Imam held for evidence-tampering in blasphemy case

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Titanic Orphans A Tale of Survival

Original article can be read here;

Brothers Michel Navratil, 4, and Edmond, 2, were placed onto one of the last lifeboats by their father before the disastrous sinking of the Titanic. Their father did not make it off the doomed vessel, making the two youngsters the only parent-less children aboard the ship. Referred to as ‘Louis and Lola’ in newspaper articles, their mother was eventually located and reunited with her children one month after the catastrophe.

Michel and Edmond Navratil, ages 4 and 2, were traveling with their father to America aboard the Titanic. Their father did not make it off the sinking vessel, leaving the two young boys without a guardian or way to be identified.

Michel and Edmond Navratil, ages 4 and 2, were traveling with their father to America aboard the Titanic. Their father did not make it off the sinking vessel, leaving the two young boys without a guardian or way to be identified.


Michel and Edmond Navratil reunited with their mother, Marcelle, in New York City one month after the Titanic disaster. The children's parents had recently separated, and what was supposed to be a weekend stay with their father turned into a trip on the Titanic to start a new life in America without Marcelle.


Titanic survivors Michel and Edmond Navratil were referred to in newspaper articles as 'Louis and Lola' before they were identified.

Titanic survivors Michel and Edmond Navratil were referred to in newspaper articles as 'Louis and Lola' before they were identified.


Crowds in New York awaiting the arrival of Titanic survivors rescued by the Carpathia.

Crowds in New York awaiting the arrival of Titanic survivors rescued by the Carpathia.



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Daily Press Briefing, Washington, DC. April 4, 2012

Mark C. Toner

Deputy Spokesperson


MR. TONER: Just before we get started, welcome to the State Department. And excuse me, I don’t want a BlackBerry interruption. I just realized that. Forgive me. And I also especially want to welcome – we have interns from SCA and NEA here in the building today, or in the room with us today, so welcome to all of you. I don’t have anything at the top.


MR. TONER: So go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: So the Iranians now say they don’t like Istanbul as a venue. They propose some alternatives. Are you up for considering alternatives? And, if so, I’ve got some suggestions. Would you – (laughter) – Bahamas?

MR. TONER: I don’t think it’s up for us to consider.

QUESTION: Shanghai.

MR. TONER: That would be nice. I don’t think it’s for us to suggest any alternatives. I think what’s happening right now is that the EU’s office of the high representative is continuing to consult and work out the details with our Iranian counterparts on the venue. Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. But – well, all that’s well and good, but, I mean, are you still under the – going on the assumption – or is it still your position that these talks should be held in Istanbul?

MR. TONER: Well, again, they’re clearly trying to nail down the venue. Obviously – Secretary spoke about this the other day – it was our understanding or belief that all sides agreed on Istanbul and the dates. We’ve seen, subsequently, some other venues tossed around. But really, the – it’s the high representative offices we need to finalize this.

QUESTION: Sure. Fair enough, but —

MR. TONER: But we’re looking – no, just to finish, Matt – so, I mean, we’re looking to finalize all these details so that we can actually get into talks.

QUESTION: Yeah, but —

MR. TONER: The focus should be on the substance.

QUESTION: For you, for the United States, is the idea of having these – having this meeting in Baghdad or Damascus, is that a feasible – is that a reasonable alternative?

QUESTION: Beijing? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Again, I’m not going to give you a grade on every venue that’s tossed out there.

QUESTION: Well, all right. Let’s just start with Damascus. Do you think that it’s actually feasible for – from a logistical point of view?

MR. TONER: Again, I don’t think we have the time to go through this list. Again, it is the high representative’s lead on this. They’re working with the Iranians to finalize it. We keep hearing different things from the Iranians. Let her office have the lead, talk to the Iranians, nail down these venues. What I think is the most important here is that we get into talks so we can focus on the substance and not the venue.

QUESTION: Well, then is there any place you wouldn’t go?

MR. TONER: (Laughter.) Again —

QUESTION: I mean, Bamako? Where – is there a place that is absolutely —

MR. TONER: No. Seriously, Matt, I mean we’re —

QUESTION: I’m being – trying to be serious.

MR. TONER: Yeah – no —

QUESTION: I want to find out if there is – if there are – if a venue – if the choice of venue could crater this before it even happens because you guys are opposed to it. Now, I mean, frankly, the Iranians suggesting Damascus is a bit ludicrous. And I would think that you could say that from the podium considering what the situation —

MR. TONER: I actually hadn’t seen that. I had seen that they had suggested —

QUESTION: They’ve also suggested Baghdad.

MR. TONER: I had seen that they had suggested Baghdad.

QUESTION: But you guys – well, Baghdad, you guys —

MR. TONER: I had not seen Damascus —

QUESTION: You think that Baghdad —

MR. TONER: — seen Beijing.

QUESTION: You said Baghdad last week was a wonderful venue for the Arab League summit. So what’s wrong with it for this?

MR. TONER: Again, it’s not our place right now to weigh in on this process. First of all, it’s not just about the United States. This is about the P-5+1 working together in concert to engage with the Iranians to find a workable venue for these talks to continue or to go – or to begin.

QUESTION: Okay. I don’t – I won’t –


QUESTION: You’re not going to answer, but I don’t think it’s out of line to ask what you guys think is a reasonable or not reasonable venue.

MR. TONER: And – yeah. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Back to the substance?

MR. TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: You said that what’s important is the substance here, right? So if what is important is the substance, isn’t the venue pretty much a matter of indifference? I mean, if you’re – if they’re willing to have a substantive, serious conversation, why should the venue be so hard to pin down? Why don’t you guys just agree to a venue?

MR. TONER: Well, again, it speaks to – it’s not just the United States; it’s the EU, it’s the other P-5+1 partners. There’s timing, there’s schedules, there’s all – there’s a lot of logistics that weigh into this process. So again, it’s not really for us to go out and offer our viewpoint or our opinion. I think what’s best now is for High Representative Ashton’s office to take all of that under consideration, speak directly to the Iranians, nail down the venue, and then we can get into talks.

QUESTION: Do you think the Iranians are playing games with you?

MR. TONER: I truly don’t know. I mean, Toria spoke a little bit yesterday about the fact that – I think it was yesterday – about we tend to hear different things from different parts of the Iranian Government. That’s a

QUESTION for the Iranians. What we’re looking for – we’ve seen an official response that they want to get back into talks, so we’re eager to do that.

QUESTION: And I think Mr. Zebari is quoted as saying – Foreign Minister Zebari is quoted as saying that he is looking for a written response from the P-5+1 to the idea of Baghdad as a potential venue.

MR. TONER: I’m actually not aware of that, so I don’t have an answer for you.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you —

MR. TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: The President and the Secretary have both repeatedly said it’s incumbent on the Iranians to prove the seriousness of their intent and the peaceful nature of their program. Bearing that in mind, why would you even negotiate on the venue? I mean, they suggested Istanbul, you’ve accepted. Say you’re showing up on the 13th and if they don’t show up, they fail. Why do you need to go through this whole negotiation?

