Tuesday, January 17, 2012

White House locked down after smoke bomb tossed

The White House was locked down on Tuesday night as authorities investigated what appeared to be a smoke bomb that was tossed over the fence of the White House compound, a Secret Service spokesman said.

The device was tossed over the fence at one point when about

1,000 to 1,500 "Occupy DC" protesters were demonstrating outside the White House, Secret Service spokesman George Ogilvie said.

He said authorities were taking "appropriate measures to clear it." He also said that a majority of the protesters had left the area and that there had been no arrests.

President Barack Obama and wife Michelle had gone out to dinner and were not at the White House when the device was thrown over the fence but returned while the investigation was underway.

Members of the White House press pool were prevented from leaving the grounds.

Handful of protesters arrested during ‘Occupy Congress

washington post

Four people were arrested as hundreds of protesters from the Occupy movement gathered Tuesday on the west lawn of the Capitol, chanting, singing, marching and disrupting congressional offices throughout the day.

The demonstrators came from across the country for Occupy Congress, billed as the first nationwide gathering for the movement that began in September as a protest against corporate greed on Wall Street.
Mid-afternoon, dozens of the protesters swarmed into the Rayburn and other House office buildings, waving banners and chanting, “We are the 99 percent!” At 6:30 p.m., the group marched from the Capitol to the Supreme Court to the White House.

Organizers had said they expected many arrests at the White House, but by late last night, none were reported.

At one point, protesters surged against the White House fence. Someone climbed to the top of the barrier. Smoke was seen at the fence on Pennsylvania Avenue, and media reports said it might have been a smoke bomb. Tension rose as police donned riot helmets. Protesters were told to leave, and it appeared that most or all did.

Organizers had hoped that thousands would come for Tuesday’s event, but it was more like 500 — riding buses and hitching rides from cities including Orlando, Nashville, Los Angeles and New Haven, Conn. That swelled to about 1,000 when night fell.

They arrived just as members of Congress began returning from winter break, finding their disapproval rating at an all-time high. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that a record high of 84 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing.

Participant and organizer Mario Lozada, a lawyer from Philadelphia, said Occupy Congress was born out of this frustration and began as a grass-roots movement last year, with one protester creating a Facebook page that has drawn more than 11,000 “likes.”

“Congress is not paying attention to ordinary citizens because of corporate money in politics. This is the general message: Our voices aren’t being heard,” said Lozada, 25.

A cold early rain yielded to afternoon sun as Occupiers gathered on the west lawn, withstanding mud, eating free bagels and oatmeal, and clutching signs that said “Congress for Sale” and “I’m Mad as Hell and I’m Not Going to Take It Anymore.” During occasional clashes with U.S. Capitol Police, four people were arrested: One was charged with assaulting a police officer, the others with crossing a police line.

“I’m tired of the fat cats getting all the money,” said Barry Sipple, 62, a disabled Vietnam veteran, explaining why he drove from the Occupy encampment in Lexington, Ky., for the day’s events. “It seems like the right thing to do.”

During the day, Occupiers had a general assembly meeting, then broke up into groups to network and make plans for the spring.

“It’s the next step. A lot of Occupations are losing their space, so we need to keep the momentum going from the relationships built in those encampments,” said Robby Diesu, 23, part of the Occupy camp at McPherson Square.

The future of the encampments at McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza is by no means secure. The office of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said Tuesday that the House Oversight panel on the District will hold a hearing about the McPherson Square camp Tuesday, with the police chief, city health director and officials from the National Park Service testifying.

Deb Van Poolen, 42, an organic farmer who is living in the Occupy camp at Freedom Plaza, glowed as she described the guerrilla theater she and others pulled off in the office of Sen. Carl M. Levin (D), from her home state of Michigan. The costumed Occupiers staged a play with mock terrorists and a mock “Levin” behind bars before real police arrived and warned that they would be arrested.

“The theme of today is letting Congress know we are here and we’ll have a presence and they need to listen to us,” she said.

Staff writers Tim Craig, Robert Samuels and Clarence Williams contributed to this report.

Polio patients on rise in Pakistan

On the contrary, the disease of polio is seldom seen in India.

While talking to the media in Lahore, UNICEF, WHO and Punjab government spokesmen said that every child should be vaccinated after his or her birth on priority basis. Every child should be nourished drops in anti-polio campaign every year; so that this disease may be eliminated from the motherland, they said.

Punjab government representative said that they have to face a lot of troubles while nourishing polio drops in private schools.

