Rise of Pakistan just a matter of time, says David M Darst

KARACHI:  Pakistan is located in a region that will bring major changes in the world economy in coming decades primarily due to its demographics.

With over 100 million people below the age of 30 aspiring to change their lives, the rise of Pakistan is just a matter of time, Morgan Stanley Chief Investment Strategist David M Darst said on Tuesday. Darst, however, was speaking in his personal capacity and not representing Morgan Stanley at the lecture.

“Demographics will play a major role in coming decades. Pakistan is among those nine countries in Asia that will add another China in the next 35 years and the impact of this change will be phenomenal on the world economy,” he said while giving a lecture on “The World Economic Environment: Where’s the Global Capital Going”.

It was part of a special series of lectures that was organised by The Aga Khan University here at its auditorium.

With a young population of an average age of 22 years, “I believe the opportunities that the young entrepreneurs from Pakistan have are going to make an exceptional contribution to the economy of the region,” he added.

Darst, who is the author of 11 books and has a PhD in economics from Yale, said it is wrong to believe that Pakistan is lagging behind due to its proximity with Afghanistan, Iran and India. “In fact, I believe Pakistan is in the centre of Asian countries like Iran, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia that will significantly contribute in the world economy in coming decades.”

Speaking about the strong fundamentals of Pakistan’s stocks, he said, with 31% returns in dollar terms Pakistan led the world markets in 2014. “What is important is that the stocks in Pakistan are still very cheap compared to the markets in the industrialised world and they are performing better than many markets in terms of returns,” he added.

“I am surprised to see low number of investors in the bourses of Pakistan. This must change considering the strong fundamentals of Pakistani stocks.”

Darst said women in the world are playing an important role in today’s world economy. The rise of the entrepreneurs from the developing world, especially women entrepreneurs, will also bring significant positive changes in this century.

Listing down the challenges to the global economy, he said though Pakistan and India have benefitted from the current sharp decline in oil prices, sudden fall in oil prices has rejuvenated fears of deflation in many countries.

He said Europe is redefining itself and the sharp changes in Europe can surprise the world at large.

Speaking on the challenges facing Europe in relation to Greece, he said the new elected prime minister of Greece could take decisions that may not go well with the euro and the overall economy of the continent.

Courtesy: The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2015.
Learn more » http://tribune.com.pk/story/828679/shift-in-focus-rise-of-pakistan-just-a-matter-of-time-says-morgan-stanley/

Gas, Still Not as Cheap as It Used to Be

The Price of Gas

Despite a sharp fall in gasoline prices over the past year, a gallon of gas remains more expensive than it was for much of the period between the mid-1980s and early 2000s, after adjusting for inflation.

By 

The decline in gasoline prices over the past four months has been sharp and surprising. But for Americans wondering why their family budgets still feel strained, part of the answer is almost as surprising:

Gas is not actually that cheap, at least not when compared with its level for much of the last 30 years.

At $2.03 a gallon — its current nationwide average — a gallon of gas is still more expensive than nearly anytime in the 1990s, after adjusting for general inflation. Over a 17-year stretch from the start of 1986 to the end of 2002, the real price of gas averaged just $1.87.

That era of cheap gas is easy to forget. Yet it offers a couple of important lessons about two of today’s biggest economic (and political) issues: climate change and the great wage slowdown.

Political leaders — from President Obama and Hillary Clinton to Jeb Bush and Scott Walker — have been signaling in recent weeks that they consider the wage slowdown to be the country’s most pressing issue. And it’s clear that energy plays an important role in it. The beginning of the wage slowdown roughly coincides with the end of the era of cheap gas, which is no coincidence. Energy costs are a major expense for most middle-class and poor families, taking a chunk out of their real (that is, inflation-adjusted) wages.

One of the surest ways to end the great wage slowdown would be for the United States to make sure it’s entering a new era of cheap energy. “It’s the proverbial tax cut,” says Daniel Yergin, vice chairman of the research firm IHS and author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning history of oil. If energy costs remain at current levels, it would put $180 billion into Americans’ pockets this year, according to Moody’s Analytics, equal to 1.2 percent of income and a higher share for lower-income households.

That’s why taking virtually every step to push oil costs even lower — “drill, baby, drill,” as the phrase goes — would make a lot of sense, so long as oil use did not have harmful side effects.

The most obvious way to hold down the price of oil is to increase its supply. The earlier era of cheap gas was made possible by technological advances that allowed for a surge of supply in the 1980s from northern Alaska and Europe’s North Sea. Mexico also became a major producer. The recent drop in oil prices, similarly, stems in part from supply increases in Iraq and Libya. Even more important has been the shale-oil boom (also known as the fracking boom.)

The problem, of course, is that oil use does have side effects. It leads to carbon emissions, which are altering the world’s climate. Last year was probably the planet’s hottest since modern records began in 1880, and the 15 hottest have all occurred since 1998. Oceans are rising, species are at risk and some types of severe storms, including blizzards, seem to be more common.

Read more » Read more » The New York Times
Learn more » http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/27/upshot/gas-still-not-as-cheap-as-it-used-to-be.html?partner=socialflow&smid=tw-nytimes&_r=0&abt=0002&abg=1

Home Remedies for Yeast Infection

A yeast infection, also known as Candida, is basically caused by a group of microscopic fungi or yeast called Candida albicans. It generally affects the vaginal area but can also develop around dentures, under the breasts, lower abdomen, nail beds, and beneath skin folds.

Factors that can increase the risk of getting a yeast infection are pregnancy, stress, chronic health conditions, diabetes, use of oral contraceptives, steroids and antibiotics.

