Tuesday, August 12, 2014
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that the United States has sent another 130 “military advisers” to Iraq’s Kurdistan region in an ongoing effort to halt the advance of Islamic State militants. Hagel made the announcement while speaking to troops in California. In a statement describing the decision, the defense official said the new team would “assess the scope of the humanitarian mission and develop additional humanitarian assistance options beyond the current airdrop effort in support of displaced Iraqi civilians trapped on Sinjar Mountain by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.”
The new “assessment team” reportedly arrived in Erbil on Tuesday, and is comprised of a significant portion of Marines. Officials however emphasized that the new advisers are not combat troops, as President Obama has insisted American troops would not become involved in another ground campaign in Iraq.
The move comes in the wake of several rounds of American airstrikes, carried out with the intention of reversing gains made by the Islamic State in northern Iraq. The US is looking into the results of the airstrikes and continuing to evaluate the kind of assistance needed to ensure the safety of thousands of civilians in the Sinjar area.
While these 130 advisers have arrived in Erbil to further consult with the Kurds, 90 advisers are already in place in Baghdad. Another 160 are cooperating with Iraqi security forces in military operations centers in both Erbil and Baghdad. In addition, AP reports, there are about 455 US security forces and 100 military personnel working in the Office of Security Cooperation in the US Embassy in Baghdad.
President Barack Obama expressed condolences to the family of comedy legend Robin Williams Monday, calling the actor “one of a kind.” “Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien - but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit,” Obama said in a statement, referring to Williams’ role in “Mork & Mindy.” “He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most — from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets. The Obama family offers our condolences to Robin's family, his friends, and everyone who found their voice and their verse thanks to Robin Williams.” Williams, 63, was found dead in his California home Monday morning. Authorities suspect he committed suicide, and his representative said Williams had recently struggled with severe depression.
Government institutions are feeling strain after 11 months of process, with observers still auditing resultEleven months into Afghanistan's marathon presidential vote, strains are being felt across government institutions. The two candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, made progress by publicly agreeing to respect the results of the audit, but it will take some time still for observers to go through all 8.1 million votes. Meanwhile, the rest of the country has ground to a halt, and stasis is most keenly felt in government bureaucracies, where senior officials have expressed concern over the potentially damaging effects of a prolonged stalemate. Hakim Mujahed, the deputy chairman of the high peace council, a government body responsible for negotiations with the Taliban, said all meaningful work had stopped in early spring, during the first round of the elections. Now he whiles away his hours crossing off the administrative chores from his to-do list. "The election has become totally frustrating for the people of Afghanistan, including myself," he said. "It is a defamation of democracy." The Taliban has refused to engage with the current government, as they rightly assume that the incoming administration will have different policies from its predecessor. Both the council and the Taliban, he said, are eager for new leadership. "We are very frustrated by the audit process. It is a great impediment and obstacle to our work." The economy minister, Abdul Arghandiwal, said his office was also suffering. "To implement our policies we need planning, and that has been difficult to do," he said. He excoriated the international community for withholding the funding that keeps the Afghan government running. Arghandiwal said donors had said they would wait until the new government signed a security agreement allowing troops to stay in the country beyond 2014 before releasing an estimated $1bn in funding. "Most of our projects are on hold, and if this situation continues it can only mean one thing: economic crisis." The electoral commission believes their observers – spread out at 100 tables in three hangars and working in two six-hour shifts every day – can complete their task in the next two weeks, in time to meet the end of August deadline. There are, however, variables at play beyond the control of the electoral commission. The speed of the audit process may pick up as it gets streamlined, but a likelier scenario is that the factors that have threatened to derail the audit may once again impinge on the process. There is the logistical task of putting together a full audit, the only one of its kind in the world, on a daily basis, not to mention the fact that the candidate observers are each pursuing irreconcilable goals of validating their votes while invalidating the other parties'. The international community hopes that the process will be completed by the end of the month, in time for the newly inaugurated president to attend the Nato summit in September. Fabrizio Foschini of the Afghanistan Analysts Network called this timeline "suspiciously optimistic". "If we can agree that delays, stalemates and obstructionism have been a recurrent theme of this electoral process, it does seem possible that this pattern extends to the political negotiations that will accompany the creation of a new government, whoever the winning candidate will be," he said. "And if that happens, it could be a bad year for all Afghans."
