Friday, March 13, 2009

ANP takes dwellers by surprise

PESHAWAR: People of NWFP were taken by surprise when the Awami National Party-led coalition government imposed Section 144 in entire province and launched a massive crackdown on lawyers, leaders and workers of the political parties supporting the long march.The action was taken by the ANP-led government, which has a history of respecting democratic norms and supporting political struggle in the country. The arrests, that started in early hours of Friday astonished the political workers and legal fraternity as just a day ago NWFP Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti had pledged not to stop the marchers. In a chat with the media, he, however, had said the government would initiate action if any law and order situation was created.The chief minister’s statement was well received by media, intelligentsia and democratic forces, but the appreciation lasted for a few hours due to government’s decision to take on lawyers and political workers.Every person was surprised as to what happened overnight that changed the mind of the ANP government to impose Section 144. If one believes the chief minister’s assertion, the pro-long march folks had not created any law and order issue for the government, already under pressure due to militancy in parts of the province, but it cracked down on the would-be marchers.Interestingly, the NWFP Senior Minister and ANP leader Bashir Bilour distanced his party from the action taken by the provincial administration. Talking to media in provincial assembly, the ANP leader said that his party was against such undemocratic steps. He insisted the ‘establishment’ to defame the democratic government launched the crackdown.Bashir said ANP believed in peaceful struggle and considered it a genuine right of the people. He said instead of creating hurdles, the ANP wanted to facilitate the protestors. However, the reality was quite contrary to the claims made by two bigwigs of the provincial government.The excuse made by the senior minister has aroused a serious question as to who was running the affairs of the province-political government or ‘establishment’. It was hard to believe that the NWFP home secretary or district coordination officer of the respective districts could take the action without prior approval from the government. Second, which was that strong power that even did not bother to consult the provincial government before making such a unpopular decision?The word ‘establishment’ is quite notorious and has always been used by governments for putting any blame for failure on the unseen and undefined entity. Analysts say that if the ANP could not control the provincial bureaucracy and is so helpless before ‘establishment’ then how it would protect the peace agreement signed with Sufi Mohammad of Tanzim Nifaz Shariat-e-Mohammadi. The ANP’s leaders have been accusing the ‘establishment’ of tarnishing the image of democratic forces.The party workers also showed their dismay over the decision, as they did not want ANP to support Asif Ali Zardari in his tussle with the legal fraternity. If the provincial government did not release the arrested people and stop the protesters to march into Islamabad, it will not be in a position to defend the party being the one that believes in genuine democratic struggle.

"Peking Man" 300,000 years older than usually thought

The iconic ancient human fossils from China known as the Peking Man are about 300,000 years older than usually thought, an archaeologist said Thursday. Using a new dating method, a group of Beijing archaeologists concluded in the British journal Nature that the "Peking Man" fossils are about 770,000 years old, beating the previous estimates of 230,000-500,000 years. The new date indicates that "this early human ancestor prospered in an earlier colder climate," Xing Gao, one of the archaeologists from Beijing-based Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Pale anthropology, told Xinhua by telephone. "It will lead us to rethink how these early hominins could adapt to the colder environment," Gao said. "Probably it provides further evidence that the early hominins used fire regularly." In an accompanying article in Nature, Russell Ciochon at the University of Iowa, who was not involved in the research, said the study "prompts a rethink of the species' distribution in both the temperate north and equatorial south of east Asia." The Beijing archaeologists said that the study applied an aluminium and beryllium based method to measure quartz samples from Zhoukoudian in the southwestern suburb of Beijing, where the "Peking Man" fossils were discovered in the 1920s. The method works for samples up to at least 3 million years older. The archaeologists highlighted its importance and said they planned to use it to re-measure other Chinese pale anthropology sites.
"This is a catalyst for a new era of re-dating," Ciochon said.

Internet cafés, CD shops blown up in Nowshera, Karak

NOWSHERA: Suspected militants blew up 32 CD centres, internet cafés, and shops in Nowshera on Thursday.Suspected miscreants planted improvised explosive devices at the Khwar market, Akora Khattak, which went off one after another early in the morning.
They destroyed 20 CD centres and shops completely and damaged 12 others partially, inflicting losses worth over Rs6 million to the local traders.However, no casualty was reported. The local DSP and SHO along with police personnel rushed to the spot and cordoned off the entire area. They reportedly gathered evidence from the site.
Later, the traders gathered in front of the Nowshera Press Club and held a protest against the destruction of their businesses.They demanded compensation for their businesses and provision of security.

