Thursday, November 20, 2014
At least five suspected militants have been killed in a US drone strike on Thursday in North Waziristan.
President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah are in disagreement on how best to approach some of the most pressing policy issues facing Afghanistan, such as corruption and insurgency, according to a number of political analysts.The newly established national unity government has early on focused public attention on its highly publicized re-prosecution of the infamous Kabul Bank corruption case. President Ghani has touted the initiative as evidence of his government's strong stance against the endemic corruption that has over the years undermined the legitimacy of the central government, stunted economic development and scared away foreign investors. But his partner in the unity government, Abdullah, has separately begun to raise attention around the issue of holding corrupt individuals in the current government accountable. Abdullah has claimed no war on corruption can be successful unless those who have laid the foundation of administrative malfeasance and remained in power are brought to justice. Last week in a meeting with elders of Samangan province, Abdullah suggested at his reservations about the government's recent anti-corruption push. "When it comes to Kabul Bank, when we all say that the investigation must be legal and right, we do not accept political treatment," Abdullah said. "Anyone who is responsible must act in accordance with the law, any reform in the administration must be based on the needs of the people of Afghanistan and their priorities." He went on to say that there remain corrupt individuals in government, whose presence subverts any push against corruption. "If it is a war against corruption, the leaders of corruption must be fired from the job on the first day, particularly those who laid the foundation of corruption in the country," Abdullah said. "The war on corruption will not succeed if we put all the authority and power into the hands of infamous, corrupt elements and then say that we fight corruption..." Abdullah has also spoke out vocally about conspiring among certain powerful figures in the country to overthrow the national unity government and usher in a new government that acquiesces to the Taliban militants. "The Chief Executive has also noted efforts indicating conspiracy against the government," political analyst Ahmad Saeedi told TOLOnews. "There are conspiracies, and those who resort to such attacks want to come into power," Abdullah said. "We, and the entire nation, will never allow the conspiracies being made to overthrow the government and bring criminals into power." Some experts fear the divisions within the national unity government and within the country's broader leadership class could lead to civil war. "If disagreements increase among our political elites about important national issues, Afghanistan will face more problems and it could even lead to civil war," political analyst Jawed Kohistani said. The national unity government was formed on shaky grown, but many were encouraged by the fact that the troubled election was brought to end without bloodshed. A couple months into their rule, however, questions are being raised around whether the tenuous coalition can last.
A top watchdog said it "seems like nobody is responsible for anything."The United States is drawing down its presence in Afghanistan, but a top watchdog said Tuesday that corruption there is on the rise. "It's getting worse.… Significantly worse," John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, told reporters at a breakfast roundtable. "Corruption is not only feeding insurgency, it's feeding a number of corrupt officials." Sopko leads the office responsible for tracking down waste, fraud, and abuse in U.S.-backed projects and helping to reclaim misused taxpayer dollars.The United States has allocated more than $104 billion for reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, and President Obama's fiscal 2015 budget would add an additional $5.8 billion. Despite the best intentions of the U.S. government, Sopko said that it has helped increase corruption. He pointed to large, rapid investments from the United States and a lack of planning about how Afghanistan would sustain U.S.-led projects. "They can't afford the government we've given them," he said. "If you go over there, it's like Disneyland, what we bought for them.... It isn't working if you approach reconstruction that way." The Afghan government—and the country's economy—relies heavily on foreign investments. But Sopko said there's been no point person for overseeing the building of a self-reliant economy. That is indicative, he says, of the larger problems facing the country. "I can not find anybody who's lost their job for screwing up, and there have been a lot of screwups in Afghanistan, and that's a problem," Sopko said. "It seems like nobody is responsible for anything in Afghanistan.… It's almost like a toddler's sports game—everybody's a winner." Sopko was appointed to his post in 2012, and since then he's had a turbulent public relationship with those he audits—including the State Department, the Defense Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. His office frequently releases reports detailing millions of dollars in potentially misused funds. For example, a report released last month found that the United States spent $3.6 million on TV trucks that aren't used. Another released earlier this year found that the U.S. spent roughly $3 million on boats for an Afghan navy in 2010 to help patrol a river it shares with Uzbekistan. The ships, according to the report, are sitting in storage in Virginia after the order was canceled. Sopko pointed to both instances as examples of U.S. money that could have been better spent. "Just think of it: To buy a prosthetic in Afghanistan—and there are a lot of kids, there are a lot of adults, who have lost limbs—I think a prosthetic, what, is it $50 to $75?.… I think that kids would have loved to have legs, rather than having balloons and kites and TV trucks that are still sitting under wraps." In response to Sopko's reports, the military set up a plan of action, detailing how it can get ahead of him and defend its programs against his reports. But the outspoken inspector general is well aware that his office has ruffled feathers within the U.S. government. "We speak the truth, and sometimes people don't like it," he said. "Every time we issue a report, we gore somebody's ox." Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia, was unable to immediately respond to comment.
