Friday, February 3, 2012

Shahbaz Sharif Luhar: ''The smell of conspiracies?''

No, CM saab, the smell of mismanagement

Anyone looking for conspiracies lurking anywhere around should call Shahbaz Sharif. He will reach the spot, expand his nostrils and sniff right, left, back and forth and, rest assured, he will locate the conspiracy even if it lies hidden in the bowels of the of the earth, the darkest depths of the sea or anywhere near the ozone layer.

Recently, Shahbaz has made two award winning discoveries. Don’t blame me, he says, for hundreds of deaths during the dengue epidemic in Punjab and the subsequent more than five score mortalities caused by the contaminated Isotab. Both health disasters were in fact the outcome of a deep conspiracy against Punjab and its hard working chief minister.

His opponents might reject the claim on grounds of his inability to produce proofs. What is the need for proofs, he can say? Effroze Chemical Industries which produced the deadly Isotab is situated in Karachi, the capital of Sindh. Isn’t this a sufficient clue to the riddle? Can anyone in his senses doubt that Zardari is behind the deaths of all these heart patients?

His tormentors might accuse him of fanning parochialism and promoting misunderstanding between the provinces. But Shahbaz doesn’t care. He is convinced of there being a conspiracy and he has the courage of conviction which forces him to speak out the truth.

I have enemies, he contends. The bravery of a man in Punjab is measured by the number of enemies he has. As if Zardari, Gilani, Latif Khosa were not enough, the Chaudhrys of Gujrat have joined the battle with their tokas and kulharis to make mincemeat of him. “Those in Islamabad needed dead bodies in Lahore,” he is reported to have told NNI as quoted by the daily Express Lahore.

Suddenly, it has dawned upon Shahbaz that the dengue disaster which is widely understood to be the outcome of his neglect to give proper time to the health ministry was in fact another conspiracy hatched against Punjab and its Khadim-e-Aala by wily Zardari.

According to SANA News, Shahbaz said that “a most important person in Islamabad was involved in spreading dengue in Lahore. The patrons of the (Punjab Assembly’s) opposition leaders sitting in Islamabad wanted large scale destruction in Punjab so that people may drag Shahbaz Sharif on the streets.”

On Wednesday, Shahbaz sent home ten top doctors and officials from Lahore’s Jinnah Hospital. The charge was that they had failed to make use of thousands of costly injections. We should be ready to hear one day that this was in fact an American conspiracy as the injections were produced by an American firm.

The conspiracy theory might satisfy some of the die hard PML(N) fans. It cannot, however, stop the recurrence of the type of human tragedies that have already taken toll of hundreds of lives in Punjab. Whatever happened was the direct outcome of Mian Shahbaz Sharif’s exceptionally shoddy management of the health ministry. With Shahbaz wearing 18 ministerial crowns on his head, he has little time to prepare a comprehensive health policy for the most populous province of the country. The Health Ministry has been left at the mercy of to visionless officials.

Anyone can easily buy medicines that can only be sold on a doctor’s prescription. Most pharmaceutical store owners lack the qualifications required under the law. Spurious drugs and outdated medicines continue to be sold all over the province. Unsuspecting patients from rural areas are at the mercy of medical stores owners who act as self appointed doctors.

There is no machinery for taking preventive measures to block the spread of epidemics. The chemicals needed to destroy the dengue mosquitoes were not available when people started falling ill. Emergency imports were made only after the number of deaths reached alarming proportions. Had the chemicals been acquired on time and sprayed weeks before, the disease would not have gone out of control. There was no one to pay total attention to the health ministry.

The provincial health department requires a full time minister. What it has got is Shahbaz Sharif who has chosen to look after 17 other ministries also. Only after his negligence has caused scores of deaths does Shahbaz spring into action. In almost a knee jerk reaction, he looks for a scapegoat, say a doctor, an administrator or a drug producer. Without holding proper enquiry, the person is suspended, transferred, dismissed or arrested. In most cases, he is rehabilitated when the doctors go on strike or the courts declare him to be innocent.

