Thursday, December 8, 2011

Clinton expects ailing Zardari to return in health

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday that she expects ailing Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to return to work after treatment as she refused to respond to the rumours that he may be forced to resign.
"We have no reason to speculate about that," Clinton told reporters after NATO talks in Brussels.
"The information that we have is that he has sought medical treatment for a number of medical challenges and we wish him a speedy recovery,” she said.
"And certainly we expect that he will receive the treatment he is seeking and then be able to return in full health to his duties," she added.
Zardari was expected to undergo further tests in a Dubai hospital on Thursday after suffering a minor heart attack that forced allies to deny frenzied resignation rumours.
He is facing a major scandal over to what extent he was involved in attempts to seek US help to limit the power of Pakistan's military.

Putin slams Clinton for encouraging protesters

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

strongly criticized U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday for encouraging and supporting Russians protesting election fraud, and warned of a wider Russian crackdown on dissent.

By describing Russia's parliamentary election as rigged, Putin said Clinton "gave a signal" to his opponents.

"They heard this signal and with the support of the U.S. State Department began their active work," Putin said in televised remarks.

Clinton has repeatedly criticized Sunday's parliamentary vote in Russia, saying "Russian voters deserve a full investigation of electoral fraud and manipulation."

Russian protesters have taken to the streets in Moscow and St. Petersburg for three straight nights despite a heavy police presence, outraged over observers' reports of widespread ballot box stuffing and manipulations of the vote count. This week has seen some of the biggest and most sustained protests Russia has faced in years, and police have detained hundreds of protesters.

Thousands were expected to join protests in Moscow and other cities on Saturday.

Putin's United Russia party barely held onto its majority in parliament, with official results giving it about 50 percent of the vote, down from 64 percent four years ago. But the fraud allegations indicate that support for United Russia was even lower than that, and Russians appear to be growing weary of Putin and his party after nearly 12 years in office.

Moscow has already put about 50,000 police and 2,000 paramilitary troops on the streets, backed by water cannon.

Putin warned that the government might take an even harder line.

"We need to think about strengthening the law and holding more responsible those who carry out the task of a foreign government to influence our internal political process," he said.

Russia's only independent election monitoring group, which is supported by grants from the United States and European governments, has come under heavy official pressure in recent weeks. The Golos website documenting violations was hacked and the group was fined the equivalent of $1,000 after prosecutors accused it of violating election law.

Also Thursday, Russia's top election official urged prosecutors to study photographs and video clips circulating on social networking sites that purport to show election fraud, and signaled that those who posted the materials could be punished.

If the images show genuine violations, they will be investigated, Central Election Commission chief Vladimir Churov said. But if evidence is found that the photographs and videos were "provocations" or faked, "those who created, commissioned or sponsored them will be held to account, he said.

Opposition groups have called for a mass protest near the Kremlin on Saturday. More than 26,000 people have signed up to a Facebook page on the protest.

A map circulating on the Internet shows protests planned for Saturday in more than 75 cities around Russia, while a page on LiveJournal lists more planned anti-vote fraud protests in 15 countries around the world.

Rumourgate’ not worth a response: Babar Awan

Senior Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader and former law minister Babar Awan said on Thursday that nefarious rumour mills were operating against the government which did not merit any discussion or response, DawnNews reported.

Speaking to media representatives in Islamabad, Awan said a media-trial of one individual was being done, the example of which could not be found in the country’s history.

The former law minister said there was ‘no other gate in the country except ‘rumourgate’’ and stressed that the government would complete its tenure.

Awan said those talking about the ‘Bangladesh model’ should keep in mind the Constitution’s Article 6 and its sub-clauses in that regard.

The senior leader further said that President Asif Ali Zardari would hold a joint session of the parliament on the recommendation of the national security council.

Awan assured that no collision would occur among the state’s institutions and no compromise would be made with regard to Pakistan’s security.

President Asif Ali Zardari : Ethics and responsibility

EDITORIAL: Daily Times

President Asif Ali Zardari’s sudden ailment led to a plethora of rumours. Instead of wishing the president a speedy recovery, rumourmongers had a field day with the news of his illness. From social networking sites to local and international media, everyone was off and running about the ouster of President Zardari and a ‘soft coup’ as he had left the country for medical treatment. In all this media frenzy, confusion ensued. Putting an end to speculations, the Prime Minister House released a statement that said, “The president went to Dubai following symptoms related to his pre-existing heart condition. The president will remain under observation and return to resume his normal functions as advised by the doctors.” President Zardari’s condition is said to be stable now and he will hopefully be discharged from hospital in the next few days. What remains unstable, though, is the condition of all those who are in the habit of churning out rumours in this land of the pure. What people fail to realise is that the implications of every rumour and purported news can be serious in some cases. Experienced media practitioners know that disseminating news based on mere speculation is not just unethical but a speculative rumour can sometimes become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Thus, honest and credible journalists/analysts do not give credence to conspiracy theories. Responsible media personnel are also aware that believing the worst of everything is not good. But what we saw in Pakistan was the exact opposite of anything ‘responsible’. Irresponsibility, immaturity and speculation were rife left, right and centre. New means of communication such as Twitter and Facebook were feeding into this. Social media is a great tool for raising awareness and sharing information, but only if used in a constructive manner. Gossip and scandal mongering discredits those who indulge in such practices. In a country like Pakistan, such things are common practice but it is time to change this attitude and adopt responsibility and ethics.

