Friday, June 27, 2014



By D Suba Chandran
The visit of the new External Affairs Minister of India Sushma Swaraj to Dhaka is timely and of importance. If pursued with the right spirit sustained momentum, Bangladesh has the potential of becoming a huge success story for the new government’s approach towards its neighbourhood.
Consider the current strategic environment in this part of the region. It is positive, despite minor setbacks, and has the potential to take bilateral relations to a new level. The government in Dhaka may not be totally pro-India but is certainly not anti-India. Even the public attitude towards India in Bangladesh has remained positive in the last few years. At the external level, the proposed BCIM corridor with Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar is bound to bring Dhaka closer and open new vistas in bilateral relations relating to trade and movement of goods. It is unfortunate that the previous government could not make use of this positive environment and convert it into a success story for New Delhi in the neighbourhood.
The High Commissioner of Bangladesh in New Delhi has been earnestly campaigning to keep the momentum going between the two governments in Delhi and Dhaka. Unfortunately, New Delhi during the last phase of Manmohan Singh’s leadership let the momentum slow down. Mamata Banerjee was made a scapegoat – although did play a role in being a spoilsport, Manmohan Singh could have taken the relationship forward despite it if he was serious. This should be the first approach that Sushma Swaraj ensures in terms of regaining the momentum with Bangladesh and bulldozing bilateral relations forward.
Such a regaining of momentum could be done by engaging Dhaka in a constructive roadmap and making it a gateway for India’s Look East Policy (LEP). That could be the second approach for the new government towards Bangladesh. For a long time, New Delhi has been talking about its Look East policy, with Myanmar and India’s Northeast as gateways. Geographically and strategically, Dhaka should be the gateway for India’s LEP. Land and maritime access and trade and travel routes have to criss-cross eastern India comprising West Bengal and the Northeast and Bangladesh before entering Myanmar and progressing further east.
Like India, Bangladesh also has a serious stake in looking east. The ongoing Rohingya crisis and the violence against Bengali Muslims in Rakhine State has dented Bangladesh-Myanmar relations; worse was the recent firing and subsequent killing of a Bangladeshi soldier by Myanmarese guards along the border which has galvanised anti-Myanmar sentiment within Bangladesh. Despite this, Dhaka has to look east for it makes much economic sense in terms of trade and even the movement of Bangladeshi labour to ASEAN countries, especially Singapore and Malaysia. This provides an opportunity for India and Bangladesh to work together; in fact, New Delhi and Dhaka could Look East together.
In order to ensure that Dhaka is willing to be India’s gateway, the new government has to constructively engage Bangladesh in multiple sub-regional forums and institutions. If the Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar Forum for Regional Cooperation (BCIM) offers one such opportunity, the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) which is older than the former, offers another opening to work with other countries in the region, which include Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar and Thailand. While the first one would provide a great opportunity in terms of establishing infrastructure for trade and movement of goods, the second would be greatly beneficial in integrating the eastern part of the region.
Obviously, there have been issues over bilateral trade between the two countries despite the multiple agreements. Sharing of river waters will be another serious issue, given the alarming use of water war bogeys in the sub-continent and the emotionalism attached to it. Both could be over come if India and Bangladesh are integrated with the rest of the region. In fact, such an approach would even provide much needed space for the government in Delhi from its anti-India detractors and opposition.
The third and equally important approach is to use India’s border with Bangladesh as a bridge between the two countries. Bangladesh is not ‘India-locked’ but surrounded by West Bengal and the Northeast. What is generally referred as an ‘India lock’ is in fact always open, all along the border, despite the fencing. The illegal movement of people, goods and cattle mocks the entire concept of Bangladesh being ‘India-locked’. While it is a political issue, the hard reality also is that there is a market for this movement, and a regional economy within India thriving on this illegal border crossing of people, goods and even cattle.
New Delhi will have to provide some space to the regional states, as Beijing provides to Yunnan and Sichuan, in reaching out to the region. It is by no means an argument asking for the decentralisation of foreign policy, but only a petition to listen to the regional voices and use the border as a bridge to integrate Bangladesh better with West Bengal and the Northeast. Instead of looking only through the prism of bilateral trade and illegal migration, other innovative means could be used to help such a process of integration. There are ample means for the legal movement of people for different purposes – from conferences to football matches to more border haats – to bring the two civil societies together, especially along the borders of India.
Finally, the new government will have to engage in a charm offensive; the much debated but least used ‘soft power’ of India could very well part of such an engagement. While the reservations and restrictions imposed by the Home Ministry in this context is understandable, the PMO should allow the Foreign Ministry to have a larger role in deciding the movement of people, especially students, journalists, teachers, members of the strategic, business and fine arts communities etc. By no means are these people going to be a threat to India and are bound to return to Bangladesh as India’s unofficial ambassadors. In fact, New Delhi should provide multiple entry visas to a broad category of people and allow the foreign ministry to decide this movement. By not allowing this movement, we are not only choking bilateral relations but also our own voice in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh under the present government in Dhaka provides a huge opportunity. The new government in New Delhi should make use of this momentum and take the process forward in making Dhaka India’s gateway towards the East.

WWI centenary: how one assassin destroyed an empire and world order
Special envoy Laurence Alexandrowicz reports: “We are on the street corner ‘where the 20th century started’. That’s going back 100 years, to the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, in Sarajevo. This special report is on the centenary of the First World War. We return to that day, 28 June, 1914, that no one imagined would change the face of the world.”
Franz Ferdinand and Sophie were celebrating 14 years of loving marriage. His uncle, the Emperor, had condemned it, because Sophie was not of dynastic rank, and Franz was heir presumptive. Protocol rarely allowed her to appear in public with him. But this was a lower rung military inspection.
Historian Mirsad Avdic says: “It was the first time in 14 years they were free to ride in the open car together.”
The couple were in the Austro-Hungarian province of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to review the imperial troops. This coincided with the date of a fourteenth century defeat of the proud Serbs at the hands of the Turks. Since 1878, the region had been under Austria-Hungary’s domination.
Historian Slobodan Soja says: “Now, almost 40 years on, someone rises up and assassinates the very symbol of occupation, of tyranny!”
Yugoslavist militants under the name ‘Young Bosnia’ plot violent revolt. One of them hurls a grenade as the archduke’s car passes. The couple are unhurt, but others are wounded. The culprit is seized; he has failed. Ferdinand decides to carry on, to the opening of a hospital, yet his driver is given inadequate instructions. Another plotter, the son of poor farmers, convinced the chance to strike has come and gone, then finds the target like a sitting duck.
In Avdic’s words: “The chauffeur makes a wrong turn in front of the museum. Franz Ferdinand insists he stop. Six vehicles behind them have created a traffic jam.
“Gavrilo Princip is on the other side of the bridge. He’s got diabetes and tuberculosis, and after the bomb attempt has failed, he is in a state of nervous exhaustion. He’s nipped into a cafe for a sandwich. As he’s leaving, he sees the cortege and acts.
“He gets to within one metre of Sophie [who is pregnant] and Franz Ferdinand, and fires off five deadly shots.”
They bleed to death.
The empire, one month later, declares war on Serbia, and the continent catches fire. The 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip escapes capital punishment because of his age. He is sentenced to 20 years in prison, while co-conspirator Ivan Kranjcevic, who had been in charge of weapons, gets ten years.
We find his grandson today, Davor Koric, who says these were not terrorists.
Koric says: “There were attackers’ cults at the time, cults of sacrifice, in which the members were ready to give their lives so that others could have a better future. We can’t say it was terrorism in the sense we see it today. Of course, every murder is an act to be condemned, but that was a kind of protest; it was a heroic act.”
A chapel was built in the Kosevo Orthodox cemetery in Sarajevo in 1939, in memory of Gavrilo Princip and his young friends, even though they were atheists.
The image attributed to them would evolve differently in the Balkan region.
Soja says: “The fall of communism changed things. Countries split up. They shared the same past but not the same opinions about it. Suddenly, everything was thrown into question. Suddenly, something absurd happens: Princip and the others are left supported only by the Serbs.”
Princip wasted away in prison. A few months before the global killing ended, he died.
One nation after another had declared war; in the aftermath, empires had fallen, and new countries were formed — mined with sectarian passions.
A group of six assassins (Cvjetko Popović, Gavrilo Princip, Muhamed Mehmedbašić, Nedeljko Čabrinović, Trifko Grabež, Vaso Čubrilović)

Hillary Clinton’s truly hard choice: Change or continuity?

