Thursday, June 26, 2014
he Pakistan army for the first time announced that the Haqqani network in North Waziristan is also a target of the current military operation. "For the military, there will be no discrimination among Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) groups or Haqqani network, all terror groups are going to be eliminated," DG ISPR Major General Asim Bajwa told a briefing at GHQ. He said so far 327 terrorists and 10 security personnel have been killed. The DG ISPR confirmed the presence of a large number of Uzbeks and other foreign militants in North Waziristan, saying that they will all be wiped out. "The Pakistan Army has requested the Afghan military to take action against terrorist hideouts in Kunar and Nooristan, but so far there has been no action taken," General Bajwa said. The chief military spokesman said it is solely a Pakistan Army operation and not a joint Pak-US military offensive, adding that Pakistani security forces are capable of doing such an operation. "North Waziristan has become a hub of terror and suicide attacks in the country because planning of such attacks was taking place here," Bajwa remarked. He dispelled the impression that the operation was launched without political approval and said, "The operation was launched after a decision was made at the political level." On Wednesday Prime Minister’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said security forces were conducting the operation against militants without discrimination.
The musician criticised the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign for being too soft before making the proposition during an interview
Nigerian pop singer Adokiye has caused a social media storm by offering her virginity to Islamic militants Boko Haram in exchange for the return of hundreds of kidknapped schoolgirls.
A total of 276 girls were taken from the largely Christian north-eastern town of Chibok by the rebels, led by Abubakar Shekau, in April. The majority of the schoolchildren remain missing, despite international pressure for their safe return – including the celebrity-endorsed #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign backed by Michelle Obama and David Cameron, among others. However, the 23-year-old musician and actress from the country's Imo State, who is also a UN Ambassador of Peace, took the protest to the next extreme. “It is just unfair. They are too young. I wish I could offer myself in exchange,” she told Nigerian publicationVanguard.
“They are between 12 and 15 year old girls for Christ sake. I am older and more experienced. Even if 10 to 12 men have to take me every night, I don’t care. Just release these girls and let them go back to their parents.”
Her comments received a mixed reaction via social media. Some fans praised her offer as “brave” and branded her a “hero”:
Adokiye’s apparent sacrifice comes after news that over 60 girls and women and 31 boys are suspected to have been abducted by Boko Haram from villages in northeast Nigeria. The recent abductions took place during a series of raids in Borno over the past week, with dozens of people killed from the attacks. The survivors from various villages are now taking refuge in Adamawa, with others still fleeing on foot.
Meanwhile, at least 21 people have died in an explosion in a shopping area in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. Police said 17 more were wounded when the blast ripped through Emab Plaza on Wednesday [25 June]. Again, Boko Haram are suspected of orchestrating the bloody attack.
Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has told the BBC that he hopes jets from Russia and Belarus will turn the tide against rebels in the coming days. "God willing within one week this force will be effective and will destroy the terrorists' dens," he said. He said that the process of buying US jets had been "long-winded" and that the militants' advance could have been avoided if air cover had been in place. Isis and its Sunni Muslim allies seized large parts of Iraq this month. Mr Maliki was speaking to the BBC's Arabic service in his first interview for an international broadcaster since Isis - the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant - began its major offensive. "I'll be frank and say that we were deluded when we signed the contract [with the US]," Mr Maliki said. "We should have sought to buy other jet fighters like British, French and Russian to secure the air cover for our forces; if we had air cover we would have averted what had happened," he went on. He said Iraq was acquiring second-hand jet fighters from Russia and Belarus "that should arrive in Iraq in two or three days". The government has struggled to hold back the militants' advance from the north and west. The US, which backs the Iraqi government, has stressed that the militants can only be defeated by Iraq's own forces. Iraq has also been receiving support from Iran, with whom its Shia Muslim leaders have close links. Mr Maliki also confirmed that Syrian forces had carried out air strikes against Islamist militants at a border crossing between Iraq and Syria. He said Iraq had not requested the strikes but that it "welcomed" them. "They carry out their strikes and we carry out ours and the final winners are our two countries," he said. Military and rebel sources say the strike took place inside Iraq, at the Qaim crossing, although Mr Maliki said it was carried out on the Syrian side. Militant sources have been reporting for two days that Syrian jets hit the Iraqi side of Qaim, and also Rutba which is further inside Iraq. The militants say 70 people were killed in the first attack and 20 in the second. Fighting has been reported on Thursday, with Iraqi special forces flying into the university in the city of Tikrit and clashes ensuing. Analysis: Jim Muir, BBC News, Irbil, northern Iraq So far, the Iraqi army has been unable to launch a strategic counter-offensive to drive the rebels back. The addition of three Iranian-backed Shia militias to its forces in the field has added to the perception that this is a Shia army fighting to impose Shia rule on Sunni areas. Its chances of re-conquering the lost ground appear very slight. And if it did, it would be crushing and further displacing Sunni populations to plant the state flag on the smoking ruins. It's now taken for granted by most Iraqi politicians that the Sunnis have carved out their own area, and that things will never be the same. Also on Thursday, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has arrived in Baghdad to meet political and community leaders. "As a friend of Iraq, the UK believes the urgent priority must be to form an inclusive government that can command the support of all Iraqi people and work to stop [Isis] in its tracks," he said. Mr Maliki is trying to form a new government but has rejected calls to create an emergency coalition which would include all religious and ethnic groups. He said on Wednesday that forming a broad emergency government would go against the results of April's parliamentary elections, which were won by his alliance of Shia parties. His political rival, Ayad Allawi, had proposed forming a national salvation government. Meanwhile, Masoud Barzani, the leader of Iraqi Kurdistan visited the northern city of Kirkuk for the first time since it was seized by Kurdish forces earlier this month. It fell into the hands of Kurdish fighters when Iraqi troops fled in the face of the Islamist advance.
Would an old-fashioned, Bill Clinton-styled presidential veto help cut the Gordian Knot in the Senate? There’s life after a veto, and as a former governor, Clinton seemed to relish it. He faced down a Republican-controlled Congress for six years, during which he successfully vetoed a broad array of appropriations bills over not just money but also policy riders. Is it time now for President Barack Obama to come off the sidelines to do the same: for his own good and to buy some running room for the Democratic Senate which has protected him for most of his presidency? These are questions raised by the latest appropriations pileup which has frustrated bipartisan efforts to restore some order this summer to the annual debate over spending bills to keep the government operating past September 30.
Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) puts on a brave face. “We have not lost good will and I don’t want to lose momentum,” she said this week. But momentum is exactly what’s been lost already, and going home for the July Fourth recess, the Senate has yet to move one of the 12 bills across the floor. When members return, there will be 30 days left on the House calendar before the money runs out. And unless fortunes change quickly, Congress will slide back into the same rut where the entire government is put on a stopgap funding resolution until after the November elections. Behind this paralysis are the contradictions of both parties.
Republicans insist that the last thing they want is another government shutdown. But the GOP then sets about to gum up the works with amendments which are veto bait for Obama and would guarantee a crisis if included in any continuing resolution after Labor Day. Democrats are so risk-adverse that they seem forever in a defensive crouch—not wanting to vote on tough amendments before November’s elections and not wanting Obama to veto bills either. “Less is more,” said one veteran Democratic observer. “If you can’t be for it, don’t do it. And you don’t get any points for being against the president if you are a Democrat.” At this stage, four appropriations bills –impacting six Cabinet departments—are directly threatened by veto-bait amendments. Three more— funding five departments plus major science agencies— stalled last week in the ensuing tensions.
