Friday, December 19, 2014

Video - Air scares, turbulence rattle passengers

Video Report - Shia Houthis targeted in Yemen unrest

Video - Obama says U.S. blacks overall better off than when he began presidency

Video Report - Obama vows response to 'N Korea cyber attack'

Video Report - NY enacts complete ban on fracking

Chinese envoy calls for unified standards for counter-terrorism

The international community should adhere to unified standards in order to effectively deter terrorism, a Chinese envoy to the United Nations said Friday.

"Double standards and selectivity should not be used in fighting terrorism, let alone linking terrorism with a specific ethnic group or religion," said Liu Jieyi, China's permanent representative to the United Nations.

Counter-terrorism activities should abide by the principles and purposes of the UN Charter, and respect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the countries concerned, Liu said at a Security Council meeting on terrorism and cross-border crimes.

"All countries should, in accordance with global counter-terrorism strategy and relevant Security Council resolutions, adopt effective measures to cut terrorist organizations' access to people, funds, and equipment as well as their incitement and propaganda channels while adopting integrated measures to eradicate their breeding ground for terrorism," he added.

Noting that in some regions, especially in Africa, terrorism and cross-border crime organizations are closely linked, Liu said the counter-terrorism work should be well targeted.

"The international community should assist relevant countries and African countries in particular to strengthen their capacity-building in border control, customs and counter-narcotics," he added.

In addition, he said the international community should pay attention to cross-border crimes of terrorism organizations by using information and communication technology, such as the Internet.

As a victim of terrorism, China supports African countries in independently choosing their own way of development, and will continue to conduct bilateral and multilateral exchanges and cooperation on counter-terrorism and cross-border crimes with the international community, especially African countries, he said.

"China will do what it can to provide assistance in material and capacity-building to relevant countries, with a view to advancing our effort in fighting international terrorism and maintaining regional and world peace and stability," he added.

Is the Ruble crisis a conspiracy?

In past few daysRussia's ruble has plunged to new lowswith the euro at one point hitting100 rubles and the U.Sdollar 80 rubles in Moscow tradingTo stabilize the economicsituation and extricate itself from its current predicamentthe Russian Central Bank lateMonday unexpectedly increased its key interest rate for the second time in less than aweek by 6.5 percentage points to 17 percentHoweverthe result has been frustratingtheruble continues to fallThe slump in the ruble and the international oil price is said bysome to be a conspiracy of Western countries headed by the U.Sto punish Russia for thelatters involvement in the Ukraine crisisSince Russia has been supporting the anti-government forces in eastern UkraineWestern countries have implemented economicsanctions on RussiaThis is why so many people believe that the ruble crisis is beingmanipulated by western counties.
ApparentlyWestern countries are delighted to see Russia's predicamentbut it doesntfollow that the predicament is a Western conspiracyThe fall in the oil price has not onlymade a dent in Russian revenuesit has also undermined the US shale oil industry becauseit is making the shale oil indutry uncompetitiveThe U.Shas little to gain from this.
Sanctions implemented by Western counties on Russia are making it impossible forRussian companies and banks to raise money in western capital marketsTo make thingsworseRussia's central banks and its big enterprises are burdened with huge debtTheplummeting oil price is giving rise to fears that Russia will default on its debt.
Russia relies too much on energy exportsan old problem existing since the era of theSoviet UnionInstead of being addressedthe problem has been getting worseRussianenergy exports accounted for 67.7 percent of its export volume in 2007, much higher thanthe 40 percent they represented in 1994. In a modern economy revolving aroundtechnology and knowledgeRussia's economic structure is out of date.
Russian president Vladimir Putin has unveiled a set of benefits , which entails a large sumof moneyOnly when the international oil price exceeds 110 US dollars does Russiamaintain fiscal balanceSo it is not hard to imagine what rough times Russia is goingthrough with the oil price sitting at just 50 US dollarsAs a resultRussia is having todevalue its currency in an attempt to limit the massive risk of inflation.

