ABC News' Amy Robach interviews Malala Yousafzai on her 17th birthday.
Saturday, July 12, 2014
U.S. State Secretary John Kerry convinced Afghanistan's feuding presidential candidates on Saturday to agree to a total recount of last month's presidential election, which has threatened to split the country along ethnic lines. After two days of intense talks between Kerry, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, all parties agreed that the best way out of the acrimonious and protracted deadlock was to delay the inauguration and recount all the ballots from scratch. Preliminary results from the run-off vote on June 14 put Ghani, a former World Bank official, well ahead but Abdullah rejected the result, claiming widespread fraud and calling the outcome a "coup" against the Afghan people. In a joint news conference with Kerry held just before midnight, the two rivals agreed to abide by the outcome of a U.N.-supervised recount. "Both candidates have committed to participate in and abide by the results of the largest and most comprehensive audit," Kerry said. "Every single ballot that was cast will be audited... This is the strongest possible signal by both candidates of the desire to restore legitimacy to the process." The recount was scheduled to begin within 24 hours, but was likely to take several weeks, meaning that a presidential inauguration scheduled for Aug. 2 will have to be postponed. The dispute has raised concerns about a smooth transition of power in Afghanistan just as U.S.-led troops are leaving after 12 years of fighting the Taliban. The stakes are high for the United States. Washington hopes to settle the dispute quickly so it can sign a security pact with Afghanistan allowing a contingent of U.S. troops to stay in the country beyond this year. Unlike incumbent Hamid Karzai, both Abdullah and Ghani have both promised to sign the deal promptly, but the standoff over the vote has delayed the process. After his own talks with Kerry, Karzai said he welcomed the initiative and hoped the full audit would start quickly: "The people of Afghanistan have been patient and they are in a hurry and would like to hear as soon as possible the result of the election and witness their next president." Abdullah's support is mainly in the north, among the Tajik minority, while Ghani is supported by Pashtun tribes in the east and south. Observers have warned that if the dispute is not resolved quickly, Afghanistan could split along ethnic lines, with further violence likely. WHAT NEXT? Karzai, catapulted to the presidency 12 years ago by Western powers after the ousting of the Taliban, is expected to retain influence after stepping down, and Abdullah has accused him of rigging the vote in favor of Ghani. Abdullah and Ghani had not met in person since the vote but Kerry managed to bring them together at a U.N. compound in central Kabul to give a joint news conference. "This audit will be conducted in accordance with the highest international standards," said Kerry, flanked by both candidates. As he announced the total recount, many in the audience gasped. "The auditing will be internationally supervised in a manner proposed by the U.N. assistance mission; the candidates' campaigns will each provide joint oversight of the audit." In a show of unity after months of bitter bickering, Ghani kissed Abdullah on the cheek after addressing reporters. "Since we have agreed to a 100 percent audit of ballots, I request from President Karzai to postpone inauguration of a new government," Abdullah said. In comments to reporters on Friday, Kerry said Afghanistan's transition to a self-reliant state hung in the balance unless the legitimacy of the election could be restored. Washington has warned of repercussions if either side declares victory and tries to grab power illegitimately. The United States is in the process of withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan after more than a decade of fighting Taliban insurgents, but the country remains dependent on foreign aid, principally from Washington, its biggest foreign donor.
Escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians will only give more impetus to radical forces across the entire region, says DW's Naser Schruf. Voices of reason are getting lost in the uproar.
