You have to stand guard over the development and maintenance of democracy, social justice and the equality of mankind in your own native soil. [Mohammed Ali Jinnah]

Friday, January 30, 2009

Numbing statistics

By Muhammad Ali Siddiqi

THE statistics are numbing and mind-boggling and should make any Pakistani sit up: in 2008 the country saw 2,148 terrorist attacks, which caused 6,825 casualties — 2,267 of them fatal.

Suicide attacks alone killed nearly 1,000 people — 967 to be precise — and wounded or maimed for life over 2,000. Of the 63 suicide attacks countrywide, the highest — 32 — occurred in the NWFP, killing and wounding over 1,000 Pakistanis; 10 in Punjab (201, dead, 580 injured), and 16 in Fata (263 dead, 497 injured).

Compiled by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, these statistics do not include those who fell in ‘operational attacks’. According to the think-tanks’ report for 2008, more than 5,500 people were killed or injured in operational attacks (a minimum of 3,182 dead and 2,267 wounded).

What is scary is the steady rise over the years in the number of terrorist attacks and the consequent increase in casualties. In 2006, terrorist attacks left 907 dead and 1,543 injured; in 2007 there was a quantum jump in the figure for the dead — 3,448.

If to those killed in acts of terrorism we add those who died in operational attacks, sectarian and factional clashes and US drone attacks, the total number of civilians and security personnel killed in 2008 comes to a morbid 8,000, with the number of the injured approaching 10,000. The grand total for 2008, thus, comes to 18,000 Pakistani people getting killed or injured in acts of political violence.

Is the world aware of this Pakistani trauma? Going by the doubts cast on our commitment to fight terrorism and the ‘do more’ litany one doubts if we have been able to inform the world what this country and its people have been going through for years. In fact, it appears as if, barring US Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Richard Lugar in America and Foreign Secretary David Miliband in Britain, very few top personalities in the policymaking apparatus in the western world seem to be aware of Pakistan’s plight and the scourge which terrorism has become for us Pakistanis in our daily lives.

Our post-Mumbai diplomatic effort has not been all disaster. It did indeed succeed in convincing the world diplomatic community that Islamabad was not involved in the Mumbai crime. However, Pakistan’s advocacy of its case was characterised by diffidence. It failed to show our justifiable anger over India’s attempt to obfuscate the issue, and often we appeared to be pleading rather than telling.

Has India suffered anything even remotely resembling Pakistan’s trauma as seen in the cold statistics above? The answer is no, but the world evidently doesn’t think so. What the world does is to view the situation in terms of the ‘safe haven’ which is supposed to exist in Fata and elsewhere for the Taliban. That deprives us of the sympathy we deserve.

Read full opinion at DAWN - Opinion; January 26, 2009

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War on Terror: Time to pull out?

DAVID Miliband’s assertion that the ‘war on terror’ was a mistake, together with Nato’s Secretary-General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer’s criticism of pro-American Afghan President Hamid Karzai clearly indicates a rift between Europe and America towards Afghanistan and Pakistan.

International relations and global realities have changed tremendously since 9/11. The war on Iraq has exposed the limits of American military might. Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghuraib exposed the moral bankruptcy of American regime which tremendously weakened American political power.

The resurgence of Taliban in Afghanistan is testing the commitment of International Security Assistance Forces. The conflict between Georgia and Russia and now between Europe and Russia over gas supplies has marked the return of a belligerent anti-western power to the international stage.

The Iraq war and the recent butchery of Gazan Muslims in Palestine have exposed the bias inherent in international institutions such as the United Nations towards the West and its interests. And, above all, the most severe economic crisis has hit the West and crippled its economy, shattering the core capitalist principles of free market economy.

All of these factors have weakened western powers and their ability to influence states like Pakistan. Now is the time for Pakistan to review its foreign policy and make radical changes in it. The challenge on the eastern front provides Pakistan a golden opportunity to make a case for pulling out from the self-destructive war on terror.

The Pakistani government has already indicated that it would pull out from the war on terror if India isn’t reined in by the international community. After the rift increasing between America and Europe over the war on terror, Pakistan should actually move beyond just sending signals.

