Sunday, January 8, 2012

Obama: Bring US jobs home

Democrats See Hopes Rise in Battle to Control Congress

While most of the political world’s attention has been focused on the presidential primaries, Democrats who took a beating in the midterm elections say they have slowly but steadily gotten back in the game when it comes to the battle for control of Congress. A year of fiscal fights that left the country careening from threatened government shutdown to federal default back to shutdown has hurt every member of Congress, but polls show it has hurt Republicans a bit more. Just before Christmas, House Republicans were forced to make humiliating concessions to Democrats over the extension of a payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits, dinging the party’s tax-cutting brand. And improving economic signs captured in jobs gains reported on Friday also have Democrats feeling more optimistic. “This morning’s announcement that our economy added 200,000 jobs in December, bringing our unemployment rate down to 8.5 percent, is a sign of progress and provides further evidence that our economy is recovering,” Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said Friday. At the same time, President Obama, while still embattled, has seen his poll numbers improve slightly in the wake of the chaos on the Hill. Further, the Republican narrative that so dominated 2010 — deficit spending as the nation’s greatest ill — has been matched in recent months by the Democratic pounding of the table on income inequality. Occupy Wall Street protests eclipsed Tea Parties around the nation this fall in defining at least some of the national mood. In a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted in October, 66 percent of respondents who were asked if they felt that “the money and wealth in this country should be more evenly distributed among more people” said it should be more evenly distributed, while 26 percent said the system was fair. All of this has left Democrats feeling more hopeful that they can recapture many of the 25 House seats needed for a majority, fend off a formidable challenge by Republicans over control of the Senate and perhaps keep Mr. Obama in Washington. “A year ago today we were depressed, we were doubtful and we were in debt,” said Representative Steve Israel of New York, who oversees the committee that works to get Democrats elected to the House.” “Since then, because of Republican mishaps and our own aggressiveness,” he said, the party has regrouped in its fund-raising and persuaded more Democrats to run. “I am not predicting we are going to take the House back,” Mr. Israel said. “But I am willing to sign an affidavit that it will be razor close.” Color Republicans unimpressed. There are far fewer Republicans in Democratic districts now than there were Democrats in Republican districts in 2010, and many of the current batch of Republicans have been shored up through redistricting. More Democrats are also retiring from both chambers than Republicans; in the Senate, seven Democrats have decided to leave, the most recent being Ben Nelson of Nebraska, whose announcement last week further hurt his party’s chances of holding onto control there. What is more, Republicans often cite the respected political expert Charlie Cook, who points out that only once since World War II has the party holding the White House gained more than 15 House seats in a presidential election year. And Mr. Obama remains an impediment in many crucial districts. “House Democrats’ public chest-thumping is recurring entertainment,” said Representative Pete Sessions of Texas, who is Mr. Israel’s counterpart at the National Republican Congressional Committee. “But it falls far from political reality. Even Democrats know that the Republican majority is strengthening as more Democrats throw in the towel in order to avoid facing a referendum election on their job-destroying policies.” Republicans and others also argue that the president’s new strategy of running against Congress carries risks for Democrats who could be tarred along with Republicans. But Democrats hope that by narrowing their majority in the House, even if Republicans win control of the Senate, they can push back against the policy agenda that Republicans have pressed, often with great success, over the last year. In any event, the political complexion of the 113th Congress will almost certainly complicate the agenda of whoever is in the White House come January 2013. “What will most likely happen is you will either have a narrow majority in either chamber or a still-divided Congress,” said Julian E. Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “You are looking at a president who is going to face the same governing environment that President Obama faces and Bush before him faced, and in some ways the problems might be worse.” There are two ways to look at current polling, and Democrats choose the glass-is-half-full approach. In a December poll conducted by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal , 45 percent wanted the Democrats to win control of Congress in November while 43 percent supported the Republicans. That is a slight uptick for Democrats since the summer, when the news organizations found 47 percent of voters surveyed said they preferred a Republican-controlled Congress, and 41 percent said they would rather see the Democrats win a majority this year. However, while 72 percent of the public disapproves of how Republicans in Congress are doing their jobs according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, nearly as many, 66 percent, disapprove of the job performance of Congressional Democrats. “Democrats did a good job in the recent tax fight of drawing Republicans into the spotlight,” said Nathan L. Gonzales, an editor at The Rothenberg Political Report, a nonpartisan newsletter. “But they don’t want to go into 2012 having it simply be referendum on whether people feel good about the country, because Democrats are viewed as more responsible for state of the economy. I am not convinced that Democrats have won the message battle for the 2012 election.” But Democrats believe that they have momentum on their side, just as Republicans did at this time in 2010. Democrats cite money, polls and candidate recruitment as the central beacons of light. Last January, “I couldn’t even get people I wanted to run to return my calls,” Mr. Israel said. These days, he is persuading some of them — including nearly a dozen who lost their seats in 2010 — to take another shot. Dan Maffei, a Democrat who lost his New York seat by roughly 600 votes to Ann Marie Buerkle in 2010, said that after licking his wounds for several months, he decided over the summer to try and regain his seat. “It was very challenging to lose,” he said. “After my wife and I saw how challenging it was, we just sort of wanted to walk away. But as my successor’s record emerged, we kind of came to the conclusion, if I don’t get back in, who will?” While the party left him to his own devices last time, not anticipating a loss, Mr. Maffei said he has been assured help in this campaign. “It is a lot easier to run if you have full support of D.C.C.C.,” he said. Congressional Democrats have raised more money lately than Republicans. But many campaign finance experts say that is less important than in past years because of the increasing influence of outside groups. “If the D.C.C.C. outraises the N.R.C.C.,” Mr. Gonzales said, “big deal.” Conservative groups like American Crossroads and other outsider organizations “are going to have money and spend it in key races,” he said. “So analyzing fund-raising is more complicated than it has ever been.” But Democrats are clinging to a series of new polls that they say show a momentum that can be harnessed to their advantage, particularly around fiscal policy issues. For instance, a recent poll by Gallup found that voters felt more confidence toward Mr. Obama and the Democrats in Congress (41 percent to 34 percent) concerning the extension of payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits. Democrats in competitive districts wasted no time conducting automated calls on the issue to voters, even before the final outcome of the payroll tax fight. Both parties note the length of time until November, when anything can happen to shift the political ground. Republicans have a history of disciplined messaging, and Democrats have been known to allow infighting between its most liberal members and those who seek the center to unravel their unity. But the party continues to hope. “The economy, jobs and income equality are the biggest issues,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the chamber’s no. 3 Democrat. “Taken together, Republicans are having trouble getting their arms around the issue. The ballgame is changing.”

