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Updated: 2 days 14 hours ago

Water scarcity: Abbottabad residents threaten protest

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 00:41

ABBOTTABAD: Residents of two Abbottabad villages have threatened to protest unless the authorities do not repair a water pump in the area over the next few days.

Taj Khan, a village councilor from Banda Jalal Khan, said that a water pump attached to a tube well had been out of order for over a month.

Accompanied by over a dozen villagers from Banda Jalal Khan and Lamba Maira villages he said that hundreds of residents of these villages had forced to send the elderly and women to fetch water from far off areas or purchase from private suppliers. This despite the fact that paying their bills on time.

The councilor said that he had led a delegation to meet with the sub-divisional officer at the Public Health Authorities to discuss the issue. However, he lamented the officer’s response was discouraging. Taj claimed that the SDO told them how the department was short of funds and could not repair the pump and advised them to contact DC, District Nazim or the MPA. The councilor warned that unless the pump was repaired within the next two days, the villagers would stage a protest.

Meanwhile, when approached for comments the SDO was not available but an official at his office said that they were making arrangements to ensure that the water supply to the localities was restored within a few days.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2017.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Terror in Charsadda: Police heroics avert possible carnage

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 00:41

CHARSADDA / TANGI: Police heroics averted what could have been a possible carnage at a courts complex in Charsadda district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on Tuesday. A brazen attack by multiple suicide bombers on the Civil Courts in Tangi tehsil was the latest in a series of assaults which have raised fears terrorists are regrouping after a drubbing in military operations.

At least seven people were killed and 21 injured in the assault claimed by the outlawed Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA) faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which carried out a series of apparently coordinated assaults last week including a powerful bomb blast in Lahore which killed 16 people.

Three suicide bombers, also armed with assault rifles and hand grenades, tried to enter the complex housing the court of the additional sessions judge and civil courts from the main gates Tuesday morning.

“The policemen standing guard at the gates challenged and engaged them in a gunfight,” DIG Mardan Ijaz Khan said. Unable to enter the court premises, two of the bombers blew themselves up, while the third was taken down by the police.

Other police officials, however, gave a different account of what had happened. They said one bomber was briefly on the loose inside the busy complex but was killed by police some 20 minutes after the attack began. A second bomber was shot dead by the police and a third died when he detonated his vest outside the main gates, according to the officials.

The area was littered with human remains, while a pile of law books stained with blood and riddled with bullets lay strewn outside an office. The police scoured the area for evidence as military helicopters whirred overhead throughout the operation and subsequent sanitization which continued until afternoon.

DIG Khan said each bomber carried seven kilos of explosives in his suicide vest. They lobbed hand grenades and fired gunshots at the police standing guard at the main gates in an attempt to enter the complex.

Manzoor Bashir, a member of the Tehsil Municipal Administration (TMA) Tangi, said the police had set up a checkpoint on the main road leading to Tangi Bazaar in view of security threats in Charsadda district, which borders Mohmand Agency.

“I was discussing the fluid security situation in the country with Gul Shaid Khan, the SHO of Tangi police station, when we heard heavy gunfire followed by multiple blasts,” he told The Express Tribune. “The bombers wanted to enter the courts complex and the adjacent TMA offices. There might have been a bloodbath, if they had managed to enter,” he added. “The police heroics foiled their attempt.”

Hundreds of people including lawyers, judges and citizens normally attend the court complex.

Deputy Commissioner Tahir Abasi and District Nazim Fahad Riaz confirmed the death toll. The injured were driven to the Tehsil Headquarters Hospital, where Deputy Medical Superintendent Dr Ayaz Khan told The Express Tribune that those with life-threatening wounds had been referred to the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar.

Dr Adnan Khan, who was on duty, said that among the dead were a retired schoolteacher Roohullah and his son Miftahullah, who worked as stamp papers vendor and writer at the complex. Residents told The Express Tribune that Miftahullah had got married only a few months ago.

Dr Adnan said a man, his son and a daughter, who were also among the injured, were brought to the hospital. The father, oblivious of his wounds, kept requesting the medics to save the lives of his children first,” Dr Adnan said. The man was later identified as Marifat Shah, owner of a tea stall at the courts complex. Shah, his four-year-old son Hashir, and daughter Aisha were wounded when the bombers struck. Shah and Aisha survived, but Hashir succumbed to his injuries.

According to a police source, security was tightened in the district after threat alert had been issued by the authorities. “Several search operations had also been conducted in the district,” he told The Express Tribune. “The police managed to foil a possible carnage because they were already on high alert.”

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s office condemned the assault. “We are a steadfast nation and will not be deterred by such attacks. Our government will continue to fight against terrorist elements and we will succeed,” a statement said.

A spokesman for JuA claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement emailed to media. Last week, the militant faction released a video announcing a new campaign of attacks against the government, including the judiciary, police and the army.

A series of bombings last week, in which more than 100 people were killed, has shattered a nascent sense that the worst of the country’s militant violence might be over.