Anti-Islam Protest Takes Place Near Sydney Hostage Site

A small group of Australian residents organized an anti-Islam protest near the notorious Sydney café, where several people were taken hostage by an Islamic extremist on Monday, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Four men gathered at Sydney’s Martin Place, shouting anti-Muslim slogan "Islam is evil" and calling Muslims “murders”.
"Muslim terrorists not wanted here - neither are their leftist supporters", was a slogan on one of their banners. “Tony Abbott - will you protect us from multiculturalism?" said another.
The Sydney café siege took place on December, 15, when a gunman stormed a Lindt Chocolat Café and took 18 people hostage. The attacker, Man Haron Monis, was born in Iran, but has been granted an Australian citizenship as an asylum seeker.  Monis is reported to have been recently inspired by radical ideology and became follower of the Islamic State.
The hostage crisis claimed lives of three people, including the attacker. Four other café visitors and one police officer were injured, according to BBC.

Putin Spokesman Confirms Kim Jong-un Invited to Visit Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin has invited North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to Moscow next year to mark the 70th anniversary of the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, the Kremlin's spokesman said Friday.
It would be Kim's first foreign visit since taking the helm of the reclusive east Asian state in 2011. His personal envoy came to Moscow last month in the framework of efforts by the two Cold War-era allies to improve relations.
"Yes, such an invitation was sent," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the state news agency TASS. Russia marks the former Soviet Union's World War II victory every year on May 9.
Moscow needs North Korean cooperation in boosting natural gas exports to South Korea as Gazprom wants to build a gas pipeline through North Korea to reach its southern neighbor.
Pyongyang is also seeking support from Russia, a permanent veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, against international criticism over accusations of human rights abuses and its nuclear program.
The UN General Assembly committee dealing with human rights passed a resolution last month calling for the Security Council to consider referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has also said North Korea is ready to resume stalled international talks on its nuclear program.
North Korea, South Korea, Japan, China, Russia and the U.S. began talks in 2003 to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons, but they were suspended after Pyongyang tested nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009.

Cuba's Raul Castro steps out of brother's shadow with U.S. deal, support surges

Stepping out of his legendary brother's shadow, President Raul Castro has scored a diplomatic triumph and a surge in popular support with the deal that ends decades of open hostility with the United States.
For many Cubans, the restoration of diplomatic relations and President Barack Obama's promise to dismantle economic sanctions against the communist-run island have raised hopes of a more prosperous future.
Just as important, in exchange for one American prisoner and dozens of little-known Cubans, Castro won the freedom of three Cuban spies widely exalted at home as heroes who were wrongly imprisoned in the United States for 16 years.
The deal with Obama this week has triggered marches of support in the capital Havana. More and more, demonstrators chant "Viva Raul!", a significant change in a country long dominated by the outsized personality of his older brother, Fidel Castro.
Meanwhile, Fidel Castro has not been seen or heard from, secluded in retirement at his Havana villa.
Raul Castro, 83, took over as president from an ailing Fidel in 2008 and while he has pushed through a raft of market-style economic reforms, he has until now been a low-key leader, clearly lacking his brother's charisma.
But now, more Cubans appreciate his new brand of leadership.
"Raul Castro is doing things that Cuba needs. A lot of people didn't believe in him, but his work is on display. He is changing the country quietly, without speeches, and without bragging about it," said Jose Fernandez, a 55-year-old math teacher as he waited for a bus to work on Friday.
With Fidel Castro in retirement and rarely seen, any increase in Raul's popularity helps legitimize communist rule as Cubans adjust to his economic reforms and now a new relationship with the United States.
Reinaldo Haten, a 45-year-old Havana real estate agent, said the president is making his own mark on Cuba and changing it for the better."I thank Raul, because he is making history. With all that he has done in less than five years of his government, he has made a huge change in society," said Haten, who was looking for home buyers at an informal outdoor real estate market in Havana.
One expert who has followed the Castro brothers for decades said Raul Castro has always been underestimated and that he maintains "a very firm, controlling grip" on the country.
"He's always been a very, very powerful figure," said Brian Latell, a former CIA analyst. "He was Fidel’s most essential and indispensable ally. I don’t think Fidel would have lasted as long as he did without Raul."
The younger Castro spent his entire childhood and 50 years of public life as an adult eclipsed by Fidel, the older brother he adored and obeyed. In the revolution that brought Fidel to power in 1959, Raul played a crucial role in turning the upstart rebels into an organized fighting force.
    While Fidel Castro was the grandiose front man rallying Cubans to support the revolution and defy the United States, Raul Castro was his loyal defense minister, building a strong military.
Together they survived the U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion, sent Cuban troops to Cold War battlegrounds in Africa and weathered the economic embargo and countless U.S. efforts to force them from power.
To their enemies, the Castro brothers will always be seen as partners who stole power and repressed the population, but they maintained significant popular support inside Cuba.
When Fidel Castro became sick in the summer of 2006 with an intestinal disorder, he handed power provisionally to Raul. The transfer became definitive in February 2008.
Raul proved himself more steady, organized and businesslike than the mercurial Fidel.
Many Cubans presume Raul consults with his brother on major decisions but Fidel's precise role is unknown. He occasionally writes a newspaper column or receives foreign dignitaries.
This week, it has been Raul's show. When he addressed the nation on Wednesday to announce the deal with Obama, he was in typical form, speaking without fanfare or hyperbole, calmly reading the statement in his deliberate, rough-edged baritone.
While the end of hostility between Cuba and the United States has the greater historic importance, the release of the three Cuban spies had a huge impact in Cuba.
It culminated a 16-year campaign to win the freedom of five "anti-terrorist heroes," who had been jailed in the United States for spying on anti-Castro exiles in Florida.
The other two had already returned home in 2013 and 2014 upon serving their terms, and the freedom of the final three was met with jubilation.
U.S. officials say the five were caught red-handed but in Cuba they were seen as heroes who infiltrated extremist groups at a time when anti-Castro extremists were bombing hotels in Havana.
Images of the men returning home, hugging Castro and their relatives in the airport, have dominated the state-controlled media in a Cuban feel-good story.
"His popularity has risen since that moment," said Carlos Alzugaray, a retired Cuban diplomat. "He has been pragmatic, giving Obama the space he needed to make this happen, allowing Obama to come off in a good light. He's been very smart about this."
Castro's daughter Mariela, a member of parliament, said on Friday she was proud of her father. "He's not interested in his place in history. He just wants Cuba to do well, for our ship to sail."

