Monday, February 23, 2009

Communist Party leadership warns of "austere" year for China

The ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) said Monday the country will launch a comprehensive economic package to tackle an "austere and complicated" year ahead.
"We will increase large-scale government investment, implement and readjust a plan to revive industries, make great efforts to boost innovations, and greatly enhance the level of social security," said a press release issued after a meeting of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee.The meeting was presided over Hu Jintao, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee.The Political Bureau warned that 2009 would be the most difficult for China's economic development so far this century as "it is crucial for implementing the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010), and the tasks of reform, development and stability are austere and complicated."The meeting participants discussed a government work report which would be submitted to the forthcoming second annual session of the 11th National People's Congress, the national legislature.In 2008, "a very extraordinary year", China experienced serious challenges and tests for economic and social development, and made great achievements in the country's reform, opening up and socialist modernization drive, the press release said. In the past year, the government readjusted macro-economic policies promptly and decisively to cope with the serious impacts of the global financial crisis; maintained stable and relatively fast economic and social development; pushed forward reform and opening up; accelerated the development of social welfare; improved people's living standards; made great achievements in dealing with extraordinary natural calamities; succeeded in hosting the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics; and accomplished theShenzhou-7 manned space flight.The Political Bureau called for greater awareness of the austere and complicated nature of the international and domestic economic situation and for active response to the challenges.Efforts should be made to increase domestic demand, change the development mode, accelerate the strategic readjustment of the economic structure; deepen reforms; and improve living standards and promote social harmony, said the Political Bureau.Source: Xinhua



Not even the gullible was taken in by his democracy and independent judiciary chant, so blemished has been Mian Nawaz Sharif’s track record on both counts. The perceptive observers were at once blunt and unforgiving. Faking and posturing was he, they averred all along. Neither could this conqueror of the Supreme Court of the 1990s be a lover of judiciary nor could this erstwhile ameerul momineen-aspirant be a fan of democracy, they maintained throughout. Autocratic by nature and temperament they said he was. A sultan they said he wanted to be. He was just bidding his time to make a fling and set the ball rolling for a snap poll. And this Saturday he proved them dead right. It was decidedly a stump speech that he delivered to his PML (N) general council at his sprawling Raiwind residential complex. And the cat is also out of the bag. Nothing less than a two-thirds majority he would settle on, as had he in his last stint that saw him giving a no-holds-barred vent to his autocratic propensities and dictatorial impulses. And it is the martyrdom’s apparel that he has chosen to don to fructify his vaulting imperial ambition which knows of no inhibitions or bounds. Deceitfully, all cry was this cloned-baby of garrison hatcheries against praetorian generals, many of them his own benefactors who had bred, groomed and trained him in the arts of Bonapartism and the politics of barracks and had launched him into the field to do their bidding. And comply he did to the last word, spiritedly becoming part of the establishment’ and its agencies’ plots to topple his adversaries’ elected governments and cart out from prestigious positions politicians deemed uncomfortable by the powers-that-be. Musharraf may have done him wrong, although one knows not how much of the litany of charges he read out against him in his address was a lie and how much of it was truth. But probably sensing his tumble in the Supreme Court, he has picked on President Asif Zardari, accusing him of conspiring to oust the two Sharif Brothers from politics and of leaning on the apex court to disqualify them. So a martyr he is out to presents himself to the people. But many may not be unknown to overriding lust for wealth and power of this man who felt no compunction in accepting even Osama’s money to pull down a Benazir government. His prank to team up with lawyers in their long march and sit-in may or may not work to give him what he wants. But a confrontation is sure now to break out ferociously between him and the PPP power centres. Politics of confrontation may be his loved method and the only thing he knows of. And go after this device he surely will with full gusto, caring less of unbearable consequence this politics of confrontation holds in store for this unfortunate nation. But, so far, he has demonstrated he gives a damn if the country is in the lap of a ravaging militancy and extremism, bursting out from its hotbeds of FATA, Swat and parts of NWFP and Balochistan to engulf Punjab and port city of Karachi. He even gives a damn of his confrontationism snowballs the miseries blighting the huge mass of this country’s poverty-ridden, deprivation-stricken and disease-plagued citizenry. Power he wants, at any rate and at any cost. In the opposition’s wilderness, he has lived now for more than a year after the ouster of the military dictator’s rabble in a fairly honest poll. This period is too long for a power-hungry politico that he in reality is. He has been hungering for the power plum impatiently; and his patience has now run out. Still, we hope sanity will prevail on him, as also on the PPP lot. They, too, are jumping in the ring, with gloves off and fists clenched. A political turmoil is the last thing that this unfortunate can afford at this critical time, besieged as it is with multiple colossal challenges internally and externally. As we have been pleading on this page, both the PML (N) and the PPP must declare a truce, call back their boxers, and desist from disturbing the existing power dispensations, particularly in Punjab. And the PPP leadership should think out of sorting out the two Sharif Brothers’ political problems, sitting at the roots of shrilly commotion rising out of the PML (N) camp to make for a durable ceasefire.

