Monday, September 8, 2014

​Up to 700 Iraqi children killed, maimed or used as suicide bombers this year – UN envoy

Up to 700 children have been killed, mutilated, or used as suicide bombers in Iraq since the beginning of the year, UN envoy Leila Zerrougui said while briefing the Security Council on violations of children’s rights in armed conflicts worldwide.
“The images that we see through media reporting of indiscriminate and brutal killings of civilians, including children, are leaving us speechless and horrified,” said Zerrougui, the secretary-general's special representative for children and armed conflict, during a debate at the Security Council on Monday.
“Although the highly unstable security situation in the region slows our monitoring, we know that up to 700 children have been killed or maimed in Iraq since the beginning of the year, including in summary executions. I remain deeply concerned over recent reports of ISIL targeting minorities, including children and women, in the growing area under their control in Syria and Iraq,” Zerrougui said.
The Islamic State group has ordered boys as young as 13 years old to carry weapons, guard strategic locations, or arrest civilians, and has used other children as suicide bombers, the UN envoy added.
Other reports received by Zerrougui’s office suggest that militias allied to the Iraqi government have used children in the fight against Islamic State extremists. She added that the whereabouts of numerous children jailed on security charges by the Iraqi government remain unknown after militias stormed the facilities where they were held in July.
However, Zerrougui did inform the Security Council that some progress has been made around the world when it comes to protecting children in armed conflict. She mentioned Chad – which ended the recruitment of child soldiers – and Yemen, which signed a plan with the UN to prevent the recruitment of children in its armed forces.
The UN envoy did, however, stress that those gains have been overshadowed by the scale of violence against children in new crises – the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria and the conflicts in Libya, Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Mali, and South Sudan.
She especially touched upon the current situation in Gaza, where more than 500 children were killed during the recent Israeli military operation. Up to 3,100 children were wounded in the attack. Moreover, about one-third of the injured children have become permanently disabled.
“The events in Gaza must be thoroughly investigated and identified perpetrators from all parties to the conflict must be held accountable. I cannot stress enough the urgent need to work towards a lasting peace. A ceasefire is only a temporary measure and we have been here before. The international community must put its weight behind addressing the root causes of this conflict,” Zerrougui told the Security Council.
In Nigeria, Zerrougui said, targeted attacks on schools, students, and teachers by Boko Haram killed at least 100 students and 70 teachers in 2013. The UN envoy also reported that more than 200 kidnapped girls are still in the hands of Boko Haram.
“I call on the government of Nigeria and its partners to take any and all measures to bring the girls back. We are now receiving reports that Boko Haram has recruited and used boys and girls as young as 12 years of age in their attacks, including in raids on schools. I am also worried by reports about grave violations perpetrated by armed elements allegedly associated with Government forces in northern Nigeria,” she said.
UNESCO’s special envoy for peace and reconciliation and Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker also took part in the Council’s session, after just returning from South Sudan. “Perhaps worst of all walking through the cities, I saw child soldiers wearing military uniforms and carrying guns,” he said.
Whitaker, who has worked with child soldiers for 10 years, said that supporting governments to end the recruitment of child soldiers is “a paramount first step.”
“It is impossible for us to comprehend the magnitude of a child soldier’s pain: how deep his wounds, how heavy her burden,” he said. “Unless we are there to meet them with open arms, open homes, and open schools, their wars will never end.”
Zerrougui also mentioned the global “Children, not Soldiers” campaign, launched jointly with UNICEF, which is aiming to make sure there are no children in any government forces by the end of 2016. In the past six months, she said, the campaign has received an almost overwhelming amount of support. She, together with Forest Whitaker, called on and welcomed all countries to join their efforts under the campaign. “I count on you, but more importantly, the child victims around the world count on you,” Zerrougui said.

Video Report: Kerry applauds formation of new government in Iraq

Confronting the ISIS Threat

President Obama said on Sunday that now is the time “to start going on some offense” against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, the Sunni extremist group that is overrunning northern Iraq and has a stronghold in Syria. That would be a serious escalation of the American role there.
He will need to explain to the nation with specificity how airstrikes against ISIS in Syria fit into a broader strategy; how they could be successful; how they might be done without benefiting Syria’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad, who is under attack by ISIS and other Sunni opposition forces; and how the United States can avoid entanglement in another military morass if it moves more aggressively into this theater.
Until ISIS emerged as a regional threat, the Obama administration argued it had no legal standing to become militarily involved in Syria. American forces began airstrikes in August against ISIS fighters in Iraq after units of the Iraqi Army collapsed and extremists began persecuting minority groups, attacking the Mosul Dam and threatening Americans in Erbil. There seemed to be legal grounds for airstrikes because Iraq asked for assistance and Americans were at risk. From the beginning, Mr. Obama has pledged that ground troops would not be involved.
Administration officials now say Mr. Obama has authority to take action even cross the porous Iraq-Syria border if there is intelligence identifying ISIS fighters in Syria involved in the beheadings of two American journalists or if requested to do so by the Iraqi government to protect its border.
Their assertion, however, does not resolve the question of the need for congressional authorization for military attacks in Syria. Lawmakers, facing re-election in November, seem divided on the need for a vote, although they will at least have to approve new financing for the mission. Mr. Obama himself has been ambiguous, saying in one breath, “I’m confident that I have the authorization that I need to protect the American people” and, in another, that Congress needs “to have buy-in” on the issue.
While most of the focus has been on military action, the administration’s strategy is broader, and those other elements — political, economic and diplomatic — are as important. On Monday, the Iraqis approved a new, more inclusive government, which the Americans pressed for and is essential to undercutting ISIS’s grip on disaffected Sunnis. There are plans for a new provincial force that would bring Sunnis and Shiite militias into Iraqi security structure and plans to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels so they can capitalize on airstrikes in Syria.
The Obama administration is also trying to marshal an international coalition to fight ISIS, but success is far from guaranteed. On Sunday, Arab League foreign ministers agreed to take necessary measures to confront ISIS, but they made no specific commitments. On Monday, a meeting between Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Turkish officials did not result in any firm announcement.
There are many ways for countries to make contributions, including shutting down channels for ISIS financing, closing Turkey’s border to ISIS fighters and weapons, urging Sunni tribes to work with the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, and providing intelligence to coalition members. But there are also many impediments and complications to getting disparate countries to work together, including Turkey’s fear that ISIS, in retaliation, might kill 49 Turkish diplomats held by the militants.
Mr. Obama has called ISIS a serious threat and has said, “we have the capacity to deal with it.” On Wednesday, he plans to give a speech about the issue. His challenge will be to persuade American and foreign listeners that he has an effective strategy to eliminate the threat.