Who wouldn't understand the suffering of the parents of the three murdered young Israelis and the Palestinian teenager, found burned alive a few days later. But revenge and collective retribution are the wrong answers to the doings of ideologically deluded extremists. The mutual attacks on Gazan and Israeli cities haven't managed to alleviate human suffering, and they won't do so in the future. To the contrary: the suffering is getting worse, and so are the feelings of hatred on both sides. If the escalation continues, it's likely there will be even more parents who grieve for their murdered children - not less. Rockets don't guarantee safety Neither air strikes nor ground offensives will bring peace and safety to the Holy Land. Israel made an attempt along those lines in early 2009, when troops marched into Gaza in the framework of the Cast Lead operation. Three weeks later, the Israelis were forced to withdraw under increasing international pressure. The outcome was shocking: More than 1,500 dead on the Palestinian side alone, and destruction to an extent that has not been remedied to this day. Despite use of state-of-the-art weapons systems, Israel's 2009 and 2012 military operations neither solved the conflict, nor noticeably increase Israel's safety. Radicalizing the region
Every rocket fired - regardless of which side it comes from - will increase radicalization and the readiness to use violence. Extremist and terrorist groups in the entire region will profit from this. Groups like the jihadist ISIS, with its self-proclaimed "caliphate," already consider themselves the true winners of the Arab revolutions. They're omnipresent - in Iraq and Syria, as well as Yemen and Somalia - or even in Egypt on the Sinai Peninsula, just a stone's throw from Gaza. Radical groups on Sinai have the closest ties to their ideological allies in Gaza, and are already rubbing their hands in anticipation. Armed conflict with Israel - what could be better for recruiting jihadists who are prepared to use violence? This comes flanked with images of dead women and children flooding social networks and the television screens of the major pan-Arabic broadcasters. Unfortunately, the situation for many Palestinians is so frustrating that voices of reason get lost in the babble. This includes systematic expansion of settlements in Palestinian regions, continual mass arrests, strengthening of hardliners in Israeli politics over the past decade, as well as dwindling prospects for any sort of peace agreement. Such factors weaken moderate forces, like Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, benefiting hardliners and extremists in the entire Mideast.
Impotent cries from the West
And the West? Powerless pleas are all that come internationally. The European Union and United States warn of further escalation, and call for restraint from the parties involved in the conflict. We've heard this a thousand times - but it actually occurs far too rarely. Instead, what is needed is decisiveness and a sense of urgency: In light of the unpredictable situations in Iraq and Syria, it's time for the West to realize that the entire region could sink into chaos, especially if the "ancient conflict" in the Holy Land escalates further, providing fodder for extremists in the whole region. There are no two ways about it: Palestinians and Israelis must come back to the negotiating table as quickly as possible. And both sides must be pressured - equally.
A CNN journalist has visited a Ukrainian refugee camp. He noted that the people were so frightened by what the Ukrainian army has done that they never intend to return to their homeland. Refugees are convinced: the Kiev authorities are to blame for all their sufferings.
Ukrainian refugees' fear of their homeland is so great that many have decided to become Russian citizens, according to the CNN news item.
The American TV channel's correspondent, Phil Black, visited a temporary accommodation camp and learned from Ukrainians why they left their homeland and why they believed there will be no return for them. Refugees told him they did not intend to go back, because they no longer saw a future, either for themselves or their children, in Ukraine. According to official data, since Kiev's military operation began to gain momentum, government troops began to take back large areas from the Lugansk and Donetsk militia. This had a profound effect on the number of refugees crossing the border from Ukraine into Russia. The journalist talked to newly arrived refugees. Elena, her daughter Anna and their dog were among them. Elena said that they had fled from battles, explosions, airplanes and tanks that frightened her daughter. She plans to stay in the refugee camp for a few days. Conditions there are simple, the reporter notes, but people are grateful even for that. They say it is quiet and safe for their children.
A temporary accommodation point is where they can think over the dramatic events that have changed their lives forever. Everybody there blames the Ukrainian government. One refugee showed a shell fragment, which was, according to her, fired by the Ukrainian military and which she found in her yard. Women cried while expressing the belief that Ukrainian authorities simply don't value their lives at all. "What for? Why do we suffer?" one of them wonders. The correspondent met people who were leaving the camp. Their fear of their own homeland is so great that they decided to accept refuge and offers of work in a remote Arctic region, the journalist notes. "I will probably never return to Ukraine, because my children have no future there. They've broken our lives," refugee Natalia said. According to official data, nearly half a million Ukrainians have found refuge in Russia, the journalist concludes. Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_07_12/Kiev-has-broken-our-lives-Ukrainian-refugees-to-foreign-media-7903/
Armed separatist groups and pro-Kiev forces have abducted, then beaten and tortured activists, protesters and journalists in eastern Ukraine in the last three months, Amnesty International said in a report published on Friday.
No thorough or reliable data is available on the number of abductions, the rights group said. But figures from Ukraine's interior ministry show there were almost 500 abductions between April and June, and the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission for Ukraine reported 222 cases in that time, it said.