The deadliest of last week’s attacks was on the shrine of popular Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalander in Sehwan and was claimed by the Middle-Eastern militant group Islamic State.(With additional input from Agencies)

Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2017.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Promoting sports: ‘Committees set up to promote healthy activities’

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 00:40

FAISALABAD: The Faisalabad Municipal Corporation had set up sports and culture committees to promote healthy activities, especially among youth that will help alleviate negativism in their personalities and develop sportsman spirit to fight odds in their lives.

This was said by Faisalabad Mayor Muhammad Razzaq Malik on Tuesday. He was addressing a prize distribution ceremony of six-day Lyallpur Minerva Club Division Open Lawn Tennis Championship 2017 which was arranged by Minerva Club at its tennis grounds.

He said funds had been earmarked for the purpose and different sports tournaments would be arranged that will help encourage and nurture the players of national level. He lauded the steps being taken on the part of the club administration for the promotion of sports activities among youngsters.

While condemning blasts in Lahore, Sehwan Sharif and other areas, he said the government was making all out efforts to eliminate the wave of terrorism.

Earlier, Secretary Sports Dr Jalal Arif said, “The city mayor has great passion for the promotion of sports in the city. He said the club used to organise sports event on regular basis to promote sports culture in the city.” He maintained under the patronage of Minerva Club President Zahid Sarfaraz, the club gained high ranks in flourishing the sports events.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2017.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Extremists make inroads in the land of Sufis

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 00:37

KARACHI: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leaders fear that in the wake of the recent wave of terrorism in Sindh, results of next year’s general elections could yield the same results as that of 2013.

“Only those who have supported extremist groups benefit from the recurrence of terrorism. We being a liberal party have always faced wrath,” Maula Bux Chandio said, adding that he was confident the party would work to overcome the situation. Sindh has a unique history of religious harmony, co-existence and tolerance as most of the Sufis in this land have always preached love and peace.

But terror attacks in last two to three years, especially rural areas, have created resentment among the ranks and files of the provincial ruling party, which has been in power since 2008.

Whether it be Shikarpuar Imambargah incident which left around 60 people dead in 2015 or Jacobabad suicide attack or the recent Sehwan blast, all send out the message that extremist groups have made inroads in the land of Sufis.

“This is a conspiracy against Sindh and specially PPP. Some elements through their nefarious designs want to gain control through spreading terror, but we will not let them succeed,” Chandio said without giving out names.

Another leader said that the recent attack not only impacted upcoming elections, but it could also postpone the census, which is scheduled to start from mid-March in the province.

PPP has borne the brunt of terrorism with its leader Benazir Bhutto being assassinated in an attack carried out by terrorists. However, according to independent observers, the party and its leadership lack political wisdom and foresightedness in dealing with growing extremism in Sindh. “Majority of the people living in Sindh are not happy with the party endeavours, which has been in the federal government and has failed to bring reforms in madrasa curriculum and take action against extremist elements who publicly incite hate and extremism in the province,”  writer and civil society activist Nisar Khokhar said.

According to Khokhar, feudal lords still have a stronghold and easily influence the police while the judicial system is weak and there is no strong intelligence network in the province.

“If the operation had started during PPP’s last government against these groups, we would not have seen such a situation emerge in Sindh,” he said.

“You can gauge the example from two facilitators of Sehwan bomb blast arrested by the police two days ago. They belong to PPP and have won local bodies election on the party’s tickets,” he said, adding that PPP will face resistance from its ranks in taking action against these people.

According to official data most of the blasts have occurred in cities and towns linking to border areas of Balochistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2017.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

JuD chief challenges house arrest in LHC

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 00:36

LAHORE: Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and his four aides moved the Lahore High Court challenging their house arrests and being added to the fourth schedule.

The JuD chief on Tuesday also challenged the interior ministry’s decision of putting his name on the Exit Control List with 37 of his other aides.

The petition will be taken up by a division bench of the LHC headed by Justice Sardar Muhammad Shamim.

Hafiz Saeed and other JuD leaders have filed this petition through Advocate AK Dogar.

JuD requests Interior Ministry to remove Hafiz Saeed, 37 others from ECL

On January 31st this year the provincial government of Punjab had placed JuD’s chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and four other party leaders under house arrest

A letter issued by the ministry to the provincial government on January 29 said that JuD as well Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF), which is a public welfare arm of JuD, has been put on the watch list and listed in the second schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act. It said the two organisations had been put under watch list as per the UN Security Council sanctions.

According to notification putting them under detention, the ministry of

interior on January 27 had intimated that JuD and FIF are engaged in certain activities which could be prejudicial to peace and security and are in violation of Pakistan’s obligations to the UN Security Council Resolution 1267.

A number of JuD and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation pamphlets are also made part of the petition which highlighted the organisation’s volunteer work in different parts of the country.

JuD chief Hafiz Saeed put under house arrest

It has also stated its other philanthropic works including rescue work in the Mall Road suicide blast.

Giving details, the petition said that 569 of the organisation’s volunteers and 54 ambulances participated in rescue work. It stated that it shifted 13 injured and six bodies.

It further said that they arranged 70 blood bags for the injured and provided food to 1,076 people for three days after the blast. They also distributed 755 water bottles and arranged funeral prayers for three deceased, the writ petition stated.