Bahrain: Free High-Profile Activists

Bahrain authorities should free 13 high-profile dissidents serving long prison terms solely for exercising their human rights. The deteriorating health of Abdullhadi al-Khawaja, one of the 13, who began a hunger strike on August 24, 2014, to protest his unlawful detention, makes the situation especially urgent.
On September 5, Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations wrote to the 47 countries that signed a joint statement about Bahrain at the United Nations Human Rights Council in June calling for the “release of all persons imprisoned solely for exercising human rights, including human rights defenders, some of whom have been identified as arbitrarily detained according to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.” The groups urged the 47 countries, in light of the imminent risk to al-Khawaja’s life and in support of human rights and reform in Bahrain, to make public and explicit calls for the immediate release of the 13 protest leaders.
“These men are in jail only because they vigorously called for democratic reforms, an unfair detention that prompted Abdulhadi al-Khawaja to begin his hunger strike,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Washington and London and others that supported the release of these peaceful reform advocates should make their voices heard loud and clear in Manama.”
The 13 men, the leaders of anti-government protests in 2011, have been imprisoned since March 2011 and are among hundreds of political prisoners in Bahraini jails. A Human Rights Watch investigation found that their convictions – including life sentences for three of them – were based solely on their peaceful advocacy of political reform.
In June 2011, a military court convicted 21 leading activists on charges that included broadcasting “false and tendentious news and rumors,” promoting the replacement of Bahrain’s monarchy with a republican form of government, and “inciting” people to engage in demonstrations and marches. The 14 defendants who were in custody – seven were convicted in absentia – appealed the military court verdict. During subsequent proceedings in the Supreme Appellate Court, civilian prosecutors withdrew charges for “crimes linked with freedom of expression,” Human Rights Watch reported.
A Human Rights Watch examination of court documents found that prosecutors continued to pursue charges based solely on the defendants’ advocacy for establishing a republican form of government and for related activities. For example, the court found that al-Khawaja and others had “propagated the overthrow of the state’s political order” by “advocating the declaration of a republic in the country” and that they participated in various protests.
The appeals court nonetheless ruled that all but one of the defendants were guilty of terrorism and affirmed the prison terms that the military courts had pronounced, including life sentences for al-Khawaja and two other men.
On August 30, Bahrain’s public prosecutor charged al-Khawaja’s daughter, Maryam al-Khawaja, with assaulting a police officer at Manama airport after she had flown to Bahrain to visit her father. Immigration officials initially refused to grant her access to the country, saying that her Bahraini citizenship had been revoked. Her lawyer, Mohamed al-Jishi, told Human Rights Watch that when officers tried to confiscate her mobile phone and she refused to give it to them, four officers took it by force and accused her of assault.
The public prosecutor ordered her detention for seven days while the police interviewed witnesses to the alleged assault. Al-Jishi told Human Rights Watch that he was refused access to his client before her interrogation by the public prosecutor. At a short hearing on September 6, Maryam al-Khawaja denied the assault charges and al-Jishi called for her release on bail, arguing that her detention was unnecessary. According to article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Bahrain has ratified, pretrial detention “shall not be the general rule.” The judge ordered her detention for a further 10 days with no explanation for his decision, al-Jishi told Human Rights Watch. On September 7, al-Jishi filed criminal assault charges against the 4 police officers who arrested Maryam al-Khawaja.
“If Bahrain’s allies had pressed Bahrain to release Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and the other prisoners, he and his daughter might not be in Bahraini jails right now,” Stork said. “Countries that say they support human rights and democratic reforms in Bahrain have a responsibility to speak up now.”

Is the Islamic State Holding Turkey Hostage?

By: Semih Idiz
Prolonged hostage negotiations with the Islamic State are creating serious headaches for the Turkish leadership.
Nearly three months have elapsed since the Islamic State (IS) raided Turkey’s Mosul Consulate and took hostage 49 Turks, including Consul General Ozturk Yilmaz. The public, however, remains in the dark about what the government is doing to resolve the crisis, with many wondering if it is Turkey itself that has been taken hostage.
In addition to Yilmaz, 30 members of the Turkish Special Forces guarding the consulate at the time of the June 11 raid and 18 other consulate workers and their family members are being held.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu have cited “delicate and complex negotiations” for the release of the hostages, but have divulged little else. The government has also used this argument to slap an injunction on reporting about the topic.
But the distraught families of the hostages in Turkey are increasingly angry and frustrated, and claim the government is not doing enough. They also have to contend with suggestions their loved ones may already have been killed. Daily reports about IS atrocities merely fuel these concerns.
Media organizations remain unhappy about the injunction, but the public's initial reaction was to accept the government’s logic and give it the benefit of the doubt. The mood, however, is changing as more time that passes since the hostages were taken, with Turkey no closer to a resolution.
Erdogan also failed to provide relief to the families of the hostages during an interview with Al Jazeera shortly after he was sworn in as president on Aug. 28. Repeating his previous line, Erdogan said, “Intelligence units are on the job trying to work the channels of dialogue,” adding his hope for a solution “that would not cause sorrow.”
Turning to his pet topic, Erdogan also blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the situation in Syria for spawning such radical groups. He failed again, however, to directly call IS a “terrorist group.” He also refrained from condemning IS atrocities in Syria and Iraq, which in many cases surpass those committed by Assad’s forces.
Erdogan continues to argue that he has to tread cautiously so as not to put the hostages in danger. “No one should expect me to provoke [IS],” he said in June when blasting critics accusing him of passivity toward this group.
“Eighty of our citizens are being held by a group. They expect us to make provocative statements regarding this group. They expect us to approach the fire with a stoker in hand,” Erdogan said.
At the time, IS held 80 Turkish hostages, including many truck drivers. Most were released later. This, however, only added to fears that the consulate captives are being held as bargaining chips while it is still not clear what position Turkey will take as Western-led military steps against IS increase.
Ankara’s overly cautious approach to the group is also being used by the opposition to undermine Erdogan and Davutoglu's claim that Turkey is a powerful and resourceful regional country that no one should take lightly. “No one should test Turkey’s strength,” then-Foreign Minister Davutoglu told reporters a day after IS militants overran the Turkish Consulate in Mosul.
The opposition and some family members of the hostages are not convinced. Muammer Tasdelen, three of whose relatives — including his 1-year-old niece — remain in captivity, claimed in July that the government’s statements on the topic were hollow. Issuing a press statement outside the courthouse in Ankara with Umit Oran, a prominent deputy from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Tasdelen alleged that the hostages had been left to their fate.
Tasdelen and Oran later lodged a criminal complaint against Erdogan, Davutoglu and Omer Onhon, the undersecretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, alleging criminal negligence prior to the IS raid on the Mosul consulate.
Another CHP deputy, Ensar Ogut, visited the consul general's uncle in his village in the eastern city of Ardahan this week. Declaring that Turks had been told that IS would release the captives by Aug. 6, Ogut said that date had long passed. “So I ask you, have these people been killed, or has something else befallen them? The state must provide correct information on this as soon as possible. Are they dead, and if not, where are they?” he asked. Yilmaz’ uncle Feridun Yilmaz questioned why Erdogan and Davutoglu could not save his nephew. Meanwhile, Atilla Kart, another prominent CHP deputy, also weighed in this week claiming during a press conference that Turks currently make up 7% of IS members and that there is a steady increase in Turkish citizens joining the group. Kart accused the government of not doing enough to prevent it. “It is clear that some associations, charitable institutions, Muslim theological schools and many other local organizations play an active role in persuading and helping people to join the terrorist group. Those groups are widely known both by the government and the public,” he said. “It is out of the question that police departments do not know about them.” Keenly aware that this is the kind of negative publicity Erdogan and Davutoglu don’t need, sources close to the ruling party are in turn accusing the CHP of cynically using the hostages and agitating their families for political gain. Suspicion that the government is unable to do anything for the hostages, however, continues to gain traction. Many believe that references to the “delicate negotiations” underway for the release of the captives and the injunction on reporting about the subject are attempts to buy time and prevent negative publicity for Erdogan and Davutoglu.
Meanwhile, the two leaders are also trying to ward off negative international publicity as media outlets around the world continue to speculate about whether Ankara is paying the price for having turned a blind eye to IS in the past.
Luay al-Khatteeb, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, also contended in a recent CNN interview that Ankara is turning a blind eye to IS as it transports crude oil it seized in Iraq to Turkey, where it is refined locally and returned to Iraq and Syria to be sold to fund the group.
Ankara fervently denies such claims, while Davutoglu denounced Turks who allege the government has links to IS as traitors.
A report in daily Hurriyet after the Turkish hostages were seized nevertheless cited unidentified official sources who declared that Ankara has channels of dialogue with IS and was using them to try and negotiate the release of the Turkish captives.
One bit of good international publicity for Erdogan and Davutoglu was provided by the Financial Times, which reported Sept. 3 from Reyhanli, near the border with Syria, that Turkey’s tightened border controls “dramatically reduced the visibility of both smuggled goods and jihadist fighters in Turkish border regions.”
It is going to take much more than this kind of news, though, to secure the release of the Turkish hostages, and as long at their captivity lasts it will be a political headache for Erdogan and Davutoglu; especially now that many people are wondering if it is Turkey itself that has been taken hostage by IS.
Semih Idiz is a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Turkey Pulse. A journalist who has been covering diplomacy and foreign policy issues for major Turkish newspapers for 30 years, his opinion pieces can be followed in the English-language Hurriyet Daily News. His articles have also been published in The Financial Times, The Times of London, Mediterranean Quarterly and Foreign Policy magazine.