Argentine Leader Is Told Thyroid Was Cancer-Free

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina never had thyroid cancer despite a diagnosis of the disease last month, her spokesman said on Saturday. The government announced in late December that Mrs. Kirchner had cancer, but the spokesman, Alfredo Scoccimarro, said an examination of her thyroid gland, which was removed Wednesday, had found no cancerous cells. “The original diagnosis has been modified,” he said at a news conference. “The presence of cancer cells was discarded.” Eduardo Faure, a thyroid cancer expert in Buenos Aires who is not on the president’s medical team, said a small number of such cases turned out to be “false positives.” “The cells may originally appear to be cancer, but in 2 percent of cases, after the operation, when a more thorough examination can be performed, it turns out they are not,” he said.
several hundred supporters of Mrs. Kirchner, 58, who won re-election in October with 54 percent of the vote, had camped out near the hospital where she was treated, carrying banners that said, “Strength, Cristina.” A cheer went up when Mr. Scoccimarro made the announcement. The original diagnosis of papillary carcinoma alarmed many of Mrs. Kirchner’s supporters, especially after the death of her husband, Néstor, a former president who had remained an unrivaled political force, in 2010 from a heart attack.

Lull in Strikes by U.S. Drones Aids Militants in Pakistan

A nearly two-month lull in American drone strikes in Pakistan has helped embolden Al Qaeda and several Pakistani militant factions to regroup, increase attacks against Pakistani security forces and threaten intensified strikes against allied forces in Afghanistan, American and Pakistani officials say.

The insurgents are increasingly taking advantage of tensions raised by an American airstrike in November that killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers in two border outposts, plunging relations between the countries to new depths. The Central Intelligence Agency, hoping to avoid making matters worse while Pakistan completes a wide-ranging review of its security relationship with the United States, has not conducted a drone strike since mid-November.

Diplomats and intelligence analysts say the pause in C.I.A. missile strikes — the longest in Pakistan in more than three years — is offering for now greater freedom of movement to an insurgency that had been splintered by in-fighting and battered by American drone attacks in recent months. Several feuding factions said last week that they were patching up their differences, at least temporarily, to improve their image after a series of kidnappings and, by some accounts, to focus on fighting Americans in Afghanistan.

