Monday, April 27, 2015

Video - Obama admin defends Middle East record after Bush criticism

Video - Kathmandu residents prepare for third night in open air

Video - "Fall of Saigon" remembered by refugees who lived it

Video - "Furious" tops U.S. box office; "Avengers" earns 201 million

World 'closer than ever' to Iran nuclear deal, Kerry says

Associated Press 

The world is "closer than ever" to reaching a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran but the work is far from over, with key issues unresolved, Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday told a global gathering on nuclear disarmament, where he and Iran's foreign minister met on the sidelines.

Several of the world's nuclear powers over the month ahead will discuss progress on a landmark treaty on disarmament, with Israel attending for the first time in two decades as an observer.
Diplomats said the ongoing Iran discussions are separate from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, or NPT, review conference, which is tasked with setting a path to the elimination of the estimated 16,000 nuclear weapons in the world today.
Immediate concerns at the conference include the lack of progress in disarmament by the United States and Russia, who between them hold more than 90 percent of those weapons. Civil society groups say nuclear powers are spending billions of dollars to instead modernize their arsenals. The United States says it is "maintaining and servicing" instead.
Few breakthroughs are expected at the conference as diplomats warn of Cold War-style tensions over Ukraine and other issues. "I know as well as anyone that we have a long way to go" on the path to a nuclear-free world, Kerry said, acknowledging that "we know that we can cut back even further."
Kerry was meeting with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for the first time since world powers and Iran sealed a framework agreement on April 2 that would limit Iran's ability to build a nuclear weapon. They face a deadline of June 30 for a comprehensive accord.
Zarif will address the conference Tuesday. Speaking on behalf of developing countries Monday, he repeated the call for a Middle East free of nuclear weapons, a popular goal of Arab states but one that has gained little traction in the past five years.
Kerry called the proposed zone an "ambitious goal and fraught with challenges" but worth pursuing. Russia's deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, saying, "Israel has shown readiness for constructive steps to be taken."
Zarif repeated the Non-Aligned Movement's call for Israel to give up its nuclear weapons. Israel has never publicly declared any nuclear weapons in its possession.
Israel surprised attendees with its appearance as an observer, but since it is not a party to the treaty, it won't be speaking.
When asked whether he would be meeting with Israel, the head of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, said, "I don't know yet."
In his speech, Amano warned that his agency "is not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities."
Meanwhile, the Palestinians marked their first conference as a state party to the treaty.
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon set the tone Monday with urging real progress toward the elimination of nuclear weapons, saying that without it, the action plan the conference agreed on in its last meeting five years ago "could risk fading in relevance."
"I am deeply concerned that over the last five years this process seems to have stalled," Ban said. He called on world leaders to "abandon short-sighted political posturing."
Both Ban and the IAEA chief, as well as Japan and South Korea, expressed concern on another pressing issue at the conference: North Korea's nuclear program and the lack of talks to address it.
Kerry called North Korea "the most glaring example" of ignoring global obligations toward disarmament and said the United States continues to work with partners to set the stage for talks — but only if Pyongyang shows "it's serious."

Video - Rioters clash with police after Freddie Gray funeral

Video - Protesters rioting, looting pharmacy in Baltimore

Video - Baltimore mayor announces curfew

Video - Several officers injured in Baltimore protests

U.S. - Acts of violence and destruction won't be tolerated - Maryland gov.

Acts of violence and destruction will not be tolerated in Baltimore City, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said as he announced a state of emergency after riots broke out in the wake of Freddie Gray's death in police custody.
Hogan said the riot "put innocent Marylanders at significant risk” and that the deployment of the National Guard is a "last resort" to restore order to the city.
"People have the right to protest and express their frustrations, but Baltimore city families deserve peace and safety in their communities," he added. "Destructive acts cannot and will not be tolerated."
At the press conference, Maj. Gen. Linda L. Singh said National Guard troops will carry arms while on patrol, but only for self-defense.
Earlier in the day, Hogan declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard to help handle the unrest in Baltimore. The situation escalated dramatically on Monday after a group of school-age kids gathered at Mondawmin Mall and began throwing rocks at law enforcement. Officers responded with mace and pepper spray, but the young people involved then moved to set at least two vehicles on fire, as well as a local pharmacy.
Prior to the governor's statement, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake declared a curfew will be implemented beginning Tuesday night and will last for one week. All adults and minors, outside of emergency situations, will need to be off the streets from 10pm to 5 am.
She also called the rioters "thugs" several times and said it was "idotic" to think that destroying the city would lead to improvements in anyone's life.
Too many people have spent generations building up this city for it to be destroyed by thugs," she said.
Rawlings-Blake also differentiated between those destroying property and causing injury from those who took to the streets without violence last week.
It is very clear there is a difference between what we saw over the past week with the peaceful protests… and the thugs who only want to incite violence and destroy our city,"she said.
Tensions between law enforcement and the community have risen since the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who was arrested earlier this month after running away from police. He suffered a severe spine injury while in police custody and slipped into a coma upon being hospitalized. Gray died one week later.
Local police have acknowledged that officers should have sought medical attention for Gray at the point of apprehension and that they failed to offer timely assistance multiple times. They also did not secure him with a seatbelt in the police wagon, which is against department policy.
Both local and federal law enforcement are investigating the incident.

