Monday, February 6, 2012

Hina Khar leaves for Russia

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar

will leave for Russia today (Tuesday). She is paying an official visit to Russia on the invitation of her Russian counterpart Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov. In Moscow, Foreign Minister Khar will hold talks with her Russian counterpart on expanding and diversifying Pakistan-Russia relations. They will exchange views on regional and global issues of mutual interests. Khar will also meet Russian parliamentarians and address the Institute of Oriental Studies.

Pakistan’s economic performance has weakened

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Monday said that while external pressures are mounting, Pakistan’s economic performance has weakened and the country continues to fall short of its economic potential.
The fund also projected Pakistan’s dollar reserves to deplete to $ 12.1 billion from the current $ 16.8 billion by the end of the fiscal year. “The beginning of repayments to the IMF will likely put further pressure on the balance of payments this year,” the IMF said. SBP is accommodative: The international lending agency was also critical of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) for its “more accommodative” monetary policies saying the central bank was directly or indirectly financing the fiscal deficits. In its February 3 Executive Board’s assessment, the Fund called upon Islamabad to reorient macroeconomic and structural policies to stem near-term risks to macroeconomic stability, and to lay the foundation for durable and inclusive growth over the medium term. Welcoming the Pakistani authorities’ intention to reduce the fiscal deficit, the IMF directors encouraged them to take more resolute action to mobilise revenues and rationalise public expenditure. In particular, the directors saw merit in broadening the tax base, restructuring public enterprises, eliminating poorly targeted subsidies, and phasing out commodity procurement operations. They recommended strengthening the framework for fiscal devolution and the incentives for provincial governments to raise revenue. “Monetary policy is now too accommodative, and should be tightened if inflation or external pressures increase,” they said. The bank asked Pakistan to take immediate measures to stabilise growing budget pressures and raise interest rates to contain rising inflation. The IMF projected a widening of Pakistan’s budget deficit in fiscal 2011/12 to 7 percent of gross domestic product, much higher than the government’s revised budget target of 4.7 percent. It said central bank financing of the budget needs to be curtailed. Improve India relations: Separately, noting that investment climate in Pakistan is not good, the IMF said improving relations with India and the recent WTO tariff exemptions for 75 items should help the country to overcome its current economic crisis.
The IMF mission chief for Pakistan Adnan Mazarei in a conference call with reporters after concluding its consultation with Pakistan said the country’s security scenario and general economic health are a problem, even though its leaders have taken some steps to address the situation. Mazarei said it is correct to say that Pakistan economy is facing huge vulnerabilities and risks. It is because of growing global economic pressures and it needs to build buffers, he added. He said the investment climate in Pakistan is not very good, and steps need to be taken to attract it. “Improving relations with India and WTO tariff exemptions for 75 items recently should help Pakistan,” the IMF official said in response to a question.

Veena Malik says she has signed a British film

The controversial queen of Pakistan,

Veena Malik, is yet to make her Bollywood debut, but she is already considering joining the International cinema.

Veena Malik, who is currently in Dubai, didn’t reveal much but she informed BT that she has recently signed a British film in which she is going to play a powerful role.

“I am getting many offers from across the globe. Recently, a UK film team was in Dubai and I was short listing a few offers that would suit me. I have zeroed in on a few fashion projects and a film. I can’t reveal more at the moment,” said Veena.

Malik is currently participating in Hemant Madhukar’s upcoming 3D horror film ‘Mumbai 125 Km’ and the actress assured the media she will not let anyone down.

“All my producers and directors are well aware of my schedule and I will not let anyone down. I am the leading lady and I am sure there are crores and crores riding on me,” she laughs.

The Pakistani actress, model and comedienne, in the meantime stressed she wants to make a switch from women-oriented roles to comedy. Malik stated making someone laugh is the most difficult thing to do but still she would love to do the job.

“I believe it is very tough to make someone laugh and after the spoofs in my item number in my last release, I am hoping I will get some comedy roles soon,” she signs off.

Apart from ‘Mumbai 125 Km’, Veena Malik is also participating in ‘Zindagi 50-50’ but as per the reports she is having some issues with Riya Sen, who will be seen in the movie as well. If reports are to be believed, then the director of the film ‘Rajeev Ruia, wants to cast both actors in an item song and had been canning their scenes separately for the film.

Nevertheless, Veena has denied all the rumours since she said Riya Sen is a wonderful actor and she would love to do an item song with her, if she gets a chance.

Saudi Arabian women accelerate anti-driving ban campaign


WOMEN in Saudi Arabia are stepping up their campaign for equality with a legal challenge to the ban on female drivers.

