Friday, September 19, 2014

Music Video - Pashto Urdu mix song - Afshan Zaibi

Pakistan : Overcharging in electricity bills

The minister for Water and Power, Khwaja Asif and Secretary, Water and Power, Nargis Sethi, were severely criticised during a recent meeting of the Economic Co-ordination Committee of the Cabinet for over billing electricity consumers. This followed a meeting of the cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister who had reportedly taken serious notice of claims of over billing across the country during the last two months. The Prime Minister set up a committee to be headed by his Advisor on Energy Musaddaq Malik to submit a report on the matter while urging the Ministry to redress genuine grievances of the consumers.
Be that as it may, it is relevant to note that bills for the last two months were considerably higher for two reasons. First and foremost the government did raise rates as per its agreement with the International Monetary Fund under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) with the objective of reducing subsidies that were accounting to over 400 to 500 billion rupees per annum that the government could ill afford. And secondly the government announced a revision of its tariff structure implying thereby that those who were paying differing rates for using different slabs would now pay the tariff payable for the highest slab. In other words, a consumer using 700 units per month would no longer be charged a different lower subsidised tariff for say the first 100 to 200 units but would pay the higher tariff for all units consumed.
What is relevant, however, to note is that over billing in Pakistan is not a function of inadvertent or/accidental error on the part of the meter readers but is considered to be an outcome of a deliberate policy premised mainly on inefficiencies of the dilapidated infrastructure and large-scale theft of electricity in this country. Thus the norm is that while electricity companies provide an x amount of electricity to all its consumers nation-wide the actual billable amount is considerably less with many consumers using illegal kundas (connections) to access electricity. This illegal use either gets billed into accounts of autonomous bodies/federal and/or provincial governments with the flawed rationale being that the public sector will not challenge bills (this is a serious bone of contention between the federal government and the Sindh government) or large private consumers who witness a spike in their bills. In other words, those who actually pay their bills are paying the cost of power theft and that is one factor that creates considerable fury against the Ministry of Water and Power.
Why doesn't the Ministry of Water and Power proactively proceed to cut down theft? The Minister of State for Water And Power, Abid Sher Ali, created a furor when he accused provinces other than Punjab of being responsible for non-payment of bills, however, his campaign to end theft and to cut-off connections to those localities who do not clear 80 percent of their bills has neither reduced power sector receivables (in fact they have increased since last year) nor improved efficiencies within the sector notably transmission and distribution losses that remain one of the highest within the South Asia region.
What is particularly disturbing is that officials in the Ministry of Finance acknowledged to Business Recorder that there is no sign of improvement in the power sector. And there appears to be no effort under way to improve performance either. The inter-circular debt that was cleared on the last day of fiscal year 2012-13 has resurfaced and there is wide variation of the amount with Nargis Sethi maintaining its quantum around 238 billion rupees while other officials in the Ministry claim its closer to 400 billion rupees. The reason for this variation is that the debt has not even been reconciled which is unfortunate. Surely the Prime Minister must accept by now that the Water and Power Ministry is not up to the mark and takes appropriate measures to change it and gives time bound action targets to them to ensure that the entire system is more effective than what the country has been subjected to for the past seven years.

Bilawal Bhutto : PPP won’t leave flood victims in lurch

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Patron-in-Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has assured flood victims of Punjab Province that his party would not leave them in the lurch.
Former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, National Assembly Opposition Leader Syed Khurshid Shah, PPP Central Information Secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira, PPP Punjab President Manzoor Wattoo and other party leaders received Bilawal Bhutto Zardari at the airport when he arrived here on Thursday afternoon. Later, he left for Chiniot in a helicopter to visit the flood-hit areas.
According to party sources, Bilawal was briefed about damages caused by floods in Punjab Province. The party chairman confirmed in a response that the PPP had already dispatched 30 truckloads of relief items for the flood victims of Punjab while 470 more trucks would be dispatched within a few days to meet the immediate needs of calamity-hit people.
On this occasion, when the issue of provision of shelter to flood victims of Punjab was raised by leaders, especially on the persuasion of PPP Punjab President Manzoor Wattoo, Bilawal also ordered immediate purchase of tents worth Rs 50 million to meet temporary residential needs of the victims as their homes have been washed away.
During his visit to the flood-effected areas, the PPP leader, by setting aside all protocol procedures, got mixed up with flood victims and even did not hesitate entering floodwater at one point to express total solidarity with the victims.
Flood-hit victims, both men and women, were grateful to the PPP leader, who had come all the way from Sindh Province to share their difficult times with a pledge that the PPP would ensure their quick rehabilitation with honour and dignity.
While sharing his views with the flood-hit people in Chiniot, a party statement issued here said, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari urged all sections of society to forge unity in order to meet the challenges of calamity that had struck again the province of Punjab in particular.
Accompanied by Raja Pervez Ashraf, Khursheed Shah and Manzoor Wattoo, Bilawal returned to Lahore where he would stay at Bilawal House in Baharia Town. Sources said that Bilawal would also attend a dinner and meet with party leaders from different districts. They also said that Bilawal would visit Muzaffargarh District today (Friday) to distribute relief items among the flood-hit people. He would return to Lahore the same evening for his departure to Karachi later in night.

Pakistan : Zarb-e-Azb: 23 terrorists killed in NWA strikes

At least 23 suspected terrorists were killed and several hideouts destroyed in fresh air strikes of Pakistan Army on militant hideouts in different areas of North Waziristan Agency on Thursday.
ISPR said that in an aerial action army targeted militant hideouts in Zerom and Ismail Khel districts of NWA. In air strikes various hideouts of militants were destroyed, resulting in the death of 23 terrorists. Local sources said that the death toll could be higher than the estimated as several militants are thought to be buried under the debris of destroyed hideouts. However, claims of terrorists killed in action could not be independently verified as journalists have limited access to the restive tribal agency. Operation Zarb-i-Azb was launched by the army on June 15 following a militant attack on Karachi’s international airport and failure of peace talks between the government and TTP.

Pakistan: IDPs allege intimidation by police, customs officials

The internally displaced persons (IDPs) of North Waziristan Agency on Thursday alleged that police and customs officials had been impounding their vehicles on refusal to pay bribes at different checkpoints.
“Police in different districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have impounded our 21 vehicles in the name of checking,” tribal elder Malik Zafarullah Wazir said while speaking at a press conference at Peshawar Press Club on Thursday.
Flanked by other elders, including Niamatullah Wazir and Malik Musa Khan, he claimed that the security forces had already provided them the no objection certificate for use of non-custom paid (NCP) vehicles till their stay in the camps, but the police and customs officials were teasing them for obvious reason to pay them money.
Giving details, the tribal elder said that three vehicles of IDPs were taken into custody by Chamkani police station, two vehicles by Mattani police, five by Gurgorai police, six by Shergarh police and five by Takhtbhai police, which had caused serious problems for the owners.
Besides, Mr Zafarullah pointed out that some families travelling in 15 vehicles were stopped by a customs inspector, identified as Saeed, who did not allow them and the women and children were forced to move on foot.
“We have got a written permission from the security forces so that our people can move from one place to other, but despite that the police and customs officials are not allowing us,” the IDPs’ representative complained.
He alleged that the officials had also taken out valuable items, including tap recorders, from their vehicles.
He said that in several police stations the officials had been avoiding talking to them at least to resolve the matter.
Mr Zafarullah claimed that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had also announced that there would be no restriction on the movement of NCP vehicles in the province, but despite that the police had made their lives miserable.
“We appeal to Governor Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan, Chief Minister Pervez Khattak and the security forces to take notice of the injustices on part of the police and customs officials and help return the vehicles to us,” he said.
The tribal elder said that now IDPs had the only option to hold protest and raise voice against the injustices of police and customs officials.