They said that it is difficult to control over polio with untrained staff and illiterate workers.

Occupy Congress: Protesters gathering outside Capitol


The rain isn’t delaying the events of a long-planned protest, Occupy Congress, by members of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Their numbers aren’t as large as they initially indicated, but protesters involved with Occupy Congress are gathering outside the Capitol, waving signs and chanting against a barrier of police.

Gunmen kill journalist in Pakistani mosque

Police say gunmen have killed a local television journalist in a mosque in northwest Pakistan.

Mukarram Khan Atif worked for Dunya TV, and according to his profile on LinkedIn, contributed stories to U.S. government funded Voice of America.

Police said the 40-year-old was killed Tuesday near the city of Peshawar.

A colleague said Atif had received threats from militants in the Mohmand tribal region and moved away from there several months ago.

The colleague didn't give his name for security reasons.

Last year, seven journalists were killed in Pakistan, making it the deadliest country for journalists for the second year in a row.

How contempt notice to PM was dealt in past

Daily Times

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani is not the first chief executive who has been served with a contempt notice by the apex court as Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz chief Nawaz Sharif faced a similar case in 1997.

The Supreme Court has issued contempt of court notice to the prime minister on the charge of not implementing apex court verdict in NRO case and asked him to personally appear before the bench on January 19.

The court had directed the authorities concerned to write a letter to the Swiss court requesting to re-start the proceedings against Asif Ali Zardari on corruption charges. The Gilani government did not implement the order and a seven-member bench maintained: “In these circumstances, we are left with no option, as a first step, to issue a show cause notice. The prime minister should appear personally in court on January 19.”

The hearing of the NRO implementation case was also adjourned to the same day.

Earlier a similar notice had been issued in 1997 by the then chief justice of Pakistan, Syed Sajjad Ali Shah, to Nawaz Sharif. It is not clear that what strategy would be adopted by the PPP leadership and the Gilani government but what did the PML-N leadership and Nawaz government was written in the history books.

The Nawaz government used superior judiciary rather the ‘brother judges’ of the then chief justice Syed Sajjad Ali Shah to release pressure and ‘save’ their government. Interestingly, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah also sought the military help but the then chief of the army staff, General Jehangir Karamat refused to intervene.

On November 3, 1997, chief justice Sajjad Ali Shah issued notices to prime minister Nawaz Sharif on a ‘contempt’ petition. The proceedings were initiated by the apex court and after two weeks on November 19, 1997, a full bench of the Supreme Court issued charge sheets to the prime minister and 11 others.

The proceedings were taking place at the principal seat of the apex court in Islamabad. As per routine of the court, several benches were also working at different registries such as in Lahore, Karachi and Quetta. The Quetta registry bench comprised Justice Irshad Hassan Khan and Justice Khalilur Rehman Khan.

On November 25, 1997, a former member of the bench and employee of Nawaz family businesses, Justice (r) Rafiq Tarar went to Quetta, about 1,600 kilometres away from Islamabad on a special plane and met with Justice Irshad Hussan Khan. His visit turned the situation altogether and the subsequent happenings wrote a new chapter in the judicial history of the country and a strange row of events were seen. An application was moved in the Supreme Court Quetta Registry and the bench comprising Justice Irshad Hassan Khan and Khalilur Rehman Khan held the appointment of their own chief justice, Sajjad Ali Shah, in abeyance till further orders and restrained him from performing judicial and administrative functions. The bench also held in abeyance the operation of the notification of June 5, 1994 (appointing Syed Sajjad Ali Shah as the chief justice of Pakistan by the then prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, on the retirement of Justice Nasim Hasan Shah.

Reciprocating on his brother judges’ order, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah declared the order “without lawful authority”, and directed the assistant registrar, Quetta Registry, not to fix any case before the two judges till further orders.

Justice Shah, whose appointment as the chief justice was held in abeyance by the two-member bench, continued working as the chief justice of Pakistan.

The Quetta bench ‘replied’ with overruling the executive order of Justice Sajjad Ali Shah regarding not fixing the cases before it saying, “It is misconduct on the part of chief justice as none of the Supreme Court judges can be restrained from the work on executive order and said that judicial order had already suspended the chief justice to perform his duties as chief justice.”

