Friday, September 19, 2014
Seven Iranians who appeared in a video singing along to US pop song handed prison terms and lashes, both suspended.Six Iranians who were accused of obscene behaviour for appearing in a video singing along to the American pop song "Happy" have been handed suspended sentences of 91 lashes and six months in prison. Another defendant, who faced heavier charges in connection to the video, was handed a suspended sentence of one year in jail and 91 lashes by the authorities. The sentences are suspended for three years, meaning that if any of the seven is found guilty of a similar offence, the punishment is then carried out, defence attorney Farshid Rofugaran told the AP news agency on Friday. The defendants, four men and three women, were detained by police in May after six of them were shown lip syncing to Pharrell Williams' hit song. They were released shortly afterwards. Rofugaran said the suspended jail term was the punishment for acting in the video and the lashes were for ignoring Islamic norms. The arrests drew condemnation from the US singer and his fans through social media, as well as indirect criticism from President Hassan Rouhani. "The way to deal with cultural issues is cultural work, not policemen and [detention] vans and strong-arm tactics," the president told a gathering of conservative clerics in the religious city of Mashhad earlier this month.
http://www.dailynews.com/President Barack Obama is unveiling new public service announcements against campus sexual assault in a campaign being supported by the NCAA and several media companies with reach among college students. The White House says athletes will appear in the campaign called “It’s On Us” that Obama and Vice President Joe Biden plan to reveal Friday at a White House event. With an estimated one in five college women assaulted, the message is particularly targeted at men. The NCAA plans to promote anti-assault messages on screens at their championship events. Video game maker Electronic Arts will encourage fans to sign up to pledge to support the campaign through its online platforms. And media giant Viacom will promote the messages on websites, including for music channels MTV, VH1, BET and CMT.
Alex Salmond today announced his resignation in the wake of the indyref defeat.He made the announcement in a televised press conference from his official residence, Bute House in Edinburgh. Mr Salmond said it was time for a new leader who could now take the devolution process forward and said he believed party, parliament and country would "benefit from new leadership". He declined to name his successor, saying the party had conventions, but his deputy Nicola Sturgeon is bound to be the leading contender, especially after Yes's success in Glasgow on an otherwise downbeat night for the pro-indy campaign. If she succeeds him, she would become Scotland's first female First Minister. Mr Salmond said that at the age of 59, after 20 years as SNP leader and seven years as First Minister, it was time to hand over the reins. He said: "I think that's a reasonable spell of service and I think there is an aspect that you have to understand and recognise when it is time to give someone else a chance to move that forward." "I made the decision this morning," he added. "I believed there was great possibilities in the campaign and obviously I wouldn't have made the decision if there had been a Yes vote. "I believe in the circumstances the vote we have, galvanising, wonderful, empowering and massive though it is, it's my judgement that someone else in the leadership would be best-placed to take that forward to the summit." Responding to a question, Mr Salmond denied that the SNP would become more a party of Scottish affairs and interest rather than primarily a party of independence. On his possible replacement, he said: "On the question of who is to be the new leader of the Scottish National Party, and likely therefore through parliamentary process to be next First Minister, that is a matter for the membership of the SNP. There are a number of eminently qualified and very suitable candidates. We have a strong leadership team." He pointed to his two spells of 10 years as SNP leader, broken by a "slight pause". "It's not exactly fly-by night in terms of the leadership spell," he said. "At this stage, at this point, and I think this is a moment of great political opportunity, I have to make judgement as to whether I'm best placed to take that opportunity forward and I think others are. "The party, I'm sure, will make a wise choice and take party and the country forward." On the pledges on further powers made by the other parties, he said: "Commitments were made, vows were made in the last stages of the referendum campaign. A clear, explicit timetable was laid out. I think the opportunity for Scotland is two-fold. "One is to hold Westminster's feet to the fire to make sure there is no slippage from that timetable. "I'm disappointed that the idea of a second reading vote seems to have disappeared already, as well as the Labour/Conservative common front on the issue. "But the real guardians of Scotland are not political parties at Westminster, not even the political parties at Holyrood. "The real guardians of Scotland are the energised activists and tens of thousands of people who are