Hillary Clinton’s problem is not her money. Despite the media flurry over a couple of awkward remarks she made, most people will understand her situation pretty quickly — she wasn’t born rich but has become very rich — and are unlikely to hold it against her. Mitt Romney did not lose the last election because of his wealth. Hispanics and Asians did not vote against him in record numbers because he was a successful businessman. Clinton’s great challenge will be to decide whether she represents change or continuity.
Clinton will make history in a big and dramatic way if she is elected — as the first woman president. But she will make history in a smaller, more complicated sense as well. She would join just three other non-incumbents since 1900 to win the White House after their party had been in power for eight years. She would be the first to win who was not the vice president or the clear protégé of the incumbent president.
The examples will clarify. Since 1900, the three were William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover and George H.W. Bush. Six others tried and lost: James Cox, Adlai Stevenson, Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, Al Gore and John McCain. Interestingly, even the three successful ones had only one term as president.
A caveat: Beware of any grand pronouncements about the presidency because in statistical terms there have not been enough examples, and if you vary the criteria, you can always find an interesting pattern. The Republican Party broke almost every rule between 1861 and 1933, during which it held the presidency for 52 of the 72 years.
But the challenge for Clinton can be seen through the prism of her predecessors — should she run on change or continuity? The three who won all pledged to extend the president’s policies. They also ran in economic good times with popular presidents. That’s not always a guarantee, of course. Cox promised to be “a million percent” behind Woodrow Wilson’s policies, but since Wilson was by then wildly unpopular for his signature policy, the League of Nations, Cox received the most resounding drubbing (in the popular vote) in history.
Some of the candidates had an easier time distancing themselves from unpopular presidents. McCain was clearly a rival and opponent of George W. Bush. Stevenson was very different from Harry Truman, but he was, in effect, asking for not a third term for the Democrats but a sixth term — after 20 years of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Truman. Shortly before the 1952 election, Stevenson wrote to the Oregon Journal that “the thesis ‘time for a change’ is the principal obstacle ahead” for his campaign. After all, if the country wants change, it will probably vote for the other party. “It’s time for a change” was Dwight Eisenhower’s official campaign slogan in 1952.
The most awkward circumstance has been for vice presidents trying to distance themselves from their bosses. Humphrey tried mightily to explain that he was different from Lyndon Johnson without criticizing the latter. “One does not repudiate his family in order to establish his own identity,” he would say. Gore faced the same problem in 2000, though many believe that he should not have tried to distance himself so much from a popular president who had presided over good times. As Michael Kinsley noted, Gore’s often fiery and populist campaign seemed to have as its slogan: “You’ve never had it so good, and I’m mad as hell about it.”
Today the country is in a slow recovery and President Obama’s approval ratings are low. This might suggest that the best course would be for Clinton to distance herself from her former boss. But Obamacare and other policies of this president are very popular among many Democratic groups. Again, the three people in her shoes who won all ran on continuity.
Clinton’s recent memoir suggests that she has not yet made up her mind as to what course she will follow. The book is a carefully calibrated mixture of praise and criticism, loyalty and voice, such that she can plausibly go in whatever direction she chooses.
The world today is different. And Clinton is in a unique position, especially if she can truly mobilize women voters. But history suggests that choosing change or continuity will truly be her hard choice.

Barack Obama: John Boehner's lawsuit 'a stunt'
President Barack Obama is calling House Speaker John Boehner’s plan to file a lawsuit against the president a “stunt.” “The suit is a stunt, but what I’ve told Speaker Boehner directly is, ‘If you’re really concerned about me taking too many executive actions, why don’t you try getting something done through Congress?’” Obama told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on Thursday.
Boehner, along with other House Republicans, is arguing that the president is misusing his political power and said on Wednesday that he does not believe that Obama is “faithfully execut[ing] the laws.” The speaker also sent a memo to House Republicans on Wednesday afternoon that mentioned what he feels are general examples of Obama misusing his powers, such as executive actions on health care, energy, foreign policy and education.
“Well, you’ll notice that he didn’t specifically say what exactly he was objecting to,” Obama said. “I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something while they’re doing nothing.” Stephanopoulos drew upon Boehner’s quotes during his interview, asking Obama to reflect on when the speaker said “we elected a president … we didn’t elect a monarch or king.” “Right now we’ve got a Republican Party that seems to only care about saying ‘no’ to me,” Obama said.
He later added, “You’re going to squawk if I try to fix some parts of [government] administratively that are within my authority while you’re not doing anything?”
Boehner’s office quickly responded to Obama’s comments on Friday morning.
“The American people, their elected representatives, and the Supreme Court have all expressed serious concerns about the President’s failure to follow the Constitution,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement. “Dismissing them with words like, ‘smidgen’ or ‘stunt’ only reinforces their frustration.”
Read more:

Music: Wada Karo Sajna-Mehdi Hasan

Afghanistan 'won't mirror Iraq', UK Army officer says

The most senior British Army officer in Afghanistan says he does not believe that country will follow Iraq into sectarian conflict when international troops withdraw by the end of the year.
Lt Gen John Lorimer told BBC Radio 5 live the circumstances in Iraq and Afghanistan were "quite different". Iraqi forces are currently battling jihadist-led Islamist rebels.
The former head of the UK military, Lord Richards, has warned the fighting could be repeated in Afghanistan. 'Unhelpful comparison'
Lt Gen Lorimer, who is the deputy head of the Nato-led mission, is in his last week of service in Afghanistan.
He said he was confident the country would be secure as international troops withdraw, saying the Afghan national security forces were better equipped and trained to deal with the threat of insurgents than Iraqi forces. "I don't think the comparison between Iraq and Afghanistan is a particularly helpful one", he said.
"The circumstances are quite different, the context is different, I think the important thing about this next mission is that the international troops who were here to train, advise and assess the Afghan national security forces...the Afghans want the international community to remain here."
Lt Gen Lorimer said the Afghan forces had been "pretty impressive" in maintaining security in the run-up to the country's elections.
He added: "There are still gaps in their capabilities, they are working on them, they have recognised what they are, and the international community is helping them fill those gaps."
That community has committed $4bn (£2.4bn) a year for security in Afghanistan until 2017 and $4bn a year for development to underpin future security and stability.
'Wake-up call'
Earlier this month Afghan President Hamid Karzai dismissed the possibility of al-Qaeda linked groups making a comeback in his country in a similar way to Iraq.
Asked whether what was happening in Iraq could happen in Afghanistan, the president told the BBC: "Never, not at all."
But this week Lord Richards, who retired last year as chief of the defence staff, warned the fighting could be repeated in Afghanistan unless the government in Kabul was given the support it needed.
He told Sky News: "For me it's a wake-up call that if we don't just honour our commitments to the people of Afghanistan made in very good faith...I fear what we are seeing in Syria and Iraq could happen in Afghanistan next year and the thing we should be focusing on now is containing this".

Video: Thousands protest over vote fraud allegations in Afghanistan

Afghanistan, the World's 7th Fragile State

Afghanistan is declared as the seventh failed state in terms of good governance by the Fund for Peace (FFP) organization.
FFP--an independent, nonpartisan, non-profit research and educational organization-- works to prevent violent conflict and promote sustainable security in the world. The organization has issued a new index of the world's most fragile states, with South Sudan topping the list and Afghanistan taking the seventh place.
The organization assesses countries in terms of human rights, external interference, government credibility, social services, capabilities of security institutions and religious wars. FFP has stated that despite massive international investments, Afghanistan still constitutes as the world's most unstable country. The report discusses administrative corruption, drug smuggling and extremism as the biggest challenges in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan was on the same category during the previous year's report. According to the report, there has been no visible, drastic change in the lives of the people and good governance still does not exist in the country.
"I think in the wake of international aid reductions as well as the process of security and political transition, it is good news that Afghanistan has maintained its previous position," political expert Mohammad Qasim Wafayee said.
The report indicates that since last year, the number of refugees and internally displaced migrants have increased and poverty and the scale of unemployment have risen. Furthermore, it claims that the government has failed in proper distribution of social services. FFP also stresses that efforts in the human rights sector need to increase.
Some Afghan analysts have confirmed FFP's assessments.
"It is clear that there has been no change in the situation in the country," University lecturer Baryali Fitrat said. "Insecurity has undermined investments, people's economic condition has worsened, billions of dollars of international aid has been wasted, corruption has increased, and the reconstruction process has not been accelerated."
Afghanistan's two neighbors, Iran and Pakistan, have taken the 44th and 10th places respectively.