DAWN - Letters; January 22, 2009
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Thursday, January 29, 2009

SOAS Students in Solidarity with Gaza

SOAS barged in the BBC offices and protested against the network's biased coverage of Israeli military's slaughter in Gaza.

They were forcefully removed by the police from the premises.

here is the entry by an SOAS member:

Called within just a few hours and hardly built at all, about 50 or 60 protesters turned up to BBC on Portland place to protest about the disgraceful decision not to air the DEC appeal.

We got there a bit early and decided to storm the entrance leaving the police behind. We immediately sat down, linked arms and started chanting. We had a lot of support from BBC staff entering the building (i hope they can pull of a strike over this) by sort-of sneaky thumbs up when no-one was looking. the video below shows a small quiet period but really, it had a very good impact. Loads of press turned up, I'm just waiting for the reports to stream in!!

I was on BBC World Service and had to deal with an idiot Zionist who tried, somehow, to tie in Iran and their supposed nuclear weapons!!
and in response to a press release by BBC:

(italics my own-there is a definite case of contradictory conscience/reporting here)
Around 20 (i would say there was 12 of us inside!!) campaigners from the Stop the War Coalition SOAS StW society walked into the lobby of the central London building with a large banner proclaiming Hands off Gaza (the only banner we could find!)

They were removed by police before continuing a noisy protest outside, during which some of them set fire to their television licences.

source: SOAS blog(

Sussex university acceeds to Students' demands..... Sussex University Occupation declares victory.

Sussex university students staged an occupation of University buildings and presented a charter of demand to the University administration, which were accepted by university on second day of occupation.

Charter of Demand:

  • Ethical investment/divestment
  • Sanctions against Israeli goods and products sold on campus
  • Scholarships for Palestinian students
  • Support for Palestinian universities
  • No reprisals against protesters

A full and detailed statement had been developed by the University in discussion with the students, in response to the six demands which the students presented. That statement –which is set out below in full – represents a positive response by the University to all the points made by the students, in particular through:

  • confirming its ethical investment policy and reviewing its operation;
  • seeking to create new scholarships for students from all areas affected by conflict or catastrophe, including Palestine;
  • working with the students' union (USSU) and other UK HEIs to pass surplus educational materials to universities in Palestine.
  • Detailed discussion involving USSU on how these are to be taken forward will follow, now that the action has ended.

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Farthing, has also said that the University, working with the students’ union, will now wish to look at these events and review how such matters are handled , so that the University can learn lessons from what has happened, in the interests of the whole Sussex community.

source: LSE Occupation Blog(

Sussex University Blog:

King's College, London. Occupation in Solidarity with Gaza

Students from the well reputed and world renkowned King's College London have started an occupation at their campus and have put a set of demand for the university administration.

  • Organise a fundraising day for Gaza
  • Donate educational resources, scholarships to Palestinian students
  • Start making links with Palestinian universities.
They organised a protest outside BBC, which they now dubb as Biased Broadcasting Company, fro biased coverage. Here is the video:

Occupation Blog:

To show solidarity and agreement with their sense of justice for all and standing up for Humanitarian equality, please post your comments, thoughts on the blog page or email them to


A group of around 80 Oxford students occupied the historic Bodleian Library at Oxford University today in support of Palestinians and to protest the university’s policies towards Israel, notably calling for divestment from Oxford’s stake in the British arms manufacturer BAE Systems, a statement of support from the university in reaction to Israel’s bombing of the Islamic University in Gaza, and the cancellation of a series of lectures inaugurated by Israeli President Shimon Peres (which the students had earlier staged a protest against). They are also asking for scholarships to be created for Palestinian students and support for Palestinian academia.

Their full statement is after the jump. The students have a blog, Occupied Oxford, a Twitter feed and a YouTube page with videos of the occupation of the library.

The building occupation was ended after ALL of the demands from university administration were met.

Political involvement of students is rising, and this brave, non-violent & peaceful act by a group from oxford shows student activism can make a differrence!


Monday, January 19, 2009

Pakistan hints at tit-for-tat response to extradition demand

ISLAMABAD, Jan 18: Pakistan will ask India to hand over perpetrators of the Samjhauta Express blast, if the Indian government insists on extradition of "non-state-actors" suspected to be involved in the Mumbai attacks.