Pakistan: Floods of misery

By Sakib Sherani
PAKISTAN is experiencing its fourth major floods in the past five years. The increasing frequency and intensity of the flooding not only underscores Pakistan’s — and South Asia’s — vulnerability to climate change, but also the woeful lack of preparation by successive governments. The increasingly regular flooding of the country’s major rivers each monsoon also highlights the need for not only a more robust framework for engagement with India on water-related issues, bilateral or multilateral, but also perhaps the pre-eminence of this issue as a confidence-building measure, rather than the current single-minded focus on more open bilateral trade.
The sooner the simmering water issues between the two riparian states — India and Pakistan — are tackled head-on and resolved, the better for peace and stability in the region. According to all major assessments on the global as well as regional impact of climate change, South Asia is expected to fare the worst. With a large part of the population living in rural areas and dependent on agriculture, the potential impact of climate change and extreme weather events is accentuated.
Warmer temperatures and more variable rainfall patterns will mean ensuring food security for larger populations will stretch even the most well-prepared and well-resourced nations. According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, overall crop yields are expected to decrease by up to 30pc by 2050 due to the effects of the projected global warming. At the same time, irrigation demand for agriculture “is likely to increase by 10pc for [each] temperature increase of 1pc”.
Into this doomsday scenario, enter Pakistan. Last major dam built: 1976 (38 years ago). Tax collection as per cent GDP: 9pc. Annual federal spending on disaster risk management: approximately Rs180m (or Rs1 per person). Climate change on the agenda? Not really. ‘Threats to parliament’ and Senator Rehman Malik’s offloading from an Islamabad-bound flight are agitating our leaders more and giving them sleepless nights.
Meanwhile, a disaster of epic proportions is slowly unfolding for the 325m people that will inhabit Pakistan by 2050.
Turning to the flooding this year, mercifully, it appears to have caused lesser damage than what was feared earlier. Certainly, in comparison to the super-flood of 2010, which had been rightfully dubbed as a flood of “biblical proportions”, this year’s version looks like a relatively tame affair. At their peak, the floods of 2010 had affected over 20m people spread over one-fifth of the landmass of the country. The loss of crops and livestock, and the widespread disruption to production, transportation and other economic activity, was estimated to have reduced GDP growth by two percentage points. In all, the cumulative loss from the floods in 2010, including damage to physical infrastructure such as roads, irrigation works, housing, schools, health infrastructure, electricity transmission, loss of income and assets etc. was estimated at $9.7 billion.
This time around, the main flooding has occurred in the River Chenab and its tributaries, and not rivers Indus and Kabul as in 2010. As such, most of the damage has been sustained in north, central and southern Punjab, with 36 districts affected, according to the National Disaster Management Authority. As per the agency’s situation report of Sept 17, total affected population amounted to 1.8m people, with the cropped area affected totalling approximately 2.3m acres (versus nearly 6m acres in 2010).
Standing crops that are likely to have sustained damage include cotton, rice and vegetables, with some damage to sugarcane possibly. The size and quality of the cotton and rice crop both have a direct bearing on the country’s net export earnings, while damage to minor crops feeds into inflationary pressure. Unlike in 2010, livestock has suffered relatively minor loss in this year’s flooding. However, these are very preliminary assessments that will be firmed up in the next few weeks as the water recedes and the government is fully able to mobilise its disaster estimation response.
Whatever the final damage assessment, it is important to step back and look at the bigger picture that is emerging into sharp relief. By the time the floodwaters recede this year, the cumulative damage caused by flooding since 2010 would be to the tune of around $16bn, by conservative estimates.
A more important fact that the floodwaters will leave behind, more important than cold statistics of the number of bridges washed away, or ‘x’ kilometres of roads damaged, or ‘y’ acres of cropped area flooded, is the disruption to the lives of those affected. As in 2010, many of those in the cross hairs of the raging torrents were poor and vulnerable folk—– who have now lost standing crops, livestock, income, livelihoods, houses, farm implements, seeds and food stocks, and perhaps their precious little savings. Many are now on the brink of chronic poverty.
It is a shocking indictment of the callousness of official statistics that following the massive flooding in 2010, the poverty headcount ratio calculated by the Planning Commission depicted a steep decline to a historic low of 13pc. This is contrary to the findings of a number of studies which have shown that once a family is tipped into poverty because of any exogenous ‘shock’ — such as health-related or one brought on by a natural calamity — it is likely to stay there for years, unless it is extremely lucky.
How many of those affected by this year’s floods, and the one in 2010, have slipped into poverty needs to be assessed by the government using a credible and transparent survey methodology. Once identified, the government should expend efforts, perhaps through the Benazir Income Support Programme, to ensure that these families receive the help they need, via a combination of cash transfers, seeds, subsidised loans and farm implements, for example, to break the ensuing poverty cycle.


By N Manoharan
The recent arrest of Sri Lankan national Arun Selvarajan in Chennai by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for spying on behalf of Pakistan’s ISI is concerning. He is the third Sri Lankan arrested for spying in the past over one year. Earlier, two Sri Lankan Muslims (Mohammed Sakir Hussain and Suleman Hussain) and an Indian (Thameen Ansari) were apprehended on similar charges. The arrestees confessed that their handlers were agents posted at Pakistani High Commission based in Colombo. Previously, it was Amir Zubair Siddiqui, who was posted as visa counsellor, and later it was Haji alias Siraj Ali.
Sri Lanka and the ISI
Sri Lanka may not be conniving with Pakistan against India, but is being used as a base by the ISI. Sri Lanka never allowed its territory for any anti-India activities and the ISI operations may be happening without Colombo’s knowledge.
Why Sri Lanka has been chosen as a base by the ISI? Why are the Sri Lankans citizens involved? What is the purpose behind the Colombo module? What is the state of counter-intelligence capability of India?
The ISI has been operating from some of the neighbouring countries of India like Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Myanmar and even Maldives. The southern front of India remained unpenetrated for quite some time. Sri Lanka could be the best base to do that for two specific reasons:
Given the proximity and similarity of language and appearance, Sri Lankan Tamils and Sri Lankan Muslims, who also speak Tamil, would not find it difficult to reach Tamil Nadu and mix-up with the local population. Presence of large number of Sri Lankan refugees is yet another facilitating aspect.
Pakistan’s activities in Sri Lanka have not been seen with suspicion by the security establishment of the island state. Sri Lanka-Pakistan relations have been good without any irritants. Sri Lanka is ever grateful to Pakistan for all the military support during the Eelam War. In addition, when Sri Lanka was hauled by the international community for human rights excesses during that War, Islamabad rendered unstinted diplomatic support.
ISI and the Involvement of Sri Lankan Citizens
There are various reasons for the involvement of Sri Lankan Tamils and Muslims in the spy ring. The primary motivation is financial. Unemployed youth are easy targets. There is a theory that argues that part of the reason for the involvement of Sri Lankan Muslims in ISI’s spy network is their increasing radicalisation. But, the theory may explain if they are involved in spying western targets based in India, but not acting against Indian targets.
Pakistan obviously has denied the existence of an ISI base in Sri Lanka targeted against India as “speculative” and “malicious media campaign”. The denial is not surprising. Pakistani ISI has been assiduously pursuing the objective of establishing espionage networks for collection of India’s defence related information with reference to deployment/movement of armed forces, information relating to vital installations including sensitive information pertaining to the latest knowhow with reference to technological advancement etc. For this purpose, it has been able to organise resident agents and even allure the lower staff in sensitive organizations for collection and communication of sensitive information. When there is a roadblock there, it has moved on to tap ethnic similarities in the neighbourhood.
Sri Lanka as a base: What is ISI’s Endgame?
What is concerning is the security dimension of the espionage. There are two aspects to spying. One is to just gather information about the enemy for the purpose of having information advantage. The second aspect is to collect information with the aim to inflict damage. Reconnaissance of Kalapakkam nuclear plant site, NSG Hub in Chennai, Coast Guard installations on the eastern coast, Officers’ Training Academy (OTA) in Chennai, Nagapattinam Port, the Madras Regimental Centre in Wellington, harbours in Chennai and Ennore, DGP office and the High Court complex in Chennai and Vizag and Kochi ports have been carried out. Places like the Sulur Air Base, the Naval detachment in Karaikal, naval installations located in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were on the pipeline. But, by then the spies have been arrested. Going by the confessions of the arrestees, information gathering was meant for planning a terror attack. The first ever terror attack in Chennai in May this year is not unconnected to the larger ISI plot.
Meeting the Challenge: What is required?
Whoever has been arrested is only a tip of the iceberg. It is important to find out how many more spies are on the prowl. This requires a thorough review and revamping of counter-intelligence capabilities of India. Counter-intelligence continues to be a weak spot in the Indian intelligence infrastructure. It is important to develop a totally different set of intelligence capabilities to cater to rapidly changing threat environment. This needs to be done at several levels—from training modules to doctrines to equipment to motivation. Intelligence at the state level requires modernisation. Human intelligence (HUMINT) requires more attention than just technical intelligence (TECHINT). Not the least, the intelligence flow has to be both ways: from the Centre to States and vice versa.