Women can also get yeast infections after menopause due to declining estrogen levels, which thin the vaginal walls. Most men and women suffer from a yeast infection at least once.

Some of the signs of a yeast infection are itching, burning or swelling in and around the affected area. If it is a vaginal yeast infection, there will be pain or discomfort in the vagina during sex, a burning feeling when urinating, and odorless vaginal discharge. There are many simple home remedies that can eliminate the infection in a relatively short time.

Continue reading Home Remedies for Yeast Infection

Pakistan’s paradigm shift: too good to be true?

TaqiBy Dr Mohammad Taqi

The Pakistan-Haqqani ties date back to the mid-1970s, long before any Soviets, the US, mujahideen, Taliban or al Qaeda popped onto the scene, and are unlikely to be severed so abruptly

“Een keh mi-beenam ba baidaareest ya Rabb, ya ba khwab?/ Khaishtan raa dar chuneen nai’mat pas az chundeen azaab!”//

Pakistan’s national security paradigm has changed, or so they say. Perhaps my Afghan readers, who would be the major beneficiaries of such a tectonic shift, may be able to appreciate the above quoted Persian verse, in which the classic poet Anvari says: “O my Lord, am I seeing this all while I am awake or is it a dream? Such bounties for this poor soul after such prolonged misery!” After the decades of the death and destruction it unleashed, the Jalaluddin Haqqani terrorist network, run currently by his son Sirajuddin Haqqani, has reportedly been banned by Pakistan. Additionally, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed’s Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD), which effectively is the political front for the proscribed terrorist group Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), has ostensibly been banned too. Amen to that! There, however, is a slight problem before one goes to town on the news: it is not official and might actually not become official for several weeks or, perhaps, ever.

Continue reading Pakistan’s paradigm shift: too good to be true?

Prime Minister 2.0: Harder, faster, stronger

By Syed Rashid Munir

In just a couple of weeks, thousands of Pakistani youth will sit through one of the most rigorous tests of human memory, in the form of the annual Central Superior Services (CSS) examination. In the exam, they will be asked questions ranging from the absurd to the most absurd, and you can almost be sure that the name of the brother-in-law of the sister of one of the cousins of the premier of a small African republic will be on the paper.

But, sometimes, through sheer luck, you can be tested on a relatively easier topic, for instance say, the name of the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Under normal circumstances, this would be an absolute freebie of a point; the ‘aspirants’ would only have to recall the results of the last election, promptly mark Mr Nawaz Sharif’s name on the question paper, and then start daydreaming about sticking it to others while sitting in big offices.

This time though, such a query is bound to be a loaded question. Let me explain why.

In a parliamentary system like ours, the prime minister is usually appointed by the political party in majority in the representative assembly. Tradition dictates that the leader of the majority party be bestowed with this honour (though there have been significant diversions from this norm even in recent years).

The prime minister is supposed to lead his cabinet and the country through thick and thin, and ooze a shimmering aura of national unity, so much so that the hearts of the masses are supposed to fill with a warm glow each time they look at their leader.

The premier is supposed to be approachable, so that his/her constituents can share their problems and concerns.

The premier should also have an unblemished reputation of being not only uncorrupt, but also incorruptible. He/she must understand the nuances of the issues and cultures within the territory of the country, and present a clarity of vision in taking initiative towards national reform.

All this is fine and dandy. But now, let us take a small dose of reality.

Continue reading Prime Minister 2.0: Harder, faster, stronger

Richest 1% to own more than rest of world, Oxfam says

The wealthiest 1% will soon own more than the rest of the world’s population, according to a study by anti-poverty charity Oxfam.

The charity’s research shows that the share of the world’s wealth owned by the richest 1% increased from 44% in 2009 to 48% last year.

On current trends, Oxfam says it expects the wealthiest 1% to own more than 50% of the world’s wealth by 2016.

The research coincides with the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The annual gathering attracts top political and business leaders from around the world.

Read more » BBC
Learn more » http://www.bbc.com/news/business-30875633

In China, Projects to Make Great Wall Feel Small

 

By

DALIAN, China — The plan here seems far-fetched — a $36 billion tunnel that would run twice the length of the one under the English Channel, and bore deep into one of Asia’s active earthquake zones. When completed, it would be the world’s longest underwater tunnel, creating a rail link between two northern port cities.

Throughout China, equally ambitious projects with multibillion-dollar price tags are already underway. The world’s largest bridge. The biggest airport. The longest gas pipeline. An $80 billion effort to divert water from the south of the country, where it is abundant, to a parched section of the north, along a route that covers more than 1,500 miles.

Such enormous infrastructure projects are a Chinese tradition. From the Great Wall to the Grand Canal and the Three Gorges Dam, this nation for centuries has used colossal public-works projects to showcase its engineering prowess and project its economic might.

Now, as doubts emerge about the country’s three-decade boom, China’s leaders are moving even more aggressively, doubling down on mega-infrastructure. In November, for instance, the powerful National Development and Reform Commission approved plans to spend nearly $115 billion on 21 supersize infrastructure projects, including new airports andhigh-speed rail lines.

“China has always had this history of mega-projects,” said Huang Yukon, an economist and senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a think tank based in Washington.

“It’s part of the blood, the culture, the nature of its society. To have an impact on the country, they’ve got to be big.”

Continue reading In China, Projects to Make Great Wall Feel Small

I am a Marxist, Dalai Lama says

KOLKATA: Describing himself as a Marxist, Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Tuesday said many Marxist leaders have now become capitalists in thinking.

“As far as social-economic theory is concerned, I am still a Marxist,” the spiritual leader said adding that he admires Marxism because of its focus on reducing gap between the rich and the poor.