Pakistan - MQM leader demands arrest of Lal Masjid cleric and close down of Jamia Hafza

Mutahida Quomi Movement (MQM) leader Altaf Hussain has demanded immediate arrest of hate preacher hardliner Deobandi cleric, Abdul Aziz and also demanded close down of Jamia Hafza during his live address to his party worker today on Friday, The Shia Post reports.
MQM leader said, “The Lal Masjid is hub of terrorism and must be demolished in order to keep peace in Pakistan.” adding the statement he said, “The students and staff of Jamia Hafza are Pro-ISIS terrorists and they are linked with ISIS and recruiting terrorists for ISIS in the country.”
He was addressing the rally in solidarity with Pakistan Army after Peshawar massacre.
Altaf Hussain demanded Pakistan army to spread the Zarb-e-Azab operation across the country.
A huge contingent of police personnel has been deployed outside the capital’s Lal Masjid on Friday to deal with any untoward situation after another call of protest by members of civil society. Later, protesters announced that they be rallying at Melody Chowk instead.
Earlier the demonstrators in Islamabad have submitted application at Aabpara Police Statioto lodge FIR against Takfiri Deobandi cleric Abdul Aziz.
Altaf Hussain termed the Lal Masjid as Masjid-e-Dirar. Masjid al-Dirar was a Medinian mosque that was erected close to the Quba’ Mosque and which the Islamic prophet Muhammad (PBUH) initially approved of but subsequently had destroyed while he was returning from the Battle of Tabuk (which occurred in October 630 AD.
During his speech he said, “The Quaid-e-Azam Muhmmad Ali Jinnah was a Shia one who created Pakistan, all were united in the leadership of Jinnah.”

Conversion to Islam solely for marriage not valid: Allahabad High Court

In a significant judgement, the Allahabad High Court has ruled that the religious conversion of girls "without their faith and belief in Islam" and "solely for the purpose of marriage" to Muslim boys could not be held valid.
Justice Surya Prakash Kesarwani passed the order while dismissing a batch of petitions filed by five couples, hailing from different districts of Uttar Pradesh, who had sought "protection as married couple".
In each case, the boys were Muslim while the girls were Hindus who got converted to Islam for solemnising "nikah".
In his order earlier this week, Justice Kesarwani quoted a Supreme Court order of 2000 wherein it was laid down that "conversion of religion of a non-Muslim without any real change of belief in Islam and only for the purpose of marriage is void".
These marriages are against the mandate in Sura II Ayat 221 of the Holy Quran", the court remarked while quoting an English translation of the relevant verses of the Holy Book - "Do not marry unbelieving women until they believe.....Nor marry your girls to unbelievers until they believe".
"The petitioner girls have stated that they do not know about Islam. In the writ petitions as well as in the statements on oath made before this court, the petitioner girls have not stated that they have any real faith and belief in the unity of God...They all stated that the boys got their religion converted with sole purpose to marry them", the court noted.
"In case of a religious conversion, there should be a change of heart and honest conviction in the tenets of new religions in lieu of tenets of the original religion", the court observed, adding that if conversion was resorted to "achieve an object without faith and belief in the unity of God (Allah) and Mohamed to be his prophet, the conversion shall not be bona fide.
The court concurred with state government's submission that the petitioners were "not entitled to protection as married couple" since "conversion from Hinduism to Islam and that too at the instance of the boy in each of the writ petitions is not permissible even as per Muslim Personal Law".
The petitions, filed separately and at different points of time, were clubbed together and disposed of by the court vide the aforesaid judgement.