After a string of protests last year in which women took to the roads, a group of activists and lawyers are preparing to take their cases to court.
The new campaign, called My Right to Dignity, aims to force the government to defend publicly the restrictions imposed on women by the religious establishment.
The activists will also challenge the kingdom's strict rules on guardianship that require women to get permission from a male guardian to work, study, travel, marry and receive some forms of surgery.
"The Arab Spring for women is on. Momentum is picking up and the world is watching us. There is no going back," said Madeeha al-Ajroosh, a campaigner for women's rights and part of the first concerted challenge to the driving ban in 1990.
Saudi Arabia remains the only country in the world to bar women from driving. The ban is not enshrined in law but imposed through fatwas handed down by senior clerics who regulate the observance of Wahhabism, the kingdom's ultraconservative brand of Sunni Islam.
Several lawyers specialising in Sharia have volunteered to challenge the legal and religious basis of these fatwas on the women's behalf. The campaign has also gathered widespread male support. Several women applied for driving licences over recent weeks and were turned down without an explanation. By challenging the ban through official channels, the activists plan to force the debate about religious fatwas into the open.
"We want the government to come out and say, once and for all, if there is a law [against women driving]. If there is a law we can challenge it," said Eman al-Nafjan, a prominent women's rights activist and blogger in Riyadh.
Saudi officials have claimed that the government intends to repeal the ban but needs time to persuade the religious elite and the wider population. They argue that a public campaign for the right to drive is counter-productive, angering the clerics and setting back the opportunity for progress.
"But they always say that. They said that in 1990 and nothing happened," Ms al-Nafjan said.
The new campaign comes as the demand for women's rights in Saudi Arabia is showing signs of increased momentum. King Abdullah has forced the pace of reform, facing down criticism from the clerics in the process. In a surprise announcement last year, the elderly monarch granted women the right to vote and hold political office for the first time.
Restrictions on women entering the job market have also been quietly dropped. A royal decree last year gave women the right to work in lingerie shops. Almost 30,000 women applied for these jobs, and Saudi shopping centres have been transformed by the sight of female sales staff. But women are dependent on male relatives to drive them to work or must pay for a driver, which devours most of their salary.
The problem is reinforced by the guardianship system, which strips women of many basic rights. The sexes are strictly segregated in many aspects of social life and women may not travel without permission from a male guardian. Some hospitals will not perform emergency surgery on women without written approval from a male guardian.
"The situation is unsustainable," said Ms al-Nafjan. "Women are working everywhere. They are not getting married as young as they used to. In the past, you were on the market as soon as you left school. Now women are going to college and starting jobs."
Despite their growing numbers, the activists remain a minority within Saudi Arabia. In the Wahhabi heartlands, the campaign is opposed by many women.
"The Government needs to face up to its part in educating and changing the minds of the public," Ms al-Ajroosh said.

Playing with fire in Balochistan

The killing of Balochistan MPA Bakhtiar Domki’s wife and daughter in Karachi was a highly sensitive issue. Domki’s wife was Nawab Akbar Bugti’s grand daughter and the sister of the Baloch insurgent leader Brahmdagh Bugti. This required an immediate high level probe and an action against those responsible. What the police did instead was to try to hush up the matter by hastily declaring that the killings were a probable outcome of tribal feuds or personal enmity. The incident led to a three-day strike in Balochistan. The Provincial Assembly passed a resolution condemning it. A prominent tribal MPA complained that even the women of the Bugti family were not being spared. A provincial minister said the killings were part of the ongoing “Baloch genocide and ethnic cleansing”. Another provincial minister resigned in protest. Belatedly, Interior Minister Rehman Malik declared the killings were masterminded by the yet to be identified “third force” and promised the formation of a high level investigation committee which still remains dormant. Within a few days the killings turned into a burning issue in Balochistan.

The firing by FC personnel on a demonstration of the Domki tribesmen on Friday led to the death of two. This would add further to the tensions and may even lead to reprisals. What is happening is against the government’s policy and the sense of the parliamentary consensus requiring the initiation of peace dialogue with the militant leadership. What appears to be the case is that hidden hands are creating conditions to abort the peace moves. Hopes have been aroused by the orders given by the CJP to arrest those behind the killings by Friday. The CJP has also declared the incident as “one of the most sensitive cases in the country”.

Repressive methods to control insurgency have turned what was only a spark into a flame. During the last few weeks, five incidents of attacks on FC have led to the killing of about 50 security personnel and several insurgents. There is a need to conduct a thorough probe into Karachi killings and punish those behind them. The government has to urgently undertake talks with the nationalist parties and the militant leadership to bring peace to the province. This has to be done before the flame is turned into a conflagration.

Pakistan PM in Qatar to discuss Afghan peace

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani arrived in Qatar on Monday to discuss Afghan peace efforts in the ultra-rich Gulf state where the Taliban and US officials have begun preliminary contacts.

Gilani has "arrived in Doha for a three-day official visit to the country," the Gulf state's state news agency QNA reported.

"The prime minister reiterated stance of his government to support Afghan-led and Afghan-owned initiatives for a stable Afghanistan," his office quoted him as saying before his departure.

Pakistan, which last week sought to reach out to Afghanistan following a period of particularly bad relations over violence plaguing both countries, insists that any process to end the 10-year war be Afghan-led.

Both countries are reported to have felt sidelined by contacts between the United States and the Taliban, who are leading an increasingly deadly insurgency against his government and 130,000 US-led foreign troops.

Islamabad has officially billed Gilani's visit to Qatar as an opportunity to boost ties and maximise trade.

"He will meet among others the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr al-Thani," foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said.

"The prime minister's visit is aimed at opening new vistas for enhanced mutual cooperation and activating the existing structured mechanisms and institutional linkages," he added.

The Taliban confirmed last month that they planned to set up a political office in Qatar ahead of possible talks with the United States. Contacts between both sides have already begun, focused on a possible prisoner exchange.

"There are certain ideas and suggestions on Afghan reconciliation and when Prime Minister Gilani meets Qatar's leadership, these will certainly come under discussion," a senior Pakistani official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"The Americans have been briefing us on all developments aimed at pushing forward the peace process in Afghanistan and we have clearly told them that Islamabad strictly adheres to a policy of non-interference," he added.

Pakistan's role in Afghanistan is regarded with deep suspicion in Western capitals, given its long-standing ties to the Taliban, Haqqani network and other Islamist fighters, whose leaders are based in Pakistan.

But for the same reason, no peace in Afghanistan will be considered lasting without Pakistan's support and involvement.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said last week that Pakistan was willing to do whatever the Afghans wanted to end the war, but insisted the process should not be led by the Americans or any other foreign power.

The senior official said it was "important to engage all Afghan factions including Taliban in the process to achieve a lasting peace."

Khar met Afghan President Hamid Karzai last week and sought to refute perceptions that Islamabad was an obstacle to peace, and denied accusations in a leaked NATO report that her country was secretly supporting the Taliban.

