Passengers Using the Dubai Airport Will Have to Pay a Fee

Clip_67Passengers using the Dubai airport will now have to pay a fee of Dh35. This is yet another sign of the economic problems being faced by the oil producing Arab states, including the UAE.

Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, has approved Executive Council Resolution No (8) of 2016 pertaining to the collection of fees from passengers using airport facilities in Dubai.

As per the resolution, every passenger leaving the UAE from any of Dubai’s airports, including transit passengers, will be charged Dh35 as a service fee for using airport facilities.

The resolution exempts passengers below two years, cabin crew from paying the fee in addition to transit passengers whose arrival and departure flight number is the same.

Airlines operating in Dubai airports are tasked with collecting the fee while issuing tickets, whether in the UAE or outside the country, effective March 1 2016 for flights departing Dubai’s airports after June 30, 2016.

The collected fees will be transferred to Dubai Airports, and subsequently to the Dubai government public treasury.

The resolution aims to improve Dubai’s airport infrastructure and boost its capacity, which is set to reach 100 million passengers by 2023, as well as support expansion projects such as the state-of-the-art Concourse D at Dubai International Airport, the expansion of Terminal 2 and the renovation of Terminal 1.

This resolution is valid from the date of its publication in the Official Gazette.

Pangs Of Hunger: ‘There Is Not As Much Agitation On Hunger As On Electricity Issues’

Clip_67There is not as much agitation on hunger as is seen on electricity issues.

Hardly anyone bothers to look at the state of malnutrition and its implications and solutions in the country.

Making malnutrition a political agenda poses the biggest challenge to the country. Though right to food is a comprehensive concept, it should not only be restricted to children. Community engagement that focuses on malnutrition can be one of sustainable sources of solution to malnutrition problem.

If malnutrition becomes the entry point for focusing on all other problems, the issue can somewhat be approachable. Even those who are illiterate can analyse their own reality.

The National Nutrition Survey of 2011 states that about two-fifths of the households in Pakistan were food secure while 10 percent experienced severe hunger and 20 per cent faced moderate hunger. The report also goes on to share the qualitative study of dietary diversity that shows little consumption of foods other than the main staple, wheat. “The use of chutney, made with salt and raw chillies, and sweetened black tea is common in rural and urban sites as accompaniments,” states the report. “Milk, if available, might be added to the tea.”

MICS 2014: Minor improvements seen in nutrition, child health

41254_1361340433882_1242691056_815724_7834679_nDuring the 2009 floods of Jaffarabad and adjoining areas, the amount of food in the relief package was reduced and more tea was added to it. For workers, a roti and a cup of tea is the way to start their long working hours.

Cash transfer programs with the likes of Benazir Income Support Program is proving to be a flop at a huge expense to the exchequer; it is hardly helping in reducing poverty and hunger.

The ‘Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility report states that the respondents of the survey eat better on days when they receive their BISP payment but the program is unable to help combat hungry days at other times.

The report further goes on to say that in rural areas, hunger, for the most part, occurs in lean season or when harvested grain runs out. It adds that while urban households are ‘somewhat better off than their rural counterparts in terms of work opportunities, the poorest here also experience hunger at least on some days’. “In fact, their risk of hunger is spread more evenly across the year with hungry days occurring due to lack of cash on a day-to-day basis,” it states.

Malnutrition being a hidden hunger problem is based on the underlying assumption that better employment opportunities and education could be the solution to the problem.

 

IDPs Lack Enthusiasm to Return Home

IMG_2760Pakistan’s military says it’s in the final phase of operations to clear militants from areas near the Afghanistan border, and the government plans to return those displaced by the fighting by the end of this year. But people who fled are reluctant to go home, saying that compensation offered by the government isn’t nearly enough to rebuild their lives.

More than 1.2 million people were displaced from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas after Pakistan’s military launched an offensive against militant groups in June 2014, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. Most internally displaced people have already returned, but the government says nearly half a million remain in camps, mostly around the city of Peshawar.

The FATA are a cluster of federally administered “agencies” along Pakistan’s northwestern frontier with Afghanistan. Access to outsiders is strictly limited and the government exerts little control in many areas where armed groups have long been active.