The Supreme Court’s circuit bench at Peshawar had also endorsed the verdict of the Quetta bench on a petition challenging the appointment of Justice Sajjad Ali Shah as the chief justice of Pakistan. But Justice Sajjad Ali Shah persevered and continued hearing the contempt case against the sitting prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

A division bench of the Sindh High Court requested the Justice Sajjad Ali Shah to convene a full court meeting of the SC, to be chaired by himself, to consider the controversy surrounding his appointment. But at the same time, the Supreme Court Quetta bench maintained its interim order suspending Chief Justice Syed Sajjad Ali Shah and barring him from performing administrative and judicial functions. The bench referred the matter to the full court for final decision.

Justice Sajjad Ali Shah informed the 10-member bench that he would contest the case, and engaged Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, a prominent lawyer, to represent him.

However, a severe blow to Justice Sajjad Ali Shah came when president Sardar Farooq Khan Leghari tendered his resignation, saying he could not violate the constitution and the law to oblige the government.

Speaking at a press conference, Leghari said that he had opted to resign because he did not want to become a party to the violation of law and the constitution.

On November 26, 1997, Justice Irshad Hussain Khan held Sajjad Ali Shah’s appointment in abeyance.

The lawyer community at that time was heard saying that Nawaz Sharif had succeeded in dividing the judges into two camps. The group of judges, who sided with the prime minister, said openly that if Justice Sajjad Ali Shah gives up trying cases of contempt of court against Nawaz Sharif, they would accept him as the chief justice.

A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah suspended the operation of the 13th Amendment restoring the powers of the president to dissolve the National Assembly, a verdict which was within minutes set aside by another 10-member bench.

The 10-member bench headed by Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui granted stay against the chief justice’s order minutes after it was passed, even without receiving any formal petition or the copy of the order. All efforts to resolve the judicial crisis failed as both the judges’ groups stuck to their stance and issued separate cause lists.

The dissident judges, who did not acknowledge Justice Sajjad Ali Shah as the chief justice, issued a fresh cause list for 15 members full court session. The full court, headed by Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui, took up petitions questioning the validity of chief justice’s appointment’.

On November 28, 1997, thousands of ‘political workers’ attacked the Supreme Court building. A journalist rushed into the courtroom and warned the bench of an impending attack. The chief justice got up abruptly, and adjourned the hearing. While judicial members left the courtroom soon after, the mob entered it shouting slogans, and started damaging furniture. The unruly mob, led by ruling party member from Punjab Sardar Naseem and Colonel (r) Mushtaq Tahir Kheli, Sharif’s political secretary, chanted slogans against the chief justice. The mob also beat up Pakistan People’s Party’s senator Iqbal Haider.

After the incident, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah requested the then army chief, Gen Jehangir Karamat, to send troops to dispel a mob attack on Pakistan’s Supreme Court. Gen Karamat refused his plea straight away and pointed out that “there is an established chain of command and any instructions of that sort should have come from the elected prime minister and the president, who is also the supreme commander”.

On December 23, 1997, the Supreme Court bench declared Sajjad Ali Shah’s appointment as the chief justice illegal and Justice Ajmal Mian was made chief justice of Pakistan. The contempt proceedings against Nawaz Sharif were dropped.

Ali Zafar pays tribute to Mehdi Hassan

Singer turned actor Ali Zafar has paid a tribute to ailing ghazal legend Mehdi Hassan.

The 31-year-old Pakistani actor has dedicated a song `Jaane Man` to Hassan from his last album `Jhoom`.

"My humble tribute to the great legend Mehdi Hassan in my album Jhoom," Zafar posted on Twitter.

The actor, who is currently working on `Chashme Baddoor` remake, credits Hassan for influencing his musical career.

"There is no singer like Mehdi Hassan, never was, can never be. Sir you are in all our prayers," he had posted.

Hassan, 85, has been admitted to the intensive care unit of a private hospital in Karachi on January 11 after he had trouble breathing.

ANP criticize PML-N for opposing resolution

wami National Party spokesman Senator Zahid Khan on Tuesday said by boycotting the resolution in National Assembly to favor strong democratic institutions, Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) had proved that it did not want supremacy of the parliament.
Talking to media at the parliament house, he said the Prime Minister’s decision to appear before the apex court was a testimony that the government believe in democratic principles and respect of court.
He said solution to prevailing problems lied in continuation of democratic system and added, the PPP led coalition government would complete its mandate of five years.
Zahid Khan said all institutions should work within the constitutional limits for furthering democratic system.
Meanwhile, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Haider Abbas Rizvi said MQM has tabled a bill in the National Assembly for creation on new administrative units in the country.
He said MQM fully support indigenous struggle for creation of Saraiki and Hazara province.
Haider Abbas said MQM strongly opposed creation of new provinces on linguistic basis.

