Monday, April 2, 2012
Myanmar election officials confirmed Monday that Aung San Suu Kyi's
The Express TribuneIt is humiliating for any law-abiding Muslim of Pakistan to know that Hindu marriages are not registered officially in the country, which leaves the Hindu community completely exposed to malpractices of false conversion and forcible marriage. A protest gathering by Scheduled Caste Rights Movement (SCRM) in front of the Karachi Press Club on March 30, saw a demonstrating Hindu woman saying: “In 2011, a bill was presented in the National Assembly to pass a law to register Hindu marriages but so far it has seen no progress. Hindu women are being constantly victimised. In the absence of a marriage law, they remain deprived of basic social, political and economic rights”. When a Hindu is subjected to incidents of abduction, forced conversion and deprivation of benefits from any government scheme, there is nothing anyone can do to safeguard their rights. One complaint that has arisen to the top of the rostrum of discriminations was expressed by a Hindu woman of Rahimyar Khan from Punjab: “For the past 60 years, Hindu women have been discriminated against. Girls and even married women are being abducted and later remarried to non-Hindus, which goes unnoticed because there is no law to protect us”. To protect their young girls Hindu parents preemptively marry them at a very early age. In 2010, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported that at least 25 Hindu girls were abducted and converted by force every month. Finding themselves thrown at the mercy of unconscionable Muslims, Hindus are leaving Pakistan, thus bringing the total population from 16 per cent in 1947 to a mere two per cent today. Since 2008, more than 10 Sindhi Hindu families have migrated to other countries every month. The eight to ten Hindu families who migrate from Pakistan to India every month belong to the well-off stratum; those left behind are the lowest of the low, deserving of the compassion of Pakistan’s overwhelming Muslim majority. However, the state is blind to this reality. The three million Hindus, as per the 1998 census are still the largest religious minority in Pakistan, most of them located in Karachi, Mirpurkhas and Sukkur regions of Sindh. There was a time when Sindh was known as the most tolerant province in Pakistan, its people bound together by language and the Sufi tradition, respectful of each other’s faith. With the rise of extremism and the weakening of the writ of the state through proxy jihad and non-state actors all over Pakistan, including Sindh, the Hindu community has come under pressure. No one cares that the Constitution is being violated by the malpractices endured by the non-Muslims. Not even the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment, restoring the 1973 Constitution to its original shape — which corrected the deceptively altered text of the 1949 Objectives Resolution in respect of the minorities — has woken the government up to the situation. The courts, looking into cases of alleged abduction and conversion followed by marriage to Muslims, are rendered helpless by the yet-to-be rationalised right to convert, backed by an aggressive clergy. One hopes that the government and the Federal Shariat Court are moved by humanity and take note of what is happening themselves. The ground reality fact is that individuals of a community who are brought to such a low level of survival will try to ameliorate their condition by converting. This in itself is enough to outlaw freewheeling conversions. Christians in Punjab are subject to the same evil practices and many have resorted to false conversion to avoid the fallout of a rapidly criminalising majority community. The Hindus will benefit greatly if this negative social trend among Muslims is arrested through the registration of Hindu marriage, with the assurance that conversion of a non-Muslim married woman will be accepted only after the dissolution of her earlier marriage. Today, the state does not recognise the Hindu marriage and, therefore, displays a lack of respect for the sanctity of this minority community.