now in the political process." The First Minister told reporters that when he asked David Cameron about the plans for a vote on March 27 that were set out Gordon Brown's timetable for the further handover of powers, he was told it was a "meaningless process" because it would be overtaken by the general election. He added: "My suspicion is, and the Prime Minister most certainly didn't tell me this aspect, that there is some doubt in the Prime Minister's mind about carrying his own backbenchers, therefore a reluctance to have a vote. "But I think people in Scotland would be astonished and outraged, particularly those who voted No on this prospectus." Mr Salmond said he sees "no sign of the divided country" that some critics claimed would be left behind as a result of the referendum. "It's the Yes campaign who obviously are disappointed that we didn't win but the Yes campaign, I declare, has accepted the result and, of course are prepared and willing to engage under the Edinburgh Agreement in terms of not just accepting that result, but moving forward in the best interests of Scotland and the United Kingdom," he said. His opponents paid tribute, if not unreservedly. Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said: "Alex Salmond turned a minority party into a party of opposition into a party of government and was responsible for there being a referendum on Scotland leaving the United Kingdom. "He has undoubtedly been an immense figure in Scottish political history. I do not detract from his achievements when I say that his love of Scottish independence sometimes blinded him to its consequences. "He should be proud of his career and not allow the manner of its ending to dominate his thinking. There is no question that Nicola Sturgeon and he were a formidable team." Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: "Alex Salmond has been the dominant figure in Scottish politics for the last seven years. "No-one can dispute his political achievements, nor fail to acknowledge his political gifts. He has done the right thing in resigning. While the referendum campaign has been hugely invigorating, by its very nature it has divided too. "His decision to step down will help our country come back together again. I am pleased that the First Minister says he will continue to serve in Scottish politics. Scotland will benefit from his experience and service as we move forward." The Prime Minister said: "Alex is a politician of huge talent and passion. He has been an effective First Minister and always fights his corner. "While we disagree profoundly about his goal of a separated Scotland, and many other things, I respect and admire his huge contribution to politics and public life." Mr Darling said: "Alex Salmond is a formidable political figure. He transformed the SNP into a party of government and delivered their referendum on independence which they had craved so long. "Today he has accepted Scotland's verdict, recognising that it is for others in his party to take the SNP forward. "He has rightly said that the referendum was a once-in-a-lifetime event and that we all need to work to bring Scotland together. "He can look back with pride on being the longest-serving First Minister and to the huge contribution he has made to public life in Scotland. I wish him well in the future." Mr Wilson said: "Alex Salmond fought a brilliant referendum campaign. "It is not his fault that the Scottish people did not vote for independence on this occasion. "The winning of 45% of the vote in the Scottish independence referendum is a superlative achievement. "It is a mark of Alex's integrity that he has taken personal responsibility. He is undoubtedly the greatest Scottish politician of his generation. "He has led the SNP with distinction over a 20-year period and made a tremendous contribution. I am vexed that he has felt it necessary to offer his resignation. "From personal experience, I know just how exhausting the responsibilities of leadership are and Alex had to carry also the responsibilities of First Minister of the Scottish Government. "To form that government and win a majority is his major achievement in a formidable political career. I wish him and his wife, Moira a long and happy retirement." The full statement by Alex Salmond "I am immensely proud of the campaign which Yes Scotland fought and of the 1.6 million voters who rallied to that cause by backing an independent Scotland. "I am also proud of the 85% turnout in the referendum and the remarkable response of all of the people of Scotland who participated in this great constitutional debate and the manner in which they conducted themselves. "We now have the opportunity to hold Westminster's feet to the fire on the 'vow' that they have made to devolve further meaningful power to Scotland. This places Scotland in a very strong position. "I spoke to the Prime Minister today and, although he reiterated his intention to proceed as he has outlined, he would not commit to a second reading vote by March 27 on a Scotland Bill. That was a clear promise laid out by Gordon Brown during the campaign. The Prime Minister says such a vote would be meaningless. I suspect he cannot guarantee the support of his party. "But today the point is this. The real guardians of progress are not the politicians at Westminster, or