Other militant groups continue attacking Pakistani forces. Just last week, Taliban insurgents killed 15 security soldiers who had been kidnapped in retaliation for the death of a militant commander.

The spike in violence in the tribal areas — up nearly 10 percent in 2011 from the previous year, according to a new independent report — comes amid reports of negotiations between Pakistan’s government and some local Taliban factions, although the military denies that such talks are taking place.

A logistics operative with the Haqqani terrorist group, which uses sanctuaries in Pakistan to carry out attacks on allied troops in Afghanistan, said militants could still hear drones flying surveillance missions, day and night. “There are still drones, but there is no fear anymore,” he said in a telephone interview. The logistics operative said fighters now felt safer to roam more freely.

Over all, drone strikes in Pakistan dropped to 64 last year, compared with 117 strikes in 2010, according to The Long War Journal, a Web site that monitors the attacks. Analysts attribute the decrease to a dwindling number of senior Qaeda leaders and a pause in strikes last year after the arrest in January of Raymond Davis, a C.I.A. security contractor who killed two Pakistanis; the Navy Seal raid in May that killed Osama bin Laden; and the American airstrike on Nov. 26.

Pakistan ordered drone operations at its Shamsi air base closed after that airstrike, but C.I.A. drones flying from bases in Afghanistan continue to fly surveillance missions over the tribal areas. The drones would be cleared to fire on a senior militant leader if there was credible intelligence and minimal risk to civilians, American officials said. But for now, the Predator and Reaper drones are holding their fire, the longest pause in Pakistan since July 2008.

“It makes sense that a lull in U.S. operations, coupled with ineffective Pakistani efforts, might lead the terrorists to become complacent and try to regroup,” one American official said. “We know that Al Qaeda’s leaders were constantly taking the U.S. counterterrorism operations into account, spending considerable time planning their movements and protecting their communications to try to stay alive.”

C. Christine Fair, an assistant professor of political science at Georgetown University who just returned from a month in Pakistan, put it more bluntly: “They’re taking advantage of the respite. It allows them to operate more freely.”

Several administration officials said Saturday that any lull in drone strikes did not signal a weakening of the country’s counterterrorism efforts, suggesting that strikes could resume soon. “Without commenting on specific counterterrorism operations, Al Qaeda is severely weakened, having suffered major losses in recent years,” said George Little, a Defense Department spokesman. “But even a diminished group of terrorists can pose danger, and thus our resolve to defeat them is as strong as ever.”

Analysts say the hiatus coincides with and probably has accelerated a flurry of insurgent activity and new strategies.

In the past week, leaflets distributed in North Waziristan announced that the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda had urged several Pakistani militant groups to set aside their differences and some commanders have reportedly asked their fighters to focus on striking American-led allied forces in Afghanistan.

The Pakistani groups include the Pakistani Taliban, an umbrella group led by Hakimullah Mehsud that has mounted attacks against the Pakistani state since the group was formed in 2007. The new council also includes the Haqqani network and factions led by Maulvi Nazir of South Waziristan and Hafiz Gul Bahadur of North Waziristan, which already target NATO soldiers and have tacit peace agreements with the Pakistani military.

In telephone interviews, some Pakistani militants said the purpose of the agreement was to settle internal differences among rival factions and improve the image of the Taliban, which has been tarnished because of the increasing use of kidnapping and the rise in civilian killings.

Other analysts say that the Afghan Taliban are also feeling the pinch of American-led night raids and other operations across the border. They said the Taliban needed the militants in Pakistan’s tribal region to focus more on helping to launch a final offensive in Afghanistan, in hopes of gaining leverage before any peace talks and the ultimate withdrawal of most American forces from Afghanistan by 2014.

One of the main drivers of the accord was Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani network, prompting some Pakistani analysts to reason that the Pakistani Army had also prodded the creation of the council, or shura, to maintain its leverage in any peace negotiations. Last summer Adm. Mike Mullen, who was then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the Haqqanis “a veritable arm” of Pakistan’s main military spy agency.

“No agreement is ever permanent in frontier politics, and it’s all very complicated,” said one American government official with decades of experience in Pakistan and its tribal areas.

Stuck in a stalemate in the lawless borderlands with this array of militants are 150,000 Pakistani troops. A recent report by an Islamabad-based research organization, the Pak Institute for Peace Studies, said that militant-based violence had declined by 24 percent in the last two years. But it also concluded that terrorist attacks in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province increased 8 percent in 2011 from the year before.

“The security situation remained volatile as militants dislodged from their strongholds constantly managed to relocate to other parts of the FATA,” the report said.

