Saturday, February 1, 2014
By Mick Krever, CNN If you thought you had a big vocabulary, think again. The average English-speaker knows between 25,000 and 40,000 words, Oxford English Dictionary Chief Editor Michael Proffitt told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday. His organization – which bills itself as the “definitive record of the English language” – has recorded 800,000 words and counting, he said. “Even people who are doing 40,000, at the highest end, it’s about five percent of what we’ve got in the OED,” he said. “And that’s not all the words in the language.” Proffitt has just taken over the helm of the OED, the first succession in 20 years, and he faces a unique challenge. How will the revered dictionary stay relevant in a 21st century world of Tweets and text messages? There are practical decisions, like how do customers access the dictionary; editorial ones, like which new words should make it into the dictionary; and questions of speed – the latest revision of the 20-volume dictionary will not be complete for another 20 years. But to hear Proffitt describe the challenge, it’s nothing new. “It was one of the first reference works available on CD-ROM,” he said. “And then it was also one of the first reference works available online, in 2000.” Some of the most seemingly modern of words, like “selfie” and “defriend,” are in the OED online edition. And others, like “unfriend,” are much older than we might think. “This is often the case when we research words,” Proffitt said. “We found an example of ‘unfriend’ from 1594. … It was somebody saying, ‘I hope this event hasn’t unfriended us.’” And that’s only when it is used as a verb; as a noun, he said, the word has been in usage all the way back to Old English. Even “omg” – an initialism most often associated with California valley girls – had its first usage in a 1917 letter written by a British admiral to none other than Winston Churchill. It’s exactly the kind of unexpected etymology Proffitt seems to view as the OED’s selling point. The online edition tends to have short definitions for “practical” use; the print edition, however, gives the “biography” of a word – “you see a whole life story.” Linguistic purists are often irked by the way many words are used in contemporary English – perhaps none more-so than “literally,” used when something will not in fact “literally” happen. U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham said this week that “the world is literally about to blow up” – an astounding thought were it to “literally” come true. “It’s interesting that it’s picked up as a particularly problematic word,” Proffitt said, “because there’s lots of other words like ‘actually,’ or ‘really’ that could be sort of prescribed in the same way.” “Clearly a lot of people use it for exaggerated effect. And it works, I guess – it gets the attention.”
Pakistan: TEHRIK E TALIBAN NOMINATES IMRAN KHAN , SAMI UL HAQ, AND 3 OTHER TO NEGOTIATE ON THEIR BEHALF
An analyst says the governance of the Saudi Arabia regime over its nation is entirely divorced from Islamic teachings and the ruling Al Saud is only catering for Western interests, Press TV reports. “Saudi Arabia is using the name of Islam to prolong its nefarious designs in supporting, defending and safeguarding the Western interests and the Israeli interests,” Dr. Syed Ali Wasif, the president of the Society for International Reforms & Research, said in an interview with Press TV. “It has nothing to do with Islam. Just because it has Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, it does not mean that it follows Islam.” In Saudi Arabia, one family regime has been ruling over the country for the last 70 years “unhindered and without any accountability,” leading to rampant corruption and the widespread abolition of human rights, he added “In this case of Saudi Arabia, we do not see any kind of popular support to the Saudi regime or people’s representatives sitting in the assemblies or in the parliament. So it is totally in contravention with the Islamic norms.” Wasif further criticized the international community, human rights organizations, the United Nations Security Council, the Red Cross and the Red Crescent and other international bodies for “totally ignoring” the arbitrary detention of tens of thousands of Saudi citizens over the last decade. “Especially those people who are living in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia are treated as third-rated citizens of Saudi Arabia. They do not have any kinds of right despite the fact that they are the citizens of Saudi Arabia,” he said. Since February 2011, protesters have held demonstrations on an almost regular basis in Saudi Arabia, mainly in the Qatif region and the town of Awamiyah in Eastern Province, primarily calling for the release of all political prisoners, freedom of expression and assembly, and an end to widespread discrimination. The Saudi interior ministry issued a statement on March 5, 2011, prohibiting “all forms of demonstrations, marches or protests, and calls for them, because that contradicts the principles of the Islamic Sharia, the values and traditions of Saudi society, and results in disturbing public order and harming public and private interests” The demonstrations have turned into protests against the Al Saud regime, especially since November 2011, when Saudi security forces killed five protesters and injured many others in Eastern Province. According to Human Rights Watch, the Saudi regime “routinely represses expression critical of the government.” “Saudi Arabia is basically toeing the policy of the Western powers, the policy of NATO in the Middle East in the name of the so-called Islam which it follows, the Wahhabi-Salafi Islam,” Wasif said.
A Saudi prince says his country is suffering from rampant and crouching corruption in state organizations, the scope of which is gradually being revealed to the public. In a letter to the head of Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption organization, Prince al-Waleed bin Talal Al Saud has demanded that it stand against the financial corruption in the kingdom and reveal the names of the corrupt officials. Meanwhile, local media said the multi-billion-dollar project of Saudi Arabia's first locally-built car, an all-terrain vehicle called "Ghazal 1" does not really exist. Prince Bin Talal's warning comes as Saudi Arabia approved in 2011 the creation of the anti-corruption commission in order to promote transparency and fight against financial and administrative corruption. In August 2013, exiled Saudi prince Khalid Bin Farhan Al Saud criticized the suppression of dissident voices and rampant corruption in the Middle East powerhouse. He questioned Saudi Arabia’s stepped-up crackdown on anti-regime protests while supporting the militancy in Syria. The Saudi prince also criticized the United States for ignoring corruption in Saudi Arabia due to long-term interests. Saudi Arabia is the world's largest oil exporter, with the black gold accounting for 90 percent of the country's exports. However, corruption is so ingrained in Saud Arabia’s royal family that despite the country’s enormous oil money, it struggles with problems such as poverty and unemployment. Job growth and welfare programs in Saudi Arabia have failed to keep pace with a booming population that hiked from 6 million in 1970 to 28 million in 2012.
