Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Democracy not allowed to flourish in 60 years: Deposed CJ

PESHAWAR: Deposed chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry Wednesday said during the last 60 years democracy was not allowed to thrive on part of the dictators who on more than occasion went ahead and usurped the rule of country.

Addressing the lawyers’ convention here, Iftikhar Muhamamd Chaudhry said a year ago people of Pakistan, using their right to self-determination under the Constitution of Pakistan, voted to elect the new administration.

“The lawyers are very well aware of the fact that Allah Almighty is the only supreme power over the Constitution under which the country’s affairs are being run,” he said adding “what must be a point of concern at this point in time is no one ever tried to determine the underlying reasons for the problems that the country continued to face.”

The deposed chief justice said: “The existence of our country and ourselves is possible only through establishment of true democracy in the country.”

Earlier, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry administered oath to the newly elected office bearers of various bar associations.

ILO : 7.2 million more Asians to be jobless in 2009

Manila : Asia is likely to have 7.2 million more jobless people in 2009 than last year due to fallout from the global economic crisis, raising the region’s jobless rate to 5.1%, the International Labour Organization said on Wednesday.

It forecast the ranks of unemployed workers would likely balloon to 97 million in 2009 in Asia, the world economy’s star performer in recent years but where a third of the population still live on a little over 1 US dollar a day. Last year, the unemployment rate was 4.8%.

In the most pessimistic scenario, the number of unemployed could swell to 113 million, or 22.3 million more than last year, the ILO said in a report on the crisis’ fallout in Asia.

An estimated 51 million new jobs will be needed this year and next to absorb Asia’s growing labour force, with most jobs needed in the region’s giant economies, 20.3 million in India, 10.9 million in China and 3.6 million in Indonesia.

Countries with the highest rates of expected labour force growth through 2010 include Pakistan at 6.1%, Cambodia at 4.9%, and the Philippines at 4.9%.

“There is very little chance that a sufficient number of new jobs will be created in the region this year to keep up with expected labour force growth,” the report added.

As fewer jobs are created at home, remittances from the region’s army of migrant workers began to slow in the third quarter of 2008.

The Geneva-based ILO said the World Bank now forecasts an overall drop in remittances in 2009 _ partly due to the deep recession in the US, which accounts for 44% of workers’ money sent to East Asia and the Pacific, and 28% to South Asia.

“As global demand for workers contracts, the flow of migrant workers from developing Asia will moderate in 2009,” the report said. “For labour-sending countries, this will exacerbate the challenge of mitigating job losses and generating new employment domestically.”

Remittances comprise a third of gross domestic product in Tonga, 17% in Nepal, 11% in the Philippines, 9.7% in Bangladesh and 8.3% in Sri Lanka.

Declining production will also see a shift to informal, more vulnerable work that does not provide protection in case of job loss or illness, the report added.

It said the number of vulnerable Asian workers, estimated at 1.08 billion in 2008, could rise this year by 21 million, and in an extreme case, by 61 million.

“The poor face a double crisis, high costs for basic necessities on which they spend the majority of their income, along with economic stagnation that threaten their livelihoods,” the ILO said.

Promoting employment and supporting household purchasing power is critical for any stimulus package, as these will drive domestic consumption needed to quickly bolster growth, it added.