Five individuals under preventive detention including Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Abdullah Ubaid, Zafar Iqbal, Abdur Rehman Abid, and Kashif Niaz are the active members of the two organisations.

India claims that Hafiz Muhammad Saeed was the alleged mastermind of coordinated attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008 that killed more than 160 people.

Days after crackdown, JuD reappears with new name

A JuD leader on condition of anonymity said that under the UNSC Resolution 1267, Hafiz Saeed could be barred from travelling abroad, acquiring weapon licenses and opening bank accounts but he cannot be detained or placed under house arrest under the resolution.

The leader further said that the JuD was likely to participate in elections but added that for now they wanted to concentrate on clearing JuD’s name before registering with ECP.

“Although JuD had never planned to participate in the elections but there was a lot of discussion on it following its relief works in the 2005 Azad Jammu and Kashmir earthquake,” he stated.

“The party leaders always had option to register JuD with the ECP and they still have this right which may be exercised only after being cleared from the charges,” he said.

(With additional reporting by Qadeer Tanoli in Islamabad)

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Empowering councillors: Rs56 billion released for LG representatives

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 00:36

LAHORE: The Punjab government has released Rs56 billion to strengthen the local government system in the province, according to Local Government and Community Development (LG&CD) Minister Manshaullah Butt.

Addressing the concluding session of a training programme for local government representatives on Tuesday at the National Institute of Management (former NIPA), Butt said under the Provincial Finance Commission (PFC), the government has increased the local government funds from Rs17 billion to Rs43.2 billion. In addition, a fund of Rs13 billion has been provided for local development works.

He said the newly elected public representatives will have to work hard to prove the effectiveness of the new local government system.

“The provincial government is doing remarkable development works and wanted to instill the same spirit in local level development schemes,” he said.

“The Punjab government has empowered local government representatives to carryout development projects in urban and rural areas. The government has also provided them funds in a transparent manner,” he maintained.

Butt asked the local government representatives to remain vigilant on encroachment, food adulteration, building bylaws and movement of dangerous materials in their respective areas. He underscored that by amending the Punjab Local Government Act, the provincial assembly has increased powers of deputy mayors and vice chairmen.

“Now deputy mayors and vice chairmen will be able to chair meetings of the municipal corporations, municipal committees and union councils. After the latest amendments, UC vice chairmen will work as speaker in their union council too,” he explained.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2017.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

IG Frontier Corps: Enemy should not underrate us    

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 00:35

QUETTA: The Inspector General Frontier Corps Major General Nadeem Anjum has said that the enemy should not underestimate the capability of our forces. He added that the armed forces of the country have full capacity to defend the motherland. He was speaking to the tribal elders and representatives of business and trader community during a meeting with them in Chaman on Tuesday. IGFC during his visit to Chaman also visited the positions of the Pakistani troops deployed at the border with Afghanistan. The FC commandant Chaman briefed the major general about the situation of the area especially with reference to the sealing of the border with Afghanistan in Chaman. Major General Nadeem Anjum also visited the friendship gate and had meeting with senior officers of the force and told them that the border will remain closed for an indefinite period.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2017.

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Peshawar’s old printing press market takes hit

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 00:35

PESHAWAR: The tense bilateral relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan and the recent development pertaining to the border management have negatively affected business of Peshawar’s Mohalla Jangi—the city’s main printing market.

Located close to the famous Qissa Khawani Bazaar, the market was once discussed for its role in printing Jihadi literature.

It has played a role not only in Pakistan’s general elections and local body polls but also in Afghanistan’s presidential elections.

“We designed and printed posters and publicity material for the former Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s first term presidential polls,” Hayat Khan, who owns Burhan Printing Press in the market, claimed.

Hayat has been associated with the printing press industry for over 30 years and has 12 people working with him.

Currently, he is working on printing three school books from one of his clients in Afghanistan.

“The market is alive on the business we get from Afghanistan. If few Afghans come to the market everyone will get work and business, from designing to composing and printing to binding,” he said, adding that the Afghan clients pay well unlike their Pakistani counterparts.

Hayat said they focus on printing school books and religious books for Afghan clients but work is either done in Afghanistan or Iran.

“Since last Ramazan our business from Afghanistan has decreased drastically – by more than 50 per cent,” he explained.

“We are forced to decrease our rates to survive,” Fahim Khan, another press owner complained.

He explained that a plate of 1,000 sheets which was sold at Rs300 is now being sold at Rs220 because of the decrease in work

“The business started declining when printing industry started flourishing in Afghanistan but after the recent cross-border tension the business has completely stopped. We are struggling to pay salaries to our workers,” he said.

Last year in June, Pakistan started border management system at Torkham to secure the Durand Line making it mandatory for Afghans entering Pakistan to have valid passports and travel documents. The police also increased checking of Afghan nationals and launched a crackdown against those without proper documents.

Fahim and his fellows blamed harassment of their clients by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa police for the decline in their business.

“Police harasses them and also takes bribes despite being shown complete travel documents. Why would they come to Pakistan in such circumstances?” said Yousuf Khan who does book-binding.

“The K-P government does not give us work and we were mostly dependent on Afghanistan for work which has now stopped.”

