Thursday, February 26, 2009

PPP protests against burning of Benazir, Zardari portraits

HYDERABAD: Activists of the ruling Pakistan Peopleís Party (PPP) on Thursday took out rallies and staged demonstrations against the burning and disgracing of portraits of Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari in the Punjab cities.Activists of the Sindh Peopleís Youth took out a rally, led by divisional president Ahsan Abro and others, with activists chanting slogans against the workers of the PML-N.Another protest rally was brought to the Hyderabad Press Club, which was led by provincial minister Zahid Bhurguri, Amanullah Siyal, Aftab Khanzada and others. The protesters were carrying placards inscribed with slogans against the PML-N workers and demanding President Zardari to take action against those involved in damaging the portraits of the slain chairperson.The protesters also set on fire the effigy of PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif. They said protesting against the decision of the apex court was the right of the PML-N but damaging the portraits of Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari had hurt the sentiments of millions of supporters of the PPP.Large contingents of police and Rangers were deployed to prevent violence as the PML-N workers were staging a demonstration at the press club when the PPP workers arrived. Our Khairpur correspondent adds: The students wing of the PPP protested against the destruction of the monument of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi by the PML-N workers. The students of the Shah Abdul Latif University staged a demonstration and alleged that the PML-N was instigating the PPP workers but said the PPP was a party of democratic personalities. They said the Supreme Court had announced the disqualification decision on merit. However, they said, the PML-N was accusing President Asif Ali Zardari for the verdict. The tone of the Sharif brothers towards the president of Pakistan was intolerable, they said. They said if the Sharifs did not change their tone of criticism, then they will react. The PPP women wing protested against the disfiguring of portraits of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. The women workers said the PPPP will not tolerate such acts of the PML-N.Our Naushahro Feroze correspondent adds: Hundreds of activists of the PPP staged a protest and a sit-in outside the local press club against the disfiguring of portraits of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi and other cities of the Punjab. The rally started from the PPP district office and went round the entire city before terminating at the local press club. The rally was led by Sadruddin Ujan, president PPP Lawyers Forum, Ubaidullah Rajpar, Shahnaz Ansar, district president PPP Women Wing, Bakhtawar Vistro and others.
The protesters raised slogans against the PML-N and the Chaudhry brothers. Speaking to a large gathering, the local leaders said Benazir Bhutto had sacrificed her life for democracy in Pakistan and its masses.

Pak-Iran gas pipeline deal in final stages’

PESHAWAR: Talks on Pak-Iran gas pipeline are in their final stages, Iranian Consul General Muhammad Iqbal Asghari said on Thursday. Talking to reporters at his residence, Asghari said the Iranian government was aware that Pakistan needed gas and had chosen to supply it to Pakistan, rejecting Swiss and Bulgarian proposals. Answering a question about an Iranian diplomat kidnapped from Peshawar four months ago, he said those behind the kidnapping wanted to damage Pak-Iran ties. Asghari said the Pakistani government should ensure safe recovery of the diplomat, adding no group had yet contacted the Iranian embassy regarding the kidnapping. staff report

Nawaz has nothing to do instead of leveling allegations, says Farzana

ISLAMABAD: Central leader of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Chairperson Benazir Income Support Programme Farzana Raja on Thursday said Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has nothing to do that’s why he was leveling allegations against President Asif Ali Zardari.Former Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif should concentrate towards the crises and threats being faced by the nation and country instead of leveling allegations against the President, she said this while talking to Private TV Channel.
PPP has promoted national unity and political reconciliation for stability of democratic system emerged after February 18, she said, adding that, the attitude adopted by Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif is not in favor of country and masses would not accept it. Nawaz Sharif never ever speaks about extremism and other crises being faced by the nation, Farzana added.He advised Mian Muhammad Nawaz to demonstrate Political maturity. Reply to a question, she said, PML-N has full right to show its reaction but Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif was compelling the administration and Police to take unconstitutional and illegal steps. Nawaz Sharif, she said, is trying to aggravate the situation."Sharif brothers’ was able to return Pakistan due to President Asif Ali Zardari and late Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. We had forced PML-N to participate in elections", she said. PPP believed in Politics of reconciliation, she said.