Thousands protest in support of Abdullah’s allegation of mass fraud

Thousands of protesters have marched in capital Kabul on Friday in support of presidential candidate Dr. Abdullah Abdullah’s allegations of mass fraud in runoff presidential election.
The demonstration started around 8:00 am local time after thousands of Abdullah’s supporters gathered in Pashtuistan roundabout. Abdullah Abdullah, his first and second vice presidents also participated in the demonstration, with some protesters shouting angry slogans against president Karzai and electoral bodies.
Though, the march was well organized and was largely peaceufl; however, some of the protesters also showed outrage by destroyed posters of president Karzai.
Abdullah claims that there have been mass fraud in the favour of his rival and accused president Karzai, provincial governors and police of complicity in efforts to rig the election. He also halted his ties with the electoral bodies and dropped out of election process last week which has put the election process in to a deadlock.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) also called on Abdullah to return to the election process; however, no breakthrough has been noted following the UN mission’s mediation so far.

Hamdard Bashir - Maida Maida NEW AFGHAN SONG 2014

Pakistan: Gullu Butt gets featured in an Android game

The notorious Gullu Butt has finally made it to the play store in an Android Game. Game is developed by a firm called WeirdScience, however we don’t know much about it yet.
The gameplay is primarily simple and somewhat amateurish but considering the fame of Gullu Butt and his performance in Model Town Lahore recently, the title may ignite users to play this relatively easy game. Users are asked to break cars by swiping the stick and afterwards they have to collect glass pieces torn off by none other than Gullu himself.

Perspective: Pakistan's forgotten minorities

Who has given these so-called ‘Muslim clerics' the authority to arbitrate on issues of belief and disbelief?
Early on a Monday morning last month (May 26), I was awoken by a very distressing text message which read ‘an Ahmadi doctor has been martyred outside of Bahishti Maqbara [an Ahmadi Muslim cemetery in Rabwah, Pakistan]’.
I did not know who this message referred to, but just the mere fact that he was an innocent, a brother, meant my heart immediately sunk with anguish, and the only comfort I could muster was through recalling the heart wrenching words of Prophet Jacob (peace be upon him), “I only complain of my sorrow and my grief to God.” (Q. 12:87)
Within a few hours, the news of this heinous act had spread across the world through both the mainstream and social-media – as devastated Ahmadi Muslims and outraged non-Ahmadis took to Twitter and Facebook to question the morality of Pakistan and simply to ask ‘Why?’
I still had not fully come to terms with this brutal attack when my eyes came across devastating graphic images of a middle-aged man lying in the street - his pearl-white qamees (shirt) covered in blood, his eyes-open, yet lifeless. Those images can never be washed away.
Further details of the incident gradually came to light - the victim was an cardiologist, Dr Mehdi Ali Qamar, a dual American and Canadian citizen who travelled to Pakistan during a sabbatical only to treat the sick for free.
He was murdered by two unidentified assailants in front of his wife and two year old son. Learning of this, I thought that the barbarity of this atrocious crime had surpassed all human boundaries! How can one even begin to describe such a tragedy? How can one come to understand the trauma of the family?? What comfort, solace or condolences can be offered?
So, why did this monstrous act take place? Did someone have a personal vendetta that they felt needed to be settled? Or was this man so cruel that by serving humanity he was deserving of death?
The reality is that his sole crime was being an Ahmadi Muslim – a man of peace.
The so-called 'Islamic' Republic of Pakistan continues to endorse entirely un-Islamic laws that afford protection to those who incite hatred toward Ahmadi Muslims and other minority groups. Everyday, this lawless land is making headlines for extreme crimes committed on its soil, openly inviting people to raise their fingers at Islam and its noble Prophet (peace be upon him).
A day or two after the killing of Dr Mehdi, a pregnant woman was stoned to death outside the Lahore High Court by her own close family members in open view. She was murdered in a so-called ‘honour killing’ – could anything be less honourable than such a brutal attack? Then the case of Asia Bibi, sentenced to death under draconian blasphemy laws for the past four years, still awaiting the hearing of her appeal.
As an Imam, my question to the so-called ‘Muslim clerics’ that incite the innocent public and issue edicts of death against Christians, Ahmadi Muslims and the members of other minority groups, is simply this - can such examples be found in the noble life and example of the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him)? Never! And so who has given them the authority to arbitrate on issues of belief and disbelief? How do they justify the loss of innocent lives?
Muslims are duty-bound to show patience and forbearance at such tragic moments as this is the teaching of Islam and example of its Founder (peace be upon him) - to remember the family of a martyr, to continue to peacefully try and eliminate all kinds of oppression and to support those that have no voice.
I pray that one day I am awoken not by the news of yet another tragic killing, but by the news that Pakistan has abandoned its unjust laws and taken a stand against all forms of cruelty.

Balochistan Budget: A Set of Empty Promises

By Adnan Aamir
The budget presented by Balochistan government is nothing but a set of empty promises. Ruling coalition of Balochistan consisting of National Party (NP), Pashtunkhaw Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) and Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) has badly failed in every sphere of governance. The current budget is just a traditional budget that makes high claims but at the end of the year there will be no change in the lives of people of Balochistan.
Presently, Balochistan is badly in need of development projects to uplift the living standards of the people. In such a situation the government should have reduced the non-development expenditures. However, the government has increased non-development budget from 154 billion to 164 billion. Development budget has been increased by only 6 billion and it’s 50 billion. Balochistan gets over 170 billion from federal dividable pool after 7th NFC award. People normally believe that this huge amount goes to politicians in lieu of development. Contrary to popular belief, 77% of income received from federal government is consumed by the bureaucracy and other non-development expenditures. This is a huge travesty of justice with deprived people of Balochistan.
Moreover, One can argue that if 50 billion allocated for development funds, is used appropriately, can change the outlook of Balochistan. The problem is that not all the allocated funds are consumed due to petty politics and incompetence of Chief Minister and his coalition partners. According to a well placed source, during last year, only 2 billion out of 44 billion allocated for development funds were used. The unused funds are returned back to federal government as a rule. So, what’s the guarantee that in the next fiscal year the proposed 50 billion will be spent on development projects?
Likewise, Budget of 2013-14 was the first budget presented by the current government. That budget promised 4000 jobs during the year. That proved to be an empty promise because not even 100 vacancies were fulfilled during that period. In fact, 674 vacancies for college lecturers were cancelled by government due to ethnic bias of one of the coalition parties. Based on the track record, one finds it hard to believe the promise of the government that 3925 jobs will be provided in next fiscal year.
Dr. Malik led government of Balochistan never fails to boast about their merit based governance. In reality they are as far from merit as was the corrupt government of Nawab Raisani. The development funds of all opposition members of provincial assembly were blocked by this so-called merit-oriented government. In constituencies of opposition members, politicians belonging from ruling coalition decide where the funds should be spent. That is typical example of power politics that politicians in Pakistan do and as a result common people suffer. Another example of good governance of Balochistan government is appointment of Arsalan Iftikhar as vice-Chairman of Board of Investment. Arsalan Iftikhar, son of former chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, was blamed for receiving bribe from Malik Riaz. There is substantial proof to backup the allegations made against Arsalan Iftikhar. Only Dr. Malik, his coalition partners and their apologists would defend the appointment of a corrupt person such as Arsalan Iftikhar.
The charge sheet against this government is too long but if one restricts it to budget only even then there is a lot to discuss. Local body’s elections were held in Balochistan on 7th December last year. Ruling coalition dominated the polls by making full use of government machinery. Still opposition parties managed to win substantial number of seats all over Balochistan. Government willingly delayed the transfer of power to Local bodies so that they don’t get a share in development budget of 2013-14. The irony is that even provincial government failed to spend the development funds. If power was transferred to local bodies on time then development funds would not have been wasted. The process of transfer of power is incomplete till to date and common people failed to get the benefit of electing their local body representatives in the year 2013-14.
Just like last year, this year’s budget will end up as a set of empty promises. It’s less likely that all the allocated funds will be utilized due to incompetence and petty politics of current government. The lives of people will not be changed notwithstanding 100s of billion rupees received by provincial government. Current government of Balochistan is just a good looking version of last government. Anyways, what can one expect from government that has come into power after as an outcome of one of the most rigged election in history of Pakistan. As long as this government is in power, nothing will change on ground for people of Balochistan. That’s inconvenient but one has to swallow it as bitter reality.

Pakistan: Zarb-e-Azb : 11 militants dead, 6 hidouts destroyed

At least eleven militants were killed and six terrorist hideouts destroyed after Pakistan Army shelled a strategic town in the latest round of its offensive against Taliban militants in North Waziristan Agency (NWA), Abbtakk reported. Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) says Operation Zarb-e-Azb was barreling ahead with full momentum. On the other hand army has started full scale war exercises at DG Khan airport on the reports of possible counter attack by the militant. Workers of rescue 1122 and civil aviation authority also took part in those exercises.