Pakistan Executes Two Terrorists After Lifting Moratorium on Death Penalty

Two convicted terrorists were today hanged in Pakistan two days after the government ended a moratorium on capital punishment in terror-related cases.

Dr Usman, a former serviceman who was found guilty for his involvement on the attack on the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi and on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009, was executed along with another ex-military personnel, Arshad.

On Thursday, Pakistan's military chief had signed death warrants for six terrorists on death row. Security officials said the six had been convicted by a military court and were awaiting execution.

The announcement came hours after the government warned prison officials of a possible jailbreak in the restive northwest province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa following the end of the moratorium.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced on Wednesday an end to the moratorium on the death penalty in terror-related cases after a Pakistani Taliban massacre at a military-run school killed 148 people, mostly children.

The assault in the northwestern city of Peshawar is the deadliest ever terror attack in Pakistan and has shocked the nation.

Political and military leaders have vowed in response to wipe out the homegrown Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands of ordinary Pakistanis in recent years.

Pakistan imposed a de facto moratorium on civilian executions in 2008, though hanging remains on the statute book and judges continue to pass the death sentence.

Only one person has been executed since then, a soldier convicted by a court martial and hanged in November 2012.

Video Report - Anger against Taliban mounts after Pakistan school attack

Video Report - Pakistani military says it kills more than 60 militants in various clashes

Pakistan - Dr Usman, Arshad Mehmood executed in Faisalabad

FAISALABAD: Aqeel alias Dr Usman and Arshad Mehmood have been executed in Faisalabad, in the first capital punishment carried out in the country since 2012. Usman a former soldier of the army’s medical corps, was executed in relation to an attack on the headquarters of the Pakistan Army in 2009 in Rawalpindi. Arshad Mehmood, was executed for an assassination attempt on former military ruler, General (retd.) Pervez Musharraf.