even at Holyrood, but the energised activism of tens of thousands of people who I predict will refuse meekly to go back into the political shadows. "For me right now , therefore there is a decision as to who is best placed to lead this process forward politically. "I believe that in this new exciting situation, redolent with possibility, Party, Parliament and country would benefit from new leadership. "Therefore I have told the National Secretary of the SNP that I will not accept nomination to be a candidate for leader at the Annual Conference in Perth on November 13-15. "After the membership ballot I will stand down as First Minister to allow the new leader to be elected by due Parliamentary process. "Until then I will continue to serve as First Minister. After that I will continue to offer to serve as Member of the Scottish Parliament for Aberdeenshire East. "It has been the privilege of my life to serve Scotland as First Minister. But as I said often during the referendum campaign this is not about me or the SNP. It is much more important than that. "The position is this. We lost the referendum vote but can still carry the political initiative. More importantly Scotland can still emerge as the real winner."
Last year, Pakistan re-entered the Oscar race after a more than 50-year absence in an effort to bring attention to the country’s cinematic output. Their Best Foreign-Language submission, illegal immigration comedy Zinda Bhaag, failed to earn a nomination.The country is hopeful once again, submitting Afia Nathaniel’s Dukhtar to the Foreign-Language Oscar race. The Urdu-language film is a road-trip thriller looking at issues of child marriage in the country. After her ten-year-old daughter is promised in marriage to a much older tribal chieftain, a mother flees her village, but is chased by her own husband and the intended groom’s henchman. It’s set against stunning backdrops on the road to Lahore. The film had its world premiere Sept. 5 at the Toronto International Film Festival this year in the Discovery Section and is releasing theatrically in Pakistan Thursday. The Pakistani selection committee is chaired by Academy Award winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who said of the film, “Dukhtar has set a new precedent in filmmaking in Pakistan. The film's powerful narrative is met with equally strong visuals that collectively showcase what Pakistani talent is all about. I have no doubt that the story will resonate with people locally and internationally.”
By Dr Said Ashraf, M.D - The death rate from Hepatitis is nearly twice that of AIDS. In Pakistan, there are over 12 million people suffering from Hepatitis B and C; around 8 million suffer from Hepatitis C and 4 million from Hepatitis B.
BY ROSHANEH ZAFARPakistan’s internally-displaced population has disappeared from the news. With almost a million people having been forced out of the federally-administered North Waziristan tribal agency almost two months ago, the crisis is still ongoing. How this crisis is resolved will determine how the country fares in its long and halfhearted fight against extremism. The crisis can be resolved. This is evident from Pakistan’s response both to its worst ever floods, in 2010, and to the crisis of displacement from the Swat military operations in 2009. The humanitarian crisis caused by Zarb-e-Azb, the military operation against local and foreign militants in North Waziristan, presents a humanitarian challenge, a human-rights challenge, and a development challenge. These challenges have to be addressed by providing not just the basics for survival, but also by ensuring the protection of the basic rights and civil liberties of those affected, and fulfilling their rehab and livelihood requirements. During the floods, I was involved in collecting and recording stories of the displaced in order to help find durable solutions for their rehabilitation. The data showed that 71 percent of the displaced families had relied on agriculture or livestock for their livelihood, 83 percent were food-insecure, 86 percent had lost their homes and business assets, and none of them had any savings. Because the floods were “the will of God,” as most put it, these people were more tolerant of the poor administration that delayed their rescue. While the economic status of those displaced from North Waziristan is comparable to that of the flood-affected, Pakistan’s latest internally-displaced are far less patient. They neither accept nor deserve the maladministration they are presently facing and which appears to be the result of the inexcusably adversarial relationship between the federal government, which is responsible for the tribal agencies, and the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government, which governs the areas where most of the displaced are currently residing. The squabbling among politicians, seen as fair-weather rulers by most of the tribal population, and their blame games delay not only the immediate and continuous state response to the crisis but also further postpones the already delayed replacement of the anachronistic political-legal framework that applies to the federally-administered tribal areas with a viably modern social, political, and economic setup. The internally-displaced are not statistics or props for photo ops. They are