Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pakistan: Judicial invasion

BY:S. Akbar Zaidi

FOR a country which is notorious for not following the law, in any manifestation of its practices — constitutional, civic or corporate — we are now faced with a judicial invasion and an onslaught of lawyers and legal opinions in the public sphere. Just one look at Pakistan’s media will underscore this point.

Lawyers and retired judges have taken over the chatter houses known as talk shows on the dozens of television channels which now abound. Much of the discussion is about the NRO, memogate, presidential indemnity, judicial activism, reopening the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto case, and so on.

It is impossible to read a newspaper today without at least one — or two — articles written by lawyers, and sadly some written by untrained amateurs on legal aspects of which they have no understanding. Even Dawn, the most sacred and dinosauric of public spaces, now has lawyers and advocates writing regular columns about the state of the law and interpreting it for its lay readers. Lawyers writing columns have replaced the retired civil servants and foreign secretaries who wrote pieces no one read, and have gained a new and added respectability as public intellectuals. And huge responsibility, as well.

Of course, the current public mood and acceptance of where the judicial and legal profession and its interlocutors are placed today is based on the events of 2007, the famous lawyers’ movement. Those few months were the period where the legal community was able to resurrect its disputed and tarnished reputation for having been subservient to political authority, particularly when it wore a military uniform.

In the public imagination at least, the judiciary was a major culprit and party to authoritarianism and dictatorial rule in Pakistan. By standing up for its own vested interests — and not directly for democracy, as some wrongly believe — the legal profession was able to show that it could resist authoritarianism. By launching a long and sustained movement for its very own specific institutional rights, a number of lawyers gained deserved fame and rock-star status. The role that the lawyers’ movement played in restoring democracy in Pakistan, was of the nature of unintended consequences.

It is this newfound legitimacy of standing up to a military dictator and of not giving up the fight for their just rights which has made the law and lawyers more respectable, relevant and real to all of us today and has brought them into the public sphere like never before.

The law has always been central to all modern societies, but it is this newly gained prominence and status in Pakistan since 2007 which has been a major transformation, both with regard to the law and lawyers, as well as to the articulation and meaning of this newfound power and authority. A ‘legal paradigm’ has now emerged in Pakistan and is becoming increasingly central to our understanding of political developments and of the nature of the state.

These developments of the last few years have opened up a new sociological field, or paradigm, based on the presence of the law as a structure and as an institution in Pakistan’s political economy. Academics working in and on Pakistan, have built their analysis on a critical appraisal of the role of the state, the military, of governmental actors, and even of the role of political leaders and individuals, all helping to explain one development or another.

Legal decisions have also featured in such understanding, but they have only been based on judgments, seldom anything more. We might now be seeing the emergence of a new field of social science in Pakistan, based on the law, lawyers and judgments.

While recognising that we may have opened up a new field altogether — call it the Legal Field, encompassing a whole host of factors based on law, justice, judges, their decisions, as well as issues of institutions and structures, all embedded in ideology and class — unlike other existing fields, such as that of the state, or social structures or even the military, the legal field has not been theorised at all in Pakistan.

We have academic research which looks at the state, social classes and transitions, gender, ethnicity and most other sociological, economic and political phenomena, but very little on law. Of course, there are numerous references to judgments and decisions, but only that. The legal field has not been analysed as a political, institutional or sociological phenomenon.

Unlike other social sciences in Pakistan, the legal profession does not have its academics or those who can interpret or theorise the law outside of its narrow vision regarding judgments. Law is a highly technical subject, and is best left to lawyers to explain. However, the absence of academics who deal with the laws means that we can expect far more articles by lawyers writing in newspapers about legal judgments and their political impact but few about structural and substantive issues which educate other social scientists.

For the legal field to emerge as a phenomenon on a par with that which exists in political economy, or with regard to gender, or even politics, we await theoreticians and intellectuals to emerge from amongst the lawyers. This wait might just be a very long one.

Minorities: A growing force in US politics

Both Republicans and Democrats are mapping out a path to victory for the 2012 election, with each going on the offensive to win over what is known as the minority vote.Minorities are a growing force in US politics - and one that is changing the electoral calculus.

Both Barack Obama, the US president, and the eventual Republican presidential nominee will be pursuing their support in a bid to win the November presidential election.

The minority vote consists primarily of African-Americans and Latinos. But it also includes Asian Americans, Muslim Americans, Native Americans, and many other groups.

The Latino vote is the biggest of all. The number of Hispanics living in the US has been steadily increasing. According to the last census, there are now more than 50 million Latinos in the US.

And the black vote is also important - with one-eighth of the US population falling into this category. Just as with the Latino vote, Candidate Obama carried a large proportion of the black vote on his journey to the White House in 2008.
But President Obama cannot take the minority vote for granted in 2012 - it is considered to be very much up for grabs.

Firstly, many Latinos are disappointed in Obama for failing to reform the immigration system. There are now more deportations than there were under the previous administration.

And the poor economy and high unemployment rate are affecting blacks and Latinos in disproportionate numbers, while the growing wealth inequality between rich and poor has been exacerbated by the number of black and Latino families who have lost their homes through foreclosures.

