Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pakistan PM faces indictment for contempt

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Monday faces indictment for contempt in Supreme Court which may cost him his job for his refusal to re-open graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

The Supreme Court Friday threw out a last-ditch appeal from the embattled Prime Minister.

If convicted, Gilani faces six months in jail and disqualification from office in a case that has fanned political instability and may force elections within months in a country already troubled by Al-Qaeda and Taliban violence.

The Supreme Court has insisted that Gilani appears for the framing of contempt charges over the government's two-year refusal to ask Swiss authorities to re-open graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

Zardari and his late wife, prime minister Benazir Bhutto, were suspected of using Swiss bank accounts to launder about $12 million in alleged bribes paid by companies seeking customs inspection contracts in Pakistan in the 1990s.

The Supreme Court has said it will only drop the summons if Gilani obeys its order to write to the Swiss authorities, asking them to re-open the cases.

Gilani's lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan has confirmed that the prime minister would now appear in court on Monday.

Gilani said that if convicted he would lose his seat in the parliament and would automatically be removed as prime minister.

"Certainly then there is no need to step down if I am convicted, I am not supposed to be even the member of the parliament," Gilani told Al Jazeera television in an interview on Saturday.

Interior minister Rehman Malik on Sunday reviewed the security arrangements in Islamabad's "Red Zone" where the Supreme Court, presidency and prime minister's office and residence are located, state media reported.

A statement issued by Supreme Court on Sunday said that journalists, lawyers and others would be allowed to witness proceedings only if issued with special passes.

The Swiss shelved the cases in 2008, when Zardari became head of state, and a prosecutor in Switzerland has said it will be impossible to re-open them as long as he remains head of state and is immune from prosecution.

Gilani insists that Zardari has full immunity.

Members of the government accuse judges of over-stepping their reach and of trying to bring down the prime minister and president, a year before the administration would become the first in Pakistan to complete an elected term.

The Pakistani court overturned in December 2009 a two-year political amnesty that had frozen the allegations against Zardari and other politicians.

Gilani himself appeared before the Supreme Court on January 19, citing Zardari's immunity as explanation for his refusal to obey the court's order.

Legal experts say that Gilani can only avoid being charged by lodging a successful appeal, apologising or promising to write to the Swiss.

The president, who is so tainted by corruption allegations that his nickname is "Mr 10 Percent", has already spent 11 years in jail on charges ranging from corruption to murder.

He was never convicted and his supporters say that the charges were politically motivated.

Greece passes austerity bill‎ as Athens burns

Greece's parliament approved a deeply unpopular austerity bill Monday to secure a second EU/IMF bailout and avoid national bankruptcy, as buildings burned across central Athens and violence spread around the country.

Cinemas, cafes, shops and banks were set ablaze in central Athens and black-masked protesters fought riot police outside parliament before lawmakers voted on the package that demands deep pay, pension and job cuts -- the price of a 130 billion euro ($172 billion) bailout needed to keep the country afloat.

State television reported the violence spread to the tourist islands of Corfu and Crete, the northern city of Thessaloniki and towns in central Greece. Police said 150 shops were looted in the capital and 34 buildings set ablaze.

Zardari's daughters launch 'pro-father' campaign

Asifa and Bakhtiawar started campaign for defence of the PPP and their father on twitter.
Slain former Pakistan premier Benazir Bhutto s children are using the social networking website Twitter to defend their father President Asif Ali Zardari and to settle scores with their cousin Fatima Bhutto.
"For the first time in the history of this country, a democratically elected President has voluntarily given up his power..."
Bakhtawar tweeted when Zardari signed into law a landmark constitution reforms package which stripped the President of his sweeping powers.
Bakhtawar s brother Bilawal, who is co-chairman of the ruling Pakistan People s Party, is also doing his best to popularize the party.
"I wish Zia (Gen Zia-ul-Haq) had lived. I wish he had lived to witness our revenge," Bilawal, 21, tweeted some hours ago.
Bilawal tweeted a famous Zia quote "men are in charge of women because Allah has made one superior to the other... good women are obedient" and said that he wished the military dictator who died in 1988 had lived to see the new Pakistan.
"I wish he had lived despite the fact that he murdered members of my family. I wish he had lived to see the day we elected the Muslim world s first female PM. I wish he had lived to see us elect the first female speaker of our National Assembly," Bilawal tweeted.
The Bhutto-Zardari siblings have also been tweeting about their pet peeve ‘cousin Fatima Bhutto’ who recently released her tell-all book on the Bhutto dynasty.
In another tweet she told Bilawal, "I know, you never tweet love me. Sigh. I ll accept all the other mediums of love though so it s okay."
Bakhtawar, a student at Edinburgh, discloses her location and also her webpage. She introduces herself as lyricist, enthusiast and nationalist.
Benazir s youngest daughter Asifa, who is Pakistan s polio ambassador, has protected her tweets. She is also doing her bit to promote her dead mother.
Aseefa is studying at Edinburgh and is a fan of vampires.
"Hey I like vampires. I watched Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I am addicted to Twilight and watch Vampire Diaries as well," reads Aseefa s intro on Twitter.
Bilawal, a student at Christ Church College in Oxford, has 298 followers.
All the three Bhutto children have their mother s pictures as backdrops for their homepages. The three siblings keep in touch tweeting about missing each other or planning get-togethers. They also send links about news stories related to their parents.
Bilawal, Bakhtawar and Aseefa seem to be taking their education seriously.
"Did not like the SPT paper, probably should have watched less cricket and studied more...," tweeted Bakhtawar.
In another tweet, she promised not to "indulge" in distractions or be "tempted" by current affairs.

Yusuf Raza Gilani, Talks to Al Jazeera

The prime minister of Pakistan discusses contempt charges, relations with the US and the country's powerful military.

Gilani says he will lose PM office if convicted

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said if convicted of contempt of court, he would automatically lose his office so there was no need for him to quit.

“There’s no need to step down,” he said. “If I’m convicted, then I’m not supposed to be a member of the parliament.”