Pashto Music Video - Gulnar Begum - Zma Da Stergo Patsoo Khe

Balochistan: Electricity Supply Further Reduced By 200 MW

According to Quetta electricity Supply Company (QESCO) Electricity supply of Balochistan from national Electricity Grid has been further reduced from 600 Megawatt (MW) to 400 MW on Sunday.
This decision is believed to exacerbate the living conditions of people of Balochistan who are already suffering long hours of Load shedding.
This decision has been made by Ministry of Water and Power due to increase in demand of electricity all over the country.
“Balochistan was already receiving 33% electricity of its total demand and even that has been reduced by 200 MW,” a citizen Abdul Hayee told The Balochistan Point. “This is continuation of anti-Balochistan policies of Federal government,” added Mr. Hayee.
Total demand of electricity in Balochistan is 1,800 MW, according to QESCO sources, and the reduction in electricity supply would increase the shortfall in the province to 1400 MW.
QESCO has announced that electricity would be unavailable in Quetta for 8 hours a day and in other districts only 4 to 6 hours of electricity will be available per day.
“We hardly get 4 hours of electricity in our village in Mastung district. Now we will hardly get one hour electricity per day,” lamented Mr. Sakhi while talking to The Balochistan Point.
Balochistan is the biggest victim of load shedding in entire Pakistan and that fact is not very well known. Some villages in Balochistan hardly get one hour of electricity per day.