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Afghan President Candidate Abdullah Says Won't Accept Vote Count

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah says he will not accept the results of the country's June 14 runoff vote and that efforts to agree on a national unity government with his rival are deadlocked.
"Unfortunately, the vote count process has lost its legitimacy," he said in a nationally televised press conference in Kabul on September 8.
"We do not accept fraudulent election results and we will not accept a fraudulent government for a day," Abdullah said.
He spoke as the final result of an audit of the runoff ballots is expected to be announced later this week and for now remains unknown to the public.
Abdullah also said he believed he won both rounds of Afghanistan's presidential election and will continue fighting to be recognized the winner.
He won the first round of voting in April but did not get enough votes to avoid a June runoff.
Abdullah and rival candidate Ashraf Ghani met earlier on September 8 to discuss ways to form a national unity government.
But Fazel Rahman Orya, a spokesman for Abdullah's electoral team, said the results of the meeting were "completely negative."
Ghani has not yet commented on the meeting.
Under a U.S.-brokered deal, Abdullah and Ghani have pledged to accept the audit results and join together in a national unity government whose form has yet to be determined.
However, Abdullah's statements now dim hopes the political crisis in Kabul will end soon.
Afghanistan's presidential election has already been gridlocked for months in ballot examinations and recounts following accusations from both sides of voter fraud.
U.S. President Barack Obama on September 6 urged the two candidates to complete a power-sharing deal as soon as possible.

Pakistani Democracy on Its Knees

The violence has subsided and the politicians are negotiating, but the protesters are still asking for the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was elected only last year.
Democrats here, as well as much of civil society and the media, insist that the power-hungry military has something to do with this crisis. They suspect it of supporting the cricketer turned politician Imran Khan and the anti-Taliban cleric Muhammad Tahir-ul Qadri, the two marginal but influential politicians behind these unprecedented demonstrations, in their bid to take down the government.
This is true, but it is only half the truth. Of course, Pakistan is partly a praetorian state and the generals would like to see Mr. Sharif go. But the military has not manufactured the anger that is visible on the streets of Islamabad. Whatever the motivations of the protests’ leaders, or of their behind-the-scenes backers, the people’s grievances are only too real. Pakistani democracy is on its knees.
For more than three weeks, Islamabad, the country’s otherwise pristine capital, has been overrun by tens of thousands of demonstrators. Sweltering heat, torrential rain, food and water shortages, inadequate toilet facilities, the resulting stench of excrement — nothing seems to deter the demonstrators from occupying the city’s so-called Red Zone, home to major government buildings including parliament and the prime minister’s official residence. For over two weeks, the sit-in remained peaceful. Then on Aug. 31, when protesters decided to move in front of Mr. Sharif’s residence, the government cracked down. That triggered 48 hours of violence, which killed three people and wounded at least 500, including dozens of police officers. Hundreds of protesters were arrested.
Thousands of people remain on the streets of Islamabad while a delegation of opposition parties tries to broker a settlement with Mr. Khan and Mr. Qadri. (The 11 other political parties in Parliament, including the main opposition Pakistan Peoples Party led by former president Asif Ali Zardari, have rallied around Mr. Sharif.) The idea would be to leave Mr. Sharif in office, at least for now, but address the protesters’ demands for reform.
Mr. Khan claims that last year’s election was rigged at Mr. Sharif’s behest and is demanding his ouster, electoral reforms and new polls. Mr. Khan is a sore loser. His party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, won 35 of 342 seats in Parliament and control of the government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, which borders Afghanistan. But Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, which is war-torn and poor, is an inadequate vehicle for Mr. Khan’s ambitions, and so Mr. Khan has set out to dethrone the prime minister. In the process, this brazen Taliban apologist has infused ignorance and arrogance into the national political conversation. Between asinine references to his sporting career and crass allusions to Mr. Sharif wetting his pants, Mr. Khan has advocated tax evasion, lawlessness and money laundering as forms of civil disobedience against the state.
Inconveniently for the prime minister, Mr. Khan hails from the same power base: the urban, densely populated, affluent swathe of North Punjab, which stretches from Lahore, the provincial capital, to Islamabad and accounts for well over a quarter of the seats in Parliament. North Punjab is the military’s recruiting ground and the historical beneficiary of its dominance. North Punjabis, roughly one-third of Pakistan’s entire population, are the country’s premier citizens. They dominate its political, military and bureaucratic elites, its unruly media, its civil society.
Over the years, Mr. Sharif has gone from military protégé to ardent democrat. This transformation is popular with Punjabis, which means he is now less vulnerable to being deposed by the military. On the other hand, it has created space for Mr. Khan to represent the region’s pro-military sentiment. Had protesters, or political leaders, from Pakistan’s smaller provinces displayed as much gall as Mr. Khan has, they would have been put back in their place with swift brutality. But just as the military cannot afford to carry out a direct coup against Mr. Sharif, Mr. Sharif must tolerate Mr. Khan and his supporters.
Mr. Qadri, the cleric, is an altogether more complex entity. His party boycotted the election last year, and now he is calling for a revolution to bring about genuine democracy. A fiery orator, Mr. Qadri spouts powerful rhetoric about social exclusion and disempowerment, and oversees a broad-based alliance of persecuted Shiite and anti-Taliban Sunni Muslims. His supporters — a pious and literate cross-section of society — makes up much of the crowd at the sit-in: It was the unprovoked June 17 attack by the Sharif-controlled police on Mr. Qadri’s headquarters in Lahore, which killed 14 people, that provided the impetus for the protests.
That murderous attack, and the government’s initial refusal to allow the victims’ families to file a complaint against the prime minister and other officials, touched a raw nerve among ordinary people: It was yet another abuse of the criminal justice system. The use of the police, judiciary and administration for partisan purposes makes a mockery of claims that with democracy comes the rule of law. And it does far more to delegitimize the democratic project than any power-grabbing plot by the military.
After the election last year, Mr. Zardari, who was then president, transferred power to Mr. Sharif despite uncertainties surrounding the margin of Mr. Sharif’s victory, partly in order to forestall the possibility of a military intervention. But today the protesters regard that move, and Mr. Zardari’s support for Mr. Sharif, less as a sign of his commitment to democracy than as more wheeling and dealing within an entrenched political elite.
This view would be less persuasive if the political elite had spent more time trying to fix Pakistan’s broken governance system by encouraging political participation and restructuring state institutions to be less unaccountable, partisan and violent. But the politicians have only let the authority of the state crumble further, and the citizenry is increasingly frustrated.
Grandstanding about the supremacy of civilian rule is no substitute for addressing the root causes of Pakistan’s dysfunctions: the denial of justice and rights, growing inequity, insecurity, a distrust of state institutions. Pakistan needs electoral and judicial reform, an overhaul of the criminal justice system and the creation of elected local government institutions.
A weakened Mr. Sharif may manage to cling on to office for a little while longer by ceding yet more power to the military. But when you preside over a bully state, eventually the biggest bully on the block will kick your teeth in.