"The bulk of the abductions are being perpetrated by armed separatists, with the victims often subjected to stomach-turning beatings and torture," said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International's deputy director of Europe and Central Asia.
"There is also evidence of a smaller number of abuses by pro-Kiev forces," he added.
In the report Amnesty cites pro-Ukraine activist Hanna, who was abducted by armed men in Donetsk in May, as saying: "At the end of the interrogation [he said] 'Pray now - I'm going to kill you', and then he slit [the back of] my neck with the knife."
It also says an unnamed local government official in Mariupol reported having heard a captured separatist fighter "wailing in pain at the hands of pro-Kiev forces who were seemingly trying to extract information about the separatists".
Amnesty said a research team that went to Kiev and southeastern Ukraine and spoke with self-help groups had a list of more than 100 civilians who had been abducted and said in most of these instances allegations of torture had been made. Amnesty said people including officials, the military, the police, politicians, electoral commission members and business people had been abducted in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. It said the majority of abductions were being carried out for political reasons, though some were intended to instil fear in the local population and others were for ransoms. It cites one 19-year-old pro-Ukraine activist who was taken captive by separatists at gunpoint as saying: "They beat me with their fists, a chair, anything they could find. They stubbed out cigarettes on my leg and electrocuted me. It went on for so long I couldn't feel anything anymore, I just passed out." Pro-Russian separatists have been fighting government forces in the Russian-speaking east since April. More than 200 Ukrainian troops have been killed as well as hundreds of civilians and rebels.
Pakistan Peoples Party( PPP) is not under obligation of holding the fort of PML(N) government, if it continues to dismantle it through its own egregious ways, said Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo, President Punjab PPP, while addressing an Iftar dinner hosted in his honor by PPP chapter, USA, in New York. He added that the mandarins' administrative inaptness was analogous to naivety as how they handled the Model Town incident by using brute police force in which 14 innocent PAT workers were killed and about hundred maimed. Moreover, he said the people are still waiting to get subsidized food items under Ramzan Package. He further criticized Punjab CM for mishandling energy issues in the country.
A top United States general has expressed concern over the terrorist havens in Pakistan but said the US will continue to work with the country. “I am concerned about the (terrorist) sanctuary in Pakistan,” said US General John F Campbell, who has been nominated by US President Barack Obama to be International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander in Afghanistan. During his confirmation hearing before the US Senate Armed Services Committee, Campbell said there is a great opportunity for military engagement between Afghanistan and Pakistan. “They got to continue to work that,” he said. US Admiral William Gortney, nominee for US Northern Command (NORTHCOM) commander, told lawmakers that it is critical to have a partnership with Pakistan and also to have mil-to-mil between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Earlier, in a written response to questions, General Campbell said that Pakistan is postured to occupy a significant role in the security situation in Afghanistan. “Pakistan’s first priority is its eastern border with India, but it also continues to be concerned over growing Indian influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan is and will continue to be a critical partner in the region,” he said. “The stability of the entire region requires cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Both nations face common threats that attack their civilian populations and threaten their long-term development,” he said. “Both nations must work together to reduce cross border militancy and resolve conflicts to enhance the security of each nation and the region as a whole. I will continue to work with both nations to support a constructive bilateral relationship to support these two allies and enhance long-term stability throughout the region,” Campbell said. “To safeguard US interests in Afghanistan, we must maintain and improve our capacity to track and disrupt threat finances originating in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and from the Persian Gulf states. Future efforts need to be focused on targeting sources of terrorist funding and providing evidence to support criminal indictments and law enforcement prosecutions,” he said.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has planed to expose Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government’s mismanagement and irregularities in different power projects, especially Nandipur Power Project, in the long march. For the purpose, the party has started collecting details of all power projects and energy centers as well as policies of the PML-N government regarding generation and distribution of electricity from the national grid to exclusive areas, especially residences-cum-camp offices of the prime minister and chief minister in the cities of Lahore, Murree and Islamabad. According to party sources, PTI Chairman Imran Khan has directed Punjab Assembly Opposition Leader Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed to get details of all power projects run by the PML-N government, especially the Nandipur Power Project that has been damaged by using wrong fuel. The sources also said that Imran Khan had given a special task to Rasheed to collect each and every detail about the projects as these details could be highlighted in the PTI’s long march