Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Nawaz Sharif a “pioneer of corruption” in country’s politics.

Opposition Leader in Punjab Assembly, Raja Riaz on Tuesday alleged that PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif could be called a “pioneer of corruption” in country’s politics.
While addressing a news conference at Punjab Assembly cafeteria, Raja said that it would not be wrong to say that Mian Nawaz Sharif was the “most corrupt politician” in the country.
He was accompanied by PPP’s Deputy Parliamentary Leader, Shaukat Mahmood Basra, MPA, Makhdoom Muhammad Irtaza and Zekria Butt.
The opposition leader said that Nawaz Sharif, who started his political carrier in 1980’s along with dictator Zia and corruption, had now become the richest man in country. He wondered how Mian brothers, who initially belonged to a middle class family, became billionaires in a short span of time.
Raja said that Mian Nawaz Sharif should feel ashamed and seek apology from President Asif Ali Zardari after court’s verdict in SGS Cotecna case.
“Some times he (Nawaz Sharif) provokes bureaucracy against the government, and at times he plays judicial card. But PPP will thwart all conspiracies against democracy and democratic institutions”, he remarked, advising Sharifs, whom he called “Moulvis”, to go to some Mosque in Jeddah and give sermons there.
He said it should be a matter of great concern for Sharif brothers that 35 of their legislators did not attend last meeting of the Parliamentary party held at Islamabad.

Sixteen Pakistanis working as slaves in Afghanistan set free

The Afghan government handed over 16 Pakistanis to Pakistani officials after getting them released from private jails in Afghanistan.

The Pakistanis had been smuggled to Afghanistan by human traffickers who sold them as slave labourers.

A human rights activist and chairman of Ansar Burney Welfare Trust, Ansar Burney, told a press conference here on Wednesday that the 16 Pakistanis were smuggled from Qambar area of Sindh and later they were sold to a private party which kept them in its private jails where the victims worked as slaves.

The Inspector General of Frontier Corps, Maj-Gen Obaidullah Khan Khuttak, also attended the press conference.

Mr Burney said that he had established contacts with the Afghan authorities with the help of FC officials and after negotiations the Afghan government agreed to get all 16 Pakistanis released.

Mr Burney said that hundreds of Pakistanis who went to Afghanistan as labourers had been made slaves and were living in miserable conditions in private jails. He said the Frontier Corps had established contracts with Afghan officials and talks were under way for their release as well.

He said that media should take up the issue and expose the people involved in human trafficking.

Fata to have political parties

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani indicated in the National Assembly on Wednesday that the government would extend the Political Parties Act to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) to allow formation of political parties in the troubled region.

But he would not specify the time when this would happen, when responding to a grievance of a government-allied independent lawmaker from the area about two identical presidential regulations enforced in Fata and what is known as Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (Pata) to regulate operations of armed forces there in aid of civil power.

Munir Khan Orakzai had threatened a walkout by the parliamentary group he leads to protest against what he called government’s failure to consult the group before the two regulations were enforced by the end of June.

The prime minister said the regulations were necessitated by continuing terrorist attacks on schools and law-enforcement agencies and invited the group for a meeting with him with an assurance that the government would “look into whatever amendments they suggest”.

“We have also discussed extending the Political Parties Act to Fata,” he said apparently referring to some deliberations held within the government and told the Fata parliamentarians that they would be taken into confidence about that also.

Formation of political parties have never been allowed in the tribal areas from where 12 members of the 342-seat National Assembly and eight members of the 100-seat Senate are elected as independents who can align with any political party
without formally joining it.

Extension of the Political Parties Act to Fata was part of PPP-promised reforms for the region, including repeal of the British-era Frontier Crimes Regulation under which the region is administered by bureaucrats known as political agents, who enjoy some arbitrary powers free from judicial or parliamentary oversight.

The act can be extended to the region by only a presidential order rather than a new act parliament.

Mubarak’s Judgment Day

U.S. is refocused on covert strikes in Pakistan

Los Angeles Times

The U.S. is "doubling down" on its strategy of covert targeted missile strikes in Pakistan in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death, believing that Al Qaeda is susceptible to a decisive blow, a senior Obama administration official said Friday.

"I think there are three to five senior leaders that, if they're removed from the battlefield, would jeopardize Al Qaeda's capacity to regenerate," said Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, who oversees Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy at the National Security Council. He declined to name them, other than Ayman Zawahiri, who succeeded Bin Laden as Al Qaeda's leader last month.

"We've got to take advantage of the fact that, when Bin Laden died, Al Qaeda was in uncharted waters," Lute said. "This is a period of turbulence. …You need to go for the knockout punch."

Lute's comments were an unusually explicit statement of the thinking behind the administration's increased reliance on drones and other forms of remote attacks against Al Qaeda. He avoided specifically referring to drone strikes, which are not officially acknowledged by the government, and instead talked of covert programs in Pakistan. But his meaning was clear.

In a candid assessment, Lute also said the administration had not envisioned that senior Pakistani officials would be much more embarrassed by the U.S. raid to kill Bin Laden in their country without their knowledge than by his presence there.