"If India (keeps) insisting on handing over the suspects of the Mumbai attacks, we will also ask it to hand over the accused of the Samjhauta Express blast," Adviser to the Prime Minister on Interior Rehman Malik said on Sunday.

He reiterated Pakistan's commitment to see if there was any evidence in the information provided by India and to try in Pakistan if anyone was found guilty.

An official of the interior ministry said it had been suggested at a Foreign Office briefing a few days ago that Pakistan should also ask India to hand over the people involved in the train blast.The sources said that the government had decided to adopt a tough stand if India continued to demand extradition of some suspects in the Mumbai attacks.

However, Mr Malik said Pakistan would accept a decision if India conducted a fair trial and convicted the people involved in the train attack, and if that happened, India should also accept the decision of Pakistani courts. "It should be reciprocal, he said.

The adviser said that investigations into the Mumbai carnage were continuing under Pakistani laws, and vowed that the government would not succumb to foreign pressure.

"No foreign help would be sought. However, Indian investigators would be more than welcome. Pakistan is very open and inquiry officers have also been bestowed with full powers to fulfil their tasks," he told a private TV channel.

Terming Pakistani investigators "best among the best", he said records showed that they were quite competent to conduct the inquiry.

He said the inquiry could not proceed without legally tangible evidence. "If anyone is found guilty of being involved in the heinous crime, he will be tried under the Anti-terrorism Act."
Pakistan hints at tit-for-tat response to extradition demand -DAWN - Top Stories; January 19, 2009

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Imran Returns Hilal-e-Pakistan Award to Govt in Protest

Cricket legend-turned-politician Imran Khan has decided to return his prestigious Hilal-e-Pakistan award in protest over government conferring country’s top civilian awards to American Vice-President-elect Joe Biden and a State Department senior official Richard Boucher.

“I have decided in protest to return the award conferred on me for my services rendered in sports arena. I am disappointed and angered over government’s decision which neglected the sentiments of the people of this country who are frustrated and seething with anger with this deplorable decision”, Khan, chief of Tehrike Insaaf, told Khaleej Times.

President Asif Ali Zardari conferred Hilal-e-Pakistan to Joe Biden and Quaid-e-Azam Medal to Richard Boucher praising their unflinching support to Pakistan in helping the country in recent years through diplomatic channels.

Source: Khaleej Times

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

General Kiyani's [fictional] letter

I wish this wasn't fictional...

Meray Aziz Hum Watno,

In the last 60 years of Pakistan and especially during the past decade, the image of Pakistan Army and that of the high rank officers of Pakistan's Army in particular has severely deteriorated. Pakistan Army has lost its respect in the eyes of the most of Pakistanis, as a result of which I have decided to take this drastic action and writing you this letter today.

Today, as the commander in chief of Pakistan Army, I will make my best efforts to assure you that things will change for the better future of Pakistan and this letter will mark as a turning point in the History of Pakistan Army and Pakistan.

God has blessed us with an opportunity to admit/confess our blunders, incompetency, incapability and other unlawful and unprofessional actions. As Chief of Pakistan's Army, I ask all Pakistanis for forgiveness and Pakistan Army as Institution promises of behaving in a way that fulfils the nation's expectations in future.

I herby announce the following actions:

Supremacy of Constitution & Accountability:

1- Change in PMA Curriculum to ensure that each Officer understands that they are subordinates to the Nation, its Constitution and the Law of the Land, and not to the Chief of Army Staff or any other Officer. Senior Lawyers will be hired to give lectures in the PMA so that the obedience to constitution is properly understood and ensured for officers in future.

2- Oath of the Army officers will be revised as per proposals of civilian government to make it more clear on supremacy of civilian rule. All the serving Army officers will also take this new oath and the oath ceremonies of all officers above rank of Major Generals will be held in Prime Minster House and will be broadcasted to Public.

3- Military training of Army officers going abroad (US, UK or EU) will be carried out with intensive pre-departure psychological scrutiny and post-training debriefing to insure that they have not been infiltrated by foreign powers.

