Some experts predict the domestic price of this increasingly relevant energy source could triple in coming years.

  • Some experts predict the domestic price of this increasingly relevant energy  source could triple in coming years.<p>

Natural gas was little more than sideshow when hardy souls first started  probing the seabed between Tasmania and the Australian mainland in the  1960s.

Five of the world’s biggest oil nations had just formed a restrictive cartel,  and Australia’s dependence on imported petroleum products was both a concern and  an entrepreneurial opportunity for those willing to join the fur seals in the  high seas of Bass Strait.

Unable to extract the lucrative black liquid without also bringing up  flammable gas, the pioneers struck a deal to hand the gas over to the Victorian  government for a pittance as soon as it travelled the 77 kilometres  to  shore.

30 May 2012.  AFR.  The Hon. Peter Reith.<br /><br /><br />
Photograph by Arsineh Houspian.  +(61) 401 320 173.

Use it or lose it: Former Howard government minister Peter Reith conducted a  lengthy review of the gas sector. Photo: Arsineh Houspian

But almost 50 years and a few bouts of privatisation later, gas has risen to  become very much front of mind in Bass Strait, and is at the centre of a new  rush to secure energy supplies before prices soar.

In the past few months  billions of dollars worth of deals have been struck  by energy retailers, manufacturing companies and pipeline operators eager to  increase their exposure to a province that is shaking off its reputation as an  industry backwater.

The forces behind Bass Strait’s return to the spotlight are economic, rather  than because of any major new resource discovery or  technological  breakthrough.

Plans to export huge amounts of gas from Queensland to north Asia later this  decade are having flow-on effects for the entire eastern seaboard, where a  single gas grid connects NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and  Queensland.

Exporting gas is more attractive for companies because it can be sold for  higher prices than the $3 to $4 per gigajoule paid by consumers in the domestic  market.

The price pressure has been exacerbated by the growing realisation that some  of Queensland’s big gas export plants – particularly the one being built by  Santos – don’t have quite as much coal-seam gas coming down the pipeline as   first thought.

That combination of factors is likely to drag domestic consumers  into a  bidding war with foreign buyers, and UBS energy analyst Nik Burns believes gas  prices could triple as a result.

”Our view is that gas prices will peak around the $10 to $12 per gigajoule  mark in Queensland from 2015 to 2019. Given the distance from the LNG projects  in Queensland, other states will be sheltered from these prices to a certain  degree, but we still anticipate gas prices there to nearly double from about $4  to as high as $8 per gigajoule,” he said.

A squabble for gas would be ironic for a nation heavily endowed with the  resource, but that is the likely outcome so long as Australia remains an  exporter, and some of the nation’s logical gas production zones continue to shun  the industry.

NSW – which imports more than 90 per cent of its gas from other states – has  tight restrictions on onshore gas production, which allow only a small number of  gas developments to operate at the present time.

Victoria has also shunned coal-seam and shale gas, with the Napthine  government extending its ban on unconventional extraction for at least  two  years.

Queensland remains open to the industry, but any further production there  will be needed to help the state meet its own export and consumption needs, and  in all states, long development times mean that a gas shortage may be  inevitable, at least for a few years at the end of this decade.

”As of today, prices are already going up. They will go higher than they are  now, and the big issue for policymakers is whether the transition comes to an  end and prices slip or they stay high more permanently,” says former Howard  government minister Peter Reith, whose view of the unconventional gas sector was  recently sought, then overlooked, by the Victorian government.

While governments in Australia’s two most populous states do not appear to be  concerned by the prospect of soaring household gas bills, the companies that  consume or retail large amounts of gas on the east coast certainly are. The  result has been a flurry of corporate activity in the two places that can  reliably deliver gas to the nation’s south-east: the Cooper Basin in South  Australia, and Bass Strait.

With a direct pipe into Queensland, pundits expect any extra gas produced in  the Cooper Basin to join the Queensland export route, leaving Bass Strait as the  best hope for the future gas needs of NSW and Victoria in particular.

Chemical and explosives manufacturer Orica has been particularly quick to  lock down its future gas supplies, taking its chequebook on recent visits to  both the Cooper Basin and Bass Strait. In July, Orica struck a speculative deal  with ASX-listed junior Strike Energy for a slice of the unconventional gas it  hopes to produce from its embryonic and unproven project in the Cooper Basin. If  the punt pays off, Orica could pay as much as $52.5 million and be entitled to  as much as 150 petajoules of Strike’s gas over 20 years.

By comparison, Australia consumed just more than 1000 petajoules in each of  the past few years, according to the Australian Energy Regulator.

By November, it was clear the dabble in Strike’s uncertain future was just an  appetiser, with a major Bass Strait deal next on Orica’s menu.

Orica agreed to pay ExxonMobil and BHP Billiton – the biggest players in Bass  Strait – an undisclosed sum in return for 14 petajoules of gas each year for  three years, starting in 2017.

Unlike the creative Strike deal, the Bass Strait purchase has a high degree  of certainty, and would have likely cost Orica several hundred million  dollars.

Origin Energy is another big company to take matters into its own hands by  directly purchasing long-term gas supplies from Bass Strait.

In September, Origin agreed to buy 432 petajoules from Exxon and BHP over a  nine-year period, starting in 2014. Once again, the price paid was not  disclosed, but analysts estimate it to be worth several billion dollars.

Both those deals will mean significantly more gas flowing north from Bass  Strait into NSW, and pipeline operator APA has announced a $65 million upgrade  of the pipeline to ensure there is room to carry it all.