Clinton visits Indonesia, urges partnership

Jakarta, Indonesia — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told Indonesians on Wednesday that she wanted to open a "robust partnership" with their fast-growing country, President Obama's boyhood home.Arriving here on the second stop of her first trip as the top American diplomat, Clinton also announced that the Obama administration intended to sign a treaty moving the U.S. closer to a key regional group, the Assn. of Southeast Asian Nations.The Bush administration declined to sign the treaty, a move that critics took as a sign of its lack of interest in the region and preoccupation with the Middle East.Clinton's announcement was the latest signal of distance from the Bush administration and the new administration's intention to increase cooperation with other governments.U.S. officials said closer ties to Indonesia are being sought because it is a regional powerhouse and a democratic Muslim-majority nation in a strategic location.In a news conference with Indonesian Foreign Minister Hasan Wirajuda, Clinton said the country was proof that "democracy, Islam and moderation can not only coexist, but can thrive."Indonesia's cooperation will be key to solving regional and world problems, U.S. officials said, including climate change. The country, which has the world's largest Muslim population, is the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases -- behind the United States and China -- largely because of deforestation, according to U.S. officials."The United States must have strong relationships and a strong presence here in Southeast Asia, " Clinton said.Clinton visited the association's headquarters in Jakarta and held a news conference with its secretary-general, Surin Pitsuwan, to underscore her interest in regional cooperation.Pitsuwan joined in criticizing the Bush administration, saying Clinton's visit "shows the seriousness of the United States to end its diplomatic absenteeism in the region."Pitsuwan, like the Japanese leaders Clinton met this week, showed his concern about new signs of U.S. protectionism. He said he welcomed Clinton's "strong commitment not to erect trade barriers."Foreign Minister Wirajuda joked that Obama, who lived in Jakarta as a youth, enjoys a "strong constituency" in Indonesia. There has been speculation that Obama may deliver a long-promised speech to the Muslim world from Indonesia, perhaps in November, before he is scheduled to attend a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.Police had warned that Clinton's arrival could provoke protests, but only small groups of demonstrators showed up.Din Syamsuddin, the leader of Muhammadiyah, the country's second-largest Muslim organization, declined to attend a dinner with Clinton and civic groups, saying that the occasion was meaningless because Clinton was not going to discuss substantive issues.Clinton arrived at a military airport in the city and was serenaded by uniformed children from the school Obama attended.

Back to school? Swat Valley..........

Newspapers and television news channels have recently been carrying images of rather scared-looking little girls assembling once more in classes as schools re-open in Swat. The question is how long they can stay on in school. The already precarious truce worked out in Swat by desperate government officials seems unlikely to last. Even Sufi Muhammad Khan, who has now said he wants Islamic law across the world rather than in Swat alone, seems uncertain he can persuade militants there to do his bidding. Worse still, nobody seems to quite know what the terms of the accord are. The central government's attitude is, at best, ambiguous -- not saying quite what it seeks to achieve.

These realities mean that, sadly, Swat's girls are unlikely to remain safely in school. Many have already missed over a year of education. Hundreds of teachers too are said to have fled the Valley. Many classes then have no one to teach them; others lack buildings. The danger is that the militants will, as they have in the past, resort once more to the attacks that saw 200 schools being burnt or destroyed in the Valley. The government has for all these months failed to protect the rights of children who seek only to learn. The whimsical approach to the peace deal shows there is still a lack of earnest desire to ensure they and others who live in the area are protected. As they gathered for morning assembly, many pupils offered special prayers for safety and peace. This was wise. For as things stand at the moment, prayer is all they can bank on.

Afghanistan: Slipping out of control

US to send in 17,000 extra troops as Karzai loses grip

A grim picture of spiralling violence and a disintegrating society has emerged in Afghanistan in a confidential Nato report, just as Barack Obama vowed to send 17,000 extra American troops to the country in an attempt to stem a tide of insurgency.

Direct attacks on the increasingly precarious Afghan government more than doubled last year, while there was a 50 per cent increase in kidnappings and assassinations. Fatalities among Western forces, including British, went up by 35 per cent while the civilian death toll climbed by 46 per cent, more than the UN had estimated. Violent attacks were up by a third and roadside bombings, the most lethal source of Western casualties, by a quarter. There was also a 67 per cent rise in attacks on aircraft from the ground, a source of concern to Nato which depends hugely on air power in the conflict.