Pakistan: TTP involved in plane attack at Peshawar airport

The initial investigation report regarding the attack on Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane at Peshawar airport has revealed the involvement of banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Shahid group in the incident, Geo News reported on Friday.
According to the contents of the report prepared by the police, foreign made M-16 gun was used by TTP terrorists to fire on PIA flight no. PK-756 when it was about to land at the Bacha Khan International Airport, Peshawar. The flight which was arriving from Riyadh with 160 passengers on board at the time of attack.
The investigating team has found 24 spent shells of the foreign made gun from Mashu Khel and Suleman Khel areas of Peshawar during the post attack search in the adjoining areas. Police also arrested some suspected persons, however, details about the arrests were not made public.
Witnesses said there were 8 to 10 militants who opened fire on the aircraft at the time of landing.
After the attack, the number of joint checks posts of police and other security forces has been increased in the adjoining areas of Khyber Agency including Mashu Khel, Suleman Khel and Faqirabad.
It is pertinent to mention that a woman passenger was killed and two flight stewards were wounded when a passenger flight of PIA came under attack while landing at the Bacha Khan International Airport in Peshawar on Tuesday night.
The flight no. PK-756 was about to land in Peshawar when unidentified attackers opened fire on the aircraft.
The attack was the first of its kind. There were a number of attacks on the airport in the past but it was for the first time that an aircraft was hit and its passengers were wounded. A search operation was launched in the Pishtakhara and Sarband areas after the attack while more security personnel were deployed around the airport and the airbase. While landing in Peshawar, all aircraft come close to the tribal areas and the nearby settled towns.

Pakistan: For Imran Khan, Bahawalpur rally dearer than IDPs
PTI chief cites PTI’s Bahawalpur meeting as excuse for turning down premier’s repeated offers to visit IDPs camps in Bannu, instructs KP CM to accompany PM, COAS in his place
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan has declined Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s repeated invitations for a joint visit today (Friday) to the camps of internally displaced persons (IDPs) of North Waziristan Agency (NWA) in Bannu, saying that he has a rally in Bahawalpur.
According to sources, the PTI chief had turned down the invitation owing to his concerns that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government was not consulted before the launch of military offensive in tribal areas while the prime minister had also not released funds for IDPs that were demanded by the KP government. However, Khan has instructed KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak to visit the IDPs camps in Bannu in his place. Reportedly, the premier had asked Khan to accompany him alongside Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif to give a message to the victims of terrorism that the entire nation was standing by them during difficult times.
“If we go together, it will raise the hopes of IDPs, promote national unity and raise morale of armed forces,” Nawaz was quoted as saying.
According to sources, Khan was twice invited to the IDPs camps owing to his capacity as being the head of the ruling party in KP. Not only Khan was told about COAS’s presence at the camps but was also offered that a special plane would be placed at his disposal to take him to Bahawalpur to address the PTI meeting.
While talking to a private TV channel, PTI leader Imran Ismail termed the premier’s invitation “a political move”. He said such a move might be aimed towards reconciliation.
The PTI leader said that joint visits could be arranged at any time, however, need of the time was to eradicate problems facing the IDPs of North Waziristan.
Over 450,000 people have been displaced as a direct result of the ongoing Zarb-e-Azb operation in North Waziristan. Most of the displaced people have gathered in Bannu, with some in DI Khan.
While the premier will be visiting the IDPs camps today with COAS in Bannu, Khan is scheduled to be in Bahawalpur to make the announcement regarding PTI’s future course of action on its key demand for recounting of votes in four constituencies.
On June 17, Khan had denounced the deadly clashes between the police and supporters of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri and announced to hold a protest against the incident in Bahawalpur.

Pakistan: Another polio case in Karachi brings this year's tally to 84
Another police case surfaced in Karachi on Friday bringing the total number of cases in the country to 84 so far this year, Express News reported.
One-year-old child, identified as Murad, is reportedly the latest victim of the crippling virus. The child is a resident of Landhi. Up till now 65 cases have been reported from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), 12 from Khyber-Paktunkhwa (K-P) and now seven from Sindh.
Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where polio is still endemic but efforts to stamp out the crippling disease have been hit by repeated attacks on health teams.
Gunmen have frequently attacked polio vaccination workers, accusing them of being Western spies and part of a plot to sterilise Muslims.
A global eradication campaign has reduced polio cases by 99.9 per cent in the last three decades, but it remains endemic in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The disease is highly infectious and can cause irreversible paralysis.

Shahbaz Sharif : The man who runs an entire province

Syed Kamran Hashmi
There is no concept of combined responsibility in the mindset of a party whose leadership cannot relinquish power to anyone beyond family members. Punjab is a one-man show, always has been and will stay that way as long as Shahbaz Sharif stays in power
A young officer seized the protestor by his arm and dragged the old man towards the van as if he were hauling a goat by grabbing one of its ears. The tall, dark and skinny man was in his 60s, his long grey beard covering most of his face, his loose and ill-fitted white shalwar conspiring to fall down and his taqiyah cap tilted to one side. While surrounded by at least seven officers, he nervously took a few steps towards the van holding his pajama with his hand in an attempt to prevent an embarrassing situation. All of a sudden, another police constable leapt forward, swung his long wooden rod and hit the old man’s back with full strength. Had that rod hit the protestor’s head, his skull would have cracked open like a watermelon and he would have died on the spot.
This is what I saw in a short video posted on my Facebook page regarding the police raid on the secretariat of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) last week in which 12 people have been killed so far. No more than 90 seconds long, the video is very disturbing, enabling one to witness the vulnerability of an ordinary man. I am sure Shahbaz Sharif would not know about these details but how could he not know the poor quality of training of the Punjab police to handle these circumstances? Unbelievable. While being aware of the incapacity of the police department, did he do anything to improve its standards in the last six years? Nothing to very little. Why? Any reform in the police is a dangerous proposition for any administrator who wants to control the department the same way the police handled the old man: with complete authority and unlimited power.
Interestingly, the old man was not alone in receiving this kind of brutal treatment. Right in the middle of the video, we also find another man — a short person wearing a traditional shalwar kameez suit whose face is hidden from the camera — being battered by the police. He was hit seven times by three officers in less than five seconds. The attack on him was also unforeseen, without any caution or care of the vital organs of the body, be it the heart, brain, lungs or kidneys. I am sure Shahnaz Sharif did not know about him too. And the reason for such a blatant declaration of ignorance, I am certain, is the same: any improvement in the police force as an institution is going to hurt the political interests of the party more than it will benefit them. With better training, equipment and education, it will become too independent to be treated as an extension of the party’s administrative wing.
Years ago, when the Sharif brothers were still in exile, they had revolutionary ideas about how to improve the governance structure of the country. Whether you listened to them in public or talked to them in private, both of them, but specially Shahbaz, sounded like sincere politicians, who not only had the management skills to run a profitable organisation but also had the experience to bring about a silent revolution. That was why the people rewarded them with their votes in Punjab. Although their unconditional support to the then deposed Chief Justice (CJ) of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, contributed, their commitment to uphold the rule of law, their struggle against dictatorship and their principles against violence played a major role in their victory. The sympathy for their party had grown so strong in the last six months before the elections that Shahbaz Sharif was able to become the chief minister of Punjab even after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. A minute after the oath taking ceremony though, the vision of a new Pakistan evaporated in the air as if it had never existed and the old Shahbaz Sharif woke up from his deep sleep.
From 2008 to 2013, he ran the whole province — of 100 million people — all alone like a personal or, at best, family enterprise. Does anyone remember the name of any of his cabinet members except Rana Sanaullah in the last five years? Probably not. The reason is simple: there is no concept of combined responsibility in the mindset of a party whose leadership cannot relinquish power to anyone beyond family members. Punjab is a one-man show, always has been and will stay that way as long as Shahbaz Sharif stays in power. Beyond the role of cabinet, the local body elections (LBE), which should have been the first priority of any revolutionary who wanted to improve the governance of the province, as they are vital for a functional and successful democracy, were never held for the same reason. The police reforms, which were so badly needed for decades and should have followed the LBE could not be implemented either because of the perceived fear of loss of control.
Furthermore, contrary to the general misconception of being an effective administrator, everyone knows, in the absence of major improvement in the police structure, the governance of the Punjab government was unsatisfactory during 2008 to 2013. Unfortunately, its failure was masked by the colossal negligence of the Pakistan People’s Party-led coalition in the Centre whose main cabinet members were also allegedly involved in financial scandals. That had kept the focus of media attention on Islamabad. In Lahore, on the other hand, since there was no effective cabinet, there was no scandal and hence the reputation of being clean! After the landslide victory of the PML-N in 2013, there was some hope that the Shahbaz Sharif administration would take steps towards LBE and restructuring the institutions but these hopes never materialised even after the Supreme Court (SC) ruling. After last week’s incident, we have to realise that without bringing fundamental reforms and the LBE, it is impossible to run a province as big as Punjab effectively. We can do patchwork by suspending an officer here and there, or asking for resignation from his only known cabinet member, but I am sure that will not prevent another event just like this one.