Gilani, in an interview broadcast on Saturday, said corruption charges against President Asif Ali Zardari were “politically motivated” and that the president had immunity as head of state.

The premier’s statements were aired on the eve of a hearing at which he faces indictment for contempt of court over his refusal to request the reopening of corruption cases against his party chief.

“There had been a lot of cases against him, and they were all politically motivated,” Gilani told Al Jazeera television, referring to Zardari.

“He has got immunity. And he has not got immunity only in Pakistan, he has transnational immunity, even all over the world.”

In the wide-ranging interview, Gilani also criticised US drone attacks as counter-productive and said authorities in Islamabad gave no authorisation for them.

“I want to inform you that we did not allow or give permission to fly drones from Pakistan,” he said.

“Number two, drones are counterproductive. And we had discussed thoroughly with the US administration that we at times make a lot of efforts to very successfully isolate militants from the local tribes.”

Drone attacks generated negative reaction, he said, with tribesmen in areas bordering Afghanistan.

“Then the local tribes and the militants, they get united again,” he said. “They make our jobs extremely difficult. Then there is less political space for us.”

Gilani also said he had “good relations” with the military “at the moment”.

That was a reference to tensions pitting the civilian government against the military over the memo case.

Asked about the future of Afghanistan, Gilani said Pakistan would support any Afghan-led peace initiative and did not back the Afghan Taliban to take over.

“We are not supporting them. It’s not our job. Why should we support them?”

Gilani also said that India and Pakistan could not afford more conflict and were ready to discuss the issues that have long hampered the normalisation of relations.

“We have agreed to discuss all our core issues, including the issue of Kashmir,” he said.

Pakistan: Charges against president Zardari "politically motivated"
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, in an interview broadcast on Saturday, said corruption charges against Pakistan's president were "politically motivated" and that the president had immunity as head of state.

In the wide-ranging interview with Al Jazeera television, he also criticised U.S. drone attacks on militants near the Afghan border as counterproductive and said Pakistan never authorized them.

Pakistan, he said, backed any Afghan-led peace plan to establish peace in the neighboring country and in no way supported Taliban insurgents.

Gilani's statements were aired on the eve of a hearing at which the premier faces indictment for contempt of court over his refusal to request the reopening of corruption cases against

President Asif Ali Zardari, co-chairman of the premier's Pakistan People's Party (PPP).

"There had been a lot of cases against him, and they were all politically motivated," Gilani said, referring to Zardari.

"He has got immunity. And he has not got immunity only in Pakistan, he has transnational immunity, even all over the world."

Asked if he would rather resign for the sake of the president, Gilani said if convicted of contempt, he would automatically lose office, so there was no need for him to quit.

"There's no need to step down," he said. "If I'm convicted, then I'm not supposed to be a member of the parliament."

Monday's expected indictment of Gilani pushes Pakistan's political crisis into a new phase. It is unlikely to lead to the fall of the government, but will continue to paralyze the country and further empower its military, analysts say.

"The Court is neither likely to trigger a collapse of the PPP government nor lead to military intervention," wrote Shamila Chaudhary in an analysis for Eurasia Group. "But the judiciary will remain a critical factor in Pakistani politics for the duration of the election cycle that ends in February 2013."


The civilian-judicial confrontation stems from thousands of old corruption cases thrown out in 2007 by an amnesty law passed under former military president Pervez Musharraf.

Zardari is its most prominent beneficiary and the main target of the court, which voided the law in 2009 and ordered the re-opening of cases accusing the president of money laundering using Swiss bank accounts.

Gilani and his advisers have refused to ask the Swiss to reopen the cases. The prime minister had appealed the court's decision to charge him with contempt, but on Friday that appeal was dismissed, paving the way for the indictment.

"There's no way Zardari will allow his party to write a letter that will incriminate him in any significant way," said Najim Sethi, editor of the weekly Friday Times. "And that's exactly what the Supreme Court wants."

The continued defiance could benefit the PPP ahead of a widely expected lower-house election in October, said Salman Raja, a Supreme Court lawyer and constitutional expert.

Raja said any proceedings against Gilani would likely take until July and result in a short jail sentence -- "no longer than a week or 10 days."

The party could then campaign on the notion of a biased court doing the work of the military and "persecuting an elected prime minister, and that rhetoric gets reemphasized."


But a PPP win could be a Pyrrhic victory. Infighting and confrontations with the military have consumed the nuclear-armed country in recent years, preventing it from addressing poverty and other economic ills or containing a rampaging insurgency that is endangering the U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan.

"It's a creeping kind of a coup," Raja said. "Effectively they've crippled the government."

Tensions between the military and the civilian government reached a fever pitch in December and January over a memo asking for U.S. help against a feared military coup in the aftermath of the May 2 killing of Osama bin Laden by American special forces in a Pakistani town.

Those tensions have since subsided and a coup looks unlikely now. In the interview, Gilani said he had "good relations" with the military "at the moment."

But continued brinkmanship with the court, Sethi said, served the army's purpose of staying in power behind the scenes.

In the interview, Gilani said authorities in Islamabad gave no approval for U.S. drone strikes.

"I want to inform you that we did not allow or give permission to fly drones from Pakistan," he said.

"Number two, drones are counterproductive. And we had discussed thoroughly with the U.S. administration that we at times make a lot of efforts to very successfully isolate militants from the local tribes."

Asked about the future of Afghanistan, Gilani said Pakistan would support any Afghan-led peace initiative and did not back the Afghan Taliban to take over.

"We are not supporting them. It's not our job. Why should we support them?"

50,000 people remain stranded in snowbound Serbian villages

With the discovery of six bodies on Saturday, the death toll in Serbia climbed to 20 that could be attributed to the freezing temperatures which have gripped the region for more than a month.

Meanwhile an estimated 50,000 people in isolated and remote villages remain cut off despite intensified efforts by the government to clear snow-packed roads, according to local media.

The bodies of four people in the northern Serbian city of Novi Sad were discovered in unheated homes, the death of a man near Ljig, just south of Belgrade, was attributed to the sub-zero temperatures, while the body of a 68 year-old woman was discovered in a snow bank about 500 meters from her home near Kraljevo.