U.S. online piracy bill headed for major makeover

U.S. legislation aimed at curbing online piracy, which had appeared to be on a fast track for approval by Congress, appears likely to be scaled back or jettisoned entirely in the wake of critical comments over the weekend from the White House, people familiar with the matter said.

The legislation, known as SOPA in the House of Representatives and PIPA in the Senate, has been a major priority for entertainment companies, publishers, pharmaceutical firms and many industry groups, who say it is critical to curbing online piracy that costs them billions of dollars a year.

The legislation is designed to shut down access to overseas websites that traffic in stolen content or counterfeit goods.

Internet companies have furiously opposed the legislation and have ramped up their lobbying efforts in recent months, arguing the legislation would undermine innovation and free speech rights and compromise the functioning of the Internet.

Some Internet advocates have called for a boycott of any companies that support the legislation, and several popular websites, including community-edited encyclopedia Wikipedia and the social media site Reddit, have vowed to black out their sites this Wednesday in protest.

With public sentiment on the bill shifting in recent weeks and an implicit veto threat now emerging from the White House, Congressional staffers are resigning themselves to writing replacement language or possibly entirely new bills.

The White House said in a blog post over the weekend that it wouldn't support "legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet."

Three key section of the existing legislation seem likely to remain, a person familiar with the matter says. They comprise provisions aimed at getting search engines to disable links to foreign infringing sites; provisions that cut off advertising services to those sites; and provisions that cut off payment processing.

But critical provisions that would require Internet service providers such as Verizon Communications and Comcast Corp. to cut off infringing sites through a technology known as DNS blocking are now likely to be eliminated.

Critics have said that such measures would only encourage people to navigate the web in riskier ways, with modified browsers or other tweaks that could lead to their Internet sessions getting hijacked by scammers.

Lawmakers had already been coming around to the realization they would have to hold back on the DNS-blocking provisions.

Before the holidays, an amended version of the House bill had added a "kill switch," or provision that service providers wouldn't have to block a site if it did "impair the security or integrity of the system."

On Thursday, Senator Patrick Leahy, who is sponsoring the Senate bill, said he planned to propose amending it so that the ramifications of blocking access to a site be studied before implementation.

On Friday, Representative Lamar Smith, who is sponsoring the House bill, said he planned to remove altogether the provision that would require service providers to block access to infringing foreign websites.

A Google official said in Congressional testimony in November that the company did not necessarily oppose disabling search engine links and cutting off advertising.

But it is not clear if eliminating the DNS-blocking provisions alone will be enough to mollify critics.

"Like many other tech companies, we believe that there are smart, targeted ways to shut down foreign rogue websites without asking U.S. companies to censor the Internet," a Google spokeswoman told Reuters on Monday.

In addition to concerns about the technical ramifications of DNS blocking and the practical issues associated with disabling services to individual websites, many in the Internet business fear the bills create far too much leeway to shut down websites without sufficient due process.

But supporters of the legislation are just as adamant that something needs to be done. Over the weekend, News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch, whose holdings include Fox, complained that the White House had caved.

"So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery," News Corp's chairman and chief executive officer posted on his personal Twitter account on Saturday."

The debate seems likely to intensify in the coming weeks. The White House said it would soon host a conference call among opponents of the existing bill.

Disapproval of Congress hits new high

A record 84 percent of Americans say they disapprove of the way the Congress is doing its job compared with just 13 percent who approve of how things are going, according to a Washington Post/ABC News public opinion poll published on Monday.

The disapproval rating for Congress inched up two percentage points since October and reflects a year of lows for Congress that ended in a battle over a temporary extension of the payroll tax cuts for 160 million Americans.

Democrats and Republicans fought all last year over the best way to control the country's debt and annual budget deficit, as the two parties tried to position themselves for the 2012 elections.

A vitriolic debate leading up to an agreement last summer to allow President Barack Obama to raise the debt ceiling fueled public disgust with Congress and prompted Standard & Poor's credit rating agency to strip the United States of its stellar AAA rating.

When the parties are considered individually, Democrats in Congress have a 33 percent approval rate, while Republicans have a 21 percent approval rate, the poll found.

Congress will be back in session this week after a holiday break, poised to resume where they left off, with Democratic and Republican negotiators preparing for a new round of talks to extend the payroll tax cut for the rest of the year.