There is just one issue with the nation shifting a significant portion of its  energy needs onto Bass Strait once more – large sections of the province have  been in decline for decades, and the true size of its remaining gas reserves are  known  to  few people, who have little reason to share the secret.

”Given most of the gas is being sourced from a joint venture of Exxon and  BHP, there isn’t necessarily the granularity that investors and key stakeholders  would like around how much gas is there, how much is remaining, how long would  that last and how much more potential there is,” Mr Burns said.

Forty-nine years since they drilled those first wells in Bass Strait, Exxon  and BHP’s long-standing joint venture now boasts 23 platform rigs in Bass  Strait.

The fur seals now congregate in large numbers on the struts beneath the  platforms, seizing on a rare opportunity to rest in the sun above the strait’s  chilly waters.

Exxon estimates that 7 trillion cubic feet of gas –  equivalent to about 7600  petajoules – remains in the most prospective zone of Bass Strait, known as the  Gippsland Basin.

But the company’s Australian manager of public and government affairs Chris  Welberry suggests it would be optimistic to expect all of that to be  developed.

”A fair amount of that number is undiscovered – it is what we believe might  be out there, based on our knowledge of the basin,” he said.

The remaining gasfields also contain different quality gas, with higher  levels of carbon and mercury an emerging trend.

The joint venture will soon bring three new fields – the $US4.5 billion ($4.9  billion) Kipper Tuna Turrum project – into production, and work to build a $US1  billion carbon-reduction plant for those fields will begin next week.

”It’s not as simple as turning on the tap; it is going to be a lot more  difficult to get the remaining gas out than it has been to date, and it  increasingly becomes economically challenged as you go down that path,” Mr  Welberry said.

”It’s one of those things that really depends on the market and whether we  are able to make economically viable new discoveries.”

Others in the industry note that with gas prices almost certain to rise over  the next decade, there is also little incentive for BHP and Exxon to move  quickly.

”If you were BHP and Exxon, you would look at the undiscovered gas resources  and wonder, ‘Why explore for it now?’ What’s the point of spending that money  now when in the meantime gas prices keep going up and any gas discovered won’t  be needed for a number of years anyway,” Mr Burns said. ”It can work to their  advantage to actually wait for two or three years before they go and further  appraise and expand their gas resources.”

Of course, BHP and Exxon are not the only ones working in Bass Strait, with  other companies such as Santos, WHL Energy, Nexus, AWE and Origin all having  smaller operations in Bass Strait’s lower-profile basins – the Otway and the  Bass.

Several of those companies are mulling expansions or exploration campaigns,  and micro-cap company WHL has a seismic vessel plying Bass Strait’s high seas at  the moment.

WHL boss David Rowbottom said the changing economics of gas meant the amount  remaining in the region could yet fluctuate beyond the conventional wisdom.

”The industry is re-examining what is in the Bass Strait to see if they  can’t make economic sense out of things that previously have been considered  marginal or too high-risk,” he said. ”I don’t think this seismic program by  ourselves will be the last one shot in that area; there is still exploration  potential.”

But he cautioned against the notion of significant upside from exploration:  ”When you look at the undeveloped gas off the coast of Victoria, there are  really only three or four fields that can be brought in, but the cost of  developing this gas is quite high, so it only works as backfill into existing  infrastructure.”

The recent gas report by Peter  Reith contained estimates from a range of  regulators and consultants, which found there might be just 10 years of gas left  in Victorian waters, if demand is strong and production of new fields remains  modest.

Mr Burns is slightly more bearish: ”At a very high level, there is about  five to eight years of gas supply in Victoria remaining to supply the needs of  Victoria, NSW and South Australia.

”With more gas flowing interstate, we expect there to be increasing pressure  on Exxon and BHP to disclose more information about their gas resources. This  will help alleviate some of the concerns over their ability to maintain gas  supplies over the coming years.”

For his part, Mr Reith has revealed that concerns about so-called ”use it or  lose it” provisions were raised with him while he was conducting his  review of  the gas sector.

”There is no doubt that there are some problems with existing  arrangements,” he wrote in his cover letter for the report. ”The market lacks  transparency in upstream information, there is a lack of transparency on  short-term production, and there are information asymmetries between sellers and  buyers.

”It is easy to map out market reforms in theory and the reality of a new,  much bigger market suggests that a review of the market could be  warranted.”

Speaking to Business Day this week, Mr Reith did not back away from the ”use  it or lose it” debate.

”It is an ongoing issue and the Productivity Commission would clearly be the  best place for that issue to be properly reviewed, and for the Productivity  Commission to also undertake a cost-benefit analysis of any proposals to also  make changes in that area,” he said.

Further insights into Bass Strait’s future could come in December, when BHP  updates the market on its broader petroleum strategy. But one thing is  clear –  Bass Strait will be making waves in the energy sector for a while yet.

Read more:

Every seventh Pakistani is living on benefits in the UK

Updated 2013-11-21 18:24:44

Every seventh taxi driver in the UK is a Pakistani. Many of them are overqualified for their jobs and hold university degrees. Does the UK need to reform its immigrant policies?

Umar Gul came to the UK in 2004, after graduating from the University of Peshawar, on a partial commonwealth scholarship to study Environment, Health and Safety at the University of Sunderland. Today, he drives a Hackney taxi in Nottingham, waiting on his British passport which will come next year.

“I finished my Masters degree in 16 months, in 2006. After that I was eligible to apply for a one-year post-study skill visa. I started working as a security guard on the weekends while looking for a job in my field.”

Gul waited in vain for many months to find employment that would meet the requirements of the UK home office. To get his visa extension, Gul needed to show the home office an earning of 18,000 pounds per annum.

