Saturday, September 24, 2011

Shahbaz Sharif govt lacks vision

While subjecting the top leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), party president Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, to scathing criticism for “lacking the vision and right team to run Punjab”, Senior Minister Pervaiz Elahi said on Friday that he would never like to destablise the Punjab government.
“We want them (the Sharifs) to be exposed before the people. The people should know for themselves what they are capable of. So we will let them run the full term,” Elahi said in an exclusive interview hosted by Pakistan Today Editor Arif Nizami for Pakistan Today and Samaa TV. The interview covered almost the entire gamut of politics, from the Sharifs’ handling of the affairs of Punjab and their future plans, to what led the Chaudhrys to form an alliance with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), once an anathema to them and their elders besides being poles apart ideologically.
However, it was for the governance in Punjab that Elahi reserved his greatest lashings for Shahbaz Sharif. He was, however, full of praise for President Asif Ali Zardari and his political acumen, suggesting that the alliance between the PPP and PML-Quaid was getting along nicely, with the Chaudhrys having no time or desire to look back.
POLITICAL ARRANGEMENTS: When asked about the prospects of a merger of Muslim League factions and rumours of a Nawaz-Shujaat meeting in Saudi Arabia - the reports of which even took the Chaudhrys by surprise - he said with conviction that the “time for such political arrangement is over”. He held Nawaz Sharif responsible for the failure on this front.
“In the past, efforts were made to unite the Muslim League but they failed because of Nawaz Sharif’s arrogance. He never came out of his shell of arrogance, revenge and hatred to see the changing realities in the world of politics,” said Elahi. The minister said the next general elections would be performance-based. “Parties and candidates will seek votes on the basis of performance of their parties,” he said.
He said Nawaz believed in solo flight when the future was of coalition politics, therefore he had no chance of getting a heavy mandate, as was the case in 1997. To a question about the PML-Q’s alliance with the PPP and how it became possible, he said there was no last word in politics. “The political leadership needs to set healthy examples,” he added.
He said there was a time when Nawaz Sharif unleashed unprecedented victimisation on PPP leaders, bringing a bad name to the country’s politics. Then he entered into reconciliation with the PPP, which culminated in the Charter of Democracy, and then he spent more than three years with the PPP in the government, he added. “And now he is back to square one,” he said.
He said Nawaz left the country after an agreement with the Saudi government, and he did this without consulting his party. He said the PPP brought a positive approach to politics and a philosophy of “live and let live”, and that positive approach was now paying off. He said if nothing spectacular happened, the country was bracing for the next general elections.
SEAT ADJUSTMENT: He said his party would seek seat adjustment with the PPP as a separate political entity in the coming elections and PML-Q candidates would woo Muslim League’s traditional voters on the basis of the party’s performance in the past and present. He said the Sharifs’ bungling in all areas of governance had highlighted his government’s achievements in the past, and now people remembered the days when the PML-Q was in power, especially in Punjab.
He said the Punjab government failed to add even a single bed to its hospitals. “Imagine what would have happened to dengue patients had I not increased beds in the hospitals during my time [in office],” he said. “We left over Rs 100 billion in the exchequer, but now Punjab is bankrupt thanks to the ill-conceived schemes of this government. Where does the Sasti Roti Scheme stand now after wasting Rs 30 billion? The government also wasted billions on Sasta Bazaars,” said Elahi.
SHAHBAZ COMPROMISED: He said Shahbaz Sharif had compromised the interests of Punjab for petty politics. He said Punjab had emerged as the biggest loser when Shahbaz abandoned the IT Tower project, for which Rs 300 million had to be paid to the Chinese as compensation. He said now the World Bank was saying that had the Punjab government continued the policies of the previous government, the results would have been much better in the province.
He said originally, the traffic police were to be used for crime prevention and the PML-Q government had equipped them with guns and wireless, but the current Punjab government had taken away the guns and wireless, making them unfit for law enforcement. He said his government had built 46 colleges across the province, but the Punjab government, which was more interested in developing Daanish Schools, was not ready to run them.
He said unfortunately the Daanish Schools were modeled on Aitchison, while the Punjab government’s mandate was to provide education to the common man, not the elite.

