed proxies has badly backfired in the shape of domestic terrorists (like the TTP) linked inextricably with the global (al Qaeda) and regional (the Afghan Taliban, etc) terrorist groups that have laid siege to Pakistan and Afghanistan, not to mention the broader region, and created the gravest threat to Pakistan’s security in living memory. The military needs now (if it has not so far) to review its policies and options in the matter of Afghanistan before the 2014 drawdown of US and NATO troops and, as a corollary, how to tackle the homegrown terrorist threat, and advise the government accordingly.