At the root of the immediate impasse is an otherwise popular $34.2 billion energy and water measure—which years back was always among the first of the annual bills to race through Congress. It still commands bipartisan support, impacting water supplies for the drought-stricken West and a host of infrastructure projects which are a priority for individual Republican senators. But it’s also the lever chosen by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to challenge Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency on new rules to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. By offering his amendment as a member of Appropriations, McConnell gets around the standard hurdle of needing a supermajority on the floor. And with Democrats on the panel from energy states like Alaska and Louisiana, McConnell stands a good chance of inserting his language in the bill before it comes to the floor. So much so that Mikulski abruptly pulled back from marking up the energy and water bill last Thursday. Hours later she paid the price when objections from McConnell derailed her hopes of moving ahead with three less controversial bills which had been packaged together with the support of her ranking Republican, Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby.
To be sure, McConnell is taking some license in crafting his amendment, which shows touches of Rube Goldberg. He knows the EPA has no part of the energy and water bill. So, he would designate Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz as his referee and bar any EPA action until the secretary has certified that the proposed power plant rule will not drive up unemployment and utility costs. “I cannot recall an amendment—in the 21 years I have been here—that is so much outside the jurisdiction of this subcommittee,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Cal.), clearly dismayed by the situation. But more important to her as the bill’s manager was the certainty of provoking a veto from the president. “The amendment was a bill killer,” Feinstein said. “If it didn’t lead to defeat on the Senate floor it would have resulted in a White House veto… To put this on this bill and then have it vetoed which it would be seemed to me to be not the right way to go.” Yet all signs show that this is a veto fight that Obama will almost certainly win with a good deal of public support behind him. This argues for the option of expediting energy and water to break the ice. That could then free up the three pending bills to move ahead as a first down payment toward some regular order. Democrats will have the option still of striking McConnell’s amendment on the floor. Failing that, there’s little chance McConnell can get the two-thirds majority needed in both houses to overturn Obama. And his fellow Republicans like Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander will have to decide then if they truly want the bill they wrote in the first place with Feinstein. As chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer—Feinstein’s California colleague— has been most vocal in resisting what she sees as McConnell’s end run around her jurisdiction. But the Kentucky Republican is not going away soon and looking like the victim in the current impasse already serves his political purposes at home. Boxer’s ties with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are a complicating factor. And at one level, the appropriations impasse serves Reid’s purposes since it shields his vulnerable Democrats from tough votes. The real challenge for both sides in this political game is to look reasonable—so they can blame the other for failure. Here Reid is enough of a realist to know that sooner or later the White House and Democrats must be prepared to “rip off the band aid” and have this fight. Republicans allied with Mikulski on Appropriations already believe it would be a step forward. “It’s certainly better than where we are today,” said Shelby. If it comes to an Obama veto, he said, “that’s part of the process in our Constitution. “We used to do it. We did it all the time, and life went on.” “That seems a fair way to operate,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), whose own environmental record suggests she might even oppose the GOP leader in committee. “Sen. McConnell would get a vote on a very legitimate issue that is timely. The president would have every opportunity to veto the bill.” The Clinton record here is instructive. As president he had 36 regular vetoes, of which only two were overridden. He never lost in vetoing 14 appropriations bills. He is remembered most for those prior to Republicans shutting down the government in retaliation in 1995. But the battles continued long after. Months before leaving office, Clinton vetoed this same annual energy and water in October 2000 because of a legislative rider impacting the Army Corps of Engineers’ plans to update its operating manual for the Missouri River. Obama has never shown the same appetite for the gritty details of appropriations. But in this case, the president begins from a point where the EPA enjoys a far better approval rating than Congress itself. And recent polling for the Wall Street Journal and NBC News suggests growing public support for the proposed carbon rule to address global warming. The June survey conducted by Hart Research Associates and Public Opinion Strategies found that 57 percent of those questioned approved EPA’s effort even if it meant higher utility bills; 39 percent disapproved. That’s a much wider spread than the 48-43 split when a similar question was asked by the same poll in October 2009. And among younger men and women, there has been a decisive shift toward favoring action, even as Obama’s own approval rating has dropped in the same period. A more detailed breakdown of the poll data —provided by Hart Research—shows that 62 percent of men under 50 would approve such a power plant rule, compared to 45 percent in 2009. Among women in the same age group, the numbers jumped to 67 percent approval, compared with 48 percent in 2009. With so many energy states contested this year, Senate Democrats admit they are still nervous about the fight. National poll data means less than what’s happening on the ground in states like Louisiana and Arkansas. And support for such an EPA rule has actually dropped among older men who are more likely to vote in November. But employment in the coal industry has dropped significantly since 1980, and Republican senators can’t ignore the fact that even in Republican-held House districts, the survey found support for the action on global warming. For example, when read two quite detailed statements— outlining the pros and cons of the administration’s power plant rule— 50 percent of those surveyed in GOP districts agreed with supporters of rule, 44 percent disagreed. And one certainty about Washington: it’s only going to get hotter between now and September 30.
The U.S. State Department has named a self-proclaimed Pakistani charity as a "foreign terrorist organization", a status that freezes any assets it has under U.S. jurisdiction. Jamaat-ud-Dawa calls itself a humanitarian charity but is widely seen as a front organization for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), a Pakistan-based group accused of orchestrating attacks in India, including the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 166 people. The designation comes as NATO troops in Afghanistan are drawing down, and regional rivals Pakistan and India compete with each other for influence with Kabul. Some fear the competition may spill into open conflict between the two nuclear-armed nations, who have fought three wars since independence. Historically, Pakistan has used militant groups like LET to mount covert attacks on Indian soil, something the current government has vowed will not happen again. Jamaat-ud-Dawa's listing will prohibit U.S. entities or citizens from dealing with the organization, but will probably have little practical effect on its operations or fund raising. The United Nations said in 2008 that Jamaat-ud-Dawa was a front for LET and Pakistani authorities vowed to crack down. But Jamaat-ud-Dawa continues to operate openly in Pakistan. Its leader holds public rallies and gives interviews. The group says it is currently carrying out charitable work in the remote border region of North Waziristan to help residents displaced by military operations. "In December 2001, the Department of State designated LET as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Since the original designation occurred, LET has repeatedly changed its name in an effort to avoid sanctions," the State Department said in a statement on Wednesday. "More specifically, LET created Jama'at-ud-Dawa as a front organization, claiming that the group was an 'organization for the preaching of Islam, politics, and social work'." The U.S. Treasury Department separately announced that it was designating two LET leaders, Nazir Ahmad Chaudhry and Muhammad Hussein Gill, as "specially designated global terrorists", imposing economic sanctions on them. Yahya Mujahid, a spokesman for Jamaat-ud-Dawa, rejected the allegations. "We are a welfare organization working for the people of Pakistan and we have nothing to do with the LET or terrorism," he said. "We have already been cleared by the Lahore High Court and Supreme Court of Pakistan, therefore the U.S. decision does not matter for us." Mujahid was referring to attempts by the Pakistani government to prosecute several Jamaat leaders and ban the organization after the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Pakistani courts rejected the moves. In 2012, the United States offered a $10 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Hafiz Saeed, who founded LET. He claims he has long abandoned its leadership and now heads Jamaat-ud-Dawa. Chaudhry, considered a close aide of Hafiz Saeed, has served as LET's vice-president, a member of its central leadership council and director of its public relations department. Gill is one of the founders of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and has served as its chief financial officer for years. As a result of Wednesday's action, any assets belonging to Gill and Chaudhry and their group that come under U.S. jurisdiction are frozen. In addition, U.S. citizens and firms are barred from any dealings with those designated.
