Archive for the ‘ Pakistan ’ Category

Racial Justice Movement Needs More Whites to Speak Up!

Black and Brown Lives Matter!!!

It is HIGH time for not just my white friends on but ALL WHITE PEOPLE of Good Conscience everywhere, who are NOT indoctrinated in the #cultoftrump, to stand up and not just be an ally in name only but to speak up against #bigotry and #hatred and constantly check these #cultmembers and others spreading hatred and dividing our nation.

Afterall, this is not a black problem, this is obviously a white problem.

Please stand up to bigots and racists because believe me and my personal experience, they are cowards. They will not expect anyone to speak up and then when you show up or stand up and check them, they show their true colors which isn’t red but in fact YELLOW! 😉

WhiteAmerica: #PleaseStandUpforJustice!!!

Please Use your #WhitePrivilege to #SpeakTruthToPower! 👊🏽 🇺🇸 👍🏽🙏🏽

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace 🇵🇰

Fuck White Supremacy & Fuck Donald Trump!

#Twitler showing his love for those #VeryFinePeople” Sad to see the kkk in the White House 😞

“I believe that #whitesupremacy resulted from the white man’s inferiority complex due to his lack of #melanin production. 🤷🏽‍♂️ 😂

I could be wrong but that’s my hypothesis! I see you guys running to the beach and the tanning salons and the orange moron in the White House spraying himself for his inadequacies (#justsayin!)

FuckWhiteSupremacy! 🖕🏽

FuckTheConfederacy! 🖕🏽

FuckWhitePower! 🖕🏽

FuckDonaldtRump! 🖕🏽

VoteBlueToSaveAmerica 🇺🇸

And if you don’t agree with me, then #FuckYouToo!!! 👌🏽🖕🏽🖕🏽🖕🏽

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace 🇵🇰☮️

India’s CAA citizenship law excluding Muslims challenges the notion of a secular India

With the passage of the CAA, India has become less secular.

In Pakistan, clash between army and protesters turns deadly

clash

By Haq Nawaz Khan Pamela Constable

May 28 at 1:05 PM

 A deadly confrontation between Pakistani army troops and ethnic Pashtun protesters in a remote tribal region this weekend left at least three civilians dead, sparking a nationwide furor and marking a dangerous turning point in the growing conflict between the military and the country’s largest ethnic minority.

The incident Sunday came after months of rising antagonism between the military and the Pashtun Protection Movement, known as the PTM, which has been crusading since last year against alleged abuses of civilians during the extended military campaign against Islamist militants. The group’s leaders have been arrested at mass rallies and warned by the army to back off their anti-military crusade.

Military officials and Pashtun nationalist leaders, including a member of Parliament, gave sharply different accounts of the clash near a military post in North Waziristan, a tribal area near the Afghan border where the army has long battled armed extremists.

According to statements from the military press department, a mob of angry protesters attacked the army post after surrounding it and demanding the release of a man it described as a “suspected terrorist facilitator.” It said the troops tried to use “maximum restraint” but faced “direct firing” and responded with force, leaving three “attackers” dead. Ten protesters and five soldiers were injured, the department said.

But Mohsin Dawar, a national legislator from the PTM who participated in the protest and fled when the violence erupted, said in an online video posted from an unknown location Monday that he had seen 12 people dead and scores injured. He said that the crowd had been noisy but nonviolent and that the troops had fired “directly” into the rally. A second legislator, Ali Wazir, was arrested at the scene.

“The people were peacefully protesting against the torturing of their women by the security forces in a recent raid,” Dawar said. The group had come in a convoy of vehicles and crossed a military checkpoint. When he and Wazir arrived, Dawar said, the unarmed protesters began “chanting emotional slogans,” and troops “started firing straight at the protesters. . . . The military is lying.”

The conflicting accounts were difficult to verify because the military has since cut telephone and Internet service in the area and imposed a curfew in the tribal region’s central town.

Reports of Pakistani troops shooting unarmed protesters drew condemnation from domestic opposition leaders. Amnesty International, the London-based rights group, said in a statement that the government should immediately order an investigation. If the army killed protesters with live ammunition, Amnesty said, it would be a “serious violation of international law.”

But government officials condemned the protest leaders for inciting violence. The federal communication minister, Murad Saeed, said in a speech to Parliament that the protest was peaceful until an unnamed legislator arrived and urged people to attack the army post. He also criticized Dawar by name, accusing him of collaborating with the Afghan intelligence service.

Pakistan’s security forces enjoy widespread public popularity and are often praised for restoring security to the northwest region, after years of terrorist attacks and the two-year occupation of the bucolic Swat Valley by local Taliban fanatics who beat, bullied and hanged people in public.

Pashtuns constitute about 15 percent of Pakistanis and dominate the volatile northwest, where some have violently challenged the state and others have borne the brunt of military pressure. The PTM’s charismatic young leader, Manzoor Pashteen, has awakened national Pashtun anger with fiery speeches that denounce the army as the true source of terrorism.

More than any other ethnic minority, Pashtuns possess significant numbers and potential political clout, both in the mountainous tribal northwest and the teeming port city of Karachi 700 miles south, making their challenge to the armed forces a serious threat.

In a tweet Monday, Pashteen said the army had been using social media to “create the atmosphere” for its “cowardly attack” on the protesters. He said his movement would continue its “nonviolent constitutional struggle.”

The PTM has focused largely on individual cases of alleged disappearances and targeted killings by security forces, as well as other abuses. Dawar and Wazir, its national legislators, have raised issues of military abuse repeatedly in Parliament. Mainstream Pashtun political groups have kept a wary distance from the more radical PTM.

Constable reported from Kabul.

H A R M O N Y POEMS BY ZEENAT IQBAL HAKIMJEE

harmony

PREFACE

I was in perfect harmony with nature when I wrote these poems. Autumn a season with falling leaves and bare trees is considered by most as gloomy, but oddly enough it inspired me to put pen to paper to make this humble effort of writing these poems.

This is my first attempt at writing poetry and probably leaves a lot to be desired but encouragement is what is required.

I sincerely hope that you would enjoy reading these poems as I have writing them.

 

HARMONY by ZEENAT IQBAL HAKIMJEE

INDEX

Sr. No   CONTENTS   PAGE NO.
1.   GARDEN OF EDEN   7
2.   NO MORE TEARS   8
3.   WHETHER GENUNE CAUSE OF ANGER   9
4.   POSSESSION   10
5.   THE BANANA   11
6.   LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES   12
7.   SACRIFICE   13
8.   COMPANIONSHIP   15
9.   ROMANCE   17
10.   GUILT COMPLEX   18
11.   TILL DEATH DO US IN   19
12.   ENCOUNTER   20
13.   HEAVEN IS AT HER FEET   21
14.   INNOCENCE   23
15.   RESORT TO QUILT   24
16.   LIFE IS SACRED   25
17.   MY WEAKNESS IS MY STRENGRH   27
18.   CHILDREN OF LESSER GOD   29
19.   ALL THAT GLITER IS GOLD   30
20.   BEYOND THE GRASP   31
21.   DEATH UNKNOWN   33
22.   LIFES UPS AND DOWNS   34
23.   LIVE AND LET LIVE   35

 

Sr. No   CONTENTS   PAGE NO.
24.   BUZZ OF TELEPHONE   36
25.   INNOCENCE   37
26.   THE EACH HIS OWN CHARACTER   38
27.   CONFESSIONS OF A TERRORIST   39
28.   JOY AND SORROW   41
29.   MEMENTS OF BLISS   42
30.   I FEEL CHEATED   43
31.   WHATS COOKING   45
32.   COURTSHIP BETWEEN THE CAT AND THE CROW   46
33.   BE PUSHY, FRIEND, WHEN REQUIRED   47

 

 

GARDEN OF EDEN

My spirit soars up to the sky,

As I on the lush green carpet lie.

 

Ecstasy envelopes my always

…melancholy heart,

As, sudden wind blown ripples,

In the pond start.

As the winter suns, warm rays,

Caress my being I do sway

 

Frolicking and frisking, from here to there,

Like a lamb, the desire, I wish to bear.

 

May you bloom forever, my Garden of Eden,

Make my thoughts soar upto, The Seventh Heaven.

 

 

NO MORE TEARS

 

As you leave for greener pastures,

Tears flown down the cheeks at your departure.

 

The migrating bird flutters its wings,

Over for it, is the season to sing.

 

The Bentley turns round the corner

Disappears from sight, now and forever.

 

I shall miss your nudge and touch,

For our friendship others could vouch.

 

But since the ‘Sea of Gold’ is at a distance,

Leave for it right now, this instance.