Kabul has given its blessing to the Taliban office in Qatar, but has insisted on a central role in any negotiations.

The militia has denied any plans to hold separate talks with the Afghan government in Saudi Arabia, which Pakistan had reportedly offered to assist.

Asked how Pakistan viewed the Taliban's office in Qatar, the official said: "Now they have an address and all those wanting peace can have a contact."

Obama holds edge over Romney in general election matchup, poll finds

Boosted by improved public confidence in his economic stewardship, President Obama for the first time holds a clear edge over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in a hypothetical general-election matchup, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Romney, who notched his second consecutive victory Saturday by easily winning the Nevada caucuses, continues to solidify his position as the front-runner in the race for the GOP nomination. But as the contest has grown more negative, public impressions of the top Republican contenders have soured, as has the former Massachusetts governor’s standing as a general-election candidate.Obama remains a polarizing figure, with Americans closely divided on whether he deserves reelection as well as on many aspects of his performance in office. Although better than they were a few months ago, his ratings on handling the economy and job creation remain negative, with intensity continuing to run against him.

The poll results underscore how important framing the contest could be to the outcome. If the fall campaign becomes largely a referendum on Obama’s tenure in office, as Republicans hope it will, he could struggle to win a second term — barring an economic recovery that vastly outperforms expectations. If, however, it becomes a choice between the incumbent and the challenger, as Obama advisers predict it will, the president’s prospects would be brighter.

The survey was conducted Wednesday through Saturday. During that time, the president and the Republican candidates were in the spotlight: Obama had just completed his State of the Union address and held campaign-style rallies in battleground states, and the Republicans were in the middle of a series of primaries and caucuses.

Overall, 55 percent of those who are closely following the campaign say they disapprove of what the GOP candidates have been saying. By better than 2 to 1, Americans say the more they learn about Romney, the less they like him. Even among Republicans, as many offer negative as positive assessments of him on this question. Judgments about former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who denounced Romney on Saturday night in Nevada, are about 3 to 1 negative.

Meanwhile, the president’s recent remarks are better reviewed. Among the roughly 6 in 10 Americans who heard or read about the president’s State of the Union address, 57 percent say they approve of most of what he laid out.

Obama’s overall approval rating stands at 50 percent, the highest in a Post-ABC News poll since a brief run above 50 percent immediately after Osama bin Laden was killed in early May. Still, nearly as many — 46 percent — disapprove. Among registered voters, 49 percent say Obama’s performance warrants a second term; exactly as many say it doesn’t.

Among political independents, who are likely to determine the outcome of the election, 47 percent approve and 50 percent disapprove of the way he is handling his job. The president’s approval rating among independents had dipped as low as 34 percent in the fall, and just a month ago, he faced a 10-point deficit here.
The 50 percent mark is widely considered a critical threshold for an incumbent seeking reelection, with a president’s chances greatly diminished at levels below that mark.

In a general-election test, Obama leads Romney 52 to 43 percent among all Americans; more narrowly, 51 to 45 percent, among registered voters. Among all adults, it’s Obama’s first time topping 50 percent in a head-to-head matchup with Romney since July; it’s his first time ever above that point among registered voters.Obama’s momentum since mid-January has evened the score with Romney among political independents. Among independent voters in the last Post-ABC poll, Romney held a 12-point edge; now these voters split 48 percent for Obama, 47 percent for Romney.

The new survey also tested Obama against Gingrich. In that matchup, the president is ahead by 15 points overall and 11 among registered voters, both similar to the numbers from January.

The fault lines in the coming election, should Obama be pitted against Romney, are clear from the survey.

Romney has argued throughout his campaign that his business background gives him superior experience to turn around the economy and boost job creation. His pedigree is widely considered a positive and, among registered voters, he has a narrow edge over Obama on handling the economy in general. The former governor also leads on handling the federal deficit, an area where the president’s ratings remain stuck in solidly negative territory.

But when it comes to job creation — which has been the subject of fierce debate in the GOP contest — Romney and Obama are dead even in voters’ minds. They are also closely matched when it comes to handling taxes — another likely flash point in the coming campaign.

And in other areas, Obama has big leads, including on the question of who would better protect the middle class, handle foreign policy and fight terrorism.

Romney has been criticized as being out of touch with average Americans, a view that has been reinforced by several verbal gaffes he made on the campaign trail, including remarks about “the very poor” that were perceived as dismissive. At this point, the impression has stuck: Fifty-two percent of voters say Obama better understands the economic problems people are having, while 37 percent say Romney does.

The latest employment report, which showed 243,000 new jobs created in January and the unemployment rate ticking down to 8.3 percent, gave Obama a psychological boost, but he is far from out of the woods on the issue that continues to dominate the contest.

About nine in 10 people still rate the economy negatively, and among independents, 50 percent view this as a big strike against Obama’s reelection bid; far fewer, 33 percent, say it is a good reason to back his candidacy.

In contrast, by nearly 5 to 1, independents are more apt to view Romney’s business experience as a reason to support rather than oppose him.

However, his private-equity experience is a mixed blessing for him. The poll suggests that he has considerable work left to do to turn his business biography into a clear asset. One indicator: Thirty-three percent of all independents say Romney’s work in private business helped create jobs, 34 percent say it did more to eliminate jobs and 33 percent expressed no opinion.

Romney’s wealth also divides the public. Among all Americans, 43 percent see his fortune — estimated at $250 million — as a “positive” because it suggests that he has achieved the American dream. But just as many, 44 percent, consider his wealth a “negative” because it suggests that he benefited from opportunities that are not available to most people.

Romney is vulnerable on the issue of personal taxes. The former governor released his tax returns two weeks ago, showing that he paid an effective tax rate of about 14 percent. Two-thirds of all Americans say they do not think he is paying his fair share.