Pakistan: Imran Khan's political immaturity

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly erupted in anger and disorder the other day as opposition lawmakers staged a walkout, protesting Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf chief Imran Khan’s repeated threats to dissolve the provincial Assembly over the alleged rigging of the 2013 general elections. Imran Khan’s comments are dangerously immature. What does the dissolution of the KP Assembly have to do with the alleged rigging of four National Assembly (NA) electoral seats? His insistence on reverifying these four NA seats is completely illogical. What is the guarantee that the reverification of all four will turn out in his favour? Even if they do, how does that prove that all 272 seats were rigged? Furthermore, if he chooses to go through with his threat of dissolution of the KP Assembly, there is no guarantee his party will be re-elected if there are fresh elections in KP. Imran Khan must understand that his reckless outbursts might soon cause grave divisions within his own party. The few seasoned politicians in his party must be displeased with his statements, and should he dissolve the KP Assembly, one cannot imagine them being too happy with the idea of running for two expensive and time-consuming elections in one year. What’s worse to imagine is that these politicians have not talked him out of such actions, which could mean they are unable to reason with him, and the accusations of him being a dictator within his party would then acquire more mileage.
If Khan feels so strongly about the issue, he should ask his party members to resign, or he should resign. But why is he refusing to strengthen democratic institutions and follow the elections tribunal procedure? Yes, there are delays in the system, which can be frustrating. If Imran Khan subscribes to the rule of law and constitutional and parliamentary democracy – which he claims to – he must pursue that process. That is the democratic way. But he does not seem to understand politics, and especially not parliamentary democracy. Khan must join the parliamentary committee being set up to look into the matter of electoral reform and put forward his party's proposals. There is no gainsaying the fact that the electoral system is replete with anomalies and shortcomings, but then no system is perfect, let alone one in its relative infancy.
The issue of the role of the returning officers, for example, is one of several issues that require ironing out. But Imran Khan must address these issues through the proper forums, i.e. parliament and the election commission. Pakistan’s democracy is far from perfect, but the struggle to reach even this point must be respected. His constant calls for street agitation rather than build democracy and blatant disregard of institutions and procedures displays his glaring political immaturity. Perhaps Khan should reflect on what he has achieved in this one year since the elections. He campaigned on a platform of change, believing his own exaggerated hype that his 'tsunami' would sweep the elections, even though he lacked the requisite party machinery and electable candidates and had little constituency work to his party's name. When you fall for your own hype, there is no help for you. Other than cosmetic measures – attempting to spruce up police reform – there is nothing major that one can point to when considering Khan’s party's achievements in this one year of government in KP. His voters and supporters, especially the youth, are increasingly disillusioned.
Election rigging is never excusable under any circumstances, and if proved true, must be dealt with accordingly. However, there are far greater battles to fight at the moment. This current period in Pakistan’s history is a time requiring unity for the struggle against terrorism. KP is currently on the frontline of our life and death struggle against this affliction. Good leadership has a huge role to play in the stability of KP, which in turn, is crucial to the future of Pakistan. Khan’s priorities do not seem in conformity with this critical national task.

Pakistan: IDPs bemoan state’s apathy, neglect

People displaced from North Waziristan Agency were standing in a long queue outside Bannu’s sports complex where UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) has set up a camp for food distribution. They were waiting in sizzling heat since early morning for their turn to get food. Soldiers, with heads covered in scarves and guns slinging from shoulders, would occasionally tap the ground with sticks to maintain discipline. A strong and foul odour coming from the surroundings polluted the air along the main road. Thousands of people who came from Lakki Marwat and Karak districts and parts of Bannu had assembled outside the complex. Police resorted to firing in the air and baton-charge early in the morning to restore order.
With sweat dripping from his brow, Noorul Amin, a grey-haired Ahmadzai Wazir, was also waiting to receive food. His family took shelter with a host family in Serai Nowrung, a town in Lakki Marwat district about 18km south of Bannu.
He had been coming to the complex for three days to get food. He blamed the government for what he said was the forced evacuation from the agency and maltreatment at the hands of soldiers and police.
“By God, I will hold (Prime Minister) Nawaz Sharif and (Army Chief) Raheel Sharif by the collar on the Day of Judgment. First, we were forced to leave our homes and then we are humiliated here for a small quantity of food,” he said. “We are not even treated like animals.”
According to the Fata Disaster Management Authority, there is only one food distribution point for over 36,800 families.
The food distribution process is extremely slow. People come early in the morning and stand in queue for the whole day. The food basket provided to each family contains 80kg of wheat flour, 4kg pulses, 30 packets of high-energy biscuits, 1kg salt and five litres of cooking oil.
The WFP said that since the start of food distribution work on June 22, it has provided rations for 15 days to over 4,600 families. Like previous disasters, troops are overseeing all the activities, including distribution of food.
An official said that on an average 1,800 families received handouts daily. Three more distribution points are proposed to be set up next month to streamline the relief operation.
The military operation in the agency was on the cards since long, but the way people were evacuated and the mismanagement at the distribution point showed lack of coordination between law enforcement and disaster management authorities.
Also exposed was the lack of preparedness on the part of agencies dealing with the disaster.
Like in the past, disaster management bodies are depending on security forces and troops are controlling everything from evacuation of civilians to distribution of relief items. Officials of the disaster management bodies have restricted themselves to file work. Workers of the NGOs which are partners of the UN agency are involved in distributing the food items.
Falah-i-Insaniat, a subsidiary of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, and Jamaat-i-Islami’s Al Khidmat Foundation have been offering water to people in the distribution point’s waiting area. They have also kept ambulances on standby and set up donation camps.
After reaching Bannu, displaced families have started heading to others areas of the country. The trend has worried officials dealing with security-related matters.
Officials said that over 450,000 people had been registered and the figure might surpass 600,000 if evacuation was not stopped from other areas of North Waziristan. Local people said that evacuation had been completed only from two sub-divisions – Mirali and Miramshah.
They said that Razmak sub-division, comprising Sham, Dusali, Razmak, Madakhel and parts of Spin Wam and Shawa, has not been vacated so far. Because the focus of the army operation is Mirali and Miramshah, people from there have been evacuated.
Madakhel, adjacent to the Afghan border, is said to be under the influence of Hafiz Gul Bahadur who is emir of Shura Mujahideen of North Waziristan Agency and signatory to a 2006 peace agreement with the government.
Exemption of Madakhel and other areas from the evacuation process has raised hopes among the displaced people that they would be able to go back to their abodes soon.

