Friday, September 19, 2014
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.
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.
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: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/09/aqis_claims_failed_p.php#ixzz3DjXktoXk
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.
Thursday, September 18, 2014
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.
http://www.breitbart.com/ 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.”
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.
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.
shiapost.com/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.
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 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 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.
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
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.
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.”
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: http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/scotland-braces-for-historic-independence-vote/article1-1265282.aspx#sthash.88GkLiWH.dpuf
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.