Background Information in Pakistan and Afghanistan

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Dear readers, wishing you a very happy Wednesday from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Today we would like to try something a little different, instead of briefing you on current events and recent news, we thought we would do a quick overview of Afghanistan and Pakistan and share facts that are relevant in understanding why things are happening the way they are in the region.

Pakistan:

Area:  796,095 km2 (slightly less than twice the size of California)

Population: 201,995,540 (July 2016)

Capital: Islamabad

Largest city: Karachi

Official languages: Urdu, English

Religion: 96.4% Muslim, 3.6% other (Christian, Hindu, Zoroastrians, etc.)

President:

To learn more please visit this link.

Afghanistan: 

Area: 652,864 km(slightly less than twice the size of California)

Population: 33,332,025 (July 2016)

Capital: Kabul

Largest city: Kabul

Official languages: Pashto, Dari

Religion:99% Muslim (Sunni, Imamiyyah, Ismailism), 1% other

President: Ashraf Ghani

To learn more please visit this link.

Recent Events in Pakistan

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On behalf of the Barakat team we would like to wish you a very Happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. Please find below a short summary of a couple recent events in Pakistan in the last month.

  • New App for women to report harassment launched in Pakistan

Women in the Punjab region of Pakistan are now able to report incidents of harassment and assault through a smartphone application that directly communicates with the Pakistan’s Punjab province. The app also allows women to report incidents of a more pressing nature by alerting an emergency response team at the press of a button. The police team can track the users location “via a built-in global positioning system (GPS).”

Through the app users can also mark areas that are unsafe and gives women a toll-free number to call in the event that they need an emergency response.

Phone applications like this one are a response to studies like the one by the “by the Aurat Foundation, a Pakistani women’s rights group, in 2013 found that Punjab province alone accounted for 5,800 crimes against women – 74% of crimes against women in the whole of Pakistan.”

The women’s rights advocates who launched the application and are campaigning for its use are afraid that not all women have access to it. So, the next step will be creating a more accessible platform where women can report incidents and utilize the resources available to them.

To read more, please visit this site.

  • Pakistani activist fears he will be killed after blasphemy fatwa

Shaan Taseer, son of Salman Taseer”the former governor of Punjab province, “is advocating for the release of Asia Bibi, a poor Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy despite weak and contradictory evidence against her” and Nabeel Masih, “a Christian teenager arrested last year for “liking” on Facebook a picture of the Kaaba in Mecca, Islam’s holiest site.” Salman Taseer was killed for advocating for similar causes six years ago, and Shaan Taseer fears that he will be killed like his father after the blasphemy fatwa, the fatwa that he openly criticizes.

To read more, please visit this site.

 

Recent Events in Afghanistan

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The Barakat Team is wishing you all a very happy Tuesday. Today’s blog post will be focused on explaining the recent events in Afghanistan.

  • Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum accused of torturing political rival Ahmad Ishchi

Political rival, Ahmad Ishchi, has accused the current Vice Presdient of Afghanistan, Abdul Rashid Dostum, of torture over a period of five days after he was abducted by Dostum last month. During this time Dostum was acting-president, as President Ashram Ghani was out of the country. Ishchi claims that Dostum threatened his life, and used his power to manipulate Ishchi. There are also many witnesses that reported seeing the assault take place. Although Dostum and his staff have not made an official statement, and appear to be less than concerned, many of the Western embassies in Kabul call for a more thorough and transparent investigation of the accusations on hand.

General Dostum was formerly a warlord, and has faced accusation of human rights violation and abuse in the past. Dostum was allegedly one of the United States’ earliest and biggest allies, but his reputation was why the United States recommended Hamid Karzai not use the general as his campaign ally. On the other hand, President Ghani elected to run with Dostum in order to attract attention and gain support of Dostum’s ethnic Uzbek community.

To read more please visit this site.

  • Secretary of Defense Carter makes a trip to Afghanistan

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter made a trip to Afghanistan where he met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani along with US military commanders. It was the Obama administrations intention to remove troops from Afghanistan before President Obama left ISIS, but with the “lingering Taliban insurgency, and the emergence of local ISIS affiliate and the continued presence of al Qaeda, terrorists, Obama revised the plan several times, eventually opting to hand-off the issue to his successor.”