In a sign of the shifting insurgent tactics, the number of suicide bombings in the country declined to 39 through November, compared with a high of 81 in all of 2009, according to the Pakistani military.

The number of attacks from homemade bombs, however, increased to 1,036 through November, compared with 877 for all of 2009. More than 3,500 Pakistani soldiers and police officers have been killed since 2002.

One senior Pakistani Army officer with experience in the tribal areas said that insurgents had devised increasingly diabolical triggers and fuses for bombs.

Unlike Americans, Pakistani soldiers still drive in pickups or carriers with little protection. “The effects are devastating,” said the officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Vehicles are basically vaporized.”

“The Pakistani Army is overstretched, and that’s clearly had an impact on morale,” said Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States. “But we have to maintain the pressure on the militants.”

Exclusive Interview of President Zardari


Part 2

Part 3

After a long time, President Zardari has given an interview to a local TV channel. Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that the president’s interview has helped in clearing misunderstandings on different issues. Mr Zardari spoke on a number of issues of national and international importance ranging from relations between state institutions and ties with India, China and the US. Denying rumours about his resignation, the president said, “No one has asked for my resignation till now. I do not think anyone in Pakistan is so innocent that he will ask for my resignation. What will they do with my resignation? I have given my powers to parliament.” After the 18th Amendment, the president has been divested of all his powers and is now just a constitutional head of state, as he/she should be under a parliamentary system. He also ruled out the government writing a letter to the Swiss authorities in the NRO case because it would amount to a “trial of the dead; it will be like a trial of BB’s grave”. As far as the issue of the NATO supply route, boycotting the Bonn Conference and getting the Shamsi Airbase vacated were concerned, the president gave the credit to parliament. What was significant in the interview was Mr Zardari hinting at ‘someone’, without naming that person, who insisted that the Rawalpindi rally be held even though many others, including the president, Ms Bhutto’s children and Rehman Malik “opposed holding the rally”. He also said the Memogate issue has been given undue importance in the media. He dispelled the notion that there were any differences between the government and the military and/or the judiciary. “We are not at war with the court and we are not at war with the military. You think it is a clash, but I say it is part of an evolutionary process. This clash will evolve and then simmer down,” said Mr Zardari. Some analysts are of the view that the interview was a whitewash and the president did not say anything of importance; others view it as a good thing given that the president has not been giving many interviews to the local media.

Tortured Afghan girl suffering in hospital, aid worker says

A 15-year-old girl allegedly tortured by her in-laws in Afghanistan after she refused to be forced into prostitution is not doing well in hospital, aid workers say.

Sahar Gul was rescued by police last month in the country's northern Baghlan province after she was locked in the basement of her in-laws' house, starved and her nails pulled out.

She is safe, but signs of the abuse she's suffered remain all too clear, said Wazhma Frogh of the Afghan Women's Network.

Sahar is too weak to move her body, which has black bruise marks all over from being beaten, and the nurses gave her diapers because she can't get to the toilet, Frogh said.

The girl's eyes are bruised and she can't speak. Her hair was also cut short by her in-laws as a punishment after she refused to sleep with other men.A photograph provided by the Afghan Women's Network shows her asleep in a hospital bed, the bruising on her face obvious and her head bandaged.

The mental trauma she suffered is also affecting her, and is under medication to help her deal with it, Frogh said.

"We've also provided her with a trauma counselor because she is very traumatized and even when I wanted to take her hand, she resisted," despite being unconscious, Frogh said.

Because the teenager was beaten and assaulted, she added, "now she doesn't want anyone to even touch her."

Last month, authorities in Baghlan said they rescued the girl after hearing reports that she was tortured after she refused to be forced into prostitution. But, they said, they were waiting for her to fully recover to talk to her and learn more.

Sahar was married off to a 30-year-old man about seven months ago. After her parents reported not seeing her for months, police launched their investigation, Baghlan police official Jawid Basharat said at the time.

Meanwhile, Sahar's father-in-law, mother-in-law and sister-in-law have been arrested but her husband -- who Frogh said is thought to be a soldier serving in Helmand province -- has not been caught.

The Women's Network is determined to do its best to ensure she gets the care she needs -- but Frogh warned that her recovery won't be easy.

"She needs proper food, proper care that our government's hospitals don't have, therefore we have been collecting donations to provide to the hospital to buy her good food, clothing and other basic needs," she said.

"We also have to think of her shelter once she is back into normal life, which is going to take some months."