What was discovered on Wednesday at Jinnah Hospital was just a tip of the iceberg which has accumulated over years of neglect by the health ministry. It was found that 1,900 Omniscan injections, each costing the public exchequer Rs 1,735, stored in the hospital had expired in April 2011. This led to the suspension of 10 senior doctors and administrators. Nobody knows how many injections of the type are being sold all over the province to unsuspecting patients.

The writer is a former academic and a political analyst.

Three killed in Peshawar blast

At least three people were killed as a result of an explosion in the Ring Road area of Peshawar. The police said that the blast occurred in the office of a property dealer on Ring Road. Provincial Minister for Information, Mian Iftikhar had reached the scene just after the blast and confirmed that at least three people have been died in the incident. Talking to media, he vowed to defeat an ambitions of terrorists and said the US should be involved Pakistan in the negotiations with Taliban.

PIC scam: 6 countries ban import of Pakistani medicine

Following the deaths caused by faulty PIC drugs, six countries have banned the import of medicines from Pakistan, a move that would badly affect the export of locally-manufactured medicines.
According to sources, the countries include Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Kenya and three other African nations.
Export of locally-manufactured medicines adds over $193 million annually to country’s foreign exchange.
Amid lingering spurious drugs issue, an emergency meeting has been called in Karachi to devise a strategy to counter production of fake medicines.
So far 128 cardiac patients have died due to adulterated drugs provided by Punjab Institute of Cardiology.

No justification for CM Punjab to continue after massive lives losses over medicines reaction

Leader of the Opposition in Punjab Assembly Raja Riaz has said that after the massive lives losses due to dengue virus and spurious medicines reaction, Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif has no justification to continue holding office.

Talking to media persons here in Lahore on Friday, Raja Riaz said that people of Punjab were in the grip of multifaceted crises due to poor governance and least interest of PML-N led provincial government to resolve them.

He said that Shahbaz Sharif admitting his failure to satisfy the people of Punjab should quit his offices.

Raja Riaz said that resignation of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has become public demand after repeated emergence of health sector scams.

He said Pakistan People Party (PPP) leadership always stood by masses in hard time and on the other hand PML-N leaders fled to Jeddah when masses needed them.

We would continue to serve the masses of all provinces on equality basis and PPP would not leave the people of Punjab alone, he maintained.

The Opposition leader in Punjab Assembly said that it was our right to talk about the miseries of poor people and we will not give up this right.

He urged the chief minister to disclose the persons involved in drugs and dengue fever scams.

Balochistan shuts down for second consecutive day

A shutter-down strike was observed in Quetta and different parts of Balochistan for the second consecutive day on Friday to condemn the killings of lawmaker Nawabzada Bakhtiar Khan Domki’s wife and daughter.

The deceased, who were also the sister and niece of Baloch Republican Party (BRP) Chief Bramdagh Bugti, were shot dead in Karachi on January 31.

Balochistan National Party-Awami (BNP-A) General Secretary Asad Baloch and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid’s (PML-Q) Nasreen Khetran walked out during the proceedings of Balochistan Assembly to protest the killings of the great granddaughter and the granddaughter of Nawab Bugti.

The provincial ministers said that it was “ruthless and inhumane” that even Baloch women are not spared.

Girls’ school blown up by Ignorant Taliban

A girls’ middle school was blown up by militants on Dera-Sherani road area here on Friday.The militants tortured and tied up peon of the school and kept explosives and fled.The area where the school was blown up is populated by the Shia community. In an earlier incident, the police diffused two bombs weighing almost 43kg in another school opposite this girls’ school.
The Dera Ismail Khan area has a history of sectarian violence and has also been in the limelight for terrorist attacks since the start of this year.

