Wednesday, September 16, 2009

High prices dampen shopping in Peshawar
PESHAWAR: Spiralling prices have dampened Eid shopping in the provincial metropolis, The News learnt Wednesday.During the last several years, Peshawarites were scared of visiting the public places because of the fear of bomb blasts and other sabotage activities. This year, however, the reason for little number of shoppers in various markets, as compared to previous years, is high prices of almost everything. Besides food items, including flour, sugar, vegetables, fruits and meat, the prices of clothes, both readymade and cloth, shoes and other items have increased manifold.
On the other hand, lack of business activities, unemployment and low income have made it very difficult to celebrate Eid with traditional zeal. Saleem Khan, a shopkeeper of readymade garments, told The News that most people blamed small traders and shopkeepers for the growing prices. About shopping as compared to last year, he said though a huge number of people were visiting bazaars before and after Iftar, most of them were doing window-shopping.Mrs Sardar, a housewife, complained that after Ramazan, the shopping for Eid was yet another test for the middle-class families. Children had demanded a lot of things but they intended to purchase the most essential items, as they could not afford to buy everything, which had been demanded.
Salman and Yasir, two friends studying at the University of Peshawar, expressed their dissatisfaction over the government efforts to control price-hike and said the rulers had nothing to do with problems of a common man. They said they had been visiting shops and bazaars for the last two hours, but did not find any shop selling commodities on reasonable prices.Meanwhile, a brief survey of famous shopping bazaars such as Shaheen Bazaar, Meena Bazaar, Arbab Road, Cantonment, Gora Bazaar and Board Bazaar revealed that the prices of shoes had increased by 10 to 25 per cent, while prices of cloth and clothes by 20 to 30 per cent, as compared to the prices of last year on the eve of Eidul Fitr.The provincial government has already announced release of advance salary for the month of September and the number of shoppers is likely to increase during the next couple of days.

Rights Group in Pakistan Seeks Answers on Christian’s Death

LAHORE, Pakistan — A Christian man detained on blasphemy charges was found dead in his jail cell on Tuesday in eastern Pakistan. Human rights groups here said he appeared to have been killed , perhaps in collusion with the authorities.

The death of the Christian, Robert Fanish, 20, is part of a rising trend of violence against minorities in Pakistan, a panel of Pakistani human rights groups said in a news conference on Wednesday. It follows the burning deaths of six Christians in July, and mob attacks against Christian houses and a church in March and June.

“This is a pattern,” said Asma Jahangir, the chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a prominent watchdog group that is independent of the government.

Local police officials say Mr. Fanish committed suicide, a claim his family and human rights groups dismissed.

Christians are a tiny minority in Pakistan, with the poorest living at the bottom of the social hierarchy. They are constitutionally barred from running for president.

Mr. Fanish was arrested on Saturday in the village of Jathikai and charged with blasphemy, a statute often used against minorities in Pakistan, human rights groups say. A Muslim family accused him of desecrating a Koran, but his local supporters said the family claimed that he had been admiring their daughter.

Whatever the case, he was taken to a jail in Sialkot, the district capital, and after two days of police questioning he was found dead in his cell, touching off Christian riots.

On Wednesday, the provincial government ordered an investigation into the death and are investigating whether to charge the jail staff with negligence.

The inspector general of prisons for Punjab Province, Kokab Nadeem Warriach, declined to say whether he believed that Mr. Fanish’s death was allowed or perpetrated by police guards. He said in a telephone interview that three prison officials had been suspended, and that the investigation ordered by the provincial government would conclude this week.

The police said Mr. Fanish had hanged himself in his cell, using a strip of material ripped from his clothing. The Joint Action Committee for People’s Rights, an alliance of more than 30 human rights groups, said in a statement that it had talked to witnesses who saw marks of torture on his body.

The group said evidence in the case “raises strong suspicion of the involvement of the jail officials” in Mr. Fanish’s death.

Ms. Jahangir said local politicians often colluded with attackers, covering up their crimes, partly out of a deep-seated prejudice against minorities — Christians and Ahmadis, a minority sect in Islam — and out of a reflexive sympathy with other Muslims.

“These militants who attack minorities are protected by local politicians,” she said. “They protect them and keep their names out of police reports.”