Raza Rabbani leaves the corridors of power

SLAMABAD: Raza Rabbani, an old Pakistan Peoples Party guard, on Friday left the power corridors with a heavy heart after failing to keep pace with the policies that ran parallel to the founders of the party ideals.

Senior PPP leader had resigned from both of his offices, as leader of the house in Senate and federal minister for inter-provincial coordination; on Monday last when party efforts failed to convince him to compromise on the nomination of Farooq H. Naek for the coveted office of Chairman Senate.

In his view and view of many party colleagues it was his right to ascend to the Chairman Senate office as he remained one of the closest confidants of late Benazir Bhutto and was the most experienced parliamentarian over the years.

In his tenure as leader of the house Rabbani had established himself as a friendly and most cooperative leader who ran the upper house with great vigor.

PM Gilani on Friday met Raza Rabbani and tried his level best to convince him to withdraw his resignations from both slots, sources told Online.

However Rabbani refused to take back his resignations saying that he could not be part of policies being formulated by the Government because the Government was opening up new fronts instead of honoring pledges made by late Benazir Bhutto.

Rabbani, after the farewell call on Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, announced that he will now focus on the completion of his book ‘Islam and terrorism’ and his law practice, in addition to attending to party affairs in his capacity as deputy secretary general.

He refused to comment on the ongoing political turmoil but said that if the party required of him, he will resume his work of completing the all important report of the 17-member bipartisan parliamentary committee which he also chairs.

Pakistan-Committee formed to resolve crisis

LAHORE: The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) have formed a two-member committee to resolve their differences. According to a private TV channel, the committee includes Senate Chairman Farooq Naik from the PPP and Senator Ishaq Dar from the PML-N. The channel said the committee would present a constitutional package on Saturday (today) to resolve the ongoing political crisis. The package is likely to pave way for reconciliation between the two parties, it added. daily times monitor

Old Cycle of Political Rivalries Grips Pakistan

By Gary Thomas
13 March 2009

Pakistan's current political turmoil is reminiscent of past political rivalries and even involves some of the same players or their families. Such bitter battles in the 1990s invariably ended with covert manipulation by the country's powerful military and culminated in a direct military takeover in 1999. But, the stakes are higher now.
In the 1990s, two figures dominated Pakistani politics: Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. Each of them would be prime minister for a few years, while the other worked to undermine the incumbent. In both cases, the president, with military backing, dismissed their governments for corruption and mismanagement. In 1999, a general, Pervez Musharraf, assumed direct rule of the country.
Bhutto was assassinated in 2007 while attempting a political comeback. General Musharraf resigned after an election the following year. And Sharif is engaged in a struggle with the current president, Asif Ali Zardari, the husband of his slain rival.Alex Thier of the International Crisis Group says the political crisis underscores how little Pakistan politics has matured since the 1990s.
"I'm afraid that we are back into that cycle again, where you're dealing with a very weak civilian government after eight-plus years of military rule, you're dealing with a debilitating rivalry, and you're dealing with parties more accustomed to putting their own agendas before the rule of law."
Professor Larry Goodson of the U.S. Army War College says this style of politics, coupled with heightened activity by militant extremists and the economic downturn, puts Pakistan in jeopardy.
"I think that there's a whole set of problems there that collectively have Pakistan on the verge of going under and specifically have the government in great trouble," he said. "I think the economic crisis and the way in which extremists have been acting in the past several months are indicative of a level of sickness in the society that's creating a real problem for anyone to stay on top."Politics in Pakistan is primarily a family business among the major parties. Bhutto's son Bilawal was named head of the Pakistan Peoples' Party after her death but her husband took effective leadership and became president. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is under control of Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz. Analysts say only the Islamist religious parties really operate out of ideology.
Alex Thier says several things have prevented true democracy from taking hold in Pakistan. "The first is the lack of true civilian control over the military and the armed forces," he said.
"The second is a lack of political parties that are not based on personalities or charisma, that are actually based on some sort of platform and that engender widespread popular support or popular participation in the political process. The third is the lack of rule of law, and particularly the lack of independent judiciary," he added.The military has always been at least a power broker in Pakistan, even when not governing outright. Analysts note that General Musharraf's bloodless 1999 coup in which he ousted Nawaz Sharif was at first widely hailed in Pakistan for breaking the political gridlock of Sharif and Bhutto. But discontent with Musharraf grew, and Sharif and Bhutto entered into an alliance of convenience to force his ouster. The Sharif-Zardari alliance has now come apart.
The unanswered question is, what will the military do as Pakistan faces another political crisis?
Larry Goodson, who emphasizes he is expressing his personal views, says Pakistan's top military officer, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani, understands very well how the political game is played.
"We would say if he were an American general that he was carrying out the orders of his superiors and engaged in following the national interests of the state, he said. "Well, the only difference in this case is that he's the Pakistani COAS [Chief of Army Staff], so the national interests in some respects are what he deems them to be because he's this very powerful actor."Alex Thier believes the army doesn't want to take a direct role again after its reputation was battered by the Musharraf experience."I think the more likely scenario is that the military and the security services will work behind the scenes potentially if things get so bad to bring down the government, but not to step in as a military government but rather to engineer some form of political change - which is essentially what they did in the 1990s," said Thier.
Analysts add that President Zardari has never managed to exert true civilian control over the army.