www.southasianmedia.net“There is no child protection system in Islamabad Capital Territory and a number of bills related to children’s right are pending at the National Assembly (NA) level,” Habiba Salman, Child Rights Movement (CRM) National Coordinator, said while speaking to participants of a conference titled ‘25 years of the UNCRC and the State of Child Rights in Pakistan’ at Quaid-i-Azam University. The conference was jointly organised by CRM and Quaid-i-Azam University. Speakers urged the government to legislate for the protection of children’s rights. Pakistan signed and rectified United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, but is yet to make any progress towards providing protection, health and education to its children. Ms Salman said the government needs to play a role in ensuring enactment of the national commission on Rights of Children Bill, prohibition of corporal punishment bill and child marriage restraint amendment bill. Malnutrition has become a key concern for the country, she said. “According to Unicef, 352,000 children die every year in this country, and an estimated 35 per cent of these deaths are attributed to malnutrition,” she said. She added that one sees no urgency, or commitment at the federal and provincial levels to respond to this situation by implementing strategies and increasing budgetary allocations. Speaking on the occasion, Dr Muhammad Zaman, QAU Department of Sociology chairman, said Pakistan’s future is linked to its children and Quaid-i-Azam University is going to include the issue of child right in its curriculum. “At the Department of Sociology, we have designed a course on Sociology of Child Rights, currently awaiting approval, this will sensitise students to children’s rights,” he said. QAU Acting Vice Chancellor Dr Eatzaz Ahmad highlighted academia’s role in the promotion of child rights in Pakistan. “Pakistan being party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is responsible to formulate strategies for future course for academia, society, national and international institutions and the federal and provincial governments to promote child rights in the country,” he said. “The academicians, scholars, researchers, students and NGO activists must develop theoretical, conceptual and empirical work to analyse and understand the current state of child rights in the country,” said Prof. Dr. Aliya H. Khan, QAU Faculty of Social Sciences Dean. Stefano Gatto, European Union Delegation Deputy Head, said the European Union welcomed Pakistan’s ratification of the most core international human rights conventions. Barrister Zafarullah Khan, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the chief guest, apprised participants on the steps taken by the government for the implementation of the UNCRC. Arshad Mahmood, Save the Children, Director Advocacy and Child Rights Governance also spoke on the occasion.
A Shia police constable was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Wadpaga village of Khyber-Pukhtoonkhwa province on Wednesday. Police said the deceased, Syed Arshad Ali Shah, was a police constable who had been assigned to guard the local Shia mosque and imambargah. A police official said initial reports suggest the attack was a target killing incident with sectarian motives. Shia parties and leaders have condemned the murder of Shia policeman. They said that genocide against Shia Muslims could not be stopped without the government’s action to eliminate the takfiri terrorists. They demanded capital punishment to the terrorists.http://en.shiapost.com/2014/11/20/a-shia-police-constable-martyred-in-peshawar/
The clerics claim that Ahmadis violated the Pakistani constitution when they buried their deceased in the public graveyard – because it is used predominately by the area Muslims.Burial of an Ahmadi man in a public graveyard has resulted in protests organized by local Islamist activists in Rao Ke Ratian, a village in Narowal district in the Punjab province of Pakistan. Incited by local madrasa leaders, the villagers have demanded that the dead body of the Ahmadī man, Muhammad Boota, should be exhumed from the ‘Muslim graveyard’ and sent elsewhere. The clerics claim that Ahmadis violated the Pakistani constitution when they buried their deceased in the public graveyard – because it is used predominately by the area Muslims. At the time of burial, the local administration had installed police guards to ward off any altercations. According to a local Urdu language newspaper, Daily Ausaf, two area leaders of Ahle-Sunnat wal-Jamā’at, an Islamist group, have now filed their demands with the town administration seeking immediate redress of their complaints. Ahle-Sunnat wal-Jamā’at (ASWJ) is doctrinally aligned with several banned terrorists organization, including, Jamā'at-ud Dawa (JuD), and Lashkar-e Tayyaba (LeT). Mohammad Yaqoob, patron, and Qari Arshad Rabbani, general secretary, of the organization have threatened street action and road blockages on Friday, November 21, if their demands are not met and Mr Boota’s remains are not removed by then. A “Protestive" Khatma-eNubuwwat Conference has been planned for Friday where many leaders of ASWJ are slated to rile up the villagers. The Punjab province is plagued with madrasas producing Islamist extremists used in inciting anti-minority sentiments and violence. Last week a Christian couple was burned to death for the allegations of blasphemy leveled by an Islamist leader from a local mosque. http://ahmadiyyatimes.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/pakistan-islamists-want-dead-body-of.html