According to the market association secretary Mushtaq Ahmed Khalil, over 2,000 printing presses operate in the market.

“The market has been affected by the decline in the business from Afghanistan,” he said adding that the decline started after Afghanistan’s own printing presses started operating and the cross-border tensions have now added fuel to the fire.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2017.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Bomb Hoax: Suspicious briefcase declared ‘clear’

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 00:34

KARACHI: Panic gripped the city after news spread about the presence of a briefcase suspected of containing a bomb near one of the police stations in the metropolis on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, experts from the Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) cleared it after proper checking. A blue-coloured suspicious briefcase was found near an under construction building in Preedy area of Saddar.

CPLC refutes rumours of attack in Karachi

Earlier, BDS was informed by some suspects left a suspicious hoax in the area. It created panic and BDS officials, along with police, rushed to the spot to check the briefcase.

“The suspicious brief case was found from the National Oil Trading Shop near the Preedy police station, said the BDS expert.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2017.

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Security at courts: LBA, police blame each other for inadequate arrangements

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 00:34

LAHORE: Lahore Bar Association (LBA) representatives and senior police officials seem more interested in blaming each other rather than filling in security gaps at the district courts.

LBA representatives claimed security arrangements were nonexistent and could not deal with any untoward incident. The police, on the other hand, complained that security could not be made foolproof until the lawyers were ready to be frisked properly and their parking is removed from Aiwan-e-Adl.

LBA President Chaudhary Tanveer Akhtar said he was not satisfied over security measures. The lawyer added he had given some proposals to the police in the presence of district and sessions judge Abid Hussain Qureshi. The judge assured the suggestions would be implemented.

He said parking should be shifted from Aiwan-e-Adl to a proper alternative location and asked that the road between Aiwan-e-Adl to the senior civil judge’s court be blocked. He further suggested concrete blocks be placed in front of the Aiwan-e-Adl main gates.

He also demanded snipers at civil courts, adding the deployed officials should be well trained and given latest equipment.

LBA Vice-President Irfan Sadiq Tarar said lawyers had protested against the poor security at district courts. He added the relevant superintendent of police assured well trained personnel with proper equipment.

He said that they received six walkthrough to be installed at the civil courts.

Security SP Abadat Nisar said he was satisfied over security arrangements at the district and sessions court. However, he acknowledged there was room for improvement, but it could not be carried out without the cooperation of lawyers. The police officer assured personnel would be given refresher courses every Sunday.

He added policemen started frisking lawyers some days ago at the civil courts, but members of the legal fraternity felt insulted.

On the other hand, representatives of the judiciary and police seemed optimistic and expressed their satisfaction over security measures. They added meetings were held and they would leave no room for an untoward incident to occur.

Additional district and sessions judge Tajamal Shehzad Chaudhry said he was is satisfied with the arrangements. He said relevant stakeholders had visited civil courts and discussed security matters from all aspects.

At the same time, Advocate Muhammad Qasim said security arrangements were disappointing as officials are not well trained. He added sometimes those who were deployed were not present at turrets constructed for security purposes on the boundary wall of the district and sessions court.

He said the more sensitive places included Model Town courts and the civil courts, especially Aiwan-e-Adl where security measures were not complete.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2017.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Military courts are the need of the hour, says Qureshi

Sun, 02/19/2017 - 15:28

MITHI, THARPARKAR: As a new wave of terror gripped the country this week, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader has come out in support of military courts, saying they are the need of the hour.

“Military courts should be given more time,” the PTI leader said during his visit to different towns and villages of Tharparkar on Sunday.

پی ٹٰی آئی وائس چیئرمین مخدوم شاہ محمود قریشی دورہ سندھ کے دوسرے روز تھر پارکر کے گاوں قبولیو جو پار پہنچےپر شاندار استقبال کیا گیا۔

— PTI Central Sindh (@PTISindhCentral) February 19, 2017

The courts were established through the 21st constitutional amendment after the attack on Peshawar’s Army Public School in December 2014 that left 150 people, mostly children, dead.

Dar wins Fazl’s backing for military courts

The statement came at a time when the government is trying to develop consensus among different political parties over proposed extension to military courts’ tenure.

The PTI leader criticised the government, saying it had two years to improve its performance, but to no avail. He urged the rulers to implement the National Action Plan.

“Had the government done its job, there would be no need to establish military courts,” he said, adding the government also failed to carry out reforms and activate the anti-terrorists courts.

Unity for Sindhis

Qureshi said unless united, the people of Sindh, especially those living in Thar, could not defeat their exploiters. “The future of the people of Sindh is with the PTI, he said.

Meanwhile, he also denied rumours of re-joining the Pakistan Peoples Party.

