Canadian Economy Shrinks – GDP numbers even worse than expected

economyThe 0.6 per cent slide is much worse than expected, the deepest since the months after the 2008 economic meltdown.

By: Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA—When Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz veered off script earlier this year to deliver a stunner that Canada’s first-quarter numbers would look “atrocious,” he wasn’t kidding.

The sharp collapse in oil prices, and the failure of other sectors to pick up the slack, helped push the economy into reverse over the first three months of the year, Statistics Canada said Friday.

The country’s real gross domestic product for the first quarter shrank by 0.6 per cent at an annualized rate. The number rang in below expectations, marking the first time the GDP growth rate slipped under zero since the fourth quarter of 2011.

It was also the deepest Canada’s real GDP plunged into negative territory in nearly six years, when it fell by 3.6 per cent during the recession-battered second quarter of 2009, Statistics Canada said.

Read more » The Star
See more » http://www.thestar.com/business/2015/05/29/canadas-economy-shrinks-in-first-quarter.html

More lethal than RAW

milBY PERVEZ HOODBHOY

Our generals say India’s spy agency RAW is up to its nasty tricks again. No evidence provided but, okay, we’ll buy the story for now. There are two good reasons. First, it’s safer not to question the wisdom of generals. Second, they speak from deep experience, having long played the spy-versus-spy game across borders.

Read more » DAWN
See more » http://www.dawn.com/news/1182200

India will clock 7.5 per cent growth in 2015-16, overtake China: IMF

PM Modi

PM Modi

Washington: India will overtake China as the fastest growing emerging economy in 2015-16 by clocking a growth rate of 7.5 per cent on the back of recent policy initiatives, pick-up in investments and lower oil prices, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Tuesday.

“India’s growth is expected to strengthen from 7.2 per cent in 2014 to 7.5 per cent in 2015. Growth will benefit from recent policy reforms, a consequent pick-up in investment, and lower oil prices,” the IMF said in its latest World Economic Outlook.

Read more » IBNLive
See more » http://www.ibnlive.com/news/business/india-will-clock-7-5-per-cent-growth-in-2015-16-overtake-china-imf-981893.html

Sharif’s Growth Push Spurs Pakistan’s Biggest IPO in 8 Years

PM Pakistan and PML-N Chief Nawaz Sharif.

PM Pakistan and PML-N Chief Nawaz Sharif.

By 

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s push to build power plants, roads and rail links is prompting a local steelmaker to expand by selling shares in the nation’s biggest initial public offering in eight years.

Amreli Steels Ltd., the South Asian country’s biggest maker of steel bars used in construction, plans to raise as much as 4 billion rupees ($39 million) next month from the sale of 70 million new shares. The proceeds will help more than double its capacity to 450,000 tons from 200,000 tons, Amreli’s director Hadi Akberali said in an interview.

The steelmaker is betting on a potential boom in demand for the alloy as the $232 billion economy expands at the fastest pace in eight years, fueled by higher remittances and consumer spending. Last month, China signed deals for $28 billion of investments in Pakistan as part of a planned $45 billion economic corridor that includes power plants and dams.

“When your GDP is growing, your steel demand grows in multiples,” Akberali said. “If the Pakistan-China economic corridor takes off, even if we double or triple our capacity, I think it still won’t be enough.”

Second Best

Amreli’s share offer also comes amid gains in the benchmark Karachi 100 Index, which, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, is the world’s second-best performer in the past six years. The gauge may rally 52 percent in the next two to three years, Stockholm-based Tundra Fonder AB fund manager Shamoon Tariq predicted in an April interview.

The benchmark index fell 0.3 percent to 32,749 as of 11:36 a.m. in Karachi. This year, it has climbed 2 percent.

The company will raise between 2 billion rupees and 4 billion rupees, depending on the final price, Akberali said, adding he expects strong demand. AKD Securities Ltd. and Bank Alfalah Ltd. will be the advisers on the transaction.

A 4 billion-rupee IPO would be the biggest in Pakistan since Habib Bank Ltd. raised 8.1 billion rupees in 2007, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The number of initial share offerings rose to five in 2014, the most in six years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“This clearly shows companies have the confidence to raise funds through the equity market,” said Muhammad Imran, a fund manager at NBP Fullerton Asset Management, which oversees 57 billion rupees in stocks and bonds in Karachi. “A new listing will also improve the depth of the market and choices.”

IMF Loans

A 930 million-rupee share sale in February by Mughal Iron & Steel Industries Ltd., a composite steel manufacturer, garnered demand for three times the amount on offer, with the price at the top end of the range.

Pakistan is making “significant progress” in meeting targets under its $6.6 billion loan program, according to the International Monetary Fund. The institution this month predicted a 4.5 percent growth in the economy in the year starting July, following a 4.1 percent expansion in the current fiscal year.

The nation’s central bank on May 23 unexpectedly cut the benchmark interest rate to a 42-year low to spur growth.

Continue reading

How One Pakistani Town Mastered Religious Tolerance

ReligionBy 

Pakistan has become synonymous with terrorism. On most local and international news channels, we hear about minorities getting slaughtered at the hands of extremists; attacks on temples, churches, imambargahs; or the forced conversions of Hindus and Christians in the country.

I reckon you might be pleasantly surprised to know that there is a small town in Tharparkar, a district of the Sindh province where none of this is happening.

Mithi is one of the few towns in Pakistan where Muslims do not form the majority. In this quiet portion of a sprawling desert, both Hindus and Muslims have lived together like brothers since the creation of Pakistan.