The 84 percent disapproval rate is the highest for Congress in nearly 40 years of polling. The previous high was last October, when 82 percent of poll respondents said they disapproved of the way lawmakers on Capitol Hill were doing their jobs.

The telephone poll of a random national sample of 1,000 people was conducted January 12-15 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Law to check honour killings yet to take effect


A young man, Shehzad Khan, was killed outside his house in Peshawar on January 11. His brother, Sheraz, lodged a complaint with Bana Mari police station, charging Shehzad`s father-in-law Saeed Khan for his murder. He stated that three years ago his brother had married a girl against the will of her family members, which resulted in enmity between the two families.

Sheraz, belonging to Charsadda district, claimed that they left their village due to the enmity and settled at Kotla Mohsin Khan in Peshawar, where Mr Shehzad would run a shop. He said that they tried to settle the dispute, but fam11y members of his sister-in-law were reluctant as they considered her marriage against their honour. He charged Mr Saeed and another relative Waseem for the murder, but so far the police could not arrest them.

The infant son of Mr Shehzad is now an orphan as a result of the honour killing incident. Such incidents are frequently reported in the local media, butrarely given attention by the police, judiciary and society in general.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan had claimed in its recent report that around 675 women were killed between January and September 2011 in the name of `honour.` It stated that around 450 of these women were accused of having `illicit relations` and 129 of marrying without permission.

Similarly, the commission reported 791 honour killings in 2010.

A rights organisation, Aurat Foundation, has early this month launched a study on honour killings in Pakistan, which focuses on legislation to counter the trend. The study, conducted by Ms Maleeha Zia advocate, shows that many cases, highlighted in media were not reported with police. In other cases, if they were reported they had not been classified as honour killing.

The study claimed that the courts usually issued verdicts in favour of killers by using the provision of `grave and sudden provocation`. It added that responsible institutions lack the commitment to implement the law.

Legal experts dealing with criminal cases say that the Pakistan Penal Code does not contain any provision which can mitigate the offence of murder committed in the name of honour or Ghairat. The PPC was enacted in 1860. Earlier, Section 300 of the PPC contained a provision of `grave and sudden provocation` that provided lesser punishment for crimes committed in the name of honour.Through the Qisas and Diyat law, introduced through an ordinance in 1990 and then made an act of parliament in 1997, about 40 provisions of the PPC related to bodily harm and murder were repealed and replaced with new provisions, whichthe government claimed were in accordance with the Islamic injunctions. This law covers all offences against human body and provides for Qisas (retribution) and Diyat (blood money).

Earlier, in the PPC the provision of`grave and sudden provocation` was available under Exception (1) to Section 300. The exception stated: `Culpable homicide is not murder if the offender, whilst deprived of the power of self-control by grave and sudden provocation, causes the death of any other person by mistake or accident.

While the provision was omitted from the law, still judges of superior courts of-ten extend concession to the lcillers in such cases on the same ground.

For checking the incidents of honour killing the parliament enacted the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2005, through which amendments were made in some provisions of the PPC and the Criminal Procedure Code. The then government claimed of trying to check those provisions of the PPC and the CrPC which often proved helpful for the offenders in honour-related cases.

For the first time a definition of honour-related crimes has been incorporated in the PPC, which now provides: `Offence committed in the name or on the pretext of honour means an offense committed in the name or on the pretext of Karo Kari, Sipah Kari or similar other customs or practices.

Following this amendment the courts are now bound to sentence to death or life imprisonment a person after he/she is proved guilty of murder on the pretext of honour. However, still in different cases the courts adopt lenient view towards perpetrators.

An amendment has also been made in Section 311 PPC dealing with the principle of Fasad fil Arz (mischief on earth) and the courts have been empowered to sentence a person to over10-year imprisonment in honour-related offenses. The offense shall also be considered as Fasad fil Arz.

That provision has also been rarely invoked by courts. The famous case in this regard was in 2006 when a two-member PHC bench had set aside death penalty awarded to a person for killing his wife and three daughters as the legal heirs had forgiven him.

However, the bench sentenced him to 10-year rigorous imprisonment under the principle of Fasad fil Arz.

In the judgment delivered on March 8, 2006 the court had observed that though the legal heirs of the deceased had forgiven the convict, keeping in view the brutal manner in which the killings were committed he should be sentenced under the said principle.

Legal circles believe that the legislature should remove loopholes from the law and amend provisions which go in favour of alleged killers. They believe that existing provisions of the law should also be fully implemented.