Probe into fake drug case initiated

Talking to the media outside the parliament house, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that a case has been registered with the Federal Investigation Agency and enquiry has started in this regard. Malik revealed that foreign hand is involved in deteriorating the situation of Balochistan however he is unable to name anyone.
The interior minister said that he was asked to be the head of committee probing into the murder of Balochistan Assembly MPA Mir Bakhtiar Domke, his wife and daughter but he refused because he wanted to make an impartial person as head of the committee.
Earlier, Rehman Malik said that all the segments of society must show unity for establishment of sustainable peace and stability.
Rehman Malik said the situation in Karachi will also improve. He said the credit goes to President‚ Prime Minister and the political parties especially MQM and ANP.

Harsh winter kills scores in eastern Europe

Al Jazeera

The death toll from the week-long freezing weather across eastern Europe has risen to 123, while at least 11,000 villagers remain trapped under heavy snow and blizzards in the Serbian mountains.

Many of the dead from the harshest European winter in decades are homeless.

In some regions, temperatures have dropped to minus 30C and below, causing power outages, traffic chaos and the widespread closure of schools and airports.

Those stranded in Serbia are stuck in 6,500 homes in remote areas cut off by icy, snowy roads as banks reached up to five meters.

Emergency crews were pressing hard to try to clear the snow to deliver badly needed supplies. Helicopters were dispatched to some particularly remote areas in Serbia and neighbouring Bosnia.

On Bosnia's Mt Romanija, near Sarajevo, a chopper thumped down in the small town of Ozerkovici, where a single nun lives in a Serbian Christian Orthodox monastery surrounded by just a few village residents.

Wrapped tight in a black jacket and a scarf, Sister Justina greeted aid workers at her monastery: "I live alone here," she said, but noted "God will help me".

In Serbia, relief efforts are concentrated on evacuating the sick, food delivery and gasoline distribution.

"We are trying everything to unblock the roads since more snow and blizzards are expected in the coming days," Serbian emergency police official Predrag Maric told The Associated Press news agency.

New deaths

Newly reported deaths on Thursday due to the cold included 20 in Ukraine, nine in Poland, eight in Romania, and one more each in Serbia and the Czech Republic.

In Western Europe, one person was reported dead in Germany and one in Italy.

Polish government spokeswoman Malgorzata Wozniak said her country's victims were mostly homeless people under the influence of alcohol who had sought shelter in unheated buildings.

Officials appealed to the public to quickly aid anyone they saw in need, as homeless shelters were full.

In Warsaw, where the temperature on Wednesday night was minus 22C, the narrow corridors of the Monar homeless shelter were filled with drying washing, and the residents crammed into a small dining room with bowls of soup

Two Egyptian protesters shot dead in Suez demonstration

Egyptian security forces have shot dead at least two protesters during an anti-junta demonstration in the northeastern city of Suez.

Police used live ammunition early hours of Friday to disperse demonstrators trying to break into a police station in the city of Suez, leaving two people dead, a medical source and witnesses said.

"We received two corpses of protesters shot dead by live ammunition," said a doctor at a morgue where the bodies were kept.

On Thursday, thousands of people protested in Cairo, accusing the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which took power after Hosni Mubarak's downfall a year ago, of mismanaging the country during a transition period.

Egyptian state television said 628 people were wounded in Cairo clashes that continued into Friday.

The protests come amid mounting anger over violence after a football match on Wednesday in which scores of people were left dead and hundreds were injured.

Deadly clashes in the northern city of Port Said between fans of home team al-Masry and Cairo's leading club al-Ahly broke out after the visitors were beaten, 3-1.

Fans stormed the pitch after the game and clashed with each other. At least 74 people died and more than a thousand were injured in the mayhem.

"This was not a sports accident, this was a military massacre," protesters chanted on Thursday, blaming the ruling military council for the violence.

Wednesday's violence is one of the deadliest incidents in football history and sent shares on the Cairo stock exchange tumbling down in Thursday trade.