cash-strapped and asset-poor with only rubble to reclaim where their houses once stood. Their stand in the war against extremism cannot be taken for granted; their immediate and future needs must be serviced with consistency and resolve. Many of them already question the wisdom of the military operation as some politicians maintain that the process of peace talks with the Taliban should have continued. This view will become the prevalent one should the state, and the nation, fall short in their duty to the displaced. It certainly does not help that the authorities have failed to protect the displaced from militant attacks in their camps. This will not make them any less wary of the security commitments of the state. The resultant alienation will ultimately benefit fringe Islamist groups, toward which the vulnerable displaced will be drawn out of fear or fervor. It has also been reported that militant groups have stepped in with their impressive organizational capacity to provide relief. Given the scale of the crisis, the government must, at the very least, make sure that proscribed groups are not allowed any direct access to the displaced. Unfortunately, it bears emphasizing that the displaced must be treated with dignity and compassion. The provinces of Punjab and Sindh had closed their borders to them. Some prominent Pakistanis had even urged the equivalent of internment for them. This was not the response the crisis merited. A UNHCR report from April states that an overwhelming majority of those displaced are residing outside relief camps. A similar pattern was apparent in 2009 when the majority of those who had fled Swat also preferred to live with their relatives across Pakistan. Such offsite channels prove challenging for both documentation and the provision of basic services. The National Database and Registration Authority must properly and respectfully document the displaced, especially women and children, and relief agencies need to recognize the role of local communities and put in place an outreach program for better management of the offsite population. Right now, the displaced require not merely food rations and first-aid but also effective cash transfers (the Watan Cards were useful during the floods and can work here too) and a clearly-defined path for their future. The impact of displacement is felt more intensely by women, children, and the elderly. In fact, women matter vitally to the success of any rehabilitation option, and ongoing humanitarian-aid strategies need to be inclusive of women. The UNHCR report also states that 54 percent of the displaced are male, 46 percent women; overall, 41 percent are below the age of 11 while 3 percent are over 60. Humanitarian aid provided to the displaced over the next 6 to 12 months needs to account for the differences in the needs and types of the displaced population in order to be effective while taking into account the emotional and physical trauma of displacement on different segments. At another level, this can be seen as an opportunity for improving the lot of women and demonstrating that, despite cultural norms, including women fully in managing the current crisis can lead to a process of empowerment. Since the military operation represents the war between ideologies, the Taliban’s and the state’s, it is equally critical that the basic rights, including the right to education, and civil liberties of those affected be preserved and promoted. Peace cannot be built without the full buy-in of the displaced, especially women. In 2009, several tribal agencies set up Aman Lashkars, groups of armed citizens, with the support of the state to ward off militants. These groups were successful to varying degrees and—if their role is clearly defined as supporting the local police—can help keep the peace once the operation is over. Post-operation, the civilian administration in the tribal areas has to strengthen its ability and tactical capacity to provide long-term solutions on the ground. All agencies involved in humanitarian assistance need to collaborate fully. During the floods, coordination between the National Disaster Management Authority and the provincial disaster-management agencies was a messy affair because of parallel mandates and confusion in terms of budgetary allocations. This eroded crisis responsiveness. The NDMA has now been placed under the Ministry of Provincial Coordination where it has fallen prey to the usual bureaucratic hurdles. Despite these challenges, will made a way through coordination between civilian and military agencies and the crisis from the floods was overcome. This can be achieved today as well. The war against extremism cannot be won without making sure that the displaced can return home to a secure future. This requires effective governance, establishing the writ of law, protecting fundamental rights, providing access to basic services, and bolstering the local economy through strategic infrastructure investments. Zarb-e-Azb is yet another test for the nation. Pakistanis have on previous occasions proven that they will step up and defend, through their generosity and compassion, the ideals enshrined in our Constitution. We must not tire of these tests and continue to live up to the expectations of our beleaguered countrymen. Anything less is not an option.
