Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bhutto was hanged in haste: Attorney General

The Attorney General of Pakistan said on Wednesday that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged after a rushed decision and that the Supreme Court needs to re-examine his murder trial, DawnNews reported.

The attorney general said that a sentence cannot be implemented within seven days of the issuance of a black warrant, however, in Bhutto’s case, he was hanged within 12 hours of the warrant being issued against him.

An eleven-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is hearing the Bhutto reference case.

The hearing of the case has been adjourned until July and the date will be announced depending on the availability of the bench.

Rights violations worsen in Balochistan: HRCP

Human rights violations in Pakistan’s southwest province of Balochistan are getting worse as militants and security forces target civilians, while authorities seem unwilling to rein in lawlessness, according to a report released on Wednesday.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), an independent non-governmental organisation, said in its report that lawlessness in the province had proliferated at an alarming rate with a growing numbers of targeted killings, kidnappings, enforced disappearances and attacks on religious minorities.

For decades, Balochistan has been facing a low-level insurgency by nationalists who want more control over the province’s natural resources, which they say are unfairly exploited by the federal government.

Zohra Yusuf, HRCP chairwoman, said at least 140 mutilated bodies of people gone missing had been found in the past year.

“A very dangerous trend has emerged that those who disappeared were now found dead on roadsides. The bodies have torture marks,” she told a news conference at an Islamabad hotel.

HRCP report says 143 people have gone missing since 2009 but Yusuf said the number could be much higher because the commission reported only those cases which it could verify.

There was evidence to substantiate families’ claims that victims were kidnapped by security forces or had been killed while in custody, she added.

Yusuf said insurgents and religious extremists were also involved in killings of ethnic and religious minorities.

Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest and poorest province, borders Afghanistan and Iran, and has large mineral reserves, including oil, gas, copper and gold.

Due to the continued violence and insecurity, most foreign and local investors avoid investing money in Balochistan, which hinders its development.

Yusuf warned that the insurgency could flare up if the government continued to fail to implement a political solution to the Baluchistan situation.

“The Baluchistan government seems non-existent,” she said.

“They have surrendered their authority to security forces and they (forces) are calling the shots,” she said.

Nawaz League has failed in Punjab

Opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly Raja Riaz Ahmed on Tuesday said the the Nawaz League had utterly failed in Punjab and soon its so-called popularity graph would descend further.

“The party (PML-N) leadership ran amok for lust of power and time is not off when they will be out of power even from the Punjab province,” he said while talking to reporters outside the Punjab Assembly.

Riaz regretted that “unscrupulous elements” were bent to “finish” the Punjab Assembly but he announced they would foil any such move with the support of masses. He said PPP was a popular party and its leaders by sacrificing their lives had made it invincible.

Riaz said that the Peoples Party had emerged as a single majority party in the AJK polls and hoped it would form a government independently. However, he said other political parties would also be invited to join the government as coalition partner.

While answering a question, he said the MQM was their allied party they would soon reconcile with it for the sake of democracy in the country.

“MQM people are good they will surely return to alliance,” Riaz said.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa:Sleepless nights in resource-rich province
By-Sadia Qasim Shah
People are spending sleepless nights and living under a constant misery due to excessive power breakdowns. Looking at how things are, those responsible seem to be just some sadists. Indeed, these are hard times for a common man.

All the government has been doing in the recent years is to move clocks one hour forward to save power in an effort to cheat the reality of record loadshedding with no cogent plan to solve the problem.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, excessive power outages have affected everyone`s life. People of the urban areas are suffering frequent and unannounced power breakdowns while in rural areas people have to put up without electricity most of the time. Those seem to be reliving times when electricity was not provided; life was peaceful then, we hear from the aged ones.

One wonders why the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province rich with hydel, natural gas and mineral resources is so poor when it comes to facilities derived from these resources.

But why would those having a facility think about the have-nots. The lucky ones don`t need to worry about loadshedding as they have resources to manage heavy-duty generators. The VIPs or those who are just very important persons because they have been elected by people or assigned duty to serve the public and the country are enjoying double power connections. If one power-line goes off the other is turned on.