At the same time, the Women's Network has found a lawyer for Sahar and has persuaded the Afghan authorities to move the investigation to Kabul, where there will be less influence from the local community, Frogh said.

It has also contacted the attorney general to appeal for a faster investigation before the girl's in-laws are released from custody.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called for the abuse to be "seriously investigated," his office said in a statement Sunday.

Nawaz’s foolhardiness


Why is Mian Nawaz Sharif so hell-bent on sprinkling bags of salt on the open wounds of the deprived, denied and wronged Baloch people with his perfidious talk and poking fun at their nagging woes by playing brazenly dirty opportunistic politics on their colossal grief? He has been posing foxily as if he had had no part in the injustices inflicted on the Baloch people in spates whereas he too has been very much part of the centre-sardar nexus that has kept the Baloch commoners so callously caged in penury and backwardness, keeping them from coming into their own and stifling their very spirit and grit to be the masters of their will and vote. He was part of the problem in the past; he is part of the problem even now. No part of the solution has he ever been. He speaks for sardars, who are part of the problem; not of commoners, who actually are part of the solution.
He befriends sardars; and means them, not the commoners, when he speaks of the Balochs’ tragic predicaments. No wonder, his self-serving talk warms up the rapacious sardars’ hearts; it nauseates the suppressed and oppressed commoners they hold in their tight strangleholds. Yet not any hesitant has he been in ditching even sardars if so warranted by his political interests. He says after the 1997 election, Baloch nationalists had supported his government at the centre. Yes, they did; a clutch of sardars donning the nationalists’ garb were on his side. But how did he return the compliment to them? Of it he speaks not, the fact being too damning. He pulled down Sardar Akhtar Mengal’s provincial ministry. So much of his pious sentiments for Balochistan’s people.
But veritably Balochistan never ever figured up any prominently or imperatively on his radar screen all through his power stints. He consumed huge precious sum in building an unarguably unneeded motorway in Punjab; but he too shelled not essentially required one billion rupees from the federal treasury to put into operation the Saindak copper-gold mine, lying idle since its development in September 1995 by a Chinese company, for want of working capital. He now speaks enthusiastically of the Gwadar port, calling it a potential entrepot of regional dimension and proposing making of it a free port. But he conveniently glosses over the huge fuss he dished up when an Omani royal got actively interested in building this port during Benazir Bhutto’s second government.
He cried foul, flimsily. The Omani royal, he alleged, had gifted a costly necklace to her and a prized-breed horse to her mother to clinch the port deal. A disgusted royal walked away and Benazir got scared off for fear of accumulating slur; and the port project fell flat. But, woefully, this jewel of a port that he now considers Gwadar to be, enthused him not a wee bit when he succeeded Benazir in the prime minister’s chair. It was his bete noire Pervez Musharraf who built it, not he. Not even the pathetic condition of fishermen community inhabiting Gwadar’s coastal region drew Nawaz’s interest a notch. While he launched a patently politically-motivated vote-bank-building yellow cab scheme to expand his support base in urban Pakistan, he gave not even a fleeting thought to help the Gwadar fishermen, still plying their trade on outmoded boats, to modernise their fishing vessels.
And as he flung into parcelling out kaacha lands in Sindh to landless haris, albeit selectively, he thought of no such scheme for the similarly-placed Balochistan’s peasantry. Indeed, Balochistan was never his favourite all through his power stints. At best, it was sardars and chieftains, not least the commoners, who engaged his attention, if at all. He built no schools, technical institutes, universities or professional colleges to help the Balochistan youths to fructify the enormous potential, promise and talent they are brimming with. Not even he cared to promote the province’s rich horticulture, leave alone bigger things like building dams, canals and rural roads to bring to full fruition its virgin agriculture’s potential. Given this, expecting from him to have given some attention to the province’s huge mineral wealth’s exploitation for its people’s benefits is like expecting milk from a ram.
He indeed would be quite content if, say, gas royalties land in a sardari pocket to buy deadly weapons, even anti-aircraft guns, to keep their tribal folks in dread, fight blood-soaked tribal feuds, and, if need be, to battle with state security forces. The people can go to hell, he would care less. It is the sardar’s grief that torments him; not the commoner’s. But he must know a new awakening is taking place among the Balochistan youth that would in time throw aside his sardari pals as mere redundancies and irrelevancies. This is inevitable. And he must know Balochistan is not just Baloch. It is also very much Pakhtun and Hazara, and no lesser Punjabi settlers and Urdu-speaking migrants. They cannot be wished off, so integral part of the Balochistan polity are they now. Will he call them, too, to his proposed all-party conference on Balochistan? Let’s see.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will provide Rs 50 million to launch Abasin TV Channel

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Information Mian Iftikhar Hussain on Friday informed that the provincial government will provide Rs 50 million to launch Abasin TV Channel in the province on initial phase, saying that a formal agreement would be signed very soon in this regard.