AQIS claims plot to strike US warships was executed by Pakistani Navy officers

By BILL ROGGIO September 17,2014
Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) claimed that Pakistani Navy officers were involved in the failed attempt to hijack a Pakistani warship and launch missiles at US Navy vessels in the Indian Ocean.
AQIS' spokesman, Usama Mahmoud, made the claim today in a statement released on his Twitter account. Mahmoud's statement was obtained by the SITE Intelligence Group.
Mahmoud had previously claimed on Sept. 13 that AQIS executed the attack on the Pakistani warship, and published a diagram purporting to show the layout of the PNS Zulfiqar. He said that the attackers had planned to take control of the PNS Zulfiqar and launch missiles at US warships in the Indian Ocean. The PNS Zulfiqar carries at least eight C-802 surface to surface anti-ship missiles. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent claims 2 attacks in Pakistan.]
In today's statement, Mahmoud accuses the Pakistani military and media outlets of attempting "to deliberately cover up the truth of this operation and the nature of its objectives," according to SITE. "In an obvious attempt to deceive the world, the official spokesmen for the army and navy portrayed the attack as targeting the Pakistani Navy alone, and its arsenal in the city of Karachi in particular."
But Mahmoud says the "true objective of the operation ... is the American naval fleet that is stationed in the Indian Ocean."
The AQIS spokesman denied that the Sept. 6 assault on the PNS Zulfiqar at the naval base in Karachi was carried out by "intruders," and instead said that Pakistani naval "officers" executed the attack.
"The official Pakistani story alleged that the attackers were merely a group of intruders that breached a military institution of the Pakistani Navy, and broke in from outside," Mahmoud says. "However, all the participants in this fearless operation were officers serving in the ranks of the Pakistani Navy."
The naval officers, Mahmoud claims, "responded to the appeal of the scholars and jihad and joined the ranks of the mujahideen."
Mahmoud described the officers' involvement in the attack as a "rebellion" and not just an attempt to strike at the US.
"Therefore, this operation does not represent an attack on the Americans alone, but it is a rebellion against the Pakistani Navy by its own elements, striking the policy of humiliation and subjugation to America, which the Satanic alliance - represented in the Americanized generals, selfish politicians, and corrupt government employees - imposes," Mahmoud says.
Mahmoud goes on to explain AQIS' "reasons for targeting America." The reasons are standard for al Qaeda, and include the US' perceived war on Islam, and America's support for Israel, Muslim countries, and "secular movements."
The US Navy was chosen as a target because "through its naval military superiority, America is able to control ours straits, our channels, and our waters, and loot the fortunes of our Ummah [Muslim community]," Mahmoud says.
Reports of collusion within Pakistani Navy
While Mahmoud's claim that Pakistani naval officers executed the attack on the PNS Zulfiqar cannot be proven, Pakistani officials and press reports indicate that at least some of the attackers are members of the Pakistani military.
Khawaja Asif, Pakistan's Defense Minister, said that "some of the navy staff of commissioned ranks and some outsiders" were involved in the attack, according to Dawn.
The Nation reported that a former naval officer known as Awais Jakhrani was killed during the attack. Jakhrani, the son of a Karachi Police Assistant Inspector General, had "links with [a] banned organization."
Additionally, three "Navy officials" were arrested in Quetta in Baluchistan while trying to flee to Afghanistan.
Pakistan's Navy has long been thought to be infiltrated by al Qaeda. In late May 2011, Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad wrote an article in the Asia Times on the jihadist attack on Pakistan Naval Base Mehran in Karachi. That attack was carried out by Brigade 313, a unit led by al Qaeda and Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami leader Ilyas Kashmiri. In his article, Shahzad noted that Pakistani officials had begun investigating jihadist "groupings" within the Navy in the spring of 2011 and discovered a "sizeable al Qaeda infiltration within the navy's ranks."
After military officials detained and interrogated suspected jihadist infiltrators, al Qaeda threatened to launch attacks against military bases. The Pakistani military opened negotiations with al Qaeda, which ultimately failed. Then Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces in Abbottabad on May 1, 2011. Al Qaeda and allied Pakistani jihadists decided to take revenge, obtaining detailed information on Mehran from their Navy infiltrators.
"Within a week, insiders at PNS Mehran provided maps, pictures of different exit and entry routes taken in daylight and at night, the location of hangers and details of likely reaction from external security forces," Shahzad wrote.
Shahzad's article, which was published on May 27, 2011, is widely believed to have resulted in his murder at the hands of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. He was kidnapped and murdered just two days after it was published.
Read more:

Pakistan : Former President Zardari condemns the killing of Professor Dr. Shakil Ouj
Co-Chairman Pakistan People Party former President Asif Ali Zardari strongly condemned the killing of Karachi University Professor Dr. Shakil Ouj and expressed deep sorrow and grief over this heinous crime. He condoled with the bereaved family and asked law enforcing agencies to arrest the killers and bring them to book.

Bilawal Bhutto - '' Forget Altaf and focus on floods ''

Strictly directing them to zoom in on the relief work in the areas devastated by the super-floods, Chairperson, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Bilawal Bhutto Zardari forbade his party lawmakers from wasting their energies in countering Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader, Altaf Hussain's assault on his character.
"You should not be distracted by the provocative statements and focus 100% on the relief and rescue operations in the aftermath of flooding in the province," a message posted on Bilawal's Twitter handle quoted him as saying.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

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Bahrain activist Maryam al-Khawaja released

Authorities in Bahrain have released Shia political activist Maryam Abdulhadi al-Khawaja but the charges against her still stand, the Gulf state's interior ministry said in a statement.
Al-Khawaja, arrested after arriving at Manama airport last month and accused of assaulting a police officer, was released dependent on a guarantee of her place of residence and is banned from travelling, Thursday's statement said.
"The lawyer of the accused requested her release after she was arrested on charges of assaulting a female officer and a policewoman at the Bahrain International Airport on August 30," the statement said.
If convicted, al-Khawaja can spend several years in prison. She denies all accustions, and confirmed upon her release that she will not stop speaking out against human rights violations in the kingdom.
"Before leaving prison, I informed them that I will continue my human rights work," al-Khawaja said on her Twitter account.
Al-Khawaja, a director of the Beirut-based Gulf Centre for Human Rights, also holds Danish citizenship and is a daughter of jailed Shia opposition icon Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. The family played a pivotal role in anti-government protests in 2011 and in sporadic anti-government protests that followed. The father is on a hungerstrike to protest his arrest since 2011 for his peaceful role in the upheaval.
In 2011, Bahrain was caught up in the so-called "Arab Spring" and thousands of protesters from the country's Shia majority sought to topple the ruling Sunni Muslim Al-Khalifa dynasty.
Earlier on Thursday, more than 150 civil society organisations from more than 60 countries called on King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa to immediately and unconditionally release Al-Khawaja.
Life imprisonement
The signatories to the letter also urged the Bahraini ruler to release imprisoned human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience and cease all undue and unwarranted restrictions on civil society activism.
Since the 2011 protests, dozens of Bahraini Shia have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms after being convicted of involvement in violent protests.
Before al-Khawaja's release, a Bahraini court has handed down a punishment of life inprisonment to 14 Shia protesters after they were convicted of attempted murder of policemen. The defendents were found guilty of participating in unauthorized protests, and detonating an improvised explosive device during a 2013 anti-government protest, AFP quoted an unnamed judicial source as saying. Several policemen were wounded, some seriously, at the incident.
"If the international community could secure my release, that gives me hope that we can do the same for the thousands of political prisoners," al-Khawaja tweeted following her release.