 

 

WHEATHER GENUINE CAUSE OF ANGER?

 

Enraged I stroll towards

The counter,

To involve myself in

A brutal encounter;

The salesman gave me rupees

Five less,

A gruesome mistake that

He should confess,

Was the well aware

Of it,

Or did the mistakingly

Di it,

Remains to be seen

Or is it

My frustration built in.

 

 

POSSESSION

 

I own you, your every movement is mine

To do as I please

 

Why did you do this why did you do that

Raise your voice, or your eyelid bat

 

Its our of the question I won’t let you out of my sight

You belong to me only to me, you are my birth right

 

Just the other day your momentary absence felt like multitude

Was it the toilet or were you astray,

 

I am suspicious, you I possess.

Do not leave me, I shall feel the betray,

 

Your look and smile elsewhere, your touch

Are all for me, me only,

 

From others, to be kept at bay

Do not ever make a start with darling, for another,

 

It will make the other want to come hither

I feel bold and beautiful in your presence

 

But am at a loss in your absence

I own, you, you I possess,

 

 

THE BANANA

 

So I am meant to be fed to the monkey,

Wail till you have an encounter with my peel,

 

Without the night, stars you shall see,

For still life I join hands with friend apple,

 

Different shapes of me decorate a cocktail

I lie on the table as the knife slices me open,

 

An incision in my centre, split into pieces,

My seed in you sprout a plant

 

The likes of which you have to see to believe,

They should call you sprout a plant

 

I make ‘shakes’ about the reference

What you treasure to eat,

 

Out of which you should not make mincemeat

 

 

LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES

 

While jogging I tripped over lace,

Next time tied my shoes with grace,

 

I sang out of tune at the dinner,

Practice, well almost made me a crooner,

 

I fell when somebody pulled the chair away

Brushed my right hand, to my Utter dismay,

 

It was my turn, I said

Tit for tat,

 

And hurt to my content,

The guilty brat,

 

In the run with,

Trail and error

 

I have grown to be

A lot wiser.

 

 

SACRIFICE

 

It seemed like my paradise was there to stay,

Everything I always wanted I possessed,

 

To hold to cherish till, I was dead

The envy of the crowd, I swayed to the rhythm

 

My heart heat and my breath hummed,

We were five in all, two boys and a girl,

 

The mild summer and a picnic by the beach

Snowflakes on the mountains not our of reach

 

On holiday or at work

Happiness and contentment always at my doorstep,

 

Suddenly fate started changing for worse,

The truth came home, not an act to rehearse,

 

He had to leave my side for greener pastures,

The children went along, all for one, one for all,

 

I was left all alone, to wipe my tears,

One my one they left me for a motionless floor,

 

I was all alone, all alone.

 

 

COMPANIONSHIP

 

Hold my hand, take me to he land,

Where name nor brand,

 

Will come in between true friends,

Shall go to their house,

 

Feeling like a louse,

Smiles, warmth, mirth and cheer,

Encompass me from all sides…

 

Take me away from my swing of mood,

Feel I well and good.

 

True friendship is hard to find,

With materialism in mind.

 

Wherever you are, come and touch me,

For mi am abound with sincerity,

 

A friend I receive…

To avoid the mire….

 

Always be there.

Give meaning to my blank stare.

 

 

ROMANCE

 

I love you, my dearest, my cherub,

The sunset and sunrise are for me a spectacle & to behold

 

Because of your warmth I do not feel the cold

Of the cloudy, dark winter nights,

 

Logs to burn I need not, nor do indeed the light.

Tomorrow is always a day to look forward to.

 

In your company life is a bundle of joy.

A tear rolls down my cheek, and shines and sparkles

 

It beautifies my skin and gives it a certain glow

In your adulation it had to flow.

 

I captured to kitten through your eyes,

And whispered a lullaby by your sound

 

Togetherness should last and last.

I am in love, I am in love.

 

 

GUILT COMPLEX

 

Enclosed in a shell like a tortoise,

Keeping away from the lively movements & noise,

 

My own I fail to recognize,

Do not shake hands with me please

 

I am no more, no more at ease,

I suffer from a guilt complex,

 

Was I the one to destroy a friendship

Or lose my temper in a relationship.

 

The other day I threw some litter on the road,

Turned a deaf ear to the call for prayer,

 

I suffer from a guilt complex

I am amazed at my faults.

 

Have I them or have I not?

Is it just the state of my mind

 

Or has somebody without cause have me to remind

Of a non-existent situation,

 

Will I ever surface, 1 suffer from a Guilt Complex.

 

 

 

TILL DEATH DO US IN

 

Last night I woke up from a dream,

To realise, that it was not what it seemed,

 

My companion for my relaxed hours,

Was wet through and through…

 

No I had not done it…

It was the thunderstorm that possessed it:

 

I totalled the time,

That flew past the chime,

 

That rung from my alarm,

To raise me with charm

 

Out indeed I shall pay no heed

The mattress and I look alike

 

Bulging from the sides-out, vital statistics 40,40,40

 

 

ENCOUNTER

 

On my travels such was my plight,

Did Gulliver or Passepartout with all their might,

 

Slip in a puddle in broad daylight

Were they bait, to such a trait,

 

In their Sunday best waiting for a suitor

Who would pronounce romance truer

 

The mishap with the hair

That turned bald and bare…

 

Thinking of the worlds miseries…

Had there been no fisheries

 

No salmon and no trout

To bring about a prick in the mouth;

 

With the writing to bleed

Promising a bond in a deed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

HEAVEN IS AT HER FEET

 

From the moment a child opens its eyes.

To the world and its ties:

 

She nurtures it like a steadfast rock,

Right from pant to frock.

 

“And I shall guide you,

On the path that I walked on,

 

Before you came along.

In sickness and in health,

 

In poverty and in wealth,

Whenever I needed company,

 

You gave the note to the harmony.

Sit tight little one…”

 

 

INNOCENCE

 

As the child looked with his eyes wide open,

I thought, on innocence I would write a poem;

 

Unaware of the sins committed by society.

Oblivious of death and calamity:

 

Playing with a toy gun in the hand,

As if the real one has not harmed the land;

 

Exist, does a lie, denied,

The solemn truth will always preside;

 

Early in the morning shall I arise…

To greet with a surprise;

 

The coin planted in my garden

Shall hurst into a tree?

 

With the money, chocolates I shall buy

And build a house, Hansel Gretel style

 

 

RESORT TO QUILT

 

The dark cold winter night,

Bring a shudder and a chill to the might

 

The star at a distance so high.

Part oblivious, because of the cloud in the sky,

 

The severe, pouring December rain,

From which even the umbrella covered, refrain.

 

I love to stay indoors,

And protect myself from the downpour.

 

I snuggle up warm and cozy in my eider-down quilt,

 

Watching television, sipping coffee,

Plunged on my bed, with my pillow at a slight tilt

 

 

LIFE IS SACRED

 

In the Garden, the blooming rose.

Tucked in the vase, in a pose.

 

The sweet fragrance, spread in the air,

Lending grace to an otherwise, room bizarre.

 

The rich red velvet of the petals.

The crowning glory of the green sepals.

 

The beauty of this natural piece,

Has at last now, withered and died;

 

Reminds one all the time,

Life should be lived to the brim,

 

In case this virtue is denied.

 

 

MY WEAKNESS IS MY STRENGTH

If there can be appeal

In the scar on that face,

 

I will take my weakness

With a lot of grace,

 

If every tumble gives you a chance

To rise erect with a new stance,

 

When the going gets tough

The tough get going

 

Yesterday, I fell to-

Get up again and start moving.

 

In the classroom the young boy

From his neighbour snatched the toy.

 

The truck rammed into the car

With all its might,

 

Killed the occupants and threw

Them out a sight,

 

The sky roared with thunder

Scared stiff as they went down under.

 

My weakness shall he my strength,

May I never misuse it

 

Even for one moment.

The meek shall inherit the earth.

CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD

 

Walking about in torn and tattered clothes, Looking messy with a running nose.

 

Crippled, unable to walk properly,

The arrogant man, looks at him disdainfully.

 

The other day the car almost ran her down,

As she leaped forward, begging For an aim,

 

Hand outstretched, unable to see,

In the sun, wearing dark glasses,

Makes him look shady.

 

For a cheap rate, They are bought,

Are they, Children of a Lesser God?

 

 

ALL THAT GLITTERS IS GOLD

 

The morning sun shines through the window,

Making the face beam and glow.

 

I suddenly feel the urge, to rise and shine.