ISIS Targets Afghanistan Just as the U.S. Quits

As the United States moves out of Afghanistan, ISIS is moving in to compete with al Qaeda and the Taliban in the legendary region of Khorasan, which also includes Pakistan and Iran.
Few sayings of the Prophet Mohammed have a stronger hold on the imagination of the world’s jihadists than his prophecy about the flags: "If you see the black banners coming from Khorasan, join that army, even if you have to crawl over ice,” he is supposed to have admonished the faithful. “No power will be able to stop them and they will finally reach Baitul Maqdisi”—Jerusalem— “where they will erect flags."
And where was this magical land of Khorasan, whence the conquerors would come? Think Afghanistan and pieces of all the countries that surround it, including and especially Iran.
For the great ideologues of modern jihadist terror, Ayman al Zawahiri of al Qaeda and Abu Bakr al Baghdadi of the so-called Islamic State, the strategic and symbolic importance of Khorasan is huge, and there are already signs that they are competing for control there. Some factions of both the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban and some members of al Qaeda in the area have pledged allegiance to Baghdadi’s self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria and Iraq. Zawahiri’s most elite group of operatives, meanwhile, has become known as the Khorasan Group. As terrorists compete for prestige and authority, they are under attack by the governments of the region. To make their mark on the minds of potential followers, they carry out ever more desperate and horrifying acts, like the slaughter of children at a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, earlier this week.
A central figure in these dangerous wider developments is a soft-spoken scholar, journalist and poet, Sheikh Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost, who spent more than three years as a prisoner of the Americans at Guantanamo, then found himself imprisoned again by the Pakistanis. News reports in the region recently named his as the Islamic State-appointed governor or wali of Khorasan.
A few days ago, Muslim Dost, whom I have known for years, and whose voice I recognize, left two long messages on my cell-phone answering machine. He said the news of his appointment was not true, that it was disinformation spread by “some intelligence agency and my rivals.”
But Muslim Dost made it clear he answers to the Islamic State, widely known by the acronyms ISIS, ISIL and Da’esh, and he called on all Muslims to defend it.
To make their mark on the minds of potential followers, they carry out ever more desperate and horrifying acts, like the slaughter of children at a school in Peshawar.
In fact, whatever his nominal position, Muslim Dost is part of an ISIS strategy that, once again, appears to be several steps ahead of most Western thinking. According to anthropologist Scott Atran, who has conducted extensive studies of jihadist ideologies, Baghdadi outlined his strategy clearly in what’s been called his “Volcanoes of Jihad” speech on November 13: “Glad tidings, O Muslims, for we give you good news by announcing the expansion of the Islamic State to new lands, to the lands of [Saudi Arabia] and Yemen, to Egypt, Libya and Algeria” Baghdadi said. “We announce the acceptance of bayah [allegiance] … the announcement of new wilayat [provinces] for the Islamic State, and the appointment of [leaders] for them.”
With the naming of governors outside of Syria-Iraq, Baghdadi “was telling the world that the Caliphate was going global,” says Atran. These stretched from Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah splinters in the Philippines and Indonesia to al-Maqdis in the Wilaya of Sinai, Egypt, to Jun al-Khalifa in Algeria. In Libya, threewilayat were declared: Tripoli, Fazzan and Barqay (which contains Darna, where whole neighborhoods of young men had earlier joined the jihads in Iraq).
Thus ISIS “is preempting al Qaeda’s claim to be the vanguard of global jihad,” says Atran. Baghadi is creating what amounts to an ideological archipelago “where associated jihadi insurgencies in geographically distant and separated regions can fight for the Caliphate under one supreme leader, with an eye toward eventual unification of all territories.” Khorasan is vital to this strategy not only because of the Prophet’s predictions, says Atran, but because it is where, in the jihadist view, “the Iranian Shia—the devil—pretends to rule.”
Muslim Dost played on those sentiments in the messages he left me. “It is our Islamic obligation to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State and give it our Islamic fealty,” he said. The implementation of the will of God could only be carried out by “the resurrection of the Islamic caliphate”, and “since an Islamic caliphate has been restored, it is obligatory for every Muslim to announce his allegiance and support for it.” To fail to do so would mark a believer as ignorant of his holy obligation, and Muslim Dost claimed that his public support for ISIS is only for that purpose and disclaimed any “personal interest or aim.” But in the same breath, he issued a call to arms. “Apostates and infidels worldwide have made a big alliance against the Islamic Caliphate,” he said, “so Muslims are advised to be united and make sacrifices for the Caliphate, and should not hesitate to give their all.”
According to a Western intelligence source in Kabul, “there is good potential for ISIS to grow in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.” The source told me, when I saw him recently, that “ISIS and Baghdadi are mentioned widely and with respect in intercepted conversations among militants and al Qaeda’s residual elements in the region.” “Even among the Taliban,” according to this source, “there are some that might be willing to pledge to ISIS, or have done so already in secret and will reveal themselves in the near future.”
A former minister in the old Taliban government says that ISIS militants already are on the ground in “Khorasan” waiting for the day when the mainstream Taliban factions enter serious peace talks with the U.S.-backed government in Kabul. At that point they will position themselves as the anti-peace-talk group to build support, he said.
“If the minds of Muslims in Europe and the United States can be inspired by the call of ISIS,” says the ex-minister, “think how easy it is to integrate jihadists from Afghanistan and Pakistan, Central Asia and India.”