Under the unofficial rules governing Saudi Arabia’s strict fundamentalist society, women are forbidden from driving automobiles. Although the Quran, which is the basis for Saudi laws, could not possibly address such a subject, as it was written well over one thousand years ago, most Saudi clerics have determined that women driving automobiles is haram (forbidden). Saudi Arabia’s unofficial religious policemen (Haia) have taken it upon themselves to enforce this primitive custom. This week, Aliyah Al Farid was pulled over by police and fined after driving herself to the hospital for a medical emergency. Well aware of Saudi Arabia’s mandates against women driving, she said that there was no one around the house to drive her to the ER, so she took it upon herself to get behind the wheel. Al Farid is a human rights activist who has in the past tried to expose Saudi Arabia for its barbaric treatment against women. She said of the incident, “I told the traffic officers that I had to drive because it was an emergency case. I didn’t do it on purpose and I’m not after fame or media hype. I was very sick and that was it.” “We can’t leave an epileptic patient convulsing on the ground while waiting for our male driver to come and transport him to the hospital,” she added. “I have to get behind the steering wheel to do it.” Not only are women forbidden from driving cars, they must also receive permission from a mahram (close male relative such as a son or husband) simply to be able to travel outside the boundaries of their home. According to Saudi Arabia’s Muhammad Saalih Al-Munajjid, a well-respected cleric in the Islamic world, women should not be allowed to drive for the following reasons:
1. Driving the car necessitates that women remove the niqab, which covers the face. Women must wear the niqab in Saudi Arabia, mostly for fear of punishment should the religious police see them without full cover. The niqab is a black full-body cloth with a thin slot for the eyes.
2. Driving requires women to leave the house, “but their homes are better for them.”
3. They lose their modesty, so it protects them from “fitnah” (temptations).
4. Divorced women will be able to go wherever they want.
5. It is a means of “rebellion.”
6. She may cause an “immoral man” to “take advantage of her in return for helping her” if her car breaks down.
7. It will lead to “overcrowding in the streets.”
8. Women won’t be able to stop buying new fashion items because women“by their nature--like to make themselves look good with clothing etc,” and they will keep buying new cars “whenever a new model appears.”

Video Report : US welcomes news France to join Iraq air strikes

Video Report : Too close to call: Scotland referendum polls close - world waits

Scots independence polls close, UK's future in the balance

Scotland has voted on whether to stay within the United Kingdom or declare independence to break the 307-year-old union in a finely balanced referendum with global consequences.
Scotland's verdict on the union should be clear around breakfast time on Friday, but a YouGov poll of 1,828 voters previously polled indicated 54 percent of Scots would back the union while 46 percent would seek independence.
"This YouGov poll indicates the union has prevailed," YouGov research manager Laurence Janta-Lipinski told Reuters of the survey carried out on Thursday which was not an exit poll. "It looks like the union will remain intact for the time being."
Polling booths closed at 2100 GMT from remote highlands and islands to the tough city estates of Glasgow with surveys suggesting Scots were almost equally divided in a vote watched closely by Britain's allies, investors and restive regions at home and abroad.
Recent opinion polls gave the "No" campaign - those in favor of remaining in the United Kingdom - a slight edge. But as many as 600,000 people undecided up to the last moment held the key.
The final poll of polls by the non-partisan “What Scotland Thinks” website, put the No campaign on 52 percent, the Yes camp on 48. That measure has never given the independence campaign a lead despite a sharp narrowing in recent weeks.
The gap is sufficiently close that if the pollsters have got it marginally wrong, Scotland could go its own way.
Financial markets lodged a raft of late bets that Scots would reject independence, pushing the pound and Scottish-based stocks higher in the final hours of polling.
Analysts say that means there will be a far more dramatic market reaction to a “Yes” vote than if Scotland opts to stay part of the United Kingdom.
French President Francois Hollande said the vote would be decisive for Europe as well as Britain. "After half a century of building Europe, we risk entering a period of deconstruction," he said on Thursday.
Those in favor say such fears are overblown. They say Scots, not politicians in London should rule Scotland and see a bright future for an independent Scotland in Europe, a fairer society and strong ties with London.
Those opposed say a split would slow economic growth, diminish the United Kingdom's international standing, threaten the unity of other countries and tip the balance in favor of people who want Britain to leave the European Union.
Many people see the choice, which has divided families and friends but also electrified a country of 5.3 million, as one of hearts versus heads.
Tennis star Andy Murray sent a powerful last-minute message in support of the pro-independence "Yes" vote, tweeting "Let's do this".
Alex Salmond, the 59-year-old nationalist leader, told hundreds of supporters in Perth at a final rally: "This is our opportunity of a lifetime and we must seize it with both hands."
Salmond has said Queen Elizabeth should stay on as Queen of Scots. She has remained above the fray, in keeping with the constitution, but said on Sunday she hoped Scots would choose "carefully".
Electoral officials said the result will be announced around sunrise on Friday when all regional votes have been submitted. But partial results will give a strong indication after the count of cities such as Glasgow are declared around 0400 GMT. With more than 486,000 voters, Glasgow is crucial. Edinburgh and Aberdeen, which with Glasgow make up nearly a quarter of the electorate, are also expected around about that time.
Some currency traders in London prepared to stay up all night to buy or sell sterling on the result.
The prospect of breaking up the United Kingdom, the world's sixth-largest economy and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, has prompted citizens and allies alike to question what would be left, while the financiers of the City of London have warned of market turmoil.
British politicians, banks and businessmen have closed ranks to warn of economic hardship, job losses and investment flight should Scots decide to go it alone.
Defense would also be a big question. Britain's submarine-borne nuclear arsenal, part of NATO's defenses, is based in Scotland's Firth of Clyde and the nationalists want it gone.
The United States has made clear it wants the United Kingdom, its main ally in Europe, to remain together.
"The UK is an extraordinary partner for America and a force for good in an unstable world. I hope it remains strong, robust and united," U.S. President Barack Obama said.
Facing the biggest internal threat to the UK since Ireland broke away nearly a century ago, Prime Minister David Cameron will inevitably face calls for his head should he lose Scotland.
Salmond has employed a mix of shrewd calculation and nationalist passion to haul the "Yes" campaign from far behind to within a whisker of winning his dream of an independent Scotland.
The 47-year-old Cameron has conceded his privileged English background and Conservative politics mean he is not the best person to win over Scots, although he has made emotional appeals for Scotland to stay in Britain's "family of nations".
That has left the leadership of the unionist case to the opposition Labour party, the only party with the local support capable of checking the secessionist Scottish National Party.
Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a Scot who has in recent days led the battle cry for the union, warned Scots on Wednesday that Salmond was "leading us into a trap".
"Say to your friends, for reasons of solidarity, sharing, pride in Scotland, the only answer is vote 'No'," an emotional Brown thundered, fists clenched, to cheers from unionist supporters.
In the event of a vote for independence, 18 months have been inked in to decide the terms of separation but there is no agreement on key issues such as whether Scotland could retain the pound and how to carve up North Sea oil revenues.
European leaders have warned that an independent Scotland would have to apply to rejoin the European Union and could face resistance. Spain has been especially vocal, fearing it would further inspire separatists in Catalonia and the Basque Country.
Scotland says it will use the pound after independence, but London has ruled out a formal currency union.
Salmond has accused London of orchestrating business leaders to spook Scots after firms from oil giant BP to financial services group Standard Life cautioned about the risks of independence and banks said they would move south.
To blunt Salmond's argument for breaking away, Britain's rulers promised to guarantee Scotland high levels of state funding and grant Scots greater control over finances.
That pledge has angered Westminster lawmakers.
British leaders accept that whichever way the vote goes, the United Kingdom's structure will have to change, as granting more powers to Scotland will provoke calls for a less centralized state from voters in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Pakistan: Disaster management PML-N style