In November 2014, when I was selected for a three-week fellowship program in the United States, I met a gentleman from Sindh who was also among my batch. He introduced himself like this:

“I am a Hindu from Sindh, but throughout my life I have lived with Muslims and this is why during Ramazan, we fast along with them; and when it is Muharram, us Hindu boys lead the procession because this is the culture which Sufism has given us.”

I was dumbstruck at the idea of a Hindu fasting in Ramazan or leading a Muharram procession. Was this actually true?

Then, in February this year, I happened to travel to Tharparkar with friends to view the drought-affected areas and launch some projects to overcome the disaster that hits every year. After a 20-hour arduous road and rail journey, I finally reached the quaint little town of Mithi, and here I experienced what I had never expected to see in a Pakistani town.

Mithi is as sweet as the name it has been given. Approximately 80 percent of the population here is Hindu. It is a town where Muslims, out of respect for Hindus, do not slaughter cows; and where Hindus, out of respect for Muslim rites, have never organised any marriage ceremonies or celebrations during the month of Muharram.

Not only that, the Hindus of Mithi also happily participate in providing food and drinks for Muslims during Ramazan, and both groups exchange sweets on Eid and Diwali. The crime rate in Mithi is at two percent and never has anyone witnessed any incident of religious intolerance.

Continue reading

Pakistan – Islamabad girl guns down man then flees on foot

Islo policeISLAMABAD: Yet again proving anybody is capable of killing anyone, anytime, anywhere if it comes to it, a damsel, nobody knows if she was in distress, Thursday gunned down an adult male, who could be her boyfriend, in the middle of the road and then fled away on foot, Samaa reported.

“The ‘femme fatale’ was riding with the slain man on a motorbike in Sector G-9 when they suddenly pulled over by the roadside near Agha Shahi Avenue, where the girl took out a gun and shot the boy in the neck from a close range,” police told Samaa.

According to the police official, the murder weapon, an empty shell casing, and a pair of female shoes were found near the dead body of the deceased man, who has been identified as Bilal Safdar, a Pakistan Air Force airman.

“He was, though, rushed to Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), where he was pronounced dead upon arrival,” the cops added.

There was no word on the identity of the Abaya-clad woman.

“We have put up pickets at different exit points while cops are scouring the area in search of the alleged killer,” another police officer said.

News courtesy: SAMAA
Read more » http://admin.samaa.tv/pakistan/29-May-2015/islamabad-girl-guns-down-man-then-flees-on-foot

RELIGIOUS VIOLENCE – Fifty kilometres from Delhi, hundreds of Muslims have become refugees overnight

poverty in Sindh

file photo

A mob of 300 Jat men rampaged through a village in Ballabhgarh this week, attacking Muslims. The reason: they don’t want a mosque in the village.

The normality of the evening was deceptive. A little before 6 pm on May 25, most residents of Atali village in Ballabhgarh, in Haryana’s Faridabad district, were out tending to their cattle. A few were in their homes cooking dinner. Zahida Parveen had just settled down on the second storey of her home in preparation for the asar ki namaz. Suddenly, there was a loud noise.
“I looked out and saw 14-15 men enter the gate of the house armed with bricks, sticks and swords,” said Parveen, a slender woman in her early 20s. “I heard them break the door to the ground floor of our house.” She bolted the door to the second floor and hid in a room. The sounds of destruction continued drifting from below, glass being smashed and things being hurled around. She could hear the men rush up to where she was. “They were breaking down the door,” Parveen said. “I hid inside the bathroom. They entered my room, shouting ‘Let these people die in the fire, if not at our hands.’”

Parveen doesn’t remember how long she stayed hidden while mayhem played out on the other side of the bathroom door. The men smashed a washbasin, overturned furniture and set fire to three cars downstairs before eventually walking away. Parveen and her relatives escaped from the roof when, after what seemed like hours, the police arrived.

Three days on, Parveen and her family were still living in fear at the Ballabgarh police station along with 200 other Muslims from Atali.

Refugees in their town

At the police station, the Muslim men sat in groups on a lawn at the entrance, in the blazing heat. Further inside, about a hundred women sat on a rug spread on the asphalt, with a thin cloth tent sheltering them from the sun. Children, many in the school uniforms they were wearing three days ago, huddled around the women. In one corner, there were stacks of bananas and plastic pouches of drinking water provided by social activists.

Bernie Sanders: Campaign Will be ‘A Movement of Millions’

Bernie 1BY ANDREW RAFFERTY

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders formally kicked off his underdog White House bid on Tuesday, promising to build a grassroots movement of millions ready “to stand up and fight back.”

“Here is my promise to you for this campaign. Not only will I fight to protect the working families of this country, but we’re going to build a movement of millions of Americans who are prepared to stand up and fight back,” Sanders said in the first major speech of his campaign. “We are going to take this campaign directly to the people – in town meetings, door to door conversations, on street corners and in social media.”

Read more » NBC News
See more » http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/bernie-sanders-campaign-will-be-movement-millions-n365001

Elizabeth Warren on Fighting Back Against Wall St. Giants

Elizabeth

Sen. Elizabeth Warren

In Oklahoma, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and her brothers grew up in “an America that invested in kids like us and helped build a future where we could flourish.” But, as she writes in her memoir, A Fighting Chance, “Today the game is rigged – rigged to work for those who have money and power… The optimism that defines us as a people has been beaten and bruised. It doesn’t have to be this way.”

Warren, a former Harvard Law School professor, is an expert on how Wall Street and the banking industry are destroying the middle class. She’s put that knowledge to powerful use on Capitol Hill, rapidly becoming the most authoritative and articulate voice of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing. Many are urging her to run for president.