KP, tribal journalists protest Mukaram Khan’s murder

Local and tribal journalists on Thursday asked the Taliban leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan to explain their position whether they were involved in killing of Mukaram Khan and other newsmen.
“No one can stop us from writing reality and we can’t be frightened into a gag by any one,” they vowed while addressing a protest against the killers of Mukaram Khan.
On a call given by Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), the protest demonstration was held under auspices of Khyber Union of Journalists (KhUJ) at the premise of Peshawar Press Club (PPC) on Thursday.
A large number of tribal journalists affiliated with Tribal Union of Journalists (TUJ) also participated in demonstration.
After registering their protest, the journalists walked out of the PPC to record their protest opposite Cantonment Railway Station.
Holding placards and banners inscribed with slogans against the killers of the tribal journalist from Mohmand Agency, Mukaram Khan, they demanded the arrest of the killers.
While addressing the protesting journalists, PPC President Saiful Islam Saifi said Mukaram Khan kept a balanced reporting and never became controversial for any side, but his work in Voice of America (VoA) in Pashto Radio Service had resulted in his murder. “A Taliban faction has already claimed killing of Mukaram Khan,” he added.
“If the militants kill journalists by working in any American broadcast, there are many Americans here in Peshawar,” he maintained, adding that working with any US institute related to broadcast did not mean to be killed.
“We all are labourers and earning livelihood for our family members through this profession,” he said.
A senior journalist from Waziristan Agency said that there were several journalists were killed while performing their duty by unknown terrorists because they (reporters) wanted to acquaint the nation with the reality of the so-called war on terror. Yousaf Ali, general secretary of KhUJ, also expressed deep sorrows over the killing of Mukaram Khan, saying he was the 24th journalists killed across the northwest.

The 1% and That 15% (Mitt Romney Tax Return)


During the Republican debate on Monday, Mitt Romney suggested that he might release his 2011 tax return, but only in April. On Tuesday, he told reporters that his effective tax rate was “probably closer to the 15 percent rate than anything.”

Mr. Romney is clearly hoping that by drawing this process out for another three months, and copping to the low rate early on, he will deflect at least some of the shock about the size of his personal wealth and what a great deal you get from the government if, like Mr. Romney, you make most of your money from investing.

Let’s be clear: despite Mr. Romney’s claim that “people will want to see the most recent year,” his 2011 taxes would not be enough. Voters have a right to know how presidential aspirants made their money — not just in the year before the election. That is especially true in Mr. Romney’s case because he says his business success qualifies him to be president.

As for that 15 percent rate, it’s all completely legal. Mr. Romney didn’t even need a sharp accountant. If Mr. Romney has done one good thing with his partial disclosure — although it clearly wasn’t his goal — he has reminded Americans of the fundamental unfairness of the current tax code and of how determined Mr. Romney and his party are to keep it that way.

Currently, the tax code imposes a top rate of 15 percent on investment income — generally, capital gains and dividends — that flows overwhelmingly to wealthy taxpayers. In comparison, top rates between 25 percent and 35 percent are applied to the wages and salaries for many working Americans.

Worse, an egregious loophole in the law lets private equity partners pay the lower 15 percent rate on much of their income — known as “carried interest” — even though those earnings are not typically gains from investing their own money, but rather a share of profits from investing someone else’s money.

Without seeing Mr. Romney’s tax returns, it is impossible to know how much of his investments — past and present — are actually carried interest, though much of his fortune is from his years at the buyout firm Bain Capital, and a significant share of his family’s wealth is still connected to Bain.

President Obama has repeatedly, and correctly, called for ending the carried interest loophole. It is morally indefensible because it asserts that the efforts and risks of private equity partners are worthier than those of workers who pay regular tax rates. It also makes no sense. The rationale for keeping the capital gains rate lower than the rate on wages and salaries is to encourage and reward investors for taking risks with their own money. Private equity partners are, by and large, managing other people’s money risk.

The controversy over the tax treatment of carried interest is a subset of the larger debate over whether there even should be a preferential rate for capital gains. The answer is no. It is not only excessive, and unjustified, it actually encourages wasteful gamesmanship, by enticing people to engage in tax avoidance schemes to convert ordinary income into capital gains. It also exacerbates inequality and crowds out other ways to foster risk-taking.

Mr. Romney has called for keeping the current low rates for capital gains and eliminating capital gains altogether for taxpayers making less than $200,000. That’s an attempt to justify an indefensible tax break for the wealthy by tossing crumbs to others.

Mr. Romney does not have to apologize for his wealth. But he cannot keep trying to conceal just how much the tax code has been tilted in his favor.

Car bomb at Afghanistan air base kills 7

A suicide attacker set off a vehicle laden with explosives Thursday outside a gate at a sprawling base for U.S. and NATO operations, killing seven civilians in a second suicide bombing in as many days in southern Afghanistan, officials said.