Pakistanis believe extremism a major threat: survey

NEW YORK: Overwhelmingly, Pakistanis are worried about the impact of extremism on their country and people, says a new survey conducted by PEW (IRI) global research.

In 2008 72 per cent said they were concerned about Islamic extremism in their country, and over half — 54 per cent — said they were very concerned, the highest per centage among the eight countries on the survey where the question was asked (the others were Egypt, Jordan, Indonesia, Lebanon, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Turkey).

Similarly, an October 2008 IRI poll found that 60 per cent of Pakistanis characterized religious extremism as a serious problem. However, the same poll found limited support for using the Pakistani military to combat extremist groups.

Just 38 per cent of Pakistanis supported using the Army to fight extremists in NWFP and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), while half opposed such efforts. About one-third said they would like to see the Army confront al Qaeda, while 52 per cent disagreed with this view. There was even less enthusiasm for taking on the Taliban – 30 per cent favoured this approach, 56 per cent opposed it.

Nonetheless, support for military action had increased since IRI’s previous poll in June 2008, when only 27 per cent wanted the Army to fight extremists in NWFP/FATA, 22 per cent said it should fight al Qaeda, and 20 per cent felt this way about the Taliban.

The October poll also found considerable support for cutting a deal with radical groups — 54 per cent agreed with the statement ‘I support a peace deal with the extremists,’ while just 35 per cent disagreed. The question did not specify any particular groups of extremists, but it is clear that, as a general approach, the Pakistani public preferred compromise. Here again however, the minority supporting confrontation was growing — in June, 64 per cent had supported a peace deal and only 18per cent had opposed one.

As recently as 2004, roughly four-in-ten Pakistani Muslims said suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilians could be justified to protect Islam from its enemies. However, by the time of the April 2008 Pew Global survey — following a four year period in which numerous suicide attacks took place within Pakistan — only 5 per cent held this view.

Attitudes toward Osama bin Laden have also turned more negative, although the decline is less steep. In 2005, about half of Pakistanis expressed confidence in bin Laden to do the right thing in world affairs. Three years later, roughly one-third (34 per cent) voiced this opinion.

