Thursday, August 4, 2016

Planting a Tree in Pakistan

Globe doing the digging:

"Pakistan’s plan for tackling deforestation: a billion trees" by Max Bearak Washington Post   May 18, 2016

It’s a rough life in Pakistan, even for a tree.

The country’s hills were once home to endless stretches of pine and fir, but these days, Pakistan’s forest cover is somewhere below 2 percent. In the United States, that number is roughly 33 percent, and in India, 23 percent.

In an ambitious plan to counter this deforestation, which ecologists say is a major cause of deadly landslides, the government of a province along Pakistan’s restive border with Afghanistan says it is a quarter of the way to a goal announced last year: planting one billion saplings. The so-called Billion Tree Tsunami campaign was recognized by the Bonn Challenge, a global partnership of forestry ministries to regain green cover.

Landslides killed 140 this April alone, and destroyed hundreds of villages in northern Pakistan. Trees’ roots help to keep soil in its place. Without them, hillsides more easily erode, and heavy mountain rain can bring whole slopes down — trees, boulders, and all.

“Timber mafias,” as well as Afghan refugees and local themselves, have chopped down immense swaths of forest. Many in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (once known as Northwest Frontier Province) don’t have electricity, or don’t get it regularly, and use wood fires for lighting, cooking, and warmth. The so-called mafia refers to those who cut trees without a permit, and allegations that politicians engage in that business are common in Pakistan.

The provincial government has reportedly given $150 million to the project, which has raised 250 million saplings, and is shooting for a billion. To put that in context, an forestry expert interviewed two years ago by Tim Craig, The Washington Post’s Islamabad bureau chief, said that Pakistan needs to plant between 1.5 trillion and 2 trillion saplings to reverse the deforestation since its independence in 1947.

Besides the fact that a billion trees may actually be insufficient, some ecologists have said that the provincial government, which is controlled by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the party of populist politician and former cricket star Imran Khan, has mismanaged the project and the benefits will be scarce.

My pre$$ never liked him because he opposed drone strikes, and they even felt obliged enough to take him out.

‘‘Undoubtedly, the tree plantation campaign is a wonderful initiative, but our main concern is that the PTI-led government has identified wrong species for wrong places,’’ Lal Badshah, an ecologist and assistant professor at Botany department in University of Peshawar, told News Lens Pakistan. Non-native species, he said, could negatively affect surrounding flora, and birds were unlikely to use the trees for nesting.

Locals have complained to Pakistani media that the whole program puts them at an economic disadvantage. The region is one of Pakistan’s poorest, and many rely on what’s left of the forest for income. If they couldn’t cut the trees for wood, some said, then new trees should produce fruit, which could be sold to buy wood. Reports indicated most of the trees in the “tsunami” would be pines.

I suppose it is better than that other one a dozen years back.


You can watch this post grow:

"Rain, floods kill 45 in northwest Pakistan" Associated Press  April 03, 2016

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Flash floods are commonly triggered during South Asia’s summer monsoon season. Premonsoon rains like the current downpour frequently cause damage in Pakistan — particularly in rural villages with minimal infrastructure.

In parts of Southeast Asia, countries are enduring their worst drought in 20 or more years. Tens of millions of people in the region are affected by the low level of the Mekong, a rice-bowl-sustaining river system that flows into Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

I just went through there: 

Encircling China: Soft Underbelly
Encircling China: D-Day in Asia
Encircling China: Cambodian Jungle
Encircling China: Laotian Landmines 

Then I turned east:

Encircling China: Filipino Front
Encircling China: Shooting Thru Taiwan
Encircling China: Korean Ground Offensive
Encircling China: Nuclear Option

I don't want to even go there.

Fresh water is running short for hundreds of thousands of people in Vietnam and Cambodia, and reduced water for irrigation has hurt agriculture, particularly rice growing in Thailand, where land under cultivation is being cut significantly this year.... 

That means a lot of starving Asians and others, doesn't it?


What else can go wrong up in them hills?

"Quake kills at least 260 in Afghanistan, Pakistan; 7.5 magnitude temblor centered in Hindu Kush" by Mujib Mashal and Salman Masood New York Times  October 27, 2015

KABUL — A massive earthquake hit northern Afghanistan and Pakistan on Monday afternoon, killing at least 263 people, causing heavy damage, and sowing panic across one of the world’s most impoverished and war-torn regions.

At least 228 people were killed in Pakistan, with more than 1,000 injured, while Afghan officials reported 33 dead and more than 200 injured, and authorities in the Indian-controlled Kashmir region reported two deaths. the Associated Press said.