“Many Marxist leaders are now capitalists in their thinking. It depends on their motivation, thinking, wider perspective,” the spiritual leader said during a lecture on world peace in Presidency University.

“In capitalist countries, there is an increasing gap between the rich and the poor. In Marxism, there is emphasis on equal distribution. That is very crucial to me,” he said.

He blamed discrimination against women and those from low-castes for hampering peace in India, but said, “Muslims in India are living more safely than the Shias of Pakistan.”

The Dalai Lama greets the audience as he arrives to speak on “A Human Approach to World Peace” at Presidency Univeristy in Kolkata, on January 13, 2015.

Continue reading I am a Marxist, Dalai Lama says

Powerful Syrup For Melting Kidney Stones

Anyone who has had problems with kidney stones knows that it one hell of a painful condition, especially if the stone is stuck in the urinary tract, channel leading from the kidney to the bladder.

Even when it is in the bladder, the stone must first pass through the urinary tract. Since men have longer urinary channel, they have a bigger problem with this health condition.

What are kidney stones?

Kidney stones are mineral deposits – usually some form of calcium, such as calcium oxalate – deposited in the kidneys, which form small sand-like stones inside the kidneys.

The stone may remain in the kidney for weeks, months or even years without causing any symptoms. However, if it moves, it may cause big pain in the back, hips and bloody, muddy urine.

In such a situation, it is advisable to drink huge amount of liquid to allow the stone to be kicked out by urinating and take some analgesics in order to relief the pain. But if the stone is too large, it may require surgery for its removal.

There is another option which combines plenty of fluids in order for the stone to be suppressed. We are going to explain this option in the article, below, in order to break the stone and to eject it out of the body.

Continue reading Powerful Syrup For Melting Kidney Stones

Mosque versus state

By Pervez Hoodbhoy

THE mosque in Pakistan is now no longer just a religious institution. Instead it has morphed into a deeply political one that seeks to radically transform culture and society. Actively assisted by the state in this mission in earlier decades, the mosque is a powerful actor over which the state now exercises little authority. Some have been captured by those who fight the government and military. An eviscerated, embattled state finds it easier to drop bombs on the TTP in tribal Waziristan than to rein in its urban supporters, or to dismiss from state payroll those mosque leaders belonging to militant groups.

Very few Pakistanis have dared to criticise the country’s increasingly powerful mosque establishment although they do not spare the Pakistan Army and the country’s political leaders for their many shortcomings. For example, following the Army Public School massacre, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s promise to regulate the madressahs was immediately criticised as undoable. Had he instead suggested that Pakistan’s mosques be brought under state control as in Saudi Arabia, Iran and several Muslim countries, it would have been dismissed as belonging to even beyond the undoable.

The state’s timidity was vividly exposed in its handling of the 2007 bloody insurrection, launched from inside Islamabad’s central mosque, Lal Masjid, barely a mile from the heart of Pakistan’s government. It was a defining point in Pakistan’s history. The story of the Lal Masjid insurrection, its bloody ending, and subsequent rebound is so critical to understanding the limitations of Pakistan’s fight against terrorism that it deserves to be told once again.

Very few Pakistanis have dared to criticise the country’s increasingly powerful mosque establishment.

In early January 2007, the two head clerics of the Lal Masjid demanded the immediate rebuilding of eight illegally constructed mosques knocked down by the civic authorities. Days later, an immediate enforcement of Sharia in Islamabad was demanded. Armed vigilante groups from Jamia Hafsa and nearby madressahs kidnapped ordinary citizens and policemen, threatened shopkeepers, burned CDs and videos, and repeated the demands of tribal militants fighting the Pakistan Army.

At a meeting held in Lal Masjid on April 6, 2007, it was reported that 100 guest religious leaders from across the country pledged to die for the cause of Islam and Sharia. On April 12, in an illegal FM broadcast from the mosque’s own radio station, the clerics issued a threat to the government: “There will be suicide blasts in every nook and cranny of the country. We have weapons, grenades and we are expert in manufacturing bombs. We are not afraid of death….”

The brothers Abdul Aziz and Abdur Rashid Ghazi, who headed the Lal Masjid, had attracted a core of militant organisations around them, including the pioneer of suicide bombings in the region, Jaish-e-Mohammad. Their goal was to change Pakistan’s culture. On April 12, 2007, Rashid Ghazi, a former student of Quaid-i-Azam University, broadcast the following chilling message to our female students:

“The government should abolish co-education. Quaid-i-Azam University has become a brothel. Its female professors and students roam in objectionable dresses. They will have to hide themselves in hijab otherwise they will be punished according to Islam…. Our female students have not issued the threat of throwing acid on the uncovered faces of women. However, such a threat could be used for creating the fear of Islam among sinful women. There is no harm in it.

Continue reading Mosque versus state

Terminator-style implant may help paralyzed people walk again

Swiss scientists have created a cyborg-style implant they hope will soon give paralyzed people a chance to walk again. So far, it has been successfully tested in labs, which means clinical trials with humans should start soon.

The soft, stretchable device, dubbed e-Dura, is the brainchild of scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. It is designed to act as a “bridge” between two ends of severed spinal cord and deliver electrical impulses and drugs.

It is named after dura matter, a thick membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.

Due to its softness and flexibility, this silicon and gold “ribbon” implant doesn’t cause inflammation and rejection when connected to spinal tissue.

To make the gold even more elastic, the scientists laid it down in layers of just 35 nanometers (0.000035 millimeters) thick.

“The spinal cord expands and relaxes,” said Professor Stéphanie Lacour. “If you have a hard, non-deformable material, the friction and rubbing cause inflammation.”

The implant imitates the mechanical properties of living tissue, and can simultaneously deliver electric impulses and pharmacological substances with little risk of damage.

