Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Petition filed in LHC against Nawaz, Fazal eligibility

A petition has been filed in the Lahore High Court to disqualify 13 politicians including PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif JUI-F chief Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and MQM leader Dr Farooq Sattar.
Advocate Fakhir Razzaq, counsel for petitioner, took the stance that the passage of 20 th Amendment proves that all political parties work for their vested interests while they do not have agenda to address public problems.
The petitioner pleaded to the court to disqualify 13 politicians including Nawaz Sharif, Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Farooq Sattar.

Karzai, Ahmadinejad to arrive in Islamabad today

Hamid Karzai and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are due to arrive in Islamabad today.
Pakistan is due Thursday (today) to host the leaders of Afghanistan and Iran in a counter-terrorism summit likely to be overshadowed by tensions between Tehran and Israel over a series of recent bombings.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are due to arrive separately for the two-day summit being hosted by Pakistani head of state Asif Ali Zardari in the capital Islamabad.
Israel this week accused Iran of targeting its diplomats in Georgia, India and Thailand, against a backdrop of speculation that the Jewish state or the United States could be months from launching military strikes against Iran.
On Wednesday, Ahmadinejad unveiled new strides in its nuclear programme in a defiant blow to US and EU sanctions designed to rein in its atomic activities.
"I don t think so," a senior Pakistani government official told AFP when asked if mounting tensions between Iran and Israel, and the showdown over Iran s nuclear programme, would dominate the summit.
"The trilateral summit will discuss cooperation on counter-terrorism and transnational organised crime including drug and human trafficking and border management," the official said.
The talks also come with stepped up efforts to kickstart peace talks with the Taliban designed to end 10 years of war in Afghanistan. Kabul is reportedly concerned about being sidelined by contacts between the US and the Taliban.
On peace efforts in Afghanistan, Pakistan says it will support an reconciliation attempt that is Afghan-owned and led.
Islamabad is moving towards a detente in its own relations with Washington, which took a drastic turn for the worse over last year s covert American raid that killed Osama bin Laden and air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
But despite strong US objections, Pakistan says it is pressing ahead with a multi-billion-dollar project to build a gas pipeline to import fuel from Iran.
"There is no change or shift regarding the gas pipeline project and it is scheduled to be completed by 2014," said the official.
Pakistan calls for a "peaceful resolution" of all issues related to Iran s nuclear programme and official line on US and EU sanctions on Iran.

Saudis back Bahrain revolution

Saudi protesters have held demonstrations in the oil-rich Eastern Province town of Qatif to mark the first anniversary of the popular revolution in Bahrain, Press TV reports.

On Tuesday, the demonstrators showed solidarity with Bahraini revolutionaries and condemned the brutal crackdown on Bahraini protesters by Saudi-backed forces.

They also slammed the Saudi regime for its March 2011 military invasion of Bahrain to help crush the uprising.

Bahrainis themselves are also marking the anniversary of the revolution against the US and Saudi-backed Al Khalifa regime. Since Monday, clashes have escalated across the country between the regime forces and protesters, who have defied heavy security presence in different parts of the sheikdom.

Scores of the Bahraini protesters have been killed so far during violent Manama-sanctioned campaign of suppression.

Saudi anti-regime activists had declared Saturday a day of public mourning as two Saudi protesters had been killed and several others injured on Thursday and Friday by regime forces in different regions of the province.

The show of popular outrage in the conservative kingdom comes despite the Riyadh regime’s having strictly banned all demonstrations.

Bahrain forces arrest 15 teenagers

Saudi-backed regime forces in Bahrain have launched nightly raids on homes in a flashpoint eastern town, detaining 15 teenagers, Press TV reports.

On Wednesday night, Al Khalifa regime’s forces carried out military operations in Sitra, making the arrests in a raid on one building.

Similar operations have been reported in the other Shia towns of Budaiya, Musalla, and Sanabis, which are situated to the west of the capital Manama.

In the early hours of Wednesday, the Coalition of Youth of the February 14th Revolution -- an opposition group named after the day when the Bahrainis launched popular revolution against the regime -- called on protesters to march back to the capital's Pearl Square.

The square was razed last year as part of Manama's crackdown on popular protests, having formed the focal point of demonstrations against the ruling regime. The protesters now refer to it as the Martyr's Square.

On Tuesday, Saudi-backed regime forces fired rubber bullets and teargas canisters to disperse the protesters, who were attempting to march to the square to mark the first anniversary of their revolution. More than 30 people, including Nabeel Rajab, the president of non-profit NGO, Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and six American activists, were arrested during the demonstrations.

Also on Wednesday, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced concern in a statement about the ongoing violence in Bahrain.

He said that Manama was expected "to act in accordance with international human rights obligations."

"The secretary-general is concerned about reports of clashes in Bahrain between security forces and demonstrators over the past few days," the statement said.

Since the outset of their protests, Bahrainis have been calling for an end to the rule of the Al Khalifa dynasty. Scores of people have been killed and hundreds others arrested in the Bahraini regime's suppression of the demonstrations.

Bahrain Opposition Vows to Keep Protesting

Opposition parties in Bahrain have vowed to carry on with public demonstrations for political reform, after security forces prevented activists from staging a mass rally to mark the first anniversary of their uprising.

A number of clashes between police and opposition supporters were reported throughout Tuesday’s anniversary and into Wednesday.

Rights groups say Bahraini forces used tear gas and birdshot pellets on demonstrators, which left about 100 people injured.

Many activists had attempted to march back to the original site of their protest movement, the former Pearl Roundabout, but were stopped with force.Six Americans from an advocacy group called Witness Bahrain were detained near the site, which is now a restricted military zone. They were later deported for entering the country under “false pretences.”

Despite the government having the clear upper hand in the conflict, Sheikh Ali al-Salman, leader of the main opposition party al-Wefaq, says his supporters will carry on demanding change in the streets.

“The people will continue to raise their demands until [they] achieve a democratic system in Bahrain,” he said.

The majority of Bahrain’s opposition are Shi’ite Muslims, who make up roughly 70 percent of the country’s indigenous population. They say they are treated like second-class citizens and not given the same rights as the Sunni minority which rules the kingdom. They are calling for Bahrain to become a constitutional monarchy.

Opposition parties continue to criticize the government for allowing security officials to use, what they call, excessive force against civilians. Last year, the parties pulled out of a national dialogue, saying they had received unequal representation in it.

According to Jumal Fakhro, first vice chairman of Bahrain’s Shura Council legislative body, reconciliation relies on opposition participation in the discussions.

“They cannot put the blame on the government and be outside the game, they should come and participate,” said Fakhro.