While some people trying to compare the situation of Asia 2014 to Europe 1914, a top Chinese official would not agree with that. Addressing Munich Security Conference Saturday, Fu Ying, Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee of China's National People's Congress, said that the situation in Asia now was different from that of Europe in 1914, when countries were fighting for expansion in "the year of imperialism". Globalization provided opportunities for a peaceful development of emerging economies including China, peace and development is the main trend, Fu said in Munich. Although in the process of globalization, finance, technology, resources were transferring from traditional center of industrialized countries to developing countries including China and India, providing opportunities for them to progress towards prosperity. "Now is the era of peace and development," she said, adding that the economic development of developing countries would not have the same drive for the expansion for power, or for war. Fu Ying said China needed a peaceful environment for its ongoing drive for development. The new reform program will help China move forward to realize the Chinese Dream where "those who work hard be rewarded, the elder be cared, the sickness be treated, children be educated". China has avoided getting involved in conflicts, built confidence with its neighbors and initiated lots of economic and financial cooperation schemes and has made Asia "an attractive place with prosperity and lasting stability". On the relationships between China and Japan, Fu Ying said China was at the receiving end of the Japan's provocation on maritime territory disputes, and has to respond in order to bring the issue back to the right track. Regarding Japan's denying its invasion history and crimes during the second world war, she said "until the Japanese leaders can face honestly what happened during the war, until they can make genuine reconciliation with the people of their neighbors, until they can take off the burden of history, it's very hard for them to become a constructive member of Asian partnership." Japanese leader's recent performance, including visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine where 14 Class-A war criminals of WWII were honored, showed that there was a failure of history education in Japan. People born after the war had so little knowledge, so cold feeling for the victims of the war, said Fu Ying.
The ongoing protests in Ukraine divided world leaders attending the 50th annual Munich Security Conference on Saturday. US Secretary of State John Kerry said that demonstrators in the country “are fighting for the right to associate with partners who will help them realize their aspirations.” “Nowhere is the fight for a democratic, European future more important today than in Ukraine.” NATO and EU officials echoed those comments in words of support for the demonstrators. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, however, urged world leaders to work with the country's leaders to defuse the situation. “We need fewer slogans right now and more care about the results of efforts being undertaken by the Ukrainian leadership to return the country to a peaceful course.” Demonstrations in the Ukrainian capital Kiev began in November following the announcement that the country would drop its bid to seek an association agreement with the EU. On Saturday, Leonid Kozhara, Ukraine’s foreign minister, voiced concerns that the country was becoming caught between competing interests. “We do not want to be pawns in a geopolitical game,” he said, adding “we do not want anyone to interfere with our strategic partnership with Russia, but we are also drawn towards the European Union." Russian officials have alleged that the demonstrations are a result of Western meddling in the country’s internal affairs. The protests turned violent last month after Ukraine’s parliament hastily passed a set of laws curtailing the right to public assembly. On Friday, President Viktor Yanukovych signed a bill into law that reversed the earlier legislation and opened the door for amnesty for protestors. Both Lavrov and Kerry stressed that Ukraine need not choose between Russian and European alliances. “Their futures do not have to lie with one country alone, and certainly not coerced,” Kerry said in an apparent jab at Moscow. Lavrov said that suggesting Ukraine must choose sides is “an idea from a bygone era.”
Western politicians who advocate freedom of choice for Ukraine, but say this must be a pro-European choice, have a strange interpretation of freedom, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a security conference in Munich. Lavrov was responding to numerous statements, including from the European Council President Hermann van Rompuy and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, which were voiced just minutes before at the conference. He also criticized Western support for Ukrainian anti-government protests, which he said ignored the darker side of the movements behind the violence there. “What does the inciting of street protests, which are growing increasingly violent, have to do with promoting democratic principles?” Lavrov said. “Why do we not hear statements of condemnation toward those who seize government buildings, attack and burn police officers, and voice racist and anti-Semitic slogans? Why do senior European politicians de facto encourage such actions, while at home they swiftly and harshly act to stop any impingement on the letter of the law?” Lavrov defended the Ukrainian government’s right to stop the violence, citing a 1966 international treaty on basic political rights, which has been adopted by almost all UN members. “The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that the freedom of expression cannot be illegal and is a basic right. But riots, violent actions give the grounds to limit those freedoms,” he said. “A state must be strong, if it wants to remain democratic.” Ukraine has been mired in a deep political crisis since November 2013, when President Viktor Yanukovich’s government decided not to sign a free trade agreement with the EU, prompting mass pro-EU integration protests. The demonstrations remained more or less peaceful until January, when the Ukrainian parliament adopted a number of bills giving the government greater powers to restrict mass demonstrations. Radical opposition activists responded to the legislation with violent attacks on riot police. Several days of clashes ensued, in which hundreds of police officers and protesters were injured. The Ukrainian authorities have since made a number of concessions to the opposition, including the repeal of the controversial anti-protests laws, but the tense ceasefire remains shaky at best. Many western politicians have been openly supporting the anti-government protests and have criticized the Ukrainian government for its handling of the situation. The latest example came from US Secretary of State John Kerry, who was also speaking at the Munich security conference. The people of Ukraine "are fighting for the right to associate with partners who will help them realize their aspirations – and they have decided that means their futures do not have to lie with one country alone, and certainly not coerced," Kerry said. But while condemning police brutality and alleged kidnappings, torture and killings of opposition activists, foreign supporters of the opposition have barely mentioned violence and suspected crimes committed by the radical nationalist opposition. The West has also criticized Russia for what it calls putting pressure on Ukraine not to integrate with the EU. Moscow denies these allegations, however, and insists that it has been keeping an appropriate distance from the crisis, unlike some western countries meddling in Ukraine’s internal affairs. One of the accusations over Russia’s alleged pressure on Ukraine is over its decision to offer a $15 billion loan and a discount on gas prices to Kiev. Critics say Moscow “bought” Ukraine’s non-alliance with Europe, but Russia insists that it is simply aiding a brotherly people in a time of need, not Ukraine’s government. Russian President Vladimir Putin this week said that Russia will provide the loan to whatever government is in Kiev, be it formed by President Yanukovich’s ruling party, or by the opposition. But Russia wants to see a working government following the resignation of outgoing PM Nikolay Azarov’s cabinet, before transferring the next installment.
