Friday, July 1, 2011

AJK High Court returns PML-N petition

Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) High Court has returned the petition, filed by the PML-N against rigging and postponement of polls in the AJK Legislative Assembly elections, after putting reservations on it, Geo News reported.

The petition filed by PML-N lawyer Raja Sadaqat stated that rigging took place at three AJK legislative assembly seats and candidates who won these seats should be stopped from taking oath.

The petition also stated that elections on seats where polls were postponed be conducted only after new voter lists were prepared. The petition was heard by a full bench which ruled that the petition be filed again after it is amended. The full bench was of the opinion that the election tribunal should be approached.

Meanwhile the petition, seeking to cancellation re-polling in LA-17 has been dismissed. The AJK High Court also heard the petition filed by Qayum Niazi against re-polling in LA-17. The court ruled that re-polling should be conducted according to schedule.

French President Sarkozy involved in scuffle during handshake tour

Michelle Obama hits Hub to raise funds

First lady Michelle Obama

visited Boston and Vermont yesterday, as she and President Obama made a final dash for cash before the close of a fund-raising quarter that will provide the first relative measure of the strength of the 2012 White House contenders.
Republican front-runner Mitt Romney, making his second bid for the presidency, posted an early marker Tuesday when his staff announced he expected to raise $15 million to $20 million.

The first lady’s stops yesterday were expected to raise more than $1.2 million for the Democratic National Committee, whose primary focus now is ensuring the president’s reelection. The president had his own fund-raising trip to Philadelphia.

Final reports for the quarter are due in the middle of July.

Michelle Obama’s visit to the Chestnut Hill home of philanthropists Elaine and Gerald Schuster, the fifth such stop on a fund-raising tour that started in May, provided her with the opportunity to to make her financial pitch in very frank and personal terms.

She told an audience of about 120, which included Governor Deval Patrick but was mostly women, about her transformation as a political wife, as well as the toll the presidency takes on her husband each day.

“I see the worry creasing his face. I hear the passion and determination in his voice. ‘You won’t believe what these folks are going through.’ He told me that last night. ‘Michelle, it is not right. We’ve got to fix this. We have to do more,’ ’’ she said.

Yet as her husband did a day earlier during a news conference, Obama urged patience as the administration works to help the country emerge from a recession.

“Barack always reminds me that we are playing a long game,’’ she said. “He reminds me, as I said to you, too, that change is slow. He reminds me that change doesn’t happen all at once, but that if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, doing what we know is right, then eventually we will get there.’’

Similarly, Obama echoed her husband as she evoked the image of their two young daughters, Malia and Sasha, in trying to stir Democratic supporters.

“The truth is that no matter what happens, my girls will be OK,’’ she said. “My girls will have plenty of advantages and opportunities in their lives. And that’s probably true for many of your kids as well.

“But I think that the last four years have shown us the truth of what Barack has always said: That if any child in this country is left behind, then that matters to all of us, even if she’s not our daughter, and even if he’s not our son. If any family in this country struggles, then we cannot be fully content with our own family’s good fortune, because that is not what we do in this country,’’ she said.

In opening her remarks, Obama also described how campaigning in 2008 helped her overcome her fears about her husband running for president.

“I was proud of the work that he was doing in the Senate. And I thought that he would make a phenomenal president. That wasn’t the issue,’’ she said. “But, like a lot of folks, I still had some cynicism about politics. And with two young daughters at home, I was worried about the toll that a presidential campaign would take on our family.

“So it took some convincing on Barack’s part. And by ‘some,’ I mean a lot; he’s still paying back,’’ she said.

Obama said she warmed to the decision as she began campaigning in backyards in Iowa and New Hampshire.

“It’s about meeting people one-on-one, hearing what’s going on in their lives,’’ she said.

Besides the governor, those in the audience included Diane Patrick, Attorney General Martha Coakley, and former Boston television anchor Liz Walker.

After leaving Boston, Obama flew to Burlington, Vt., for an event recognizing the military and the family sacrifices endured by the armed forces, and two fund-raisers.

They were organized by Jane Stetson, a Vermont resident who is national finance chairwoman for DNC.

Pakistan:‘Torture in state custody on the rise’

There is a need to bring about a change in attitudes, frame laws and implant them effectively to check the increasing violence in Pakistani society, said speakers at a seminar held here on Thursday.