The Express TribuneA local body established for the protection of farmers’ rights has demanded that the government immediately shut down marble factories in Shabqadar, Charsadda district. Residents complain that the factories drain sewage into the main canals, contaminating water meant for consumption and irrigation. At a public meeting held in village Aranda on Sunday, residents said waste from marble factories in the area is drained into the Michini canal. Siraj, the head of the committee, said there are around 35 marble factories in the villages of Khwajazai and Daryab Koroona. “It’s not only damaging for the crops but people in these villages have started suffering from health problems.” He said children, who used the canal for swimming, are suffering from skin diseases, typhoid, and hepatitis. Mohabat Khan, a farmer, said his cattle died after it drank water from the canal. “Four of my goats and a cow have died.” The residents said they took up the issue with government officials, but in vain. “Our complaints fell on deaf ears when we approached the district coordination officer and executive district officer of Charsadda,” said resident Muhammad Islam. Lands turning arid Nearly 2,000 acres of land is irrigated by the Michini canal. Crops like wheat, sugarcane and some vegetables are grown in the area, but the land is becoming arid with each passing day. Local farmers claim that the villagers paid Rs0.2 million to the Irrigation Department to block the channel for the sewage, but nothing has happened so far. “We will not pay them in the future due to their non-cooperative attitude,” said an elder from the locality, Siana Khan. A government officer said the department had sent an application to the local SHO to register an FIR against 12 factory owners under Section 19 of the Environmental Protection Act, but the SHO refused to register the case.
Unemployment across the 17-nation eurozone hit a record high of 10.8 per cent in February, up from 10.7 per cent the previous month, according to official figures. The data released on Monday represent the highest level since the introduction of the single currency in 1999. Official eurozone unemployment figures Spain 23.6 per cent Greece 21.0 per cent France 10.0 per cent Italy 9.3 per cent Germany 5.7 per cent The Eurostat data agency estimated that more than 17.1 million men and women were out of work in February after the ranks of the unemployed rose by 1.48 million compared with February 2011. The eurozone's unemployment rate has risen for 10 consecutive months, as nations across the region enforce austerity measures to fend off the two-year-old debt crisis. Eurozone leaders have vowed to install growth and job-creation strategies to counter a looming recession. They insist that budget cuts and structural reforms must continue to restore market confidence. The unemployment rate rose in 18 European Union states and fell in eight others compared to a year ago. Spain remained the nation with the highest rate at 23.6 per cent, followed by Greece at 21 per cent. The states with the lowest rates were Austria at 4.2 per cent, the Netherlands at 4.9, Luxembourg at 5.2 per cent and Germany with a 5.7 per cent jobless rate. Entering recession The new unemployment record followed a separate report confirming that manufacturing activity in Europe shrank in February. It is the eighth month in a row that the Purchasing Manager's Index has been below 50, which indicates contraction. France was particularly weak, with manufacturing activity falling to the lowest level in almost three years. Economists agree that the eurozone area is probably in recession. "It looks odds-on that eurozone GDP contracted again in the first quarter of 2012, thereby moving into recession," said Howard Archer, chief European economist at IHS Global Insight. "And the prospects for the second quarter of 2012 currently hardly look rosy," said Archer.
The majority of the Turkish media highlighted the failure of the so-called "Friends of Syria" meeting in Istanbul despite the attempts of pro-government media to show the opposite.Writers specialized in the international affairs underlined that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu failed to persuade the participants in the meeting to issue concrete decisions against Syria. Turkish TV channels and newspapers talked about the aggressive and provocative stance of the Turkish security forces against the Syrian pro-government protesters in Istanbul who condemned the meeting. The renown Turkish journalist Asli Aydintash from Milliyet Newspaper asked " what democratic message could Ankara send to President Bashar al-Assad through the democracy of burner pepper gas, which couldn't stand the shouting of only thirty people." Cumhuriyet newspaper revealed that foreign ministers of western countries, including the USA, Britain and Germany refused a Turkish proposal on granting the UN special envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, two weeks only for his mission, as they also rejected another Turkish proposal on arming the opposition and the militia of the so called "Free Army" and granting monetary aid. The participants of the Meeting also ruled out discussing the idea of establishing a buffer zone on the Turkish-Syrian border.