Continue reading

9 Mind-Blowing Inventions That You Did Not Know Were Made By Pakistanis

Pakistanis are pure genius… We just don’t say it, we can prove it. Here is the list of some of the amazing inventions made by Pakistanis, followed/ practiced/ used by people around the globe.

1. Fertilizers With Non-Explosive Materials

BrianRecently a Pakistani fertilizer company invented a new formula to make fertilizers that cannot be converted into bomb-making materials. Previously, fertilizers with ammonium nitrate, were easily converted into bomb-making ingredients.

2. Successful Brain-Silicon Chip Connection

Dr. Naweed Syed is the first scientist who managed to “connect brain cells to a silicon chip”. This Pakistani helped the world achieve a great milestone. This discovery will significantly help in the research of integrating computers with the human brains in order to assist people monitor vital signs control artificial limbs, correct memory loss or vision impairment.

Read more » PARHLΟ
See more » http://www.parhlo.com/9-mind-blowing-inventions-that-you-did-know-were-made-by-pakistanis/?track=facebook

MQM men in custody over Safoora massacre

Altaf

MQM Chief Altaf Hussain.

Rangers arrest four MQM activists from Karachi University (KU) Staff Town for allegedly planning attack on Ismailis

BY AAMIR MAJEED

Investigation into the attack on Ismailis’ bus in Karachi’s Safoora Goth area, which claimed 45 lives, has revealed that the Rangers have arrested four suspects associated with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) from the Karachi University (KU)’s Staff Town for their alleged involvement in planning the assault, Pakistan Today has learnt.

Per details, a heavy contingent of Rangers surrounded KU’s Staff Town late on May 20, targeted some houses and picked up four MQM activists associated with MQM’s Scheme-33 Unit, including a former unit in-charge.

The arrested men were identified as Muhammad Shahid alias Athara, Zeeshan Amin alias Shaan, Muhammad Adnan Habib alias Charas and his brother Muhammad Faizan Habib alias Fido.

Shahid has been serving as a clerk in KU’s accounts section and had also served as MQM Scheme-33 unit in-charge. Zeeshan has been serving as a clerk in KU’s audit department, whose brother Umair Amin was arrested few months ago for alleged involvement in targeted killings in Karachi.

Adnan has been serving as non-teaching staff in KU’s Chemistry Department while his brother Faizan was said to be associated with the Department of Health and Physical Education. The arrested men had been residing in KU’s Staff Town for many years.

“These suspects allegedly took part in planning of the attack and were not part of the actual strike,” an official of a security agency told Pakistan Today. However, Rangers high-ups did not comment on the arrests despite repeated phone calls and text messages.

Earlier, Rangers arrested KU’s security guard, Muhammad Javed alias Javed Mohajir son of Muhammad Shariff, in November 2013. He was associated with MQM and accused of killing several people on May 12, 2007 on arrival of former chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in Karachi.

Continue reading

Driverless truck corridor from Mexico to Manitoba proposed – Corridor would follow Route 83 from Mexico through U.S., up to Manitoba, Canada

Self Driving Truck

Self Driving Truck

By Clare Clancy

Trucks hauling cargo from Canada through the United States to Mexico and back navigate border crossings without the need for passports, visas or even a driver to steer them.

It’s an idea that’s not too far-fetched, says a group that met in North Dakota last week.

Marlo Anderson with the Central North American Trade Corridor Association says members are working to turn the idea into reality.

The plan is for an autonomous vehicle corridor along Route 83, which runs north-south through Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota. The road then continues into Manitoba.

A study into the feasibility of the project is being planned and Anderson says the group wants to travel to communities along the corridor to gain support.

Read more » CBC
Learn more » http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/driverless-truck-corridor-from-mexico-to-manitoba-proposed-1.3086215

Lahore, Muslims set Christian colony ablaze: new charges of blasphemy

christians PKby Jibran Khan

A young drug addict with mental health problems is accused of burning newspapers containing sacred verses. Islamic leaders called for his death; faced with the refusal of the police, hundreds attacked the Christian community. Unknown the fate of the accused.

Read more » Asia News
See more » http://www.asianews.it/index.php?art=34330&l=en

Toe-to-Toe with Putin: Canada Is Keeping an Eye on Expanding Russian Military In the Arctic

Su-34.(RIA Novosti / Vladimir Astapkovich)

Su-34.(RIA Novosti / Vladimir Astapkovich)

by Ben Makuch

Today, in the morning hours of Moscow time, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave orders for snap military exercises in the Russian Far North. The sudden “combat readiness” maneuvers of the Northern Fleet are just the latest military flexing in the Arctic by Putin since the Ukraine crisis began in 2013.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu is quoted in Sputnik News, the English wing of the state media apparatus, explaining that the exercises are designed to test Russia’s ability to defend its Arctic regions.

“New challenges and threats of military security demand the further heightening of military capabilities of the Armed Forces and special attention will be paid to the state of the newly formed strategic merging [of forces] in the North,” said Shoigu.

Back in January, Putin announced major spending plans for Russian military infrastructure in the Arctic as well as expanding the very Northern Fleet currently testing its mettle.

Canada, a major Arctic player and key opponent to Russia in the quest for expanded borders in the Far North looked at that military expansionism with concern.

“Canada is aware of Russia’s announced military infrastructure developments in its North,” said a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs at the time, “[W]e remain vigilant in our surveillance of the Arctic.”

Along with Canada, Russia and other Arctic nations are making competing United Nations bids over potentially lucrative Arctic lands, staking a claim on a region with reportedly 90 billion barrels worth of oil sitting untapped beneath the frozen crust.