“The jobs in my field of health and safety offered only 15-16 thousand pounds per annum to the freshers. I wanted to stay in the UK and explore my options further, so I decided to take up a job at a security company. They paid me 20,000 pounds per annum.”

After giving a string of interviews and being rejected twice in the finals. He kept sending out applications, waiting for interview calls but in two years time he was not offered a single job. He continued working as a security guard and his ‘post-study visa’ was also extended.

Gul is not alone in this ordeal. There is a wave of new immigrants who came to the UK after 7/7 on student visas and later got post-study work visas to never return to Pakistan. Not all of them are lucky to end up with white-collar jobs; they now either work as taxi drivers, security guards or in the kitchens as chefs or helpers.

Gul left his security guard job and started driving a taxi in 2009. “I drive five, six or sometimes even seven days a week. It depends on me, I am self-employed.”

Wasti, a lawyer in London says, “Pakistani education is not equivalent to British education. They can’t compete with people who have studied in the UK their whole lives. Then, there are many restrictions to work for immigrants, driving taxis is a flexible job. People like it for the unrestricted hours. But above all, they love the ‘cash in hand’ type of jobs.”

In such jobs, taxes are not deducted. With a first generation immigrants like Gul, there is a trend: Getting an indefinite visa. Their aim is to become British citizens by hook or crook. “A lot of these taxi drivers don’t have a work permit to drive taxis. They declare themselves self-employed at the home office. They pay their own taxes until they get an indefinite visa. After that, they apply for benefits. All these jobs become a bonus. If you look into the records, every seventh Pakistani is living on benefits in the UK,” say Mr. Wasti.

There are many first generation Pakistanis who are self-employed and earn up to 50 thousand per annum, mostly by driving taxis. It is obvious that they bring in their Pakistani tactics to avoid paying their taxes.

For Gul, his job as a taxi driver is fulfilling all his needs. He got married and brought his wife to Nottingham. He has a one-year old son. Gul sounds content as he says; with the earnings he can run his house in Notthingham and also manages to send money back home in Mohmand Agency, where his parents and siblings live. “I know if I save some money and go back to Pakistan someone will either kill me or kidnap me for ransom. It is for certain that I won’t even get a job that would pay my bills.”

Taxi and security guards jobs were popular with the old immigrants too, but they were not overqualified for the jobs. Many believe they had no choice.

Mr Wasti says, “There are difficult times in Pakistan. Here in the UK, even every council house has running tap water and no electricity failure. Above all, people are not nosy here. When someone asks what they do. No one says he is a cabbie. They instead simply say, he is at work.”

According to the Department for Transport’s National Taxi and Private Hire statistics, every seventh taxi driver in the UK is a Pakistani, who mostly drive private taxis. There are 1.2 million Pakistani in the total population of 63 million. This is a loss for economic potential for the UK. This occupation-education mismatch shows that there is a loophole in the UK immigrant policies and they need to reform them, not by bringing in “Immigrants Go Home” buses but by offering more jobs to them in their field of education. Everyone would benefit if these overqualified drivers would get out of their taxis.

Solar PAKISTAN – An example of how a solar-powered house looks

On an average summer’s day when the rest of Lahore sullenly waits in the heat for the electricity to return, Shahid Razzaq’s family lounges peacefully, their air conditioner running and all appliances working. While in other households the sudden and frequent power blackouts are greeted with groans and resigned sighs, the Razzaq family doesn’t even notice. And they certainly never have to switch on a generator.

That’s because they’re almost completely ‘off the grid’, having tired of the vagaries of Wapda some time back. Instead, they turn to what they consider to be a far more reliable source of power: the sun. And in a city that experienced up to 20 hours of load shedding in a single day last summer, this is no small blessing.

Fed up of the never-ending power crisis, Razzaq took the plunge and installed solar cells on his roof. Of course he hasn’t yet fully cut the Wapda cord.

“We actually have a hybrid system running,” he says. “During the day when the sun is out, we use the solar cells. At night we shift to Wapda. Usually before we switch over, we know that we have about eight hours of backup electricity that has been generated during the day.” Razzaq appears to be content with this solution, as would anyone who isn’t sweating thanks to what is one of the most persistent problems in Pakistan.

Appliances that run on solar power in this house include two freezers, a television, computer, iron, microwave and, amazingly enough, two air conditioners.

“I can use anything and everything at home,” says his wife. “Never has life been so peaceful.”

Razzaq says that he has installed solar cells of six kilowatts. “But one can even get higher wattage and run only on solar power instead of using a hybrid line. In fact we have a surplus of electricity during the day time.”

Unfortunately, this surplus is more or less wasted here. In other countries surplus electricity is given back to the grid station and the same amount is returned to the consumer in the shape of free units through smart meters. But not in Pakistan.

“If only we could have this advantage, things would be so much easier and fair for the average citizen trying to actually conserve electricity,” he says.

His son-in-law, Moez Naseer, who is coincidentally a software engineer in a solar power firm, explains that if the government shifts ever so slightly with regard to its policies and introduces one that allows citizens to generate their own electricity, everyone would be better off.

“Think of all the benefits of just one simple policy,” he says. “The government’s provision of electric power would meet the demand better, instead of being at a deficit all the time. For the consumer, it would be slightly expensive but at least he would get uninterrupted power, and it would be a relief to solve your power issues on your own.”

They both stress that if the government would take this into serious consideration, this would prove to be a landmark step towards the future of energy in Pakistan.