Raja asks Shahbaz Sharif to resign

Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Raja Riaz has criticised the “good governance” of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in dengue-ridden Punjab and asked PML-N President Nawaz Sharif to replace his younger brother and depute some responsible personality of his party as chief minister.
He was addressing a press conference here at the residence of MPA Tariq Gujjar during his brief visit to the city. Raja Riaz said that Shahbaz Sharif was an illegal “tenant” of 22 provincial ministries and yet could not control dengue epidemic. He held chief minister responsible for all deaths due to dengue fever and added the chief minister was reluctant to get services of PPP MPAs for the control of this lethal virus.
He also criticized Mian Nawaz Sharif for leaving behind flood affected people of Punjab around Sutlej River and scoring points in Sindh flood affected areas.
He demanded resignation from chief minister for failing in all administrative grounds including law and order.
PPP leader Ch Muhammad Siddique, on the occasion, presented Rs200,000 to Raja Riaz for the flood affected people of Sindh.

Pakistan Scorns U.S. Scolding on Terrorism

The public assault by the Obama administration on the Pakistani intelligence agency as a facilitator of terrorist attacks in Afghanistan has been met with scorn in Pakistan, a signal that the country has little intention of changing its ways, even perhaps at the price of the crumpled alliance.

In injured tones similar to those used after the Navy Seals raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May, Pakistani officials insisted on Friday that theirs was a sovereign state that could not be pushed by America’s most senior military officials, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Leon E. Panetta, the secretary of defense.

The two Americans told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that Pakistan’s spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, worked hand-in-glove with the Haqqani network, a potent militant outfit sheltering in the Pakistani tribal areas, to subvert American war aims.

Admiral Mullen accused the spy agency of supporting Haqqani militants who attacked the American Embassy in Kabul last week, and he called the Haqqanis a “veritable arm” of the ISI. Mr. Panetta threatened “operational steps” against Pakistan, shorthand for possible American raids against the Haqqani bases in North Waziristan.

The connection between the spy agency and the militants has been at the center of American complaints about Pakistan since the start of the war in Afghanistan, but never before has the United States chosen to expose its grievances in such unvarnished language in the most public of forums.

In his public reply, the chief of the Pakistani Army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said Mr. Mullen’s accusations were “not based on facts,” and suggested that they were unfair given “a rather constructive” recent meeting. The ISI did not support the Haqqanis, General Kayani said.

Similarly, the country’s defense minister, Ahmad Mukhtar, said Pakistan was a sovereign nation “which cannot be threatened.”

The foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, said it was “unacceptable” for one ally, the United States, to “humiliate” another, Pakistan. “If they are choosing to do so, it will be at their own cost,” Ms. Khar said.

Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States who is close to the military, underscored that point. “Relations are headed towards a breakdown if the U.S. continues its coercive approach of threats and public accusations,” Ms. Lodhi said. “What is its plan B if there is an open rupture with Pakistan?”

The anti-American feeling in Pakistan, and within the army, surged after the raid that killed Bin Laden, which was kept secret from Pakistan’s leadership. It remains intense, making the idea of bowing to American demands to take on the Haqqanis almost unthinkable, Pakistani politicians, businessmen and analysts said.

They said General Kayani, who was under great pressure from his troops after the humiliation of the Bin Laden raid, had recovered some ground and recouped some prestige. He has no intention of giving in to the Americans now because he is betting that they still need Pakistan as the supply route for the Afghanistan war, they said.

But the larger reason is a divergence of strategic interests with the United States. The Haqqani network is seen as an important anti-India tool for the Pakistani military as it assesses the future of an Afghanistan without the Americans, a situation Pakistan sees as not far off.

General Kayani has said he fears that as the Americans exit, India will be allowed to have influence in Afghanistan, squeezing Pakistan on both its eastern and western borders, Pakistani analysts say.

Thus, the Haqqani fighters who hold sway over Paktika, Paktia and Khost Provinces in Afghanistan, and who are also strong in the capital, Kabul, and in the provinces around it, present a valuable hedge against the perceived India threat, which American officials say is overblown.

The precise relationship between the Pakistani military and spy agency on the one hand and the Haqqani network on the other remains murky, American officials say.

In talks with the Americans, the leader of the ISI, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, has said he has “contact” with the Haqqanis, a senior American official said. “But he denies he has command and control.” The official said it appeared that the Haqqanis had developed into such skilled fighters over several decades that they had the Pakistani Army cowed.