Reports say Pakistan's military has shelled Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan, with tanks and artillery in the latest round of its offensive against Taliban strongholds in the tribal region in the northwest. Pakistan's "Dawn" newspaper reports ground troops were moving into the town's market area to clear suspected militant hideouts after heavy shelling earlier on June 26, but that report could not be independently verified. Pakistan's military launched its offensive against Taliban strongholds in North Waziristan in mid-June after an attack on the airport in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi killed dozens of people. The military says more than 360 militants have been killed in nearly two weeks of air raids. At least 430,000 people are estimated to have fled North Waziristan into neighboring areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan since the offensive began.
Afghanistan experienced a run off for the first time, two strong rivals Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, highly educated Afghan, former Finance Minister, World Bank executive employee along with Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Islamic movement member of Jamyat, former foreign minister were the front runners on June 14 runoff election in Afghanistan. Abdullah got 45% of votes at the first round of election, while Dr. Ashraf Ghani secured 31.6%, Dr. Ghani came second and that was merely because of 7 other candidates had divided the votes for him. Dr. Ghani taking the chance flourished his campaigning strategy focusing more on villages, religious leaders decrees (fitwas), youths, particularly urged Pashtons who are reluctant to take part in election to vote for his team. He used experience of management to create a call center fully equipped and hired reliable observers mobilized them with digital cameras to catch fraud and observe responsibly. First time he spread his senior team members, supporters and his running mate across the country to every village urging people to vote for him and his team. While Dr. Abdullah was inebriated feeling as a winner of first round and hardly campaigned widely unlike he only relied on some coalition formation of some tribal leaders. He was challenge several times to have LIVE TV debates on economic plans, but he disrespectfully escaped and walked away from all TV debates. It is an accepted trend, losing candidates claim fraud in order to justify their loss. Any illegal act of propaganda, destabilization and chaos by Dr. Abdullah Abdullah team members will deprecate more supports for him. His two strong allegations such as why people in south voted in larger number in the second round and suspension of a senior member of IEC could have been investigated thoroughly through assigned committees not by his meager advisors. Upon the announcement of result, he has to accept it based on the constitution law and the assigned committees even if he is losing. So far, it is been very naïve while he was leading, everything was happy-happy and the system is accurate, but if he fails to earn more votes, he accused the process for systematic fraud. Dr. Abdullah is a 3rd time failed candidate, he has a lot of lessons learned and can support someone genuine in the future. Meanwhile, he has to congratulate Dr. Ghani for his clean win and support him in rebuilding a peaceful Afghanistan. Recent reactions of Dr. Abdullah prior to the results of the election and any official signs of fraud, he announced boycott with Independent Election Committee and asked for immediate stop of vote counts, this was more like “shooting yourself in the foot” and was called “unfortunate decision” by UN and other special representatives in Afghanistan. Afterward, he urged his supporters to make relay with million participants that turn out to be only a few hundred people, including children, homeless addicts and jobless youth who were on daily wage by Dr. Abdullah team. The audio released by Dr. Abdullah’s camp despite of this discrepancy and violation of constitution law about privacy of telephonic conversations of Afghanistan citizens (article 37, Afghan constitution), it is already called disapproved because of the quality of voice and fabrication of the audio. “Ghiasi, of Kabul residence says, it is more like someone is sinking and trying to grab anything to survive.” Why Dr. Abdullah thinks it is his end of his life? This question is raised among Afghans in social media and social events lately. It is no doubt after 9/11 and US invasion of Afghanistan the northern alliance benefited because of their armed support to US army and to President Karzai who was descended and installed by US as the head of interim government of Afghanistan. Northern Alliance members were levying by taking senior ministerial posts and an imbalance power sharing at the top to bottom level of Afghan government including illiterate ministers. In last 13 years this remained more and less the same and Northern alliance had a strong influence in decisions made by president Karzai. The scenario changes now as Afghanistan has fully supported and equipped army (ANA) and Police (ANP). It seems there is no need for any militia backing of northern alliance anymore and this paved the way toward a new Afghanistan where people will vote for merits and quality. The fear comes if they are not a serious share holder of power; they might go under trial for the civil war human right violation charges in 1990s, corruption charges afterward, opium business and many more illegal tendencies of the northern alliance members while serving at top level ministerial posts. Dr. Abdullah is fighting on front-end to save guard the interests of a large number of warlords who have fueled his entire campaigns in the last three failed candidacy attempts. Sudden death of Marshal Qasim Fahim, late vice president of Karzai created a huge gap in unifying the northern alliance team members who are now under several fractions, some support long term stability of Afghanistan and some support short terms interests of a few members. One thing is cleared for Dr. Abdullah that Dr. Ghani has won the 2nd round election with remarkable difference in number of votes that hailed him as the new elected president, while Dr. Abdullah is becoming a strong opposition for the coming government he will challenge many decision of Dr. Ghani’s government. No, doubt if he tries to pave way for an lawlessness in major cities of Afghanistan, it will be a shoot back neither serving him nor Dr. Ghani but Taliban will take the advantage of the situation pushing toward Kabul and they will take everything as granted.
China on Wednesday called on the international community to strengthen support for Afghanistan, saying that the country's own economic development is a basis for its durable peace and stability. "The international community should effectively honor its relevant commitment and strengthen its support to Afghanistan for its realization of economic development and social progress," said Wang Min, China's deputy permanent representative to the UN, at an open meeting of the UN Security Council. On the second round of Afghanistan's presidential election, Wang said that China has noticed the latest turn of events on ballot counting. "We hope all parties involved can deal with the problems properly through dialogue. China respects the Afghan people's choice and believes a stable and smooth election will help the country to get on the track of peace, stability and development," he said. Wang held that on the basis of fully respecting the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan, the international community should adhere to the Afghan-led and Afghan-managed principle, support Afghans in their efforts to overcome various challenges during the transitional period. "China is deeply concerned over the unabated civilian casualties as a result of terrorist and violent attacks in Afghanistan," Wang said, adding that relevant parties should provide effective support for Afghanistan's national security force for resuming its responsibility on security and assist the country in strengthening its troops and police capacity. "China hopes to see a unified, stable, developed and friendly Afghanistan," he said. Over a long time, China has been providing Afghanistan with large amounts of economic and social development assistance, helping building hospitals, schools, roads and other infrastructure projects. In addition, China has actively participated in regional cooperation on Afghanistan and has made its contribution to facilitating Afghanistan's peace and rebuilding process. The fourth foreign ministerial conference of the Istanbul Process On Afghanistan will be held in Tianjin, China in August. "China would like to closely cooperate with Afghanistan and the international community and facilitate the conference to send a clear and positive signal of supporting Afghanistan's political, economic and security transition," Wang said.