Of the seven major floods that brought large scale destruction in 1955, 1973, 1976, 1988, 1992, 2010 and 2011, one occurred when the PML-N was holding power at the centre and three when it ruled Punjab. One had expected that the government would have, by this time, prepared a proper strategy to deal with the disaster.
The PML-N leadership only wakes up to a problem after the worst has happened. There was absolutely no homework or planning when the over flooded Chenab entered the plains of Punjab.
The government was duly forewarned about the devastation that could take place. Hazrat Mir, Director General Met Office, recently told media that “Last month, we warned authorities of heavy rains during the first week of September and said that it would be “an extreme event”. Had they taken adequate measures in time, the devastation could have been prevented to some extent.”
Strengthening the organisations related to flood control, or undertaking planning and formulating SOPs enjoy no priority with the Sharifs. When the disaster occurs, they run around helplessly and end up treating it as a God sent opportunity for self- projection.
The party leadership’s kneejerk reaction after every disaster or tragic happening is to take out wads of money and distribute them among those affected under the glare of TV cameras. It thinks that by doing this it has performed its duty. The rape victims are offered money while little is done to stop the widespread incidence of the heinous crime by improving the police system or going for deterring legislation. The roof of a mosque collapses in Lahore because of substandard construction. No action is taken to enforce construction regulations. Shahbaz Sharif appears at the scene with the camera team and orders paying Rs200,000 to the immediate relatives of those killed. The compensation differs from place to place depending on the mood of the chief minister.
After police brutality in Model Town that deprived 14 PAT activists of their lives, the chief minister announced compensation of Rs3 million each for the heirs of those who died. No one was meanwhile arrested for ordering the firing. The underlying assumption is that the victims or their relatives would forget the atrocity after receiving the money. Thus state exchequer must bear the burden of the government’s gross mismanagement.
The PML-N leadership is again trying to make political use of the floods as it did in 1992, 2010, and 2011. When Nawaz Sharif visited Rawalakot and Forward Kahuta to meet the flood victims he made sure he was carrying the cheque book with him. He also ensured media presence when he handed over the cheques. A more judicious way to provide financial help could have been by fixing the amount of compensation for various categories of losses and send the cheques by post. Among other things this would save the recipients from the humiliation of waiting long for the prime minister and receiving the money in public. But this would have deprived Nawaz Sharif of publicity. T
he relief is offered by the PML-N almost as alms that must be delivered by hand. In 2010 Shahbaz Sharif would personally toss food packets from the helicopter to the marooned people while TV cameras showed the display of the philanthropy. Personal delivery not only provides projection as a leader who cares for the people but is also supposed to ensure greater reward hereafter for the virtuous act.
The PML-N leaders act like emperors while dispensing relief. The chief minister visits a flood affected area where people are complaining of neglect by the government. He instantly decides what one of the flood victim deserves. Shahbaz Sharif spent 10 hours on a single day visiting Jhang, Chiniot, Wazirabad and Sargodha. He travelled by boat to selected places and personally distributed food items and relief goods. At Midh Ranjha he gave a cheque of Rs6 lakh to the father of a young man who had lost life as a result of the natural calamity. Scores of young men have died in the floods. Why this case alone deserved the particular amount while others were given far less or altogether denied compensation is known only to the emperor.
The PML-N government made little preparations for dealing with the floods. Many are wondering why the present calamity was not better predicted, flood warnings were not issued with more urgency, and mitigation measures not undertaken speedily.
Adhocism, the hallmark of PML-N’s style of governance, was the major reason. The water and power ministry has to take the lead in putting the flood relief agencies into action. The minister simultaneously holds two portfolios, that of water and power and of defence, each requiring a full time minister. Fourteen months in power and the prime minister has yet to appoint a water and power minister who is required solely to look after the job. Human tragedies and national losses are bound to take place due to negligence caused by adhocism.
The Federal Flood Commission (FFC), under the ministry of water and power, has to play a key role in flood control. It is responsible for integrated planning for flood control at the national level and arranges financial resources for the implementation of flood management projects on countrywide basis. The flood communication cell of FFC is required to remain in operation on round-the-clock basis for the entire flood season (July-October) and a flood situation report is to be issued on daily basis to all concerned. A meeting of the flood control committee was told last week that the FFC issued a daily flood situation report early in the morning, but did not update it until the next day. In the past, a flood control centre worked round the clock and issued latest updates.
Adhocism rules supreme in the FFC also. Two years back its chairman was simultaneously holding two posts. He was the chief of FFC and also chairman IRSA. Currently, besides being the chairman FCC, he also holds the office of CEO Alternate Energy Development Board. There is no shortage of competent people in the country but the top positions in over a score of federal government corporations and autonomous bodies remain without permanent chiefs. Despite the floods becoming a regular feature in the country the PML-N did not care to appoint a full time flood commissioner.
The National Disaster Management Commission (NDMC), which is supposed to formulate a unified national disaster response plan, has not met since 2012. A 10-year plan formulated at the last NDMC meeting in the wake of the 2010-2011 floods, aimed at improving the country’s capacity to cope with future disasters, has yet to be ratified because the body has not met since. Also, district disaster management authorities have not been activated as yet because they are being run without permanent heads and staff.
As the floods play havoc in AJK, KP and Punjab, the federal agencies supposed to jointly manage the disaster are blaming each other for whatever goes wrong. The rapid filling of Mangla Dam has been questioned, so is the poor coordination among the flood protection agencies as well as acting on ‘unreliable’ information about flood data supposedly provided by India. The exercise is bound to create the perception that there is something wrong with the working of the government, which cannot make the agencies tasked to mitigate the ravages of nature perform their duties honestly.
The sole function of the PML-N government is to commiserate with tens of thousands of flood victims who have lost all that they had on account of its incompetence.

Pakistan: FLOODS - A Flood Of Excuses

In ancient times, when a war was lost, or a famine ravaged the land, the kings would blame it on the gods and their capricious favour and that would have been the end of that. Unfortunately for Mr Nawaz Sharif, times have changed; now we can scientifically analyse heaps of data and can pinpoint why something went wrong. It is becoming increasingly clear that sheer ineptitude, apathy and laziness has significantly contributed to the magnitude of the floods. The Meteorological Office of Pakistan issued warnings of medium to high level flooding in Ravi and Chenab as early as 14th August. Despite repeated warnings, neither the Ministry of Water and Power nor the Indus River System Authority felt the need to react. IRSA, up till 5th September, continued to operate the dams normally and not under flood protocol. Had the stored water been released from these dams earlier, there would not have been a massive surge that is now sweeping through the land. These are hard, cold facts; these conclusions are based on data taken from the state’s own departments, yet the Prime Minster continues to pretend that nobody in government knows what happened. The much bandied around fact that Indian Kashmir was flooded as well, does not prove that this was an unpreventable, across the board phenomena; a cursory examination proves India too is at fault.
The government needs to own up to its failings. Pakistan suffers from almost annual flooding, not having built enough dams and chronic departmental failings. If we refuse to even admit that there is a problem, how do we begin addressing it? If we continue to maintain that the floods are caused by events beyond our control, how do we generate the political impetus to build the Kalabagh dam or any other project? The government needs to care a little bit less about its own skin and perhaps a tad bit more about the people’s.
This is not the only problem; elements such as Hafiz Saeed, leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, are stoking hatred by pinning the blame on India. These notorious organisations are sweeping the affected areas providing relief and then filling those grateful ears with tales of how India uses its dams upstream to practice ‘water terrorism’ by releasing huge amounts of water into Pakistan. With no official explanation provided to contradict these claims, coupled with a deep seated suspicion of India, people are easily convinced, and the very real, ongoing discourse regarding Indian water aggression is damaged by dubious spokespeople. The dire circumstances the affectees are facing, along with propaganda, is a recipe for minting radicals. We need the state to own up, to officially provide an explanation. Not only because it is practically necessary but also because the state owes it to the thousands whose lives and livelihoods have been destroyed.