Call to arms

Tuesday, February 24, 2009
The chief minister of the Frontier province has given orders to distribute 30,000 assault rifles among villagers across the province. The initiative is intended to allow people to defend their villages against criminal gangs – and others who threaten law and order. It can be assumed militants count among these. US experts credit militias based along similar lines with helping reduce violence in Iraq. A similar experiment is underway in Afghanistan and the orders in NWFP seem to follow the same basic line of thinking.The idea of yet more arms being introduced into a society where there are already far too many weapons in circulation is somewhat alarming, to say the least. The NWFP government has said police officers in specific areas will help identify 'good' people. But given the rather unsavoury reputation of the police itself and the possibility that influence, nepotism and bribery could play a part in any decision that is made, this hardly seems to be a reliable basis on which to dole out large numbers of arms. It is also unclear how effective the plan to raise an elite police force of some 2,500 will be. The military, which says it has not been informed of the plan, has meanwhile said it will keep troops deployed in Swat and that another operation cannot be ruled out.It is not clear how this fits in with the overall strategy for peace. In Swat, while the militants of Maulana Fazlullah have been rewarded for their rule of blood and gore through a peace deal, the detailed provisions of this are not known. The rumours that a general amnesty may be granted to those behind bars is obviously disturbing given that these persons include murderers, rapists and others guilty of all kinds of crimes. Some signs of the way things work in Swat are even more worrying. The kidnapping of the new DCO to the area by militants who say they wished to discuss 'important matters' with him makes it quite clear these men are not willing to relinquish their hold on power or to respect the rule of law. The claim by militants that the official was released in exchange for two of their detained comrades only adds to the absurdity of the whole matter. Authorities need to wake up to a simple fact: there is no easy way out of the mess we have got ourselves into. The militants must be defeated. They must be tried and made subject to justice. Otherwise, any kind of peace will not hold for long.

School blown up in Darra Adamkhel

KOHAT: Unknown persons late Monday night blew up Government High School for Boys, Sunnikhel, Darra Adamkhel — the ninth institute that was destroyed in the area.

Sources said five bombs were planted to the school walls that completely reduced the building into rubble.Girls’ education was stopped in the area as all the schools whether primary or high were blown up by the unknown militants in the gun-manufacturing town of Darra. Similarly, in the Tor Chappar area of Darra Adamkhel no boys or girls school at the moment was opened for the students.

Those who could afford had either sent their children to Kohat or Peshawar for studies while many coming from the poor families had stopped their education, sources said. The district coordination officer Siraj Ahmad Khan, when contacted said the government was trying its level best to reopen the schools in the FR Kohat area, including Darra Adamkhel.

Meanwhile, Taliban sources denied blowing of the schools in Darra Adamkhel and said enemies of Pakistan could be behind such incidents as they were not against the education.

Restoration of peace in Swat top priority, says minister

PESHAWAR Feb-24: The return of peace to the volatile Swat valley is more important than anything else for the NWFP Minister for Environment Wajid Ali Khan, whose younger brother had also been shot dead a few months ago and he personally received life threats for the stand his nationalist party had adopted against militants in the province.

