Donald Trump just keeps having the Worst Week in Washington

Trump's accusers (Credit:
Trump’s accusers

It was the week when the wheels truly fell off Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Still reeling from the release of a tape in which he is heard making lewd and sexually suggestive comments about women, Trump watched as a parade of accusers emerged last week, each telling a similar story: He had tried to grope, grab or kiss them sometime over the past three decades.

Trump has categorically denied each and every one of the charges. But his promised “evidence” to dispute the claims amounted to a single statement from a cousin of Summer Zervos, a contestant on “The Apprentice” who alleged that Trump kissed and groped her.  And he made things worse by insisting in campaign speeches that he could never have groped the women he is accused of groping because, well, they simply aren’t attractive enough.

‘She would not be my first choice’: Trump denies sexually assaulting Jessica Leeds on plane

The allegations of groping seemed to send Trump off into an even-less-disciplined stage of his campaign, which, at this point, is barely lurching its way to the finish line. Trump spent the week alleging a global conspiracy against him and his supporters, a conspiracy that virtually everyone — Hillary Clinton’s campaign, the media, corporations — was in on.

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And he repeatedly insisted that the entire election was rigged, the outcome predetermined by forces dead set on keeping him from the White House.

Along the way, Trump also suggested that Clinton might have been on drugs in the second debate, disassembled a malfunctioning teleprompter on stage and veered wildly off message time and time and time again.

With every passing minute, Trump watched his base grow ever more committed to him while pushing away the loosely affiliated Republican voters and independents he so badly needs if he wants to have a real shot at beating Clinton. That prospect looks increasingly dim, and what’s worse for Republicans is that Trump doesn’t even seem to care.

Donald Trump, for taking the shackles off, you had the Worst Week in Washington. Congrats, or something

When the Journalist Is the Story

Cyril Almeida (Credit:
Cyril Almeida
AT the request of the overseers of these pages, I have been asked to write about myself today — my past week or so, really.

A request categorically not because there is any restriction on writing about the week’s events, but because there may be some interest in a personal perspective.

I found myself unable to decline.

When the story landed that Thursday morning, there was already never any question about any part of it being retracted by the paper or I.

Because nothing of the reaction had been unanticipated, nothing had been left to chance before the story was put out in print.

The story had arrived fairly quickly after the fateful meeting, but it was only published on Thursday. The gap was all about verifying, double- and triple-sourcing and seeking official comment.

Nothing about the process was left to chance.

For me, and for the paper, there were only two questions that mattered. Did the meeting take place? Could I verify through multiple channels what was said?

Yes, the heart races a bit faster when you do something out of the ordinary. Yes, there is always some concern for the self.

The second part is trickier than it would appear, but it is also not as hard as it is made out to be. Stick around long enough and you get a sense of how this place works. And the place gets a sense of you.

You know the camps, you know the divisions and splits, and you know at any given time who may be interested in selling what. They exist in civ as much as they do in mil.

With a meeting like this and a story like that, you sniff around until you get a bunch of overlapping facts from camps that have no obvious reason to overlap.

Sometimes that means leaving on the cutting floor a juicy quote or significant reference — but this paper stands guard over the editing process closely.
So what landed that Thursday was something that the paper and I were already very comfortable with.

Which meant little fear of the paper buckling or me retracting.

There was one underestimation on my part. In writing the story, I was aware that a grenade was being dropped in the news cycle. It has since turned out to be a surgical strike followed by a nuclear attack.

So do I regret doing it?

Not one bit. I have worked for two editors at this paper and from each I have learned a foundational thing about the business of news and analysis in this country of ours.

Abbas Nasir, perhaps the more reckless of the two for hiring me in the first place, gave me the courage: whatever you do, remember they’ll be gone one day, you’ll still be around.

Several prime ministers, chief justices, presidents and army chiefs later, Abbas has been proved right.

Yes, the heart races a bit faster when you do something out of the ordinary. Yes, there is always some concern for the self — you’d be stupid not to be concerned in a place like this.

But if you can just somehow remember that they will be gone and you’ll still be around, courage may see you through.

The current editor has drummed in a reporter’s message, one that he himself is an exemplar of: you’re only as good as your sources.

In a place like this, that is a two-way street: in return for not exposing your sources, you get a fair reading of the land.

Not impartial — fair. You always expect spin and you can’t always disaggregate it from the facts, but if you can build enough such relationships, a verifiable and triangulated truth can emerge when necessary.

That fateful Thursday was one of those necessary days.

But it’s usually the best-laid plans that are the most monumentally disrupted. By Monday, I believed the story was about to fade and the news cycle ready to move on.

Then came the ECL decision. At that point alarm set it — for personal safety and freedom. Because before the ECL decision it had not even occurred to me that I could be put on the ECL.
Once something new, unprecedented and unexpected happens, the old rules can go out the window — and that’s where real danger lies. Because then you just don’t know if there is a new game and new rules.