There are currently 9,800 Americans serving in Afghanistan, and the goal is the reduce this number to 8,450 by 2017.

To read more on this please visit this site.

  • Threat of Taliban emerges once again due to private financing from Saudi Arabia

The security situation in Afghanistan has reportedly been deteriorating in the last year. It has been reported that only 60% of the country is controlled by the President Ashraf Ghani’s leadership, the remainder of which is controlled by paramilitaries and the Taliban.

One would wonder with the Taliban has not yet lost its momentum over its overthrow, however they have continually received funds from many Saudis even though the King himself officially supports the Afghan Government, as well as the American mission in Afghanistan.

Saudi royals, philanthropists, and oil tycoons have been privately financing the insurgency in Pakistan and Afghanistan for many years now. Secretary of State John Kerry calls their support “surrogate money” that has been shown to prop up the Taliban and ISIS.

To read more please visit this site.

Recent events in Pakistan

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Dear readers, we are wishing you a very happy Wednesday and hope you all had an enjoyable Thanksgiving with your loved ones. As per usual we would like share with you all the recent events in Pakistan, as to keep you updated with the headlines affecting the areas where our schools are run.

  • Pakistan puts an “unofficial hold” on cotton imports from India

In light of the hostility between India and Pakistan, Pakistan has suspended cotton imports from hits number one supplier. If this hold continues it can threaten to bring down an $822 million per year industry. Pakistan will seek out other cotton suppliers such as Brazil and United States to substitute India’s exports to Pakistan. Pakistan states that the Indian products have “received some complaints regarding insects, pests, in cotton consignments imported from India, so we have sent samples for tests .. If results show non-compliance of phyto-sanitary requirements, we would have to stop the imports from India.”

In 2015-2016, Pakistan surpassed Bangladesh in becoming the largest buyer of India’s cotton, in fact they make up 40% of India’s cotton exports.

To read more please visit.

  • Pakistan’s new army chief takes command

Qamar Javed Bajwa was assigned the position of being the new head of Pakistan’s military in the midst of tensions with Afghanistan and hostility with India over the controversial Kashmir region. Bajwa strongly believe that the Kashmir dispute must be resolved in order to ensure regional stability. Although Bajwa is a “fresh face,” he has inherited a plethora of problems, which will be challenging for him to deal with.

To read more please visit.

  • Militants attack Indian Army base in Nagrota on November 29th, 2016

With tensions already being high between India and Pakistan, a group of militants that are dressed in police officer uniform “attacked an Indian Army unit in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, killing seven soldiers, the Indian government said in a statement.”

On that same day, “Indian security forces in Jammu and Kashmir reported killing three heavily armed militants after a battle near the town of Ramgarh, on the Pakistani border, that lasted several hours.”

The historical hostility and tension between the two countries escalated on September 18th, when militants attacked an Indian Army post in the volatile and conflict area of Kashmir, which resulted in the death of 19 Indian soldiers. India fought back by conducted military strikes a couple of weeks later.

Since the Indian partition of 1947 and gaining independence from the British, India and Pakistan have been at war a total of three times.

To read more please visit.

 

Ways you can help: Peer to Peer Campaigns, Giving Tuesday

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Thinking about how to give back? Thinking of a cause that is close to home? Here’s your chance to change the lives of young children and women in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Can you believe that it only costs it only costs $0.70 a day to attend a Barakat school. Help today!

Here’s your opportunity to create a peer-to-peer campaign and have friends and family donate to the cause. Visit this web-page to create your fundraising page.

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Help women today, give them hope and an opportunity to make their dreams become a reality.

Recent events in Afghanistan

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Good afternoon readers! Below you find a short summary of recent events and news that have taken place in Afghanistan in the last weeks.

  • Humanitarian organizations are not meeting their goals of helping individuals in war zones.

In the recent wave of violence and insecurity that has hit Pakistan and Afghanistan, many believe that the presence of International Development professionals and humanitarians are declining. This is attributed to studies that have been conducted in high-risk countries making it more and more difficult to recruit volunteers and workers in countries like Afghanistan. Additionally, the general public and donors are donating less because it seems “incentives to highlight the presence of such organisations on the ground to the general public and donors meant they sometimes overstated their impact, inadvertently making humanitarian situations appear less dire than they were.”