When the Serbian government announced a state of emergency almost a week ago, an estimated 70,000 people were stranded, mainly in mountainous regions in the south of the country. Since then, roads had been cleared to about 20,000 citizens, leaving an estimated 50,000 virtually abandoned for approximately a month.

According to Predrag Maric, chief of emergency services for the Ministry of Interior, the incessant snowfall has hampered the speed of the snow removal operations. Maric said the Serbian government had delivered more than 50 tons of food for distribution in the most vulnerable municipalities.

Sjenica, located in the south-west of the country, has been hardest hit by the Arctic conditions. High winds have lead to snow drifts reaching four meters in some places.

"This is more than unbelievable; there is no possibility of clearing (snow). All our roads are blocked. We don't know what to do," said Muniz Turkovic, mayor of Sjenica.

"We are trying to reach the sick--doing that on skis--to deliver food. I no longer have the strength to fight, nor do the people working with me," said Turkovic. "We are doing everything just to feed people."

In the north of the country in Zrenjanin, the local hospital has cancelled all but emergency surgeries because of the cold weather.

First Lady Michelle Obama joins Perry the Platypus & Disney

Obama to submit his budget to Congress on Monday

President Barack Obama is pressing for investments in infrastructure while relying on familiar tax increases on the wealthy and corporations to claim progress on the federal deficit in his upcoming budget.Obama's 2013 budget, to be released Monday, is the official start to an election-year budget battle over taxes and spending as the nation's debt tops $15 trillion. Obama's budget predicts a $1.3 trillion deficit in the ongoing budget year and a $901 billion deficit in 2013.

The president's plan is laden with stimulus-style initiatives, like sharp increases for highway construction, school modernization, and a new tax credit for businesses that add jobs. But it avoids sacrifice, with only minimal curbs on the unsustainable growth of Medicare even as it slaps a 10-year, $61 billion "financial crisis responsibility fee" on big banks to recoup the 2008 Wall Street bailout.

The budget, administration officials say, borrows heavily from Obama's September submission to a congressional deficit "supercommittee" assigned to come up with at least $1.2 trillion in deficit savings as part of last summer's budget-and-debt pact that avoided a first-ever U.S. default on its obligations. The panel deadlocked and left Washington to grapple with bruising across-the-board spending cuts that kick in next January.Obama's plan predicts deficit savings of more than $4 trillion over a decade, mixing $1 trillion already banked through last summer's clampdown on agency operating budgets with $1.5 trillion in higher tax revenues reaped from an overhaul of the tax code. It also claims savings from reduced war costs and takes just a nip at federal health care programs even as it promises $476 billion for road and other surface transportation programs over six years, a significant increase.

It's already received a chilly reception from Republicans who say Obama isn't doing enough to tame the deficit or curb the rapid growth of benefit programs like Medicare.

The budget will also call for a "Buffett Rule" named after billionaire Warren Buffett that would guarantee that households making more than $1 million a year pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes.

Occupy Movement Regroups, Preparing for Its Next Phase

The ragtag Occupy Wall Street encampments that sprang up in scores of cities last fall, thrusting “We are the 99 percent” into the vernacular, have largely been dismantled, with a new wave of crackdowns and evictions in the past week. Since the violent clashes last month in Oakland, Calif., headlines about Occupy have dwindled, too.

Far from dissipating, groups around the country say they are preparing for a new phase of larger marches and strikes this spring that they hope will rebuild momentum and cast an even brighter glare on inequality and corporate greed. But this transition is filled with potential pitfalls and uncertainties: without the visible camps or clear goals, can Occupy become a lasting force for change? Will disruptive protests do more to galvanize or alienate the public?

Though still loosely organized, the movement is putting down roots in many cities. Activists in Chicago and Des Moines have rented offices, a significant change for groups accustomed to holding open-air assemblies or huddling in tents in bad weather.

On any night in New York City, which remains a hub of the movement, a dozen working groups on issues like “food justice” and “arts and culture” meet in a Wall Street atrium, and “general assemblies” have formed in 14 neighborhoods. Around the country, small demonstrations — often focused on banks and ending foreclosure evictions — take place almost daily.

If the movement has not produced public leaders, some visible faces have emerged.

“I’m finally going to make it to the dentist next week,” said Dorli Rainey, a Seattle activist. “I’ve had to cancel so many times. It’s overwhelming.”

Ms. Rainey, who is 85 and was pepper-sprayed by the police in November, has been fully booked for months. On a recent Thursday, she joined 10 people in Olympia, Wash., who were supporting a State Senate resolution to remove American soldiers from Afghanistan. She led a rally near Pike Place Market against steam incinerators, which the protesters complain release pollution in the downtown area. In March, she plans to join Occupy leaders in Washington for events that are still being planned.

“People have different goals,” Ms. Rainey said. “Mine is, we’ve got to build a movement that will replace the type of government we have now.”

Jumping on a proposal from Portland, Ore., groups in 34 cities have agreed to “a day of nonviolent direct action” on Feb. 29 against corporations accused of working against the public interest. Then on May 1, they will try to persuade thousands of Americans who share their belief that the system is rigged against the poor and the middle class to skip work and school, in what they are calling “a general strike” — or “a day without the 99 percent.”

“Inspiring more people to get angry and involved is the top priority,” said Bill Dobbs, a member of the press committee of Occupy Wall Street and a veteran of the Act Up campaign for people with H.I.V. and AIDS. He added that people could “take action on whatever issue is important to them, whether economic justice, the environment or peace.”

But some experts who credit Occupy’s achievements to date wonder if the earnest activists will overplay their hand. Some question how many people will heed a call to stay home from work on May 1, especially since labor unions, which have generally supported Occupy’s message, say they will not strike for the day. And beyond that, Occupy’s utopian calls for democracy and justice may be drowned out by the presidential campaign.

“They’ve gotten the people’s attention, and now they have to say something more specific,” said William A. Galston, a senior fellow and an expert on political strategy at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “Average Americans want solutions, not demonstrations, and their patience for the latter won’t last indefinitely.”