Many Egyptians, including some lawmakers, have blamed police and the country's ruling junta for failing to prevent the violence.

Saudi protesters condemn Riyadh's suppressive rule


in Saudi Arabia have taken to the streets in the kingdom's oil-rich Eastern Province to condemn the killing of demonstrators by Riyadh regime forces.

Demonstrators held protest rallies in the eastern towns of Qatif and Awamiyah, demanding prosecution for the police officers responsible for shooting protesters.

The protesters also called on the government to release thousands of political prisoners.

Riyadh has intensified its crackdown on protesters since the beginning of 2012.

On January 24th, Saudi security forces opened fire on demonstrators in Qatif, injuring many people. Some of the wounded are reportedly in critical condition.

Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch have accused the Al Saud regime of silencing dissent through intimidation and violation of the basic rights of citizens.

Jolie, Pitt to visit Croatia, Bosnia to release her movie

Hollywood star Angelina Jolie and her partner Brad Pitt will visit Croatia and Bosnia this month for the launch of her directorial debut, a Bosnian wartime love story, a distributor has said.

The movie "In the Land of Blood and Honey" will have its official debut in Sarajevo on February 14 and in the Croatian capital Zagreb three days later, the local distributor, Blitz Film, said in a statement.

The film has already had a preview screening in Bosnia in late December, as a number of victims' organisations in Bosnia had expressed concern that the film would not correctly present their plight.

Most of them eventually hailed the movie as objective and sincere.

President Obama: I needed a Mustang in high school

Nation is totally consumed by Super Bowl Sunday

White House hits back at Afghan war critics

The White House Thursday rebuked critics it implied favored an Afghan war "without end" after Republican candidate Mitt Romney said plans to end the US combat mission next year betrayed "naivety."

Mounting political debate over future Afghan strategy foreshadows what is likely to be a sharp clash between President Barack Obama and his eventual Republican opponent in November's presidential election over the war.

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta effectively injected the war in Afghanistan back into the heat of the campaign on Wednesday, unveiling the updated strategy as he flew to Brussels for a NATO meeting.

He told reporters aboard his plane that Washington hopes to end its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2013 and to shift to a training role with the Afghan National Army, one year before most US troops are due to withdraw.

Romney, who accuses Obama of "appeasing" US enemies, said at a campaign event Wednesday that the troop decision would hand an important advantage to US foes in Afghanistan and faulted the ideal of any set withdrawal date.

"Why in the world would you go to the people you are fighting with and tell them the day you are pulling out your troops," Romney said.

"It makes absolutely no sense, it is naivety, it is putting in jeopardy the mission of the United States of America and our commitment to freedom."

White House spokesman Jay Carney declined to directly rebut Romney's comments but hit out at critics of Obama's approach on Afghanistan, and accused the previous Bush administration of neglecting the war.

"The president has a very clear, focused, achievable policy with a lot of muscle behind it," Carney said. "What he does not support is war without end."

Carney accused some Obama critics of ignoring the president's focused strategy and clinging to support for a previous Bush administration plan that "no two people involved in it could explain."

"Let's be clear that the policy (Obama) inherited was one of, you know, neglect in Afghanistan because of the focus on the war in Iraq," he said.

"He made clear that he would heighten the focus on the real enemy, which was Al-Qaeda. He has done that."

The idea of moving towards an advisory mission had previously been mooted, but Panetta's comments marked the first time the administration had posited an exact target date for the transfer of mission.

"Hopefully by the mid-to-latter part of 2013, we'll be able to make a transition from a combat role to a train, advise and assist role," Panetta said.

The comments were the strongest sign yet that Obama, who carried out a 2008 campaign pledge to bring all US troops home from Iraq, wants to go into the next election arguing he is well on the way to ending the 10-year Afghan war.

U.S. Justice Department indicts Swiss bank Wegelin

The United States indicted Wegelin, the oldest Swiss private bank, on charges that it enabled wealthy Americans to evade taxes on at least $1.2 billion hidden in offshore bank accounts, the U.S. Justice Department said on Thursday.