The top U.S. watchdog in Afghanistan wants answers on why the U.S. spent $6.5 million on six communication towers that aren’t being used and have so far led to one fatality.According to a letter from John F. Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, the State Department pressed ahead with the towers despite doubts about their usefulness to the Afghans and opposition from the Pentagon. “Concerns were raised that Afghan telecom providers would not connect to the system, and that [the Department of Defense] did not want the towers because of the high cost of fueling the towers’ generators,” said the letter, which was sent to Secretary of State John F. Kerry. “Despite these concerns, the State Department moved forward with construction,” Mr. Sopko said. One international security force soldier was killed when a helicopter hit one of the towers during nighttime operations, prompting investigators to demand answers about how the towers are being outfitted for air-traffic safety — such as equipping them with the small blinking lights that are ubiquitous on towers across America. State Department documents show that the purpose of the towers was “to expand and enhance media-provider coverage and telecommunication services to the civilian Afghan population in underserved and strategically important provinces via television, radio and telephonic mediums.” The towers were labeled one of the agency’s “highest strategic communications priorities,” but phone companies and cell-tower operators received repeated threats from the Taliban. In a response to an inquiry earlier this year, the State Department said that giving the towers to the Afghan government was considered, but ultimately rejected as the nation continues “to struggle with lacking resources and technical capacity to operate and maintain these towers.” The agency’s letter continues that “after it became clear that the towers could not be used for their originally intended purpose, the Department considered alternatives but determined that there was no available foreign assistance or other State Department use for the towers.” Now Mr. Sopko wants answers as to why the towers were built seemingly without an ultimate purpose in mind, and has asked the State Department to turn over more documents related to the planning and construction.
shiapost.comAllama Raja Nasir Abbas Jafari, secretary general of Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen has condemned the targeted murder of Dr. Shakil Auj, Dean of Islamic Studies at Karachi University, saying it was tantamount to kill the education-friendly society in Pakistan. “Takfiri nasbi terrorists want to push the country to the darkness of illiteracy and intolerance based on illogical and anti-Islam ideology in the guise of Islam,” he said in his reaction to the brutal assassination of Dr. Shakil Auj. He questioned the integrity of ongoing targeted operation being continued in Karachi asking how the notorious ferocious terrorists continued killing innocent people including the high-profile scholars.“We repeat our demand that a military operation on the pattern of Operation Zarb-e-Azb should be launched in Karachi to eliminate the notorious takfiri terrorists without any delay,” he urged. He further demanded that killers of martyr Dr. Shakil Auj should be arrested forthwith and be hanged in public. He said that terrorists conveyed their message that the enlightened Muslim scholars would not be tolerated but we respond to them that entire Pakistan would be illuminated with the ideas of Dr. Shakil Auj and other martyr scholars.