Talking to reporters after attending meeting of Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting, he said that the Abasin Channel will run through existing administrative and technical staff, because of which no additional budget is needed to allocate for the purpose.

He extended the special gratitude to the Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting PTV and members for giving importance to war-affected province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

He added the province is in dire need of starting the Channel.

Mian Iftikhar said that the proposal of launching the Abasin Channel has been pending for the last two years.

Of course, he said that provincial government is liable to provide funds for launching the Channel and hence it will provide Rs 50 million on the request of Governor of the province.

He maintained that the provincial government was unable to disburse the amount of Rs 50 million because of delay in the meeting of relevant standing committee.

He, however, said that the meeting unanimously decided that the total expenditure on Abasin TV is Rs 450 million while Rs 200 million needed for its initial stage.

He further said that the meeting asked the Centre to sanction Rs 200 million as a special case for early commencing of Abasin TV.

Initially, he informed that the provincial government would provide Rs 50 million for recurring expenditure of Abasin TV each year, adding the amount would be generated through advertisements on the Channel.

Hashmi chides PML-N for distributing sweets on news of his ailment

The Express Tribune

Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leadership and workers had distributed sweets upon hearing news of his ailment, former PML-N stalwart Javed Hashmi, said while addressing a ceremony in Multan.

He said that I as he fought with death, some party members distributed sweets on hearing that I had suffered a brain haemorrhage attack on me.

Hashmi, who has on numerous occasions blamed the government of Punjab for neglecting his constituency, said that despite funds allocated to Multan, close to Rs1.2 billion had been reallocated from Multan for development projects in Lahore and upper Punjab.

Hashmi was of the view that this move had not only increased the grievances PML (N) workers but had further strengthened the perceived notion of discrimination by Punjab government against the people of south Punjab. “Me and my MPA can hold the seats and can easily earn Rs5 million annually, but I immediately rejected this facility in a second.”

He said that the PML (N) leadership had made four promises of development of Multan including, the construction of agricultural college, engineering university, women and medical university. However, the government had failed to keep its promises.

“I had personally informed Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif about reservations of the people of the south Punjab but the focus for both is more towards consolidating their governments than addressing the reservations of the people,” Hashmi complained.

Z.A.Bhutto was an asset of Pakistan

Sindh Assembly on Saturday continued discussion on the resolution to pay tribute to the founder of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB)


Sindh Information Minister Shazia Marri said that Shaheed Bhutto was not only leader of PPP but was also an asset of Pakistan and the Islamic Ummah.

She said that conspiracies were even today against democracy. PPP is not a party of one person, it is an ideology and a movement.

Dr Sikandar Mendhro, Rafique Engineer, Abdul Qadir Rajpar, Rashida Panhwar and Najma Saeed Chawla also addressed the house on the subject.

Parliamentary leader and Senior Minister Pir Mazhar-ul-Haq while talking on the floor said that though Shaheed Bhutto was born in Sindh, he emerged as a world leader. “He converted the dead nation into a living entity and gave voice to those who were nearly dead. He united the Islamic Ummah and made Pakistan a nuclear power”, Haq said.

The minister, however, felt that that great leader was not treated with justice. In a false case, he was given a capital punishment on the evidence of an approver, he noted.

Haq said that the approver Masood Mehmud gave a false statement after a confinement of five months.

Provincial Minister Muzaffar Ali Shujra said that some elements were bent upon to eliminate PPP, but they could not do it because that party belonged to late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and poor people.

MPA Shama Mithani said that Shaheed Bhutto was a great leader and statesman who gave political awareness to the people. Today, we are all Bhutto.