According to American officials and Pakistani analysts, it appeared that the Pakistani Army had struck a bargain with the Haqqanis: The Haqqanis would be free to fight in Afghanistan, in part looking after Pakistan’s interests, and in return, the Haqqanis would not attack Pakistan.

If the Pakistani army attacked Haqqani fighters in their bases in North Waziristan, the blowback in the form of terrorist attacks in Pakistani cities and towns could be overwhelming, Pakistani military analysts say.

In a startling image of the apparent symbiosis between the Pakistani military — which controls the ISI — and the Haqqani fighters, both forces have bases in Miram Shah, the main town in North Waziristan.

Five brigades of the Pakistani Army, about 15,000 soldiers, and the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force of about 10,000 men, have never touched the Haqqanis, American officials familiar with the situation say. Visitors to Miram Shah have said the army facilities are within sight of the Haqqani compounds.

Estimates of the Haqqani fighting strength in North Waziristan vary from 10,000 to 15,000. Technically, Sirajuddin Haqqani, who runs the group, is a member of the Afghan Taliban leadership headed by Mullah Muhammad Omar and based in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan Province in southwest Pakistan.

The Pakistani Army struggled to defeat the Pakistani Taliban in battles in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan in 2009 and 2010, but the Taliban are still present in both places, a senior American military official said. “So why would they take on the Haqqanis, who are world class fighters?” the official asked.

As much as the Americans criticize the Pakistanis for not taking on the Haqqanis, the Pakistanis scoff at the inability of the Americans to deal with the Haqqanis on the war front in Afghanistan.

In a sarcastic column in the English-language newspaper The News on Thursday, Farrukh Saleem wrote, “If over the past decade the lone superpower has failed to tame 10,000 to 15,000 tribesmen, then the American military-intelligence complex has really failed and should be heading home.”

Pakistani military officers have contended that it is up to the American troops in Afghanistan to prevent the Haqqanis from launching terrorist attacks in Kabul and elsewhere.

In order to get to Kabul, the Haqqani fighters pass through provinces with large American bases, they say. Mr. Haqqani is believed to spend much of his time in Afghanistan, organizing his fighters.

In an interview with Reuters this week, Mr. Haqqani said he was working solely in Afghanistan. It is the same argument that Pakistani officials have been making this week as a way to rebut the American accusations that the Haqqanis live in Pakistan at all.

The Latest Ugly Truth About Pakistan


Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is a truth teller. He led the way among senior uniformed officers in urging repeal of the unconscionable “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military and pressed to shift more troops from Iraq to Afghanistan.

Now, as he prepares to retire next week after a 43-year career, he is telling another hard truth. On Thursday, he told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Pakistan’s spy agency — Inter-Services Intelligence — played a direct role in supporting insurgents who attacked the American Embassy in Kabul last week, killing 16 people. He also said that with ISI support, the Haqqani network of terrorists planned and conducted an earlier truck bombing on a NATO outpost that killed 5 people and wounded 77 coalition troops, and other recent attacks.

This was a calculated revelation after Admiral Mullen and other top officials made countless pleas and remonstrances to Pakistan trying to get it to sever all support and ties with the Taliban, the Haqqani network and other extremists who are killing American troops and spreading mayhem on both sides of the border.

Pakistan’s military was unapologetic. According to the Pakistani Army’s Web site, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the chief of staff, dismissed the charge as “very unfortunate and not based on facts.” Pakistan’s foreign minister warned that Washington “could lose an ally” if it keeps humiliating Pakistan with unsubstantiated allegations.

The Pentagon hopes public exposure will shame the Pakistanis — who receive billions of dollars in aid — into changing their behavior. That didn’t happen after Osama bin Laden was discovered hiding in plain sight next door to Pakistan’s top military academy. But Washington needs to keep pushing and keep reminding the Pakistanis that the extremists pose a mortal threat to their own country.

We agree with Admiral Mullen and others who say the United States should keep trying to work with Pakistan. It has little choice. The Americans need access and on the ground intelligence to be able to go after Al Qaeda and Taliban forces on both sides of the border. They also need Pakistani routes to deliver military supplies to Afghanistan, although there are less attractive alternatives that may have to be looked at more seriously. And walking away could make the nuclear-armed government even more unstable — a chilling prospect.

But Washington needs to ratchet up the pressure as well. The Obama administration has already suspended or canceled $800 million in military aid this year, and more could be at risk. Without provoking war with Pakistan, the Americans are also going to have go after the Haqqanis whenever and wherever they can.