4- There has been increasing number of incidents of bullying, torture, abuse of power by Army Officers against Civilians. Effective immediately, I announce that cases for all such incidents will be taken to a Civilian Court, and till the decision of the case, such officers will remain suspended and in civilian custody. Army will not use any coercive methods to harass the media from reporting such events and the names/ranks of culprits.

5- All Missing Persons in custody of Pakistan Army or related entities will be released immediately OR handed over to civilian authorities for prosecution through due process of law. Any involvement in kidnapping of any Pakistani Civilian, including that of a Prime Minister by the Army in future will be considered as terrorism, and will be punishable by death as per the laws of country.

6- In order to ensure that any Army Generals do not overthrow elected governments in future, all army collaborators in all previous military take-overs, will submit to the nation and to the court of law. The culprits of 1971 as identified in Hamood-ur-Rehman Commission report will be punished, even after death to finally correct our wrong doings of past.

7- Role of ISI will be redefined to focus on external threats only and monitoring of Pakistani civilians, including politicians, judges and journalists will be considered treason. I also announce closing of ISI media cells and the permanent suspension of funding for propaganda campaigns through all sorts of Ahmed Quraishis and Zaid Hamids effective immediately.

Military Budget and Economy Revival:

8- The 2400-acre GHQ land in sectors E10 and D11 of Islamabad will be immediately sold to overseas Pakistanis, which will boost the economy of our motherland. This most expensive and luxurious piece of land at foot of Margala Hills in Islamabad would fetch at least 80 Billion Rupees equivalent of foreign reserves. This amount should be good to clear large portion of our foreign debt.

9- I announce the transfer of all military bases and properties from the urban areas into nearby cheaper rural areas to end the symbols of British Colonial rule. The thousands of acres prime properties in centre of urban areas like Rawalpindi, Lahore, Jehlam and Karachi should fetch 10 Trillion Rupees, which would be enough to provide clean water, basic education and healthcare to every single Pakistani Citizen. I assure you that this action will be started immediately and completed within 2 years time.

10- Pakistan Army will cut down its conventional army from 550,000 to a lean, high tech and smart force of 200,000. When it comes to war, a smaller and more efficient force is better than a large number of unprofessional soldiers. This change will save 2 Trillion Rupees of taxpayer's money over a period of 5 years.

11- I announce that allotment of plots and properties to army officers without accountability will be stopped immediately. All previous allotments of lands and plots will be brought under public scrutiny to determine the number of plots sold illegally by army officers, violating the rules and regulations and the main objective of allotment.

12- No army officer would be given more than one plot during his career, and that too will be based on his performance. The full cost of plots will be paid from Army Budget and will be bought from Civilian Government on market rates, instead of 2,000 Rupees per Kanal.

13- Allotment of Agricultural lands to Army officers will be ceased immediately and permanently. All disputes with farmers regarding Agricultural lands (like Okara Farms Scandal) and any other issues with civilians will be settled through civilian courts ASAP.

14- Effectively immediately, I announce that the benefits of all Army Officers will be made compatible with that of Civil Servants. This will ensure that a Grade-20 Army Officer will get the same benefits as any Grade-20 Civil Servant. This will boost the morale of Civilian Government and also lower the burden on taxpayers by several billion rupees every year.

15- All non-military properties owned by Army for entertainment purposes, including all golf courses, rest houses and resorts at prime locations like Bhorban and all over Pakistan will be immediately and unconditionally privatized. This would generate 35 Billion Rupees that will be handed over to Education Ministry, so they can build several universities with Research & Development facilities.

16- I also prohibit the use of army properties or equipment for personal use. From now, no army vehicles will be seen on streets for personal purpose, like for buying groceries or trips to beauty parlours. This move will alone save 2 Billion Rupees of taxpayer's money from fuel and maintenance costs annually.

Pakistan Zindabad,

COAS General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani

Pakistan Army

Fictional Letter by COAS Kiyani, written by Dr. Akram Khan

Friday, January 9, 2009

Suspected 'Suicide bomber' caught after Lahore blasts

Pakistani police arrested a suspected suicide bomber Friday after at least six people were injured in a series of explosions in Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city, police told CNN.

At least four explosions occurred around 8.45 p.m. local time in the busy Mall Road district of the city, CNN's Reza Sayah reported, quoting police sources.