It is true that the initial investment cost was high for Razzaq. “For our six kilowatt solar panels, including the batteries, the invertors, installation, etc. it all came to about Rs900,000. But that is nothing compared to the running cost of fuel used in a generator, not to mention the fact that you’re using up fossil fuels, and causing both air and noise pollution. Our decision to install solar panels did not just revolve around the financial aspect, although of course that was a major part of it. Our decision was also based on the environmental aspect.”

Razzaq has installed 34 solar panels of 235 watts each, costing up to Rs80 per watt. Cleverly he has not been sucked into branding and has instead imported unbranded panels from China, and has had them installed separately. The batteries are of 200 Amp each and he must use eight batteries to provide him for four hours backup everyday.

“We use the ACs but if someone doesn’t want to consider putting up an AC in his house or office, then the cost can come down greatly,” he says, giving an estimated decrease of about Rs0.5 million at least for the initial installment. “There is really no maintenance cost, except taking care of the batteries and having them changed every seven years or so. But that is nothing compared to the maintenance cost of generators.”

With this investment, they find that the durability is a lot to boast about. The batteries can last up to seven or eight years (there are dry ones that he uses but wet batteries can also be used), while the solar cells can last up to 25 years. In winter or in an overcast day the yield will definitely be less, but then so is the overall pressure on the grid. But perhaps the greatest sign of the success of his approach is the amount of people who ask him how his system works.

Razzaq argues that the more people who opt to go solar, the lower the overall cost will become. Not only will there be greater competition in the market, but banks may also launch products that make it easier to finance solar-powered solutions. And there is certainly a great deal of interest in solar power, as evidenced by the interest people show in Razaaq’s solution.

“A lot of people have shown interest in this and have asked me to help them out,” he says. “The best part is that there is no harm being done to the environment in any way, and that there is just no ‘wastage’ of electricity: it’s clean energy, and Pakistan should seriously tap into this on a local and governmental level,” he says.

The Anarchic Republic of Pakistan by Ahmed Rashid


The Anarchic Republic of Pakistan

by Ahmed Rashid   –

August 24, 2010

THERE IS perhaps no other political-military elite in the world whose aspirations for great-power regional status, whose desire to overextend and outmatch itself with meager resources, so outstrips reality as that of Pakistan. If it did not have such dire consequences for 170 million Pakistanis and nearly 2 billion people living in South Asia, this magical thinking would be amusing.

This is a country that sadly appears on every failing-state list and still wants to increase its arsenal from around 60 atomic weapons to well over 100 by buying two new nuclear reactors from China. This is a country isolated and friendless in its own region, facing unprecedented homegrown terrorism from extremists its army once trained, yet it pursues a “forward policy” in Afghanistan to ensure a pro-Pakistan government in Kabul as soon as the Americans leave.

For a state whose economy is on the skids and dependent on the IMF for massive bailouts, whose elite refuse to pay taxes, whose army drains an estimated 20 percent of the country’s annual budget, Pakistan continues to insist that peace with India is impossible for decades to come. For a country that was founded as a modern democracy for Muslims and non-Muslims alike and claims to be the bastion of moderate Islam, it has the worst discriminatory laws against minorities in the Muslim world and is being ripped apart through sectarian and extremist violence by radical groups who want to establish a new Islamic emirate in South Asia.



Confusing terrorists for martyrs
Murtaza Haider, Ph.D. is the Associate Dean of research and graduate programs at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Updated 2013-11-13 20:17:27

The Jamaat-e-Islami never misses an opportunity to be on the wrong side of history. Since its inception, it has acted against the interests of the very people it pretends to serve.Last week Syed Munawar Hassan, who heads Pakistan’s Jamaat-i-Islami (Jamaat), declared the former head of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakeemullah Mehsud, a martyr. Mehsud reportedly died of a missile fired from an unmanned drone in North Waziristan. The Pakistan Army took serious offense to the statement by Mr. Hassan and found it insulting to the memory of thousands of soldiers who have died fighting militants.

The Jamaat’s long history of being on the wrong side of history started in 1947 when the Jamaat opposed an independent homeland for the Muslims of South Asia. In 1971, it sided with the military in its campaign against the populist insurgency in Bangladesh. Later in 1985, the Jamaat sided with yet another military dictator, General Ziaul Haq, and assisted him in subverting democracy and radicalising the youth to fuel the war against the Soviet Army in Afghanistan. Today, the Jamaat has come in support of the militants who have declared war on Pakistan’s establishment and its civil society. For these reasons, and despite its organisational structure, the Jamaat has failed to win over the imagination of the electorate in either Pakistan or Bangladesh.

The Civil War in Bangladesh resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands. A study published in 2008 in BMJ estimated the death toll at 269,000. The Jamaat-i-Islami in Bangladesh provided recruits for militias who joined the military campaign against the Bengalis by the East Pakistan-dominated Army. The Jamaat was banned in 1971 after Bangladesh gained independence from Pakistan. The Jamaat’s leadership in Bangladesh fled to Pakistan. More recently, the Bangladeshi Supreme Court in August 2013 declared the Jamaat’s registration illegal, thus restricting it from contesting elections in the future.

It is rather surprising to see Pakistan’s army taking a stand against the Jamaat, which has always found a way to support the Army whenever it suspended the constitution or the democratic process. However, given the large number of dead and injured soldiers in the fight against the militants, the army felt compelled to take issue with the Jamaat that declared the former head of the Taliban a martyr. The spokesperson for the armed forces said:

 The people of Pakistan, whose loved ones laid down their life while fighting the terrorist, and families of theshuhada of armed forces demand an unconditional apology from Syed Munawar Hassan for hurting their feelings. It is also expected that Jamat-e-Islami should clearly state its party position on the subject.

