Saturday, June 30, 2012

Veena Malik: I want to be a singer

Bollywood starlet and controversy queen Veena Malik, says she aspires to be a singer. The actor was in the city to attend a press conference for her latest film, Daal Mein Kuch Kaala Hai. Veena, who has been in the news for a string of controversies of late, says she’s ready for a fresh beginning.Talking about her new flick, the Pakistani actor says, “The film is not a low-budget film, contrary to reports. I think it is has a good budget as it includes so many stars such as Shakti Kapoor, Jackie Shroff and many other big names.” Talking about her item songs — Madam Malai and Mumbai Money Hai in the movie — Veena says, “Madam Malai is not an item song, it’s part of the story. Madam Malai is the character’s name in the film. So, I won’t consider calling Madam Malai an item song. In fact, none of the songs are item songs in the movie.” The film has been made by Aanand Balraj. When asked about her future assignments, Veena says she wants to be a singer. “I wish I could predict my future, as it has been very unpredictable. This movie is not the ultimate goal for me. I want to become a singer ultimately,” she says. Veena speaks... On the film Though Daal Mein Kuch Kaala Hai s a comedy, there is lot of drama and also a message in the film On her item song Madam Malai is not an item song, it’s part of the story. Madam Malai is the character’s name in the film On future roles I can’t predict the future, as it has been very unpredictable. My ultimate goal is to become a singer.

Pakistan's Swiss letter: PM defends Zardari immunity

The Express Tribune
Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf defended President Asif Ali Zardari’s immunity on Satuday, saying it would end the day after he leaves office. His comments came after the Supreme Court on Wednesday gave the new prime minister two weeks to indicate whether he would write a letter to the Swiss authorities, asking them to reopen corruption cases against the Zardari, the incumbent president. The issue precipitated in the removal of Ashraf’s predecessor, Yousaf Raza Gilani from office as prime minister on June 19 after the court convicted him for contempt in April, refusing to reopen the multi-million-dollar cases. “He (Asif Ali Zardari) is the democratically elected President of Pakistan and as per law he enjoys the immunity as long as he holds the office,” Ashraf told reporters in Lahore. When the new prime minister was asked what the government’s stance would be at the next Supreme Court hearing on July 12, Ashraf reiterated the presidential immunity. “All the legal experts have given us the same opinion… So we will see the matter from the same angle,” he said. Analysts say the latest notice by the Supreme Court indicate the judiciary is unwilling to end a showdown with the government that could force elections before the stipulated dates for February 2013, when the administration would become the first in Pakistan to complete a full five-year mandate.

Ali Azmat’s song ‘Bum Phatta’ to feature in ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’

Ali Azmat has long been hailed as our personal Pakistani rock star with an attitude to match, evident from his new single, “Bum Phata”, a satirical take on the deplorable conditions been faced by the people of Pakistan amid a worrisome lack of everyday essentials such as water, electricity and food. Already being hailed as the political statement of the year, “Bum Phata” has made headlines not only for the palette tickling video directed by Jami, but also for the international notice it is receiving. The single has now been handpicked to feature in Mira Nair’s highly anticipated movie ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ based on the bestselling book by Mohsin Hamid of the same name. Since first being published in 2007, ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ has become perhaps one of the most defining books of the last decade. It follows a young ambitious Pakistani man, Changez working at Wall Street, who aspires to live the quintessential American life, but becomes deeply troubled after the 9/11 attacks.

No stupid, banning Indian films will not help Pakistani films

Ayub Khan first banned Indian films in Pakistan in 1965. While it was a developing industry, the protectionist policy had a nationalist undertone rather than a solid economic rationale that would benefit filmmakers. Obscured by a political and nationalistic dimension, the long-term health of Pakistani cinema was ultimately hindered. Today, the debate regarding the ban on Indian films is prevalent amongst the film community. The idea is that through a protectionist policy one can adequately control competition, thus giving an edge to Pakistani films at the box office. The debate has been dominated by hardline filmmakers who insist that they can not only protect the country from cultural imperialism, but also economically revive the industry simultaneously. Protectionist policies have always been a double-edged sword since they are merely a lever towards a more comprehensive solution for the revival of cinema. There is no doubt that economic protectionism can effectively allow an industry to grow economically — but on a limited level. For Pakistan, protectionism has had a limited impact due to censorship codes and legislation. Culture, as a result, has been defined according to government dictates ignoring the shared cultural processes that were prevalent across both India and Pakistan. Pre-1965, the cinema had a prevalence of themes that dealt with the shared heritage of India and Pakistan. In essence, the shared cultural heritage between India and Pakistan fuelled the demand for Indian films in the first place. As the industry grew to support the conception of the state, films became increasingly formula-based and assimilating in nature. The more adventurous themes in the 1960s attracted disdain from politicians while the popular government of the 1970s opened the door to regional cinema and reflected the social philosophy of “roti, kapra aur makaan”. The national psyche was subsequently reflected in movies like Maula Jatt. The eventual ban on Indian cinema meant that art and filmmaking became limited. It is, therefore, imperative that one does not resort to nationalist and political compulsions when considering the long-term growth of cinema, in order to pander to the popular ego.

1.6m Pakistanis suffer from psychiatric disorders
Over 1.6 million population of the country is suffering from different kinds of psychiatric disorders and it is high time that the government should consider the fact with utmost concern and ensure appointment of trained psychiatrists and nurses in each public and private hospital in order to address the issue. Talking to APP on Friday eminent psychiatrists Dr Darya Khan Leghari said that the Pakistan has been rated as number 12 in the world where the people are suffering different psychological and mental disorders and by providing due attention, these affected people could be brought back to normal life. He said that the major psychiatric disorder in which patients lose touch with reality is called psychosis. The psychiatric disorders are complicated with changing nature, he said and added that severity of symptoms may vary with time and with the impact of an individual's life stresses. Dr. Darya Khan Leaghari said that mental and psychological disorders particularly schizophrenia are chronic recurrent ailments that require a comprehensive and long-term medical care.

Kabul rocks

Afghani's jam as rock and roll gains popularity.

The Saudi woman who dared to drive

Manal Sharif has been jailed, insulted and threatened. Her enemies faked her death, in a hamhanded bid to make an example of her. This year, she says, she was forced out of her job. Her life has been turned upside down by a crime that isn’t even a crime -- driving in her country, Saudi Arabia. "There’s a famous saying in Arabic: When you oppress people, you make them heroes," she said. "I couldn’t understand why I was in jail. But that’s what created all this." Driving isn’t actually illegal for women in Saudi Arabia, as Sharif is quick to point out. But because Muslim clerics have declared it forbidden, the traffic department refuses to grant women licenses. Sharif is among a group of women who have contested the ban. Last year, after millions of people viewed an online video of her driving, Sharif was detained twice by police who insisted that she stop and demanded to know who was behind the campaign. She was released after an outcry but continued to face death threats and other attacks. The furor also made her famous, feted as one of the most influential people in the world by Time magazine and awarded a prize in Oslo for "creative dissent" -- a prize that ultimately cost Sharif her job when her employer told her she couldn’t leave the country to accept it, she said. She did anyway, leaving her jobless after her trip to Europe this spring. But there is plenty for Sharif to do: The campaign that began as a plea to allow women to drive has expanded to contest all kinds of sexism in Saudi Arabia, where women must obtain permission from men to work, travel or study. Activists are pushing for women to drive again Friday; an earlier driving protest was delayed after the death of the Saudi crown prince. The Times talked to Sharif about her quest in the year since she and her fellow activists urged Saudi women to get behind the wheel. Why do you think driving has been so sensitive in Saudi Arabia, even more so than women voting? There are people who will fight back because it's a financial loss for them. If you want to get a driver, you have to go to an office and give them money to bring you a driver from India or Indonesia. It's a business for them. We’ve been told they get 800 million riyals every year. So businessmen will do all kinds of campaigns to discredit us and say bad things about us. It's like a war. Then there are the religious people. If they lose their grip on controlling women, they lose the grip on the whole society. We believe these smaller subjects are used to make people not discuss the more important thing, which is the male guardianship system for women. Being treated as a second-class citizen. All of this is the tip of the iceberg. There are children, 10 years old, and they drive because their moms or sisters cannot drive! A woman has to have her driver go with her to the office, go home, come pick her up, go home. This means more crowded streets and more pollution.
Do women defy the ban in their daily lives?
Sometimes it's really urgent and a woman has to drive, like the kid is dying. But usually the women do not know how. It's a very foreign act. My friend, her dad died in front of her waiting for the ambulance because she couldn’t drive. She said, "If I could drive I would have saved my father." Even if a woman wants to do it and knows how, your neighbors see you driving and call the religious police.
What has happened since the protests last year?
We’ve been talking to officials, writing articles, campaigning, trying to teach women to drive. I filed the first lawsuit against the traffic police for not issuing me a license. We believe the driving campaign rocked the boat. People talk about it now. The taboo has opened. There’s also been so much international attention. I never understood it, why people are so interested in women driving. But when I met Kathryn Cameron Porter, president of the Leadership Council for Human Rights, in the United States, she said, "Manal, you find women who didn’t care because we take everything for granted, and when they see this, they say, 'What? This woman can’t drive because she’s a woman?'" It is the power of a single story. Now anywhere you go, if they know one thing about Saudi Arabia, they know women cannot drive there. That means the government will be pressured to do something.
Do you believe this will change soon?
I believe if women want to change their reality, it will change. If women are silent, I don’t think anything will change. Rights are never given. Rights are taken. We’re also hoping for some new and young blood (in the Saudi government). Sixty percent of us in this country are under 25, but the people in power are double our age. This creates a huge gap between us.