Super Bowl Sunday is almost here - the National Football League championship is the second most watched annual sporting event worldwide. With all eyes on the big game, advertisers are lining up to spend record amounts of money to put their ad in front of viewers. Super Bowl commercials have become "must see TV." It has become an event almost as big as the game itself - it’s the only day of the year when viewers don’t hit the mute or go to the bathroom during a time-out. Super Bowl commercials are big, big business, which comes as little surprise considering Super Bowl is traditionally the most-watched American television broadcast of the year. “Thirty years ago there were a good number of ways to get to everyone," said Richard Fine, a managing director with Redscout. "There were big event televisions, big shows everyone watched. And now there is only one, only one thing where you get to 110 million people a year. And a big audience brings a hefty pricetag - a 30-second ad costs, on average, $4 million this year. “Is it worth spending $4 million for 30 seconds of advertising? I guess it depends on what you are setting out to do as a marketer,” said Ken Wheaton, a managing editor at Advertising Age. “If you have a specific message or if you are traditionally a Super Bowl advertiser, I think it does make sense. You can send a message to the average consumer, 'Buy my product, we are American-made.' Or you are sending a message to your stockholders: 'We're healthy financially to make a marketing play this big.'" Budweiser, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, and car companies traditionally spend the big bucks to air ads during the Super Bowl. James Cooper, editorial director at Adweek, says celebrities are starting to get in on the act as well. "For the companies that use them, they buy instant recognition for the ad," he said. "If you see Arnold Schwarzenegger in a Bud Light ad people are going to pay attention. Miley Cyrus they will pay attention, people pay attention to her as well. John Stamos most in those Oikos yogurt ads." Wheaton says there will be plenty of star power this year too. “This year, we have Scarlett Johansson for SodaStream. We have, I count the Muppets as celebrities for Toyota," he said. "A trio of British actors for Jaguar, Laurence Fishburne for Kia and [David] Beckham for H&M. And probably a few others. We never know who is going to pull out a surprise ad." Fine says that all those eyeballs mean more pressure to put out a good ad. “You’re in a competition to see whose commercial wins the most like, views, awards, whatever it might be," he said. "It’s a very competitive context, and what you’re trying to do is be one of the ones that is a big, buzzed-about commercial. “That's why people tend to sort of be semi-safe, they use things like puppies and babies and monkeys," said AdWeek's Cooper.
The top U.S. defense official on Saturday underscored the Obama administration's intention to shift the focus of its foreign policy away from military might toward diplomacy. Speaking at the Munich security conference, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he and Secretary of State John Kerry "have both worked to restore balance to the relationship between American defense and diplomacy". Hagel, in prepared remarks, stressed that the United States was "moving off a 13-year war footing" as the war in Afghanistan winds down and as Washington seeks to avoid getting involved in additional military conflicts overseas. Hagel's remarks echo those of President Barack Obama, who in his annual State of the Union address this week said the United States could not rely on its military power alone, promising to send U.S. troops to fight overseas only when "truly necessary". In recent years, the United States has shown its eagerness to wind down the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the military dominated traditionally civilian-led activities such as development aid. U.S. officials have also sought to avoid becoming involved in new on-the-ground military action in places like Syria and Libya. "Foreign policy had become too militarized over the last decade or so," a senior U.S. defense official said on condition of anonymity. "It's time for us to be in a supporting role when it comes to the execution of this country's foreign policy." "The nation's foreign policy should and rightly be led by the State Department, with the Defense Department in full support," the official said. The State Department is taking the lead on several key foreign priorities for the White House, including the effort to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians and to halt Iran's nuclear programme. Still, the comments are striking from the head of the powerful, massive U.S. Defense Department. The U.S. military budget, even after cuts imposed amid repeated U.S. budget crises, dwarfs spending for diplomacy and foreign aid. But the U.S. military has been strained by the long wars that followed the 9/11 attacks. Washington pulled all troops out of Iraq at the end of 2011. It has also seeking to finalize a security pact with Afghan President Hamid Karzai that would authorize the United States to keep a small force in Afghanistan beyond this year.
'I’m going to do everything I can in the coming months to see if we can get this over the finish line.' Until now, the President and other Democrats insisted that the deal give the undocumented immigrants a path to full citizenship.In a major shift, President Obama on Friday opened the door to a potential election-year compromise on the contentious issue of immigration reform. Obama said for the first time that he might accept a deal that would offer the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. legal status instead of full citizenship. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other Republican leaders had floated just such a proposal on Thursday. Until now, Obama and other Democrats insisted that any compromise on immigration reform contain a path to full citizenship. Anything short of that, they said, would create a two-tiered class system. But in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Obama indicated a new flexibility. “If the speaker proposes something that says right away, folks aren’t being deported, families aren’t being separated, we’re able to attract top young students to provide the skills or start businesses here, and then there’s a regular process of citizenship, I’m not sure how wide the divide ends up being,” Obama said. In a Google Plus Hangout talk on Friday, Obama added, “I’m going to do everything I can in the coming months to see if we can get this over the finish line." The two parties have been trying to strike a deal on immigration reform for 30 years with little success. Conservatives adamantly oppose any path to citizenship for the undocumented, arguing it would reward people who have broken immigration laws. But Boehner and some other top Republicans believe a compromise can improve the GOP’s image with Latino voters and satisfy business interests that are clamoring for reform. And the President is eager to secure a major legislative achievement on an issue that is critical to a major portion of the Democratic Party’s base. A bill passed in 2013 by a coalition of senators created an expedited path to citizenship for the undocumented, but it stalled in the House. In the CNN interview, Obama said that once undocumented immigrants gained legal status, they could then seek full citizenship through the regular application process. “The principle that we don’t want two classes of people in America is a principle that a lot of people agree with — not just me and not just Democrats,” he said. The proposal issued by Boehner is silent on whether those who obtain legal status could apply for citizenship. But it would not preclude millions from trying to obtain permanent legal residence, often known as a green card, through sponsorship by an employer or adult child. Those individuals they could later seek citizenship. “You could say there is no special path (to citizenship) under what Republicans are talking about,” said one Democratic aide tracking the issue. “But is still some kind of path.” Although Obama and Boehner seemed to be finding common ground, a wild card remains conservatives in the House. Some are questioning the strategy of pushing a contentious issue that angers conservative Republican voters. Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/obama-accept-deal-offering-undocumented-immigrants-legal-status-article-1.1598680#ixzz2s6rFSkEt
President Hamid Karzai is unlikely to sign a pact for U.S. and NATO forces to stay in Afghanistan after 2014 and will probably leave the choice for his successor, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Saturday. Kabul and Washington spent months negotiating a legal framework for some U.S. troops to stay on after the end of 2014, when NATO-led forces are due to end combat operations, leaving behind a much smaller training and advisory mission. But Karzai has said he will not sign the agreement unless certain conditions are met. The delay has frustrated the United States and its allies, who want to plan the post-2014 training and advisory mission. Both the United States and NATO have said they may be forced to pull their forces out of Afghanistan entirely at the end of this year unless the agreement is signed soon. Rasmussen acknowledged for the first time on Saturday that he did not expect Karzai to sign the U.S. pact and a similar pact that must be negotiated with other NATO forces. Instead, he believed Karzai would leave the issue for the president elected in April 5 election. Karzai has served two terms and cannot run again. "I think, realistically speaking, a new president will be the one to sign," Rasmussen told reporters during the annual Munich Security Conference. He said however he was confident that Afghanistan would sign the agreement "at the end of the day" and NATO would still have time to plan its post-2014 mission, even if it was not signed until Karzai's successor was in office. "Most probably, it will be for a new president to sign a security agreement and in that case we are prepared to stay after 2014," Rasmussen said. "If we don't get a signature even from a new president, then we will also be prepared to withdraw everything by the end of 2014, because in that case we don't have a legal basis for a continued presence," he said. The NATO-led force currently has around 57,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, two-thirds of them from the United States. Troop numbers are expected to fall to 8,000-12,000 after 2014. Rasmussen has said a complete foreign military withdrawal from Afghanistan could also jeopardize foreign military aid needed to finance the 350,000-strong Afghan security forces as well as development aid. The foreign aid totals about $8 billion a year.