Pakistan: A sorry tale of North Waziristan’s Hindus

Way back in 1949, Jamila Laal married Adbari Laal, a businessman by profession. The Vivaah Sanskaar, rite of marriage, was performed at Miranshah during a ceremony and a large number of Hindus living in the area participated.
Jamila Laal, 80, whose ancestors, according to her, migrated from Ferozpur, India, loves Miranshah like other tribesmen of the area are also emotionally attached to their hometown. Her marriage lasted for almost 65 years before her husband died in 2010. According to Jamila, who represents Balmik Hindu caste, she was born in Miranshah where considerable numbers of Hindus were living before the partition of subcontinent. However, when Pakistan came into being her family was one of the few families that opted for living in North Waziristan. “I have spent my entire life in Miranshah, I never imagined that a time will come that we will leave the area and become homeless like we are today,” she added.
Jamila Laal is one of the 114 Hindu and Christian minority members who left North Waziristan during the ongoing military operation. The minorities of North Waziristan complain that they have been ignored by the government and are living in Bannu city in miserable condition. Currently a Christian community in Bannu is providing help to both Hindus and Christians with food, shelter and other necessities of life.
According to Father Wasim Ayaz, Christian community in Bannu is helping around 25 Christian and Hindu families of North Waziristan. Majority of them have been adjusted at the Panel High School and College in Bannu city. “Neither the government’s representatives nor the political leadership of minorities have so far come to help these poor people,” he added. The family of Rajish Daas from Civil Colony Miranshah, who is a tailor by profession, has taken shelter in the same school. “We have been registered as IDPs at the Saidgai Checkpoint but we are being treated as second class citizens. The minorities are being ignored at food distribution points,” he complained.
The Christian and Hindu minorities of North Waziristan said that the local tribesmen were very kind to them who never interfered in their affairs. However, a constant fear was in their minds due to clashes between militants and security forces in the area. “We used to freely roam in Miranshah bazaar and had no threat from militants or any other people. Even if we had some disputes amongst within our community we went to Taliban commanders to get them resolved,” said Vid Kumar, a young Hindu.
He further said that Hafiz Gul Bahadur had ordered his men that no one should interfere in the affairs of minorities. “We had equal rights in North Waziristan but here the government is treating us in an indifferent manner”.
There are some Hindu families settled in Bannu district and reportedly some minority IDPs have also taken shelters there but so far none of the minorities have reportedly allowed to be settled in government-run camp.
According to the FATA Disaster Management Authority (FDMA), during the ongoing military operation total of 36,831 families (comprising 4, 56,508 individuals) have left North Waziristan. However, the tribesmen are not interested to take shelter in a government-run camp for the IDPs in Bakka Khel frontier region in Bannu.
According to a report, at the moment there are only 340 people living in this camp. The minorities of North Waziristan say that they should be either adjusted in it or a separate camp should be established for them. “If the tribesmen are not interested to live in the camp then they should allow us to live in it,” said Vid Kumar.
Talking to this scribe, Special Assistant to Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for Minorities’ Affairs Dr Sardar Suran Singh said these families had not registered themselves while crossing Saidgai checkpoint. “It is their own mistake and government should not be blamed. I am personally visiting the area tomorrow to solve the issue,” he said and added, “Until the issue is not resolved, I will accommodate and facilitate all these people from my own pocket.”
On the other hand, Haroon Sarab Diyal, Chairman All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement (APHRM) said that the issue of minorities is not a single case of its nature as his community was always ignored and neglected in this country. “We have properties all around the country but the government is not handing over the possession. Otherwise, these people will have no need to rely on others’ help. We have nothing to help our brethren today and we can only pray for them.”
President of Life For All Pakistan (LFAP) Xavier William confessed that the said issue was not in his notice. However, his organisation is now planning to establish a camp in Bannu to support all the IDPs of North Waziristan. “All the citizens of Pakistan have equal rights so that they should be treated equally,” he added.

Health officials rush to immunise kids against polio in Pakistan

Children in the tribal district have not been vaccinated since Taleban and local warlords banned health teams from giving out drops in June 2012.
Pakistani health officials are rushing to vaccinate hundreds of thousands of children against polio amid fears that a civilian exodus from a tribal area where the virus is rampant could spread the disease around the country.
Nearly half a million people have fled a military operation against Taleban strongholds in North Waziristan, a hotspot for the crippling disease in Pakistan.
Children in the tribal district have not been vaccinated since Taleban and local warlords banned health teams from giving out drops in June 2012.
Tens of thousands of families have fled to the town of Bannu, close to North Waziristan, while hundreds more have moved further afield to Lakki Marwat, Karak and Dera Ismail Khan towns, since the offensive began in mid-June.
Officials have begun a vaccination campaign in Bannu and three other districts adjacent to North Waziristan, vaccinating both resident families and newcomers fleeing the offensive.
“We are vaccinating both local and displaced children, the target is to vaccinate more than 200,000 children,” doctor Akbar Jan, a senior health official in Bannu, said.
The campaign in areas adjoining North Waziristan began — unannounced — on Monday.
“Displaced persons were a threat to the host communities, now we have the opportunity to vaccinate both host community and displaced families,” Jan said.
More than 50 cases of polio have been detected so far this year in militant-infested North Waziristan, out of 82 cases across the country — and 103 worldwide.
A World Health Organization (WHO) official in Bannu told AFP the campaign would continue one day a week during the fasting month of Ramadan, which begins at the weekend.
Pakistan is one of only three countries, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, where polio remains endemic, and efforts to eradicate it have been badly hit by rumours about the vaccine.
Various outlandish claims have circulated about the drops — that they cause infertility or Aids.
But health workers giving out the vaccine in a narrow street in Bannu’s Tanchi bazaar area said they had encountered little resistance.
“This is a house-to-house campaign, our team has vaccinated 300 children in two days,” Shumaila Khan said.
“So far no family has refused to vaccinate their kids. There were many who were reluctant at first but later convinced.”
Many parents had heard the rumours about the vaccine, Khan said.
“They said the Taleban told them it was an American conspiracy to disable their children, to make them infertile and to decrease the Muslim population,” she said.
Sharif Zaman, a 35-year-old teacher sheltering in a school with 10 other families after fleeing North Waziristan, recalled the militants’ propaganda.
“They used to tell us your children will suffer epilepsy and would become abnormal,” the father-of-five said.
Zaman had five kids who were all were vaccinated at a check post.
Naimatullah Khan, who was running a restaurant in Mir Ali, said militants used to distribute leaflets saying anti-polio drops were perilous.
“They used to threaten the whole population that any one whose child had polio drops would be slaughtered,” he said.
“They used to say we will cut your throat with a dagger.”

Pakistan: Ground combat likely in next 48 hrs

Pakistan Army is poised to launch the much anticipated ground offensive against militants in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) within the next 48 hours after signalling on Thursday the near-completion of the evacuation of civilians from the troubled areas.
The Express Tribune has learnt through senior military officials that following days of air strikes, ground combat will begin anytime now.
Separately, the military’s chief spokesman Major-General Asim Salim Bajwa told a group of journalists at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi that Operation Zarb-e-Azb was aimed at eliminating all terrorists, including the Haqqani network.
“There will be no discrimination. Whoever challenges the writ of the state will be taken to task. Operation Zarb-e-Azb is against all terrorists, both local and foreign,” the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) director general (DG) said in the first such on record briefing since the operation was launched.
When asked whether the ongoing operation would also target Haqqani network, the deadliest of all Afghan insurgent groups, he replied: “Once the troops enter there [North Waziristan] then you cannot draw a distinction.”
His statement appears to suggest a shift in Islamabad’s approach towards drawing a distinction between the ‘good and bad’ Taliban.
The country’s security establishment has often been accused by the US as well as Afghanistan of harbouring the Haqqanis, who carried out some of the most daring attacks against foreign forces in the neighbouring country.
For his part, the ISPR director general dismissed the perception, saying Pakistan had never supported any militant group, including the Haqqani network.
When asked, Maj-Gen Bajwa acknowledged that there was a possibility that some terrorists might have already fled Waziristan. However, he added that before announcing the operation, security forces isolated North Waziristan from the rest of areas as well as at the border.
About Hafiz Gul Bahadur, who struck a peace deal with the army, Maj Gen Bajwa made it clear that had he [Bahadur] honoured that deal there would have been no need for Operation Zarb-e-Azb. He also admitted that North Waziristan is the hotbed of all kinds of terrorists and said all major attacks in the country could be traced back to the restive tribal agency.
“This is the beginning of the end of terrorism in the country,” the ISPR DG said, saying the ongoing operation was the battle of survival for Pakistan. On the other hand, he said the registration of internally displaced persons (IDPs) had been completed. “So far 456,292 people have been registered,” he told reporters. “We are still making announcements in the area for any civilians still left there,” he added.
Maj-Gen Bajwa made it clear that avoiding collateral damage in the operation was the main priority. This, according to him, was the reason the ground offensive was yet to be launched. “To avoid collateral damage, we will even delay the operation,” he said.
Security forces, according to him, have been directed to take care of human rights while carrying out the operation. Detailing the result of preliminary military action in North Waziristan, the ISPR director general said as many as 327 suspected terrorists have been killed in air strikes and another 19 have surrendered themselves. Some 45 militant hideouts have been destroyed in the action, he added.
However, 10 security personnel have laid down their lives and seven others injured in the line of duty, he said. About the identity of the terrorists killed in the air strikes, Maj-Gen Bajwa said once the ground assault was launched, a clear picture would emerge. “We have intercepted communication of terrorists… This is how we know of the casualties on their side,” he explained.