Buildings were jolted and broke down in the shaking, sending people pouring into city streets in Peshawar and Islamabad in Pakistan, and in Kabul, the Afghan capital.

In one of the worst scenes in Afghanistan, at least 12 young students were killed at a girls’ school packed with as many as 900 people in the northern province of Takhar, said Sunatullah Taimoor, a spokesman for the provincial governor. Most of the victims were crushed to death in a panicked stampede to leave the building, a rented four-story house in the city of Taliqan.

And in remote Kunar province, the police chief said at least 30 people were killed, and at least 1,100 homes destroyed, when the earthquake mixed with heavy rain to create massive landslides in several areas.

Officials in both countries declared emergencies, and military units were ordered to join the response. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was said to be rushing back to Pakistan, abruptly ending a trip abroad.

One returns as the other leaves

How do you say deja vu in Urdu?

Attempts to gauge the damage and death toll in both countries were hampered by power failures and widespread damage to telephone systems. Poor security played a role as well: In Afghanistan in particular, the hardest-hit areas were those also most affected by militant violence, including an intense Taliban offensive that has stretched for weeks in remote parts of the north.

You start wondering if someone struck HAARP chord. I'm not saying it happened, I've gone back and forth over that fault line and its up to the reader to decide for themselves. I'm just noting the timing and area of the event.

In Pakistan, provincial authorities in Peshawar said at least 63 people had been killed in surrounding Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Severe tolls were also expected in other remote regions of the north, including in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas.

That number was almost surely low, officials said. And reports were still awaited from some of the hardest hit areas of Pakistan, including parts of Chitral, Shangla, and Lower Dir.

In Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, people ran out into the open as the earthquake rattled the city. Panic was widespread in neighborhoods with high-rises and multistory apartment blocks, and hundreds of shopkeepers and customers swarmed the main avenue in Blue Area, a commercial neighborhood. Aftershocks continued for some time, keeping many from returning to their offices and homes.

In other words, this was a biggy.

In the northern valley of Swat, at least 35 people were killed, local officials said. At least 100 houses were damaged, and hospital officials said that more than 250 people had been brought in for treatment.

Landslides were reported in the mountainous Pakistani regions of Gilgit and Chitral, as boulders fell on to the roads, cutting off many areas. Damage was reported in more central parts of the country as well: In Punjab province, at least five people were reported dead.

In Afghanistan, the country’s chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, called an emergency meeting of senior officials to respond to the disaster. “This is the strongest earthquake that has happened in our country in recent years,” Abdullah said, warning of the possibility of aftershocks.

In Badakhshan province, the center of the earthquake and long vulnerable to natural disasters, at least 10 people were killed and 24 wounded, according to Shah Waliullah Adib, the province’s governor. More than 1,400 homes were destroyed across 27 districts, Adib said.

South Asia has a history of devastating earthquakes. In April, more than 8,700 people were killed in Nepal’s worst earthquake in 80 years....

And that really never came up during this year's hiking season.


"Afghan insurgencies compound misery, complicate quake relief" by Mujib Mashal New York Times  October 27, 2015

KABUL — The family had to buy the burial shroud of white linen on credit at their district bazaar in northern Afghanistan. But at least the two crushed bodies of their teenage sons, pulled from the wreckage of a devastating earthquake after three hours of digging, could be put to rest on Tuesday.

For the family, living in a Taliban-controlled area near the center of Monday’s powerful earthquake, the ordeal was not over: Dozens of militants lingered around the house after the burial ceremony, demanding to be fed.

The extent of the family’s wealth had come down to several apricot and mulberry trees, a half-dozen sheep, and a cow. To feed the insurgents, the family had to slaughter one of its last goats.

“Every night, every day, we have 20 or 30 Taliban coming asking for food,” one of the relatives said, speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear of Taliban reprisal. “And we can’t even afford one loaf of bread for our own children.”

For many in Afghanistan’s eastern and northeastern provinces, the earthquake, which killed more than 300 people across northern Afghanistan and Pakistan and destroyed about 7,000 homes in Afghanistan alone, was just a new layer to their misery.

For months, residents had already been caught in a grueling conflict as the Taliban have waged offensives against government forces and militias in the northeast and as the militants claiming loyalty to the Islamic State and using its brutal methods have gained a foothold in parts of the east.

Now, the rumbling earth has left many families homeless just as winter is about to set in.

Does that mean parents will be feeding their kids opium again?

The contested status of many of the 103 Afghan districts affected by the quake has raised a major challenge for the government and aid workers: How should they navigate the often-intense fighting to reach those families?