Pakistan: PPP leaders visit rain victims
THE Pakistan Peoples Party Punjab leadership on Saturday visited Chah Miran and expressed condolence with the family whose six members were killed as a result of a roof collapse in the ongoing rains.
The Pakistan Peoples Party delegation included President PPP central Punjab Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo, Secretary General Tanvir Ashraf Kaira, President PPP Lahore Samina Khalid Gurkhi, Aziz-ur- Rehman Chann, Dewan Mohyuddin, Aurungzeb Burki, Abid Siddique and Rana Asher Nisar. While talking to media present there, Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo said the Punjab Chief Minister, instead of availing a photo session while standing in the rainwater wearing long shoes, should take pre-emptive measures for the earliest disposal of heavy rainwater.
He regretted that each time after the heavy rain the Chief Minister Punjab repeated the platitude with no follow-up action to mitigate the miseries of the poor living in the densely populated areas of the metropolis.
He further said the Chief Minister always ordered punitive action against the poor Wasa employees to use them as a smokescreen for his inaptness and negligence. His micro management is limitless, he added.
Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo observed that the track record of such heavy rains would reveal the same utterances of the Chief Minister with tall promises but no policy till the tragedy struck again.
This is unforgiving and tantamount to rude joke to the poor, he added. Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo suggested that the government should evolve a mechanism to carry out a development of each household in the poor localities. The government should carry out the necessary repair of the houses at government’s expenses.
Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo pointed out that the victim family expressed their disgust over the performance of the Rescue1122 that never reached the site and the people of the locality helped them in difficult times.

Afghan election on brink of collapse as Abdullah-Ghani talks fail

According to reports, negotiations between presidential candidates Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai ended with no result on national unity government formation.
An official in Dr. Abdullah’s camp has said they will announce their fianl stance regarding the election process today.
Dr. Abdullah Abdullah’s electoral camp warned Sunday that declaration of a parallel government is an option if talks between the two candidates fail.
Dr. Abdullah and Dr. Ghani agreed to form a unity government and abide by the outcome of comprehensive vote audit during US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Kabul in July.
The US President Barack Obama also called on Dr. Abdullah and Dr. Ghani to complete a power-sharing deal as soon as possible so the country can form a new government.
Obama called the two contenders on Saturday to emphasize on the importance of concluding a deal on the national unity government as soon as possible in the interest of shoring up international support for Afghanistan and preserving Afghan stability.

Obama phones Afghanistan presidential candidates to urge power-sharing deal

By Colby Itkowitz
President Obama called the two rival presidential candidates in Afghanistan over the weekend, urging both men to swiftly reach a power-sharing deal to bring stability to the country.
A White House statement Sunday said Obama told Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani that a national unity government would encourage international support for Afghanistan.
The two candidates, who are disputing the results of the April election, have been unable to reach an agreement on a proposed plan to form a unified government in which one would be president and the other would be chief executive.
“The president reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to support Afghanistan, its people, and the president and chief executive, should the agreement be formalized, in their efforts to form a new unity government,” the White House said.
The calls were placed Saturday after Obama returned to Washington from the NATO summit in Wales, where leaders had originally thought they would be welcoming the new Afghanistan president.
There is international concern that if an agreement is not reached, Abdullah and Ghani could create two separate governments that would divide the country and ignite further tension in the region.

Peshawar Sikhs Under Attack: In a state of mourning: Harjeet Singh’s family shattered by his loss

The Express Tribune
At just 30, Harjeet Singh had his whole life ahead of him. He probably dreamt of a better future for his three children. However, all of that ended when yet unidentified armed men, carrying guns with silencers, shot him at the general store he managed along with his father. He ultimately succumbed to his injuries and in all probability will become another unsolved case for the city police.
Harjeet became the fifth member of the religious minority group to fall victim to a targeted attack in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in 2014. Two Sikh hakeems in Charsadda and a shopkeeper in Khushal Bazaar were shot dead during the course of the year. Another was stabbed to death in Mardan.
First born
Harjeet was the first born of his parents and was usually accompanied by his father to the store. However, on Saturday, the day of the shooting, the father decided not to go to the shop and Harjeet was alone. Two men entered the store and placed an order. He was busy gathering the items when the men took out a gun fitted with a silencer and shot him.
“The family was still in shock over the death of his grandmother and an aunty. Harjeet’s death shattered everyone,” said a relative. He added the family migrated to the city from Maidan in Tirah, Khyber Agency, in hope of a better future.
“Fata is considered a lawless land, but we felt much safer there compared to Peshawar as locals offered protection due to their Pukhtun culture,” he said. Harjeet’s family said Sikhs were the richest people in Fata and locals would often borrow money from them. They added it was always returned.
The family is observing a mourning period of three days, he added. “No religion advocated the murder of innocents and blamed the lawlessness.”
“The chief minister ordered the police to arrest the culprits within three days and we will announce our future course of action after the period expires.