Pakistan: ISPR DG says Operation Zarb-i-Azb in N.Waziristan is a 'war of survival'

The director general of Pakistan's Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Major General Asim Bajwa, has described the ongoing military operation against militants in North Waziristan as a 'war of survival'.
Major General Bajwa told media here that Operation Zarb-i-Azb will pave the way for a dawn of permanent peace in the country.
The Dawn further quoted him, as saying that the operation was being carried out without any discrimination between "good or bad Taliban", and added that it is the beginning of the end for terrorism in Pakistan.
Major General Bajwa said army troops, Frontier Corps personnel, Khasadars, Levies, intelligence operatives and the Pakistan Air Force were jointly conducting the operation in North Waziristan.
He confirmed that the troops have surrounded North Waziristan and sealed the 180-km-long border with Afghanistan, as well as the boundary with South Waziristan, making it impossible for terrorists to escape.
Asked if there was a possibility that terrorist leaders had escaped to Afghanistan before the launch of the operation, the ISPR chief said it was possible a few of them had taken refuge on the Afghan side, but most of them were still in the targeted area.
He was quoted, as saying: "Terrorists of all kinds, involved in different activities from Fata to Karachi, are based in North Waziristan. They include local and foreign militants, including Uzbeks and Chechens. Now, it is up to them whether they surrender or fight."
He said the entire nation and the political leadership of the country were on the same page as the military on the issue of terrorism and fully supported the army in the operation.
He said that since the launch of the operation on June 15, a total of 327 terrorists had been killed and 45 of their hideouts had been destroyed.
Nineteen terrorists had surrendered to security personnel but details about their nationality or allegiances were not revealed.
Ten security personnel have laid down their lives, while seven had been injured in the line of duty, he added.
He denied that U.S. drone strikes were part of the operation, but added that Washington has been asked to coordinate.
The operation was solely being carried out by Pakistani troops, the ISPR chief said.
Control rooms had been set up with the Universal Access Number 1135 in different cities, so people could share information about any suspicious activity in their area.
He said that so far, nearly 36,804 families consisting of 456,292 individuals had been registered as internally displaced persons and that most of them had moved in with host families in Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan and Lakki Marwat.
Only a few hundred opted to stay in the camps set up for IDPs, he said.
Maj Gen Bajwa said that 50 army personnel and 20 officials of the National Disaster Management Authority had been deployed to ensure the registration of all IDPs.
Six ration points have been established in Bannu, DI Khan and Tank for the provision of food packets and medicines to IDPs and each family was given Rs15,000 and one month's ration by the army.
Of the registered IDPs, 221,000 had been immunised against polio drops and 32 relief collection points had been set up in different cities.
The DG ISPR said the National Database Registration Authority's mobile vans were available to check the identity of incoming IDPs at registration centres. "IDPs are also being screened so that no terrorist can escape under the guise of an IDP," he said.

As Pakistan wages an offensive against militants, tensions with Afghanistan rise

Pakistan has evacuated more than 450,000 civilians from a terrorist-plagued district in the northwestern part of the country, but its offensive against the militants there is complicated by fresh tension with neighboring Afghanistan.
With the North Waziristan campaign in its second week, officials say most civilians have left the remote, mountainous area, home to thousands of militants affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban and groups such as the Haqqani network. More than 350 militants have been killed, and military commanders say a full-scale ground invasion is imminent.
The area’s porous border with Afghanistan makes it likely, however, that some militants have escaped. Pakistan says Afghanistan is not doing enough to bolster surveillance of its side of the border. Pakistani Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah is thought to live in Afghanistan, and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has personally appealed to Afghan President Hamid Karzai to help dislodge him.
“So far, there has been no action on the part of the Afghan government to dismantle [Pakistani Taliban] hideouts,” said Pakistani Maj. Gen. Asim Bajwa. “We want them to take action.”
In recent days, Afghan commanders have been largely dismissive of such concerns, saying they are doing all they can to help their Pakistani counterparts.
Karzai’s security forces have been locked in a nearly week-long battle with hundreds of Afghan Taliban militants in the southern province of Helmand. On Thursday, Afghan officials accused Pakistani military and intelligence officials of supporting the Afghan militants.
“From a security point of view, we have taken all necessary measures to make sure that combatants, destructive elements and intelligence infiltrators are not amongst the refugees who have come to this side” of the border, said Abdul Hasib Seddiqi, a spokesman for the Afghan National Directorate of Security. “There is no Pakistani Taliban leader or group that operates in Afghanistan . . . Pakistan makes such accusations in order to justify its rocket attacks on our soil.”
U.S. officials have been stymied for years in their efforts to get Pakistan and Afghanistan to work together to combat border terrorists. The challenge is taking on more urgency as American forces continue to draw down in Afghanistan.
The Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan Taliban claim to be independent of each other, but they are thought to coordinate some activities. For years, military and intelligence officials on both sides have traded accusations of secretly supporting the other country’s Taliban group.
“Afghan intelligence is full of anti-Pakistani people, and so is the top leadership of the Afghan army, so why would they help Pakistan?” asked retired Gen. Javed Ashraf Qazi, a former head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
The military launched the North Waziristan assault June 15 after a brazen attack by the Pakistani Taliban on Karachi’s airport about a week earlier.
Unlike in some previous military operations, Unlike in some previous military operations, officials insist that the ongoing offensive will target not only the Pakistani Taliban but also the Haqqani network, which has been linked to attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
The network is suspected of past ties to Pakistani intelligence agencies. But last week, Gen. Rashad Mahmood, chairman of Pakistan’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, repeatedly stressed to Pentagon leaders and U.S. lawmakers that the Haqqani network will be driven out of North Waziristan in the operation.
“The army is saying, and the impression everyone is carrying is, they are going to go all the way this time,” said Shaukat Qadir, a retired Pakistani army brigadier who maintains close contact with active-duty leaders. “And by all the way, that means everybody — everybody we didn’t like and everybody we did like.”
The military’s anti-Taliban campaign in the Swat Valley in the late 2000s has served as a blueprint for the current offensive. As in Swat, the first phase of this offensive involved evacuating civilians. About 456,000 Pakistanis have left, most resettling in nearby Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province or other parts of Pakistan.
At least 65,000 have moved to Afghanistan’s Khost province, according to the United Nations.
Recent interviews with some of the displaced residents suggest that many militants also have fled the area.
“The operation seems to be against the people of Waziristan and empty houses, as the jet fighters are bombing empty spaces because there are no militants left,” said Gul Zaman, 35, a schoolteacher from North Waziristan.
But Bajwa said careful screening has “trapped” militants who have tried to escape. Analysts remain skeptical.
This week, Afghan Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi accused Pakistan of sending plainclothes agents into Afghanistan’s Konar province who carried out attacks that killed Afghan troops and civilians.