“Our objective has been to obtain the most expansive continental shelf for Canada. We are working to ensure that Canada secures international recognition of the full extent of our continental shelf, including the North Pole,” said the Foreign Affairs spokesperson.

At the same time, the North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) is detecting an uptick in Russian long range bombers approaching the the US and Canadian Air Defense Identification Zones (ADIZ)—something that hasn’t happened as regularly since the end of the Cold War.

Continue reading

Pakistani fans celebrate return of international cricket

Photo credits: Social media

Photo credits: BBC urdu

Pakistan celebrates return of international cricket

Lahore: From Pakistan’s most popular fan Chacha Cricket (Uncle Cricket) to the head of State, a nation of 200 million celebrated the return of international cricket in Pakistan for six years on Friday.

Hundreds of fans battled the 42 degree heat and stifling security checks in long queues hours before the start of the T20 international against Zimbabwe at 7pm local time (1500GMT).

Pakistan marked the occasion with a five-wicket victory over Zimbabwe in the first T20.

Read more » IBNLive » DAWN
See more » http://www.ibnlive.com/cricketnext/news/pakistan-celebrate-return-of-international-cricket-546499-78.html

More » BBC urdu
http://www.bbc.com/urdu/multimedia/2015/05/150524_zim_pak_2nd_t_twenty_mathc_pics_sa#2

Increasing Diplomatic Distrust Across Radcliffe Line In Sub-Continent

Nayyar N Khan is a US based political analyst, peace activist and a freelance journalist. His area of expertise is International Peace and Conflict Resolution.

Nayyar N Khan is a US based political analyst, peace activist and a freelance journalist. His area of expertise is International Peace and Conflict Resolution.

By Nayyar N Khan

Although both India and Pakistan never had friendly relations since their creation in 1947. The persistent mistrust between the two neighboring countries over various key issues has defied numerous international attempts at resolution and entered its most dangerous phase when both India and Pakistan openly blaming each other for supporting and funding the terrorist activities across the Radcliffe Line.

Both are well aware of this material fact that they cannot change their neighbors even then both hesitated to exercise their diplomatic muscles to ease the bilateral tensions. No serious efforts has ever been made in this regard to create a fear free environment in the world’s most thickly populated region. Fog of fear and mistrust are as old as the political age of both the countries. There were several occasions in the history when both could have negotiated a peaceful resolution of the conflicts and have progressed forward to establish trust instead of bullying. If there were some measures taken in this regard, they were merely on piece of paper under international diplomatic pressure but these accords were never accepted from either side passionately. For instance, Tashkent agreement of 1966 lost its credibility and validity only after six years when both fought another war in Bengal in 1971 and as a result Bangladesh came into being and Pakistan Army had to surrender amid defeating and humiliating circumstances.

1972 Shimla Accord between Z.A. Bhutto and Mrs. Indra Gandhi also could not prove to be a lasting and defining doctrine as the definition and explanation of the articles and clauses have different meanings in the diplomatic and self-explanatory lingo across the Radcliffe line.  1989 uprising in Indian held Jammu Kashmir again fueled the mistrust and both confronted each other internationally through their diplomatic muscles by the harsh words of intervention in the internal affairs, terrorism support, human rights violations and so on. 1998 proved to be another catastrophic year in bilateral rigidities when both tested their nuclear weapons one after another thus blowing the whistle for a deadly catastrophe in the region. Soon after the nuclear experiments both take the U-Turn and signed another treaty at Lahore, Pakistan declaring to move forward theoretically but ended up fighting a war at the Peaks of Kargil in Jammu Kashmir in 1999. Again During the Vajpayee and Musharraf regimes both countries came close to each other for a short period of time but the Confidence Building Measure could not last longer and 26/11 Mumbai attacks swept the dust of friendly relations under the old carpet of animosity. All the blames for the attacks were leveled against both the State and non-state actors from the territory of Pakistan.

Continue reading

Pakistanis buy Dubai property worth $379m in three months

DubaiBY AAMIR SHAFAAT KHAN

KARACHI: Pakistanis remained in pursuit of real estate in Dubai in the first quarter of 2015 as third biggest amount of foreign property transactions $379 million came from Pakistani nationals.

Pakistanis purchased properties worth over $4.3 billion (16bn dirhams) in 2013 and 2014 in Dubai.

Read: Pakistanis bought property worth 16bn dirhams in Dubai

According to data released by Dubai Land Department in April 2015, Pakistani nationals made transactions worth $379m (1.392 billion dirhams) during the first quarter of 2015.

In terms of investor numbers, however, Pakistanis stood second with a total of 953 investors, only behind Indians with over 1,000 investors.

Also read: Capital flight to Gulf states worries govt

Pakistanis also make up the second largest non-Arab nationality in the UAE.

Read more » DAWN
Learn more » http://www.dawn.com/news/1183845

Pakistan – “The state is not on its way to course correction”

Pakistan

Pakistan

Arif Hasan, architect, planner, social activist, points to social and political changes taking place in Pakistan and why the state does not consider these when making policy

By 

The News on Sunday: (TNS) Do you think that having lost its sole monopoly over violence, the state of Pakistan needs to redefine itself?

Arif Hasan (AH): It is a wrong question implying that the state is justified in having a monopoly over violence. Why should it have such a monopoly? State can adopt violence only when there is epic impediment to the execution of the functions of the state, or if violence is necessary in generating peace against those who are disruptive and when all courses of negotiations and peaceful resolutions fail. Some states are oppressive. They should be overthrown.

TNS: Has the state of Pakistan come to a point where it needs to lay down new goals for the country? Does the national interest need to be redefined and how? Do we need a new social contract?