The Unspeakable in Afghanistan


2014 marks the deadliest year in Afghanistan for civilians, fighters, and foreigners. The situation has reached a new low as the myth of the Afghan state continues. Thirteen years into America’s longest war, the international community argues that Afghanistan is growing stronger, despite nearly all indicators suggesting otherwise. Most recently, the central government failed (again) to conduct fair and organized elections or demonstrate their sovereignty. Instead, John Kerry flew into the country and arranged new national leadership. The cameras rolled and a unity government was declared.  Foreign leaders meeting in London decided on new aid packages and financing for the nascent ‘unity government.’ Within days, the United Nations helped broker a deal to keep foreign forces in the country, while simultaneously President Obama declared the war was ending—even as he increased the number of troops on the ground. In Afghanistan, President Ghani dissolved the cabinet and many people are speculating the 2015 parliamentary elections will be postponed.
The Taliban and other insurgent groups continue to gain traction and have pulled increasing parts of the country under their control. Throughout the provinces, and even in some of the major cities, the Taliban have begun collecting taxes and are working to secure key roadways. Kabul—a city that has been called the most fortified city on earth—has been on edge due to multiple suicide bombings. The attacks on various targets, ranging from high schools to houses for foreign workers, the military, and even the office of Kabul’s police chief have clearly communicated the ability of anti-government forces to strike at will. In response to the growing crisis, the Emergency Hospital in Kabul has been forced to stop treating non-trauma patients in order continue to treat the growing number of people harmed by guns, bombs, suicide explosions, and mines.
After four years of traveling to Afghanistan to conduct interviews, I have heard ordinary Afghans whisper about Afghanistan as a failing state, even as the media has touted growth, development, and democracy. Using dark humor to comment on current conditions Afghans joke that everything is working as it should; they acknowledge an unspeakable reality. They point out that more than 101,000 foreign forces trained to fight and use violence who have used their training well—by using violence; that arms merchants have ensured that all parties can continue fighting for years to come by supplying weapons to all sides; that foreign funders backing resistance groups and mercenaries can complete their missions—resulting in both increased violence and an absence of accountability; that the international NGO community implements programs and has profited from over $100 billion in aid; and that the majority of those investments ended up deposited  in foreign bank accounts, primarily benefiting  foreigners and a few elite Afghans. Further, many of the supposedly “impartial” international bodies, as well as some of the major NGOs, have aligned themselves with various fighting forces. Thus even basic humanitarian aid has become militarized and politicized. For the ordinary Afghan the reality is clear. Thirteen years of investing in militarization and liberalization has left the country in the hands of foreign powers, ineffective NGOs, and infighting between many of the same warlords and Taliban. The result is the current unstable, deteriorating situation rather than a sovereign state.
Yet, during my trips to Afghanistan, I have also heard another unspeakable whispered, in contrast to the narrative told by mainstream media. That is, that there is another possibility, that the old way has not worked, and it is time for change; that nonviolence may  resolve some of the challenges facing the country. In Kabul, the Border Free Center—a community center in which young people can explore their role in improving society,–is exploring the use of nonviolence to engage in serious attempts at peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding. These young adults are engaging in demonstration projects to show how different ethnic groups can work and live together. They are creating alternative economies that do not rely on violence in order to provide livelihoods for all Afghans, especially vulnerable widows and children. They are educating street children and developing plans to decrease weapons in the country. They are working to preserve the environment and to create model organic farms to show how to heal the land. Their work is demonstrating the unspeakable in Afghanistan—that when people engage in the work of peace, real progress can be achieved.
Perhaps if the last 13 years had been less focused on foreign political motives and military aid and more focused on initiatives like the Border Free Center, the situation in Afghanistan might be different. If energies were focused on peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding, perhaps people could acknowledge the reality of the situation and create a true transformation of the Afghan state.

After the Attack in Peshawar, Will Afghanistan and Pakistan Cooperate?

One vital element missing from the long fight against the various Taliban groups that operate on both sides of the lawless Afghanistan-Pakistan border has been serious cooperation between the governments in Kabul and Islamabad. The slaughter of 148 students and teachers by Pakistani Taliban at a military-run school in Peshawar on Tuesday ought to change that. But will it?
As Pakistan was consumed by shock and grief over the attack, the country’s army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, and the head of the Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency, Lt. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar, moved quickly. They flew to Kabul on Wednesday to meet the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, and Gen. John Campbell, the commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
The Pakistani commanders were seeking Afghanistan’s help in locating the Pakistani Taliban leaders who devised and carried out the massacre. A statement issued by the Pakistani military said Mr. Ghani had assured the Pakistanis that his government would cooperate.
Even before the massacre, Mr. Ghani, a former World Bank official who became president in September, had showed a willingness to work with Pakistan and calm the bilateral hostilities that his predecessor had stoked.
But to get real traction on the terrorism problem, good will can’t just move in one direction. Pakistan is also going to have address Afghanistan’s concerns.
The Afghan Taliban that has been fighting American and Afghan forces in Afghanistan is well known to have its headquarters in Quetta, Pakistan and to have bases along the border. The Pakistani military has long supported the Afghan Taliban as a way of exerting influence in Afghanistan, even while, in recent years, it has fought the Pakistan Taliban.
On Wednesday, Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, insisted that from now on, “there will be no differentiation between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban.” But in the past that’s exactly what Pakistan has done and it has been a fool’s game.
Supporting extremism in any form is a losing proposition. To have some hope of ending brutal Taliban assaults, and the group’s larger goal of trying to bring down the state, Pakistan has to decide that all these terrorists are an existential threat and that Afghanistan can be an ally in combatting them.

