Friday, March 2, 2012

Obama joins in assailing Limbaugh slur of student

Stepping into an emerging culture clash over women, President Barack Obama made a supportive phone call Friday to a law student who testified before Congress about the need for birth control coverage, only to be called a "slut" by Rush Limbaugh.

For Obama, it was an emphatic plunge into the latest flare-up on social issues. Democratic officeholders and liberal advocacy have accused Republicans of waging a "war on women" because of GOP stances on contraception and abortion rights, and Limbaugh's tirade on his radio talk show was seen as an escalation.

In addition to her call from the president, the third-year Georgetown University law student, Sandra Fluke, was backed by members of Congress, women's groups, and the administration and faculty at her Roman Catholic university.

Demands for Limbaugh's sponsors to pull their ads from his show rocketed through cyberspace, and at least four companies, Quicken Loans, LegalZoom online legal document service, and bedding retailers Sleep Train and Sleep Number, bowed to the pressure.

Obama considers Limbaugh's remarks "reprehensible," according to White House spokesman Jay Carney. He said the president called Fluke to "express his disappointment that she has been the subject of inappropriate personal attacks" and to thank her for speaking out on an issue of public policy.

"The fact that our political discourse has become debased in many ways is bad enough," Carney said. "It is worse when it's directed at a private citizen who was simply expressing her views."

Obama reached Fluke by phone as she was waiting to go on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports."

"He's really a very a kind man," Fluke later told The Associated Press. "He just called to express concern for me and to make sure I was OK and to say that he supported me and to thank me for speaking out about something that's so important to so many women."

As for Limbaugh's remarks, Fluke said, "I just thought that they were really outside the bounds of civil discourse."

By calling Fluke and injecting himself into the Limbaugh controversy, Obama sent a message to more than one law student. He was reaching out to young voters and women — two groups whose support he needs in this re-election year. And he was underscoring that the White House, despite bungling its rollout of the birth control policy, sees it as a winning issue and welcomes Obama's name next to it.

Fluke was given a chance to talk to Congress on Feb. 23, even though lawmakers were on a break and just a few Democratic allies were on hand to cheer her on. The previous week, a Republican-controlled House committee had rejected Democrats' request that she testify on the Obama administration's policy requiring that employees of religion-affiliated institutions have access to health insurance that covers birth control.

Republicans have faulted parts of Obama's health care reform as unconstitutional, including an initial requirement, since withdrawn by the president, that contraceptives be covered under the insurance policies of businesses, including those with religious affiliations.

Fluke said that Georgetown, a Jesuit institution, does not provide contraception coverage in its student health plan and that contraception can cost a woman more than $3,000 during law school. She spoke of a friend who had an ovary removed because the insurance company wouldn't cover the prescription birth control she needed to stop the growth of cysts.

On Wednesday, Limbaugh unleashed a lengthy and often savage verbal assault on Fluke.

"What does it say about the college coed ... who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex?" Limbaugh said. "It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex."

He went on to suggest that Fluke distribute sex tapes of herself.

"If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it," he said. "We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch."

The backlash began quickly and showed no signs of abating as scores of Democratic members of Congress denounced Limbaugh and urged their GOP colleagues to do likewise.

The Republican speaker of the House, John Boehner, responded through a spokesman.

"The Speaker obviously believes the use of those words was inappropriate, as is trying to raise money off the situation," said Boehner aide Michael Steel.

Later, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the committee that blocked Fluke's original testimony, issued a letter repudiating Limbaugh's comments but also excoriating the Democrats and their supporters.

"I ask that you join me in a broader condemnation of the attacks on people of faith ... and the regrettable personal attacks that have come from individuals on both sides of the issue," Issa wrote to Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.

Boehner and Issa are among the GOP leaders accused of waging the purported "war on women." The topic has been cited often in recent fundraising pitches by many liberal advocacy groups, and they recently have shown more aggressiveness.

In early February, after a three-day furor, the Susan G. Komen breast cancer charity dropped plans to withdraw funding from Planned Parenthood, a leading abortion provider. And more recently, after incurring protests and ridicule, Republican politicians in Virginia backed away from a bill that would have required invasive vaginal ultrasounds as a pre-condition for many abortions.

Amid this controversy, polls show that Obama's support among women has been increasing.

At Georgetown, more than 130 faculty members signed a letter praising Fluke for her "grace and strength" and condemning Limbaugh's remarks. The university president, John J. DeGioia, did likewise.

He said Limbaugh and others responded to Fluke "with behavior that can only be described as misogynistic, vitriolic, and a misrepresentation of the position of our student."

On Thursday, aware of the firestorm he had ignited, Limbaugh was unapologetic.

"I think this is hilarious. Absolutely hilarious" he said on his show. "The left has been thrown into an outright conniption fit!"

On Friday, still defiant, Limbaugh scoffed at the concept of a conservative "war on women."

"Amazingly, when there is the slightest bit of opposition to this new welfare entitlement being created, then all of a sudden we hate women! We want 'em barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen," he said. "And now, at the end of this week, I am the person that the women of America are to fear the most."

Longtime Republican strategist Terry Holt suggested voters might see Obama's response to an over-the-top radio host as "pure pandering" to woo women's votes.

"This conversation seems to serve Rush Limbaugh and President Obama equally well," Holt said.

Fluke, in Washington, issued a statement expressing gratitude for the support she's received and resolve to continue speaking out.

"No woman deserves to be disrespected in this manner. This language is an attack on all women, and has been used throughout history to silence our voices," she said.

"The millions of American women who have and will continue to speak out in support of women's health care and access to contraception prove that we will not be silenced."

Rick Santorum, one of the Republican presidential contenders seeking to oppose Obama, commented to CNN about Limbaugh's remarks.

"He's being absurd," Santorum said. "But that's, you know, an entertainer can be absurd."

While campaigning in Ohio for the Republican presidential primary, Mitt Romney was asked about Limbaugh's comments and steered his answer away from the uproar.

"It's not the language I would have used," Romney said after a campaign event in Cleveland. "But I'm focusing on the issues that I think are significant in the country today and that's why I'm here talking about jobs in Ohio."

In interview, Obama says he's not bluffing on Iran

President Barack Obama

warned that he is not bluffing about attacking Iran if it builds a nuclear weapon, but in an interview published Friday, Obama also cautioned U.S. ally Israel that a premature attack on Iran would do more harm than good.

In his most expansive remarks on the issue thus far, Obama told The Atlantic magazine that Iran and Israel both understand that "a military component" is among a mix of many options for dealing with Iran, along with sanctions and diplomacy. That is the most direct threat he has issued during months of escalating tension with Iran over its disputed nuclear development program.