Some of Occupy’s dilemmas are those of any emerging movement. “Some of the stuff you do to get attention often puts off your audience,” said David S. Meyer, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, who studies social movements. “It’s a delicate balance, being provocative enough to get attention and still draw sympathy.”

The issue has been posed most starkly in Oakland, where a militant faction is openly courting conflict with a hostile police department, undermining public support and leading to sharp ideological divides. Some activists have formed separate groups dedicated to nonviolent methods, though tensions are not as acute elsewhere. Crimes reported in some of the camps in the fall also discredited the movement in the eyes of its critics.

But without question, the unfurling of sleeping bags by a few dozen people near Wall Street on Sept. 17 struck a national chord. “In three months, this movement succeeded in shifting political discourse more than labor had been able to accomplish with years of lobbying and electoral campaigns,” said Robert Master, the Northeast political director for the Communications Workers of America, which represents more than half a million telecommunications workers.

“I think there are going to be tremendous opportunities for labor and the Occupy movement to work together,” Mr. Master said. “We have different roles— as labor we are much more embedded in mainstream politics. But we understand that without the pressure of more radical direct-action tactics, the debate in this country won’t change substantially.”

Though President Obama has not publicly embraced the Occupy movement, its fingerprints are evident in his increased focus on economic fairness.

Mr. Galston, the political expert in Washington, said the movement’s success in making inequality more visible “could have an impact down the road on campaigns and elections and agendas.” But he also said that “to this day, the movement has never crystallized its ideas into an agenda.”

So far, home foreclosures are the most consistent target. Groups in Minneapolis are currently camped in homes facing foreclosure. In Atlanta, they take credit for using this method to save the house of an Iraq war veteran, pressing the bank to offer her refinancing after it had already set a date for eviction.

In Providence, R.I., protesters made a deal with the city, agreeing to abandon their camp peacefully this month in return for the city’s opening of a new day center for the homeless.

But many in the movement appear to be pinning their biggest hopes on the nationwide protests planned for the spring and summer. To foster personal ties, Occupy Wall Street veterans, mainly from New York, embarked on a five-week bus tour of a dozen Northeast cities to exchange ideas on protest goals and methods and to hold training sessions with other Occupy groups.

“Without the camps, we’re in a bit of a lull,” Austin Guest, 31, said in New York. He is one of the many younger men and women who have given over their lives to Occupy, often sleeping on sofas and scraping by with donated food or part-time jobs. The actions planned for the spring “will be more substantial and a much greater threat,” he said.

On a recent Saturday evening, some 50 volunteers met in a Greenwich Village church to discuss May Day activities for the city. The group included a mix of ages and races, with graduate students, teachers, older labor veterans and some full-time activists.

In the style of the Occupy movement, it operated with a requirement of consensus. A person designated as the “stack taker” directed the order of speakers and people wiggled or “twinkled” their fingers in the air to show agreement. They discussed a possible schedule of protests for May Day: disrupting commerce that morning, perhaps, and then joining an immigrant rights demonstration at midday and staging a march in the evening.

“Is this O.K.?” the designated facilitator politely asked every few minutes as he moved along the agenda. “Does anyone object?”

A danger for a movement like this, driven by a committed core group with strong views, is political marginalization, said Todd Gitlin, an expert on social movements at Columbia University. Mr. Gitlin, whose book “Occupy Nation” will be published electronically by HarperCollins in April, said, “You can be big but still isolated,” which he said was what happened to the radical antiwar movement he joined in the 1960s.

Another challenge will be sustaining public anger if the economy continues to show signs of recovery and unemployment falls. Jessica Reznicek, 30, a protester from Des Moines, said the economy in Iowa “is much stronger” than in other places, adding, “there’s not the level of escalation here.” After five demonstration-related arrests in recent weeks, she is taking a step back and refocusing on specific efforts, like challenging companies that make genetically modified crops.

But deeper concerns about inequality are not likely to disappear, said Damon A. Silvers, policy director for the A.F.L.-C.I.O., nor is the widely shared desire “for the economy to be run for the interests of the majority, not a tiny wealthy minority.”

“Whether the individuals in Occupy Wall Street and their organization turn out to be the center of this sentiment in the next year, I don’t know,” Mr. Silvers said. “But that sentiment will be a powerful force in our country, and the Occupy movement deserves credit for that.”

Whitney Houston....

“Saving All My Love For You”

Whitney Houston's majestic voice was legendary. Her grit and glamour made her an icon.
Sorry Ms. Houston with all of your battles with your difficult issues. Too soon to dim the light and part of the musical world is now silent perhaps because of these complexities. No easy answers to her apparent problems. At 48--you gave a lot to the world in entertainment and talent and that will be the enduring quality you best contributed to the world. This I think will be the lingering legacy and legend of your life mostly. Only someone wiser than all of humanity deals with the afterlife, and now may you, RIP, and posterity will remember your gift to the world of your talent, music, and life. Thank you, Ms. Whitney Houston so very much, and may there be a place for you in the "Heavenly Hall of Fame" !!

Londoners censure Bahrain’s brutality

Hundreds of people have stage a demonstration in London to voice their solidarity with the oppressed people of Bahrain, where Saudi-backed al-Khalifa regime launched a brutal crackdown on peaceful anti-regime protests.

Around 1,000 people protested in London on Saturday and expressed their support for the people of Bahrain and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa, where revolution after revolution are bringing down Western-backed dictators.

Maryam al-Kharaja told PressTV correspondent in London about the ongoing anti-regime protests in Bahrain, despite brutal repression.

“My father was beaten unconscious, arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment,” she said.

“My mother was fired from her job. And my family's situation is the same as hundreds of families in Bahrain”, Maryam added.

“But Western governments and their media never talk about Bahrain. For them, Bahrain is the inconvenient revolution”, she added.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence had earlier admitted that members of the Saudi Arabian National Guard sent into Bahrain to crush dissent may have received military training from the British Armed Forces in Saudi Arabia.

“We're hoping [the UK government] to put pressure on to the Bahraini government to show them that the Bahraini people in Britain and their many supporters, are utterly outraged and disgusted at their behaviour”, said Chris Nineham, national organiser for Stop the War Coalition.