US urges Pakistan not to impede peaceful demos

WASHINGTON: The United States has urged the government of Pakistan not to impede peaceful democratic activities.The department’s spokesman Robert Wood told a briefing that US special envoy Richard Holbrooke spoke with President Zardari and PM Gilani and conveyed this message to them.Wood said US ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, met the opposition leader Nawaz Sharif in Lahore on Wednesday and conveyed a similar message to him.‘The point that Ambassador Patterson, as well as Ambassador Holbrooke, made is that we want to see the situation dealt with in accordance with the rule of law in Pakistan, that violence be avoided, and that any impediments to peaceful and democratic activities not be put in place,’ said Wood.When asked about the rounding up of lawyers and political workers, Wood said: ‘We’re still trying to formulate a good assessment, but obviously, the fact that these calls were placed means that we are concerned about the situation and we want to make sure that no violence takes place.’Wood said that the US wanted to make sure and make clear to everyone that peaceful, democratic activity needs to take place. But he reiterated that: ‘Violence is something we don’t need.’US expands contacts with Pakistani leaders.‘There were some additional contacts,’ said the state department’s deputy spokesman Gordon Duguid. ‘The United States is continuing our dialogue with the main actors, the political figures in Pakistan.’US officials are refusing to say if the Americans have offered a deal or a formula for resolving the Sharif-Zardari imbroglio, although they confirmed that the United States wants the two leaders to end their dispute peacefully, and as soon as possible.Diplomatic circles in Washington, however, say that the Americans are upset with the Pakistani government for starting an ‘unnecessary crisis’ at a stage when both Washington and the Pakistani military want to focus on fighting the militants.The crisis has further highlighted the judicial issue, which is particularly embarrassing for the United States. So far the Americans have not supported the demand for the restoration of the pre-Nov, 3, 2007 judiciary.But Sharifs’ dismissal has further popularized the issue, making it more difficult for external or internal forces to oppose the restoration.
This has prompted reports in the media that the Americans are now supporting the chief justice’s reinstatement, albeit with truncated powers.
Diplomatic observers also say that while the Americans are not talking about their contacts with the Pakistani military, senior officials have stayed in touch with the Pakistani generals as well.The observers say that the United States and the Pakistani military establishment agree on one key point: the current political dispute cannot be allowed to continue.According to these observers, Washington will however continue to oppose a military takeover even if the situation worsens and instead would favor a constitutional arrangement for dealing with it. At least one senior US expert - Daniel Markey of the Council on Foreign Relations who also advises the State Department on South Asian affairs - has, however, urged Washington not to oppose a military takeover, should it happen.Instead, he suggested seeking a foolproof guarantee from the military that it will come only for a brief period and will return to the barracks after bringing yet another civilian setup, possibly a government of national consensus.

Obama Afghan plan focuses on Pakistan aid'

NEW YORK:President Barack Obama's plan for Afghanistan includes proposals to shift more American efforts toward problems in neighbouring Pakistan and to seek some kind of political reconciliation with the vast majority of insurgents in the region, according to The New York Times on Friday.

Citing administration officials, the newspaper said the plan reflects in part a conclusion within the administration that most of the insurgent foot soldiers in Afghanistan and Pakistan are "reconcilable" and can be pried away from the hard-core organisations of the Taliban and al Qaeda.

At least 70 per cent of the insurgents, and possibly more, can be encouraged to lay down their arms with the proper incentives, they said. A strategic review nearing completion is being carried out by a team of high-ranking administration officials whose recommendations will be subject to Obama's approval. After seven years of a United States-led war effort in Afghanistan, officials involved in the review claim that the military to date has succeeded primarily in driving the most hard-core Taliban and other extremist militants out of Afghanistan and into western Pakistan.

To put more pressure on those Pakistani sanctuaries, the dispatch cited United States and Pakistani officials as saying they expected the plan to recommend at least a continuation of what amounts to a covert war carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency inside Pakistan, using drone aircraft for missile strikes on insurgent hide-outs. The plan will also call for an increase in military and financial aid to Pakistan, though there was still a debate on just how much additional aid should be provided, the dispatch said. One senior Obama official was cited as saying the military aid to Pakistan would be aimed at trying to get its army to focus more on counterinsurgency and less on its long-running feud with India.