Female peace negotiators on Saturday launched a nationwide campaign to persuade women to have their say in peace, asking parties to the conflict for a ceasefire. High Peace Council (HPC) female members say under the campaign -- Women’s Voice for Peace and Ceasefire -- 200,000 females would be handed forms which, after being filled out, would be delivered to the United Nations. Sara Surkhabi, the council member, told reporters in Kabul the campaign had been launched in central capital and would be extended to all parts of the country. She said they would travel to provinces to ask women to fill out the forms. She added the HPC had 80 members, including nine women. The HPC-funded campaign would last several days. Surkhabi called women the worst sufferers in conflicts. “Through this campaign, we request all parties to the conflict to cease fire because we want peace.” HPC secretary Masooma Naeemzai said the drive, having no political motives, was a national process in which all women should participate. She said one of the main objectives was to encourage efforts at peace. “Via the campaign, we want all parties to the conflict to come to the negotiating table and start peace talks,” she told the press conference at the Ministry of Finance. Deputy Finance Minister Abdul Raziq Wahidi appreciated the initiative and said women could play a proactive role in bringing peace to the country because they made half of the population.
THANKS to its bewildering president, Afghanistan has seen relations with the United States plunge to new lows just two months before a presidential election. If Hamid Karzai cannot reach an agreement with America for some troops to stay, then NATO is scheduled to pull out completely by the end of the year. Thus, though Mr Karzai will step down at the end of a possibly drawn-out process of choosing his successor, his unpredictability, and his desire to settle scores before going, threaten his country’s interests far into the future. Confirmation of serious trouble came first in November, on the occasion of a loya jirga, a grand assembly of 2,500 community leaders and tribal elders. The meeting was convened to approve a bilateral security agreement (BSA) with America that will allow a small number of foreign troops to continue training and assisting Afghan security forces. Without their presence, many Afghans fear that flows of foreign aid will dry up and that, unable to resist the Taliban, the state might collapse.The BSA had taken nearly a year to negotiate, and the loya jirga overwhelmingly endorsed it. Yet Mr Karzai used the occasion to attack his American allies for myriad perceived failings and to announce new conditions for his signing the pact. He also suggested that the responsibility for doing so should probably fall to his successor. (Mr Karzai is constitutionally barred from contesting another term.) Since then, Mr Karzai has continued to give free rein to his resentments. On January 25th he held a press conference in which he excoriated the Americans further. He accused them of engaging in a “psychological war” in their efforts to seal the BSA and acting as a “rival” rather than as a friend. For good measure, Mr Karzai insisted that America must start serious peace talks with the Taliban—an impossibility, given the Taliban’s hostility to the BSA. If the Americans would not accept his conditions, he added, “they can leave anytime and we will continue our lives”. Mr Karzai has also gone out of his way to raise the temperature over two other issues. The first is over civilian deaths from a NATO bombing strike on January 15th on the village of Wazghar in Parwan province north of the capital, Kabul. The second is a dispute over the release order of 88 detainees at Bagram prison, which America handed over to Afghanistan last year. Angry American officials say that 17 prisoners to be freed were involved in making bombs that killed 11 Afghan soldiers and they claim that most of the other detainees also have blood on their hands. But Mr Karzai describes Bagram as “a place where innocent people are tortured and insulted and made dangerous criminals”. The row over what exactly happened at Wazghar has become both toxic and farcical. NATO says it was the Afghan army that called in the strike when its soldiers were under heavy fire from Taliban positions in two village compounds. NATO acknowledges that civilians, including two children, died in the action. But it says the lives of dozens of Afghan soldiers and a handful of American advisers were at risk. As it is, an Afghan and an American soldier were killed. But a report commissioned by Mr Karzai asserted that 13 villagers had died after relentless bombing, with not a Taliban fighter to be seen. America, in other words, was guilty of a war crime. When local news outlets and the New York Times questioned the veracity of the report, carried out by a virulently anti-American MP, the government brought several villagers to Kabul to back up its claims. The move backfired. A photograph was produced purporting to show a funeral for dead villagers. But some in the media thought the photograph looked familiar. In reality, it had been taken a couple of hundred miles from Wazghar—in 2009. To the consternation of American officials, Mr Karzai now appears to be compiling a list of insurgent-style attacks which he claims the Americans were behind as part of a plot to undermine his government and destabilise the country. The list apparently includes an attack on January 17th on a Kabul restaurant that killed 13 foreign civilians and at least seven Afghans and had been immediately claimed by the Taliban. Mr Karzai may even believe some of his outlandish assertions. Cocooned in the presidential palace, he receives delegations of elders from around the country only too happy to peddle eccentric theories. On January 27th James Cunningham, America’s ambassador in Kabul, portrayed Mr Karzai’s views as “deeply conspiratorial” and “divorced from reality”. Mr Karzai’s behaviour is, unsurprisingly, having a corrosive effect in Washington, DC. Last week Congress halved proposed development aid to Afghanistan for the coming year, ruled out big new infrastructure projects carried out by the armed forces, and cut by three-fifths the Pentagon’s $2.6 billion bid to add “critical” capabilities to the Afghan security forces. The White House appears to have accepted the cuts without a murmur. How much President Barack Obama’s exasperation with Mr Karzai now threatens America’s commitment to a security agreement is unclear. In his state of the union speech on January 28th, Mr Obama said that, with an agreement, America would stand by Afghanistan and keep on a “small force” of Americans who, with NATO allies, would train and help Afghan forces in other ways and go after what remains of al-Qaeda. He appears to have heeded advice he received from the senior American commander in Afghanistan, General Joseph Dunford. General Dunford took the unusual step of going to the White House a day before the speech to plead for the president to agree to keep 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan after 2014 (backed by a further 2,000, mainly from Germany and Italy). General Dunford’s plan is supported by the defence secretary, Chuck Hagel; the secretary of state, John Kerry; the CIA director, John Brennan; and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Martin Dempsey. They argue that this force is the minimum that can accomplish anything and still be capable of protecting itself. In a bid to make the plan more palatable to Mr Obama, General Dunford suggested that the “enduring force” need only stay for two years rather than the possible decade envisaged by the BSA. That would allow the president, on leaving office in 2017, to claim that he had brought all of America’s troops home from two wars. But other voices in the White House, not least Joe Biden, the vice-president, would prefer a much smaller force, devoted only to counter-terrorism. The longer the signing of the BSA is delayed, the more likely the enduring force is to be whittled down. Military advice would then quickly swing to the “zero option” of no troops at all. What the Americans, and indeed many Afghans, appear to be hoping is that even if Mr Karzai must now be written off as hostile, his successor will want to sign the security pact. It looks a reasonable bet. According to Lotfullah Najafizada of Tolo News, the BSA is supported by most Afghan government ministers, the heads of the security forces and all the main presidential-election candidates. A two-month election campaign opens on February 2nd, and most pundits see it as a four-horse race between a former foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, a candidate in 2009 and no ally of Mr Karzai, and three others who hope to gain the outgoing president’s still-useful endorsement: Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank official; Zalmay Rassoul, another former foreign minister; and Qayum Karzai, an elder brother of the president. All are considered more pro-Western than Mr Karzai and understand the importance of keeping some foreign troops in the country to help the fast-improving but still fragile Afghan army in its dogged fight against the Taliban. The worry, however, is that the election will go to a second round and that no winner will emerge until June. The new president will then have to concentrate on putting together a government seen as reasonably legitimate and competent. That could push the likely date for signing the security agreement to early August, dragging out the uncertainty (there are already signs of capital flight) and frustrating military planning. American and other NATO commanders still think it will be doable—so long as Mr Obama’s patience holds up in the face of Mr Karzai’s relentless provocations.