MR. TONER: Well, again, our intent here is to have productive, ongoing talks. And as you said, we want Iran to come to these talks with a seriousness of purpose, trying to address the international community’s concerns. It is – as I said before, it’s not for us to determine. It’s for the P-5+1, speaking with one voice, to consult with the Iranians, find an acceptable venue. We believed it was Istanbul. We’ve heard other things, but again, it’s unclear who’s speaking with authority within the Iranian Government. So it’s best for us, really, to work through Cathy Ashton, who has the lead on this.

QUESTION: Okay. If they were to back out of Istanbul, their own preferred destination, what would that say about the seriousness of their intent?

MR. TONER: Let’s let that happen. Let’s see how we go forward here. We believe that we can nail down the venue and have the talks on the 13th and 14th.

QUESTION: Mark, why shouldn’t an outsider looking at this view this as somewhat akin to arguing over the shape of the table?

MR. TONER: I mean, that’s – look, it’s fair that venue should not trump substance, and I think I said that. We want to settle the venue issues so we can get to the substance of these talks. But I think that when you consider that – and again, it’s not just about the U.S., it’s not just about Iran, it’s not just about the EU; it’s about a number of different countries and organizations coming to the same table on the same day or days to talk about these issues. There’s some level of coordination that needs to take place there. It’s best that that’s handled through the EU and not through public statements conjecturing this place or how about this place. Let’s let the Iranians talk to the EU, and there’s two point – there’s one point of contact there so that they can iron this out.

QUESTION: And one small last one on this.

MR. TONER: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: It’s hypothetical, but I think you probably can answer it. If these talks do actually occur, will the United States be represented by Under Secretary Sherman?

MR. TONER: It’s been that – that’s been the —

QUESTION: In the past.

MR. TONER: — case in the past, so yes, we expect that.


MR. TONER: That’s it? We’re done? Anything else? Any other —

QUESTION: A different topic?

MR. TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: Pakistan?

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Just a couple days after the United States announced this reward money for Hafiz Saeed, he very openly called a press conference in Rawalpindi. What’s the U.S. reaction to that? Do you think that the Pakistani authorities should have allowed that, or should they have arrested him?

MR. TONER: Look, just a couple of clarifications about the Rewards for Justice against Hafiz Saeed. I’m aware that he did give a press conference yesterday, made some public statements. Let’s be very clear because I’ve been getting

QUESTIONs all morning, “Hey, if you know where he is, why issue this reward?” Just to clarify, the $10 million is for information that – not about his location, but information that leads to an arrest or conviction. And this is information that could withstand judicial scrutiny, so I think what’s important here is we’re not seeking this guy’s location. We all know where he is. Every journalist in Pakistan and in the region knows how to find him. But we’re looking for information that can be usable to convict him in a court of law.

QUESTION: I thought that information was already out there. The Indians certainly seem to say that they have it.

MR. TONER: Well, the Indians do, and I’d refer you to the Indians and the Pakistanis to talk about their counterterrorism cooperation, but we’re —

QUESTION: Were you ever able to find out how much money the Indians have ponied up for a reward?

MR. TONER: I don’t – Matt, did you ask that yesterday? I’m sorry if you didn’t.

QUESTION: Yes, I did.

MR. TONER: I didn’t – I thought you – I thought we had only gotten the

QUESTION about —

QUESTION: I’m just curious as to why the U.S. taxpayer should pay for this.

MR. TONER: Well, I think we talked about – a little bit about this yesterday. One is that —

QUESTION: I understand. I mean, if you want to join with the Indians in offering some kind of a joint reward, but I don’t understand why the conference down —

MR. TONER: Well, you know how our Rewards for Justice works. It’s a very effective program and it’s not a joint program; it’s something that we do on behalf of the United States.

QUESTION: No, no. I mean, I’m not talking about – I mean, if you wanted to add this to whatever the Indians might be offering, I thought that would make – that would – I suppose that would make sense. I just don’t understand.

MR. TONER: I don’t – I just know that (inaudible) —

QUESTION: And if he’s already been indicted – as Toria said yesterday, if he’s already been indicted, presumably the prosecutors have information; otherwise he wouldn’t have been indicted.

MR. TONER: You’re talking about he’s indicted within the U.S. or indicted —

QUESTION: Anywhere.

MR. TONER: Anywhere. Well, again, I think – look, I think what they’re trying to – we’re trying to get information that can be used to put this gentleman behind bars.

QUESTION: Are you saying that there is no information right now that could – that you could prosecute him for?

MR. TONER: There is information, there is intelligence that is not necessarily usable in a court of law.

QUESTION: So, there – really? There is not – there isn’t information out there that could be used to prosecute?

MR. TONER: I think that the Rewards for Justice announcement speaks for itself, insofar as saying that they’re looking for evidence that can be used against him that implicates him —


MR. TONER: — in a court of law.

QUESTION: There’s something I don’t understand, which is —

MR. TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: I mean, I went back and I read the Rewards for Justice posting on it, and the reasons given are fairly old reasons, including that he is suspected of masterminding the Mumbai attacks. That was three and a half years ago, right? Why now? I mean, why would it take years to decide to put him on the Rewards for Justice Program?

MR. TONER: Sure. I mean, I – first of all, as you saw with the 9/11 attacks, we don’t ever necessarily – there’s no statute of limitations on these terrorist attacks —

QUESTION: (Sneezes.)

MR. TONER: — God bless you – statute of limitations on these kinds of terrorist attacks. I do know that there are – when we nominate someone for the Rewards for Justice, there is a legal process that needs to take place, or an internal process that needs to take place in order to designate him. I’m not sure how long that process is and how – when it began, but it does take some amount of time. But I also —

QUESTION: (Inaudible) years?

MR. TONER: Not years, undoubtedly.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) forgive me, but it was months, right? So, I mean —

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: I’m sorry.

MR. TONER: Yeah, Cami.

QUESTION: I thought Toria had said yesterday or the day before as well that the Pakistanis were aware of this, and yet we’ve got a statement today from the foreign minister saying that the U.S. must provide concrete evidence if it wants Islamabad to act against it. So it would seem like there’s some confusion on the part of the Pakistani Government as well.

MR. TONER: On the contrary. I think it speaks to the fact of what we’re looking for, which is people to step forward that can provide that kind of evidence that the Pakistanis can then arrest this individual and try him.

QUESTION: But Pakistan’s saying they want the U.S. to provide that concrete evidence.

MR. TONER: I don’t – I’m not aware that they said the U.S. I think that they are looking for usable evidence against him.

QUESTION: All right. To clarify, so —

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: — the U.S. doesn’t have any concrete evidence at the moment that can implicate him?

MR. TONER: Well, again, I think the announcement speaks very clearly to the fact that we’re looking for evidence that can withstand judicial scrutiny against this individual, information that can be used against him to convict him in a court of law.

QUESTION: And how does the timing of this announcement – does it in any way impact on U.S.-Pakistan relations when the parliament is debating the way forward? Is it –

MR. TONER: No. It has nothing to do with the ongoing parliamentary review. I think Toria spoke to that and de-conflicted it all and said that yesterday. It’s – this is about a process in and of itself, separate and apart from our ongoing bilateral relations with Pakistan. It does, however, speak to the fact that we are in a shared struggle here and that individuals like this gentleman, Hafiz Saeed, are a threat to the region. It wasn’t just six Americans killed. It was scores killed in 2008 attacks in Mumbai. And he’s also – he’s been – his group has been responsible for many attacks in the region.