At least two polio cases from Peshawar, one each from North Karachi, Sindh and Chakwal, Punjab have been genotyped and linked to the poliovirus from Karachi, health officials told The Express Tribune. Closely associated with the polio programme in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, one official, requesting anonymity, said the number of reported cases in the country is “expected” to cross 200. At the moment, Pakistan has 108 reported cases. Cases linked to Karachi The poliovirus in a 10-month-old girl and a 12-month-old girl—both from Peshawar—has been traced back to a virus, said to have originated in Karachi. The same virus has also been linked to the child diagnosed in Chakwal, Punjab. The 35-month-old girl is said to be the first reported diagnosis from the province since the late 90s. Some of K-P’s health experts and officials have said these cases linked to the virus in Karachi were the last ones to have surfaced in Peshawar. They cited negative environmental sampling in Larama and Shaheen Muslim Town for the first time in two years as evidence of the success of Sehat ka Insaf. Peshawar’s own virus has ended, one of the experts claimed, requesting anonymity. The last polio victim’s virus originated in Karachi, they reiterated. However, it has not been confirmed if the children in Peshawar had travelled to Karachi or if someone from the city by the sea had carried the poliovirus to Peshawar. While talking to The Express Tribune, K-P Chief Minister’s Polio Cell Focal Person Dr Imtiyaz Khan said after Sehat Ka Insaf, Peshawar’s poliovirus has been largely eradicated. Khan was hopeful the 241,000 children of North Waziristan Agency (NWA), deprived of polio vaccinations since 2012, could now be reached. Close to 50,000 families were displaced from NWA in the wake of Operation Zarb-e-Azb. “The government hopes Pakistan would be polio free soon,” said Khan. From 108 to 200? There were only 38 reported cases in the first eight months of 2013; by November 2014, Pakistan will have around 200 reported cases, asserted health officials. High-transmission months do fall between April and November, but some of K-P’s health experts claimed the increase in cases can also be blamed on the inefficacy of the polio vaccine in hot weather. However, UNICEF’s K-P and Fata polio team leader Dr Bilal Ahmed disagreed with this assessment. “Yes, winter is low-transmission. Right now, we are in a high-transmission season and more cases will be reported as the environment is more favourable for the virus,” said Ahmed. “The vaccine is effective in all weather conditions.” Others associated with polio campaigns in the country confirmed the vaccine is indeed effective throughout the year. As with many other vaccines, maintaining the cold-chain is key, but polio workers across Pakistan are provided with refrigerated units to carry the vials as they go door to door. In fact, the vaccine vials carry a sticker which changes colour to indicate the efficacy of the vaccine—light pink means it’s still effective but any darker or turning red means the polio vaccine is now rendered useless but it still would have no adverse reaction if administered at that point. Referring to the “200 cases”, Ahmed said, “One cannot make exact estimates.” The UNICEF team leader admitted the situation was pretty bad, looking at the flip side of access to NWA children. “Now the NWA cases are also moving to the southern districts like Lakki Marwat, Tank and Bannu, so those places are at greater risk.” Ahmed said, “You can assume there will be more cases but you absolutely cannot make exact estimates. This is all situational; no one can guess how many cases.” Number of doses needed There is often confusion surrounding how the vaccine protects a person from the crippling virus; especially when children who have received doses contract the disease. Ahmed explained each person has a different biology and one dose is never enough. Drawing parallels to how doctors prescribe a basic dose in any ailment and alter it according to progress made, Dr Ahmed said, “There is no exact number of doses [especially in high-risk areas] which will provide foolproof coverage.” This is why repeated polio campaigns are conducted during outbreaks, said the doctor. Even at the airport, he said, a traveller is required to have had a dose of the vaccine within a month of their journey as the vaccine blocks the poliovirus for roughly 30 days. “You can give as many doses, there are no side effects. The more the number of campaigns, the safer the area.” Explaining why some children are safe with fewer doses, Dr Ahmed said, “Everyone has different levels of immunity.” The polio vaccine will be rendered less effective if the child has diarrhoea or vomiting. The nutritional intake of the child also counts, said Ahmed. “That is why we have repeated campaigns,” reiterated the doctor.