His comments appeared aimed more at Israel and its supporters in the United States than at Iran. Obama addresses the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Sunday and meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday at the White House. Netanyahu will also address AIPAC.

"I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don't bluff," he said in the interview. "I also don't, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are. But (both) governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say."

Netanyahu, speaking Friday ahead of a meeting in Canada with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, called Iran's nuclear ambitions a "grave threat to the peace and security of the world, and I think it's important that the international community not allow this threat to materialize."

"As for Israel, like any sovereign country, we reserve the right to defend ourselves against a country, against a country that calls and works for our destruction," Netanyahu said.

Obama will try to convince Netanyahu to postpone any plans his government may have to unilaterally attack Iran's nuclear facilities in coming months. An attack that soon would not carry U.S. backing, and the U.S. would probably not be involved in planning or executing it.

Nonetheless, it could force the United States into a new conflict and an arms race in the Middle East, as Obama made clear in the lengthy interview. It also could allow Iran to paint itself as the victim and draw new support that would undermine rather than enhance Israel's security, Obama warned.

"At a time when there is not a lot of sympathy for Iran and its only real ally (Syria) is on the ropes, do we want a distraction in which suddenly Iran can portray itself as a victim?" Obama said.

At the same time, Obama has consistently refused to renounce a military option for the United States down the road. The dispute with Israel is over the timing and efficiency of such a strike, not whether one is ever appropriate. The difference of opinion has quickly come to dominate the U.S.-Israeli relationship and the U.S. strategy for dealing with a nuclear Iran is a major issue for American Jewish voters in this election year.

Israeli leaders have strongly hinted that they want to hear clearer terms from Obama for what the United States would do if Iran crosses the threshold from nuclear energy to nuclear weapons. Until now, Obama has said a nuclear Iran is unacceptable but has not spelled out just what the U.S. would do or when.

In the interview, Obama did go further than he has before. He explicitly referred to the possible use of military force, and he firmly rejected the notion that the United States might settle for a strategy of deterring Iran from using a nuclear weapon.

"You're talking about the most volatile region in the world," he said. "It will not be tolerable to a number of states in that region for Iran to have a nuclear weapon and them not to have a nuclear weapon. Iran is known to sponsor terrorist organizations, so the threat of proliferation becomes that much more severe. "

He also pointed to economic turmoil in Iran and reiterated that sanctions against the Iranian regime are starting to bite.

In a series of recent meetings with Israeli leaders, administration officials are believed to have sought to persuade the Jewish state to give sanctions more time to work and to hold off on any military strike. Speaking Thursday to reporters, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Obama believes there is still "time and space" for those measure to persuade the Iranian regime to take a different course.

Israeli officials acknowledge the pain in Iran but have publicly expressed doubt those measures will ever cause Iran's clerical leaders to change course.

Obama wasn't so sure. "They're sensitive to the opinions of the people and they are troubled by the isolation that they're experiencing," he told the Atlantic. "They know, for example, that when these kinds of sanctions are applied, it puts a world of hurt on them."

Though Obama emphatically portrays himself as one of Israel's best friends, touting military and other ties, his relationship with Netanyahu has at times been frosty. The two have sparred publicly over Jewish settlements on the West Bank, with Netanyahu pushing back on Washington's efforts to move forward on peace talks with the Palestinians.

The Iran issue has risen to the forefront of his foreign policy. At a fundraiser in New York on Thursday night, an audience member shouted out, urging the president to avoid a war with Iran.

"Nobody has announced a war," Obama cautioned. "You're jumping the gun a little bit."

Pakistan Builds Web Wall Out in the Open


Many countries censor the Internet, but few spell out their intentions as explicitly as Pakistan.

The government published a public tender last month for the “development, deployment and operation of a national-level URL filtering and blocking System.” Technology companies, academic institutions and other interested parties have until March 16 to submit proposals for the $10 million project — but anger about it has been growing both inside and outside Pakistan.

Censorship of the Web is nothing new in Pakistan, which, like other countries in the region, says it wants to uphold public morality, protect national security or prevent blasphemy. The government has blocked access to pornographic sites as well as, from time to time, mainstream services like Facebook and YouTube, Google’s video site.

Until now, however, Pakistan has done so in a makeshift way, demanding that Internet service providers cut off access to specific sites upon request. Apparently, that approach has been ineffective, so the government now wants to build an automatic blocking and filtering system, like the so-called Great Firewall of China.

While China and other governments that sanitize the Internet generally do so with little public disclosure, Pakistan is being surprisingly forthcoming about its censorship needs. It published its request for proposals on the Web site of the Information and Communications Technology Ministry’s Research and Development Fund and even took out newspaper advertisements to publicize the project.

“The system would have a central database of undesirable URLs that would be loaded on the distributed hardware boxes at each POP and updated on daily basis,” the request for proposals says, referring to uniform resource locators, the unique addresses for a specific Web page, and points of presence, or access points.

“The database would be regularly updated through subscription to an international reputed company maintaining and updating such databases,” the request for proposals adds.

The tender details a number of technical specifications, including the fact that the technology “should be able to handle a block list of up to 50 million URLs (concurrent unidirectional filtering capacity) with processing delay of not more than 1 milliseconds.”

Following the Arab Spring, which demonstrated the power of the Internet to help spread political and societal change, the disclosure of Pakistan’s intentions has set off a storm of protest among Pakistani free-speech groups. Opponents of censorship say they are doubly appalled because they associated this kind of heavy-handed approach more with the previous regime of Gen. Pervez Musharraf than with the current government of President Asif Ali Zardari.

“The authorities here are big fans of China and how it filters the Internet,” said Sana Saleem, chief executive of Bolo Bhi, a group that campaigns against restrictions on the Internet. “They overlook the fact that China is an autocratic regime and we are a democracy.

“What makes this kind of censorship so insidious is that they always use national security, pornography or blasphemy as an explanation for blocking other kinds of speech,” Ms. Saleem said, adding that her site had been blocked for several months in 2010 when it made reference to a ban on Facebook. Access to the social networking service had been restricted because of a page featuring a competition to draw the prophet Mohammed — something that is considered blasphemous by Muslims.

Ms. Saleem said she had tried, without success, to contact the technology ministry’s Research and Development Fund, which states that its goal is to “transform Pakistan’s economy into a knowledge based economy by promoting efficient, sustainable and effective” information technology “initiatives through synergic development of industrial and academic resources.”

