Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa yet to avail PM’s relief incentives

PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtun-khwa could not avail the incentives, announced by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in January for the revival of the economy of the militancy-hit province, because of the delaying tactics of the government departments and financial institutions.

The business community of the province has lamented the lethargy of the government functionaries and said that most of the incentives announced by the premier, as part of his relief package on January 7 would lapse next month.

The traders and businessmen whose businesses were badly damaged by terror incidents during 2009 would be thus unable to avail the incentives. Riaz Arshad, president of the Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), told The News that the delaying tactics adopted by the government and banks had rendered the entire relief package useless. He said the business community of the province held numerous meetings with the concerned quarters to expedite implementation of the incentives but to no avail.

Riaz Arshad said the package was revised at the request of the business community and trade circles, but they were still confused about the incentives offered in the revised package. The SCCI chief said major part of the prime minister’s package related to the State Bank of Pakistan and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), but they didn’t issue any proper SRO or notification.

“The notifications and SROs that were issued are ambiguous, but none of the government and banking sector institutions came out with any clarification,” he argued. He said that notifications issued about the reduction of mark-up rate to 7.5 per cent and credit guarantee scheme could not be implemented and traders continued to pay full mark-up and were still waiting for waiver on their loans.

The SCCI chief said the prime minister had issued clear directives on February 6, asking the State Bank of Pakistan, ministries of Finance, Water & Power, Commerce and Petroleum and Natural Resources, Federal Board of Revenue and the provincial government to ensure all steps necessary for the implementation of the package.

Riaz Arshad added that tax payers from the worst-hit or severely affected areas were given the waiver facility on taxes including Customs Duty, Sales Tax, Federal Excise Duty and Income Tax, Withholding Tax and Wealth Income Tax on the exports till June 30, but the ambiguous notifications and SROs deprived the people of the affected areas to avail the facility. The SCCI chief said that the Sales Tax exemption facility would also lapse on June 30 as it would not remain applicable after the introduction of Value Added Tax from July 1.

US vows to stand by Afghanistan after combat ends

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday the United States will not abandon the Afghan people after the international combat mission in the country winds down next year.
"Let me be clear. As we look toward a responsible, orderly transition in the international combat mission in Afghanistan, we will not abandon the Afghan people," Clinton said as she sat next to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
"Our civilian commitment will remain long into the future," she told high-level US and Afghan delegations seated at a U-shaped table in a chandeliered room of the State Department.Her remarks set the tone for an intense series of meetings involving ministers on both sides aimed at cementing a US-Afghan relationship that has shown many cracks in the past.Both Clinton and Karzai anticipated further disagreements between Washington and Kabul but said such incidents would only prove the maturity and steadfastness of the relationship.The pair touched on some sore points, with Clinton repeating calls on Kabul to root out corruption and Karzai urging international forces to better protect civilians.While improving security is "an essential first step" in Afghanistan, Clinton said, long-term stability depends on economic development and good governance, which includes fighting corruption."I appreciate President Karzai's steps to fight corruption," she said.
Karzai raised his government's demands for a better relationship.
"Afghanistan will seek respect for its judicial independence. Afghanistan will be seeking protection for its civilian population," said the Afghan leader, wearing his trademark cap and robes.
"I am very thankful to General (Stanley) McChrystal for the effort that he is putting in for the protection of Afghan civilians, with results," he said, as McChrystal, the leader of US forces in Afghanistan, looked on.Karzai promised that his government would assume its responsibilities in developing Afghanistan so that his war-torn country "is no longer a burden on your shoulders."
He also pledged that his country would remain a staunch ally long into the future. "We will not forget the contribution that you have made. Afghanistan is known around the world for being a country that remembers a friend," he said.
The Afghan leader met with McChrystal and the US ambassador to Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, during his first day of talks on Monday.
His four-day visit includes not only a full day of talks at the State Department on Tuesday, but a tete-a-tete meeting with Obama and a dinner hosted by Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday.
While their leaders meet, senior US and Afghan officials are also due to hold separate talks on cooperating over a range of issues, including agriculture and training of the Afghan army and police.