Pakistan - Never a dull moment

Humayun Gauhar

Xi Jinping’s visit is a great temporary boost for Nawaz Sharif, but can Pakistan deliver its part to make it an economic boost for itself. 
Came Xi Jinping and came the lights. Left Xi Jinping and left the lights. During the Chinese president’s understandably much hyped visit there were no electricity outages in Islamabad’s VIP sectors, but seconds after his plane took off went the electricity. Thus ended the hype and hoopla. I suggest we sign a MoU with President Xi that he considers relocating to Islamabad so that we don’t have any outages and Nawaz Sharif’s promise of ending ‘load-shedding’ is met at least in our capital city.
I wonder. With 23,000 megawatts of installed capacity already there and our governments unable to generate more than about 10,000 MW and 13,000 MW lying idle, how will it be able to run the extra coal-fired power plants? What do we need it for anyway? To export electricity to our loveable neighbours who might not like to buy it from us anyway for ‘strategic’ reasons? When China is gradually ending coal-fired power plants, why are they landing us with them? To start permanent coal export like to Pakistan? Won’t they not pollute our environment even more and turn certain mini-tycoons into maxi-Moguls?
Which brings me to the most important part of President Xi Jinping’s speech in parliament: China looks to enhancing its economic relations with the whole of South Asia or SAARC (implicitly not with Pakistan alone) and that peace in the neighbourhood would be the best harbinger of economic progress. One cannot argue with that, but the problem lies in India run by a throwback Hindu extremist with Muslim blood on his hands. Xi knows that and his message is most to India that it should mend its differences with all its neighbours and stop acting like a regional bully and wannabe superpower. The message also implies that China wishes to extend its influence all over Asia, as it has done in Africa, the Middle East, South and North America. Move over, America? Not so fast, darling. No one can match America’s knowledge bank and innovation. The global reach of such countries might decline somewhat but they are never out.
President Xi Jinping finally came to Pakistan last Monday and left on Tuesday. The old slogan, “Higher than the mountains, deeper than the oceans, sweeter than honey” has been extended to the ironic phrase “Iron Clad” and “Iron Man” considering that our prime minister is a steel tycoon – ‘Man of Steel’, what, or should one spell steel with ‘a’ as the second last alphabet? Xi’s visit was aborted earlier due to Imran Khan’s and Dr Tahirul Qadri’s dharnas. Now Imran was dutifully at hand to shake hands with the Chinese president though Nawaz Sharif couldn’t help displaying his pettiness when he introduced him as the man who had delayed the visit. Imran was even present in parliament that he had resigned from to shake hands with Xi Jinping again. Dr Tahirul Qadri was nowhere in sight. Confusion, utter confusion, wherefore is thy source?
The Saudis requested airplanes, ships and ground troops in support of its operations in Yemen
When Premier Zhou Enlai, the greatest statesman of our times, was asked his opinion on the French Revolution, he replied, “It’s too early to judge”. Similarly, it’s too early to judge and analyse the implications of President Xi Jinping’s visit. It will take time to study the 51 instruments signed, mostly MoUs. MoU is just that, ‘Memorandum of Understanding’, an expression of intent and wishes, not a treaty or contract. The Chinese and Pakistanis love signing ceremonies with the added advantage that it gives Pakistani leaders grist for their propaganda mills. So let the hype end and the dust settle before making a judgment. $45 billion is a lot of money: one has to see the forms in which it is coming, its nature and terms. How much is joint venture investment, how much loans at what interest rates? Will we be able to service and pay them back or will it only add to our debt burden? Will we be able to fulfil our part of the bargain? Can we provide security to Chinese personnel working here? Do we have the human capacity and capability or will we have to build it, which takes a long time? Better manpower and management are there with the army at least (it built the Karakorum Highway with China), but do the civilians have enough capability? Will the private sector be able to raise loans from banks already strapped for cash since they have lent 67 percent of their liquidity to the government since the State Bank cannot do so any longer on the orders of the IMF… and so on. In short, I will wait to see the financial closures of each project before coming to any conclusion. But one thing is certain: it will give Nawaz Sharif and Co. much to boast about in the coming days until painful reality returns. We first started much before Nawaz Sharif’s third government. But he who is present at the altar gets the bride with her huge dowry, regardless of he who started wooing her first – at the right place at the right time.
I would never trade living in Pakistan for any other. There’s never a dull moment here, from the Chinese president’s visit to the by-election in Karachi to the Saudi-Yemen fracas and the Saudi angst with Nawaz Sharif to God knows what. So Nawaz Sharif repaired to Riyadh after Xi’s visit to try and repair ties.
Some suggested after my last article that the India-Iran Strategic Cooperation agreement is a myth. Not so. Iran’s President Mohammed Khatami was invited as chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations in January 2003: that is when he signed the agreement with Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Introducing the ‘The “Strategic Partnership” between India and Iran” for the Asia Program Special Report of the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, Robert Hathaway introduced Jalil Rosenthal and Sunil Dasgupta’s essays. Dasgupta says that, “Pakistani defence planners cannot completely rule out the possibility that in a future war between India and Pakistan, New Delhi may have access to Iranian military bases.” Such an occurrence, Rosenthal notes, would present Islamabad with the spectre of a two-front war and must of necessity alter Pakistan’s strategic calculations in a fundamental manner… a close political, economic, and possibly military ‘alliance’ between India and Iran ‘poses a serious challenge’ to important Pakistani interests.” Christine Fair, writing in the same report and calls the report of Iran allowing military bases to India bogus but goes on to add that, “astute observers” have remarked that, “the new defence relationship between India and Iran affords New Delhi a number of advantages.” She quotes a Pakistani security analyst: “Any Indian presence on Iranian military bases, even if it is solely for the purpose of training the Iranians, would allow India a more subtle ‘operational’ use of early warning, intelligence gathering, etcetera, facilities against Pakistan. An Indian military presence in Iran with or without strike capability would enable India in the event of war with Pakistan to create a ‘holding threat’ along its western borders.” Xi Jinping said in parliament that any threat to Pakistan’s integrity and independence would be taken as a threat to China’s integrity and independence. It’s obvious what it implies: no need to spell it out in writing for morons who don’t understand till the first Indian bullet is fired from Iran. I would like to know since when the victorious Iranian military needed Indian training anyway or is it a smokescreen? You believe India and Iran if you wish: I don’t. But note one thing: Since the departure of Vajpayee things may change between India and Iran in this regard.
More importantly, why is Saudi Arabia so upset with Nawaz Sharif? Sajjad Ashraf, former Pakistani diplomat and now adjunct professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore tells us why in his article ‘Saudi Debt’. “Stung by his complete failure to muster the parliamentary support needed to join in a Saudi-led intervention in Yemen’s civil war, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is now counting the costs of his $1.5 billion folly.
“Sharif was put on the spot when the official Saudi news agency released a statement, after King Salman and Sharif spoke by phone last week, stating that Pakistan promised to place its military potential at Saudi disposal. The Saudis requested airplanes, ships and ground troops in support of its operations in Yemen. In the absence of a denial and with an active ministerial campaign in support of Saudi Arabia, it is near certain that Sharif did give an understanding of this nature to the Saudi King, when Sharif visited Saudi Arabia at short notice during March this year.
So there you have it. The sages have said since time immemorial that a trader should never be a ruler
“Sharif and the Saudi royals have cultivated good relations for some time. The Saudis softened their nuclear sanctions on Pakistan in 1998 when, as prime minister, Sharif decided to conduct Pakistan’s first nuclear testing. They gave billions of dollars worth of oil to Pakistan on deferred payment terms but effectively free for five years. The Saudi government later denied this facility when General Pervez Musharraf, who succeeded Sharif, asked for its extension.
“The Saudis made a calculated investment. After saving the Sharif family from Musharraf’s jails, they hosted them in style during their years in exile. They backed Sharifs to set up multi-million dollar enterprises based in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. When the political space opened up in Pakistan, they sent Sharif back in 2007 on board a royal Saudi plane to prevent his deportation. Musharraf had thwarted Sharif’s earlier attempt to return, breaking what had been a solid commitment of a maximum ten-year exile. Sharif and his family owe much of their new billions to Saudi patronage. As such, Sharif ‘is very much Saudi Arabia’s man in Pakistan,’ as a Saudi prince put it.
“And in 2014, when the Pakistani rupee was sinking, a mysterious deposit of US$1.5 billion showed up in Pakistan’s central bank reserves — ‘from a friend’, who did not wish to be named. Pakistanis who questioned the wisdom of accepting this money were misleadingly told there was no quid pro quo. But it is now payback time for Sharif’s debt to the Saudis.
“There were signs that something was afoot. Saudi Arabia was the first country that Army Chief General Raheel Sharif visited after assuming command in 2014. The Saudi foreign minister and the crown prince, now King Salman, visited Pakistan early last year in quick succession. Reports of Saudi purchases of Pakistani arms rapidly gained currency. Last month, before the Saudi offensive was launched in Yemen, Sharif was literally summoned to Saudi Arabia at short notice and in a most unusual departure from protocol the Saudi King Salman, the crown prince and the whole cabinet received him at Riyadh airport.”
Sajjad Ashraf goes one to say: “The Saudis hold another strong card. Pakistani expatriates living in the kingdom send over US$8 billion home annually, a figure that represents almost half of Pakistan’s total US$16 billion in offshore remittances and helps to shore up the sagging economy.
“Yet again, despite pretentions otherwise, Sharif’s personal obligation to the Saudi royal household is casting a heavy shadow over issues of national interest.”
So there you have it. The sages have said since time immemorial that a trader should never be a ruler. ‘Trader’ also includes businessman and industrialist. There is great wisdom in this advice for it saves a country from the conflict of interest that a trader-ruler will be trapped in and compromise his country’s interests.