Iranian actress banned from returning home after posing nude in French magazine

An actress who has starred with Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe has been banished from her home country of Iran - because she posed nude in a French news magazine, the Daily Mail reported on Thursday. Golshifteh Farahani

says she has been contacted by the Iranian government, telling her that she is no longer welcome in the country and advising her not to return home.
The offending photo -

a black-and-white 'art shot' featuring the 28-year-old Farahani posing against a black backdrop with her hands strategically placed over her breasts - was first published in Madame Le Figaro. The image was then posted on her Facebook page, drawing visitors from around the world - including Iran and the Middle East.
While many criticised her 'indecency', others praised her for 'the courage to remove a taboo among the women in Muslim countries'. Iran's anger at the image is not just because of Farahani's nudity - she has also made it known that her decision to pose is in protest against restrictive Islamic codes.
Indeed, it is why the now-Paris-based actress left Iran last year. Farahani has had a mercurial relationship with her home country. She began acting in theatre at the age of six and her first film, ‘The Pear Tree’, earned the then 14-year-old the Best Actress award at Iran's annual Fajr Film Festival.
She immediately became a leading actress in her home country, yet her performance in the 2007 film ‘Santoori’ has never been seen in Iran and is still banned. She starred in ‘M For Mother’, which after a huge success in Iran was chosen to represent Iran for the Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards in 2008.
Farahani's role as a nurse in Ridley Scott's ‘Body of Lies’ made her the first Iranian to act in a major Hollywood film. As a result she was banned from leaving Iran, and - now that she has left the country and is living in Paris - she appears to be banned from returning.

Nawaz deliberately ignoring NRO he signed with Musharraf: Rehman Malik

Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Tuesday charged PML-N Chief Mian Nawaz Sharif of deliberately ignoring the ‘NRO’ he had signed with former dictator Pervez Musharraf to escape imprisonment.Mian Nawaz Sharif is criticizing National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) but deliberately ignored “the NRO” he had signed with former President Pervez Musharraf to leave the country and escape imprisonment, Malik stated at a news conference, after attending a meeting held to review implementation process of Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan..
“Facing imprisonment is not easy and Nawaz Sharif sought pardon for him and his family members, signed a deal and left the nation in lurch by proceeding aborad,” he said, making public the PML (N) leadership signed documents before the media.Minister for Interior, Rehman Malik said Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has always pursued policy of reconciliation and wants to move forward on the same path.
He said, “Nawaz Sharif who is criticizing the NRO, himself prepared the NRO, but on the other side he is blaming and pressurizing the PPP which had not negotiated anything.”
The NRO was initiated during Musharraf’s tenure and it was cleared by Cabinet of former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. Pervez Musharraf was President that time, he added.
The Minister said Nawaz Sharif knows that basically the NRO promulgated by Pervez Musharraf was not prompted or demanded by PPP leadership.
Raising some questions, he asked Nawaz Sharif is it not true that the NRO promulgated by Pervez Musharraf was not person specific but political leaders and workers benefitted from it.
The Minister asked Nawaz Sharif why did he not raise any objection when he himself returned to Pakistan from exile as a result of the NRO.
Rehman Malik read out the documents signed by Nawaz Sharif and three others in which he (Nawaz) appealed to Musharraf for pardon during the trial of the cases against him and his family members; and for leaving the country.
The Minister said he also wants to put the facts before nation that Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto rejected the draft NRO when it was presented to her.
Later, former US Secretary of State telephoned Benazir Bhutto and said US desires elections in Pakistan and at the same time wants to see democracy flourishing in the country. Some political leaders also tried to convince BB, but she refused to meet them.
He said after the judgment in plane hijacking case, Nawaz Sharif, his brothers and his son Hussain Nawaz made a mercy petition to Pervez Musharraf to waive the sentences of imprisonment to enable him to proceed abroad for medical treatment with the additional prayer that he may not be prosecuted in respect of any alleged past conduct.
Rehman Malik also informed that Mian Nawaz Sharif made a false claim of medical treatment for going to Saudi Arabia and entered into an agreement with Pervez Musharraf which was in fact an NRO.
He (Nawaz) and his brother Mian Shahbaz Sharif singed an agreement with Pervez Musharraf, desiring to leave for Saudi Arabia to live there and not to “engage in any business or political activities or any other activities of any nature whatsoever against the interest of Pakistan or relating to his incarceration in Pakistan for a period of (10) years, the Minister said while reading out a document.
“Can Nawaz Sharif explain to the nation the legality and morality of this NRO singed by him and his brother with Pervez Musharraf for their personal gains and not for the sake of national interests,” he asked and said people should know the facts.
Rehman Malik said PPP was not the main beneficiary of NRO as its only five or six people were supposed to benefit from it.
The Minister said he faced about nine cases in courts and personally appeared before the courts and exonerated.
Nawaz Sharif is talking too much about the NRO promulgated by previous regime but forgot the NRO he had signed with Pervez Musharraf to escape imprisonment, he said and added that he would reveal more facts on the matter on Wednesday.
Answering a question, Rehman Malik said he has handed over important documents on the matter to his son, who would made public all if anything happens to him.Giving details about the meeting, Minister for Interior, Rehman Malik said it was decided that all those, who were given employment under Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package would be regularized from January 20.
All those who are working on deputation would be inducted here in Capital,he added.
The Minister said basic objective of meeting was to evolve strategy to further accelerate implementation of the package under the decision taken by Federal Cabinet.
He said a task force, headed by Secretary Interior has been constituted to discuss all issues regarding implementation of package and suggest recommendations so its early implementation could be ensured. Additional secretaries of different ministries would be member of the task force.
Moreover, he said working of police and levy in Balochistan is also being reviewed, adding that security situation is improving in the province and those trying to disrupt peace there, are being dealt with as per law of land.
Replying to another question, he said, “We have great respect for national leaders. We are ready for talks. If anyone has problem, he can approach the Special Committee, constituted to address the issues.
Provincial Ministers of Balochistan and officials of Ministry of Interior also attended the meeting.