The announcement, by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, represents the first time an overseas bank has been indicted by the United States for enabling tax fraud by U.S. taxpayers.

The indictment said the U.S. government had seized more than $16 million from Wegelin's correspondent bank, the Swiss giant UBS AG, in Stamford, Connecticut, via a separate civil forfeiture complaint. Because Wegelin has no branches outside Switzerland, it used correspondent banking services, a standard industry practice, to handle money for U.S.-based clients.

UBS could not be reached for immediate comment.

The charges against Wegelin, of fraud and conspiracy, provide a rare glimpse into the world of Swiss private banking in the wake of a crackdown on UBS AG. In 2009, UBS paid $780 million and entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the Justice Department over charges it engaged in fraud and conspiracy by enabling scores of Americans to evade taxes through its private bank. The bank later turned over the names of more than 4,500 clients, a watershed in Swiss bank secrecy, which protects the confidentiality of clients and their data.

The indictment signals a ramping up of pressure on 10 other Swiss banks under investigation by the Justice Department, including Credit Suisse, Julius Baer and Basler Kantonalbank.

Six days ago, Wegelin -- founded in 1741 -- effectively broke itself up by selling the non-U.S. portion of its business. The indictment represents the latest blow to the tradition of Swiss bank secrecy in a long-running U.S. crackdown on tax dodgers.

Switzerland is seeking a global solution for its entire banking industry, not just the 11 banks under criminal scrutiny.

On Tuesday, the Swiss finance ministry handed U.S. authorities encrypted data on bank employees who served U.S. clients suspected of dodging taxes, and said it would only provide the key to decipher the data once the row was settled.


The U.S. Justice Department said Wegelin "affirmatively decided to capture for Wegelin the illegal U.S. cross-border banking business lost by UBS and deliberately set out to open new undeclared accounts for US taxpayer-clients leaving UBS," the indictment said. U.S. clients were told that Wegelin presented less risk amid the crackdown because it had no branches outside Switzerland and "had a long tradition of bank secrecy."

The indictment also accused Wegelin of helping two unnamed Swiss banks "repatriate undeclared funds to their own U.S. taxpayer-clients by issuing checks drawn on Wegelin's Stamford correspondent account." The transfers were separated into chunks below the $10,000 threshold at which such transfers are reported to the IRS. Wegelin, the indictment said, "co-mingled" the repatriated funds with other, unrelated funds, to better conceal their origin and nature.

The charges against Wegelin were filed as a superseding indictment of three previously charged Wegelin bankers: Michael Berlinka, Urs Frei and Roger Keller. The three men were charged on January 4 with fraud and conspiracy. The superseding indictment named several unindicted co-conspirators, including one who served as a team leader for the three men at the Zurich branch.

The charges provided new details on how the bank worked to solicit new U.S. clients fleeing UBS. According to the indictment:

* Wegelin, one of the last "pure" private banks, is principally owned by eight managing partners and run by an executive committee that included partners. One unindicted co-conspirator, named as Executive A at the bank, was a member of Wegelin's executive committee and worked in Zurich.

* Wegelin used a special code, "BNQ," on around 70 new U.S. undeclared accounts that were opened over 2008 and 2009. It also sometimes opened accounts for U.S. citizens who held passports from other countries, and opened the accounts through the non-U.S. passports.

* Wegelin recruited U.S. clients through a website,, that was run by an unidentified third party. The website boasted there that "Swiss bank secrecy is not lifted for tax evasion ... Neither the Swiss government nor any other government can obtain information about your bank account." Unlike the United States, Switzerland generally does not consider tax evasion to be a crime.

* Wegelin gave accounts special names, including "Elvis" and "Limpopo Foundation." The charges detailed the bank's work for nearly three dozen American clients, known only as clients A through JJ.