It was also disgusting to see a section of the media and society salivating at the thought of the president’s illness and consequent ‘developments’ in case something went wrong. It seems that humanity has taken leave of this country and there is no respect for human life. President Zardari is a democratically elected president; neither is he someone who came to power via the backdoor nor is he a military dictator. Dragging down the dignity of the office of the president just because some people do not like the individual at the helm of affairs is rather unfortunate. A speculative story about Mr Zardari on his way out was published in Foreign Policy magazine and was endorsed by the local media as gospel truth. Moves to somehow bring the whole edifice crashing down based on personal likes/dislikes and ‘wishful thinking’ will only benefit the undemocratic forces. In order to strengthen our institutions, the democratic system in Pakistan needs continuity. Talk of following the ‘Bangladesh Model’ is rife, yet we remain oblivious to the fact that it has failed spectacularly in that country and is therefore likely to fail here as well. If some people are unhappy with the incumbents, they should wait for the next general elections and vote them out through the ballot box. Relying on unconstitutional moves is dangerous. More than three decades of direct military rule should have served as a bitter lesson for our political class and citizens. Unfortunately, it looks like we are hell bent on repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa renews demand for commissionerate system

Reiterating the demand for revival of the commissionerate system in the province, the Khyber Pakhtun-khwa government on Wednesday asked the federal government to review amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) or else it would take up the issue at the upcoming meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI).

Briefing journalists after the provincial cabinet meeting here, Provincial Minister for Information Mian Iftikhar Hussain said the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had approved certain amendments to CrPC for the revival of magistracy system on December 20, 2008 and sent it to the federal government for implementation but it didn’t get any response till date.

“The cabinet meeting discussed one-point agenda in order to remind the federal government our plea for the revival of commissionerate system in the province,” Mian Iftikhar said, adding that the system was unfortunately withheld in Sindh and Balochistan after its revival in the recent past.

In reply to a question, Mian Iftikhar Hussain said the provincial government had agreed to the creation of new divisions for improving the administrative structure once the ongoing census results were made available.

“Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti has already announced the establishment of Abaseen division. The Malakand division will be divided into two divisions according to the wishes of the people,” he added.

Mian Iftikhar said the secretary home presented the proposed draft of administrative structure at divisional and district levels in which the deputy commissioner would have the same powers as was the case prior to 2001. He said a new post of development officer to oversee uplift works in the district had also been proposed in the draft.

“However, the cabinet members disagreed with the proposed draft and demanded the revival of the old magistracy system,” he said. The cabinet members also condemned the Nato air strikes in Mohmand Agency and termed it an open blow to the sovereignty and integrity of the country. It demanded of the federal government to reassess the policy regarding the US-led Nato forces in Afghanistan.

Mian Iftikhar also appreciated the role of respective district administrations and security forces for maintaining law and order during Muharram. He ridiculed the remarks of Interior Minister Rehman Malik thanking the Taliban for not attacking Ashura events and reminded that the terrorists had made desperate attempts to strike in Kohat and Hangu districts by firing rockets at the mourning procession during Muharram.

The Islamabad High Court rejects plea against Veena Malik

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has rejected the plea filed against actress Veena Malik saying the pictures were published in another country so she cannot be tried here in Pakistan, Geo news reported.

Zardari stable, no army coup in Pakistan: US

Asif Ali Zardari, who is undergoing treatment in Dubai following heart complications, is in stable condition but would remain in hospital for few more days, authorities said, amid assertion by the US that the embattled Pakistan President's UAE trip was not political and there was no sign of a 'silent military coup'.

Downplaying Zardari's sudden departure from home, State Department spokesman Mark Toner, said that the US had no reason to believe that his trip to Dubai was political.

"Our belief is that it's completely health-related," Toner said at a regular daily briefing in Washington. Asked about reports in Pakistan and a section of the US media that Zardari was on his way out, he said: "No concerns, and no reason to believe" that a silent military coup was in the offing in Islamabad.

Zardari's sudden departure to Dubai triggered intense speculation, with The Cable - a blog of US magazine 'Foreign Policy' - saying that there is "growing expectations inside the US government that Zardari may be on the way out".

56-year-old Zardari was admitted to a Dubai hospital following heart complications and Pakistan's Ambassador to the UAE Jamil Ahmed Khan said investigations done so far are essentially within normal limits and his condition is stable.

Khan told Khaleej Times that Zardari's medical tests are satisfactory, but he would remain in hospital under observation.

"A routine evaluation of the President's health is being carried out at the hospital and he is being checked for an existing heart condition. He will remain in hospital until investigations are complete," the Ambassador said.

Gulf News quoted officials as denying reports that Zardari underwent angioplasty. "Actually the President underwent an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to check if he has a blood clot in the brain."