Lessons for Pakistan


By arresting the former military chief General Ilker Basbug, Turkey’s elected government has put the military in its place by making even the highest-ranking officer accountable to the law. The ex-General has been arrested over his alleged involvement in a conspiracy to overthrow Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government and suspected of forming, directing and funding a terrorist network by the name of ‘Ergenekon’ through websites. Turkey’s powerful secularist army has played a major role in the country’s politics until Erdogan’s Islamist-based Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power through the ballot in 2003. Initially there was apprehension that being an Islamist party, the AKP would erode the secular character of the country much to the dismay of the secularists, including the military. However, nothing of the sort happened. Moreover, the performance of Erdogan’s government was excellent and his party’s economic and foreign policies brought prosperity to the country. The fact that it won a majority of seats in parliament for a third consecutive term is proof that the AKP, under his premiership, has and continues to enjoy enormous public support. In fact, it is due to this popularity that Erdogan’s government has been able to roll back the influence of the military and made it accountable to the civilian government — no small feat. Through good governance, Erdogan has challenged the civil-military imbalance — something that was bound to incur the displeasure of the army, which has often been suspected of attempting to repeat the past by weakening the grip of the incumbent democratic government.

With as many as four military coups and the execution of a prime minister, the history of Turkey — with regards to its power-hungry military — bears a striking resemblance to that of Pakistan, where the military is still seen as the most powerful institution in the country. Therefore, Pakistan must learn from the example set by Erdogan’s democratic government in order to rewrite the military-dominated chapters of its dark history. The civilian government must strive to come up to the expectations of the people and serve the very purposes for which they were elected. Secondly, the military — individually and/or collectively — must be held accountable for all its actions. It is only through these means that democracy in Pakistan can be protected, supremacy of the law and parliament in the country ensured, and the military made to function within the parameters of the law and constitution and under the authority of the federation.

Rickshaw tsunami washes Peshawar roads

No one would ever believe that Peshawar was once
called the "City of Flowers" and heritage because rickshaws

in the city have exceeded the number of those flowers and instead of aroma of the lost flowers people were intensively inhaling the poisonous carbon monoxide gas of tri-wheelers.

A study conducted in the city revealed that the level of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides in several places of Peshawar was very much higher than the international standards determined by the World Health Organization.

The increasing traffic chaos and emission of hazardous gases have been also causing various health problems for city dwellers. The atmosphere has been badly polluted with fumes and noise pollution had crossed all limits. The noise level in certain parts of the city ranges between 90 and 100 decibel, while the limit set by WHO is 85 decibel.

Rated as the most polluted city of the country, the average air pollution in Peshawar is 17 particles per million (PPM) and it goes up to 38 PPM at certain spots. Experts say that noise above 9 PPM is dangerous to human health.

Local physicians believe that these tri-wheelers are also key factors in the incidence of disorders like hearing impairment, hypertension and heart problems among the local populace.

Dr Muhammad Nawaz, a local ENT specialist, confirmed that vehicular noise not only affects hearing, but also triggers psychological and physiological ailments such as blood pressure, hypertension, increased heart rate and shortness of breath, stomach problems, stress, and disturbed sleep patterns. Explaining hearing impairments, he said that if an eardrum is damaged, it couldn’t regenerate again. Nawaz claimed that his 30% patients complain of hearing problems, largely due to the high vehicular noise levels.

If believed the official estimation it said that more than 50,000 rickshaws were plying on the city roads among which only 13,000 have permits and the rest were unregistered. It is a clear fact that 50,000 rickshaws cannot be accommodated on congested city roads and other road users have to suffer at the hands of the rickshaw drivers.
The road users of provincial metropolis had taken a sigh of relief and the city was also presenting a tranquil look in the past week when the drivers of the three-wheelers were on strike against a new traffic plan unfolded by the SP Traffic for them.

The traffic plan for rickshaws, which was agreed upon in a meeting with Senior Minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour in the chair, had suggested that rickshaws should be divided in two colors and one would be allowed to ply in the morning till afternoon and the other from the afternoon to late night.

The Minister had also directed the traffic police to first regulate rickshaws and then prepare plan for regulating other vehicles, including buses and taxi cars. But will it be possible to regulate the evergrowing numbers of rickshaws especially when they don't want to be regulated.

While some officials in Traffic Department consider the matter as out of control mostly believe that a proper mechanism should be devised and laws aimed at curbing this menace should be implemented in letter and spirit. They said no matter how much the situations aggravates it could effectively be controlled by implementing strict laws and stern checking.

How did Musharraf become a billionaire?

In a successful but dubious journey from rags to riches, the former dictator and now the self pro claimed messiah of the people of Pakistan, General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, has become a billionaire.

There is no indication as to who funds him and how he became fabulously rich but the retired general has accumulated billions in offshore accounts besides the property that he has already purchased in foreign lands or inside Pakistan.

Musharraf, who intends to return to Pakistan by the end of this month after seeking the required guarantees from Washington and Riyadh, has a lot of money to spend for his political campaign and his launching as “the best option for Pakistan”.