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Karachi: PSL’s let-down team

Sun, 02/19/2017 - 14:58

When Florentino Perez became Real Madrid president, the billionaire went about creating a team of superstars. In came the likes of David Beckham, Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Zinidine Zidane — the Galacticos. Mostly attacking players signed for ludicrous fees that they would repay not only by what they did during the match but also by the shirts, tickets and merchandise that their names sold. Every year another big name was signed, another headline was created; and millions more came into the Real coffers through shirt sales. For example, Beckham was signed for an eye-watering €35 million from Manchester United yet almost all of it was recovered pretty much instantly as Real sold more than a million Beckham shirts in the first year alone.  Karachi Kings’ owner Salman Iqbal has had few qualms in admitting that he has kept a players’ marketability in mind when signing players. This has led to Karachi having hogging some of the biggest names in the PSL. Global household names such as Chris Gayle, Kumar Sangakkara, Shoaib Malik, Kieron Pollard and Mahela Jayawardene rub shoulders with young but established Pakistan internationals Babar Azam, Imad Wasim and Mohammad Amir.

On paper, Karachi have perhaps the best squad of any PSL side. Yet, in a bid to establish cricket’s Galacticos, the Kings have created a squad devoid of balance. Too many players perform roles way too similar for the good of the team. Karachi are one of the worst teams of the PSL so far; arguably the side underachieving the most. There will be times when these players click in ominous manner, and when they do, nobody will have a chance in hell of stopping them. But the sum of Karachi will never be greater than its parts. For now, the Karachi side is living up to the second part of its name; expensive royalty keeping its position due to ceremony and tradition alone.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2017.

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Terrorism is here to stay?

Sun, 02/19/2017 - 14:55

It is time to take the gloves off, take the wool from our eyes and face up to the most uncomfortable of truths. Terrorism in its many iterations is here to stay and its very bedrock, sectarianism, is here to stay with the blessing of the state both federal and provincial. It is time to admit to the reality that the grip of extremism is now so great that it has the capacity to trump the power of the state at every level and in that sense the state has now ceded power to forces far greater than those that are the product of an electoral process.

How can this be said with such certainty? The Sindh government has caved in to pressure from sectarian parties and groups some of them banned, and stopped the operation against those which it suspects of either extremist or terror sympathies or of active participation in acts of terror. These people have gained refuge in 93 seminaries around the province and an operation against them started in November last year. Leaders and activists of sectarian groups were arrested, both Shia and Sunni. Leaders and activists of both groups protested by taking to the streets and it did not take long for the provincial government to fold.

The provincial government got no support federally either. The Interior Minister rejected reports submitted provincially saying they were ‘ambiguous’, demonstrating a partiality that has long been suspected at the very top. The provincial government was not making it up as it went along, and it had good reason to be concerned enough to take action. The Sindh Apex Committee decided to move against the clerics and seminaries that were suspect – but the action did not happen. Some action does continue but not at the root-and-branch level that would definitively take down the groups suspected of activities counter to the welfare of the state. If the most fundamental of battles against terrorism is to be strangled at birth what chance is there for the wider battle to be fought and won? It is on that basis that we say that terrorism is here to stay. Now prove us wrong.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2017.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Our reactive policies

Sun, 02/19/2017 - 14:53

Around a hundred people have to die and many more have to be maimed before the government finally decides to use our tax money to protect us.

In a reactive move that has become a hallmark of Pakistan’s way of running affairs, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah directed law-enforcement agencies to begin security audit of 86 shrines after a suicide attack on Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’s shrine killed over 80 devotees on February 16.

The high death toll at the shrine makes it one of the worst attacks in Pakistan in recent years. This bombing was preceded by a series of bloody extremist assaults in other parts of Pakistan including Lahore, Quetta and Peshawar.

For a country believed to be in a state of war and supposedly following the National Action Plan to eradicate terrorism, security at possible targets such as mosques, imambargahs and shrines should have been foolproof anyway. Deployment of enough security personnel, multi-layered checking process before entry and constant vigilance should have been already part of the safety apparatus. But as obvious from the recent targeted attacks, the authorities concerned have not been honest in their actions — if not in their commitment — to end the menace of terrorism from the country.

Until the federal and provincial governments make prevention — rather than after-event assistance — their mission, terrorists will continue to strike and bleed Pakistan at every chance they get. There’s also a need for accountability of those responsible for security lapses; ignoring terror alerts, not providing adequate resources to the police and overlooking security protocols is criminal negligence and the culprits should be held accountable — be they from the security forces or the elected government.

Most importantly, what is required is honesty of our leadership which currently appears to have no shame in arriving at sites where people were murdered because they didn’t do their job.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2017.

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The Trump fiasco

Sun, 02/19/2017 - 14:51

Now that the US has a politically inexperienced egomaniac as a president, the world awaits with bated breath as he stumbles from one mishap into another. If the first few weeks are a sign of what’s to come, we better get ready for an entertaining four years. His disastrous immigration policy, targeting visitors and green card holders from Muslim countries and refugees in the US, was apparently rolled out without any real forethought or planning. This led to mass confusion and millions turned out to protest. For now, the federal court system has blocked Trump’s immigration ban and the Department of Homeland security is complying with judicial orders. In the meantime, Trump tweeted “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned.”

Another moment of brilliance resulted in the secretary of education position being sold to the highest bidder, Billionaire Betsy Devos. She, like Trump, lacks any previous experience in her new arena and never even attended a public school. Betsy is now in charge of America’s public education. Her main qualifications are that she’s a billionaire mega-donor to Republican lawmakers and is invested in student loan debt collection companies. Each of the lawmakers who voted to confirm Betsy received anywhere from $ 8,000 to $100,000 from her.