by Cyril AlmeidaIT’S happening. It really is. Scorched earth. Pyrrhic victory. Cutting off nose. Shooting in the foot. The custodians of democracy have done what the anti-democrats wanted. Lahore feels like a war zone. Fuel is unavailable. Roads are shut. Folk are scared. Nobody really cares who wins — they just want it to stop. It needs to stop. It will stop. It always does — and in the end, it will be the democrats who will have struck another grievous blow against democracy. Nawaz and co have taken their obsession with Punjab and done to it what any combination of ego, paranoia and obsession will do. The problem with democracy is its fragility — without a population that believes in it, without institutions that believe in it, without politicians who really care about it, it doesn’t survive. Sometimes it limps on, like it did under Zardari and may now under Sharif. But continuity means little when the present is populated by sins egregious and stunning. Qadri will slide back into irrelevance again, but this time he’ll take a fistful of PML-N flesh with him. Who is Qadri? He’s the Mansoor Ijaz who won’t go away. Remember Mansoor Ijaz? Exactly. Qadri would have gone the same way, a speculator always angling for relevance but fundamentally irrelevant. Qadri will slide back into irrelevance again, but this time he’ll take a fistful of PML-N flesh with him. We have to wait and see if the flesh is Nawaz’s scalp. By now we know: Nawaz thinks Qadri is a threat. Let’s drop the pretence — always weak anyway — that the squeeze on Qadri and his supporters was authorised and prosecuted from anywhere but the top. The PML-N is doing silly things to Qadri, and to Punjab’s hapless citizenry, because Nawaz wants dumb things done to Qadri — and Nawaz doesn’t care that Punjab’s hapless citizenry is caught in the middle. But why is Nawaz willing to inflict pain on his beloved Punjab to fight Qadri? He’s fighting for something, this Nawaz is. Understanding it doesn’t mean accepting it. Shutting down Lahore. Closing off that great pride and joy, the motorway. Making Lahoris doubt their affection for Mian Sahib. Denying privileged Lahore its basic services. Surely, all of that is only done by someone sensing a fundamental challenge to their rule. It’s not that the collateral damage is neither perceived nor recognised; it’s that the collateral damage is deemed acceptable, necessary even, to achieve the goal. The goal is first and always — survival. Why is Qadri a threat to Nawaz’s survival? Because he’s rabid, he’s got a base of committed supporters in Punjab and he’s in the boys’ camp. But sometimes the goal is survival plus something else. The victory, pyrrhic or not, sends a message across the land: mess with Nawaz in his Punjab and he will snarl and snap and fight you before you can fight him. That raises the cost for anyone who wants to snatch the throne. For the boys, it means the veneer of deniability, staying tucked away out of direct sight, won’t work. They’ll have to come out into the open, launch a more direct, frontal assault themselves if they want Nawaz out now. That carries its own risks and raises the costs for the boys. For civilian aspirants, facing the brunt of the civilian-run security and administrative apparatus means you’ve got to have enough muscle of your own. Resources, men, women, camps, coordination centres, an A team and a B team. Those kinds of options exist with only a handful of challengers. And anyone among them having the same thoughts as Qadri will have to think twice, and then twice more, if they want to take on Nawaz. And all of this Nawaz is willing to sanction because his greatest asset is also his biggest vulnerability. Having nothing politically — nothing meaningful anyway — outside Punjab means he has to dominate Punjab. Punjab can’t be shared — the middle class, urban, conservative parts of Punjab — because sharing Punjab would mean no route to power, both at the provincial level and, most definitely, in Islamabad. So fight, fight and fight Nawaz will. Any attack that comes from the conservative, establishment sections of Punjab, Nawaz will whack. The problem is, he’ll always lose. Maybe not in the first round or the second this time, but, eventually, he’ll lose. Because he’s playing dirty from the wrong side of the pitch. A general the public knows will do dirty things. A power-hungry civilian outsider the public knows will stop at nothing. But neither of those options needs