Pakistan - Growing terrorist threat

Cross-border attacks, denials of Pakistani involvement in terrorism in Afghanistan, and an operation against tribal area militants; these are familiar tropes in Pakistan’s news cycle. On the surface they appear ordinary by now. On Tuesday a group of militants from Afghanistan attacked a Frontier Constabulary (FC) border post in North Waziristan (NW). Reports say 11 militants were killed and one captured, while three FC men died. On the same day the military said it had killed 23 terrorists in airstrikes in Khyber Agency.
The number of terrorists killed in the operation is now over 1,000 and military losses number near 100, according to recent ISPR statements. The ten-to-one ratio again appears positive, but when one considers the bulk of militants have escaped to other Agencies or across the border, these numbers come into perspective. This fight has not been easy or less costly despite the armed forces’ critical access to airpower and overwhelming ground support when needed. At the same time apparently random incidents of terrorism continue around the country. Karachi police yesterday killed seven terrorists in Sohrab Goth, which has long been a haven for drug and weapons smuggling. Police repelled an attack on a check post in Swabi by 12 militants; no casualties were reported after the militants melted away. The nature of these and other attacks over the summer indicate militant attempts to probe defensive preparedness. They are getting ready to go on the offensive when NATO leaves. Yet the military is still trumpeting victory. Yesterday 40 militants were reportedly killed in airstrikes in NW, while the ‘turning’ of former Punjabi Taliban chief Asmatullah Muawiya is being hailed as a sign of Zarb-e-Azb’s success.
However, Muawiya’s statement that he will continue fighting in Afghanistan indicates that the policy of trying to differentiate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ militants that infuriated the US and Afghanistan is continuing. Pakistan’s sponsorship of religious extremist proxy groups is an open secret. We have used them in Kashmir and Afghanistan in pursuit of strategic goals that would have been better served using sound diplomatic strategy. After our use of proxies was exposed, it destroyed whatever diplomatic credibility and capital the country had. Afghanistan again levelled the accusation on Tuesday, which the Foreign Office (FO) rejected with ‘dismay’. Since Muawiya’s case substantiates Afghan claims, the FO’s ‘dismay’ seems filled with rank disingenuousness. What is more troubling about Muawiya is that he, like many terrorists, has switched sides before. The Taliban too were effectively out of Pakistani control by 9/11. There is no guarantee that proxies used today will not do the same if they achieve success in Afghanistan. Unlike an elected Afghan government, they will not adhere to the system of international law. It would be far wiser to work above board with a government in Afghanistan that may become friendly if we help it, than to rely on proxies whose ideological proclivities will eventually turn them against us and towards pan-Islamic radical groups like the Islamic State.

Pakistan's Shia Genocide : KU Islamic Studies Dean Dr Auj Killed After Madrassah Issued A Fatwa
Pro-Taliban and pro-ISIL Takfiri terrorists today shot and killed Dean of Islamic Studies at the University of Karachi Professor Dr Shakeel Auj in Gulshan-e-Iqbal area of Karachi after after a Madrassah issued a fatwa relating to alleged blasphemy against Dr Auj.
According to reports, Dr Shakeel Auj was critically injured when four takfiri terrorists assailants ambushed his car near Baitul Mukarram Mosque in Gulshan-e-Iqbal area. He was rushed to Agha Khan Hospital but succumbed to his injuries.
He was accompanied by Professor Dr Tahir Masood when he was attacked and was on his way to Khana-e-Farhang to attend a ceremony organized to honor him. Fortunately, Dr Tahir Masood remained safe during the incident and shifted his injured colleague to the hospital who couldn’t survive the attack.
It is pertinent to mention that the government of Pakistan had recently announced to honor both the scholars with the second highest civilian award, Hilal-e-Imtiaz. According to reports, Dr Auj was shot three times in the neck and chest.
Top police official, SSP Pir Mohammad Shah told BBCUrdu that a madrassah in Karachi had issued a fatwa relating to alleged blasphemy against Dr Auj.
The SSP added that following the fatwa, a message declaring the professor as ‘wajibul qatl’ (liable to be killed) was made public via SMS messages. Taking notice of the incident, Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad has ordered Inspector General of Sindh Police Ghulam Hyder Jamali to submit a report on the incident.
As news of Dr Auj’s death was confirmed, it was announced that Karachi University would remain closed for three days.
Dr Mohammad Shakeel Auj was an author, a professor and dean at Karachi University’s faculty of Islamic Studies. He also used to edit Al-Tafseer — an HEC-recognised research journal on Islamic Studies.
He has been associated with KU for 19 years and had been heading the Islamic Studies department since February 1, 2012. According to the university’s website, Dr Auj has written 15 books.

Video Report - Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari visits flood affected areas of Punjab

Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari visits... by maleeha-manzoor-9

Bangladesh empowers parliament to impeach judges

Bangladesh s parliament now has the authority to impeach Supreme Court judges after lawmakers late Wednesday voted to approve a much-debated amendment to the constitution.
The amendment passed unanimously in a voice vote of 327-0, with support coming from the ruling Awami League.
Critics of the amendment, including senior jurists, said it was a thinly veiled way for the ruling party to keep the judiciary under control. But Law Minister Anisul Hoque, who proposed the change, said the amendment allows parliament to impeach judges on grounds of "misbehavior or incapacity."
Previously a council of senior judges led by the chief justice was assigned to deal with any case of misconduct by judges. Bangladesh s judiciary, often riddled with corruption, enjoys relative freedom but the appointment of senior judges is often influenced by authorities. Major opposition parties opposed the government s move to amend the constitution, saying authorities will systematically influence the judiciary, especially when it comes to politically sensitive cases.
The law minister has denied the allegation and said with the changes will not undermine the judiciary s independence. Clashes between the government and judiciary are rare in Bangladesh, although recently Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina criticized two judges for a ruling that asked authorities to arrest members of an elite law enforcement agency to face murder charges in the death of seven people in a single incident.
Sheikh Hasina s Awami League has three-fourths of the seats in the parliament. A two-thirds majority is needed to pass any bill.

Pakistan: Bilawal Bhutto visits Sukkur to review flood situation

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari visited the embankments at Sukkur Barrage to review the flood situation on Thursday, Dunya News reported. Bilawal Bhutto was briefed about the flood risk in the province of Sindh.
Panicked at the devastation caused by massive floods in Punjab, Bilawal Bhutto reviewed the situation at the Sukkur Barrage to take precautionary measures, in case of floods. He was accompanied by Shery Rehman, CM Sindh Qaim Ali Shah, Syed Awais Muzafar, provincial ministers and Chairman National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Major General Said Aleem.
Bilawal Bhutto closely assessed River Sindh and parts of the Sukkur barrage. Babur Afandi secretary Irrigation briefed Bilawal about the flood situation in Sindh. He told that the risk of a high flood in River Sindh has lessened, however, low-level flood tides are raging from both Sukkur and Guddu barrage. He informed that the precautionary measures have already been taken against floods after 75 villages have been inundated near the Kashmore-Kandhkot district.
Forty-five embankments have been termed as sensitive. The dykes in Larkana can also be considered sensitive in case a high flood hits the nearby areas. The Irrigation Secretary said that rural areas including Kashmore, Kandhkot, Shikarpur, Sukkur, Khairpur, Naushero Feroze are at a higher risk of damage caused by floods, therefore people have been asked to shift to safer places. On this occasion, Chairman NDMA Major General Aleem, talking to the media also said that currently the flood situation has been brought under control through strict protective measures in Sindh.

Pakistan: Bilawal Bhutto visits Chiniot meets flood victims

Pakistan Peoples Party chairperson Bilawal Bhutto on Thursday visitedChiniot and distributed food items among flood victims. He was accompanied by Opposition Leader in National Assembly Khurshid Shah, former information minister Qamar Zaman Qaira, Manzor Watto and others. Addressing to politicians, Bilawal Bhutto said it is not the time to make political statements but to concentrate on flood affected people. He asked MNAs and MPAs to visited their respective constituencies and addressed their needs. He also called on Chief Minsiter Sindh Qaim Ali Shah to make comprehensive strategy to address flood victims problems.