Pakistan - Saudi backed ASWJ terrorists kill 3 Shia pilgrims in Quetta

At least three Shia pilgrims were killed and another wounded after pro-Taliban takfiri terrorists opened fire on a bus carrying pilgrims near the Chandni Chowk area in Quetta’s Satelite Town on Monday.
Saudi backed Takfiri terrorists of Ahl-e-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat (ASWJ) aka Sipah-e-Sahaba on a motorcycle opened fire at the bus, carrying pilgrims belonging to the Shia Hazara community, was travelling from Quetta to Taftan, a town on the border of Iran.
Two of them were killed on the spot, while another was seriously injured.
The deceased and injured were taken to Civil Hospital Quetta, where the injured individual was pronounced martyred.
The deceased were identified as Mirza Hussain, Asadullah and Mohammad Ali. They were waiting to buy a ticket fer Mekran when they were attacked.
Frontier Corps personnel and police arrived at the scene and investigation into the incident is currently underway.
Hazara Shia Muslims are often the target of genocide at the hands of extremists of Pro-Taliban and Pro-ISIS terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The armed men managed to escape from the site where similar attacks have been carried out against pilgrims in the past as well.


Imam-e-Ka’aba Dr Shaikh Khalid Al Ghamidi has openly declared that the Pakistani decision on Yemen crisis, made by the national assembly, was against the will of Pakistani people.
Saudi Arabian officials and their takfiri agents, running different banned terrorists outfits, religious political parties, seminaries and NGOs in Pakistan, have damaged many times the dignity of the parliament and its decision. In an interview with Geo News anchor Saleem Safi in the ‘Jirga’ programme, he said he was sensing a difference between the opinion of the Pakistani nation and parliament. He termed the Taliban and Daesh as Khwarij for making the wrong interpretations of Islam. He called upon the Saudis and Iranians to get united on the Holy Quran and Sunnah.
Commenting on activities of Taliban and Daesh, he said they were wrongly interpreting the teachings of the Holy Quran and Sunnah of Hazrat Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). He said Islam is the religion of peace, harmony and brotherhood and it never allows anyone to take lives of innocent people. “Islam gives the lesson of peaceful co-existence where follower of every religion feels himself secure,” he added.

Pakistan - Weather chaos in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

IT was nature’s fury compounded by long-standing human apathy. The trail of destruction wreaked by a mini-cyclone, described by the Met office as the third worst in Pakistan’s history, killed over 40 people and left more than 200 injured across Peshawar, Mardan and Nowshera districts on Sunday.
Most of the death and injuries were caused by mud brick homes collapsing, their fragile infrastructure unable to bear the brunt of the high-velocity winds and torrential rain.
In scenes of utter chaos exacerbated by a power blackout, with downed billboards, and uprooted electricity poles and trees blocking the roads, rescue operations were hampered and medical assistance to victims delayed.
Standing wheat crop ready for harvesting in the affected districts has reportedly been destroyed. With more rains forecast, the people’s miseries may not yet be over.
No one can argue that ‘freak’ weather phenomena are a challenge to manage. However, for a country that has suffered through five floods in five consecutive years, we are no longer strangers to extreme weather and there have been more than enough such calamities for relevant bodies to get their act together.
Why then is there still no early warning system in place that should have given people in the path of the cyclone adequate time to take precautionary measures, and for the state to extend its assistance to them in doing so?
While it is important to repair infrastructure and pay compensation post-disaster, it is extremely short-sighted not to invest in technologically advanced systems that could mitigate the loss of life and property.
Moreover, in what has become a depressingly familiar pattern, lack of coordination by the provincial disaster management authority, district administrations and municipal bodies — in the immediate aftermath of the storm and the following day — managed to propel what was an emergency into a full-blown catastrophe.
Even the day after the storm, mayhem reigned on the flooded streets with traffic policemen making feeble attempts in some locations to open blocked drains while the municipal authorities were nowhere to be seen.
In that respect, Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital has at least absorbed some of the lessons afforded by virtue of it being the principal medical facility in an area that unfortunately has repeatedly been the target of large-scale terrorist attacks.
While the overall quality of care could be better, the initial response procedures are much improved, and were adequate this time as well.

Pakistani PM - Useless visit?