Pakistan camp lies empty despite IDP exodus

Bannu camp largely unused, as thousands fleeing North Waziristan head to cities for cultural and security reasons.
The government-run camp for internally displaced people in the village of Bakkakhel, in Pakistan’s Frontier Region Bannu district, is a sight to behold.
There are rows upon rows of new tents, each equipped with electrical connections for lights and fans, as well as distribution points for several tonnes of daily food rations, a mobile hospital and dental centre, and a small dispensary.
There is just one problem: there are hardly any people, internally displaced or otherwise, in it.
Of the almost half a million people the Pakistani government has registered as having fled a military offensive against the Taliban and its allies in the neighbouring tribal area of North Waziristan, only about 340 have chosen to take the government’s offer to house them at the Bakkakhel camp, the only such camp that has been set up.
Instead, most have gone to the adjacent town of Bannu, a dusty town of about a million people, where they are either renting at twice or three times the regular rate, or staying with relatives, internally displaced people, or IDPs, told Al Jazeera.
"We cannot go to that camp because of our tribal customs," said Ahmeduddin, 33, a shopkeeper and native of the town of Miranshah in North Waziristan, referring to strict social codes that govern life in Pakistan’s ultra-conservative tribal areas.
Women and children, he said, could not be expected to live in a camp where there were no firm divisions to keep them separate from outsiders.
But while Ahmeduddin, and others, referred to "tribal customs" as a primary reason for staying away, Mohsin Shah, the commissioner of Bannu, has another explanation: a perceived threat to life.
“These people are preferring to stay in the city and not in the camp because they are conservative people,” he said, “But also because there have been threats made against them from the other side.”
"The other side" that Shah refers to is the Pakistani Taliban and its allies, who have warned people to stay away from army and government-run camps and threatened to target those who take aid from the state, and especially from the military, several IDPs told Al Jazeera.
But the danger to IDPs is not restricted to the camp at Bakkakhel, which is located about 10km outside Bannu, in an area where there is a constant curfew imposed by the army.
The flood of IDPs into Bannu has stretched the district administration’s ability to cope, officials say, and there are signs that the peace is beginning to fray.
Aid handouts
At the city’s only aid distribution point, located within a sports complex, a long line snakes outside and onto the road, as thousands wait their turn to be allowed inside to receive basic rations, high-energy biscuits and a cash grant of $121.
Police and army soldiers attempt to maintain order, often in temperatures in excess of 40C, but with this many people, in desperate need, scuffles often break out, and the police have often had to resort to aerial firing and beatings to re-establish order.
"I have been standing in line all day yesterday, and have been in line for six hours again today," said Inayatullah, 44, a native of Miranshah and owner of a small transport business.
"There was violence yesterday, and again today. They are treating humans worse than animals," he said, as police fired automatic rifles into the air about 50 metres away.
Inayatullah fled along with his family of 13 - more than 192,000, or 42 percent, of the displaced are children - when the bombs began to drop near his home in Miranshah
While the military says that it had warned residents that a military operation was going to begin, residents of North Waziristan say the warnings - most delivered through pamphlets or local mosques - were not consistently delivered across the district.
"The only warning we had was when our local mosque and cemetery was destroyed by bombing from jets," said Mustafa Khan, 55, a resident of the small village of Issori, near the town of Mir Ali.
The road to Bannu has been arduous for those who have fled their homes.
"There was bombing everywhere. We came here out of fear for our lives," said Muhammad Shershah, 33, a pharmacist who is a native of Miranshah. Shershah said that his family undertook what was normally a three-hour journey by car on foot, due to the lack of vehicles.The trek with his family of 15 took three days, with frequent stops at more than a dozen military checkpoints.
At least seven other large families Al Jazeera spoke to, all including children and elderly members, reported the same journeys on foot. That list included Gul Rabib Khan, 45, a one-legged man from the town of Haiderkhel, who said his 20km journey to the camp in Bakka Khel, of which he undertook 14km on foot, took him more than 12 hours.
Doctors say many have arrived with major health issues.
"Most of the patients here are suffering from dehydration and acute respiratory infections," says Dr Faqir Abdullah, 28, who treated many of those who arrived at the Saidgi checkpoint, on the border with North Waziristan.
"Most of them are confused and anxious, because many of them have travelled on foot. These people had left their homes, and we saw they were in a state of shock."
Meanwhile the military operation in North Waziristan continues. On Wednesday, the military said that it had killed 13 people – all designated "terrorists" - in air strikes on Taliban hideouts near Mir Ali. The strikes brought the total official death toll since Operation Zarb-e-Azb officially began on June 15 to 330.
It is impossible to independently verify that figure, as entry to the area is strictly controlled. North Waziristan has been a hub for a complex network of armed groups, including the Taliban, the Haqqani network, al-Qaeda, the Uzbek group ETIM and pro-government militias for several years.
Ground attack imminent
With most of the population now cleared (North Waziristan's normal population is about 700,000), the army says it is now preparing a ground offensive. Curfews have been reimposed, and no movement is allowed on the roads leading to and from the tribal district.
With the major influx over, the concern for the government now, says Commissioner Shah, is resettlement of the IDPs. Bannu has been forced to bear the brunt of the inflow, due to its proximity to North Waziristan and the lack of willingness of other provinces to take in the displaced.
"Bannu is a small, undeveloped town and right now it is absorbing hundreds of thousands of people," he said. A police official said that matters had gotten to the point where one out of every three people in Bannu was an IDP.
"We didn’t want to leave our homes … we have left all our belongings there. We brought just the clothes on our back," said Azizullah, 35, one of a handful of residents of the Bakkakhel camp. "When this is all over, we want to go back." It was a sentiment not echoed by his seven-year-old son, who accompanied him as the family fled on foot from their village near Miranshah.
"I was scared of the fighting there. I don’t want go home, because there is violence there," he said.

Fleeing Pakistanis crowd border towns, asking 'why weren't we warned?'

By Sophia Saifi
The road to Bannu city in the northwest of Pakistan is a journey through the elements. Harsh wind and rain make way for bursts of sunshine in June, a month of typically oppressive heat when illnesses such as diarrhea and typhoid are common, alongside the ever-looming specter of polio.
It is in this stifling heat that hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are fleeing their homes in North Waziristan, which borders Afghanistan, to Bannu and other neighboring regions. The mass exodus began after the Pakistani army launched a full scale offensive against militants on June 15 called Zarb e Azb, or "The Strike of The Prophet's Sword."
While the Pakistan army has been releasing a daily stream of information regarding the operation, it has come under severe criticism for failing to notify the residents of North Waziristan of an impending operation.
A curfew in North Waziristan crippled the movement of individuals in the region. Military sources told CNN on condition of anonymity that the curfew had been imposed to prevent militants from fleeing, however what resulted was utter chaos for local residents.
"We waited for the signal to leave while taking shelter under trees," Javed Wazir, a local from the North Waziristan town of MirAli tells CNN in anguish. "The bazaar was under fire from mortar shells and our women and children were crying in despair."
Mass exodus
On June 18, three days after the operation officially started in North Waziristan, the army finally lifted the curfew allowing movement out of the area.
What started as a mass exodus of the region's population has fast accelerated into a humanitarian crisis.
According to Arshad Khan, the director of the FATA Disaster Management Authority, the number of people who have fled the military operation has now reached almost half a million, with 455,000 people scattered across various parts of Northern Pakistan. In a sports complex in the heart of Bannu city, a dust storm is creating havoc at the city's largest food distribution point for those seeking shelter.
Until Tuesday it was the only food distribution point for the thousands of needy people in Bannu and its surrounding regions, and was the scene of protests airing the frustration they have experienced over the past two weeks. Wednesday saw hundreds of men, young and old, queue up outside on the streets, shielding their eyes from the grit, waiting to receive their ration of fortified wheat, iodized salt, pulses and cooking oil.
A significant army presence is overseeing the distribution that has been organized by the World Food Program. Sacks of wheat are heaped in mounds in the center of the stadium and a strong hot wind is blowing cardboard cartons into the air. An old woman in a tattered burqa, clutching a wisp of paper bearing her registration number, waits for her turn to collect food. "Three of my grandchildren died after a bomb fell on our house in the Haider khel village of North Waziristan" she says. "They were five, six and seven years old," she whispers. "That's when we fled." Request for more supplies The number of families arriving has exceeded the number estimated by the WFP. According to Lola Castro, the WFP's director in Pakistan, a contingency plan had been updated to deal with a military operation in North Waziristan. However, she says Pakistani authorities only officially approached the WFP for help on June 20, five days after the strikes began.
WFP had expected the families to be an average size of six but, according to Castro, families fleeing out of North Waziristan are made up of 14 people.
This has lead to rations being distributed on a biweekly basis instead of the usual monthly schedule. "We are requesting donors to provide more supplies but the situation is currently under control," Castro tells CNN.
Malik Akbar Khan, a tribal leader and an IDP, has been volunteering at the food distribution point ever since he arrived in Bannu last week.
As IDPs wheelbarrow their supplies out of the complex, he sighs and says that it is the ordinary people of North Waziristan who have had to bear the biggest brunt of the tussle between the army and the Pakistani Taliban. As the sun sets on another day of dust and desperation, he quotes the oft-repeated phrase addressing the conflict in Pakistan's northern regions.
"The army are the angels and the Taliban call themselves the companions of the holy prophet," he says. "Perhaps we're the only infidels in this chaos, who suffer the most in this living hell while the other two claim that they're bound for paradise." 'That place is like fire'
There is one refuge for the hordes of people who have spilt out of North Waziristan. The army, along with funding from FDMA and the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), has set up a camp in Baka Khel, Bannu district. In the searing June heat, it sits a mere 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) from the Saigai check post, the final exit for villagers leaving North Waziristan and entering Bannu district.
According to military sources, the camp became operational on June 16, a day after the military operation began. It has, however, come under severe criticism by the very people it was built to help.
Many are instead choosing to stay with relatives or rent homes in cities such as Bannu, Peshawar and Dera Ismail Khan.
"When the curfew was eased we reached Bannu after a two-day journey on foot, yet we would never stay at that camp. That place is like fire, it's like fire, I would never take my family to that land of flaming heat," Loi Khan from the village of Boya in North Waziristan tells CNN as he stands in line to get food in Bannu.
But a visit to the camp paints a different picture. Temperatures may be rising to as high as 47 degrees centigrade but efforts are underway to create what military guides to the camp call "a model village." There is electricity, plumbing, fancy fans that spray mist and visiting doctors. Polio workers administer vaccines to every man, woman and child entering the camp to prevent any outbreak.
Yet the place is a ghost town. According to military sources only 28 families have chosen to live at the camp, a fraction of those who have left North Waziristan. It remains empty for the time being but with the month of Ramadan fast approaching and the operation not looking to end anytime soon, military officials overseeing the camp expect it to be operational and fully populated for at least two months.