She has had better luck approaching Western technology companies — some of whose products, she fears, could be adapted by local Pakistani companies or researchers for what the Research and Development Fund calls an “indigenously developed” project.

Ms. Saleem wrote to the chief executives of eight international companies that make Net filtering technology, asking them to make a public commitment not to apply for the Pakistani grant.

On Friday, one of them, Websense, which is based in San Diego, responded, declaring in a statement on its Web site that it would not seek the contract.

“Broad government censorship of citizen access to the Internet is morally wrong,” Websense said. “We further believe that any company whose products are currently being used for government-imposed censorship should remove their technology so that it is not used in this way by oppressive governments.”

Websense had previously withdrawn the use of its technology from Yemen after facing accusations from the OpenNet Inititative, a U.S.-Canadian academic group, and other organizations that it had been used by the government of that country to stifle political expression on the Internet.

Governments around the world buy filtering and blocking technology to root out illegal content like child pornography. Some private companies employ it to restrict access to social networks and other distractions on company computers.

But the use of Western technology to restrict political speech in countries with repressive regimes has come under increasing scrutiny in the wake of the Arab Spring. The OpenNet Initiative said in a report last year that at least nine governments in the Middle East or North Africa used such products, with the Western companies maintaining lists of sites to be blocked, ranging from sites featuring skeptical views of Islam to dating services.

Even before implementing its new system, Pakistan has been an active censor. The country ranked 151st, out of 179, on a ranking of press freedom by the Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders in 2011.

“Reporters Without Borders urges you to abandon this project, which would reinforce the arsenal of measures for communications surveillance and Internet censorship that have already been put in place by your government,” the group wrote in a letter Friday to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.

To free-speech advocates in Pakistan, the government’s seeming insouciance about censorship is a particular cause for alarm.

“This is a case study,” said Ms. Saleem of Bolo Bhi, which is based in Karachi and whose name means “speak up.” “No government has ever done this so publicly.”

Jerusalem, Washington, and the Iranian bomb

By Ari Shavit

Next Monday, in the White House, the man from Washington and the man from Jerusalem will look into each other's eyes. Each will see the abyss in the other's pupils.

The view from Washington: We went into an unnecessary, awful war in Iraq. We're in a complicated, depressing war in Afghanistan. Our economy is finally beginning to recover from the worst crisis it has known since World War II. In November we have elections. So we don't have the slightest intention of doing anything that could entangle us in a third war and a renewed economic recession. By no means will we attack Iran and we won't let Israel attack either. By no means will we impose a maritime blockade on Iran or collapse its central bank. We will not initiate a move that could break the rules and generate a global crisis. We will not allow the fanatics ruling Jerusalem to drag us into an insane, 21st-century-Masada war.

The view from Jerusalem: For 15 years we've been warning them about the Iranian bomb. For 10 years we've been giving them solid evidence. But they ignore us and refuse to budge. They tell us we're Masada-obsessed wackos who haven't recovered from the trauma of Auschwitz. They tell us they're loyal and intelligent and can be trusted. But the facts prove they cannot be trusted. They were wrong in Pakistan and wrong in North Korea and wrong in Osirak. They have betrayed every friend they had in the Middle East. When it transpires they were wrong about Iran as well, they will throw us into the garbage bin of history. But we're no suckers. We know the game and we will disrupt it - we'll preempt them. Instead of withering at their convenience, we'll strike at our convenience. And if the war raises oil prices and brings a Republican to the White House, tough luck. When someone rises to sacrifice you, sacrifice him first.
The view from Washington: The name of the game is "alibi." We know the Shi'ites are resolved and we are weakening and won't stop them. We know we aren't made of the stuff that Harry Truman and John Kennedy were made of. But we have to go through the motions for the sake of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates. We have to go through the motions for Israel and the Jewish community. We've got to win in November. So we're putting on a show that Broadway can only dream of - make-believe warnings, make-believe sanctions, a make-believe military option. Make-believe unlimited support for the Jewish state and moderate Arab state. But after November we're getting rid of the props, dispersing the band and returning the costumes to the storeroom. We'll close some deal with the ayatollahs. We'll get a promise from Ali Khamenei not to set off the first nuclear explosion before 2016. This will ensure that during the second term both the American economy and Iranian centrifuges will be moving full steam ahead. And when the world finds out we were wrong and misled it, we'll say, oops, mistake. We tried, we really did. We have an alibi. Our hands did not enrich that uranium. Really, our heart aches for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates and Israel. The thought of Israel, especially, floods our Democratic heart with compassion.

The view from Jerusalem: Those who claim we entangled the Americans in Iraq in 2003 are lying. The truth is, we warned them at the time that the problem wasn't Iraq but Iran. But today the situation is different. Only the United States is capable of preventing Iran's nuclearization completely. Only if the United States threatens to use force against Iran will it be possible to prevent the use of force. But America insists on acting as Britain and France did in the '30s. There is no doubt - ultimately the West will sober up. But the West could sober up after Czechoslovakia falls again. So unless the Americans prove to us right away that they have opened their eyes, we'll act before November. The risk is high, but the alternative risk is total. There isn't a state in the world that would take a total risk upon itself. Certainly not the last and only state of the Jewish people.

Next Monday, in the White House, the man from Washington and the man from Jerusalem will look into each other's eyes. Each will see the abyss in the other's pupils. If U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fail again to rise above themselves and don't start working together as allies, they will bring disaster on their nations.

Peres: Obama is a great president, security ties are 'the best we’ve ever had'


In interview with Charlie Rose in New York, President Shimon Peres says he does not want to interfere in U.S. politics, but is stating his opinion on Obama 'because it’s true.'

Israeli President Shimon Peres

on Thursday said that U.S. President Barack Obama is “a great president and a great friend of Israel,” and that security cooperation between the U.S. and Israel is “the best we’ve ever had.”

In an hour-long interview with American broadcaster Charlie Rose, conducted before a large audience at New York’s 92nd Street Y, Peres said that he does not want to interfere in American politics, but he is stating his opinion on Obama “because it’s true,” adding that he has “the highest respect” for Obama for overseeing the current relationship between the two countries.Peres said that the meeting next week between Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “important” and that he is confident that the two leaders “will reach an agreement” on Iran.

Peres declined to deny the Haaretz report that he himself will tell Obama in their meeting Sunday that he is opposed to an attack on Iran, but did say that he supports the formula that “all options are on the table.” Otherwise, he said, Iran will not take the world’s efforts to curtail its nuclear program seriously.