AH: Pakistan is no longer what it was 25 years ago. There have been huge social, political changes. And these are not considered when dealing with policy.

There has been an eclipse of feudalism. Led by the collapse of the local system of commerce, governance, the panchayats, thejirgas, the patels, the numberdaars. They are no longer present. Moreover, the state has not tried to fill this gap. As a result of this change, many things have happened.

In the rural areas, the link between caste and profession has broken. The village artisans who provided services through barter system today work in cash. They have migrated to urban areas. The rural areas are entirely dependent on the urban produced goods. That is a very big change.

Another change is mobility. People move all over for trade and commerce. Where once roads used to be empty, today they are full of trucks. The Anjuman-e-Tajiran in various cities/towns has become an important political player. They are in constant negotiation with the state.

Women have emerged out of nowhere in public life. This trend is rapidly increasing. They dominate the public sector universities. Gender roles have changed. Extended family is disappearing.

All these changes require new society values and new governance structures, so that they can be consolidated.

TNS: What has led to these changes?

AH: All the reasons described above. Our population has increased 600 per cent since independence. There is technology/invention, cash has replaced barter, there are new varieties of seeds, farm sizes have become smaller, and the landless village labourer cannot afford the village’s dependency on urban produce.

Since 2000, over twenty universities have been established in small towns of Pakistan. Those who are studying in these universities are men and women from surrounding areas and villages. We have more people who are educated now. TV has also contributed in changing the values. Court marriages have increased. Migration abroad has also contributed to change in values. According to our study, migration and remittances have caused the breakdown of the family system.

All these factors have contributed to this change. Furthermore, you cannot close a country off from changes that are taking place all over the world. All these factors may lead to turmoil unless we can support them.

Also read: “On its own, no military can deal with political problems” — Ejaz Haider

TNS: The failure of the state is often pitched against a functioning society. Do you see the two at variance with each other or connected since we also witness a deeply conservative and overly patriotic society which could only be a product of the state?

AH: We have a conservative and patriotic state with an ideology and a value system. But trends in society are unconsciously changing. And this change is unconsciously challenging the traditional value system.

Our so-called Islamic values are being violated all the time. We see roadblocks (protests) against injustices and women are active in these roadblocks; be they against karo-kari, excesses by the wadera, water shortage or anything.

These things were unheard of before. It shows that the society is fighting back. They are fighting back conservatism with contemporary values.

Media projects a lot of injustices against women, but they do not project the changes taking place, nor are they projecting the role models who are challenging these traditional barriers. Role models, too, are just individual cases, like Malala.

The problem is that not only the state, even the opinion makers and academia are not grasping these changes. They are constantly dealing with conditions, not with trends. Societal changes need to be understood, articulated and brought into consciousness. Right now, these are not being articulated at all.

TNS: How can they be articulated, when there is such limited space for dialogue?

AH: Who says there is no space for dialogue? Nobody is stopping people from reaching out. We are in a trap. We keep talking about jihad, cruelty of the state and society, and no doubt all this is there. We are talking about all this in the framework of nostalgia.

The past was a period of elitist politics. This is a period of populist politics. Karachi was the way it was because it was colonial port city being governed by colonial elites. Today, it is run by populist political parties.

The past was a very oppressive system, and it went on because people used to accept the oppression. Now there is freedom, most importantly, freedom to choose. The only thing is that people do not know what to do with this freedom.

Don’t miss: What must the state do?

TNS: To repeat a cliché, the institutional imbalance is said to have harmed Pakistani state. Do you think this institutional imbalance is on its way of course correction?

AH: The institutional imbalance has harmed Pakistan. This imbalance is located in the very foundation of this country, which has been a consistent actual and perceived threat from India. And India, too, has done everything possible to help with the development of this perception.

No, it is not on its way to course correction. Our political establishment is far too weak, corrupt and very much involved in seeing its class interests served.

Continue reading

Islamic State says it could buy nuclear weapon from Pakistan within a year

NuIn the latest issue of its propaganda magazine, Dabiq, the Islamic State (IS) has suggested that the terrorist group is expanding so rapidly that it will buy its first nuclear weapon from Pakistan within a year.

The article, which the group attributes to British hostage John Cantlie, says that the IS surpassed its roots as “the most explosive Islamic ‘group’ in the modern world” to evolve into “the most explosive Islamic movement the modern world has ever seen” in less than twelve months.

The British photojournalist, Cantlie, is often used in the terrorist group’s propaganda and has made appearances in several of their videos, including a YouTube series called “Lend Me Your Ears”. Cantlie has been IS’s hostage since the past two years.

Read: IS claims responsibility for bombing at Saudi mosque

In the piece title “The Perfect Storm”, the militant group mentions other terrorist organisations such as Boko Haram, which recently pledged allegiance to the IS, uniting across the Middle East, Asia and Africa to create one global movement.

The article claims this arrangement of groups has happened at the same time as IS militants have seized “tanks, rocket launchers, missile systems, anti-aircraft systems,” from the US and Iran before turning to the subject of more extreme weapons the group is not in possession of – such as nuclear weapons.

“Let me throw a hypothetical operation onto the table,” the article continues. “The Islamic State has billions of dollars in the bank, so they call on their wilāyah in Pakistan to purchase a nuclear device through weapons dealers with links to corrupt officials in the region.”

“It’s the sum of all fears for Western intelligence agencies and it’s infinitely more possible today than it was just one year ago.

“And if not a nuke, what about a few thousand tons of ammonium nitrate explosive? That’s easy enough to make.”