QUESTION: Is it your kind of no confidence in Pakistani Government?

MR. TONER: Sorry?

QUESTION: It’s a kind of no-confidence vote in —

MR. TONER: Not at all. I think we’re trying to work in concert with the Pakistani Government in order to bring this guy to justice.

QUESTION: If there is – I’m confused. If there is not any evidence, why is this guy a wanted terrorist? If you – I mean, you could put anyone’s face and name up there and say I’ll give you 10 million if you can give me some information that connects them to some attack someplace.

MR. TONER: Right.

QUESTION: Why – there’s – there has to be something out there.

MR. TONER: Well, there is information out there. I just can’t speak to —

QUESTION: But it’s – but it can’t be used in court?

MR. TONER: Correct.

QUESTION: Well, that means that there is not any – that means that there’s – I don’t get it. What kind of information are you talking about that’s —

MR. TONER: Well, it’s based on intelligence, and it’s not —

QUESTION: And that can’t be used in court?

MR. TONER: Not to my understanding, but I can’t talk about it in detail.

QUESTION: But just getting back to the initial

QUESTION, it’s okay for him to be openly giving press conferences and to be goading in the U.S.? I mean, is that —

MR. TONER: He’s free to do that, unfortunately, up to this moment, but we hope to put him behind bars.

QUESTION: Did you do this to try to put pressure on the Pakistanis?

MR. TONER: I just think we are trying to – we have very close cooperation with India. We have very close cooperation – counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan, apart from our recent difficulties in the broader relationship. We’re – the major attack in Mumbai in 2008. There were subsequent terrorist actions undertaken by this group. And we are dogged in our pursuit of these individuals. I don’t know that – this is not to put pressure on any one government, but we wanted to be able to provide Pakistan with the tools that they need to prosecute this individual.

QUESTION: Pakistani president?

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: He’s traveling to New Delhi, to India. Basically, it’s a spiritual journey to a shrine.

MR. TONER: That’s right.

QUESTION: So the – do you think this announcement at this time will move the initiative – the narrative back to the anti-militant fight and cooperation?

MR. TONER: Well, difficult for me to say. And certainly, we would refer you to the governments of India and Pakistan as to what he’s going to discuss with the government there when he’s on his trip. But we want to see, obviously, ever closer counterterrorism cooperation. It’s to everyone’s interests.

QUESTION: Just getting back to the –

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: — that this is to help the Pakistani prosecutors. Is that – so that’s what this is aimed at, getting him prosecuted in Pakistan, not in India or not —

MR. TONER: Not necessarily. Not necessarily in Pakistan. I think we spoke to that in our Taken

QUESTION yesterday.

QUESTION: Exactly. Which is why —

MR. TONER: But he currently resides in Pakistan, obviously.

QUESTION: So you want the – you are offering this reward for information not so that the Pakistani police will go arrest him or can find him, which they presumably can do now, but so that then they can prosecute him or ship him off to India to be prosecuted or ship him off here?

MR. TONER: I mean, we’re – I think we said yesterday we’re looking for information to lead to his conviction in any U.S. or foreign court of law.

QUESTION: Different topic?

MR. TONER: Please.


QUESTION: Can we stay on (inaudible)?

MR. TONER: Oh, I’m sorry. Sure. I didn’t mean to ignore you. Go ahead. Are you Pakistan, too?

QUESTION: Yeah. In 2000 —

MR. TONER: Okay, we’ll go to you and then —

QUESTION: Okay. In 2009, you – David Headley was arrested and he testified in court in a plea bargain deal on the Mumbai attacks. Is the evidence – if the evidence isn’t sufficient, then what about the testimony he gave, testifying that he was trained by Lashkar-e-Tayyiba to carry out the Mumbai attacks? Is that evidence and not usable? Because it was then used to convict someone else.

MR. TONER: You know what? I’m not conversant on the evidence that he gave in that case, so I’d have to refer you to the relevant law enforcement agencies as well as to the lawyers. I just don’t know if that – if any of the evidence that he gave would be usable. Yeah. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you expect the Pakistani Government to move against him? I mean, this guy clearly thinks that he can operate with immunity inside Pakistan.

MR. TONER: I think what we’re looking to do is, as I just said to Arshad, I think we’re trying to, through this Reward for Justice offer, is to, first of all, put this case back and this individual back in the limelight but also to seek out information that we feel would give Pakistani authorities the tools or the wherewithal to prosecute him.


MR. TONER: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The talks in Addis Ababa between Sudan and South Sudan, by most accounts, didn’t go very well. South Sudan said that the – that Khartoum’s delegation walked out, but there’s some dispute of that from Khartoum’s side. And at the start of the briefing, South Sudan was saying that it shot down a Sudanese jet. What’s your assessment of how tensions – or how the relations are going right now? What is the United States hoping that the two sides will do?

MR. TONER: Well, we’re obviously very concerned. I did just see that story before coming in here about the shoot down. We’re calling on – clearly, we’re calling on restraint by all – for – on the part of all sides, and we’re very concerned about the ongoing hostilities on the border areas between South Sudan and Sudan. And we call upon the parties to cease fighting and ensure the safety and security of civilians, first and foremost, and then the negotiated solution to grievances under the auspices of the African Union. So they need to get back into these negotiations. And I think as you saw yesterday, the White House announced that we’re going to provide an additional 26 million in emergency funds to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees that’s going to help address some of the needs of these refugees caused by the fighting.

QUESTION: Is it your impression the African Union mediation has broken down, or do you still see some hope for that?

MR. TONER: I think we still see hope for it.

QUESTION: Can I stay on Africa?

MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure.

QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Carson and Carter Ham, the AFRICOM chief, are in Algeria today. Just – I was wondering if there’s any readout on, specifically if they talked about Mali or —

MR. TONER: Yeah. I don’t. I’ll get you – I’ll get your readout there. Johnnie’s traveling is pretty hectic and frenetic, but I don’t have an update on his whereabouts, so I’ll get that for you.

QUESTION: Do you have the breakdown of the aid that you suspended to Mali?

MR. TONER: I do. How did you know that? I have a —

QUESTION: Because I haven’t been asking about it for the last few briefs, so no one gave me a heads-up.

MR. TONER: You have been, yeah. I do. Let me make sure I have it in my book. I raced down here to – because I realized I was late. So I’m not sure I have it in my book. But we do have a figure for you. I’ll get it for you afterwards.

QUESTION: All right. I’m very suspicious.

MR. TONER: I know. I’m so sorry.

QUESTION: Oh, I forgot it?

MR. TONER: I’m sure I put it in here somewhere. Hold on.

QUESTION: It’s been ten days. I have it. Dog eat it?

MR. TONER: Hold on. Hold on. (Laughter.) Sorry. My dog ate my – exactly, my guidance. Sorry. If I find it, I will deliver it forthwith. Or I’m going to have my roadie hand it to —

QUESTION: To the rescue.

MR. TONER: But we don’t have the – yes, we do. Yes. Okay. So we’ve determined – thank you – that a minimum of approximately 12.5 million of USAID assistance will be suspended, and we’re continuing to assess the remainder. But we can, at this point, say that a minimum of 12.5 million will be actually suspended.

QUESTION: That’s out of the total 140 something?