Iran is “morally corrupt” and “the center of terror in our time,” the president said, adding that to describe the Iranian leadership as “rational” is “very generous.”

Peres also said that he meets with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salim Fayad and that in his opinion Israel and the Palestinians “agree on almost everything. The differences are mainly psychological.”

Peres said that Netanyahu is well aware of the risks he needs to take in order to restart negotiations with the Palestinians. He said that Netanyahu is restrained by his coalition, and that in his opinion, the prime minister would be better off with a different coalition than the one he has now.

Last week, Haaretz reported that Peres will tell Obama that he objects to an Israeli attack on Iran in their scheduled meeting during the upcoming AIPAC conference. Netanyahu is also due to meet with Obama in Washington on March 5.

Obama: I'm not bluffing on Iran


By Joe Sterling
President Barack Obama says he isn't bluffing when he says Iran shouldn't have a nuclear weapon, but he cautions against a premature Israeli strike against the Islamic republic."At a time when there is not a lot of sympathy for Iran and its only real ally, (Syria,) is on the ropes, do we want a distraction in which suddenly Iran can portray itself as a victim?" he said this week in an interview with the Atlantic.
Obama, who will be meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, said a permanent solution is necessary.

Pakistan's ruling party makes gains in Senate

Pakistan's ruling party made gains in the country's upper house of parliament in legislative elections on Friday, a boost for beleaguered President Asif Ali Zardari in his long-running conflict with the country's top court and its military.

By late evening, Zardari's Pakistan People's Party appeared to be on course to get control of the Senate, giving him valuable political firepower for several years to come. The results were expected, given the PPP's lower house majority and strong presence in provincial legislatures, which elect the senators.

Just surviving to Senate elections was an achievement for the government, which has faced relentless political attacks since it took office in 2008. Like others before it, it has largely failed to make any progress in fixing the daunting challenges facing Pakistan, and has been mired in alleged corruption and mismanagement.

Some rivals had hoped that Zardari would be forced into calling early general elections, be ousted by the Supreme Court or even subject to a coup before the Senate vote could be held.

About half of the 104 senators are being replaced because their terms have come to an end.

The votes were still being counted, but the PPP and its allies won 32 out of 49 seats; five seats were yet to be announced.

The Senate can block legislation and takes part in any impeachment proceedings. Senators serve for six years.

Elections for Pakistan's lower house of parliament are likely to take place later this year. The PPP, elected on the back of a sympathy vote following the assassination of Zardari's wife, Benazir Bhutto, in 2007, is not expected to do so well this time around.

The Supreme Court is currently trying to force Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, a PPP politician, to initiate corruption proceedings against Zardari. Gilani has refused, and is facing contempt charges that could see him imprisoned and lose his job.

The powerful army, which has ruled Pakistan for much of its history, is also widely believed to want to see Zardari leave office. It is supporting a separate court probe into a memo sent to Washington last year asking for its help in clipping the wings of the army, which some have suggested could see treason charges filed against Zardari.

Pakistan:‘Hindu girls being forcibly converted’

Hindu community representatives in the province on Thursday expressed their serious concern over “a rising sense of insecurity” among their people mainly in the interior of Sindh following some recent incidents of “kidnappings of Hindu community girls and their forced conversion to Islam”.

The leaders of the Pakistan Hindu Council also sought intervention from the Supreme Court and criticised the local and the provincial administrations for their alleged failure in addressing their issues which, they said, needed immediate action.

“Recently a girl was kidnapped in a Mirpur Mathelo area,” Jethanan Kohistani said while speaking at a press conference at the Karachi Press Club.

“We have also heard of similar incidents happened with some Christian girls in Sindh. They were kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam. The matter was raised before the local and police administration several times, but they never paid any heed,” he said.

He said the Hindus in Pakistan in general and in Sindh in particular pinned their hopes on the Supreme Court and expected from the chief justice to take suo motu notice of the situation.

“The Hindus are loyal to Pakistan and all their stakes and hopes are attached with this country. But the situation has alienated hundreds of thousands of members of this patriotic community strangers within their homeland,” added Mr Kohistani.

Senate polls: PPPP leads with 19 seats

PPPP led Senate elections with 19 seats while PML-N remained second with 8 seats.
Pakistan Peoples Party-Parliamentarian (PPPP) has won 16 seats while Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) remained second with 8 seats in Senate Election. Awami National Party (ANP) won 7 seats of Senate while five independent candidates have elected.
Muthidda Qaumi Movement (MQM), Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) got 4 Senate seats each.
Balochistan National Party-Awami (BNP-A) and Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) got two and one seats respectively.
According to detail, In Punjab Assembly, PML-N leaders Sardar Zulfiqar Khosa, Rafique Ranjwa, Zafarullah Dhandla and M Hamza were elected to the general seats while PPP leader Babar Awan and an independent candidate Mohsin Leghari were also successful. Kamil Ali Agha was elected from PML-Q.
Nusrat Sadiq (PML-N), Khalida Parveen (PPP) on the women seats, while Kamran Michael (PML-N) was elected on the minorities seat unopposed. Aitzaz Ahsan and Khalid Mohsin Qureshi from the PPP and Ishaq Dar (PML-N) were elected unopposed to the technocrat seats.
From Sindh Assembly, PPP candidate Hari Ram Kishori Lal was elected to the minorities seat, while Sehar Kamran (PPP) and Nasreen Jalil (MQM) were elected on the women seats.
MQM leaders Tahir Mashadi, Mustafa Kamal and Raza Rabani, Saeed Ghani, Ajiz Dharma and Dr. Karim Khawaja from the PPP were elected unopposed. Muzzafar Hussain Shah from the PML-F was also elected. Abdul Hazfeez Sheikh (PPP) and Faroog Naseem (MQM) had been elected unopposed to the technocrat seats in Sindh.
Those elected to the general senate seats in Balochistan include Mir Israrullah Zehri (BNP-Awami),Nawabzada Saifullah Magsi, Muhammad Yousuf Baloch and Sardar Fateh Muhammad Hasni from the PPP. Syed Ul Hassan Mandokhel from the PML-Q and Hamdullah Saboor and Mufti Abdul Sattar Shahwani from JUI-F were also elected. ANP candidate Advocate Dawood Khan Achakzai and Rozi Khan Kakar from the PPP was also successful. Naseema Ehsan from the BNP-Awami and Rubina Irfan from the PML-Q have also been successful on the women s seat from Balochistan. The minorities seat was won by Heman Kumar (JUI-F).
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, Rubina Khalid (PPP) and Zahida Khan (ANP) have been elected to the women seats while Amirjeet Malhotra (ANP) has been elected to the minorities seat. Ilyas Bilour (ANP) and Farhatullah Babar (PPP) have been elected to the technocrat seats. Shahi Syed and Baz Muhammad Khan and Azam Hoti from the ANP have been elected to the general seats while Talha Muhammad from the JUI-F was also elected.
Saifullah Bangash,Ahmed Hasan Khan,from the PPP were also elected to the general seat. Nisar Muhammad Khan (PML-N) also won a senate seat from the province.
Mushahid Hussain (PML-Q) was elected unopposed to the technocrat seat, while Usman Saifullah (PPP) was elected to the general seat from Islamabad.
From FATA, Hidayatullah, Najamul Hassan, Saleh Shah and Hilalur Rehman have been elected as senators.