Making Zimbabwe of Pakistan

Courtesy their shenanigans and confrontationist politics, President Asif Zardari and Mian Nawaz Sharif have turned Pakistan into a Zimbabwe, where an autocratic ruler Robert Mugabe and his opponent, an equally intransigent Morgan Tsvangirai, locked in a severe power struggle, had hurtled down their famine-stricken and economic-woebegone nation in a deep pit. And so have these Pakistani Mugabe and Tsvangirai their terrorism-plagued, poverty-ridden and disease-afflicted people. And just as neither Mugabe nor Tsvangirai was ready to budge, so is neither Zardari nor Nawaz. And just as African leaders, fearing Zimbabwean turmoil's spillover to neighbouring countries, had stepped in to intervene and disengage the two Zimbabwean power fighters, the Americans and British have moved in to separate these two Pakistani combatants, no lesser to save their own so-called war on terror from being affected by their fighting. This foreign intervention may have massaged enormously these two fighters' bloating egos; but the least amused are the people of Pakistan at being treated like a colony and slaves. They are ashamed that for leaders they have such egotistical persons as these two, who have sacrificed their people's self-respect and dignity at the altar of their blinding selfishness, giving it a pious cloak with puerile pretences and deceitful posturing. Divided they are irreconcilably over the sacked judges' issue, each feigning to be acting by principles, which neither is actually. And while Zardari is unloading truckloads of his chosen judges on the superior judiciary, as indeed did Benazir in her second government, of which the country's then top judge came to know from the media as did we the hoi polloi, Nawaz is pretentiously clamouring he wants sacked judges back for judiciary's independence. An independent judiciary he blares is indispensable for democracy and the people's wellbeing. Alas, this realisation has come to him too late, if at all. Where was this belief of his when during his second power stint he set his party goons on the Supreme Court, making its judges to run for their lives, some say the top judge bare-footed? And where was his conviction when he toyed madly with his craving to arrest the then top judge and imprison him even if for a day? Musharraf was very cruel to the judiciary. Yet even he didn't attack the Supreme Court, not even a lower court. Contemptibly, he did send packing a whole lot of judges he was uncomfortable with, for which he deservedly had to pay a heavy price. But, mercifully, he spared them this atrocity of physical assault. But how can a judiciary become independent and delivering if you have non-PCO judges in higher judiciary, as he wants, even if they are very good, but leave the lower judiciary rotting as it is in incompetence, corruption and sleaze? And where does the judiciary perform the feats of improving the people's economic conditions, creating jobs and providing employments, laying out public healthcare facilities, and catering to the people's basic necessities, for which he says he wants an independent judiciary? Where do the judges frame education, health, social welfare, agricultural and industrial policies? Do they do it in America, Britain, India or any other state? Aren't these the executive branch's functions, not judiciary's, even in a banana republic? And yet he talks this bunk with a straight face, as if he is a great sage, throwing around his pearls of wisdom. But why is that silent majority keeping silent, quietly lapping up the deceit and deceptions of Nawaz and Zardari? Why doesn't it call their fraud? Doesn't it occur to it that these two billionaires have mountains of slush moolah in foreign banks, huge businesses, properties and homes abroad to live on luxuriantly for generation, if, God forbid, some calamity befalls this land? This silent majority has only this homeland to live in and thrive on. So it must speak up. If it thinks the self-styled civil society will speak up on its behalf, it is mistaken. It would not; it is actively on the side of one or the other of these two power fighters. Not expect this it should even from the media which is as elitist as are these two in thinking, outlook and views. It, too, is voicing their causes, not ours, the hoi polloi's. This silent majority has to make its own voice and make it heard. And that it must, as the rot has now gone too far. Sit silently it now should not; nor should it let itself be taken for granted any more.
Saved from:
Dated: Friday,March 14, 2009, Rabi-ul-Awwal 15, 1430 A.H.

Sherry Rehman resigns from Federal Cabinet

Sources say that PM Gilani has not yet accepted Sherry Rehman’s resignation from the Federal Cabinet.
ISLAMABAD: Sherry Rehman has resigned from her position as the Federal Information Minister; apparently as result of differences with the rest of her camp, arising from the handling of sections of the news media, sources claim.

Sources say that Federal Information Minister Sherry Rehman has tendered her resignation from the federal cabinet of the PPP led government but sources added that the Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, has not yet accepted her resignation.

It is important to remember here that the information minster, after the November 2007 clampdown on media, had vowed in many of her TV interviews that she would resign from any ministry if the media was ever mishandled by a Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) led government.

The minster was reminded of her promises today after an apparent clampdown on sections of the media, significantly the GEO news channel. The minster would certainly have kept her promise if her resignation goes through.

Sherry Rehman resigns

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Sherry Rehman has reportedly resigned.According to sources, Sherry resigned due to differences over the media policy of the government. The news came at a time when a high level meeting was underway at the Aiwan-e-Sadr with President Asif Ali Zardari in chair.
Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, Interior Advisor Rehman Malik and Sherry Rehman were present in the meeting. It is pertinent to note that Sherry has been saying she will resign as Information Minister if any ban is imposed on country’s media.