MR. TONER: Yes. And that’s comprising 13 programs. That’s correct.

QUESTION: But that —

QUESTION: What were those programs for?

MR. TONER: These activities include building the ministry of health’s capacity to implement health programs, including activities in maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, and malaria, construction of public schools, supporting the government’s efforts to increase agricultural production and building government capacity to spur commercial investment. So as you can see, these are worthwhile programs that are now suspended because that aid is – goes directly to the Government of Mali. So there’s a price to this. I mean, clearly there’s a price, but (inaudible) have a price.

QUESTION: I thought that humanitarian aid was exempted.

MR. TONER: We did, but —

QUESTION: And therefore, I don’t understand why health programs, building schools, and HIV/AIDS programs, all (inaudible) humanitarian —

MR. TONER: We do exempt humanitarian assistance, but I think we’ve been saying that we – any assistance that goes to the Government of Mali would be suspended. And that’s what this hold-up was. We had to kind of look at these pots of money. So the rest of the assistance will continue but anything that was directly going into the government programs and ministries has to be suspended.

QUESTION: And that – just to confirm, that’s on top of the FMF – this is how much you’re going —

MR. TONER: That’s on top of the – sorry, let me find that for you – the FMF and the IMET programs, which is about 600,000.

QUESTION: So total then we’re looking at what – 13 – a little over 13 million.

MR. TONER: That’s very good math.

QUESTION: (Sneezes.)


MR. TONER: Sorry. God bless you.

QUESTION: The MCC grants are completely separate?

MR. TONER: I believe so, but I’ll find out.

QUESTION: And Mark —

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have a more – when Toria first began discussing this she said that it was approximately 135 to 140 million was the global figure of U.S. aid to Mali. Do you have an exact number for that?

MR. TONER: I don’t. I’ll have to double check on that. I don’t have anything further. I’ll take the

QUESTION. Yeah. Go ahead, Samir.

QUESTION: New topic?

MR. TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: Can you give us a readout about the Secretary’s meeting with Mr. Barzani, the Iraqi Kurdish leader?

MR. TONER: Well, he was here – hold on one second – obviously in the building earlier today. He did meet with deputy secretary, and that meeting was earlier this morning. And as you note, the Secretary did drop by and greet President Barzani, welcomed him to Washington, and they discussed, obviously, all the issues in the context of the U.S.-Iraq relationship.

QUESTION: New topic?

MR. TONER: Yeah.


MR. TONER: Syria.

QUESTION: It looks like the Syrian forces has started withdrawal from quiet city and town, as has been reported. Do you take that as a good beginning or —

MR. TONER: Well, I know you’re speaking to some of the press reports, according to Syrian Government officials —

QUESTION: (inaudible) report.

MR. TONER: I have not seen any independent reporting of any withdrawal, and in fact, what we’ve seen, frankly, is an intensification of artillery bombardments in major population centers like Homs and Idlib. So we’ve yet to be convinced that they’re – have any intention of complying with the April 10 deadline. Yeah. Go ahead. Yeah, Scott

QUESTION: The new arrests in Cuba after the Pope’s visit, some people protesting previous arrests. Any comment on that?

MR. TONER: Correct. And I believe some of these arrests and detentions and harassment predated or were in the run-up to the Pope’s visit. No, we’re obviously extremely concerned about the detentions and harassment of scores of civil society activists during the last two weeks, predating the Pope’s arrival in Cuba. We understand that the wave of detentions that began prior to Pope Benedict’s visit continues with the arrests of dozens of human rights activists and defenders in eastern Cuba in the last couple of days, which is what you just cited. We’re concerned by the Cuban Government’s attempts to silence reporting on these detentions. Apparently there’s been selective shutdowns of human rights activists, cellular and internet connections. We call upon the Cuban Government to release all peaceful society – civil society activists immediately, and we particularly condemn the fact that most of these arrests took place during the Pope’s visit and with the aim of preventing those arrested from attending the public masses that the Pope officiated.

QUESTION: And if I might, Cuba related —


QUESTION: The president of Ecuador says he’s not going to the Summit of the Americas because Cuba is not invited. Any reaction?

MR. TONER: Well, look – and I think Mike Hammer, assistant secretary, spoke to this a couple weeks ago. Of course, he did it in Spanish. But obviously, he was – he said we would like to see widespread participation by the countries of the hemisphere. We believe the summit offers an opportunity for the leaders to discuss issues that concern all of the citizens of the hemisphere, but ultimately it’s each country’s own decision to decide whether to participate.

QUESTION: So you don’t care?

MR. TONER: It’s their own decision. We want to see —

QUESTION: It doesn’t matter to you one way or another if he shows up?

MR. TONER: I think we just said we want to see as broad a participation as possible.

QUESTION: Yeah. But if —

MR. TONER: But —

QUESTION: Right. But if he decides he doesn’t want to come, then it’s not – no skin off your nose?

MR. TONER: It’s their decision. Correct.

QUESTION: No skin off your nose?

MR. TONER: It’s their decision.

QUESTION: You don’t care?

MR. TONER: No skin off our —


MR. TONER: You’re putting words in my mouth. I simply said —

QUESTION: You said it just then.

MR. TONER: I said we want to see broad participation, but we can’t make the decisions for other —

QUESTION: You’re saying you don’t think that the president of Ecuador is that important that you don’t – he doesn’t need to show up to —

MR. TONER: That is not what I said.

QUESTION: Not what you said? All right.

MR. TONER: That is not what I said. Anyway, any other —

QUESTION: Just quickly —

MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the bombing today in Somalia?

MR. TONER: Oh, I do. Yeah.

QUESTION: The killing of the —

MR. TONER: No. Thank you for bringing that up, actually. I hope I have something to say about the bombing. I mean, obviously we condemn —

QUESTION: It’s near the Mali —

MR. TONER: It’s – no. Thanks, Brad, for your help. Appreciate it. No, thank you. In answer to your

QUESTION, we’re appalled by the vicious attack earlier today as well as the loss of life. We remain firm in our support for the efforts of the TFG, the African Union Mission in Somalia, and the Somali National Security Forces to return peace and stability to Somalia. And we stand with the people of Somalia as they are trying to build a normal and functioning society. And I think some of you probably have looked at some of the press stories about – that civil society returning to Somalia, and Somalis everywhere had taken pride in the recent reopening of the National Theater as a sign that this normal life was returning to Mogadishu. It was a sign – the theater’s reopening is a result of progress made by the TFG and sacrifices made by AMISOM to bring peace and stability back to Mogadishu since al-Shabaab retreated there – from there in August 2011. So the fact that al-Shabaab chose this shows their true – chose this site for their attack shows their true stripes. They also used young women as suicide bombers. In other places, they impress children to fight their battles. And the four people killed today include a Somali Olympic official, many more injured, including a deputy prime minister and minister of planning as well as a former deputy speaker of parliament. So this is a terrible tragedy for the people of Somalia. Are we done?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. TONER: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:37 p.m.)

DPB #62

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Casualties of War – Sami Goes to WWII – 1

Chapter 1: Sami joins the Army

“War is a severe doctor; but it sometimes heals grievances.”
Edward Counsel, Maxims.