Romney has fought back, arguing that attacks on his or anyone’s financial success represent class warfare and criticism of the capitalist system that he said has made the United States the strongest and most innovative economy in the world. He has said repeatedly that Obama has a poor record on the economy because he doesn’t understand what makes the free-enterprise system tick.

Obama has sought to make economic fairness, particularly for the middle class, a centerpiece of his economic message. The poll underscores that Obama has remained on the high ground here. Fully 68 percent view the federal tax system as stacked in favor of the wealthy, not the middle class. More than seven in 10 support increasing the taxes of those earning more than $1 million a year — an idea the president has long pushed.

The poll was conducted by telephone Wednesday to Saturday among a random national sample of 1,000 adults. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

PIC tragedy137Death Toll: Two more women die of drug reaction

Deaths due to contaminated drugs reaction are continuing as 2 more women lost their lives in Lahore.
In Lahore, 75-year-old Balqees of Arifwala in Jinnah Hospital and 59-yaer-old Rehana of Baghbanpura in Services Hospital died due to reaction of ‘killer’ medicines provided by Punjab Institute of cardiology.
The overall death toll because of PIC drugs reaction has reached 137.
However, the PIC management said that a large number of affected patients are under treatment and they are fast recovering.

Protesters Hurl Jeers and a Shoe at the Yemeni President

A man was arrested on Sunday after a protest at which at least one shoe was thrown at the Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, outside a hotel on Central Park South.
When Mr. Saleh emerged from the Ritz-Carlton hotel about 2:30 p.m., a small crowd of demonstrators began shouting at the president. One man charged toward him, crossing a street against police orders, then took off his shoe and “attempted to throw” it, a police spokeswoman said. The man was arrested for disorderly conduct.

Another man got off a cleaner throw of his shoe and nearly hit the president, said Ibraham Qatabi, a spokesman for the Yemeni American Coalition for Change, a group of opponents of Mr. Saleh’s who were at the demonstration.

“People got emotional,” Mr. Qatabi said in a telephone interview Sunday night.

The police said about 20 people attended the protest.

Several Yemeni-Americans have criticized Mr. Saleh’s presence in the United States since he arrived on Jan. 28, to be treated for injuries he suffered when a bomb exploded in the mosque of the presidential palace last June.

During the Arab Spring uprisings, many Yemenis protesting Mr. Saleh’s rule were killed, injured or imprisoned. In November, Mr. Saleh, who ruled Yemen for more than three decades, agreed to transfer power to his vice president. Elections have been set for Feb. 21.

By the time Mr. Saleh returned to the hotel around 4:15 p.m., police officers had assembled barricades to corral protesters. Gatherers chanted “I.C.C., not N.Y.C.!” — to voice their hope that Mr. Saleh is investigated by the International Criminal Court. Demonstrators have also expressed frustration with the United States for allowing Mr. Saleh to receive medical care here.

“We were chanting in Arabic that we would not relax and we would not stop until Saleh is on trial, until the murderer is being prosecuted,” Mr. Qatabi said.

At another rally on Thursday morning, organized by the Yemeni American Coalition for Change, protesters had waved Yemeni flags and held signs calling for Mr. Saleh’s prosecution. On Sunday, Mr. Saleh appeared unfazed by the demonstration, even acknowledging the crowd, Mr. Qatabi said.

“He waved,” Mr. Qatabi added. “People thought maybe the officials around him told him we were supporters.”

Shahbaz Sharif (LOHAR) should resign

Central leader Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Mukhdoom Javed Hashmi said that Chief Minister Punjab Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif should accept responsibility of deaths of patients due to sub-standard medicines. Mukhdoom Javed Hashmi said that CM Punjab who was also Health Minister Punjab should resign as Health Minister.
He said that CM Punjab Mian Muhammad Shahbaz sharif have dictatorial thinking. He also criticized that CM Punjab did not like to gave response to the assembly on any issue.Hashmi also said that its not possible to ignore the political power of Muthida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and added that they want dialogue with MQM.

Pakistan: Senate elections

SO it seems that the old conspiracy theory is being trotted out again. Talking to reporters in Lahore on Friday, Prime Minister Gilani claimed, “Six months ago, I had pointed out that conspiracies were being hatched to delay Senate elections. Be patient and wait for some days, all these conspiracies will be exposed.” The prime minister didn’t elaborate on these conspiracies but presumably he had his recent travails with the Supreme Court in mind. After all, ‘memogate’ has receded and the PML-N is negotiating with the government to cooperate in the passage of a constitutional amendment in parliament, leaving little else by way of crisis in the country at the moment.

Let’s examine the prime minister’s claim a bit. Six months is a lifetime in politics and back then there were murmurs that the run-up to the Senate elections would prove decisive to this government’s fortunes. At stake is a PPP near-majority in the Upper House, giving it a virtual veto over non-budgetary legislation until 2015. In addition, there is the psychological victory of being a civilian government presiding over elections to both halves of the Senate. For a government committed to constitutional milestones like the completion of tenures, the March Senate election represents a significant victory.

At stake, then, from the PPP’s point of view is a victory that the forces arrayed against it, real and perceived, will not countenance. ‘Memogate’ and the rash of political rallies in the country suggested that there was a real attempt to unseat the government. However, with only weeks left until the Senate elections, the political temperature was seen as subsiding and the government was exuding a renewed sense of confidence. Then came the SC and its threat to charge and convict the prime minister for contempt of court. But is this necessarily part of a grand conspiracy against the PPP or the result of an ill-advised government strategy of responding politically to the president’s legal problems? Even at this stage, the PPP has
simply not presented a cogent legal reason for why the NRO judgment of December 2009 cannot be implemented in its totality. As for the Swiss letter, legal experts here are near unanimous in their opinion that it will not have immediate consequences for the president. Not everything must necessarily be a conspiracy; if the government writes the letter that the SC has demanded it will probably be able to get on with its political agenda.