In this darkness, there are some rays of hope. The Peshawar High Court is hearing a suo motu case against excessive power outages by the Peshawar Electric Supply Company (Pesco). Now one is not sure whether the case would continue to be heard during the entire summer and make any difference in the lives of the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but at least it questioned the power utility and the relevant bodies about the hike in power tariffs, distribution system and excessive and discriminatory loadshedding hours in urban and rural areas.

The PHC also asked about their failure to meet the requirement of 1.7 million electricity consumers of the province, which is generating at least 3,600 MW hydel power against its consumption of 1,700 MW. Interestingly, around 17 per cent of the total generated electricity has been assigned to the Pesco under the government`s approved policy.

The ongoing court case has raised some serious questions based on latest facts and figures about the province`s capacity to produce hydel power and the little share it is receiving.

Another positive move to safeguard the public interest was initiated by the Human Rights Commission of South Asia by filing public interest litigation against the power tariff increase by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) for Pesco consumers. One very pertinent point it has raised is that the Nepra should provide the due share of power to the Pesco consumers and end loadshedding before increasing the tariff.

The commission has also questioned the imposition of fuel adjustment charges on the province, which is producing hydel power with the lowest rate of Rs1.01 per unit for the Central Power Purchase Agency (CPPA) and buying the same back at an average rate of almost Rs10 per unit from the Pesco.

The commission has contended that since there is no thermal generation or IPP unit in the province, therefore, imposition of fuel adjustment charges on the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is unjust and unconstitutional.

Whether judiciary would get the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa some justice and alleviate the troubles related to excessive power outages? Hope is after all what keeps you going in tough times.

Entire world's eyes fixed on Bhutto reference case: CJ

Attorney General arguing in the presidential reference on revisiting Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) murder case said that the executions normally carried out during 7 to 21 days of death warrant, while in the case of Bhutto it was hastily done.

The chief justice advised AG to present the constitutional and legal rationales and refrain from repeating the arguments of Babar Awan representing the federation.

Supreme Court eleven-member bench headed by the Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was hearing the case this morning here.

Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Huque in his arguments further said that the Lahore High Court acted as the trial court in Bhutto case brazenly negating the court orders.

Chief Justice in his remarks said that the presidential reference relates to an international personality’s case on which the entire world’s eyes were fixed on it and added that the court would answer only those questions raised in the reference.

Entire world's eyes fixed on Bhutto reference case: CJ

China rolls out red carpet for Sudan president

China rolled out the red carpet Wednesday for a state visit by Sudan's president, who is wanted on an international warrant that accuses him of war crimes.
President Omar al-Bashir was visiting China, a major trading partner and investor in his country, just days before southern Sudan becomes independent and with the warrant from the International Criminal Court hanging over his head.
Al-Bashir was greeted by President Hu Jintao at the Great Hall of the People and given an honor guard reception.
Hu said he was very happy to see al-Bashir in Beijing.
"I believe that this visit will definitely have great significance for the consolidation and development of traditionally friendly relations between China and Sudan," Hu said. "I am willing to have thorough exchanges with you on our developing relations and other shared issues."
Al-Bashir thanked his hosts for his "warm welcome and treatment."
Their talks are expected to focus on challenges in the African nation ahead of south Sudan's independence July 9.
Violence has escalated in areas contested by the north and soon-to-be-independent south, and China has said its wants both sides to peacefully settle the disputes.
South Sudan's declaration of independence next month will be the culmination of a 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of civil war that killed more than 2 million people.
The violence also resulted in the war crimes charges against al-Bashir, the first against a sitting head of state until similar charges this week against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who is accused him of crimes against humanity for killing civilians who rose up against his rule.
China is not a member of the court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, and has said the charges accusing al-Bashir of orchestrating atrocities in Sudan's Darfur could cause further instability in the region.
China has major oil investments in Sudan and has long had close ties with the leaders of the north. It has been courting support in the oil-producing south.
Several agreements are expected to be signed while al-Bashir is in Beijing. The China National Petroleum Corp., which signed a 20-year, multibillion-dollar development deal with Sudan in June 2007, signed an agreement Tuesday with the Sudan government to boost cooperation. A company statement did not give details.
Al-Bashir's arrival in China was delayed a day after still not fully explained confusion over a flight plan.
Sudan's Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the official Sudan News Agency that al-Bashir's plane had been instructed to change its route while flying over Turkmenistan but was unable to do so, and instead returned to Tehran.