A source, having a close association with the former dictator, confided to The News that Musharraf has at least seven to ten offshore accounts in Dubai and London containing huge cash in dollars, sterling pounds and dirhams.

In his memoirs - In the Line of Fire - Musharraf admitted that he had come from a really humble background where they did not have enough money but now he pays at least half a million rupees as monthly salary to his personal staff residing inside Pakistan.

According to the source, besides having foreign bank accounts, Musharraf has also made huge saving investments abroad to earn large profits. The source said that in just one Dubai based online trading service — MMA — Musharraf had US$ 1,600,000 (Rs 145 million) last year. Musharraf’s account number, according to the source in this company, is AV77777.

In the Union National Bank, which is an investment bank in Abu Dhabi, Musharraf and his spouse Sehba Musharraf, have a joint account No 4002000304, in which the amount mid last year was almost UAE Dirhams 17,000,000 ( Rs 391 million).

In the same bank- the Union National Bank- the same duo, Mr and Mrs Musharaf have another joint account No 400200315, which is a dollar account. This particular account last year contained US$ 535,325 (Rs 48 million).

In yet another UAE Dirham account in the same financial institution — the Union National Bank — Sehba and Musharraf had almost UAE Dirhams 7,600,000 (Rs 174 million) last year. The account No is 4003006700.

In the fourth account, No 4003006711, in the Union National Bank, the duo had UAE Dirhams 8,000,000 (Rs 184 million).

In the fifth account, No 4003006722 in the same bank — the Union National Bank — Musharraf and his wife had US$ 8,000,000 (Rs 728 million).

In the sixth account, No 4003006733, Mrs Sehba Musharraf and Mr Pervez Musharraf had UAE Dirhams 8,000,000 (Rs 184 million) last year.

In the seventh account, No 4003006744, in the same Union National Bank, the duo holds UAE Dirhams 8,000,000 (Rs 184 million).

In their eighth account in the same bank — the Union National Bank Abu Dhabi — the duo had US$ 1,300,000 (Rs 118 million).

During the initial few months of his taking over as a military dictator following his coup against the Nawaz Sharif government, General Musharraf did make his wealth public, which hardly contained any cash but only some plots in different parts of the country. Musharraf claimed to be the Mr Clean of Pakistan.

How did he become a billionare is a million dollar question. The same question when asked to Musharraf’s spokesperson and his party’s information secretary Fawad Chaudhry Advocate told The News that all the accounts of Pervez Musharraf, whether abroad or in Pakistan, are declared accounts.

“There is not a single hidden bank account like Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari”, he added.

Fawad Chaudhry said that when an Army Chief retires, he gets pensionary benefits worth Rs 400 to 500 million.

Moreover, he added that Bill Clinton and Pervez Musharraf are the highest paid speakers in the world, therefore he earns a handsome amount through lectures.

He clarified that Musharraf’s bank accounts do not have billions of rupees in them.

Pak, Afghanistan to revive high-level joint commission meetings for Taliban peace talks

Pakistan and Afghanistan have decided to revive high-level joint commission meetings to devise strategies for holding direct negotiations with the Afghan Taliban.
The move comes after the Taliban announced its intention to open a 'political' office in Qatar to conduct peace talks with the United States. he joint commission headed by Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and comprising military and intelligence chiefs from both sides was established in 2011 to facilitate the reconciliation process in Afghanistan, and had held its inaugural session in June 2011.
But the process was stalled in September following the assassination of former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, who took the initiative to reach out to the Taliban.
A senior Pakistani official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Express Tribune that both countries have overcome their differences, which aided the revival of a joint commission.
The meeting is expected to take place by the end of January or early next month.
Pakistan's foreign ministry spokesperson Abdul Basit confirmed that both countries are finalizing venue and dates for the meeting.
He also confirmed that the meeting of the joint economic commission would be held in Islamabad in the third week of January.

Pakistani President Says No Plans to Resign

Pakistan's president said he has no intention of stepping down in the face of allegations his government sought U.S. help in reining in Pakistan's powerful military.

Asif Ali Zardari, speaking in an interview aired Saturday night on Pakistan's Geo News TV, was responding to a question about whether army leaders might seek his resignation.

"No one has asked me yet," Zardari said. "I don't think there is such an innocent in Pakistan who will demand my resignation."In Saturday's interview, Zardari was asked if leaving again was an option for him, to avoid humiliation or even an arrest by the army.

"Why should it be?" he responded.