Saturday, April 7, 2012

Greeks mourn suicide pensioner, vowing to fight on

In a sombre atmosphere in an Athens graveyard, hundreds of Greeks said farewell on Saturday to Dimitris Christoulas, a pensioner who became a symbol of the pain inflicted by austerity when he shot himself in the head outside parliament.

With red roses and carnations in their hands, weeping mourners chanted "Hero!" and "They killed you!" as the 77-year-old's coffin was carried into the cemetery.

The highly public suicide on Wednesday of the retired pharmacist prompted a wave of sympathy in Greece, where many are struggling amid a deep recession.

Garlands, candles and notes of tribute have turned a tree at the spot where he died into an impromptu shrine, in Syntagma Square which has been the epicenter of months of angry protest over Greece's plight.

"I cannot find any other form of struggle except a dignified end before I have to start scrounging for food from the rubbish," he wrote in his suicide note.

At Saturday's ceremony, friends and relatives read poems and letters to honor Christoulas, who wrote that he hoped young people would take up arms and hang "national traitors".

Shouting "Let's take to the streets!" the mourners pledged to fight the wage cuts and tax hikes imposed on ordinary Greeks to keep the debt-burdened country out of bankruptcy.

"Father, you couldn't put up with them killing freedom, democracy, dignity," said Christoulas' 43-year-old daughter Emmy, dressed in black.

"You paid with your sacrifice. Now it's our turn. Father ... We are so many here today because - as the note of a young man(one of many left at his shrine) said - 'We are 11 million and our name is Resistance.'"

The ceremony was followed by a march to his shrine in Syntagma Square.

One mourner said he hoped Christoulas' death would be the start of a "Greek Spring", in the way that the suicide of a Tunisian vegetable seller who set himself on fire in December 2010 triggered the start of the "Arab Spring" protests.


Pensioners like Christoulas have been hard hit by Greece's worst economic crisis since World War Two, suffering cuts of 25 percent on average in their old-age benefits over the past two years as well as health spending cuts.

Poverty has increased in Greece since the debt crisis emerged at the end of 2009 and was followed by rounds of austerity in return for the aid that Athens needs from the EU and IMF to stay afloat.

"We say that he committed suicide but we know that he was murdered. We are all potential victims, we are all facing the same fate," said unemployed Angeliki, 55, who was wearing a Greek flag around her neck.

Friends and acquaintances describe Christoulas as a quiet and gentle man, but also a passionate leftist deeply shaken by the pain that the crisis had inflicted on his fellow citizens.

Christoulas was not buried on Saturday. His coffin was carried away at the end of the ceremony and fellow activists said his body would be sent to neighboring Bulgaria for cremation, according to his wishes.

Funeral ceremonies in Greece are usually carried out by an Orthodox priest, but the church opposes cremation and refuses to officiate at burials of people who take their own lives.

Günter Grass tries to quell outrage over poem criticizing Israel

The Washington Post reports that German Nobel laureate, Günter Grass, is attempting to set the record straight on a poem that sharply criticizes Israel. Grass maintains he was attacking the government's current policies, and not Israel as a whole.
The poem, "What Must Be Said" was published Wednesday, and criticizes Grass' home country of Germany for delivering nuclear submarines to Israel. The 84-year old also takes aim at Germany's refusal to stand up against Israel. He notes that his words will probably be perceived as anti-Semitic, but holds firmly to the belief that Israeli aggression against Iran is a deadly mistake that will do nothing to solve Israel's problems, but rather worsen them.
In an interview with the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Grass explained his motive was to single out Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government for policies he said were "creating even more enemies for Israel, and are ever more increasing the country's isolation," The Washington Post reports.
"The man who damages Israel the most at the moment is Netanyahu, and I should have concluded that in the poem," Grass said in the interview which was published Saturday.
In his poem, Grass called for "unhindered and monitored and permanent monitoring of Israel's nuclear facility and Iran's nuclear facility through an international entity," The Guardian reports.
Grass also sharply criticized Israel's claim to have the right to "strike first" against Iran, The Washington Post reports.
Grass said in the interview that a preventive strike against Iran would have "terrible consequences."
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, rebuked the views Grass expressed in his poem as "ignorant and reprehensible."
"His shameful moral equivalence between Israel and Iran, a regime that denies the Holocaust and threatens to annihilate Israel, says little about Israel and much about Mr. Grass," Netanyahu said in a statement.
Netanyahu took his attack in a more personal direction with the reminder that "for six decades, Mr Grass hid that he had been a member of the Waffen SS," The Guardian reports.
"So for him to cast the one and only Jewish state as the greatest threat to world peace and to oppose giving Israel the means to defend itself is perhaps not surprising."
Grass has also received sharp criticism from his home country of Germany. An accusation by conservative German newspaper Welt that Grass is anti-Semitic, seems to have catapulted the 84-year old's Nobel laureates desire to set the record straight, the Financial Times reports.
Germany has long been regarded as one of Israel's closest allies.
Amidst all the controversy and backlash, Iran's deputy cultural minister, Javad Shamaqdari, has come forward to praise the poem. He said Saturday that by criticizing Israel, Grass "beautifully carried out his human and historical responsibility, and his revelation of 'truth may awaken the silent conscience' of the West."
Back in Germany, not all Germans share the accusation that Grass is anti-Semitic. Many younger Germans hope the poem will reawaken attention to the situation in the Middle East, the Financial Times reports.
"I don't think the poem sought to offend Israel, so I don't think you can call it anti-Semitic," A 25-year old medical student from Berlin named Anna said. "This is a poem about the threat of war. I think it's good more people will now talk about that issue."