It was, I think, a combination of two things that rescued me and rescued me quickly. For all the global coverage, the system here ultimately responds to local concerns. First, and immediately, this paper swung into violent and fierce action.

Second, the wider media, battered and fractured by violent convulsions of its own in recent years, mostly united — perhaps as much out of self-preservation than indignation.
To both, my sincere gratitude.

So now what?

With the end of the ECL, comes relief. But with a pledged inquiry not yet under way, the matter is far from settled. Personally, I’d like it to be over with quickly — or as quickly as official process allows.

There is acute discomfort at having become the story.

Because it makes you radioactive and because the longer this stays a story — I stay a story — the more problematic it will become to separate spin from fact in future.

Getting tagged a certain way — leaning this way or that, pro-this and anti-that — means you attract a certain kind of spin and faux-information, and are at the risk of being frozen out from access to unadulterated facts, such as they can be.

But perhaps mostly a quick resolution so that the overseers of these pages do not ask me to write about myself again.

Normal service to resume next week, I promise.

The writer is a member of staff.

21m deaths, ozone layer to vanish if Indo-Pak nuclear war erupts

Nuclear cloud over Indo Pak (Credit: en
Nuclear cloud over Indo Pak
(Credit: en

If India and Pakistan fought a war detonating 100 nuclear warheads (around half of their combined arsenal), each equivalent to a 15-kiloton Hiroshima bomb, more than 21 million people will be directly killed, about half the world’s protective ozone layer would be destroyed, and a “nuclear winter” would cripple the monsoons and agriculture worldwide.

According to the 2007 study by researchers from Rutgers University, University of Colorado-Boulder and University of California, Los Angeles, all in the USA, the real costs would be higher and not just in India and Pakistan, where the first 21 million people – half the death toll of World War II – would perish within the first week from blast effects, burns and acute radiation.

Another two billion people worldwide would face risks of severe starvation due to the climatic effects of the nuclear-weapon use in the subcontinent, according to a 2013 assessment by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, a global federation of physicians.

Pakistan has an estimated 110 to 130 nuclear warheads as of 2015 – an increase from an estimated 90 to 110 warheads in 2011 – according to a report from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a global disarmament advocacy. India is estimated to have 110 to 120 nuclear warheads.

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons capability has previously deterred India from responding to previous attacks.

“At the end of the day, India has to ensure that the options it exercises–particularly the military ones – do not leave it worse off than before in terms of casualties and costs,” wrote analyst Manoj Joshi in The Wire.

It does not really matter if India has fewer nuclear weapons than Pakistan, IndiaSpend reported in April 2015, primarily because of the doctrine of “mutually assured destruction”, or MAD, as it is commonly known.

According to a report from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, as many as 66 per cent of Pakistan’s nuclear warheads are mounted on 86 land-based ballistic missiles.

A major attack by Pakistan’s nuclear-tipped medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) would likely target India’s four major metropolitan cities – New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengalore and Chennai (depending on where the missile is fired from), according to Sameer Patil, fellow, national security, ethnic conflict and terrorism at Gateway House, a think-tank in Mumbai.

The MRBMs would also target “the major commands of the Indian Army”, Patil told IndiaSpend.

Nearly half (40) of Pakistan’s ballistic missile warheads could be mated to Ghauri (named after 12th-century Afghan king Shahbuddin Ghauri, also known as Muhammad of Ghauri) MRBMs.

The missile has a claimed range of 1,300km and can target Delhi, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Bhopal and Lucknow, according to a 2006 report on Pakistan’s ballistic missile programme by the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bengalore.

Pakistan has an estimated eight warheads which could be mated to the Shaheen (Falcon) II. This MRBM has a range of 2,500 km and can target most major Indian cities, including Kolkata on the east coast.

An estimated 16 warheads could be fired atop the short-range Ghaznavi (named after the 11th-century Afghan invader Mahmud Ghazni) ballistic missile. With a range of 270km to 350km, it can target Ludhiana, Ahmedabad and the outer perimeter of Delhi.

Pakistan has an estimated 16 nuclear-tipped Shaheen1 (falcon), short-range ballistic missiles (IRBM), having a 750km range which can reach Ludhiana, Delhi, Jaipur and Ahmedabad.

Pakistan has an estimated six 60-km range Nasr missiles, which could be mated to nuclear weapons. These tactical nuclear missiles could target “advancing battle formations of the Indian Army”, according to Patil.

Pakistan also has eight nuclear-tipped 350-km Babur cruise missiles with nuclear warheads.

An estimated 36 nuclear warheads, accounting for 28 per cent of Pakistan’s total, can be delivered using aircraft. US-made F-16 A/B aircraft can deliver 24 nuclear bombs while the French-made Mirage III/V can deliver 12.