 

My feelings take a turn, towards

The lofty and divine,

 

As I escape the barricade of my bed,

The wasted, whiled hours I now dread.

 

The sun has injected into me a Potion,

Which makes me want to drive into motion.

 

The golden globe warms the earth,

Returns the gaiety and the mirth.

 

 

BEYOND THE GRASP

 

Take your outstretched hand,

See dreams of the promised land.

 

Butterflies in different colours.

Dive and leap and soar,

 

Honey and nectar on the doorstep,

Would one find such a place on the map.

 

Where no misery, no bitterness, no sorrow

Looking forward always to a better morrow.

 

This is what Utopia is all about,

Neither begged, borrowed nor bought

 

 

DEATH UNKNOWN

 

After death the era seems

Bleak and dreary,

 

Woven around it an aura of mystery.

Will I have to repent for my sins,

 

Or will I be classed divine.

All questions answered at the

mercy of time-

 

Will I be in Gods domain.

Or will me be, Satan slain,

 

If I knew distinctly I would

Have an upper hand.

 

God rules supremely over the

Law of the land.

 

I am afraid of the outcome of death

Will it or will it not be as I suggest

 

 

LIFES UPS AND DOWNS

 

As the mountaineer up the mountain ascends,

Traversing the path that he will have to descend.

 

At the sight, an ordinary man

Would have shuddered.

 

Up hills and pitfalls, All a part of life.

Whether it is easy going or only strife.

 

Sometimes an obstacle comes in the way,

Sometimes it is smooth going all the way,

 

Lifes ups and downs add to its totality,

Lending to it an air of immortality.

 

 

LIVE AND LET LIVE

 

You took her out to the

Cosy restaurant for dinner,

 

I was vociferous in-my appeal,

For you as sinner.

 

Social taboos should never erect

A wall between us,

 

Otherwise our relationship

Will take a turn for the disastrous,

 

My catty instincts

Were aroused by your-

 

Blast of voice

If only I could have told myself

 

Never mind, its his choice.

The norm of the day is

 

Follow a strict diet

A pound here or there will not

 

A tremendous impact

Make on the weight

 

Live and let live,

Take and learn to give.

BUZZ OFF TELEPHONE

 

Be hold and me apprise

Of the current inflation and rise

 

In atta prices and the general

And of course dowries too

 

Acquaint you I shall with the

So called water and loo

 

Escapism with my telephone

From the hullabaloo

 

Hi, Hullo, how do you do?

Hadn’t we just met

 

Before an hour or two

Serves me right

 

If it was hate at first sight,

Out a sight, sorry upright, my telephone

 

Bill read

Not in units, tens but in hundreds

 

 

INNOCENCE

 

Huddled close by, yet far from the fire blazing.

Watching the cinders creating in the light, the night,

 

Hush, hush in subdued tones they sat whispering,

The vegetation surrounding them swaying, to and fro in the door,

 

The draft humming and wheezing through the cracks,

In the corner, the phone as silent as a graveyard,

 

The settee and settlers comfortable in its warn embrace,

Victorian paintings in the background, depicting grace,

 

The image of romance portrayed,

Tring, tring, the bell of the telephone sounds,

 

The wife speaks to her husband’s company,

Suspicions aroused, seething with rage and jealously,

 

She bangs the phone and envisages the courts,

Breaking the bond of trust that friendship is all about,

 

Between man and woman so clean and so pure,

Yet so distant and aloof to the short sighted.

 

 

TO EACH HIS OWN

 

May I have enough tolerance,

Not to take offence;

At whatever character trait

The other may portray:

If he does not possess….

 

….A sense of humour

Or enjoys spreading

Every once in a while….

A rumour.

Enjoys coming late,

Or does not felicitate.

Why does that foul my mood?

When I sometimes am up to no good.

Do I not see reason,

In the coming season;

What harm can

A living, loving soul,

Do to my whole?

If God has pronounced

The Day of Judgement,

To account for every one’s temperament,

Who am I to be displeased,

When somehodv does that or this.

CONFESSIONS OF A TERRORIST

 

Possessed by the devil,

I strode out to do evil.

 

With enmity written large on my face,

Somebody has to be dad in deaths embrace.

 

Just yesterday a child became an orphan,

And a couple were worried by the ransoms burden.

 

The fetters of depression behold the city,

Where everyday criminals like me enter captivity.

 

Karachi, Karachi of yore

Shall hot surface will not surface

 

Whilst I trigger my double barrel bore.

 

 

JOY AND SORROW

 

The begum dashes by in –

– Her flashing car,

 

To meet a companion at –

– A destination afar.

 

At a meeting point

In a parlour,

 

Five boys voraciously

In a corner ice Cream devour,

 

The silk saris and golden bangles

Glittering in the light,

 

The high heels and the leather purses

Presenting a sight;

 

The beggar in his torn

and tattered assemblage,

 

Spreads out his palm

And asks for patronage.

 

 

MOMENTS OF BLISS

 

The mild rays filtering

Through the tree;

 

The winter sun beaming

In glee,

 

The lush green grass

Beneath me,

 

Forming a carpet softly;

The birds chirping in the trees,

 

The insects frolicking from here to there

The morning dew drops thinning in the warm air;

 

An apple in my hand

I keep the doctor away;

 

What more can one ask for

I to myself say.

 

 

I FELT CHEATED

 

She was single and lonely,

All of her belonged to me;

 

At the corner of the building

Looking like a bride,

 

I spotted her needing

Help at her side

 

Chivalrously I opted

To do the needful,

 

She seemed thoroughly pleased

And blissful:

 

Then suddenly a car stopped by her,

With door flung open.

 

A man sat inside.

With wide open arms which did her beckon.

 

Alas; To my dismay, i was left alone,

Near me no more now, but an illusion.

 

 

WHAT’S COOKING

la Ra Rum go the prancing, dancing,

Flames of the stove,

 

Amused by this scenario, is the meat

Being cooked above.

 

The groin softens to the warmth of the fire,

With the cabbage and potato.

 

It forms an empire.

The unveiling of the platter,

 

Reveals, fit for a king, matter.

Copied from television this recipe

 

Is a treat, When near and dear ones,

Altogether do meet.

 

 

COURTSHIP BETWEEN

THE CAT AND THE CROW

 

My backyard is livened up

By the cat and the crow.

 

From a distance they for each other

A liking show.

 

Caw Caw, Meow Meow they hark & howl.

A din enough, to disturb the neighbouring fowl

 

Both of them perched on the dustbin.

Turn by turn.

 

Waiting for a morsel, from the kitchen to return.

Up goes the left over meat, in the air,

 

What ensues would ashame ‘The battle for the chair

 

 

BE PUSHY, FRIEND. WHEN REQUIRED

 

In the line of bill payers at the bank,

As the fairer sex,

 

If sick don’t just be blank

“Ladies first”, “excuse me11, “before you please”

 

For deals with unpaid bills,

Ask for goods back, threat if you will,

 

Repeat the request for a job.

You may make it from the mob,

 

Instead of standing, share the seat on the bus

Isn1t it much better than making a fuss,

 

Whatever you do during tug-o-war, do not push the rope

Or you’ll be the laughing stock amidst cries of,

“What a dope”,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes an obstacle comes in the way,

Sometimes it is smooth going all the way,

 

Lifes ups and downs add to its totality,

Lending to it an air of immortality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Price Rs. 20.00

Pakistan: US Participation a Must in Russia-initiated Afghan Talks

As Reported by Ayaz Gul for The Voice of America

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN —
Pakistan says that Russia-sponsored international talks on Afghanistan must involve the United States for bringing peace to the war-riven country, because Washington is the “biggest stakeholder” there.

Moscow plans to host this week (April 14) a new expanded round of multi-nation “consultations” it has recently launched with the stated goals of developing a “regional approach” for promoting Afghan security and a government-led national reconciliation with the Taliban.

But the U.S. administration has already refused to take part in the conference, questioning Russian intentions and motives.

Speaking to a local television station before the Moscow talks, the Pakistani prime minister’s foreign policy aide, Tariq Fatemi, stopped short of admitting the absence of Washington will not allow the multi-nation process to achieve its mission.

“They [U.S] have their troops present [in Afghanistan], they have invested one trillion dollars there, they are the biggest stakeholder, they have lost hundreds of their soldiers, so they have their interests there,” Fatemi explained.

While Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, China, India were represented in the last round of talks in Moscow earlier this year, former Soviet Central Asian states have been invited for the first time to attend the April 14 conference.

“We hope and desire that when any such peace initiative will enter into a next stage, America will have to be made part of it,” Fatemi told Aaj TV when asked whether the Russian-initiated process could bring peace to Afghanistan without Washington.