In previous attempts, similar implants caused the immune system to reject the “foreign body,” and so they had to be removed.

The Swiss scientists believe their e-Dura can last 10 years in humans before its needs replacing.

“It’s the first neuronal surface implant designed from the start for long-term application. In order to build it, we had to combine expertise from a considerable number of areas,” says Courtine.

Read more » http://rt.com/news/221567-implant-paralyzed-walk-test/

Terror attacks cannot save Islam’s ‘honour’

By Husain Haqqani

Soon after the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo, Islamist sympathizers on social media unleashed familiar rhetoric. AlQaida and ISIS supporters used Arabic language hashtags like “our revenge for the messenger (Muhammad)”, “Paris is the messenger (Muhammad)”, “Paris is Burning”, “Paris under Fire” and “Lions of Tawheed (monotheism)”. One self-styled jihadi tweeted, “This is the first reaction. You’ll not live in safety again.” Another said: “This proves that the Islamic State can strike deep in Europe whenever it wishes.” Someone styling himself as Abu Sari alIraqi put up a graphic of the Islamic State’s black flag on the Eiffel Tower, with the slogan in French: “We are everywhere.”

Such bombast reflects the emptiness of the Islamist dream. The killing of unarmed cartoonists and journalists is hardly an act of courage. Paris did not, in fact, burn and this latest act of terrorism mobilized the French against the jihadis just as terrorist attacks in New York, London and Mumbai had united people against them in the past.

More important, terrorism is unlikely to dissuade anyone so inclined to refrain from insulting Islam, its prophet or Muslims. Like followers of any other religion, Muslims do not like insults to their faith or to their prophet. But threats and actual attacks of the type witnessed in Paris last week have been limited to Islamists.

Contrary to the assertion of some, such violence has nothing to do with recent wars or the policies of great powers in Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria. A man named Alam Din from Lahore was proclaimed a ‘ghazi’ for killing a Hindu publisher of a book insulting Prophet Muhammad in 1929. Salman Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’ prompted fatwas and violent protests 50 years later. These incidents cannot be attributed as reaction to US military intervention.

Of course, not all of the world’s over one billion Muslims react to real or perceived insults to their religion in the same manner. Believers in different deities and prophets have often slandered each other’s faiths. Islam has endured its share of criticism and abuse over the centuries, especially from Christians, against whom they fought the Crusades and the Ottoman wars.

But in earlier times, Muslims responded to religious affronts by pointing out flaws in other religions and outlining their own perfect faith. Their armies were violent but so were the armies of others. When Muslim emperors ruled over large non-Muslim populations, preachers and Sufi mystics worked to win converts to Islam. There is no record in those days of targeted attacks in retaliation for blasphemy against the prophet or Islam in distant lands.

The phenomenon of violent outrage over insults to Islam seems to have started during western colonial rule, with Muslim politicians seeking issues to mobilize their constituents. Contemporary jihadism seems to have grown out of the slogan ‘Islam in Danger’, which has been periodically invoked as a rallying cry for Islamist politics.

Ironically, it is the Islamists who draw attention to otherwise obscure attacks on Islam and then use those to muster popular support. The reaction makes more people aware of a book like Rushdie’s or a film like ‘The Innocence of Muhammad’. Charlie Hebdo regularly published only 45,000 copies but will likely be read by hundreds of thousands now.

The violence over ‘Islam’s honour’ is a function of the collective Muslim narrative of grievance. Decline, weakness, impotence, and helplessness are phrases most frequently repeated in the speeches and writings of today’s Muslim leaders. The view is shared by Islamists, who consider Islam a political ideology , and other Muslims who don’t. The terrorists are just the most extreme element among the Islamists. As a community , Muslims are obsessed with their past pre-eminence, which stands in stark contrast with their current weakness. The bravado of beheading blasphemers and thinking a terrorist attack can change the global order are ways of reclaiming a glory that is vividly recalled but not seen by Muslims in recent centuries.

Like all national and community narratives, this one has elements of truth. But it is equally true that Muslims have made no serious effort to understand the causes and remedies of their decline over the past 300 years. Outrage, resentment and violence -and the conspiracy theories that inform them -serve as palliatives for an Ummah that reads little, writes even less, hasn’t invented much in recent centuries, and wields little political or military power in the contemporary world. Dealing with the causes of Muslim decline, not random or orchestrated acts of terrorism, would be the real way forward in saving Muslims from dishonour.

The writer is former Pakistan envoy to the US.

Courtesy: The Times of India
Learn more » http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/stoi/all-that-matters/Terror-attacks-cannot-save-Islams-honour/articleshow/45839372.cms

Pakistan: Govt to act against ‘violent banned outfits’ only

By Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD: Of the nearly 72 organisations and outfits that have been declared ‘proscribed’, only a handful are likely to face action in the coming days as part of the government’s impending crackdown on terrorists and militant groups, sources in the interior ministry told Dawn.

The sources say that the government’s focus, at least in the initial stages, would be on organisations which had taken up arms against the state. Such organisations will not be allowed to operate on Pakistani soil anymore and members of such groups who are known to be involved in violent activities will be arrested, an official in the interior ministry told Dawn.

“Following their arrest and interrogation, such individuals will be produced before military courts for trial under a defined procedure,” he said.

The official confirmed that groups which had claimed responsibility for recent terrorist attacks would be proceeded against, but refused to give any details.

He said the provinces had been asked to develop a “multi-faceted process of scrutiny” whereby cases would be sent to military courts, adding that the methodology would be fine-tuned by his ministry.

Benign groups?

It is believed that most banned organisations do not have militant wings and the ministry has no plans to act against such groups. In addition, the ministry’s official said, it was ‘not advisable’ to simultaneously act against all banned outfits.