Zardari approves induction of Babar in cabinet

President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday approved induction of Senator Babar Awan in the federal cabinet, DawnNews reported.

According to sources, Awan called upon the president at the Presidency to discuss the prevailing situation arising after Supreme Court suspended his licence for contempt of court.

Law Minister Maula Bux Chandio also attended the meeting.

The portfolio for Mr Awan would be announced after the oath.

Afghanistan 'will take 30 years to develop into proper democratic state'


Sir Simon Gass, a British diplomat, said the country has gone through 30 years of disastrous conflict which has destroyed infrastructure and institutions.

"It will take decades to recover from the destruction that was wrought over that period of time," he added.

Referring to a World Bank report about countries emerging from prolonged conflict, Sir Simon said they do not have strong institutions, democratic values, rule of law or lack of corruption.

"Those are not values that can be delivered in a short period of time. Typically they take 30 years or so in countries coming out of conflict," he added.

Sir Simon told the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London that we "should not judge Afghanistan by standards we would not expect of many of Afghanistan's neighbours." He said money would be needed to support Afghanistan after the end of the Nato mission in 2014 but that he was "cautiously optimistic" it would be forthcoming despite the "economic challenges" in the West.

Reports have suggested more than £6bn a year will be required but Sir Simon said the sums needed will be "very much smaller" than at present.

"Were Afghanistan to slip back into chaos, which I do not predict, the cost to our governments in terms of the increased flow or narcotics and refugees, not to mention the constant instability in one of the most sensitive parts of the world, would be very costly for all of us," he said.

Sir Simon said that 352,000 Afghan Security Forces would be left in place but added that would be a "high water mark" and funding might not remain for that number.

"The transition is unlikely to be easy, there will be days when it is very messy, we will no doubt face setback along the road but I am convinced it is the right direction to go in and I think by the end of 2014, the Afghan security forces will be capable of maintaining security in Afghanistan," he said.

"That doesn't meant there won't be violence in places, undoubtedly if there is no political settlement there will be violence, the point is that it will not be of a sort that can threaten the government of Afghanistan."

He said that 2011 was "not a good year for the insurgents" who had failed to take part areas of the south as they had planned.

"They conspicuously failed," he added, "They are a resilient and vigorous enemy, but the momentum they built up a few years ago is no longer there."

But he warned: "Of course there are still a lot of variables in terms of how the campaign will turn out."

Sir Simon admitted that the picture was "very different" in the east of the country "more work" needed to be done there.

The senior diplomat said that a political solution was necessary because there would be no "military knockout blow" to end the insurgency.

But he said there were still doubts about whether the plan, announced by the Taliban last month, to open an office in Qatar in the Middle East, in order to conduct negotiations, would come to fruition.

"This year will be another tough year, undoubtedly. That is why we still need our forces in Afghanistan because there is still more work to be done," he added.

Afghan polio cases rise

Afghan President Hamid Karzai urged insurgents to allow health teams to vaccinate children in war-torn parts of the country where cases of polio have risen sharply.

A total of 80 cases of the crippling disease were reported in Afghanistan last year -- a three-fold increase over 2010, the health ministry said on Tuesday, marking a major setback in the drive to eradicate polio worldwide.

About four in five of the cases were in the troubled south of the country, with Karzai pointing to the area along the porous border with Pakistan, marked out by the disputed Durand Line, as particularly hard hit.

The area is a stronghold for hardline Taliban Islamists, who have waged a 10-year war to oust Karzai's government since they were themselves overthrown by a US-led invasion in 2001.

"Despite all the past efforts to vaccinate millions against polio, there are still children suffering from the disease on both sides of the Durand Line," the president said.

Militants who stood in the way of vaccination teams trying to prevent the spread of the paralysing illness were "the true enemies of our children's future", he said.

Karzai appealed to religious and community leaders to persuade the insurgents to allow the immunisation teams to vaccinate children.

Polio -- which afflicts mainly the under-fives, causing death, paralysis and crippled limbs -- travels easily across borders and is transmitted via the faecal matter of victims.

The news of the increase in Afghan cases comes just days after India announced that it had marked a year since its last case of polio -- a major milestone in a country once considered the epicentre of the disease.

India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria are listed by the World Health Organisation as the only four countries where the crippling disease is endemic.

The decline in polio worldwide through a concerted effort by governments, UN agencies and private donors, has raised hopes polio might go the way of smallpox, the only disease successfully eradicated globally.