Pakistan believes Russia is “positively” using its influence with the Taliban to encourage them to join peace talks and Islamabad is supportive of any such efforts, Fatemi insisted.

“Russia has told us its major concerns are that if civil war conditions are there in Afghanistan, it can become a center for terrorist organizations like Islamic State, or Daesh, who will then try to infiltrate into bordering Central Asian states,” the Pakistani official explained.

The Taliban’s attacks on rival IS fighters in a bid to prevent them from establishing a foothold in the country apparently encouraged Russia to support the insurgent group. But Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday again warned Moscow against maintaining contacts with the Taliban.

“Anyone who thinks they can help themselves by helping the enemy of their enemy is mistaken. Anyone who thinks that they can differentiate between good and bad terrorism is mistaken,” Ghani said.

Speaking at a news conference in Kabul, Ghani acknowledged Russia is also threatened by terrorism and sympathized with victims of recent terrorist attack in that country.

“We have an intense dialogue with all our interlocutors because a stable Afghanistan is to everybody’s benefit and unstable Afghanistan hurts everyone,” Ghani said when asked whether Kabul plans to attend Moscow talks on Friday. He added he wants Afghanistan “as a center of cooperation” in all efforts aimed at stabilizing his country.

The Russian foreign ministry, while regretting Washington’s refusal to attend the coming talks, had also underscored the United States is an “important player” in settling the Afghan conflict.

“So [the United States] joining the peacekeeping efforts of the countries of the region would help to reinforce the message to the Afghan armed opposition regarding the need to stop armed resistance and to start talks,” it maintained.

Meanwhile, Fatemi said Pakistan has also stepped up diplomatic efforts to ease tensions with Afghanistan and is seeking implementation of a proposed mechanism the two sides agreed to in talks last months that were mediated by Britain.

The mechanism, he explained, would allow establishment of a “channel of communication at different levels” between Islamabad and Kabul to help remove “any misunderstanding” and deal with any terrorist incident on either side of their shared border.

“Talks [between the two countries] at the Army level and at different other levels are currently underway, and at a final stage, if needed, foreign ministers of the two countries will also engage in frequent meetings,” Fatemi said.

Afghanistan and Pakistan each deny allegations they harbor and support anti-state militants engaged in terrorist attacks on their respective soils. Tensions have lately risen because of Islamabad’s unilateral border security measures to prevent terrorist infiltration.

Kabul disputes portions of the 2,600-kilometer border between the two countries and is opposed to fencing them, saying it will further add to problems facing divided families.

Why I believe Pakistanis are the most gracious people in the world

By Harsh Mander for Scroll.In and Dawn.com

Pakistan Generosity

My mother was forced to leave behind the city of her birth, Rawalpindi, when she was just 18 because of the tumultuous ruptures of Partition. She had never returned. When she was to turn 75, I thought the best gift I could give her was to take her, if it was at all possible, to the city and to the home in which she was born.

I emailed my friends in Pakistan tentatively with my plan. They were immediately very welcoming.

“Just get her a visa, leave the rest to us,” they said. I applied for visas for my parents and the rest of my family. It seemed then a small miracle that we got these easily. I booked our flight tickets, and before long we were on our way.

A warm welcome

Our flight landed in Lahore, and our friends drove us from the airport to their home in Islamabad. I noticed that my mother was initially a little tense. Maybe it was memories of the violence of her exile; maybe it was just the idea that this was now a foreign land, and for many in India the enemy land.

I watched my mother gradually relax on the road journey to Islamabad, as she delighted in hearing my friends and the car driver speak the Punjabi of her childhood, and as she watched the altered landscape of her journey. Islamabad, of course, did not exist when she lived in the Punjab of her days.

In Islamabad, my friends invited to their homes many of their associates with their parents. They organised evenings of Punjabi poetry and music, which my parents relished. Our friends drove us to Murree, the hill-station in which my mother spent many pleasant summers as a child.

My mother had just one more request. Could she go to see the colony in Rawalpindi where she was born and spent her childhood in? My father also wanted to visit his college, the famous Gordon College in Rawalpindi.

A homecoming

My mother recalled that the name of the residential colony in which she lived as a child was called Gawal Mandi. My friends knew it well; it was now an upmarket upper middle-class enclave.

When we reached there, my mother tried to locate the house of her childhood. It seemed impossible. Everything was new: most of the old houses had been rebuilt and opulent new structures had come up in their place.

She located the building that had housed their gurudwara. It had now been converted into a health centre. But we had almost despaired of actually finding her childhood house. We doubted if it was even standing all these years later.

We were leaving when suddenly my mother pointed to the filigree work on the balconies of one of the old houses. My mother said: “I remember it because my father was very proud of the designs. He said there was none like it in the neighbourhood.”

Taking a chance, we knocked tentatively on the door of the house. A middle-aged man opened it, and asked us who we wanted to meet.

My mother said apologetically, “We are so sorry to trouble you, and intrude suddenly in this way. But I lived as a child in Gawal Mandi, before Partition, when we had to leave for India. I think this maybe was our home.”

The house owner’s response was spontaneous and immediate.

Mataji, why do you say that this was your home? It continues to be your home even today. You are most welcome.”

And he led us all in.

Before long, my mother confirmed that this was indeed her childhood home. She went from room to room, and then to the terrace, almost in a trance, recalling all the while fragments of her childhood memories in various corners of this house.

For months after we returned to Delhi, she would tell me that recollections of the house returned to her in her dreams.

Take a look: Why my heart said Pakistan Zindabad!

Half an hour later, we thanked the house-owners and said that we would be on our way. But they would not hear of it.

We were told: “You have come to your childhood home, then how can we let you go without you having a meal with us here?”

They overruled all our protestations, and lunch was prepared for around eight members of our party, including not just my family but also our Pakistani hosts. Only when they were sure that we had eaten our fill, and more, did they allow us to leave.

Caravan to Pakistan

After we returned to India, news of our adventure spread quickly among family and friends. The next year, my mother-in-law — a wheel-chair user — requested that we take her to Pakistan to visit her childhood home, this time in Gujranwala.

Given the joys of my parents’ successful visit, I was more confident. Many elderly aunts and an elderly uncle joined the trip, and in the end my wife and I accompanied six older people to Pakistan.

Our experience was very similar to that of the previous year. The owner of their old ancestral haveli in Gujranwala village took my mother-in-law around the sprawling property on her wheel-chair, and after we had eaten with them asked her: “Would you not like to check out your farm-lands?”

On both visits, wherever my wife visited shops for clothes, footwear or handicrafts, if the shopkeepers recognised her to be Indian, they would invariably insist on a hefty concession on the price. “You are our guests,” they would say. “How can we make a profit from our guests?”

As news of these visits travelled further, my associates from an NGO Ashagram working in the small town of Barwani in Madhya Pradesh for the care and rights of persons living with leprosy — with which I have had a long association — demanded that I organise a visit to Pakistan for them too.

See: Pakistanis seem to love Indians. Do Indians feel the same way?

Once again, the Pakistan High Commission granted them visas. There was only one catch this time: all of them were vegetarian. They enjoyed greatly the week they spent in Pakistan, except for the food.

Every night they would set out looking for a wayside shop to buy fruit juice. Each night they found a new shop, and each night without exception, the shopkeeper refused to accept any money for the fruit juice. “We will not charge money from our guests from India,” they would say each time.

This happened for a full week.

I have travelled to many countries around the world in the 60 years of my life. I have never encountered a people as gracious as those in Pakistan.

This declaration is my latest act of sedition.


Why Don’t Men Cover Their Faces?

By Hind Aleryani for Your Middle East
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Yemeni blogger and journalist @HindAleryani tells her intimate story about what’s feminine and masculine in the Middle East.