The provinces had been asked to identify outlawed outfits and keep an eye on key operatives. They will also be looking into groups that have re-emerged under different names after their original incarnation was banned by the government.

The official told Dawn that individuals who faced criminal charges under the fourth schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act would be monitored closely. Under the law, he added, such persons were supposed to report to a police station before travelling to any other city, as well as intimating their date of return. He said such people were also required to report to the police station concerned in the city they are travelling to, but admitted that this provision had scarcely been enforced in the past.

Although he did not offer specifics on which organisations were regarded as being an immediate threat, the official said a comprehensive assessment was being carried out to ascertain how many of the 72 were active and how many were operating under changed names.

The National Counter-Terrorism Authority’s National Coordinator Hamid Ali Khan could not be contacted to get his point of view.

The government’s list features organisations such as Al Qaeda, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, and some of its factions, including the Tehreek-i-Taliban Bajaur, Tehreek-i-Taliban Mohmand and Tehreek-i-Taliban Swat. Then there are organisations whose names reflect their inherently militant nature, such as the Balochistan Liberation Army, Balochistan Republican Army, Balochistan United Army, United Baloch Army, Balochistan Bunyad Parast Army, the 313 Brigade and the Abdullah Azzam brigade, among others.

When asked about banned outfits that had taken part in the last general elections, he said a new procedure was being devised for registration of political parties.

At least 40 candidates from the outlawed Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, including its chief, Ahmad Ludhianvi, had taken part in the 2013 general elections.

Former Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah met Ludhianvi more than once prior to the 2013 elections and justified his meetings by saying that members of the Jamaatud Dawa and Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan were not terrorists.

However, the official avoided commenting on political parties which were said to have links with banned outfits.

In June 2010, Ludhianvi even claimed that at least 25 PPP MNAs had won the 2008 general elections with his party’s support.

Courtesy: Dawn, January 11th, 2015
Learn more » http://www.dawn.com/news/1156321/govt-to-act-against-violent-banned-outfits-only

Charlie Hebdo attacks: Vast Paris rally to take place

Huge crowds and some 40 world leaders have gathered in Paris for a unity march after 17 people were killed during three days of deadly attacks.

More than a million marchers are expected to take the streets.

Police are seeking accomplices of the gunmen who attacked satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket.

Ahead of the rally, a video emerged appearing to show supermarket gunman Amedy Coulibaly pledging allegiance to militant group Islamic State.

In the video, he said he was working with the Charlie Hebdo attackers: “We have split our team into two… to increase the impact of our actions.”

Said and Cherif Kouachi – who were shot dead by police on Friday – killed 11 people at the magazine offices in the French capital on Wednesday, and a policeman in a nearby street.

Read more » BBC
Learn more » http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30765824

Pakistan must believe that the darkest hour is just before the dawn

In post-Peshawar Pakistan, we have to believe that the darkest hour is just before the dawn

By REEMA ABBASI

Remembering murders and massacres past to demand justice was a sad challenge this week.

On January 4 – a date that should be declared ‘Salmaan Taseer Day’ – a peaceful vigil in central Lahore was held to honour the fourth anniversary of the province’s assassinated governor.

However, the memorial was attacked by Mumtaz Qadri’s supporters, who reportedly belonged to a banned terror outfit.

The scene was as tragic as it was violent. Placards such as “ST hum sharminda hain, tumhara qaatil zinda hai” were set ablaze as baton-wielding villains pounded participants, including campaigners of renown.

Though crazed with hate, their rampage was not without the blessings of the Punjab government and the police.

However, post-Peshawar Pakistan is another country. Hence, where such an incident would previously have sent mourners home, this time the miscreants defeated their own purpose.

Their assault sent the crowd to procure an FIR against the mob. So far, over 40 suspects have been arrested.

The atrocity, along with the ongoing saga of the Lal Masjid cleric, Abdul Aziz, is yet another testament to Punjab being the hotbed of fanaticism. It shows that the malaise has infiltrated the law enforcement apparatus and thrives in state espousal.

Punjab has witnessed the mushrooming of groups such as the Tehreek-e-Tahafuz-e-Khatme-Nabuwat, and the nation is keen to see the outcome of current civil-society-led movements geared to bring militants to book.

At this stage, we can only believe in the adage that the darkest hour is before dawn.

But if Sharif does not seize the moment to channelise public rage towards a new horizon, Pakistan may be doomed to see history repeat itself. 

— The writer is a Karachi-based author and journalist

Courtesy: Daily Maily

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-2902723/In-post-Peshawar-Pakistan-believe-darkest-hour-just-dawn.html#ixzz3OSQzF4JU

A Postcard From Paris

By

I arrived in Paris yesterday, scheduled to give a series of lectures in philosophy. The lectures are in political philosophy, on how power distorts liberal democracy. I’ve been nervous about giving these lectures in Paris, the city in which a liberal democratic revolution toppled a system of power, monarchy, which seemed to those subject to it both permanent and inevitable.

My plane, scheduled to arrive to 8:30 a.m., was late. By the time my taxi made its way to my apartment in the 11th arrondissement, it was nearly noon. Cordons of police were blocking the streets, and the sound of sirens was everywhere. My taxi driver swore and took a side street to my destination. I ducked into a cafe next to my apartment, awaiting my keys. There I heard the startling news that we had driven past the scene of a terrorist attack, and that the target was Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper famed for ridiculing authority in all its incarnations. Among the 12 people killed were four of France’s most famous satirical cartoonists.