The growing refugee crisis in northwestern Pakistan is fueling the danger of spreading the polio virus among the displaced population, the World Health Organization warned on Wednesday. More than 450,000 Pakistanis have fled their homes in the past two weeks as the military tries to root out militants in the North Waziristan region near the border with Afghanistan. But "this number could reach 600,000 as the military operation continues," federal minister for states and frontier regions, retired Lt. Gen. Abdul Qadri Baloch, said during a news conference on Pakistan State TV Wednesday. That could mean an even bigger danger of spreading the disease as the number of refugees increases.Rising polio risk Polio rates are higher than average in North Waziristan due to a ban on anti-polio campaigns imposed by the Pakistani Taliban two years ago in response to U.S. drone strikes. In June 2012, Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur released a statement that said vaccines "would be banned in North Waziristan until the drones strikes are stopped." He added that drone strikes "are worse than polio." Polio is a highly infectious viral disease that primarily affects young children. It can lead to paralysis and death. The virus is easily preventable through immunization, but there's no cure once it is contracted. "The highest number of polio cases have been witnessed in North Waziristan," Pakistan WHO spokesperson Dr. Nima Saeed told reporters in Islamabad. "The mass migration of people from the vulnerable area has increased the risk of the polio virus spreading further." Mass vaccination The WHO is working to contain the threat by vaccinating people along routes out of North Waziristan. Many are receiving the dose at government-run centers set up to register displaced people.
Hundreds of thousands of people have fled North Waziristan since the launch of a government offensive on June 15 against the Pakistani Taliban in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. The United Nations says most of the people who have fled the region have sought shelter with relatives and in rented accommodation in the town of Bannu, in Bannu district. One government-run camp has been set up with enough room for 200,000 people, but so far only around 20 families have moved there. "The facilities in the camp aren't yet up to the standard that we'd like them to be. Also, for cultural reasons people don't want to live in tents," said Timo Pakkala, the U.N's Humanitarian Coordinator for Pakistan. "The people who come from North Waziristan are very conservative, very traditional. There are restrictions on men and women staying together. They have families; they want to stay together," he said.As of Wednesday, the U.N. said around 146,000 people had been vaccinated.
The Middle East's biggest air carrier, Emirates, suspends passenger service to violence-plagued Peshawar. Airport attack Tuesday night killed a passenger and wounded two others.
The Middle East's biggest airline, Emirates, said Wednesday it is halting flights to and from the Pakistani city of Peshawar because of security concerns a day after a gunman opened fire at a plane landing at the airport. Other carriers based in the Persian Gulf, a key gateway for travel to Pakistan, were also reassessing their operations to the city. Peshawar is located on the edge of restless tribal regions where militant groups such as al-Qaida and the Taliban are based. The area has become a frequent target of bombings and shootings over the years. A gunman fired on a Pakistan International Airlines flight with a submachine gun or an AK-47 as it was coming in to land Tuesday evening about 300 feet off the ground, according to police. One person was killed and two people were wounded in the attack. Emirates said Wednesday it was suspending flights from its Dubai hub to Peshawar until further notice, and that is was rebooking affected passengers on alternate flights.
Etihad Airways, based nearby in the United Arab Emirates capital of Abu Dhabi, said it canceled a flight due to leave late Tuesday and that it is currently reviewing the security situation in Peshawar. Its next flight to the city is due to depart Thursday. Qatar Airways confirmed it was canceling a flight due to leave Doha, Qatar, for Peshawar on Wednesday. It gave no reason for the move. Gulf Air, based in the island nation of Bahrain, does not have any flights leaving to Peshawar until Friday but said it is "actively monitoring the security situation" there. The Gulf Arab states have close political and economic ties to Pakistan, a fellow Muslim country that is a major supplier of migrant labor to the oil-rich region. The Peshawar attack came comes just two weeks after gunmen laid siege to the country's busiest airport in Karachi, raising concerns about the safety of flights operating into Pakistan.
Tariq Chaudhry had little time to react when a storm of bullets headed straight toward him as he piloted a Pakistan International Airlines Corp. plane with about 200 people aboard toward the runway in Peshawar two days ago. "I could see the volley of bullets coming and passing right and left of the plane's cockpit," Mr Chaudhry, a pilot with 25 years of experience, said by phone on Wednesday, estimating that as many as 80 shots were fired at the Airbus A310. "The hail of fire was so powerful that it was not possible to turn the plane left or right."
Once he landed the plane, Mr Chaudhry helped the three on board who were hit, including a Pakistani woman named Maqnoon Begum, who later died. He counted 13 bullet holes in the plane, which was en route from Saudi Arabia, and found metal casings for 7.62-calibre bullets commonly used in AK-47 assault rifles. Mr Chaudhry said he always turns off the plane's main lights when landing in Peshawar, a city of 3.5 million people that has been a main battleground in an insurgency that has killed 50,000 people in Pakistan since 2001. The bullets came while the plane was 300 metres off the ground, he said. "Only the lights in the cabin and navigation lights were on, which gave the attackers a fair idea where the plane was," he said. "We would've been sitting ducks if all the main lights of the plane were on."
State-run PIA condemned the shooting, which injured two flight attendants, and lauded Mr Chaudhry for safely landing the aircraft. The company said in a statement that it will maintain its flight schedules and employees "will not be held back due to this type of deplorable incident." Emirates airlines, Etihad Airways and Air Arabia suspended flights to Peshawar on Wednesday because of the security situation, according to statements from the airlines. FlyDubai flights to Pakistan will continue as normal, a spokeswoman said by phone. Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways said earlier this month it would cease flights to Karachi on June 28 because of "commercial reasons." Malaysian Airline System stopped flying to Pakistan two years ago, while Singapore Airlines halted flights to the country in 2009. No European, US, Australian, Indian or Japanese carriers fly to Pakistan. "If a trend emerges that the new focus is to go after airports, airlines and international airlines, then obviously companies will have to review the situation," said Huma Yusuf, senior Pakistan analyst at Control Risks in London. "It's too soon to tell whether these were targeted or opportunistic attacks," she said, adding that the Taliban have long focused on striking state security forces and government infrastructure. Pakistan's second airport attack in a month risks hampering Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's moves to boost economic growth in the nation after securing an International Monetary Fund loan last year. Two weeks ago, Taliban fighters killed 26 people at Karachi's international airport and warned foreign investors, airlines and multinational companies to cut business ties with Pakistan. "Two events in such a short space of time will clearly raise question marks," Chris de Lavigne, an aviation and defence analyst at Frost & Sullivan, said by phone from Singapore. "No doubt the insurance companies will review their policies with the airlines, and overall it will probably become a more expensive place to fly into." Police detained 200 people after the bullets were fired from a "thickly populated area", Najeeb-ur-Rehman, the city's senior superintendent of police, said by phone. The attack took place around 11pm local time. "There was a threat that they would attack the airport," Najeeb-ur-Rehman said, referring to militants in the area. Firing at a plane while it was in the air was the "easiest way" to strike because police had tightened security at the airport, he said. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, known as the TTP, said it conducted the Karachi airport assault, prompting Sharif to order an offensive on the group in North Waziristan, a region near the Afghan border. The TTP wants to impose its version of Islamic Shariah law in Pakistan, which includes a ban on music and stricter rules for women. "With airports, the demographic of those who travel tend to be more well-heeled and better connected," said Terence Fan, an aviation expert at Singapore Management University. "This can have a bigger psychological impact rather than trains, which have more of the ordinary folk who I guess are not the target." As many as 47 militants were killed two days ago in air strikes in North Waziristan and another tribal region of Khyber which also borders on Afghanistan, the military said in a statement. More than 330 Taliban insurgents have been killed in air strikes and shootings since the operation began. The military is yet to mount a ground offensive. Sharif won an election last year after pledging peace talks with the TTP, the group at the forefront of an insurgency that has killed 50,000 people since 2001. Negotiations that began in March collapsed over the TTP's demands for prisoner releases. Pakistan has incurred $US102.5 billion in costs due to incidents of terrorism in the past 13 years, according to a finance ministry report this month. Mr Chaudhry, the pilot who landed the stricken aircraft, said the incident won't prevent him from flying to Peshawar again. "I will continue to fly planes," Mr Chaudhry said. "There was also a threat to the airport, and all the airlines know of the threat level there. This is not a new thing." Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/pakistan-where-pilots-turn-the-lights-off-before-landing-20140626-zslz0.html#ixzz35jw8HRny
Chief Minister of ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) Shahbaz Sharif has appointed Ex-Sipah-e-Sahaba top terrorist as Law Minister of Punjab province after sacking Pro-Taliban Law Minister Rana Sanaullah. According to reports New Law Minister Rana Mashood was member of central executive committee of Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP) from 1985 to 1995. Name of Rana Mashood as Law Minister of Punjab was approved by Ahmed Ludhyanvi Deobandi, head of SSP Takfiri, Deobandi, Wahababi, Salafi pro-Taliban terrorist group Sipah-e-Sahaba has been renamed as Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal-Jamaat (ASWJ), is involved in killing of innocent Shia and Sunni Muslims across the country. On 20 June 2014 Rana Sanaullah was sacked as Law Minister of Punjab, in an attempt to prevent meddling in the investigation that even includes his former boss, Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif. However, many politicians including representatives of the Minhaj-ul-Quran (Tahir-ul-Qadri’s party) have dismissed this as a stunt and demand the resignation of the Shahbaz cabinet.