Receiving party workers and people form his constituency at his office in Peshawar Monday, Wajid looked more comfortable and hopeful about the latest development taking place in district Swat after the ANP-led government announced implementation of Nizam-e-Adl Regulation in the erstwhile Malakand Division and Kohistan district of Hazara Division.

“If anyone has still doubts about the peace agreement in Swat, then they should ask for the value of peace from Swatis, who had witnessed human and material losses during the one and half-year clashes between military and militants,” he replied when asked about the future of Swat in the presence of activists of defunct Tazeem Nifaz Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) and the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

The minister said that there would be life, ideology, politics and development works when there was peace in a society, adding, that the Awami National Party was committed to its pledge of restoring peace to the province.

The ANP suffered the most for its stand against militancy and insurgency and only in Swat over 100 party local leaders and workers had been killed for the last six months, he said, and added that sacrifices for a true cause were not new to the ANP and his family.

Wajid Ali Khan’s younger brother, Farooq Khan, who was serving in the Police Department as an inspector was shot dead by unknown persons on a busy road in Mingora. The provincial minister did not attend his brother’s funeral for security reasons and the threats he received from Swat-based Taliban.

The firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlullah also summoned more than 40 politicians and MPAs, including Wajid Ali Khan, to his self-established Shariah courts for holding them responsible for the deaths and destruction in Swat. Wajid, who also has the Forest ministry, said those who were criticising the ANP for deviating from its basic principle as secular party for supporting Shariah courts had ignored another aspect the Pakhtun nationalist party, which sought safety of its people and peace of the soil. “We are not doing politics in the name of religion but are bound to honour mandate of the people who had voted us for restoring peace to the province through political means,” he said.

About the death of journalist Musa Khankhel and alleged kidnapping of a high-ranking officer along with body guards in Swat, the minister said some elements were out to vitiate the atmosphere in Swat where they fear that government’s writ and cooperation of the religious groups would definitely put at stake their nefarious designs.

Abducted Canadian journalist appears in video

OTTAWA: A Canadian journalist abducted last year in Pakistan has surfaced, telling of her ordeal in a videotape obtained by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., the public broadcaster reported Monday.Beverly Giesbrecht, 52, also known as Khadija Abdul Qahaar, was seized at gunpoint in November while travelling in the Bannu district.
She was reportedly gathering materials for a documentary for her website, which offers alternative news on the Islamic world.In the four-minute-and-43-second video, Giesbrecht says she was kidnapped by the Taliban on her second trip to the region to meet a man with a rare coin collection whom she wished to interview."I have been in captivity now for almost three months," she said. "I wake up in the dark and I go to sleep in the dark. There is nothing but a wood furnace and not enough wood."I am not sure exactly my location. I am some place in the Afghan border area. There are air raids. This is the war zone."Canada's foreign affairs department has said it is engaged with Pakistani authorities to try to free her. It has not commented on the video tape.