Soon after completing his visit to Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reached the UK. Apparently, there was no special agenda of the visit and no significant deals are going to be signed during this five-day tour of the Prime Minister. The basic purpose of this trip to London was that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was invited by his counterpart David Cameron to attend a ceremony to mark 100 years of the Gallipoli battle. The Gallipoli battle was fought from April 1915 to January 1916. During this battle, about 45,000 European soldiers were killed. Except attending this memorial ceremony, there was nothing serious that could be the centre of attention during the meeting between the two prime ministers. Even during the meeting, the usual talks were held regarding issues pertaining to bilateral cooperation as well as the regional and international situation, including the current situation in the Middle East. Both leaders pledged to improve ties and renewed pledges to continue the fight against terrorism. On his part, the British Prime Minister pledged to stand together with Pakistan in the fight against terrorism. He acknowledged Pakistan's role in this fight and assured continued support to Islamabad. No doubt, the UK's assistance and cooperation in the areas of security and counterterrorism are necessary, but the premier should have focused on more urgent needs of the country that can be discussed and finalised during such meetings.

Although the visit was aimed at building better ties with the British government, yet it was a diplomatic waste of time. Why did Nawaz Sharif decide to attend this war commemoration? In the past, our heads of state used to visit the site in Turkey showing solidarity with the Turks in Çanakkale (the real name of Gallipoli). All of a sudden we have Nawaz Sharif laying a wreath at the allied forces war memorial for Gallipoli. In other words, it was an insignificant meeting that was aimed at wasting time and the taxpayers money. The prime minister should have some serious agenda to discuss or he should have sought investments for Pakistan's crumbling economy. He should have secured British support in the education and health sectors. Pakistan has good relations with many countries, but that does not mean that our Prime Minister should go to all these countries to greet them while spending the taxpayers money lavishly. He should limit such visits and pay more attention to the existing problems at home. The unnecessary visits by our premier are already under criticism by the opposition parties and this latest one would provide them another chance to question the government's priorities.

Pakistan - Education: where do we stand?

Not only are teachers not available in sufficient numbers, there is also no system of regular training. Teacher absenteeism is also common.

All political parties in Pakistan agree in principle that education is the basic human right of every child. In their election manifestoes, they place education in their priority lists but nothing has ever been done. Pakistan’s Constitution also declares it an obligation of the state to educate all children without any discrimination. Article 25-A of the Constitution says: “The state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to 16 years in such manner as may be determined by law.”

However, the ground situation has always been pathetic, no matter if civilians or the military ruled the country. According to reports, around 25 million girls and boys in the five to 16 age groups are out of school while 23 percent of these children are of primary school age. This proportion increases with the rise in the level of education; almost 85 percent of children do not reach the higher secondary level. The report, which is based on the data of the federal government’s National Institute of Policy Studies (NIPS), says that more than half of the country’s out-of-school children — about 52 percent — live in Punjab, 25 percent in Sindh, 10 percent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, seven percent in Balochistan, three percent in FATA, two percent in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and one percent in Gilgit Baltistan.

Currently there are 52.91 million children in Pakistan between the ages of five and 16. Statistics show that only 27.89 million attend an educational institute (government or private), leaving 25.02 million children out of school. There are currently 5.1 million children of primary school age out of school. What is of serious concern is that the report also reveals vast regional disparities in providing girls with equal opportunities for education. Nationally, 15.9 million boys, between the ages of five and 16, are enrolled, compared to just 11.9 million girls. As a result, 13.7 million girls and 11.4 million boys are out of school. Region wise, the greatest disparity is in FATA, followed by Balochistan and Punjab. In FATA, 78 percent of girls are out of school compared to 47 percent of boys while 72 percent of girls in Balochistan are out of school with boys at 60 percent.

An analysis of the country’s education arena shows that poverty has much to do with lack of access to education. It has been found that the number of the out of school children increases as income levels fall. Among children belonging to the poorest households, 57 percent are not in school while it is 26 percent in the upper middle class and 10 percent in rich homes. The proportion of such children decreases up to the age of eight but then rises sharply, so that by the age of 16 more than 55 percent of children are out of school.

What are the reasons so many children are out of school? Two fundamental problems are shortage of funds and the absence of infrastructural facilities. A recent survey by a non-governmental organisation shows that in 34 percent cases, people do not allow girls to get enrolled because of the incomplete school infrastructure: lack of the requisite teaching staff, drinking water, boundary walls, toilets and other facilities. To accommodate the increasing number of children no new school buildings are being built. Not only are teachers not available in sufficient numbers, there is also no system of regular training. Teacher absenteeism is also common. It is widely alleged that merit is ignored and teachers are appointed on political grounds. Education experts are of the opinion that unless these impediments are removed education will remain inaccessible for a large number of children in Pakistan.

Amina Ahmed, a journalist and a lecturer, said, “The education crisis in Pakistan can be tackled but the first and foremost need is to enhance budgetary allocations for the education sector and ensure that they are efficiently and effectively spent. Moreover, emphasis should also be placed on teacher and staff trainings. I have a firm believe that verbosity or tall claims will not serve the purpose. All governments at the Centre and provinces will have to make education their top priority to achieve the goal of a literate and educated nation,” says Amina.