Malik asks Nisar to withdraw remarks against Army

Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Saturday asked Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to withdraw the ‘un-parliamentary remarks’ that he had used against the Army and security agencies.In a statement issued on Saturday, Malik said that Chaudhry Nisar should apologize to the country for “insulting the whole nation and the Army” by passing derogatory remarks.
The interior minister also said that he would take up the matter in the NA session on Monday requesting to expunge these remarks from proceeding of the house.

Gang rape victim: Strengthening resolve to seek justice in Karak

The Express Tribune

Uzma Ayub does not have one story to tell. She has a story for each day of the 13 months she was allegedly in custody of her rapists.

“Nobody can understand what happened to me during the past two years,” said Uzma, 17, speaking through her bedroom window as she is not allowed to directly interact with journalists. Holding her newborn girl, Zeba, she vowed to fight for justice till she breathes her last.

“I was raped and my brother was killed for supporting me. I will fight until I bring all the culprits behind bars,” she said. Thirteen people, including three policemen and an army soldier, are accused of keeping the girl for more than a year and gang raping her.

In the courtyard of their house, Uzma’s mother, draped in an old chadar, talked about the abduction of her daughter in July 2010. “Uzma was crying and begging them for mercy, but they dragged her outside the house and threw her into a vehicle. There was nothing I could do. The people who were dragging her were uniformed men,” she said.

Bilqisam Jana, 50, is a mother who has lost too much in a short time. Not only was her daughter allegedly gang raped, her son, Alamzeb Khattak, who was actively fighting for his sister’s rights, was killed last month. Ironically, the murder outside a district court in Karak happened on December 9, on the eve of World Human Rights Day.

Wiping her tears, Bilqisam said the abduction happened in less than fifteen minutes, but scarred their lives forever. After the kidnapping, we were unable to face the community and our blood relatives turned away, she said.

Despite all that has happened, Bilqisam keeps her composure in front of Uzma. She makes sure Uzma does not see her crying for it may weaken her resolve to fight for justice. “Uzma was missing for more than a year and we did not know whether she was dead or alive. We could only pray,” she said sitting on her charpoy.

Uzma is reported to have been kept by one group of men for nine months, which later handed her over to another group who kept her for four months. Then finally in September last year, Uzma called from a PCO and told her family where she was. Her brother, Alamzeb, rushed to bring her home.

“She was pregnant when she came,” said Bilqisam, stopping in the middle of her sentence and taking a deep breath, “In Pakhtun society abortion is a must in such a situation, but Alamzeb stood by his sister and said he would support her.”

Alamzeb would say that the child was a proof of Uzma’s innocence and would play a vital role in bringing her justice. “His assurances helped Uzma stand firm and record her statement in a court in Karak against the rapists,” said Bilqisam Jana.

But Zeba’s birth on January 20 was another trial for the family. The child went missing for more than 15 hours after she was born. The blood samples of both Uzma and Zeba have been sent for DNA tests in Rawalpindi, but after Zeba went missing, Uzma doubts if the child is hers.

After Alamzeb was gunned down and Uzma’s family threatened to withdraw their case, Bilqisam Jana, her four sons and two daughters shifted to Peshawar, while Uzma’s father stayed behind in Karak. The Peshawar High Court took suo motu notice of the murder last month and ordered that all cases in Karak’s courts be shifted to the provincial capital.

Alongside Bilqisam was her 18-year-old son Zafran, wearing a black waistcoat and white shalwar qameez. “Police is meant to protect you, but my brother was killed in the presence of police. Alamzeb said he was being threatened, but no one paid any attention to him and ultimately he was killed. Now I am saying that I am being threatened and soon my fate may be like my brother’s,” Zafran said.

Then the young man said something that took everyone by surprise: “Sometimes when I try to sleep at night and I can’t, I go to my sister’s room, stand beside her bed and consider killing her. It was because of Uzma that my family was humiliated and my brother killed.”

Zafran said he would have killed his sister a long time ago, but his hope in justice stops him. “We are alive but our souls are dead,” he said, adding, “Every night before I go to sleep, I think someone will come and kill all of us like they killed my brother.”

“We have been receiving death threats and you know how easy it is to hurl a hand grenade at a person or throw it inside someone’s house or even gun down some one,” Zafran said.

“It’s like living in a bad movie.”

PESHAWAR: The daughter of alleged rape survivor Uzma Ayub has been hospitalised in terrible condition after she was found seriously ill, according to family members.

The baby girl, Zeba, was born on January 20 and is key evidence in the rape case. She is admitted to the children’s B ward in Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital, Uzma’s brother Zafran said.

Meanwhile, doctors present at the ward spoke on condition of anonymity and said that Zeba had fallen ill because of the cold, harsh winter in the region but her condition was not critical.

Balochistan minister resigns to protest Domki killings

The Express Tribune

Provincial Minister Nasreen Khetran announced her resignation from the ministry on Monday to protest the murder of MPA Mir Bakhtiar Domki’s wife and daughter, reported Express News.

During a press conference at the Quetta Press Club, Khetran said that the incident was deplorable and that according to the Baloch culture, women were never killed in cases of personal enmity.

She added that no outcome had emerged in the case even after several protests and a walk-out from the Balochistan Assembly. Khetran had walked out of the assembly earlier in protest against the killings.

Khetran belongs to Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid (PML-Q).

Domki’s wife, daughter and driver were gunned down early morning on January 31 near the Gizri Bridge in Clifton.

The victims were travelling in their black Toyota Mark II car (ANR-353) when the killers reportedly intercepted them and shot them dead at point-blank range.

The Supreme Court has taken suo moto notice of the murders and ordered today that the culprits be arrested by February 10.