The Supreme Court refused Monday to limit strip searches of new jail inmates, even those arrested for minor traffic offenses. Dividing 5-4 along ideological lines, the high court said jail guards needed the full authority to closely search everyone who is entering a jail in order to maintain safety and security. It would be “unworkable,” said Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, to make an exception for persons who are arrested for minor offenses. County jails often must process hundreds of new inmates a day, he said. "Experience shows that people arrested for minor offense have tried to smuggle prohibited items into jail," Kennedy said. And officials cannot take such a risk, he added. The decision is a defeat for civil liberties groups and a New Jersey man who was strip-searched twice after he was stopped on a highway and taken to jail over an unpaid fine. Albert Florence was held for six days and finally released when he showed the fine had already been paid before he was arrested. He then sued county jail officials for violating his privacy and subjecting him to a humiliating strip search. A judge ruled in his favor, but he lost before the U.S. Court of Appeals. In delivering his opinion, Kennedy said violent criminals sometimes are arrested for minor traffic offenses. He cited the example of Timothy McVeigh,the man who bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. He was stopped and taken to jail for a traffic violation. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined with Kennedy. In dissent, Justice Stephen G. Breyer said it was unreasonable to subject possibly innocent persons to humiliating searches, particularly when they are not suspected of a serious crime. "In my view, such a search of an individual arrested for a minor offense that does not involve drugs or violence is an unreasonable search forbidden by the 4th Amendment," he wrote. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan agreed. The case was Florence vs. Board of Chosen Freeholders of Burlington County.
http://www.onlinenews.com.pkAfghan Finance Minister Hazrat Omar Zakhelwal has dispelled the impression that Afghanistan will plunge into a major financial crisis after the foreign military pullout in 2014. He said the government is working hard to find alternatives to compensate for any reduction in the foreign aid to Afghanistan after 2014. "The withdrawal of the foreign forces in 2014 will 100 per cent have an impact, but no crisis will take place as some people outside the country claim. Some are expressing concern that the people will sell their homes and land, but such a situation will not happen. Be assured that 2014 and 2015 will also come and our situation in that time will be better than now," Zakhelwal told Tolo News Channel. "The way the aid is spent must change so that it can have a greater level of impact. The significance of the aid money spent outside the government budget is very low. Therefore, any reduction in the aid money will be compensated for to an extent by increasing the effectiveness of the aid. Secondly, we have very much tightened limitations in the government’s ordinary budget spending. We must bring the spending under control. Thirdly, we must pay more attention to our mining sector to increase our revenue. Fortunately, the interest of major companies of the world has very much increased in our major mines and this can help increase our internal revenue. We will meanwhile pay attention to the investments that could help us rely on ourselves. Some alternatives will, God willing, come," he added. The minister said that his government was pinning its hopes on the next international’s donor conference on Afghanistan in Tokyo in July this year to fund Afghanistan for many years after 2014. The minister said: "The importance of this summit lies in getting the long-term commitment of the international community for their long-term aid to our development and ordinary spending after the reduction of the international forces in Afghanistan in 2014. We hope that the continuation of aid will not be dependent on their military presence here. To become sure, the Tokyo summit will be held so that they make written and specific commitment for us on this." "After the Kabul conference, we worked on development programmes. At the Bonn Conference, we announced our programmes until 2025, and in the Tokyo conference, we will make our programmes more specific and specify project costs. We will make it clear how much revenue we will have during this period and the gap between our revenue and our necessary development and ordinary spending." Asked how much the Afghan government would be able to meet its commitments such as establishing good governance and fighting administrative corruption in order to receive the foreign aid, the minister said: "To be realistic, the Afghan government has met the majority of its commitments. In the Kabul and London conferences, we made 35 commitments, and we have met nearly 30 of the commitments. Afghanistan’s financial management is one of our major achievements and it is the increase in our revenue. Transparency in the mining contracts and reforms in the Ministry of Agriculture such as land management is one of our major achievements. These are the achievements. These are reforms that at the same time reduce corruption. Our revenue has increased from 150 to 200 per cent in the past two or three years which shows that we have done something for this."
