Thursday, November 21, 2013
Two senior members of a feared Afghan insurgent group were killed early on Thursday in the first strike by a US drone outside Pakistan's lawless tribal areas. A Pakistani intelligence official claimed five people were killed by the early morning strike on a religious seminary in Hangu, a district bordering the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), where nearly all US drone strikes have taken place in the past. Residents and police claimed three or four missiles were fired at a section of the mud-built madrasa
http://www.politico.com/By JOSH GERSTEIN A White House spokeswoman confirmed early Thursday that President Barack Obama signed a letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai pledging that U.S. forces who may remain in the country for the next decade will respect the dignity of Afghans in their homes and only enter their residences when it is essential to do so. "I know you have been concerned for some time to limit the impact of the conflict in Afghanistan on the Afghan people, with particular attention to the sensitive issue of the safety and privacy of people in their homes," Obama wrote in the letter dated Wednesday and released by Karzai's office. "Over time, and especially in the recent past, we have redoubled our efforts to ensure that Afghan homes are respected by our forces and that our operations are conducted consistent with your law. We will continue to make every effort to respect the sanctity and dignity of Afghans in their homes and in their daily lives, just as we do for our own citizens." "As this new agreement states, U.S. forces shall not enter Afghan homes for the purposes of military operations, ecept under extraordinary circumstances involving urgent risk to life and limb of U.S. nationals," Obama continued. Some press reports had suggested that Obama's letter would amount to an apology for past U.S. raids in Afghanistan that had resulted in civilians being killed or wounded. However, U.S. officials insisted that the president had not agreed to sign any letter of that sort, although they said the U.S. always regrets civilan casualties during military conflicts. Obama's letter is part of what Karzai requested and obtained from American officials in an effort to persuade a gathering of Afghan leaders, a so-called Loya Jirga, to approve a security pact with the U.S. that would allow American troops to remain in the country through 2024. The U.S. appears to have won the key assurance it insisted upon in the agreement: immunity for U.S. forces from prosecution in Afghan courts.
Six mortar bombs have landed near a border post in northern Saudi Arabia in an attack claimed by an Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia armed group, which said it was warning the kingdom to stop meddling in Iraqi affairs. The mortar rounds hit desert on the far northwestern fringes of the kingdom's oil-producing region on Wednesday, several hundred kilometres from the major fields operated by the world's largest oil exporter and biggest Arab economy. "The goal was to send a warning message to Saudis to tell them that their border stations and patrol are within our range of fire," Wathiq al-Batat, commander of Iraq's al-Mukhtar Army group, told the Reuters news agency on Thursday. He said the group wanted Riyadh to stop "interfering" in Iraq and that it had also been angered by Saudis and Kuwaitis who he said had insulted the Prophet Mohammad's daughter. There was no independent confirmation that the armed group was behind the mortar fire, reported two days after twin suicide bombings killed 25 people near Iran's embassy in Beirut. A Lebanon-based Sunni group linked to al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the attack. Some Shia commentators blamed that assault on Iran's regional rival Saudi Arabia, which has condemned the Beirut attack. 'No high alert' Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Major-General Mansour Turki said Iraq and Kuwait, as well as the kingdom itself, were investigating the mortars that landed in the Kingdom. Iran has not commented on the mortar attack. Baghdad said it was not involved. "There were no rockets or anything fired towards the Saudi border by security forces," said Jabar al-Sa'adi, head of Basra provincial council's security committee, in southern Iraq. Turki said Saudi forces had not been put on higher alert after the bombardment. Saudi news website sabq.org published pictures of small craters in the desert which it said the mortar fire had caused. A high barbed-wire fence and a road were visible in some photos. "Six mortar rounds fell in an uninhabited area near the new al-Auja border guard centre of Hafr al-Batin in Eastern Province. Thank God, no damage resulted," said border guard spokesman General Mohammed al-Ghamdi. Al-Mukhtar Army is a relatively new Shia armed goup, which has said it is supported and funded by Iran. Batat is a former leader of the more well-known Kata'ib Hezbollah armed group. Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, a close ally of Kuwait, has had tense relations with the Shia-led Iraqi government, which it views as a pawn of Iran.