The Jamaat had an opportunity to lay the blame on Mr. Hassan and absolve itself of any direct responsibility. However, the Jamaat, which appears to be on a collision course with the state and the constitution for decades, yet again opted for collision rather than collaboration. Mr. Fareed Paracha, the Jamaat’s spokesperson rejected the impression that the Jamaat had distanced itself from Mr. Hassan’s statement. Instead, Mr. Paracha argued that Mr. Hassan’s statement reflected views of the Jamaat.

The Jamaat has always acted as a spoiler in Pakistan. Knowing that the electorate has rejected the Jamaat in every election, it runs the election campaigns on false promises, knowing that it will never be asked to deliver on the claims it made. However, this makes the life of real political outfits much difficult who have to explain to the voters why they cannot promise to double the minimum wage, which the Jamaat always readily promises.

The Jamaat this time, has made a major error in judging the political mood in the country. With thousands of deaths at the hands of the militants in Pakistan, the common man no longer sees the Taliban as an asset. Even the Army is distancing itself from the hardcore militants who have repeatedly attacked the armed forces.

It is not clear if the Jamaat would be able to learn from its mistakes and indeed apologise to Pakistanis whose loved ones have been killed in cold blood by the militants.

Hakeemullah Mehsud was the militant-in-chief who rebelled against the State and approved of attacks against civilians. He was a war criminal, and not a martyr. If the Jamaat still cannot tell the difference, it deserves to be in the political wilderness it finds itself in today.


Afghan Taliban are describing the general’s sacking as a military victory

Petraeus’s Baby    by      Ahmed Rashid

AP Photo/Rodrigo AbdA villager being searched by a US soldier in Helmand, Southern Afghanistan, June 21, 2006. Four years later, the Taliban are gaining the upper hand in parts of the province.

The surprising and speedy crash of General Stanley McCrystal has been seen in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the wider region as just one more sign of the mess that the US and its NATO allies face in what is looking increasingly like an unwinnable conflict.

The Afghan Taliban are describing the general’s sacking as a military victory—coming as it does at the height of their summer offensive; the most hurtful rumor going around Kabul and Islamabad is that McChrystal wanted to be removed because he didn’t want to have to take responsibility for a losing war. The Taliban claimed another victory when Britain announced a week later that its troops would withdraw from Sangin, a remote and ever more deadly region of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan—although they will be replaced by US marines. Out of a deployment of 9,000 troops, Britain has lost 312 soldiers in Helmand since 2005—of which some 100 have been killed in Sangin alone.

All of which has heightened anxieties that the US commitment to Afghanistan is rapidly flagging. In Kabul, there is a sense of growing panic about President Obama’s looming deadline for the start of a US withdrawal—now less than a year away. Pakistan, meanwhile, is contending with the increasingly real possibility of a gradual meltdown of its own, with the army and the political elite unable to challenge the rising power of the Pakistani Taliban or protect the civilian population.

Over the past six weeks, 125 US and NATO soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, a new record for the conflict. On July 11 alone, six US soldiers, 14 Afghan policemen, and 15 civilians were killed in separate incidents; the policemen were killed when their posts in northern Afghanistan—until now relatively peaceful—were overrun by Taliban, who have been emboldened to extend their attacks to Kunduz and Badakhshan provinces in the north and Herat in the west.

In Pakistan, during that same six-week span, a series of suicide bombings and killings in widely different parts of the country have left nearly 800 casualties and demoralized the public. On July 9, 103 people, among them many women and children, were killed and another 115 wounded in two suicide bombings in the tribal areas close to the Afghan border. This followed a devastating twin bombing a few days earlier in Lahore at the shrine of Data Ganj Baksh, the most famous Sufi saint in the region, that left 35 people dead and injured hundreds. That attack, in turn, came only a few weeks after another Lahore bombing of two mosques belonging to the Ahmadi sect, in which 95 people were massacred.

In these and other attacks, it has become clear that the Pakistani Taliban have turned their guns from killing soldiers and police to mowing down minority sects and moderate Muslims. They are making a desperate bid to spark multiple sectarian wars between Muslims and non-Muslims, Shias and Sunnis, and amongst the Sunni sects, with the aim of overthrowing the state and establishing an Islamic emirate. Inter-religious wars, as medieval Europe knew well, know no boundaries, limits, or humanity.

At the other end of Pakistan, meanwhile, in the sprawling port-city of Karachi, five to ten people are being gunned down every day in political, ethnic, sectarian, and mafia killings. Nobody, least of all the police, seems to understand what is driving this wave of violence—which seems to have a logic apart from the extremist attacks in the tribal areas and the northern cities of Islamabad and Lahore—but it is fueling ever deepening pessimism and anger among the city’s residents.

This summer of violence comes at a time when the governments in both Kabul and Islamabad are looking particularly weak—besieged by their political enemies and rivals, beset by corruption scandals, helpless in the face of severe inflation and economic crises, and incapacitated by internal squabbles. President Asif Zardari is still hamstrung by his rival Nawaz Sharif, an obstreperous judiciary, and an army that runs his foreign policy without necessarily informing him. President Karzai’s domestic reputation and failures are too well known to bear another recounting.

Karzai now has to make friends with the new US commander General David Petraeus, no easy task amid the Taliban’s summer offensive, when day-to-day fatalities, rather than strategic thinking, preoccupy minds. Petraeus will have to make a judgment call soon about whether the concentration of forces in the Taliban heartland in Kandahar and Helmand is actually working or whether a new strategy is needed. It looks more than likely that Obama will quietly initiate a policy review well before he is scheduled to do so in December.

