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Huge leak of secret files sows new Afghan war doubts

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WASHINGTON – The leak of 90,000 secret military files has emboldened critics of the war in Afghanistan, who raised fresh questions Tuesday about the viability of the increasingly unpopular US-led campaign.

The New York Times said in an editorial Tuesday the documents made public by the website WikiLeaks “confirm a picture of Pakistani double-dealing that has been building for years.”

The Times said President Barack Obama will have to deal firmly with Islamabad in response to the most controversial files, which indicate that key ally Pakistan allows its spies to meet directly with the Taliban.

“If Mr Obama cannot persuade Islamabad to cut its ties to, and then aggressively fight, the extremists in Pakistan, there is no hope of defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan,” wrote the daily.

Americans are increasingly weary of this costly war,” wrote the Times, one of three media organizations, along with German magazine Der Spiegel and Britain’s Guardian, to have received the documents weeks ago from WikiLeaks.

Some members of Congress questioned Obama’s Afghanistan strategy, as well as an as-yet unpassed 37-billion dollar funding bill for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, following the leaks.

Democratic Senator Russell Feingold said the disclosures “make it clear that there is no military solution in Afghanistan.”

Meanwhile, Democratic Representative Jane Harman, who chairs a Homeland Security intelligence subcommittee, said the documents “reinforce the view that the war in Afghanistan is not going well.”

The 92,000 documents released Sunday, dating from 2004 to 2009, triggered an outcry from nations fighting in Afghanistan as the Pentagon scrambled to uncover the source of the security breach and whether it would endanger lives.

US experts were working to see if the huge cache “could jeopardize force protection or operational security, or even worse still, the national security of this country,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told Fox News.

In addition to the Pakistan allegations, the leaked files maintain that the deaths of innocent civilians have been covered up, and that Iran is funding Taliban militants eight years after the 2001 US-led invasion ousted the radical Islamic regime from power.

The bombshell revelations triggered outrage, with a top NATO general calling for increased vigilance against such leaks as the White House slammed them as “irresponsible.”

The coalition needed to be aware that some “documents are pushed out into the open via leaks, but that obliges us even more to work with the greatest care,” said General Egon Ramms, who is in charge of NATO forces in Afghanistan.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs warned that the leaks had put the names of service personnel and military operations in the public domain, but played down the likely strategic and political impact.

“In terms of broad revelations, there aren’t any that we see in these documents,” Gibbs said, pointing out that most of the period covered by the leaks was during the previous Bush administration.

Britain, which has some 9,500 troops in Afghanistan, said Monday it regretted the leak while Pakistan has said the reports were “skewed” and not based on the reality on the ground.

In Berlin, a defense ministry spokesman said releasing the documents “could affect the national security of NATO allies and the whole NATO mission.”

But WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange defended the decision to publish the leaked files, saying they showed “thousands” of war crimes may have been committed in Afghanistan.

Light us up, please!

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By:Farrukh Khan Pitafi

Politicians sitting together in airconditioned rooms and mulling over the proposals submitted by WAPDA bureaucrats can hardly solve anything. If it at all could, it would have helped solve quite a lot already

Moving back to Islamabad has proved to be quite an experience. The city has grown more expensive by the day, not that it was more affordable in the past. But the most remarkable thing about it is the developmental change. Underpasses and flyovers have been built, which were only being thought of when I left. And I did not leave decades ago. Things have been built in not more than three and a half years. Another interesting feature of the city is the compartments in which it has been divided; most galling of all, of course, is the red zone. The name sounds as if we are living in Iraq.

It would not be indulging in hearsay to state that the city has stayed divided for quite some time, even if not for the sake of security. We used to say that between Sector G and F exists an invisible Durand Line, which keeps the have-nots away from the haves. But now something quite different is happening. The haves have been interned in a prison of their own devices. Fear, the mother of all compromises, has done it again.

And this is the place where the 17th Amendment was passed and has now been superseded by the 18th. This is the place where the current chief justice was deposed by a dictator who called himself the most democratic one. It was, of course, somewhere nearby that Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, and decades ago her father hanged by her own country’s army upon the orders of its apex court. Now this city is swarming with the political leadership of the country to mull over the solution for our electricity disaster. At least the leaders sound committed today. But is there any real solution in the offing? I do not doubt that the issue of the electricity shortage, consequently the power outages, is a political problem too. I will come to the political part later. But primarily it is a technical matter. Only a committee comprising true professionals can do justice to it. All that the politicians can do is issue accurate data on the state of affairs concerning the electricity issue. The circular debt, the actual shortfall, the real installed capacity, the major bottlenecks, the best options available and the impact of international inflationary pressures and IMF terms on power generation, all can be published on the internet and in the papers within a day or two.