Prime Minister Gilani leaves for 3-day Qatar visit

Gilani heads to Qatar to discuss Afghan peace efforts in the ultra-rich Gulf state where the Taliban and US officials have begun preliminary contacts.
Pakistan, which last week sought to reach out to Afghanistan following a period of particularly bad relations over violence plaguing both countries, insists that any process to end the 10-year war in Afghanistan be Afghan-led.
President Hamid Karzai is believed to have felt sidelined by contacts between the United States and the Taliban, who are leading an increasingly deadly insurgency against his government and 130,000 US-led foreign troops.
Islamabad has officially billed Gilani s three-day visit to Qatar as an opportunity to boost ties and maximise trade.
"He will meet among others the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani and Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani," foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said."The prime minister s visit is aimed at opening new vistas for enhanced mutual cooperation and activating the existing structured mechanisms and institutional linkages," he added.

Chinese UN veto won't upset Arab ties

The latest UN Security Council draft resolution on Syria was vetoed by China and Russia Saturday, while the other 13 members of the council voted in favor. The veto sparked discontent from some Western and Arab diplomats. Why did China vote against the resolution? Does it signal closer diplomatic ties to Russia? Global Times (GT) reporter Chen Chenchen talked to Gao Zugui (Gao), a researcher with the Institute for International Strategic Studies at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, on these issues.

GT: What motivated China to use its veto?

Gao: Frankly, I'm not surprised at all by the veto. The latest UN resolution still backs an Arab League proposal that could have hastened the stepping down of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Arab League proposal urges Assad to hand over power to a deputy president and set up a new unity government, which is similar to what happened in Yemen a couple of months ago. The latest UN resolution, if passed, could have foreshadowed Western intervention in Syria in the future.

We saw what happened to Libya last year. UN Security Council Resolution 1973 was passed in March, 2011, in favor of a no-fly zone and air strikes against Muammar Gaddafi. But the "no-fly zone" later proved a euphemism for war.

A UN resolution is usually a collection of the standpoints of various parties involved. However, the US-led West can interpret the text based on their own needs.

When passing Resolution 1973, the West claimed it was protecting Libyan civilians and stopping humanitarian disasters. However, even greater humanitarian disasters were caused later. After the West got what it needed, it left behind even greater chaos in Libya. This is a big lesson for us to learn.

GT: Some Western observers hold that China and Russia have braved Arab and Western fury by vetoing the resolution. Do you think the veto may bring China diplomatic risks with the Arab League?

Gao: The Arab League finds itself in a dilemma as well. On the one hand, it hopes to solve the Syrian crisis and begin a new peace process. But on the other hand, they also don't want to see external intervention. The problem is that, once the so-called transition process starts, things will run out of the Arab League's control.

It seems that China, together with Russia, are in conflict with the Arab League by vetoing the resolution. However, they have something in common: All of them support dialogue between different factions within Syria, and they agree on the Arab League's important role in solving the ongoing chaos.

The Arab League's views converge partly with the West, and partly with China and Russia. However, the former overlapping part has been amplified by the West. The West has succeeded in making its own position a dominant one by taking advantage of the Arab League's standpoint.

GT: Some have speculated that Moscow and Beijing may form closer ties due to their voting alliance in the UN Security Council. What's your view?

Gao: I don't think so. The strategic partnership between China and Russia has grown increasingly deep and mature. The latest case is their voting over the Syria resolution Saturday. And there are many other cases of such strategic coordination. However, this has nothing to do with building a strategic alliance.

The two powers' strategic coordination is based on the specific issues, and calculations about their common interests. The two are not always going to adopt the same stance.

Decision-makers in Russia adopt a very pragmatic and flexible manner when dealing with diplomatic affairs. China, a latecomer to the Middle East, has to be cautious and humble in declaring where it stands.

In the future, even if China and Russia vote the same way, their calculations will still be different from each other.

GT: Some say that China won't have much impact on regional dynamics in the Middle East. Do you agree?

Gao: Fundamentally, Syria's future political developments depend on whether its domestic factions can find a way to break the current impasse. The current violence, perpetrated by both the government and anti-Assad forces, is leading to climbing death tolls. On the basis of domestic negotiations, the Arab League can play a significant role to restore peace.

Today even the US, UK and France seek to exert their clout through supporting the Arab League. The role of newcomers like China shouldn't be overestimated.

But China does have its own independent diplomatic principles. We've seen repeatedly that principles in the UN Charter have been ignored and violated by the West, which wants to topple regimes based on its own preferences. At the moment, there are also pro-Assad forces in Syria, should their appeals be simply neglected?

Apparently, the West is unhappy with China's veto. They hope to see emerging countries stand in their line, and see their standard as the only axis. But the world has already become increasingly diversified.

Along with its domestic development and its expanding interests in regions across the world, China will be urged to give a clear stance on more and more difficult issues. China has to stay cool-headed. The world is not the one that once saw clear boundaries among different blocs. Take the Middle East. The interweaving interests among different powers in this region are rather complicated, and are changing over time. Traditional players like the US, UK, France and Russia have had their deployments and calculations in this region for years. Now new players like India are starting to get involved in this area. China has to navigate its policies through tackling various specific, difficult problems.

China defends veto of UN resolution

Chinese state-run media have defended Beijing's veto of a UN resolution condemning Syria's crackdown on anti-government protesters.

China's top newspapers said the Western push for a regime change in Syria was erroneous, citing previous campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

The US earlier described as a "travesty" the veto by China and Russia of the UN resolution over the weekend.

In Syria, government troops have continued attacks on the city of Homs.

Mortar bombs were falling steadily - about a minute apart - on Sunday, the BBC's Paul Wood in the central Syrian city reports.

Burials were talking place at night, local officials told our correspondent, as it was too dangerous to do it in daylight because of snipers.