Addressing the seminar, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) secretary general IA Rehman said that torture in state custody was on the rise in different shapes, including extrajudicial killings and disappearances, violating local and internationally-ratified laws.

The seminar -- “Fight against Torture in Custody” -- was arranged by Initiative for Peace and Freedom (IPF), a non-government organization working on peace and freedom, in collaboration with the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), a Hong Kong-based human rights group. It was held at the HRCP auditorium.

The seminar was addressed and participated by lawyers, human rights activists, journalists. Speakers demanded the government make laws according to the UN Convention Against Torture and implement the laws in letter and spirit to check the increase in trends of violence by the state and non-state actors.

Immediately after signing the UN convention, the Pakistani government had shown its reservations on almost all important articles of the CAT, which provided protection against torture by state. The reservations are coming from Pakistan at a moment when the head of the state, President Asif Ali Zardari, himself has said that he has been tortured in the state custody as a political prisoner.

The main source of torture in Pakistan, in particular, and in South Asia, in general, is the physical remand in custody, HRCP reports. According to the law, a judge or magistrate who allows remand and police custody has to ask the accused whether he or she has been subject to torture but this practice is generally not followed.

I A Rehman said that the judicial remand of accused persons in Pakistan had become a joke, adding that accused persons were tortured against the law for forced confessions.

Highlighting the misuse and abuse of laws against torture in Pakistan, he said the state tortures further gave justification to private torture. “Resultantly, the society is becoming more violent and intolerant,” he said, and added that studies and reports showed that the incidents of Karo-Kari were on the rise in Pakistan. He said the gun had taken over discourse and dialogue. There is no remedy to extrajudicial killings despite the ratification of UN CAT, he said. Only a few are sentenced on violating law and torturing and killing people in custody, he claimed.

He urged the Pakistani government and state authorities to frame laws and make rules in line with the CAT after its ratification in 2010. “We need to make rules and create forums which the convention demands.” He said that non-state violence in the name of religions, culture and social customs was adding to the miseries of citizens. The state torture and organized non-state violence always affected the society negatively. He said the use of gun and ammunition was also becoming a common resort of torture in Pakistan.

Not to condemn the torture is also an indirect approval of torture, he said, demanding of the government to take the Convention Against Torture seriously. In Pakistan, he maintained, there are many laws and conventions which are not being implemented.

Husain Naqi, a journalist and activist, said that the reservations of Pakistan against CAT after its ratification were raising serious concern in the international community and the UN circles. The Pakistani parliament had also not been taken into confidence on the CAT and its reservations. He said though Pakistan had taken back some reservations but still the main points were to be addressed.

Journalist and activist Wajahat Masood said that incidents like killing of a boy by Pakistan Rangers in Karachi and brutal firing and killing of five foreigners in Kharotabad, Quetta, reflected the rise in torture by the state even before taking the people into custody and formally accusing them of any crime.

Hindko primer published, handed to KP Textbook Board

An elementary textbook for teaching Hindko language to children has been published and handed over to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Textbook Board.

According to a press release, the book has been prepared by a noted Hindko writer, poet, linguist and research scholar of international repute, Prof Dr Elahi Bakhsh Awan, who hails from Peshawar and has been living in England for the last 20 years.

The writer, who has done his doctorate from the University of London on the Hindko Phonology and has 35 books and publications to his credit, has explained various aspects of the language for the elementary learners in the 40-page primer, published by a literary, cultural and social welfare organisation, Gandhara Hindko Board.

The board has published 36 books so far including two Hindko dictionaries and versified translation of the holy Quran. It seeks preservation and promotion of the Hindko, which is sixth main regional language of the country and second widely spoken language of the KP.

The primer comprises a total of nine lessons. All the 50 alphabets of the Hindko language have been explained with great ease to the basic learners of the language with the help of colourful illustrations.

The lesson about the counting is interesting as image tool used for the learning is quite simple and selected carefully keeping in view the interest of the children. The national anthem has been preceded by a poem about Hindko language composed by a Hindko poet from Zarobi area of Swabi district, Sultan Fareedi.

The preface to the book has been written by a noted Hindko researcher and General Secretary of the Gandhara Hindko Board, Mohammad Ziauddin, who has termed the publication a pain-taking and laudable effort by the author.