The houbara bustard
The minister for Water and Power, Khwaja Asif and Secretary, Water and Power, Nargis Sethi, were severely criticised during a recent meeting of the Economic Co-ordination Committee of the Cabinet for over billing electricity consumers. This followed a meeting of the cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister who had reportedly taken serious notice of claims of over billing across the country during the last two months. The Prime Minister set up a committee to be headed by his Advisor on Energy Musaddaq Malik to submit a report on the matter while urging the Ministry to redress genuine grievances of the consumers. Be that as it may, it is relevant to note that bills for the last two months were considerably higher for two reasons. First and foremost the government did raise rates as per its agreement with the International Monetary Fund under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) with the objective of reducing subsidies that were accounting to over 400 to 500 billion rupees per annum that the government could ill afford. And secondly the government announced a revision of its tariff structure implying thereby that those who were paying differing rates for using different slabs would now pay the tariff payable for the highest slab. In other words, a consumer using 700 units per month would no longer be charged a different lower subsidised tariff for say the first 100 to 200 units but would pay the higher tariff for all units consumed. What is relevant, however, to note is that over billing in Pakistan is not a function of inadvertent or/accidental error on the part of the meter readers but is considered to be an outcome of a deliberate policy premised mainly on inefficiencies of the dilapidated infrastructure and large-scale theft of electricity in this country. Thus the norm is that while electricity companies provide an x amount of electricity to all its consumers nation-wide the actual billable amount is considerably less with many consumers using illegal kundas (connections) to access electricity. This illegal use either gets billed into accounts of autonomous bodies/federal and/or provincial governments with the flawed rationale being that the public sector will not challenge bills (this is a serious bone of contention between the federal government and the Sindh government) or large private consumers who witness a spike in their bills. In other words, those who actually pay their bills are paying the cost of power theft and that is one factor that creates considerable fury against the Ministry of Water and Power. Why doesn't the Ministry of Water and Power proactively proceed to cut down theft? The Minister of State for Water And Power, Abid Sher Ali, created a furor when he accused provinces other than Punjab of being responsible for non-payment of bills, however, his campaign to end theft and to cut-off connections to those localities who do not clear 80 percent of their bills has neither reduced power sector receivables (in fact they have increased since last year) nor improved efficiencies within the sector notably transmission and distribution losses that remain one of the highest within the South Asia region. What is particularly disturbing is that officials in the Ministry of Finance acknowledged to Business Recorder that there is no sign of improvement in the power sector. And there appears to be no effort under way to improve performance either. The inter-circular debt that was cleared on the last day of fiscal year 2012-13 has resurfaced and there is wide variation of the amount with Nargis Sethi maintaining its quantum around 238 billion rupees while other officials in the Ministry claim its closer to 400 billion rupees. The reason for this variation is that the debt has not even been reconciled which is unfortunate. Surely the Prime Minister must accept by now that the Water and Power Ministry is not up to the mark and takes appropriate measures to change it and gives time bound action targets to them to ensure that the entire system is more effective than what the country has been subjected to for the past seven years.
PAKISTAN is experiencing its fourth major floods in the past five years. The increasing frequency and intensity of the flooding not only underscores Pakistan’s — and South Asia’s — vulnerability to climate change, but also the woeful lack of preparation by successive governments. The increasingly regular flooding of the country’s major rivers each monsoon also highlights the need for not only a more robust framework for engagement with India on water-related issues, bilateral or multilateral, but also perhaps the pre-eminence of this issue as a confidence-building measure, rather than the current single-minded focus on more open bilateral trade.
The sooner the simmering water issues between the two riparian states — India and Pakistan — are tackled head-on and resolved, the better for peace and stability in the region. According to all major assessments on the global as well as regional impact of climate change, South Asia is expected to fare the worst. With a large part of the population living in rural areas and dependent on agriculture, the potential impact of climate change and extreme weather events is accentuated.