It is night-time in an open war field somewhere near the Mediterranean Sea, in the mid of December of 1941. Soldiers were told that it is the Battle Area of Operation Crusader. The heavy noise of rounds of BL 60 Pounder Gun, Short Magazine Lee-Enfield and M1 carbine can be heard frequently as the British soldiers face off with the Japanese, both sides firing at will. With Bristol Bulldogs racing above, and red flares illuminating the skies, the atmosphere is filled with foul smell of gun powder and blood.

Sami is present on this battlefield, fighting alongside his company unit at the British Army. Sami’s platoon is at a secured dugout and awaiting orders. They have been waiting for the past two hours, waiting for the moment when the heavy artillery has been exposed. The company commander is busy scavenging the area with his binoculars.

“What a day today, eh Sami?” Kashif, Sami’s comrade and a friend in the army say.

Kashif: “Who would have thought we had a dinner invitation from the devil this morning. And the main course would be us.”

Sami: “You’re joking! I have yet to meet a person with as big appetite as yours! You could eat up the whole devils army and we included! That too without a burp”

Both Kashif and Sami burst into laughter.

Sami: “Look, the commander is signaling Ahmed, he’s got the phone. I think the time has come.”

“Charlie 5 to Delta Over!” shouts the soldier in charge of communications, operating a MAN Timisioara telephone. He was tasked with the responsibility of updating the company commander and receiving orders.

“Subject Second wave insight! Awaiting orders, Over!” Having the enemies in sight, the company commander had asked the communications officer to request order for launching the attack on enemy. The original mission of this company was to counter attack the enemy foot soldiers after the enemy’s aerial offensive.

Sami lying down on his back takes a deep breath as he prepares himself mentally. It seems as if he had contended himself of the possible and most likely fate. He knows that in situations like these, there are no survivors. Their company is going to take the bulls by its horns literally; they are to intercept and engage a charging army said to be at least double their size. In moments like these, one has a reflection of his life’s precious moments in the span of a second or two. Sami remembers the time not so long ago when he was at his home. It was just a week or hardly ten days ago that he was looking for a job to start making an earning and a new life. He remembers the faces of his mother, his brother Wasi and his fiancé, Nayyara as he reflects on the latest events of life. Nobody was happy for Sami when he joined the Army expect him or so he thought he was happy. In fact it was the compulsion that drove him towards this decision, the compulsion of taking responsibility of supporting his windowed mother, his brother who is a student and compulsion of marrying Nayyara who’s father had been waiting for marry off his daughter to Sami for two years at the least. He had known that he had to marry her since as long as he could remember.  Funny how the actions you take in order to full fill what is expected from you, always results in regret and condemnation; Sami wonders, sitting laid back in his bunker. What else was he supposed to do?  he asks himself. He received the most condemnation from Nayyara father who also his uncle, Abid Sahib. His mother, Raziya Begum was supportive of his decision but he knew better when he looked her in her eyes as he broke the news. Nayyara of course was also not happy with Sami but for different reasons then her Father. Sami drifts down the memory lane as he gets lost in his thoughts.

“Abid! Are you listening? Aye Abid! Come down here, your nephew has found a job by the grace of Almighty ALLAH! Come down, Sami has brought sweets for everybody!” Raziya Begum is ecstatic as he announces Sami’s new job in the house, standing at the staircase and calling upon her brother in law, Abid. Sami is sitting in the lounge nearby the staircase with box of local sweets and confectionaries on the table.

Abid and his wife Shamima come down the stairs.

Abid: “Adaab Bhabhi. What happened? Bhabhi, you look extremely happy, Masha ALLAH!”

Raziya Begum: “Aray didn’t you hear me? My Sami has found work by the grace of ALLAH. He has got a government job now. Insha ALLAH he will be earning his independent money from now on!”

Abid: “Really? MashaALLAH MashaALLAH! ALLAH has listened to our prayers!”

Shamima: “Yes, this is the best news that one could ever wish for! Shukar ALLAH!”

Raziya Begum: “Aye Shamima, don’t get me started, ALLAH has bless us. I had been praying all the time and finally my prayers have been answered.”

Shamima: “Without doubt, without doubt! We all had been praying. Thanks to ALLAH. My mannat1 has been fulfilled.”

Raziya Begum: “Come, and have some sweets. Sami has brought sweets for us. It is first job and MashaALLAH such a reputable job. He has joined the Army.”

Abid Sahib and Shamima Bibi look awkwardly as each other hearing this as Raziya Begum reaches for the sweets for them. Abid Sahib did not like the English and his fore-fathers were known to fight against the British forces in the past. He’s disapproval of Sami’s new job is now evident on his face and Shamima looks on with a worrying face.

Raziya Begum: “What’s wrong Abid? Why have you put on a glum face?” Meanwhile Nayyara also comes down and joins the family. She finds the atmosphere in the room has turned sore for some reason.

Abid: “I am sorry to hear that Sami has joined the white men’s Army. I am not happy to hear this at all.”

Raziya Begum: “Abid? What are you saying?”

Abid: “Bhabi, We all had high hopes for Sami. Did he give even a moment’s thought to the honor of his fore-fathers before joining the British army? Did he not bother to even think about his great grandfather Rasheed Ullah Khan before serving these evil English rulers? The same people who used to bow down in front Rasheed Dada.”

Sami gets up from his place and moves towards his room in aggravated mood.

Abid waves to Sami to stop: Sami! What will you get out of fighting the white man’s war? If you survive you will be called the English poodle, and if you die, you will die a dog’s death! You can never be a Ghazi or Shaheed (Martyr) fighting the white man’s war!”

Sami annoyingly listens to his uncle, without uttering a word. Nayyara is standing at the bottom of the stair case, listening to her father’s arguments with misery on her face.

Abid: “Look Sami my son, do not get upset, we have all that the Almighty has given us. You should make your family proud and always think about the name of your father and his father’s before making decisions in your life. Your younger brother looks up to you; you should be a role model for him. What is the benefit of doing something which will give you nothing back except of shame in front of your own people?”

Shamima Bibi intervenes to de-escalate the emotions: “Abid sahib, what are you saying? Sami has always made us proud and insha ALLAH will live up to all expectations.”

Raziya Begum is not impressed by Abid’s arguments: “Abid Khaan, Sami has finally got a job after much toil and here you are being ungrateful? He has been accepted as a Soldier in the service of British Royal Army and I will not hear any of this non-sense! They run the government here. You cannot deny or change that fact or can you?”

Sami: “No Amma, Chacha saab is right. This service is really a disgraceful job. I had better offers from our good relatives, the Bajwas. Bajwa sahib asked me to look after his cattle and clean cow dung at the barn. Or how about your cousin’ offer; he was kind enough to offer me a place in his home as a house keeper and offered extra benefits if I could cook as well.”

Abid: “Sami that is no excuse for you to join the Army. Think about your family’s honor!”

Sami: “Chacha saab, where is this honor that we hear so often about? Why can’t I see any honor in this old broken house, broken chairs and doors? You cannot afford to send Nayyara to school and don’t know whether your two sons will be able to continue their education next year. Honor will not fix Furqan’s damaged eye. Tell me Chacha saab, why can’t I see the Honor of our fore fathers? Maybe because there isn’t any left….”

Abid sahib cannot believe the audacity of Sami to utter such words.