The provincial government plans to introduce teaching of various native languages at both public and private sector schools. Hindko language is spoken in seven out of 25 districts of the KP — Peshawar, Nowshera, Swabi, Kohat, Haripur, Abbottabad and Mansehra. Under the proposed mother tongue teaching plan, Hindko language would be taught in seven districts to the children whose mother language is Hindko.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Textbook Board is to ensure publication of books of five languages — Pashto, Hindko, Seraiki, Khowar and Kohistani — before introducing the new plan of mother language teaching at educational institutions.
Hindko (ہندکو, [hindkou̯]), also Hindku, or Hinko, is the sixth main regional language of Pakistan. It forms a subgroup of Indo-Aryan languages spoken by Hindkowans in Pakistan and northern India, some Pashtun tribes in Pakistan, as well as by the Hindki people of Afghanistan. Hindko, has also been interpreted to mean the language of India and most probably Indus which of course is the source of etymology for all these words. The word Hindko has also been interpreted to mean the language of India. The term is also found in Greek references to the mountainous region in eastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan as Καύκασος Ινδικός (Caucasus Indicus, or Hindu Kush). The language is spoken in the areas of the North West Frontier Province (including Hazara), Punjab (including Attock), and Pakistan Administered Kashmir.

There is no generic name for these people because they belong to diverse ethnicities and tend to identify themselves by the larger families or castes. However the people of the largest group in the districts of Haripur, Abbottabad and Mansehra are sometimes recognised collectively as Hazarawal, named after the defunct Hazara Division that comprised these districts. In Peshawar city they are called Peshawari or "Kharay" by Pashtuns meaning City-dwellers.

PML-N in completely isolated

Mian Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League is in deep trouble. Its performance during the recent AJK elections has been disappointing. The PML-N also lost a number of by-elections to the PPP in its own home turf, Punjab. The PML-N has little or no representation or a worthwhile presence in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. It hardly exists in the second largest province of the country, Sindh. Even in the Saraiki belt, the party is unlikely to make any noticeable gains in the forthcoming national elections. In a nutshell, the PML-N now stands completely isolated as a central Punjab-centric regional political party.

The Communist Party of China accomplishes three major events in 90 years

The Communist Party of China (CPC), chosen by history and the people, has accomplished three major events since its formation 90 years ago, President Hu Jintao said Friday.
The first is that the CPC, relying on the people, completed the new-democratic revolution, winning national independence and liberation of the people, Hu said at a grand gathering marking the 90th founding anniversary of the CPC.
The second is that the CPC completed the socialist revolution and established the basic socialist system, he said.

The third is that the Party carried out a great new revolution of reform and opening up, creating, upholding, and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics, he said.

"These three major events reshaped the future and destiny of the Chinese people and the Chinese nation," Hu said.

Fresh protests hit Bahrain's capital

Thousands of anti-regime protesters in Bahrain have once again taken to the streets in the capital to protest against the rule of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

Activists said Saudi-backed regime forces fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the protesters near the Pearl Square site in Manama on Thursday, AP reported.

No injuries were immediately reported during the demonstration.

The demonstrators also demanded that all protesters, opposition leaders and activists detained during the deadly crackdown, be released.

On Wednesday similar protest rallies were held in the towns of Al Musalla, Tubli and Sanabi after the king delivered a speech.

During his speech, the monarch pledged to investigate allegations of human rights violations during the protests.

Anti-regime protesters have been holding peaceful demonstrations across Bahrain since mid-February, calling for an end to the Al Khalifa dynasty's rule.

In March, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates deployed military forces to Bahrain to help the government crush the nationwide protests.

Europe Spending Cuts Prompt Street Protests

Demonstrations are taking place in cities across Britain as hundreds of thousands of public sector workers stage the biggest strike in years against pension cuts. On the other side of Europe in Greece, there have been more demonstrations as politicians there vote through the latest round of austerity measures. The spending cuts taking hold in many European countries could hail a summer of protests across the continent.

Europe’s debt crisis is starting to bite - and it’s bringing thousands of people onto the streets.

In Britain, teachers’ and public workers’ unions called a strike Thursday. Thousands of members joined marches against plans to increase the retirement age. Outside Westminster Abbey - where the royal wedding united the country in celebration just 2 months ago - the streets were filled with demonstrators.