British (AHMADI MUSLIM) pensioner facing three years in Pakistan jail after being tricked into reading the Koran in public
An elderly British man faces up to three years in a Pakistani prison after he was tricked into reading the Koran in public. Masud Ahmad, 72, belongs to the minority Ahmadiyya sect, who under Pakistani law are banned from calling themselves Muslim, with Amnesty International saying he was deliberately tricked into reading the holy book in Lahore by figures linked to a right-wing religious group. The case comes just a week after Mohammad Asghar, a 69-year-old alleged paranoid schizophrenic from Edinburgh, was sentenced to death in Pakistan for apparently claiming to be the Prophet Mohammad in letters he wrote to government officials.
It is believed Mr Ahmad was secretly filmed reading from the Koran in November last year by two men posing as patients at the homeopathy clinic he ran in Lahore. Amnesty International say he was maliciously targeted because of his religion.Every year dozens of Ahmadi Muslims are charged with breaching Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws simply for practicing Islam, while they and other minority groups are also at risk of sectarian violence. Speaking to The Independent, Mr Ahmad's son Abbas, 39, said: 'We are concerned he will never see his nine grandchildren but we are concerned with his life. We know what happens [in] these sort of cases.' Abbas Ahmad said his father had been released on bail ahead of a trial and is currently in secure accommodation. He added: We want to bring him back to Britain... In Pakistan there is no justice. Someone has made a false case and they have sent him to prison for nothing'. Until he returned to Pakistan in 1982 for an operation to remove a tumour, Mr Ahmad had lived in London for 22-years working as a photographer. His case echoes that of Mohammad Asghar - the mentally ill man from Edinburgh who was sentenced to death in Pakistan last week after he allegedly claimed to be the Prophet Mohammad. Mr Asghar was arrested in 2010 in Rawalpindi, near the capital Islamabad, for making the claims in letters he sent to various government officials. But a lawyer who defended Mr Asghar said and the case was really a property dispute and that his 69-year-old client is currently in very poor health facing death for a crime that was never committed. Amnesty International's deputy Asia Pacific director Polly Truscott said: 'Mohammad Asghar is now facing the gallows simply for writing a series of letters. He does not deserve punishment. No one should be charged on the basis of this sort of conduct. David Cameron spoke out against the verdict in the week, saying he was 'deeply concerned' that the Pakistani court had failed to include medical evidence in Mr Asghar's trial. Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2550046/British-pensioner-facing-three-years-Pakistan-jail-tricked-reading-Koran-public.html#ixzz2s6UfIfbI Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
I WAS thinking of sending Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan a white feather each: until the First World War, it was a symbol of cowardice given to men seen to be too scared to fight for their country. In our culture, bangles are traditionally sent to such people. But noting a slight shift in the government’s tone on the issue of the Taliban, I will delay my gift. For years now, the bodies of innocent victims of terrorism have been piling up, accompanied by crocodile tears and empty promises of talks. Neither have soothed the pain of the bereaved, or reduced the violence unleashed by a savage foe. While the slaughter goes on unchecked, the nation has been treated to the unedifying spectacle of politicians begging the killers (now known as stakeholders, no less) to please dictate the terms of the state’s surrender. At a recent conference on security in Afghanistan held in Islamabad, the same pathetic mantra of talks at any cost was uttered by speaker after speaker. And all the while, the tempo of attacks against security forces as well as civilians has been stepped up. The only silver lining is the resolve shown by the army when it launched retaliatory air raids to punish the Taliban for attacks against military personnel. But when an aerial attack in North Waziristan recently killed dozens of mostly foreign militants, Shireen Mazari, the PTI spokesperson, demanded to know why civilians in the area had not been warned in advance of the impending bombardment. Say what? Ms Mazari presumably wanted the military to alert the terrorists so they could escape. It is this kind of muddled thinking that has landed us where we are. The sad reality is that wars result in carnage, and civilians are often tragically caught in the crossfire. Civil wars involving militants in plain clothes are particularly brutal because it is hard to tell foes from non-combatants. At a recent Islamabad conference, Maulana Samiul Haq, leader of his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, and widely known as the ‘father of the Taliban’, said that military action would result in 500,000 internally displaced persons. In addition, the Taliban would escape with the refugees, thereby spreading the war across Pakistan. I do not disagree with this assessment. Indeed, I suspect it is partly this concern that has caused the foot-dragging we have been witnessing for years. Even the previous government, despite its rhetoric, kept bleating about the need for a political consensus in confronting the Taliban. The truth is that our military — except for a few units — is not trained in counter-insurgency warfare. Artillery is a blunt instrument, as are helicopter gun ships and fighter-bombers. None of them are anywhere near as precise as remotely guided drones. Any assault on militant strongholds will carry the risk of flushing these terrorists out of Fata and sending them into Peshawar, Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, together with thousands of displaced civilians. Already, an exodus has begun from North Waziristan. Who can say how many TTP fighters are part of this flood? Such a scenario will have major implications for the country. The MQM, already uncomfortable with the recent influx of Pakhtuns, will oppose a further increase in their numbers in Karachi, even though it is firmly opposed to the Taliban. Punjab will be the first to face the flood of refugees. And as images of combat and casualty figures begin appearing on our TV screens, many in the media will turn against military action, citing the collateral damage that is bound to occur. Recall that the army intervention to clear Islamabad’s Lal Masjid of terrorists in 2007 still resonates in the public consciousness, with reports saying that some 92 people, mostly comprising armed militants and security personnel, were killed. A full-fledged military operation in the Taliban-infested North Waziristan will be a far bloodier affair, involving hundreds — perhaps thousands — of casualties. Just as the militants in the Red Mosque were given time to consolidate their grip, those in Fata, too, have been granted years to strengthen their defences. In addition, they often use civilians as human shields. Given their complete callousness, it should surprise nobody if they prevent villagers from fleeing. The militants at the Red Mosque used a similar tactic when they sheltered among young male and female seminary students. These are the realities we must confront. And yet the alternative — inaction — is one that has resulted in over 40,000 deaths. As in any war, the public must be prepared to accept losses. However, the army was able to cleanse Swat of the TTP, and then resettle the thousands of locals who had fled the valley. So tackling the Taliban is clearly not beyond our military. But if the government continues to dither, I will be sending out my white feathers shortly.