Sami: “ …nothing left except us and our miseries. Honor won’t give me a job Chacha sahab. This opportunity is for the betterment of our family. With time, I can fix everything. People will truly respect me now because I am a soldier. They won’t think about offering to clean cow dung out of pity of this… invisible family honor.”

Abid did not expect such words from Sami. He moves up towards his room with a disgusted face and slams the door behind him. Sami also leave the common room and goes outside the house.

As the days go by, Sami had formally joined the Army and reports daily at the Army training center.

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Wikipedia and the Internet just killed 244-year-old Encyclopaedia Britannica

This article can be read online here:

Wikipedia and the Internet just killed 244-year-old Encyclopaedia Britannica

By Drew Olanoff.

Do you remember a simpler time when there were no computers with Internet service full of information?  You actually had to leave the house and go to a library to check out one of those Encyclopedias.  If you were lucky enough, and had the money, your parents might purchase a set of books from Encyclopaedia Britannica to enrich your learning experience.

Encyclopedias still exist, but as the Internet has taken over everything that we do, the need for them is gone.  To that end, Encyclopaedia Britannica has announced that after 244 years of doing business it is going out of print, according to a report by Media Decoder.

To be completely honest, these print dinosaurs have been out of style since the Internet was born, which is about fifteen years now.  I’m not quite sure what has taken the company so long to realize that it was losing money by continuing to print books, but either way, the time has come to say goodbye.

The company will continue to focus on its website, but that might be a lost cause already given that Wikipedia has become the go-to source for information, especially when you Google something that interests you.

Jorge Cauz, president of Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. had this to say about the end of an era:

It’s a rite of passage in this new era. Some people will feel sad about it and nostalgic about it. But we have a better tool now. The Web site is continuously updated, it’s much more expansive and it has multimedia.

The last set of books will feature an update for the year 2010.  I will always remember the Encylopedia fondly, but will not miss how much they weigh or how quickly they’re outdated.  Still though, it’s crazy to think that generations to come will never get to see one unless they visit a museum.

Damn I feel old.

Drew Olanoff is The Next Web’s West Coast Editor


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The Undertaker

This article was published on BBC News website;

The article can be read online here;

Undertaker to the Afghan Taliban in Kandahar

By Waheed Massoud Editor, BBC Afghan, Kabul

7 March 2012

Undertaker to the Afghan Taliban in Kandahar

Undertaker to the Afghan Taliban in Kandahar

He is the only man trusted by the militants to retrieve their dead fighters killed in battle with Nato and Afghan forces. He also returns the bodies of soldiers killed in Taliban-held territory.

Over the past six years, he has ferried scores and scores of corpses between the government and the militants as the war has worsened. And he has buried many others that went unclaimed.

Mr Hakim, with his long white beard, white turban and baggy shalwar kameez, knows what the waiting and grief is like for relatives of the dead – he too has experienced the despair of waiting to get bodies of loved ones back. His two sons and a son-in-law were killed by Taliban insurgents and Mr Hakim had to wait 14 long, painful days to get their bodies. Now he is first to hear from Taliban commanders looking for their dead.

Taxi hearse

To help him in his task, the Taliban have given him a letter allowing him to travel between government-controlled areas and Taliban-held territory.

After Mr Hakim gets a call from the Taliban, he visits the provincial morgue – if a dead Taliban fighter is there, he puts the body in a yellow taxi wagon and takes it to the insurgents.

With Mr Hakim's help, this man found his relative's grave, 18 months after his death

With Mr Hakim's help, this man found his relative's grave, 18 months after his death

Mr Hakim, 65, says the local Taliban first asked him nearly six years ago to help retrieve the body of one of their comrades.

He showed the district authorities his volunteer member card for the Afghan Red Crescent – the local counterpart to the ICRC – and then he was given the body.

Soon after, local authorities in Kandahar’s Zheray district asked him to retrieve the bodies of five pro-government forces who had been killed on the battle field. The Taliban let him do so. After that, he became trusted by both sides.

“In total so far I have retrieved 250 bodies – 127 were Taliban, 28 civilians and the rest were on the government side,” says Mr Hakim, who is also known as Malik Kako. Malik is the name traditionally given to an elder who has a great deal of autonomy in a village or district. Mr Hakim says he is trusted by both sides, has letters from both and thus he can travel easily.

Both Nato-led troops and Afghan forces bring dead Taliban fighters to Mirwais public hospital in Kandahar. The bodies are kept in the morgue’s refrigerator for up to two months.

“If no-one claims a body, then I bury it in a cemetery in Zheray district,” says Mr Hakim.

But what if relatives of dead Taliban contact him months later? Mr Hakim has a solution. He uses his mobile phone camera to take photos of the dead bodies before he buries them. He says he is looking to record things like eye and hair colour, clothes, watches, rings. Scars or other distinctive marks on the face or body can also help relatives identify a body later on.

“If someone is looking for a missing person or a dead body, they contact me, I show them the photos I take on my mobile phone and compare it with the photo they have. If they match, then I take them right to the grave where they are buried,” he says.

The ICRC now keeps a file for every dead body that goes unclaimed and employs a photographer to take photos of some of the bodies, he says.

On two occasions, photos he has taken have matched those held by families looking for a missing relative.

Abdul Hakim says he has buried nearly 35 Taliban who were killed in Kandahar city and had no families.

Mohammad Aslam, the man in charge of Mirwais hospital morgue, says only the Afghan police know which of the bodies at the morgue belong to the Taliban and which are civilians.

“The police tell us which bodies belong to Taliban. We don’t know. We keep them in the refrigerator. If anyone brings a letter from the police headquarters, we hand over the body, be it a family member with a letter or anyone else,” Mr Aslam said.

Dead Taliban are kept in the same morgue as the bodies of Afghan forces or civilians killed by the Taliban. But the difference is in discharging the body from the hospital. A family member of a civilian or a policeman or soldier has to sign before they are given the body, but for a Taliban body it is Abdul Hakim who signs.

He claims he was even once called by a district chief to help recover the bodies of three American soldiers from a Taliban-controlled area.

“I contacted the Taliban, they agreed and I went with them to a heavily mined area and collected the three American bodies, handed them over to the district chief and he later transferred the bodies to the foreign forces,” he says.

Pain of waiting

Mr Hakim’s own tale is tragic. His two sons and a son in-law were driving a water tanker en route to Shawali Kot district when they were attacked by Taliban and killed.

He says he knows the pain of waiting and that is why he helps people to get to see the bodies of their loves who have died. Mr Hakim says once he had to retrieve 14 Taliban bodies in a single day.

He says every dead body deserves a respectful burial. It is a religious duty of everybody to help families find their loved ones, dead or alive.

Afghanistan has experienced 35 years of war and conflict.

The country has many similar untold stories, stories that no one has written, no one has told, no one has heard.

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The drama of Mohammad Amir should have more than one act…

I recently can across this excellent article by Marina Hyde which was published on on 1 September 2010.  Recommended reading!

The article can be read here;

Saturday’s hero Mohammad Amir received a muted welcome when he batted the next day (the day after spot fixing news broke out). Photograph: Gareth Copley/PA

Sport is about stories. The reason no one cared when Matt Le Tissier used his autobiography to confess spot-fixing was because his story was over. The heartbreak of Mohammad Amir being implicated in the Pakistan spot-fixing scandal is of course that his story was only just beginning, and even old hands instinctively romanticise the narrative of sport. For how many tens of millions of cricket fans did Nasser Hussain speak on Sunday morning, when he admitted his immediate thought on hearing of the allegations was “please don’t let it be the young lad”?