Raza Rabbani demands case against Musharraf for violating Article 6

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Mian Raza Rabbani on Tuesday demanded the government arrest former president Pervez Musharraf by charging him under article 6 of the constitution.

Speaking on a point of order during the Senate session, he represented a 10-point charge sheet against former the president, saying that it was alarming he was announcing for his return to Pakistan.

The House also resounded with voices of Balochistan lawmakers about a sense of deprivation prevailing in the province while Senator Humayun Khan Mandokhel walked out from the House to stage a sit-in outside parliament for the entire session.

Rabbani said that Musharraf not only breached the constitution twice during his dictatorship but also committed aggression against the judiciary. “Musharraf arrested judges and dismissed them from service,” he added.

The PPP senator said it was important to mention here that the Supreme Court had given verdict against the illegal constitutional act of November 3 of former president Musharraf while parliament also did not give protection to the Legal Framework Order (LFO) in the parliamentary history of the country.

He said it was difficult to believe that the former president handed over the Shamsi airbase to the US without any written agreement as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence did not have any written agreement in this regard. “Musharraf was risk for the national security,” he claimed.

Rabbani said that Musharraf was responsible for the missing persons across the country while he started Balochistan operation during his tenure.

He alleged that Musharraf was involved in the killings of the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto while he was the killer of former Balochistan chief minister Nawab Akbar Bugti. He also held the former president responsible for the law and order situation in the country.

Rabbani alleged that Musharraf tried to weaken the federation during his tenure, saying he was involved in fanning differences among administrative units of the federation. “The charge sheet against the former president was too long,” he added.

The former minister said it was important that the federal government should file an FIR against Musharraf under the Article 6 of the constitution. “It was the responsibility of the federal government to arrest Musharraf on his return,” he added.

Rabbani said if the government did not register an FIR against Musharraf then there should be no place for Article 6 in the constitution.

PML-N’s Senator Raja Zafarul Haq said that Musharraf was a major criminal of the country while it was the demand of the Upper House that he should be hanged under Article 6 of the constitution. “I agree with Rabbani,” he added.

ANP Senator Zahid Khan said that Musharraf was responsible for the present situation of the country while he introduced war against terrorism in the country. “The ANP believes that he should be arrested on his arrival,” he added.

JUI-F’s Senator Dr Khalid Soomro said the JUI-F would support the government if it takes action against Musharraf.

National Party’s Senator Dr Abdul Malik, while supporting the charge sheet of Senator Rabbani, demanded that the senators should bring a charge sheet against Musharraf in form of a resolution.

Earlier, Senators from Balochistan talked about what they termed discrimination with their province in the employment as well as in the development projects.

The House could not take up a bill of the Law Ministry as Leader of the House Syed Nayyer Hussain Bokhari told the House that as the Federal Law Minister Moula Bux Chandio no more holds the ministry, the bill should be deferred.

The Upper House Tuesday gave warm welcome to the parliamentary delegation of the India while the parliamentary leaders of all the parties suggested that both the countries should settle dispute through the process of dialogue. Senate Chairman Farooq H Neak, on the behalf of the Senate and the people of Pakistan, welcomed the guests in the Upper House.

Mansoor Ijaz in "Stupidisco"

Ijaz is obviously on the Pakistani Army's payroll. From the beginning, the whole memo-gate was a Army-drama written & directed by the crooked & corrupt Army Generals at the Army HQ in Rawalpindi to get rid of the 'inconvenient' president and to continue Army General's behind-the scene dictatorship.

"Ijaz will fly into a military air base and then be escorted by the army to the court to testify"

Mansoor Ijaz:Naked wrestling.Pakistan scandal's latest twist

A scandal over a secret memo to Washington that could bring down the Pakistani president took a strange turn Wednesday when a music video surfaced featuring the chief accuser acting as a commentator for a naked female wrestling bout.

Opponents of Mansoor Ijaz, an American of Pakistani origin, said the clip damaged his credibility ahead of his scheduled appearance at a Supreme Court commission in this conservative Muslim country. The Florida-born businessman has pledged to provide damning evidence that the Pakistani government sent the note seeking U.S. help preventing a military coup in the aftermath of the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011.