Petraeus faces another potentially destabilizing crisis. In September, 2,500 men and women will contest parliamentary elections for seats in the 249-member lower house of parliament. The huge amount of fraud and violence during last year’s presidential elections, which seriously undermined the credibility of Karzai, the US and the United Nations could very well be repeated as Karzai is determined to have a more pliant parliament.

If the international community once again fails to condemn any fraud that occurs, it will be seen by Afghans as another Western betrayal and by the Taliban as a victory. Democracy cannot be built on repeated fraudulent elections that are tacitly condoned by the US and NATO. Kandahar and Helmand will remain in the hands of the Taliban and those fence-sitting Afghan farmers will finally jump down into their arms.

Apart from the Afghan government’s well known corruption, reports that over US $4 billion have left the country via the airport in Kabul—much of it money siphoned off by US contractors, aid workers or drug lords—hardly creates hope that the US Congress or the European parliament will dish out more cash for an economy that is still unmade and fails to deliver goods or services to the people (recent Pentagon talk of some $1 trillion of potential Afghan mineral wealth notwithstanding).

In Pakistan the military has failed to adequately confront the threat posed by the Pakistani Taliban, and instead makes excuses about why it cannot carry out operations in North Waziristan or Punjab. In fact the army and its Interservices Intelligence (ISI) is presently obsessed, not with domestic security, but with trying to outwit the Afghans, NATO and particularly the Americans in trying to broker a peace deal between Karzai and the Taliban.

For starters the ISI is trying to get Karzai to strike a deal with the worst of the neo-Taliban—the murderous groups run by Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hikmetyar, who have been strongly backed by the ISI since 2001 and are loathed by the Afghan population. At the same time the ISI is trying to mould the mainstream Afghan Taliban—through arrests, pressure, and blackmail—into a body that will be loyal to its interests in negotiations with Karzai, which means making sure that India’s presence in Afghanistan is eliminated or at least drastically reduced.

The ISI knows it is holding more cards than any of the other regional powers—Russia, China, India, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, and there is little they can do about its interference in Afghanistan for the moment. Still, most of these countries would not tolerate an ISI-Taliban dominated government in Kabul, and eventually they will gang up against Pakistan, creating still more turmoil in the region.

Moreover it is highly unlikely that the ISI will ever be able to control the Taliban. It failed to control the outcome of the fall of Kabul in 1992 or the rise of the Taliban in 1994, and it lost all control of the Taliban just before September 11. If the ISI were to only set its sights a little lower, moderate its views and ambitions and genuinely help Karzai—for example by letting the Afghans strike a deal that above all suits Afghanistan’s interests rather than Pakistan’s—then it would be doing Pakistan a much greater service.

The Obama administration, including the CIA and the Pentagon, appears to be at a loss for how to deal with these problems while fighting the Taliban, propping up Karzai, being nice to Pakistan’s army and keeping its European allies and Congress on board. Afghanistan is now Petraeus’s baby and whether he is able to deal with this spreading conflagration will largely determine the future of the region and the US role there.

July 14, 2010, 11:15 a.m.

Sleep Needs Across the Lifespan

Sleep Needs Across the Lifespan
Created on Friday, 14 October 2011 11:17 | Published on Friday, 14 October 2011 11:17 | Print

Important Things to Know About Sleep Needs Across the Lifespan

  •  Sleep need gets less with age until around 20 years old when it stabilises.
  •  How much and how fast this happens depends on the person.
  •  It is normal for children to have daytime naps until 3 to 5 years old.
  •  If a child takes naps often past this age, he or she might not be sleeping enough at night.
  •  Teenagers will tend to want to go to bed later, and sleep in.
  •  Older people spend more time in bed, but their sleep requirement is normally similar to that of early adult life.

How do our sleep needs change with age?

It is well known that as children get older they need less sleep. Different people have different sleep needs. The advice in the table below is only a guide. You can make a good guess if a person is sleeping enough at night – observe at how they act and function during the day.

Age Group Total Sleep (hrs/day)   Sleep at night (hrs) Sleep during the day (hrs)
Newborns (0 – 2 mths) 12 – 18 6 – 9 6 – 9
Infants (2 – 12 mths) 14 – 15  9 – 12 2.5 – 5
Toddlers (1 – 3 yrs) 12 – 15 9.5 – 11.5 1.5 – 3.5
Preschool (3 – 5 yrs) 11 – 13 Most sleep is at night. Daytime naps become rarer. A child tends to stop napping at this age.
School Age (5 – 12 yrs) 9 – 11 All sleep should be at night. Naps at this age tend to be from not getting enough sleep at night.
Teenage (12 – 18 yrs) 8.5 – 9.5 All sleep should be at night. Naps at this age tend to be from not getting enough sleep at night.
Adults  7 – 9 All sleep should be at night. Naps at this age tend to be from not getting enough sleep at night.

Note that these are average sleep requirements: some require more and others less

How does napping change with age?

From birth to two months of age, the length of one period of sleep can be from 30 minutes to 3 – 4 hours. This is throughout the day and night. Babies fed from the bottle tend to sleep for longer at a time than breast-fed babies (3-4 hours versus 2-3 hours). See also Tips to Help Babies Sleep Better.

From 2 months onwards babies start to sleep for longer at a time. This is especially so at night between 12 midnight and 5am. The reason for this is that they start to develop their internal day-night (circadian) rhythm that favours sleep at night and being more awake during the day.