* Wegelin encouraged clients not to come forward to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and disclose their names in exchange for reduced penalties. Clients who did so in recent years helped provide the Justice Department with a roadmap to the inner workings of Wegelin - a map that led to the bank's indictment.

U.S. Job growth seen slower in January

U.S. employment growth probably slowed in January as messengers hired during the busy holiday shopping season were laid off, but the improving labor market trend should remain intact.

Nonfarm payrolls rose 150,000 after increasing 200,000 in December, according to a Reuters survey. The unemployment rate is seen holding steady at a near three year low of 8.5 percent.

The Labor Department will release the U.S. jobs figures, which set the tone for financial markets worldwide, on Friday at 8:30 a.m. (1330 GMT).

A 42,000 jump in courier jobs lifted employment in December. The government pinned the gain on strong online shopping.

"The 200,000 print last month perhaps overstated the genuine health of the labor market, but that's not to say the labor market isn't continuing to recover," said Tim Quinlan, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Economists will scour the data for any signs the improving trend has been broken, given an expected slowdown in economic growth that was flagged last week by fourth-quarter gross domestic product data.

The state of the U.S. labor market could help determine whether President Barack Obama gets a second term in office. It was one of the key factors that prompted the U.S. Federal Reserve to say it would probably hold interest rates near zero at least through 2014.

"Any evidence of slippage in progress towards full-employment could perhaps push the Fed closer to taking additional action"" said Millan Mulraine, senior macro strategist at TD Securities in New York.

The U.S. economy grew at a 2.8 percent annual rate in the final three months of 2011, quickening from 1.8 percent in the third quarter. However, the rebuilding of stocks by businesses accounted for two-thirds of the rise.

"If payrolls drop to 100,000, you now go to a situation where there is not enough on average to allow the labor market to improve," said Christopher Probyn, chief economist at State Street Global Advisors in Boston.


While job growth has quickened, employment remains about 6.1 million below its pre-recession level. There are no jobs for three out of every four unemployed people and 23.7 million Americans are either out of work or underemployed.

The unemployment rate has declined for four straight months, falling a cumulative 0.6 percentage point. Part of the drop is due to unemployed workers giving up the hunt for a job, but the decrease also reflects genuine improvement.

Economists expect this improvement may have persuaded some discouraged jobseekers to return to the labor market in January, and some think this may actually drive the unemployment rate higher in January.

"It is likely that the number of jobseekers rose in January - which will partially reverse the recent decline in unemployment," said Patrick O'Keefe, head of economic research at J.H. Cohn in Roseland, New Jersey.

It may be hard at first blush to determine exactly what is behind any move in the unemployment rate. The January household survey data will incorporate new population controls that will make month-to-month comparisons between the size of the labor force or number of employed or unemployed impossible.

Along with the new population controls, the department will release annual revisions to the payrolls data from the survey of employers and introduce new factors to adjust for seasonal fluctuations.

In an early benchmark estimate last year, it said the level of employment in March of last year was likely 192,000 higher than it had reported. The final figure comes on Friday.

In January, construction employment probably received a boost from the mild winter weather.

Manufacturing is also expected to have added more jobs, but retail employment probably slipped.

Government employment is forecast to have dropped by 20,000 jobs, with most of the losses concentrated at the local level.

Despite the anticipated slowdown in hiring, hourly earnings likely increased 0.2 percent, the same as in December.

Peshawar: IRNUM society demands machinery, funds

Daily Statesman

Institute of Radiotherapy and Nuclear Medicines (Irnum) Patients' Welfare Society has demanded the provision of modern machinery, special funds and facilities to ensure timely and better treatment of cancer patients in the facility.

The demand was made by president of the society, Ghulam Sarwar Khan Mohmand and general secretary, Dr. Safoora Shahid while addressing a press conference here in Peshawar Press Club (PPC) on Thursday.

They said that the hospital requires two modern machines priced Rs200 million to provide better and timely treatment to patients of cancer from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, FATA and Afghanistan.