The document, prepared by the Pentagon on behalf of the US-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan and seen by The Independent, also reveal how swathes of the country have slipped out of the control of President Hamid Karzai’s government. According to a poll taken towards the end of last year, a third of the population stated that the Taliban had more influence in their locality.

The growing unpopularity of Mr Karzai, along with accusations of corruption against figures associated with his government, has led the new US administration to repeatedly warn the Afghan President he will lose Washington’s support in the coming national elections unless there are drastic changes. The military “surge”, say US officials, must be accompanied by significant improvement in governance with Mr Obama describing the Karzai government of being “detached” from what was going on in his own country.

Mr Obama acknowledged that the reinforcements, with the total numbers of extra forces expected to rise to 30,000, had been sent because “urgent and swift action” was required “to stabilise a deteriorating situation … in which the Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan and al-Qa’ida threatens America from its safe haven along the Pakistani border.”

Mr Karzai was informed of the new deployments in a telephone call on Tuesday. The Afghan leader had complained publicly at the weekend that he had not heard from the US leader since the inauguration almost a month ago.

The new US administration had indicated that it was prepared to talk to Iran about the Afghan situation and yesterday, Italy, which assumes the presidency of the G8 this year, said that Tehran would be invited to participate in a summit on Afghanistan. The Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said: “We want to consider how to involve Iran, not whether to involve Iran.”

Nato has accused the Iranian regime of allowing weapons to be smuggled into Afghanistan while drugs go in the other direction, with some of the profits pumped back in to funding the insurgency. The UN’s International Narcotics Control Board said in its annual report that due to overproduction of opium there has been a rise in the production of cannabis in Afghanistan. Many provinces which had been declared by the Afghan government and Nato to be free of poppy cultivation have switched to cannabis. The report stated: “The lack of security in Afghanistan has severely hampered government efforts to eradicate illicit opium poppy; a total of 78 persons involved in the eradication efforts lost their lives in 2008, a six-fold increase over the previous year. The increase in illicit cultivation of cannabis in Afghanistan is also a worrying development.”

Meanwhile, eight years after “liberation” and the fall of the Taliban, many Afghan people still lack basic amenities. Across the country 38 per cent of the population did not have access to medical facilities with the figure rising to 44 per cent in rural areas.

The Taliban has also carried out a violent campaign against education for children in many parts of the country, claiming it was being used for Western indoctrination, and targeting girls’ schools in particular as being against Islam. The Nato report states that “access to schools for both girls and boys varies across the country and is tightly linked to security. Degree of access to girls’ schools is also an ethno-geographic factor”.

Whereas 74 per cent of Uzbek, 73 per cent of Tajik and 72 per cent of Hazara girls are in a position to receive an education, it falls to 44 per cent among the Pashtuns and, in the conservative deep south of the country, in provinces like Helmand where British troops are based, no more than 24 per cent attend schools.


According to official estimates, over the past year more than 1,200 people have been killed and between 200,000 and 500,000 have been displaced in the Swat valley as a result of fighting between Pakistani Taleban groups and the military.

The Pakistani government is being urged to act immediately to protect hundreds of thousands of people from insurgents in the Swat valley and elsewhere in the country.

"For the past five years the government's response to the rise of insurgents in Swat and the Tribal Areas has vacillated between launching often indiscriminate and disproportionate military operations that mostly harm civilians and abandoning Pakistani citizens to abusive insurgent groups," said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director.

Since 2007, a local armed group ideologically affiliated with Afghanistan’s Taleban movement has managed to take effective control of nearly 80 percent of the Swat valley territory. The area was once a tourist destination just 100 miles from Islamabad and is normally home to around 1.5 million people.

Over the past two years, radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah and his followers have increasingly established control over the Swat Valley, imposing a de-facto administration. The group has consolidated its control by setting up a parallel justice system with over 70 "courts" to administer "speedy and easy justice". This means meting out punishments that amount to cruel, degrading, or inhumane treatment. The Pakistani Taleban recently threatened to kill all lawyers and judges if they failed to stop working with the state judicial system.