 

We used to play at my aunt’s garden when we were younger…girls and boys, there was no difference… we grew up together… we used to race, play, laugh… sometimes we would fight playfully… we used to watch TV together… cry at the end of sad cartoons together… we grew a bit older… we began to study for our classes together… whenever we’d fight we used to threaten the other that we’d tell on them to the teacher… we used to play practical jokes on one another… we’d laugh with all our hearts…

And so the days went by…

My cousin and I are staring outside the window… we are looking at the garden where my male cousin and his friends are playing… this is the garden where we used to play together… they used to be our friends once upon a time… these are the boys we used to play with… what happened? Why are we prisoners at home, while they play ball outside with all freedom… what did we do? Did we grow older? Did our bodies change? Did we become an object of temptation that needs to be covered from people’s eyes? Aren’t those the boys we knew since we were children? What changed? Why are we strangers? Why do I run and hide whenever I hear one of their voices? Is it just because the pitch of his voice changed? Is that why we aren’t friends anymore? Are we supposed to act differently towards one another? Different to how we acted just yesterday? We started to act shy and anxious whenever we’d speak… we stopped playing with one another… My cousin and I began spending our spare time watching Mexican soap operas, as if we were in our 50s…

And so the days went by…

I am at school…we are learning about what a woman should cover… her hair is temptation… her eyebrows are temptation… I remembered my favorite male singer… his eyes were beautiful too… his hair is beautiful… why doesn’t he veil? I asked myself this question, however, I couldn’t find the answer… I remembered that I was banned from playing in the garden because I hit puberty… however, my male friends weren’t… didn’t they hit puberty too? Why weren’t they imprisoned at home? I also couldn’t find the answer…

And so the days went by…

I hear it all the time… “A woman is a jewel that needs to be protected (i.e. covered)”… and sometimes it is even said that a woman is like candy “if you remove the wrapper (i.e. the cover) the flies will swarm around her”… I turn on the TV and find that favorite male singer that I am so fond of brushing his soft silky hair and flaunting his handsomeness… his arms are bare… his chest is bare… why isn’t this object of temptation covered? Why isn’t he imprisoned at home? Why aren’t women tempted by him? Some might claim that a woman shouldn’t look at this… then shouldn’t men shield their gaze when looking at a tempting female “object”? I couldn’t find the answer…

And so the days went by…

I am at university… I see some people distributing a small religious book… “Temptations of a Woman”…Her hair… her feet… her eyes, and “thus, a woman must cover one of her eyes as both of them together are tempting”…I swear this is what I read in this book!… it’s as if there is nothing left in this world to talk about and scrutinize other than a woman and how she is a temptation…I decided to observe men’s looks…I wanted to know which women would attract men with her temptation… in front of me walks a woman wearing a tight Abaya (long black cover)… aha!.. I found her… she is an object of temptation… I continue watching… in front of me walks a woman with a baggy Abaya, however, with an uncovered face…the man stares at her… aha! So her face is also a temptation… a third woman walks in front of me… her face is covered and she is wearing a baggy Abaya from top to toe… the man is staring at her! Huh? I don’t understand… what is so tempting about a black Abaya? No eyes, no feet… What is this man staring at? At that moment I realized that clothing has nothing to do with it… men would stare on all occasions… however, he, with his broad shoulders and his hair, eyes and lips isn’t considered an object of temptation, even if all the women in the world started at him… he is a man…he shouldn’t hide in his home… no one calls him a jewel… at that moment I wished I wasn’t a jewel. I wished to be a free man…

And so the days went by…

I am in a Western country… women are walking around me…one is wearing pants… the other is wearing a short skirt…another wears shorts…men and women are walking side by side… it is strange… no one is staring… why don’t I see the looks of men I saw in my country? Those looks that made a woman feel naked… those looks that I hated… the ones that made me hate being on this earth, and hate being born a woman… those looks that deny me my humanity…why don’t I see those looks here? All the women are dressed up… why don’t I see those looks even though all the women are attractive here? I saw one women run and laugh… I remembered that I wasn’t allowed to run once I hit puberty… I remembered my aunt’s window… I remembered I was an object of temptation that must be covered… I remembered that a man in my country wears white, while I am covered in black… I asked myself, why don’t men wear black? Why don’t men cover their faces? And I couldn’t find the answer…

And so the days go by…

 

Pakistan No Country for Foreign Journalists

As reported by A REPORTER for DAWN

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His sin – he was an Indian and a journalist reporting on Pakistan. And one hot day in the middle of June he was informed that his presence was no longer acceptable to someone, somewhere – through a phone call and a letter.

But despite the unceremonious departure, his one regret – at least in recent days – is that he will not be able to get “some nihari from Kale Khan in Pindi before [he] leave[s].”

Perhaps he has more regrets too – about friends he could not say goodbye too or places he was not allowed to visit but such are the state of affairs between his country and Pakistan that he refuses to talk about the issue at all. The longing for nihari too was gleaned from his twitter account.

And this silence says far more than any lengthy interview he may have given. The few details that are available came from someone close to him who spoke on the basis of anonymity.

Hasan – as always – was waiting for a renewal of his visa when on June 13 he got a letter informing him that he should leave by June 23.

The journalist panicked as he had no valid visa by then, without which he could not even leave. Much effort, phone calls and visits later, he was given a ‘generous’ extension till June 29.

The valid visa came on June 25 – finally making him eligible to leave.

“Two thirds of his time in Pakistan was spent waiting for an extension of his lapsed visa,” says the someone.

So much so that twice at least when his wife’s father had a heart attack, her family kept the news from her – because neither she nor Hasan could visit India and the ailing father.

Nothing of Hasan’s stay is unusual for an Indian journalist in Pakistan but his departure surely is.

The tradition is that “the journalist is allowed a short overlap with his successor for a smooth transition”. But both Hasan and Anita Joshua, the second Indian journalist in Pakistan, who were scheduled to leave in any case and were only waiting for their successors to show up, were denied this in recent months.

Indeed, Hasan’s abrupt departure came hot on the heels of the return of his counterpart – Anita Joshua of The Hindu – who was asked to leave shortly after the elections (but before the new government took charge) while New York Times’ Declan Walsh was bundled out a day after May 11, his notice period even shorter than the Indians.

The story of these three proves that Pakistan is fast turning into not just one of the most dangerous countries for journalists but also one of the most inhospitable.

“What else would you call a place that so abruptly orders out those who have been living here for years on such a short notice,” says a senior journalist.

When Walsh was thrown out, Pakistani journalists whispered that it happened because there was no empowered political government in place and the spooks got a chance to avenge past grievances.

But Joshua and Hasan were told to leave after Nawaz Sharif – the statesman who wanted and wants peace with India – has taken over. Yet there is not a peep out of the new government.

As Mariana Babar, a senior journalist, puts it, “These cases show how powerful the security establishment is. Indian journalists were reluctantly issued visas for a few days on eve of elections. The process started during the caretaker government and continued as Sharif government was in the process of settling. Now as The Hindu and Press Trust of India (PTI) have requested visas for new representatives, we will wait and see how much authority Sharif asserts.”

Admittedly, the India-Pakistan journalist exchange is notoriously reflective of the poor bilateral relations – the feel-good rhetoric of the politicians notwithstanding.

Both countries only allow two journalists from the other side to be stationed in the host country – but while the Indians use these positions, the Pakistanis are so uninterested in understanding our ‘worst enemy’ that no Pakistani reporter is based in India.

The PTI and the Hindu have a correspondent each based in Islamabad and what a welcome they are extended.

They are not allowed to move outside of Islamabad without permission (even Rawalpindi is out of bounds) and they are constantly shadowed by those who cannot prevent terrorist attacks but are aware of every nook and corner visited by the two Indian hacks in the soap dish sized Islamabad.

Yet these two people never forget to remind the one billion people living next doors that there is more than Taliban and extremism to Pakistan. And for those who want proof of this, they need not google the stories that Hasan and Joshua did – they should read the blog, “the Life and Times of Two Indians in Pakistan”.

Written mostly by Hasan’s wife, the posts paint a warm and engaging picture of her former host country (by the time this story appears in print, the couple will be on their way back to Delhi). Beyond the suo motu notices and the Taliban, these posts are about the more colourful characters that inhabit Islamabad; Mehmal the Lahori journalist; Pakistani music (“Still, give me Pakistani music any day” she writes) and the not to be missed post – about the testosterone filled spooks who follow her around.

“Bhai, I feel so special and so cared for each time I step out of the house and you try and match footsteps with me. The other day when you followed me into the superstore and kept me company when I was shopping for groceries, I was so moved.

“… And you looked so cute making a mental note of which pulses I eat and which brand of flour I buy. Ah! I so wish I could tell you so.”

There has rarely been such a wry account of what the spooks’ victims suffer. And one that even the non-Indian victims/residents of Islamabad can connect with.

Such posts and the memories of those who met and laughed with these two Indians will do far more for Indo-Pak relations than all the track two meetings.

Anita Joshua was no different. Less intense than Hasan (who reminded one of Amitabh Bachchan in his heyday, minus the height), her cheerful presence was a constant in the small social circle that the capital city offers to its inhabitants.

She was also generous enough to speak of the pain of living and working as a single woman in a small and conservative city such as Islamabad – with rare references to what it meant to be an Indian woman living alone here.