PASHTO:Compulsory language

The NWFP government has decided to include Pushto in the syllabi of schools and colleges as a compulsory language from class one to XII. Talking to a private television channel on Thursday, Minister for Education Sardar Hussain Babak said that during the outgoing academic session the government had already declared Pushto as medium of instruction in eight districts of the province whereas the decision would be extended to the remaining 16 districts from next month when the new session commenced. Experts of educational psychology all over the world are of the unanimous opinion that primary schoolchildren can best learn the new concepts in their mother tongue. However, if the opinion of the linguistic experts carries any weight, the situation in NWFP is different as, according to available statistics, there are 27 languages which are at present being spoken in various parts of the province.
There is no harm in including Pushto or Hindko in the syllabi but declaring it as compulsory language or adopting it as medium of instruction in one go can cause confusion, complications and even disaster in terms of linguistic oppression. The ground realities are that even Pushto-speaking teachers in schools, colleges and universities cannot all of them correctly read or write the language. The honourable minister must have had the first-hand experience of the fact when he briefly worked as translator in Peshawar radio's news section. As a political move, the decision can draw tremendous applause if the government is trying to play to the gallery. However, if it genuinely wants to serve the cause of education, the issue should be placed before a panel of experts for final approval and subsequent implementation in phases.

Reconciliation doors open: Zardari

ISLAMABAD: While taking initiative to make more friends in Punjab in the backdrop of Supreme Court's decision against the electoral eligibility of Sharif brothers, President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday restored the funds of local bodies in the biggest populated province of the country.
According to Geo News, a meeting presided by President Asif Zardari has decided to restore the funds and powers of district, tehsil and town nazims in Punjab.
Sources said that the president has also decided to extend the term of local governments to six months as the LG's term to end in August.
The Shahbaz Sharif government had ceased the funds of local bodies after corruption charges.
The decision has been taken in the wake of emerging political situation created following the Supreme Court verdict against the electoral eligibility of Sharif brothers.
Spokesman to president house Farhat Ullah Babar refused to comment regarding the local government.
Online adds: President Asif Ali Zardari has said that doors of reconciliation are still open with all parties including PML-N for ensuring smooth democratic process.
He expressed these views while talking to Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Chairman Special Committee of the National Assembly on Kashmir, at Aiwan-e-Sadr on Thursday.
The current political situation in the country was discussed along with law and order situation particularly in FATA and Swat region.
Sources told Online that Maulana Fazl briefed President Zardari about his telephone conversation with Shahbaz Sharif prior to the meeting and said that PML-N has not closed doors of negotiations and also desired smooth functioning of democratic institutions and did not intend to destabilise the country.
Sources say that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani also joined the meeting and expressed his viewpoint.
Gillani emphasised that the reconciliation process must not be stopped and democracy should be allowed to flourish and any steps leading to another martial law should be avoided, sources told.
Sources further say that President was of the view that he also regrets the verdict of Supreme Court in which the Sharif brothers were disqualified but added it was a decision of the court whether we like it or not.
President said that he also wants an early end to governor's rule in Punjab and desires that a new government is installed as quickly as possible, sources concluded.

Fazal, Wali offer mediation between PPP and PML-N

LAHORE: JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman and ANP chief Asfandyar Wali made separate offers to mediate between the PPP and the PML-N on Thursday. Fazl called former Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif and offered to help the two parties reconcile, according to a private TV channel. It said Shahbaz responded positively to the offer. Asfandyar Wali had a telephone conversation with President Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, another private TV channel reported. NWFP Information Minister Ifitikhar Hussain told the channel they discussed prevailing tension between the PPP and PML-N. The ANP chief stressed the need for reconciliation and assured both the leaders of his support and cooperation. daily times monitor

EDITORIAL: Reading tea-leaves of PMLN’s ouster

The PMLN’s policy of not recognising the “PCO Supreme Court” anticipated its decision to reject the verdict the Supreme Court reached Wednesday to disqualify the Sharif brothers. The deposed chief justice, Mr Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, was able to say in Dera Ghazi Khan that “the Court forfeits its legitimacy by issuing verdicts that are against the Constitution”, clearly referring to the stance of the lawyers’ movement that the judiciary after November 2, 2009 was unconstitutional.Opinion in Punjab is overwhelmingly against the verdict. Apart from the loaded anti-PPP situation, there are steady signs of uncertainty within the ruling coalition. The ANP leader, Asfandyar Wali, is categorical in opposing the decision; the JUI’s Maulana Fazlur Rehman grieves over it but resorts to the ploy of bemoaning the two mainstream parties’ legacy of bickering and taking revenge against each other. The school of thought that focuses on the old pattern of rivalry is led by ex-PMLQ Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.There is quibbling over Governor’s Rule. Even professional opinion is divided. Some say that emergency was wrongly imposed. They say the Governor could not disallow the convening of the Punjab Assembly. Others disagree. The debate will go on. On the streets, the PMLN is rallying its supporters to stage demonstrations. Others like the Jama’at-e Islami are declaring how their cadres will swoop down on Islamabad from the various corners of the country. But all that is still a fortnight in the future.Meanwhile, the stock exchange in Karachi has plummeted, a reflex that routinely deprives a lot of people of their investments. Investors from the UK are cutting their losses and pulling out. The country is on the boil. The world outside sees it embarked on “a trajectory of failure”. The US says it can’t comment on Pakistan’s internal developments, but in Washington most people are scared of where the country might go from here. Al Qaeda has got the Taliban of all stripes to announce renunciation of war against the Pakistan Army in order to focus on the US and its two allies in the region, Hamid Karzai and Asif Zardari.This time around, the PMLN and the PPP have chosen to square off during a most dangerous regional and global moment. The economy is demanding solutions that the population of Pakistan is not happy with. Islamabad needs flexibility of response and pragmatism as never before, but the politicians are refusing to give each other any ground. The two parties are going for the kill. As in the past, they might both come a cropper. This time, however, there is real danger that the state they are trampling upon in the process may join the failed ranks of Somalia, Sudan, Congo and Zimbabwe.