While nongovernmental organizations regularly use tribal elders and local shuras to mediate and to open space for relief work, the intensity of the new fighting across the north has left aid workers nervous.

“In areas where access is easy, the government works in partnership with local aid organizations,” said Wais Ahmad Barmak, Afghanistan’s minister for disaster management. “But in areas where we can’t go because of our government label, the solution we found is to rely on local NGOs who already operate there anyway.”

The Taliban, in a statement, said they had ordered their fighters “in the affected areas to lend their complete help to the victims and facilitate those giving charity to the needy.”

Oh, Taliban laid down their arms for the people -- because they are the people

Btw, how (and more importantly why) are they now an enemy? 

Somehow, between CIA-Duh and ISIS, they have become the reason the U.S. military must stay.

Maulavi Amanuddin, the Taliban shadow governor in northeastern Badakhshan province, the epicenter of the quake, was almost pleading for aid agencies to arrive in Warduj, the district they control. The economic situation was dire, he said, and the government should not use the presence of their forces as a pretext to block the assistance.

Aid workers, “be they bearded, or not, wearing red or green or any color,” would be protected, Amanuddin said.

On Tuesday, officials in Pakistan and Afghanistan said the combined death toll had risen to more than 300 with many thousands homeless. The officials warned that a complete picture of the damage, including remote areas isolated by difficult terrain and the insurgency, could take days to emerge.

Red Crescent Society representatives said they felt comfortable carrying on with relief work but they, too, were weary of “the new groups,” referring to Islamic State affiliates.

They show there true colors then, don't they?

The local government asked the Red Crescent Society, which has established its neutrality by returning the bodies of those killed to government and Taliban sides alike, to assess the damage and provide relief in some of the most violent districts, said Mohammad Iqbal Saeed, the organization’s regional director for the east.

In Pakistan, the picturesque Swat Valley and areas around Dir, Malakand, and Shangla towns in the mountains of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province were hard-hit by the earthquake. Officials said that of the 258 people killed in Pakistan, 202 were in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. More than 4,000 homes were destroyed in Pakistan, the Associated Press reported.

The earthquake hit the home base of the enemy?


What distresses me is my branching out to the Globe for more regarding these natural disasters and being left out on a limb with one day wonders. Don't want to humanize the "enemy" too much -- unless they are Obummer's war refugees being driven into Europe.

More often than not it's a war zone:

Suicide bombing kills 26, wounds 45 in northwestern Pakistan The attack was claimed by a breakaway Taliban group, the militant Jamaat-ul-Ahrar group that split from the Pakistani Taliban two years ago -- meaning it's a CIA start-up, if you will.

Explosion, said to be suicide bombing, kills 8 in northwest Pakistan

At least 20 killed in attack at university in Pakistan 

I recall there being suggestions of staged and scripted fakery, and it was a one-day wonder that quickly vanished.

Sorry to leave you hanging.

Taliban suicide bomber kills 11 outside Pakistani court.... A group affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban and calling itself Jamat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility. The local Taliban branch or its allied militant groups have been waging a war against the state for a decade, killing tens of thousands of people."

Maybe the U.S. can help bring an end to that:

Taliban name lesser-known cleric as new leader Faced with a choice between two obvious candidates to take over the Taliban — one the young son of the insurgency’s founder, the other chief of the Haqqani terrorist network — a small slice of the group’s leadership instead chose “none of the above” on Wednesday.

I must admit that drew a chuckle.

And what is this about a murder charge?

"Pakistan police, kin seek murder charge over driver killed along with Taliban chief in U.S. drone strike" AP May 30, 2016

QUETTA, PAKISTAN – The family of a driver who was killed alongside Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan has filed a case against U.S. officials, seeking to press murder charges, police said Sunday.

Mansour had entered Pakistan from Iran using a false name and fake Pakistani identity documents on May 21, when his car was targeted by a U.S. drone. The driver, who was also killed, was later identified as Mohammed Azam.

Ah, the Taliban terrorist came from Iran (forget the longtime enmity between the Sunni fundamentalist Taliban and Shi'ite heretics of Iran).

The police filed a case on behalf of Azam’s family, police official Abdul Wakil Mengal said. It was not immediately clear what legal avenues the family can realistically pursue.

Yeah, U.S. drone policy is... forgive the terrible pun .... kind of above all that.

In the case documents, his brother, Mohammed Asim, describes Azam as an “innocent man” and a father of four who was the family’s sole breadwinner. “I want justice,” Asim said, according to the case file.

“In our view, both the (officials) who ordered and those who executed the drone strike are responsible for (killing) a man who had nothing to do with terrorism, who was a noncombatant,” Azam’s uncle, Allah Nazar, told The Associated Press.