There were 604 cases of polio worldwide in 2011 and India will only be judged to have eradicated the disease if it stays infection-free for another two years.

ANP stand by PPP in critical situation

Awami National Party Sindh (ANP) Monday announced support for the Pakistan People’s Party-led government in the critical political situation and vowed that the party would oppose the undemocratic and unconstitutional steps against the government.

Addressing the press conference at Mardan House, ANP Sindh President Shahi Syed said the country cannot afford the confrontation between the institutions and underlined the need to normalise the political situation of the country forthwith.

He emphasised that all the institutions of the country should work under their constitutional criteria, saying that ANP will oppose the institutions violate its limit. He said that ANP believes on the supremacy of parliament and stability of democracy in the country. Shahi Syed alleged that the dictatorial government was the responsible of deteriorating economical situation, week democratic institutes, prevailing law & order situation and extremism.

The ANP Sindh president announced to hold the grand public meeting in Karachi on January 29 to observe the death anniversary of Bacha Khan and Khan Abdul Wali Khan.

He said that ANP has decided to extend its relation with all the democratic forces in Sindh as per the directives of party central leadership to strengthen the democratic system in the province.

Condemning the target-killing of ANP officebearers and workers, he said that the target-killing of party activists in Karachi was the conspiracy to sabotage the peace of the metropolis. He regretted over the government silence to arrest the culprits involved in the killings.

To the Chief Justice, without prejudice

BY:Jamil Omar
Daily Times

The ultimate case against any government is its performance in office and its highest court is the elections. Let the people decide the fate of the PPP and its leadership

Iqbal Bali’s hunger strike in Islamabad was a milestone in the lawyers’ movement. When Chief Justice (CJ) Iftikhar Chaudhry invited Bali to personally thank him for his support, Bali characteristically replied: “You do not have to thank me. I did it for democracy and the rule of law, not for you.” Bali passed away soon afterwards, probably from complications resulting from his long hunger strike. Were he around, Bali would surely have raised his voice against the Supreme Court’s recent order in the NRO case. He may well have addressed the CJ directly in his typical fashion as follows:

My dear Chaudhry sahib, I am writing to record my great disappointment in you and your honourable brothers. When you were down and out the nation stood by you because you symbolised democracy and the rule of law. But ever since your restoration you have chosen to implement justice in a very slanted manner. You have consistently, some say deliberately, targeted a democratically elected civilian government while overlooking a host of other flagrant cases of political corruption. In this singular pursuit you have cast aside all restraint and resorted to extreme judicial activism.

The stated justification for your actions is “(to) uphold and maintain the dignity of the court and to salvage and restore the delicately poised constitutional balance in accord with the norms of constitutional democracy”. Sounds great, but I wonder by what stretch of judicial imagination your famous order to fix the price of sugar at Rs 46 per kg can be considered as upholding the dignity of the court or seen as an attempt to restore constitutional balance. Through hindsight, it now seems to be a deliberate interference in the work of the executive with the intention to undermine its authority and thereby wreck the constitutional balance. May I respectfully submit that the honour of our courts and the cause of justice in our land would have been better served had you implemented urgently needed judicial reforms in order to ensure cheap and quick justice, rid the courts of corruption and clear the cases backlog, and you should have ensured transparency, merit and objectivity in the appointment of judges and checked the growing hooliganism of the lawyers’ community.

It is interesting to hear you speak of constitutional democracy, for this is exactly where your elite brotherhood may ultimately cause most harm. Remember that famous Freudian slip that escaped from the mouth of one of your own brothers in open court: “We cannot allow parliament to declare Pakistan a secular state.” Mr Jinnah must have turned in his grave at this. If the recent order is anything to go by, it reads like a medieval Qazi’s fatwa, basing itself more on scriptures than sense. Its rambling, repetitive and tendentious text is full of unwarranted conclusions and unproven allegations. Prosecuting a democratically elected government on the basis of such an order would cause serious political turmoil anywhere; in today’s Pakistan it may well be a historic tragedy.

The Supreme Court order indicts the government for its general contemptuous attitude and two specific failures: NAB did not investigate in-depth the wrong appointments of Adnan Khawaja and Ahmad Riaz Sheikh or take action against Malik Mohammad Qayyum, and the federal government did not write to the Swiss authorities. Basing themselves merely on this your brothers have drawn a very broad conclusion: “Such an attitude, approach and conduct prima facie shows that the co-chairperson of the said political party, the prime minister and federal minister for law have allowed loyalty to a political party and its decisions to outweigh and outrun their loyalty to the state and their ‘inviolable obligation’ to obey the constitution and all its commands.”