Fakhro says the opposition’s actions show they are not interested in compromise.

“I think they believe that the only way that they can win the battle is by being aggressive on the street,” he said.

Not so, according to Radhi Mohsen al-Mosawi, deputy secretary-general for political affairs of the Wa’ad party. He says the opposition also believes dialogue is the only way to solve Bahrain’s problems. But he says the government must give fair representation to all parties and clarify its intentions for holding talks.

“They have to declare what they want from this dialogue. They didn’t tell us anything,” said al-Mosawi.

As political stalemate in Bahrain continues, violence in the country grows. An increasing number of protesters are hurling firebombs and stones at police during weekly altercations. The protesters say it is partly in retaliation for what they say is the indiscriminate use of tear gas in residential areas.

Rights groups say more than 60 people have been killed in clashes between security forces and protesters since civil unrest began a year ago.

Over 120 hurt in Bahrain clashes, dialogue sought

More than 120 protesters have been wounded in clashes with police in Bahrain this week, activists said on Wednesday, in a crackdown to stop majority Shi'ites breaking out of their neighborhoods to stage protests one year after an uprising.

The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern about the clashes, while a senior opposition figure said the government had put out feelers on talks to resolve the crisis in the Gulf Arab state.

Police conducted operations into the night in the flashpoint town of Sitra, seizing 15 teenagers in a raid on one building after a police vehicle was damaged by a petrol bomb earlier, residents said.

The streets were deserted with residents staying indoors as dozens of jeeps sped through the streets in apparent search operations. A policeman inside one vehicle fired a tear gas canister over some buildings before hurtling round a corner.

Opposition activists reported similar operations in numerous other Shi'ite areas of the island including Budaiya as well as Musalla and Sanabis which are on the edge of the capital.

Riot police also used armored personnel carriers that have not been seen on Bahrain's streets since martial law last year.

"The heightened security presence at this time aims to spread security and reassure all citizens and residents... Expressing opinion must be within the space allowed by the law," Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa said in comments on the ministry's website.

It gave no information on the number of arrests this week.

A U.N. statement said Ban Ki-moon expected Bahrain "to act in accordance with international human rights obligations."

"The Secretary-General is concerned about reports of clashes in Bahrain between security forces and demonstrators over the past few days," the statement said.

A medic who works with researchers of an international organization and asked not to be identified said the numbers of wounded in clashes this week was the highest in months.

"There were over 100 cases on Tuesday and 37 of them are bad, with head injuries and fractures," he said. "On Monday we had 20 people (wounded) in villages around the country."

The medic said some casualties had been hit by birdshot, controversial ammunition that Bahraini police deny using.

Most of the wounded were treated in village homes or private health clinics because protesters from the Shi'ite majority fear they will be arrested if they go to hospitals run by the government, which is appointed by the Sunni monarchy.

The protests began as a spontaneous movement embracing both Shi'ites and Sunnis, cutting across religious and class divides with demands for broad political, social and economic reform.

But they descended into sectarian violence as backroom talks on democratic reforms went nowhere, and hardliners in government and the opposition seized the initiative.

Government forces backed by Saudi troops crushed the month-long revolt last year. By June, when a state of emergency was lifted, 35 people had been killed.


The island tourism and banking hub, which hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet and is aligned with the United States and oil producer Saudi Arabia in their disputes with Iran over its nuclear program, has been in turmoil ever since.

Shi'ites clash regularly with police, while the opposition and government accused each other of rejecting dialogue.

However, Abduljalil Khalil, who heads the parliamentary caucus of the Shi'ite Wefaq party, the largest opposition faction, said three senior Wefaq figures met two weeks ago with Royal Court Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed, a powerful figure in the ruling Al-Khalifa family, at the government's request.

Khalil said they presented the key demand of the opposition, outlined in a statement in October known as the Manama Document, for a referendum on moving towards full parliamentary democracy.

Such a move to curb the extensive powers of the ruling dynasty would be a first in the Gulf.

"He asked if we are ready for dialogue, and we said 'yes', but a serious and constructive one," Khalil said.

"We presented our views on how to get out of this mess. He said they'll get back to us ... Now we are at the first anniversary of February 14, and security action has not worked. They realize they need to have a political solution."

Asked if the opposition, which includes Shi'ite Islamists as well as Sunni and Shi'ite secularists, would agree to parties close to the government taking part, Khalil said they agreed that the government should hold separate discussions with them.

Highlighting opposition divisions, some activists criticized Wefaq for talking to a man they view as the architect of a policy of boosting Sunni population numbers by settling Pakistanis and some Arabs, a charge the government denies.

Nabeel Rajab, a prominent rights figure who has led some street protests, called the minister the "engineer of ethnic cleansing." "This destroys any process of dialogue before it starts and shows lack of seriousness."

"How can we trust our opposition if they meet with such people? They sit with them while telling us something else," another activist, Sayed, told Reuters. "This is why the February 14 Coalition has become so popular."


Wefaq leader Sheikh Ali Salman, who confirmed the contacts at a news conference, called on protesting youths this week to avoid being dragged into violent confrontations with police.

A protester called Ahmed, 20, said he had been struck by birdshot on Tuesday during clashes with police in one of several Shi'ite districts that ring Pearl Roundabout, the hub of last year's unrest, now home to a National Guard camp and sealed off with barbed wire.

"I threw a rock and then one of them (police) stood and shot straight at me. One of the pellets just missed my head," he said, sitting on a mattress on the ground in visible pain.

A male nurse who helps treat activists said he had removed all but one of the pellets, pinching the skin around one wound to demonstrate that the projectile was still inside.

An Interior Ministry statement said on Tuesday rioters had been responsible for chaos and vandalism in several villages but gave no information on how many had been wounded or detained.

Spokesman Ahmed Almannai said that those who believed they had been hit by birdshot should approach the authorities to verify the nature of their injuries.

After international pressure, a commission of foreign legal experts investigated last year's unrest and revealed systematic torture and deaths in police custody during that period.

Violence has intensified since the commission's report in November and the overall death toll is now around 66.

Six U.S. activists who came to observe how police handled Tuesday's anniversary protests were detained and deported.

"From early morning on February 14, it was clear that the government had called out all its forces to stop any protests. It was like a state of siege," they said in a report.

A number of senior U.S. and British officials have been in Manama in the past week, including U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner who called for more effort to heal Bahrain's rifts.

Balochistan will look to foreigners if rights are trampled by their own people

The Express Tribune

The Functional Committee of Senate on Human Rights has rejected a report presented by the Provincial Home Department over law and order situation and human rights violations in Balochistan.

