Tagged: Pakistan

What the Taliban buy when shopping for themselves


140 pairs of tidy whities, bro’

An army offensive in Taliban-dominated tribal areas of Pakistan has caused large numbers of people to flee to safer regions. Among them is shopkeeper Rasheed Rehman, who until recently counted Taliban fighters among his best customers…

Miranshah is the administrative capital of North Waziristan, close to the Afghan border. Rasheed says he had a large shop in the main market there, selling all manner of cosmetics, socks and stockings, and a few electronic items.

He says he used to earn between 100,000 and 115,000 rupees a day, and that Taliban militants were the biggest spenders. According to Rasheed, they would buy plenty of goods on every visit – and they wouldn’t haggle to get prices reduced.

“They used to prefer foreign or branded perfumes and imported body sprays. They liked the ones with a strong scent.”

In fact, Rasheed would travel especially to Islamabad and Lahore in order to procure the kind of imported merchandise the Taliban preferred…

The perfumes they bought for their womenfolk included one called Secret Love, and Blue Lady by Rasasi.

They would ask for Head and Shoulders or Clear shampoo and Dove soap.

When it came to underwear, they preferred it white – briefs or Y fronts…

Another shopkeeper from Miranshah, Sohail Masih, a tailor, confirms that the Taliban would invariably be the best customers in the market, spending 2,000 to 3,000 rupees at a time – for many people that would be two weeks’ salary.

“They would drive to my shop in big white cars with black-tinted windows and had no qualms about doling out wads of cash,” he says.

“The kind of things they would buy, well people like me can’t even conceive of buying them.”

Pointing out once again that we’re dealing with run-of-the-mill bandits, folks. Neither the average Pashtun or Pakistani nor fixated Tea Party Islamophobes have their history or facts straight. Just because gangsters and thugs claim their mission is grounded in some variant of a religion doesn’t make it so.

And that ain’t new. Petty despots have claimed their mission is one of fighting for religious freedom, ethnic liberation, sectarian justice – time and again. A significant part of the trouble is the “other side” of the conflict is often just as willing to accept that crap lie as advocacy because it fits their own matrix of hate.

Polio emergency declared as war and bandits spread the virus

The spread of polio to countries previously considered free of the crippling disease is a global health emergency, the World Health Organization said, as the virus once driven to the brink of extinction mounts a comeback.

Pakistan, Cameroon and Syria pose the greatest risk of exporting the virus to other countries, and should ensure that residents have been vaccinated before they travel, the Geneva-based WHO said in a statement today after a meeting of its emergency committee. It’s only the second time the United Nations agency has declared a public health emergency of international concern, after the 2009 influenza pandemic.

Polio has resurged as military conflicts from Sudan to Pakistan disrupt vaccination campaigns, giving the virus a toehold. The number of cases reached a record low of 223 globally in 2012 and jumped to 417 last year, according to the WHO. There have been 74 cases this year, including 59 in Pakistan, during what is usually polio’s “low season,” the WHO said.

The disease’s spread, if unchecked, “could result in failure to eradicate globally one of the world’s most serious, vaccine-preventable diseases,” Bruce Aylward, the WHO’s assistant director general for polio, emergencies and country collaboration, told reporters in Geneva today. “The consequences of further international spread are particularly acute today given the large number of polio-free but conflict-torn and fragile states which have severely compromised routine immunization services.”

“Conflict makes it very difficult for the vaccinators to get to the children who need vaccine,” David Heymann, a professor of infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said in an interview before the WHO’s announcement. “It’s been more difficult to finish than had been hoped.”

The polio virus, which is spread through feces, attacks the nervous system and can cause paralysis within hours, and death in as many as 10 percent of its victims. There is no cure. The disease can be prevented by vaccines

The resurgence of the virus “reminds us that, until it’s eradicated, it’s going to spread internationally and it’s going to find and paralyze susceptible kids,” Aylward said.

Resurgence, as well, of the question: what holds back progress for most of the people living on this planet? Is it stupidity or ignorance? My answer changes from week to week.