Democracies are a far from perfect system and conflicts of interest between state institutions are not uncommon. Sometimes they arise on account of personalities and at other times on account of the law itself, as was vividly demonstrated in the state of Florida during the 2000 US elections. Mature nations resolve such conflicts through mutual accommodation and consensus; others sink into mutually destructive turf wars. Today, Pakistan seems to be headed for an unnecessary collision between the Supreme Court and parliament. Prima facie there is not much of a case for toppling an elected government but then in Pakistan given proper support from the ‘right’ quarters, our judiciary has hanged an elected prime minister, and hence there is ample room for concern.

Pakistan is faced with a foreboding scenario that can easily turn ugly. A few individual whims can easily transform the six options mentioned in the Supreme Court order into another non-negotiable ‘six points’. To avoid a tragedy resulting from our own naivety, let us heed the words of a local sage who recently wrote: “The people are familiar with the strong case against the military’s encroachment in the political domain; no less strong is the argument against the judiciary’s intervention in politics. What may be legally permissible is often politically wrong and laws are at best silent on the kind of give and take without which governance by consensus is not possible.”

Keeping I A Rehman’s above wise and timely counsel in mind, the judiciary and the government need to arrive at a consensus. A closer look at the six options suggests that an accommodation may be reached along the following lines:

Option one bases itself on religion and laws thrust upon the constitution by General Ziaul Haq to decree ex parte that the prime minister is not an honest person and therefore unfit to hold office. Similar allegations have also been levelled against the president and the law minister.

This is unnecessarily confrontational. As the court has chosen to make Allah a party to the dispute, may I humbly suggest that this option be left to the will of the Almighty.

Option two recommends initiating contempt of court proceedings against the prime minister, law minister and law secretary and possible disqualifications.

The government should submit and the court should pardon matters of contempt.

Option three recommends the appointment of a commission to implement court orders. The Swiss Court issue should be deferred while the president enjoys immunity. The remaining court orders to be implemented by the government.

Option four requires the president to request the court to decide on his immunity.

The president’s immunity in matters under review should be proclaimed by the court.

Option five requires the chairman NAB to be removed for misconduct; further investigations into wrongdoings of others involved need to be looked into.

Appoint a new consensus figure as NAB chairman, follow this by a Truth and Reconciliation exercise covering all related matters, especially those pertaining to improper appointments/promotions, etc.

Option six explores the possibility of showing judicial restraint and leaving the matter to the better judgement of the people or their representatives in parliament to appropriately deal with the delinquent.

Political delinquents are best dealt with politically. Let the people decide, hold early elections.

In conclusion, let me repeat that the ultimate case against any government is its performance in office and its highest court is the elections. Let the people decide the fate of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and its leadership. Meanwhile, Mr Nawaz Sharif should fight his battles in the political arena and not resort to undemocratic ways to topple governments or keep a hold on the Senate and Imran Khan should desist from his favourite hobby of hawai (aerial)-firing.

The writer is co-President Awami Party.

China supports Pak political forces to maintain stability

China supports all Pakistani political forces to maintain national stability and development, the China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman said.

Liu Weimin made the remarks at a regular press release, commenting on the recent political instability in Pakistan, Xinhua reported.

"As Pakistan’s friendly neighbor, China supports all Pakistani political forces to maintain unity and harmony, from the overall situation of social stability and economic development," Liu said.

China has consistently adhered to the principle of non-interference in internal affairs of other countries, he added.

Recently, relations between Pakistan’s civilian government and military leaders have deteriorated over an alleged memo that sought U.S. help to stop a possible military coup.

Contempt notice against PM challenged

A petition was filed on Tuesday in the Lahore Registry of the Supreme Court against a contempt notice issued against Prime Minster Yousaf Raza Gilani in the backdrop of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) implementation case.
According to a private television channel, Barrister Zafarullah, in his petition, argued that under the Article 248-1 of the Constitution, the premier also enjoyed immunity as did the president.
The petition further said that writing a letter to Swiss authorities was not the job of the prime minister.
It said that the court should have summoned the law secretary and the law minister before calling the prime minister before it on Jan 19.

Aitzaz Ahsan appointed PM’s counsel

Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan met Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani at Prime Minister’s House here on Tuesday.
In the meeting, it was agreed that Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan would appear in the Supreme Court of Pakistan along with the Prime Minister as his counsel on January 19.