Experts say the impending departure of NATO combat forces from Afghanistan could push India and Pakistan toward a proxy war in the conflict-ridden state, as New Delhi and Islamabad fight for influence in the country."The danger for Pakistan is [...] the Indian influence in Afghanistan," former Pakistani President and Army Chief Pervez Musharraf recently told the AFP news agency in an interview in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi. "They (India) want to create an anti-Pakistan Afghanistan." "If Indians are using some ethnic groups in Afghanistan, then Pakistan will use its own support, and our ethnic allies are certainly Pashtuns," Musharraf continued. Musharraf, a former military dictator who ruled the Islamic country from 1999 to 2007, has been under house arrest on treason charges, but his words still carry weight. Some Pakistani observers believe that the former general is still close to the current military leadership of the nuclear-armed state, and that he is probably only echoing his former institution's views on India and Afghanistan. The South Asian country's civilian leadership, too, has similar views on Afghanistan, terrorism and Islamist militants. On November 17, Sartaj Aziz, national security adviser to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, told the BBC that there was no need for Pakistan to target militants who did not threaten the country's security. "Why should enemies of the US unnecessarily become our foes," Aziz said. "Some of them were dangerous for us and some are not. Why must we make enemies out of them all?" he said, referring to the militant Haqqani network. These are two different statements by two Pakistani leaders but they carry a single narrative: Islamabad feels threatened by New Delhi's close ties with Kabul; hence it will likely continue to use some factions of the Taliban as counter-balancing forces in its western neighborhood. Same old policies There is nothing new about Pakistan's Afghanistan policy though. The country's military and civil establishment, analysts say, still consider the Taliban an important strategic ally, who they think should be part of the Afghan government after the NATO pullout. Observers say that the Pakistani military hopes to regain the influence in Kabul it once enjoyed before the United States and its allies toppled the pro-Pakistan Taliban government in 2001. "Kabul is friendlier towards New Delhi now, whereas Islamabad continues to back the Taliban, as now officially admitted by Sartaj Aziz. Pakistan wishes to change this scenario and turn Afghanistan into its political backyard once again," London-based journalist and researcher Farooq Sulehria told DW. Matt Waldman, a researcher on the Afghanistan conflict at Harvard University, believes that Pakistan won't relinquish its support for the Taliban until the regional dynamics undergo a transformation. "The evidence indicates that the Pakistan hasn't fundamentally changed its Afghanistan policy," Waldman told DW. Siegfried O. Wolf, a political science expert at Heidelberg University, is of the same view. He told DW that he was convinced that several elements within the Pakistan security apparatus still believe that the Taliban could be used as a strategic tool to counter Indian presence in Afghanistan. A lost cause Earlier this year, New Delhi announced a two billion USD aid package for Afghanistan - the biggest India has ever given to another country. While India has been active in rebuilding Afghanistan since 2001, Pakistan's role has been negligible in this regard, says Sulehria. "By backing the Taliban, Islamabad has contributed to the country's destruction. I frequently visit Kabul and I can say that Pakistan is very unpopular in Afghanistan. Sadly, Islamabad is not ready to change course," the expert added. Vivek Kumar, a New Delhi-based journalist, says that the Indian and Pakistani interests have always clashed in Afghanistan, and that he does not foresee a major change in these dynamics. "The Indian government would want the new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to follow his predecessor Hamid Karzai's path. India has invested a lot in Afghanistan, and all this investment is strategically aimed at minimizing Pakistan's influence," he said, adding that Indian PM Narendra Modi would also like to enhance his country's partnership with Kabul in the security sector. Sulehria says that Afghanistan has changed a lot over the past years, and that objective realities and subjective factors are not in Pakistan's favor anymore. "Pakistan will not be able to dictate terms to the Afghan administration and the rest of the world now. I think Pakistan has already lost the proxy war." Long term vs short term goals But with a bilateral security agreement (BSA) between Kabul and Washington in place, it will be difficult for either Pakistan or India to destabilize Afghanistan. The pact, which was approved by President Ghani in September, is aimed at strengthening Afghan security forces while they work to stave off the Taliban. Under the deal, international forces will provide training and support to Afghanistan's security forces. Commenting on the BSA and the future of Afghanistan, Owais Tohid, a Karachi-based senior journalist, said that the security pact was a "wake-up call" for Pakistani rulers, who should not hope for a Taliban comeback in Afghanistan. The journalist is of the view that instead of focusing on short-term benefits, Islamabad should forge a long-term alliance with Afghanistan based on commercial and economic interests. "In the long run, it will be a blessing in disguise for Pakistan. These short-term strategic gains only reflect the myopic mindset of Pakistani policymakers," Tohid said.