The European Parliament has criticized Qatar over the exploitation of migrant workers preparing venues for the 2022 World Cup. The parliament approved a resolution on Thursday, calling on the Persian Gulf state to ensure that any abuses of the migrant workers are ended, the Associated Press reported. It also planned to send a fact-finding mission to Qatar next year, insisting that the alleged abuses should be investigated. "We cannot allow the 2022 World Cup to be built on slavery," said Hannes Swoboda, president of the Socialists and Democrats Group of MEPs. The President of world football’s governing body FIFA, Sepp Blatter, described on Wednesday the situation of the workers in Qatar as “unacceptable.” "Economic and political leaders must contribute to improving the unacceptable situation in Qatar,” he said. The Persian Gulf state has been pressured to put an end to the exploitation of migrant workers, as it is implementing a multi-billion-dollar construction program as part of preparations for the international football tournament. Amnesty International said in a report on Monday that workers suffer “alarming” levels of exploitation such as dangerous working condition and non-payment of wages in Qatar's construction sector ahead of the important sport event. Amnesty conducted interviews with 210 workers, employers and government officials for its report, called "The Dark Side of Migration." "It is simply inexcusable in one of the richest countries in the world that so many migrant workers are being ruthlessly exploited, deprived of their pay and left struggling to survive," Amnesty’s Secretary General Salil Shetty said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has urged thousands of Afghan dignitaries at a Loya Jirga in Kabul to support a key security pact with the United States.
Senior lawyer and central leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Aitzaz Ahsan said on Thursday that there the former president Pervez Musharraf who is facing treason charges, should have an open trial. Talking to media outside Supreme Court ‚ he said that the case would not be concluded quickly since prosecutors have enough evidence against Musharraf who also heads his party – All Pakistan Muslim League (APML). Ahsan claimed that Musharraf’s trial is impossible before the outgoing Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s retirement. The army chief will retire on Nov 29. The government has constituted a three-member special court to try the former army chief for treason. Justice Faisal Arab, Justice Tahira Safdar and Justice Yawar Ali have been named as judges for the court. Ahsan said that there should be an open trial, saying that Musharraf suspended the Constitution to impose state of emergency in 2007. He further added that Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry would not be a serving judge at the time of this trial, and in his opinion, this trial won’t end soon. Responding to a question, he said Musharraf used the word ‘I’ in several decisions, including the time he imposed emergency, therefore, there was no justification for Army to react (to this trial). On Wednesday, Attorney General Munir A.Malik said in his media talk in Islamabad that treason in Pakistan is punishable with death penalty or life imprisonment, however, the president of Pakistan is authorized to pardon the convict. - See more at: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2013/11/21/news/national/musharraf-should-face-an-open-trial-aitzaz-ahsan/#sthash.bMy3hiXS.dpuf
By Nayyar Afaq
It should surprise us not that senior police officials ran away from the troubled spot when the participants of the procession started firing on the worshippers in a mosque in Rawalpindi last Friday; such acts of selfless bravery by police officials have been observed in other parts of the country as well. Neither should it surprise us that local government officials, in spite of ban on use of loudspeaker, did not stop the management of a mosque from using the sound-amplifier through which the hate speech was being delivered and which ultimately became the excuse for the murderous violence: The police all over the country is notorious for not forcing compliance of government orders. Nor is it shocking that Rawalpindi police was unable to disarm the members of the crowd moving ahead of the Friday procession, in spite of ban on carrying arms in the city--- the attack was started by the arm-bearers in that crowd moving ahead of the procession. Neither should anyone be surprised that there were not enough cops or members of other agencies to intervene in case of violence; though, the mosque was officially declared a sensitive spot with reference to the Friday procession. Similar incidents have happened from time to time in the rest of the country. We should thank our lucky stars or the militants and the rioters who did not target more sites for their terrorist activities; the chances are that they wouldn\'t have met much resistance. Why should we, however, expect anything different when the governments\' machinery, both provincial and government, mostly comprise men and women who have been appointed after bribing or using the influence of their relatives. The police department, like most departments, in almost all provinces, are said to contain