against wrongdoings of the PML-N government. Pertinent to mention here that Rasheed has already highlighted the issue of development of a malfunction in the Nandipur Power Plant, saying that the machinery of the plant had been destroyed by using diesel instead of furnace oil. Terming the development of malfunction a “negligence” of the government, Rasheed also demanded an inquiry into it. The sources informed Daily Times that Imran Khan has tasked Rasheed with exposing the government’s failure in overcoming electricity outages besides exposing its slogans like ‘good-governance’ and ‘sincere efforts to bring outages to an end’. The sources also said that Imran Khan took this point seriously and asked Rasheed to work on all power plants run by the government and point out mismanagement in their operations. They said that Rasheed has started working on Imran’s guidelines by constituting a personal team. Rasheed is also consulting energy sector experts besides collecting data from PEPCO and Ministry of Water and Power about resources, generation, and distribution of electricity. Details of tariff and taxes in electricity bills as well as details of privileged areas and personalities are being collected. The sources also said that the PTI had come to know that Jati Umra – a locality near Raiwind where residences of the prime minister and the chief minister are situated – was also exempt from outages. They said that report on Nandipur and other power projects would be prepared within next two weeks.
Low quality fruits, vegetables and some other edible items are being sold at Town Ship Ramazan Bazaar at the price of top quality products with nominal subsidy, citizens told Daily Times during a visit to the ‘fair price market’ on Friday. The shopkeepers’ dealing with the buyers or visitors was also unsatisfactory as they were treating the fast-observing citizens in totally uncivilised manner at the sugar stall, one of the main attractions for the visitors. A citizen named Muhammad Iqbal said: “We have come from a long distance to benefit from the Ramazan subsidy; however, only Rs 3-5 subsidy is available on most of the items and one has to wait for and stand in long queues to get 1-kg sugar for Rs 47 that is also in powdered form,” he remarked. Another citizen, Ali Arshad, said that tomato was available for Rs 41 per kg as compared to the Rs 40 same quality tomato available in the open market. He said that sweet potatoes were being sold for Rs 62 per kg as compared to fine quality potatoes available in the market for Rs 65-70 per kg. When contacted, a dates vendor said how could they sell dates at low rates when they were purchasing them at very high rates from the market. “We have already reduced our profit keeping in view the market completion,” he said, adding that the government should control the price at wholesaler’s end if it really wanted to control the price chain. Another citizen, Illyas Hussain, also criticised the policy of selling only one kg of sugar to a single customer. He said that at least 5-kg sugar sale to one individual should be allowed to facilitate citizens because sugar was one of the most sought after commodity during Ramazan for its use in Iftar drinks. Meanwhile, Chief Secretary Naveed Akram Cheema has issued directives to district coordination officers to ensure provision of good quality and subsidised daily-use items to citizens at Ramazan bazaars.
When Operation Zarb-e-Azb was declared against militant strongholds in North Waziristan last month, the federal government made a very surprising announcement: it said that it does not wish to receive any international foreign aid from donor agencies, the UN and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for the management and care of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who were fleeing from their homes in North Waziristan. With the number of IDPs rising fast — latest estimates put them at close to one million — the government has once again reiterated its position on the subject of international aid with the Foreign Office announcing that no appeal had been made to the international community for help in meeting expenditures concerning the IDPs. One wonders why the PML-N government is so adamant about this point seeing that we can ill-afford to pass up any chance in which we are helped in the IDP crisis. We need money, rations, food items, clothing, shelter and all sorts of rehabilitation tools to aid in the timely relief of the many hundreds of thousands who are homeless and resourceless in the wake of the ongoing operation where their homes used to be. This is a mindboggling decision of the government. Operation Zarb-e-Azb is an ongoing war against the militants without any specific timeline or schedule. It is a full-scale operation for which the army has brought out its big guns: air strikes and ground offensives. When the battle is as big as this, the trauma being faced by the IDPs is bound to go on for an indefinite amount of time. Where are all these people supposed to go? How are they supposed to survive? The government’s track record really does not provide any solace to the people when it comes to taking care of their welfare. We still have IDPs from the army’s offensives in South Waziristan and Swat who are suffering without homes and relief. We even have flood-affected IDPs from the catastrophic floods of 2010 stuck without a hope in the world. How on earth is the government going to cater to this new influx without welcoming all the help it can get with open arms? The Nawaz government has to come clean on why it is snubbing potential international efforts to help the IDPs. They are our people who have sacrificed their homes and peace of mind for the security of the nation. How is the government planning on doing them justice? While it is being reported that the UAE is donating to the IDP cause, we need to make a concerted effort to appeal to the international community to help the IDPs. It is the least we can do.