“The fact they are shooting unarmed civilians in the street and they have called in a foreign army to repress and attack their own people is completely unacceptable”, he added.

“We're also here to send a message to the British government, that it is a complete travesty that they are backing these dictators and makes an utter mockery of any notion that Britain stands in favour of liberation and democracy”, said Nineham.

Malaysia deports Saudi blogger over tweets

Al Jazeera
Malaysia has deported a young Saudi journalist who is wanted in his home country over Twitter posts about the Prophet Mohammad that sparked calls for his execution, the Malaysian government has confirmed.

Hamza Kashgari, who was detained in Malaysia on Thursday after fleeing Saudi Arabia, left the country in the custody of Saudi officials on Sunday, a statement of the Malaysian Home Ministery said.

Kashgari, a 23-year-old Jeddah-based newspaper columnist, fled to Muslim-majority Malaysia after making comments on the microblogging site deemed insulting to the Prophet Mohammed, which fuelled a surge of outrage in the kingdom.
Insulting the prophet is considered blasphemous in Islam and is a crime punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.

The Home Ministry statement said: "Malaysia has a long-standing arrangement by which individuals wanted by one country are extradited when detained by the other, and Mohammad Najeeb A. [Hamza] Kashgari will be repatriated under this arrangement.

"The nature of the charges against the individual in this case are a matter for the Saudi Arabian authorities."

Muhammad Afiq Mohamad Nor, a lawyer appointed by Kashgari's family, said the move was unlawful because he had obtained a court order to block the deportation.

"We are concerned that he would not face a fair trial back home and that he could face the death penalty if he is charged with apostasy, the lawyer told the Associated Press news agency.

Clerics and locals in the kingdom have called for Kashgari's death for three comments he made on Twitter on the occasion of the Prophet Muhammad's birthday.

Kashgari, who had originally apologised for his comments, said in an interview he was being made a "scapegoat for a larger conflict" over his comments.

Egypt detains Australian journalist, U.S. student on suspicion of inciting protest

Al Arabiya News

Egyptian police arrested on Saturday an Australian journalist, an American student and their Egyptian translator on suspicion of paying Egyptians to stage protests against the authorities, a security official said.

Freelance reporter Austin Mackell, American student Derek Ludovici and translator Aliya Alwi were detained in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla on the same day activists held student strikes to mark the first anniversary of president Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow.

General Mostafa Baz, police chief of the northern Gharbiya province, told reporters the three were suspected of having coordinated over the Internet to meet in Mahalla, which has a history of labor strikes, to “incite people to protest.”

A security official said people in Mahalla had complained to police that all three were paying people to protest. The authorities have in the past blamed foreigners for plotting unrest.

“Our car got rocked and beaten against the called a whore and all sorts of things. Police escorted us to station,” Alwy posted on her Twitter account before their detention.

“Charges brought against (us) of inciting protest and vandalism. Witnesses have been produced to confirm it.”

She later tweeted that they were being handed over to intelligence services.

Veteran Egyptian labor activist Kamal al-Fayyumi was also arrested, Baz said, although it was not immediately clear why he had been detained.

Australia’s foreign office confirmed Mackell’s arrest and said diplomatic officials in Cairo were “seeking advice from Egyptian police on possible charges.”

“(Mackell) has confirmed he is being treated appropriately by local police authorities. He confirmed his intention to engage a legal representative,” a foreign office spokeswoman said.

The authorities, including the ruling military which took charge after Mubarak’s ouster, have accused foreigners of stirring unrest in Egypt which has seen a spate of deadly protests over past months.

In June, security forces arrested a U.S.-Israeli citizen they accused of spying and inciting Egyptians to protest. The man was released in October in a prisoners exchange deal.

Afghans fret flight of hard cash a sign of things to come

In the crush of people in Kabul's Shahzada money market, conspiracy theories are a currency as hard as the bundles of cash in the hands of bearded traders trying to divine their future.

And the theory going around - amid the din of shouted exchange rates - is that Afghanistan's rich are preparing again to shift their money and lives from the country over fears of chaos or civil conflict after foreign troops leave.

"The money will all go out of Afghanistan. It is always like that. As soon as the foreign soldiers leave all the problems come back," says money changer Hajji Asadullah, gripping bundles of U.S. dollar bills, Gulf currencies and tattered local Afghani notes, all wrapped tightly in rubber bands.

Three years from the end of NATO combat missions and a total transfer to local security, Afghan officials are thinking hard about how to stop the flight of hard currency like dollars, euros or scrip from Gulf countries like the UAE that usually happens when nervousness overtakes their countrymen.

"It is the main topic of conversation now," says Naseem Akbar, who heads Afghanistan's Investment Support Agency and whose job is to lure investment, rather than stop it going out.

"The worry is about the country going into crisis, and parallel to that is that from now until 2014 we must work out how to avoid such a calamity."


A U.S. government audit report last year found it was almost impossible to track where much of the billions of dollars spent on security and development projects in the last decade had gone given the country's dysfunctional financial tracking system and poor bank oversight.

Wealthy Afghans have for years locked their money into safe havens and property elsewhere, with Dubai and its man-made Palm Jumeirah island being favored locations, with an estimated $8 billion stashed away in the Arab emirate.

But Haji Sher Shah Ahmadzai, the millionaire owner of a group of construction companies in Kabul, said property prices at home jumped by 15 percent at the start of last year after foreigners pledged to support Afghanistan well beyond 2014.

Confidence however began leaching away with the September assassination of former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, who headed an Afghan peace council trying to launch talks with the Taliban.

It took a further blow as the United States, the Taliban and the Afghan government circle each other over possible peace talks in the Gulf state of Qatar, which could eventually see the austere Islamists return to Kabul as a political force.

"A flat cost around $220,000 months ago, but now it costs around $140,000 because of the uncertain situation," Ahmadzai told Reuters in his plush, heavily-guarded office in the upmarket Wazir area of central Kabul.