Days after a Pentagon report accused Pakistan of harbouring militants who wage war against Afghanistan and India, its army chief is in the US meeting top military officials and Congressmen. Raheel Sharif's visit, the first by any Pakistani army chief in four years, comes at a time when the US is in the final stages of its withdrawal from Afghanistan. Officials say the US may not need Pakistan's ports and roads as before to sustain its Afghanistan operations, but the engagement between the two nations will continue. The relationship took a heavy blow following the US raid in Abbottabad to kill Osama Bin Laden, but efforts have been made over the past year to rebuild the military ties. Mr Sharif, after taking over the post last year, has overseen a major military operation against Islamists in the tribal areas of Pakistan, a long-pending US demand. Experts say Islamabad is using this as a way to extract a commitment from the US regarding enhanced engagement and continuation of military aid to Pakistan post-2014. Signs of thawing relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have helped create some positive vibes in the US towards its uncertain ally. But there still remains a huge trust deficit. Many officials and members of Congress have openly expressed frustration at Pakistan's efforts to combat militant groups like the Haqqani Network, who pose a direct threat to US interests. Earlier this year the US had to free five top Taliban fighters from the Guantanamo Bay prison to secure the release of one of its soldiers, Pvt Sgt Bowe Bergdahl, who was allegedly in the captivity of the Haqqani Network. The deal left many Pentagon officials cringing. They believed Sgt Bergdahl could have been snatched from the Haqqanis if the Pakistani Army had extended its cooperation. "They placed a higher value on their relationship with the Haqqanis than they did on their relationship with the United States, " said former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense David Sedney. Incidents like these have led many in Congress to question the effectiveness of this strategic partnership. With the ongoing military operation against militants in North Waziristan, the army chief has tried to convey that Pakistan no longer discriminates between terrorists and it has no favourites. But Congress, which approves the budget for any sort of military or non-military funding, will need a lot more convincing. A statement this week from Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan's national security advisor to the BBC saying : "Why should America's enemies unnecessarily become our enemies?" may have further added to this mistrust. The US State Department has said it will reiterate its message to Mr Sharif that it is: "vital that every effort is made to deny safe haven to any and all violent extremists". Shamila Chaudhary, former Pakistan director at the US National Security Council, says the US is now in a much better position to mount pressure on Pakistan. "Moving forward we will see the United States pushing Pakistan more on what it's going to do not just with Haqqani Network militants but some of the sectarian groups that are in Pakistan that are anti-India, and that are also focused on Pakistan," Ms Chaudhary said. One of the biggest concerns for the Pakistani army is to ensure the continuation of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), a kind of reimbursement from the US for the costs it incurs in military operations. As per Congressional Research Service reports, Pakistan has received close to $28.4bn (£12bn) in military and non-military aid from the US post 9/11. Of that, $11bn came from the CSF. Experts say convincing Congress to continue the CSF will be a tough ask for Mr Sharif. Many of the senators who control the purse strings have put conditions on the release of funds to Pakistan. Pakistan also gets close to $300m worth of military aid per year from the US to buy conventional weapons. "This was offered more as a 'feel good' for the Pakistani Army for its cooperation, and they have used it to acquire conventional weapons that can be used against arch-rival India," said a US official who did not want to be named. "If this funding gets discontinued, it will reflect a real trouble in the relationship." The overall interest towards Pakistan has ebbed in Congress. Experts say it will need some real serious and honest effort to inject vitality in the relationship.