Turkey May Give Obama Rare Honor Of Addressing Parliament

ANKARA, Turkey — President Barack Obama may be invited to address Turkey's Parliament in a rare honor reserved for the country's closest allies, an official said Friday.
Obama is scheduled to visit Turkey on April 5 during his first visit as president to a Muslim nation.Parliament Speaker Koksal Toptan told reporters that lawmakers want Obama to give a speech to legislators and to the Turkish people from the rostrum of Parliament.The invasion of Iraq has strained the long friendship between the U.S. and Turkey _ close NATO allies _ and Obama's visit would mark an improvement in ties with Turkey, which is critical to aiding the U.S. pullout from Iraq and turning around the war in Afghanistan.However, Obama could jeopardize relations unless he breaks a campaign promise to describe the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide."
Such a declaration would infuriate Turkey, which could respond by withholding cooperation and complicate U.S. military operations in the region.
Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around World War I, an event widely viewed by scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century.But Turkey denies that the deaths constituted genocide, contending the toll has been inflated, and the casualties were victims of civil war and unrest.

Canadian nurse freed in Sudan

A Canadian nurse kidnapped in Sudan, along with an Italian doctor and a French field worker, has been released, Medecins sans frontieres said in a statement Friday.
The organization said that Sudanese authorities were returning the freed nurse — Laura Archer, originally from Prince Edward Island and more recently living in Montreal — but it was unclear how long it would take to finalize the release.
"We have not yet seen our colleagues, nor have we had a chance to speak with them since we heard that they were being released," said the statement.
The organization said they had contacted the families of the latest development.
Sudanese authorities had already identified where the group were being held, blaming "bandits" for their kidnapping on Wednesday.
The kidnapping came a week after Sudan expelled the 13 foreign aid agencies after the International Criminal Court ordered President Omar al-Bashir's arrest for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.Archer's parents had earlier released a statement saying that they were "confident of Archer's safe and timely release."Medecins Sans Frontieres is an international humanitarian aid organization that provides emergency medical assistance to populations in danger in about 70 countries.MSF also works in remote health-care centres, slum areas and provides training of local personnel.

US reassures China on investment

US reassures China on investment
The White House has sought to assure China that its $1 trillion (£0.7tn) in investments in the United States is safe despite the economic downturn.
"There is no safer investment in the world than in the United States," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

China's Wen worried over US assets

Wen used the news conference to further detail China's $585bn stimulus plan [AFP]
Wen Jiabao, China's prime minister, has voiced concern over the outlook of US government bonds, calling on Washington to ease worries about US assets.
Speaking at his annual news conference on Friday, Wen expressed concern that massive US deficit spending and near-zero interest rates could erode the value of China's bond holdings.China is the biggest holder of US government debt and has invested an estimated 70 per cent of its $2 trillion stockpile of foreign exchange reserves, the world's largest, in dollar assets."We have lent a massive amount of capital to the United States, and of course we are concerned about the security of our assets," Wen said."To speak truthfully, I do indeed have some worries ... I would like, through you, to once again request America to maintain their creditworthiness, keep their promise and guarantee the safety of Chinese assets."
Investment concerns
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, during her visit to Beijing in February, urged China to keep investing in US assets, and said any big switch by Beijing out of US treasury bonds would drive prices lower, inflicting the very losses Wen fears.
In depth. China's job crisis Philip Bowring, a Hong Kong-based commentator on Asia, said that China could have avoided investing so heavily in US treasuries if they had adopted a different approach to growth."China did have a choice of whether they continued their export-driven growth - focused, often very heavily, on the United States - or being more domestically focused, which would have meant they would have grown almost as fast, but wouldn't have accumulated a large amount of US treasuries,"
"Naturally they feel a little bit nervous about [holding US treasuries] because it's not that they're illiquid, but the conditions under which China can actually sell them are rather limited and the yield on these treasuries is low and tending to decline."
'Enough ammunition'
Despite his concerns over US treasuries, Wen expressed confidence the economic recovery plan of Barack Obama, the US president.
Wen, who took questions for over two hours, also used the news conference to further detail China's own four trillion yuan ($585bn) stimulus package.
He had disappointed investors in his annual report to parliament a week earlier by failing to announce an increase in the size of the package, which aims to boost domestic demand and so take up the slack left by a sharp drop in exports.
China has reported a record decline in exports in February and record-low industrial production growth in the first two months of the year.
Wen reiterated his warning, made to the National People's Congress (NPC), China's rubber-stamp parliament, last week, that 2009 would be a challenging year for China.
But he said that the government had "prepared enough 'ammunition' and we can launch new economic stimulus policies at any time".
Slowing growth
Wen said the central government share of the already-announced $586bn stimulus plan would be used in "projects for public welfare, technological innovation, environmental protection and infrastructure projects".With the bulk of that money already allocated in the government budget, he said he was convinced that recovery was within sight.The stimulus plan also gives a strong boost to social welfare spending, which the government hopes will boost domestic consumption by encouraging Chinese, who typically save about 20 per cent of their income, to spend more.
Earlier, the almost 3,000 NPC delegates formally endorsed Wen's plan to shore up the world's third-largest economy and maintain growth levels the government says are needed to create jobs and maintain stability.