She was a mandatory participant of all the civil society gatherings in town provided the cause was a worthy one – trotting off to the Super Market sit-in more than once after the Hazara killings in Quetta.

And lest someone accuse her of being a ‘civil society type’, she was the only Indian ever invited to visit the Pakistani side of the Siachen Glacier by the Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

It wasn’t because she had some special access – it was because she could get the message across to the Indian people and their government. She did.

Those who are continuously throwing journalists out of the country because they don’t approve of the stories should start seeing the glass as half empty instead of half full.

Each one of these journalists provided a glimpse of the Pakistan that many of us believe exists – where people struggle to make a living, where there are not just suicide bombers and militants but also their victims.

It is said that this is what got Walsh thrown out.

But does anyone remember Walsh’s human interest reporting?

Back in 2006, he reported on the media revolution in Pakistan by profiling Begum Nawazish Ali when Pakistanis were still far from aware of the change that television was about to bring to their lives.

And he reported on the missing people in 2007 before the superior judiciary became truly independent to discover the plight of the disappeared.

He endeared himself to many because long before the foreign corps discovered the “anti-Taliban fashion shows” in Pakistan, he had already found the Begum and written about her.

As a fellow journalist wrote in the New Yorker recently about Walsh, “The best Pakistani nonfiction writer was an Irishman”.

Such stories still need to be told – even if Walsh continues to also write on the drones and other ‘secrets’ that irritate some people. And Pakistan also needs the two lines of communications with the people of India.

Over a year ago when the military took Anita Joshua to Siachen, the former DG ISPR Athar Abbas said that it was “part of the Army’s campaign to open up,” adding that “May be we are more confident than the Indians about our case.”

Should one now assume that the Pakistanis are no longer confident about “their case”?

A Global Snapshot of Same-Sex Marriage

By  for The Pew Research Center

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Around the world and in the United States, the pace of same-sex marriage legalization has picked up in recent years. Of the 15 countries worldwide to permit gay men and lesbians to marry, eight have done so since 2010. In addition, same-sex marriage is legal in some parts of the United States and Mexico but not others; of the 12 U.S. states (plus the District of Columbia) where same-sex marriage is or soon will be permitted, nine have legalized it since 2010.

In the United States, the spread of same-sex marriage laws has coincided with rapidly shifting public attitudes toward homosexuality. Six-in-ten Americans now say homosexuality should be accepted by society, up from 49% in 2007; 33% say it should not be accepted, down from 41% six years ago. (Look here for details on Americans’ changing attitudes toward same-sex marriage itself.)

In most other countries, attitudes toward homosexuality have been fairly stable in recent years. Not surprisingly, same-sex marriage has advanced the most in countries and regions where acceptance of homosexuality is highest.

We’ve surveyed eight of the 17 nations that have legalized same-sex marriage in all or part of their territory; in all but one of them at least 60% of people say homosexuality should be accepted. (The exception is South Africa, where only 32% say it should be accepted versus 61% saying it should not be; still, that was the highest acceptance level among the six African countries surveyed.)

On the other hand, among all but one (Jordan) of the 13 countries in our survey where 80% or more of people said homosexuality should not be accepted by society, same-sex relations are illegal in all or part of their territory, according to a report from the International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association.

 is a Senior Writer at the Pew Research Center.

 

Militants Kill Nine Foreign Climbers in Pakistan

By Haq Nawaz Khan and Tim Craig for The Boston Globe

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Gunmen stormed a camp on Pakistan’s second-largest mountain Sunday, killing nine foreign climbers, including a US citizen, in a brazen assault that could deal a blow to the country’s efforts to jump-start its tourism industry.

The Pakistani Taliban asserted responsibility for the attack, calling it retribution for a suspected US drone strike last month that killed Wali ur-Rehman, the second in command of the terrorist group.

‘‘Through this killing we gave a message to the international community to ask US to stop drone strikes,’’ said Ehsanullah Ehsan, a Taliban spokesman.

The attack in northern Pakistan at Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth-tallest mountain, occurred around 1 a.m. as the climbers and their guides were at a camp about 4,000 feet above sea level. According to local and regional officials, about a dozen gunmen tied up the climbers’ Pakistani guides before shooting the climbers as they slept in tents.

The attackers reportedly wore police uniforms, an increasingly common tactic that Taliban militants have used to evade scrutiny.

In all, 10 people were killed, including five from Ukraine, two from China, and one from Russia, according to preliminary information from Pakistani authorities. At least one Pakistani guide also was killed. At least one Chinese tourist survived and was rescued from the area, known as Fairy Meadows, officials said.

Pakistan’s interior minister said a US citizen was killed in the assault. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said four bodies have been identified, including those of a Chinese-American, two Chinese, and one local guide who is thought to be a Nepali national.

Matthew Boland, acting spokesman for the US Embassy in Islamabad, said authorities were withholding the identification of the American until relatives could be notified.

‘‘The United States government strongly condemns the terrorist attack on tourists in the northern areas of Pakistan in which nine innocent tourists and a Pakistani guide were murdered,’’ Boland said. ‘‘The US Embassy Islamabad expresses its deepest condolences to the family and friends of the US citizen and the other innocent tourists who were killed.’’

Boland said the FBI was working closely with Pakistani authorities to gather more information on the attack.

The assault occurred in the picturesque Gilgit-Baltistan area, a popular tourist area in the Himalayas near the country’s border with China. Nanga Parbat rises to 26,660 feet. The world’s second-largest mountain, K2, with an elevation of 28,251 feet, straddles Gilgit-Baltistan’s border with China.

The slayings come as Pakistan’s military and government have been trying to combat a wave of terrorist bombings and sectarian attacks, including some aimed at Shi’ites in the northern part of the country.

Attacks on foreigners have been rare, and Sunday’s killings rattled Pakistan’s government.

Khan, the interior minister, spent part of Sunday fielding calls from worried ambassadors, including Chinese envoy Xu Feihong.

‘‘He asked whether Chinese tourists were the target, and I said Pakistan was the target,’’ he said. ‘‘The terrorists want to give a message to the world that Pakistan is an insecure place and insecure country.’’

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has vowed to rebuild Pakistan’s economy. He said such acts of ‘‘cruelty and inhumanity’’ wouldn’t deter the state from efforts ‘‘to make Pakistan a safe place for tourists.’’

But Syed Mehdi Shah, the chief minister in Gilgit-Baltistan, said he worries that the incident will hurt the local economy, which relies heavily on the summer climbing season.

‘‘It will have negative effects on tourism in the scenic northern areas, which is the sole source of revenue of the government as well [as] of the local population,’’ he said.

Shahjahan Khetran, managing director of the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation, said the ‘‘government tries its best to provide security cover to tourists’’ in that area, including making hikers and climbers register their whereabouts.

But until now, Khetran noted, the biggest threats for tourists in that remote area were not man-made.

‘‘I personally see the involvement of some foreign hand, some foreign agency in this incident as local people could not think of carrying out such a heinous crime,’’ Khetran said. ‘‘Some foreign element could have carried out this attack to destroy Pakistani tourism.’’

For weeks, Pakistan’s Taliban has been vowing that it would avenge the death of Rehman, who was killed May 29 when a suspected CIA-operated drone fired two missiles into a house in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal region.

US officials have not confirmed that they carried out that strike, but they had issued a $5 million reward for Rehman’s capture after he was linked to a 2009 assault that killed seven Americans at a CIA training facility in Afghanistan.

At the time, the Pakistani Taliban partly blamed the Islamabad government for not doing more to stop suspected US drone strikes on Pakistani soil.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note– The tragic killing of these innocent foreign mountaineers in Pakistan goes to show that the Taliban one again can not be trusted and it is foolish to negotiate with them or even try. Pakistan must eradicate this menace from wiithin and only then will the citizens of Pakistan and other nations ever be safe.

Pakistan, Afghanistan trade accusations at U.N. over extremist havens

By Michelle Nichols for Reuters

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Afghanistan and Pakistan traded accusations in the U.N. Security Council on Thursday over the whereabouts of Islamist extremists on their porous border as the United Nations described increased tensions between the neighbors as “unfortunate and dangerous.”

Afghanistan’s U.N. envoy, Zahir Tanin, told a council debate on the situation in Afghanistan that “terrorist sanctuaries continue to exist on Pakistan’s soil and some elements continue to use terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy.”

Pakistan’s U.N. ambassador, Masood Khan, said “terrorists operate on both sides of the porous border” and many attacks against Pakistan were planned on Afghan soil. He said aggressive policing and border surveillance were needed.

“I reject most emphatically Ambassador Tanin’s argument – root, trunk and branch – that terrorist sanctuaries exist in Pakistan and some elements continue to use terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy,” Khan told the council.