He said the suspected suicide bomber was arrested by police as he tried to blow himself up after throwing grenades from a rooftop near the Al-Falah theater.
'Suicide bomber' caught after Lahore blasts -
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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Protests @ LUMS against Israeli agression & International communities role in Gaza crisis.

Students at LUMS held a protest today, Tuesday, the 6th of January, against the continuing, genocidal Israeli assault on the people of Gaza. Over a hundred students assembled on the LUMS campus in the afternoon, holding placards denouncing and condemning the illegal and unjustifiable Israeli aggression, as well as the stark inadequacy of the response of the international community, including the government of Pakistan.

Various students and distinguished members of the faculty, like Dr. Rasul Bakhsh Rais and Mr. Abdul Rehman Mustafa spoke on the occasion, highlighting the plight of the people of Gaza and the complicity of the United States in their oppression. The US government was chided for thwarting all international efforts to broker a ceasefire between the warring parties. Shock was expressed at the lackadaisical attitude of the United Nations Security Council in brokering a ceasefire and addressing the gargantuan problems of the Gazans. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza due to the 2 year long blockade of the territory by Israeli forces was also highlighted by the students, with appeals made to lend a practical helping hand through the provision of humanitarian aid to the terror-stricken residents.

The students spoke about the need to continue their efforts to contribute to the international pressure being built on the Israeli government to withdraw their forces from Gaza and lift the illegal blockade.

In the end, the students put their names and signatures to a petition being sent to the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice by Amnesty International to urge the US to prevent the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the Gaza strip.

After offering Fateha for the deceased and praying for an end to the suffering of those caught in the ugly conflict, the students then dispersed peacefully.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

PTA orders blockade of six political sites


THE NEWS, Friday, January 02, 2009
By Urooj Zia, Karachi

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) issued directives in the last week of December to Internet Service Providers (ISPs), ordering them to block a list of six webpages on the grounds that they were “harmful for the integrity of the country.”

The directive came on the orders of the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) for the Evaluation of Websites. The IMC constitutes representatives of the Ministry of IT, PTA, Ministry of Interior and Cabinet Division. Its charter is to monitor and block blasphemous, pornographic, and anti-state or anti-Pakistan sites.

Three of the six webpages on the list issued by the PTA, however, are from, a website set up after November 3, 2007, when then-President Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf implemented a state of emergency in the country. One webpage is from, a social and political discussion forum. The fifth page is from, a general discussion forum, while the sixth webpage is a node from Most of the blocked webpages contained articles which claimed to provide information about Punjab Governor Salman Taseer’s “history”; others had pictures of members of Taseer’s family at lavish parties thrown recently at the Punjab Governor House.

None had blasphemous material, or anything which could even remotely be construed as “anti-Pakistan,” unless criticism of one person is considered an act of treason. The PTA circular, issued on December 26 by Enforcement Coordination Director Yawar Yasin, however, called for the immediate blockage of these pages. An email was sent out on December 29 to ISPs by Muhammad Shafiq, PTA Zonal Director (Enforcement) at the Authority’s Rawalpindi zonal office. The ISPs in question were directed to comply with these orders immediately and send a report to Shafiq by 3 pm the same day.

Meanwhile, the move to block political websites and webpages has been lambasted by ISPs as well as internet users, many of whom have, on various online discussion forums, compared this act with those under the military dictatorship of Gen (retd) Musharraf.

“While these webpages have been classified as ‘harmful for the integrity of the country,’ I don’t believe this is the correct classification. PTA as a regulator should not be involved in pushing or blocking political agendas and should clearly rise above political party favours and bias,” the CEO of a Lahore-based ISP said. “We feel that the criteria of blocking should be clearly defined and should not side with any political party.”

“This is a very repressive step and ISPAK condemns this act,” Micronet Broadband CEO and Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan (ISPAK) convener Wahaj us Siraj told The News. “The IMC has no mandate to block political web sites. The PTA apparently has less say in it and just conveyed the directive of the IMC to the ISPs.”

Monday, January 5, 2009

Israili Barbarism and Propaganda, lies exposed

Israel has tried to take the initiative in the propaganda war over Gaza but, in one important instance, its version has been seriously challenged.

