Sunday, March 11, 2012

Shahbaz should swear upon Quran if he didn’t take ISI money

Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly Raja Riaz on Friday asked Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to swear upon the Holy Quran in the legislature if he truly denies the allegations of accepting money from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Talking to reporters outside the assembly, Riaz said the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had been saying from the beginning that the Sharif brothers started their political career “in the lap of dictators” and were doing politics from the same place. He said that PPP’s each claim was proving to be true after the hearing of Mehrangate scandal by the apex court.
“The Sharif brothers left the country by entering into an agreement with dictator Musharraf, but both were denying the same, and now if they want to prove their innocence in Mehrangate scandal, then Shahbaz Sharif must come to the Punjab Assembly and should prove their innocence by taking oath on the Holy Quran,” Riaz said.
Riaz said that earlier Javed Hashmi and Ishaq Dar had asked Sharif brothers to seek pardon from the nation over leaving the country by making a deal with a dictator. He said now the PPP was asking the Sharif brothers to seek an apology from the nation for taking bribes from the spy agency.

Kuwaiti MPs call for investigative committee for Bahrain

A number of Kuwaiti lawmakers have urged the international community to send an investigative committee to Bahrain to examine the regime’s crackdown on protesters.

The lawmakers said the Arab League should send a delegation to investigate crimes committed by the Al Khalifa regime, Fars News Agency reported on Sunday.

MP Abdul Hamid Dashti pointed to the Friday’s peaceful anti-regime demonstration in Bahrain, saying that the people of Bahrain are seeking their legitimate rights.

He also criticized the Western powers for their silence about the crackdown in Bahrain.

The Kuwaiti lawmaker called for the withdrawal of Saudi Arabia’s troops from Bahrain, who helped regime’s attacks against demonstrators.

People in Bahrain have been staging demonstrations since mid-February 2011, demanding political reforms. However, the protests soon turned into a revolution that called for the downfall of the regime.

Bahraini forces have killed dozens of protesters since the revolution began in the Persian Gulf state.

Peshawar: 13 killed, several injured in suicide blast

At least 13 people were killed and many others were injured in a suicide blast in Badaber.A bomb exploded during a funeral prayers in northwest Pakistan on Sunday killing at least 13 people and wounding 30 others.The blast took place in the Badaber area on the outskirts of Peshawar, the capital of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, senior police officer Kalam Khan told AFP.
"It was a bomb blast, we are collecting details," Khan said.
Abid Rehman, a local police officer said the bomb was apparently targeting a local politician who had been critical of militants in the region.
The politician, Khushdil Khan, escaped unhurt.

Three-day anti-polio drive kicked off in KP, FATA

A three days anti polio drive was formally kicked off in 17 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), on Saturday.

The launching ceremony of the national immunization drive was held here at Press Club as chief guest Senator Farhat Abbas administered polio drops to the children and formally kicked off anti polio drive in the province.

Other participants of the events were Deputy Director EPI Dr Jan Baz Afridi, Health and Nutrition Specialist Dr Jamil, Media Officer UNICEF Shadab Younas, President PPC Saiful Islam Saifi, AD EPI Qazi Afsar, and Dr. Rahim.

Senator Farhat Abbas has expressed the hope that polio would be eradicated in the country by 2013 with the support of all segments of society. Polio has been eradicated in most countries of the world, which was indeed a matter of concern for us, she added.

Innocent people were being duped by false propaganda against the vaccine, which has dire consequences for the children.

She hoped that the EPI staff would further improve their performance and reach out to all children up to the age of five to ensure 100 percent coverage.

She held out an appeal to parents to vaccinate their children against polio and protect their children from permanent disability.

Moreover, she urged upon media persons to support the national cause and play its constructive role in raising awareness among the masses about polio that could be protected merely by administering
two drops to their children.

Deputy Director EPI Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Dr Jan Baz Afridi said that three days anti-polio drive would start from March 12 in 17 districts of the province and Afghan refugees' camps. A total of 10799 teams have been formed for the campaign in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa out of which 9191 were mobile teams, 986 fixed teams and 619 were transit teams.

As many as 2047 area in-charges have been hired to ensure vaccination to 3.7 million children in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he added.

It was informed on the occasion that four new polio cases have been reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2012 one each in Peshawar, D.I.Khan, Kohat and Lakki Marwat.

Dr Jan Baz said that India has wiped out polio in 2011 with the same vaccine leaving three countries including Pakistan in the list of endemic countries.

He said that the people of Pakistan were talented and has great potential to rise in the comity of the world. However, he hastened
on to add that unfortunately we are left behind in the race against

"Lets pledge that we would join our hands against polio and eradicate the menace from our borders", he appealed.

Health and Nutrition Specialist UNICEF Dr. Jamil thanked Department of Health and administration of Peshawar Press Club for inviting
the UNICEF representatives to share their views on the topic. He said
that we have to give voice to the children by raising awareness among
the masses about their rights.

All segments of society would have to fight collectively for the rights of children and mothers as they were marginalized members of the society, he added.

He said that polio cases were dropped from thousands to hundreds due to the efforts of the government with the support of the partners.