DAILY TIMESAwami National Party (ANP) Sindh President Shahi Syed on Sunday demanded the government launch an indiscriminate and immediate military operation in Karachi to curb target killings. Talking to Daily Times at Khyber Pakhtunkhwa House, he also rejected the impression of Talibanisation of Karachi, saying that the Sindh chief and home ministers were responsible to maintain order in the city. Senator Syed said there might be some people who had a soft corner for the Taliban “but as a whole, there is no Talibanisation of Karachi as being portrayed by some political forces”. “The ANP condemns the killing of people from ethno-linguistic group, sect or race.” He said that although Interior Minister Rehman Malik had been trying to restore peace in Karachi, it was not the task of one individual. “It is responsibility of Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and Home Minister Manzoor Wasan to maintain peace in the city.” He said the situation would turn to normalcy when the chief minister and home minister called for reports on Karachi’s security on a daily basis. The senator said the ANP was not happy with the role of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in maintaining order in Karachi. In other provinces however, he added, the coalition alliance was working fine. “When the PPP has failed to protect the lives of its own polling agents, how could it provide protection to the general public in Karachi?” Senator Syed said the Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Norani, ANP and Muhajir Qaumi Movement-Afaq had joined hands to rid Karachi of terrorism and target killings. “The option to tune this ‘city alliance’ into a political alliance cannot be ruled out. However, the final decision will be taken after reviewing the ground situation of city’s affairs,” said the senator, who is also president of the ANP’s Sindh chapter. He said that there had been “75 percent decrease” in incidents of terrorism and extremism across the country during the ANP’s rule in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “A major success for the ANP in the province was repatriation of 25,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) to their homes despite the party facing tough challenges at the hands of extremist and terrorist elements,” Senator Syed said. He said that the priority of the ANP in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was to invest in power sector to rid people of electricity crisis. For the purpose, he added, Rs 40 billion had been allocated for power generation. Giving details of power projects launched by the ANP, Syed said that the ANP would also start working on the construction of three small dams in the province by June. Commenting on the Defence of Pakistan Council (Difa-e-Pakistan Council), the ANP leader said it was the same old team of former military dictator and “innovator of division” Gen (r) Ziaul Haq. He said the council was following the policies of Gen (r) Zia, adding that banned outfits and people facing murder charges were part of the group. Senator Syed rejected the census campaign in Karachi, saying, “the ongoing census is not fair and independent and the ANP condemns it at Karachi level”. He alleged that in some areas, activists of the MQM were influencing the census process. “Whereas in other parts, entire streets were missed by the census commission, which is unfair,” the ANP leader said. He said the ANP had decided to move the Supreme Court against improper census in Karachi. Asked to suggest an immediate solution to unrest in Karachi, Senator Syed said that the only solution was to launch an immediate and indiscriminate military operation in Karachi. He said that terrorists and killers from any sect or political force should be detained and brought to the court of justice for taking the lives of innocent people.
www.thenews.comPakistan is once more seeing many thousands of people move out from the tribal belt. The latest exodus has gone almost unnoticed in a country which has become accustomed to mass displacements on account of the ongoing conflict in the tribal areas. In a recent press release issued from Geneva, the UNHCR said that since January this year, 100,000 people had been displaced — almost all of them from Khyber Agency. The situation in Khyber is complex given that rival militias are locked in battle with each other as well as against the state. Most of the people fleeing the area because of conflict or because they have been asked to evacuate have headed to the Jalozai camp at Nowshera or to other such camps. As in the past, many have moved in with relatives in various areas. While the UN and other bodies continue to provide aid and assistance to these IDPs, their condition is far from good. Life in camps is never easy and these unfortunate people have been forced into it too often. It is time this disruption of lives ended. Some means need to be found to bring an end to the constant unrest we still see in the tribal belt so that the displaced can return home and resume lives that have been shattered time and time again.
The Express TribunePakistan and China moved in lockstep a notch higher than their “time-tested” and “all-weather” friendship status on Sunday when Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani declared that “China’s enemy is our enemy”.