the public to grab power. They don’t have to go to the public, cap in hand, head bowed and ask for their vote. Nawaz is nothing without electoral legitimacy, without political capital and without the public’s backing. Well, without them he’s just a super-rich guy who was prime minister once. Which is essentially nothing. And yet, here he is, sacrificing his political capital in his hometown to fight an enemy who keeps goading Nawaz into shedding more and more of his democratic armour, leaving him more and more vulnerable to attack in the arena of power politics. Is he really stupid? Is his ego simply too big? Is his paranoia too deep-rooted? Has hubris simply taken over? Or, simply, is Nawaz unfit to govern Pakistan? Walk around Lahore this weekend — driving being difficult even on empty roads because fuel is near impossible to find. There’s police with guns everywhere. Fearful customers are raiding store shelves for basic supplies. A bewildered citizenry is wondering where this political storm came from and why they’re caught in the middle of it. This is Lahore. In 2014. This is the heart of Sharif’s Pakistan. In 2014. Yes, this weekend, it does look like Nawaz is unfit to lead Pakistan. - See more at: http://lubpak.com/archives/319785#sthash.OEhmwVNm.dpuf
Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif reportedly enjoyed himself on his recent religious excursion to Saudi Arabia, while Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz assured him that his country would always stand by Pakistan. The PM emphasised that he wants to strengthen ties with Saudi Arabia and the two leaders discussed the challenges facing the Islamic Ummah, calling for unity and solidarity. It is hard to see how that aim is furthered by the ban Saudi Arabia has imposed on marriages between Saudi men and Pakistani women, reported in a Moroccan newspaper this week. The report by Morocco World News regarding further restrictions on liaisons between Saudi men and Moroccan women, mentioned that women from four other countries, Chad, Burma, Pakistan and Bangladesh are persona non grata for marriages to Saudi men. It is safe to say that should any non-Muslim or western country, particularly one with a large Pakistani expatriate community like the UK, make a similar announcement there would be riots in the streets, calls of racism or Islamophobia, and denunciations in international forums. Religious extremists would use it as weaponry for their claim that the west ‘hates Muslims’, Pakistani expats would protest. Of course, the simple fact is that such an action would not be permissible in countries like the UK, the US or elsewhere in the west because human rights laws and institutional prerogatives would nullify the proposal, deeming it contrary to citizens’ civil liberties and international human rights conventions. Saudi Arabia is not concerned about human rights; it is even less concerned about women’s rights. Women in Saudi Arabia are seen as property and are genuinely believed to be inferior to men by most Saudis, including many women who are brainwashed by a theological state education system. Should Pakistani women, despite the restrictions and hostility of religious fundamentalists they face at home, even consider spending their lives in such a hellhole? The ban is actually a boon. It should show Pakistanis that Islam only receives lip service in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government earns billions promoting religious tourism while destroying and defacing Islam’s most cherished and unique historical and religious sites. The Prophet’s (PBUH) house was razed by the government, as were the homes of all his companions. There was recently discussion about razing the Prophet’s (PBUH) tomb in Medina along with the ancient part of Masjid al Nabwi that houses it. Saudis view the 1.5 million Pakistani expatriates there as parasites because many are employed in low-paying jobs considered too menial for Saudi nationals. While we complain about racism in the west, the worst racism against Pakistanis exists in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries we eagerly woo. The ban should wake Pakistanis up to this fact. There is no need for Pakistan’s strong and resilient women to subject themselves to such treatment. Rather we should encourage Saudi women to escape their lives of deprivation and come to Pakistan, where despite all the problems women face, they still have some rights.