Dr Jamil said that polio was declared emergency and test case for
us adding that India has proved that polio eradication was physically and operationally possible.

President Peshawar Press Club Saiful Islam Saifi that polio eradication was the collective responsibility of all segments of society.

He said that it was the moral and religious duty of the parents to administer polio drops to their children.

He asked media to contribute to the cause even if it has to be partial in the case as it was the matter of children.

Swiss letter: PM Gilani says will follow Constitution

Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani said he would act in accordance with the Constitution with regards to writing letter to Swiss authorities, Geo News reported.

He was talking to mediapersons outside the residence of State Minister for Minorities Akram Gill, with whom he had condoled the demise of former's father, Tariq Masih Gill.

The Supreme Court on March 08 directed the prime minister to implement its order in the NRO case by writing a letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen the cases against President Asif Ali Zardari without seeking any further advice and submit his written statement before the court on March 19 regarding the implementation of its order.

PM Gilani said President Asif Ali Zardari will make history by addressing the joint session of the Parliament as an elected president for the fifth time on March 17.

He said Asif Zardari is the first democratically elected President under a democratic dispensation who would achieve this unique distinction in the 60-year history of the country.

The prime minister said chairman as well as deputy chairman of the Senate would take oath of their offices on March 12.

To a query, he said the PPP government did manage to hold Senate elections and by-polls in the country despite bids by some elements to create hurdles in this regard.

We are facing conspiracies on a daily basis: Gilani

Prime Minister of Pakistan Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Sunday that there are conspiracies being hatched against his government on a daily basis, DawnNews reported.

While speaking in Lahore, Gilani said that he will no longer accept advice from anyone and work according to the Constitution only.

Gilani said that he never received any directives from the Supreme Court to write a letter to Swiss Authorities.

He further said that since the Asghar Khan case is still in the court and he will not comment on it.

Swiss letter should have been written during Musharraf term

Federal Railway Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour said most of the political parties are the products of martial laws adding that the letter to Swiss courts should have been written during Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif terms.
Bilour thanked the Almighty over absence of ANP’s name among the list of beneficiaries in Asghar Khan Case.
Interacting with reporters in Peshawar, Bilour said Prime Minister Gilani accepted 6-year imprisonment, but refused allegiance to Pervez Musharraf.
Bilour said that the Prime Minister could not dig up a political grave for himself by writing the letter against his leadership.
The railway minister said that his party had demanded the Senate’s deputy chairmanship for representation of Balochistan. “We adopted a democratic method. There is no point of fighting.”

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy reminisces her golden moments

Security Fears Lead Groups to Rethink Work in Afghanistan


The management at a company that does aid and development work for the American government knows that some of its employees in Afghanistan are keeping weapons in their rooms — and is choosing to look the other way. At another company in the same business, lawyers are examining whether the company can sue the United States Agency for International Development for material breach of contract, citing the deteriorating security in Afghanistan.

An Afghan government plan to abolish private security companies at the end of this month, along with the outbreak of anti-American demonstrations and attacks in the past month, has left the private groups that carry out most of the American-financed development work in Afghanistan scrambling to sort out their operations, imperiling billions of dollars in projects, officials say.

That, in turn, threatens a vital part of the Obama administration’s plans for Afghanistan, which envision a continuing development mission after the end of the NATO combat mission in 2014.

The recent upheaval, set off by the burning of Korans by American military personnel on Feb. 20, cast sudden doubt on nearly every facet of the American presence in Afghanistan, including a long-term strategic partnership deal. On Friday, some progress was made when the United States and Afghanistan reached an agreement for the Afghans to take control of the main coalition prison in six months.

But the fallout on the civilian development side of the mission is having an immediate effect, development workers and experts said. In particular, it is magnifying concerns about the new security arrangements being dictated by the Afghan government, which by March 20 aims to replace the private security companies that now guard aid workers with a hastily raised Afghan force.

Faced with the prospect of sudden change in their security arrangements, with no assurance that the Afghan force can be arranged in time or meet their specific needs, organizations are weighing the future of their operations in the country.

Stan Soloway of the Professional Services Council in Washington, which represents about two dozen private aid contractors, said he knew of two companies that had already decided to finish their current projects and pull out, although he would not name them.

“They just made a decision that there was so much uncertainty, so much risk that they were just not going to continue,” Mr. Soloway said.

An American employee of one of the aid companies was more blunt. Soldiers are armed and can defend themselves, he said, “but me and my people, we’re easy pickings; we’re meat.” He asked not to be identified because his company told its employees not to speak with reporters about the security situation.

The employee was among the hundreds of civilian “mentors” from companies contracted by the American aid agency to help run the Afghan government who were pulled from their jobs during the unrest. As they continue to return, some are now operating under far stricter security constraints, the employee and others said.

One of U.S.A.I.D.’s top managers for Afghanistan acknowledged the development groups’ concerns, though officials at the agency said that many of its projects did not require guards. For those that do, “we are working closely with our staff and partners in Afghanistan to ensure a safe working environment, and we remain fully committed to our strategy of working with our Afghan partners toward a more stable and secure Afghanistan,” said the official, J Alexander Thier.