Pakistan's..Political turmoil: next 24 hrs will be very crucial

Political turmoil: next 24 hrs will be very crucial

ISLAMABAD ( 2009-03-13 18:12:29 ) :President Asif Ali Zardari separately met Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani at President House, here on Friday and discussed key issues related to current political situation in the country.

According to reports, later in the day Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani will meet former Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif for negotiations regarding the current turmoil in the country.

The reports further said that Gilani has been reportedly given 24 hours to convince Zardari into agreeing to the new political and constitutional arrangement, as further delay will not produce any political results for the political forces currently on the warpath.

The ball is now firmly in the court of president Zardari, who has to take a decision swiftly on endorsing the agreement brokered by powerful international actors.

If Zardari does not accept the new deal then:

* Army, foreign powers will be left with no option but to implement minus-one formula.

*President’s office will be completely marginalised, Zardari will be removed.

*Gilani will take over as power will be restored to PM office.

* PML-N will join the cabinet.

* Deposed SC chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry will be reappointed.

Terms of the deal are:

* PM Gilani has been asked to convince Zardari to accept the new political and constitutional arrangement.

* The deal also states the removal of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who is an obstacle to good relations between the PPP and the PML-N.

* Implementation of the new Constitutional package through the parliament.

*The deal also demands the restoration of Supreme Court Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary.
Political turmoil: next 24 hrs will be very crucial

ISLAMABAD ( 2009-03-13 18:12:29 ) :President Asif Ali Zardari separately met Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani at President House, here on Friday and discussed key issues related to current political situation in the country.

According to reports, later in the day Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani will meet former Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif for negotiations regarding the current turmoil in the country.

The reports further said that Gilani has been reportedly given 24 hours to convince Zardari into agreeing to the new political and constitutional arrangement, as further delay will not produce any political results for the political forces currently on the warpath.

The ball is now firmly in the court of president Zardari, who has to take a decision swiftly on endorsing the agreement brokered by powerful international actors.

If Zardari does not accept the new deal then:

* Army, foreign powers will be left with no option but to implement minus-one formula.

*President’s office will be completely marginalised, Zardari will be removed.

*Gilani will take over as power will be restored to PM office.

* PML-N will join the cabinet.

* Deposed SC chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry will be reappointed.

Terms of the deal are:

* PM Gilani has been asked to convince Zardari to accept the new political and constitutional arrangement.

* The deal also states the removal of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who is an obstacle to good relations between the PPP and the PML-N.

* Implementation of the new Constitutional package through the parliament.

*The deal also demands the restoration of Supreme Court Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary.

Geo News blocked in different cities of country

ISLAMABAD: The transmission of Geo News has been blocked in some parts of Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Quetta, Multan, Rawlakot and Muzaffarabad.

The concerned officials have directed the cable operators to place Geo News channel at the tail end, making it difficult for the viewers to watch the channel.

General Secretary Pakistan Muslim League-Q Mushahid Hussain said Geo News is being punished for airing the

Wahhabi radicals are determined to destroy a gentler, kinder Islam

BY: William Dalrymple 's Last Mughal won the Duff Cooper Prize and the Crossword Indian Book of the Year prize.
Rahman Baba, "the Nightingale of Peshawar," was an 18th-century poet and mystic, a sort of North West Frontier version of Julian of Norwich.

He withdrew from the world and promised his followers that if they also loosened their ties with the world, they could purge their souls of worries and move towards direct experience of God. Rituals and fasting were for the pious, said the saint. What was important was to understand that divinity can best be reached through the gateway of the human heart - that we all have paradise within us, if we know where to look.