Anti-regime shouts fill streets in Bahrain again

A large number of Bahraini people have poured out in several villages, reiterating their calls for the ouster of Al Khalifa regime, Press TV reports.
The protests took place on Friday although the Saudi-backed regime forces attacked the demonstrators with tear gas and rubber bullets. Protesters called on the ruling family to relinquish power and let a democratically-elected government rule the country. Outraged by reports of torturing prisoners, the demonstrators demanded that all political inmates be released. The protesters said the prisoners are only sick and tired of social and religious discrimination in the kingdom. Scores of people have been killed and thousands more put behind bars since the beginning of the popular anti-regime revolution in February 2011. Bahraini demonstrators hold King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa responsible for the killing of protesters during the uprising.

President Obama's weekly address

Obama Visits Wildfire-Ravaged Areas

President Barack Obama
has promised federal aid for Colorado after the most destructive wildfire in the state's history killed at least two people, destroyed hundreds of homes and forced more than 35,000 to be evacuated.
The US leader said it was a "major disaster" as he saw for himself the damage caused by the huge blaze that has raged since Tuesday near the base of the Pikes Peak mountaintop. During a three-hour visit to Colorado Springs, he first witnessed the devastation from the air on board Air Force One and then toured neighbourhoods ravaged by the so-called Waldo Canyon Fire. He met firefighters and local officials and visited an emergency shelter operated by the American Red Cross, where he told volunteers "you guys are making us proud". As he walked along a street full of burned-out houses, the president told reporters: "This has been a devastating early fire season for Colorado. This community, obviously, is heartbroken by the loss of homes." Mr Obama announced that federal money would be made available to local agencies and individuals affected by the fire.Speaking at a fire station, he said: "We have been putting everything we have into trying to deal with what is one of the worst fires we've seen here in Colorado." But he added: "We've still got a lot more work to do." The inferno has so far incinerated at least 347 homes. "Our minds just started sifting through all the memories of that house that we lost that can't be replaced," said Colorado Springs resident Rebekah Largent. The city's police chief Peter Carey said a body was found in the debris of one burned-out home. Mr Carey added that authorities were trying to locate up to 10 people who are unaccounted for. The FBI is investigating whether any of the wildfires were started by criminal activity, but the cause remains unknown. Lighter winds have helped more than 1,000 firefighters gain new ground against the inferno, which had roared unchecked this week through communities in the city's northwest and threatened the US Air Force Academy campus. Large, uncontained fires are being fought in 10 western states - Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, South Dakota, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and even Hawaii, according to the National Interagency Fire Centre. Colorado Springs is home to the US Olympic training centre and the Air Force Space Command, which operates military satellites. They were not threatened by the wildfire. The cost of fighting the blaze has already reached £1.8m. From above, the destruction is painfully clear. Rows and rows of houses were now just smouldering ashes, while neighbouring homes survived largely intact. On one street, all but three houses had burned to their foundations, said Ryan Schneider, whose home is still standing in a neighbourhood where 51 others were destroyed. "I was real happy at first. My wife was happy," he said. "The emotion of seeing the other homes, though, was instant sadness." The aerial photos showing the scope of one of the worst fires to hit the American West in decades did little to help ease the concerns of many residents who still did not know the fate of homes. Scorching temperatures have been recorded across much of the US recently, and forecasters have predicted a long, dry summer - which could mean more fires.

Why Pakistan Is on the Brink

The Baloch Hal
By Malik Siraj Akbar
For three decades, peace in Afghanistan has been interlinked with Pakistan’s policy toward its landlocked western neighbor. The debate has recently shifted with the change in the dynamics of regional politics and security. The state of peace in the post-2014 Afghanistan hinges on the future of Pakistan, which has reached the highest level of failure and fragility since 1947 when the Muslim state was founded. Bob Woodward quoted President Obama saying that ‘poison’ (the war in Afghanistan) had actually shifted to Pakistan. While Pakistan continues to regularly feature on the top of the world’s Failed States Index, Newsweek called it the “most dangerous place on the earth.”
What eminent Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid shares in his latest book Pakistan on the Brink is too obvious but very alarming. Pakistan is currently in deep internal trouble economically and politically but it is also a deeply troubling state for its neighbors and the United States. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently said the United States was fast running out of patience with Pakistan (considering its unwillingness to cooperate in the war on terror). Rashid, whose book Taliban became a New York Times bestseller, admits that Pakistan faces even a “much more dangerous situation” than Afghanistan. While Islamabad pretends to cooperate with the United States in fighting radical groups, it also retains not-so-secret contacts with Taliban’s Haqqani Network that killed American soldiers and attacked the U.S. embassy in Kabul. Pakistan on the Brink begins with the details of the Abbottabad raid which killed Osama Bin Laden. According to Rashid’s research, the manhunt for the Al-Qaeda chief firstly began in 1990s following the killing of U.S. troops in Somalia in 1993 and Saudi Arabia in 1996 but the Saudi dissident became America’s most wanted man after the 9/11 attacks. The CIA made the first major breakthrough in 2010 by tracking down Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, a Pakistani born in Kuwait with intimate ties with the Al-Qaeda don. The compound in which bin Laden was found had been custom-built by Ahmed and his brother in 2005. The CIA rented a nearby house and expedited surveillance of the compound. It also conducted a fake polio campaign to sneak into the house. Pakistan eventually terminated and imprisoned Dr. Shakil Afridi, a local physician who had assisted the C.I.A conduct the campaign, on sedition charges. Bin Laden’s killing should have ideally come as the most successful accomplishment in the decade-long war on terror, but it instead caused an unprecedented diplomatic row between the two countries The United States asked whether Pakistan was incompetent to trace the world’s most wanted terrorist or it was simply complicit in providing him protection in Abbottabad, a well-guarded garrison town. Pakistan’s overreaction to Bin Laden’s killing highlighted a worrisome trend that has gradually engulfed the country. “Pakistan has become an abnormal state that uses Islamic militants — Jihad groups, nonstate actors — in addition to diplomacy and trade to pursue its defense and foreign policies,” Rashid writes. While Islamabad created and patronized the Afghan Taliban in 1990s, it lost control over them as they went under the mentorship of Bin Laden. Within Pakistan, an indigenous Taliban group known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (T.T.P) emerged in the tribal region bordering Afghanistan. The T.T.P aspires to overthrow Pakistan’s current government and replace it with an Islamic emirate. The Pakistani Taliban are more dangerous and brutal than their Afghan counterparts. They have killed thousands of civilians in hundreds of suicide bombings at public places besides attacking official installations. Operations against the Pakistani Taliban have failed because everyone in Pakistan’s army is not motivated enough to fight what they view as “America’s war” against ‘our fellow Muslim brothers.’ Besides security issues, Pakistan faces a separatist insurgency in its largest province of Balochistan while Karachi, the largest city that serves as the engine of the nation’s economy, has witnessed a resurgence in ethnic violence and economic breakdown. The economy is in a shambles and political leadership is unusually corrupt. So, who can help Pakistan normalize? Rashid explores a list of options to see whether or not Pakistan’s traditional friends can help it become a normal state. This is no longer an easy, if not impossible, option. Pakistan has also lost the support of several friendly nations in the wake of its continued support for Islamic radical groups that have stirred trouble inside their frontiers. For instance, China, largely regarded in Pakistan as “our best friend,” is now as deeply concerned as the United States is about Pakistan’s failures and the growth of extremism there. According to Rashid, China believes that Uighur Islamic groups are based in Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas (FATA). On the eastern border, India blames the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyba (LeT) terrorist group for masterminding the Mumbai attacks in 2008. Iran, Pakistan’s western neighbor, complains about Islamabad’s alleged support for Sunni militant groups, Jundullah and anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Lastly, Rashid argues, Pakistan can look at Turkey as a success model to emulate in order to strike a balance between military and civil rule and to define the role of religion in the country’s politics. While Pakistan on the Brink thoroughly outlines the country’s domestic woes, the book convincingly subscribes to Pakistan’s official narrative of victimhood. Rashid blames President Obama for not taking ample interest in Afghanistan. He keeps switching hats between reporting and opinion. At one point, he writes of Obama, “When it came to his handling of Afghanistan, I was deeply disappointed.” Readers generally do not like reporters who voluntarily place themselves on commanding positions and then express ‘personal disappointment’ with heads of states and governments. Rashid’s frequent first-person insertions about his meetings with President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel replace objective reporting with chest-thumping. Unlike Rashid’s previous books, Pakistan on the Brink depicts a positive and optimistic image of the Taliban. He looks at the Talban as a people who have learned lessons from their past mistakes and now Rashid hopes that they will become more civilized administrators if provided the opportunity to rule Afghanistan. While Rashid formerly advocated the deployment of more troops in Afghanistan, his views about Taliban have drastically evolved as he views international forces’ exit from Afghanistan as the most urgent option to normalize the war-torn country. He proposes deradicalization measures to integrate the “reconcilable Taliban”. The future of Pakistan, nonetheless, remains murky considering the growing perception among its rulers and intellectuals that their country is a victim of American policies. Engulfed in a persistent state of denial, Pakistan must bury the burden of its history and get out of the victimhood mode for a better future. (Courtesy: The Huffington Post)