China - India - Xi visits Modi's home state, extends birthday wishes

Wearing traditional Indian vest presented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Modi's home state of Gujarat Wednesday, and extended wishes to his 64th birthday.
Both leaders called for advancing bilateral ties "step by step" and "inch by inch" in their second meeting in about two months. The two met in July in Brazil at a summit of the emerging-market bloc of BRICS.
"I am very delighted to come to your home state as soon as I land on the Indian soil," Xi told Modi in a brief meeting shortly after he arrived in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat Wednesday afternoon.
"This is where eminent Chinese monk Xuan Zang went by during his trip to India to seek Buddhist scriptures in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), and thus enjoys a special position in the long history of friendly exchanges between our two countries," he said.
China and India are important neighbors to each other, Xi said, noting that both are ancient civilizations and large developing countries, and are committed to development and national rejuvenation.
The two countries should respect each other, learn from each other, build good-neighborly and friendly relations, and go forward hand in hand, the Chinese president said.
"My visit is a trip of friendship and cooperation. Thank you for specially coming here to accompany me in visiting your hometown," Xi told Modi, who had served as chief minister of Gujarat for over a decade before becoming India's prime minister in May.
It is Xi's first trip to India since he took office in March 2013, and also the first state visit in eight years by a Chinese president to the country.
Citing an ancient Chinese famous line "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," Xi called for a down-to-earth and persistent manner to press ahead with the China-India relations.
"I would like to make concerted efforts with you to accomplish this mission," Xi said.
For his part, Modi said the people in Gujarat felt very honored as President Xi started the India visit from his home state.
Recalling their first meeting in Brazil, Modi said he and Xi had very good talks and he shared Xi's feeling that the meeting was like between "old friends."
The prime minister said his remarks that China and India are one mind with two bodies are widely circulated in India, as the two countries share the same aspiration for development and have every reason to strengthen cooperation.
To welcome President Xi's visit to India, Modi said, he wrote an article for Indian newspapers, describing the potential of India-China ties as "INCH (India and China) towards MILES (Millennium of Exceptional Synergy)."
In the presence of the two leaders, China and India clinched the deals of setting up an industrial park in India focused on building power transmission equipment, and establishing sister province-state relations between China's Guangdong and Gujarat and sister city relations between China's Guangzhou and Ahmedabad.
Also Wednesday afternoon, Modi accompanied Xi's visit to the former residence of Mahatma Gandhi, leader of India's national independence movement.
Xi pointed out that the Chinese and Indian peoples sympathized with and supported each other and forged profound friendship in the fight against colonialism for national independence, stressing that "we must carry forward the friendship."
As they walked along the Sabarmati River in the city, Modi briefed Xi on the Sabarmati riverfront development project, saying it is the largest shantytown renovation project in India.
Modi and Xi celebrated the prime minister's 64th birthday together, which Modi said was very meaningful and unforgettable.
India is the last stop of Xi's four-nation tour in Central and South Asia, which has already taken him to Tajikistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka. In Tajikistan, he also attended a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

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Video News : Scotland Goes to the Polls for Independence Vote

Video - 'Yes' campaign leader Salmond votes in independence referendum

#voteYes for a better future for #Scotland

#YesScotland - Tennis player Andy Murray has declared his support for the Yes campaign

The Scot had previously remained silent on the issue, but posted a message on Twitter just hours ahead of the polls opening, to state his position.
He tweeted: "Huge day for Scotland today! no campaign negativity last few days totally swayed my view on it. excited to see the outcome. lets do this!"
The Wimbledon champion has been quizzed on the issue previously but dodged the question, although in an interview in June he did criticise Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond for waving the country's flag at the tournament last year.
Murray will not have a vote as he is not currently resident in Scotland, but he has generally been seen as a firm Scottish nationalist - drumming up controversy in 2006 when he said he would support "anyone but England" in the World Cup.
Last month he told the Guardian that he did not think it looked likely the result would be a Yes, but he added that his preference would be to represent Scotland if the country became independent.
"If Scotland became independent, then I imagine I would be playing for Scotland," he told the newspaper.
"I haven't thought that much about that yet because I don't think it's looking too likely that it's going to happen. But if it did happen, then it would be pretty much the first time in my life that I would have ever (had the chance to play for Scotland)."
He added that he did not like making his views on politics known as previous comments had "caused me a headache ... and a lot of abuse".

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Video - Global independence activists pledge support for Scotland

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Video Report : Kerry: Fight against IS group not a repeat of Gulf, Iraq wars

Video - UK: 'Yes' campaigners rally outside Scottish Parliament

#VoteYes - #Scotland’s Moment of Destiny

On Thursday, my country, Scotland, decides whether to remain a part of the United Kingdom or go it alone as an independent sovereign nation. I have been a vocal advocate of the Yes campaign, and spoke at its start in Edinburgh in May 2012.
Last week, during a brief break from appearing in “Cabaret” on Broadway in New York, I flew to Glasgow to do some last-minute campaigning. The day I arrived, the Yes campaign had taken the lead in a major poll; the outcome is now too close to call. The atmosphere is extraordinary. The whole country is engaged as never before.
There has never been anything so politically important to me. I enthusiastically became an American citizen because I wanted to vote in elections here, but even that pales in comparison to my passion for Scotland’s voting to control its own future.
I wasn’t the only one who felt compelled to speak. Last weekend, Queen Elizabeth II admonished Scots to “think very carefully” about the decision we have to make.
Did you think we needed telling, ma’am?
This is unfortunately emblematic: Scots feel they’ve been patronized and disrespected for far too long, not just by the monarchy, but by other institutions like the BBC and the Westminster government.
This is not about hating the English. It is about democracy and self-determination. Scotland is weary of being ruled by governments it did not vote for. The Conservative Party has virtually no democratic mandate in Scotland, yet too often, Scotland has been ruled by a draconian Tory government from London.
In 1997, Labour held a promised referendum on whether Scotland should have its own Parliament. The country voted overwhelmingly Yes. In 1998, the Scotland Act made devolution a reality — the opportunity, though circumscribed, for Scotland to make its own decisions and define for itself what it truly valued.
Sixteen years on, the differences between the basic tenets of Scotland and those of its southern neighbors are palpable: Unlike the rest of Britain, Scots still enjoy free higher education and free medical prescriptions. Even as parts of the National Health Service south of the border have been dismantled or privatized, Scotland’s is still intact and prized. There is an exceptional commitment to the arts, too — most visibly with the formation of the National Theater of Scotland.
The most striking achievement of devolution has been the change in people’s confidence and spirit I’ve seen on visits home. We no longer feel at the mercy of a privileged elite hundreds of miles away. Now, we want to complete that process and take full charge of our nation’s destiny.
So why don’t all Scots vote Yes? Well, change is hard, and scary. Seeing the use of fear as a political tool, it becomes clear why the country is divided and the polls so close. Scots have been told that an independent Scotland may be denied membership of the European Union; the irony of hearing this from a Westminster government that is seriously considering exiting Europe has not gone unnoticed.
Being told, also, by the leaders of all three main political parties that Scotland cannot use sterling after a Yes vote, for no reason other than spite, smacks of the way many Scots felt that Westminster perceived us all along: stupid and easily bullied. Several major banks threaten to move their operations to England if we vote Yes — but Westminster has put pressure on corporations to talk up anxieties.
Why does the United Kingdom so urgently want to keep us? Obviously, nobody likes being jilted. A Yes vote would represent a crushing rejection of the Westminster political establishment.
The left has tried to emotionally blackmail Scots, telling us that our absence in future general elections would abandon the remainder of the union to indefinite Tory rule. The reality is that every Labour government for decades would have been elected even without the Scottish vote.
The Conservatives know how unpopular their policies are in Scotland, so they limit their exhortations to emotional appeals. Prime Minister David Cameron teared up when he spoke recently of a “painful divorce.” And I thought we were supposed to be the sentimental ones!
Despite all the cant to the contrary, the reality is that Scotland is an economic asset to Britain. Since the 2008 financial crisis, Scotland’s finances have been healthier than the rest of the United Kingdom’s, with relatively higher revenues, lower spending and smaller deficits. Of course, we also have oil, lots of it. And huge potential for renewable energy, besides.
Distilled, the essence of the choice is this: The Yes campaign is about hope for a fairer, more caring and prosperous society; the No campaign says only: better the devil you know. I am an optimist.
Westminster’s leaders, like the rest of the world, may have only just cottoned on, but independence is a step we Scots have been contemplating carefully for a long time. After 16 years of devolution, we don’t need training wheels any more. We can go it alone.

