Saturday, September 6, 2014
An independent Scotland would need to join international clubs like the EU, NATO and the UN if it wants to have any influence as a small state on the global stage, according to an expert at the University of Edinburgh.
Supporters of Scottish independence claim they have the "big momentum" with less than two weeks to go before the referendum vote.It comes as a Sunday Times poll suggests the Yes camp has taken the lead for the first time. Some 51% of those who have made up their mind and intend to vote back an independent Scotland while 49% plan to vote no, the YouGov poll suggests. The Better Together campaign's Alistair Darling called it a "wake-up call". The poll of 1,084 people, carried out between 2 and 5 September, is the first and only serious study to put the Yes campaign ahead, and suggests the pro-Union camp has lost its lead - once regularly in the double-digits. On 18 September voters will be asked the Yes/No question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?" The headline poll results exclude undecided voters or those who plan not to vote. When they are included, 47% backed Yes while 45% said they would opt to stay in the UK. "This breakthrough poll shows that Yes has the big momentum," Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said, claiming that support for independence was growing particularly among Labour voters and women. "Scotland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world," the SNP deputy leader added. "More and more people are beginning to realise that a Yes vote is Scotland's one opportunity to make that enormous wealth work better for everybody who lives here, create more jobs, and protect vital services such as the NHS from the damaging effects of Westminster privatisation." 'Speak out' However, a separate poll for the Yes Scotland campaign put the pro-Union Better Together camp ahead by 52% to 48% - when undecided voters were excluded. Pollsters Panelbase questioned voters between 2 and 6 September. As both sides step-up their campaigns with just 11 days to go till the referendum, a Downing Street source said David Cameron would "strain every sinew" to make the case for the union. The prime minister believes there is "only one poll that matters", the source said. But Mr Darling said: "These polls can and must now serve as a wake-up call to anyone who thought the referendum result was a foregone conclusion - it never was. "It will go down to the wire. Now is the time to speak up and speak out." 'No guards plan' Meanwhile, former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown appeared to blame the Conservative Party for the closeness of the battle. Writing in the Sunday Mirror, Mr Brown suggested the Better Together camp was finding it "difficult" to win over Scots because of anger over coalition policies - including changes to housing benefit and tax cuts for the wealthy. But a senior source at the cross-party Better Together campaign denied there were any rifts and said they would not be changing strategy for the final days of campaigning. Elsewhere, Labour leader Ed Miliband suggested in an interview with the Scottish Mail on Sunday that manned border guards could be introduced if Scotland voted to go independent. He told the paper: "If you don't want borders, vote to stay in the United Kingdom." A spokesman for Mr Miliband added: "The last time I looked there were two sides to the border - and we would be in charge of one of them. It would be up to us, not [First Minister Alex] Salmond, to secure our northern border." The party later said on Twitter that there was "no Labour 'plan' for border guards in [an] independent Scotland". 'Hypocrisy' The two sides will intensify their efforts this week, with senior Labour Party figures including John Prescott and Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones due to appear for Better Together. For the pro-independence camp, a Yes Scotland television advert focusing on the NHS will be broadcast on Monday, and on Tuesday Mr Salmond will answer questions from undecided voters on Facebook. The Yes campaign also plans to send out 675,000 letters from engineering tycoon Jim McColl, who recently stepped in to save Ferguson Shipbuilders on the Clyde, urging undecided voters to support independence. Mr Darling described the planned letter as "rank hypocrisy", arguing that Mr McColl was not based in Scotland. He also criticised the nationalists over a Commons vote on controversial welfare reforms on Friday, from which four out of six SNP MPs were absent. Better Together will also step up its leafleting and young voters will receive personally addressed letters. Labour MP Douglas Alexander said: "In the course of the coming days we will be joined by amongst others John Prescott, the former deputy prime minister, and Carwyn Jones, the first minister of Wales. "All young voters across Scotland will get a personally addressed letter this week from Better Together.
Following Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s announcement of putting his personal grievances aside to preserve democracy in the country, PPP’s Senator Aitzaz Ahsan on Saturday said that “plan a, b, c, and d have failed.” Speaking to a private TV channel, he said today’s press conference of Chaudhry Nisar was a good omen and expressed hope that his performance would improve from now on. Ahsan said after reaching an understanding with the interior minister, “Plan D has also failed.” Interior Minister Nisar, earlier today, not only vowed to resign from his post but also to leave politics for good if allegations hurled at him and his late brother in Parliament were proven to be true. At the start of press conference, a disgruntled Nisar said that this would be shortest press conference of his career. He also requested reporters not to ask questions at the end of the press conference. Aitzaz Ahsan said after reaching an understanding with the interior minister, “Plan D has also failed.” Elaborating his point, he said three plans had already been failed. “Plan A had failed when protesters could not bring a million people on the street,” he said. “Plan B was to bring a million people to D-Chowk, while plan C included an attack on Parliament building and PM House.” “Plan B and C were failed by calling the joint session of Parliament,” he added. The Opposition Leader in the Senate further said that to criticise wrongdoings of the government was his right and vowed to continue doing so whenever he deem necessary.