We can’t help but see sport like this, which is why fixing lends itself so evocatively to fiction. In the Godfather Part II, the Chicago Black Sox scandal serves as a character note for the mesmerically amoral Hyman Roth, who declares: “I’ve loved baseball ever since Arnold Rothstein fixed the world series”. Rothstein was the mafia gambler on whom Fitzgerald based the minor character of Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby, who is casually introduced to the narrator as “the man who fixed the World’s Series.”

“The idea staggered me,” the narrator relates. “It never occurred to me that one man could start to play with the faith of fifty million people – with the single mindedness of a burglar blowing a safe. ‘How did he happen to do that?’ I asked after a minute. ‘He just saw the opportunity’,” is Gatsby’s affectless reply.

Perhaps inevitably, taking poetic licence with sport fixing doesn’t limit itself to art. Even in the realm of reality, fact tends to blur with fiction.  There is no contemporaneous record of the words “Say it ain’t so, Joe” ever being uttered, though that has not stopped the supposed child’s inquiry of the disgraced Shoeless Joe Jackson having passed into legend.

Despite the intense public attention on the grand jury investigation into the eight White Sox players accused of throwing the 1919 World Series, the only report that resembles the story was featured in a single Minnesota paper, which claimed Jackson emerged from the courthouse into a crowd of “several hundred youngsters, aged from 6 to 16”. (Very cinematic.) According to the paper’s account, “one urchin stepped up to the outfielder, and, grabbing his coat sleeve, said: ‘It ain’t true, is it Joe?’ ‘Yes kid, I’m afraid it is,’ Jackson replied. The boys opened a path for the ball player and stood in silence as he passed out of sight. ‘Well, I’d never have thought it,’ sighed the lad.” Forgive the cynicism, but I can’t help suspecting that sleeve-tugging urchin was about as real as the convenient “onlookers” and “close pals” that populate today’s tabloid stories.

Yet though it may not be literally true, the youngster’s tragic disillusionment has echoed down the years because it carries a psychological truth. Into this canon of truths literal and psychological we may induct the News of the World’s revelation that Mazhar Majeed, the alleged middleman of this latest scam, roused the teenage Mohammad Amir out of his bed on the eve of a Test match, and called the young prodigy a “fucker”, before informing him his instructions would keep till morning anyway. It is the sort of detail that if it hadn’t happened, one would have had to make up.

One piece of Shoeless Joe testimony that is undeniable, because it appears on the stenographer’s record, has the player’s wife finding out about his involvement when a team-mate entered their hotel room and threw $5,000 on the bed. “She felt awful bad about it,” reveals Jackson, “and cried about it for a while.”

I first read that years ago, and ever since have had the most vivid picture of a scene, imagining Katie Jackson staring at the bundle of money and crying for the loss of the hero she married. All surmise, of course. She was probably crying out of fear he’d be caught – but our imaginations fill the gaps. We instinctively map narratives onto what we see and hear because we want – need – to experience sport as a story.

A melee of co-dependent and antagonistic people will have to decide whether they want Pakistan’s current story to have the scorched-earth ending of a Shakespearean tragedy, where none of the main characters are left standing, or whether a more modern tale of redemption is possible. For me, sport will be better if a way is found for Mohammad Amir to go on to take 600 Test wickets as a symbol of reformation. You don’t have to be soft hearted or “soft on crime” to wish for this. You just have to dream of seeing the second act.

The article can be read here:



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Letter to Whatmore by Lawson

This article has been published on cricinfo and can be found here:

Letter to Whatmore

A former coach welcomes the new arrival with a few words of advice

Geoff Lawson

February 28, 2012

Salaam aleikum, Davenell bhai

It has been many years since we first toured with Australia together, back in 1979, when you played so well against India. The wheel has turned almost full circle, just lacking the final shift across the line so artfully drawn by Sir Cyril Radcliffe.

The news of your (eventual) appointment has reached the shores of your former adopted homeland, and I must say I am quite pleased that your name plate will adorn the door of Room 3 at the National Cricket Academy admin block in Lahore. I note that contract negotiations were convoluted, complex and ambivalent, so all seems normal at the PCB.

Hopefully they have cleaned out my cupboards and those back issues of Optometry News, Playboy for Seniors and Golf Digest  have been consigned to the garbage, or at least sent over to the player accommodation.

I am sure the PCB liaison man, Zakir Khan, will have let you know about the security arrangements. I recall clearly his words to me when I discussed my possible engagement as the national coach after the untimely demise of Bob Woolmer: “Yes, Geoff, there will be plenty of security, you just won’t see them.” Comforting indeed, but my biggest fears when living in Lahore did not include IEDs or rogue terror cells but anopheles mosquitoes and dengue fever (which I contracted leaving Pakistan in 1982 and wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy).

I hope you get out to the regional centres like Multan, Faisalabad, Sialkot and Sheikhupura to see some of the local cricket. Some of the grounds are very poor and some very good. I would rate the stadium in Multan as one of the best in Asia – it’s certainly a far cry from the old ground on top of the hill in the middle of town where we played in 1980 and 1982.

You will find that, contrary to widespread belief outside of Pakistan, there are some quicker pitches that certainly favour seam bowling. If you look at the figures for the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy it is usually the pace bowlers who dominate. Occasionally there will be a slow turner; the National Stadium, Karachi, can be either good to bat on or a real haven for the slow bowlers. Generally, up north they produce the stronger, bigger physiques and therefore the faster bowlers.

I was pleasantly surprised by the standards of the better QEA teams. I thought the competition had quality and was robust. It is good when national team-mates go hard at each other in first-class games.

Make sure you have some input into the Pentangular Shield teams’ selection. That competition, between five provinces, is the equivalent of the Sheffield Shield. After the 24 or so first-class and corporate teams play their tournament, the national selectors pick five teams to represent Punjab, Sind (the two big boys, whose players come mostly from Lahore and Karachi), North West Frontier Province (now called Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Baluchistan, and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which include Rawalpindi and Islamabad. They only play each other once in four-day games, but those matches are hard-fought and of an excellent standard.

The guys who do well here are just about ready for the next step, and you never know in Pakistan when some young genius will pop out of the woodwork. Like Mohammad Amir, who has just arrived back in Lahore from detention in England. You should take the 20-minute drive over to Defence Housing and have a chat with him sooner rather than later, to see what his mental state is. I reckon he would benefit from getting straight back into cricket of some kind, if only at club level.

Also, Dav, be careful in the traffic. I know the roads are mostly crammed with bicycles, motorbikes, rickshaws and camel carts that move like treacle through a sieve, but those six lanes leading onto the Liberty Market roundabout remind me of Talladega Nights with Will Ferrell sans beard and driving license. Your experience in Colombo traffic will stand you in good stead, but try to get a driver who speaks passable English and isn’t a former auto-rickshaw operator. I wouldn’t bother getting behind the wheel myself, based on my driving experiences. I was perfect – three drives, three accidents. None were my fault, of course, as I was using the imperial driving code – which among many details mentions something about driving on the left-hand side of the road where possible – not the South Asian one, where the horn is compulsory and “give way” loosely translates as “go as fast as possible to beat the next guy into the gap that would maybe fit a dinky toy while avoiding the over-laden donkey dray”.