Read more » The Express Tribune
See more » http://tribune.com.pk/story/891121/islamic-state-says-it-could-buy-nuclear-weapon-from-pakistan-within-a-year/

Pakistani paradox

CharityBY IRFAN HUSAIN

PAKISTAN is a country of paradoxes: while we rank 105th in terms of Gross National Income (GNI), we are placed fourth in the world for the amount we give to charity as a percentage of our per capita income.

As a result, some 45,000 not-for-profit organisations flourish across the country, making life a little less unbearable for millions. One of them is the Rasheed Memorial Welfare Organisation, located 35 kilometres north of Hyderabad towards Mirpurkhas.

I visited Rasheedabad, the organisation’s ongoing project in the heart of lower Sindh’s mango belt, a couple of months ago on the urging of an old friend who works there. Iqbal Samad is an ex-general manager of Pakistan Railways who, together with his wife, have made the community their home.

When I entered the walled township, I was amazed by its cleanliness: there was not a scrap of paper or a plastic bag in sight. This to me always indicates an attention to detail that is sadly missing in most of our public spaces. While showing me around, Iqbal bent down to pick up a candy wrapper in full view of a group of schoolchildren.

Continue reading

Russia Just Closed NATO’s Land Corridor to Afghanistan

putin wBy RI Staff

“The graveyard of empires” just got a little bit more graveyardy: Medvedev has‬ canceled the decree that allows ‪NATO‬ forces to use Russian territory as a transit corridor to Afghanistan. The decision comes just as it was revealed that the U.S. plans on extending its already over-extended “stay” in Afghanistan

Read more » Russia Insider
See more » http://russia-insider.com/en/russia-just-closed-natos-land-corridor-afghanistan/ri7078

Islamic State burned a woman alive for not engaging in an ‘extreme’ sex act, U.N. official says

slaveryBy Ishaan Tharoor

Amid all the Islamic State’s  atrocities — its massacres of civilians, its beheading of hostages, its pillaging of antiquities — the systematic violence the jihadists have carried out against countless enslaved women and girls never fails to shock. For months now, we’ve heard appalling testimony from women who escaped the Islamic State’s clutches, many of whom endured rape and other hideous acts of violence.

Zainab Bangura, the U.N.’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, recently conducted a tour of refugee camps in the shadow of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, war-ravaged countries where the Islamic State commands swaths of territory. She heard a host of horror stories from victims and their families and recounted them in an interview earlier this week withthe Middle East Eye, an independent regional news site.

“They are institutionalizing sexual violence,” Bangura said of the Islamic State. “The brutalization of women and girls is central to their ideology.”

Bangura detailed the processes by which “pretty virgins” captured by the jihadists were bought and sold at auctions. Here’s a chilling excerpt:

After attacking a village, [the Islamic State] splits women from men and executes boys and men aged 14 and over. The women and mothers are separated; girls are stripped naked, tested for virginity and examined for breast size and prettiness. The youngest, and those considered the prettiest virgins fetch higher prices and are sent to Raqqa, the IS stronghold.

There is a hierarchy: sheikhs get first choice, then emirs, then fighters. They often take three or four girls each and keep them for a month or so, until they grow tired of a girl, when she goes back to market. At slave auctions, buyers haggle fiercely, driving down prices by disparaging girls as flat-chested or unattractive.

We heard about one girl who was traded 22 times, and another, who had escaped, told us that the sheikh who had captured her wrote his name on the back of her hand to show that she was his “property.”

Estimates vary, but there are believed to be somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 women enslaved by the Islamic State. Many are Yazidis, a persecuted minority sect that the extremist Islamic State considers to be apostate “devil-worshippers,” in part because of the Yazidis’ ancient connection to the region’s pre-Islamic past. The jihadists’ treatment of Yazidi women, in particular, has been marked out by its contempt and savagery.

Here’s Bangura again:

They commit rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution and other acts of extreme brutality. We heard one case of a 20-year-old girl who was burned alive because she refused to perform an extreme sex act. We learned of many other sadistic sexual acts. We struggled to understand the mentality of people who commit such crimes.

Hundreds of Yazidi women and girls have escaped their captors, either by running away, or being ransomed and rescued by their families. Bangura has urged international assistance in providing proper medical and “psychosocial” support to the escaped women, who have experienced terrible trauma.

News courtesy » The Washington Post
Read more » http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2015/05/22/islamic-state-burned-a-woman-alive-for-not-engaging-in-an-extreme-sex-act-u-n-official-says/?tid=sm_fb

‘Have to Neutralise Terrorists Through Terrorists': Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar

ParrikarBy All India | Press Trust of India

NEW DELHI:  Asserting that only “terrorists can neutralize terrorists,” Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Thursday said India will take pro-active steps to prevent a 26/11-type attack planned from foreign soil.

“There are certain things that I obviously cannot discuss here. But if there is any country – why only Pakistan – planning something against my country, we will definitely take some pro-active steps,” Mr Parrikar said, adding those steps could include pressure tactics.

Using the Hindi phrase “kante se kanta nikalna (removing a thorn with a thorn)”, the Defence Minister also said, “We have to neutralise terrorists through terrorists only. Why can’t we do it? We should do it. Why does my soldier have to do it?” he said, refusing to elaborate. Mr Parrikar made the remarks during a programme organised by a private news channel.

When asked what the government’s reaction would be in the event of an attack similar to the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks or the 2001 Parliament House attack, he said the best response would be to ensure it does not happen.

The minister said that the Army has been given orders to neutralize infiltrators trying to enter India. “I can only say that anyone trying to infiltrate will be neutralised,” he said.

The minister also said that instructions had been given to take precautions to ensure there was no “collateral damage” and that no Indian soldiers lost their lives.