Under Trump, the US has taken a step back in time and has become refocused on fossil fuels. The US foreign policy is now essentially tied to oil since Trump’s pick for the head of the State Department is former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson. Ironically, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, is also a tool of the fossil fuels industry. He has taken part in legal battles against the EPA for years. The LA Times stated “Pruitt’s appointment would be a classic case of putting the fox in charge of the henhouse”. Trump has nominated one catastrophic candidate after another to lead all the major government agencies. Most of these nominations were favours to rich businessmen who donated heavily to Trump. Another senseless decision by Trump includes demoting the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the armed forces and the Director of National Intelligence from permanent seats at the National Security Council that advises the president. Instead, he promoted an editor of a conspiracy rag as a permanent member of the National Security Council. Trump followed those decisions up with a botched raid on an al Qaeda outpost in Yemen. This raid resulted in the death of nine children, eight women and a US navy seal.

During the election, Trump claimed he was the champion of the common citizen. In truth, he immediately set out punishing the middle class by openly discarding laws that were in place to protect the average citizen. For instance, he tossed out laws such as the one banning coal companies from dumping their waste into streams. He also delayed, and will probably toss out, the fiduciary rule which requires financial investors to act in the best interest of their client instead of just recommending whatever yields the highest commission. Such unscrupulous behaviour aided in the 2008 financial collapse. This law was intended to prevent big banks giving out crooked loans or advising clients to make poor financial investments just to pad their own profits.

The list goes on and on. Will Trump last beyond four years or even the full four years? Trump will eventually be discarded, but the amount of damage that he has the potential to inflict may be severe enough that it will take an entire generation to undo. Thankfully, the American democracy is vibrant and the strongest tool of resistance is the American civil society. Lawmakers who publicly support Trump are facing mass protests back home in their local town hall meetings with their constituents. More than three million people protested across all 50 states in the Women’s March the first full day of Trump’s presidency. State governments, like California, are already pledging to go their own direction on many issues. Stay tuned to see how this all plays out. The once a week Trump reality show is now on seven days a week and is being broadcast worldwide.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2017.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

International aid under the new US Presidency

Sun, 02/19/2017 - 14:49

Since coming to power, President Trump has signed a slew of executive orders. Some of these presidential orders have domestic implications while others have a much broader scope. These orders range from reducing government regulations and revamping healthcare domestically, to withdrawal of the US from a Trans-Pacific trade deal and ordering an urgent plan to be drawn up for defeating the IS worldwide. Executive orders such as the travel ban on seven Muslim countries, or to build a wall with Mexico, have stirred a lot of controversy and contestation. However, there is another draft executive order which could potentially jeopardise the lives and livelihoods of millions of vulnerable people around the world, which has not received that much attention, especially by the media in developing countries like our own. The executive order ‘Auditing and Reducing US. Funding of International Organisations’ has been drafted by the Trump administration, which aims to slash a minimum of 40% of funding to multilateral institutions, such as the UN and the World Bank. While the executive order is apparently being mulled over by departments concerned within the new administration, if it is put into effect without much modification, this order will have major international implications. The US is, after all, the largest donor of international aid in the world today. The Trump presidency’s decision to withhold US aid funding from any overseas family planning organisation that offers or provides information about abortions has already come under severe criticism. Global health agencies and experts, including Médecins Sans Frontières, for example, have pointed out how this policy will adversely impact family planning campaigns, the problem of teenage pregnancies, higher mortality rates, and efforts to combat HIV and AIDS.

Given the current shape our world makes it hard to deny that international development agencies must do a better job. They need to rethink how they work, and why their efforts produce lacklustre results. Yet, this does not mean that global development agencies should be sidelined altogether. For all the UN system’s failings, on the whole it does play an important role in conflict-resolution and peacekeeping.

It is understandable that the new US administration wants to cut its expenditures and focus on increased growth. However, there are other areas than the international aid budget, where such cuts can be exercised. This past year, the US military budget easily dwarfed the rest of the world. With a defence budget of around $597 billion, it was almost as much as the next 14 countries put together. Ensuring stability in the modern world is not possible through military spending alone. There are complex links between deprivation, political violence and global insecurity. Thus, the new US administration’s proposed reduction of support to international organisations which not only are struggling to deal with the outfalls of global violence but also aim to address its causes, is troubling. Tackling the reasons of conflict instead of putting in place security-based interventions is the more sensible choice, as it is less expensive, and it also deters needless human suffering. If we lived in a world where political statements were based on genuine ideals and intentions, the new US administration’s goals of reducing exclusion and boosting growth, could potentially become a harbinger of good news for everyone. After all, it is not just for blue collar workers in the US who face the challenge of unfair wages or unemployment. In fact, even getting blue collar work is a luxury that much of the labour force in the rest of the world is deprived of, being compelled instead to work in unsatisfactory or hazardous work conditions, with dismal pay. It would have also been great to see the US pay more attention to why the UN system, the World Bank, the IMF, and other major development agencies, which are provided US funds, continue to produce such lacklustre results in delivering human development goals. Tangible proposals by the new US administration to make the existing aid agencies more accountable would also have been welcomed. However, simply tightening the purse strings of available international aid instead, will not bode well for anyone.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2017.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

No government in Sindh

Sun, 02/19/2017 - 14:47

The attack on the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan by terrorists was not just a challenge to the state of Pakistan – it was also an attack on those who believe in Pirs and Mazars, which seems to have no place in the new Pakistan that some extremists want our country to turn into.