@YesScotland - ‘More than 40 per cent of Labour voters back Yes’

MORE than 40 per cent of Labour voters are backing Scottish independence, Yes Scotland’s chairman Dennis Canavan told a rally in Glasgow today as the two campaigns prepare for the final push in the referendum campaign.
Mr Canavan told a cheering crowd shouting “yes we can” that if the campaign can get 50 per cent of Labour voters then Scotland “will vote for independence”.
He also said that ahigh turnout of voters of more than 80 per cent will ensure victory for independence.
The 200 independence supporters gathered in Buchanan Street also heard from actress Elaine C. Smith that the campaign will focus on “the forgotten communities” of deprived estates Craigmiller and West Pilton in Edinburgh, Easterhouse in Glasgow and Torry in Aberdeen to win the referendum.
Ms Smith said: “It [a Yes victory] will make Scotland a beacon of hope for the rest of the world.
It will show that money is not the only thing that matters.”
With the crowd chaning “hope not fear”, she added: “I don’t want to live in a world where Utopia is not on the map. Even if we don’t reach it let’s lift anchor and set sail.”
Other celebrety backers at the event were Emma Pollock, Martin Compston, Sam Heughan and Ricky Ross.
Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins praised “the biggest grassroots movement in Scottish history” but appeared to concede that Yes might lose the campaign.
He said: “Even if we lose we will have changed Scotland.”
Speaking to journalists after the event Mr Canavan said that “private polling” for the Yes campaign showed that they had got 42 per cent of the Labour vote.
He went on: “If we get at least 50 per cent of Labour voters on our side then we will win and we are approaching that figure now.”
He said that “traditional Labour voters, women voters and people of my age, senior citizens” hold the key for victory.
He also claimed that “seven out of ten previously undecided voters have decided to vote Yes”.Suggesting that a Yes vote could be built in the West of Scotland, he went on: “We are getting a very good response in Glasgow. I have heard that Edinburgh is slightly more problematic.”
But he said that thee key to the campaign was “the abandoned communities”.
He pointed out that when he was first elected as an MP in 1970s turnouts were often more than 80 per cent but now in many constituencies have dropped to less than 50 per cent.
He blamed the poll tax for leading many people to deregister and Labour under Tony Blair for “abandoning traditional Labour values”.
He went on: “There are many people in deprived areas of Scotland who feel let down especially since the advent of Tony Blair. “We are finding now that many of the people in the housing schemes in Scotland are more and more coming on board with the Yes campaign.”
He said he expects a “massive” turnout of “well over 80 per cent” across Scotland “with people who have never voted before”.
He added: “If we get a turnout over well over 80 per cent we will win.” Mr Jenkins was also confident that the campaign to target traditional Labour votes with a message of social justice and fears over the future of the NHS had succeeded. He said: “I am hopeful tomorrow that 50 per cent or more of people who normally vote Labour in Scotland will vote Yes.”

#YesScotland - "Labour values can only continue to exist with a Yes vote"

#YesScotland This is our one opportunity. Let's do this!

#YesScotland - This is our time. Let's do it.

Scotland braces for historic independence vote

The campaign for Scotland's independence referendum went down to the wire on Wednesday ahead of a knife-edge vote that will either see Scotland break away from the United Kingdom or gain sweeping new powers.
The "Yes" and "No" camps mobilised thousands of volunteers to take to the streets across Scotland in a final push to win over undecided voters in a heated debate that has fired up Scots on both sides.
Three new opinion polls suggested a very narrow majority against independence but showed that the undecideds could swing it either way with just hours to go before polls open on Thursday at 0600 GMT.
"I'm really optimistic that if we do have independence, we can start building a society that works for all of us," said 24-year-old Sam Hollick, a "Yes" activist from the Green Party who was campaigning at a stand in Edinburgh blaring a song by Scottish band The Proclaimers. But at a "No" rally in Glasgow, former British prime minister Gordon Brown appealed to Scots' wartime patriotism and said voting against separation would still mean Scotland gaining much greater local power.
"We fought two world wars together," he told hundreds of supporters.
"There's not a cemetery in Europe that doesn't have a Scot, a Welshman, an Irish and an Englishman side by side. When they fought together, they never asked each other where they came from," he said.
'Cool heads'
Differences over whether to support "Yes" or "No" have divided families and lifelong friends and the Church of Scotland on Wednesday called for "a spirit of unity" and "cool heads and calm hearts".
The rise in support for the "Yes" campaign has also sent jitters through the financial markets, helping to bring down the value of the pound and dragging down the stocks of Scotland-based companies.
Scotland's pro-independence First Minister Alex Salmond has dismissed the economic arguments -- including what currency an independent Scotland would use as the Bank of England has ruled out a currency union -- as "scaremongering" by the "No" campaign.
In a letter to the people of Scotland, Salmond urged the electorate to seize its historic chance to end the 307-year-old union with England.
"Wake up on Friday morning to the first day of a better country. Wake up knowing you did this -- you made it happen," Salmond wrote. "It's about taking your country's future into your hands. Don't let this opportunity slip through our fingers. Don't let them tell us we can't. Let's do this."
But Heather Whiteside, a 21-year-old graduate from Glasgow University who came to see Brown at a campaign event in the city said the prospect of a "Yes" victory was "very scary".
"Nationalism is a bad kind of politics, it tries to create artificial barriers between people," she said.
'Torpedo' for Europe
A "Yes" victory would not mean independence overnight but would sound the starting gun on months and possibly years of complex negotiations on separating two deeply linked economic systems.
It could lead to Prime Minister David Cameron's resignation and would embolden other separatist movements around the world. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy weighed in on the debate on Wednesday, branding moves for independence like Spain's Catalonia region a "torpedo" to European integration.
"Everyone in Europe thinks that these processes are hugely negative," financially and economically, Rajoy told the Spanish parliament. All three polls in Wednesday's papers showed that going it alone would be rejected by 52 percent to 48 percent, with undecided voters excluded. But the results were within margins of error and many commentators have said the final outcome is "too close to call" ahead of time. Record numbers have registered for the referendum -- 97 percent of eligible voters -- and turnout is expected to be very high with officials saying it could be around 80 percent.
In Edinburgh, Fatima Somner, a 45-year-old cashier of Moroccan origin married to an Englishman, said she was hoping for a "No" victory.
"People who will vote 'no' are the ones who have money. Poorer people are going to vote 'yes'," she said. "They hope that things will change for the better for them. But it will be the opposite, everything will become more expensive!" But many said they were keen to make a final break with London.
"I've been ruled by Westminster governments for too long," said Frank Evans, a 62-year-old in Glasgow at a "Yes" rally filled with flags -- including one celebrating a famous Scottish victory over the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in the Wars of Independence in 1314.
"I am very confident. Yes, we'll win. I might be having a little bit of a dance in the city to celebrate," he said. Behind him a banner read: "Break the chains, Scotland". - See more at:

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Afghanistan : Female Journalist Killed in Balkh Province

Female journalist Palwasha Tokhi, who worked for Bayan, a local radio in northern Balkh province, was killed inside her home on Tuesday evening.
Tokhi had just returned to Afghanistan after completing her master's degree in Thailand two months ago.
According to Palwasha's father, Mohammad Khalil Tokhi, she was stabbed by unknown men who broke into their house when he was not home. She lost her life at a hospital in Mazar-e-Sharif.
"I don't know the reason behind this incident. We don't have any personal enmity with anyone," he added.
The Northern Journalist Association in Mazar-e-Sharif has strongly condemned the incident.
"We are deeply saddened by the murder of Palwasha Tokhi who worked for Bayan radio for five years," Gulab Shah Bawar, head of Northern Journalists Association in Mazar-e-Sharif, said.
Palwasha is the second journalist killed in Mazar-e-Sharif in the past two months. No one has been arrested in relation to either case yet.