"We underestimated somewhat the humiliation factor generated by the raid itself," he said.

Lute's remarks in a panel discussion at the Aspen Security Forum came after he was asked to respond to comments Thursday by retired Adm. Dennis C. Blair, who was forced to resign last year as director of national intelligence. Blair, who left after Obama sided with the CIA in a series of policy disputes between that agency and Blair's office, said drone strikes have become counterproductive because they are provoking public outrage in Pakistan and potentially creating new enemies.

Blair said the U.S. should offer Pakistan the chance to "put two hands on the trigger" as a partner in the program — and therefore should only carry out strikes the Pakistanis approve. As it stands, he said, the attacks are undertaken without consultation with Pakistan's government, despite occasional past cooperation.

Blair also argued against the U.S. conducting unilateral drone strikes in Yemen and Somalia. "We're treating the countries just as places where we go and attack," he said.

Blair's comments marked the first time a former Obama administration official had publicly criticized a key tenet of the president's national security strategy.

His views on drone attacks were repudiated by other former senior government officials attending the Aspen conference, including former Rep. Jane Harman of Venice, a Democrat who chaired the Homeland Security intelligence subcommittee.

"Drone attacks … are a crucial tool in our counter-terrorism arsenal, and I support them," she said.

The disagreement is part of a broader debate over the efficacy of relatively low-cost drone strikes versus the far more expensive, long-term use of troops to wage a sustained counter-terrorism campaign. The administration has moved to draw down U.S. troop strength in the region, believing that the costs are unsustainable.

Blair argued that the key to defeating Al Qaeda was for the Pakistani military to mount a sustained counterinsurgency to clear and hold the Afghanistan border areas where the group's leaders have taken refuge.

Lute, reflecting the administration's view, noted that Pakistan's military has a presence in those areas but, despite billions of dollars in U.S. aid, its army has shown neither the willingness nor the capacity to root out militants.

Asked about the current threat posed by Al Qaeda, Lute echoed comments made here Thursday by Michael E. Leiter, who recently departed as head of the government's National Counterterrorism Center.

Al Qaeda has been wounded but not yet defeated, he said, adding that "we're not ready to declare victory."

Leiter had said Al Qaeda's leaders in Pakistan were "on the ropes" but that the organization remained capable of attacks, and "Pakistan remains a huge problem" because it allows Al Qaeda and affiliated groups to find haven in its tribal areas along the Afghan border.

India’s prime minister tainted by corruption
Like an honest man surrounded by thieves, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is finding that his own reputation for personal integrity is proving hard to maintain.

India’s Parliament has been in uproar this week as the opposition demands that Singh answer accusations that he deliberately turned a blind eye to rampant corruption within his cabinet and party.The damage to his reputation is significant and is only going to get worse, political analysts say.

“It doesn’t suggest he had his hand in the till,” said columnist and broadcaster Karan Thapar. “But it is either negligence, a lack of vigilance, or he was aware and deliberately turned his eye in the other direction — which is perilously close to complicity.”

The main charge is that Singh was in the know when then-Telecommunications Minister A. Raja gave away valuable telecom licenses for dirt-cheap prices in 2008, cheating the exchequer of up to $40 billion.

Singh even wrote to Raja at one point asking him to adopt a fairer system of allocating the licenses. After his advice was brushed aside by the now-jailed minister, Singh asked to be kept “at arm’s length” from the process.

The prime minister’s office says Singh was merely keeping his distance because he did not want to be seen as favoring any particular company, while Congress party spokesman Manish Tewari says Singh was guilty of nothing more than trusting a colleague.

Others say the prime minister just needs to explain himself better. Sanjaya Baru, Singh’s former media adviser, blames “incompetence” in the communications team at the prime minister’s office since Baru left.

But there is no denying that Singh’s image has been dented.

The prime minister is also accused of ignoring warnings from his ministers about rampant corruption in the run-up to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, for which games organizer and former Congress stalwart Suresh Kalmadi has been jailed.

Abroad, Singh’s reputation soars above most of the world’s political leaders, for his humility, integrity and intellect. President Obama calls him a good friend and says “the whole world listens” when Singh talks. Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and an Egyptian presidential challenger, once described him as “the model of what a political leader should be.”

But at home, cartoonists show Singh drowning in a sea of corruption. Forbes magazine may have ranked Singh the 18th-most-powerful person in the world, but political analysts in India wonder whether he controls even his own cabinet.

“He has let himself down, and he has let the people of India down,” said historian Ramachandra Guha. “He appears weak and indecisive . . . and he is seen as lacking authority to implement his own decisions.”

Critics say Singh, who holds an unelected position in the upper house of Parliament, lacks political credibility within his party by virtue of never having won a constituency seat in India. But the soft-spoken, almost timid economist-turned-politician also lacks the deftness to survive in the rough and tumble of Indian politics, commentators say, and the ability to forge alliances within his rowdy coalition and with the opposition.

He was also dealt a poor hand right from the start, when he was nominated as prime minister in 2004 because Congress leader Sonia Gandhi did not want the role — a convenient frontman for a party that remains deeply divided and corrupt.