He told Reuters in an interview afterward that Tanin had been “ill-advised” to raise the border issues at the Security Council as Kabul and Islamabad were already talking through other channels. Khan blamed Afghan President Hamid Karzai for stoking tensions.

“When President Karzai meets our leadership, he’s most gracious, engaging, he’s a statesman. But when he talks to the media, he says things which inflame sentiment and that’s most unhelpful and destabilizing,” Khan said. “We have given very restrained responses.”

Pakistan’s role in the 12-year-old war in Afghanistan has been ambiguous – it is a U.S. ally but has a long history of supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan in a bid to counter the influence of its regional rival India.

Pakistan’s military played a key role in convincing Afghan Taliban leaders to hold talks with the United States, U.S. and Pakistani officials said, but Afghan anger at fanfare over the opening of the Taliban’s Qatar office this week has since delayed preliminary discussions.

“We were talking to multiple interlocutors behind the scenes and we have been asking them to participate in these talks, (telling them) that we think the war should come to an end,” Khan told Reuters.

‘SUCCEED OR FAIL TOGETHER’

U.S.-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban in late 2001 for refusing to hand over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Pakistan helped the Taliban take power in Afghanistan in the 1990s and is facing a Taliban insurgency itself. The Pakistani Taliban, known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban, is a separate entity from the Afghan Taliban, though allied with them.

“Stability and sanctity of Pakistan-Afghanistan border is a shared responsibility. Robust deployment of Pakistani troops on our side is meant to interdict terrorists and criminals,” Khan told the council. “This must be matched from the other side.”

A spate of cross-border shelling incidents by the Pakistani military, who said they were targeting Taliban insurgents, has killed dozens of Afghan civilians in the past couple of years.

“We are very concerned with ongoing border shelling,” Tanin told the council. “This constitutes a serious threat to Afghan sovereignty and the prospect of friendly relations between the two countries.”

U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan, Jan Kubis, told the Security Council that the heightened tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan were a serious concern, especially at this stage of Afghanistan’s development.

“Such tensions are unfortunate and dangerous,” he said.

The NATO command in Kabul on Tuesday handed over lead security responsibility to Afghan government forces across the country and most foreign troops are due to withdraw from the country by the end of 2014.

“It is for the two countries to address these concerns and problems and their underlying reasons, to build trust and to refrain from any step that could contribute to an escalation of tensions and inflamed public sentiments,” Kubis said.

“They share common concerns and interests in fighting terrorism. They can succeed or fail together,” he said.

Militants blow up historic Pakistan building linked to Mohammad Ali Jinnah : officials

As Reported by The AP

Jinnah

Separatist militants blew up a historic building linked to Pakistan’s founding father in the country’s violence-plagued southwest after shooting dead a guard in a predawn attack on Saturday, officials said.

The attackers, armed with automatic weapons entered the 19th century wooden Ziarat Residency after midnight and planted several bombs, senior administration official Nadeem Tahir told AFP.

Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the driving force behind the creation of the Pakistan, spent his last days in the building which was declared a national monument following his death, one year after the country’s independence in 1947.

The building is in Ziarat town, 80 kilometres southeast of Quetta, the capital of insurgency-hit Balochistan province. “They shot dead the guard who resisted the intruders,” Tahir said. Police official Asghar Ali said militants planted several bombs and detonated them by remote control. “The Ziarat Residency, which had its balcony, floor and front made of wood, has been totally gutted,” he said.

At least four blasts were heard in the town, he said. The building caught fire and it took five hours to bring the blaze under control as Ziarat, a small hill station, has no fire brigade. A separatist-group later claimed responsibility for the attack.

“We blew up the Ziarat Residency,” Meerak Baluch, a spokesman for the Balochistan Liberation Army said from undisclosed location. “We dont recognise any Pakistani monument.” No one has been arrested, officials said.

Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest but most undeveloped province on the Iranian and Afghan border, is racked by Islamist and sectarian violence as well as a long-running separatist insurgency, and attacks on official buildings and security forces are common. The attack came after the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) party of prime minister Nawaz Sharif won the May 11 elections in the country.

Sharif appointed Baloch nationalist leaders as governor and chief minister, raising hopes that a coalition between PML-N and nationalist parties could address some of the long-held grievances in the province about its treatment by the federal government.

Prime Minister Sharif and several political leaders strongly condemned the attack while Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar promised arrest of the attackers. Hundreds of people including, some party leaders and students staged a protest rally in the town demanding “exemplary punishment of culprits involved in the attack,” witnesses said.

Provincial Chief Secretary Babar Yaqoob told reporters that “people involved in the colossal destruction of our national monument will not be spared”. “The government has ordered immediate steps to rebuild the Ziarat Residency in its original form,” he said.

“It was an undisputed structure, it had never received any threat in the past. Local people had special love for this site because it had been attracting local and foreign tourists,” he said. Ziarat, located at more than 2,500 metres above sea level and surrounded by Juniper trees is a popular tourist site.

The two-storey structure was built in 1892 and was formerly used by officials from the British Colonial rule in India. The furniture used by Jinnah and kept at its original place as national heritage since his death in September 1948, has also been destroyed, officials said.

Pakistan _ Nuclear-Armed but Short of Electricity

By Gujar Khan for The Associated Press

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A woman named Rehana Yasmin struggles to keep her sick 2-year-old granddaughter cool in a sweltering hospital where working air conditioners are rare and electric fans are idle for much of the day.

Elsewhere, households can’t rely on their refrigerators, and at textile factories, factory workers say they can’t operate their machines for enough hours to earn their daily bread.

All are victims of Pakistan’s biggest problem, one that recently brought down a government — not the U.S. drone war in its backyard, not its permanent confrontation with India, but its inability to generate enough electricity. Pakistan, nuclear-armed, can’t deliver a reliable power supply to its 180 million citizens.

“Power, power, power is the problem. It’s power at home, in the workplace, on the streets,” said Rizwana Kauser, head nurse at the hospital in the city of Gujar Khan, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) from the capital, Islamabad.

Power can be out for up to 20 hours a day in the summer. TV coverage may be lost in the middle of a cliffhanger cricket match. Office meetings are scheduled around anticipated power cuts. Without electric fans, mosquitoes proliferate. People get stuck in elevators. Meat rots in refrigerators.

The shortfalls that became the top issue in the recent election are estimated at 3,500 to 6,000 megawatts — up to a third of total demand.

The problems result in part from bad bill-collecting, which leaves utility companies short of funds to pay for the oil that powers much of the production, which in turn means the state oil company can’t buy enough oil on international markets.

Power theft is rampant, often consisting of simply slinging a hook over a conveniently placed electricity wire. The infrastructure of the state-controlled utility companies around the country is outdated, the companies are inefficient, and power plants are heavily dependent on oil despite Pakistan’s abundant coal resources, experts say.

Fixing the problems is likely to take years, leaving Nawaz Sharif, the new prime minister, with a gargantuan task. But with Pakistanis impatient for action, the government has announced plans to pay off about $5 billion owed to companies throughout the supply chain within 60 days. It’s not a long-term solution but it would at least offer the government some breathing room.

And that’s just to keep the electricity flowing. Pakistan also has a problem with delivering natural gas to households and companies, and that too will need solving if the new government hopes to last.

For Rehana Yasmin, relief can’t come too soon. She has been at the public hospital in Gujar Khan for a week, tending to her granddaughter who has dysentery. She brings her own water because there’s no electricity to run the pump of the hospital well. She buys homemade straw fans hawked in the hospital’s hallways.

For the past week, Yasmin said, “during the night we hardly have two hours of electricity and during the day, it’s minimal. This lack of electricity is making children sick and making the elders sick as well.”

Public hospitals like the one in Gujar Khan, which care for the majority who can’t afford private hospitals, generally draw power from two grids, but nowadays, especially in the hot months, there’s sometimes no electricity coming from either grid.

The hospital uses a generator during operations, but sometimes has to resort to ice to keep medicines cool.

 

It is a struggle simply to maintain basic sanitation, said Kauser, the head nurse. Wounds take longer to heal. And “When there is no water, there is no cleaning,” she said. “How can you wash the sheets?”

In the past, power cuts (“load-shedding” in Pakistani bureaucratese) used to be much shorter and followed patterns that allowed people to plan such routine activities as scheduling an office meeting or taking a shower. But it was the newer phenomenon of “unscheduled load-shedding” and the much longer outages that raised tempers to the level of an election issue.

Dr. Ashraf Nizami of the Pakistan Medical Association said that doctors are seeing more psychological effects of load-shedding, such as stress and depression.