At least 28 civilians were killed by security forces across Syria on Sunday, mainly in Homs, said the London-based campaign group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

One report quoting the group said an equivalent number of Syrian troops were also killed. Human rights groups and activists say more than 7,000 people have been killed by Syrian security forces since the uprising began in March.

The UN stopped estimating the death toll in Syria after it passed 5,400 in January, saying it was too difficult to confirm.

The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says at least 2,000 members of the security forces have been killed fighting "armed gangs and terrorists".
'Seeds of disaster'

"The draft resolution that sought to realise a regime change in Syria did not adequately reflect the state of affairs" in the country, the China Daily newspaper wrote in its editorial on Monday.

"By only exerting pressure on the Syrian government and explicitly trying to coerce its leader Assad to step down, the resolution sends the message to armed groups and opponents of his regime that they have the support of the international community.

"This will undoubtedly make the Syrian situation even more complicated," the article said.

The newspaper went on by citing the Libyan example, saying that the overthrow of Col Muammar Gaddafi's regime did not bring "democracy and freedom" to Libyans, but pushed the country close to "falling into a sectarian civil war".

Meanwhile, a commentary in the People's Daily, the mouthpiece of China's ruling Communist Party, said: "Vetoing the draft Security Council resolution does not mean we are giving free rein to letting this heart-rending state of affairs to continue."

Earlier, Russia also defended its decision to veto the UN draft resolution, saying the proposal was unbalanced.

'Licence to kill'

The double veto by Beijing and Moscow on Saturday drew an angry reaction from around the world."What happened... at the United Nations was a travesty," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

"Faced with a neutered Security Council, we have to redouble our efforts outside of the United Nations with those allies and partners who support the Syrian people's right to have a better future," she added.

Analysts say Mrs Clinton appeared to be alluding to the formation of a grouping of nations similar to the Contact Group on Libya. That group - a collection of Arab and other countries - oversaw international help for opponents of late Col Gaddafi.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe called the Russian-Chinese veto a "moral stain" on the UN. He said Europe would strengthen sanctions against Syria and eventually "the regime will have to realise that it is completely isolated and cannot continue".

The draft resolution - which had already been watered down in an apparent attempt to overcome Russian objections - was supported by 13 of the 15 members of the UN Security Council, when it was put to a vote.

The Syrian National Council, the biggest opposition group, said Russia and China were "responsible for the escalating acts of killing", calling the veto "an irresponsible step that is tantamount to a licence to kill with impunity". UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said the two countries were making a "great mistake", accusing them of "turning their backs on the Arab world".

The BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut says the Russians do seem to be feeling the pressure. They are sending their Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, to talk to President Assad in Damascus on Tuesday.

Russia would like to help mediate a political solution, but the opposition do not see the Russians as honest brokers, our correspondent says.

'Occupy' protesters march through Oakland streets

Dozens of Occupy Oakland demonstrators burned an American flag and marched through the streets Saturday night, a week after police fired tear gas to quell violent demonstrations and hundreds were arrested following a mass break-in at City Hall.

About 70 Occupy demonstrators began marching around 9 p.m. from City Hall en route to police headquarters, but a line of officers quickly blocked their path. Protesters veered off and began a winding, five-mile walk through city streets that ended nearly two hours later at their starting point.

Following close behind was a caravan of police cars and vans, but there were no clashes between the groups or any other signs of violence.

Saturday's action was aimed at protesting what they claim was abuse at the hands of officers during last Saturday's protest that peaked with rock and bottle throwing from protesters and volleys of tear gas in response from the police.

Following the march, the demonstrators congregated around City Hall as the protest wound down.

"It went well," said Chris Moreland, who used a bull horn to help lead the march. "As long as we don't destroy anything, the police don't care."

"It's a win-win situation for everybody," Moreland, 23, told The Associated Press. "We get our message across and they (police) get paid."

Police said that they had a strategy in place in the event the protest got out of hand, warning that vandalism and violence will not be tolerated.

"Although social media sites had indicated that individuals or groups planned a, `militant, radical march' and asked peaceful bystanders to not interfere with criminal tactics, the march this evening overall was peaceful," police spokeswoman Johnna A. Watson said.

Television stations said that at one point some protesters threw a bottle of urine at a KTVU truck and a wooden board at a KPIX truck.

Occupy Oakland said it planned a day of action Monday. Another march on police headquarters is likely.

Demonstrators have been protesting outside police headquarters on Saturday nights for weeks, but most of those protests were tame with only minor vandalism reported and a handful of arrest.

The protest took a violent turn a week ago. Protesters say they were trying to take over a vacant city-owned convention center. Scores were later arrested in and around a YMCA after police said protesters had ignored orders to disperse. Occupiers argue that they were never warned.

"There was no prior announcements whatsoever until after they rushed in and scared us into the YMCA," said Shon Kae, an Occupy Oakland spokesman. "The notice was that we were under arrest for failure to disperse. That we heard loud and clear."

The protest culminated in a break-in of City Hall that left glass cases smashed, graffiti spray-painted on the walls, and finally, an American flag burning. More than 400 people were arrested and at least three officers and one protester were injured. A judge later issued stay away orders on 12 protesters.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, herself a former civil rights activist, said that the protesters had used a crowbar to pry the main entrance of City Hall open. Protesters say the doors were unlocked.

The mayor said she has grown tired of the protesters using the city as its "playground."

Obama says Israel and the US will find a 'diplomatic solution' to Iran nuke issue

President Barack Obama said Sunday he does not think Israel has decided whether to attack Iran over its disputed nuclear program, a standoff that has the Middle East on edge.

The president sought to assure allies and foes alike that the United States was working in lockstep with Israel to solve the crisis, "hopefully diplomatically."

Obama's comments came as Israel's major allies in the West are working hard to talk it out of a unilateral military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, arguing forcefully that an attack ultimately would only strengthen the regime in Tehran. Israel fears that Iran is fast approaching a point at which a limited military strike would no longer be enough to head off an Iranian bomb.