You got them in the right order, too.

Nazar said his nephew’s death had broken the family. He said that as well as caring for his children, Azam was supporting a disabled brother and his mother, who is blind.

“I have got a simple question to ask the American authorities, that’s: how will this family survive?” Nazar said....

Or those that were left of the family after the second strike took out those come to help -- or did you not know that was SOP?


'Course, we're in a war here!

"Leader of 2014 Massacre at Pakistani School Is Killed in U.S. Airstrike" New York Times News Service  July 14, 2016

ISLAMABAD — A Taliban commander responsible for the 2014 attack on a Pakistani school in which more than 130 children died has been killed in an airstrike in Afghanistan, US and Pakistani officials said. 

Can't argue with that, even if earlier one of the children turned up dead at Sandy Hook. 

At least the show set the narrative and justified the raining down of missiles based on self-created phantoms that can be yanked in and out of graves.

Only problem is there are real people living down there.  

The commander, Omar Mansoor, also known as Umar Naray, was killed in a US airstrike Saturday in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar, said Peter Cook, the Pentagon press secretary, according to the Associated Press.

Mansoor was the leader of the Taliban faction Tariq Gidar and was known as one of Pakistan’s most brutal militants.

In a statement, Cook said Mansoor had “orchestrated multiple terrorist operations in Pakistan,” including the 2014 attack on the school in Peshawar, an attack on an air force base in 2015, and the January assault on Bacha Khan University in Charsadda.

The Peshawar attack was one of the deadliest and most shocking terrorist attacks in Pakistan’s history. Gunmen killed 148 people during an eight-hour rampage.

Mansoor said the attack had been retaliation for the continuing military operation against the group in the North Waziristan tribal region."

When all else fails (or a government begins to drift), start waving women in front of the crowd:

Pakistani social media celebrity dead in ‘honor killing’

Pakistani model’s brother says he killed her for ‘honor’ because ‘‘money matters, but family honor is more important.’’

They then questioned a cleric and social worker about it.


"Police in Pakistan have arrested a mother suspected of killing her pregnant daughter for marrying against the wishes of her family, the latest in a series of so-called “honor killings” in the conservative Muslim country. Local police official Arshad Mahamood said Saturday that the mother and her son slit the throat of 22-year-old Muqadas Tofeeq in the village of Butrawala in Punjab province. Tofeeq was the mother of a 10-month-old infant. He says Muqadas was lured into her parental home, where she was killed on Friday. Her husband, Mohammed Tofeeq, reported the murder. Nearly 1,000 women are killed in Pakistan each year for violating conservative norms on love and marriage."

Think of them as Pakistani abortions.

Funny thing is, they are pro-transgender.

"A Pakistani official says the government has allowed access to a localized version of the video-sharing website YouTube following assurances from the company that it would insert country-specific filters to remove objectionable content. Pakistan banned YouTube in September 2012 for carrying a controversial made-in-America movie trailer that sparked deadly protests across the Muslim world. The movie ‘‘Innocence of Muslims’’ was considered blasphemous and derogatory to Islam for its portrayal of the prophet Mohammed. Some of the most intense protests erupted in Pakistan, where the role of Islam in society is sacrosanct and anti-American sentiment runs high. A Pakistan Telecommunication Authority spokesman, Khurram Mehran, said the website was accessible across the country on Monday."

Isn't that the dubbed over pos that Clinton and Obama lied about and blamed for the Benghazi mess? 

At least the censorship helped reduce crime:

"Crime now down, paramilitary in Pakistan shifts focus to political parties" by Zia ur-Rehman New York Times  November 07, 2015

KARACHI, Pakistan — Paramilitary troops have become ubiquitous around this sprawling Pakistani port city. They watch over police officers at traffic circles, their convoys patrol thoroughfares, their raids drive daily headlines.

Pakistan a police state?

After years of crime and militancy that had made Karachi a byword for violence, an extended operation by the paramilitary force — the Sindh Rangers, who are ultimately answerable to the powerful Pakistani military command — has been working. Officials and residents report that crime is notably down across the city.

But in the name of security, the force in recent months has also begun upending the city’s political order. The crackdown has expanded to target two powerful political parties that have long been at odds with the military establishment. And it has left a broad trail of human rights violations — including accusations of extrajudicial killings, in which officers shoot suspects after taking them into unlawful detention, according to rights advocates and members of those parties.

What did Pakistan do wrong, or is this just a one-off by the NYT and a reminder of leverage?