even men and women appointed in spite of their long crime sheets in police stations; some even have been convicted by courts. And like all departments there is no dearth of fake degree-holders in police. And like in all departments, except the armed forces, the police department does not give proper training to new appointees. Even if the police does arrange for training, the competence of the appointed trainees is usually so low that they wouldn\'t be able to benefit from it. There also is no weapon with police personnel to match that of the hardened criminals or terrorist; the cops usually have no government vehicles to use during the performance of their duties; their pay is so low that one could even use it as an argument to justify the corruption by cops. There are no proper laboratories or labs manned by appropriately qualified and experienced individual for forensic investigations. And to top it all, the police departments in all provinces are politicised to the extreme. Officials in police department usually don\'t owe their allegiance to the state or the province but to one or another political party or to the individuals in power. The police officers and lowly cops obey all illegal orders from above to stay in their lucrative positions, get promotions or avoid termination. Efficiency, better education qualifications, experience, clean past, dedication to job are all aspects related to merit and merit is the only thing missing in the considerations when making fresh appointments or ordering promotions. It is money or connections that count in these matters. We would be wrong in expecting different from our police and other government departments than what they did in contributing towards the Rawalpindi tragedy if the above situation is not changed while appointing and promoting individuals on considerations other than merit. Policing, especially in the modern age, is costly; there are countries which spend as much money on their police as they do on their defence and recruit as morally and physically fit individuals in the police as they do in their armed forces. Our rulers have to change their attitudes too, the police department is not a necessary evil needed to scare the public of the power of state; it is a tool to help the ordinary people against lawbreakers. Police departments are the first line of defence against violence inside any country. Cops in the modern world are trusted by the common people; they feel physically secure in the presence of police; their first call in distress is to the police station. In Pakistan police is a source of fear; Pakistanis feel insecure when their cops are present; they believe they cannot even register a complaint in the police station unless they have money to bribe the staff there. That is not to say that there are no honest individuals among cops but they are far between and as such not effective. Unless the police departments all over the country are rehashed and re-manned with honest, qualified, dedicated, well-trained, well-equipped and well-paid staff; such incidents as the Rawalpindi tragedy should not surprise us; rather, we should expect more bloodshed caused mostly by the incompetence, non-dedication, dishonesty of our highly politicised police.
The Baloch HalBy Kiran Nazish About twenty families in Balochistan province of Pakistan are on a journey of protest from one city to another, calling on the government of Pakistan, the UN and the international community to address the issue of Baloch missing persons. But who is listening? Says one of the female marchers, whose husband was abducted in 2010, “The media has been ignoring us. The whole point of this march is to raise the issue of our missing brothers, but how is that possible if the media ignores us? How can we get our message through? The negligence is astonishing.” The Voice for Baloch Missing Person (VBMP) organized the march, which started in Quetta, the capital city of Balochistan and will culminate as a sit-in in Karachi, the capital of Sind. The march, in which the families will cover 730 km on foot, is an attempt to highlight the issue. But for the first 25 days of the march, which is still ongoing, Pakistani media has been largely ignoring the protestors, which some editors confess is due to fears of reprisal. The marchers are expected to reach Karachi in a few days. There is no agreement on the figures of those missing. Nationalist groups in Balochistan claim that up to 18,000 Baloch persons and teenage boys are missing, while independent sources claim that more than 6,000 persons have gone missing after being arrested. The issue of Baloch missing persons is not new. Thousands continue to disappear in Pakistan as a separatist movement simmers in Balochistan. The nationalists say that Balochistan was forcibly annexed in March 1948 and demand a separate homeland where they can live in peace. The Baloch militants have fought five insurgencies against Pakistan security forces, with the first four fought in the isolated tribal areas of eastern Balochistan. During the march, relatives of the abducted chant slogans calling on the government and international human rights organizations to acknowledge the issue and investigate the abduction and murders of their brothers and sons. Among the marchers is the seven-year-old