Pakistan: Permits to Gulf royals to hunt houbara bustard: PPP submits Calling Attention Notice in NA
Audit report cites serious misappropriation of funds, embezzlements, unauthorised expenditures, excess payments, illegal award of contracts and other malpracticesThe Foreign Office and its diplomatic missions working abroad have been found involved in serious misappropriation of funds amounting to billions of rupees, including corruption, unauthorised expenditures, excess payments, illegal award of contracts, financial embezzlements and other malpractices, an audit report reveals. The recently released audit report on the accounts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs/ Foreign Office prepared by the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) reveals that Pakistan’s Embassy in Bahrain awarded an illegal and unauthorised contract valuing Rs 240 million for the construction of a chancery in violation of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules. The contract was awarded to Yathreb Contracting Company without advertising in any national daily – a mandatory requirement under PPRA rules. The audit observed that the bidding process was conducted in a highly dubious and questionable manner and a single bidder was awarded the contract without even fulfilling the basic PPRA requirements. “Audit requires a detailed inquiry as to why PPRA rules were not applied and a single bidder was awarded contract,” the audit report reads. In another instance, more than Rs 82 million were spent by the Pakistani missions in Baghdad, Hong Kong and Sydney as rent for the buildings that were vacant and not in the use of the diplomatic missions concerned. The data shared by the audit suggests that from 2006-12 Pakistan’s Embassy in Baghdad paid Rs 78 million for the building that was vacant. Pakistan’s High Commission in Sydney paid Rs 33 million as rent for the building that was not in use from 2009-12, whereas Pakistani mission in Hong Kong paid Rs 724,185 as rent for the building it had long vacated. According to the AGP report, the FO informed the audit that the matter was being inquired into and the outcome will be reported to the AGP, but no progress was reported in this regard. The audit also reveals that national exchequer suffered a mega loss of Rs 491.08 million on account of delay on part of MOFA headquarters in completing a High Security Block at the HQ’s premises. The contract for the construction of the High Security Block was awarded to Recent Construction in 2005 at an estimated original cost of Rs 234 million, but it was escalated to Rs 725.502 million in a questionable manner. The project was required to be completed by December 2006, but its due date was extended to June 30, 2013. The AGP has asked the FO to explain its position to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) regarding the alleged irregularities committed by the FO administration, but no progress has been made in this regard. In yet another instance, the audit noted that six Pakistani diplomatic foreign missions were found having spent Rs 262 million in the form of unauthorised cash payments to different payees instead of cross-cheques, a mandatory requirement under the rules. These missions are Yangon (Rs 172 million), New Delhi (Rs 25 million), Belgrade (Rs 26 million), Colombo (Rs 15 million), Kathmandu (Rs 17 million) and Maldives (Rs 5 million). In a major case of funds misappropriation, an ex-ambassador received a sum of $5,000 or Rs 527,750 from a Pakistani school run by Pakistan’s Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, as a loan on refundable basis, but later the said officer, in misuse of his capacity as chairman of the said school, waived off the loan. “Thus misappropriation of government money cannot be ruled out,” the audit report reads. The MOFA headquarters is said to have unduly paid Rs 407,533 as airfare for the members of Pakistan Foreign Office Women Association (PFOWA’s) visit to China. Presently, PFOWA is headed by Najia Aizaz, the wife of Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry. Pakistan’s High Commission in London paid Rs 37,439,938 to Hayat Regency as accommodation charges for the members of presidential and prime ministerial delegations from 2011 to 2012 without provision of hotel invoices or detailed bills to the audit authorities, the AGP report reveals. Moreover, the deputy chief of protocol (DCP) Lahore spent Rs 2.7 million on the repair of vehicles in violation of PPRA rules, according to the report.
http://mediacellppp.wordpress.com/Advisor Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz’s interview to the BBC on Monday in which he questioned the wisdom of targeting all militant groups without discrimination has been questioned in the Senate through a calling attention today. In reply to a question Sartaj Aziz had told the BBC ‘why should we antagonize all groups (of militants)”. Attention is drawn to a matter of sufficient public importance namely the Advisor’s interview to the BBC on Nov 17, 2014 admitting the selective nature of operation against militant groups, taking on some while leaving others. The statement by the Advisor Foreign Affairs is a reversal of the stated policy of across the board action against all militants reiterated recently also by the security establishment, the calling attention notice says. It says that in the interview a disturbing distinction has been made between militants challenging the state of Pakistan and those, using Pakistan’s soil, launch violent operations against other states in the region. “It exposes Pakistan to the charge that it is running with the hare and hunting with the hound in the fight against militants”. This highly disturbing admission at the highest level of policy formulation of turning a blind eye to non-state actors bent upon destabilizing foreign states through violent means is a matter of sufficient public importance and calls for urgent attention, says the calling attention notice moved by PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar.