Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bahraini protesters hold anti-regime demonstration in Diraz


Bahraini protesters have held a demonstration against the ruling Al Khalifa regime in the northwestern village of Diraz, Press TV reports.

Protesters chanted slogans against the Al Khalifa regime during the demonstration in Diraz on Tuesday.

In addition to the Tuesday demonstration in Diraz, Bahraini people in several other towns and villages also protested against the Saudi support for the Manama regime.

In mid-March 2011, Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, deployed troops in Bahrain to help the Manama regime crush anti-government demonstrations.

Saudi-backed Bahraini forces continue the violent crackdown on anti-regime protests.

On March 10, regime forces killed a 21-year-old protester who was trying to get to the iconic Pearl Square in Manama with a group of other demonstrators.

Bahrainis hold King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa responsible for the death of protesters during the popular uprising in the country that began in February 2011.

PML-N should be charged with treason for accepting money


Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the PML-N should be charged with treason for conspiring against the democratic government of the PPP in the 1990 general elections.

He said records of the Mehrangate scandal would speak louder than verbal claims, adding that he had all the evidence to prove that Mehran Bank's money was distributed among many people and used in the past against the Pakistan People's Party.

Talking to media persons outside the parliament house on Monday prior to the Senate session, Malik said he would present all documentary evidence in the Mehran Bank case if asked to do so by the SupremeCourt. He said action should be taken against those involved in the scandal for sabotaging the Constitution.

While claiming that the he had 'solid proof' in the case, Malik demanded legal action against the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), saying the PML-N leadership should appear before the apex court and tender an apology for accepting money. "The opposition continues to entangle his party ministers in different cases. Now the time has come for the opposition parties to face the challenge," Malik said. "Money distributed by Younis Habib is on the record and I will produce evidence regarding this in the court," he added.

About the Kohistan incident, Rehman Malik said the culprits have been identified and action will be taken against them. He said certain elements were out to destabilise Pakistan and were behind this abhorrent incident.

Memogate, a plot to deceive the government


The counsel for former US ambassador Husain Haqqani, Zahid Bukhari said on Tuesday that the memogate was a plot hatched to destablise the government. While talking to media representative before heading to London, Bukhari said that the memo issue was highlighted with an aim to halt the Senate election. He said there was no truth behind the memo and hence no conclusion could be withdrawn. “Millions of rupees have been invested to probe the issue abroad and all is wasted,” Bukhari said. “The truth will be unveiled when Mansoor Ijaz will be questioned by me,” Bukhari claimed.

PPP takes over Senate

The Pakistan People’s Party emerged as the majority party in the Upper House of parliament on Monday after the oath-taking of newly elected senators.

The ruling party has now 41 seats in the Senate, followed by PML-N with 14 seats and ANP with 12 seats. The JUI-F and MQM have seven seats each, PML-Q five, BNP-A four and National Party and PML-F have one member each. The rest are independents in the House of 104 members. As many as 54 senators-elect took oath as members of the Senate on Monday at a special sitting chaired by Presiding Officer Senator Afrasiab Khattak.

The House also elected Syed Nayyar Hussain Bukhari as chairman and Sabir Baloch as deputy chairman. Khattak, who had been nominated by President Asif Ali Zardari, administered oath to the newly elected members. Both the chairman and deputy chairman were elected unopposed as the opposition members had extended support to the PPP nominees for the slots.

As the new senators took oath, the elected senators began shouting slogans. The members ignored calls from the Senate secretary and presiding officer to remain calm. PML-N’s Senator Zafar Ali Shah pointed out that such type of political shouting was against the decorum of the House, and later staged a walkout when no action was taken by the presiding officer. Khattak later administered oath to the newly elected chairman, Nayyar Hussain Bukhari, who then took seat and conducted the election for the deputy chairman and administered him the oath.

Those who took oath from Punjab include: PML-N’s M Hamza, Sardar Zulfiqar Ali Khan Khosa, Zafarullah Khan and Rafiq Rajwana; PPP’s Zaheerud Din Babar Awan, PML-Q’s Kamil Ali Agha and independent candidate Muhammad Mohsin Khan Leghari. Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, Ishaq Dar and Khalida Perveen of PPP-P and Nuzhat Sadiq of PML-N took oath on seats reserved for ulema, technocrats and women, respectively. Kamran Michael of the PML-N was elected on minority seat.

From Sindh, PPP-P’s Saeed Gani, Raza Rabbani, Mukhtiar Ahmed Dhamra and Karim Khawaja, MQM’s Syed Mustafa Kamal and Tahir Mashadi, PML-F’s Syed Muzafar Hussain Shah took oath on general seats. Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh of PPP-P and Barrister Farogh Naseem of MQM have been elected against seats reserved for ulema and technocrats. PPP-P’s Mudassar Sehar Kamran and MQM’s Nasreen Jalil took oath on seats reserved for women. Hari Ram Kishori Lal has been elected on a seat reserved for minorities.

From Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, ANP’s Shahi Syed, Baz Muhammad Khan and Azam Hoti, PPP-P’s Haji Saifullah Khan Bangash and Ahmad Hassan, JUI-F’s Muhammad Talha Mahmood and PML-N’s Nisar Muhammad took oath. They were elected on general seats. Rubina Khalid of PPP-P and Zahida Khan of ANP took oath on seats reserved for women, while ANP’s Ilyas Ahmed Bilour and PPP-P’s Farhatullah Babar were sworn in on seats reserved for ulema and technocrats. ANP’s Amar Jeet has been elected on minorities’ seat.