India has deployed 56 Prithvi (earth) and Agni (fire) series of surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, which carry 53 per cent of India’s 106 estimated warheads, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

This doesn’t take into account the estimated 12 warheads for the K-15 Sagarika submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), which India has possibly produced for the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine INS Arihant.

Once commissioned, Arihant would give India a strategic nuclear triad and second strike capability, as this July 2015 IndiaSpend report notes.

“Given the smaller geographical size of Pakistan,” said Patil, India would likely target “Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi and the Pakistani Army Armed Corps headquarters at Nowshera”.

However, he cautioned: “The fallout of the nuclear attacks on Lahore and Karachi, for instance, would not just be restricted to the Pakistani territory, and depending on the wind directions, can affect both Indian and Afghan border territories.”

The 250 km-range Prithvi SRBM acts as a delivery system for 24 of India’s warheads. These are capable of hitting major Pakistani cities, such as Lahore, Sialkot, the capital Islamabad, and Rawalpindi, according to this May 2015 IndiaSpend analysis.

India has 20 nuclear-tipped Agni I SRBM and eight Agni II intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs), with ranges of 700km and 2,000km, respectively. These are capable of covering almost all Pakistani cities, including Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Multan, Peshawar, Karachi, Quetta and Gwadar.

Agni III, IV and V, with their longer ranges, might be able to reach all of Pakistan, but it can be safely said that they are directed more towards China.

India also possesses an estimated two ship-launched 350-km range Dhanush SRBM, which could be fitted with nuclear warheads.

India’s aircraft can deliver an estimated 45 per cent of 106 warheads. The Indian Air Force’s Jaguar fighter bombers can deliver about 16 nuclear warheads, while the French-built Mirage-2000 fleet can deliver 32.

Fears of a war between the two South Asian rivals erupted after a suspected militant attack on an army garrison in Uri Sector of Indian-held Kashmir claimed the lives of 18 Indian soldiers.

Tension between Pakistan and India has been high since an Indian crackdown on dissent in Kashmir following the killing by security forces of Burhan Wani, a young separatist leader, in July.

Both the South Asian rivals claim Kashmir in full, but govern separate parts, and have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over Kashmir.

Courtesy: Hindustan Times

China sees Kashmir dispute as an obstacle to Silk Road

Indian Kashmir (Credit:
Indian Kashmir

Growing tensions between India and Pakistan is persuading the Chinese establishment to focus on the Kashmir issue as an impediment to Beijing’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, with the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) at its core.

The Uri incident, which has escalated India’s efforts to garner international support to dock Pakistan as a sponsor of terrorism, after 18 Indian soldiers were killed in a cross-border raid, and Islamabad’s re-energised drive to internationalise Kashmir, has fueled considerable anxiety in Beijing. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has on two occasions since the Uri incident, called upon India and Pakistan to exercise restraint and resume their stalled dialogue.

Military tensions a threat

Apart from the nuclear dimension, which turns military tensions between India and Pakistan into a lurking threat to international peace and security, analysts say that the Chinese have a more pressing and immediate, concern — the fallout of Indo-Pak friction on the viability of the CPEC.

The CPEC links the Pakistani port of Gwadar with Kashgar in Xinjiang. It is part of China’s high-stake OBOR connectivity initiative in Eurasia, which would allow China to gate-crash as an indispensable rule-maker of international trade and commerce. Coupled with its aspiration to develop a string of ports and coastal economic hubs, along its maritime trading routes, China’s Maritime Silk Road (MSR), would also be central to Beijing’s rise as a mature global power.

China hopes to replicate its dramatic success in developing coastal hubs such as Shanghai and Shenzhen as models for developing new shore-based icons along the Indian Ocean coastline.

Passing through Baluchistan, PoK

Unsurprisingly, the CPEC, which passes through a section of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), was apparently the primary focus of talks between Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang and his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif at their meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). A posting of the September 21 talks, on the Chinese Foreign Ministry website underscored that Prime Minister Li “pointed out that at present, bilateral practical cooperation, with China-Pakistan economic corridor as the priority, has achieved positive progress.”

Yet, Mr. Li did not hide Beijing’s security concerns, when he stressed, “It is hoped that Pakistan can reinforce prevention on the security risk of the projects and continue to provide safety protection to the programme construction and Chinese personnel in Pakistan.”

Bugti’s asylum

A large part of the CPEC passes through Baluchistan. India has raised Pakistan’s alleged human rights violations in the province at the international level — a policy shift that was underscored by New Delhi’s assertions on the Baluch issue, earlier this month, at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. New Delhi has also signaled its possible readiness to provide asylum to Baluchistan Republican Party (BRP) leader Brahamdagh Bugti.