High-ranking US lawmakers urge Pakistan Prime Minister to enhance security measures for the religious minorities living in Pakistan.
Conveying deep concern over human rights violations in the country particularly in Sindh; significant American lawmakers have demanded of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to protect “Hindus, Christians and other religious minorities in the country.” Congressman Brad Sherman said: We are urging Prime Minister Sharif to do everything in his power to protect the Sindh community, as well as religious minorities, from attacks. The Sindhi community includes tens of millions of people in Pakistan who are striving to preserve their language and culture, but Sindhi activists are subject to enforced disappearances and sometimes targeted killings. Accompanying him were four other members of the US House of Representatives namely Kerry Bentivolio, Adam Schiff, Tulsi Gabbard and Tom Petri wrote a letter in this regard to PM Sharif. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard an official of the House Foreign Affairs Committee made clear that: Violence against minorities everywhere is an unacceptable violation of human rights. She went on to reprove that: In Pakistan, we have heard reports of torture, executions and disappearances of peaceful and politically active Sindhis and Balochs who are Hindu, Christian, Shia and other religious minorities. These religiously and politically motivated attacks are abhorrent, and I strongly urge Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take action to address these troubling offences. The Government of Pakistan must stand up for human rights, and against violent radicals who seek to persecute and kill those with differing beliefs. The five Congressmen, in there letter verbalized profound alarm over the ever declining human rights situation in Pakistan. Excerpts “Sindhi activists are regularly persecuted for voicing their concerns about government policies. We are greatly troubled by reports of repression and attacks on non-violent, politically active Sindhis attacks that include enforced disappearances, torture, and executions. One horrific example includes the case of Maqsood Qureshi and Salman Wadho who were allegedly shot and then burned alive inside of their car while travelling to a political rally in Karachi. We stress the need for those responsible for ordering these killings, and similar attacks, to be held accountable for these appalling violations of basic human rights. There are similar reports regarding Baloch political activists, with mass graves being discovered in the province of Balochistan. The human rights violations are not only political, but also religious in nature. Hindu Sindhis experience increasing encroachments on their ability to freely practice their religion. Christians, Shias, and other religious minorities in Sindh have also deeply suffered, they said adding that scores of Pakistani Shias and Christians have been killed or injured in attacks, many of them in Karachi and Hyderabad. Accounts of Hindu temples in Sindh being forcibly entered and desecrated represent an affront to the rule of law and basic tenets of religious tolerance. Christians are regularly detained, tried, imprisoned, and even sentenced to death for allegedly violating blasphemy laws. Houses of worship have been attacked, as well. We believe that all persons should be free to practice their religion and should not be immersed in fear because radicals deem them to be blasphemous. We fear that certain radical and violent groups are allowed to act with impunity by elements of Pakistani security forces. If this is true, we urge you to address the situation accordingly by strongly countering these actions and policies throughout the Pakistani government. We believe that the basic provisions of human rights can and should be provided by the Government of Pakistan to Sindhis and the Baloch alike. We urge you to seriously address these concerns and work to make Pakistan a free and fair country for all to live in, where religious minorities are not persecuted and differing political beliefs are not met with violence. - See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/us-lawmakers-urge-pm-sharif-to-protect-religious-minorities-living-in-pakistan/#sthash.lbXySixw.dpuf
Ahmadiyya TimesAbout 100 relatives, friends and colleagues gathered Saturday south of Columbus to remember 51-year-old Qamar, of nearby Pickerington. The ceremony was held at an Ahmadiyya worship place.
A memorial in central Ohio has honored an American cardiologist shot and killed last month in Pakistan in front of his wife and toddler. Police say two gunmen riding a motorcycle shot Mehdi Ali Qamar as his family left a cemetery after visiting relatives’ graves. He was from the minority Ahmadi community of Pakistan. About 100 relatives, friends and colleagues gathered Saturday south of Columbus to remember 51-year-old Qamar, of nearby Pickerington. The ceremony was held at an Ahmadiyya worship place. The Columbus Dispatch reports that speakers at the memorial remembered Qamar as a man dedicated to serving humanity. A statement from the Ahmadiyaa Community said thousands of people attended Qamar’s funeral two weeks ago in Toronto. Qamar had dual U.S. and Canadian citizenship.
I have been advocating for the rights of religious minorities and marginalized groups in my area since I became a human rights activist and a development professional. Still, there is much more to do, as it is just the beginning. It is really very discouraging for me and my friends that the indigenous Hindu community is leaving their place of birth, Balochistan, due to religious extremism. Unfortunately, we are on a triangle bordering Afghanistan and Iran, which means we are surrounded by religious extremists. Hindus have been richly contributing to Balochistan’s economic prosperity and development since pre-patrician days. They are traders, shopkeepers, and have owned export and import businesses since before the Partition [the division of British colonial territory that created India and Pakistan]. Many of them are educated and offering valuable services in the fields of education, health, and other departments. Moreover, the community is widely regarded as a peaceful people. In Balochistan, Hindus have two historical and famous sacred places that belong to ancient times—Hinglaj Shrine located in Balochistan’s Lasbela District and Kali Devi in Kalat. At the time of partition, religious riots were rampant in the subcontinent, but Hindus were living harmoniously and peacefully here. Then, the Khan of Kalat respected the Hindu community’s rights in Balochistan and provided them with religious and economic freedom. Their rights safeguarded, the community remained in the region. Currently, Hindus are living in all of the Baloch populated districts of Balochistan, but there has been mass migration from these districts: Kalat, Khuzdar, Quetta, Mastung, Lasbela, Hub, Noshki, Chagai (Dalbandin). Hindus, in spite of being Balochistan’s peaceful and largest minority, are running from their old “motherland” to escape persecution. The longest border of the country on the north with Afghanistan and the west with Iran are becoming the second most dangerous areas due to the increase in extremist activity. The government cannot, it seems, control and monitor its borders, and we must take peaceful action to protect our minority communities. We need to educate our children and youth on human rights, peace, and brotherhood, as well as on our history of living peacefully with minorities not so long ago. Although this project is dangerous and very difficult, my friends and I are confident and hopeful for a change. We will prepare our new generations to challenge religious extremism and create a peaceful and democratic society. So far, I have been able to organize some sessions in the community and organize training for youth of the area on the topics of “Democracy and Human Rights,” “Democracy and Minorities,” “Gender Equity,” and “the Role of Youth in Peace building.” In the last month, more than 100 youth have attended these sessions. We need some revolutionary measures to bring prosperity, stability, and unity to this country. Education, founded in peaceful principles, is the only way we can accomplish this goal.