The Ministry for States and Frontier Regions says it is working to return all remaining IDPs to FATA this year, and it plans to begin the next stage of resettlement in the near future.

“We are trying our best for these people to return to good conditions in their home region,” the minister, Qadir Baloch, said recently.

Those who have already returned said the government did little to rebuild their devastated communities.

Harappa 022Rehman Khan Afridi was provided with 25,000 rupees (about $240) when he went back to his home in the Tirah Valley in Khyber Agency last September. But that didn’t even come close to covering the cost of rebuilding his five-room house, which was completely destroyed.

“We literally had nowhere to live,” said Afridi. “The money I had been given was quickly used up on food, medicines for my wife and merely on survival.”

For two weeks, Afridi, his pregnant wife, their five children and his elderly father slept under a canvas sheet. Then the family decided to return to Peshawar.

After hearing stories like that, other families are debating whether to go home.

“We are told we will be given some cash support to meet our basic needs, but there is no news of what will be done to rebuild our demolished homes,” said Ahmed Khan, who was displaced with his family from South Waziristan last July.

‘The last battle’

In a statement released Sunday, the military said it was attacking remaining holdouts of militants in the Shawal Valley in neighbouring North Waziristan.

 

“The battle to clear (the) last pocket close to Pak-Afghan border continues,” said the statement, which included casualty figures of 252 militants and eight government soldiers killed in the past two months.

Heavy fighting over the past two years has also exacted a heavy toll on the civilian population. Not only have people been displaced; they have also been subject to abuses by the military.

In FATA, the security forces are reported to have taken over private property of the locals with impunity. Reports of the use of excessive force in some villages are harrowing, where no house has been left standing and the population has had to escape the onslaught. There has been no investigations into the deaths of civilians in military custody, and the plight of IDPs has been “all but forgotten” by the government.

No efforts have been made to adopt a proactive policy or a long-term strategy to address the challenges associated with internal displacement.

In its statement, the military referred to a “master plan” for infrastructure development, although it gave little detail, saying only that 94 “projects of various natures have been completed”, while another 153 were under way.

Lack of funds

The FATA Disaster Management Authority is appealing for more money, but “funds to repatriate IDPs are limited”, said an official, speaking  on condition of anonymity since they were not authorised to talk to media.

There was little evidence of development.

Ayub Wazir went home to the South Waziristan town of Wana two weeks ago only to find that the local economy had been destroyed, along with homes and infrastructure. There was no sign of government efforts to rebuild or create jobs and business opportunities.

“There is literally nothing to do here,” said Wazir. “I can rebuild my home on my own, but I need more funds and a job to do so.”

Afridi, a doctor who runs a clinic in the town of Bara in Khyber Agency, said the situation was the same there: “There is very little here now for people to come back to.”

Pakistan Tactical Nuclear Weapons discussed with US Congressman

IMG_5132Director of ARC Humankind, Paulo Casaca, met US Congressman Trent Franks on April 29, 2016, and presented him the ARC Humankind policy brief, “The Pink Triangle Threat: Nuclear Terror Proliferation: An Assessment.”

Congressman Trent Franks, Arizona Republican Congressman since 2002, has been especially active in the fight against nuclear proliferation, and is an authority in the field.

In its recent five points report, ARC Humankind argues that nuclear terror proliferation is the most important impending threat facing humanity today, and emphasizes that this threat has increased considerably, following the accommodative attitude of the international community towards the undercover Iranian nuclear weapons program.

It further states that the contemporary wave of nuclear proliferation was centred in Pakistan, and was developed through the so-called “Khan network” – a mix of state, non-state and multinational fanatics that promoted clandestine nuclear weapons technology across the World – which allowed both Iran and North Korea to develop their nuclear programs.

Although the West disrupted this nuclear network, its existence enabled North Korea to acquire nuclear weapon capability sold by the Pakistan Army, and Iran to come very close to its completion, thereby posing a major threat to regional and global stability.

Pakistan has the fastest growing nuclear weapons programme in the world today, and recently announced the development of a new tactical nuclear weapons initiative, for deployment along its border with India. Whereas Pakistan has repeatedly shown itself as an irresponsible country, unable to rein-in its Army-controlled, runaway nuclear weapons program, and being the source of most of today’s proliferation, and whereas its nuclear arsenal has been seen as the least secured, a lighter, more diversified and widespread nuclear device capability, implied by the tactical nuclear announcement, significantly increases the present dangers.