The committee expressed serious concerns over the recovery of mutilated bodies of missing persons, targeted killing of labourers, doctors, teachers and an increasing number of kidnappings for ransom in the province.

The committee met under the chairmanship of Afrasiab Khattak here on Wednesday and was briefed by Home Secretary Naseebullah Bazai. Other members included Senator Surriya Amiruddin, Senator Farhat Abbas and Senator Hafiz Rasheed.

Addressing a news conference, Senator Khattak said the committee held its meeting in Quetta to assess the current situation of the province in detail. “The human rights situation is grave here, particularly recovery of mutilated bodies and incidents of kidnapping for ransom are matters of great concern. These issues must be taken up seriously and sincere efforts are needed by the government to normalise the situation,” he said.

The recovery of mutilated bodies, Khattak said, gave a message that the state and its institutions did not consider them their own people but rather their enemy. “The people will definitely look up to others for help if they are continuously pushed against the wall.”

The committee chairman said federal and provincial governments should take notice of this serious issue and bring the culprits to book. “There is a common perception that secret agencies are involved in enforced disappearances and dumping of mutilated bodies. If this is true, then government should control its institutions as they are damaging Pakistan’s sovereignty,” he urged.

He said some militant groups are also targeting labourers and teachers. “Violence in any shape is wrong and unjustified. Those who are involved in these killings are not the well wishers of Balochistan,” he said.

The functional committee said that targeted killing of people belonging to the Hazara community was not sectarian violence, rather an act of terrorism and that terrorist groups are behind these killings. The committee sought a report on the murder of police surgeon Dr Baqar Shah, key witness of Kharotabad massacre of foreign nationals.

The committee further suggested that laws should be introduced to curtail the power and influence of security agencies and that they should be brought under parliamentary control.

Kidnapping of Hindu people was also discussed during the meeting and the committee stated it will pressurise the provincial government to ensure the protection of life and property of minorities.

Senator Khattak said that the government cannot get away by just stating that foreign elements are involved in destabilising this province. “They should investigate what circumstances have paved way for foreign involvement. The people will look towards foreigners if their rights are trampled down by their own people,” he said.

The Senate committee said that the government should hold talks with angry Baloch people to address their grievances for a durable peace in Balochistan.

“All the Baloch political parties must be taken into confidence because if government can agree to hold talks with Taliban militants then why not with our Baloch brothers?” the committee questioned. Online drug haven in the Punjab CM's name

The Express Tribune

With Lahore still reeling from the Pakistan Institute of Cardiology contaminated medicine fiasco, the last thing Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif needs is further association with prescription pills.

In an unfortunate twist of fate however, the website has been found to offer a host of anti-depressants and other medicines, reported on Wednesday.

The homepage of the online drugs store takes you away to third party sites. All links refer to other online medicine retailers including and

It is a common online practice for people and companies to register website domains names as that of celebrities and high profile politicians in order to get a better click rate.

According to, the domain in the Punjab Chief Minister’s name had been registered back in 2002, when the Sharif brothers were living in Saudi Arabia in exile. The site was last updated on December 27, 2011. The domain is set to expire on October 7, 2012, just in time for the next general elections. also dug up about another domain name, which is also registered through the same registrar, This domain was created much more recently in March 2006. The domain is set to expire next month.

Balochistan: Senate body calls for legislation to check spy agencies

Chairman of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Human Rights Afrasiab Khattak has expressed concerns over the law and order situation in Balochistan and stressed the need of enacting new laws to check the ‘illegal’ and ‘unconstitutional’ activities of the secret agencies. Talking to media after presiding over the committee meeting here on Wednesday, he said that human rights violations were rampant in the provinces. He also expressed concerns over the migration of teachers, doctors and professionals from the province to other parts of the country due to deteriorating law and order situation and ongoing target killings.

Afghan women worried about return of Taliban to Kabul

As tentative steps are made towards peace talks between the United States and Taliban insurgents, Afghan women

are worried about a possible return of the Islamists to the capital.When the Taliban were in power from 1996 to 2001, when they were overthrown by a US-led invasion, women were subjected to particularly brutal repression.

They were whipped in the street by the thugs of the religious police if they wore anything other than the all-enveloping blue or white burqa.

Girls were not allowed to go to school and women were not allowed to work.

Fear reigned in the capital, with women accused of adultery among those regularly executed in public at a sports stadium after Friday prayers.

Now, with the Taliban preparing to open an office in Qatar ahead of possible negotiations with Washington, Afghan women want their voices heard.

"We fear the Taliban return to power," said Shukria Barakzai, a legislator from Kabul in the lower house of parliament. "There should be no deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban."

Ms Barakzai said she objected to the US-backed idea of a Taliban office in Qatar, saying any talks should be held within Afghanistan and women should have a place at the negotiating table.

"We are also part of this land and they cannot ignore us," she said. "Today is not Afghanistan of 1996, this is 2012 Afghanistan."

Under the western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai girls are in school and women work.

The number of girls in education has risen from 5,000 when the Taliban were ousted in 2001 to 2.5 million, according to a spokesman for the education ministry and a report by a coalition of 16 aid groups last year.

And nearly 70 women are, like Ms Barakzai, members of the 249-seat lower house of parliament.

Women did not want to lose the freedoms they had gained since the overthrow of the Taliban, said Fatema Aziz, a member of parliament from north-eastern Kunduz province.

"I fear that these peace talks with the Taliban may sacrifice the past 10 years of achievement the government had in every aspect."

Apart from education, the right to work and freedom of dress, the legislators also pointed to greater freedom of expression, which has seen rapid growth in print, television and radio outlets.

The chairwoman of the Afghan Women's Network, Afifa Azim, said she was not against peace talks in principle, although women were worried.

"The Taliban should also accept Afghanistan's constitution and they should observe Afghan women's rights," she said.

"We want to be at the negotiating table as a pressure force - we want to raise our women's voice."

Since their overthrow, the Taliban have waged a 10-year insurgency against Mr Karzai's government, which is supported in Afghanistan by 130,000 Nato troops.

Civilians have borne the brunt of the war, with a record 3,021 killed in 2011, according to a UN report this month.

The vast majority of the deaths were blamed on the insurgents, who kill indiscriminately with roadside bombs and suicide attacks.

Nato forces will end combat missions in 2014, handing over responsibility to Afghan security forces, and not only the women but most modern Afghans are jittery about the prospect of a Taliban return.

Afghanistan arrests preteen would-be bombers months after pardon

Afghan police arrest two 10-year-old would-be bombers. The boys were pardoned in previous attempts, but mullahs in Pakistan told them to try again, officials say.