Warmer temperatures and more variable rainfall patterns will mean ensuring food security for larger populations will stretch even the most well-prepared and well-resourced nations. According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, overall crop yields are expected to decrease by up to 30pc by 2050 due to the effects of the projected global warming. At the same time, irrigation demand for agriculture “is likely to increase by 10pc for [each] temperature increase of 1pc”.Into this doomsday scenario, enter Pakistan. Last major dam built: 1976 (38 years ago). Tax collection as per cent GDP: 9pc. Annual federal spending on disaster risk management: approximately Rs180m (or Rs1 per person). Climate change on the agenda? Not really. ‘Threats to parliament’ and Senator Rehman Malik’s offloading from an Islamabad-bound flight are agitating our leaders more and giving them sleepless nights. Meanwhile, a disaster of epic proportions is slowly unfolding for the 325m people that will inhabit Pakistan by 2050. Turning to the flooding this year, mercifully, it appears to have caused lesser damage than what was feared earlier. Certainly, in comparison to the super-flood of 2010, which had been rightfully dubbed as a flood of “biblical proportions”, this year’s version looks like a relatively tame affair. At their peak, the floods of 2010 had affected over 20m people spread over one-fifth of the landmass of the country. The loss of crops and livestock, and the widespread disruption to production, transportation and other economic activity, was estimated to have reduced GDP growth by two percentage points. In all, the cumulative loss from the floods in 2010, including damage to physical infrastructure such as roads, irrigation works, housing, schools, health infrastructure, electricity transmission, loss of income and assets etc. was estimated at $9.7 billion. This time around, the main flooding has occurred in the River Chenab and its tributaries, and not rivers Indus and Kabul as in 2010. As such, most of the damage has been sustained in north, central and southern Punjab, with 36 districts affected, according to the National Disaster Management Authority. As per the agency’s situation report of Sept 17, total affected population amounted to 1.8m people, with the cropped area affected totalling approximately 2.3m acres (versus nearly 6m acres in 2010). Standing crops that are likely to have sustained damage include cotton, rice and vegetables, with some damage to sugarcane possibly. The size and quality of the cotton and rice crop both have a direct bearing on the country’s net export earnings, while damage to minor crops feeds into inflationary pressure. Unlike in 2010, livestock has suffered relatively minor loss in this year’s flooding. However, these are very preliminary assessments that will be firmed up in the next few weeks as the water recedes and the government is fully able to mobilise its disaster estimation response. Whatever the final damage assessment, it is important to step back and look at the bigger picture that is emerging into sharp relief. By the time the floodwaters recede this year, the cumulative damage caused by flooding since 2010 would be to the tune of around $16bn, by conservative estimates. A more important fact that the floodwaters will leave behind, more important than cold statistics of the number of bridges washed away, or ‘x’ kilometres of roads damaged, or ‘y’ acres of cropped area flooded, is the disruption to the lives of those affected. As in 2010, many of those in the cross hairs of the raging torrents were poor and vulnerable folk—– who have now lost standing crops, livestock, income, livelihoods, houses, farm implements, seeds and food stocks, and perhaps their precious little savings. Many are now on the brink of chronic poverty. It is a shocking indictment of the callousness of official statistics that following the massive flooding in 2010, the poverty headcount ratio calculated by the Planning Commission depicted a steep decline to a historic low of 13pc. This is contrary to the findings of a number of studies which have shown that once a family is tipped into poverty because of any exogenous ‘shock’ — such as health-related or one brought on by a natural calamity — it is likely to stay there for years, unless it is extremely lucky. How many of those affected by this year’s floods, and the one in 2010, have slipped into poverty needs to be assessed by the government using a credible and transparent survey methodology. Once identified, the government should expend efforts, perhaps through the Benazir Income Support Programme, to ensure that these families receive the help they need, via a combination of cash transfers, seeds, subsidised loans and farm implements, for example, to break the ensuing poverty cycle.
Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) claimed that Pakistani Navy officers were involved in the failed attempt to hijack a Pakistani warship and launch missiles at US Navy vessels in the Indian Ocean. AQIS' spokesman, Usama Mahmoud, made the claim today in a statement released on his Twitter account. Mahmoud's statement was obtained by the SITE Intelligence Group. Mahmoud had previously claimed on Sept. 13 that AQIS executed the attack on the Pakistani warship, and published a diagram purporting to show the layout of the PNS Zulfiqar. He said that the attackers had planned to take control of the PNS Zulfiqar and launch missiles at US warships in the Indian Ocean. The PNS Zulfiqar carries at least eight C-802 surface to surface anti-ship missiles. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent claims 2 attacks in Pakistan.] In today's statement, Mahmoud accuses the Pakistani military and media outlets of attempting "to deliberately cover up the truth of this operation and the nature of its objectives," according to SITE. "In an obvious attempt to deceive the world, the official spokesmen for the army and navy portrayed the attack as targeting the Pakistani Navy alone, and its arsenal in the city of Karachi in particular." But Mahmoud says the "true objective of the operation ... is the American naval fleet that is stationed in the Indian Ocean." The AQIS spokesman denied that the Sept. 6 assault on the PNS Zulfiqar at the naval base in Karachi was carried out by "intruders," and instead said that Pakistani naval "officers" executed the attack. "The official Pakistani story alleged that the attackers were merely a group of intruders that breached a military institution of the Pakistani Navy, and broke in from outside," Mahmoud says. "However, all the participants in this fearless operation were officers serving in the ranks of the Pakistani Navy." The naval officers, Mahmoud claims, "responded to the appeal of the scholars and jihad and joined the ranks of the mujahideen." Mahmoud described the officers' involvement in the attack as a "rebellion" and not just an attempt to strike at the US. "Therefore, this operation does not represent an attack on the Americans alone, but it is a rebellion against the Pakistani Navy by its own elements, striking the policy of humiliation and subjugation to America, which the Satanic alliance - represented in the Americanized generals, selfish politicians, and corrupt government employees - imposes," Mahmoud says. Mahmoud goes on to explain AQIS' "reasons for targeting America." The reasons are standard for al Qaeda, and include the US' perceived war on Islam, and America's support for Israel, Muslim countries, and "secular movements." The US Navy was chosen as a target because "through its naval military superiority, America is able to control ours straits, our channels, and our waters, and loot the fortunes of our Ummah [Muslim community]," Mahmoud says. Reports of collusion within Pakistani Navy While Mahmoud's claim that Pakistani naval officers executed the attack on the PNS Zulfiqar cannot be proven, Pakistani officials and press reports indicate that at least some of the attackers are members of the Pakistani military. Khawaja Asif, Pakistan's Defense Minister, said that "some of the navy staff of commissioned ranks and some outsiders" were involved in the attack, according to Dawn. The Nation reported that a former naval officer known as Awais Jakhrani was killed during the attack. Jakhrani, the son of a Karachi Police Assistant Inspector General, had "links with [a] banned organization." Additionally, three "Navy officials" were arrested in Quetta in Baluchistan while trying to flee to Afghanistan. Pakistan's Navy has long been thought to be infiltrated by al Qaeda. In late May 2011, Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad wrote an article in the Asia Times on the jihadist attack on Pakistan Naval Base Mehran in Karachi. That attack was carried out by Brigade 313, a unit led by al Qaeda and Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami leader Ilyas Kashmiri. In his article, Shahzad noted that Pakistani officials had begun investigating jihadist "groupings" within the Navy in the spring of 2011 and discovered a "sizeable al Qaeda infiltration within the navy's ranks." After military officials detained and interrogated suspected jihadist infiltrators, al Qaeda threatened to launch attacks against military bases. The Pakistani military opened negotiations with al Qaeda, which ultimately failed. Then Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces in Abbottabad on May 1, 2011. Al Qaeda and allied Pakistani jihadists decided to take revenge, obtaining detailed information on Mehran from their Navy infiltrators. "Within a week, insiders at PNS Mehran provided maps, pictures of different exit and entry routes taken in daylight and at night, the location of hangers and details of likely reaction from external security forces," Shahzad wrote. Shahzad's article, which was published on May 27, 2011, is widely believed to have resulted in his murder at the hands of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. He was kidnapped and murdered just two days after it was published. Read more: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/09/aqis_claims_failed_p.php#ixzz3DjXktoXk
Co-Chairman Pakistan People Party former President Asif Ali Zardari strongly condemned the killing of Karachi University Professor Dr. Shakil Ouj and expressed deep sorrow and grief over this heinous crime. He condoled with the bereaved family and asked law enforcing agencies to arrest the killers and bring them to book.