son of Jalil Reki, who was according to the marchers “extrajudicially killed after a year of his disappearance in an ISI torture cell.” Others include Nasrullah Baloch, whose uncle has been missing for 11 years, Mama Qadeer Baloch, whose cousin has been missing since 2001 and whose son was killed during his detention, and Farzana Majeed, whose brother Zakir Majeed Baloch has been missing since 2009 after his arrest by the Frontier Corp (FC). All of these marchers accuse the military and FC of abducting, torturing and killing their loved ones. Farzana Majeed has been fighting to get information about her missing brothers and has spoken out frequently on the issue. During the march, she protested the media blackout and said, “There are women and children protesting peacefully in this march but the media is turning a blind eye, which shows its inequitable approach towards Baloch people.” Added Majeed: “The media should tell us what is our fault? Why are they ignoring our march for the recovery of our loved ones. We have been marching for the past eight days but the media is completely silent and by ignoring our peaceful and democratic protest the media is pushing us against the wall.” The Vice Chairman of VBMP, Qadeer Baloch said ”There are some people who are concerned by the awareness this long march can bring and have started to bully the families of the long marchers back in Quetta.” He added, “The houses of several people of those who have openly shown support for the long march have been raided.” The VBMP official asserts that despite the challenges and continuous threat, the march will continue to its final destination. “Those who thought we will get tired in a day or two should know that there is blood gushing from the feet of our sisters and daughters but they are determined to continue the march at all costs.” The Diplomat sought comment from the military, without success. However, according to other sources, Pakistani officials have repeatedly insisted that they are not involved in abducting or killing Baloch. This is contrary to recent statements by the Balochistan provincial government, which has highlighted the issue of Baloch missing persons and has also given its own figures of those missing. According to groups in Balochistan, since June 2010, 730 missing persons have been extrajudicially killed after their arrest and disappearance. Balochistan government officials confirm the extrajudicial killings of 530 personsduring this time. Early this month when Dr. Abdul Malik, Chief Minister of Balochistan, spoke at the Karachi Press Club about attempts to maintain law and order in Balochistan, he admitted that his government had failed to solve the issue of disappearances. Baloch activists blame his government of not making any efforts to solve the human right abuses carried out in the province. Says activist Faizan Baloch, “It’s a weak government and we did not support the elections, so technically Dr. Malik is not a democratically elected leader.” He adds that the provincial government “has no control over law enforcement agencies to solve the issue of disappearances.” The 20 families of the missing persons from Balochistan meanwhile continue their long march.
More than 2.3 million children have no access to education in Balochistan, geographically the largest and most backward province of Pakistan. Poverty, worsening law and order situation, financial and social barriers combined with the lackadaisical attitude of concerned quarters are major reasons contributing to the sorry state of child education in Balochistan. Ghullam Ali Baloch, the Secretary Education Balochistan told Dawn.com that only 1.3m out of total 3.6m children were going to schools in the province, a figure way below the numbers of other provinces in ten key social indicators including health, education, sanitation, literacy and drinking water. Chief Minister Balochistan, Dr. Malik Baloch admitted that majority of children in Balochistan have been deprived of their right to education. However, he said: “We will bring back these kids to school.” Dr. Baloch's government seems to be determined to ensure quality education to students. For this purpose, his government allocated substantial funds for development of education sector with an objective to open new schools and make the dysfunctional schools functional in every nook and corner of the province. “If we fail to bring these children back to schools, it would be disastrous,” the chief minister said. Madrassahs and hunger In marginalised areas of the province, most of the parents opt to have their children admitted in madrassahs (seminaries) due to the absence of schools. “Madrassahs provides food, accommodation and other facilities, something which schools cannot,” Niamatullah Khan, a well-known educationist explained. Children in poor-marginalised settlements of Balochistan either work on daily wages to feed their impoverished families or go to madrassah's to get religious education. Around 3000 seminaries were registered in Balochistan during military dictator and former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf's regime. Sources in provincial industries department told Dawn.com that the number of unregistered madaris (religious schools) was more than 10,000 in the province. The Afghan