It takes a special kind of stupidity after all to make uninformed and ignorant decisions. Whether the ignorance is religion-based, hatred of furriners, paranoid rejection of science and info from educated folks who obviously don’t live in your own neighborhood/state/region/country/continent – doesn’t matter a whole boatload. Killing your kin and letting your children die sounds mostly stupid to me.

Pakistani Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy

A Pakistani Christian man has been sentenced to death for blasphemy, in a case which sparked fierce rioting in the eastern city of Lahore last March.

Sawan Masih was convicted of using derogatory remarks against the Prophet Mohammed in a row with a Muslim friend.

Hundreds of Muslims attacked the city’s Christian Joseph colony, torching homes, when the allegations surfaced.

Allegations of blasphemy against Islam are taken very seriously in Pakistan, where 97% of the population are Muslim.

Several recent cases have prompted international concern about the application of blasphemy laws.

Sawan Masih’s lawyer said a judge announced the verdict during a hearing at the jail where the trial has been held, amid fears for his client’s safety if he attended court.

The 26-year-old Masih, who is a father of three, has consistently maintained his innocence during the year-long trial…

Critics argue that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are frequently misused to settle personal scores and that members of minority groups are also unfairly targeted.

Muslims constitute a majority of those prosecuted, followed by the minority Ahmadi community.

Any expectation of fairness in the use of a patently absurd law is misplaced. Not that I expect anything more from sectarian zealots. No matter which continent.

Flat-earthers who consider science untouchable and secular law untenable are stuck into definitions of culture that hasn’t changed since the Stone Age.

Pentagon maintains ties to creepy helicopter firms — why?


Afghan Air Force [sic] Mi-17s

After almost four years of allegations that two related helicopter companies in Lithuania and Russia were doing substandard work and should be banned from new contracts, the Pentagon continued to give them business, according to interviews and documents seen by Reuters.

As recently as last month, an Army planning document shows, the service was weighing contracting helicopter overhauls from the firms, which have been the subject of multiple internal warnings and two Defense Department Inspector General reports…

The Pentagon has been working with Lithuanian company Aviabaltika and a sister Russian firm, the St. Petersburg Aircraft Repair Company (SPARC), for more than a decade to buy spare parts and overhaul Russian Mi-17 helicopters.

Pentagon officials say the Mi-17 helicopters are crucial to the ability of the Afghanistan military to conduct counter-terrorism and anti-narcotics mission as U.S. troops leave, since local pilots have a long history with the rugged aircraft. They have also been supplied to U.S. allies Pakistan and Iraq.

Criticism of the two companies, which are run by the same person and described as a single entity, AVB/SPARC, in Pentagon documents, grew in recent months while the Army continues a review of allegations of overcharging, blocked access to outside quality inspectors and improper advance payments

The scrutiny of AVB/SPARC comes amid a broader backlash against the Army’s more than $1 billion Mi-17 program. Congressional and human rights critics say the program has put the Pentagon in bed with questionable business partners, and they are pressuring the Obama administration to wind it down.

RTFA for all the gory details. In an honest business environment – as scarce as that may seem in headlines about the US economy – these creepy firms might be on the block for sale as scrap and salvage. In practice, most public companies in the United States had better be on the straight and narrow for – even though conservative politicians try like hell to reinvent the mythical Free Market of the 19th Century – oversight and regulation still exists in sufficient enough form to catch a portion of the crooks in business.

Admittedly, the honesty patrol has a harder time with the US government and the Pentagon in particular; but, then, that’s what this investigative piece is all about, eh?

U.N. report politely asks U.S. to ‘clarify’ use of drones in conflicts – 18% of deaths are civilians

Civilians account for almost one fifth of the deaths from U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan over the past decade, a U.N. report says…Of the approximately 2,200 Pakistanis who have died in drone strikes, the report says 400 (18 percent) were not militants…

Ben Emmerson, a U.N. special rapporteur who wrote the report, said that Pakistani officials who provided the number indicate that, “owing to underreporting and obstacles to effective investigation, those figures were likely to be an underestimate.”

Some 31 civilians have been killed in drone attacks in Afghanistan and between 12 and 18 in Yemen in the past 18 months, the report added.