By 6 months of age, babies can get 5 – 8 hours of sleep at night. However 25-50% of 6 month olds still wake up at night. There are things that can be done to counteract this including ensuring that they learn to go to sleep in their cot by themselves at the start of the night. Then they are more able to self-soothe themselves back to sleep after waking up during the night.

From 2 months to 12 months, the number of daytime naps goes down from 3 – 4 naps to two naps. Morning naps usually stop between 12 and 18 months of age. Always give a chance for an afternoon nap after lunch and before 4pm. Daytime naps become less common from about 2 or 3 years onwards.

Consistent daytime naps after 5 years of age are not normal. The child might not be getting enough sleep at night. This may be due to poor sleep routines, sleep problems or sleep disorders. It may need to be followed up with a Sleep Specialist. See also Behavioural Sleep Problems in Children and/or Sleep Disorders in Children.

Why do teenagers want to stay up later?

In this age group, there is a change in the timing of sleep. It is natural for them to want to go to bed later at night and to sleep in. However this needs to be within reason and teenagers often need to be taught good sleep habits. They need to know that they won’t function as well during the day if they miss sleep and fail to catch up on it. See also Teenage Sleep.

Adult Sleep

Sleep requirements stabilize in early adult life, around the age of 20. Individuals vary in their sleep needs but most adults require between 7 and 9 hours a night to feel properly refreshed and function at their best the next day. Many try to get away with less sleep. There are some who are genuine short sleepers while other may require considerably more than the average requirement. The reasons for this individual variability in sleep requirement are not well understood.

Older adults spend more time in bed but unless a sleep problem has developed the requirement for sleep is similar to that in their younger adult life.

For futher information see: or

Regular bed times as important for kids as getting enough sleep

Regular bed times as important for kids as getting enough sleep

Latest health news

Date  November 12, 2013        

Sarah Biggs

Importance of sleep routinesImportance of sleep routines Photo: Getty Images

We’ve long known that children need a certain amount of sleep: nine to 11 hours per night for older kids, and up to 14 hours in 24 for toddlers. There’s no doubt that getting enough sleep is paramount to a child’s healthy development, but recent research has shown that a regular routine – going to bed the same time every night and waking the same time every morning – is just as important to a child’s daytime functioning.

An Australian study of almost 2,000 school-aged children recently showed that, when compared to a child with the same bedtime (less than a 30 minutes difference across the week), a child with a 60-minute difference was twice as likely to display hyperactive behaviours and have problems controlling their emotions.

Children who had a two-hour difference in bedtime across the week were six times as likely to display hyperactive behaviours. This association was seen even when the children were getting the recommended amount of ten hours of sleep per night.

Irregular bedtime schedules have a similar impact in teenagers, with an older study in adolescents reporting that inconsistent sleep schedules were associated with increased anxiety and depression, again, regardless of the total amount of sleep obtained.

&nbsp;&amp;amp;lt;iframe id=”dcAd-1-4″ src=”;cat1=latesthealthnews;cat=ekhealth;ctype=article;pos=3;sz=300×250;tile=4;ord=2.795547E7?&#8221; width=’300′ height=’250′ scrolling=”no” marginheight=”0″ marginwidth=”0″ allowtransparency=”true” frameborder=”0″&amp;amp;gt; &amp;amp;lt;/iframe&amp;amp;gt; Behavioural problems may reduce with a regular bedtime. Image from

So, are the irregular routines driving the poor behaviour or are the behavioural problems resulting in poor routines?

recent study of more than 10,000 children in the UK suggests the former. The researchers found that if a child went from having a regular bedtime schedule when a toddler (three years) to an irregular schedule when they started school (five years), their behaviour worsened over time. This study also showed that behaviour problems improved if the child went from an irregular schedule to a regular one.

If your child or teen is getting the right amount of sleep, why should it matter that they go to bed at different times?

The answer lies in the way sleep is regulated within the body. The need for sleep is a biological process and is regulated, in part, by a circadian rhythm which stems from the brain. The circadian rhythm is the body’s internal clock and regulates sleep and wake by producing hormones at certain times of the day, based on the cycle of light and dark, to trigger alertness or tiredness.

Most people are familiar with, and may have even experienced, jetlag. When we move quickly from one time zone to another, the circadian rhythm falls out of sync with the environmental clock or activities. This leaves us with feelings of extreme tiredness, fuzzy headedness, poor concentration, irritability and even nausea.

These same feelings can arise when the circadian is forced out of sync by our everyday activities, such as when bedtimes change night to night, or even when bed and wake times shift later on weekends. This phenomenon is termed social jetlag.

Social jetlag is often most obvious in teenagers. During puberty, the circadian rhythm shifts so that the biological cues for sleep and wake occur later than at other stages of the life cycle. This results in teenagers not wanting to go to sleep until late into the night and wanting to sleep through to late morning, early afternoon. The use of electronic devices at night will intensify this shift.

Don’t worry, social jetlag is relatively easy to fix.Image from

As a result of study, family and work or sporting commitments, many teenagers have highly irregular schedules and chronic sleep deprivation. This leaves them experiencing all the physical and mental consequences of flying across to the other side of the world.

Research shows social jetlag can affect younger children too. The problem is that, unlike jetlag which resolves after the circadian system adjusts to the new time zone, social jetlag can be ongoing.

The good news is that social jetlag is relatively easy to fix. Here are some simple tips that will help your child or teenager maintain a regular sleep routine:

  • Set a regular, non-negotiable, bedtime each night
  • Turn off all electronic devices at least 30 minutes to an hour before the child’s bedtime
  • Have a sleep preparation routine (for example, get pyjamas on, brush teeth, read a story, and so on)
  • Don’t allow your child to have any caffeinated foods or beverages at least three to four hours before bedtime
  • Keep light levels low in the bedroom.