“It is a torture for the medical community and the patients,” he said.

It’s also bad for business.

The looms in one of Waheed Raamay’s workshops are silent and soon to be sold as scrap metal. This workshop, a graveyard as Raamay calls it, is a sign of how the electricity crisis hurts Pakistan’s economy.

“This is not just the story of this single factory. There are dozens of factories in this particular area, and there are hundreds of factories in this city that have closed down due to this power crisis,” said Raamay.

Faisalabad, the third-largest city in Pakistan with a population of about 2.6 million inhabitants, is known for its textiles. But from the low-end workshops that produce for the domestic market to the warehouse-sized factories that export sheets and pillowcases to international chains, that industry is hurting — badly — as a result of the electricity crisis, say workers and factory owners.

Analysts and government officials estimate that Pakistan loses about two percent of its GDP every year due to the electricity crisis. The Pakistan Textile Exporters Association estimates about 150,000 jobs lost in Faisalabad and surrounding Punjab province over the last five years.

In the part of the city where fabric is made for local consumption, the clicking and clacking of the machines rises and falls with the load-shedding.

Workers show up hoping for a day’s work, knowing they are hostages to power cuts. A show of hands indicates all the workers are deeply in debt to their grocery stores or the factory owners. Angry job-seekers have taken to the streets in protest.

“We don’t have money to bury our dead,” said Mohammed Haneef, who was missing part of one finger from a loom accident. “My mother died and I had no money so I had to borrow money from the owners. A year later my father died, and I had to borrow money. … The situation is bad.”

Kurram Mukhtar, head of Sadaqat Limited, one of Pakistan’s leading textile manufacturers, said that from 2006 to 2010 many companies in the city and surrounding area were bankrupted by the power crisis. Owners who survived decided they needed energy independence. Now, at Mukhtar’s factory, piles of coal sit next to a massive generator that keeps the workers stitching, cutting and dying fabrics through the load-shedding.

But Mukhtar said that the cost has cut deeply into his profits, leaving no money to invest in new technologies.

He doesn’t have the option chosen by Aurangzeb Khan in the northwestern town of Mathra when his power was cut off last year over unpaid bills: Khan resorted to the tactic Pakistanis call “kunda,” the hook slung over a convenient electricity pole.

He said he did it because it pained him to see his kids suffering through the August heat. “I am not stealing electricity just for fun or pleasure but I don’t have any other option,” he said.

Such non-payment is rampant. Even government agencies are known to default on bills. And customers can always go to court to obtain a “stay-order” that forces the power company to keep supplying electricity.

“There is no concept of paying the bill,” said Ashfaque Khan, the dean of the business school at the Islamabad-based National University of Sciences and Technology.

A report in March commissioned by the Planning Commission of Pakistan estimated that the delinquencies added up to about 86 billion rupees (about $870 million) in lost revenues.

The Peshawar Electric Supply Company, whose coverage area includes Khan’s home, was said to be one of the worst at bill-collecting, though it suffers the added problem of being a target for violence. In April, militants attacked a grid station outside of Peshawar, killing eight policemen and electric company officials.

The new government says it wants to increase bill collection but has given few specifics about how they’ll go about it. People like Aurangzeb Khan say they want to see improved service before they pay up.

“I know stealing is not good,” he said, “but if we get uninterrupted supply of electricity at a reasonable price we shall pay the bills.”

Priority in Pakistan: Turn On Lights

By Saeed Shah for The Wall Street Journal

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When Nawaz Sharif starts his new term as Pakistan’s prime minister on Wednesday, 14 years after he was ousted in a military coup, he will focus on turning on the lights in a nuclear-armed nation that has been increasingly starved of electricity.

Power outages of 12 to 20 hours a day have crippled industry and made life miserable for households, a problem that worsened under the previous government of the Pakistan Peoples Party. Electricity shortages cost Pakistan some $13.5 billion a year, equivalent to knocking 1.5 percentage points off the economic-growth rate, Lahore’s Beaconhouse National University said in a report this year.

After Mr. Sharif is sworn in, he will deliver a speech outlining his strategy for solving the electricity emergency through wide-ranging intervention, bond sales and privatizations, aides said. The financing of the electricity rescue plan would be laid out in the budget to be announced next week by incoming Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, they said.

The new administration plans to pay off what it says is $5 billion in debt that has paralyzed the industry, build new power plants and privatize the sector in a multibillion-dollar overhaul that could attract foreign investor interest, the aides said.

The challenges are great. The previous government poured billions into the sector without eliminating the debt or significantly increasing the supply of electricity. The industry is riddled with corruption and depends on expensive oil for power generation, instead of cheaper gas or coal.

The most pressing issue is the chain of so-called circular debt that runs through the sector: The government keeps the price of electricity to the consumer below the cost of production, but can’t afford to make up the shortfall. It means that oil importers are owed money by power plants, which are owed money by distribution companies, which in turn are owed money by consumers.

“First, we need to write a check,” said Miftah Ismail, an energy adviser to Mr. Sharif, who drew up the energy policy in the party’s election manifesto. “We will pay off the stock of circular debt. It is choking the system. No fresh investment will come into Pakistan unless you get rid of circular debt.”

Although the incoming government has given the level of this debt at $5 billion, a government think tank, the Planning Commission, issued a report in March this year placing it at $9 billion at the end of 2012.

The new administration would borrow the money from banks and also take on the debts owed to the banks by various energy companies and government-owned entities, Mr. Ismail said. Then the government would plan to tap domestic and international bond markets.

A domestic bond issue picked up by local banks would be the most likely scenario, said Ashraf Bava, chief executive of Nael Capital, a brokerage in Karachi. Pakistan would need to improve its credit rating and balance of payments before approaching international capital markets, he said.

“The local banks will have no choice. They’ll have to do it,” said Mr. Bava. “Obviously they’ll be offered a decent return.”

Pakistan, a country of 180 million people, is currently producing some 11,000 megawatts of power, though that dropped last month to less than 9,000 megawatts, compared with demand of at least 17,000 megawatts.

By comparison, installed generation capacity in Indonesia, a country of 240 million people, is 41,000 megawatts, according to a 2012 report from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Pakistan’s supply shortfall results in power being switched off to households and industry for part of each day on a rotating basis across the country—outages known as “load shedding.”

After paying off the debt, the new government plans to pursue a three-pronged strategy, the aides say. The government would aim to cut line losses and electricity theft, shift power plants from oil to coal, and eliminate subsidies to consumers. Pakistan currently charges consumers around 9 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity that costs 12 to 14 cents to produce.

Those who use minimal amounts of electricity would continue to get power cheaply, a cost that would be borne by the full fare paid by heavier users—including the middle classes, who form Mr. Sharif’s core constituency, as well as Pakistan’s elite. But if the plan works, Mr. Sharif’s aides said, the cost of power production and prices would come down again.

“There’s no reason why we should be subsidizing those who can afford to run air conditioners,” said Mr. Ismail.

Mr. Sharif’s plan envisages converting three or four of the biggest power plants, which currently burn oil, to coal. Experts estimate such a plan would cost about $2 billion but would pay for itself in savings in about a year.

New coal-burning power stations would also be commissioned, which the incoming government says would take around three years to come onstream. Government-owned generation plants and the grid companies would be put under new management and privatized.

“We will nibble at this problem from many angles as we go along,” said Sartaj Aziz, an adviser to Mr. Sharif on finance and a former finance minister.

Foreign companies rushed into Pakistan’s electricity sector in the 1990s, when new private generation plants were allowed, on lucrative terms. Oil prices were low at the time, so oil-burning plants were built.

However, frequent changes in governments and policies that followed, together with the circular debt issue, chased away most of the foreign interest. The last major American investor, AES Corp.,sold out in 2009.

GDF Suez of France and Malaysia’s Tenaga Nasional Berhad are the remaining foreign firms active in Pakistan’s energy sector.

Naveed Ismail, an independent energy-sector expert who previously worked with the government, said that 48% of Pakistan’s thermal generation came from burning furnace oil, the highest such proportion among any major countries, while contribution from much cheaper coal, the main source of generation in India or China, was close to zero.

“Pakistan just has to learn from the rest of the world. It doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel,” he said. “The issue is producing affordable electricity. No new capacity should be added unless it brings down the average cost of power.”

Helping Pakistan with its electricity crisis has been a major focus of American aid in recent years. Since October 2009, the U.S. has spent $225 million on energy projects in Pakistan, according to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, adding more than 900 megawatts to the country’s generation, with schemes for upgrading power plants and dams.

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