Dengue virus infects 7 more people in Punjab in 24 hours, EDO Health Sialkot suspendedDengue fever has infected seven more in Punjab during the last 24 hours, taking the total to 25. Executive District Officer (EDO) Health Sialkot has been suspended over negligence. Number of dengue patients is continuously on the rise in Punjab as seven more Dengue patients were reported yesterday (Friday). Four belonged to Lahore while three cases were reported in Rawalpindi. The cumulative figure has now reached 25. Punjab Health Department has suspended EDO Health Sialkot Dr Zia-ul-Hassan for negligence. According to the department, recent torrential rains could further aggravate the already worsening situation. Department affirmed that the government is trying its best to control dengue fever but insisted that citizens should play their part as well.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in a message on micro blogging website twitter said: "At this time unity of democratic forces is of the utmost importance. We can revert other issues at a more appropriate time."Bilawal tweeted this following Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s press conference in which he (Nisar) announced that for the sake of Pakistan and democracy he was forgiving and forgetting yesterday’s events in Parliament. Nisar was referring to the speech made by Aitzaz Ahsan in which the PPP leader responded to allegations leveled against him by the interior minister. On Thursday, Nisar had alleged that Aitzaz was a spokesman for the land mafia.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Saturday paid rich tribute to soldiers who sacrificed their lives for defence of the country.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has taken serious notice of the poor performance of and alleged corruption in different departments of the Sindh government. A survey report released by a non-governmental organisation, Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT), that ranked governance of all the provinces of the country put the performance of the Sindh chief minister at the lowest. The report reads: “The performance of the Punjab government is regarded as the most effective among provincial governments by 65.73 percent of all respondents, followed by that of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at 16.54 percent. Only 2.44 percent of all respondents regarded the Balochistan government’s performance as the best. Within the province itself, however, the number of respondents who view the provincial government’s performance as being the best is significantly higher at 15.38 percent. Almost 50 percent of all respondents regard Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif to have been the most effective chief executive in the past year, followed by Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pervez Khattak (15.36 percent) and Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah (11.15 percent).” Authorities of the Sindh government have, however, termed this survey as fabricated and being politically motivated. The report drew the attention of PPP Chairman Bilawal, who constituted a secret body to investigate the matter and report back to him. The committee comprises of non-political experts. In its findings the committee stated that the performance of several departments was not up to the mark. It was noticed that the state of affairs in Local Governments and Community Development (LG&CD), Communication and Works Department, Education and Health departments were the worst. Bilawal summoned Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and showed displeasure over the way things were being run under him. The PPP chairman was told that the city of Karachi has been swamped with signboards. Every road, wall and other visible places have been taken over by advertisements and slogans. The committee said that this was the result of corruption, as the officials in the Ministry of Local Government are getting heavy bribes for allowing these billboards. It said that illegal hydrants are another source of corruption for the ministry’s officials, who are “earning” millions from it on a monthly basis. In the department of the Local Governments several appointments have been made by officials who took bribes. Malir Development Authority, Lyari Development Authority, Municipal Corporation Malir, Sehvan Development Authority, Hyderabad Development Authority and KMC are among the establishments where people have been recruited after payment of bribes. On becoming aware of the situation Bilawal held individual meetings with the members of the Sindh Assembly who were elected on PPP tickets. He also met with party leaders and selected workers. The disclosures made by them were very alarming for the PPP chairman. The MPAs and party workers disclosed that in the Excise and Taxation Department, excise inspectors and assistant excise and taxation officers (AETO) have been recruited against bribes of more than Rs 5 million. The PPP MPAs told Bilawal that of the development budget of Rs 146 billion only 20 percent was spent on ground while the rest went into the pockets of the ministers and officials. Special packages announced by the leadership for the districts of Khairpur, Larkana and Nawabshah were the worst causality at the hands of corrupt leaders and officials. Bilawal was told that the corrupt officials brought a bad name to the party in Thar by their malpractices. A member of the assembly told the PPP chairman that the authorities have shifted an anti-venom vaccine laboratory from Tharparkar to Nawabshah despite the fact that it is monsoon season and the incidents of snakebite are on the rise in Tharparkar. The lawmaker said the laboratory is needed in Thar, not in Nawabshah. Bilawal has taken strong notice of the situation and constituted a monitoring committee that will scrutinise development works of the last five years and prepare a report to present to him. Stern action will be taken against the corrupt and those who have tarnished the image of the party among the masses. He said the party is a trust of Benazir Bhutto and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and would not be compromised. The ministers, he said, are to serve the public and not mint money.