The incident raises the question of how to interpret video taken from the air.

Israel released video of an air attack on 28 December, which appeared to show rockets being loaded onto a lorry. The truck and those close to it were then destroyed by a missile. Click here to watch the Israeli footage of the truck being attacked.

This was clear evidence, the Israelis said, of how accurate their strikes were and how well justified. A special unit it has set up to coordinate its informational plan put the video onto YouTube as part of its effort to use modern means of communications to get Israel's case across.

The YouTube video has a large caption on it saying "Grad missiles being loaded onto the Hamas vehicle." As of Saturday morning UK time, more than 260,000 people had watched it.

Different version

It turned out, however, that a 55-year-old Gaza resident named Ahmed Sanur, or Samur, claimed that the truck was his and that he and members of his family and his workers were moving oxygen cylinders from his workshop.

Metal workshop owner Ahmed Sanur [photo courtesy of B'TselemAhmed Sanur is challenging Israel's claim that rockets were targeted

This workshop had been damaged when a building next door was bombed by the Israelis and he was afraid of looters, he said.

The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem put Mr Sanur's account on its website, together with a photograph of burned out oxygen cylinders.

Mr Sanur said that eight people, one of them his son, had been killed. He subsequently told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz: "These were not Hamas, they were our children... They were not Grad missiles.".

The Israeli response was that the "materiel" was being taken from a site that had stored weapons. The video remains on You Tube.

But the incident shows how an apparently definitive piece of video can turn into something much more doubtful.

Picture of gas cylinders taken by B'Tselem fieldworker
B'Tselem said these cannisters were near the destroyed truck

It is reminiscent of an event in the Nato war against Serbia over Kosovo in 1999. In that case, a video taken from the air seemed to show a military convoy which was then attacked.

On the ground however it was discovered that the "trucks" were in fact tractors towing cartloads of civilian refugees, many of whom were killed.

Israel effort

The Israeli propaganda effort is being directed to achieve two main aims.

The first is to justify the air attacks. The second is to show that there is no humanitarian calamity in Gaza.

Both these aims are intended to place Israel in a strong position internationally and to enable its diplomacy to act as an umbrella to fend off calls for a ceasefire while the military operation unfolds.

Israel has pursued the first aim by being very active in getting its story across that Hamas is to blame. The sight of Hamas rockets streaking into Israel has been helpful in this respect.

It has also allowed trucks in with food aid and has stressed that it will not let people starve, even if they go short.

Israel appears to think its efforts are working.

One of its spokespeople, who has regularly appeared on the international media, Major Avital Leibovich, said: "Quite a few outlets are very favourable to Israel."

Ban on foreign media

Israel has bolstered its approach by banning foreign correspondents from Gaza, despite a ruling from the Israeli Supreme Court.

The Arab television news channel Al Jazeera is operating there and its reports have been graphic and have affected opinion across the Arab world. The BBC also has its local bureau hard at work.

But the absence of reporters from major organisations has meant, for example, that Mr Samur's story has not been as widely told as it probably would have been, or his account subject to an on-the-spot examination.

Meanwhile Israel has received good coverage of the threats and damage to its own towns and communities.

Whether Israel retains any propaganda initiative is not all certain. Pictures of dead and wounded children have undermined its claim to pinpoint accuracy and the longer this goes on, the greater the potential for world public opinion to swing against it, with diplomatic pressure building for a cessation.

Its presentational problems would be hugely increased if it engaged in a ground operation, which would bring with it more pictures of death and destruction.

Update: several readers have e-mailed to ask whether I believe Hamas. One said I had "bought into" Hamas propaganda. Another that I should have dealt with Hamas' claims: "What's missing speaks volumes about your one-sidedness."

I do not believe anyone's "propaganda." We seek to verify all claims, from whatever source. One of the main claims in Gaza at the moment is the serious situation for the population. Having reported from Gaza many times over the years, I know how crowded parts of it are and how dependent the people are on food aid from the UN. This means they have no other source of supply but equally, if the system is working, they should be getting enough to get by on. The problem is that foreign correspondents cannot get in to establish the exact situation for themselves.