Pak-US at least discussing NATO supply

"They too have been the victim of terrorism," US Defence Secretary said. In frank remarks Friday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the fact that discussions are even taking place to reopen Pakistan s supply routes into Afghanistan is a good sign. "We continue to have a line of communication with the Pakistanis to try to see if we can take steps to reopen the (Ground Lines of Communication)," Panetta said. "And the good news is that there continues to be those discussions." The remarks were made during a news conference with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey. Pakistan shut down the key supply routes, stretching from Afghanistan through the lawless western tribal regions of Pakistan and down to the southern port of Karachi, in November after dozens of its troops were killed in a mistaken U.S. airstrike. The routes offer a shorter and more direct path than the one NATO has been using since, which goes through Russia and other nations, avoiding Pakistan altogether. It has cost the U.S. $100 million more a month to use the alternative northern routes. This month, Panetta expressed frustration with Pakistan s failure to go after militant safe havens within its borders, particularly those of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network. Gen. John Allen, the U.S. military s top commander in Afghanistan, met with Pakistan s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, this week. Panetta said Kayani was receptive to Allen s concerns over the threat from the Haqqani network. "They too have been the victim of terrorism," Panetta said. "They lost 17 Pakistanis on a patrol to the (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan), and so every day, they too are the victims of terrorism. So we have a common enemy. It would make sense if we could work together to confront that common enemy."

Dr Afridi not safe in Peshawar central jail
Minister for Information Mian Iftikhar Hussain Friday once again urged the federal government to shift detained Dr. Shakil Afridi to any other province owing to security threats to his life in Peshawar central jail, reports APP. Talking to newsmen here, the provincial minister said that the federal government should shift its prisoner from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as Bannu jail like attacks could occur on other jails of the province. He said that there is a serious threat of attack on Peshawar jail due to presence of Shakil Afridi. The minister expressed grave concern over militants' attacks on Pakistan security forces from Afghanistan. He said that the allied forces have failed to eliminate the militants in Afghanistan. He said that now the militants were targeting the local peace lashkars in various parts of the province, reports APP. The government is finalising arrangements to move Dr Shakil Afridi, jailed for helping the US authorities trace slain al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, from Peshawar central prison to a detention facility close to Islamabad. According to the Express News, despite pressure from some members of Dr Afridi’s family against shifting him from Peshawar, the government has directed the interior ministry to finalise arrangements for moving him to Islamabad. Dr Afridi will be detained in a rest house near Simly Dam. The facility has previously been used as a detention centre for various high-profile personalities and politicians. Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif was detained there with his family following Pervez Musharraf’s coup in 1999. An official stationed at the dam’s vicinity revealed that “the staff serving the rest house has been alerted to make arrangements and declare the area ‘prohibited’ for routine visitors immediately, without informing them of the reason to ensure Dr Afridi’s security.” An Intelligence Bureau official in Islamabad told The Express News that “the decision might be unacceptable for Dr Afridi’s family but is truly aimed at securing Peshawar from incidents like the Bannu jailbreak.” Despite many attempts, the Minister for Prisons and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Inspector General (IG) did not confirm Dr Afridi’s transfer to Islamabad. Simly Dam is located 30km from Bhara Kahu and a 10-15 minutes drive from the Islamabad Convention Centre. One of the family members of Afridi, requesting anonymity, said that although Peshawar cell possesses adequate security facilities, they have agreed that he should be shifted wherever his security is duly accounted for. “We want him to be safe. His security is our top priority,” the family member added. “Although the K-P government is publicly saying that Afridi’s security is not a problem, it is trying to shift him, citing it as a matter of the federation,” the family member pointed out. K-P government has also conveyed a request to Sindh and Punjab to take in Afridi. However, according to sources, the request has been turned down by both the provincial governments.

Peshawar City to have 4 garbage recycling units

The News
The provincial metropolis would soon have four garbage recycling units with a purpose to make it useful besides improving the living standards of the people and the environment as well. Managing Director of the Project Tahir Mehmood Friday informed Deputy Speaker Provincial Assembly Khushdil Khan Advocate in a meeting held here with elders of a village where one of the units has been established. He said that under the project as many as 600 youth would be trained and with employment opportunities, adding that it would help reduce unemployment and making the garbage useful.

The President Zardari's dual office

There is no specific provision in the Constitution barring President Zardari from holding dual-office as the Head of State and the head of his party, though a number of constitutional provisions expect of him to stay neutral, impartial and maintain, at least, a fair distance from politics. That the framers of the 18th Constitutional Amendment, who otherwise worked hard and rewrote a vast number of Articles, particularly with a view to disrobing his office of the autocratic power, as was available before under the infamous 58 2(b), overlooked this possibility of having a dual office holder president is interesting if not intriguing. Perhaps, given the fact that President Zardari was (and is) the Head of State as well as the co-head of the majority party in the parliament the framers thought it expedient to remain silent on this issue. But now that the issue of dual-office presidency is under the limelight with the Lahore High Court order of May 2011 verdict against it holding the field, the need to look at the issue more closely is also in order. Quintessentially, there are two clashing perspectives: one tends to look at the issue in light of constitution while the other invites attention to look at this imbroglio in its historical frame of reference, as to how the present situation has come about, and what's its history. One cannot dispute the court's observation that the duties and functions (essentially ceremonial in nature) of the office of President of Pakistan are to be discharged with complete neutrality, impartiality and aloofness from any partisan political interest. But with President Zardari holding the office of co-chairman of the PPP he seems to have failed to observe that kind of aloofness; he calls all the shots as the prime ministers, Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf, look up to him for guidance and pulling their chestnuts out of the fire. He has carved out the ruling coalition and it is he who has kept it intact with his deft handling of partners. Apparently, the court too was conscious of the fact that there are no specific limitations against the President meeting the politicians or the officials of the government, but carrying out such activities in the presidency, the court observed, 'breached the sanctity, dignity, neutrality and lofty status of a highly revered state property. Such public property should only be used for the purpose of state and not for partisan activities'. President Zardari will, hopefully, act upon the court's verdict and separate the two offices much before the expiry of the stipulated September 5, 2012 deadline. The party appears to be thinking along those lines, as evident from Information Minister Kaira's remark that the 'slot of co-chairman (held by President Zardari) was transient in nature'. Historically, in Pakistan, the presidency has been the fulcrum of state power, and at time the centre of political wheeling and dealing. In not too distant a past, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, a quintessential bureaucrat, who as President had set up a political cell that used the intelligence services in what was billed as 'national interest' and compelled a nationalised bank to dole out a substantial sum of the depositors' money to fund political parties and groups of the president's liking. So, what we have today in the form of a dual-office presidency is a de jure depiction of a de-facto situation. Even if president Zardari does give up the party office, he would still remain the centre of gravity of the PPP and there is no article of the constitution that bars the PPP parliamentarians looking towards him in the discharge of their responsibilities. It's essentially a situation with a historical background and should be viewed in this perspective. After all constitutions keep evolving in order to remain relevant to the times and requirements of the people. That everything which appears to be conflicting with the spirit if not the letter of the constitution should be taken to court is to deny the fact that ultimate custodians of law and constitution are the people, who can obtain a perfect lawful polity even without a written constitution - as they have in Britain, although that country is now moving towards getting a full written constitution with a view to bringing its people in line with the most progressive democracies around the world.

Kayani, Allen agree on better coordination, border security
Pakistan and ISAF have agreed to improve Pak-Afghan border security and coordination, ISPR said on Friday.
According to a joint statement released by ISPR, ISAF commander General John Allen called on Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and discussed matters of mutual interests. The two sides expressed the willingness to achieve the joint targets of combating extremism and tarnishing militant safe havens set in the trilateral military conference, held in Afghanistan last month. "This visit helped advance our efforts to achieve the regional stability. Additionally, the meeting provided us perfect opportunity to refocus our attention on our continuing efforts to eliminate the corrosive effects of extremists operating on both sides of the border" Allen was quoted as saying in the release.

Licences for private TV and radio channels in FATA demanded

The Express Tribune
The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) should have independent local media. This will create an enabling environment for political participation in the region ahead of the next general elections, said mainstream political parties and elected officials from the region here on Thursday. The parties and MNAs demanded that President Asif Ali Zardari urgently issue an executive order or an ordinance extending the jurisdiction of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to FATA so it may start issuing licenses for local radio stations and TV channels. The demand came in the form of a special declaration at a roundtable discussion, “Can There Be Political Reforms in FATA without Media Reforms?”, conducted by Intermedia Pakistan, a national media advocacy organisation. Currently, local media in the region is catering to more than five million people through only three state-owned FM radio stations. “Under current laws there cannot be local independent radio stations, TV channels or print media in FATA, which hampers the exercise of constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression and the right to have access to information,” Intermedia Executive Director Adnan Rehmat told the participants, whom included MNAs, senators and other politicians from the PPP, ANP, PML-Q and PML-N. The participants said they “wholeheartedly” endorse the demand for media reforms made in three preceding roundtables on the theme held in Nov 2011 and June 2012 by the same organiser. “In view of the upcoming elections, we emphasise the need for steps to optimise the opportunity for FATA residents to vote for their representatives through a facilitative and enabling open and local media environment,” said a declaration passed at the conclusion of the discussion. “We, the political parties of Pakistan, and elected representatives of FATA, collectively emphasise that the residents of FATA have the same constitutional and political rights as citizens in the rest of Pakistan,” said the declaration. The roundtable also endorsed a draft notification prepared by legal experts and members of bar associations from across Pakistan at the third roundtable for the president, which can form the basis for urgent media reforms for FATA. Copies of the declaration will be sent to the president, members of parliament and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor.

SHIA Hazara attack

THE story is not new. But with each attack, the targeting of the Shia Hazara community becomes a more firmly entrenched feature of life in Balochistan today. Thursday’s bomb attack on a bus of pilgrims returning from Iran was only the latest in a string of incidents that have taken the lives of at least 60 Hazaras this year alone, including students and people from the community simply going about their daily business. Easily identifiable because of their physical features, neighbourhoods and the routes they take for routine pilgrimages, Balochistan’s Hazaras are now sitting ducks, victims of a relentless campaign that can only be compared to ethnic cleansing in its laser-like focus and its desire to kill as many members of the community as possible. Given this focus and the pattern of attacks that has been established, the inability of the Balochistan government and paramilitary troops to protect the community can only be the result of extreme incompetence or a lack of commitment. Many of the attacks take place along the set routes that buses take when transporting pilgrims to and from Iran. Policing along these routes has reportedly been stepped up, but surely they can be monitored in a way that is better able to identify suspicious activity or prevent attackers from planting bombs. As for police escorts to accompany pilgrims, these have clearly not been adequate; if Balochistan’s politicians can be provided with extensive and expensive security arrangements, why is the same level of protection not being provided at least to Hazara pilgrims? The more effective method, of course, would be to tackle this problem at its roots, going after the militants and dismantling their infrastructure rather than trying to prevent already planned attacks at the eleventh hour. Balochistan’s anti-Shia militancy has morphed into a force in its own right, with its own motivations, operational bases and centres of propaganda. For this, too, there are clues: the locations of madressahs propagating anti-Shia views and some of the bases of the Balochistan arm of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi have been identified, and include the chief minister’s own base of Mastung. In the face of such a predictable pattern of attacks and available information about those behind them, the failure to prevent them has only fuelled speculation that Balochistan’s civilian and security establishments are deliberately not taking action against sectarian militancy. These theories reflect the lack of trust in the provincial set-up, which is seen as being focused on clamping down on separatists instead. Whatever the thinking among state actors, the continued targeting of the Hazaras is increasingly becoming a massive abdication of responsibility on their part.


Fourteen people were killed and another 30 injured, some of them seriously, in a suicide attack on a bus of the Zaireen coming from Ziarat in Iran. First, some of the officials claimed that a rocket was lobbed on the passing bus of the Iranian Zaireen, mostly Shias from Pakistan. Later on the CCPO Quetta and the Provincial Home Secretary confirmed that it was a suicide attack and the bombers presumably used another vehicle that rammed into the bus of the Zaireen killing fourteen people on the spot and injuring 30 others, some of them seriously. So far no organization had claimed the suicide attack on the bus of the Zaireen in the outskirts of Quetta city. In fact, there were two buses full of Zaireen coming from Taftan to Quetta city. They were escorted by two police mobile vans when the first bus came under suicide attack killing 14 people, including two policemen on security duty. The bus and two mobile vans of the Police force were also destroyed. According to Bomb Disposal Squad, around fifty kilograms of explosive substances were used in carrying out the suicide attack ensuring massive death and destruction. It is believed that sectarian terrorists are involved in the suicide attack and they had yet to make a formal claim of killing the innocent people. However, they had again selected a suitable place to carry out the suicide attack. It is Hazar Ganji area where most of the past attacks were carried out by the sectarian outfits. Only in one encounter, Ali Sher Hyderi, the self style chief of the Lashkar-Jhangvi, local chapter, was killed with another accomplice. Otherwise, they remained scot-free after carrying out killing of Shia in Quetta. Some senior police officers who tried to chase them were terrified and attacks were carried out art their residences making their children target also. A few of the police officials were ambushed and killed. After these incidents of target killing of police officials, mostly police officials avoid chasing the activists of the banned LJ outfit in Quetta.

Pakistan's Shia:In the slaughterhouse

How many Hazarganji has this beleaguered nation been left out to witness? And for how long? Now for months together, the Hazara community in Balochistan has its head in the crusher of sectarian slaughter. Its pilgrims are massacred while travelling on buses and vans for pilgrimage. Its religious congregations are fatally attacked with terrorist bombs and blasts. Its community members are mowed down in targeted shootings. Its mayhem continues right inside and outside the metropolis of Quetta. And no end is anywhere in sight to its carnage as yet. Then where are the enforcers of law? Have they lapsed into a swoon or a stupor? Why are they not doing something to stop this holocaust of this community? Why are they not nabbing the masterminds, financiers and perpetrators of this brutal slaughter? Surly, the shady characters wreaking this horrific bloodbath on the Shia community of Hazaras do not descend from the skies. They are very much present on the ground. They have their sleeper cells in the province and in the metropolis of Quetta. They plot their vile acts there. Their money bags sit there. Their handlers are ensconced there. Their slayers fatten in their own stables. Why then are not their lairs being sought out and they being smoked out? Where are the intelligence hounds of the provincial security apparatus? Haven't they been tasked to bust the hideouts of sectarian monsters and dismantle their terror networks? And why federal agencies are not going after these vile characters when terrorism, sectarian or otherwise, is no region specific but a countrywide vine, spreading all over the land in an interlinked manner. Terror groups are no longer monolith monstrosities, either. Quite perceptibly, terrorists of various hues and stripes have ganged up together, helping and assisting one another in their sinful criminality. And even those wearing the masks of spurious religiosity have linked up with criminal gangs of the underworld. This is a very vicious combination that indeed has transformed the entire land veritably into a slaughterhouse. No place is immune from the wickedness of this vile terrorist-criminal axis. Every province, every region, every niche of the land is in the eye of the storm. Terrorists and criminals kill and maim wherever and whenever they want. And every time, they just go scot-free. After every strike, the law enforcers are very prompt in telling the weight of the explosives used. But what they conveniently tell not unabashedly why had they failed so scornfully in preventing the use of these explosives. After all, they are not there to tell the explosives' weight. They are paid not to allow anyone to murder with those explosives. But no heads ever roll. No questions are even asked; no explanations demanded. It seems the top echelons have taken that so long as they are safe and secure, it hardly matters if the commoners are killed and maimed in terrorist assaults. No extraordinary concern is perceptible in their echelons even as the country has become a sprawling abattoir of terrorists and their criminal accomplices. It really is disconcertingly shocking that stray ideas and plans the top echelons had condescended to take up to beat out the terrorists are lying undone unattended for these top echelons' disinterest. Almost four years down the road, a contemplated nodal agency, national counter-terrorism authority, is nowhere near formation. The plan is lying stuck up some in the official labyrinths forgetfully. A proposed amendment to tighten up the anti-terrorism law is gathering dust in the Senate chamber for more than three years. For long, one is hearing of plugging up the holes in the evidence act but nothing has as yet come of it. This disinterest of the top echelons is self-hurting. They must understand. Terrorists will not keep confined to killing and goring the commoners. They will get the top echelons too. Already, a few of them have come under their attack. But if these echelons keep up with their disinterest, it will not be Hazaras alone to suffer fatally at the terrorism monsters' hands. Their vile hands will reach up to higher throats more frequently. The state security apparatus perforce needs to get out of its hibernation and move out systematically, methodically and powerfully against the terrorist thugs before they pull down the fa�ade of the state structure with their thuggery.