The Hong Kong based South China Morning Post quoted Pakistan commentator Najam Sethi as saying that “Bugti’s asylum suggests that India will make Baluchistan a central plank of its strategy, politically and diplomatically.” He added: “China is beginning to worry about all these.”

‘Disaster for whole region’

India’s exertions in Baluchistan have not gone unnoticed in China. In an earlier interview with The Hindu, Chinese scholar Hu Shisheng highlighted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reference to Baluchistan in his independence day address signaled “a watershed moment in India’s policy towards Pakistan in the future.” He added: “We cannot figure out what could be its result and consequences, but my personal hunch is that it could be disastrous for the whole region; for all the relations — especially between Pakistan and India, China and India, especially among the three countries. That is the real concern.”

He also pointed out the contrary to the perception that China was developing the CPEC to lower its commercial dependence on the Malacca straits, the prime strategic motivation behind the project was to ensure Pakistan’s economic stability. In turn, it was assumed this would help dry up terror sanctuaries in Pakistan, and prevent the outflow of militants, in the region, including China and Central Asia — all part of the expanding OBOR network.

It is in the K-word

Chinese academics have also begun to debate the regional fall-out of the Kashmir issue, and the benefits to the CPEC, in case a modus vivendi is achieved to address this thorny dispute. “If India and Pakistan can resolve the Kashmir problem, CPEC would not be an obstacle among China, India and Pakistan,” Professor Long Xingchun, Director of Center of India Studies, at China West Normal University, told The Hindu. He added: “The CPEC can then be renamed as China-South Asia corridor benefiting all participants.”

Nevertheless, Professor Long noted that though the CPEC is a link between the land corridor of the Silk Road and the MSR, “its emergence was more important to Pakistan than to China.”

‘India’s armed forces still lack a brain’

Indian army soldiers patrol near the Line of Control, a ceasefire line dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan, in Poonch district in this August 7, 2013 file photo. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

In a damning assessment of India’s armed forces, The Economist has published a report on how the country’s international ambitions simply don’t match its military muscle.

“India is not as strong militarily as the numbers might suggest,” says the article, going on to claim how despite looking good on paper, India’s armed forces are in fact outdated or ill-maintained.

‘Pakistan 1,000 times stronger than in 1965’

“Our air defence is in a shocking state,” the report quoted Ajai Shukla, a commentator on military affairs, as saying. He said, “What’s in place is mostly 1970s vintage, and it may take ten years to install the fancy new gear.”

The report said that on paper, India’s air force is the world’s fourth largest, with around 2,000 aircraft in service. “But an internal report seen in 2014 by IHS Jane’s, a defence publication, revealed that only 60% were typically fit to fly,” it said.

The report quoted another earlier report this year by a government accounting agency estimated that the “serviceability” of the 45 MiG 29K jets that are the pride of the Indian navy’s air arm ranged between 16% and 38%.

India’s limited war option

They were intended to fly from the carrier currently under construction, which was ordered more than 15 years ago and was meant to have been launched in 2010. According to the government’s auditors the ship, after some 1,150 modifications, now looks unlikely to sail before 2023.

India fields the world’s second-biggest standing army, after China, with long fighting experience in a variety of terrains and situations. “Yet there are serious chinks in India’s armour. Much of its weaponry is, in fact, outdated or ill maintained.”

The report also addressed how India’s military is scandal-prone. “Corruption has been a problem in the past, and observers rightly wonder how guerrillas manage to penetrate heavily guarded bases repeatedly. Lately the Indian public has been treated to legal battles between generals over promotions, loud disputes over pay and orders for officers to lose weight.”

India incapable of waging war on Pakistan, experts say

The deeper problem, the report added, with India’s military is structural. The three services are each reasonably competent, say security experts; the trouble is that they function as separate fiefdoms. “No service talks to the others, and the civilians in the Ministry of Defence don’t talk to them,” says Shukla.

Poll Shows Tight Race for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

Hillary vs Donald (Credit:
Hillary vs Donald

With less than eight weeks before Election Day, Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton are locked in a tight contest, with both candidates still struggling to win the confidence of their respective bases, the latest New York Times/CBS News poll finds.

Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic nominee, has the support of 46 percent of likely voters nationwide, to 44 percent for Mr. Trump, the Republican, including those who said they were leaning toward a candidate. Looking more broadly at all registered voters, Mrs. Clinton holds a wider edge, 46 to 41 percent.

In a four-way race, Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton are tied at 42 percent each. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, has the support of 8 percent of likely voters, and the Green Party nominee, Jill Stein, takes 4 percent.

The third-party candidates draw their strongest support from younger voters. Twenty-six percent of voters ages 18 to 29 say they plan to vote for Mr. Johnson, and another 10 percent back Ms. Stein. A little more than one in five political independents say they will vote for one of the third-party candidates.