The Express Tribune
Pakistan has almost 5.5 million children that are out of school, the second highest number in the world only after Nigeria. Pakistan also has the highest number of illiterate adults in the world, after India and China. These are just some of the findings of UNESCO’s latest report on the state of global primary education that puts Pakistan’s current educational crisis in a glaring, damning light.Pakistan is among the 21 countries facing an “extensive” learning crisis, according to the report. This encapsulates a number of indices, such as enrolment, dropout rates, academic performance and literacy. Pakistan scores low in every index. Broadly, global standards of primary education seemed particularly severe in South and West Asia, and Western Africa. The countries in these regions, including Pakistan, are behind in virtually every index. Pakistan features along with 17 countries from sub-Saharan Africa, Mauritania, Morocco and India. Public vs Private Children in a low-fee private school outperform those that are enrolled in the top tier of government schools, laying bare the government’s crumbling educational infrastructure. However, even in private schools, 36% of grade 5 students cannot read a sentence in English, which they should have been able to do by grade 2. Provincial Divides The report exposed the inequalities in education within the country as well: “Geographical disadvantage is often aggravated by poverty and gender. In Balochistan province, Pakistan, only 45% of children of grade 5 age could solve a two-digit subtraction, compared with 73% in wealthier Punjab province. Only around one-quarter of girls from poor households in Balochistan achieved basic numeracy skills, while boys from rich households in the province fared much better, approaching the average in Punjab.” Teaching crisis The children were not the only problematic indicators. In a list of countries that have the highest shortfall of teachers, Pakistan was the only non-African country to be on the list. Nigeria was highest on the list, requiring 212,000 teachers. The study said that between 2011 and 2015, 5.2 million primary school teachers are required globally to make sure that universal primary education is guaranteed. Women’s health, education tied together The report also provided further evidence to the relationship between education and health. In Pakistan, only 30% of women with no education believe they have a say over how many children they have, compared with 52% of women with primary education and 63% of those with lower secondary education. Silver lining? Amidst the crisis, the report also recommended programs that have mitigated the crisis. Save the Children’s Literacy Boost was fairly successful in implementing early grade reading programs in government schools. Similarly, children who had attended after-school reading camps coordinated by community volunteers showed greater learning gains in reading fluency and accuracy in both Pashto and Urdu than classmates in the same schools. Despite the implementation of promising programs, the report stated that Pakistan is far away from achieving the 80% enrollment target it had set for 2015.
لاڑکانہ / کراچی: بلاول بھٹوزرداری نے کہاہے کہ ثقافت دشمن عناصرسندھ فیسٹیول کو کامیاب ہوتانہیں دیکھنا چاہتے،وہ ہسٹری کے گریجوئیٹ ہیں انہیں بھی اینٹی کوئٹی ایکٹ کا معلوم ہے لیکن مخالفین یہ بھی جان لیں کہ سچی نیت سے تباہ ہوتے آثاروں کی حفاظت کیلیے کیے گئے اقدام کی مخالفت بھی بہت بڑا جرم ہے اور انھیں بھی تاریخ کبھی معاف نہیں کرے گی۔
انہوں نے اس عزم کااظہار بھی کیا کہ وہ اب ہر سال موئنجو دڑوکے آثاروں کوبچانے کیلیے ایونٹس منعقد کرتے رہیں گے ،اس سلسلے میں انھوں نے اپنے چند فرینچ دوستوں کے ساتھ بھی پروگرام بنالیاہے ،اگلے سال بڑے پیمانے پر موئنجو دڑو پر ہی ایونٹ منعقد کیا جائے گا۔یہ بات انھوں نے موئنجو دڑو کے دورے پرگفتگو کرتے ہوئے کہی۔بلاول بھٹو زرداری ایک گھنٹے تک موئنجودڑو کے مختلف حصوں کامعائنہ بھی کیا،اس موقع پر ان کے ہمراہ وزیر اعلیٰ سندھ کی مشیرشرمیلہ فاروقی،سندھ فیسٹیول کے ایونٹ کوآرڈینیٹرمعروف گلو کارفخر عالم ،ڈائریکٹر آرکیالاجی قاسم علی قاسم کے علاوہ ڈپٹی کمشنرمرزا ناصر بھی موجودتھے۔اس موقع پربلاول بھٹو زرداری نے خود زمین پر بیٹھ کر لکڑی کے بنائے گئے اسٹیج کامعائنہ کیا اور موئنجو دڑو کے مختلف حصوں میں لگائی گئی لیزر لائیٹس کابھی جائزہ لیا،ایک موقع پر جب بلاول بھٹو گھومتے گھومتے ایس ڈی ایریا ناردرن سائڈپہنچے تو وہاں وسیع میدان کو دیکھ کر انھوں نے یہ کہا کہ اگر اسٹیج کا کام اس کھلے میدان میں بنایا جاتا تو اور بہتر رہتا تاہم ڈائریکٹر آرکیالاجی نے انھیں بتایا کہ اس ایریا کی مٹی انتہائی نرم ہے اگر اس جگہ لکڑی پر بنایاجانے والا بڑااسٹیج تیار کیا جاتاتو میدان کے نیچے موجود آثاروں کو شدید نقصان ہوتا۔
اس موقع پر فخر عالم نے بلاول کو بتایا کہ موئنجودڑو پر کسی جگہ بھی کوئی گڑھانہیں کھودا گیا بلکہ لکڑی کا فریم رکھ کر اس کے اوپر تمام کام کیا گیاہے جس پربلاول بھٹو نے موئنجو دڑو پر ہونے والے کام پر اطمنان کا اظہار کیاؔ۔وزیر اعلیٰ سندھ کی مشیر برائے ثقافت شرمیلا فاروقی نے موئنجو دڑو ریسٹ ہاؤس میں معروف گلوکارفخر عالم اور ڈائریکٹر آرکیالاجی کے ہمراہ پریس کانفرنس کرتے ہوئے کہا کہ چند دنوں سے نہ صرف میڈیا ،چینلزبلکہ سوشل میڈیا ،فیس بک اور ٹوئیٹرپر یہ ثابت کرنے کی ناکام کوشش کی جارہی ہے کہ موئنجو دڑو پر اعلانیہ سندھ فیسٹیول کی افتتاحی تقریب کیلیے جاری کام سے موئنجو دڑو کے آثاروںکونقصان ہو رہا ہے ،چند عناصر سستی شہرت حاصل کرنے کیلیے پروپیگنڈا کر رہے ہیں لیکن وہ کامیاب نہیں ہو پائیںگے ،سندھ کی ثقافت کو عالمی سطح پر اجاگر کرنے کا کریڈٹ پیٹرن بلاول بھٹو زرداری کو جاتا ہے جن کی جانب سے صرف فرضی باتوں پرہی وہ بے چین ہوگئے اور خود موئنجو دڑو پہنچ کر ہر کام کا جائزہ لیا۔دریں اثناسندھ اسمبلی میں میڈیاسے گفتگوکرتے ہوئے سینئرصوبائی وزیرنثارکھوڑونے کہاکہ سندھ فیسٹیول کی موہنجودڑوپرہونیوالی تقریب سے قومی ثقافتی ورثے کونقصان پہنچنے کاتاثرغلط ہے ،ثقافتی ورثے پرفخرکرنے والے اسے کیسے نقصان پہنچاسکتے ہیں۔انھوں نے کہاکہ مفاہمت کی ہوائیں باہرسے نہیںآرہیں ہم وہ ہوائیں باہربھیج رہے ہیںکیونکہ تمام مسائل کاحل مفاہمت میں ہی ہے۔