Hardly any Afghans expect the Taliban to be strong enough to again rule the country by force, but memories of past brutality are enough to worry people about their influence, even as President Hamid Karzai tries to reassure his country.

In 2009, ahead of the last Afghan election, millions of dollars -- much of questionable origin -- made its way out of the country in suitcases and even on pallets loaded into aircraft, according to police at Kabul's main Airport.

Former vice president Zia Masood was stopped entering Dubai carrying cash worth $52 million and released without question, according to a cable from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul that appeared later on the whistleblower website Wikileaks.

In 2010 the Afghan government took over Kabul Bank -- the country's biggest commercial bank -- after a run on deposits caused by revelations that the bank's owners had lost millions of dollars they loaned to themselves to purchase property investments.

The investment support agency's Akhbar said that without steps to build confidence political and security gains in the past decade, uncertainty will dry up new investment.

"The short answer is that any sign of uncertainty is a major blow to investment," he said, calling for a redoubled effort by Karzai's government to tackle serious corruption and fix woeful infrastructure.

Afghanistan is perennially among the world's most corrupt nations listed by Berlin-based anti-graft body Transparency International.


But growth has defied that reputation, averaging around 9 percent in recent years as war and aid spending worth more than $50 billion fuelled a spending boom in Kabul's dusty streets, now choked with private cars as well as NATO convoys.

At a dealership for luxury Lexus SUVs, salesman Mir Alam said once reliable Afghan ministers had stopped buying in favor of armored vehicles, while private buyers had also dried up.

"It's because of the Qatar talks. Car prices are not up, but still we haven't sold any for the past three months," Alam said. "Afghan businessmen have already left Afghanistan, or they have their money in hand in case they need to escape."

Mohammad Jawid, who sells appliances to the wealthy at the upmarket Kabul City Centre, said sales topping $5,000 a day before September were down to under to $500 now.

And the worries are the same for Abdul Haddi's Sarak Khumar electronic company.

"I've lost more than 60 percent of my customers. The rich I know are already out of Afghanistan, or just waiting to see what happens," Haddi said.


The World Bank has warned that growth that hit an unsustainable 21 percent in 2009-10 could collapse in the next few years as aid projects wind down and funds are re-directed into areas like health and education.

The country's medium-term growth and stubbornly high unemployment would depend on the government's ability to manage the transfer of security from international to national forces, and ensure political and fiscal sustainability, the bank said.

The Afghani currency has slipped following its rise through 2010-11 on the back of large capital inflows, sliding from 46.2 to the dollar to around 49, making foreign havens and currencies more attractive.

Jean-Luc Lemahieu, who heads the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Kabul, said Afghanistan needed a stronger system of capital controls, adding the agency is setting up financial investigations units to deal with not only laundering of money from the opium trade, but also monitor cross-border cash flows.

"It is a huge concern," he said. "This country cannot afford this and we need to have better capital controls and have the money within this country invested in productivity, so we can share the employment that is so required."

PM Gilani’s appeal rejection


With the dismissal by an eight-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC) of Prime Minister (PM) Yousaf Raza Gilani’s inter-court appeal against the February 2 order of a seven-member bench of the apex court hearing the contempt case against the PM, the die is cast for a contempt trial of the chief executive. The eight-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry upheld the seven-member bench’s order as properly framed under and conforming to the provisions of clause 17(3) of the Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003. Therefore the bench rejected any need to intervene and thereby dismissed the inter-court appeal. The PM will now appear before the original seven-member bench tomorrow, February 13, for charges to be framed against him. If the PM, as all indications so far point to, sticks to his stand that no contempt was envisaged and he was simply following the repeated advice from the Law Ministry that no letter can be written to the Swiss judicial authorities to reopen the case against President Asif Ali Zardari as the president enjoys immunity while in office under Pakistani (Article 248), Swiss and international law, he may well be charged and a trial then proceed. All the signs point to the PM contesting the charges through his counsel, Aitzaz Ahsan.

The issue has two facets: legal and political. While the SC is insisting the letter of the law as reflected in its December 16, 2009 judgment on the NRO case be followed, and central to that is the repeated direction of the court that the PM write the letter to the Swiss authorities, the ruling PPP is seized of the political implications of following the directions of the SC. Aitzaz Ahsan had based his inter-court appeal argument on two pillars. One, that he and his client were not allowed sufficient time to present their point of view; two, the impossibility of adhering to the court’s direction in the light of the immunity enjoyed by the president, as advised by the Law Ministry. Although Aitzaz avoided discussion on the immunity issue, which the court had said again and again needed to be applied for to the court, a bare reading of Article 248 of the constitution does lend credence to the immunity defence. The wording of the article in question is clear, unambiguous, and arguably needing little if any interpretation. The political aspect of the issue is the perception of the PPP that for the PM to write such a letter to the Swiss authorities while ignoring the immunity enjoyed by a sitting president would be tantamount to damaging the political standing of the party. It should not be forgotten that the president is also the co-chairperson of the PPP.

If the above interpretation of the PPP’s thinking is correct, it seems the party is prepared, if worst comes to worst, to sacrifice its PM for the sake of saving its political reputation. Nay, even further, the possible conviction and disqualification of the PM from holding office will provide a rallying cry of victimisation to the PPP in the run up to the general elections, something that may leave it in better standing with the electorate since its palette of achievements over the last four years is thin, to say the least. Despite the removal of PM Yousaf Raza Gilani, the government is unlikely to fall so long as it enjoys a majority in the National Assembly. Theoretically, the party could nominate a new PM as replacement. Such a development could arguably continue the legal battle in the SC if the court then orders the new PM to write the letter according to its directives. It goes without saying therefore that the issue’s fallout is unlikely to end soon, with implications for political stability and democracy and a troubled future looming on the horizon.