killing of Hazara Shias

EDITORIAL:Daily Times:The culture of impunity
Someone has to be held responsible for the brutality unleashed on the Hazaras in Balochistan. The chief of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Malik Ishaq, should be taken into custody and inquiries conducted about his party’s blatant involvement in the killing of Hazara Shias. The law enforcement agencies have to answer about their lax and inefficient security measures that are letting the Hazaras be killed like flies. The Balochistan government owes a response for its failure to ensure the right of life to its people, especially the Shias belonging to the Hazara community. These are the questions that need answering by the self-admitted perpetrators of these atrocities as well as those whose responsibility it is to ensure law and order in the province. The suicide attack on a bus carrying 50 pilgrims back to their homes in Quetta from Taftan, Iran, on Thursday, resulting in 14 deaths and 30 injured, is one more link in this continuing horror story. It was yet another attack on innocent people, whose only fault was their ethnic identity and religious beliefs. Not so long ago, a school bus was hit by an explosion, killing innocent Hazara students. We also had the Mastung bus carnage, not once but twice, when the passengers were lined up and shot at close range in front of their relatives. The killers are not just interested in snuffing out lives but inflicting the worst possible forms of butchery, not sparing even children, as part of their heinous sectarian agenda. Bomb disposal officials seem convinced the 50 kg of explosive material used in the suicide attack on the pilgrims’ bus was meant to create a bigger fallout. The fear factor sought to be created has so far eluded the authorities, who appear to be sitting ducks while ironically pampering the likes of Malik Ishaq, who openly struts his stuff from the platform of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council. The inept and callously indifferent approach of the authorities to what has now emerged as the latest woe in a long litany of unending sorrows seems doubly tragic when the killers have no qualms in publicly claiming responsibility. It is incomprehensible why the admitted killers and their leaders are left free to wreak their havoc on a peace-loving and inoffensive community. The shameful inaction of the government in exposing and bringing to justice the elements behind the killings reflects its callous lack of seriousness in bringing peace to our terror-stricken society, particularly in Balochistan. Even our society’s well known penchant for conspiracy theories struggles to explain what is going on and why and who is ‘protecting’ these barbarians. According to the new security protocol adopted after the pilgrims’ route to Iran became a killing field, every bus carrying pilgrims is supposed to get security clearance before entering the city. The ill fated bus that exploded in Hazarganji did not follow the protocol. This latest atrocity is a ghastly reminder of how unsafe the Hazara community of Balochistan has been rendered. The incessant security lapses have come to be seen, especially by the Hazaras, as a systematic genocide of their community. Recently the UN Human Rights head, Navi Pillay, has raised concerns over the gravity of the situation in the province, particularly for the minorities. Some voices on the social media go so far as to accuse the judiciary of suffering from paralysis in bringing the culprits to book following the Lahore High Court’s acquittal of LeJ chief Malik Ishaq. Some others are asking the UN to step in more vigorously. Since 1999, 700 Hazaras have been killed in Balochistan. The incidence of violence against the community has risen sharply, with clear indications of a further intensification in the near future. From 2008 to date, almost 20,000 have left the country for safety abroad. It is time to untangle the venomous web that Ziaul Haq had woven around this country in the misused and abused name of Islam. To go about this tough chore, especially when a large swathe of the country is ensnarled in it, may not be easy. But there is no escape from the task of exposing and bringing to justice the elements making blood cheaper than water.

Punjab govt borrowing like there’s no tomorrow

‘Breaking the bowl’, so goes the slogan of the Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif. In public he sermonizes about “ridding the province of foreign aid and loans”. He harangues the federal government for sloshing too much through borrowing too much. But under him the province is said to have acquired loans to the tune of Rs 80 billion – and this is not overdraft from the federal government, it is just the foreign borrowings. And it too squanders them on populist measures. A case in point: The World Bank’s fund meant to support the poor get primary education was diverted to distribute laptops to college and university students – most of these to the relatively well-heeled. There is another anomaly. The province has been unable to fully utilize development funds owing to gross inefficiency. Since the incumbent dispensation took the reins, every year, year after year, tens of billions of rupees have lapsed owing to remaining unutilized. This borrowing binge while the available funds remain unused is indeed is a contradiction that both the finance managers and their political masters would find hard to explain. Sources privy to the goings-on divulged to Pakistan Today that politicians have scant understanding of complicated financial matters, leaving the finance managers to rule the roost. But even this sorry excuse cannot absolve the politicians for not being on top of complex financial matters for which eventually the people suffer.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Pakistan's Supreme Court sets collision course with new prime minister

Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday demanded that the nation’s new prime minister follow an order to reopen a long-dormant corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari, setting up the likelihood of a continuing constitutional crisis. The court last week disqualified from office Yousuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan’s longest-serving prime minister, whom it convicted of contempt in April because he refused to follow the same order. The ruling party replaced Gilani with a former federal energy chief, Raja Pervez Ashraf, who has indicated that he will not comply with the order and faces his own set of corruption charges in a separate case before the high court. Some political and legal observers have accused the court, headed by populist, corruption-battling Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, of working to destabilize an already shaky civilian government. Ashraf and his predecessor maintain that Pakistan’s constitution grants the president immunity from prosecution, but the court has consistently ruled otherwise, saying no one is above the law. The legal and political upheaval has complicated U.S. efforts to broker a compromise with Pakistan to reopen vital NATO supply routes that pass into landlocked Afghanistan through Pakistani territory. The routes have been shut for more than seven months, creating a logistical headache not only for the Pentagon but also for other international forces, including France’s, that require access to Pakistan’s southern port to withdraw vast quantities of materiel from Afghanistan. Zardari has denied the corruption allegations, which date to the 1990s and involve Swiss bank accounts held by the president and his late wife, Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister who was assassinated in 2007. Gilani for months refused to write a letter to Swiss authorities asking them to reopen graft and money-laundering cases against Zardari. The court on Wednesday gave the new prime minister until July 12 to respond to its directive and offer any arguments as to why he need not pursue the corruption charges. Some analysts predict that Ashraf will be in the job for only a few weeks — the time the court will take to consider his response and hand down a ruling that, observers say, will almost certainly require Ashraf to write the “Swiss letter.” “The new prime minister is facing the same situation” as Gilani, said S.M. Zafar, a longtime lawyer in Islamabad. “He could write the letter, or he could take some middle ground that is acceptable to the court as well. “But if that doesn’t happen, then I see a disaster in the coming days,” Zafar said. “The crisis would worsen further.” Other analysts said that the court’s respect for the rule of law is admirable but that it also can go too far. “There is a place for judicial activism in almost every country, particularly one in which the rule of law has all too often been conspicuous by its absence,” Mahir Ali, a columnist for the English-language newspaper Dawn, wrote Wednesday before the latest court ruling. “But the rule of law does not mean rule by the Supreme Court, which has no right to be a substitute for parliament.” The public view of government leaders here remains exceedingly negative; Zardari was rated unfavorably by 85 percent of Paki­stanis polled in a Pew Global Attitudes survey whose results were released Wednesday, and only 34 percent approved of Gilani. And not surprisingly, after a year of contentious dealings with the United States, about 74 percent of the respondents said they “consider the U.S. an enemy,” Pew said, up five points from last year’s survey. The public, which overwhelmingly opposes CIA drone strikes inside Pakistan, also offers dwindling support for joint efforts with the United States against Islamist extremists. “Moreover, roughly four-in-ten believe that American economic and military aid is actually having a negative impact on their country, while only about one-in-ten think the impact is positive,” Pew said. Pollsters said their sampling of 1,206 Pakistanis represented about 82 percent of the population. For security reasons, interviews were not conducted in several regions, including the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. The military continues to rank as the nation’s highest-regarded national institution, with 77 percent saying it has “a good influence on the country,” the report said. Imran Khan, a cricket star turned politician who is pushing a fiery anti-corruption message in his campaign for prime minister, was again ranked most popular among national leaders. He was rated favorably by seven in 10 Pakistanis, essentially unchanged from last year.

Afghans face mass deportation from Pakistan

Hundreds of thousands of Afghans face the threat of deportation back to their war-torn country from Pakistan once a deadline expires Saturday, but Kabul is crying foul over the move. Pakistan is home to 1.7 million refugees and hundreds of thousands more unregistered migrants from its neighbour, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). But Islamabad says it cannot be expected to tolerate illegal migrants, and 400,000 undocumented Afghans in Pakistan’s northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the bulk of the Afghan community live, face the imminent prospect of removal. The UNHCR describes the situation of Afghans in Pakistan as the “largest and most protracted refugee crisis in the world” and warned that the question of how to deal with it was becoming “increasingly politicised”. Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s information minister, said law enforcement agencies have been told to compile lists of illegal Afghans and once the June 30 deadline passes, orders will be issued for their arrest, appearance in court and subsequent deportation to Afghanistan. “No country allows illegal immigrants, how it is possible to legalise something which is illegal?” Hussain said. “We have been accommodating Afghan immigrants for 32 years. The provincial government cannot take their burden any more. They should go back to their country.” But Afghans are nervous about welcoming home so many jobless, impoverished people to a country where returnees have in the past struggled to find work and roofs over their heads. The government in Kabul denied the expulsions would take place. Afghan refugee ministry spokesman Islamuddin Jurat conceded there was a “small problem” in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but said the two sides had agreed to solve the issue and give the Afghans “some legal status to stay there”. The Afghan-Pakistani border is notoriously porous and even if the deportations were to go into effect there would be little to stop returnees going back to Pakistan. Pakistan, where the economy is also depressed, says it cannot be expected to tolerate illegal migrants. Hussain claimed that illegal Afghans were involved in crime, although experts have dismissed such accusations as an excuse to rid the country of the immigrants. At the heart of the problem is deep distrust between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Each country blames the other for militancy, with both sides accusing the other of sheltering Taliban insurgents on either side of the border. Pakistan has already carried out some deportations, albeit on a much smaller scale. Between December 2010 and February 2011, some 1,400 Afghan families were sent home from Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal belt, according to the International Organisation for Migration. It said Afghan and Pakistani officials had agreed to offer “safe and dignified repatriation” to 7,200 families, or around 50,000 people, from Pakistan, if funding can be found. Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, in Kabul this month for a conference on Afghanistan’s future, stressed that Pakistan favoured voluntary returns of refugees. “At the Chicago summit, we heard how the situation is improving in Afghanistan. If that is the case, then voluntary return should be natural,” said Khar. But the prospects for Afghans returning home are grim. Apart from the 10-year Taliban insurgency, they face trying to support themselves in a weak economy that is likely to suffer further when Nato forces leave by the end of 2014. “Afghanistan doesn’t have the capacity to absorb so many people. It doesn’t have the resources in terms of schools, clinics and especially jobs,” said IOM spokeswoman Aanchal Khuranaa. Since the US-led invasion in 2001, around 5.7 million Afghan refugees have returned to their home country, many living in destitution. Afghanistan remains the world’s biggest producer of refugees, the UNHCR said last week, putting their number at 2.7 million. “The gradual return of an estimated 2.4 million undocumented Afghans from Iran and Pakistan will pose serious challenges,” said IOM Afghanistan country director Marco Boasso. The UNHCR’s strategy for Afghan refugees in 2002 was the biggest mistake the organisation ever made, Peter Nicolaus, the body’s head in Afghanistan admitted in December. He said the international community had failed to help returnees find a means of earning a living and therefore reintegrating into society.