Polo played for first time in Swat

Polo was introduced in Swat valley during the ‘Spirit of Swat Festival’ being held in collaboration with the Provincial Reconstruction, Rehabilitation & Settlement Authority (PaRRSA) and the United Nations Development Programme.

The Swat Green team won the trophy by defeating the Swat Red team at the Kabal Ground. It was the first time that polo was played in Swat and a match was held. The initial round of the match ended in a draw as both teams scored a goal each. The Swat Green played well subsequently, made some smart moves and scored three consecutive goals to win the match.

Commissioner Malakand Fakhar-e-Alam and Brigadier (R) Kamal Zaib were the chief guests on the occasion. Captain Adil and Col Khalid of the Swat Green were the scorers with three and two goals, respectively.

Talking to reporters, the commissioner admired the event and the players and said the successful holding of the polo match was reflective of restoration of peace in the area. He thanked the organisers and spectators who thronged the venue. Later, prizes were distributed among players.

Pakistan says stop “blame game” at US, Afghan talks

Pakistan on Tuesday called for the “blame game” to stop as the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan met to discuss security in the region amid a Taliban insurgency and heightened tensions over cross border shelling.

President Hamid Karzai has condemned the firing of 470 rockets from Pakistan into Afghanistan over the past three weeks. Islamabad says only that “a few accidental rounds” may have crossed the border when it pursued militants who had attacked its security forces.

The escalation of fighting on the border between Pakistan’s ethnic Pashtun tribal areas and Afghanistan has underscored the difficulties the three countries face in working together to reach a political settlement to the 10-year Afghan war.

“We need to end this blame-game,” Salman Bashir, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, told a news conference after a meeting of three countries in Kabul, without making any specific reference to border shelling.

“We need to take ownership for our own affairs, this problem will not go away if we keep on pointing finger at each other, we have done it for too long and I think it is time that our two great nations decide.”

Afghanistan has often blamed elements within the Pakistan government for supporting the Taliban insurgency.

Pakistan blames Afghanistan for giving refuge to militants on its side of the border, particularly in eastern Kunar province, leaving it vulnerable to counter-attack when it chases them out of its own tribal areas.

The talks were formally aimed at mapping out plans for reconciliation with the Taliban, but the shelling had been expected to dominate the agenda.

The meeting, between US envoy Marc Grossman and top diplomats from Afghanistan and Pakistan, followed President Barack Obama’s announcement last week of a faster-than-expected troop withdrawal, accompanied by talks with the Taliban.

Top military commanders of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States met in Kabul on Monday to review the situation on the border, a Pakistan army statement said.

Pakistan, badly bruised after US forces found and killed Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad on May 2, is keen to show it has a constructive role to play in helping the United States to bring stability to Afghanistan.

It has long wanted the United States to hold talks with the Taliban to seek a political settlement to the Afghan conflict which it says is fuelling its own domestic religious insurgency.

The United States has come some way towards sharing that view, opening its own preliminary talks with the Taliban.

Karzai has also been pushing for reconciliation with the Taliban and for the first time in the 10-year war, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States all share — in theory at least — a commitment to seek a political settlement.