According to the UNs Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Pakistan has almost 5.5 million children out of school, the second highest number in the world only after Nigeria. Pakistan also has the highest number of illiterate adults in the world, after India and China. UNESCO’s report on the state of global primary education points out that Pakistan is among 21 countries in the world that face an “extensive learning crisis”. On UNESCO’s index, which is based on a number of indicators such as enrollment, dropout rates, academic performance and literacy, Pakistan scores low in every area.

Broadly speaking, global standards of primary education are in a shambles in south and west Asia, and western Africa. Countries in these regions, including Pakistan, are behind in virtually every index. Pakistan has the dubious distinction of belonging to the poorest category that features 17 countries from sub-Saharan Africa, Mauritania, Morocco and India. According to UNESCO’s findings, private schools provide a better standard of education than government institutes. The index shows that children even in low fee private schools outperform those enrolled in the top tier of government schools, showing the government’s crumbling educational infrastructure. However, even in most private schools, 36 percent of grade five students cannot read a sentence in English, which they should be able to do by grade two.

The most damaging part of the UNESCO report relates to inequalities in education within the country and the impact of the rich-poor divide on educational attainments: “Geographical disadvantage is often aggravated by poverty and gender. In Balochistan, only 45 percent of children in grade five could solve a two-digit subtraction, compared with 73 percent in the wealthier Punjab province. Only around one-quarter of girls from poor households in Balochistan achieved basic numeracy skills while boys from rich households in the province fared much better, approaching the average in Punjab.”

A serious education issue is availability and quality of teachers. In the list of countries that have the highest shortfall of teachers, Pakistan was the only non-African country to feature on it. Nigeria was the highest on the list, requiring 212,000 teachers. The study said that between 2011 and 2015, 5.2 million primary school teachers were required globally to make sure that universal primary education is guaranteed. As historical experience has proved, political interference should stop so that appointments are made on merit. In the larger context, we need to study the education system of countries like Sri Lanka to find out how they managed to achieve such a high rate of literacy within a short time.

“China-Pakistan friendship”: between whom?