“Take precaution there is no collateral damage. Don’t touch civilians,” he said.

Asked what had changed from the previous government’s tenure, the minister said, “Porosity on borders is less; intelligence has improved”.

Mr Parrikar also said he would stand by the Army at any cost if they were right.

News courtesy: NDTV
Read more » http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/have-to-neutralise-terrorists-through-terrorists-defence-minister-manohar-parrikar-765218

Saudis ‘to get nuclear weapons’

HatafBy Toby Harnden, Washington, and Christina Lamb

SAUDI ARABIA has taken the “strategic decision” to acquire “off-the-shelf” atomic weapons from Pakistan, risking a new arms race in the Middle East, according to senior American officials.

The move by the Gulf kingdom, which has financed much of Islamabad’s nuclear programme over the past three decades, comes amid growing anger among Sunni Arab states over a deal backed by President Barack Obama, which they fear could allow their arch foe, Shi’ite Iran, to develop a nuclear bomb.

The agreement, which is due to be finalised by the end of next month and involves the permanent members of the UN security council and Germany, is designed to roll back part of Tehran’s nuclear programme in return for an easing of UN sanctions.

There are concerns that Saudi Arabia joining the nuclear club might provoke Turkey and Egypt to follow suit.

News courtesy:» The Sunday Times
Read more » http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/world_news/Middle_East/article1557090.ece

Lake destroyed by the drainage projects

Devastation in Sindh & they say water is being wasted.

Devastation in Sindh & they say water is being wasted.

By Maria Soomro

Manchhar lake , one of the Asia biggest fresh water natural lake has been turned into a saline water pond through ill conceived, non participatory and corruption riddled chain of Right Bank Outfall drainage Projects ( RBOD-I, RBOD-III, RBOD-II) carried out by WAPDA. The Drainage projects in the absence of good governance generate only destruction. Because, participatory development , proper operation and maintenance of projects are pre conditioned with deeply rooted culture of good governance in any country.

Continue reading

Focusing on an obsolete approach of energy generation

By Maria Soomro

Now a days , many so called experts have been laying stress on the building of dams as the solution to energy crisis.The stress has been seemingly laid on building Kalabag dam in order to generate more energy and increase agricultural productivity. Reality is different.The best experts in the science of Hydrology consider Building dams an obsolete approach towards controlling floods, energy generation and enhancing agricultural productivity.

Continue reading

Pakistan court jails hate cleric for five years

indoctrinatedA court in Pakistan has jailed a Muslim prayer leader for five years for inciting religious hatred.

Qari Abubaker was convicted in the city of Lahore of calling minority Shia Muslims “infidels”.

At least six other clerics have been jailed for similar offences in the past two months in Lahore, officials say.

Inciting religious hatred is against the law in Pakistan but rarely reported or punished. Thousands have been killed in sectarian violence in recent years.

The BBC’s M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says because reporters are not allowed inside anti-terrorism courts, rulings rarely attract attention.

For security reasons court officials have told reporters not to name judges involved in the cases.

Read more » BBC
See more » http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-32814393

Its hard to believe Pakistani Govt Was unaware on Axact Degree Scam – New York Times

questA Rising Tide of Bogus Degrees

By

It is hard to believe that the Pakistani government was unaware of a major scam orchestrated by Axact, a software company based in Karachi that operates a global network of fake online schools that sell bogus diplomas. But ignorant or not, the government, which raided Axact’s offices on Tuesday, had little choice but to act after a report by Declan Walsh in The Times disclosed clear connections between Axact and at least 370 education websites, many of which claimed to represent online universities and high schools based in the United States. The scam had existed for years and reaped many millions of dollars.

The problem of bogus degrees and predatory schools goes well beyond one company in Pakistan. Still, the startling revelations that one outfit could cast such a wide net of duplicity give Congress and federal regulators the incentive they need to become much more aggressive at exposing fraudulent companies that pose as legitimate schools for the purpose of selling bogus degrees or luring people into costly but useless courses that lead nowhere.

According to The Times’s account, Axact’s bogus empire consists basically of the online descriptions of elegantly named and beautifully depicted schools with names that sound very much like those of respected American colleges — Columbiana, Barkley and Mount Lincoln.

Read more » The New York Times
See more » http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/20/opinion/a-rising-tide-of-bogus-degrees.html?_r=0

Why I left Axact: The inside picture

CEO of Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh Photo credits: Social media

CEO of Exact Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh – Photo credits: Social media

By Kasim Osmani

ISLAMABAD: While Axact claims to be the world’s leading IT company as suggested by its slogan, most of its office floors (at least in Defence) are occupied with agents, who operate in the Middle East region luring Arab/international individuals with certified US degrees on the basis of their professional experiences.

These degrees range from Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD (Axact even prepares a thesis for you, if you don’t have enough time or skills!).

Agents are advised to use Bayt.com or LinkedIn as a source to find customers, who are in turn told that either of these organisations forwarded their profile for consultations.

As a matter of fact, while I was working at Axact, Bayt.com – the largest job search engine in Middle East – warned Axact not to use their name as a source. We were then advised to use LinkedIn or else manipulate the script somehow.

Axact agents tell customers the main reason why big corporations do not hire them is the absence of a degree that they can get while sitting at home.

The script read like: “You don’t have to take classes or listen to online lectures, or take pains for admissions and other documented procedures. Just log on to our university website and our Senior Academic Officer will enrol you. It takes less than five minutes and you receive internationally certified/attested degree within a couple of months solely based on your professional experience.”