I must confess that when I moved into Room 3 at the NCA, most of Bob’s stuff, from cricket books to DVDs, rindless-marmalade jars and tea caddy were still there. I did find it a little disconcerting that the personal items of the much loved and respected coach had not been packed and despatched. I’m sure Ijaz Butt will have cleaned out my detritus immediately, given his statements regarding my usefulness to Pakistan cricket after his brother-in-law anointed him chairman of the board after the 2008 general election. Sad days for all.

With your vast experience in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India, the language barrier should be at ankle height. Most of the guys speak English, falling into a range from “better than Australians” to “you get the drift”. Cricket is the universal language, in any case. An outswinger is still gripped the same and a cover drive still gets hit through cover. Urdu and Hindi have many common words, although if they get to speaking Punjabi or Pashto, call for the gardener to translate. He used to run a video shop in the SWAT Valley until the Taliban arrived and issued an edict that no one should have fun.

A huge bonus for you will be that Misbah-ul Haq has taken over the captaincy. He is a bright, well-educated man, who understands the game exceptionally well. When in doubt, ask Misbah who should be in the team and he will give you players who aren’t someone’s second cousin’s brother’s uncle but rather are the most skilled for that position. He is a winner and plays no favourites, and will be an excellent sounding board for whatever strategy you feel will work best with the team. He sets a perfect example in work ethic and discipline, and it does make a difference when the senior players are doing all the right things, especially in their culture of age and respect going hand in hand.

Dav, I must issue a note of warning about dealing with the media in Pakistan, especially if you play against India and finish second – although that might never happen in the near future, given the political machinations at the highest level. Speak to Immie on this point: the Lion of Lahore may be the only person in Pakistan who can make it happen; now if only we could get Sachin to stand for the Lok Sabha, we could create cricket detente.

If the local journos want to be disrespectful and force their pre-conceived agendas on you, go right ahead and let them, unless you want several thousand views on Youtube. My son has installed the clip of me walking out of a press conference as my screen saver, so if I want to remind myself of how not to suck up to reporters I just hit Control F6 and amuse myself for three minutes.

But have no fear, Dav, of the man in the street. The press may have their private or provincial agendas, but I found the common man to be most friendly and hospitable. Even when we lost the occasional match, their approach to me was civil and respectful. Not an effigy in sight, burning or whole. They appreciated that a foreigner was in their country to help, to do his best and, win, lose or draw, to show respect for the nation and the culture.

I learned a bit of the lingo and stayed off the booze.  I recommend doing at least one of those.

Stay away from politicians, public meetings, police stations or military establishments. If taking the team to the Army School of Physical Training in Abbottabad, stay clear of buildings with just a few too many antennae sticking out of the chimney, and keep your head down if you hear helicopters approaching.

That’s about it, mate. These guys can play some wonderful cricket, and I’m sure they will listen and learn and benefit from your enormous knowledge of the game. I look forward to visiting you at Gaddafi Stadium when Australia return to play a Test there. When that happens, cricket really will be the winner.

All the best

Sahib Henry

Geoff Lawson played 46 Test matches for Australia, and has coached NSW and Pakistan. He now commentates on the game for ABC Radio

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Demanding attention: Baloch students want TV blackout from Feb 1

Published: January 29, 2012 on The Express Tribune.

A student organisation in Balochistan has threatened that it will suspend transmission of private television channels across the province to protest ‘failure to properly highlight the plight of the people’.

QUETTA: A student organisation in Balochistan has threatened that it will suspend transmission of private television channels across the province to protest ‘failure to properly highlight the plight of the people’.

“Baloch people are being subjected to enforced disappearances and their bullet-riddled bodies are turning up daily. But media is not highlighting this crime against humanity,” Javed Baloch, general secretary of the Baloch Students Organisation (BSO-Mohyuddin), said at a news conference at the Quetta Press Club on Sunday.

He said that at a central committee meeting of the organisation, members had decided that transmission of all TV channels will be shut from February 1. “Transmission will be closed in Balochistan and Baloch-dominated areas of Karachi as well,” he said.

Baloch said that media airs worthless reports as breaking news for hours but completely ignores the province which is suffering very serious crises. “BSO condemns the silence and blackout of the media over recovery of mutilated and bullet-riddled bodies of Baloch missing persons and the target killing of political opponents.”

The student activist said that BSO will meet cable operators to persuade them to suspend transmission. “Policymakers are insensitive to the problems of Balochistan and we believe that this attitude will lead to dismemberment of Pakistan. The media should play its role and review its policy on Balochistan.”

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Casualties of War – Sami Goes to WWII – 0.2

Series: Casualties of War
Story: Sami Goes to WWII
Chapter 0.2: Synopsis

“War is not a life: it is a situation, One which may neither be ignored nor accepted.”
T.S. ELiot, A Note on War Poetry.

This story is from a period during the Second World War (WWII). The families of Abid and Qasif Ullah Khan, live together in a double storey house, situated in Samanabad, Lahore. The upper portion is occupied by Abid sahib and his family which includes his wife Shamima Bibi, his young daughter Nayyara, two younger twins Furqan and Gibran and a mute daugther, Fatika, who is the youngest in the family. The lower portion is occupied by Raziya Begum and her two young sons; Sami and Wasi Ullah Khan. The house is shared by the two families, who have been living together since as along as they could remember. Abid and Qasif Ullah both inherited some property, two double story houses and a Mango garden, left to them after their father passed away.  The family house, is being utilized jointly by the families and the other one was given away on rent. The garden was also given away on rent to a local fruits retailer. The money earned from these two properties is shared among these two families. The earnings are just enough to run the house and bear expenses of both the families, which Abid sahib does with commitment and responsibility. They are also able to make little savings from the earned money.

Raziya Begum is the widow of late Qasif Ullah Khan, who died while Sami is still a young boy at the age of 12. Sami was unable to continue his education and helped his uncle Abid sahib in running the family business. Sami was only able to learn up to fifth grade. His brother Wasi, however, is a student at tenth grade. Sami supports his brother and wants him to pursue as much education as possible. Sami help Wasi and his other cousins by tutoring them in his spare time. Wasi and Nayyara are about the same age and go to the same school together. Sami and Wasi think of Abid sahib as their guardian after the death of their father. Raziya Begum, who is also an elder cousin to Abid, as well as his sister in law, is respected as the eldest member of the family. Usually her consultation is sought by the family in all serious matters.

Abid sahib wants to Sami to marry his daughter Nayyara, but Sami wants to start earning his own living before the marriage. Abid sahib argues that he can find a job after marriage as well and in the mean time look after the Mango Garden, but Sami is desperate to find a job as a clerk or office administrator. Sami and Nayyara are students and go the same class.

After several months without luck in finding a job, Sami joins the British Indian Army as a non-commissioned officer in compulsion, as he could not find any other way to earn money. Abid sahib does not like Sami’s decision to join the Army.  He is a staunch detractor of the British Empire and believes them to be an evil regime occupying his homeland. Sami is adamant in his decision as he believes this is the only opportunity he has to prove his worth to start an independent life in which he is able to raise a family.

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