In Swat, the Pakistani Taleban have committed serious human rights abuses, including the unlawful killing of scores of government workers as well as those whom they view as violating their edicts. The Taleban have publicly whipped men for shaving their beards, destroyed shops for selling music and forcibly prohibited women from leaving their houses unless escorted by a male relative.

The main square of Mingora, the area's largest city, has been locally dubbed Khooni Chowk, or "bloody square", in reference to the more than two dozen bodies the Pakistani Taleban have publicly displayed there.

"The Pakistani Taleban have shown their contempt for the lives and rights of the people of the Swat valley, whilst Pakistani military forces have often violated the human rights and safety of the people that they are ostensibly trying to protect," said Sam Zarifi.

There are an estimated 3,000 Taleban insurgents located in the Swat Valley. They often endanger civilians by seeking shelter in villages, knowing that this might provoke military reaction.

Up to 15,000 government troops are deployed in Swat to root out insurgents. They have used helicopter gunships and heavy artillery in their operations, often in an indiscriminate way, harming civilians as they do so. Tens of thousands of people who have fled the area have cited their fear of government military operations, rather than the Taleban.

"The Pakistani government needs to implement a strategy that focuses on respecting the rights and the well-being of its citizens and refrains from heavy-handed military operations which put civilians at risk. The government should also ensure it does not leave its citizens at the mercy of the Taleban."

Amnesty International has condemned the Pakistani Taleban's campaign against education, especially for girls. Over the past 18 months, the Taleban have destroyed more than 170 schools in Swat, including more than 100 girls' schools. These attacks have disrupted the education of more than 50,000 pupils, from primary to college level, according to official estimates.

The organization urged the government to take protective measures to guarantee that pupils of both genders, including those who have fled their homes, have access to education when schools reopen on 1 March.

Anti-Israel is not always anti-Semitic

Anti-Israel is not always anti-Semitic
Feb. 17, 2009
The Merriam-Webster On-line Dictionary says that anti-Semitism means "hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group." This definition is useful because it reminds us that Jews are more than simply adherents of a particular religion; i.e., they are also an ethno-cultural group, a tribe, a people.

But is there a "firewall" between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel? Like other countries, Israel has features that invite criticism, but crafting a fair critique is troublesome because it requires something approximating respect for natural justice, application of generally applicable norms, reference to the general practice of states, and giving reasons to support particular judgments. Thus, criticizing Israel is not necessarily anti-Semitic. But it is untrue to say that there is a logical distinction that prevents a persistent pattern of bitter criticism of Israel from being anti-Semitic. To the contrary, the methodologies applied in more than a half-century of modern human-rights law make it clear that a persistent pattern of targeting Israel with discriminatory criticism is anti-Semitic.

MODERN HUMAN-RIGHTS methodologies are astute enough to examine not only a pattern of impugned behavior but also the likely effects of that pattern. Consider the following: (1) Jews have been an historically victimized people for more than 2,000 years, just as African-Americans and the aboriginal peoples of Canada have been historically victimized. (2) Now containing half the world's Jewish population, Israel is the historic and current homeland of the Jewish people, just as Greece is the home of the Greek people. When these two points are considered in terms of modern human-rights methodologies, the conclusion is that a persistent pattern of discriminatory criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic because it is likely to harm Jews.

An imaginary watertight compartment separating Israel from the Jewish people is as improbable as trying to uncouple the notion of China from the Han Chinese people or Turkey from the Turkish people. This is an important point because the hallmark of the modern anti-Semite is precisely reliance on the unpersuasive claim that there is a clear line that prevents a persistent pattern of anti-Israel criticism from being anti-Semitic. To the contrary, statistical evidence links critics of Israel to anti-Semites. Public opinion polls tend to show a correlation between respondents who strongly oppose Israel and those with marked negative feelings toward Jews and Judaism. Furthermore, police records from Europe and elsewhere reveal spikes in anti-Semitic incidents coincident with major military actions involving Israel - e.g., in Lebanon in 2006 and in Gaza this year - and anti-Israel terrorist groups also target local Jews in foreign countries, as in the 1994 attack on the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. Thus, those who explain or justify anti-Semitism by pointing to alleged misdeeds by Israel are simultaneously acknowledging the link between the State of Israel and the Jewish People.