Others were simply amused at the latest twist in an affair that has transfixed the media and raised tensions between the government and the powerful military to dangerous levels. Dubbed "memogate" in the Pakistani media, one Twitter user suggested it should now be renamed "booty-gate."It was unclear why the wrestling video, which was made in 2004 and has been viewed for years on the Internet, came to light only now. Ijaz's role was apparently spotted by a blogger late Tuesday and spread quickly through social media.

Ijaz told The Associated Press he thought the video's emergence was part of an effort by Haqqani to discredit him ahead of his testimony but conceded he had no evidence of this. He confirmed that the video was not a hoax.

Ijaz appears in two versions of the same video for "Stupidisco," a house music track by Italian producer Junior Jack that was a club hit in 2004.

One clip features bikini-clad women wrestlers 'Double D' and 'Nasty Nancy,' who end up grappling on a mat in a sexually provocative fashion. The other is the same until the final 30 seconds, when the women remove each other's clothes.

Ijaz's scenes and dialogue feature in both versions.

"She's giving it to her good now! You've got some real tumbling going on here. Nancy's got that mean look," he says, as the two women wrestle in front of him. At one point, Ijaz's eyes widen and his mouth gapes as the video cuts to the women ripping each other's bikinis off.

Ijaz said he had not known he would appear in the version containing full nudity.

"I did this as a favor for my wife's best friend, whose planned actor for the part did not show up for the shoot that day," he said in a telephone interview from an undisclosed location, citing alleged threats to his life as a result of his role in the memo scandal. He said the shoot took place in Brussels, and that there was no other person available with an American accent.

"I was never present for any part of the video where those naked girls were shown. My wife was present at all times."

Ijaz provided the AP with 2004 email correspondence between him and the producer of the video in which he threatens legal action unless the producer removes him from the clip that contains nudity.

"Given my political and public profile in the United States and around the world, it is impossible for me to appear in any part of any video clip with nudity of any type," he wrote. He included a reply from the producer, who assured Ijaz he would cut his role from the X-rated version and remove it from the Internet.

Haqqani's lawyer, Zahid Bokhari, said the "Stupidisco" video shows that Ijaz "can break all the norms of decency."

"I think a man of that stature, one who can go to that extent for fame, he can make up all kinds of false stories. I am really stunned by this," said Bokhari. He dismissed Ijaz's claim that the video was part of campaign to question his credibility, noting that it was made and put on the Internet years ago.

The bikini video was uploaded onto YouTube in 2009, with 376,000 views since then, according to that website. The version in which the women appear naked was uploaded to a site called Dailymotion in 2007.

For Ijaz, the videos cast an unwelcome spotlight on his plans to come to Pakistan and testify to the Supreme Court commission next Tuesday. Ijaz has said he will present Blackberry smart phones with records of conversations between him and Haqqani that prove the former envoy authored the memo.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik, a Zardari loyalist, has hinted Ijaz could face legal troubles himself if he comes to Pakistan, alleging he once claimed to have brought down an earlier government.

Local media have speculated that Ijaz will fly into a military air base and then be escorted by the army to the court to testify, such is his importance to the case.

Akram Sheikh, Ijaz's lawyer, claimed the government was trying to stop his client from traveling to Pakistan.

"So what if my client has been dancing on the Internet," said Sheikh. "What difference does that make? He has never claimed to be perfect, or running an orphanage. Would Mr. Haqqani like his personal life exposed?"

Haqqani, who returned to Pakistan to cooperate with the probe, is now living as a guest at the prime minister's residence, claiming his life is in danger. He has been banned by the commission from leaving the country. His wife has lobbied in Washington in his defense, and several U.S. lawmakers have spoken up for him.

The memo scandal is not the only threat to the Pakistani government, which has struggled since Zardari's election in 2008. Like previous governments, his administration has had difficult relations with the army, which has never trusted Zardari.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is to appear before the Supreme Court to explain why his government has not asked Swiss authorities to reopen an old corruption case against Zardari. The court has initiated contempt proceedings against Gilani for failing to do this.

The government has long refused to write the letter, arguing that Zardari enjoys immunity from prosecution while in office. But Gilani's lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan, said Wednesday that "there was no harm" in writing the Swiss because Zardari enjoys immunity from prosecution.

Islamist coup plot foiled in Bangladesh

The Bangladesh army said Thursday it had foiled a plot last month by some "religiously fanatic" Islamist officers to overthrow the elected government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

"We have unearthed a heinous conspiracy to overthrow the democratic government through the army," army spokesman Brigadier General Masud Razzaq said in a written statement.

"The attempt has been thwarted with the whole-hearted efforts of army soldiers," the statement said, adding that the plot had been fomented by Bangladeshi expatriates in touch with "religiously fanatic army officers".

Hasina's government, which came to power in early 2009, made changes in June last year to bolster the secular character of the Bangladesh constitution, although Islam was retained as the state religion.

The move sparked a series of angry protests by Islamic activists in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, one of the world's poorest countries with a long history of coups and counter-coups.