Discontent with the major party candidates is widespread. Among those who say they intend to vote for Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton, slightly more than half express strong support. The rest say that they harbor reservations about their candidate, or that they are simply voting to thwart the other nominee.

Over all, just 43 percent of likely voters describe themselves as very enthusiastic about casting a ballot in November. Fifty-one percent of Mr. Trump’s supporters say they are very enthusiastic about voting; 43 percent of Mrs. Clinton’s supporters say they are very enthusiastic.

The race has clearly grown tighter in recent weeks. National polling averages show that Mrs. Clinton’s margin over Mr. Trump has narrowed from eight points in early August to two points today.

Mrs. Clinton found herself under attack last week for suggesting that half of Mr. Trump’s supporters held views that made them “deplorables,” and for her campaign’s attempts to conceal her pneumonia diagnosis. The Times/CBS News poll was conducted from Sept. 9 to 13, so many of those interviewed were aware of the controversies.

Mr. Trump hired new campaign leadership in mid-August and has been more disciplined in his public statements. His poll numbers have been steadily rising.

Mrs. Clinton continues to outpace Mr. Trump among women, nonwhites and younger voters, while Mr. Trump leads among whites, 57 to 33 percent.

Among white women, the candidates are virtually tied: 46 percent for Mrs. Clinton and 45 percent for Mr. Trump.

Mrs. Clinton’s support is notably strong among college graduates, particularly whites. She leads by 11 points among white likely voters with a college degree; if polling holds, she would be the first Democrat in 60 years to win among this group.

This is the first Times/CBS News poll of the election cycle to include a measure of likely voters. The nationwide telephone survey reached 1,433 registered voters and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. To achieve a sample that reflected the probable electorate, these voters were weighted by their responses to questions about voting history, attention to the campaign and likelihood of voting.

With Mrs. Clinton sidelined by illness this week, Mr. Trump has vigorously pressed his case. He promoted a new plan to support working parents on Tuesday, and released a partial account of his medical status on Wednesday during a taping of “The Dr. Oz Show.”

Poll participants expressed ambivalence about the need for more information on the candidates’ medical histories. For each candidate, just 45 percent of registered voters said they wanted to see more medical records released. (Questions about Mr. Trump’s and Mrs. Clinton’s medical records were asked starting on Sunday afternoon, after news broke that Mrs. Clinton fell ill at a ceremony commemorating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.)

Mr. Johnson’s showing of 8 percent support in this poll will make it difficult for him to qualify for the first presidential debate, on Sept. 26. Under the rules set by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a candidate must reach an average of 15 percent support in five major news media polls, including the Times/CBS News poll. Another poll included in the average used by the commission, the Washington Post/ABC News poll, had Mr. Johnson at 9 percent support last week.


APS attack (Credit: ATDT 2016 edition)
APS attack
(Credit: ATDT 2016 edition)

The massacre of children studying in Army Public School, Peshawar in December 2014, may have been an act of desperation by the Taliban, routed six months earlier from North Waziristan — `the last refuge for jihadis’ — but it would shake up Pakistan by the sheer level of its moral depravity.

That morning militants pumped bullets in the heads of children, as they hid trembling under their desks. The lights went out for hundreds of families, for whom the “tiniest coffins were also the heaviest.” A pall of gloom descended over the nation, which though inured by countless incidents of terrorism since 9/11, woke to new depths of human bestiality.

Pakistan reacted much as the US had after 9/11. It demanded Afghanistan extradite Pakistani Taliban chief, Mullah Fazlullah from Swat, for the heinous murders. Just as US support for the Mujahideen fighting Soviet occupation of Afghanistan went sour after Osama Bin Laden used the ensuing Taliban regime to kill thousands in New York and Washington… so too Pakistan realized the chickens had come home to roost.

This time round, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had made a fatal mistake. They had shot the students in Peshawar, believing they were from families of the army. A source close to Fazlullah’s coterie told me the TTP had boasted to the effect. Like other parents, he suffered, not knowing if his own child had survived in a neighboring school.

It was a display of how the Pakistani Taliban’s self confidence had peaked, despite being pushed out by the army. Fazlullah fled the 2009 Swat military operation, after his foot soldiers used brutal Al Qaeda tactics of kidnapping and beheading soldiers. His spokesman Muslim Khan explained to me they merely sought to implement Shariah — the interpretation of Islamic law that the Taliban wished to impose on the nation.

While the Taliban dug in, a group of educationists resisted them in their home base. In Malakand division, educators like Ahmed Shah and Ziauddin Yusufzai connected with the anti Taliban struggle by Pakistan’s civil society. Ziauddin’s `r’s’ rolled passionately as he narrated how the people of Swat had been taken hostage by the militants. I was intrigued by his idealism. Still, like other people in Pakistan I wondered how long he could sustain it in the face of mounting Taliban brutality.