For centuries, Rahman Baba's shrine at the foot of the Khyber Pass has been a place where musicians and poets have gathered, and his Sufi verses in the Pukhtun language made him the national poet of the Pathans. As a young journalist covering the Soviet-mujahideen conflict I used to visit the shrine to watch Afghan refugee musicians sing their songs to their saint by the light of the moon.

Then, about 10 years ago, a Saudi-funded Wahhabi madrasa was built at the end of the track leading to the shrine. Soon its students took it on themselves to halt what they saw as unIslamic practices. On my last visit, I talked about the situation with the shrine keeper, Tila Mohammed. He described how young Islamists now came and complained that his shrine was a centre of idolatry and superstition: "My family have been singing here for generations," said Tila. "But now these Arab madrasa students come here and create trouble.

"They tell us that what we do is wrong. They ask people who are singing to stop. Sometimes arguments break out - even fist fights. This used to be a place where people came to get peace of mind. Now when they come here they just encounter more problems, so gradually have stopped coming."

"Before the Afghan war, there was nothing like this. But then the Saudis came, with their propaganda, to stop us visiting the saints, and to stop us preaching 'ishq [love]. Now this trouble happens more and more frequently."

Behind the violence lies a long theological conflict that has divided the Islamic world for centuries. Rahman Baba believed passionately in the importance of music, poetry and dancing as a path for reaching God, as a way of opening the gates of Paradise. But this use of poetry and music in ritual is one of the many aspects of Sufi practice that has attracted the wrath of modern Islamists. For although there is nothing in the Qur'an that bans music, Islamic tradition has always associated music with dancing girls and immorality, and there is a long tradition of clerical opposition.

At Attock, not far from the shrine of Rahman Baba, stands the Haqqania, one of the most radical madrasas in South Asia. Much of the Taliban leadership, including its leader, Mullah Omar, were trained here, so I asked the madrasa's director, Maulana Sami ul-Haq, about what I had heard at Rahman Baba's tomb. The matter was quite simple." Music is against Islam," he said. "Musical instruments lead men astray and are sinful. They are forbidden, and these musicians are wrongdoers."

Nor were Sami's strictures limited to the shrine's music: "We don't like tomb worship," he continued. "We do not pray to dead men, even the saints. We believe there is no power but God. I invite people who come here to return to the true path of the Qur'an. Do not pray to a corpse: Rahman Baba is dead. Go to the mosque, not to a grave."

This sort of madrasa-driven change in attitudes is being reproduced across Pakistan. There are now 27 times as many madrasas in the country as there were in 1947: from 245 at independence, the number has shot up to 6870 in 2001. Across Pakistan, the religious tenor has been correspondingly radicalised: the tolerant, Sufi-minded Barelvi form of Islam is now out of fashion in northern Pakistan, especially in the NWFP, overtaken by the rise of the more hardline and politicised Wahhabism.

Later, I returned to the shrine and found Tila Mahommed tending the grave. Making sure no one was listening, he whispered: "We pray that right will overpower wrong, that good will overcome evil. But our way is pacifist," he said." As Baba put it,

I am a lover, and I deal in love. Sow flowers,
So your surroundings become a garden
Don't sow thorns; for they will prick your feet.
We are all one body,
Whoever tortures another, wounds himself.

I thought of this conversation, when I heard that the shrine of Rahman Baba had finally been blown up on Thursday, a few hours after the Sri Lankan cricketers were ambushed in Lahore. The rise of Islamic radicalism is often presented in starkly political terms, but what happened in Peshawar this week is a reminder that, at the heart of the current conflict, lie two very different understandings of Islam. Wahhabi fundamentalism has advanced so quickly in Pakistan partly because the Saudis have financed the building of so many madrasas, which have filled the vacuum left by the collapse of state education. These have taught an entire generation to abhor the gentle, syncretic Sufi Islam that has dominated south Asia for centuries, and to embrace instead an imported form of Saudi Wahhabism.

Sufism is an entirely indigenous Islamic resistance movement to fundamentalism, with its deep roots in South Asian soil. The Pakistani government could finance schools that taught Pakistanis to respect their own religious traditions, rather than buying fleets of American F-16 fighters and handing over education to the Saudis. Instead, every day, it increasingly resembles a tragic clone of Taliban Afghanistan.