Six months ago, in a moving ceremony during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, President Hamid Karzai went on Afghan television to pardon about two dozen young boys, the youngest only 8 years old, who had been caught trying to carry out suicide attacks.

On Monday, authorities in Kandahar province reported that two of the children, 10-year-olds, had been rearrested last week, apparently intending again to carry out bombings.

Provincial spokesman Zalmay Ayubi said the boys each had a vest full of explosives when they were detained along with three adults suspected of being militants, and that they told intelligence officers they had been recruited for suicide missions.

A statement from provincial officials quoted one of the boys, named Azizullah, as saying the pair had undergone training at a madrasa, or religious school, in Pakistan. The mullahs there told the boys they would be unharmed when they set off their bombs, Azizullah reportedly said.

The other child, named Nasibullah, told authorities he had been taught how to detonate an explosives-laden vest. "They showed me how to press the button in my hand," he said, according to a statement issued by the provincial government, which cited officials from the National Directorate for Security, the country's main intelligence agency.

The agency said one of the boys was from Pakistan's Baluchistan province, across the border from southern Afghanistan, and that the other was from Afghanistan's Paktia province, which borders Pakistan's tribal areas.

During the emotional televised pardon of the would-be bombers in August, Karzai was shown talking with all the boys about their experiences. Before the pardon, the youngsters had been held in a juvenile detention center in the capital.

The children spoke to Karzai of having been told to try to approach foreign troops and set off their explosives, and of receiving drugs beforehand, which they were told was medicine to make them strong.

Authorities in Kandahar said the rearrested boys expressed regret and hoped they would be pardoned again.

Human rights groups have strongly denounced the use of children in attacks, and at least a dozen such incidents have been documented in recent years. A spokesman for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization force, Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, said Western troops had not been involved in apprehending the boys, but that the coalition was "outraged by the Taliban's continued use of children" as potential suicide bombers.

Karzai's office said an investigation had been launched to find out how the two boys were induced to again attempt suicide bombings, and that it was hoped they could be given an education. Officials at the Kabul juvenile detention center said at the time of the mass pardon that the boys had been brainwashed and that it was difficult to make them see that their actions were wrong.

Bahrain anniversary marked by clashes, arrests

Bahraini police fired tear gas and birdshot at pro-democracy protesters and arrested dozens in clashes that raged through the night and into early Wednesday, the opposition said, as the kingdom marked the first anniversary of a Shiite-led uprising.

The government meanwhile said in a statement it had deported six US citizens for joining the "illegal demonstrations," bringing the number of Americans expelled from Bahrain to eight since the end of last week.

Witnesses said the clashes, which took place in Shiite neighbourhoods on the outskirts of the capital Manama, left many people wounded, but most received treatment in private homes.

Wounded protesters in Bahrain avoid hospitals for fear of arrest or intimidation by the authorities.

In a statement released Wednesday, the main Shiite opposition Al-Wefaq said "large numbers of injuries ... were caused by birdshot pellets, tear gas canisters, stun grenades," but gave no figure.

Bahraini police made dozens of arrests from Tuesday while dispersing protesters attempting to march on the capital's former Pearl Square, the focal point of the February 14th uprising that was crushed a month later.

"The total number of arrests ... is around 150, including women and children between the ages of 13 and 16," the Al-Wefaq statement said, adding that some were later released.

Prominent activist Nabil Rajab, head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, who on Tuesday led a demonstration towards the square, was briefly detained by police, Al-Wefaq said in a statement on its Facebook page.

In a morning tweet on Wednesday, Rajab said he has been "accused by the prosecutor of inciting people to protest ... and taking part in an unauthorised gathering."

The six American "activists" that were deported had entered the country on tourist visas in the past week, an Information Affairs Authority statement said.

They were briefly questioned at a local police station and "agreed to leave the country without further legal procedures," the statement added.

Two other Americans were deported on February 11 after being accused of participating in "illegal" activities.

The arrests and expulsions came as Bahrain on Tuesday marked the first anniversary of last year's uprising against the government, and the brutal crackdown that followed which left 35 people dead, according to an independent commission of inquiry into the violence.

In a statement this week, Amnesty International said that "at least a further 20 have died," in ongoing protests since the end of November when the report was released.

Al-Wefaq has vowed that the protest movement would continue and has accused the government of being "tyrannical."

Bahrain's chief of public security, Tariq al-Hassan, said there would be "no tolerance of vandals and law enforcement is the ultimate solution," according to an interior ministry tweet.

Syria's President Bashar Assad sets Feb. 26 as the date for a referendum on a new constitution

Syria's President Bashar Assad sets Feb. 26 as the date for a referendum on a new constitution.

China's Vice President Xi Jinping: Visit offers little insight into next China leader

China's Vice President Xi Jinping's visit to Washington's power centers is boosting his international profile but offering little insight into the man destined to rule the world's most populous nation.

On Wednesday, America could start to learn a little more. Xi is due to meet congressional leaders, address business executives and policy experts and then journey to the Iowa heartland, where he'll reconnect with people who hosted him on a 1985 study tour.

On Tuesday, Xi stuck to a tightly scripted and packed schedule. It took him from a lengthy meeting with President Barack Obama to an elaborate reception at the State Department and full military honors at the Pentagon before a meeting with business leaders inside the grand stone edifice of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

His grand reception — never has a visiting vice president received a 19-gun salute at the Pentagon — reflects the importance the Obama administration sees in its relations with China, a major economic and trading partner but also an emerging military rival.

Xi is set to lead China for the coming decade, succeeding President Hu Jintao as Communist Party leader late this year, then becoming president in 2013.

He is widely regarded as more adept than the stiff and staid Hu at making personal connections, but he will not call the shots on policy until he fully takes the reins of power.

The diplomatic rhetoric he used in his appearances Tuesday was tried and tested, echoing the tone of the state visit to Washington by Hu a year ago.

He did, however, hint at a personal touch with his eclectic use of proverbs. They ranged from traditional Chinese, to the words of the 17th century British thinker Francis Bacon and even the lyrics of a 1980s theme song from a popular TV adaptation of a classic Chinese novel. He used the song, titled "Where Is the Path?," to describe the uncertainties of charting the future of U.S.-China relations.

Both sides emphasized the promise and importance of greater U.S.-China cooperation — although the soothing diplomatic words were punctuated with frank recognition of the differences that exist between them on human rights, economic disputes and worsening foreign crises, particularly the violence in Syria.

Vice President Joe Biden alluded to a deterioration in human rights in China and U.S. concern over several prominent dissidents. Xi responded as Hu did when he met Obama last year by defending China's rights record but saying it could always do more.