Ziauddin brought his entire family into the resistance – putting his daughter Malala in touch with Pakistan’s civil society. The quintessential women’s rights activist in Islamabad, Tahira Abdullah took the teenage girl under her wing, connecting her with non governmental organizations (NGOs), focused on universal education.

Karachi’s civil society told me the teenager accompanied them to NGO workshops, to raise the profile for education of girls. In Swat, Malala’s family kept pushing the envelope in a dangerous environment, where Fazlullah’s militants sneaked in from across the border and attacked opponents.

It was only a matter of time before the Taliban arrived one October morning in 2012 to hunt down Malala. In a Goliath vs David encounter, a Talib peaked his head in the girls van and asked `Who is Malala.’ Without waiting for an answer, he fired a volley of bullets on the screaming school girls, injuring them as they ducked. Malala bled profusely, horrifying those who cared for her. When I heard Malala’s mentor, Tahira sob, I sensed the nightmare for civil society had hit home. That the girl who had pursued education in the face of all odds, would perhaps become one more nameless and faceless victim in Pakistan’s seemingly endless `War on Terror.’

But the difference between life and death… and what one ends up calling destiny… was that the bullet hit Malala centimeters away from target. It allowed the girl to be rushed to a hospital in the UK, where she was operated upon and survived to tell the world how the Taliban had brutalized people in the name of Islam.

In Washington, where Malala visited after she turned 18, I saw the fading scars on her animated face. With her head covered, the young woman looked on fondly at her father, Ziauddin, even as he stuttered with engaging enthusiasm. He narrated that in London a cab driver had initially asked him if he was the father of the girl attacked by the Taliban. But he glowed, recalling, he was now identified as the “father of Malala, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.”

With the same pride, Ziauddin introduced his family to a gathering of Pakhtuns and US based well-wishers.

“As a young man, I used to listen to my father… and now I listen to my children,” he said, carried away in a stream of consciousness.

Nurtured by her strong family network and boosted by a global following, Malala displayed quiet self-confidence. It contrasted with the boys from Army Public School, Peshawar who arrived in the US nine months after the massacre. The Obama administration had invited them to tour US universities along with local students, to better understand the system of education.

Hoping to add to my insight about the horrific incident, I tried to ask the boys about what happened that fateful day.

Umar Asif, a tall, bespectacled, alert looking young man quickly replied: “I didn’t go to school that day.” As I glanced at his class mate, he too replied, looking away, “Me neither.”

The mystery cleared as I saw a watchful army official skipping around the room. The official reminded those who may have forgotten… to stay quiet on the sensitive issue. Pakistan’s relationship with the Taliban was not a topic on which the army wanted to invite scrutiny inside the US.

Police officer, family members arrested in suspected honor killing of Samia Shahid

Samia Shahid (Credit:
Samia Shahid

When Samia Shahid died in Pakistan in July, her family said it was the result of a heart attack. Authorities now believe it was an honor killing carried out by her ex-husband, father and uncle, and that an investigator helped some of her family members flee the country.

According to the Guardian, the 28-year-old British woman returned to Pandori, a village in Punjab, under the impression that her father was sick. While she was there, she was strangled to death, a detail the station house officer of the local police station, Aqeel Abbas, initially suppressed.

“He helped people escape the country who were wanted in the case of Samia,” Abubakar Khuda Bakhsh, who’s been appointed to lead a special investigation into the circumstances of Shahid’s death, told the Guardian. “Despite clear instructions, he let them go.”

Bakhsh was referring to Shahid’s mother and sister, whom police are trying to bring back to Pakistan. Abbas, who is also suspected of having accepted a bribe in exchange for his cooperation, is currently in custody.

Shahid’s second husband, Mukhtar Syed Kazam, believes her death to have been an honor killing, her family’s retribution for a marriage they opposed. According to the Guardian, she was “pressured into marrying” Chaudhry Shakeel and outraged her family when she divorced him, then marrying Kazam.

According to the BBC, Shakeel told authorities he’d strangled her with a scarf and is being held for murder, a crime with which he was reportedly assisted by Shahid’s father, Muhammad Shahid. He’s being held as an accessory, while her uncle, Haq Nawaz, is allegedly in custody for having tried to falsify Shahid’s medical records to support the claim she’d died from a heart attack.

On top of murder, Shakeel has also been charged with raping his ex-wife, the India Times reported. Unfortunately, the killing is far from an isolated incident — the BBC reported that, in 2014, almost 1,100 women in Pakistan died at the hands of relatives who believed the women had dishonored their houses. New legislation aims to crack down on honor killings, and while it won’t be able to prevent them entirely, it’s a step in the right direction.

“Enough is enough,” Anis Haroon, a member of Pakistan’s National Commission on Human Rights, told CNN. “We don’t want any more killings in the name of honor. It’s a total falsehood — there is no honor in killing.”