"I don't think that Israel has made a decision on what they need to do," Obama said during a pre-Super Bowl interview with NBC television. He reiterated that the United States has removed no option from consideration in dealing with Iran -- an allusion to military intervention -- but emphasized that the United States wants a diplomatic solution built around a world coalition.

Iran insists its nuclear pursuits are for peaceful civilian purposes, not a bomb.

After years of worries about Iran's nuclear program, world leaders are now showing real concern that Israel could attack the Islamic republic imminently -- a move that might trigger a broader war and disrupt the international economy.

Iran's regime has said it wants to extinguish the Jewish state, and the West accuses it of assembling the material and know-how to build a nuclear bomb. Just last week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta would not dispute a report that he believes Israel may attack Iran this spring in an attempt to set back the Islamic republic's nuclear program.

Obama refused to say whether the United States would get notice from Israel before any potential strike on Iran.

"I will say that we have closer military and intelligence consultation between our two countries than we've ever had," Obama said, adding, "We are going to be sure that we work in lockstep as we proceed to try to solve this -- hopefully diplomatically."

The United States is leading that persuasion initiative, even though Washington largely has concluded that outside argument will have little effect on Israeli decision-making.

"Any kind of additional military activity inside the Gulf is disruptive and has a big effect on us," Obama said. "It could have a big effect on oil prices. We've still got troops in Afghanistan, which borders Iran."

As for the danger of retaliation by Iran against the United States, Obama said, "We don't see any evidence that they have those intentions or capabilities right now."

Obama said Iran is feeling the pinch of sanctions but Israel is rightfully worried about its security.

On the economy, Obama was pressed about a prediction he made three years ago on Super Bowl Sunday: "If I don't have this done in three years, then there's gonna be a one-term proposition." Republican leaders, including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the frontrunner for the party's presidential nomination, have seized on that remark as millions of people are still hurting economically.

Obama said Sunday, "I deserve a second term, but we're not done."

He said the direction of the economy has turned around significantly since three years ago, pointing to a new jobs report last week that showed a surge in hiring.

The president, meanwhile, refused repeatedly to take a position on which team would win the big football championship game itself: New York Giants or New England Patriots?

"You're not going to get me," Obama told NBC's Matt Lauer. "I'm going to look for a great game."

The president was watching the game at the White House with his family.

Madonna Super Bowl XLVI Show

New York Giants win Super Bowl XLVI

Triumphing in a thriller, quarterback Eli Manning led the New York Giants on Sunday to their second Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots in four years.

Clutching the championship trophy, Manning, the MVP award winner, said "I just stayed positive" during the seesaw struggle in Indianapolis. The Giants prevailed 21-17.

New York City wasted no time in celebrating the Super Bowl XLVI victory.

The Empire State Building was bathed in Giants blue late Sunday. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a ticker-tape parade and ceremony for Tuesday.

Assisted by crucial late receptions by Mario Manningham, Manning marched the Giants down the field in the closing minutes of the game. The go-ahead touchdown was scored by running back Ahmad Bradshaw from 6 yards out with 52 seconds remaining.

But the Patriots and Tom Brady, who was vying for his fourth championship ring, weren't quite done. They moved the ball, but had only enough time for a "Hail Mary" pass that bounced away in the Giants end zone.

After trailing the Patriots 17-9 early in the third quarter, the Giants put up the last 12 points of the game.

The Super Bowl victory was the fourth for the Giants, which defeated the Pats 17-14 in the 2008 title game.

An estimated 111 million U.S. viewers were expected to tune in, with many as interested in the ads or halftime show as much or more than the game.

Halftime entertainer Madonna had an eclectic set, joined by Cee Lo Green, Nicki Minaj and MIA.

Madonna morphed from a Roman Empire theme to a high school cheerleader, complete with pom poms and a marching band. She sang "Vogue", "Music," "Like a Prayer" and "Give Me All Your Luvin."

The Material Girl's performance ended with a bright flash of flight, and white smoke -- with her not to be seen.

The American president who saved football

A bevy of celebrities, including Jerry Seinfeld, Clint Eastwood and Elton John, showed up in commercials this year.

David Beckham provided eye candy in an H&M ad, which tended to spend more time on his chiseled and tattooed looks than the briefs he was wearing.

"No commercial this Superbowl will top #BeckhamforHM Yummy & in love!!," said one Twitter feed on an HLN TV blog.

Another commercial featured a slimmed-down dog chasing after a Volkswagen Beetle.

Pop singer Kelly Clarkson performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" on Sunday, managing to get through the lyrics without a problem, unlike unfortunate Christina Aguilera, who got some flak after botching the words at the 2011 Super Bowl.

Of course, there was more than football and music in the lineup.

Refreshment and apparel producers and advertisers have a lot at stake in the annual bash.

The average game-watcher was expected to spend $63.87 on Super Bowl merchandise, snacks and apparel, up from $59.33 last year, according to a survey by the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association. Of those watching the Giants-Patriots, nearly 27.1% planned to attend a party, according to the association, and another 15.3% planned to throw a party.

The host city of Indianapolis poured hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and corporate coin into building new hotels, sprucing up landscaping and resurfacing miles of streets.The Super Bowl zip line was the talk of the town.

For $10, you could climb the zip line's 95-foot tower, attach yourself to a metal cable and fly 80 feet above the crowd to another tower 650 feet down the street. "It's the new version of the bungee jump," one woman said.

Indianapolis strove to prove it could be a major player.

It kept one key goal in mind.

"I honestly think the best report would be people saying, 'The game was great and -- oh yeah, by the way, Indianapolis was really nice. I had a really good time,' " said Tom Griswold, longtime co-host of the Indy-based syndicated radio program "The Bob & Tom Show."