A couple hundred flag-waving Tibetan protesters and other sympathizers of the exiled Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, kept up noisy anti-China demonstrations throughout the day near the White House, but they did not derail the ceremonials.

Inside the Oval Office, Obama assured Xi, "It is absolutely vital that we have a strong relationship with China." The visiting leader smiled and looked at ease in his first formal meeting with the U.S. president.

On the policy front, Biden announced some progress on areas of U.S. economic concern.

He said China informed the U.S. it would move forward with tax reforms this year that would increase imports and promote domestic consumption, a step away from its export-driven growth model, which the U.S. says contributes to America's burgeoning trade deficit. Biden also described an opening for foreign companies to sell auto insurance in China as an important step in overhauling the finance sector.

But Biden repeated U.S. concern over subsidies for Chinese state-owned companies and the forced transfer of technology as a condition for U.S. companies doing business in China. He also described the Chinese currency as still "substantially undervalued" against the dollar, which the U.S. contends hurts its exporters.

Xi urged the U.S. to lift restrictions on high-tech exports to China and create a level playing field for Chinese companies to invest in the United States.

Obama's Approval Up, Beats All Comers if Election Were Today

An uptick in public optimism about the economy has boosted President Obama’s approval rating to 50 percent, the highest it’s been since he approved the raid that killed terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll released on Tuesday evening.

Forty-three percent of Americans still disapprove of the job Obama is doing, which is not ideal for a president seeking a second term. But he now leads each of the Republican presidential candidates in theoretical head-to-head matchups, the poll found.

More than a third of Americans -- 34 percent -- think the economy is improving, up from 28 percent last month, although three-quarters still rate the economy as poor. And while more than four in 10 people see it stuck in place, the percentage who say it's improving is the highest it has been in nearly two years.

Public opinion has a long way to go to achieve real satisfaction with economic conditions, the poll shows. Fifty-nine percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. But the percentage that says it is on the right track rose to 35 percent, up from 29 percent a month ago and the highest in a year.

Half of Americans still disapprove of the president’s handling of the economy, but those numbers are also on the upswing. Forty-four percent approve of his handling of the economy now, up from 40 percent a month ago.

For the first time in the poll, Obama has a clear advantage over the four remaining Republican candidates for his job. When prospective voters were asked who they would vote for if the presidential election were held today, Obama edged out former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, 48-42 percent; former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, 49-41 percent; Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, 50-39 percent; and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, 54-36 percent.

The poll of 1,197 adults nationwide was conducted by telephone Feb. 8-13; 997 interviews were conducted with registered voters. The survey's margin of error is plus-or-minus 3 percentage points.

Veena Malik denied spying charges, Delhi Police tell court


Controversial Pakistani actress Veena Malik has denied allegation of spying for the ISI, Delhi Police on Tuesday told a court here which had asked it to look into a complaint seeking lodging of an FIR against her after her alleged nude photographs appeared in an Indian magazine.

This was stated by the Delhi Police in its action taken report (ATR) filed by it in compliance with the court order after Malik's purported photograph was published on a magazine cover with an 'ISI' tattoo on her arm.

The complaint had said that the tattoo indicated that she was spying for the Pakistani intelligence agency which should be probed.

Malik had denied that she posed naked for the magazine, claiming the cover photo was doctored.

The court took the ATR on record and posted the matter for detailed arguments on March 2.

"Action taken report has been filed by the SHO, Jamia Nagar Police Station. Veena Malik's statement is given (in the ATR). To come up for arguments on March 2," metropolitan magistrate Purva Sareen said.

Earlier on January 12, the magistrate had asked the Police as to what action, if any, was taken on the complaint against Malik which was also filed in the Jamia Nagar police station.

Mahidul Hassan, the imam of mosque in Jamia Nagar, had filed the complaint through advocate Anwar Ahmad seeking registration of FIR against Malik under section 124A of the IPC dealing with sedition charges.

The complainant had alleged that Malik's semi nude photograph published in the magazine had hurt public sentiments and said she was staying in India for spying for ISI.

Apart from Malik, the magazine and its owner have also been named as party in the complaint.

Afghan govt asks for headscarves, less make-up on TV

An Afghan government request that female television presenters don headscarves and avoid heavy make-up angered journalists on Tuesday, who said the move was proof authorities expected the Taliban to regain a share of power.

Afghan and U.S. officials have been seeking peace negotiations with the Islamist group ousted over a decade ago as a means to ensure stability after foreign combat troops leave, though the talks are in a very fragile state.

In a letter distributed to media, the Ministry of Culture and Information said it had received complaints from members of parliament and families that female news presenters were not observing Islamic and cultural ethics.

"All female news presenters must avoid heavy make-up and wear a headscarf," Minister Sayed Makhdoom Rahin told Reuters by telephone, adding this applied to state and private TV stations.

The ministry's plea came as a surprise to some Afghan media. All female anchors appear with their heads covered, sparking suggestions the directive was designed to impress the Taliban by pandering to their ultra-conservative views.

"Since we are at the beginning of serious peace and reconciliation talks, the government wants to show they are like the Taliban," said Zarghoona Roshan, a radio journalist for 10 years before she joined media development group Nai.

"The request itself is useless," Roshan added, adjusting her two-toned black and grey headscarf. Nai, which also tracks media infringements, estimates there are around 120 female TV presenters across the country.

Nai's executive director Abdul Mujeeb Khalvatgar said the government had been piling pressure over the past year to restrict content and "keep the public away from the facts they need.

"We have concerns, fears, that this pressure is the beginning of media limitation and this is because of the Taliban. They are paving the way for them," he said.

Khalvatgar cited numerous examples of pressure on the press over the last year, including throwing acid on a veteran Afghan journalist and preventing a Turkish soap opera from being aired.

While Afghan women have gained back basic rights in education, voting and work since the Taliban was toppled in 2001, their plight remains severe and future uncertain as Afghan and U.S. officials seek to negotiate with the hardline group.

As the 2014 deadline looms for foreign combat troops to return home, some activists in and outside Afghanistan fear that women's rights may be sacrificed in the scramble to ensure the West leaves behind a relatively stable and peaceful state.

U.S. officials said last week they wanted to accelerate the talks so peace negotiations can be announced at a NATO summit in May. The Taliban's announcement last month that it was opening a political office in Qatar was seen as a prelude to peace talks.