Despite being one of the poorest nations in the world, Afghanistan may be sitting on one of the richest troves of minerals in the world, valued at nearly $1 trillion, scientists say. Afghanistan, a country nearly the size of Texas, is loaded with minerals deposited by the violent collision of the Indian subcontinent with Asia. The U.S. Geological Survey began inspecting what mineral resources Afghanistan had after U.S.-led forces drove the Taliban from power in the country in 2004. In 2006, U.S. researchers flew airborne missions to conduct magnetic, gravity and hyperspectral surveys over Afghanistan. The aerial surveys determined that Afghanistan may hold 60 million tons of copper, 2.2 billion tons of iron ore, 1.4 million tons of rare earth elements such as lanthanum, cerium and neodymium, and lodes of aluminum, gold, silver, zinc, mercury and lithium. For instance, the Khanneshin carbonatite deposit in Afghanistan's Helmand province is valued at $89 billion, full as it is with rare earth elements. "Afghanistan is a country that is very, very rich in mineral resources," geologist Jack Medlin, program manager of the USGS Afghanistan project, told LiveScience. The scientists' work was detailed in the Aug. 15 issue of the journal Science. In 2010, the USGS data attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of Defense's Task Force for Business and Stability Operations, which is entrusted with rebuilding Afghanistan. The task force valued Afghanistan's mineral resources at $908 billion, while the Afghan government's estimate is $3 trillion. [Gold Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Gold Mining?] Over the past four years, USGS and TFBSO have embarked on dozens of excursions to confirm the aerial findings, resulting in what are essentially treasure maps for mining companies. The Afghan government has already signed a 30-year, $3 billion contract with the China Metallurgical Group, a state-owned mining enterprise based in Beijing, to exploit the Mes Aynak copper deposit, and awarded mining rights for the country's biggest iron deposit to a group of Indian state-run and private companies.
shiapost.comShia owner of an oil shop in Karachi embraced martyrdom due to Yazidi takfiri nasbi terrorist attack on Friday. Notorious terrorists of banned Sipah-e-Sahaba (ASWJ) and outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi fled the scene without facing any action from the police and rangers. Syed Mohsin Raza son of Liaquat Hussain was sitting at his oil shop at Yousuf Plaza Water Pump Federal B Area Block 16 when takfiri nasbi terrorists of banned takfiri outfits opened fire upon him. He was martyred on the spot. He was 50. Shia parties and leaders have condemned the targeted murder of another Shia trader in Karachi. They demanded immediate arrest of the terrorist and public hanging of takfiri nasbi terrorists forthwith.
Two Christian women abducted and forcibly married to Muslim men.According to FIDES, one of the two victims attended school; the other is illiterate of humble social background. In another similar case, a Christian girl who was forced to marry a Muslim few years back managed to escape and reach her home. According to her she never abandoned the faith and continued to pray to Jesus Christ even after her marriage. A Pakistani Christian lawyer who advocates for Human Rights says, “These cases are difficult. I asked a few Muslim preachers their opinion on forced marriages. They affirmed with conviction that acts of forced conversion and forced marriage are illicit and illegal, not only according to civil law but also according to Islamic law”. - See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/two-christian-women-kidnapped-and-forcibly-married-to-muslim-men/#sthash.k7rLifBH.dpuf
Activists of Balochistan National Party (BNP) protested against the target killings of Zikri community, journalists and military operations in Turbat, outside Quetta Press club on Wednesday.