ANP has brought revolution, govt raised uplift budget by 77%

The Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Amir Haider Khan Hoti said that being the disciples of Bacha Khan, we even today are asking the militants to leave their violent ways and to adopt the peaceful philosophy of the Great Pakhtun Leader Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan.
He was addressing an event arranged for his welcome. The people are talking of talks with the militants today, but we had said the same thing four years ago when we assumed government.
He said the ANP government has established Nizam-e-Adle in Swat but our good gestures were returned with the terrorists sending us the bodies of our people.
Senior Minister Bashir Bilour, Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussein also addressed the gathering.
The Chief Minister said that the government provided one thousand rupees each to the young men of the province to give them the means to create jobs for themselves. Now the amount has been increased and the youth will get thrice the amount for the said purpose. He said that wherever there is no government school, that area will be provided a school in the public sector.
The CM said that we established Wali Khan University in Mardan and are now establishing campuses of this varsity in various districts. Nowshera will get a campus soon, he added. Political rivals of the party are nervous when they see its successful public meetings, he added. He said that these desperate people have nothing better to say so they accuse the government of using government funds for arranging public meetings.
But we say this with surety that the Pakhtun nation has awakened and are joining us because of our work.
He said that the one talking of revolution that only the red caps can bring revolution in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and that change has come. Anybody who wants tamper with the names of the projects we have started will be dealt with iron hand and such activities will not be allowed. Our government has increased the development project by 77 percent which is nothing short of a revolution.

Baloch solution

WHAT is sadder than Jalil Reki’s story is how common a tale it is. The mutilated body of this Baloch activist was found nearly three years after he disappeared, events his father has described in searing detail for a report in this paper. Meanwhile, the interior minister was holding a ‘third force’ responsible for Balochistan’s troubles in the Senate on Friday. But external powers cannot conjure up an internal problem to exploit. Holding them responsible shifts the burden away from the state’s responsibility to answer two interconnected questions that have gone unaddressed for too long. First, who actually runs Balochistan? Certainly not the elected provincial government, which owns up to its own powerlessness. If the federal government does, the extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, terrorism, crime and lack of development point to an abysmal failure of governance on its part. And if the province is, as many Baloch and others feel, controlled by the military establishment, is the government doing anything to try to wrest away some of its power? For an administration that has recently been more than willing to take on Rawalpindi when threatened by its own removal, it is remarkably silent about the erosion of civilian authority in Balochistan.

Second is the question of a solution. Aghaz-i-Huqooq-i-Balochistan has proved that a top-down approach and a few development projects and jobs will not address the fundamental issues. The government could be doing a lot more just to kick-start a process of trying to find an answer, which will hinge on listening to what the Baloch want, rethinking what the government can provide, and genuinely attempting to move towards some middle ground. That would mean a broad-based, open-minded effort to hear from them, including separatists, rather than giving them what Islamabad thinks they need. It would mean partnering with politicians from across the spectrum, including the opposition, who might have relationships with Baloch leaders. And it would require a genuine effort, including pressuring the security establishment, to meet some of the key demands for justice and security.

But none of this will happen as long as politicians continue to suffer from the Bangladesh syndrome: believing that the concerns of certain Pakistanis are less important than those of others. The Awami League’s demands were unacceptable to West Pakistan’s political establishment at the time. In hindsight, after losing East Pakistan, they are no longer seen that way. The federal government needs to get its act together on the issue before we reach a point when, looking back, we wish we hadn’t been so dismissive of Balochistan’s demands.

Afghan forces allegedly cross into Balochistan


A tribal policeman has accused Afghan forces of crossing into southwestern Pakistan and snatching three men allegedly providing safe haven to militants fighting in Afghanistan.

Mohammed Azim says 13 Afghan security personnel drove nearly 2 miles (3 kilometers) into Balochistan Saturday and took the men from Thurkha village.

He said Sunday that officials have received unconfirmed reports that two of the men have been killed. Azim is a tribal policeman in Killa Saifullah district, where Thurkha is located.

Afghan officials could not immediately be reached for comment. The border in the area is not clearly marked.

Pakistan: Nine suspected AIDS cases reported in October

A Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) monitoring report on Friday said nine suspected cases of AIDS were reported in Gujrat district in October.

FAFEN monitors gathered statistics from 73 districts across Pakistan from the offices of Executive District Officer (EDO)/Health - 27 in Punjab, 14 in Sindh, 18 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and 11 in Balochistan along with the office of Health Management Information System in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and the Agency Surgeon Health (ASH) in two districts of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

The report said seven cases of polio were confirmed - three in Killa Abdullah district in Balochistan, one each in Rahimyar Khan and Vehari districts of Punjab and two in Kamber Shahdadkot district in Sindh. Moreover, six cases of probable poliomyelitis, five in Gujrat and one in Bhakkar, were reported during the monitored month.

The report said the health office in Lahore district reported 9,000 cases of dengue, whereas 452 were reported in nine districts elsewhere in the country. However it added that since hospitals in Lahore also cater to patients from surrounding rural areas, the high number of dengue cases is understandable.

The report said Acute Respiratory Infections (ARIs) were the most commonly reported in October, constituting 54% of all reported diseases, followed by 16% cases of diarrhea and dysentery, 14% of other diseases, 12% of scabies and 4% of gastroenteritis.

ARIs, scabies and diarrhea and dysentery were recorded in each of the 10 districts reporting diseases in the highest numbers. While gastroenteritis was the fifth most commonly reported disease in 73 districts, it was reported by only three of the 10 districts reporting diseases in highest numbers, and malaria was only reported by one (Bahawalpur district).

The report said Bahawalpur district was the most affected by diseases, reporting 143,833 cases, followed by Lahore and Rahimyar Khan with 111,148 and 98,169 cases.

There were 2,149 cases of maternal, infant and child mortality during the observed month. Twenty-seven districts reported 1,458 cases of infant mortality. Of these, 1,334 were recorded in 21 districts in Punjab, 75 in six districts in KP, 36 in Sindh's four districts and 13 in three districts in Balochistan.

On the other hand, out of 552 cases of child mortality reported in 15 districts, 531 were in nine districts in Punjab, 10 in Sindh's three districts, eight in one district in KP and three in two districts in Balochistan. - PPI

Difa-e-Pakistan: Who is aiding the jihadis’ resurgence?