Air strikes were launched early morning today killing 13 suspected terrorists and destroying seven hideouts after rockets were fired on a security forces check post in Mirali from inside Mirali town, according to a statement released by the Inter Services Public relations (ISPR) on Saturday. The details could not be independently verified as the access to media persons is severely restricted in the region. Most of the terrorists killed in strikes are foreigners while a huge cache of arms and ammunition was also destroyed, the statement added further details of which are given below. Six motorcycle-borne-improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and two vehicle-Borne-IEDs, two 12.7 mm guns, one 14.5 mm gun, three vehicles, 11 suicide jackets and huge cache of arms and ammunition were recovered during last 24 hours in area Khar Warsak and Zartangi. Three terrorists including one Uzbek were apprehended from Boya area. During the operation two suicide bombers were identified and chased who exploded themselves when encircled close to Boya. Two explosive laden vehicles were destroyed through Aviation strike at Degan. Consolidation of cleared area in Miranshah and Miranshah- Dattakhel road was still underway. Meanwhile, the relief operation for internally displaced persons (IDPs) at Bannu, DI Khan, Tank and Peshawar continues at full pace. So far 96,533 ration packs each of 110 kilogram have been distributed among IDPs. Moreover, 1,012 ton rations have been collected so far at 59 relief collection points established by Pakistan Army throughout the country, bulk of which have been transported to Bannu. Army doctors, specially moved to reinforce local medical effort at Bannu, were also busy in providing relief to the patients. So far 12,587 Patients have been treated at the Field Medical Hospital established at Khalifa Gul Nawaz hospital Bannu by Army. The military operation named Zarb-i-Azb was launched by the Pakistan Army on June 15 follownig a brazen Taliban-claimed attack on Karachi's international airport and failure of peace talks between government and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan negotiators. At least 800,000 persons from North Waziristan triba; region have been displaced so far in the wake of the operation, according to figures released by the Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA).
Escalating tensions in a remote territory threaten to drag Pakistan into yet another conflict.
As if Pakistan doesn’t have enough problems in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and in Balochistan, it now faces unrest in the territory of Gilgit-Baltistan. Gilgit-Baltistan is a mountainous territory in the Himalayas in the far northeast corner of Pakistan. It is home to 12 of the world’s 30 tallest mountain peaks, including K2 and Nanga Parbat. Pakistan considers it to be of extreme strategic importance because it borders ally China and is home to the only land route between the two countries. This route is the breathtakingly beautiful Karakorum Highway, the highest paved international road in the world. The region is also quite distinct from the rest of Pakistan, and indeed the world, in terms of its people. While Gilgit is inhabited by various groups that are related to but distinct from Kashmiris, Baltistan is inhabited by the Balti, who are a Tibetan Muslim group. Additionally, the Burusho people of the Hunza Valley speak a language unrelated to any other in the world. Most of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan are Shia Muslims, unlike the rest of Pakistan, which is mainly Sunni, making Gilgit-Baltistan the only majority Shia province or territory in Pakistan. The remoteness and distinctiveness of Gilgit-Baltistan in relation to the rest of Pakistan fuel both a sense of uniqueness and aloofness from the problems that have engulfed the rest of the country. This, however, has started to change recently. In June 2013, the effects of the Taliban insurgency suddenly spilled over into the territory, when about a dozen heavily armed Pakistani Taliban militants executed 10 foreign mountain climbers, including a U.S. citizen, at the base of Nanga Parbat. The tourist industry, one of the major sources of revenue for the region, has all but collapsed since then. This has increased the economic