Modern anti-Semitism, then, means being comfortable persistently targeting Jews and/or Israel and persistently applying to Jews and/or Israel a more exigent standard than applied to other peoples and countries. Friends of Israel may also be said to "target" the Jewish State, in the sense that they, too, are disposed to pay more attention to Israel than to other countries. However, they are unlikely to seek to tar Israel by persistently expecting more from it than from other countries; to the contrary, friends are likely to defend Israel by applying a less demanding standard. Anti-Semites, on the other hand, focus on Israel with the aim of portraying it in a negative light. Their underlying motivation is sinister, in that they do seek to tar Israel to fabricate justifications for extreme measures likely to harm Jews, whether in Israel or abroad.

Because of many explicit pejorative references to Jews and Judaism, the texts of both the Christian gospels and the Muslim Koran have directly played a role in spawning civilizations with exceptional attitudes toward Jews and Judaism. In the Western and Islamic worlds, many individuals find it natural to harbor distinctive (often negative) views about Jews and Judaism. However, there is often a lack of awareness that the prevailing cultural software has been so significantly infected by the virus of anti-Semitism. For this reason, many individuals remain comfortable persistently targeting Jews and/or Israel and persistently applying to Jews and/or Israel a more exigent standard than applied to other peoples and countries.

Shouting "Dirty Jew!" or attacking Jews in pogroms or sending Jews to die in concentration camps are obviously anti-Semitic acts. But many individuals in the Western and Islamic Worlds have a blind spot that prevents them from recognizing anti-Semitism in other toxic manifestations. Here it helps to recall the Holocaust. That horrendous crime traced its immediate origins to 1933, when German leader Adolf Hitler began a program of well-organized discrimination that singled out Jews via legal and bureaucratic expedients. In the same way, modern anti-Semites contrive strategies to support persistent patterns of bitter discrimination against Israel, e.g., in organs of the United Nations. The strategy is to demonize Israel by judging it according to a more exigent standard than applied to other countries. The ultimate goal is to justify the destruction of Israel and the killing of the Jews there.

THE AD HOMINEM argument of being Jewish or having Jewish parents (even concentration camp survivors) is no logical defense to a charge of anti-Semitism. Today, many Jews fail to understand that the meaning of anti-Semitism includes any persistent pattern of discrimination against Jews and/or Israel. Many falsely imagine that, because they themselves are Jewish, they have a special license to freely engage in these patterns. However, the harm done by such Jews is as real as that done by the anti-Semitism of non-Jews. In fact, anti-Israel discrimination by Jews can do even more damage, because Jews can gain greater credibility by trumpeting their own Jewish credentials.

Human-rights methodologies offer nothing to suggest that either "the Right" or "the Left" has a dispensation legitimating these discriminatory patterns. This means that anti-Semitism cannot be justified with reference to an alleged greater good to be derived from Nazism, fascism, socialism, communism, environmentalism, anti-colonialism, the Non-Aligned movement or any other cause or ideology. Nonetheless, many enemies of Israel remain astonishingly confident in their mistaken belief that their preferred doctrine entitles them to indulge in such discrimination, while immunizing them from a charge of anti-Semitism. This is a pitiful and hollow illusion. Intellectual honesty and decency demand that we decry the anti-Semitism of those who are comfortable persistently targeting Jews and/or Israel and persistently applying to Jews and/or Israel a more exigent standard than applied to other peoples and countries.