Indeed, there is no criterion for professional experience of the applicant. You may even get a PhD degree with as minimum as one year of experience. It is all situational and manipulative. The only thing that matters is paying the enrolment fee, and then continuing to pay until your accounts are squeezed dry.

Once a customer pays the enrolment fee, he is in the trap. Now, senior agents (closers) would call him from time to time asking more and more money for attestations from embassies concerned and/or shipment charges.

It was quite an embarrassing and decisive day for me to quit Axact when a customer was probably fed up with paying extra attestation/registration fee. The senior agent asked him to wait for a moment so they could bring Mr ABC from the Egyptian embassy on a conference call to guide him further as to why that attestation was mandatory.

Indeed, there was no one from Egyptian embassy. Rather, it was one of senior Axact agents who spoke like native Arabs. He sat beside the agent who was already on phone and pretended to be talking from the embassy. They ultimately got him to pay more for that attestation.

This is one out of hundreds of calls each day.

Continue reading

Towards Understanding South Asia – A Comparative Study of Kashmir Conflict in Regional and Global Perspective

Nayyar N Khan is a US based political analyst, peace activist and a freelance journalist. His area of expertise is International Peace and Conflict Resolution.

Nayyar N Khan is a US based political analyst, peace activist and a freelance journalist. His area of expertise is International Peace and Conflict Resolution.

By Nayyar Niaz Khan

The State of Jammu Kashmir has been at the vanguards in India-Pakistan relations since the abrupt withdrawal of Great Britain from sub-continent and formation of two States. Since 1947 Pakistan and India have gone to war thrice, Kashmir perceived to be the main dispute. In 1999 Kargil crisis again brought both newly nuclear rivals to brink of war. The then US administration led by President Clinton intervened promptly and timely negotiated to deescalate the overwrought situation when both were at fighting an impromptu war at the peaks of Kargil in Jammu Kashmir. After US led war against terrorism in Afghanistan (2001), the genre of global politics exclusively transformed and it also influenced the South Asia and anywhere else in the world. Due to the changing global political scenario and new fronts of confrontation after the end of cold war, both India and Pakistan advanced their bilateral relations during the Musharraf and Vajpayee’s regimes in their respective countries. Back door diplomacy led them to take some sort of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) including a direct bus service across the Line of Control (LOC) in the disputed State of Jammu Kashmir. South Asian politics of guns and arsenals was replaced by composite dialogues, negotiations, reconciliations, sports and exchanges of cultural, intellectual, academics and musicians. But all this could not last long due to absence of a democratic system in Pakistan and history of mistrust among the rivals. Musharraf regime, which was already fragile and lacking public support, became weaker due to his confrontation with judiciary in Pakistan in the first quarter of 2007. The unfortunate and untimely death of Benazir Bhutto was a blow in the forthcoming regional politics of South Asia. As a result of February 2008 general elections in Pakistan, Musharraf lost the power but successive governments of President Zardari and then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif could not show mature judgments on various key issues regarding the future of South Asia including the resolution of Kashmir conflict. On the other hand victory of Hindu nationalist BJP led by Narindra Modi in 2014 general elections in India altered the corridor of Indian politics and secularism. Even the major party to the conflict could not stand for the “Ownership Building Measures” and trusted the CBMs which was a colossal error on behalf of Kashmiri leadership across the LOC.

Continue reading

Russian President Putin will visit Pakistan soon

Putin accepts invitation to visit Pakistan

Putin accepts invitation to visit Pakistan

BY IFTIKHAR MASHWANI

ISLAMABAD: Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Pakistan soon to boost bilateral relations between Pakistan and Russia.This was disclosed by Adviser to Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Sunday in Islamabad.
He said the date is not finalized for Putin visit, but Pakistan already invited Russian President and he accepted the our invitation. Pakistan and Russia have great potentials to boost their relations in all Fields including social,economic and defense and strategic sectors. Pakistan and Russia are important countries of the region and both countries can play pivotal role in the stability in the region.

In the present circumstances, Russia become a most important country for Pakistan. Now Russia is no longer ignored by Pakistani policymakers. Ties are warming up between Islamabad and Moscow in the past few years as geo-strategic ties have been changing the world over.

When the relationship was set to emerge, Pakistan and Russia have been repairing their fences hard hit by the hard Cold War realities. China in the Pakistan-Russia framework is a guarantor and an honest broker. These relations have been fast emerging against the backdrop of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) where Pakistan stands as an observer but trying to seek full-membership of the organization, hopefully this year when the organizations will meet in Russia.Russia already ready to support Pakistani membership in the SCO. Beijing guides Moscow toward Islamabad.Russia,China and Pakistan will becomes strong regional allies for all level.

Read more » World Tribune Pakistan
See more » http://worldtribunepakistan.com/2015/03/08/russian-president-putin-will-visit-pakistan-soon/

“If you find a train arriving late, set your watch right. Trains don’t arrive late these days!” in Pakistan.

“If you find a train arriving late, set your watch right,” remarked a smart young porter.

“If you find a train arriving late, set your watch right,” remarked a smart young porter.

Railway decay seems reversing

BY NASEER AHMAD

KARACHI: “If you find a train arriving late, set your watch right,” remarked a smart young porter hurrying down the platform overloaded with several pieces of a passenger’s luggage. “Trains don’t arrive late these days!”

I recently set off from Rawalpindi by Tezgam for Karachi. Exactly at 8.30am it whistled and after a few seconds a second whistle blew and the train began to chug. A relative texted me the train’s travel timetable. All along I checked it with the train’s arrival at the various stations, and everywhere it was ahead of schedule.

Read more » DAWN
See more » http://www.dawn.com/news/1182830/