US Centcom chief visits Pakistan amid rift

A top American military commander was in Pakistan on Saturday for talks with the army chief at a time of intense strain between the two countries.
The U.S. Embassy said Gen. James Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command, arrived in Pakistan late Friday, and that he will meet the army chief, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
Ties between Islamabad and Washington are in crisis after American officials stepped up accusations that Pakistan's premier spy agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), was aiding insurgents in neighboring Afghanistan, including those who took part in an attack on the U.S. Embassy last week in Kabul.
Kayani said on Friday that the charges were baseless and part of a public "blame game" detrimental to peace in Afghanistan. Other Islamabad officials urged Washington to present evidence for such a serious allegation. Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar warned the United States is risking losing an ally in the war on terror.
The row began when Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Thursday accused the ISI agency of supporting Haqqani insurgents in planning and executing last week's 22-hour assault on the U.S. Embassy and a truck bombing that wounded 77 American soldiers days earlier.
Kayani said the allegations were "very unfortunate and not based on facts."
The claims were the most serious yet by an American official against nuclear-armed Pakistan, which Washington has given billions in civilian and military aid over the last 10 years to try to secure its cooperation inside Afghanistan and against al-Qaida.
The Haqqani insurgent network is widely believed to be based in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal area along the Afghan border. The group has historical ties to Pakistani intelligence, dating back to the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
The relationship between the two countries has never been smooth, but it took one of its hardest hits when U.S. commandos slipped into Pakistan on May 2 without informing the Pakistanis of their mission and killed al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden in a garrison town not far from Islamabad.

Terrorists Of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi unleashed, again


There is no safety for the Shias in Pakistan. Three Hazara Shias were killed yesterday when they were on their way to Quetta. According to reports, they were asked to get off their passenger van, lined up and shot dead. The modus operandi is the same as in the case of the Shia pilgrims who were shot dead a few days ago in Mastung by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). The Punjab government has placed LeJ’s leader, who was released from jail this July after 14 years, under temporary house arrest. Rahim Yar Khan’s police chief, Sohail Chattha, said that Ishaq’s behaviour endangered “sectarian harmony and caused a sudden rise in sectarian temperature in the country”. It is not yet clear what purpose would be served by putting Ishaq under temporary detention for a few days. Men like Malik Ishaq should be put behind bars for life instead of being released due to ‘lack of evidence’. They are a threat to society. Unfortunately, our legal system has no answer in the face of lacunae in our laws. People cannot be held indefinitely under the law. The need of the hour is to have proper legislation in place that can make provisions to put known terrorists in prison due to the very fact that Pakistan is afflicted with terrorism and sectarian terrorism is back with a vengeance.

Iran has shown its anger at the ongoing Shia massacre by closing the trade gate between the two countries for an indefinite period. Transporters have also suspended the Quetta-Taftan service in protest at the Mastung incident; they have demanded security for passengers. On the one hand Pakistan is trying to woo Iran for a gas pipeline while on the other, our authorities are alienating Iran by turning a blind eye to sectarian violence. The Balochistan High Court (BHC) Chief Justice has taken suo motu notice of the Mastung killings and issued notices to the federal and provincial governments. It is important that the government and the security establishment wake up and stop terrorist outfits from fanning sectarianism in the country once again. The sectarian legacy in Pakistan dates back to General Ziaul Haq’s brutal regime but successive governments, be they civilian or military, have failed to roll back that legacy. Pakistani society is increasingly seeing the incremental rise of intolerance and fanaticism. This must be stopped.

‘Do not discriminate against Dalits’

President Asif Ali Zardari took notice on Friday of reports that Scheduled Caste Hindus (Dalits) were being denied humanitarian assistance and entry into relief camps, and ordered the authorities concerned to immediately provide relief to all marooned and stranded people including the Hindus and told the provincial government to submit a report on the matter.
Presidential Spokesman Farhatullah Babar said Zardari asked the Sindh chief minister to look into the complaints and resolve the issues. He said this discrimination was “unacceptable” and the disaster caused by floods was a humanitarian issue, which was beyond partisan or religious considerations.


As polls open in Bahrain's parliamentary election, CNN's Amber Lyon reports on allegations by a human rights group that the use of tear gas by Bahraini security forces is proving lethal.