The 22-page report was released ahead of a debate on the use of remotely piloted aircraft scheduled for next Friday at the U.N. General Assembly, The Guardian reported…

Emmerson contrasted British and U.S. policies on drone usage. He said Britain’s Royal Air Force “thoroughly scrubbed” its intelligence before authorizing the use of drones. As a result, he said, there had been only one incident in which civilians were killed.

The CIA’s use of drones had created “an almost insurmountable obstacle to transparency,” Emmerson said. Consequently, the United States has not revealed any data about the number of civilians killed or injured by drone strikes.

He called on the United States to “further clarify” its policies about the use of drones and to declassify information about the use of drones in counter-terrorism activities.

Here in the States we’re faced with the Pentagon, Defense [War] Department officials, the White house [regardless of who's in office] and Congress ready and willing to legalize attacks upon foreign soil around the world. They will figure out some way to satisfy themselves – if not the public – about the death of civilian non-combatants under any circumstances.

This is how the US manages transparency.

United Nations declares today to be “Malala Day”

MALALA-UN

The terrorists thought that they would change my aims and stop my ambitions
but nothing changed in my life, except this:
weakness, fear and hopelessness died.
Strength, power and courage was born

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban for advocating education for girls, marked her 16th birthday with an impressive speech at the United Nations, where she said education could change the world.

Wearing a pink head scarf, Malala told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and nearly 1,000 students from around the world attending a Youth Assembly at UN headquarters in New York that education was the only way to improve lives.

“Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution,” she said.

“The terrorists thought that they would change my aims and stop my ambitions but nothing changed in my life, except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.”

The UN has declared her birthday, July 12, as “Malala Day“.

The Pakistani teenager, who first came to public attention at the age of 11 for speaking out against a ban on girls’ education, was shot in the neck and head by Taliban gunmen last October on her way home from school in Pakistan.

She left a Birmingham hospital in February after she recovered from surgery during which doctors mended parts of her skull with a titanium plate and inserted a cochlear implant in her left ear to help restore hearing.

Malala used her speech at the UN to ask the UN secretary-general and any listening world leaders on the need to keep a promise to provide universal primary education by the end of 2015…

Bravo! A young woman whose courage sets a standard for the world.

All the political hacks who represent supposedly educated democratic nations at the UN will probably commit to the programs she stands for – for universal education. Liars and reactionaries back home – in the United States and elsewhere – will do their level best to stop that funding. We know the range of excuses they will raise. And those will be lies as are the other excuses they roll out to impede equal opportunity for all.

Teen sisters made video of dancing in the rain – murdered by relatives for staining “the family honour”

Two teenage sisters have been murdered in Pakistan after they were accused of tarnishing their family’s name by making a video of themselves dancing in the rain.

The girls, aged 15 and 16, are seen running around in traditional dress with two other younger children outside their bungalow in the town of Chilas, in the northern region of Gilgit.

The sisters, named as Noor Basra and Noor Sheza, appear to break into dance and one even flashes a smile at the camera…

Police are investigating whether the attack was arranged by the girls’ step-brother, named as Khutore, who allegedly wanted to ‘restore the family’s honour’…

The sisters’ other brother has filed a case against Khutore and the four other alleged accomplices who are now believed to be on the run.

The girls were shot alongside their mother in their home by five gunmen in the town of Chilas…

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said at least 943 women and girls were murdered in 2011 for allegedly defaming their family’s honour.

Gotta love religious fundamentalism. Yes, they vary according to degree – and point in history. Anyone with a conscience knows that most American lynchings were perpetrated by “Good Christians” – according to their peers.

Meanwhile, I don’t see a whole boatload of reasons for continuing the taxpayer dollars poured into the rathole that is Pakistan’s military and political sewer. Benefits to America’s questionable foreign policy is nil. The fraction that filters through the corrupt bureaucracy is negligible.

May was the most violent, the deadliest month in Iraq for years

The United Nations says more than 1,000 people were killed in Iraq in May, the highest monthly death toll for years.

The violence makes it the deadliest month since the wide sectarian violence of 2006-7, and raising concern that the country is returning to civil war.