Published in The Balochistan Point on 4th September, 2014.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the capitalist counter-revolution in China, an immense political vacuum opened up in ideology and politics on a world scale. In these conditions there was the resurgence of political Islam and religious fundamentalism.The sectarian conflicts of the warring religious sects, from Islam to Judaism, Hindu chauvinism and Christianity, have raised their ugly heads, leading to terrible bloodshed, cruelty and slaughter, mostly in the former colonial countries, and particularly in the Arab and Muslim societies. From the black reaction of ISIL in the old Levant to the ferociously bestial Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, these Frankenstein’s monsters created by imperialism in the past have wreaked havoc and are raising the spectre of barbarism in several areas. These very imperialist bosses are now howling through their reactionary media about the menace they themselves have nurtured. The recent architect of the reactionary theory of the “Clash of the Civilisations” was the notorious “butcher of Vietnam”, Samuel P. Huntington, the CIA’s foremost theoretician in the 1990s. This theory was designed to foment religious conflicts in societies both East and West, in order to cut across the impending waves of class struggle. Although the reactionary role of religious fundamentalism is not a new phenomenon, its character dramatically changed with the rise of capitalism and imperialism. The social relations and the class antagonisms that arose from the capitalist mode of production, and the uneven and combined patterns of socio-economic development in the colonised countries, exacerbated religious prejudices, which rose to the fore in periods of reaction. Although most forms of these religious fundamentalisms have ancient roots, they are at the same time modern, and also a response to this modernity. For example, Christian fundamentalism was rooted in the rejection of American and British Protestants of the perceived theological liberalism and cultural modernity of the late 19th Century and early 20th Centuries. Although the players and locales were different, the same basic tendencies can be seen in the rise of Islamic, Hindu, Jewish and other form of religious fundamentalism. They represent a reactionary and illusory desire to return to a fictitious utopia, the conservatism of those who cannot tolerate any threats to their vested interests and power. The leaders of these movements cynically manipulate the prejudices and superstitions of the backward and ignorant, while eagerly partaking of the very “sins” and “vices” they rail against from the pulpit or the minaret. In Pakistan, sixty-seven years after its inception, there is still a raging debate about the ideological basis of its creation. The liberals claim that Jinnah was secular, while large sections of the state and the clergy insist that Pakistan is a theocratic state. In fact, both views can be attributed to Jinnah’s speeches on different occasions. He vowed to create both a secular and theistic state depending on the background of the audience that he was addressing at any particular time. However, at the present time, most forms of Islamic tendencies in Pakistan are traditional and conservative, and far too diverse to submit themselves to a monolithic version of Islam. There is an absurd notion being flaunted by the liberal media and intelligentsia in Pakistan and elsewhere, especially in the west, that there should be a differentiation between the ‘moderate’ fundamentalists and the ‘extremist’ ones. The experience of the last few decades has shown that extremists can become moderate and vice-versa in no time, depending on the change in financial interests, strategic contingencies and demands of the bosses, mentors and sponsors. It is also the case with the pathetic Ghandist strategy of ‘interfaith dialogue’ to quell the terrorist threat from the fundamentalists. It has proved to be an abject failure but has infact developed as a profitable enterprise in the NGO sector. The exaggerated coverage and pampering of the Islamic political parties in Pakistan is also an effort of the ruling class to play the primitive sections of the population against the advanced layers to perpetuate the coercive and despotic rule of a rotting capitalism. The boisterous stagnation and conflagration in society in turn is the outcome of the convoluted and strangled development of Pakistani capitalism, where the ruling classes entered the arena historically belated and economically in dearth. The picture of this uneven and combined nature of development is evident in Pakistan’s urban landscape. Pakistan remains in many ways a rural society, where even the rapidly expanding cities are still mostly rural in culture, owing to the constant flow of migrants from the countryside, and the failure of the Pakistani bourgeoisie to create an advanced industrial state and a modern society that could absorb and develop this influx. Most varieties of Islamic fundamentalism prevalent today are mainly an urban or suburban phenomenon. The rural masses can be occasionally stirred up to religious panic but for centuries these regions had secular cultural traditions. Only the advent of massive cash inflows in the form of black money and the distorted capitalist intrusion resulted in a fictitious modernisation. It destroyed the relatively harmonious life and ancient rich cultures in the countryside. However, instead of harnessing and beautifying nature they have disfigured the rural landscape with disastrous environmental and social consequences. There has also been a transformation in the various Islamic schools of thought with this imposition of fractured capitalist relations. Theologically, most of the Sunni Islamic tendencies, from the parties of political Islam like the JUI to Jamaat a Islami and the fundamentalist Taliban and other outfits, come mainly from the following Sunni traditions: The Deobandi, Ahle-e- Hadith and the Barelvis. The Shia tendencies that have sprouted in the South Asian subcontinent are mainly of Persian origins. But there are also several Shia sub-sects and cults from the Ismailia to the Alawites, as well as certain caste