Afghanistan dissolves 172 NGOs for misconduct

Afghanistan's government, facing international pressure to wipe out corruption, said Tuesday it had dissolved 152 Afghan and 20 international aid organisations, some for misconduct.The economy ministry said licences for the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were cancelled for three reasons -- some at their own request, some because they were unable to secure funds and some for unspecified "misconduct"."After a professional and legal investigation and examination, a decision was made that 152 domestic and 20 foreign NGOs be dissolved," the ministry said in a statement.The Filtration and Dissolution Commission, headed by economics minister Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal, was set up by President Hamid Karzai to assess the conduct of almost 1,500 aid organisations operating in Afghanistan.Karzai is currently on a state visit to the United States aimed at mending fences following a series of high-profile outbursts by both sides.Despite promising to deal with endemic corruption when he took office for five more years in November, Karzai is widely considered to have taken little action other than blaming donor nations for lax supervision of pledged aid.Tens of billions of dollars in foreign aid has poured into Afghanistan since the US invasion to rid the country of the Taliban regime in 2001, yet much of it has disappeared into private pockets with little trace.While Karzai's Washington visit is meant to return relations to an even footing, pressure for him to act tough on graft is unlikely to ease as Western public support on engagement in the country continues to fall.The United States and NATO have 130,000 troops in the country keeping Karzai in power in the face of a Taliban-led insurgency, with another 20,000 on the way by August.Dealing with ineffective aid groups is seen as one way of removing potential thorns."Some requested dissolution, some failed to present their bi-annual work reports to relevant authorities over the past two years and some were found to have engaged in activities contrary to what they pledged in their mandate," Sediq Amarkhil finance ministry spokesman told AFP.Some 1,224 domestic and 301 foreign NGOs are still registered with the ministry, operating in a various sectors.This is not the first time the Afghan government has dissolved aid organisations -- last year the commission cancelled the operating licences of 255 domestic and 13 foreign NGOs.Aid groups play a significant role in delivery of key and vital services both on humanitarian grounds, and strengthening the leadership and legitimacy of the government.They provide invaluable assistance to Afghanistan in addressing problems of poverty and inequity in a fragile, post-conflict environment.

College Education: Worst-Paying College Degrees

There's no denying the value of a college education: According to recent U.S. Census surveys, the median salary for college grads is more than $20,000 higher than that of people with only a high school diploma. And the unemployment rate for people with bachelor's degrees is almost half the rate for people without.
But some degrees are worth more than others, as PayScale.com shows in its 2010 report on the earning power of bachelor's degrees.
No surprise, engineering degrees continue to be top earners--and (also no big shocker) you have to go pretty far down the list before you see the liberal arts well represented.
But there's more to choosing a major than comparing dollar amounts. We salute and congratulate the graduates whose interests (and hard work) have led them to the following degrees--the lowest-earning degrees on PayScale's list.

10. Drama (starting annual salary: $35,600; mid-career annual salary: $56,600)
Some mega-millionaire movie stars with drama degrees (Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep, for instance) may be skewing these numbers upward--for every Denzel and Meryl, there are thousands of thespians struggling to make ends meet. But you don't study drama because you want to get rich--you study drama because you love the theater. (And an ability to act comes in handy in many professions.)

9. Fine arts (starting annual salary: $35,800; mid-career annual salary: $56,300)
Well, it takes an artist to make a thrift-store wardrobe look like a million bucks.

8. Hospitality and tourism (starting annual salary: $37,000; mid-career annual salary: $54,300)
Jobs that include tips may be skewing these numbers downward--and this is an industry that looks to be on the rebound as the economy improves. Plus, the perks associated with jobs in hospitality and tourism may compensate for the comparatively low salaries--many jobs in the industry allow extensive travel (or provide considerable travel discounts).

7. Education (starting annual salary: $36,200; mid-career annual salary: $54,100)
For the right people, teaching is an immensely rewarding career--and it's truly a noble one. The good news is, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment opportunities for primary, secondary, and special education teachers are expected to grow by 14 percent in the coming decade. And there will be plenty of new opportunities in continuing education for adults, as professional skill requirements change ever more rapidly.

6. Horticulture (starting annual salary: $37,200; mid-career annual salary: $53,400)
It seems that a green thumb doesn't necessarily bring in the greenbacks. But when you work among flowers and plants in a nursery or garden, who needs 'em?