Given its consistent support to the jihadist and terrorist infrastructure, it is assessed that the possibility of these small nuclear devices being used by these groups to target the West or its forces, is extremely high.

 

Reporting by

Jim Bellushi

Freelance Reporter

Washington DC

PIA’s Imam Loves Luxurious Vacation

Clip_24‘Imam’ has been a term for the Muslim community to look up to, who solemnly vows to lead them on a path towards faith, peace, Allah and more. They are supposed to be exemplary mortal beings who are just and fair while rendering services and also interpret the Quran—the word of the lord to the commoners.

Imam’s that serve as a model and guide for the community to follow, making it essential for the Imam’s to be free of any sort of sin or error for that matter, setting an example out of their lives, to be truly ‘infallible’.

Though Sunni branch of Muslims do not adhere to the sense with which Shia Muslims revere or accept Imams but they both do have Imams. And in the world where people are desperately looking for a higher being to alleviate them from all their miseries and sorrow, it is these Imams (believed to have been appointed by God himself) serving as a connector to ‘Allah’ in their religion who leads their path towards devotion, kindness and faith bringing them closer to that higher power.

Every sector in Pakistan has an Imam to accompany their fellow beings in their times of need, whose duty also calls for him to look after all the internal and external affairs of that particular sector he is aligned with, but with all due respect to Allah and within limits of His Apostle.

Clip_17Similarly PIA also has an Imam appointed for purposes and duties that all Imams are bound to follow. His major role is to preach the messages of Allah to the people he comes by spreading spiritual awareness. But what has been shocking is that instead of him abiding by his duties he has been reported to have been travelling all over the world setting aside his responsibilities.

He has been at major fault here as being an Imam he is supposed to be above all worldly desires and inclinations, and despite of him having vowed to be an Imam he has failed to deliver not only his duty by living off of tax payers money stripping everything that makes the word ‘Imam’ meaningful, but has also brought upon shame and disgrace for PIA.

PIA, which is an airline has been known for its role in the success of Pakistan and has been a source of pride and prestige for both its people and the nation collectively. The PIA Imam has also brought shame on every Imam that the Muslim community has in the past – his predecessors, choosing to live an extravagant life, going off to luxurious vacations in US and Europe.

There have been times when he has failed to even show up for long period of time in his country, maximum being for a whole period of 9 months in the year 2015. NDT also interviewed some PIA officials and they mentioned that at numerous times, the absence of chief Imam troubles them as they had to go to other mosques. A country which is never out of controversies, and has more problems than one can imagine to solve or bring out a solution, ‘an Imam – a messenger’ of Allah is least of all beings who is expected to add on to more troubles for his own motherland.

PIA Imam has not only failed to stand for the designation he was duly given but has majorly disappointed the nation and its people, who in their times of distress look forward to a figure believed to be closest to Allah. However, in their religious scriptures an Imam does not enjoy unlimited powers, who can go on abusing his authority and rights. The Quran dictates that if an Imam deteriorates from his expected morals and duties, he is supposed to be immediately relieved of his duties and longer be able to exercise his power. His licence is to be revoked without delay upon his charges being proved. So, in hopes of these just rules Pakistan populace remains calm to see the guilty being punished and served right for his incompetence.

 

The Level of Freedom of Speech in India

The Indian authorities routinely use vaguely worded, overly broad laws as political tools to silence and harass critics. The government should repeal or amend laws that are used to criminalize peaceful expression.

India’s Constitution protects the right to freedom of speech and expression, but recent and colonial-era laws, such as sedition and criminal defamation, not only remain on the books but are frequently used in an attempt to clampdown on critics.

India’s abusive laws are the hallmark of a repressive society, not a vibrant democracy. Putting critics in prison or even forcing them to defend themselves in lengthy and expensive court proceedings undermines the government’s efforts to present India as a modern country in the Internet age committed to free speech and the rule of law.