How did you come up with the idea of the Sindh Festival and when did you put the plan in motion? The Sindh Festival was conceptualized three months ago when I visited the UNESCO World Heritage site of Moenjodaro on Eid, and saw the disrepair and neglect it had fallen into. But being sad or sorry was not enough. I realized that our heritage sites needed emergency preventive intervention, and made a plan to raise funds for this through a festival. And it’s not only about Moenjodaro. The broad aim of the festival is to preserve, promote, and protect our cultural heritage, which is also under threat. The festival is also a process where we hope to help fight for the societal space that has been ceded to the extremists. Organizing and executing the Sindh Festival is a mammoth task, something that Pakistan has never seen before, but I am excited and optimistic that the Sindh Festival will wow. What do you hope for the Sindh Festival to achieve nationally and internationally? Sindh is known as Bab-ul-Islam—the Gateway of Islam. It was in 3000 BC that Sindh gave birth to the Indus Valley Civilization, and the Sindh Assembly was the first to pass the resolution for Pakistan. Over the last decade Pakistan has been in a state of war where terrorists and extremists have forced their version of Islam, history, and culture on our society. It is time that, as a nation, we reclaim our glory, our culture, our history, and our identity. Through the Sindh Festival I hope to unify people across ethnicities and borders. And internationally, I hope to demonstrate that Pakistan is more than just bomb blasts and terrorism. I want the world to see how much more Pakistan has to offer. In any case, the way we look at it, the Sindh Festival is not just about Sindh. It is about the cultural idiom of celebrating diversity and pluralism within a national narrative of inclusion. Culture is like a great river, but like all renewable resources, it needs nourishment, fresh ideas, and new air to breathe in. Our great Sindhu civilization flourished around such a great river. We cannot let it run dry. How’s the response to the festival been so far? It has been extremely heartening, the response we received from across the country has been overwhelmingly positive. I am very encouraged. This is the first initiative that you’re spearheading as the Pakistan Peoples Party’s patron-in-chief and it has energized the party’s rank and file in particular. Did you expect this “Cultural Coup” to have such an impact? It has had a fantastic impact. We were worried that people wouldn’t appreciate the satirical aspect of the “coup” setting [in the Sindh Festival TV promos], but everyone seems to have appreciated the concept. We focused on cutting costs by trying to make our ads unique and interesting so they are played repeatedly [for news value as well], and we achieved that. While it is up to the government to establish the writ of the state and fight territorial battles, it falls to us, the citizens of Pakistan, to fight and reclaim the cultural and social space ceded to extremists. We all need to do our bit. What does founding and launching a multicity, multievent, half-month-long extravaganza entail? Do you get to sleep? It is a very ambitious task to pull off an event of this scale, to pull off something that Pakistan has never seen before—especially given the restricted timeframe. Such an event entails 100 percent dedication to the cause, and meticulous planning. We have put together a fantastic team which has been working day and night for the last few months to ensure that the Sindh Festival is a success. But you’re right: this does mean we all get very little sleep. It has been worth it, though. The events are fairly diverse, and adventurous. How long did it take you to finalize the program and what were some of the events you may have nixed? Well I don’t want to give away some of the fantastic events we plan to add next year, but with the limited timeframe we obviously had to make some hard decisions about what could and could not be achieved in our first festival. However, I am extremely confident that this is going to be the best festival Pakistan has ever seen. And once Pakistan sees what we can pull off in three months, I think everyone will be incredibly excited about what we can achieve in the second festival with an entire year to plan it. How is the festival funded and what’s the estimated budget and manpower dedicated to it? The total budget for the festival is around Rs. 450 million. Of that we had a budgetary allocation of Rs. 250 million from the [Sindh] culture department, which was to be our seed money for the festival, and we planned to raise Rs. 200 million from private sources. However, from the outset I made it clear that I did not want this festival to be a burden on the taxpayer and promised that we would pay every rupee back to the Sindh government, which needs money for vital services delivery in the social sector. And we are on course to do that. Through ticket sales, donations, sponsorships, and the Heritage Card we will pay back the Sindh government this Rs. 250 million, and the extra money raised will go toward carrying out the very purpose of this festival: to preserve, protect, and promote our culture and heritage sites, like Moenjodaro, Makli, and Harappa. Your political rivals derided the “Sindh Card,” what they called earlier recent efforts to reawaken Sindhi pride in culture, as having run “out of credit” and being a veiled threat of secession. The Sindh Festival demonstrably employs soft power to globalize and make appealing all things Sindh. How did you view previous efforts, like Ajrak Day, when they happened? Sindh is not a “card.” The very people who use it are trying to reduce the second most populous province in Pakistan to irrelevance. I appreciate all previous efforts made to promote Sindh’s and Pakistan’s heritage and culture. We need even more efforts like Ajrak Day and like this Sindh Festival to preserve our important history and culture. And next year, the Sindh Festival will expand its remit beyond Sindh and become the Sindhu Festival, encompassing the entire scope and breadth of the Sindhu civilization throughout Pakistan. The Punjab government is also proceeding with their youth festival. What do you say to those who see this as competition, as a zero-sum game? The Sindh Festival’s purpose is to preserve, promote, and protect Sindh’s cultural and physical heritage and we hope to achieve this through a celebration of our history, our rich musical traditions, traditional Sindhi sporting activities, our talented handicraft and artisans, and many other exciting cultural events. Any festival which seeks to promote, preserve, and protect Pakistan’s heritage should be encouraged. The Sindh Festival has its own mission and is linked to a charitable cause. We are not just having a festival for the sake of a festival. We are not competing with anyone. I don’t know much about the Punjab Youth Festival or what it’s about, but I wish them well and appreciate all such efforts. What is the most moving thing you’ve heard or come across after you announced the Sindh Festival? And what’s been the most bizarre criticism? After the