New Congressional move to award Dr. Afridi

The Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on oversights and investigations, Dana Rohrabacher is seeking to introduce a bill this week for award of Congressional gold medal to Dr. Shakeel Afridi, who remains in detention in Pakistan for his alleged role in running a fake vaccination campaign in Abbottabad to help CIA operatives reach Osama bin Laden.
According to a press release issued Tuesday, Republican Congressman from California, Dana Rohrabacher said that he "plans to introduce legislation to award Congressional Gold Medal to Dr. Shakeel Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who bravely risked his life to identify Osama Bin Laden so that US military forces could bring him to justice.
"Dr. Afridi, acting at great personal risk, used the cover of conducting a vaccination program in Abbottabad to gain access to Bin Laden’s compound and identify the cowardly Islamic terrorist. If discovered, he, along with his family, would mostly likely have been killed", the Congressman stated in the press release.
“Dr. Afridi’s acts to help the United States were extremely valiant and daring,” said Rohrabacher. “All Americans owe him our most sincere gratitude for helping to execute the terrorist who murdered thousands of innocent Americans", he added.
“Awarding Dr. Afridi the Congressional Gold Medal is a great honor befitting a hero who took such great risks to help the United States achieve a major victory", he argued. Dr. Afridi’s major contribution to the raid on Bin Laden’s compound was confirmed recently by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who said that Dr. Afridi is “an individual who in fact helped provide intelligence that was very helpful with regards to this operation to kill or capture Bin Laden.”
"Since the May, 2011 raid in Abbottabad, Dr. Afridi has been arrested and held by the same Pakistani government that gave refuge to Bin Laden. Islamabad now threatens to try Dr. Afridi for treason for helping the United States. Pakistan’s Inquiry Commission on the Abbottabad Operation has called him a “national criminal,” punishable by death", grumbled Rohrabacher.
"Dr. Afridi continues to sacrifice for the United States and awarding him the Congressional Gold Medal is a fitting way to recognize his ongoing bravery", he emphasised.
It may be mentioned here that Dana Rohrabacher also introduced another bill in the Congress last week for awarding US citizenship to Pakistan. The US State Department spokesperson, at that time, had said that the Congressional resolution for award of citizenship to Dr. Afridi, even if approved, was only a recommendation and was not binding upon the American administration.

20th Amendment Bill unanimously passed in NA

After it approval from the federal cabinet, the 20th Amendment Bill was unanimously passed in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

Earlier Law Minister Maula Bakhsh Chandio had presented the bill in the NA, after the Federal cabinet had approved the bill's draft during a meeting in Islamabad.

Opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar, during the NA session, had stated that the government has presented the bill without informing the opposition beforehand.

The opposition leader said that in the last meeting, he was told that the government will hold further talks regarding the bill.

The amended bill was meant to shield the 28 lawmakers elected in by-polls after the passage of 18 Amendment.

Currently, membership of 28 senators and legislators of national and provincial have been suspended.

Speaking during the session, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said an unbiased caretaker setup will be formed through the 20th Amendment which will not represent any political party and will make free and fair elections possible in the country.

He said that autocratic forces do not want political stability in the country and vowed to face them with courage. "Petroleum prices will be lowered," he added.

Gilani said that the federal cabinet has approved the bill unanimously after prolonged consultations with the opposition.

20th Amendment Bill unanimously passed in NA

After it approval from the federal cabinet, the 20th Amendment Bill was unanimously passed in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

Earlier Law Minister Maula Bakhsh Chandio had presented the bill in the NA, after the Federal cabinet had approved the bill's draft during a meeting in Islamabad.

Opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar, during the NA session, had stated that the government has presented the bill without informing the opposition beforehand.

The opposition leader said that in the last meeting, he was told that the government will hold further talks regarding the bill.

The amended bill was meant to shield the 28 lawmakers elected in by-polls after the passage of 18 Amendment.

Currently, membership of 28 senators and legislators of national and provincial have been suspended.

Speaking during the session, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said an unbiased caretaker setup will be formed through the 20th Amendment which will not represent any political party and will make free and fair elections possible in the country.

He said that autocratic forces do not want political stability in the country and vowed to face them with courage. "Petroleum prices will be lowered," he added.

Gilani said that the federal cabinet has approved the bill unanimously after prolonged consultations with the opposition.

Status of separate province demanded for Fata

Speakers at a forum on Tuesday called for making drastic reforms in the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) instead of taking cosmetic steps.

The forum was attended by tribal elders and members of the legal fraternity. The event was organised by the Pak-US Alumni Network, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at the Lincolns Corner, University of Peshawar.

The speakers said the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and high court should be extended to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and the tribal areas be regulated under the 1973 Constitution rather than under the FCR.

Malik Khan Marjan, hailing from North Waziristan, said that Fata should be given the status of a separate province as a resolution on the issue was pending in the National Assembly.

Criticising the Fata MNAs, he added the lawmakers from the tribal areas didn’t have any plan for the uplift of their areas and most of them took dictation from the political agents before speaking on an issue in the parliament.

President of the Fata Lawyers’ Forum Ijaz Mohmand said the Fata Tribunal should be headed by a serving or retired judge of the high court or Supreme Court instead of a bureaucrat.

Prof Qibla Ayaz from the University of Peshawar, who was the chief guest, welcomed the reforms made in the FCR. He said literacy rate was very low among the people of Fata and called for the establishment of more schools to improve the socioeconomic condition of the tribal people.

Babar Awan sees no threat to govt


Former law minister Babar Awan says the PPP will complete its tenure with the help of its allies.

“There has been no threat to the PPP-led coalition government (in the wake of the current crisis) as the party respects the law,” Mr Awan said at a press conference here on Monday.

He said: “All the PPP allies are standing by it and we pay tribute to Chaudhry Shujaat, Asfandyar Wali, Altaf Husain, Pir Sibghatullah and even Fazlur Rehman for their pro-democracy stance.”

He asked the PML-N leadership not to tell the PPP what to do and what not. “Those who had attacked the Supreme Court building are advising us. Everyone from Z.A Bhutto to today’s PPP leaders had gone through the judicial process,” he said, adding that the democratic process would continue.

He said all fake cases were registered against President Zardari during the regime of Nawaz Sharif. “Saifur Rehman, the then accountability bureau head, had instituted cases against Asif Ali Zardari at the behest of Nawaz Sharif,” he said.

Babar Awan asked the Sharif brothers to declare their assets they made during exile (in Saudi Arabia). He said the Sharifs were still having a bias against their political rivals as they had learnt nothing from the past. Shahbaz Sharif had wasted no time in becoming a petitioner in the NRO case but he withdrew it after realising that he was coming to power, Awan said.

The PPP leader said his party would form a coalition government in Punjab after next election because of bad performance of Shahbaz Sharif. “The media has exposed the Punjab government with regard to dengue and drug reaction deaths and everyone has also witnessed its arm-twisting to stop media from coverage of the issues,” he said.