Secretary General PPP, Punjab Tanvir Ashraf Kaira, in a statement issued from here today has commented on the media reports attributed to top hierarchy of the government maintaining that Model Town incident was badly handled by bureaucrats and not by the political leadership of the province of Punjab. He said that the confession of the government was itself irrational, illogical and out of place because the administration was a part and parcel of the government and therefore could not be defined in isolation. He said that if bureaucrats were responsible for the carnage then why they sacked Rana Sanaullha who was not a bureaucrat. Either his sacking was wrong or the reported shifting of responsibility on bureaucrats in a bid to bailout the real culprits is wrong, he added. He pointed out that under the parliamentary system of government there was narrative of collective responsibility and therefore the Chief Minister and his cabinet members could not be absolved of the consequences of the Model Town carnage in which more than ten people were killed. He observed that the afterthoughts of the government Ministers and the Chief Minister were making the situation more embarrassing for the government and therefore they should accept their irresponsible and disproportionate conduct and move forward and focus on improving the governance which was the first causality in such circumstances. He also rejected the government’s reported move to track down Dr. Tahir-Ul-Qadari in different cases like money laundering adding such ill-conceived moves would be considered as political victimization invoking sympathies for him and such should not be pursued. He said that the PPP previous democratic government deserved credit for not putting any one behind bar based on political opponents’ view point adding there was no political prisoner during that period in the country.
Four terrorists and three khasadar officials were killed in a clash between security forces and militants, Express News reported on Thursday. According to Express News, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) has confirmed the death toll. The exchange of fire took place in the Sur Qamar area of Jamrud, which is a town located in Khyber Agency. The Pakistan Army is fighting militants in an ongoing military operation named Zarb-e-Azb in the tribal area of North Waziristan.
Whilst we may be enjoying a slight rebate in the intense summer temperatures due to a few scattered rainstorms, one cannot overlook the crippled state of the entire country and our national psyche due to the massive energy crisis. An incredible heat wave has swept through the country — with temperatures reaching as high as 50 degrees in some areas — causing a number of fatalities. Most notable were the tragic deaths of more than 50 worshippers at the Urs of Lal Shahbaz Qalander in Sehwan, Sindh, due to the excruciating heat. Couple this sweltering time with the constant load shedding and we have a recipe for disaster. In some places the power outages are so bad that inhabitants do not see electricity for more than six hours a day. Urban centres are suffering from anywhere between eight to 10 hours of load shedding, bringing productivity and daily life to a grinding halt. What is the government doing about this malaise? Has it forgotten all the promises it made during its election campaign a little more than a year ago? From hearing about the power crisis being sorted out in a matter of days, the masses then heard that the problem would take a year, then three years, and now as much as a decade to resolve. Tall tales and lofty promises do not a credible government make. Industry has almost come to a screeching halt and economic activity is on the decline. The common man cannot afford to install generators and must bear the savage hours of torment without a word of protest. This will not last long. Circular debt is increasing by the day; any small payments the government makes to try and bridge the gap are useless because the root cause of the circular debt issue is not being tackled: the fact that the government itself is the biggest defaulter in paying electricity bills. Top that with the fact that electricity theft still goes on unabated and it is of little surprise that we are battling this hydra of the energy shortfall. The government has got to tackle this matter on a war footing. Too much time has elapsed without the necessary steps being taken to add power to the national grid and actually deliver on all the promises made to the people. The energy crisis is the reason our economy is in the doldrums, stunting growth and investment. The people need a panacea for their daily woes, a large part of which stems from the bane of load shedding. It is time the government finally took concrete steps to help the economy and the people.
We in the United States grew up in an age of unbridled freedom of expression, but now the tide is turning and freedom of expression has legitimate opponents, said Professor Steve Coll, dean of the Journalism School at Columbia University.Freedom of expression, as we know it, is being contested and may be said to be coming to a close. “President Obama has brought more prosecution against journalists than any administration in the past, the attorney general of the US has issued press guidelines and Edward Snowden was called a traitor by the press itself,” he said as he explained how the freedoms most journalists take for granted were on the decline the world over. Mr Coll, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and the author of books such as Ghost Wars and The Bin Ladens, delivered a talk at the Ministry of Planning and Development. While the discussion was mostly centred around ‘Journalism in the Digital Age’, Coll touched upon a whole host of issues around media and journalism as a whole. “I’ve been coming to Pakistan for 25 years now and sitting down to dinner with my friends, we somehow end up discussing the same things we’ve been talking about all these years,” he said as he opened his talk.
Promising to speak candidly, Coll told the audience how he’d seen the Pakistan media landscape evolve from the days of the lone state broadcaster to the explosion of media outlets that we see today. “Understandably, that opening up has led to a backlash over the past couple of years, putting the media in the position it is today,” he said, referring to the stand-off between Geo TV and the government. There are two models available to the media in any environment, he said. The first was one of total devotion to openness and press freedom, which had its roots in the Constitution and the laws that defines press freedom in the country. The second was one of “selective censorship”, which Coll said was preferred by authoritarian, semi-authoritarian regimes that Pakistan could identify with. “I worry that Pakistan is drifting towards this model,” he said. Talking about the digital era, Coll defined it as a time of fast-paced changes in communication infrastructure. He said that today, nearly 1.75 billion people around the world possessed smartphones, which effectively put mini-computers into their hands. This obviously led to inequalities, because not everyone had access to this technology. But this gap is fast closing, he said. Talking about the changes in the media models in vogue today, he said that the traditional broadcast model was that of ‘One-to-Many’, whereas modern information exchanges were taking place on a ‘Many-to-Many’ basis. Access to information regarding health, education and other key areas is becoming an increasingly personalised process and soon, anyone who does not have the tools to access such personalised data will be left behind, he said. Mr Coll spoke at length about the video-sharing site YouTube, saying that while he understood why Pakistan had blocked access to the site, the consequences of the ban were being felt far and wide. “Students no longer have access to distance learning programmes that allow them to access knowledge that they otherwise don’t have the resources to obtain,” he said. This puts them at a disadvantage as compared to others in the global marketplace, because they may have the same tools everyone else does, but lack the necessary knowledge to use those tools effectively. “Has Pakistan really had a national debate about the consequences of blocking YouTube,” he asked the audience, rhetorically. “In the digital age, the monopoly of the elite on information will be broken and people, especially journalists, will have to learn two to three skills over the course of their lifetime,” he said. Individuals will need to learn digital skills and inter-disciplinary subjects such as mathematics, software coding in order to be able to compete, he said. The inequality created by illiteracy will only become exacerbated in the digital age, he said. While it is true that flattening out information over a large network of people to crowdsource ideas can lead to insights, crowds aren’t always wise, he said, referring to the unreliability of information gleaned from social media accounts. Censorship, he maintained, was not the answer to these problems. Journalism, Coll said, has been around in its modern form for over 300 years and had survived many shocks. It survived the discovery of radio, the invention of television, the creation of the Internet and it had persevered through the age of 500 cable channels. But now, the lines between journalism and propaganda, journalism and entertainment were becoming increasingly blurred, he said. He offered the audience a definition of journalism, “A profession with public and democratic purposes,” and said that the five major purposes of journalism were: to hold power to account; to bear impartial witness to terrible events; to give voice to those who are excluded and tell the stories that matter; and, asking unpopular questions on behalf of the public. “I believe Pakistani journalists are quite good at that last one,” he joked. He then posed the question: how is journalism changing? In answering that, he spoke of the changing setting of journalistic practice and referred to the arrival of data as a challenge to journalism to remain relevant. “Data journalism allows us to go beyond the anecdotal and gives us an evidence base,” he sa id.