Sino-Pakistan relations higher than Himalayas

By Asif Ali Zardari
BEIJING, Feb. 23 -- Perhaps no relationship between two sovereign states is as unique and durable as that between Pakistan and China. On the Pakistan side of the Himalayas, the mighty range that separates the two countries, China is seen as a true, time tested and reliable friend that has always come through for Pakistan. That the Pakistan-China friendship is higher than the peaks of Himalayas is now a truism without exaggeration. I am certain that on the Chinese side a similar sentiment exists for Pakistan. It is a friendship rooted in the hearts and minds of the people of the two countries.It is my privilege to visit China for the second time as Pakistani president. For me the Pakistan-China friendship is a beautiful legacy bequeathed by Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan's legendary Foreign and Prime Minister and his daughter and my late wife Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, also a beloved Prime Minister of Pakistan.Central China's Hubei Province Governor Li Hongzhong (2nd R) meets with visiting Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari (2nd L) in Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province, Feb. 21, 2009.The Pakistan Peoples Party and our family have had a three-generation relationship with China. From Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and then my late wife Shaheed Benazir Bhutto to my son and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the friendship continues into the future.I cannot but feel excited whenever I visit China. It brings great pleasure to see a friend such as China prospering and progressing. Present day China is a shining star on the international scene. It represents a phenomenal renaissance of the ancient and great Chinese Civilization. The Chinese economic miracle is a lesson in sound management and solid governance. The manner in which China is developing its infrastructure is an inspiration for countries across the world. The Xining-Lhasa railroad, the Three Gorges Dam and countless other projects bear testimony to Chinese industry and vision.The Pakistan-China friendship is a comprehensive partnership. China has been instrumental in helping Pakistan develop its civil and military infrastructure. It has helped Pakistan's economic development. Chinese assistance and enterprise has been invaluable in areas as diverse as construction of nuclear power plants to dams, roads and industrial estates. The port of Gwadar on Pakistan's Arabian Sea coast is a testament to China's friendship with Pakistan.It is my sincere desire to further cement this relationship. There is no reason the two countries cannot grow even closer. China has become the economic engine of Asia. It is among the sheet anchors of the international trading and economic system. In the present global economic downturn, China is among the few countries that have the economic muscle to pull the world out of it.China's trade with many of its neighbors is increasing at a dizzying pace. Pakistan needs to join this trend. I believe there is great potential for improvement in this vital area. Pakistan-China economic and trade relations must keep pace with political relations between the two countries. We have therefore placed economic cooperation and trade at the heart of this relationship. The two countries have a joint five-year economic plan to give predictability and to allow forward planning in various areas of economic cooperation. We also have a free trade agreement with China and hope to finalize a trade in services agreement shortly. Our objective is to forge win-win partnerships in which both countries gain and which further contribute to the strength of the friendship.Pakistan too can help in China's growth. The global economic downturn may have slowed things down but as the world emerges out of this recession and China resumes its breakneck growth, Chinese ports are going to get clogged. Given proper infrastructure, the Pakistani ports of Karachi, Port Qasim and Gwadar are nearer to the Chinese heartland than Shanghai and Hong Kong. Pakistan can also help channel energy supplies from the Gulf to China. Pakistan is also a sizeable country in its own right. Once we get our economic fundamentals right we can be a useful economic partner, a significant market and a profitable destination for investment.However in the final analysis it is not just the material benefits of a relationship that determine its durability and longevity. The Pakistan-China relationship is much more than a strategic confluence of interests between two countries. The foundation of the relationship, which Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had the vision to pursue and cement, is that both countries firmly believe in the principles of sovereign equality, non-interference and bilateral cooperation. They share a close commonality of views on most international issues.China is an anchor of stability and peace not only in Asia but the world. Its peaceful rise in a continent full of large countries each with a strong sense of identity, even destiny, bears testimony to the sagacity and wisdom of the Chinese leadership. Situated in the heart of Asia, bordering fourteen countries with Japan and the Philippines just across the Yellow and South China Seas, China is the glue holding the continent together - not only in terms of geography but in political and economic terms.It is amongst the largest if not the largest trading partner of all the countries bordering it. Each of these countries has increasingly large stakes in China's economy and each in turn is benefiting from the traction generated by this enormous engine of growth. China is therefore in a unique position to use these attributes to help its neighboring countries improve relations among and between themselves. For too long, Asia has been distracted by rivalries and conflicts between its many great countries. The time has come for Asia to show the world a different path where cooperation leads the way and where mutual respect and increasing bonds of trade and economic benefit help overcome hostility and suspicion.As Pakistan grapples with the threat of terrorism, China can help in this area too. Pakistan is fighting terrorists not only for its own sake but for the entire region. We are determined not to allow the noxious fumes of this dangerous phenomenon and ideology to spread to other countries. Thousands of Pakistani citizens, civilian and military, have laid down their lives in this endeavor. Indeed terrorists have specifically targeted some of our Chinese friends who were working in Pakistan to drive a wedge between the two countries and peoples. The sacrifice of these Chinese citizens for Pakistan's cause is an abiding reminder to us Pakistanis of China's friendship with our country.This time I will visit Wuhan and Yichang of Hubei province, and Shanghai to see for myself some of the engines that lie behind China's economic growth. I hope to learn and benefit from the opportunity. I hope that the coming days will help furnish better reminders of our enduring friendship and I hope my visit will serve as one more step in that direction.