Pakistan: Sikh community of Peshawar under threat

Attacks on the Sikh community of Peshawar have risen in the past two months in Pakistan. Another incident of target killing of a Sikh trader on Saturday sparked protests in Peshawar as the Sikh protestors blocked the main University Road of Peshawar, Dunya News reported. The Sikh protesters demanded justice and the immediate arrest of the perpetrators. Harjeet Singh,30, resident of Dabgari owned a grocery shop in Nothia Bazaar of Peshawar. He was present at his shop on Saturday when two unknown assailants on a motorcycle opened fire on him and killed him on the spot.
According to police, Harjeet Singh received four bullets and succumbed to his injuries at the scene of the incident.
The minorities in Pakistan continue to live in an environment of constant fear amid the growing terrorism. Harjeet’s murder is the third incident of violent attacks on minorities in Peshawar. Earlier in September, Jagmohan Singh aged 19 was gunned down outside his shop in Hashtnagri by some unidentified men. As a result of the incident, the Sikh community took to GT Road carrying Jagmohan’s dead body. The road remained blocked for several hours while tyres were set to fire and slogans raised demanding justice and protection for the Sikh community. The protest came to halt after Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak met the protestors and announced to provide protection to the minorities. In the same month, Amarjeet Singh was killed in a firing incident in Mardan whereas On August 6, some unknown armed men opened fire at three sikh traders resulting in the death of one of them.
Peshawar’s Sikh community centre connected with Gurdwara Bhai Jogan Singh remained crowded by those coming in to offer their condolences on the death of Harjeet Singh.
All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement Chairman Haroon Sarb Diyal was also present in solidarity with the Sikh community and condemned the murder of the Sikh trader. Both the Sikh and Hindu right activists demanded the government to provide protection to minorities. Harjeet Singh has left behind a wife, three daughters and a son.
According to police an investigation of the murder incident is underway. The police claimed that the murder of the Sikh trader was an act of terrorism and therefore a case has been registered under the terrorism law. He assured that the police was making efforts in order to arrest the attackers. Chief Minister Pervez Khattak has condemned the murder of the Sikh trader Harjeet Singh terming it as an act of terrorism. He has given a three days deadline to the police to catch the unknown assassins. He has also announced a compensation for the family of Harjeet Singh, assuring them that security would be provided to the Sikh community of Peshawar.

Peshawar Sikhs Seek Asylum after Terror Campaign Takes Teenager’s Life.

So far, 70 Peshawar Sikh families have sought UNITED SIKHS’ help to obtain asylum following a campaign of terror, epitomised by the brutal killing of teenager Jagmohan Singh, when a gunman shot at Sikhs in a market area on 6th Aug 2014. The United States Department of State has assured UNITED SIKHS that it is investigating the situation faced by Sikhs in Peshawar.
Jagmohan Singh, a 17-year-old Sikh trader, died when he was shot and killed by an unknown gunman in the busy Shabab Market in the Hashtnagri area of Peshawar, in the North West Frontier region of Pakistan.
Two of Jagmohan’s friends, Param Singh and Manmit Singh, were also injured when the gunman opened fire on them. According to local newspaper Daily Aaj, Al Qaeda leader Ameer Yousafraza Mujahid of Bajaur and Mohmand Agency claimed responsibility for killing Jagmohan in Peshawar. The group also warned of more attacks until the end of the military operation “Zarb-e- Azb” in North Waziristan Agency.
Following the murder of Jagmohan Singh, the Sikh community in Peshawar took to the streets to protest against the government’s failure to protect members of minority communities. Protesters burned tires and blocked roads, including the Grand Trunk (GT) road in Peshawar.
Eyewitness Diva Singh said that the three victims were in their shops at the Shabab market in the Khush Hal Bazaar in Hashtnagri when a man entered the premises and opened fire. Alarmed, other shopkeepers closed their shops. Diya further stated that the attacker, who had come on a motorbike, did not face any resistance and escaped.
Now, on the afternoon of August 3, 2014, Aamarjeet Singh, was also stabbed to death inside his shop in Shaheedan Bazaar.
“The situation for minorities has worsened day-by-day since January 2014 due to bad law and order. The killing of Sikhs in Peshawar has created a lot of tension among the community and the government has told the community that it cannot protect them. The community has decided to migrate from Peshawar and leave this country,” says Herdyal Singh, UNITED SIKHS Aid Project Coordinator, Pakistan.
Sikhs protest and burn tires on GT road
The United States Department of State (DOS) has assured UNITED SIKHS that:
It has reached out to the United States Embassy in Pakistan to investigate into the situation. They will keep us apprised of all updates to the investigation.
Cases in Peshawar were raised in the recent release of the Department of State 2013 Report found here: This report is used by embassies, agencies, and governments around the world to reference what issues to address in any given country. All new cases should be reported to their department so they may be added to next year’s report.
For individuals under threat, DOS will assist on a case by case basis. Individual’s contact information must be provided for the department to investigate their situation, and assist them.
History of Sikhs in Pakistan
Before 2007, the majority of Pakistan’s Sikhs were peacefully living in Khyber Agency, Orakzai Agency, and Khurram Agency of the Federal Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). In 2008, the situation for the Sikh community tensed when local Taliban in Khyber agency demanded jazya (protection tax). In March 2009, the Taliban demanded a large jazya tax and threatened the community to: pay jazya, fight with Jihad, and convert. The Sikh community paid jazya and fled from the area. In May 2009, the government started military operations against Taliban resulting in millions of displaced people including approximately 500 Sikh and Hindu families. In January 2010, the Taliban kidnapped three Sikhs from the border of Khyber and Orakzai agency, one of whom was beheaded. The other two were later rescued.
When military operations began in the BARA areas of Khyber Agency, thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) were displaced, including these 70 Sikh families wishing to seek asylum, who had left their homes and shops to take shelter in Peshawar and Panja Sahib. Militant groups again threatened Sikhs in Peshawar. Many have been kidnapped for ransom, been killed, and have been receiving threatening letters to leave the country. For further details click here:
If you or anyone you know is a member of the Peshawar Sikh community, please contact us at: for help today.
We are committed to assisting in every way we can and need your continued support so we may continue to advocate for Sikhs around the world:
Read an earlier press release on UNITED SIKHS Pakistan IDP efforts at:

Former President Asif Zardari condemns murder of Sikh trader in Peshawar
Co-Chairman PPP former President Asif Ali Zardari has denounced growing incidents of violence against members of the non Muslim communities in the country and called for urgent measures to stem the tide of fanaticism and extremism against members of minorities’ communities in the country.
In a statement today the former President said that he was shocked and grieved that yet another young trader belonging to the Sikh minority community had been murdered in Peshawar on Saturday. The former President condemned the brutal murder of the Sikh trader and the fleeing of the assassins and also called for arrest of the assailants and bringing them to justice.
He said that the PPP has always and will continue to raise powerful voice against grave injustices done to members of the minority community and will do everything possible to protect their honor, life and property.
Mr. Asif Ali Zardari prayed for the soul of the deceased and also sympathized with the members of the bereaved family.