One of largest companies working for the aid agency said it planned to station security guards with its people who work in Afghan government ministries, according to an executive at the company, which is based in Washington.

The executive acknowledged that the setup was not ideal. The guards would not be allowed into the ministries, and would instead wait out front during the workday, clearly visible to all those who enter, which “isn’t the image we want to show to everyday Afghans,” the executive said. But “we’ve got to look out for our people.”

The executive also said he and others at his company’s Washington headquarters knew that some employees in Afghanistan were keeping weapons in their rooms in case their compounds were attacked, and that management had so far turned a blind eye to the practice, which goes against local law.

The executive, along with many others interviewed for this article, asked not to be identified to avoid angering officials at U.S.A.I.D., the largest donor in the country, or the Afghans their employees work alongside.

While some of the executives’ talk appeared to be aimed at pressing American officials to slow down the transition to the new guard force, they all emphasized that their worries about the new guard force were well founded and widespread.

The Afghan operations of many aid groups were already facing cutbacks before the unrest because of declining aid budgets. Development aid to Afghanistan managed by U.S.A.I.D. was reduced to $2 billion in the 2011 fiscal year from $3.4 billion in the 2010 fiscal year.

But there are still major projects under way, and no one is expecting an all-out exodus of aid workers from Afghanistan anytime soon.

Many of the independent aid groups that are not tied financially to the United States say the unrest has hardly affected their operations in large part because they do not believe Afghans associate their groups with the United States. The groups also rarely rely on private security guards the way the aid agency contractors do, and thus are not affected by the Afghan government’s abolition of the security companies.

“I don’t buy any of that, ‘This is a whole new paradigm,’ ” said an official who works in the humanitarian aid community.

Workers at the aid groups tied to the United States, however, say it is a new situation for them.

Through U.S.A.I.D., the American government contracts billions of dollars in projects to private companies based in the United States. The companies provide for their own security in Afghanistan as required under their contracts with the agency.

Until now, that has meant hiring private security companies, which in most cases provide expatriate managers — usually former American or British soldiers — to oversee Afghan guards. Private security companies also provide security for embassies and the United Nations, all of which are being allowed to keep their existing security arrangements.

The expatriate and Afghan guards, armed with handguns and assault rifles, have long been a fixture on the streets of Kabul, and President Hamid Karzai has railed against their presence as an affront to Afghan dignity and a threat to law and order for almost as long. In 2010, he abruptly ordered the security companies disbanded and replaced by a new force that he said the Afghan government would raise.

The plan that has since taken shape calls for private Afghan guards to become part of the new force, known as the Afghan Public Protection Force, which will be responsible for guarding everything from aid projects to NATO supply convoys.

The force has already trained 8,000 new guards, said Siddiq Siddiqi, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry. He carries his own sidearm for protection.

The roughly 11,000 Afghan guards working for the 45 private security companies operating in Afghanistan will be subsumed into the force this month, he said. They will then be sent back to the same places they worked before, and the companies that had formerly paid a private security company for the guards would instead pay the Interior Ministry to cover their salaries, plus a 20 percent fee for overhead and to provide a profit — in itself, a useful arrangement for the financially strained government.

The first two American companies — International Relief and Development and a joint venture between Louis Berger Group and Black & Veatch — signed contracts to work with the new guard force last week with the Afghan Interior Ministry. American officials hailed the moves as the first sign that the new guard was earning the confidence of the international community.

Many who are to be guarded by the new force are less enthusiastic. There are fears that the guards will prove even less effective than Afghanistan’s struggling army or its police force, which are widely viewed as corrupt and have repeatedly turned their guns on the Western forces they work alongside.

Mohammad Hashim Mayar, an adviser to the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief, an umbrella group for nongovernmental aid organizations, said he feared that the new force would be poorly trained and end up as little more than a militia for the variety of power brokers who dominate Afghan politics — or the Taliban.

“Right now we think they will be with the government but I am not sure they are with the Taliban,” he said in an interview. “They are working for their own interests.”

Most of the independent aid organizations expect to weather the transition as NATO departs, determined to stay in Afghanistan, although in reduced form. CARE, for example, has already reduced its staff to about 450 employees from 1,100 six months ago, mostly because international aid is drying up. Budget cutbacks forced the closing of two of its biggest programs: a teacher-training program aimed in large part at girls’ education in the provinces, and a program of works projects in Kabul.

Most of its staff members are Afghans, but its international staff of 16 has also fallen to about 6, and aid workers who could travel more freely two years ago are now confined to the capital, Kabul, because of intensifying security worries.

Its Afghan employees are also finding the space in which they can safely work increasingly restricted. In a central Afghan province close to Kabul, local employees used to be able to reach a project they were working on in the next province by a route that took two hours; now they must make a circuitous 14-hour journey through two other provinces to avoid a widening conflict zone.

“It is getting harder,” said Jennifer Rowell, advocacy coordinator for CARE in Afghanistan. “The conflict is getting worse. It will continue to get worse.”

“The country is in a state of slow decline,” she said.