Governor rule after PML-N declared ‘war’, says Zardari

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari said on Thursday he had imposed governor’s rule in Punjab after the Sharif brothers declared war on the Presidency following the Supreme Court decision to disqualify them.

Addressing a meeting of the Central Executive Committee (CEC) of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the president said he had been left with no other constitutional alternative.

The CEC endorsed the proclamation of governor’s rule and adopted a unanimous resolution of support for Zardari, sources privy to the meeting told Daily Times. They said most top leaders of the PPP wanted to negotiate a power-sharing deal with the PML-Q, but some stressed taking the PML-N along to avoid political instability.

President Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani chaired the meeting. The committee empowered the PPP leadership to name a new leader of the House in Punjab and urged that the new chief minister of the country’s largest province should be from the PPP. The sources said that it also authorised Zardari and Gilani to establish contacts with the PML-Q for power sharing in Punjab and Centre.

Challenges: Earlier, addressing the office-bearers of the Punjab chapter of the People’s Lawyers Forum (PLF), President Zardari said the PPP did not believe in confrontation and was pursuing a policy of reconciliation, but knows how to tackle political challenges.

“The PPP is a political force that does not believe in confrontation and had adopted the policy of reconciliation for the sake of democracy and political stability of the country. We will pursue this policy but we also know how to meet political challenges that come our way,” he said.

The provision of justice to the common man was the top priority of the government, Zardari said, adding he knew the problems faced by the citizens

Law Minister Farooq Naik also addressed the delegation, which was headed by Attorney General of Pakistan Latif Khosa and included PLF Punjab President Khurram Latif, Senior Vice President Iftikhar Shahid, General Secretary Khawar Khatana, and lawyers Shafqat Abbasi, Habibullah Shakir, Syed Nayyer Hussain Bukhari, Zummurd Khan and Amir Fida Paracha.

Fazl: Also on Thursday, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Fazlur Rehman called on President Zardari to discuss the political and law and order situation in the country after the Supreme Court’s decision to disqualify the Sharif brothers, a statement by the Presidency said.

Top slot: Vital decisions were likely in another meeting that had not ended by late Thursday, they told Daily Times. Qasim Zia, Tanvir Ashraf Kaira and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi are in the run for Punjab’s top slot, the sources said. Zardari has called another meeting today (Friday) of the party’s MNAs and MPAs from Punjab to take them into confidence over the new political developments.

Bangladesh Mutiny Ends After Tanks Enter Capital

Hamid Karzai considers snap Afghan election

President Hamid Karzai risks alienating his international backers if he calls a snap election in Afghanistan, diplomats have warned.
The Afghan president is understood to be considering throwing his political enemies into turmoil by springing a poll as early as April 21, despite fears in Kabul that it would be impossible to stage a free and fair election in seven weeks time.
Britain, the US and United Nations strongly backed the Afghan election watchdog's earlier decision to postpone elections from late April until Aug 20 because of security and logistical worries.
Fair, widespread elections are a central plank in the strategy to defeat the Taliban-led insurgency and the UN said delays were a "practical necessity" to ensure they passed of smoothly.
However Mr Karzai has this week held intense discussions with allies and is understood to be mulling the idea of bringing the elections forward, with an announcement expected as early as Friday.
An early poll would not benefit from the arrival of 17,000 US reinforcements ordered to Afghanistan last week by President Barack Obama to boost security. There are also doubts ballot papers could be printed or distributed in time.
"There was a lot of logic in the electoral commission decision and that's why we and big international players here who are part of the process, supported the August 20 date," said one Western official.
"If something else is presented, then for a number of different reasons, it's going to be difficult for us to support that."
Another Western official said: "Pushing for a snap election puts Hamid Karzai on a collision course with his international backers."
An early poll would represent an unexpected attempt by President Karzai to outmanoeuvre his Afghan and international opponents. In recent weeks, criticism of the president has focused on questioning his legitimacy during the lead up to the polls.
One Afghan MP said: "I think personally Mr Karzai is very, very good at giving surprises.
"All the opposition preparations were set for August 20 and then they could have to set them for seven weeks time.
"What can they do, they don't have a fleet of helicopters at their service. They have been taken by surprise."