The rural towns located close to Peshawar, bordering Khyber Agency and Darra Adamkhel have been divided into eight zones following deployment of army troops and extra police has been stationed to stop infiltration of militants from the tribal areas. Though there are efforts to keep militants out, what about those who are already in? It is time to pay attention to Peshawar, probably the second most dangerous city in Pakistan. In 2011, a raid at the Peshawar Airport seized over 7,000 foreign pistols and three million rounds that were being illegally transported from Turkey. In December 2012 militants struck at Peshawar airport. Peshawar is a gateway and a hub for militants, smugglers and criminals. Peshawar is a prime target for revenge attacks being the nearest city to the tribal areas and has come under repeated assaults in the past. The law enforcement agencies recovered a 15kg bomb on Monday in a market in Hayatabad, Peshawar. The shooting at the PIA flight landing in Peshawar from Riyadh yesterday was another in a list of attacks on civilians, killing one passenger and injuring many. The locality around the Peshawar Airport is extremely dangerous. More than 500 suspects have been arrested so far in the ongoing search operation by security forces. What is clear that militants and criminals are entirely devoid of any ethical codes, and a harsh counter offensive is needed. Internationally the security situation in Pakistan is becoming a joke. Emirates has suspended operations in Peshawar (and is ready to sue over the diverting of its plane thanks to the squabbling between Dr Qadri and the Sharifs). The towns in Peshawar districts in the limits of Badaber, Matani and Sarband have been in chaos for many years as these are located on the boundary with Khyber Agency and the Frontier Regions of Peshawar and Kohat. The military operation in North Waziristan has already seen militancy flee to Khyber Agency. How long till the war comes to Peshawar? It is one thing that a war is ongoing, and there are civilian casualties and displacements… another that even civilians who think they are safe in a plane, miles from the ground, are subject to cowardly terrorism. North and south, from Karachi to Peshawar, the security situation is a muddle and there is no writ of the state. It doesn’t matter if the government is PTI, PML-N… they are all bad at their job. With the inflow of evacuees from North Waziristan, the situation in KPK may soon become unmanageable.
Without fail the attacks on passenger aircraft and assaults on civilian aviation facilities draw in enormous media coverage, and who would know it better than the terrorists fighting the state of Pakistan. This month of June there was a massive terrorist attack on Karachi airport resulting in the deaths of scores of people and extensive infrastructural and cargo losses; the Tehrik-i-Taliban promptly claimed responsibility later endorsed by the Uzbek militants. Then we had the Qadri landing saga with unscheduled diversion and forced occupancy of a foreign airliner; it has earned the country savoury comment - in foreign travel advisories. And now it is the ground fire on a PIA airliner, killing one and injuring two as it approached Peshawar airport for landing. Only two minutes to landing with engine power considerably reduced the plane was at 250-300 feet above ground when struck by ground fire. As reported, five or six bullets hit the aircraft - something quite rare in the history of firing on planes flying in or out of Peshawar airport - but the pilot kept the nerve and made a safe landing. It was indeed a miraculous escape for the PIA aircraft flying in from Saudi capital of Riyadh with some 180 passengers on board. What followed the incident is usual: the flight from Kaula Lumpur was diverted to Lahore and for some time flight operations were suspended. Not that terrorists hope to win territory or own an airline; they want to tell the world that they are very much there in the field: unfazed. This they have done, their exploit being of critical importance to them now when a full-fledged military operation is in process against them. Of course, this is not the first time that Peshawar airport has come under terrorist attack. In the past too the airport was targeted with rockets from adjacent tribal area. In December 2012, terrorists carried out a large attack killing a police officer and scores of others - then, the target were both the civilian airport and the adjoining PAF airbase. So, now when the terrorist outfits and their hideouts throughout the tribal region including next door Khyber Agency are under massive military surveillance and attack, such an incident as a gunfire attack on the PIA plane was very much expected. The question is why the civil aviation authorities didn't think of suspending civilian flight operations for the duration of military operation. Thank God, the gunfire did not hit the pilot - he escaped the shot by inches as the man next to him was hit by a bullet - with engine power cut-off for descent, the landing was solely dependent on him. Given the fact that Peshawar or Bacha Khan airport is almost defenceless given its location amidst thickly, populated neighbourhoods, which are impossible to secure against the presence of terrorists or its zero-distance location from their hideouts in the adjoining tribal area. To keep the airport functional in such a situation is certainly very risky. Islamabad airport being not more than two hours' drive from Peshawar should be used as an alternate as long as the military operation is in progress. At the same time the government should think and if it already has, then it should expedite the matter, of shifting the Peshawar airport out of the congested area to a new location some distance from the city. In fact the same is in order for the Islamabad airport, which the police found very expensive to defend against the Qadri's welcoming supporters on Monday. Isn't it darn scandalous that completion of work on the new airport meant to cater to air traffic for the capital, is still years away even when billions have been spent. One wonders if mega projects like metro bus plans can be completed in less than a year why the work on the new airport for Islamabad is not. It's perhaps a question of priorities. Peshawar too needs a new airport. But for the time being the priority should be the lives of air travellers to and from the provincial capital and for this the only option seems to be total suspension of civilian flights to and from the Peshawar city.
The Peshawar airport incident, where ‘unknown armed men’ fired at a PIA flight as it was about to land, once again proves that airports have not been provided the security they need, especially in light of previous attacks and blowback threats. With operation Zarb-e-Azb about to transform from aerial bombardment to ground offensive stage, it is all the more important to limit reprisal attacks in main cities. And Peshawar, along with the rest of the province, is the natural strike-back point for militants, considering its proximity to the tribal area. That its airport is still not secure, and people can fire at will at planes landing and taking off, betrays an unbelievable lack of understanding of the gravity of the situation on the government’s part. It seems they are still ok with handling crises as they come, rather than prepare in advance. The Karachi attack took lives and hurt the country in many ways. But in hindsight, in addition to security challenges, one of the biggest problems it brought was the chance of foreign airlines pulling out of Pakistan – as Cathay Pacific did eventually. And now with one passenger dead and two injured during the Peshawar attack, there is a bigger concern than people refusing to fly to KPK’s capital. It exposed the government’s unpreparedness, and the spillover is very important to consider. We are likely to face further international isolation which, along with a bad name, also brings financial and investment problems, driving the country further into a corner. Unbelievably, this was the third attack just this year at the Bacha Khan airport. There have been rockets fired in February and again in April. Yet we still have a situation where people, apparently hidden safely, can fire at planes a thousand and a half metres in the air. Immediate steps must be taken to provide fool proof security to airports, airliners, and passengers. We are already suffering from international isolation. We must arrest this trend before it gets any worse.
PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar has said that the post 2014 situation demanded addressing two major foreign policy challenges namely first, to remove the lingering perception that Pakistan continued to nurture some militants for advancing foreign policy and security agendas and second to put the Foreign Office in order by doing away with multiple sources articulating the foreign policy. He said this while responding to briefing on the strategic vision of foreign policy to the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs by Advisor Sartaj Aziz today. He questioned whether the unprecedented May 23 march of the Sikhs on Parliament just two days ahead of PM Nawaz Sharif’s India visit was planned by those opposed to India Pak normalization. Past history shows that moves aimed at normalization were promptly reversed by some unusual developments on the ground. If the police had resorted to force on the marching Sikhs resulting in casualties the entire calculus of India’s visit would have been dramatically altered, he said. He said that the objective of reinforcing strategic partnership with China is most laudable but this partnership cannot be achieved without addressing the concerns about some militants allegedly operating from tribal areas in the Sinkiang province aimed at destabilizing Pakistan’s strategic partner. Economic corridor to China alone will not strengthen the strategic partnership until we also addressed the concerns about foreign militants based in tribal areas planning violent incidents in the Chinese province. He said that the PPP welcomed the government’s professed claim to resort to economic diplomacy and liberalize trade with India and asked as to why the strategic vision was silent about the government plans now that elections in India had been held and a new government is already in place there. Senator Farhatullah Babar also questioned the decision to abstain from voting on the Ukrainian resolution in the UN General Assembly in March last calling upon nations not to recognize any change in the status of Crimea. Absenting from vote means legitimizing change of national boundaries through force which is not only against the UN principles but also can have serious consequences for us in the future.
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah on Tuesday announced a Rs50 million financial assistance for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the wake of the North Waziristan military operation and said he welcomed them into Sindh if they carried their identity cards. The chief minister, who made this announcement while winding up the general discussion on the budget 2014-15 in the newly built assembly hall, clarified that his government had only given instructions to the Rangers and police to check infiltration of militants from Baolchistan and Punjab and no one be allowed entry without identity cards and proper checking. He recalled that earlier the IDPs for Swat were welcomed into Sindh and were paid Rs10,000 per family as a fare and to meet their immediate needs. The chief minister also announced that trucks loaded with relief goods would also be sent to their camps elsewhere. Referring to the demand of holding local government elections, he said the government was prepared to transfer power to the elected people to perform civic functions by improving the local government system. Earlier, he termed the budget realistic and pro-poor people and employment-oriented for youths. He said agriculture was the backbone of Sindh, where 70 per cent people depended on it and because of the incentives offered by the government, Sindh had surplus wheat and had bumper crops of cotton and rice. Referring to the demand for income tax on agriculture, the chief minister said a draft of the law was ready and it would be put before the house in the next session. About the law and order, he said it had been very bad since the General Ziaul Haq’s time but after the 9/11 incident it deteriorated to the extent that a corps commander’s entourage, the US consulate, and a tourists’ bus were attacked. However, after recruitment of additional police personnel and training of Rapid Force and Elite Force, the situation started improving and incidents of targeted killing, extortion, kidnapping came down and huge cache of arms were being seized. He said last year Rs45 billion was not wasted as the joint efforts of police and Rangers had given results. He said when the PPP came to power 100 persons were kidnapped in Larkana but now the number had declined to three to four persons as many outlaws were killed. He said that various projects for generation of electricity from alternative sources were being worked out. They included the Thar coal power project, while a windmill energy project had already started producing 50 megawatts. A China firm had shown interest in installing a 660mw power project at Port Qasim, he added. The chief minister said that in 2016, a coal-fired power project would start generating electricity which would be available at Rs8 per unit against the present rate of Rs16. He quoted figures of funds allocated for the health, education and other sectors. He said all efforts were being made for uplift schemes in every district. He said the government used to get Rs12 billion to Rs18bn from land transaction but for the past couple of years there had been a ban on land disposal imposed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. He said all record of rights was being computerised that would be completed this financial year. Once the record was finalised, all land disputes from Karachi to Kashmore would be settled, he added. Mr Shah said there should be no distinction between the rural and urban areas, but the quota system of 60 per cent and 40 per cent was mentioned in the constitution that would continue till the rural areas were developed at par with the urban centres. He said 40 buses parked in bus depots were being repaired and would come on roads in July. Besides the mass transit programme, Rs3bn had also been allocated for the rapid bus transport project, which would start throughout Sindh at the same time. He said under the poverty elevation programme every year Rs1 billion was being spent and through the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto youth development programme and Steveta, youth were being trained to reduce unemployment. The chief minister criticised the leader of the opposition for alleging that no development scheme had been announced for Shikarpur and also his party’s lady colleague’s complaint about Khairpur and said that while a university had been approved for Shikarpur, and a medical college, an engineering college and agriculture college, potable water supply and roads were being built in Khairpur, which was his hometown also. In every district, a cadet college, schools and 30 colleges in different towns were under construction, he said. On the complaint about little allocation for Karachi, he said besides the funds for the mega projects of K-4, S-3, Lyari Expressway and KCR, Rs42bn had been allocated for uplift schemes in addition to the Rs6bn per year being given to the KMC to meet its expenses. He said in Tharparkar 80 reverse osmosis plants were installed last year while 500 more would be installed this year and such plants had also been installed in Lyari and Keamari. And if there was a shortage of potable water in any area, the government was prepared to install RO plants there. The chief minister said the government was trying to improve services in health and making efforts to improve the quality of education through implementing innovative ideas by introducing vertical programmes to check hepatitis, malaria and measles. To ensure the availability of quality medicines in hospitals, a committee headed by Dr Adibul Hasan Rizvi had been formed. Earlier, 71 MPAs had the opportunity to give their input on the budget. PML-N parliamentary party leader Irfanullah Marwat appreciated the democratic spirit of the PPP by its blunt reply to anti-democratic forces that the party would not allow democracy to be derailed. He said if the government had taken a stand not to allow the IDPs to enter Sindh, at least the lawmakers could help them by giving their one month salary. PML-F deputy parliamentary party leader Syed Rashid Shah Rashdi wanted hospitals in rural areas be given under the supervision of elected representatives. Prison and anti-corruption minister Manzoor Wasan said Rs12bn had been spent on the remodelling of Nara Canal in 2002-07. Similarly, he said, 36,000 acres of state lands of Nara Canal had been given to different individuals by changing their names in the registers. Parliamentary party leader Syed Sardar Ahmad said the suggestions of taxes in the finance bill would burden Karachiites. PPP parliamentary party leader and senior minister for education Nisar Ahmad Khuhro said as the industrialists had the facility of self-assessment tax scheme, the agriculturalists also be entitled to it. Leader of the opposition Shaharyar Mahar said the budget figures showed that it was not the budget of a province but that of a developed country. The house, which was called to order at 10.30am, continued without any break till 5pm. Lawmakers praised Speaker Agha Siraj Durrnai and ex-speaker Nisar Ahmad Khuhro for the construction of the grand assembly building. Earlier, the proceedings started with the playing of national anthem.