Daily TimesDutch Ambassador to Pakistan Gajus Scheltema has said that terrorism could be eliminated from the society if quality education is imparted to the people. Scheltema, who was on a short visit to Karachi, expressed these views while talking to the senior journalists here at a local hotel the other day. He further said, “I strongly feel that if a country succeeds in prospering, terrorism would itself lose its roots.” Talking particularly about Pakistan, he said that a sense of insecurity was prevailing as an impact of terrorism and nation has to eradicate it itself. He further said that it was time for Pakistani society to set its dimension. Scheltema said although he found it very difficult judging the country, people in Pakistan including representatives of politico- religious parties were very polite and nice. To a question about foreign impacts of terrorism, he said that terrorism in Pakistan was not an outcome of 9/11 but a product of imbalance in religious, political and social viewpoints. In response to a question about drone attacks and some cases in Afghanistan in which coalition forces targeted innocent citizens in wedding ceremonies, he said that they (citizens) were killed in mistaken drone attacks so these examples, known as collateral damage, do not fulfill the definition of terrorism, however the opponents of coalition forces were terrorists as they kill intentionally, he added. When asked about the Dutch model of progress, he said that they had been a trading nation for long. He said, “Trade is the key to prosperity,” adding that terrorism could also be curbed through trade, particularly export. He further said that the core reason behind Dutch progress was its traders’ yearning for foreign investment opportunities. Responding to a question about Pak-Netherlands bilateral relations, he said that the relations between two countries were in transitional phase. The Dutch government supports Pakistan in its bid to enhance Pakistani exports, he added. He further said that it would be mutually benefiting for both countries, as an economically strong Pakistan would be a great market for Netherlands. Scheltema further said that neighbouring countries were considered as best markets and Pakistani government was moving in the right direction by enhancing trade relations with India. It would not only support the economy of the country but also help increase the trust level for increasing prosperity at both sides of the border, he said. Talking about the energy sector, he said that energy crises were very critical in the country and Pakistan has to mend investment-friendly climate inside the country, if it wants itself out of crises. Political uncertainty and deteriorating law and order situation are the core obstacles that hinder foreign investments, he maintained. Scheltema was of the view that lack of investment was one of the core reasons behind energy crisis in Pakistan.
EDITORIAL:Daily TimesThe strike call given by the PML-N-sponsored Qaumi Tajir Ittehad in Lahore the other day to protest against crippling power outages, both scheduled and unscheduled, has fizzled out. This despite the fact that the rally taken out covered the distance from the historic Muslim Masjid, Lahori Gate, to Bhaati Gate — the PML-N’s bastion of support. The strike/rally was the latest of a string of protests by PML-N against the federal government. The wholesale markets that observed a complete shutter down included Akbari Mandi, Badami Bagh, Mochi Gate, Circular Road, Shah Alam and Urdu Bazaar, though the Hall Road, Defence, Johar Town and Iqbal Town markets remained open. So did Liberty. Interestingly, the market closure seemed to follow a definite pattern: markets located in posh peripheral city areas, by and large, disregarded the strike call, but those in localities closer to the old Lahore heeded it. The mixed response from the traders, considered the PML-N’s support base, may reflect the wisdom of the bazaar that load shedding is already affecting their businesses and earnings. A strike would only add to this loss of income, while not making any difference as far as power outages are concerned. The other day, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, in an attempt to garner political capital, had alleged discrimination against Punjab in load shedding, a charge that flew in the face of objective reality, as the power crisis is a countrywide phenomenon, with Karachi, the country’s financial and industrial hub, being as much hit by the energy crisis as Lahore, if not worse. Thanks to the abiding energy crisis, aided and abetted by an incompetent bureaucracy, the country’s projected growth rate has plummeted to three to four percent. Instead of indulging in a blame game, the stakeholders must develop consensus on a national programme to pull the country out of the vortex of the energy crisis. Strikes and unrest will only further damage the economy. Let us stop playing politics on this national crisis. Parliament can be the best forum to resolve national issues, if a spirit of consensus and mutual accommodation is allowed to guide our thinking and actions. The partial response given to the strike called by PML-N seems to show both popular pragmatism and the people’s emotional fatigue. Let us build this sentiment into a positive force to put the country and its economy back on the rails.