Mr Awan said Shahbaz had attended only a few Punjab Assembly sessions during the last four years while Prime Minister Gilani hardly missed any National Assemly session, that showed the democratic mindset of the former.

PAKISTAN: Valentine’s Day celebrated with romantic fervour

It’s human nature to have a valentine. If you don’t have a crush you are not human.

A lot of people express their feelings on Valentine’s Day. is a thoughtless tradition as love should not be associate lot of people get to express their feelings on this day.

People of all age groups convey their feelings sending heart-shaped cards, balloons, mugs, chocolates, stuff toys and other gifts to loved ones.

People around the world associate the day with love and peace.
Pakistanis also celebrate Valentine’s Day buying cards, chocolates and other gifts on the eve of Valentine’s Day not to mention millions of text messages at 12’o clock on Tuesday night.

Traditionally, Valentine’s Day is observed on February 14. is observed on February 14 honoring one or more early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine. It was first established by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD, and was later deleted from the General Roman Calendar of saints in 1969 by Pope Paul VI.

People express their love for each other with flowers, confectionery, and cards

After the event’s resurgence in Pakistan, Valentine’s Day was quickly welcomed and accepted by the youth, students, and even elders.

Following criticism in the early days with the passage of time, the celebration has come to be accepted by society to a large extent.

Taking advantage of the pleasant atmosphere and environment on Valentine’s Day youngsters reveal their love affairs and choices for marriages to their parents.

Corruption in Fata uplift funds alleged


The Fata Students Federation (FSF) has demanded of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor to take notice of the embezzlement of funds, meant for development schemes in tribal areas.“The funds, allocated for development of tribal areas, are embezzled as officials at Fata Secretariat have ignored tribal people,” alleged FSF president Haroon Luqman Afridi.Addressing a press conference at Peshawar Press Club on Tuesday, he said that officials of Fata Secretariat were least bothered in initiating uplift schemes in what he called the neglected regions. That’s why unrest among the people was increasing fast, he added.
Mr Afridi demanded of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Barrister Masood Kausar to take notice of what he called irregularities in the funds and ensure initiation of uplift schemes in Fata

Pakistan: Violence against women increased by 6% in 2011

Daily Times

As many as 8,539 women became victims of violence in 2011 and there was an overall 6.74 percent increase in reported cases of violence against women (VAW) in the country, as compared to those in 2010, according to a report.
The 2011 report of Violence Against Women was launched at a local hotel in the federal capital, conducted by Aurat Foundation (AF).
According to the report, 8539 women became victims of violence in 2011, out of which, 6,188 incidents were reported in Punjab, 1,316 in Sindh, 694 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 198 in Balochistan, and 148 in Islamabad. The figure was 8,000 in 2010; in 2009, the incidents of violence against women were 8,548; and in 2008, these incidents were 7,571.
The report revealed that a large number of incidents were not reported to police, which reflected lack of public trust on the department.
Among the total 8,539 incidents, FIRs were registered in 6,745 cases whereas no FIR was registered in 911 cases and there was no information available in 883 cases. The biggest number of unregistered cases was noted in Sindh where FIRs were not registered in 605 cases and no information was available in 75 incidents among the total of 1,316 reported cases.
The annual statistics revealed that, 2,089 women became victims of abduction, 1,575 victims of murder, 610 victims of domestic violence, 758 victims of suicide, 705 victims of honour killing, 827 victims of rape/gang rape, 110 sexual assault, 44 acid throwing, 29 burning and 1,792 victims of miscellaneous violent incidents.
The number and percentage of the cases of abduction tops the list with 2,089 such cases reported in 2011 with a very high proportion of 24.46 percent. Murder combined with ‘honour’ killings total to another ugly figure of 2,280, constituting 26.70 percent of the total crimes against women, with 1,575 murders (18.44%) and 705 ‘honour’ killings of (8.25%).
There were 827 incidents of rape and gang-rape in 2011 with 9.68 percent, while 758 (8.87%) cases of suicide were reported by women in 2011. There were 110 cases of sexual assault (1.28%), 29 each of burning and acid throwing (0.33%), and offences of miscellaneous nature were 20.98 percent, of total with 1,792 cases in four provincial regions and Islamabad.
In the process of collecting data, the Aurat Foundation staff observed some emerging trends that, if allowed to continue, would further aggravate the situation of violence against women in the country. One such trend was noticed in Balochistan where, in most of the cases of honour killing, the women were killed on the orders of a jirga but the same Jirga let the men live after an exchange of heavy amount in terms of compensation.
The report stated that in some forms of violence, there had been a notable increase, for instance, sexual assault increased by 48.65 percent, acid throwing increased by 37.5 percent, ‘honour’ killings by 26.57 percent, and domestic violence increased by 25.51 percent. However, with an overall 6.74 percent increase in violence cases from 2010 to 2011, the number of incidents decreased 8.03 percent from the first half to the second half of 2011.
Addressing the occasion, AF official Waseem Waghoo said that most of the perpetrators of violence against women were found to be the relatives of the survivor or the victim such as husband, brother, cousin, father, uncle, father and mother-in-law, brother-in-law, son or step-son. Honour killing was almost always committed by male members against female members who were accused of having brought dishonor upon the family.
He said at the same time, it was heartening that 2011 witnessed some landmark women-related legislations being unopposed in the National Assembly and Senate. The AF believed that the establishment of an independent and autonomous National Commission on Women (NCW) and the passage of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Bill from parliament were some of the major achievements of the present government and would go a long way in protecting women from violence and discrimination in future.

Imran Khan: a revolutionary?

If it is true that General Gul is Imran Khan’s political mentor, influencing his sympathies for religious extremism, it is not a good omen for Pakistan, which is already in a vortex of terrorist violence
BY:S P Seth
Daily Times

If the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is Pakistan’s answer to the Arab Spring, it does not quite resonate. The former cricket celebrity and playboy has reinvented himself as a politician aiming to be the country’s prime minister. And if recent popular rallies addressed by him in Pakistan’s major cities of Lahore and Karachi are any indication, he is probably the most popular politician in the country at the present time. But that does not necessarily translate into electoral victory because he lacks the experience and skills of working the feudal, tribal and industrial network that delivers block votes. Precisely because of this, he does not have the access to money politics that is very handy at the time of the elections.
But he has one advantage, which is that he is personally not tainted by corruption. That is why his campaign to rid the country of corruption, so entrenched in Pakistan, creates such enthusiasm among the young and the old in the country. His cricket legend is a hit with the youth of the country, even though they might have been too young to watch his team’s 1992 World Cup victory against England played in Australia. This seems even more spectacular against the backdrop of match-fixing scandals that have brought considerable disrepute to Pakistan’s cricket. Therefore, among the youth attracted to his rallies, there is a mystery and magnetism about this new political star on the country’s horizon. However, the captaincy of a cricket team is not the same as running a country beset with all sorts of problems that do not need enumeration.