They called on FATA Secretariat, Commissionerate for Afghan refugees and philanthropists of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for extending financial assistance to the hospital for provision of better and timely treatment to the patients.

On this occasion, Dr. Safoora Shahid said that the hospital was established by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto with 75 beds with capacity of provision of treatment to 1000 patients.

However, he said the deadly disease is increasing with each passing day and now the number of registered patients with the hospital had surpassed the figure of 5000.

She said that out of ten kinds of cancer, breast cancer is top fatal disease, which required research. But, they are lacking modern laboratory and funds in this regard. She said that due to increase in the number of patients, they are providing treatment in two shifts.

She said that on February 4, like other countries, World Cancer Day will be observed in Pakistan, whose basic objective is prevention and creation of awareness regarding the disease among the people.

PAKISTAN: 109 boys’ secondary schools lack basic educational facilities

109 boys’ secondary schools lack basic educational facilities

Libraries, playgrounds and apparatus for laboratories were found lacking in some of the 109 boys' secondary schools monitored nationwide in November, according to a monitoring report of Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN).

The report said nearly two-fifths of the monitored schools did not have libraries, adding that it is important to encourage students to read books other than those prescribed by the syllabus to broaden their horizons.

FAFEN Governance Monitors visited 109 boys' secondary schools in 68 districts across the country. Forty-six schools were monitored in 27 Punjab districts, 32 in 22 KP districts, 26 in 14 Sindh districts, two in as many districts in both Balochistan and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), while one school was monitored in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).

More than a fifth (22%) schools did not have apparatus for science experiments meaning that students are unable to see evidence of the scientific theories taught in classes. It is highly probable that comprehension of these subjects is compromised because of such shortcomings.

A third of the monitored schools did not have playgrounds and nearly a quarter of them did not have serving Physical Training Instructors (PTIs).

However the report added that conditions of physical infrastructure were well met as at least 85% of 109 boys secondary schools were housed in buildings, had boundary walls, electricity, and fans, were well lit, and had chairs and tables for teachers as well as black/white boards. A similar proportion was found to be clean.

However, there were no sanitary workers in 27% schools, hinting at the possibility of students sharing cleaning duties.

Good student-to-teacher ratios were observed in the monitored schools where on average, a class of not more than 28 students was assigned to one teacher.

Attendance levels were also good with teachers' attendance falling between 76% and 100% in 101 schools.

The same level of attendance was maintained by students in 94 schools.

The report said 334 teaching posts and 136 non-teaching positions were lying vacant nationwide. All schools provided information on teaching posts, while 108 did so for non-teaching positions.

New regional approach to Afghan refugees agreed

Daily Statesman
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has thanked Pakistan for its hospitality towards Afghan refugees while praising its continued commitment to finding lasting solutions to the situation.

Antonio Guterres was speaking at the end of a two-day visit organized at the invitation of the Minister for States and Frontier Regions, Engineer Shaukatullah, said a press release issued here.

Guterres called for additional international solidarity with Pakistan and Iran which continue to host large numbers of Afghan refugees after more than 30 years.

“At a time when many countries are closing their doors to those fleeing violence and persecution, the generosity of the people and the Government of Pakistan towards Afghan refugees deserves greater recognition and support on the part of the international community,” he said.

During his visit Guterres also met with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

Central to their talks was an agreement reached in Dubai earlier this week between Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and UNHCR to pursue a regional strategy aimed at finding durable solutions to the Afghan refugee situation.

The new strategy will be presented at an international conference to be held in Switzerland in early May.

The conference will seek international support for programmes inside Afghanistan that will increase the attractiveness and sustainability of returns while providing additional support to communities that continue to host Afghan refugees.

In 2011 just over 50,000 Afghan refugees returned home from Pakistan, down from nearly 110,000 thousand in 2010. Despite the decline, the number of Afghan returns last year still represented the largest refugee repatriation programme in the world.