Human being not money making machine, Yunus

Nobel Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus Friday said human beings are not the machine of making money. They entitled creative entity. They have to take creative initiatives by using the power. He came up with the evaluation while addressing a program titled ‘Social Business Forum-2012’ at North South University’s Bashudhara campus. The day-long program was jointly organized by the university and Yunus Centre. Addressing to youths, Dr. Yunus said, “You would not turn into a machine of earning money. You would go forward to solve social problem.” He said, “There are some problems in our business method. All do business for attaining profit. But, profit is not main purpose of business. So, many problems remained in the society.” Pointing to youths, Yunus said, “We have to go forward with new business concept to solve different social problems including health, education, nutrition, environment, energy and communications. The entrepreneurs would not get profit of his investment. Only he or she gets back his/her investment and profit will be invested in the business. The promoter of the social business inspired young generations saying that we did not think before 20 years ago that most of the people hold mobile phone set. But it is the fact now. So, you have to initiate social fictions that visualize the destination of society after 20 or 30 years. Through it, you have to fix your plan. With NSU vice-chancellor Hafiz GA Siddique in the chair, the program was also addressed by Commerce Minister GM Qauder, NSU Trusty Board Chairman MA Hashem and Business Studies Faculty Dean Dr. Abdul Hannan Chowdhury. Among others, senior officials of different corporate houses and students of the university are attending the program.

Mansoor Ijaz naked wrestling: SC to hear Memogate case

Dunya TV
Supreme Court has issued notices to all respondents in the memo case. A nine-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry will hear the memo case. The memo commission had already submitted its report in this regard. The commission in its report stated that memorandum was real and was authored by Ex-Ambassador Husain Haqqani. It stated that he had violated the Constitution just to prove that the civil government in Islamabad was (and still is) USA’s friend and that it can help Washington in its non-proliferation efforts. The case subjecting to the memo controversy will be heard on July 12 for which notices have been served to all respondents.

Pakistan: Cameron Munter discusses US interest in Pakistan

The United States Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter on Thursday said that stability and peace in Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan. Talking to Pakistan Television, he said that Pakistan had played its role for peace and war on terror. Further more, he said that the Salala check post incident was very unfortunate. Moreover, he said that there was a need to support Pakistan at economic, industrial and energy level. He stressed the need for avoiding misunderstanding between the two sides. The ambassador said that there is a need to have people-to-people contacts. He said that a plan is being prepared to help Pakistan in different sectors including energy, health and Bhasha dam.

U.S. Why Roberts saved Obama's healthcare law

In the end, it all came down to Chief Justice John Roberts, the sphinx in the center chair, who in a stunning decision wove together competing rationales to uphold President Barack Obama's healthcare plan. Roberts' action instantly upended the conventional wisdom that he would vote with his four fellow conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court and undercut the agenda of a Democratic president, who as a senator in 2005 had opposed Roberts' appointment to the bench. But Thursday's extraordinary conclusion to the bitterly fought healthcare battle was quite ordinary in some ways. Roberts hewed to a traditional Supreme Court principle that if the justices can find any constitutional grounds on which to uphold a law, they should do so. The 57-year-old chief justice also followed a stated principle of his own: narrowly deciding cases and trying to preserve the integrity of the judiciary in polarized Washington. While he has voted consistently with the conservative bloc on social issues, such as abortion rights and racial policies, Roberts in his public remarks has suggested that he seeks, as chief, to transcend an ideological label. He routinely refers to the court's place in history and has bristled at polls and public commentary that suggest the high court acts in the same political realm as the two elected branches of government. Indeed, in his comments during oral arguments in the healthcare case, Roberts hinted that he could be open to siding with the government. He expressed concern that the court over which he presides might be seen as ignoring more than 75 years of precedent and rolling back U.S. law to the New Deal era. The last time the Supreme Court struck down a major act of Congress was in 1936, when the court invalidated a federal law that limited work hours and prescribed minimum wages for coal workers. "He is positioning the court as the one, competent, principled institution in Washington," said Pamela Karlan, a Stanford University law professor. "The chief justice's opinion is designed to appear thoughtful, measured. He is in this for the long haul." DEFYING HISTORY As the lone conservative standing with four liberals, Roberts defied recent history, most people's expectations, and the deepest held hopes of the right-wing and Tea Party opponents of the law. He also rejected the prevailing view of Republican politicians, who had been his strongest backers when President George W. Bush nominated him five years ago. "The court avoided, despite an enormous amount of pressure to invalidate this law, staining itself as excessively partisan," said Bradley Joondeph, a law professor at Santa Clara University. "Think of the people who supported Chief Justice Roberts, who put him on the court, who were rooting for him." On the Roberts court, the swing-vote role has often been played by Justice Anthony Kennedy, not the chief himself. For example, Kennedy, a conservative appointed to the court by President Ronald Reagan in 1988, was crucial to its 1992 decision to uphold the right to abortion. Thursday's case marked the first time that Roberts joined the liberal bloc as the deciding fifth vote in a major case. On Thursday, Kennedy fell in with the conservatives and read their joint dissent. In it, he took a swipe at Roberts' claim that the court was acting cautiously. "The court regards its strained statutory interpretation as judicial modesty," Kennedy wrote. "It is not. It amounts instead to a vast judicial overreaching." A PYRRHIC VICTORY Roberts did hand the conservatives a pyrrhic victory. He rejected the Obama administration's main argument that the core of the law, a mandate that requires most Americans to buy health insurance by 2014 or face a penalty, was covered by Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce. Roberts said that power, while broad, does not extend to "inactivity," such as the choice not to buy insurance. Whether this apparent limiting of the Commerce Clause will hinder Congressional power in the future remains to be seen. In their briefs and arguments, both sides characterized the health insurance mandate as distinctive, and it is unclear whether another Congressional regulation could be struck down under the Roberts "inactivity" rationale. Roberts' judgment on the Commerce Clause issue was endorsed by fellow conservatives Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas. But in turning to another constitutional ground on which to uphold the mandate, Congress' taxation power, Roberts embraced the Obama administration's secondary argument - and delivered a victory to the President. Roberts reasoned that even though Congress had shied away from calling the penalty for not buying insurance a "tax," it effectively is one. Roberts stressed that the court was not endorsing the administration's approach. "Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass on its wisdom or fairness," he said. As he read excerpts from the momentous decision Thursday, Roberts seemed to downplay the drama of the morning. His voice was steady and even. He kept to his script. There were few rhetorical flourishes. He occasionally looked out at the spectators. Among them was Justice John Paul Stevens, a liberal who had served with Roberts until he retired two years ago at the age of 90. Following the usual decorum in the white-marble and crimson-draped room, the nearly 300 people listening to the chief justice gave no audible response. Roberts then named the justices who had joined him in various parts of the decision, and those who had not. All told, it took about 20 minutes.

Pakistan's Govt pledges no ‘radical steps’ in row with judiciary

The Express Tribune
In a unique move amidst festering political uncertainty, the government moved to placate nervous world capitals that it has no plans to take any “radical steps” which may exacerbate its ongoing row with the judiciary over the reopening of graft cases against the president. A rare briefing took place at the foreign ministry on Thursday for diplomats stationed in Pakistan, during which Law Minister Farook H Naek attempted to dispel the impression that the country was heading towards any major constitutional or political crisis – particularly in regards to a lingering controversy over the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) implementation case, sources revealed. The briefing – attended by envoys from the US, India, Afghanistan and other world capitals – came just a day after the Supreme Court gave newly inducted Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf two weeks to state whether he intends to write a letter to Swiss authorities or not. The briefing, it is believed, was arranged in light of growing concerns in major international capitals about the future of democracy in the face of a bruising civil-judicial faceoff in the country. Last week, former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was ousted from power by the country’s top court in a similar case when he refused to write a letter to Swiss authorities regarding the reopening of graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. The latest court direction has led to a flurry of speculations that the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was considering several options to pre-empt the judiciary’s next move — including a constitutional amendment to curtail the Supreme Court’s powers to interpret constitutional issues, and set up a new federal judicial body to deal with such matters. Following the court’s fresh deadline, the new prime minister held emergency talks with Law Minister Naek and Attorney General Irfan Qadir on Wednesday to discuss all available options to deal with the situation. The government, it is believed, is also contemplating changing the law of contempt to provide immunity to both the offices of the president and the premier. However, a source, who attended Thursday’s briefing at the foreign office, said the law minister denied these speculations vehemently. “Pakistan is passing through a transition and every institution is trying to assert itself,” Naik was quoted as telling the diplomats. He insisted that all issues would be settled within the constitutional framework. An official statement said that the foreign ministry hosted a briefing for the heads of diplomatic missions on “foreign policy priorities of the government”. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar spoke about the smooth transition to a newly-elected prime minister, and the government’s abiding commitment to strengthening democracy, it said. The statement added that Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar was accompanied by Law Minister Naek, who, while briefing the diplomats, reiterated the government’s commitment to an “independent judicial system, and respect for rule of law”.