divisions like the Sayyids and the Musielis. However, there is a much greater mutual tolerance and harmony between the Shia sects as compared to the lately exacerbated belligerence and violence amongst the Sunni sects. According to the Muslim traditions, the decline of Islam would become symptomatic with the emergence of 72 sects. The famous madrassa founded in Deoband (now in U.P. India) in 1866 is the base of the Deobandi inception. The Ahle-e-Hadith was a branch of the international Salafi tradition, heavily influenced by the orthodox revivalist movement, Wahabism, founded by Mohammad Abdul Wahab (1703-1792) in Nejd in the Arabian Peninsula. The present bosses with particularly close links to the brutal Saudi Arabian monarchy carrying out heinous despotism in accordance with the injunctions of this puritanical version of Islam dating back to the origins of this tradition in the sixteenth century. But until recently a majority of the Sunnis in Pakistan, in so far they were aware of belonging to any political tradition in Islam, belonged to the tendency of the Barelvis, named after a madrassa founded in 1880 in the town of Bareilly – also now in U.P. India. Until the late 1970s, religious sectarian prejudices were so irrelevant that most people didn’t know to which particular sect they belonged. Shias and Sunnis intermarried and there was never any social stigma involved. However, after the draconian Zia dictatorship, which was a harrowing counter-revolution, the movement of the working masses was thrown back and reaction began to dominate society. The reactionary despot needed the Mullahs to perpetuate his atrocious rule by manipulating primitive sections of society, especially the petit bourgeois, with religious bigotry, sectarian hatreds and chauvinism. Meanwhile the Mullahs, who never had a widespread mass base, used this ferocious dictatorship not only to get patronage from the state but to indulge in amassing huge wealth and setting up their seminaries and apparatuses to incarcerate society. With the betrayal of the masses by the traditional left and populist leaderships the apathy and alienation of the masses worsened. The wily Zia not only used political Islam to secure his rule, but also stirred up Islamic sectarian hatreds to further divide and atomise the worker and peasant classes. Politically, he tried to revamp the traditional party of the Pakistan ruling classes, the Muslim League, with Islamic overtones. The various Muslim Leagues (N, Q, Z, A, etc.) are the political foster children of Zia’s brutal legacy. The masses continued to suffer even after the fall of Zia with the introduction of a pathetic cycle of bourgeois democratic regimes. The second PPP government of Benazir Bhutto went as far as to assign as her Home Minister the retired general Naseerullah Babar to organise, arm and train the Taliban to build them into a military force that could capture Kabul. Such was the secular characteristic of this woman prime minister, that she had rejected and dumped her father’s and the PPP’s socialist legacy in the name of democracy and secularism. The Taliban under Mullah Omer created the Islamic emirate and let loose all hell on the oppressed, particularly the women in Afghanistan. The Taliban word means students and they study this religious fundamentalist education at Deobandi Madrassas of different factions of the JUI. Now Abu Bakar Baghdadi and the ISIL are trying to emulate that Afghan Islamic emirate to create this monstrous Islamic State. In both cases, at least initially, the US and the European imperialists were the main supporters and financers of these bestial Islamic bigots. The main Islamic parties that represent these sectarian traditions are the JUI, representing the Deobandi School, the Jamaat a Islami, mainly a manifestation of the Ahle-e Hadith, and the JUP, previously, and Qadri’s PAT which has been trying to besiege the state buildings in Islamabad with its long marches and sit-ins, the modern reformist version of the Barelvi sect. Its character is not less reactionary than that of the other sects. All these parties, and many other rising Islamic political outfits, have extensively used social work and rescue operations in natural disasters to expand their social base. The Jamaat ul Dawa deeply linked to Pakistan’s autonomous state spy agency, the ISI, formerly the Lashkar a Tayyaba that is accused of the 2008 Bombay terrorism and carnage, excels the most. It’s a practise carried out by most religious organisations be they Christian, Jewish, Hindu or Muslim. But with the suffering intensifying, the masses are bewildered and desperate to find a way out of this orgy of capitalist drudgery and repression. In these depressing economic, social and cultural circumstances, adherence to an Islamic network is perceived to provide a sense of security amongst the most poor and alienated sections, including the urban and rural lumpen elements. Poverty is recast as religious simplicity and austerity, amid continuous humiliations and temptations. In spite of their utopian dreams of an Islamic welfare state, all these parties, fundamentalist terrorist groups and sects prescribe to capitalism no matter how many denials they may construe. In that respect, their conflict with imperialism is temporary and superficial. Until the late 1980s they were in the forefront of the dollar Jihad and the repression of the left instigated by imperialism. Political Islam is only in the arena with the support of sections of the state in this rapidly eroding epoch of mild reaction. Once the mass movement erupts, the class struggle will bring to the fore the real material divide of wealth and resources between the ruling and the working classes. Only the victory of a proletarian revolution can put an end to this excruciating deprivation and alienation. This would be the beginning of the end of political Islam in Pakistan, and religion will become a private matter of the individual, without any external pressure, social dictates, interference or force to adopt any particular sect or religion. A socialist revolutionary victory is the only guarantee to defy and avert the looming threat of a savage barbarism that poses a harrowing danger to the existence of human civilisation in Pakistan.