Respected sir,I am a citizen of the country you founded 67 years ago. I understand that you did not live long enough to see the shape your dream took on after you left for the hereafter. Sixty-seven years is a long time; the youth today is the third generation of the one that had thronged your jalsas and served as the main force that converted the demand of a homeland into a successful movement. A lot has happened since then and I have so many things to share with you but I will limit myself to one question. What kind of a country did you want to create? Naive as it may be, sir, let me assure you that it is the very question that I face every single morning. I am severely troubled by it and I assume many of my compatriots are too. Please, sir, let me explain. I studied in a public school and learned all my lessons in history, called Pakistan Studies, very well. I learned that the country was created in the name of Islam as the Muslims of the subcontinent did not want to live with Hindus and other non-Muslims. They wanted to create a new state built on the principles of Islam. I can pick many quotes from your various addresses that conform to this assertion, and most of my friends also believe it to be true. A country for Muslims built on Islamic principles ostensibly meant that the non-Muslims would have no, or at best, secondary roles in matters of the state and also in the society at large. Sir, exactly the same has happened. We have been successful in driving out the Hindus and Sikhs from this, our holy land. That turned out to be the best way to solve the ‘minority problem’ that you delved into so passionately. Some in Sindh, however, have been very stubborn and refuse to leave their ancestral land. Rest assured, a lot of patriotic people are working on this, with a success story making headlines in newspapers every other day. Only a handful of Sikhs are left in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as they too have been conquered completely. Just days ago, a Sikh boy in Peshawar who was a threat to Pakistan’s ideology was done away with. Similarly, an Ahmadi woman and her two grandchildren in Gujranwala were removed from our road to progress just weeks ago. You must be wondering how Ahmadis have become a threat for the Islamic state, as you kept good company with them and even appointed one as your Foreign Minister. Let me brief you that it was discovered later in 1974 that Ahmadis were not only non-Muslims but that they were a big threat to the ideological moorings of the nation. Subsequent governments have been taking adequate steps to keep this menace in check and the entire society too, has now volunteered itself to stand guard against any and all violations. And yes, about the Christians. You might have known some Anglo-Indians practicing this faith. But as the majority of them in Pakistan now consist of Dalits, who have taken refuge in churches, we don’t have to worry much about them. They mostly engage in lowly jobs; we have not been complacent on this front and have ensured that the Christians will not sneak their way into the higher ranks of society. There are many laws and social norms firmly in place to ensure that they don’t dare think beyond what is prescribed for them. All of these achievements make a lot of my compatriots happy about Pakistan largely achieving what it was meant to. Though, there are still some items on the agenda left unchecked, like converting the various sects to a purer form of Islam and thus ensuring a more cohesive society. I do think it will not be long before this is achieved soon. But, then I read your address to the inaugural session of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan held on 11 August 1947, though it was not part of my Pakistan Studies courses. I am sure you remember it well and fully as it was supposed to lay the basis of the constitution of Pakistan. Sir, this address of yours is the main source of my confusion. You have said here in very clear words that the state of Pakistan will have nothing to do with the religion of its citizens. Did you really think that was possible in a country made in the name of a religion? Isn’t it natural for such a state to be concerned and watchful of the faith of its citizens? I know of a few westernised friends who think it wasn’t your idea to build the state on the basis of religion. But then there are so many others who have strong arguments proving that since the entire movement was driven by a strong passion for religion, it was but natural to build a faith-oriented state upon its conclusion. Some unscrupulous elements try to explain away your August 11 address by claiming it to be fake or even delivered to appease some foreign powers. However, knowing you to be an astute, upright, man of principles and great integrity, I cannot imagine you being expedient, that too at the historic moment of the inauguration of the new country’s first parliament. So, sir, instead of falling for one or the other theory, I decided to ask you the question directly. What kind of state did you want to create? Should I take your August 11 speech in letter and spirit, or shall I be happy with whatever Pakistan has achieved so far on this front? Sincerely yours, Tahir Mehdi August 11, 2014