The vast majority of the casualties were civilians, and Baghdad was the worst hit area of the country…

Figures released on Saturday showed 1,045 civilians and security personnel were killed in May, far higher than the 712 who died in April, the worst recorded toll since June 2008…

Analysts say al-Qaeda and Sunni Islamist insurgents have been invigorated by the Sunni-led revolt in neighbouring Syria and by the worsening sectarian tensions in the country…

On some days, Shia areas across Baghdad appear to have been the main target, while on others, the Sunni areas outside the capital saw most explosions.

One explanation is that Sunni militant groups linked to al-Qaeda want to provoke civil war in Baghdad and undermine the government in areas they see as their strongholds, our correspondent says.

But other explanations link the violence to the civil war in neighbouring Syria, he adds.

The bloodshed has been accompanied by unconfirmed rumours about sectarian militias roaming Baghdad for revenge, which have caused fear in many areas of the capital.

It’s not only inside Iraq that folks lay the responsibility for continued violence on Bush’s War. As violent and corrupt as was Saddam Hussein, the invasion demonstrated sovereignty means nothing in a world facing United States military power.

The people of Iran will never forget the democratic government overthrown by the United States. Good, bad or indifferent, Iraqis will never forget the hundreds of thousands of civilians killed and maimed in the name of liberation by the United States. Afghanistan, Pakistan, even Saudi Arabia watch the way we ignore accepted global law – and take whatever we want, however we wish. No one forgets.

Jihadi leader lives openly in Pakistan – no one wants $10 million reward offered by the United States

Lahore, Pakistan — Ten million dollars does not seem to buy much in this bustling Pakistani city. That is the sum the United States is offering for help in convicting Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, perhaps the country’s best-known jihadi leader. Yet Mr. Saeed lives an open, and apparently fearless, life in a middle-class neighborhood here.

“I move about like an ordinary person — that’s my style,” said Mr. Saeed, a burly 64-year-old, reclining on a bolster as he ate a chicken supper. “My fate is in the hands of God, not America.”

Mr. Saeed is the founder, and is still widely believed to be the true leader, of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group that carried out the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, in which more than 160 people, including six Americans, were killed. The United Nations has placed him on a terrorist list and imposed sanctions on his group. But few believe he will face trial any time soon in a country that maintains a perilous ambiguity toward jihadi militancy, casting a benign eye on some groups, even as it battles others that attack the state.

Mr. Saeed’s very public life seems more than just an act of mocking defiance against the Obama administration and its bounty, analysts say. As American troops prepare to leave Afghanistan next door, Lashkar is at a crossroads, and its fighters’ next move — whether to focus on fighting the West, disarm and enter the political process, or return to battle in Kashmir — will depend largely on Mr. Saeed…

His security seemingly ensured, Mr. Saeed has over the past year addressed large public meetings and appeared on prime-time television, and is now even giving interviews to Western news media outlets he had previously eschewed…

Still, he says he has nothing against Americans, and warmly described a visit he made to the United States in 1994, during which he spoke at Islamic centers in Houston, Chicago and Boston. “At that time, I liked it,” he said with a wry smile.

During that stretch, his group was focused on attacking Indian soldiers in the disputed territory of Kashmir — the fight that led the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate to help establish Lashkar-e-Taiba in 1989…

“When there are no Americans in Afghanistan, what will happen?” said Mushtaq Sukhera, a senior officer with the Punjabi police who is running a fledgling demobilization program for Islamist extremists. “It’s an open question.”

A shift could be risky for Mr. Saeed: Some of his fighters have already split from Lashkar in favor of other groups that attack the Pakistani state. And much will depend on the advice of his military sponsors.

For their part, Pakistan’s generals insist they have abandoned their dalliance with jihadi proxy groups. In a striking speech in August, the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said the country’s greatest threat came from domestic extremism. “We as a nation must stand united against this threat,” he said. “No state can afford a parallel system of governance and militias.”

Unfortunately, that last statement by General Kayani although truthful guarantees nothing. No one is confident that Pakistan’s military – and especially the ISI, their answer to the CIA – is at all interested in building anything more than bank vaults filled with looted gold. The blood of their fellow Pakistanis means nothing.