5. Spanish (starting annual salary: $35,600; mid-career annual salary: $52,600)
As an old proverb puts it, when you learn a new language, you "gain a new soul." Who could put a price on that? And certainly, knowing Spanish--the language with the second-highest number of native speakers (after Mandarin)--in addition to English opens up a world of job opportunities beyond Spanish teacher or translator (as a plus, you can better enjoy a world of fantastic Spanish-language music, movies, and literature).

4. Music (starting annual salary: $34,000; mid-career annual salary: $52,000)
Hey, if being a musician were easy, everyone would do it. Some of us are guitar heroes; most of us just play the video game.

3. Theology (starting annual salary: $34,800; mid-career annual salary: $51,500)
This is the perfect example of a degree earned by someone who's "not in it for the money": people who choose to study theology often feel they're pursuing a higher calling (and often feel a strong desire to do good in the world, no matter the cost).

2. Elementary education (starting annual salary: $33,000; mid-career annual salary: $42,400)
Specializing in elementary education means a lower median salary than an education degree (number 7).

1. Social work (starting annual salary: $33,400; mid-career annual salary: $41,600)
They say that crime doesn't pay. As this list seems to point out, neither does helping people. So it's a good thing that many college students seem to believe that helping others is its own reward--social workers are an indispensable safety net for people who've fallen on difficult times. And the BLS reports that the outlook for opportunities in this field are favorable--particularly for social workers who work in rural areas or with senior citizens.

(Source: PayScale salary survey. Methodology: Annual pay is for bachelor's graduates without higher degrees. Typical starting salaries are for graduates with two years of experience; mid-career salaries are for graduates with 15 years of experience. PayScale also provides salary information by college; for more information, check out PayScale's Best Colleges Report.)

An abandoned citizenry

For how long has the citizenry to live in this pathetic plight, abandoned, neglected and forgotten by the elites of every hue and stripe and of every brand and type? Or is it fated to subsist like this miserably on their empty slogans and unfulfilled promises and on their patent hypocrisy, deceptive talk and bunk rhetoric? Is there no respite in store for it? Are its hardships only to multiply? Is hope never to visit it? Is despair to keep it swamped? Have despondency, gloom and disappointment become its eternal lot? Outrageously, the prime minister says the people’s grievances had gone untackled so far as there was no system in place and that has now come about with the 18th Amendment? What? Were we a polity without a system or a law or a constitution until this amendment came in? Were we a people living in a jungle or in caves, with no rules or regulations to order our lives? What kind of a filthy excuse indeed is this that the prime minister has coined up so crudely to explain away his government’s abject stark disinterest in coming to grips with the citizens’ painful problems while remaining engrossed completely in the elitist power games and political plays? After all, what divine edict was it that forbade him from thinking about the people’s woes and going about addressing them? Can he cite even a single legal or constitutional restriction, prohibiting him from trying to liberate the citizens from the stranglehold of skyrocketing cost of living, dancing joblessness and waltzing poverty, squalor and disease? What costs him becoming truthful even now, confessing his sin that he had been really forgetful of the citizenry so far, and vowing to change and give some thought and some effort to their doleful plight’s alleviation somewhat? And had it to come to the knowledge of that provincial leader of Punjab, assuming the airs of a national leader in status no lesser than this nation’s founding fathers, Mian Nawaz Sharif only after having the constitutional restriction on the third prime ministerial term scrapped that the people are in a dire state calling for some urgent relief or respite? But who has asked him to hit the street if the government fails to rescue the distressed people from their biting adversity? No threats or ultimatums they want from him. They want to hear from him of concrete plans, schemes and ideas, if any, he has in his mind to tackle their woes. Enough of hypocritical talk they have had from him over these months. No stomach they have now to take any more of this puerility from him or any of the grandees swaggering on the national landscape so affectedly. The people’s patience has just run out with the gaggle of imposters and pretenders sitting on their necks posing as their leaders, which they are not. The people’s alienation with them is total; their disgust with them is complete. Indeed, never ever had been the disconnect between the elites and the people so stark and so yawning as is it now. The street also knows what kind of chicaners and how fake these imposters are. The people know all about their booming businesses abroad, about their flourishing industrial enterprises in foreign lands, about the five-star hotels they are constructing in world tourist resorts, about their palaces and chateaus they have bought overseas, and the hefty slush moolah they keep stashed in mounds in their foreign bank accounts. They may be thinking that the people know not of this. But the street knows it all, from end to end. These imposters may not even know that a popular perception is gaining wide currency that these charlatans have no real stake in the country. And come a crunch, they would be the first to leave the country without even looking back. But if the people’s estrangement with these pretentious grandees is so pronounced and glaring, their own ignorance of the people’s travails and distresses is just stunning. Not even the foggiest idea they have about what the grueling times the people are presently going through. While they eat well, live well, sleep well, hunger, starvation and want is mowing down the people in multitudes day in and day out. And they wouldn’t even know that while they feed gluttonously, numerous mothers starve and their children sleep hungry every night. But why are the people taking all this lying down? They must stand up stoutly and defiantly and put these imposters on notice either to deliver or just leave. The people are no slaves of any Zardaris, Gilanis, Mians, Chaudhrys or the clans of their ilk. They must demand; and get their demands. Whoever fails them, they must kick him out without even batting an eyelid.