The government rolled out the proverbial red carpet when the Chinese President Xi Jinping landed at Chaklala Airbase, where President and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, along with federal ministers and all services chiefs, received him. Earlier, eight Pakistan Air Force (PAF) JF-17 Thunder fighters escorted President Xi’s plane when it entered Pakistani airspace. A twenty-one-gun salute was presented to the Chinese leader as he alighted from his plane. He was later presented a guard of honour by a contingent of armed forces and PAF jets did the fly past.
It was the first time that a Chinese top leader spoke to Pakistan’s parliament. His emotive warmth was resonating, when Mr Xi said, that in discussing the history of Pakistan-China relations, “it is often termed as higher than the Himalayas, deeper than the ocean and sweeter than the honey by the Pakistani brothers while Chinese people refer to Pakistani people as good friends, good partners and good brothers…both countries should maintain strategic communication on regional and international issues. China supports Pakistan's constructive role in Afghanistan…”
But it was the Pakistani prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif who spilled the beans and said it all. During his welcoming speech appreciating the Pakistan-China friendship he said, “It symbolizes our determination to create win-win partnerships, which threaten none, but benefit all.” The business entrepreneur came out of the garb of a politician. All the party leaders of Pakistan’s bourgeois politics stood in unison, foregoing their wrangling facades and deceptive conflicts. So did the honchos of the capitalist state. Some perhaps were naively hoping for a “Chinese miracle” to cure Pakistan’s cancerous capitalism, while most were all praise for this Xi Jinming, the oligarch representing the upstart Chinese bourgeois that have amassed billions in their coffers.
However, what Sharif meant by this friendship is that it’s not really between the peoples of the two lands but between the elites who are now looking for massive profits from the projects announced which will be “built” by the Chinese companies and private contractors along with subcontractors and commission agents. Sections of the state and the bourgeois representatives present in that hall of deceptive power will try to get a share of the massive generation of wealth through the exploitation of the resources and workers of these countries. But they will be awfully disappointed. Those who think that this landmark visit and MOU’s [memoranda of understanding] will turn around the fortunes of Pakistan’s crumbling economy are sadly mistaken, to say the least.
The Chinese upstart elite is not making this investment for a utopian and sentimental friendship, as the intelligentsia and the media would have us believe, but for naked, exorbitant profits and its strategic hegemonic designs in the region. China’s investment aims at opening up the neglected province of Baluchistan and developing Gwadar as a strategic and commercial port. This in turn is likely to increase China’s presence in the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. The economic corridor will open up new business, commercial and military opportunities for them. The development of an economic corridor linking to Gwadar will obviously increase the presence of the Chinese fleet in the region. Gains for China include opening up of the relatively less developed western region that will benefit from shorter access to the sea. China’s potential of forward deployment of its naval assets in the Gwadar and Karachi ports will materialise. At the same time these projects could lead to greater integration of Pakistan’s natural resources and markets with the Chinese economic expansion plans.
China is also the largest investor in Afghanistan, as well as the biggest arms supplier to the Pakistan armed forces. China’s interest in Afghanistan appears to be increasing as US forces withdraw from the region. Initially, its involvement in Afghanistan was securing strategic materials, such as copper, iron, etc. The US and other Western countries have been complaining that China was taking undue advantage of the security umbrella provided by NATO and ISAF. They wanted it not only to be a consumer but also a provider of security. Now that NATO and the US are pulling out of Afghanistan, China is showing greater willingness to be more proactive in helping maintain the region’s security. Moreover, it realises that Afghanistan’s stability will have a positive impact on the restive Xinjiang province. China’s strategy is to negotiate and engage with the Taliban leadership and play a more proactive role in Afghanistan for these very economic and commercial interests. China’s main interest is to use or rent the Pakistan military machine for these hegemonic purposes. Perhaps it was for these material reasons that Xi Jinming was playing the Pakistan-China friendship card so vehemently. What we are also witnessing is that China is projecting its soft power in this region through economic prowess and sophisticated diplomacy. Another element of China’s soft power, which is less talked about, is its political stability, notwithstanding its one-party rule. But it is doubtful that the largest investment package of 45 billion dollars announced for Pakistan will actually materialise, due to the fledgling economic growth and its bleak prospects. It simply won’t have the economic muscle to carry out these strategic policies and economic investments.
In the last few years the Chinese ruling elite has desperately been trying to salvage a declining growth rate, unravelling economic decay, exacerbating poverty and the sharpening class struggle. The Chinese economy in 2014 experienced its lowest economic growth since 1990. The IMF downgraded its 2015 growth projection from 7.1% to 6.8%. According to the Financial Times, “Thirty out of China’s 31 provinces had missed their growth targets for 2014 – the only one that didn’t was Tibet, by far the country’s smallest regional economy. Such figures illustrate the beginning of the end for China’s 'miraculous' boom, as the reality of capitalist crisis is seeping through to the world’s largest exporting economy.”
After an immediate drop in the rate of GDP increase to 9.6% in 2008 from the previous year’s 14.2%, with a sharp fall in her exports the Chinese government embarked on a gigantic “economic stimulus package” equivalent to US$586 billion in infrastructure, especially in construction and heavy industry.
Inspite of the build-up of massive overcapacity and speculative bubbles the state kept the process going. The announced investments in Pakistan with crushing interest rates are part of this Keynesian policy to keep the bubble inflated. All this simply meant that the crisis had only been delayed in fear of a mass revolt. The Chinese economic policymakers have taken drastic measures to bolster growth such as quantitative easing by printing an extraordinary 500bn yuan ($81bn) in September last year. But the longer it is put off, the harder it will crash when it occurs. No “market economy” can avoid the laws of capitalism.
As slow and weak growth continues to haunt the US and Europe, even with the danger of a slump looming, Chinese industry will lack a market for its goods. The Chinese economy is moving inexorably towards a sharp slowdown. It is plagued with overproduction. This “downward pressure” is mainly due to lack of demand. Productive capacity has fallen below 70 percent. Combined with the immense mountain of debt due to the regime’s gigantic and unnecessary Keynesian projects, the further destabilisation of the economy is inevitable. As much as the government has attempted to overcome this organic economic problem with even bigger stimulus packages, the brutal contradictions are coming to the surface.
Chinese state policies have exacerbated the acute contradictions between wage labour and capital. Relative wages are now falling. The majority have not benefitted from the massive speculative investment. Real unemployment is actually closer to 20 per cent despite false official figures. Some 274m rural migrant workers are almost entirely ignored by the job statistics. In spite of the hue and cry of the bourgeois media about capitalist counter-revolution ‘lifting millions out of poverty’, the reality is far starker. According to World Bank statistics, 67.8% of the population (902 million) lives on less than $5 a day. China accounts for a record one-fifth (370) of all billionaires in the world, rising from 17.6 per cent in 2014, the China Rich List 2015, compiled by the US business magazine Forbes, said. “The legislature of the world’s last major communist country is almost certainly the wealthiest in the world, the top rich list names 83 dollar billionaires among Chinese communist party’s, National Peoples Congress. Meanwhile, in America there is not a single billionaire in the House of Representatives or the Senate,” reported the Financial Times. The Communist Party of China is neither communist nor a party but a dragon of the upstart elite that sucks the blood of the workers in China and across the world wherever they make their imperialist investments.
After South Africa, China has the largest gap between the rich and the poor in the world. The growing income inequality is illustrated most clearly by the differences in living standards between the urban, coastal areas and the rural, inland regions. There have also been increases in the inequality of health and education outcomes. The bosses and the state are discovering the real consequences of depriving increasingly emboldened industrial workers of their livelihoods. There were 1380 major strikes of workers in China in 2014, most of them victorious. Much more loom across the horizon. It is not a coincidence that China is perhaps the only state in the world with its internal security expenditure (464 billion dollars) higher than external defence (435 billion).
The recent fall in oil prices was also closely related to the world crisis and its reflection in the slowdown of the Chinese economy. The ailing capitalist system is being propped up artificially by a Central Bank life support machine, which has poured trillions of dollars into the financial system. However, the more these unprecedented measures are used to prop up the system, the less impact they have, like a drug addict who needs a bigger and bigger hit in order to get the same high. Five years ago, it took just over $1 of debt to generate $1 of growth in China. In 2013 it took nearly $4 of debt to generate $1 of growth – and one third of the new debt now goes to pay off old debt. China’s growth rate has fallen to the lowest in over 20 years. The Chinese capitalist miracle stands exposed and is being exhausted.
The chances of its robust recovery are ruled out. The despotic regime of the new president Xi Jinming can boomerang on the Chinese elite. To expect such a greedy ruling clique to alleviate poverty in Pakistan through investment is absurd to say the least. This “friendship” gimmickry is to mock and deceive the ordinary people. The Pakistani ruling class is no less mean and reactionary. Power is only traded and bought for more loot and plunder. Lenin wrote in his epic work, Imperialism the Highest stage of Capitalism, that “a capitalist country acquires an imperialist role when it begins to export capital.” China is the largest exporter of capital in the world. It is the biggest investor in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Its evil designs on Baluchistan and Pakistan are the same as those of the American and other, world and regional imperialist states. Napoleon once said that, “When China awakes the world shall tremble.” That China is the proletarian and the toiling masses of that land. That China is beginning to turn. Its only the working class of China with whom the ordinary people of Pakistan can form a bond of genuine friendship that can unite them in a revolutionary transformation of the whole region and beyond.