“It’s not fair. We can’t be working in that kind of pressurized environment to the age of 68. I’m going to be paying twice the amount that I’m currently paying and I’ll get even less,” said a protester.

“We are not about to roll over. Bankers played dice with our futures, why are we paying for it?," said the other.

“Rather than taking what’s dished out and being like “OK”, and letting the government think that could do more, at least they understand now that people do feel about it and they’re willing to turn up en masse to show people what they think about it,” said another one.

HRCP report on Balochistan

EDITORIAL: Daily Times
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) report titled ‘Balochistan: blinkered slide into chaos’ has come at a time when incidents of brutal violence in Balochistan are happening with an alarming regularity and there is a realisation in the national media that it can no longer bury its head in the sand in the face of this problem that refuses to go away. The HRCP report has highlighted various dimensions of the violence that has Balochistan in its grip, including that perpetrated by the state, insurgents and extremist sectarian elements. According to the HRCP, the common strand among these adversaries is their disregard for human rights, with people getting caught in the crossfire. The issue of missing persons, dumping of tortured bodies of the abducted Baloch nationalists, targeted killing of non-Baloch settlers and sectarian violence against the Shia Hazaras, violence against women and minorities are different layers of aggression that has gripped the province. Although the HRCP report blames the killing of non-Baloch settlers in the province on Baloch insurgents, the issue is highly controversial and far from clear. The nationalists blame the security forces for killing non-Baloch insurgents to malign the Baloch, and the security forces accuse the nationalists or foreign elements. Therefore it is premature to make a conclusive statement. What is undeniable, however, is the discovery of bodies of people who are abducted by the intelligence agencies or other security outfits, tortured, killed and dumped on roadsides or other deserted areas all over Balochistan. Perhaps the most important part of the report is the claim that there is evidence about the missing persons with the relatives of missing persons, which implicates the security forces. HRCP has urged the government to provide security to the witnesses of such incidents. With a credible body like the HRCP claiming evidence of the involvement of security forces in missing persons cases, the myth is exploded that this is being done by outside elements. Talking to a press conference, Supreme Court Bar Association President Asma Jahangir blasted the government for claiming that whatever is going on in Balochistan is the work of a ‘foreign hand’. She challenged the government to present evidence if its claim is true.

Balochistan is a political issue, which the security forces are trying to solve through military means. The control of the province is practically in the hands of the military and paramilitary forces that have completely sidelined the provincial government in the decision making process. The issue has become so complicated that without sweeping changes in the way matters are being handled currently, there can no hope for redress. The HRCP report’s recommendations largely focus on the wayward and unaccountable nature of the security forces in Balochistan, which must be brought under civilian control and dialogue rather than coercion employed to approach this problem. The majority of targeted Baloch are young people, who are victimised for being politically active. It is strange that the government is silently watching the security forces culling all the voices of reason within the Baloch opinion, pushing even moderates to adopt an extremist position. This approach has not worked in the past, nor is it going to do now. If the Balochistan issue is not solved politically, all the predictions of doom will become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

PML-N should take rejection in its stride

Former federal law minister Dr Babar Awan lashed out at Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and said that the party leadership should respect the mandate of the people of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

Addressing a press conference here on Thursday, Awan said “the people of AJK rejected the politics of the Sharif brothers with the power of their votes.”

“The Sharif brothers have deceived all parties four times,” he added.

Awan said the Sharif brothers should stop involving the judiciary into politics since they had been receiving ‘relief’ from courts for 30 years.

“They should be called the ‘relief brothers’,” he quipped.

Awan also predicted a landslide victory for Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in the 2013 elections, “as it has done in the AJK elections.”

How to get Pakistan to break with Islamic militants

By Zalmay Khalilzad

In his Afghanistan speech last week, President Obama said we must “address terrorist safe havens in Pakistan.” He vowed to “press Pakistan to expand its participation in securing a more peaceful future,” “work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism” and “insist that it keep its commitments.”

Missing from the president’s remarks was a strategy on how to induce a Pakistani break with Islamic militants. For the past decade, this shortcoming has hamstrung our efforts in Afghanistan and in the broader struggle against extremism and terrorism.