Then, after elections in 2009, Singh appeared to have had little role in the formation of his cabinet, as coalition allies demanded — and received — particular ministries in return for their support.

“They chose portfolios where everybody knew you could make money, where discretion was involved and massive investment was taking place,” said Bharat Bhushan, editor of the Mail Today newspaper. “The PM was never his own master.”

Singh will always have a place in history as the finance minister who ushered in sweeping reforms in 1991 that unleashed the Indian economy’s potential and set the stage for two decades of growth.

But that record has arguably also been tarnished in the past year as the government drags its feet over a second round of economic reforms the country still desperately needs, as the economy slows and inflation runs rampant.

For now, Singh, 78 years old and the survivor of two heart bypass operations, is likely to continue as India’s leader until elections in 2014, partly because he has no serious challengers from within the Congress party, analysts say. But as one leading magazine proclaimed in a recent cover story on Singh, the latest allegations may represent “The End of an Aura.”

GOOD MOVE:Tajikistan bans minors from entering mosques

Tajikistan's authoritarian leader has approved a law barring minors from praying in mosques as his secular government seeks to minimize the rising influence of Islam in the Central Asian nation.
President Emomali Rakhmon signed the bill Wednesday despite vocal resistance from rights activists and the opposition Islamic Revival Party.
The law also requires people under the age of 18 to study in secular schools thus barring thousands of students from attending mosque schools seen by authorities as a breeding ground of Islamism.
The impoverished and predominantly Sunni Muslim nation shares a long and porous border with Afghanistan.
The country was ravaged in the 1990s by a civil war between government forces and a loose alliance of Islamists and democrats.

China says US fails to defuse 'debt bomb'

China warned Wednesday that tortured efforts to raise the US limit on borrowing had failed to defuse Washington's "debt bomb", and signalled it would further diversify its holdings away from the dollar.
After months of bitter negotiations with his Republican rivals, US President Barack Obama finally signed an emergency bill on Tuesday that averted what would have been a disastrous debt default for the world's biggest economy.
But in a blistering commentary, China's official Xinhua news agency ridiculed the US political process and warned that the deal had done nothing to change the country's addiction to borrowing.
"The months-long tug of war between Democrats and Republicans... failed to defuse Washington's debt bomb for good, only delaying an immediate detonation by making the fuse an inch longer," the commentary said.
It described the negotiations between the Republicans and Democrats as a "madcap farce of brinkmanship", and lectured US politicians to take more responsible measures to fix their country's economic problems.
In the first official reaction from a Chinese government body, China's central bank delivered a more measured statement and welcomed the deal.
But it nevertheless said it would continue to diversify its foreign currency investments.
"China's foreign exchange reserves will continue following the principle of diversified investment, enhancing risk management and minimising the negative impact of volatility in global financial markets," People's Bank of China governor Zhou Xiaochuan said in a statement.
"Large fluctuations and uncertainty in the US treasury bond market will affect the stability of international monetary and financial systems, which will hurt the global economic recovery."
Also on Wednesday, the Chinese ratings agency Dagong downgraded the United States for the second time since November, with a continuing negative outlook.
China, sitting on the world's biggest foreign exchange reserves of around $3.20 trillion as of the end of June, is the largest holder of US Treasury bonds and has previously expressed concerns over its investments.
China Investment Corp, set up in 2007 to invest a chunk of the country's hefty foreign-exchange stockpile, has been trying to diversify since the global financial crisis struck in 2008.
The $400-billion sovereign wealth fund has been increasing its already substantial holdings in European bonds to get better returns and prop up debt-laden euro-zone countries, which are major buyers of Chinese exports.
Exact figures on the size of China's euro holdings are hard to find, but analysts estimate its stockpile is relatively small, with most holdings in large countries such as Germany and France
However, analysts said China had no choice but to continue buying US debt in significant amounts for the time being.
"I'm sure they are looking into diversification but it's only going to be at the margins," IHS Global Insight analyst Alistair Thornton told AFP.
"In reality it is very hard for China to diversify away from buying US debt without fundamentally changing its whole economic model... no other market is as liquid as the US debt market."
Yin Zhentao, an economist with the Chinese Academy of Social Science, also said China had few other avenues.
"China's central bank has to mop up liquidity and the US Treasuries are the most important option," Yin told AFP.
Dagong, which has links to the government, said in a statement it had downgraded the United States' local and foreign currency credit rating from A+ to A, with a negative outlook.
Raising the US debt ceiling will "further deepen" the country's economic woes," said Dagong, adding that the "interest and safety" of creditors was not guaranteed.
Dagong has little financial muscle outside of China but has made a name for itself by accusing its three Western rivals -- Moody's, Fitch and Standard & Poor's -- of causing the financial crisis by not properly disclosing risk.
The big three agencies have consistently awarded Washington their highest possible ratings -- allowing the United States to take on more debt at lower cost, which China has blamed for fuelling inflationary pressures.
Dagong's chairman, Guan Jianzhong, is a paid adviser to China's government, but insists his agency is fully independent.