Pakistan: Pay heed to Zardari’s arguments if need a true democracy

Democracy has been a tough challenge for Pakistan. In its 67 years of history, the democratic process was impeded four times and when people of the country elected governments with power of their ballots, democratically elected governments were not allowed to complete their term.
In past, Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP) term never was full of sunshine and butterflies; but former president and PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari completed his five-year term becoming the first democratically elected president in the country’s history.
29-point report, which key newspapers published on PPP’s five-year performance, highlighted major achievements that paved ways for taking Pakistan toward the goal of prosperity.
There were only two things that allowed Zardari to complete his five-year tenure as government despite the fact PPP was limited to its governments in Centre and Sindh province and lacked a simple two-third majority. Those two things were 1-Police and politics of reconciliation and, 2- Believeing in power of the masses.
Protest rallies, sits-in, tough time from political allies and coalition partners in federal and Sindh provincial governments, lawyers movement, the issue of former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s restoration, worst media trial and war on terror especially the drone issue were all at the apex during his time. Two PPP Prime Minister’s were victim of judicial activism and continuous threats to PPP leaders from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan were no secret that forced PPP to stay confined at corners.
For convenience of the readers, it would not be out of context to give a little brief on that 29-point report that gave a special note to transfer of presidential powers to the prime minister office and the parliament, Pak-Iran Gas Pipeline (PIGPL), agreement with China on Gwadar Port, increase in foreign exchange reserves from $6 billion in 2008 to $16 billion in 2013, increase in export from $18B in 2008 to $29B in 2012, revival of the 1973 Constitution, Constitutional empowerment of Gilgit-Baltistan, consensual approval of 7th National Finance Commission (NFC) Award, consensual approval of the 18th Constitutional Amendment, record of $24 billion exports, record of $17 billion foreign reserves, financial and administration empowerment of provinces, initiation of Aghaz-e Haqooq-e Balochistan Package, financial protection of 5 million indigent families through Benazir Income Support Programme especially scholarship for 16,450 students from Balochistan, appointment of officers from Balochistan at the federal secretariat, appointment of 118 engineers from Balochistan at Gwadar Port and jobs for 5000 graduates in provincial government, etc. There is a long record of struggle, which needed scores of books to carry the fight for the country.
Zardari’s gigantic contributions for strong democracy received applause from all corners and from all segments of the society in Pakistan and even were internationally acclaimed. It was due to his untiring struggle for democracy that a smooth transfer of government from an elected government to another elected government was made hustle free and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) took the reins of power corridors. Restoration of 1973 Constitution with complete consensus was not only a blessing for the country but it maintained the democratic hierarchy of him.
Even today, when the country and the elected government of Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif had stuck between the devil and the fire, Zardari stood for the defence of democracy and advocated for the resolution of political conflicts through dialogue. He may not need to engage the historian to wait for an appropriate time to pen down the records of his services for democracy as he had through his actions in recent past and today inscribed the pages of history of democracy in Pakistan.
The adventurists that were eager to wrap up democracy and impose a tyrannical unelected managers might have serious reservations from any particular politician but again PPP made it loud and clear that it won’t support the adventurists but would resist in full because the country could only be ruled by the masses through their elected representatives and the fact was that no country in the world attained the apex goal of prosperity, rule of law, and upliftment of people’s standard of living, strong defence without democracy. Asif Ali Zardari became the leading personality in Pakistan’s history, who simplified the meanings of living a dignified nation with complete freedom and glory under the democratic system of government.

Video Report: Analysis on Ukraine, ISIS and the unrest in Pakistan

Pakistan: Batsman Ahmed Shahzad - Straight to heaven or be ready for the fire

Yasser Latif Hamdani
It is continuous lack of professionalism that seeps through Pakistani society where religion becomes a convenient escape. It is this mindset that occasions a break for prayers in the middle of important legislative business in parliament
What was Pakistan’s opening batsman Ahmed Shahzad’s score in the final one day international (ODI) against Sri Lanka? He scored 10 runs out of a total of 102! Sri Lanka won the series 2-1. They had earlier won the test series 2-0. But was defeat on Ahmed Shahzad’s mind? Was he thinking of the lessons learnt from the defeat? Perish the thought. He was more interested in converting Tilkaratne Dilshan, the hero of the final ODI, to Islam and it was caught on camera. He said, “If you are a non-Muslim and you turn Muslim, no matter whatever you do with life, (you go) straight to heaven.” He must have gotten a befitting reply to which he further announced that the fire awaited poor Dilshan in the hereafter: “Then be ready for the fire.”
Let us analyse this statement. Shahzad of the losing team, who scored 10 runs, is telling Dilshan of the winning team, who scored an unbeaten 50, that no matter what you do, whether you win the match or win the World Cup, you are going to face the fire. So what if you have won the match; I have a ticket to heaven because I am a Muslim. I can shirk my responsibility, steal, cheat and do whatever I wish but I am going “straight to heaven”. This attitude is a dangerous one for any society to have.
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chief Shahryar Khan rightly described the comment as “stupid”. But it was more than just stupid. It is a breach of contract between the player and the PCB that clearly bars the player from talking about religion on the field. Strictest possible action must be taken against Ahmed Shahzad. Yet there may be some Pakistanis who may dismiss this as “freedom of speech”. Ironically, they would be far less forgiving if the situation was reversed. Suppose it was Dilshan who had made the comment to Shahzad on a Pakistani field extolling the virtues of Buddhism and badmouthing Islam?
That is not the point however. It is this continuous lack of professionalism that seeps through Pakistani society where religion becomes a convenient escape. It is this mindset that occasions a break for prayers in the middle of important legislative business in parliament. It is the parliament of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, you might say. But is this Islamic republic not part of the world? Does it not have to deal with problems that any nation state in the world has to face?
Historians record an incident from the history of the founding party of this country, the All India Muslim League. As the central executive committee of the Muslim League deliberated, the time for prayer approached. Maulana Zafar Ali Khan suggested to the chair that the committee should break for prayers. The chair, Mr Jinnah, responded: “Look here Maulana sahib, we are talking of the freedom for the Muslims and you can only think of prayers?” Needless to say, the subject was not broached again. The Muslim League, as a rule, did not break for prayers under Jinnah’s leadership. This aspect of Jinnah’s personality was perhaps best captured in the otherwise inaccurate film Gandhi when Gandhi, Azad and Nehru are shown praying in Jinnah’s drawing room. Jinnah walks in and says condescendingly, “Gentlemen if you are done with your prayers, perhaps we can begin.” Islam, in any event, is very practical in its approach to life. There is no monasticism in this faith. You do not need to fast if you are travelling. You do not need to perform the pilgrimage if you cannot afford it. Time and time again the doctrine emphasises that the rights of man (haqooq-ul-ibad) are more important than the rights of God (haqooqullah). Honestly, carrying out the job you are tasked with is equal to worship. Coming back to cricket, however, and in particular cricket with Sri Lanka, have we forgotten the unfortunate history of our cricketing ties? I am utterly grateful that Sri Lanka continues to play Pakistan after what happened in Lahore in 2009. Now our cricketers are threatening them with hellfire on their own grounds, particularly — and this gets my goat — after losing the match badly and shamelessly. Is it any wonder then that, despite the efforts of all PCB chairmen, no one wants to play cricket in our country?
Islam, a religion followed by 1.5 billion people around the world, does not need chest thumping by Pakistani cricketers on the field. The Creator does not need the most insecure reaffirmations from them when they start their post-match interviews with “Thanks to Allah”, win or lose. Has it occurred to you that cricket is the last thing the Creator of the heavens and the earth may be interested in? When you win on the field, it is not because of prayers and supplications but the skill you display on the field. When you lose, it is because you played badly and not because Allah was unhappy with you. Stop making a mockery of Islam and the Creator and stop making Pakistan the laughing stock of the world.