A PAMPHLET DISTRIBUTED TO MEDIA IMPLIES THE MILITANTS ARE SHIFTING FOCUS DUE TO RIFTS WITHIN THE TEHREEK-E-TALIBAN PAKISTAN.An influential militant faction of the Pakistani Taliban had said that it will abandon insurgent activity inside the country and redirect its energies toward Afghanistan. The announcement by the Punjabi Taliban indicates further fragmentation in the umbrella Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), which suffered a setback Thursday when a new bloc declared its split from the group’s official leadership. “We will confine our practical jihadist role to Afghanistan in view of deteriorating situation in the region and internal situation of Pakistani jihadist movement,” Punjabi Taliban chief Asmatullah Muaweya said in a pamphlet faxed to the media, without clarifying further. The faction is active in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province and the political power base of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) party. Muaweya said the faction would operate in Afghanistan under the guidance of Mullah Omar, the spiritual leader of the Afghan Taliban, while its activities in Pakistan will be confined to preaching Islam. “The announcement is a major setback for the TTP as it shows fragmentation is continuing and the organization is fracturing,” said defense and security analyst Talat Masood. “The groups within TTP have not accepted Maulana Fazlullah, which has caused a serious split in the organization.” Maulana Fazlullah was elected head of the TTP last November following the killing of Hakimullah Mehsud in a U.S. drone strike. A new bloc, named the Jamaat ul Ahrar, announced its split from the group Thursday and named Omar Khalid Khorasani as its commander.
The first thing first: there is no threat to the democratic process in the country from the armed forces. That the motive behind the ongoing joint session of parliament is to showcase unity of the people's representatives across the national divide against such a phantasmal threat is an argument that lacks plausible much logic. It's on record that the forces' high command has exhibited extreme patience and helped the civil rulers in confronting serious challenges by conducting it through heavy waters of poor governance; yet the underlying tone of most of the high-decibel oratory in joint sittings was that the sit-ins at the D-Chowk are part of a 'plan' to wrap up the democratic system. The hard fact is that the sit-inners have challenged the government headed by Nawaz Sharif that enjoys a comfortable majority in the parliament, and is fully empowered to handle it. Perhaps, it is the common fear of being wrapped up, based on our history that has generated the commitment of unity. If protesters' demands had to be discussed and met outside the precincts of parliament then what was the need of a joint session of parliament, which has proved to be nothing more than a platform for lung-bursting speeches and a washing board for dirty linen. There are skeletons in all the cupboards; what Aitzaz Ahsan said about interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali could have been avoided had Nisar tendered an apology after the prime minister had apologised on the floor of the parliament. Good or bad, the joint session has done its duty; there is no danger to the government or the system. The joint session may not have resolved the impasse and achieved something concrete but the sit-inners outside the parliament have. They have foment sufficient anarchy to force deferment of Chinese President Xi Jinping's first-ever visit to Pakistan. Not that none other wanted this crucial visit to be deferred; some wished overtly and quite a few others covertly. How much New Delhi must be elated the India's premier daily The Economic Times has to say: "This would be music to India's ears which had long opposed clubbing of visits to India and Pakistan every time a Chinese President or Prime Minister came to the subcontinent". However, Beijing didn't think so, President Xi was to visit Pakistan first and then go to Sri Lanka and India. The Chinese hold Pakistan in high esteem, to them Pakistan is their 'first love'; it was Pakistan that opened the door on the wider world for China by arranging its first government-to-government contact with the United States. Does the sit-inners leadership wants to test the strength of Pak-China friendship? "The force of the wind tests the strength of the grass, and a person's heart," said the then defence minister of China General Chi Haotian on his arrival in Pakistan on February 19, 1999. Together the two countries have crossed many bridges; China is Pakistan's most important strategic partner and President Xi's visit has the desired potential to take this partnership to new heights. At these trying times for Pakistan, China is ready to invest 34 billion dollars in a range of projects including power plants, rail-road networks, Karachi-Lahore Motorway and, Sinkiang-Gwadar economic corridor. There is not much in evidence to suggest that Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri have appreciation of the damage that they have caused to national interest by creating a situation that President Xi had to put off his visit. Unless and until they offer a plausible explanation why their sit-ins have preference over the Chinese visit they would have to live with the blame of subverting the national interest. As if the cancellation of state visits by the Sri Lankan and Maldives presidents was not enough for a diplomatic setback to Pakistan's image, the latest cancellation is simply profound.