That was what happened in the burning case in July, where the Muslim mob was whipped into a frenzy, apparently by the local leader of a mainstream political party.

Militants, Ms. Jahangir said, “are trying to enforce their will by attacking minorities.”

“They want to grab power,” she said. “They want to make people slaves.”

Japan's new PM, cabinet to take power

TOKYO : Japan's new centre-left government is due to take power on Wednesday in a fresh start for Asia's top economy, which has been under conservative rule for almost all of the post-war era.Yukio Hatoyama, head of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), was to be voted in as prime minister two and a half weeks after his party's stunning election victory changed the country's political landscape."I'm thrilled with the joy of creating history, and at the same time I feel the very grave responsibility for creating history," Hatoyama told reporters in the morning as he came out of his house.Prime Minister Taro Aso and his cabinet resigned en masse early Wednesday, paving the way for the launch of the new government. Aso was in office for less than a year amid sagging voter support ratings.Japan's usually risk-averse voters, tired with a stagnant political system and years of economic malaise, took a chance on Hatoyama's untested DPJ when they threw out Aso's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on August 30."It will be the start of a new era," Hidekazu Kawai, political science professor emeritus of Gakushuin University, told AFP."But that is not to say the public is euphoric. Voters are very cool and keenly watching whether the DPJ can pull off their agenda. The people are dissatisfied with the LDP. They are also anxious about the DPJ."The landmark change comes a year after the collapse of US investment bank Lehman Brothers triggered the global economic turmoil that hit Japan's export-led economy like few others and raised unemployment to a post-war high.Hatoyama, a US-trained engineering scholar and scion of a political dynasty, has promised to make politics work for the people and to undo an "iron triangle" that existed between the LDP, big business and the state bureaucracy.
He has promised sweeping change on many fronts, from boosting social welfare without raising taxes, to cutting greenhouse emissions and redefining Japan's place in the world by seeking closer ties with its Asian neighbourhood.The start of his government "will be the dawn of Japan's new politics," Hatoyama told DPJ members on the eve of taking power.Within days of taking office, Hatoyama will head to the United States to meet world leaders next week at the United Nations General Assembly, a climate change summit, and a G20 meeting in Pittsburgh on the world economy.Having criticised "US-led globalism" and signalled plans to scale down some ties with the US military, Hatoyama will seek to assure President Barack Obama -- whose message of "change" he echoed -- that Japan is a reliable partner.Japan's Diet legislature was scheduled to open its special lower house session at 1:00 pm local time (0400 GMT) and to elect key posts including the speaker, with Hatoyama expected to be confirmed around 0530 GMT.The upper house was to convene afterwards to confirm his appointment.As new prime minister, Hatoyama is then expected to confirm his cabinet ministers, who traditionally accept their posts in visits to the premier's residence, before the new leader addresses national media.Emperor Akihito was scheduled to welcome the new legislators and hand them their Diet certificates at a palace ceremony in the evening.

Carter: Racism plays major role in opposition to Obama

Former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that racial politics played a role in South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst during President Obama's speech to Congress last week and in some of the opposition the president has faced since taking office.

"I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he's African-American," Carter told NBC News. "I live in the South, and I've seen the South come a long way, and I've seen the rest of the country that shares the South's attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African-Americans."

"That racism inclination still exists, and I think it's bubbled up to the surface because of belief among many white people -- not just in the South but around the country -- that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It's an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply," Carter said.

Carter made similar remarks at an event at his presidential center in Atlanta, Georgia, The Associated Press reported Tuesday, pointing to some protesters who have compared Obama to a Nazi. "Those kind of things are not just casual outcomes of a sincere debate on whether we should have a national program on health care," the former president said at the Carter Center, according to AP. "It's deeper than that."

He grouped Wilson's shout of "You lie!" during Obama's speech in that category, according to AP. "I think it's based on racism. There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president," he said.

"The president is not only the head of government, he is the head of state. And no matter who he is or how much we disagree with his policies, the president should be treated with respect."

The House voted Tuesday to formally disapprove of Wilson's behavior during the joint session of Congress. The resolution was approved largely along party lines, with Republicans calling the measure unnecessary partisan politics.

Wilson apologized to the White House last week, but congressional Democrats said he owed the chamber a similar statement of regret.