Human Rights Watch’ 108-page report, “Stifling Dissent: The Criminalization of Peaceful Expression in India,” details how criminal laws are used to limit and chill free speech in India. It documents ways overbroad or vague laws are used to stifle political dissent, harass journalists, restrict activities by nongovernmental organizations, arbitrarily block Internet sites or take down content, and target marginalized communities, particularly Dalits, and religious minorities.

The report is based on an in-depth analysis of various provisions of the Indian Penal Code, including laws on sedition, criminal defamation, hate speech, and hurting religious sentiment, as well as the Official Secrets Act, Information Technology Act, and Contempt of Courts Act. It is based on interviews with defendants and targets, civil society activists, journalists, and lawyers. It includes public statements by the government, court documents, and media accounts of criminal proceedings against those involved in peaceful speech activities or peaceful assembly.

One of the most abused laws is the sedition law, which has been used by successive governments to arrest and silence critics. Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code prohibits any words, spoken or written, or any signs or visible representation that can cause “hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection,” toward the government. While India’s Supreme Court has imposed limits on the use of the sedition law, making incitement to violence a necessary element, police continue to file sedition charges even in cases where this requirement is clearly not met.

A demonstrator waves the Indian national flag during a protest on February 18, 2016, in New Delhi, India, demanding the release of Kanhaiya Kumar, a student union leader accused of sedition. In 2016 there has been a spike in the number of sedition cases filed nationwide.

A demonstrator waves the Indian national flag during a protest on February 18, 2016, in New Delhi, India, demanding the release of Kanhaiya Kumar, a student union leader accused of sedition. In 2016 there has been a spike in the number of sedition cases filed nationwide.

Most recently, the abuse of the sedition law became subject of national debate after Kanhaiya Kumar, a student union leader at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, was arrested for sedition on February 12, 2016. The government acted on complaints by members of the student wing of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, who accused Kumar of making anti-national speeches during a meeting organized on campus. India’s minister for home affairs warned that those who shouted anti-India slogans and challenged India’s sovereignty and integrity during these meetings “will not be tolerated and spared.” Two more students were arrested for sedition in the same case, while three others were booked. The court granted a six-month interim bail after the police’s admission that they had no evidence of anti-national sloganeering by Kumar, and certainly no evidence of incitement to violence. The government, however, failed to admit that the arrests were wrong.

In October 2015, authorities in Tamil Nadu state arrested folk singer S. Kovan under the sedition law for two songs that criticized the state government for allegedly profiting from state-run liquor shops at the expense of the poor.

In a controversial and disappointing verdict, in May 2016, India’s Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of criminal defamation law saying, “A person’s right to freedom of speech has to be balanced with the other person’s right to reputation.” However, the court did not explain how it concluded that the law does not violate international human rights norms, which call for abolishment of criminal defamation, or offer a clear or compelling rationale as to why civil remedies are insufficient for defamation in a democracy with a functioning legal system.

The frequent use of criminal defamation charges by the Tamil Nadu state government, led by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, against journalists, media outlets, and rival politicians shows how laws can be used to silence critics of the government. The Tamil Nadu government filed nearly 200 cases of criminal defamation between 2011 and 2016. For instance, the Tamil-language magazines Ananda Vikatan and Junior Vikatan, both published by the Vikatan group, face charges in 34 criminal defamation cases, including for a series of articles assessing the performance of each cabinet minister.

Criminal defamation laws should be abolished because they can lead to very harsh consequences, including imprisonment.

Implementation of National Action Plan in the Punjab

by Fahd Humayun 

Two developments in early 2016 – the Punjab government’s move to detain Jaish operatives, and a high-profile Taliban attack on Bacha Khan University – have worked to refocus parliamentary debate on the selective application of the country’s year-old National Action Plan. At the eye of the storm is Pakistan’s ‘other’ badland, South Punjab, and its unfettered militant footprint that continues to raise critical questions, home and abroad, on the extent of the PML-N’s counterterror commitment and capacity. 