Pakistan: Time to move on

Imran Khan’s stubbornness in insisting on Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif’s resignation as the precondition for his giving up the sit-in in Islamabad makes little if any sense. On the one hand, his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) negotiating team has time and again been undermined by Imran Khan’s reiterating the resignation demand after they return with some convergence or agreement on the other demands he had begun his campaign with. For example, the demand for setting up a mechanism to audit the elections that Imran Khan says were rigged wholesale (an escalation from his original finger pointing at just four seats) has been conceded by the government in the shape of the commission it has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to set up. But even before the commission comes into existence and gets down to work on the basis of terms of reference to be agreed with consensus amongst all the political parties in parliament, Imran Khan rejects it on the basis that no such commission can work independently in the presence of the incumbent PM. This is an a priori indictment of the PM as well as a vote of no confidence in the superior judiciary, which has acquired a great deal of independence since its restoration in 2009, and whom Imran Khan used to praise to the heavens not so long ago. Imran Khan has been pressed again and again by various quarters to provide the proof of wholesale rigging he alleges. The anomalies and false votes found in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) report to an election tribunal regarding the NA-128 seat, it must be admitted, does raise serious concerns about the conduct of the 2013 elections. However, one seat does not a wholesale plan to rig the elections make. Nevertheless, and despite the sitting PML-N MNA Malik Afzal Khokar’s disputing the report and expressing no confidence in the election tribunal, the rigging/anomalies discovery does strengthen the demand for a thorough audit of as many seats as are disputed or are considered suspect from a credible election point of view. It would appear in the fitness of things therefore for the government to pursue the idea of the election audit/investigation commission under the aegis of the SC.
If the PTI does not join the process of setting the terms of reference of the commission, the other 11 parties in parliament should do the same and bind themselves to accepting its findings, even to the extent of calling fresh elections if the audit/investigations show widespread rigging/anomalies. The terms of reference should also be mandated to investigate whether there are any signs of a pattern/plan of wholesale rigging or whether such flaws were local and random. All those responsible for rigging and/or dereliction of duty in conducting transparent and fair polls must be brought to book, no matter how high and mighty they may be. Only such a cleaning up of the Augean stables of our flawed election processes can restore the confidence of the people in the democratic project. Since Imran Khan has given enough reason by now to despair of getting him to see any sense or be reasonable, it may be best to just let him wither on the vine and get on with the job.
In a similar vein, the government should stop being distracted by the irascible attitudes of Imran Khan and refocus on the critical tasks at hand. First and foremost, the current catastrophe of heavy late monsoon rains and the first appearance of floods, which may be followed by bigger, heavier deluges, should be the government’s (and all right minded people’s) top priority. The past few years’ floods created many problems, not the least of which is the continuing lack of succour and rehabilitation for millions of flood displaced people. More numbers threaten to be added to then if the dire predictions of the coming floods prove accurate. Second, but by no means less critical, focus must shift back to the struggle against terrorism, particularly Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan. We must not be lulled into false complacency by the falling off of terrorist attacks since the operation began. The terrorists, although damaged, are by no means a threat that has receded. They are simply biding their time to resurge once they have regrouped. In these as well as matters of running the country generally, the government should now get on with its responsibilities and simply move on, ignoring if he continues not to be forthcoming, the Don Quixote of D-Chowk.

Pakistan:Too many projects, ‘too little’ literacy in Punjab

Literacy is a basis for lifelong learning and plays a foundational role in the creation of sustainable, prosperous and peaceful societies. Sadly, it has yet to get due recognition here given the Punjab government’s failure to raise the literacy rate from 60pc.
The figure is hovering around 60pc for the past seven years. At a time when the world is celebrating the International Literacy Day based on the theme “Literacy and Sustainable Development” on Monday (today), an uncountable number of children and adults in Punjab are grappling with ignorance.
The PML-N had taken over the Punjab government in 2008 with 58pc literacy rate, which went up to 62pc in 2011 only to drop afterwards. This year, Punjab’s literacy rate is all-time low, that is, 57.97pc.
According to the district-wise literacy rate map on the Punjab Literacy and Non-Formal Basic Education Department (L&NFBE) website, there are only six districts in Punjab that have above 70pc literacy rate. They are: Rawalpindi (79pc), Chakwal (78pc), Lahore (77pc), Jhelum (75pc), Gujranwala (74pc) and Gujrat (71pc).
The map shows that there are nine districts having literacy rate between 60 and 70pc, 11 districts have literacy rate between 50 and 60pc and nine districts have literacy rate between 40 and 50pc. Rajanpur is the only district that has not been able to rise in literacy indicators and still has 34pc literacy rate.
Although Punjab is the only province in the country that had created the literacy and non-formal basic education department, it is unable to bring about any drastic change in the literacy scene.
The Punjab government has also been fervently observing enrolment campaigns for the past many years but the target of enrolling children in schools remains stagnant at over four million. Quite interestingly, it has enrolled some 3.8 million children so far. “Neither the number of children in public as well as public-private schools is increasing nor is the number of out-of-school children in Punjab decreasing,” remarked an educationist.
Dr Baela Raza Jamil says the literacy indicators are quite depressing as no literacy movement has been witnessed in the province. Pakistan is supposed to achieve at least 80pc literacy rate under the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 but even the advanced province like Punjab hardly sees the target being met.
“It is a challenge for Pakistan to improve its literacy rate and the situation demands that the government rethink the whole issue of literacy,” she stresses. She also calls upon the Punjab government to look at the population explosion and take appropriate measures to control it.
The Punjab L&NFBE in collaboration with international agencies, while working with a vision of “Literate, Learning and Prosperous Punjab”, is implementing various projects to combat the menace of illiteracy but results are not encouraging at all. Its goal of achieving 100pc literacy rate in Punjab by 2020 will remain a distant dream.
The literacy department is currently running four projects: Punjab Accelerated Functional Literacy and Non-Formal Basic Education Project (aimed at imparting learning to 487,640 children and adults in four years ending June 2016); Punjab Literacy Movement Project (aimed at raising the literacy rate in 36 model tehsils by 11pc on average in 40 months); Punjab Workplace Literacy Project (aimed at establishing 1,000 non-formal basic education schools at brick kilns in 11 districts for 30,000 learners by June 30, 2017) and Community Learning Centres Sahiwal (Division) Phase-II (aimed at imparting basic literacy in non-formal mode along with functional skill in three districts of Sahiwal division till Dec 30, 2016).
The Punjab literacy department has completed its Campaign for Enhancement of Literacy in four districts and Establishment of Adult Learning Centres and Non-Formal Basic Education Schools at Brick Kilns in Multan and Khanewal on June 30 last. It is yet to be known whether the department had achieved the stated goals or not.
In order to celebrate the International Literacy Day, the Punjab L&NFBE department is holding a seminar at the Children’s Library Complex on Tuesday (tomorrow).
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in his message on the eve of the International Literacy Day, said: “Literacy is a key lever of change and a practical tool of empowerment on each of the three main pillars of sustainable development: economic development, social development and environmental protection.”
ISLAMI Jamiat Tulaba Nazim-i-Aala Zubair Hafeez says the performance of public and private universities in the field of research and science is disappointing compared to international universities.
Speaking at an Idea Innovation Workshop at a local college, Mr Hafeez regretted that Pakistan was increasingly becoming a “downloading nation”.
THE Punjab Intermediate and Secondary Education boards committee has postponed the secondary school supplementary examination for 2014 due to high flood in the province.
The examination will now begin on Sept 20. The boards will upload the revised roll numbers soon.