The manner in which our country is being polarised is scary – but then again this is exactly what was predicted. Given the culture of hatred, we will disintegrate into fiefdoms if left to ourselves.

The choice of Sindh as a target was also interesting. Despite the high casualty that we witnessed, what is clear is that the government of chief minister Murad Ali Shah was the least moved. It was sad to see the former chief minister Qaim Ali Shah visiting the shrine after the attack.

If there was joke it was on the person accusing Qaim Ali Shah and his party of incompetence and corruption. For more than a decade, the Pakistan Peoples Party has successively been responsible for the criminal assault of the province. And yet the people of the province continue to vote for the same corrupt and inept leaders. If there was a case against democracy the world over, it would be at the home of one of the world’s oldest civilisations – Sindh.

The manner in which the shrine blast has been dealt with by the Sindh government is disgraceful. Not only is there no hospital in near distance, despite the gathering of thousands of people at this shrine, there is no medical camp or proper security system in place.

Everything is ad-hoc. But it does not end there. After the blast, no arrangements were made to ferry victims to hospitals in Karachi or Hyderabad. Dire cases were carried on private cars and motorcycles by their near and dear ones.

It is believed that many who died were because of the lack of immediate medical care. This is especially true of children and older persons. Had they been given timely medical help, they would have lived. But that was not to be.

No arrangements were made in the first twenty-four hours to ferry doctors or medical help from Jamshoro either. Instead, it was possibly left to the powers of Lal Shahbaz to save those who stood at the brink of death.

The alleged discovery of body parts and hair of some victims of the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine attack in a garbage dump sparked an outcry.  The authorities allegedly removed the body parts and dumped them in nearby garbage areas.

Qaim Ali Shah, when confronted, had little to say apart from trying to elicit responses from officials on both sides. He was surrounded by corrupt and inept officials, many of who had been appointed by the Peoples Party government after paying bribes not only to the party coffers but also to the party leadership. Shah claimed that the body parts that were seen were of burnt pigeons.

Sindh has become a shame.  When one leaves Karachi, the writ of the Sindh government comes to an end. Even in Karachi, it is restricted to corrupt ministers who seem to be busy making money for themselves and their party leaders.

Karachi is in a shambles. Dirty roads, broken streets, poor traffic management and terrible living conditions because over the past ten years the Peoples Party has done everything to sell whatever it can: from routes, to postings, to building permits and government contracts.

If one  leaves Karachi, things get even worse. The roads or infrastructure that was in place has disintegrated. There is little sense of security. It seems that the tribal rule has resumed. It is only the landlords, most of them Members of Parliament, who have any importance.

There has been no change with the change of leadership. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah expressed outrage over the alleged discovery. “My heart is saddened,” Shah said while warning the district and municipal administration of Jamshoro that “they will be in trouble [if responsible].” Nothing came of that. Within days, the chief minister was back in Karachi conducting business as usual. No one was sacked. No one was suspended.  Have we returned to the dark ages?

Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2017.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

The Huntingtonian clash of civilisations?

Sun, 02/19/2017 - 14:46

There are many thinkers in the Muslim world today who question the validity of Samuel Huntington prediction about the future. The Harvard University political scientist foresaw in his work a clash between the West and the world of Islam with their very different value systems. These thinkers believe that is not what is occurring in the early part of the 21st century. What is happening is a war within Islam that may turn into a war with the West if the leaders in Europe and the United States misread the situation. As I will discuss later in this part of the essay, some of the statements made and actions taken by Donald Trump may move the Muslim world in that direction.

In an insightful article, Mustafa Aykol at the Freedom Centre at Wellesley College reminds his readers of Arnold Toynbee’s article, “Islam, the West and the Future.” The British historian wrote that the Islamic world has been in a crisis since the 19th century since it was outperformed, defeated and even besieged by the West, in particular the colonial European powers. Islam, a religion that has always been proud of its earthly success, was “facing the West with her back to the wall,” causing stress, anger and turmoil among Muslims, wrote Toynbee. He compared the crisis in Islam in his time which was not as deep as it is now with an older crisis: the plight of the Jews in the face of the Roman domination in the first BC. Not unlike today’s Muslims, the Jews then were also defeated, conquered and culturally challenged by a foreign empire. This situation, Toynbee maintained, led to two reactions: One was “Herodianism” which implied collaborating with Rome and following its ways. The other was “Zealotism” which used militant methods to confront Rome.