Pakistan - Preparations complete to hang GHQ attack convict

Preparations to execute Aqeel alias Dr Usman in relation to an attack on Pakistan Army`s General Headquarters in Rawalpindi in 2009 and Arshad Meherban in a case related to attack on former president Pervez Musharraf, have been completed at Faisalabad`s Central Jail.
As per details, jail authorities have received death warrants of both convicts and they are likely to be hanged on Saturday morning.
At least 10 soldiers were killed during the attack on the army headquarters on October, 10, 2009 while nine of the ten attackers were also killed. Dr Usman, a former soldier of the army`s medical corps, was injured during the attack and taken into custody.
On the other hand, Arshad Meherban was sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi for his involvement in a bomb attack on former president Pervez Musharraf.
Earlier on Thursday, Army Chief General Raheel Sharif signed deaths warrants for six  hard-core terrorists , two days after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted the moratorium on death penalty for the convicted terrorists.
PM Nawaz had lifted the ban after terrorists attacked Army Public School in Peshawar, killing 141 people, most of them children.

Pakistan - #PeshawarAttack - 'I could be next'

On December 16, militants stormed into a school in Peshawar, killing 148 people in cold blood.
Over 130 of the victims were students aged between 10 and 18.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was quick to claim responsibility for what is possibly the most gruesome attack in the history of the country.

Karachi students on the Peshawar massacre by etribune
There were no hostages, no ransom and no demand for negotiations. Militants went from classroom to classroom, spraying bullets indiscriminately. Worse, they taunted children in one English class, lining up eight of them and shooting them in front of their class fellows; in another they set alight their teacher on fire. Students were asked to recite the kalma before their final breath, while some played dead to survive the second round of fire.
According to the military spokesperson, 1,099 children and staffers were registered at the school. Around 960 students and staffers were rescued; 23 children were found hiding behind the school building after the operation.
Students who survived recount how their day started ordinarily – English class and career counseling in the auditorium – and ended in a bloodbath; the main hall littered with bullets, blood and bodies.

Pakistan to challenge bail for Mumbai attack 'mastermind'

Pakistani prosecutors are to appeal against a court decision to grant bail to a man accused of plotting a 2008 militant assault in India's financial capital that killed 166 people and seriously strained ties between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
The decision on Thursday to grant bail to Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi came two days after Pakistan's worst ever militant attack, the killing by Pakistani Taliban gunmen of 132 children and nine members of staff at a school in the city of Peshawar.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the prospect of bail for the man India accused of masterminding the attack on Mumbai in which 166 people were killed.

The Pakistani government appeared to have been taken by surprise by the court decision and state prosecutor Chaudhry Azhar said it would be challenged.
"We will go to Islamabad High Court on Monday to file the application," Azhar told Reuters on Friday.
Lakhvi would not be able to leave the prison until then, he said.
The decision to grant bail to Lakhvi comes two months after India and Pakistan were engaged in their worst cross-border violence in more than a decade, in the disputed Kashmir region.
"This type of attitude is a setback for all those who believe in humanitarianism," Modi told lawmakers in parliament in New Delhi, referring to the Pakistani court's ruling.
"We have conveyed the message in appropriate words to Pakistan."
India blamed the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba for the Mumbai attack, in which 10 gunmen spent three days spraying bullets and throwing grenades around city landmarks.
Indian investigators said Lakhvi was the group's military chief and the sole surviving gunman had identified him as the mastermind of the assault.
Lakhvi was arrested in Pakistan in 2009 and jailed.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been trying to repair relations with India, which he sees as vital to kickstarting Pakistan's sluggish economy.
Modi, a hawkish nationalist whose party has struggled to shake off accusations it favors majority Hindus at the expense of religious minorities, had earlier condemned the Peshawar school attack saying India was as pained as Pakistan over the massacre of the children.
Relations between the neighbors have been rocky ever since independence from Britain in 1947. They have fought three wars, two over the largely Muslim region of Kashmir.