Looking at the pictures of inundated streets, flooded roads and overflowing drains, one could be forgiven for thinking that this is the first time monsoon rains have unleashed themselves on the province of Punjab. But that would be fooling no one but ourselves. The whole country deals with monsoon rains every year, sometimes in buckets and sometimes in spades. This year, the rainy season has arrived late, but now it has come with a vengeance. The fact that the provincial government and our disaster management agencies have been caught with their pants down once again is not just embarrassing, it is costing lives. So far, the death toll has reached more than 80. The causes of death include roof collapses, landslides and electrocution. All of these fatalities can be attributed to negligence and an extreme lack of preparedness to tackle a problem that afflicts us each year. Lahore is hardly recognisable: knee high water, homes flooded with rain and gutter filth and vehicles stranded in deep pools. Work, commute, daily activities have all come to a halt because the administration and the disaster management authorities have been lazing about all year refusing to prepare for what we all knew was likely to come. Weather reports state that the downpour will continue for the next few days, perhaps even intensifying in nature. This spells catastrophe for a majority of the people living in shanty homes and the presence of poor quality infrastructure will ensure that more tragic deaths follow. In low-lying areas such as our main cities in Punjab, the monsoon rains are particularly harsh. The poor, ancient drainage system cannot handle the deluge and overflows within minutes, resulting in filthy standing water. No one has bothered to fix or replace this faulty system over the years and, to add insult to injury, no one has even tried to extend any measures to limit the damage by improving the quality of construction in poorer areas of the cities. Every year people with limited resources suffer the rains while those more fortunate celebrate the onset of the monsoon. However, not many are celebrating this year as even Azad Kashmir is registering record highs in rainfall and is facing landslides. Some 80 villages near Sialkot have been evacuated due to flash flood warnings. Reports suggest that as much as 0.9 million cusecs of water have entered Pakistan through the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has issued flood warnings and that is all. The Water and Sanitation Authority (WASA) stands helpless in oceans of deluge, not knowing where to even begin any relief efforts. It is of little surprise then that the army has been called in to help relocate evacuated families (once again). The flash floods of 2010 submerged one fifth of the country in water and displaced millions of people. We still have internally displaced persons (IDPs) from that catastrophe languishing without shelter and rehabilitation. Subsequent floods and monsoon rains have added to the IDP count and infrastructure damage with nothing done to lessen the hardships of the masses. This is the pathetic state of a country that should be well equipped by now to deal with the calamity of expected rainfall but our only form of management seems to be to mutely move from one disaster to the next, praying that the worst will soon be over. Concrete steps need to be taken to improve construction, the state of how people live, the drainage and sanitation and an early warning system designed to alert the public to impending disasters. We may not be able to entirely alleviate the impact of Mother Nature, but we can at least try to lessen the tragedy and destruction as much as humanly possible.