Putin sure of his victory in presidential vote

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has voiced confidence that he will win Sunday's presidential election in Russia, while bluntly dismissing opposition demands and maintaining his strong criticism of the United States.

Putin, who is all but certain to regain the presidency, sought to put a positive spin on massive protests that have been held against his 12-year rule, saying they were a "good experience for Russia."

"That situation has helped make government structures more capable, has raised the need for them to think, search for solutions and communicate with the society," Putin said during a meeting with editors of top Western newspapers in remarks broadcast by state television and released by his office Friday.

He promised to engage in dialogue with the protesters, but rejected the opposition's main demand to hold a rerun of December's parliamentary election during which Putin's party held onto its majority through what was believed to be widespread official fraud.

The evidence of vote-rigging fueled protests in Moscow that drew tens of thousands of people in the largest show of discontent since the Soviet collapse two decades ago. The opposition is gearing up for another massive protest against what it fears will be manipulations in Sunday's vote.

Putin insisted on Friday that he is favored by a majority of Russians, but admitted he enjoys less support in Moscow and other big cities. "Yes, there is a smaller number of my supporters there, but they are still a majority," he said.

Putin's claim is in line with recent opinion surveys that showed he was backed by some 60 percent of respondents, paving the way for an easy victory against four-Kremlin approved contenders.

September's announcement that Putin and his protege, President Dmitry Medvedev, will seek to trade jobs angered many Russians, who saw it as cynical maneuvering and a show of contempt for democracy. Putin insisted Friday that he and Medvedev made their decision because Putin is the more popular of the two.

Putin served as president in 2000-2008 before shifting into prime ministerial post due to a term limit.

With Russia's presidential term now increased from four to six years, he is eligible to serve another 12 years as president, which would make him a Russian leader for nearly a quarter century, longer than anyone else since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

"I don't know whether I want to stay in the seat for more than 20 years. I haven't yet made this decision," Putin said.

He reaffirmed his promise to name Medvedev as Russia's prime minister, if he wins Sunday's vote, saying that post would allow Medvedev to implement reforms he has announced. Some observers said, however, that appointing Medvedev could help Putin avoid a wave of discontent that will likely be fueled by planned painful economic and social reforms.

Putin's popularity has been dented by the opposition protests, but he has managed to recoup the losses, thanks to massive daily coverage by state television that has cast him as the defender of nationalist interests against foreign expansion and the protector of economic and social stability.

He has accused the U.S. of instigating the opposition protests to weaken Russia and strongly criticized plans for the U.S.-led NATO missile defense around Europe.

Putin insisted Friday that the planned shield would target Russia's nuclear deterrent and undermine global stability, adding that Washington's refusal to offer Moscow written guarantees that its missile defense system will not be aimed against Russia deepened its concerns.

"When one party gets an illusion that it's invulnerable for a retaliatory strike by another, that stokes up conflicts and aggressive behavior," Putin said. "We consider that extremely dangerous."

He said President Barack Obama's policy of "resetting" ties with Russia has helped reach the New Start nuclear arms reduction treaty and successfully negotiate Russia's access into the World Trade Organization, but has brought "practically nothing" on the divisive missile defense issue.

At the same time, he praised Obama as "absolutely sincere" in his course of improving ties with Russia.

Most Jews will vote for Putin in upcoming elections, says Russia's chief rabbi

Most of Russia's Jews will likely vote for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Sunday's presidential elections, according to that country's chief rabbi.

"Maybe if there were a more serious choice of candidates they would vote for someone else. But I haven't yet met a single Jew who is voting for [Russian tycoon Mikhail] Prokhorov, for example," said Chabad Rabbi Berel Lazar, in an interview with Haaretz.He added, "I think the fact that a new, young leader has not yet stepped forward in Russia is a problem. All these people - [Gennady] Zyuganov, [Vladimir] Zhirinovsky [presidential candidates for the Russian Communist and Liberal Democratic parties, respectively] - we've already heard their sermons before. It's the same old people."

Lazar has the delicate task of threading the needle between the government in Moscow and the Jewish community - many of whose members have been involved in protests against Putin in the past months.At a meeting two weeks ago with the country's religious figures, Putin - the leading presidential candidate - asked Lazar, "Tell me, what is a Jew supposed to do on the Sabbath?" to which the rabbi replied, "Observe Shabbat."

"And where should he be?" Putin persisted.

"In synagogue, praying," Lazar said.

"So what are all these demonstrations?" Putin asked.

'I won't tell Jews how to vote'

"When they held the first demonstration on Saturday, everyone in synagogue asked whether they should go or not," Lazar said in the interview with Haaretz. "I said, for we Jews there's no question because we have to be in synagogue, praying." Lazar's office in the Moscow Jewish Community Center, in the city's Maryina Roshcha district, contains several bookcases but not a single photograph of him with Putin.

"I told Putin we don't interfere, the choice is a personal one. We're pro-stability. We don't need the Communists, and the fact that people are taking to the streets means there are complaints, and everyone has to think about how to make life better. But I won't tell Jews how to vote," Lazar said.

The rabbi rejects the idea, widely reported, that the meeting with religious leaders was a show of support for Putin. "We only thanked him for everything he does for the community," Lazar said, going on to praise at length the responsiveness demonstrated by the prime minister and by President Dmitry Medvedev to the needs of Russia's Jewish community and their aggressive fight against anti-Semitism.

"We don't interfere in political issues - whether for good or bad that's for the experts to say," Lazar said. "But when it comes to Judaism, the attitude in the country is special, and it's not because of the United States."

With eight kosher restaurants, including an Asian noodle shop near the Kremlin and the Tel Aviv eatery, which boasts Israeli food, pictures of the eponymous city and Israeli television, Moscow has a lively Jewish community. The most recent census counted only 150,000 Jews in Russia, but Lazar says the number is misleading. "They didn't ask about religion. Those who wanted declared their religion. We believe there are a million Jews in Russia, half of them in Moscow."