Read more » The New York Times
Learn more » http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/01/08/a-postcard-from-paris/?smid=tw-nytimes&_r=0

Democracy vs authoritarianism vs terrorism

By Farrukh Khan Pitafi

It was supposed to be all about terrorism, but somehow it seems more and more about democracy, constitutionalism and their nemesis – authoritarianism. And in a country with a disturbing history of failed spells of democratic rule and equally disastrous autocratic governments, this is precisely what was supposed to be avoided. But now that the Pandora’s Box of debate on civil-military trust deficit has been opened, thanks to the creation of military courts, it is time to build some perspective.

As I write these lines, two images keep haunting me:

The first, of a disheveled, heartbroken Senator Raza Rabbani losing control and bursting into tears on the floor of the house during passage of the 21st amendment. For years, Mr Rabbani has acted as my moral compass. While I have not nearly always agreed with his views, like the North Star, they have most certainly often guided me in the right direction. Now to see him so badly broken is something I will never forget.

The second image is of a young army officer that I met in a conflict zone.

“Sir, I wish was born in another country, had joined their army and died fighting for them. At least at the time of my death, I would have known that my country would own me as a national hero. In Pakistan, no one cares about a soldier’s sacrifices.”

This young man, I was told a few days later, died bravely fighting against militants for his country, Pakistan. His grievances were legitimate. We have lost count of how many brave souls have perished fighting terrorists in recent years.

What is more, quick as we are to accuse the army of being solely responsible for religious militancy in this country, of breeding terrorists in isolation; what we fail to consider is how this accusation does not apply to the young officers and soldiers who are confronting terrorists today.

Wars do strange things to people. For over a decade, we have fought an enemy that is not across the border but within us. We have bled profusely, old doubts and apprehensions have grown complicated beyond recognition.

But behind this fog of war, our old bitterness and old wounds still persist. It all happened so fast that we did not get the time to update our definition of the existential threat.

Now, there is a huge trust deficit which owes itself to the misperception of the enemy.

Over the years I have seen men and women in Khaki and civvies halfheartedly calling terrorism an existential threat. But in reality they are on the lookout for the old enemy.

Always on the lookout.

The khakis, the civvies and the troublemakers

It is about two narratives. One civilian, one military. Both incomplete. Both a product of a weak state’s inability to overcome its constant challenger – India, or to win the ultimate prize – Kashmir. But more of that later.

Continue reading Democracy vs authoritarianism vs terrorism

Obama proposes 2 years of free community college

President Barack Obama said Thursday that he will propose offering Americans two years of community college for free if they are “willing to work for it.”

Obama made the announcement in a short video from Air Force One, saying his plan will make community college accessible for everybody.The news came as part of a three-state tour to preview his State of the Union Address. Obama will make a more formal announcement in Tennessee on Friday.

“Put simply, what I’d like to do is to see the first two years of community college free for anybody who’s willing to work for it,” he said. “It’s something we can accomplish, and it’s something that will train our workforce so that we can compete with anyone in the world.”

Read more » http://rt.com/usa/221015-obama-free-community-college/

No hope on the horizon for Pakistan’s myriad problems

Author: Sajjad Ashraf

Pakistan is in a state of discord. Its civilian governance structure is becoming corrupt and oligarchic. Its façade of democratic order belies a more tawdry reality characterised by money, patronage and cronyism, in which parliament exists to enhance the privileges of the few.
Pakistan’s problems are long-standing, rooted in governance failures, with the resultant erosion of state authority. 2014 was no different in this respect.
Read more » Pukhtunkhwa Times
See more » http://pukhtunkhwatimes.blogspot.ca/

Vigils held across Europe in support of Charlie Hebdo, press freedom

Thousands gathered for rallies in French cities, standing in solidarity with victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris that killed 12 on Wednesday. At the biggest rally, in Paris, people lit candles and held up their pens to support press freedom.

Paris witnessed a large rally on Place de la République, which is located close to the office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Masked gunmen stormed the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday morning. Ten journalists and two policemen were killed. Police said that three gunmen carried out the assault. They are still at large, while Paris is on high alert.

Read more » http://rt.com/news/220671-rally-europe-france-shooting/

Charlie Hebdo: Gun attack on French magazine kills 12

Gunmen have shot dead 12 people at the Paris office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in an apparent militant Islamist attack.

Four of the magazine’s well-known cartoonists, including its editor, were among those killed, as well as two police officers.

A major police operation is under way to find three gunmen who fled by car.

President Francois Hollande said there was no doubt it had been a terrorist attack “of exceptional barbarity”.

The masked attackers opened fire with assault rifles in the office and exchanged shots with police in the street outside before escaping by car. They later abandoned the car in Rue de Meaux, northern Paris, where they hijacked a second car.

Death threats

Witnesses said they heard the gunmen shouting “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad” and “God is Great” in Arabic (“Allahu Akbar”).

The number of attackers was initially reported to be two, but French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve later said security services were hunting three “criminals”. He said that Paris had been placed on the highest alert.

Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier, 47, had received death threats in the past and was living under police protection.

French media have named the three other cartoonists killed in the attack as Cabu, Tignous and Wolinski. The attack took place during the magazine’s daily editorial meeting.

At least seven people were wounded in the attack, with several in critical condition.

The satirical weekly has courted controversy in the past with its irreverent take on news and current affairs. It was firebombed in November 2011 a day after it carried a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad.

The latest tweet on Charlie Hebdo’s account was a cartoon of the Islamic State militant group leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

People had been “murdered in a cowardly manner”, President Hollande told reporters at the scene. “We are threatened because we are a country of liberty,” he added, appealing for national unity.