Journalist killed in Taliban region

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Attackers in a Taliban-controlled area of Pakistan shot and tried to behead a Pakistani journalist on Wednesday, according to his employer GEO TV.The slain correspondent, Mosa Khankhel, had been covering the recent peace deal between the Pakistani government and Taliban militants in Swat Valley when he was killed, GEO TV managing director Azhar Abbas said."He is the first martyr of this peace deal," Abbas said, adding that he believes it is unlikely the deal will end the campaign of violence that has centered in Swat.Khankhel was traveling in a caravan with Sufi Mohammed, who was leading the peace deal negotiations for the Taliban, when he went missing, Abbas said.His body was found about an hour later. He had been shot three times and his killers had attempted to cut off his head.Abbas called on Pakistan's government to fully investigate the killing of Khankhel, who was the network's correspondent based in North West Frontier Province as part of GEO TV's Peshawar bureau.His death comes a day after Pakistan's government recognized the Taliban's interpretation of sharia, or Islamic law, in the entire Malakand Division, which includes Swat and its surrounding district.The agreement marked a major concession by Pakistan in its attempt to hold off Taliban militants who have terrorized the region with beheadings, kidnappings, death threats, and the destruction of girls' schools.The regional government in the Swat valley struck the deal to allow sharia law, in return the Taliban agreed to a 10-day cease fire.
The Taliban control of Swat -- which is about 100 miles northwest of Islamabad -- is the deepest advance by militants into Pakistan's settled areas, which are located outside its federally administered tribal region along the border with Afghanistan.
The peace deal is the latest attempt by Pakistan's civilian government -- which took power last year -- to achieve peace through diplomacy in areas where Taliban and al Qaeda leaders are believed to have free rein.But analysts as well as critics within the establishment have warned that Pakistan's previous dealings with the Taliban have only given the fundamentalist Islamic militia time to regroup and gain more ground.
Khadim Hussain, a professor Bahria University in Islamabad who studies Pakistani politics, said the government has set the stage for two contradictory, parallel states in North West Frontier Province."If you leave them like that and you give ... a semblance of peace in a particular area, what does that mean?" Hussain said. "It means you're capitulating. It means you're surrendering the state to them. It means your submitting the state authority to them because they are running a parallel state."He said the government's decision amounts to a marriage of convenience made under duress.Swat has been overrun by forces loyal to Maulana Fazlullah's banned hardline Islamic group, Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi (TNSM) which has allied itself with Taliban fighters.TNSM was once led by Sufi Mohammed, Fazlullah's father-in-law, who is leading the latest negotiations.Sufi Mohammed was released from jail last year by Pakistani authorities after he agreed to cooperate with the government. He was jailed in 2002 after recruiting thousands of fighters to battle U.S. forces in Afghanistan.Fazlullah took over TNSM during Sufi Mohammed's jail stint and vowed to continue his fight to impose fundamentalist Islamic law in the region.Last May, Pakistan's government announced it reached a peace deal with militants in Swat Valley.In the months that have followed, the Taliban have seized control of the region and carried out a violent campaign against government officials, including local politicians.The head of the secular Awami National Party -- which represents the region -- was forced to flee to Islamabad amid death threats from the Taliban.
Pakistan is under enormous pressure to control the militants within its borders, blamed for launching attacks in neighboring Afghanistan where U.S. and NATO forces are fighting militants.The United States -- using unmanned drones -- has carried out several airstrikes inside Pakistan on suspected militant targets, including one on Monday that killed at least 15 people, Pakistani sources said.Such airstrikes, which sometimes result in civilian casualties, have aggravated tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan.Pakistan's military operation in the region is unpopular among Pakistanis, but efforts to deal diplomatically with militants have not worked in the past.Pakistan's previous leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, reached a cease-fire deal with militants in South Waziristan in 2006 which was widely blamed for giving al Qaeda and Taliban a stronger foothold in the region.