Lazar does not believe Putin has a special relationship to the Jews, but said, "He recognizes that they are a kind of force. Not a political or economic force, like in America, that he needs for the election, it's more an appreciation for the Jewish brain, the young entrepreneurs here. Jackson-Vanik used to be a big deal. Now the authorities here say it's no longer important. If America decides to repeal it, then let them," Lazar said. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union's Jewish community became a bargaining chip for the rival superpowers. In 1974 the United States imposed trade restrictions on countries that limited Jewish emigration - a move aimed at the Soviet bloc. The Jackson-Vanik amendment is still in effect.

What, does Lazar believe, is Putin's personal attitude to Jews? "I think he tries to be okay with everyone," the rabbi said. "With him there's no good nation or not-good nation here, only good or not-good people. That's how it is with everything. Sometimes it's extreme, because if someone is not good then he's not good. We [Jews] have the concept of teshuva [repentance in Hebrew] - he doesn't. But if someone is good it doesn't matter to him whether he's Jewish, Caucasian [from the Caucasus], American, Israeli, Arab. It's not part of the picture with him.

"The relationship with Israel is important to him," he added. "He wouldn't break all the rules for [Israel], but good relations are important to him, because of the million Russian speakers there and the cultural connection, and also over technology and agriculture.

"I wouldn't say it's more important than relations with Italy," Lazar continued, "but even though Israel is small it is important, and you see that when Bibi [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] or [President Shimon] Peres come here. The memorial to World War II heroes in Israel [planned for Netanya, to commemorate the Red Army's victory over the Nazis and the release of Jews from concentration camps] is important to him."

“1000 tons of gold reservoirs found in Swat”

Renowned Pakistani columnist and political commentator Haroon Rashid has claimed that 1000 million tons of

gold reservoirs have been found in country’s northwestern area of Swat in Khyber Pakthunkhwa.

He revealed this during a talk-show hosted by female anchor Mehr Bukhari on a local television channel Dunia News on Thursday night.

While discussing countries economic grievances Rashid said, the 1000 million tons gold reservoirs were found in Swat and news would soon be heard in this regard.

Mr Rashid is believed to have close links with country’s powerful military establishment and his revelation might be linked to his sources in the Pakistan’s military that has been battling an insurgency waged by home-grown terrorists in Swat since 2008.

If the news proved to be truth and the reservoirs are explored it would be considered a great respite for Pakthoons who have in large numbers migrated to major cities of the country, seeking opportunities of employment.

Swat valley is rich of God gifted mineral resources. Most of the minerals in swat belong to family 10 in periodic table. Therefore these minerals are valuable and internationally recognized. They include Sulphides, oxides and Hydroxides, Nitrats, Carbonates and Borates, Silicates and other unclassified

Four blasts rock Khyber Agency; 4 killed

At least four people were killed and several others injured in four different blasts in Khyber Agency of Pakistan tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

Sources said that the blast occurred in Wadi-e-Tirah area of the agency, adding that one blast was a suicide.

Pakistan security forces have been battling in the tribal region since 2008 against Tehreek-i-Taliban led anti-state actors.

Pakistan Senate polls: Polling concluded, results pour in

In Punjab, PML-N leaders M. Humza, Zulfiqar Khosa, Aslam Gill and Rafiq Rajwana have won Senate seats.
Hidayatullah, Najamul Hassan, Saleh Shah and Hilalur Rehman have been elected as senators from FATA.
In Sindh, Muzaffar Hussain Shah, Col (r)Tahir Mashadi, Nasreen Jalil and Mustafa Kamal have also won senate seats, while from the PPP Raza Rabbani, Saeed Ghani and Mukhtiar Dhamra were successful.
From Balochistan, Hafiz Hamdullah, Nawabzada Saifullah Magsi, Israrullah Zahri has been elected senators.
Each of Pakistan s four provinces will have 23 seats in the 104-member next senate, with four going to the capital Islamabad and eight for the tribal areas in the northwest.
At least 98 candidates are contesting the polls while the nine candidates from different political parties have already been elected unopposed.
According to the final list issued by Election Commission‚ there are ninety eight candidates in the field for forty five vacant seats.
The elections are being held on the retirement of fifty senators with additional four members to be elected first time on the seats reserved for minorities as a result of 18th Amendment.
Usman Saifullah of PPP and Mushahid Hussain Sayyed of Pakistan Muslim League-Q have been elected unopposed from Islamabad.
Polling was held in the Parliament House and Provincial Assemblies. The members of the Lower House from FATA will elect four senators from the area, and four minority members would also be elected for the first time in the history of the country.
From Punjab‚ PPP’s Aitzaz Ahsan and PML-N’s Ishaq Dar have been elected unopposed on the reserved seats for technocrats. Both the parties have also grabbed one seat each reserved for women. The senators elected unopposed on these seats are Nuzhat Sadiq and Khalida Parveen.
Another PML-N candidate Kamran Michael has also been elected unopposed on minority seat.

UN report expresses concern over enforced disappearances, mass graves in IHK

The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) has expressed concern over allegations of "enforced disappearance and the existence of mass graves" in Indian Held Kashmir.

"The Working Group remains concerned about allegations of a widespread practice of enforced disappearances between 1989 and 2009 and the existence of mass graves," the latest report on the subject by the UN body said, Xinhua reported on Friday.

"According to the Declaration, the Government is under obligation to investigate those allegations and bring to justice those responsible,"said the report.

The UN WGEID submitted its annual report on Feb. 6. The report will be presented during the 96th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva this month from March 12 to 16.

"The Working Group received information from credible sources concerning obstacles encountered in the implementation of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in India. This information was transmitted to the Government on Feb. 11, 2011, after the Working Group's 92nd session," read the report.

The report mentioned that between 1989 and 2009, the actions of military and paramilitary forces in Indian Held Kashmir have led to more than 8,000 enforced and involuntary disappearances.

"It was reported that in the majority of instances related to enforced disappearances, civilians have been detained during cordon and search operations. In certain instances, non-combatant persons were extra-judicially executed following detention, and labeled afterwards by the Government of India, and the authorities in Jammu and Kashmir as militants who emigrated to Azad Kashmir in Pakistan to seek arms training," said the report.

"It was reported that acts of oppression and violence towards presumed insurgents were deemed as acts of service, which were rewarded and compensated," it said.