Courtesy: BBC
Learn more » http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30710883

White House Says Obama Would Veto Keystone Pipeline Bill

By Coral Davenport

President Obama will veto a bill authorizing the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline if it passes Congress, his spokesman said on Tuesday, setting up a clash between the White House and the new Republican-led Congress.

“I would not anticipate that the president would sign this legislation,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said during a briefing. He later clarified that the president would indeed veto the bill.

The Keystone bill was the first introduced in the Senate in the new Congress, and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the new majority leader, has vowed to make it the first measure sent to the president’s desk. The House is expected to pass the bill on Friday, while the Senate is expected to take up the measure next week.

It was widely expected that Mr. Obama would veto the measure. As written, the bill would remove the requirement that the president authorize the construction of the oil pipeline to Canada, and instead give that authority to Congress. Mr. Obama issued a veto threat to a similar bill passed by the House in 2013.

News courtesy » The New York Times »» FirstDraft
Learn more » http://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2015/01/06/?entry=7990&action=click&contentCollection=Personal%20Tech&region=Footer&module=TopNews&pgtype=article

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More » via Twitter » Sanders Statement on Tar Sands Pipeline Veto Threat
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EU foreign policy chief: Israel violating Oslo Accords by freezing Palestinian tax revenues

 

Federica Mogherini’s statement doesn’t mention PA’s request to join ICC, but calls on both sides to refrain from taking actions that could prevent ‘a rapid return to negotiations.’

By

The EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, called on Israel on Tuesday to immediately renew the transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority, calling the recent freeze on the funds a violation of the Oslo Accords.

Mogherini stressed in a statement that Israel’s decision to freeze the transfer of tax revenue “runs counter to Israel’s obligations under the Paris Protocol” – the economic part of the Oslo Accords. According to Mogherini, the EU provides extensive financial aid to the Palestinian Authority to build the institutions and infrastructure of the future Palestinian state. “These achievements should not be put at risk by not meeting obligations regarding the timely and transparent transfer of tax and custom revenues,” she said.

Read more » Haaretz
Learn more » http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.635626

India is ready to talk about religion. Is Pakistan?

By Shehzad Ghias

The new Rajkumar Hirani-directed Bollywood movie PK starring Aamir Khan and Anushka Sharma has divided opinions in India. ‘#BanPK’ trended on Twitter, there were protests all over India and religious groups burnt posters of the movie at processions but the movie is in course to be the highest grossing Indian film of all time.

India’s silent majority is letting its position on the issue known by supporting the movie. There are no mass protests in support of the movie but the positive reviews online and thousands of people taking to social media to praise it shows India is ready to have the ‘religion’ debate.

There was outcry from religious groups, and threats of mob violence but the courts and the government must be admired for not bowing down under the pressure of these mobs. The Supreme Court passed a verdict simply saying,

“Don’t watch the film, if you don’t like it.”

It is not as if the religious groups are not as strong in India as in Pakistan, it is just that their state is stronger than ours. In a country with the writ of law, mobs cannot act with complete impunity. The Supreme Court judges who passed this judgment were not afraid they would be shot in their chambers after passing the judgment. Having worked in the legal fraternity in Pakistan, I can testify that some judges in Pakistan are afraid to pass judgments based on their feelings and reason in cases which may involve religion.

Continue reading India is ready to talk about religion. Is Pakistan?

Raza Rabbani in tears: ‘Ashamed to vote against conscience’

By Dawn.com

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Raza Rabbani was in tears on Tuesday after voting in the upper house on the 21st Constitutional Amendment for setting up military courts in the country.

Rabbani said that he voted on the amendment against his own conscience. He further added that he had never felt more ashamed in his life.

“I have been in the Senate for more than 12 years, but have never been as ashamed as I am today and I cast my vote against my conscious,” said the PPP leader.

The senator said the vote that he had cast in support of the amendment was on the PPP’s behalf.

Rabbani had recently said that parliament has had the honour of not validating illegal acts of military dictators in the past, but was now “taking its last breath”.

He has been of the view that after the passage of the 21st Amendment bill, the constitution would no more remain “pure”.

Rabbani has been among the more prominent PPP leaders who have criticised the party’s decision to support the establishment of military courts.

Read more » DAWN
Learn more » http://www.dawn.com/news/1155293

India, Pakistan border fighting intensifies before Obama visit

SRINAGAR, India: (Reuters) – Pakistan accused India of killing four civilians on the border of the two nuclear powers and India said one of its border guards was killed, heightening tensions before a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama.

India said its forces had killed four Pakistanis planning an attack on Indian soil, although Indian media and opposition parties disputed the official account. The Pakistani army said four civilians had died in Indian shelling.

A senior Indian official with the border security forces said they had retaliated on Monday for machine gun and mortar attacks on about 60 positions strung out along more than 200 kilometres (125 miles) of the border.

“Pakistani rangers fired rocket-propelled grenades in villages near the border and our men have responded,” the officer told Reuters.

Monday’s incidents, in the Samba district south of Jammu along the international border in Jammu and Kashmir, followed the killing of two Pakistani soldiers by Indian forces on New Year’s Eve.

As the hostilities intensified, India’s security agencies declared a nationwide alert last week to avoid militant strikes before visits by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama later in January.

Read more » Reuters
Learn more » http://in.reuters.com/article/2015/01/05/india-security-pakistan-idINKBN0KE14A20150105

Military courts: a wrong move

By Editorial

PAKISTAN should not have military courts, not in the expanded form envisioned by the military and political leadership of the country, not to try civilians on terrorism charges and not even for a limited period of time.

Military courts are simply not compatible with a constitutional democracy.

In the immediate aftermath of the Peshawar school massacre, politicians and the military leadership rightly came together to respond urgently to the terror threat that stalks this country.