The Express Tribune
Difa-e-Pakistan has organised three large gatherings in Punjab alone. The first was in Lahore, which was organised by Jamatud Dawa (JuD), whose leadership is in charge of coordination and communication between all members of the group.

The movement will now hold a rally in Karachi on Sunday (today), which is being organised with the support of Jamaat-e-Islami. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has also held numerous meetings with the Difa-e-Pakistan leadership.

Other prominent members, who are widely perceived to have links with the intelligence circles in Pakistan, include Ejazul Haq, son of the military dictator who ruled during the Soviet-Afghan war, Sheikh Rasheed, a former federal minister in the last set-up under General Pervez Musharraf, and Hameed Gul, the former head of Pakistan’s premier spy agency, the ISI.

Difa-e-Pakistan does not currently maintain any joint fund and its leadership says all donations are from the public. “The business community, workers of each party, and even Pakistanis living abroad are sending us money, which is enough,” states the head of coordination committee, Yaqub Sheikh.

Independent researchers, however, say that most of the funding for the group comes through rich Arabs. “Not the governments there but the Arab public hate the Americans and have always been involved in using Pakistan as a proxy state,” says Khaled Ahmed, a renowned journalist who has authored several research papers and a book on terrorism and sectarian violence in Pakistan.

Ahmed feels that Difa-e-Pakistan is highlighting foreign policy issues, which the army command has historically dominated in Pakistan. Since the army cannot speak openly on these issues, it will use these non-state actors to communicate,” he adds.

Senior military officials who want to remain anonymous echo his thoughts. “Difa-e-Pakistan wants to tell us and anyone else who wants to use them that they are available. Their presence can be used to bargain with Americans,” a military officer remarked. When the group’s leaders are asked about this, all deny any signal from the armed forces in starting this group but their love for the military is quite evident. “The army is the largest institution of this country, so it holds a lot of importance for us and we are willing to fight for them,” says Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi, head of Ahl-e-Sunnat-wal-Jamaat (ASWJ).

While their statements glorify the Pakistani military and criticise the current political regime, they say they have no direct political stake in the upcoming elections under the banner of Difa-e-Pakistan. “We do not believe the current political system is Islamic and that is why we are not going to contest,” says Yaqub Sheikh from JuD, though he clarifies that his group has always had a political wing.

Analysts feel the union between such ‘Islamists’ can bring no good. “Difa-e-Pakistan has zero political objective but they are taking Pakistan back to the pre-9/11 era when the country had a pro-jihad policy. That will isolate Pakistan internationally,” says Amir Rana, director for the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies. “We were on the brink of being declared a terrorist state then, and with Difa-e-Pakistan’s reactivation, a similar narrative is being revived,” he warned.

After KP grants Dilip Kumar's ancestral home 'heritage' status, actor recalls childhood

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s decision to grant veteran Bollywood actor Dilip Kumar’s ancestral home in the historic Qissa Khwani bazaar heritage status invoked memories of his old house.

Last week, the government completed formalities in granting the status of national heritage to his house in Mohallah Khudadad, Qissa Khwani Bazaar, Peshawar. Born as Muhammad Yusuf Khan in a statement Saturday said, “The news that house where I was born (1922) and where I spent a good part of my childhood in Peshawar’s Qissa Khwani Bazaar, then in undivided India, will be given the honour of being a part of national heritage of Pakistan has sent my mind racing back to memories of happy days spent in the spacious home and its surroundings.”

“I am at once full of fond remembrances of my parents, grandparents and numerous uncles, aunts and cousins who filled the house with the sounds of their chatter and hearty laughter. I can vividly recall the piggy rides on my grandfather’s back and the scary stories my grandmother cooked up to forbid me from wandering out of the house alone,” the veteran actor said.

Known as the Tragedy King of Bollywood, he said he has penned down all his memory from his time in Qissa Khwani in his autobiography, due to release soon.

Incidentally, Peshawar has produced some gems in the field of performing arts such as Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Shahrukh Khan, to name a few. The KP government intends to preserve houses of more legendary Bollywood stars.

TV bomb kills seven near Peshawar

The Express Tribune

A bomb hidden in a television set exploded in a house in northwest Pakistan early Sunday, killing at least seven people, in an attack police believe was part of a local feud.

The blast took place in a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan.

“At least seven people, two children, one woman and four men, were killed in a bomb blast which took place inside a house,” senior police official Kalam Khan told AFP.

Three others were wounded in the blast, he added.

Initial investigations showed the bomb was planted in a rented television set which exploded in a guest room of the house, Khan said.

“The attack appears to be motivated by some personal dispute or enmity,” he said.

Peshawar was the scene of a car bomb attack on the residence of a tribal elder in the Pishtakhara suburb earlier this month, in which three people were killed and seven others were wounded.

Will step down if convicted with contempt charges: Gilani

The Express Tribune

Just days prior to facing the Supreme Court in contempt charges, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told TV channel Al Jazeera on Saturday that he will “step down” if he is convicted, however, he said, “I don’t think that it [the indictment] will happen.”

Gilani is expected to appear before the court on February 13 to face indictment charges against him for the government’s two-year refusal to write to Swiss authorities to revive cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. Prior to this statement, legal experts had debated whether a presidential pardon would protect the embattled prime minister from being disqualified.

“If I am convicted with contempt charges against me, then there is no need for me to even be a member of the parliament,” said Gilani.

The premier said that the charges and cases levelled against President Asif Ali Zardari were “politically-motivated” and that many such charges have been framed against him as well. “I spent five years in prison due to the cases filed against me; such cases are just politically motivated.”

Gilani also said that his government followed the constitution, and according to which, the president enjoyed immunity. He said, “The president enjoys immunity not only in Pakistan, but worldwide.”

He further said that president Zardari had come into the government after contesting elections and that “all the four provinces had voted for him.”

“There was no objection against him at that time,” said Gilani.

PM calls core committee meeting today

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has summoned PPP core committee meeting today in PM House.According to sources, the meeting will discuss PM’s appearance in the Supreme Court tomorrow and possible indictment in contempt case.
On the other hand, President Asif Ali Zardari has also summoned collation partners’ meeting today to discuss current political situation of the country.