The crackdown, which began two years ago, was initially limited to the slums and outskirts of the city, where Taliban militants and gangsters wielded influence. But this year, the military ordered that the dragnet be thrown wider, especially targeting the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, or MQM. The political party has controlled the city for decades through the powerful combination of a large ethnic support base, political acumen, and armed gangs.

And in August, the Sindh Rangers arrested and brought charges of financing terrorism against Dr. Asim Hussain, a close aide to former President Asif Ali Zardari, who heads the Pakistan Peoples Party, or PPP. Several top leaders of the party, which in addition to its national profile controls the government of surrounding Sindh province, have left the country, fearing arrest.

“We have dismantled the network of Taliban and criminal gangs of Lyari,” said one senior paramilitary security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the news media. (Lyari is a poor Karachi neighborhood infamous for gang wars.) “Now, it is the turn of militant wings of political parties and those who provided finances to armed groups.”

The leaders of both the parties say they are being targeted for political reasons and accuse the Rangers, and their military masters, of overstepping their mandate and meddling in civilian politics. Interviews with the police and paramilitary officials and political leaders reveal that even among those who support the military, there is a growing sense that the country’s generals have made a concerted decision to wrest Karachi from the MQM’s control.

The intervention comes as the Pakistani military — and particularly its popular top commander, General Raheel Sharif — has been ascendant in the nation’s affairs over the past year, sidelining the elected government on the most critical points of foreign policy and security questions. 

Isn't that kind of their job? 

What are they doing, hassling groups backed by western intelligence?

In Karachi, the military’s main publicity tack in justifying its crackdown on the MQM has been to challenge the conventional wisdom about the party’s methods. Rather than treating it as a political party that employs gang violence, as most analysts describe it, the military is in effect categorizing it as a militant group with a political wing.

“The party has a strong and well-organized militant group who has been involved in every sort of terrorism,” said one intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a continuing operation. “Our main target is the MQM’s militant wing, not its political wing.”

The Rangers have staged raid after raid against the party’s interests over the past few months, including arresting senior party officials at Nine Zero, the nickname of the party’s headquarters in Karachi, long seen as above any police intervention.

Other kinds of pressure have been brought to bear as well.

Some in the local media sector say Karachi news channels have been warned by the authorities not to cover the live speeches of Altaf Hussain, the leader of MQM, who lives in London.



"Pakistan said it has made major progress in its efforts to stop Islamist groups seeking to overthrow the government in Islamabad."

They are in the process of being deported:

"Pakistani terrorist leader is killed while in police custody" by Tim Craig The Washington Post News Service  November 26, 2015

ISLAMABAD — A founder of one of Pakistan’s most feared terrorist groups was killed late Wednesday, the second time in four months that a leader of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi has died under suspicious circumstances while in police custody.

The death of Haroon Bhatti is a major blow to the Sunni extremist group that has been linked to scores of bombings and assassinations, often aimed at Pakistan’s Shi’ite minority. It also signals that Pakistan’s offensive against Islamist militant groups continues to broaden into more urban parts of the country.

According to Pakistani media reports, Bhatti was killed while he was acting as a police informant in Lahore.


In October, Pakistani authorities worked with Interpol to extradite Bhatti, who was wanted for a dozen terrorist attacks, after he was detained in Dubai. Since then, Bhatti was believed to have been confined to a Pakistani prison.

But Bhatti was allowed out of jail on Wednesday so he could direct police to the suspected terorrist safe house. When police arrived at the house, the suspects inside began shooting. Police returned fire, and Bhatti was killed in the crossfire, officials said.

That's the official story anyway.


Now they are being sent back:

"Europe plans to speed up deportation of tens of thousands of Pakistanis" Washington Post   November 23, 2015

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Europe plans to accelerate the deportation of tens of thousands of illegal Pakistani migrants in a bid to free up space and resources for refugees with more legitimate asylum requests, a senior diplomat said Monday.

Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship, delivered the message during a visit to Pakistan’s capital in response to the ongoing refugee crisis.

It's gone under in much of my pre$$ these days.

Although Syrians and Afghans make up the bulk of the most recent arrivals, Pakistanis also have been seeking asylum in Europe. The inflow is adding to the strain on Europe as it struggles to cope with the 760,000 migrants who have arrived there this year.

‘‘Pakistanis will not qualify as political refugees,’’ Avramopoulos said. ‘‘Pakistan is under a democratic process. . . . It is not a country where its citizens are persecuted, and great progress has been done by authorities in Pakistan in order to pave a democratic perspective for their country.’’

He hasn't seen Karachi lately.


Well, I'm done playing around (think of that as dessert). 

Time to leave Pakistan, but if the Globe branches out its coverage I may be back.