Razzaq told local media that the plot involved up to 16 Islamist officers, both active and retired, raising fears about the prevalence of hardliners in the upper ranks of the 140,000-strong military.

Two retired officers including a colonel have been arrested and will be presented before a court of inquiry set up on December 28, while an alleged "co-planner" called Major Syed Ziaul Haq, a serving officer, is on the run.

Syed Ashraful Islam, the spokesman of the ruling Awami League party and an influential minister, said anyone found guilty would be handed "exemplary" punishment.

"There is no room for conspiracy in the army. Those who are involved in such conspiracy will be given exemplary punishment," he told reporters.

Giving details about the alleged plot, Razzaq said that Ziaul had circulated emails to different serving officers detailing a plan to overthrow the government on January 9-10.

The outlawed Islamist group Hizbut Tahrir, banned in Bangladesh in 2009 after it was linked to a car bomb on a politician, was accused of helping to circulate the messages.

There were rumours online late last month about a foiled coup attempt after the nation's main opposition leader Khaleda Zia accused the government of "incidences of disappearances" in the army.

The army hit back, terming the allegations "provocative and misleading".

Dhaka University professor Imtiaz Ahmed, a security expert, told AFP that "we've been hearing the rumour of a possible coup for the last couple of weeks. It appears that they handled the situation quite well."

He said it was important the armed forces "seriously dig into the matter as to how much the Islamists were involved, in which capacity and how big was the penetration."

Bangladesh has a history of bloodshed and political violence since gaining independence in 1971.

The country's first president was assassinated during his overthrow by the army in 1975 and Bangladesh was run by the military dictator again from 1982 to 1990.

Democracy was restored in 1991, but street battles between Zia and Hasina's supporters prompted the army to step in again in January 2007.

The government of Hasina, who came to power in 2009, was hit by a military rebellion later that year when 57 army officers were killed by renegade border guards.

The spokesman said the army has set up a court of inquiry on December 28 to try the alleged coup planners.

Sherry Rehman meets President Obama

In a ceremony to be held at the Oval Office at the White House, US President Barack Obama is due to accept credentials from 15 ambassadors, including Pakistan’s Sherry Rehman.

In a ceremony held in the Oval Office at the White House, US President Barack Obama accepted credentials from 15 ambassadors, including Pakistan’s new ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman.

The credentialing ceremony took place at the White House, with President Obama formally accepting credentials from new ambassadors from Morocco, Iraq, UK and Azerbaijan amongst others.

Ambassador Rehman, since her arrival in the US capital earlier this month, has already presented her credentials to the US State Department’s Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman. Following the presentation of her credentials, Ambassador Rehman has also met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides and Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman.

Pakistan’s economy to grow at 3.9pc

The World Bank has observed that Pakistan’s weak economic growth is due to worsening security condition accompanied by greater political uncertainty and a breakdown in policy implementation. It predicted country’s economic growth at 3.9 per cent during the year 2012.

The World Bank in its report titled “Global Economic Prospect 2012” has forecast that the world economy this year is set to grow by just 2.5 per cent, weighed down by ripple effects from the 2008 financial slowdown. The sovereign debt crisis in Europe, which took a turn for the worse in August 2011, coincides with slowing growth in several major developing countries (Brazil, India and, to a lesser extent, Russia, South Africa and Turkey), mainly reflecting policy tightening begun in late 2010 and early 2011 to combat rising inflationary pressures from overly-fast growth.

According to the report, GDP growth rate in Pakistan would be 3.9 per cent during the year 2012 that was 2.4 per cent in 2011. Pakistan’s weak growth outturns are also tied to the worsening security situation, accompanied by greater political uncertainty and a breakdown in policy implementation. Infrastructure bottlenecks, including disruptions in power delivery, remain widespread. However, a notable bright spot has been the increased exports, evident particularly in the first half of 2011, led by textiles that surged 39 per cent in the first half of the year.

However, like India, Pakistan’s export volume growth saw a sharp fall-off in October. Indeed, Pakistan’s export volumes fell to a -46 per cent rate in the three months ending October (3m/3m, at seasonally adjusted annualised rates). Along with an upswing in worker remittances inflows, robust exports have supported Pakistan’s external positions and contributed to an improvement in the current account from a deficit of 0.9 per cent of GDP in 2010 to a surplus of close to 0.5 per cent of GDP in the 2011 calendar year.

Industrial production surged to grow at a robust 32.1 per cent annualised pace during the three months ending in October (3m/3m, at seasonally adjusted annualised rates), after falling at 9.1 and 10.1 per cent rates during the first and second quarters, respectively. Part of the strengthening in growth reflects base effects due to the widespread flooding that had hampered activity in the second half of 2010. Indeed, because the floods occurred in July and August 2010, GDP growth on a fiscal year basis (ending June-2011) slowed to 2.4 per cent from 4.1 per cent of the fiscal year 2009-2010.

Worker remittances remain a critical source of foreign exchange in South Asia. Remittance inflows to Pakistan rose by an estimated 25 per cent in 2011, partly in response to the widespread flooding in the second half of 2010. When measured in local currency terms, given the appreciation of the dollar, remittances inflows to the region grew by a more vibrant 13 per cent in 2011 (median rate). Adjusting for inflation, worker remittances inflows to the region grew by a less robust 5.8 per cent (median rate) in local currency terms.