The report quoting findings of the Civil Society Organisation about presence of 2,700 unmarked graves in 55 villages of northwest of Srinagar said the Working Group remains concerned about allegations of a widespread practice of enforced disappearances between 1989 and 2009 and the existence of mass graves.

"The remains of the person should be clearly and indisputably identified, including through DNA analysis securing the full participation of the family and without fully informing the general public of such measures," it observed.

The report said that the Government of India didn't respond to general allegation forwarded to it in February 2011.

10 Pakistani Soldiers Killed

Pakistani officials say militants have clashed with security forces in the volatile northwest region of the country, leaving at least 10 soldiers and 23 militants dead.

The early Friday militant attack happened in the Tirah valley of the restive Khyber tribal district along the porous Afghanistan border. Insurgents have taken advantage of the area's lawlessness to set up strongholds.

Separately Friday, Pakistani police say gunmen have shot dead an intelligence official in the northwestern city of Peshawar. It was not immediately clear who shot the official, but Taliban militants have attacked and killed intelligence officials in the area.

Call for Corporal Punishment Bill Balochistan

Child rights leaders have demanded of the Balochistan government to take step for presentation and passage of Corporal Punishment Bill Balochistan.
Addressing a news conference at Quetta Press Club here on Monday, Child Rights Movement (CRM), an alliance of child rights organizations leaders demanded legislation with immediate effect to halt physical punishment to school children at educational institutions.
They including Muhammad Hanif Panezai accompanied by Abdul Sattar Baloch, Fazila Sherdil and Shahnawaz Yousufzai said that corporal punishment was making school children suffering from psychological diseases such as fear, inferiority complex and timidity.
“We demand of the Balochistan government to legislate on corporal punishment issue besides making teachers at government and private schools and all settings bound not to physically punish school children,” they said.
They observed that slapping students at schools, clubing them, twisting ears, pulling hair, asking them to stand in sun and abusing them were part of corporal punishment and violation of basic child rights.
They appealed to Education Minister, Secretary Education and other relevant officials to play their due role in presentation and passage of Corporal Punishment Bill Balochistan in the Balochistan Assembly besides ensuring its implementation. They recalled that they had handed over the preliminary draft of the bill to the officials of Education Department

Punjab Police bar Ahmadis from entering worship centre

The Express Tribune
Fearing a huge turnover at an expected protest outside an Ahmadi worship centre in Satellite Town, Rawalpindi, the police on Friday barred Ahmadis from entering the premises “for their own safety”.

A representative of the Ahmaddiya community told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity that the police officials present there kept telling them that the move had been made to prevent any possible scuffle as a result of the protest.

A deadline of March 1 had been set by a religious group for the fulfilment of their demands by the Ahmadis.

Last Friday, around 700 locals had gathered outside the same worship centre, demanding the removal of barricades and CCTV cameras installed outside it.

Backed by a Jihadi organization, the protestors had alleged that “unconstitutional” activities were being carried out in the worship centre.

However, the community had emphasised that they had committed no unlawful activities and had pleaded that the hate campaign be stopped so they could feel safe in the area.

Today, the police confined the Ahmadis present inside the worship place and barred the ones coming from outside.

The Ahmaddiya community representative further said that the prayers scheduled for today have been hindered.

Shahbaz Bhatti’s probe trail goes cold ,Three arrests and releases later,

The Express Tribune

“No solid leads could be found to direct the investigations the right way,” said a police official who has been closely associated with the investigation of the case. “The details have been murky since the beginning,” he divulged, on condition of anonymity.

In a year since the assassination, three suspects have been arrested and subsequently released due to lack of evidence.

Pastor’s suspicions

The false lead, now cold, started with a phone call from an alim-turned-pastor Hafiz Nazar. Nazar called a minorities’ lawmaker from a provincial assembly, and claimed he knew the people behind Bhatti’s assassination.

The pastor was arrested by Karachi police in March last year, and handed over to Islamabad police as a possible suspect. During interrogation, he named two businessmen from Faisalabad, Ziaur Rehman and Malik Abid, as possible suspects.

“At that time, the investigators were probably working to find real clues and Nazar distracted them,” said the police official privy to the investigations. Nazar could not substantially prove the two businessmen’s involvement though, the police official said.

“He had only speculated that the two men could have property disputes with Bhatti as they belonged to his native town,” he added.

The pastor was questioned by the investigators multiple times before being booked. But the court released him on the first hearing for lack of evidence.

Lack of evidence

After almost a year-long hunt, the first suspect, Rehman, was arrested by the Interpol and local police authorities from Dubai on the request of Islamabad police in early February 2012.

A week later, the second suspect, Abid, was arrested by the capital police from Lahore airport on his arrival from Dubai.

Both Rehman and Abid were suspected of involvement in Bhatti’s murder but the suspicions were not backed by strong evidence. Islamabad police, therefore, asked the court to discharge Abid a week after his arrest.

Rehman was also set free by Dubai authorities after he proved his innocence before them. He provided them evidence that he was not present in Pakistan when Bhatti was murdered. He said he had no enmity with Bhatti and was being falsely accused in the case. Dubai police and Interpol released him, but retained his passport.

“The two men were never the right men to go after,” said the official. “But the police had no option. There were no real clues.”

The ‘trusted’ driver

The Islamabad police, therefore, is as clueless at present, as it was a year ago.

“There are scattered clues that need to be put together for a fresh start,” said the police official.

Bhatti’s driver, for instance, survived the attack and needed to be interrogated but the minister’s family denied access to him saying he was ‘the most trusted man’ of the family.

There were several discrepancies in his statements to the police though, the official said.

“I still believe the driver knows much more than he told us,” he added. “He can be a starting point if you ask me to restart investigations.” Bhatti’s car was sprayed with bullets. There is no way the driver could have been spared by simply, as he told the police, ducking under.

“The driver had seen them. Why did the assailants not kill him to eliminate evidence against them?” the official asked.

“Okay, let’s presume they made a mistake, even then the driver is important for the investigators,” he said, adding that the police should be given access to the driver.

‘Inside’ job

Another police official, who was closely involved in the investigations, said that the assailants were aware of Bhatti’s routine.

They knew Bhatti was using his office as his residence only as a cover, and was in fact still going back to his mother’s house at night, he said. “The killers knew this, and planned the ambush accordingly,” he said, adding that someone from the ‘inside’ was in contact with the killers.

What about the pamphlets scattered at the crime scene that claimed it was a blasphemy-related murder? It could be a distraction, he replied. The police have no solid clues either way.