Even with Osama bin Laden dead, the nexus between the Pakistani state and a syndicate of Islamic extremists remains a threat. Pakistan’s military continues to support the Taliban, the Haqqani network and Hizb-e-Islami against coalition and Afghan forces. The number of Pakistani operatives fighting for the Taliban and other insurgents has increased over the past year, senior Afghan officials say.

Pakistan has not been forthcoming about its motives, but several are plausible. It could be defensively hedging against a strong Afghan government that is close to India, Pakistan’s regional adversary. Islamabad might be concerned that Afghanistan could reduce cross-border water flows by building dams on the Kunar River and attempt to press for concessions on territorial disputes, or that India and Afghanistan might use Afghan territory to support Pakistani groups hostile to the government.

In sustaining the extremist threat, Pakistan may see a way to keep the United States engaged in the region and, therefore, financially supportive of its military and civilian government.

Alternatively, Islamabad could view installing a subordinate regime in Kabul as a first step in an ambitious plan to consolidate regional hegemony in Central Asia. When the city of Herat fell to the Taliban in 1996, the Pakistani former intelligence official Sultan Amir Tarrar — better known as Col. Imam — was helping Taliban forces. He reportedly messaged headquarters: “Today Herat, tomorrow Tashkent.”

The U.S. approach since Sept. 11 has not obliged Pakistan to clarify its intentions. Islamabad continues to deny that it is even aiding insurgents. So having a frank discussion — one that might lead to pragmatic, mutual accommodation — has been impossible. As we draw down our forces in Afghanistan, persuading the Pakistani military to abandon its strategy of supporting extremism and backing Afghan insurgents will become more critical and more difficult. Without Pakistan’s cooperation, the insurgency will continue, but in light of our announced departure, Islamabad will see even less reason to stop sponsoring proxies as it prepares for the post-U.S. struggle in Afghanistan.

Yet a destabilizing outcome is not inevitable. Washington has considerable leverage that it has not used to optimal effect. Pakistan relies on the United States and international organizations to remain solvent; its economy would be on the ropes but for a two-year $7.6 billion International Monetary Fund loan package. Coalition support funds from the United States alone are equal to about 25 percent of Pakistan’s defense budget.

Meanwhile, the expansion of northern routes through Central Asia provides the United States with alternatives to Pakistani supply lines. The drawdown of forces will further reduce Washington’s logistical requirements, giving it greater freedom to launch unilateral operations against terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan.

In the short term, the United States should implement a two-phase strategy to insist on real change in Pakistan’s hostile policies.

To preclude Pakistan from manipulating different departments and senior officials, the Obama administration, as a united front, should offer a stark set of positive and negative inducements. A clear choice will clarify whether Pakistan’s intentions in Afghanistan are principally guided by fear or by ambition.

In exchange for Pakistan playing a constructive role in Afghanistan, the United States should be willing to: support expanded IMF and other multilateral assistance; sustain financial and military aid; and promote a major, multilateral diplomatic effort to mediate disputes among Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. The initial focus must be accepting a reasonable agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan and reconciliation with Pakistan-backed insurgents who accept U.S. red lines, followed by an India-Pakistan peace and normalization process. We should also support multilateral investment in infrastructure projects that would integrate Pakistan in regional commerce.

If positive inducements prove insufficient in securing reliable Pakistani cooperation, the United States should curb military assistance; mobilize coordinated financial pressure against Pakistan through allies and the IMF; and expand military operations against insurgent and terrorist targets in Pakistan.

We should also continue to expand the northern corridor that now transports more than 40 percent of U.S. supplies delivered by land to Afghanistan.

Should Pakistani intransigence persist, the United States will need a long-term strategy that manages the threat from Pakistan and embraces a broad multilateral effort to assist those Pakistanis who seek to transform their country. This would, in part, require the United States to maintain a military presence in Afghanistan to counter the terror threat and assist in preventing the victory of Pakistani proxies in Afghanistan. We would also need to consider accelerating security ties with India as part of a containment regime against Pakistan. Most important, the United States would have to channel bilateral assistance to Pakistan in a way that empowers moderate civil society but reduces support for the military.

There is no guarantee this approach will overcome the ideological and religious allegiances that inspire Pakistani support for the insurgency in Afghanistan. Ultimately, only the Pakistani people and a new generation of civilian leadership can rein in the country’s military leaders.

The writer, a counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, was U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations during the George W. Bush administration.