According to the report, countries heavily reliant on foreign assistance, such as Afghanistan, Nepal and Pakistan, could be hit hard if fiscal consolidation in high-income countries were to result in cuts to overseas development assistance. Given the lack of fiscal space in South Asia, inflationary pressures and consequent limited room for monetary policy easing, fiscal consolidation through greater revenue mobilisation (particularly in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal) and expenditure rationalisation (especially in India) could play a key role in helping to protect critical social programmes. Governments should also look into further improving the targeting of its safety nets and capacity to respond to a crisis to improve efficiency of social safety net programmes.

Nawaz Sharif : Their perfidy

EDITORIAL:Frontier Post

Hypocrisy, doublespeak and perfidy though make up an integral, rather the most outstanding, part of our political class. But the PML (N) of Nawaz Sharif

is a class unto itself in this artifice, currently setting new records to beat its own previous milestones in this chicanery. As a Supreme Court’s bench put the prime minister on contempt notice, instantly the PML (N) clan’s grandees burst into a shrill he had lost the legitimacy and must resign. What they conveniently forgot was their own head-honcho too had in his second power stint been served a contempt notice by the apex court. But neither had he squirmed if he had lost legitimacy nor did he resign. He indeed made a big show of his court appearance to answer the contempt notice. He didn’t go to the apex court with humility as a contemnor at the court’s mercy. Instead, he travelled to the court standing all the way in an open car like those victorious generals in ancient times going riding on chariots to royal court to be decorated ceremoniously by their kings or queens. And the state broadcaster, this self-styled democratic ruler too having not allowed private enterprise in the electronic media, dutifully put the footage of his victor-style journey on home-screens for the hoi polloi’s benefit. This much should suffice to unmask the PML (N) clan’s chanting choir’s ugly perfidy.But their head-honcho himself is being no lesser perfidious nowadays. He is posing to be an angel with not a black spot on his white visage. He talks as if his hands have always been clean. Zardari, he shouts day in and day out, must come clean on the Swiss case. Yes, he must, immunity or no immunity, to satisfy a deeply perturbed nation, though no lesser to clear his name to his own personal good. But what Nawaz conveniently glosses over is the fact that he too faces a slew of malfeasance cases, some pending in courts, some seemingly under a halted probe. One relating to the infamous Mehrangate involving alleged illicit distribution of money by the ISI to various political stars featuring in its cobbled-up IJI political formation is long lying with the apex court for ruling. Nawaz figures prominently among the alleged beneficiaries. Now that he lays claim to being an uncompromising stickler of law, won’t it be in the fitness of things if he himself knocks at the court’s door and fervently appeals for this case’s disposal, no lesser to clear his name? And now that he has been calling on Zardari to bring back his stashed assets from abroad, when would he bring back his own hoards from overseas? Zardari, he demands, must come clean on how he had accumulated so much of wealth abroad. Yes, Zardari must tell the source. But shouldn’t Nawaz too tell the source of his own overseas hoards? To be credible, preacher must practice first what he preaches. Nawaz must understand one thing. Our people are no halfwits or fools. If media eminences are not asking this, the people do want to know this from both, as much from him as from Zardari. Indeed, he is badly mistaken if has taken to the belief that by some quirk of miracle the people have been taken in by his posturing of piety. He will be shocked to know that the mass of the people take him to be no paragon of nobility and virtues. In the popular estimation, he is the chip of the same block the eminences strutting on the national political stage are made up of. He may be thinking by his posturing he is beguiling the people. But veritably he is not.When he empathises with the forsaken flood-devastated of Sindh, they certainly do get impressed, so forgetfully by their own Sindh government they live in misery. But those ruined by the 2010 destructive flash flooding in Punjab sneer scornfully at his skullduggery. Two years have passed, and almost the whole lot of them is yet to see even a bleak sign of his promised model villages for them. They indeed are surviving as dismally and as despondently as their Sindh peers, totally neglected by their own Punjab government led by none else but by Nawaz’s own younger sibling. And no little jeering does he draw from the masses and the thinking class alike for blasting the Zardari &Co for acute lack of governance when Punjab itself is no model of good governance. The province is in the squeezing grip of lawlessness and criminality, with freely-operating fanatical outfits adding up their own vileness to make this grim situation grimmer. And the Punjab government has been as inept and inert as its other provincial peers in controlling the price in the market, which too is a provincial responsibility as is the maintenance of law and order. After all, it is not without reason that the new rising political star has made such deep inroads in Punjab which Nawaz had somehow construed to be his unshakable stronghold and invulnerable lair, even as he couldn’t sweep it in the 2008 poll despite wearing a political martyr’s mantle. But then Nawaz was never a political giant. He was just a dwarf, stretched far beyond his stature by the lords of garrisons and agencies. No visionary or statesman is he. Just a politico of ordinary level, catapulted artificially into a grandee by a fawning media in reality is he.

