Friday, May 21, 2010

Pakistan Development Update 21-05-2010

One year has passed since Pakistan had its worst internal displacement crisis but the country is still struggling to meet the needs of more than 3 million internally displaced people due to the current military operation against Taliban. Development experts don’t anticipate IDP reductions this year as any decreases will be offset by new displacements. Relief operations are also underfunded, with donors having met 20 percent of the total aid appeal. Despite the difficulty in providing humanitarian relief, the International Red Cross Society has confirmed that it will continue its operation in Balochistan, denying media reports to the contrary.

Violence between government forces and rebels continues, and floods displaced thousands of residents in the northern part of the country. Relief operations are ongoing. Meanwhile, a new tourism policy draft has been submitted by the government for review; it emphasized the need for “closer international cooperation, consumer protection and joint marketing.”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pakistan court bans Facebook

Pakistan court bans Facebook

Pakistan court bans Facebook

Lahore High Court has imposed the ban on the famous social networking site, facebook, SAMAA reported Wednesday.

The court has directed that the site would be banned temporarily till May 31.

The court has directed Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to ban the site till May 31. The PTA has to reply the court in writing.

The Foreign Secretary has also been directed to protest on international forums.

Islamic Lawyers Forum filed the petition imposing the ban on the site in the country.

The Director PTA Muddasir Hasan briefed the court that the internet facility could be disconnected due to imposing the ban on facebook.

AGENCIES ADD: A Pakistani court ordered the government on Wednesday to block Facebook after press reports of a competition being held to draw the Prophet Mohammad, a lawyer said.

Pakistani media recently reported that a caricature competition is being held on May 20 about Mohammad on Facebook.

"The court has ordered the government to immediately block Facebook until May 31 because of this blasphemous competition," Azhar Siddique, a representative of the Islamic Lawyers Forum who filed a petition in the Lahore High Court, told Reuters.

"The court has also ordered the foreign ministry to investigate why such a competition is being held."

A spokesman for the official telecommunications watchdog, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, said the government on Tuesday ordered Internet service providers to block websites showing these caricatures, but that they had not received the court orders as yet.

Any representation of the Prophet Mohammad is deemed un-Islamic and blasphemous by Muslims.

But some warned the court's response could backfire.

"Blocking the entire website would anger users, especially young and adults, because the social networking website is so popular among them and they spend most of their time on it," said the CEO of Nayatel, Wahaj-us-Siraj.

"Basically, our judges aren't technically sound. They have just ordered it, but it should have been done in a better way by just blocking a particular URL or link."

"The PTA's decision (to block the URL) was rational and good, but let's see how they will implement the court decision."

On the information page on Facebook for the contest -- which was still visible on Wednesday -- the organizers described it as a "snarky" response to Muslim bloggers who "warned" the creators of the Comedy Central television show "South Park" over a recent depiction of the Prophet in a bear suit.

"We are not trying to slander the average Muslim," the Facebook page creators wrote. "We simply want to show the extremists that threaten to harm people because of their Mohammad depictions that we're not afraid of them. That they can't take away our right to freedom of speech by trying to scare us into silence."

Publications of similar cartoons in Danish newspapers in 2005 sparked deadly protests in Muslim countries. Around 50 people were killed during violent protests in Muslim countries in 2006 over the cartoons, five of them in Pakistan.

Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on Denmark's embassy in Islamabad in 2008, killing six people, saying it was in revenge for publication of caricatures.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pakistan at the Cross-roads

The Middle East has not spared itself of global scrutiny amid a flurry of challenges and milestones, and as foreign assistance continues to flow in and out of this development hotspot.

The Afghan economy continues to suffer from the shackles of organized drug trade and deeply-ingrained corruption, and this week, President Hamid Karzai shut down 172 international and national NGOs. In Pakistan, the looming threat of a vicious comeback of Taliban forces is stirring worldwide alarm.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is visiting Washington to discuss U.S. funding for and military presence in the Mideast country, as well as its track record on good governance, agriculture, poverty reduction and and women’s welfare. Japan, meanwhile, reportedly increased its Afghanistan aid budget four-fold, focusing on infrastructure and social issues.

Amid the looming Taliban threat, Republican Sen. Dick Lugar asserted in an op-ed piece that the U.S.-Pakistan cooperation is "more important than ever". The U.S. announced it was willing to provide additional funding and purchase more combat facilities to support Pakistan’s counter-insurgency strategy. But the debate continues about how to best manage USD7.5 billion worth in U.S. assistance for Pakistan.
While some places in the Middle East continue to attract foreign assistance, emerging donors such as Kuwait and the Islamic Development Bank are funding development projects within and outside the Middle East, including Pakistan.
The U.S. is putting more pressure on Pakistan to fight insurgents; it is willing to provide additional aid if necessary, according to two Obama administration officials. The U.S. also revealed the possible connection of the recent failed car bombing in New York to the Pakistani Taliban and Kashmiri Islamist group. The U.S. considers the country’s battle against militants as crucial to its fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Author Ahmed Rashid warns that the Taliban forces are back in the seven tribal agencies that make up the federal administered tribal areas, and in Swat. The issue has again caught the attention of the international community following the attempted car bomb attack in New York. According to Rashid, there is a need to design a coherent counter-insurgency strategy or doctrine to prevent the current security situation from worsening.
Despite being a conflict-affected area, USAID has taken the initiative to promote the district of Swat as a major tourist attraction. As such, USAID has partnered with Sarhad Tourism Corporation, Gandhara Art & Culture Association, and Aik Hunar Aik Nagar to participate in the Dawn News International “Travel & Tourism Show” on May 10 to raise public awareness of the valley. Swat valley is famous for its handicrafts and has been an ideal destination for adventure seekers.

The U.S. is strengthening its military relationship with Pakistan as the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue’s bilateral security assistance working group met in Rawalpindi on May 5. The meeting addressed the status of military facilities delivered in Pakistan to upgrade its counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operational capacity.

Source: Global Development Briefing