‘War against terror cost Pakistan $107bn’: DG ISPR Asim Bajwa briefs on progress under Operation Zarb-i-Azb

Shawwal river (Credit:
Shawwal river
RAWALPINDI, Sept 1: Director-General (DG) Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Asim Bajwa on Thursday gave an exhaustive rundown of progress made during Operation Zarb-i-Azb.

Zarb-i-Azb commenced on June 15, 2014, after an attack on Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport. The operation which has gone on for over two years is now in its final phase.

“In 2014, the security environment when Operation Zarb-i-Azb started was such that the country faced various instances of terrorism,” the DG ISPR said. “There were 311 IED blasts, 74 attacks, and 26 suicide blasts in 2014.”
“The salient operational guidelines for Zarb-i-Azb were that it would be an indiscriminate operation, it would avoid collateral damage and it would be mindful of human rights,” he said.
Summary of progress made during Operation Zarb-i-Azb
War against terror has cost Pakistan $107bn
North Waziristan, Shawal, Khyber Agency cleared by Army
900 terrorists killed during Khyber I and Khyber II
66pc locals have returned to tribal areas
Daesh designs in Pakistan ‘foiled’, 309 arrested
Over 21,000 IBOs carried out across Pakistan, nearly people 1,400 arrested
536 soldiers killed, 2,272 injured during IBOs
3,500 terrorists killed in IBOs
Afghan govt, Nato forces did not take adequate action against terrorists
Poor deployment of armed forces along Afghan side of the border
Gates to be built at all crossing points along Pak-Afghan border
‘Afghan authorities did not take action against terrorists’
The DG ISPR displayed a map showing what he said was the concentration of terrorists in North Waziristan.

“No one could think of going to North Waziristan. It was the epicentre [of terrorism]. It was home to the largest communications infrastructure,” he said. The origin of most instances of terrorism was North Waziristan, he said.
“After the operation, when we cleared the valley, reaching Dattakhel and were moving towards the border, some terrorists came out from there via Afghanistan and reached the fringes of Khyber Agency.”

“Before we started the operation, Pakistan had informed all stakeholders ─ political, diplomatic and military ─ of the operation. The Afghan president, political govt, military leadership, Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan were all informed of the operation and requested that if terrorists cross the border, they would have to catch them.

“They are your people, you will have to take action against them. But that didn’t happen,” Bajwa said.

‘Killed 900 terrorists during Khyber ops’

“When the terrorists went towards Khyber Agency, we relocated some forces from the North Waziristan operation [to Khyber] and conducted operations Khyber I and Khyber II.”
“We recovered weapons, ammunition, IEDs, explosives, communications equipment, hate literature and discovered tunnels,” he said.

“There was enough explosive material there to carry out five IED blasts every day for 21 years. They could have caused 134,000 casualties with the amount of material we recovered.”

“North Waziristan has very challenging terrain but despite that, our armed forces went there and cleared all their hideouts, caves and tunnels. But Khyber was even more challenging. It has snowy mountains and was home to hideouts from the Afghan war and had a very high density of IEDs.”

The Army killed 900 terrorists during the Khyber operation, Bajwa said, and dismantled the network of terrorists that was threatening areas in the immediate surroundings, such as Peshawar.

‘Shawal is like Switzerland now’
“We started operations in Shawal, where all the terrorists from North Waziristan went. It was their last stronghold and they had nowhere to go after that. The operation went well and we cleared every village, every house, every school and every mosque in Shawal.”

“Shawal is like Switzerland now,” Bajwa claimed. “The residents are slowly returning, but they want the Army to stay on and provide stability and revive the economy. Pine nuts are grown in great quantities there. Terrorists were selling them to fund themselves, but now the locals will benefit.”

‘Daesh in Pakistan planned attacks on Islamabad’s diplomatic enclave’
The DG ISPR said that Daesh ─ another name for the militant Islamic State group ─ would not be allowed to have a presence in Pakistan.

“We created a comprehensive intelligence picture and saw that Daesh was trying to come into Pakistan. They organised themselves into two groups, the Kutaiba Haris (planning wing) and Kutaiba Mubashir (militant wing) and were trying to get local criminal and terrorist groups to join them,” Bajwa said.

“Terrorists were frustrated at the time with all the Intelligence-based Operations (IBOs) going on and tried to change hats. The core group had 20-25 people,” he said. These people were responsible for the attacks on the Faisalabad Dunya office, Lahore Din News office, Express News Sargodha office, and ARY News Islamabad office, he said.

About 309 people who were part of the organisation were arrested, including Afghans and people of Middle Eastern origin. About 157 small freelance groups were also arrested, he said.

Even people who did wall-chalking and graffiti for Daesh in Pakistan for Rs1,000 were also arrested, Bajwa said.