It is not hard to note the parallel of the Jewish situation with what is happening today in several parts of the Muslim world. Many followers of the Islamic faith have turned into zealots but they are not fighting today’s imperial powers, America and Europe. They are battling the Herodianists in their midst. There is not a war with the West but a war within Islam. Most of those who have died in this struggle are Muslims, not the people in the West. The targets the zealots select are not necessarily those who oppose them. They are chosen randomly as was the case with the bombing in Lahore on February 13, 2017 that took more than a dozen lives. Pakistan has lost many more people than the United States did in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Toynbee was persuaded that Muslims of his day were engaged in a similar internal struggle between their own Herodians and Zealots who embody “archaism evoked by foreign pressure.” He saw Turkey’s Mustafa Kemal Ataturk as an “arch-Herodian” and the Central Arabian Wahabists as arch-Zealots. The founder of modern Turkey was leaving archaic Islam behind, opting for modernisation. Toynbee was of the view that the Muslim zealots would be defeated because they were essentially primitive and did not have access to modern technology. Had he been writing today he would have been less dismissive of the Islamic zealots. They were able to use modern communication technologies — in particular social media — to get across their message to fellow Muslims.

In his book, The Islamic Jesus: How the King of Jews Became a Prophet of the Muslims, Mustafa Akyol argues that another lesson from history is more pertinent for the Islamic world of today. According to his telling, “Jesus showed that sacrificing the spirit of religion to literalism leads to horrors, like the stoning of innocent women by bigoted men — as it still happens in some Muslim countries today. He also taught that obsession with outward expression of piety can nurture a culture of hypocrisy — as is the case with Muslim communities today.” Akyol’s description fits Pakistan of today where extreme corruption and crimes such as honour killings coexist with expression of piety.

However, for reform to come to Islam, the global Muslim community must not be provoked from the outside. Unfortunately that is precisely what is being done by Donald Trump’s America. The New York Times wrote an angry editorial against President Trump’s move against Muslims. “The order’s language makes clear that the xenophobia and Islamophobia that permeated Mr Trump’s campaign are to stain his presidency as well. Un-American as they are, they are now American policy,” wrote the newspaper. Of great concern was the wording of the executive order. “The United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles,” it read. The obvious assumption was that all Muslims should be considered a threat. The newspaper did not accept the notion that this approach would save the United States from the threat posed by extremists in the world Islamic community. In fact, the notion today is “more credible than ever before that the United States is at war with Islam rather than targeting terrorists.

They want nothing more than a fearful, recklessly belligerent America; so, if anything, this ban will heighten their efforts to strike at Americans, to provoke yet further overreaction from a volatile and inexperienced president.” Thousands of people went to the country’s many airports to speak about the new president’s approach to the world, in particular his attack on the world’s Muslim community.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2017.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Equating terror with Islam promoted extremism: Khawaja Asif

Sun, 02/19/2017 - 14:04

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has said terrorism is not synonymous to any religion, and equating militancy with Islam has in fact given a rise to extremism worldwide.

“Terrorism is not synonymous to any religion… terrorists are not Muslims or Christians or Buddhists or Hindus…they are criminals,” the defence minister said while addressing the Munich Security Conference 2017 on Sunday.

“This Islamophobia… it is fuel when terrorism is branded as Islamic terrorism. Since morning I have heard maybe a dozen times. President [Donald] Trump uses it very frequently,” he said.

Meanwhile, he also denounced the seven-state ban, which was recently ‘enforced’ by the United States.

“With all due respect, with all humility on my disposal, this ban on seven states, whatever perceptions the US has, has not helped the fight against terrorism.”

Punjab decides to seek Rangers help after upsurge in terror attacks

In the most sweeping use of his presidential powers since taking office, Trump signed an executive order last month to pause the entry of travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for at least 90 days. A US judge, however, had overruled the executive order.

Pakistan a frontline state against terrorism

Asif said the recent spate of terror attacks across Pakistan has manifested that more is to be done.

“We’ll counter this threat with full might of our state and we expect and hope that there will be cooperation from across the border in Afghanistan… because it’s a common fight,” he said.

“We have made mistakes in the past [but] for the last three years our armed forces have done a very good job and we intend to continue that.”

He assured the world community that Pakistan is a frontline state in this war and will continue to fulfill its obligations.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Franchise owners reluctant to host PSL final in Lahore

Sun, 02/19/2017 - 13:33

DUBAI: Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB)’s efforts to bring international cricket back to the country suffered a blow after two franchise owners expressed concerns over holding the final of the second edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in Lahore.

PSL chairman has insisted that the league’s final fixture will be held in Pakistan. However, following a wave of terror across the country this week, franchise owners are reluctant to host the final in the Punjab capital.

Team owners will meet Sethi on Monday to decide the venue for the final, The Express Tribune has learnt.

Army will support hosting of PSL final in Lahore, says Bajwa

“A meeting will be on Monday to decide if the final will be held in Lahore or somewhere else,” a source privy to the matter told The Express Tribune. “Franchise owners will voice their concerns in the meeting.”

“It is not a good idea to hold the final in Lahore, especially after the terror attacks last week,” one of the franchise owners told this scribe. “God forbid if even there is one death during the match or a blast near the venue…not only Pakistan cricket will suffer, it can also put the future of PSL in danger.”

Another owner said Pakistanis should wait for one more year to welcome PSL back home. “It is a huge risk in taking these players back to Pakistan.”

Meanwhile, it is also believed that some international players may not get the NOC from their respective boards to play the fixture in Lahore.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News