Diplomatic Windfall as Goodwill for Obama Lingers

WASHINGTON — The honeymoon period between President Obama and Congress may be running its course in Washington. But on the world stage, the romantic flame is still flickering.Three years ago, President Bush could barely get the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan to be polite to each other — let alone shake hands — when he dragged Pervez Musharraf and Hamid Karzai to the White House. But this week, things were decidedly warmer as the new Obama administration played host in Washington to high-level delegations from the two countries for talks aimed at producing a new strategy.
At a three-way dinner with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday night, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi of Pakistan and his Afghan counterpart, Rangeen Dadfar Spanta, made nice, assuring each other that they were committed to fighting extremists in both countries, administration officials and diplomats said. While it’s not exactly on par with Yitzhak Rabin reluctantly extending his hand to Yasir Arafat in 1993, South Asia experts noted that just getting the two camps in the same room to talk about a common approach was a step in the right direction.
Similarly, the Bush administration spent three years urging the Egyptian government to free Ayman Nour, the country’s most prominent political dissident, to no avail. But last week, in a move that many interpreted as a goodwill gesture, the Egyptian government abruptly released Mr. Nour, citing “medical reasons.”And two weeks ago, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia dismissed two powerful religious figures — including the head of the cane-wielding religious police known as the mutawa — as part of a government shuffle that appeared aimed at reforming the kingdom’s hard-line religious establishment.While it is a stretch to assume that King Abdullah, who has been slowly inching toward modest reform, suddenly dumped the head of his religious police to curry favor with the Obama administration, the new cooperation coming from the Egyptian, Afghan and Pakistani governments is a different story, foreign policy experts say.“I think the Ayman Nour release is definitely connected to Obama,” said George Perkovich, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “It was a fairly simple thing for the Obama administration to say to the Egyptians that if you want Mubarak to see our guy, this has to happen.”
As for “Afpak” — the new shorthand e for Afghanistan/Pakistan being popularized by Richard Holbrooke, the new high-level American envoy for the two countries — Mr. Perkovich says that both governments are trying to put their best foot forward. They expect demands from the Obama administration for the Afghan government to do more to fight corruption and drug trafficking, which many in the West believe has helped to fuel the resurgent Taliban and for Pakistan to do more to crack down on extremists in the border region.Mr. Holbrooke is a veteran diplomat known for dragging reluctant Serbs to the peace table during the Balkans conflict, and Mr. Perkovich suggests that the prospect of being put under his purview may have scared the Afghan and Pakistani delegations into making nice. “Some of this is them saying, ‘O.K., these guys mean business, and Holbrooke is going to be coming out here every month, so let’s see if with little gestures we can turn down the pressure.’ ”But the question of how much of the early good will translates into real policy changes remains. Kenneth M. Pollack, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution, says the better atmospherics are great in the short term. But he cautions that, “as with all honeymoons, this says nothing about the long-term durability of the marriage.”The United States wants Pakistan to focus more on insurgents and a little less on its long-running fight with India, which Washington believes is occupying the Pakistani army, whose time would be better spent — in the American view — on Afpak, instead of what might be called Indiapak. The Egyptians want the United States to do a little more to press Israel on settlements in the West Bank. And in Afghanistan, where the presidential election season will be getting under way soon, Mr. Karzai has been striking increasingly anti-American tones, in a move to distance himself from the United States at a time when America is viewed with increasing hostility in that country.
“At the end of the day, we have some very significant policy differences with all of these countries,” Mr. Pollack said.

China decries U.S. criticism of its rights record

BEIJING (Reuters) - China denounced on Thursday U.S. criticism of its human rights record in an annual tit-for-tat exchange, saying the United States should put its own house in order first.

The U.S. State Department sharply criticized China on Wednesday, saying detention and harassment of dissidents, petitioners, human rights defenders and defense lawyers peaked around high-profile events such as the Beijing Olympic Games in August.

China's Foreign Ministry said China maintained a high level of "protection and respect" for human rights.

"Over the 30 years of development and reform we have seen a constant development of the economy, religious freedom has been protected, and all of China's ethnic groups increasingly have more and more freedom and rights," spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told a news conference.

"We urge the U.S. to own up to its own human rights problems, and not use human rights as an excuse or publish human rights reports in order to meddle in others' internal affairs."