The group had planned to attacks in the capital’s diplomatic enclave, particularly on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and on foreign embassies, consulates and their employees, Bajwa said. They had also planned to target Islamabad airport and prominent public figures.

Border management: armed deployment low on Afghan side of border
There are 18 major crossing points between Pakistan and Afghanistan along the 2,600-kilometre-long shared border, Bajwa said. “We wanted to seal those areas so that terrorists from this side of the border don’t go there and vice versa,” he said.”

“Lots of terrorists who crossed into neighbouring districts in eastern Afghanistan have built concentration camps.”

“After clearing Fata… We began emphasising border management and the Torkham Gate was part of that. There will be proper gates made at all crossing points in addition to immigration staff posts,” the DG ISPR said. He also said hundreds of small posts will be set up where FC forces will be deployed.

“Additional FC wings will be raised, but until that happens, Army troops will provide reinforcement in many areas.”

“Other related agencies, including Nadra, will have staff posts and crossing will only be possible using valid documents on both sides of the border,” he said.

“We have posts along the border and have our own forces reinforcing the Frontier Corps, but the same kind of deployment doesn’t exist on the Afghan side of the border. Because of that void, there is a lot of presence and movement of terrorists there.”

“There will be a lot of patrolling to ensure no one can cross the border illegally. It will take time, but we are moving ahead steadily,” he said.
‘Over 21,000 IBOs carried out across Pakistan’

Intelligence-based operations (IBOs), special IBOs and combing operations have been carried out across the country, Bajwa said. The IBOs targeted terrorists, their facilitators, sleeper cells, financiers and abettors.
Around 2,578 were carried out in Balochistan, 9,308 in Punjab, 5,878 in Sindh and 3,263 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Special IBOs commenced the night the suicide blast at Lahore’s Gulshan-i-Iqbal park earlier this year, Bajwa said. So far, 477 special IBOs have been carried out, with 1,399 people apprehended.

“We have increased the scope with the leads we received… We will continue going wherever we need to without any hesitation,” he said.
‘War against terrorism has cost us $107bn’

The entire nation has borne the cost of the war against terrorism, which tallied up to $106.9 billion, Bajwa said.

During Operation Zarb-i-Azb, 536 soldiers were killed and 2,272 were injured, Bajwa said, whereas 3,500 terrorists were killed.

About 66 per cent of locals have returned to areas badly affected by terrorism. “But it is not enough that we take them back [to their homes]. We have to help them prosper by means of reconstruction efforts, ensure that the areas are better off [than before], create opportunities for livelihood and revive the local economy so that this kind of terrorism doesn’t recur.”

Infrastructural development projects in the region include a 705km road inside North and South Waziristan, a 75km road from Peshawar to Torkham, solar-powered water schemes and the Mirali Tehsil headquarters hospital, the DG ISPR said.

In addition to the above, market complexes, mosques, schools and colleges have also been built in these areas, Bajwa said.
‘Anti-Pakistan slogans will not be tolerated’

Responding to a question about Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain’s anti-Pakistan statements, Bajwa termed Hussain a foreigner residing 5,000km away from Pakistan.

“It is unacceptable for every Pakistani if Altaf Hussain raises anti-Pakistan slogans. The government is already taking action on this issue.

“There has been lots of action on the ground against his incitement to violence. People have been caught and action taken… Everything is before you,” Bajwa said.

MQM amends its constitution to remove Altaf Hussain as party chief

Farooq Sattar press conference (Credit
Farooq Sattar press conference
KARACHI, Sept 1: Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Farooq Sattar announced that MQM has made the “required” amendments in its constitution to formally dissociate from Altaf Hussain and removed his name as the party’s supreme leader and the decision making authority in party affairs.

While addressing a press conference in the metropolis on Thursday, Sattar said the amendments have been made in accordance with the assurances given in earlier announcement, and added that “MQM will not let anyone use the party platform to chant anti-Pakistan slogans”.

“Since we had to prove we are running party affairs from Pakistan, and not from elsewhere, we have substituted Article 7(b) in our constitution,” said Sattar.

“It was necessary that our party members and advisory board approves and endorses our decisions of August 23, which they did, following which the amendments in party constitutions were made.”

“Missing persons should be returned to their families and this demand is as important as us changing our party’s constitution,” said the MQM leader while referring to the party’s earlier demands in reference to its missing workers.

Sattar also demanded that the party’s female workers arrested following the August 22 incident should be set free.

The MQM leader also requested the authorities to unseal Khursheed Memorial Hall and the party’s headquarters at Nine zero.

“It is against the country’s Constitution to seal the offices of any political party,” maintained Sattar.

He announced the name of four leaders who have been included in the central coordination committee, in addition to Khawaja Izhar ul Hassan, these leaders are Syed Sardar Ahmad, Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Sohail Mansoor and Rauf Saddiqui