Pakistan: Sikhs threaten agitation if security not provided

The Sikh community of Mardan has threatened to launch a countrywide agitation if the government failed to provide foolproof security to the members of minority communities.
Talking to Dawn here on Sunday, All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement chairman Haroon Sarb Diyal expressed concern over the targeted killing of members of Sikh community.
He was flanked by Janmohan Singh, Baba Ji Barsingh and other members of Sikh community.
Janmohan Singh, leader of the local Sikhs, lamented that one of their relatives identified as Amarjeet Singh was killed by unknown assailants inside his shop at Shaheedan Bazaar on Wednesday last. He termed the case an incident of targeted killing, which had spread panic among Sikh and other minorities.
“This was the sixth or seventh case of killing of our community member in targeted attack in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the government has failed so far to arrest the killers and take effective steps for providing us security,” he said.
Mr Janmohan said that they were Pakistani by birth and as patriotic as any citizen of the country.
Mr Diyal said that they were not satisfied with steps being taken by the government for their protection.
He lamented that legislators representing minorities in national and provincial assemblies had also failed to take up real issues of minorities with the authorities concerned.
He asked the government to bring reforms so they could send their representatives to assemblies through elections.
He said that many religious places of minorities had been lying closed across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa owing to deteriorating law and order situation and threats to minority communities.
Mr Barsingh said that another Sikh trader identified as Har Jeet Singh was shot dead on Saturday last in Peshawar.
The Sikh community threatened to start an anti-government agitation if effective steps were not taken for their security.

Pakistan: Zia’s Army and two ‘useful idiots’

Ashok Malik
Pakistan has made itself central to a sectarian conflict. From a professional Army to the Army of Islam to the Army of the Sunnis, it has been a steep decline for the generals in Rawalpindi.
Usually attributed to Lenin, the term “useful idiot” refers to an individual or political activist who has been used to provide propaganda ammunition for a cause he does not entirely understand. Given the street tumult in Islamabad, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that Imran Khan, Pakistan’s most iconic cricket captain, has now become its most iconic useful idiot.
Along with Tahir-ul-Qadri — a religious scholar turned politician who has flown home from Canada with the avowed intention of cleaning up Pakistani society — Mr Khan is leading large mobs and demanding Nawaz Sharif resign as Prime Minister. Mr Sharif and his party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), won a handsome victory in an election in 2014. Mr Khan claims the election was rigged.
Both Mr Khan and Mr Qadri are close to the Pakistan Army. It is widely believed the Army is orchestrating the protests, while pretending to be neutral. It is probable Mr Sharif will survive, but emerge out of the crisis as a lame-duck Prime Minister. He will have to compromise with the military brass on several issues. He will have to give amnesty to Pervez Musharraf, who is facing a host of criminal charges. More important, the Army wants control of Afghanistan and India policy.
If and when this is achieved, the useful idiots would have served their purpose. The Army will probably be happy enough if Mr Qadri then goes back to Canada and Mr Khan goes back to giving television interviews. However this crisis ends — with advance for the Army or an unexpected gain for Mr Sharif — it is impossible to see how Imran Khan will benefit.
The politics of a delusional, theatrical former cricketer is a side-show. The crucial question is why is the Pakistan Army acting in this manner? Why does it want to announce its re-emergence? Why has it chosen this juncture to in effect junk all that talk of peace and amity, of trade with India being more meaningful than a stand-off on the Siachen glacier? Why is it more confident about not needing to say those sweet nothings about peace, and give appropriate interviews to impressionable foreign correspondents?
The Pakistan Army has an abiding institutional memory and has been consistent in its motivations. These propel it to think tactically for itself rather than strategically for its country. It senses 2015 may just be its year, that domestic, regional and international factors are combining to allow it to win back influence it had lost in recent times, particularly after the ejection of Gen. Musharraf, the election of a government in 2008 and the killing of Osama bin Laden three years later.
If the assumptions the Pakistan Army is making are correct, the implications are deep. They tell us something fundamental is happening to Pakistan as a society, a nation and as an international actor. What then are the assumptions the Army is making? First, the generals in Rawalpindi calculate the departure of American-led troops from Afghanistan at the end of the year will give them and the Afghan Taliban groups they sponsor a chance to regain Kabul or at least vast swathes of southern Afghanistan.
Second, the success of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has temporarily downgraded the Afghanistan-Pakistan zone in comparison to the tectonic shifts of West Asia. A Shia-Sunni battle is waging between Iran and Saudi Arabia, with Syria as its first major platform. While Saudi support for the ISIS militia was part of this anti-Shia struggle, the ISIS has grown too big and too strong for the Saudi royal family itself. The ISIS represents an extraordinarily fundamentalist manifestation of Islamism that even Saudi authorities can no longer control and which they fear could turn on them.
The Saudi government is preparing for an ISIS attack. Of course, this attack is not imminent. It will require the ISIS to consolidate in central-northern Iraq, come down to southern Iraq, where a substantial Shia population lives, subjugate it and then invade northern Saudi Arabia. This is when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia could be threatened by an ultra-Wahhabist army that it helped spawn.
Where does Pakistan come into all this? Pakistani troops have moved to the Saudi Arabia-Iraq border to help seal it and fortify Saudi defences. In Bahrain, Pakistani soldiers have been helping a Sunni ruler quell a Shia majority. Coincidentally, or perhaps not so coincidentally, Iran’s relations with Pakistan have worsened of late. The Pakistan Army is not bothered about what Tehran thinks; it is revelling in its renewed criticality to the rulers of Riyadh.
In the process, Pakistan has converted itself into the eastern flank of the Sunni world. It has made itself central to a sectarian conflict that could tear apart West Asia. From a professional Army to the Army of Islam to the Army of the Sunnis, it has been a steep decline for the generals in Rawalpindi.
Yet, this decline reflects a transformation in Pakistani society itself. A nation founded by a Shia leader as a homeland for all Muslims has become the embodiment of Sunni supremacism. Not just religious minorities, even Shias are being killed or forced into exile. In times when Hazaras — a Shia people of Mongol ethnicity — are being singled out for brutality, it is sobering to remember that in the 1960s a Hazara General, Muhammad Musa Khan, succeeded Ayub Khan as Chief of the Pakistan Army. Today, this would be a miracle.
It is telling that not since Asif Iqbal and Zaheer Abbas in the early 1980s has a Shia captained the Pakistani Test team. That was in the early years of Zia-ul-Haq’s reign. Today, cricketers born or raised in the Zia era have put the Pakistan cricket team in the grip of a Tablighi Jamaat clique, representing an austere, proselytising Sunni order. Simultaneously, the fresh recruits of the Zia period are gradually becoming generals. They have endowed the Army with a narrower, strictly-Sunni, semi-Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. Pakistan’s Zia (counter)-revolution has reached maturity. That is what should bother us, not Imran’s antics and wedding plans.