Peshawar varsity to honour two great poets of K-P

The Express Tribune

Peshawar University will honour two legendry poets and intellectuals Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has produced by setting up chairs in their name and documenting their works.

This was announced by Peshawar University Vice-Chancellor Dr Azmat Hayat Khan at a function held in connection with Faraz’s birth anniversary at the auditorium of Sir Sahibzada Abdul Qayum Museum in the varsity on Tuesday.

“Faraz Chair will be established at the Institute of Urdu and Persian Languages and Literature,” Dr Khan said, adding that all archives relating to the life, works and collection of books and research on the revolutionary poet would be documented. It would be later converted into a research institute.

He said

Ghani Khan Chair would be established at the Pashto Department to research the life and work of the great Pashto poet, painter and intellectual.

Both the poets were great sons of the soil and establishing chairs in their name would be an honour for the university, Dr Khan remarked.

Speaking on the occasion, Mehboob Zafar, a friend of the poet, said Faraz’s poetry was kaleidoscopic and passionate and his personality was clearly reflected in his thoughts. “Faraz is the most prolific Urdu poet and melody is dominant in his poetry.”

Majeed Riaz also touched upon the dimensions of Faraz’s poetry and said it was matchless for its flow and depth. He said Faraz revived ghazal when it was losing its charm after partition for being a remnant of colonial and feudal legacy.

The poet’s son, Shibli Faraz said they have set up an Ahmed Faraz Trust to document the poet’s works and its ultimate aim was to establish Faraz Museum by 2013. He was a born poet who believed in optimism and never bothered about the consequences, he added.

Dr Sadia Tariq, Shahid Zaman, Nishat Sarhadi, Aziz Ejaz, Mehboob Zafar, Sajjad Babar, Nazir Tabassum, Riaz Majeed and Iftikhar Khan also addressed the function. They said Faraz was a timeless poet as he always raised his voice against injustices.

Published in The Express Tribune, January

Pakistan PM Yousaf Raza Gilani cites immunity on graft

PAKISTAN'S Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani

stared down the threat of being sent to jail by the Supreme Court yesterday, telling the bench he could not accede to its demand that he pursue a money-laundering case against President Asif Ali Zardari, because presidents enjoy immunity while in office. After a brief hearing yesterday the case was adjourned until February 1, granting the government at least a fortnight's reprieve from potential collapse, as it faces one of the biggest crises of its shaky four-year tenure.

Mr Gilani waved to crowds before entering the heavily guarded Islamabad court complex about 10am, local time, to answer contempt charges over his failure to reopen thousands of corruption cases including against Mr Zardari. Inside the court he attempted to strike a conciliatory tone while insisting Mr Zardari, his political ally and Pakistan People's Party leader, could not be prosecuted while in office.Reading from a prepared statement, he told the seven-member bench: "I have come to show my respect to this court."I had no intention of disrespecting the judiciary. I was advised that the President has complete immunity in the matter.

"Presidents across the world have immunity. Pakistan's constitution gives immunity to the president. I have discussed this with my friends and experts, and they all agree."

Mr Zardari was one of hundreds of Pakistani bureaucrats facing corruption charges to benefit from a 2007 amnesty from prosecution, which was brokered to allow his wife Benazir Bhutto to return from exile and contest the first democratic elections since the 1999 military coup. She returned to Pakistan in 2007 but was assassinated while campaigning.

The couple was found guilty by a Swiss court in 2003 of laundering almost $US12 million in bribes paid by Swiss companies during Ms Bhutto's time as prime minister. The verdict was overturned on appeal and further investigations by Swiss authorities dropped in 2008 at the request of Pakistan's new civilian government.

But the Supreme Court overturned the amnesty in 2009 and has been pushing ever since for the Prime Minister to request Swiss authorities reopen the case.

Should the court find him guilty of contempt for failing to do so, Mr Gilani could be stripped of office and face a maximum five years in prison, leaving the government little option but to call early elections.

Mr Gilani is the second sitting prime minister in Pakistan's 64-year history to face contempt charges. In 1997 Nawaz Sharif, now leader of the main opposition party PML (N), was called to answer similar charges over statements made in parliament.

Mr Sharif apologised to the bench but later a mob of PML (N) supporters stormed the court, prompting a constitutional crisis.

Mr Gilani's administration is also under pressure from a second judicial commission investigating an anonymous memo seeking US help to avert a possible military coup in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden in May last year.

The memo has brought the government and the army into conflict and prompted renewed speculation the country is headed for its fourth military coup. No elected Pakistani government has completed its five-year-term before being ousted by a military coup or forced to an early election.

Meanwhile former president Pervez Musharraf, who had planned to return from self-exile to Pakistan this month to contest the expected elections, is rethinking the timing of his comeback after

a warning he would be arrested.

"There are three registered cases against him," Interior Minister Rehman Malik told parliament on Wednesday. "He has been named in these cases, so ultimately he will be arrested."

Mohammad Amjad of Mr Musharraf's All Pakistan Muslim League said: "His friends and party officials want him to postpone it for some time."