What they did wrong was to decide on military courts as the lynchpin of a new strategy to fight terrorism.

Perhaps with a country convulsed with grief and the PML-N government on weak ground — given that until recently the party was insisting on dialogue with the elements behind the Peshawar calamity — there was little resistance to the military’s demand that terrorist suspects be tried in military courts, and presumably summarily executed thereafter.

Perhaps also the full range of opposition political parties present were overawed by the presence of the army chief and DG ISI in Peshawar, and those opposed to military courts decided that it was futile to oppose them in the circumstances.

Continue reading Military courts: a wrong move

Taliban leader Mullah Omar hiding in Pak, says top Afghan intelligence official

New York: Taliban’s reclusive leader Mullah Muhammad Omar is alive and hiding in the Pakistani city of Karachi, a top Afghan intelligence official has said, echoing a similar assessment by Western intelligence officials.

“There is a lot of doubt whether he is alive or not. But we are more confident that he is in Karachi,” acting Afghan intelligence chief Rahmatullah Nabil was quoted as saying in the New York Times regarding Omar’s whereabouts.

An European official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said in the NYT report that there is a “consensus among all three branches of the Afghan security forces that Mullah Omar is alive”.

“Not only do they think he’s alive, they say they have a good understanding of where exactly he is in Karachi,” the Pakistani metropolis where some say Mullah Omar is hiding. The report said that Mullah Omar has always functioned more as the spiritual and ideological leader of the movement than as an operational commander.

His inner circle, made up of village mullahs who have known one another for decades, has provided the active leadership of the Taliban’s many local factions. “But now one man, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, has risen to the No 2 role and become the main link to Mullah Omar, allowing him to place his loyalists up and down the ranks,”

Read more » First Post
Learn more » http://www.firstpost.com/world/taliban-leader-mullah-omar-hiding-pak-says-top-afghan-intelligence-official-2020859.html

Department of ‘Homeland’ Controversy: Pakistan and Terrorism

By MUSTAFA HAMEED and

NEW YORK — Pakistani officials recently lashed out at the Showtime series “Homeland” for its portrayal of the Southwest Asian nation as a friend to terrorist groups, among other complaints, but according to former U.S. officials and Pakistan experts, it could be a case of a fictional show hitting just a little too close to home.

Last week the press attache for Pakistan‘s embassy in Washington released a statement saying it was “very unfortunate that the underlying theme of ‘Homeland’ Season 4 is designed to create a negative perception of both the U.S. and Pakistan.”

“The show projects and reinforces stereotypes about the U.S. and Pakistan that do not serve the best interests of our two peoples and countries,” press attache Nadeem Hotiana said in a statement to The New York Post and provided to ABC News. “This is also an affront to the people and institutions in both countries who have invested a lot over the decades in blood and treasure in building this important and mutually beneficial relationship.”

This season the espionage thriller, which wrapped up last Sunday, included a story line in which an agent of the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, appeared to repeatedly assist a local terrorist group, including in a deadly attack on the American Embassy in Islamabad.

“Insinuations that an intelligence agency of Pakistan is complicit in protecting the terrorists at the expense of innocent Pakistani civilians is not only absurd but also an insult to the ultimate sacrifices of the thousands of Pakistani security personnel in the war against terrorism,” Hotiana said.

But in recent years, the “insult” of tying the Pakistani government, intelligence agencies or armed forces to terror groups was hardly “absurd” to top U.S. military and intelligence officials.

In September 2011, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen told a Congressional committee that the real-life ISI was “exporting violence” by aiding the militant group theHaqqani network — which is the same name used by the leader of the terror group in “Homeland” — after an attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. More than a dozen people were killed in that day’s assault.

“In choosing to use violent extremism as an instrument of policy, the government of Pakistan and most especially the Pakistani army and ISI jeopardizes not only the prospect of our strategic partnership, but Pakistan’s opportunity to be a respected nation with legitimate regional influence,” Mullen said.

He went further, calling the Haqqanis a “veritable arm” of the ISI.

Read more » ABC News
Learn More » http://abcnews.go.com/International/department-homeland-controversy-pakistan-terrorism/story?id=27963663

Pakistani boat laden with explosives blows up off Indian coast, India says

NEW DELHI – (Reuters) – A Pakistani fishing boat laden with explosives bound for India blew up, killing all four people on board, after the Indian coast guard tried to stop and search it, the Indian government said on Friday.

Indian intelligence said the crew planned “an illicit transaction” when the boat was intercepted on New Year’s Eve in the Arabian Sea, 365 km (225 miles) off India’s western coast, according to a government statement.

Ajay Kumar Pandey, a spokesman for the Indian Coast Guard, declined to comment when asked whether the explosives believed to be on board the fishing boat, which sank, were intended for use in a possible attack.

India’s vulnerability to militant attacks along its long coastline was exposed in 2008 after the seaborne assault by Pakistani gunmen on Mumbai, the nation’s financial capital.Ten Pakistani gunmen arrived on a rubber boat in Mumbai for the commando-style assault on two luxury hotels, a train station and a Jewish center that killed 166 people.Since the attack,India has upgraded coastal security, spending money on patrol vessels, helicopters and building a coastal radar network.The Indian Coast Guard chased the Pakistani boat for almost an hour and fired warning shots before it stopped, the statement said. The crew hid themselves below the deck, set the boat on fire, which resulted in an explosion, causing it to sink.

(Reporting By Andrew MacAskill and Rupam Jain Nair; Editing by Douglas Busvine andNick Macfie)

News courtesy: Reuters
Read more » http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/02/us-india-pakistan-idUSKBN0KB0LK20150102
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More details » DAWN
See more » http://www.dawn.com/news/1154655/