stress of the people in the region and brought out other grievances. Throughout last week, people in the region have been protesting the central government of Pakistan’s decision to withdraw subsidies as well as general governmental neglect. Pakistan has failed to invest in the region and provide even the most basic services such as education and healthcare. Many of these protests have made demands as simple as demanding ambulances for a town. At the heart of these grievances though is the frustration of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan due to their inability to make their own political decisions. The region is a territory and not a full province, like Sindh or Punjab. This means that the region does not have full control over key issues such as taxation, tourism, and the utilization of its natural resources. Its token assembly is largely symbolic, as its decisions must be approved by Pakistan’s federal government. Furthermore, the region receives none of the revenue generated by trade and customs duties with China — valued at half a billion dollars. As a result, many in the region feel as though they are being exploited like a colony. Pakistan justifies its treatment of the region by arguing that it does not make sense to fully integrate it into its system until its final status is resolved. The territory is disputed with India because it was a part of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir that is claimed in its entirety by both Pakistan and India. Nonetheless, Gilgit-Baltistan was very loosely tied to Kashmir and has a largely separate culture and administrative history, which is why its inhabitants believe that it should be made a separate, full province of Pakistan. The people of the region want Pakistan to make Gilgit-Baltistan a province so that they can enjoy full representation in Pakistan’s political system as well as a fair share of the revenue generated by their territory. They also want their borders opened up to trade with neighboring Afghanistan and India. Barring any move by the Pakistani government towards these ends, many in the region demand that they be granted independence instead. While this is highly unlikely given the strong Pakistani military presence there, Pakistan can ill afford yet another revolt in yet another region. Tensions are likely to continue to escalate if the region faces continued neglect. The Pakistani government would be wise to meet the aspirations of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and make the region a full province. This would satisfy the people of the region and remove a major potential catalyst for revolt. At the same time, Pakistan has little to lose by doing so; the neighboring region of Azad Kashmir, also a vital border region administrated by Pakistan and also disputed with India, has a fully empowered legislature and government. Thus, there is no reason why Gilgit-Baltistan cannot be given the same treatment as Azad Kashmir or one of the four provinces of Pakistan.
IT IS impossible to defeat an insurgency, an American commander of NATO’s forces in Afghanistan once said between clenched teeth, when the insurgents enjoy an inviolable sanctuary in a neighbouring country. The problem has plagued the 13-year military effort in Afghanistan. Foreign and Afghan forces have been unable to deal a knockout blow to the Taliban when so much of their infrastructure remains intact just across the border, in the badlands of north-western Pakistan. Now, it is Pakistan’s turn to feel the frustration. Its army is in the thick of long-awaited operations to clear Pakistani militants from North Waziristan, one of the tribal agencies bordering Afghanistan. This week it appears to have regained control of the remote region’s capital, Miranshah. But the government in Islamabad is crying foul over the presence of militant safe havens on Afghan soil. The Pakistani army has renewed calls for Afghanistan to catch Mullah Fazlullah, leader of the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP). Known also as the Pakistani Taliban, the TTP is an umbrella grouping of violent Islamists and is Pakistan’s gravest threat (it is reckoned to have few formal links to its Afghan namesake). Mr Fazlullah could be hiding in Kunar or Nuristan, two of Afghanistan’s eastern provinces.