Missile barrage kills 14 in Pakistan tribal area

PARACHINAR, Pakistan – Up to 18 American missiles slammed into a Taliban sanctuary in Pakistan close to the Afghan border Tuesday, killing 14 alleged insurgents in the third such strike since a failed car bombing in New York drew fresh attention to the region, officials said.Meanwhile, Pakistan's foreign minister said the nation's ties with the U.S. have not suffered as a result of the bombing plot, which Washington has linked to militants with bases in the lawless border regions.The number of missiles fired into North Waziristan was unusually high, reflecting multiple targets.
They struck cars, homes and tents across a wide area in the Doga area, where insurgents have hideouts and training facilities, two intelligence officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. The identities of the people killed in the attack were not immediately known.North Waziristan has been the target of nearly all of about 30 other American attacks this year. In recent months, it has become a new haven for militants who fled a Pakistani army offensive in their previous stronghold, neighboring South Waziristan.The strike Tuesday was the third since Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad was arrested after allegedly abandoning a bomb-laden SUV in Times Square. He has reportedly told investigators that he received training in Waziristan and U.S. officials have said evidence showed the Pakistani Taliban played a role in the plot.Pakistan officially protests the missile strikes on its territory as violations of its sovereignty, but it is believed to aid them. The U.S. rarely discusses the unmanned-drone-fired strikes, which are part of a covert CIA program.U.S. claims that the Pakistani Taliban were behind the May 1 failed car bombing in Times Square add pressure on Pakistan's government to launch an army attack on the militant sanctuaries of North Waziristan, but few expect its stretched army to rush into any operation there.
New calls from Washington could backfire because they would create the impression the force was acting on the orders of America — a perception that would undercut the public support needed for such an operation to be successful.Aside from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's warning over the weekend of "severe consequences" if an attack on U.S. soil is traced back to Pakistan, most U.S. officials have been careful not to criticize Pakistan in their public comments since Pakistan-American Faisal Shahzad was arrested soon after the terror attempt in New York.Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said relations between the two countries remained sound.
"There's nothing to worry (about), our relationship is smooth and it is moving toward a partnership," he said.
America is limited in what it can do to tackle the threat coming from Pakistan's tribal regions.It is seen as highly unlikely that nuclear-armed Pakistan would ever allow American troops to operate there, meaning Washington must try to work through the Pakistani army, which has received billions of dollars in U.S. aid since 2001.
The Pakistani Taliban, which have previously not conducted attacks on U.S. soil, have been the target of several Pakistani army offensives over the last two years in addition to being battered by scores of American missile strikes. They are allied to al-Qaida, which has also found sanctuary in the northwest, and the Afghan Taliban just across the border.The army has not moved into North Waziristan in part because powerful insurgent commanders there have generally not attacked targets in Pakistan. In recent months, however, fleeing fighters and commanders from the Pakistani Taliban — which have launched scores of bloody suicide attacks around the country since 2007 — have moved there.