THOUSANDS of fanatical followers, led by the cleric-cricketer combination of Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan, hold Islamabad hostage. A year ago such a possibility seemed remote. What of the future? In the years ahead, this pair may become irrelevant.But with the dangerous precedent they have established, hard-line clerics disaffected with the army’s betrayal, and operations such as Zarb-i-Azb, may give the call to occupy. The marching orders could also come from Caliph Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi of ISIS or some other radical leader; their literature is already being circulated around. Thereafter, from the hundreds of madressahs in and around the city, charged mobs armed to the teeth will pour out to fulfil their holy duty. Nuclear Pakistan would have the world sitting on edge. Speculation? Perhaps, but not without cause. Islamabad’s vulnerability now stands twice exposed. The first time was in 2007 when the Lal Masjid clerics went on a rampage, declared rebellion against the state, and imposed their brand of Sharia on Islamabad. It took the lives of a dozen Pakistan Army commandos to defeat them. Hundreds, including children, died. More significantly, it began a new era of suicide attacks on marketplaces, public squares, police stations, and army installations. Since the time, around 30,000 lives have been lost. Back to the present: the Khan-Qadri duo has brought a new level of instability to Pakistan. Hapless citizens, glued to their television sets, watched Pakistan’s heavily fortified capital fall to protesters. Privately hired cranes tossed aside concrete barriers and shipping containers, while razor wire was cut through by professionals. A demoralised police was initially too afraid to follow attack orders. From the shadows, the Pakistan Army — an institution known all too well to the Baloch and Bengalis — has, with uncharacteristic calm, watched Pakistan’s state institutions taken over by violent thugs. But rather than restore law and order, it chose to confer legitimacy on the insurgents by advocating negotiations. The brief takeover of Pakistan Television by PAT/PTI agitators did not result in any subsequent punitive action; the occupiers left shouting “Pak fauj zindabad”. What’s the game plan here? Cricketer Khan’s is clear enough: create enough chaos so that the elected government can be forcibly overthrown. Subsequently, it will not be difficult to find a pliant Supreme Court judge who would favour mid-term elections. Then, perhaps with a little reverse rigging, he would be hurled towards what he sees as his rightful destiny — becoming the prime minister of Pakistan. The goals of the mercurial Holy Man from Canada are less clear; keeping the pot vigorously stirred is all that we’ve seen so far. Now for the good news: the people of Pakistan wisely refuse to support this violent destruction of government. Popular opinion today roots for stability and calm. In an unprecedented display of unity, the PML-N and PPP, Pakistan’s two largest political parties, announced they are on the same page. You know a national consensus has emerged when the right-wing JUI party of Maulana Fazlur Rahman and the Jamaat-i-Islami share the same bottom line as the left-wing Awami Workers Party and Women’s Action Forum. Of course, the consensus goes no further. Justifiably, there is criticism of Nawaz Sharif’s naked nepotism and the appointment of his family members to important posts. Justifiably, people dislike the Sharif brothers’ style of personalised governance. And, justifiably, there is a call for electoral reform, as well as to protest last year’s partially rigged elections. On rigging: haven’t these allegations been vastly amplified by the losers? When did Pakistan last see fully free and fair elections? International, and most domestic, observers saw nothing extraordinary. Nor did I, while standing in line to vote. Moreover, the outcome was consistent with pre-election polls. But this clearly did not flatter the cricketer’s super-sized ego. He had hoped for more than just a KP government. Now, through means fair or foul, he wishes to capitalise upon the army’s distaste for Nawaz Sharif and refuses to take his chances at the ballot box four years away. It shall be a grim day for Pakistan should Cricketer Khan become Prime Minister Khan. Khan had openly supported the Taliban even under the brutal occupation of Swat in 2009, and refused to condemn them when they shot 14-year old Malala Yousafzai in the head for wanting to go to school. Khan went into a frenzied fit after the killing of TTP supremo Hakeemullah Mehsud by a US drone, making it clear that he would rather shoot at drones than terrorists. Whether out of a serious perceptual disorder or political ambition or to atone for his playboy past, year after year he has sided with those who have been blowing up our children’s schools, killing Pakistan’s citizens, police, and soldiers. This is why the Taliban wanted him as one of their representatives in the failed peace talks, and why he carries the nickname of Taliban Khan. Pakistan’s two wannabe messiahs promise a new Pakistan, and their gullible followers have swallowed it. Protesters interviewed on TV channels speak of a Naya Pakistan where electricity is free and plentiful, and where all have jobs of choice. They do not ask how. In actual fact, governance in KP is no better after the PTI’s year-long stint in power. Worse yet, Khan has had nothing to say about the horrific targeting of Pakistan’s religious minorities, or the use of the blasphemy law to terrify them. Pakistan’s Christians cannot forget his callous remarks after the Peshawar church bombing one year ago. While the Model Town tragedy is to be roundly condemned, the Khan-Qadri duo is silent about the hundreds who have either gone missing in Balochistan, or were later found in mass graves. The duo’s circus has gone too far in disrupting the capital’s life. It appears to be petering out but if not then it is time to end it. If persuasion does not work, the use of an absolute minimum amount of force will be entirely legitimate. Islamabad’s citizens have rights which the agitators are violating, and which the state is obliged to protect.
Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari conducted a meeting with Shehzad Roy, Senior Education Minister Nisar Khuhro, MPA Hasnain Mirza, Secretary Education and others to discuss various education reforms and innovative ideas to bring reforms in the education sector.
"If there is another LeT attack like the one in Mumbai or the one in Herat, it will provoke the most serious crisis in years between India and Pakistan, and the more that can be done by the United States and other to prevent such a disaster the better. But it won't be easy," Riedel warned.