Punjab government decided to ban kite-flying, Alamgir, a lower-middleclass man packed his bags and decided to relocate to a city where he could still practice his childhood love of kite-flying. Alamgir works at a printing press in Karachi. He has to work very hard to support his family; they live life paycheck to paycheck. Yet every weekend he and several other kite-flyers in Karachi seek an open space to practice their childhood passion. Alamgir is not alone for leaving the Punjab because of the kite-flying ban. Many like him had to restart their lives so they could have the freedom to do what they love to do. Alamgir presented a human-sized kite, which he made himself, to me on Dec. 15 at the unveiling of the Sindh Festival [at Mohatta Palace, Karachi]. Alamgir requested, and was given, money by the organizers to pay for an open-air truck to transport the kite from his residence to the venue because he could not afford the Rs. 800 fare. This is a rich heart of a poor man, with a passion and desire to soar in the skies through his kite. Alamgir and many like him were delighted when we announced Basant was coming to Karachi, and that we would hold a beach Basant, the first ever in the history of Pakistan. The most bizarre criticism has to be the “Sindh Card” question brought up by your esteemed magazine. Some have pointed out on social media that the fashion, cricket, and film components of the festival are being led by Punjabis. How Sindhi is the Sindh festival, and is this question even relevant? Look at the events taking place at the Sindh Festival—the Horse and Cattle Grand Prix, Sindhi Mushaira, Sufi Night, the Sindhi Music Mela, the list goes on. The festival comprises a mix of mostly Sindhi events but includes [broader] Pakistani events too. The Sindhu civilization crossed provincial boundaries and so does our festival. We are proud of the fact that we have volunteers from all provinces in Pakistan coming to help preserve, protect, and promote Pakistan’s heritage. In fact, we encourage the mix. Your Sindh Festival TV spot with the Ajrak as flag and you in a Bhutto jacket was very prime ministerial. Did you plan it that way? It was not supposed to be taken like that at all. It was a satire of the form our past coups took in announcing themselves; we just parodied it and at the same time used the media space as a call for action for a “cultural coup.” We are trying to come up with new, unique ideas for communication, as we have a very limited advertisement budget and want to [stretch] the money that we are spending. In fact, this ad proved so successful that we managed to get it played on every TV channel for free. That’s an eight-minute primetime spot costing almost Rs. 50 million that we could not burden the government with. What can we expect on opening night, Feb. 1? Well, I don’t want to give too much away just yet—that would spoil the surprise. But let’s just say that you will witness a show unlike anything Pakistan has ever seen before. Our biggest stars will help us bring Moenjodaro—the “Mound of the Dead”—back to life for the first time in 5,000 years. Would you agree that you can’t critique your party or its governance without a federal case being made out of it or without sparking rumors of a family row? We are a democratic party and there is always room for debate and introspection. We are currently engaged in closed-door reviews. That is a healthy, timely, and proper thing to do. As for the ridiculous rumors spread in a gossip column about rows in my family, these have absolutely no basis in fact whatsoever. But then fiction has wings, and facts struggle for space in the modern media marketplace. What would you like to see the Sindh government do in terms of securing, preserving, and rehabilitating Sindh’s ancient historical heritage? The Sindh government has been very forthcoming in preserving the heritage sites, especially after the devolution of cultural sites to the province under the 18th Amendment. They have been very supportive of our initiative with the Sindh Festival, but the aim of this festival is to make the people of Sindh and the people of Pakistan take ownership of their own heritage and culture. That is why the festival is paying back every rupee it has borrowed from the Sindh government. The mass celebration of culture is critical to reclaiming space lost to extremism. But given your outspokenness on Twitter and in your speeches, has anyone tried to dissuade you from going ahead with the festival? Of course there are very legitimate security concerns. Terrorists attack our schools, our mosques, and our marketplaces. We can’t stop going to school, we can’t stop going to the mosque, and we can’t stop living our lives. Otherwise the terrorists have already won, even before they attack. We are taking every possible security measure to secure the public but Karachi is a resilient city, Sindh is a resilient province, and Pakistan is a resilient nation. We continue with our daily lives despite threats. The same is true for the Sindh Festival. Tell us something about the civilizational heritage of Sindh that very few people may be aware of. Perhaps the most interesting thing I learned recently about the Sindhu civilization comes from the fascinating story of Moenjodaro itself. In Egypt, a civilization of comparable age, it took 1,500 men about 10 years to build a tomb for one man. However at Moenjodaro, it took 1,500 men 10 years to build a city for 50,000 people—a city that had sewerage and waste services for every household, something that would make many contemporary cities jealous. It is fascinating to me just how advanced in their views of society this civilization was; in many ways it could be argued that it was one of the first proto-democratic societies. How concerned are you about the security for the festival and audiences? Security is one of our primary concerns and we need to take all possible precautions for every event and the people who will be participating. The Sindh government has put in place a comprehensive security plan and is taking every step possible to ensure that this festival, Inshallah, will go well. We deserve to live our lives. We are sick and tired of keeping everything on hold. We can’t live in limbo forever. Life must go on. What projects do you have in mind to pursue once the festival concludes? Wait and see. My generation is yearning for reform, both political and societal, and we won’t just sit back to become couch critics. We will be the change we want to see.