From Balochistan, ANP’s Advocate Muhammad Daud Khan Achekzai, PPP-P’s Sardar Fateh Muhammad Hassani, Nawabzada Saifullah Magsi and Muhammad Yousaf Baloch, PML-Q’s Saeedul Hassan Mandokhel, JUI-F’s Hafiz Hamdullah and BNP-A’s Mir Israrullah Khan Zehri took oath on general seats. BNP-A’s Naseema Ehsan and PML-Q’s Robina Irfan and Mufti Abdul Sattar of JUI-F and Rozi Khan Kakar of PPPP took oath on seats reserved for women, ulema and technocrats, respectively. Minority senator-elect from Balochistan is Heman Dass of JUI-F. For FATA, Hidayatullah, Malik Najamul Hassan, Saleh Shah and Hilalur Rehman took oath. From the federal capital, Mushahid Hussain Sayed of PML-Q and Osman Saifullah took oath.

Obama: No ‘rush to the exits’ in Afghanistan after rampage


President Barack Obama said Monday that the massacre of 16 Afghan civilians by a U.S. soldier made him "more determined" to stick to his plan to bring U.S. troops home but warned against a "rush to the exits" that could endanger America's interests.

"It makes me more determined to make sure that we're getting our troops home. It's time," he told KDKA television of Pittsburgh, one of a series of interviews with local stations he did at the White House.

"But what we don't want to do is to do it in a way that is just a rush for the exits," he stressed. "We've got to make sure that the Afghans can protect their borders and prevent Al-Qaeda from coming back, and so we're going to have to do it in a responsible way."

His comments came one day after a US soldier, described in news reports as a 38-year-old U.S. Army Staff Sergeant, went on a shooting rampage outside his base in southern Afghanistan, killing mostly women and children and plunging already strained ties between Kabul and Washington into a damaging new crisis.

"This is a situation where, although we're still doing the investigation, it appears that you had a lone gunman who acted on his own in just a tragic, tragic way," Obama told WFTV of Orlando, Florida.

Asked whether the bloody rampage recalled the My Lai Massacre of the Vietnam War, Obama replied that "it's not comparable."

"In no way is this representative of the enormous sacrifices that our men and women in uniform have made in Afghanistan. It does signal, though, the importance of us transitioning, in accordance with my plan, so that Afghans are taking more of the lead for their own security and we can start getting our troops home," he added.

But, he warned, "It's not going to get any easier over the next few months."

Obama's strategy calls for handing over security in Afghanistan to local forces while removing U.S. troops by the end of 2014 — a plan the White House said will not change in response to the shooting.

At the same time, the issue was sure to arise when Obama meets British Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday and certain to be a central subject of discussion at a NATO summit in Chicago in May -- and both could lead to a change in the pace and scope of the withdrawal.

On the same day that his reelection campaign highlighted Obama's decision to order the May 2, 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the president underlined to KDKA that "now that we've gotten bin Laden, now that we've weakened al-Qaeda, we're in a stronger position to transition than we would have been two or three years ago."

Still, he told KDKA, "it's important for us to make sure that we get out in responsible way, so that we don't end up having to go back in."

The shooting spree came shortly after the burning of Muslim holy books on a U.S. base sparked days of deadly rioting that saw some Afghan security forces turn their guns on U.S. troops. Obama apologized for the incident.

On the campaign trail, some of Obama's potential Republican rivals questioned whether the war was still worth it.

And a new ABC News/Washington Post poll found U.S. public sentiment against America's longest war at near-record highs.

A narrow majority, 54 percent, of respondents said U.S. troops should withdraw on time whether or not Afghan forces are self-sufficient.

And the survey—which was conducted on Saturday before the reported killing spree—found that 60 percent of Americans say the war has not been worth fighting. That's just four points shy of the record 64 percent who said the same thing one year ago.

Obama: War fears driving gasoline prices higher

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday that jitters about the prospect of a military conflict involving Iran were a main factor behind the recent rise in gasoline prices.

"The biggest driver of these high gas prices is speculation about possible war in the Middle East, which is why we've been trying to reduce some of the loose talk about war there," Obama told WFTV, an ABC affiliate in Orlando, Florida.

In a speech last week, Obama criticized what he called "loose talk of war" by some pundits and politicians concerning Iran, which the United States and other Western nations accuse of pursuing nuclear weapons.

The White House has launched a broad effort to defend Obama's energy policies as the Democratic president has faced election-year attacks from Republicans over high gasoline prices.

The price of gasoline at the pump has risen more than 12 cents to a national average of $3.81 a gallon in the past two weeks, according to the Lundberg Survey released on Sunday. The highest price, of $4.35 per gallon, was recorded in Los Angeles.

Polls show increasing voter dissatisfaction with his handling of the issue.

In remarks to KABC-TV in Los Angeles, Obama said the best way to lower gasoline prices over the long run is to reduce demand, and that his administration is looking at effects on speculation in the oil markets and whether service stations are engaging in price gouging.

"The truth of the matter is that there is no silver bullet. A lot of this is being set on the global stage because demand in India and China and other places are up," he added. "And part of it is also there's a lot of fears right now around the Middle East and is there a potential war there?"