Pakistani Minorities apprehensive about life security, and with reason…

The Hindu community protested in front of Lahore Press Club against sorry state of security for them in provinces of Sindh and Balochistan where, they claim, six Hindus had been kidnapped in a week. The protesters flayed the incompetence of Peoples Party’s provincial governments for their ineptitude in providing security to the minorities. The protesters said earlier this week two Hindus were kidnapped from Quetta, one from Karachi, a girl from Mirpur Mathelo and another from Jacobabad.
They asked the government to give them rights that they deserved, biggest of which is life security. The family of a girl, Rinkal, kidnapped last Friday from Mir Pur Mathilo also attended the protest. Nand Laal, father of the victim, told journalists that three goons of the local PPP MNA Mian Mitha had kidnapped his daughter from their house early on Friday.

Pakistan: ‘Won’t accept foreign pressure on national interests’

Rejecting any foreign pressure on the bilateral cooperation between Pakistan and Iran including on energy sector, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Thursday said Pakistan being a sovereign state would do whatever was in its own interest.
“We are a sovereign country and we will do whatever is in the interest of Pakistan,” Gilani said while responding to a question during “Prime Minister Online” programme, jointly hosted by PTV and Waqt News. He said Pakistan and Iran had bilateral relations and cooperation in diverse fields including energy, gas pipeline, and electricity.
To another question, the prime minister said there had been ups and downs in Pakistan-US relations, adding that Pakistan wanted to expand ties with the US on partnership basis as well as on mutual interest and mutual respect. He said Pakistan and the US also had a common goal of success in the war against terrorism.
However, Gilani added that the US should refrain from interfering in Pakistan’s internal affairs to allow confidence building and keep the Pakistani masses from harbouring any ill-feeling about it. Gilani also referred to the recent Pakistan-Afghan-Iran Trilateral Summit held in Islamabad and said the issue of political reconciliation in Afghanistan had been discussed in length with President Hamid Karzai. He said since there was no military solution in Afghanistan, there was a need to find a political solution. He said Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States wanted to find a permanent solution to the Afghan conflict, adding that the solution could be sought through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process.
In response to a question, Gilani rejected the impression that there was any danger to democracy or the democratic government. He said democracy was strengthening in the country and those who were talking of such dangers would be regretful. When asked about his earlier remarks that the political situation would improve after the Senate elections in March, Gilani said, “As spring sets in the month of March, everything brightens.” Democracy is prospering and has a bright future, he added.
About the memo case, the prime minister said he had been saying from the day one that the man (Ijaz Mansoor), who wrote the memo had no credibility, as he had a history of writing against Pakistan’s Establishment, intelligence agencies and the governments. To a question about the contempt of court case, Gilani said he had appeared before the Supreme Court twice and was ready to appear whenever he would be summoned by the court. He said the government had strengthened the country’s institutions by restoring the 1973 Constitution

Culture Department to hold Culture Revival of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Directorate of Culture Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is organizing a two-day colourful mega event, entitled 'The Culture Revival of KP' at Nishter Hall from March 3 to 4 to highlight the rich culture of the province to the young generation.

"The objective of holding of such events is to provide a source of recreation to the people of KP who have suffered a lot both economically and psychologically due to war against terrorism which has badly damaged the social-economic fabric of Pakhtunkhwa," said Provincial Minister for Information, Mian Iftikhar Hussain.

Addressing a press conference here at Civil Officers Mess on Thursday, Information Minister said war against terrorism cannot be fought alone through military operations, but for fighting the ideologue of extremism, we have to provide health activity to the people.

Similarly, he continued, provision of job opportunities to unemployed youth is also very necessary to engage them in constructive activities besides making development in society.

About the culture event, Information Minister said in the two day colorful event stalls displaying our culture, tradition, dress, food will be erected. The inauguration of the event will be held on March 3 at 11:00 a.m and it will be opened for general public through out the day.

The event is arranged with the collaboration of a private firm, Globo Boss Event Management, he informed.

Traditional dances including Mehsud, Khattak, Chitrali will also be performed for the entertainment of visitors besides arrangement would be made for folk songs and music, he added.

In the two day event, special play land for children has been set up where minors can enjoy different games throughout the day.

Mian Iftihkar said government has opened the doors of Nishter Hall which were closed in the past on the pretext that shows held here at promoting obscenity.

He said government believes that healthy entertainment is necessary for development of a gentle society and for this purpose a number of events are being arranged at Nishter Hall.

These events, he continued, are not only confined to Peshawar, but are arranged in all the districts. In March end, he added, a Jashne Baharan will be held in Dera Ismail Khan (D.I.Khan) in which culture of both KP and FATA will be displayed.

Waheeda Shah’s apology rejected

Waheeda Shah sought apology from the court but the Supreme Court rejected her plea.
Waheeda Shah had slapped presiding officer and others at a polling station in Tando Muhammad Khan during the polling for by-elections on PS-53.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had taken Suo motu notice of the PPP candidate Waheed Shah torture on female polling staff during by election on Feb 25.
The Supreme Court had issued notices to the PPP leader, Sindh IG and Election Commission of Pakistan.

Pakistani politicians elect senators


Closely watched elections to the Pakistan Senate are being held, with the beleaguered government expecting to make significant gains.

Members of parliament's lower house and the provincial assemblies, largely from the party of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, will vote in the poll.

More than half of the senators are being replaced as their terms end.

Analysts say recent political conflicts have partly been aimed at removing the government before this vote.

The government, opposition and the powerful military are in conflict over a leaked memo suggesting that President Asif Ali Zadari wanted to ask the US government for support to prevent a possible coup, during the turmoil which followed the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

The Supreme Court has also tried to force Mr Gilani to re-open corruption allegations against Mr Zardari.

Several leaders of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), which Mr Zardari leads, have said publicly that opposition parties have conspired to stop the Senate election.
Seats for minorities

The opposition say the vote would establish the ruling PPP with a majority in the upper house, giving it a comfortable position for the remainder of parliament.

The vote is also likely to ensure the PPP a role in parliament for the next six years, with the party widely expected to do badly in parliamentary elections to be held by early next year.

Local journalists are predicting the PPP could see its number of senators rise from 27 to 48 in Friday's vote, with two other parties in the ruling coalition also due to benefit, says Sajid Iqbal at BBC Monitoring.

Elections are being held for 45 senators. Pakistan's official APP news agency says nine more candidates are standing unopposed.

The voting takes place in four provincial assemblies - Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan - with each choosing 12 senators.

All four provinces reserve two seats for women, two for technocrats and one for minorities.

Four senators for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and two for the Islamabad Capital Territory will be chosen by members of parliament.