war in the aftermath of Noor Muhammad Tarakai's Red Revolution of 1978 severely affected the social fabric of Balochistan in general and Pashtun dominated areas in particular. “People in remote areas still consider education as un-Islamic,” Niamatullah Khan said. Apart from this, most of the teachers from other provinces of the country have left Baloch dominated areas as a result of threats to their lives and properties. “There is serious dearth of teachers in Baloch areas as result of the growing insurgency,” Khan said. For the poor parents, they have no option other than sending their kids to seminaries in absence of government-run schools. “Madrassah's teach Islamic education and provides all facilities to my son,” Haji Muhammad Yar, whose son studies in a seminary in Pishin district, which borders with neighboring Afghanistan, told Dawn.com. Government-run schools neither provide accommodation nor books to poor students, whereas every religious school is functional and providing books and other facilities to the students. Little trust in public schools “There is no education in government-run schools,” Mehmood Khan, who works a private TV channel said. “Despite limited resources, I had my children admitted in a private school since the teachers are doing their jobs,” he opined. The number of primary, middle and high schools across the province is 12,600 with 56,000 teachers. However, the Secretary Education reveals that 2000 schools were not functional and the number of teachers who were not performing their duties was more than 3000. “I have directed the education department to take strict action against absent teachers,” the chief minister said. However, independent sources put the number of absent teachers higher than what is being revealed by the chief education officer of the province. Mujeebullah Gharsheen, the President All Government Teachers contradicts the data of education department and claims that the number of ghost teachers was more than five thousand. He said the number of ghost and dysfunctional schools is more than 6000. "A large number of teachers in Quetta and other parts of Balochistan have been working on fake degrees in educational institutions. "Even in Quetta city there are 700 teachers working on fake degrees,” he said. “They enjoy complete impunity,” Gharsheen said. “The teachers are taking their salaries but not performing duties,” Baloch admitted. He said 95 per cent of schools in the province comprised one room one teacher and only five per cent of the schools had proper rooms and equipments. Most of the government schools were located in Balochistan’s Jaffarabad and Pishin districts whereas Sherani had fewer schools across the province. In most of the government-run schools, there is no check and balance on teachers. Otherwise, most of the government teachers are highly paid. “Every month, government pays around 2 billion rupees to teachers across the province,” an official of the provincial finance department, who declined to be named, said. It is irony of fate that every successive government makes claims for promoting education and improving the living standard of this least developed province. However, ground realities negate these claims. If Balochistan’s ills are to be diagnosed, ‘education must be on the top of the agenda for the rulers’ since it offers solution to all the ills of society.
www.shiitenews.comNotorious Yazidi nasbi takfiri terrorists of outlawed Sipah-e-Sahaba shot martyred a Shia youth and injured another three when they made an armed attack on Jafaria Imam Bargah in Karachi on Wednesday night. Shiite News Correspondent reported here that the terrorists stormed into Qasba Colony and sprayed Shia youths with volleys of bullets near Jafaria Imam Bargah. Due to the targeted firing, Danish Rizvi, Adeel, Asad and Meesam were injured. They were rushed to a private hospital for immediate medical treatment. Unfortunately, Danish Rizvi, one of the critically wounded Shia youth, succumbed to the fatal wounds. Body was taken to Imam Bargah Martyrs of Karbala Incholi. Latest reports had it that his namaz-e-janaza was held at the compound of Imam Bargah. Maulana Shaikh Mohammad Hassan, prayer leader of Masjid Khair ul Amal led the prayer. Thousands of people attended the funeral. Shia parties and leaders have condemned the targeted murder of the Shia youth in armed attack on four Shiites. They said that PMLN government and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should learn a lesson from the genocide of Shiites and threats of the Yazidi terrorists that were hurled at the PMLN leaders. They reiterated their demand that a military operation be launched to eliminate the terrorists.
A suspected U.S. drone attack early Thursday on a religious seminary believed to be linked to the ruthless Haqqani insurgent network killed at least six people and wounded eight, according to police and witnesses. Residents of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province said the drone fired four missiles at the hardline Taleem-ul-Quran seminary in the garrison town of Thall at around 7 a.m., destroying two of the institutions' mud-built walls. The seminary is run by Qari Noor Ullah, a religious leader affiliated with the Haqqani group, and is located near a major Pakistan army garrison.