Although Imran is clean, his politics is not so straightforward. A man of his background living in both Islamic and western cultures, and now leaning towards religious conservatism, is a contradiction. Such metamorphism can only be described as political opportunism. His sympathies are more with the religious right, earning him, in some quarters, the title of ‘Taliban Khan’. He believes that the country’s militants can be won over through talks. He is pushing the popular anti-US line, advocates freeing Pakistan of US and western aid, and drawing closer to China, which is all fine. But he is sketchy on how all this will solve the country’s myriad problems. There is a certain political naivety about the man. There are no detailed policy prescriptions to take the country ahead. To take one important aspect: has he got a policy framework to conduct dialogue with the Taliban? How will they be accommodated? Will ‘Prime Minister’ Imran Khan agree to run the country on the Taliban’s interpretation of Islam? There is no clarity about the path Pakistan will tread under him.

Then there is the elephant in the room: Pakistan’s military. Pakistan’s generals are unhappy, rather furious, with the present government. And they are not enamoured of Nawaz Sharif either. Nawaz sought to sack Musharraf as army chief when he was prime minister. That resulted in his being exiled to Saudi Arabia, and the beginning of Musharraf’s long dictatorship. Since then, he has not been the army’s preferred candidate.
But Imran Khan is reported to be the army’s preferred candidate. And he is said to be close to the former ISI chief, General Hamid Gul, whose Wahabiist leanings still continue to shape the ideology of many military officers. Gul reportedly played a prominent role in the emergence of the Taliban. If it is true that General Gul is Imran Khan’s political mentor, influencing his sympathies for religious extremism, it is not a good omen for Pakistan, which is already in a vortex of terrorist violence.
Imran Khan’s popularity at home is making him be noticed abroad. In an interview with Amanda Hodge of The Australian in his palatial mountain top house in Islamabad, he catalogued Pakistan’s serious problems. He said, “For the first time people are scared that the country might not survive,” and added, “Almost half of all Pakistanis live below the poverty line and 75 percent live on $ 2 or less a day. There is unprecedented inflation, lawlessness, unemployment, gas shortages. There are target killings in Karachi and Balochistan, all along the tribal belt there’s an insurgency and a total collapse of state institutions. Corruption has never been higher...”
He believes this is what is driving people toward him as the saviour of Pakistan. He told Bob Doherty of the Sydney Morning Herald, “...This is a movement. It is the sort of soft revolution that no one yet is believing, even when they saw a little of it at the rallies. In the homes there is a revolution going on. Father has belonged to one party, but his wife and children are all coming to Tehreek-e-Insaf. It is the most incredible thing.”
And how will Imran Khan deal with Pakistan’s myriad problems? He is big on eradicating corruption. No one will quibble with him on this. But he has no tangible plan for that. And how will he improve national finances to improve people’s living conditions? His answer: “If the people trust you [as he assumes they trust him], they will give you money. If they know that their money will not disappear because of corruption, if they know the leadership themselves give taxes, people will pay taxes...” And his credentials for raising money: “Here, I am someone who raises the most donations in Pakistan. I run the biggest charitable institute. The people will give.” But one cannot run a country like a charitable institute.
In tune with the national mood against the US, he will refuse any aid from that country. And he will not allow them to carry on drone attacks on and from Pakistani territory. That is fair enough. But Pakistan, particularly its military, has been dependent on US aid for many years, nearly $ 20 billion in the past 10 years alone. With his predilection for closer relations with China, he might look to that country to replace the US as an aid donor and more. But that might create a new set of problems. No country is altruistic in the conduct of its national affairs, and China will be no exception.
Khan makes his pronouncements as self-evident truths requiring no recommendation. Hence, he expects to be the country’s next prime minister. Whether he will win the elections, which might not be far away now that the Supreme Court might give its verdict against Prime Minister Gilani, is debatable. But he is likely to emerge as a major player on Pakistan’s political scene.
One thing that will keep popping up from time to time is the contradiction in Imran Khan’s personal life, which will increasingly become public as he gets closer to the top office. That is: his increasing reliance on Islamic politics while straddling both sides of the cultural divide. Amanda Hodge puts it cryptically in her article in The Australian. She writes: “Despite his best efforts, his previous reputation [as a playboy] has not forsaken him. Rumours abound of Khan — still slick from a home gym workout — greeting one female [western] journalist in only a pair of brief running shorts, and of conducting an interview with another in his bedroom.” She adds, “The philandering reputation continues to dog Khan — and has led some to call into question his attitude towards women.”
Be that as it may, Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf is no revolution — soft or otherwise.

The writer is a senior journalist and academic based in Sydney

PM Gilani's contempt issue will take time to solve: Aitzaz

Daily Times

The contempt of court case is a question of $60 million [allegedly laundered by President Zardari] so it will take time to solve, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Aitzaz Ahsan said on Tuesday.
Aitzaz Ahsan, who happens to be the counsel for Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in the Supreme Court contempt case, was taking to the media after submitting his documents in the Election Commission office.
He said the respect of parliament would not be at stake due to pending cases. “Although the judiciary has respect, parliament is the supreme institution of the country,” he said, adding that representatives of parliament would be released from all cases with respect and honour. He made it clear that there was no threat to the Supreme Court and all institutions of the country were working within their limits. The PPP leader said his party wanted all institutions of the country to work within their constitutional limits. Aitzaz said that after getting elected a member of parliament, he would work to ensure supremacy of the constitution and the law.
He said the PPP had struggled for the restoration of the Supreme Court, and he personally had made such a struggle across the country, but insisted that parliament was the supreme institute in a democratic set-up. He also urged state institutions to avoid any tensions within themselves at any level. Aitzaz also thanked President Asif Ali Zardari and other party members for his nomination, and vowed to serve the cause of parliament through his inclusion in the Senate.
On the occasion, former law minister Babar Awan, after submitting his nomination papers, said the PPP was not just a party but was a political movement. He said the party would continue its struggle to serve the masses according to their aspirations. He said that PPP would be working for the welfare of the people, adding that strengthening the democracy in Pakistan would be ensured through the 20th Constitutional Amendment. Babar Awan said the Senate election was being held on the principles of democracy, followed by the PPP and President Zardari. "We will continue serving the country through renewed spirit and energy."