Many Afghans regard the call as exceptional cheek from a country that for years has done little to clear its vast swathe of north-western territory of workshops making bombs destined for Afghanistan and radical madrassas indoctrinating Afghan fighters. The senior leadership of the Afghan Taliban, the Quetta Shura, is even named after the Pakistani city in which most of its members live. Indeed, many in the Pakistani establishment have actively assisted a movement regarded as useful in Pakistan’s obsessive struggle to lessen Indian influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan has other reasons to resent Afghanistan, which voted against Pakistan’s membership of the UN in 1947. It thinks Afghanistan vies for the affections of ethnic Pashtuns living in Pakistan. Many of them live in a part of Pakistan that Afghanistan claims the British Raj took unfairly. For all these reasons, since the mid-1970s Pakistan has backed Islamist militants as proxies in Afghanistan. Many Pakistanis think Afghanistan is now getting its own back. In cahoots with India, they say, Afghanistan is both helping the TTP and stoking rebellion in the restive Pakistani province of Balochistan. Western diplomats say this view is overblown. In both instances Afghan assistance is marginal at best. It is also unclear what Afghanistan’s hard-pressed security forces could do about Nuristan, a place so tough that NATO abandoned it in 2010 after failing to subdue it. But perhaps Afghanistan has tried playing its own double game. In late 2013 American soldiers arrested a senior TTP commander after he was tracked to a secret meeting with Afghan intelligence officers. A diplomat likens the situation to a devilish game-theory puzzle. Mutual co-operation would produce the best outcome for all. But players seem unable to resist striking each other. An optimistic view is that Pakistan’s decision to launch Operation Zarb-e-Azb (loosely translated: “strike of the Prophet’s sword”) on June 15th in a bid to clear North Waziristan of militants suggests it has at last understood that a shocking increase in domestic terrorism far outweighs any possible advantages from the long-standing policy of backing militants. And though army officers have been notably reluctant to identify Afghan insurgent groups by name—and the deadly Haqqani network in particular—they insist the operation will make no distinction between foreign and domestic terrorists. Many analysts remain sceptical, however. After all, Afghan insurgents in North Waziristan seem to have had ample time to make themselves scarce before the operation began.
Militants killed a Pakistan army captain and two soldiers in an attack early Saturday in a tribal region near its border with Afghanistan, authorities said, as an airstrike killed 13 suspected extremist fighters. A group of some 60 militants who crossed over from Afghanistan attacked an army post in the Ghakhi area of the Bajur tribal region, said Shah Nasim, a senior government administrator in Bajur. He said another soldier and a civilian cook were injured in the attack, which took place when troops had a pre-dawn Ramadan meal before fasting. A later statement from the Pakistani army, however, said the militants attacked a vehicle killing the two, not an army post. The conflicting accounts could not be immediately reconciled. Khan said the attackers later escaped to Afghanistan's Kunar province but a retaliatory attack injured some of them. Pakistan's army largely has cleared the Bajur tribal region of militants but its posts often come under cross-border attacks. In June, militants killed 20 soldiers in three attacks. Pakistani troops killed some 50 attackers in retaliatory attacks. Pakistan has asked Afghanistan's government to take action against the Pakistani militants who escaped a recent military offensive in the Swat Valley and elsewhere for safe havens in eastern Afghanistan. In a separate statement, the military said it killed 13 suspected militants Saturday in latest airstrikes targeting Mir Ali, a town in the North Waziristan tribal region, where the military last month launched a major operation against militants there. It said the strikes also destroyed seven militant hideouts. The military's claim could not be independently verified as reporters are not allowed to work due to the offensive. Pakistan army launched its operation against Pakistani Taliban and foreign militants in North Waziristan on June 15. The military says so far it has killed more than 400 terrorists, though activists and locals say civilians also have been killed. Since the start of the operation, more than 800,000 people have fled the region, raising fears of a humanitarian crisis.
Malala Yousafzai, the girls' education campaigner who was shot by the Taliban, is on her way to Nigeria to campaign on behalf of the schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram. Ms Yousafzai, 17 who was an early backer of the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign, is due in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, on Sunday. As well as meeting relatives of the kidnapped girls, she is expected to seek an audience with President Goodluck Jonathan. Her visit to Nigeria takes place almost three months to the day since the abduction of the girls, who were taken by Boko Haram militants from a boarding school in Chibok, in north-east Borno State, on April 14. The presence of such a high-profile women's rights campaigner will add to the pressure on the Nigerian government, which was accused in the early days of the kidnapping of not doing enough to resolve it. In recent weeks there has been claims that the trail has effectively gone cold in the hunt for the girls, despite help from Britain, America and France.
Officials believe the hostages have been split up into different groups and hidden in the vast Sambisa forest region, an area roughly twice the size of Belgium. Some may also have been taken over the border into neighbouring Cameroon and Chad. Around 223 girls are believed to be missing in total. It was in early May that Ms Yousafzai first joined the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, which successfully focused international attention on the girls' plight. She posed with a picture on her Twitter feed and described the girls as "sisters". Ms Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban as she boarded her school bus in the valley of Swat, northwest Pakistan after she spoke publicly about girls' rights to education. She was transferred to Britain for hospital treatment, and currently lives in the West Midlands along with her family.