Shias killed in Quetta again. Reason? ; being Shias!

Let Us Build Pakistan
A roadside bomb ripped through a bus in Pakistan Thursday, killing at least 20 Shia passengers and wounding 25 others, local media reported. The blast took place around 6.00 p.m. in Hazarganji area of Balochistan province, Xinhua quoted the Urdu channel AAJ TV as saying. About 50 Shia Muslims were aboard the Quetta-bound bus from Iran. Eyewitnesses said that the bus was carrying pilgrims from Taftan and it was targeted when it was passing near a fruit market in the Hazarganji area. The vehicle was completely destroyed. Authorities said about 50 kg of explosives were used for the blast. One of the two police vehicles providing security to the bus was also attacked, leaving at least one policeman dead and three others injured. Police are unsure whether the bus was hit by a car bomb or explosives buried next to the road, said Quetta police chief Mir Zubair Mahmood. The attack has all the hallmarks of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ, also known as LeJ or SSP) which is an affiliate Jihadi-sectarian organization of Al Qaeda and Taliban. The banned ASWJ-LeJ-SSP has been blamed for a series of attacks on Shias in Quetta and other parts of Pakistan since mid 1980s. Same organization is responsible for series of attacks on Sunni Barelvis and other moderate Sunnis, as well as on Ahmadis and Christians. It may be noted that attacks on Pakistan’s Shias, Balochs, Pashtuns, Sunni Barelvis, moderate Deobandis and Ahmadis have increased exponentially in the last five years, since November 2007 when Pakistan’s current army chief General Kayani assumed his duties as commander in chief of army and its various intelligence agencies. Due to General Kayani’s allegedly indirect role in massacres of Shias, Balochs, Pashtuns etc, he is known as Butcher Kayani in Pakistan. A similar attack took place on 18 June 2012 in Quetta, claiming the lives of four Shia students on a bus. While the ISI-influenced Pakistani media (see reports by Dawn, Pakistan Today etc) and lazy foreign correspondents (see reports by AFP, BBC etc) continue to misrepresent the ongoing attacks on Shia Muslims as a part of Sunni-Shia sectarian violence, there is now a growing perception in Pakistan that it is ISI-backed Jihadi-sectarian militants, not Sunnis, who are responsible for attacks on Shias. Footage on television showed the bus was reduced to a mangled heap of blackened metal. Rescue workers and local residents could be seen pulling bodies and injured out of the bus. Later, a crane was brought in to pry apart the twisted metal so that the injured could be removed. Sources are facing difficulties identifying the victims as several martyrs’ bodies are unrecognizable. Only 10 have been identified till now. 1. Baba Ali 2. Taswer Nisa 3. Hussain Ali 4. Ejaz Ali 5. Muhammad Ali 6. Shah Hussain 7. Amir Hussain 8. Ali Yawar 9. Roshan Ali (Police ASI) 10. Ghulam Rasool (Police Constable) Yet another incident where Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (Sipah-e-Sahaba / Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat) will accept responsibility, government ministers will condemn, interior minister will blame foreign powers, relatives will grieve, mothers will wail after their lost sons and daughters, perpetrators will continue living a sheltered existence in a morally corrupt system and society. In the meanwhile, army will continue with fake attacks on prisons to secure release of their trained assets while the judiciary will continue to find inadequate evidence against Malik Ishaq to convict him. While Pakistan’s civilian government is asleep, military is securing release of arrested terrorists through prison breaks, judiciary is releasing self-confessed Jihadi-sectarian terrorists, media is either silent or misrepresenting ISI-sponsored Shia genocide as Sunni vs Shia sectarian violence of Hazara vs Baloch/Pashtun ethnic violence, it is important that all oppressed groups, Shias, Balochs, Pashtuns, Ahmadis, moderate Sunnis etc remain united against killers and their mentors and facilitators.

Pakistan's Shia community:Another Tragedy in Hazar Ganji

The sectarian war in Balochistan is getting uglier by the day as Sunni militants continue to devise new strategies every day to target members of the Shia community. Despite religious motivations, these attacks frequently lead to attacks on Hazara ethnic community. Thus, one should not mince words in describing this phenomenon as a blatant religious and ethnic cleansing. The tragic killing of another 13 innocent Shia pilgrims on Thursday in Hazar Ganji once again increases the fears of the Shia community and calls into question the government’s commitment to protect the people’s lives. The attack on a bus carrying Shia pilgrims from Iran in Quetta took place just ten days after another gruesome episode in which a university bus was targeted in Jinnah Town (Quetta), killing at least five young students. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an underground Sunni militant group known for its connections with Pakistan’s security establishment, accepted responsibility for the attacks. There is little doubt that Thursday’s tragedy was also masterminded by the LeJ because it had clearly warned of more attacks. The LeJ has adopted a new strategy of mass murder in the recent times by brutally targeting buses carrying pilgrims or even students. The motivation behind such actions is to cause panic and fear among the Shias, Hazaras so that they are confined to their homes. In other words, the LeJ seems to be working on a policy of ”kill them wherever you see them”. The government’s continued failure to address the issue of sectarianism is heartbreaking. There are deeper issues involved in violence that is employed in the name of religion. There is a reason why we do not see hope at the end of the tunnel. The government and our society are unlikely to stand united to defeat the menace of terrorism. The government and public seem to have given in to religious fanatics. We have seen too little expression of official or public outrage over these killings. Why do we not see mass public protests against suicide bombers or the LeJ? Because our society still refuses to categorize them as ‘bad guys’. There seems to be some sympathy at the top official level for those who commit violence. The Shia and Hazara community have suffered enormously in the hands of religious fanatics. The victim communities truly deserve better treatment both from the government and neighboring communities in Balochistan. The sectarian incidents cause a general breakdown of law and order in Balochistan giving the authorities an excuse to divert attention from the ongoing Baloch nationalist movement. This also enables to the security forces to conduct fake search operations in Baloch communities to arrest innocent youths in order to increase problems for the Balochs. By and large, this situation benefits the Taliban and their proxies in the future. Thirdly, an increase in anti-Shia violence makes unemployed Baloch youths very vulnerable to recruitment by extremist groups. The [articipation of Baloch youths in extremist movements drastically damages the Baloch interests. We once again call upon Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani to come forward before the Balochistan Assembly and the media to spell out his government’s policy on sectarian killings. The Shia and Hazara community must not be fooled every time with mere statements of condemnation and void assurances of arresting the culprits. It is the time for genuine action. The Shia, Hazara community has had enough and this must stop immediately. We do not endorse the government’s policy of dealing with the Baloch nationalists but what is comforting is the fact that the government at least does have a Baloch policy On the other hand, there is no official policy until now how to protect the Shia, Hazara community in Balochistan.The government has not been able to hunt down the top leadership of LeJ. Even if some leaders are detained (which is very rare), they are not convicted in the courts because of lack of evidence. It is almost impossible to rule out the possibility of official complicity in sectarian killings and bomb blasts given the widespread deployment of the Frontier Corps (FC) across Balochistan. The antidote to the current situation is unity among the people of Balochistan to fight a common enemy that is bent upon making the province a heaven for religious fanatics. There should be no room for religious fanatics in Balochistan as it is a land where persecution of people based on religion is what we desire the least.