“The priority now,” said the UNHCR chief, “is to create conditions inside Afghanistan that will allow for large scale voluntary repatriation.”

Afghan refugees will be more ready to go home once the right conditions are in place inside Afghanistan, he added.

Guterres also commended the government for reaffirming its commitment to the voluntary and gradual return of Afghan refugees.

There are currently 1.7 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Since 2002, more than five million Afghan refugees have already left to return home, the majority with assistance from UNHCR.

US warns citizens travelling to Pakistan

The Express Tribune

Spokesperson for United States (US) Department of State Victoria Nuland on Thursday indicated security concerns for US citizens travelling in Pakistan and said that the after effects of the November 26 Nato attack still prevail.

Speaking at a press briefing, Nuland said the attack on Salala check post has raised tensions between the countries.

The US Department of State issued a Travel Warning to Pakistan which highlighted incidents that that have happened in Pakistan or with American citizens in the last six months.

According to the Travel Warning released by the US Department of State, the attacks included one on May 20, 2011, when a US Consulate General vehicle in Peshawar was attacked, killing one person and injuring a dozen, including two US employees of the mission.

Another attack on April 5, 2010 on the US Consulate General in Peshawar killed several security and military personnel. And on February 3, 2010, 10 persons, including three US military personnel, were killed and 70 injured in a suicide bombing at a new girls’ school in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The warning also alerted the US citizens who are currently in Pakistan and advised them to avoid going to demonstrations and protests “condemning drone strikes and Pakistan’s ongoing energy crisis”.

Nuland also commented on Pakistan’s Ambassador to US Sherry Rehman’s statement regarding Pakistan being the ”first casualty” after withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, saying that it underscores the fact that the region is interconnected and that everyone should work together in order to drive out terrorism from the region.

Nuland also said that the Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Nato-Isaf family was required to concert efforts and go after terrorists wherever they are.

The hypothesis of ‘contempt of court’ against Gilani

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has said that it will indict Yousuf Raza Gilani on charges pertaining to contempt of court. The premier has been summoned to appear before the court on February 13, 2012.

According to former senator and Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court Syed Iqbal Haider the probability of February 13, 2012 “never coming” is extremely high and he believes that the appellate bench might suspend February 2, 2012’s decision.

He reminisced regarding the previous contempt of court hearings against the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, which took a strange turn when the court was invaded by Sharif’s party workers during the course of the hearing and the proceedings were suspended.

Later on, chief justice Sajjad Ali Shah, who summoned the former PM to appear before the court, was asked to step down on charges of misconduct.

Haider alleges that no such situation will develop in the current case.

He claims that the likelihood of this particular case meeting the same fate as the Supreme Court’s NRO decision of 2009 is extremely high.

“The government will drag the proceedings of this case as long as possible, by proposing that they will write the letter but will delay the correspondence until the elections of the senate take place,” claimed Haider.

The second scenario, which Haider claims and proposes, entails the filing of a review petition in the case of possible indictment and conviction.

“If the prime minister is charge sheeted, it is not mandatory that he has to resign. He can file a petition for review which will be heard in the Supreme Court of Pakistan and will take time,” he added.

Moreover, Haider alleges that, “The speaker and leaders of the opposition party can file a petition in the election commission regarding the disqualification of the prime minister. Considering the judicial system of Pakistan it is obvious that the hearing and verdict will also take much time and will remain pending until the elections.”

The last possibility which Haider proposes might occur is that the president will remain unaffected even if Gilani steps down.

“Even if the prime minister is made a scapegoat and is asked to resign, the decision will not affect the president of Pakistan and he will remain in his position,” Haider added.

In short, it is wise to say that the letter which needs to be written to the Swiss authorities, to reopen the cases against President Asif Ali zardari, will remain pending. Moreover, the main cause for framing charges against the prime minister will not serve any purpose, signifying that the whole exercise will turn out to be quite futile.