Attack on hotel in Kabul ends with deaths of 7 Taliban, 11 others

Seven Taliban attacked Kabul's Hotel Inter-Continental in a brazen, carefully orchestrated operation that began Tuesday night and continued into Wednesday, ending with their deaths and those of 11 other people some six hours after it began, police said.
"We are still searching the hotel; the death number may increase," said Chief of Criminal Investigations Mohammad Zahir on Wednesday morning. Twelve people were wounded or injured, he added.
"The situation is secure," Interior Minister Bismullah Khan said. By then, the top floor of the hotel was ablaze, but within a couple of hours, the flames were gone, though smoke continued to rise from the wreckage.
Two security personnel were killed in the attack, he said.
By dawn, security forces were allowing reporters to approach the hotel, and some guests were seen departing.Saiz Ahmed, a U.S. citizen in Kabul for a Ph.D. project, was among them. "I'm sure none of us thought we were going to make it," he said after having stayed on the floor of his darkened bedroom for more than five hours listening to gunfire and occasional bomb blasts. "I wrote my little will -- just in case."
The Taliban penetrated the hotel's typically heavy security in the attack, and one of them detonated an explosion on the second floor, said Erin Cunningham, a journalist for The Daily in Kabul.
Rocket-propelled grenades were launched from the roof of the hotel toward the first vice president's house. A few moments later, the hotel was rocked by three explosions, one of which knocked her off her feet, Cunningham said. U.S. forces were on the scene, she added.
At about 2 a.m., four hours after the attack began, International Security Assistance Force helicopters fired at insurgents on the roof, killing as many as three of the gunmen, ISAF spokesman Maj. Tim James told CNN.
An hour later, ISAF said the Afghan security forces had cleared the roof and were clearing the rest of the hotel.
At 4 a.m., police believed that all the attackers were dead, "but one was alive and hidden, and he started to resist" and continued to do so until 6:20 a.m., Zahir said.
Kabul hotel guest describes attack Taliban claims Kabul hotel attack
Operates primarily in Afghanistan, Pakistan since 1994

Imposed strict Islamic laws, particularly on women, in Afghanistan

Controlled Afghan government from 1996-2001 until overthrow by U.S. forces

Led by Mullah Mohammed Omar

Mullah Omar and senior Taliban leaders believed to be living in Quetta
The Taliban
At least one of the attackers detonated his explosives, said Afghan Lt. Gen. Mohammad Ayoub Salangi, the city's chief of police.
A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabiullah Mujahid, said in an e-mail that the suicide attackers entered the hotel after killing the security guards at the entrance.
"One of the suicide attackers told us on the phone that they are in the lobby and chasing guests into their rooms by smashing the doors of the rooms," Mujahid told CNN in an e-mail he sent as the incident was unfolding.
There were no indications that U.S. military or diplomatic personnel were at the hotel, U.S. officials told CNN.
The Inter-Continental is popular among international guests. A news conference had been scheduled to take place there Wednesday to discuss the planned transition of security from international to Afghan forces that U.S. President Barack Obama announced last week. Obama was briefed on the attack while en route back to Washington from Iowa, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
Members of the Afghan National Security Forces were on the scene, but the city police had the lead, ISAF Maj. Jason Waggoner said in a statement. Waggoner said ISAF forces provided "some limited assistance."
Electricity around the hotel was shut off, said Jerome Starkey, a reporter for The Times.
The United States condemned the attack on the hotel, with State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland saying it "once again demonstrates the terrorists' complete disregard for human life."
The hotel was developed by the InterContinental Hotels Group and opened in 1969. But it has had no association with the group since the Soviet invasion in 1979, though it continues to use the name and logo without connection to the parent company.
The incident came on the same day that Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell announced that NATO and other members of the international community involved in Afghanistan have decided to increase the number of security forces in the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police to 352,000.
The current number of Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police is about 300,000, the commander of the NATO training mission in Afghanistan and commanding general of the Combined Security Transition Command told the Atlanta Press Club.
The increased number will be sufficient to give the Afghans security without coalition forces having to do it, he said.
Tuesday's attack recalls a November 2008 assault on luxury hotels in Mumbai, India, which left more than 160 dead, including nine of the 10 gunmen who launched the attacks.
Officials said the gunmen targeted the Oberoi and the Taj Mahal hotels for their popularity with international travelers and tourists. The Taj Mahal was set afire.
The three-day stand-off between gunmen and police ended with the capture of Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the only surviving gunman. Kasab was sentenced to death in 2010 and is awaiting an appeal of the decision to the Supreme Court in New Delhi. India says Kasab has told investigators that he and the others were trained for more than a year in Pakistan by Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, a banned Islamic militant group.