To read more please visit this article.

  • The famous green-eyed Afghan girl

Sharbat Gula, the famous green-eyed Afghan Girl who was photographed by world renowned Steve McCurry, was featured in National Geographic in an issue in 1985. Her face became an icon of the suffering and being refugee in the conflict between Afghanistan and Pakistan. She was arrested last month for living illegally in Pewshara, Pakistan as a refugee with false paperwork, and was deported by Pakistan to her native Afghanistan. After the fact, Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, welcomed her back in the country, and stated “I’ve said repeatedly, and I like to repeat it again, that our country is incomplete until we absorb all of our refugees.” Ghani has ensured that she must “live with dignity and security in her homeland” and has given her a furnished apartment.

To read more please visit this article.

  • Senior al-qaeda killed in Afghanistan

The U.S. military has confirmed that they were responsible for killing al-Qaeda’s Farouq an Qhatani, a senior official in the organization. The Pentagon describes this act as a “precision strike,” which took place on October 23rd, in Kunar. This assault is considered to be one of the most successful and significant strikes against al-Qaeda in many years. The United States has been tracking Qahtani down for four years, as he was closely connected with Osama bin Laden, and was a senior Al-Aeda leader operating in Afghanistan from 2009.

To read more please visit this article.

We hope you enjoyed the short summary, and hope to catch you next week for more. We here at Barakat are putting together our end of the year fundraiser. To make any donations please visit this site https://barakatworld.networkforgood.com.

Recent Events in Pakistan

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A very warm hello from the Barakat team this afternoon! Below you will find short summaries of major news stories across Pakistan, and links to news sites that provide more details and facts to the events that took place.

  • Disaster risk education to become focus in Pakistani schools

Areas that are flood-prone in Pakistan are proving to be vulnerable to extreme weather, a result of climate change. As per the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), “about 10,000 educational institutions were damaged or destroyed in mega-floods that affected a fourth of the country in 2010, Since then another 10,000 schools have been damaged in subsequent floods through 2015, the authority said.” The question to be asked is, in a country that already struggles to provide adequate education to its people, how do they protect the existing places of learning by reducing risk schools and creating better infrastructure? Naturally, suggestions have been made to improve infrastructure by setting new construction standards, but there are also suggestions to create disaster management plans, holding evacuation drills, and just generally raising awareness for the risks that come with extreme weather. To learn more about disaster risk education in Pakistan schools read here.

  • India to expel Pakistani Mehmood Akhtar for “espionage”

The conflict between India and Pakistan has always been an ongoing, fluctuating one. Most recent in their conflict, India is set to expel a Pakistan High Commission official, Mehmood Akhtar, for engaging in “espionage activities.” Akhtar was detained on Wednesday October 26th, and has been given 48 hours to leave the country after a brief detention. For more information please read this article.

  • Quetta Police Academy


On Monday the 24th of October, 2016, a police academy in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, was under attack and the attack resulted in at least 60 fatalities. The Islamic State has already claimed responsibility, but local authorities and military officials believe that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Pakistan-based group that has been associated with Al-Qaeda was responsible for the attack. The Sunni militant organization has been linked to deadly attacks against the country’s Shia Muslim minority. Similar devastating attacks have taken place at this police academy in 2006 and 2008. The question now remains is what makes Balochistan, the largest Pakistani province, an easy target? Despite Balochistan’s abundance of natural resources, it continues to be the poorest Pakistani province. Additionally, the province lacks security, and has become a place of refuge for militants that are traveling to and from Afghanistan in between military operations. An article in Al Jazeera also states that in addition to security, there is “no proper law and order in place.” The borders of Balochistan reach Afghanistan and Iran, and are largely unmanaged and not monitored making the area a safe haven for militants that travel through and from these places. Another issue that makes it hard to run functional and effective security, is that Balochistan is sparsely populated and largely remote, and the history of sectarian violence has created separatist groups. That being said, both members of these groups and terrorist organizations have “greater freedom of action in this area as it is a big province and very underdeveloped. [Because] the province is also pretty remote, which makes it easier for terrorists to come and hide there.”