Malik Ishaq Lashkar JhangviThe killing of Lashkare Jhangvi chief Malik Ishaq in a police encounter in the summer of 2015, together with the go-ahead given to search-and-kill operations, suggested the beginnings of a long awaited provincial attempt to close the gap between the state and Punjabi militants in 2015. The suicide attack on Home Minister Shuja Khanzada that followed swiftly exposed key gaps in the state’s counter-terror whitewash in Punjab. Network infrastructure, in the form of sleeper cells and support bases, continues to proliferate. Of Pakistan’s 1,764 most wanted, 729 hail from South Punjab. Only two out of Punjab’s 13,000 declared seminaries have been closed down by the provincial government, even after Senate was told last summer that over 150 madrasahs in the province are at the receiving end of foreign funding. 

Having signed up for a long war with no overnight victories, bringing NAP to South Punjab should be seen as an unqualified good: extending the state’s counterterror reach to the eastern enclave can and will go a long way in servicing peace agendas, both domestic and external. A combination of geo-mapping and decisive follow-through by the FIA will be necessary to rein in rogue organisations in cities such as Multan, which has the highest urban density of religious seminaries anywhere in Pakistan. If terror sanctuaries can be closed down in the tribal belt, then the need to shut down cells operating of their own volition in Punjab should urgently translate into a tangible conveyor belt of combing operations, arrests and prosecutions, and de-radicalisation initiatives. This will require greater provincial ownership of the National Action Plan, a new declared counterterror center of gravity, clear multi-sectoral execution, and planning that goes beyond short-term maneuvering and selective employment. 

In terms of state interventions, Pakistan will need to supplement action in Punjab with two related responses.

305406_187702654637374_100001929222865_384231_91561693_nFirstly, NACTA needs to be brought out of cold storage, resuscitated, empowered, financed, staffed and audited as a matter of national emergency. In the absence of the necessary machinery or budgetary allocation to fight a non-linear war and asymmetrical enemies, or serve as a credible inter-agency conduit, Pakistan has been left navigating a dangerous double-blind. Last January, the first members of the Punjab Anti-Terrorism Force (ATF) completed their training by Pakistani Army special operations commandos. Following the merger of the existing Punjab Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) with the new ATF, the province now has its own trained and equipped security muscle to take out militancy. But for Punjab to follow, NACTA must guide and lead the offensive, in tandem with the Punjab Strategic Coordination Act 2014 to enable effective terrorist fumigation. 

Secondly, the operation in Waziristan needs to now graduate from military-led carpet-bombing to civilian-led building of livelihoods, capacity, infrastructure, without which the sacrifices of Zarb-e-Azb will see reversals. This will require a greater degree of accountability and transparency behind the FATA curtain, both of which have been in short supply since June 2014. Prolonging the militarisation of CT policy is also problematic, and will impinge on long-term rehabilitation initiatives and political counterterror ownership in Islamabad. Pakistan simultaneously needs to begin surgically plugging the gaps on its side of the Afghan border, with or without Kabul’s consent. This includes surveillance, digging, and armed patrolling. While Pakistan supports and is ready to facilitate Afghan-led and owned plans for stabilisation, KP’s cities and universities should not have to pay the price of ANSDF shortcomings or Western military failings while the Pakistan Army singlehandedly fights a difficult inland counterinsurgency operation. This is not to absolve Pakistan of responsibility or skin in the game: January’s attack on BKU underscores the need for Islamabad to abandon its selective pursuit of terrorists; terrorists hunkering down under forested cover in Afghanistan will continue to find willing abettors on the Pakistani side as long as there are constituencies in South Punjab and elsewhere ready to give violence a mandate. 

For policymakers in Islamabad, the spatial distribution of over 57 banned organisations in South Punjab should add to policy anxieties at the Center, in as much that these trappings accentuate the potential for ISIS-K and Daesh inspired affiliates to infest the provincial, and from therein national, woodwork. Groups that operate with South Punjab calling cards will, critically, continue to hold back progress with India. Reclaiming this geophysical space and sequestering its hate literatures and ideologies can go a long way in reinforcing conventional battlefield gains in North Waziristan and Khyber. But this will require CT strategy to evolve from tactical leapfrogging to making that ultimate quantum leap from Miramshah to Multan and its auxiliary districts. Not because this is an Indian ask, but because refraining from doing so only retrogrades a painstakingly built national consensus and commitment to domestic and regional stability. That, and the fact that pleading six degrees of separation from what goes on in South Punjab is a copout, and a guaranteed way to lose this war. 

The writer tweets @fahdhumayun

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