Setting up a new sleep routine for your child can be tough and may take some time to become a habit, much like starting a new exercise program. However, healthy sleep practices are not only about getting enough and making the effort to establish a regular sleep routine will be well worth it for both you and your child.

This article is republished from The Conversation, an independent source of analysis, commentary and news from the university and research sector.

Sarah Biggs is a Postdoctoral Fellow, Paediatric Sleep at Monash University.

TTP’s ruthless new commander Fazlullah
Mullah Fazlullah, the new leader of the Pakistani Taliban, has a reputation as a ruthless commander prepared to do anything to enforce his uncompromising interpretation of Islamic law.

He has succeeded Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US drone strike in North Waziristan last week.

He led the Taliban’s brutal two-year rule in Pakistan’s northwest valley of Swat, which saw supposed wrongdoers flogged and beheaded in public and hundreds of schools burned down.

Under Fazlullah’s rule, Green Square in Mingora, the main town of Swat, became known as “Bloody Square” for the slaughtered, bullet-ridden bodies that were hung in it almost every day.

Fazlullah, believed to be aged 39, was born Fazal Hayat in Swat. He studied at an Islamic religious school and worked as a chairlift operator and sold firewood, before joining his father-in-law’s Tehrik Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Muhammadi (TNSM), or Movement for the Enforcement of the Sharia of Muhammad (pbuh).

After US-led forces entered Afghanistan to oust the Afghan Taliban from power in 2001, Fazlullah joined thousands of Pakistanis who crossed the border to fight what they saw as a “holy war” against the invaders.

He was arrested on his way back to Pakistan but was later released on bail and became the head of the Sharia movement in Swat after his father-in-law was jailed.

In 2006 he began delivering fiery sermons on his own FM station, earning the nickname “Mullah Radio,” railing against polio vaccination programmes and girls’ education.

After a deadly army operation to clear the radical Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad, Fazlullah merged his TNSM with the newly formed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

As his control of Swat, once a popular tourist destination known as the “Switzerland of Pakistan,” grew from 2007 onwards, Fazlullah set up Sharia courts that handed out savage punishments.

In 2009 Malala Yousafzai, aged just 11, began a blog on the BBC Urdu website chronicling the horrors of life under the Taliban.

The TTP made an unsuccessful attempt to kill her in Swat in October last year, saying she had campaigned against them. She survived being shot in the head and has gone on to become a global icon of the struggle against extremism.

An army offensive ended Fazlullah’s rule in Swat in 2009 and he escaped with a band of loyalists into the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, from where they have continued to orchestrate attacks in Pakistan.

Fazlullah, who has a $500,000 government bounty on his head, has mounted some brutal and humiliating attacks on Pakistan’s military, including the beheading of 17 soldiers after an attack in June 2012.

In September, soon after Pakistan’s political parties had backed a government plan for peace talks with the Taliban, Fazlullah’s men responded with violence.

A bomb attack killed two senior army officers, including a major general, in the country’s northwest, a galling blow for the military.

Fazlullah claimed the attack in a video message in which he spelled out his hardline position.

“We will remove any hurdle to enforcing Islamic Sharia. Our goal is very clear – we want the law of Allah in Allah’s land,” he said.

Pakistani Taliban elect Mullah Fazlullah as new chief

MIRAMSHAH: The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have elected hardline Swat Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah as their new chief, a week after former supremo Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone strike in North Waziristan.

“Fazlullah is the new TTP chief,” TTP caretaker leader Asmatullah Shaheen said at a press conference at an undisclosed location in northwest Pakistan.

“The decision was taken at a shura (council) meeting today,” foreign news agency AFP quoted Shaheen as saying. “The supreme shura has also elected Sheikh Khalid Haqqani as the deputy chief of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.”

TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid also confirmed the announcement. “Following proper consultations … we chose our senior commander Mullah Fazlullah as our new ameer (leader),” he told news agency Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location in neighbouring Afghanistan.

The election of hardline commander Fazlullah further dampens expectations of any peace deal between the insurgents and the Pakistani government.

“There will be no more talks as Mullah Fazlullah is already against negotiations with the Pakistan government,” said the spokesman, rejecting the idea of any further peace talks.

Heavy gunfire was reported in celebration in Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan tribal area, following the announcement of the new chief.

Mullah Fazlullah: A brief profile

Fazlullah, whose men shot teenage schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai last year, led the Pakistani Taliban’s brutal two-year rule in northwestern Swat valley in 2007-2009 before a military operation retook the area. He fled across the border to Afghanistan and is now believed to operate from Nuristan province.

Nicknamed Mullah Radio for his fiery radio broadcasts in Swat valley, Fazlullah is considered hardline even within the Pakistani Taliban movement itself.

The killing of former chief Hakimullah Mehsud on Friday came as the Pakistani government said representatives were prepared to meet the TTP with a view to opening peace talks.

The drone strike triggered an angry response from Islamabad, with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar accusing Washington of sabotaging peace efforts.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was more measured, but said his government was committed to seeking peace through dialogue and stressing that an end to bloodshed could not be achieved “by unleashing senseless force”.

Sharif came to power in May partly on a pledge to hold talks to try to end the TTP’s bloody insurgency that has fuelled instability in the nation.

In September he won the backing of major political parties in an APC to begin peace negotiations with Taliban insurgents.

The TTP, an umbrella organisation grouping numerous militant factions, has killed thousands of soldiers, police and civilians since 2007 in its campaign against the Pakistani state.