Once that is done, a convention can be called of all of the country’s leading electrical, nuclear and other relevant engineers. For even better measure, leading economists can be called in too. All can sit together to develop a set of proposals that the politicians can later implement. Otherwise, politicians sitting together in airconditioned rooms and mulling over the proposals submitted by WAPDA bureaucrats can hardly solve anything. If it at all could, it would have helped solve quite a lot already.

I know a lot is being said about conservation. We are told not to marry after dark, not to keep our shops open after that and make Saturdays a holiday as well. But with due respect, these are quite foolish suggestions. The only hope of a failing economy’s recovery lies in generating ample economic activity and, in a country where manufacturing industry has hardly ever flourished, functions like weddings and small businesses like shops are generating the actual activity. And now you want to shut them down. Actual conservation can come through putting an end to line losses and power theft. Why will people not steal electricity when wires hang naked on poles in front of their houses? In decent parts of the world, most of the cables are buried underground. It is an open fact that the country’s power authorities have failed miserably to modernise the power distribution system. No matter how much additional electricity you produce, it is bound to be lost in the labyrinth of this sordid system. The actual solution lies somewhere else. Why has WAPDA not improved its distribution system? Because there is no competition! How can we bring about change? By introducing competition, plain and simple. And it should not be an artificial competition. In Karachi, they did privatise KESC but still there is no competitor in terms of distribution.

Private, competing distributors certainly will initially sell electricity at more expensive rates and only the richer part of the population will buy it from them. But this will still lift pressure from the public sector, helping it to reach out to the underprivileged segments of society and perhaps also revamp its own distribution system.

Now comes the political bit. It is good that, finally, the politicians are at least showing active interest in solving this problem. Mian Shahbaz Sharif has even presented a nine-point paper on this. Many of these points are good, some brilliant. But, as I have said earlier, this country produces a good number of world-class technocrats per annum. It is time to consult them.

The prime minister should also be complimented for bringing all provincial heads and influential politicians to one table. This show of solidarity is impressive. But have you wondered why it took our politicians two years to sit together on this very critical issue? Because the country’s political culture was lacking consensus. Thanks to the 18th Amendment there is some consensus now. The government and other influentials need to work on it further.

Pakistan needs to renegotiate its terms of reference with Pakistan. This was a proposal that was actually presented by Mian Nawaz Sharif. His party boasts of a man of experience who could help in this situation because he has stayed free of Pervez Musharraf’s corroding shadows. I am talking about, as you must have guessed, Ishaq Dar. While everyone is complimenting Raza Rabbani, a man I have respected regardless of the 18th Amendment, we often forget the contribution of Ishaq Dar. The amendment would not have been possible without his contribution either. He is important also because he tailored the current term’s first budget. The PML-N needs to come back to the cabinet and we all need to convince it to do so. You will see a marked difference immediately, for democratic consensus and synergy is an absolute sine qua non. The Islamabad I knew could at least accomplish this much.

The writer is an independent columnist and a talk show host. He can be reached at

Written by rohitkumarsviews

April 22, 2010 at 7:56 am

In child death capital India 5,000 die every day

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By: Kavita Chowdhury

India has unofficially become the world’s child death capital, with a study claiming that over 5,000 children die in the country every day of “totally preventable causes”. According to the study, Child Health Now, by the NGO World Vision, India accounts for the highest number of child deaths (under five years of age) in the world at 1.95 million per year.

The study revealed that the majority of the deaths occur in the child’s first year itself. The causes included diarrhoea, pneumonia and neo- natal problems.> Simple life- saving measures such as oral rehydration solutions, basic vaccinations, breastfeeding and using mosquito nets could bring down the dismal number by more than two thirds, the report said.

Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo follow India in the list. Together, the three nations account for 40 per cent of the total child deaths in the world. It was also found that the three countries allocated the least share of funding – less than three per cent – to maternal and child heath in the health sector allocation.

Reni Jacob, the advocacy director for World Vision India, said, “When hundreds die in a disaster, it is considered an emergency. But when 5,000 children die every day, it is not considered one. This is the biggest human rights and child rights violation of all times.” The fact that simple interventions can go a long way in preventing child deaths is evident from the disparities that exist within India itself. While states like Orissa have a high infant mortality rate of 10 per cent, in others like Kerala, the rate is just a little over 1 per cent. And that is primarily because of initiatives in child care and maternal health services.

Indeed, the report found that children in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are more vulnerable than those in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. In Bihar, less than one- third infants are breast- fed and 50 per cent of children are stunted because of malnutrition. The state has a high infant mortality rate of 85 deaths per 1,000 live births.

World Vision has launched a five- year campaign in India to address the alarming situation. It has also urged the government to revamp the National Rural Health Mission and widen the focus of the Integrated Child Development Scheme to less than three- year- olds.

Reproduced From Mail Today. Copyright 2010. MTNPL. All rights reserved.

Written by rohitkumarsviews

March 25, 2010 at 8:07 am