Pakistan military's move on Karachi seen part of 'creeping coup'


The chief of Pakistan's main spy agency is spearheading a campaign to wrest control of the teeming port city of Karachi from a powerful political party, the military's latest, and some say boldest, foray into civilian life in recent years.
According to military officials, police officers and members of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party which has traditionally dominated Karachi, Rizwan Akhtar has decided the time for policing the city from the sidelines is over.
"There is a quiet, creeping takeover of Karachi by the military," said a government official close to Akhtar, head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, which traditionally acts as an extension of army power in Pakistan.
"Karachi is just too big ... too much land, too much business, resources. No one party will be allowed to rule Karachi from now on," added the official, who declined to be named.
The sweltering, violent metropolis is Pakistan's largest and wealthiest city. It accounts for half of national revenues and hosts the stock exchange, central bank and a giant port.
The military's crackdown in Karachi started late in 2013, when the murder rate soared and mutilated bodies were dumped in alleyways daily.
The operation, which escalated last month, is officially aimed at criminals and militants, but some say MQM is the real target.
Army spokesmen did not respond to requests for comment.
Weakening the MQM's grip, and particularly that of exiled leader Altaf Hussain, would free space for other political parties seen as more sympathetic to the military, like PakistanTehreek-e-Insaf, led by former cricketer Imran Khan.
It would also give the army leverage over Pakistan's economic hub. That complements other steps taken in the last two years to tighten its grip on national security, foreign policy and the judiciary through the introduction of military courts.
The army's increasing influence could make it harder for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to deliver a rapprochement with India that he promised when he won elections in 2013.
Critics call it "mission creep" and say the army's power grab is a setback for Pakistan, where the military has ruled for about half the country's history.
But police in Karachi are seen as too weak or corrupt to stamp out violence effectively, so many residents are willing to rely on the military despite its history of coups and accusations of rights abuses.
Last month, paramilitary Rangers swooped on the MQM's headquarters in Karachi, seizing arms and detaining "criminals", including a fugitive convicted of murder.
It was a direct challenge to the authority of Hussain, who, despite living in London since he fled murder charges in Pakistan in 1991, leads the party and remains one of the country's most powerful figures.
The army has long accused the MQM of racketeering, kidnappings for ransom and targeted killings in Karachi. Police recorded 2,507 murders in the city in 2013, up from 278 in 2006.
MQM denies the charges against it, but says that, while it has cooperated with Rangers in the past, the party will resist attempts to break it up.
"What is happening now (raids and arrests) is inconceivable to us," said MQM leader Haider Abbas Rizvi. "But they will not be able to dismantle the party, if that is the plan."
Senior government officials said the civilian administration in Karachi had been sidelined, and that decisions were being taken by the head of the Rangers and the chief military commander for Sindh province.
Both are backed by Akhtar and the army chief. The Rangers declined to comment for this article.
According to the officials, the government was not consulted either before the raid or when Rangers lodged a criminal case against Hussain last month.
Sindh's governor, who has ruled the southern province where Karachi is located for 13 years, and chief minister are being excluded from regular security meetings they previously chaired.
MQM leaders said the military had launched a campaign of mass arrests and "disappearances" of political workers, and said they were being unfairly targeted.
At least 2,600 MQM workers had been arrested since the operation began, they said, and 36 members killed. But law enforcement officials said it was time to dislodge what they called a "militant" party.
"If Altaf Hussain steps down, the MQM will live on; if he doesn't, the party will go down with him," said an official with knowledge of the army's new strategy in Karachi.
In the past, the party has resisted attempts to rein it in by shutting down the city and hurting Pakistan's economy.
This time, though, there has been little hostility. Party insiders express frustration with Hussain, who gives rambling, contradictory speeches to rallies by telephone from London.
"We have built this party with our sweat and blood. Now a man living in exile ... is intent on destroying it," said a senior MQM leader, who did not want to criticize Hussain openly.

Hussain remains defiant. After MQM comfortably won a Karachi by-election on Thursday, he declared: "the people and Altaf Hussain have a special relationship which cannot be shaken."