Quetta observes shutter-down strike

The city wore a deserted look after Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) called to observe a complete shutter-down strike Friday to condemn the target killings and Hazar Gunji bomb blast in Quetta, Geo News reported. All the business activities in different areas including Alamdar Road, Hazara Town, Toghi Road, Gulistan Road, Liaquat Bazaar, Bacha Khan Chowk and in adjoining areas were suspended while traffic was also thin on the roads. While announcing to support today’s strike, different politico-religious parties including Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) strongly condemned the Hazar Gunji blast and demanded the government to provide security to the general public or else step down. On Thursday, a powerful remote-controlled car-bomb targeting a bus full of pilgrims claimed the lives of 13 people, including a cop, and injured 30 others in the Hazar Gunji area. Police officials said a passenger bus, escorted by a police van, carrying 40 pilgrims, was on its way from the Pak-Iran border at Taftan to Quetta. When the bus reached the Hazar Gunji area in the outskirts of the provincial capital, it was targeted by a remote-controlled car-bomb. The blast was so powerful that the bus turned into an unrecognizable wreck of metal and all 40 pilgrims and four policemen - in a patrolling vehicle escorting the passenger bus - were hit. Reports suggested that unidentified terrorists had parked a car loaded with explosives at Hazar Gunji. As the bus carrying the pilgrims approached the site at around 6:00pm, the explosive device went off with a big bang.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pakistan: Shia pilgrims martyred, several injured in a rocket attack
At least 13 pilgrims were martyred and several others injured in a rocket attack on zaireen’s bus in Hazar Ganji, Quetta on Thursday. Initial reports say that a police cop was also killed in the attack. Police was investigating if it was a rocket attack or suicidal bombing attack. The bus carrying at least 40 Maumineen was coming from Taftan, Pakistan’s border city with Iran. The pilgrims had gone to Iran on a pilgrimage tour. The bus was on its way to Alamdar Road. Casualties could rise because of serious condition of the injured victims. The victims are reported to be Hazara Shia Muslims. It is relevant to add here that terrorists of banned Sipah-e-Sahaba/banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi have been massacring Shia Muslims in Quetta, Balochistan province like other parts of Pakistan. Shia organisations and religious scholars have condemned the terrorism in Hazar Ganji and demanded that these terrorists must be arrested forthwith and be awarded capital punishment.

14 Shiites killed in attack in Pakistan

About 14 people including a police man were killed when a bus was hit by rocket at Hazar Ganji.
According to sources, a bus was carrying pilgrims from Iran’s city Tuftan to Quetta. When it reached the western bybass near Hazar Ganji, miscreants fired a rocket on bus, overturning it. As a result, the bus caught fire and fourteen people died on the spot while many others sustained injuries. The people from area started rescue services at their own while corpses and injured were shifted to hospital. Before this, numbers of such mishaps also have occurred due to lack of security measures in the area. This time, the caravan was accompanied by a policeman who also fell victim to terrorists’ barbarism.

U.S. Supreme Court upholds Obamacare 5-4; White House 'elated'

In a landmark ruling that will impact the November election and the lives of every American, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the controversial health care law championed by President Barack Obama. The narrow 5-4 ruling was a victory for Obama but also will serve as a rallying issue for Republicans calling for repeal of the Affordable Care Act passed by Democrats in 2010. An administration official described the White House reaction as elation, while GOP opponents criticized the high court's reasoning and promised an immediate repeal effort. Certain Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's campaign reported an immediate fund-raising spike of $300,000. The decision impacts how Americans get medicine and health care, and also provides new court guidelines on federal power.The most anticipated Supreme Court ruling in years allows the government to continue implementing the health care law, which doesn't take full effect until 2014. That means popular provisions that prohibit insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing medical conditions and allow parents to keep their children on family policies to the age of 26 will continue.In the ruling, the high court decided the most controversial provision -- the individual mandate requiring people to have health insurance -- is valid as a tax, even though it is impermissible under the Constitution's commerce clause. "In this case, however, it is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income, but choose to go without health insurance," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. "Such legislation is within Congress's power to tax." He later added: "The federal government does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance. ... The federal government does have the power to impose a tax on those without health insurance."Roberts joined the high court's liberal wing -- Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan -- in upholding the law. Four conservative justices -- Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas -- dissented. "To say that the Individual Mandate merely imposes a tax is not to interpret the statute but to rewrite it," Scalia said in dissent. "Imposing a tax through judicial legislation inverts the constitutional scheme, and places the power to tax in the branch of government least accountable to the citizenry." The polarizing law, dubbed "Obamacare" by many, is the signature legislation of Obama's time in office. It helped spur the creation of the conservative tea party movement and will be a centerpiece of the presidential election campaign. Romney called Obamacare bad policy and a bad law, adding that defeating Obama in November is the only way to get rid of it. "What the court did not do in its last session, I will do on the first day if elected president of the United States, and that's to repeal Obamacare," he said Thursday after the court's decision was announced. Democrats, meanwhile, celebrated the policy victory. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama's former White House chief of staff, called it a "historic day." "The president had the courage to bend the needle of history and did something presidents have tried to do for 60 years," Emanuel said of broadening health care accessibility. In his opinion, Roberts appeared to note the political divisions of the health care law, writing that "we do not consider whether the act embodies sound policies." "That judgment is entrusted to the nation's elected leaders," the opinion said. "We ask only whether Congress has the power under the Constitution to enact the challenged provisions." The narrow focus of the ruling on key issues such as the individual mandate -- limiting it to taxing powers rather than general commerce -- represented the court's effort to limit the government's authority. "The framers created a federal government of limited powers and assigned to this court the duty of enforcing those limits," Roberts wrote. "The court does so today."On the individual mandate, the opinion said that "the Affordable Care Act's requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax." "Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness," Roberts wrote. Republicans immediately seized on the ruling to accuse Obama of lying to the American people when he said during the protracted political debate on the bill in 2009 that it wasn't a tax. In an interview with ABC, Obama said then that the various provisions of the health care law were intended to create an all-inclusive system, so that penalizing people who refused to join was not a tax. "For us to say that you've got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase," Obama said, noting that "right now everybody in America, just about, has to get auto insurance. Nobody considers that a tax increase. People say to themselves, that is a fair way to make sure that if you hit my car, that I'm not covering all the costs." Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a leading tea party voice against the health care law, complained that the ruling "means now for the first time in the history of the country, Congress can force Americans to purchase any product, any service." "This is truly a turning point in American history. We'll never be the same way again," Bachmann said, adding that "this is a more far-reaching decision than anyone had expected or imagined." Roberts, however, wrote in the majority opinion that Congress exercised an authority it held to assess a tax, rather than create any new taxing authority. According to a poll released Tuesday, 37% of Americans said they would be pleased if the health care law were deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Twenty-eight percent said they would be pleased if the Affordable Care Act were ruled constitutional, the NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey showed, compared with 35% who said they would be disappointed if the court came back with that outcome. But nearly four in 10 Americans surveyed said they would have "mixed feelings" if the justices struck down the whole law. The survey of 1,000 adults was conducted June 20-24. Previous surveys have indicated that some who oppose the law do so because they think it doesn't go far enough. The Supreme Court heard three days of politically charged hearings in March on the law formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The landmark but controversial measure was passed by congressional Democrats despite pitched Republican opposition. The challenge focused primarily on the law's requirement that most Americans have health insurance or pay a fine. Supporters of the plan argued the "individual mandate" is necessary for the system to work, while critics argued it is an unconstitutional intrusion on individual freedom. Four federal appeals courts heard challenges to parts of the law before the Supreme Court ruling, and came up with three different results. Courts in Cincinnati and Washington voted to uphold the law, while the appeals court in Atlanta struck down the individual mandate. A fourth panel, in Richmond, Virginia, put its decision off until penalties for failing to have health insurance take effect in 2014. The act passed Congress along strictly partisan lines in March 2010, after a lengthy and heated debate marked by intense opposition from the health insurance industry and conservative groups. When Obama signed the legislation later that month, he called it historic and said it marked a "new season in America." While it was not the comprehensive national health care system liberals initially sought, supporters said the law would reduce health care costs, expand coverage and protect consumers. In place of creating a national health system, the law bans insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions, bars insurers from setting a dollar limit on health coverage payouts, and requires them to cover preventative care at no additional cost to consumers. It also requires individuals to have health insurance, either through their employers or a state-sponsored exchange, or face a fine beginning in 2014. There are, however, a number of exemptions. For instance, the penalty will be waived for people with very low incomes who are members of certain religious groups, or who face insurance premiums that would exceed 8% of family income even after including employer contributions and federal subsidies. Supporters argued the individual mandate is critical to the success of the legislation, because it expands the pool of people paying for insurance and ensures that healthy people do not opt out of having insurance until they need it. Critics say the provision gives the government too much power over what they say should be a personal economic decision. Twenty-six states, led by Florida, went to court to say individuals cannot be forced to have insurance, a "product" they may neither want nor need. And they argued that if that provision is unconstitutional, the entire law must go. The Justice Department countered that since every American will need medical care at some point in their lives, individuals do not "choose" whether to participate in the health care market. The partisan debate around such a sweeping piece of legislation has encompassed almost every traditional hot-button topic: abortion and contraception funding, state and individual rights, federal deficits, end-of-life care, and the overall economy. During arguments on March 27, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the law appeared to "change the relationship between the government and the individual in a profound way." Roberts argued that "all bets are off" when it comes to federal government authority if Congress was found to have the authority to regulate health care in the name of commerce. Liberal justices, however, argued people who don't pay into the health system by purchasing insurance make care more expensive for everyone. "It is not your free choice" to stay out of the market for life, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said during arguments. "I think the justices probably came into the argument with their minds made up. They had hundreds of briefs and months to study them," said Thomas Goldstein, publisher of and a prominent Washington attorney, though he conceded that "the oral arguments (in March) might have changed their minds around the margin." The legislation signed by Obama stretched to 2,700 pages, nine major sections and some 450 provisions. The first lawsuits challenging the health care overhaul began just hours after the president signed the measure.