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Bahrain's Sordid Suppression

The continuing suppression in Bahrain following the brutal and callous crackdown of a peaceful countrywide democratic insurrection is utterly reprehensible. As is the western powers avoidance to help those seeking justice in their righteous struggle.
Who can forget the inspirational images that came from Tehran in June 2009? When Iranians gathered in solidarity on the streets giving the world a glimpse at what Iran may look like if it were a more pluralistic society. Who could also forget the horrific and sadistic crackdown by regime forces that saw the infamous broad daylight murder of Neda Agha-Soltan?
That struggle inspired many and have caused others who had maintained a very negative view of Iran and her people to rethink their perceptions and why they had them in the first place. Others have gone as far as to say that they directly inspired the Arab Spring that broke out in December 2010 when a street vendor in Tunisia immolated himself and sparked several revolutions that saw three dictators forced from power.
As was the case with Egypt the Bahraini peoples protest was countrywide, people were in solidarity with each other, and like Egypt's Tahrir Square their focal point of protest was the Pearl Roundabout in Manama. As with the images that came from Tehran we saw people in solidarity with each other peacefully demonstrating and calling for freedom and dignity. A young poet and student named Ayat Al-Qurmezi stood in front of her fellow Bahrainis and read a poem she had written in which she powerfully proclaimed:
"We are the people who will kill humiliation and assassinate misery. Don't you hear their cries? Don't you hear their screams?”
Unlike in Tahrir Square where Mubarak had the army encircle and his air force buzz past until he realized he would have to step down or fight his own people the Bahraini Royal Family decided that instead of offering compromises or concessions it would fight its own people. And it did, brutally and sadistically, beating and shooting protesters and driving them out of the Pearl Roundabout like they were feral animals. Ayat was later imprisoned, tortured and under duress forced to make an apology to the Royal Family for having the gall to criticize the regimes for its actions and its sectarian policies that oppress and marginalize the islands kingdoms Shia majority.
At this time the United States was beginning to enter the Libyan Civil War and was given support by Saudi Arabia which had sent its troops in in order to aid the Bahraini Royal Family in its large scale crackdown. In turn the United States didn't make an official condemnation for the actions undertaken by the Khalifa regime.
Since then Bahrain has seen sectarian blows, the Pearl Monument was hastily demolished and the Square itself cordoned off depriving the protesters of a focal point of conglomeration or of the right to peacefully demonstrate. Dissidents and prisoners of conscience have been tortured. Doctors who assisted protesters that were badly beaten or shot in the Salmaniya hospital were attacked by thugs at the time and were deprived of assisting those mortally wounded and in urgent need of treatment, to add insult to injury they were tried in trials that made a mockery out of elementary justice, as the doctors like Ayat were under duress and forced to confess to crimes they self-evidently did not commit.
The regime there has clearly opted to live on even if it must utilize suppression and continue to oppress a clear majority of its people. The ignoble (to say the least) actions it has taken over the past year is enough to make ones stomach turn.
If the western powers are to be taken seriously when they speak up for democratic dissidents whom risk their lives when they speak out against the regime in Tehran then they must demonstrate it by speaking up for those whom are fighting for the same thing in Bahrain. These people aren't mere fifth columnists of Iran, they are people whom have been unfairly discriminated against on sectarian grounds and deprived of some of the most elementary civil -- and even human -- rights.
The United States and Israel have been the loudest voices warning of the nuclear threat that Iran will soon pose, as they claim the regime there is scrambling to build nuclear weapons. This issue has been recurring for quite some time now and often attracts a lot of 'if they the bomb this is what will happen' scenarios. This commentator sincerely doubts the regime currently in power in Tehran will simply throw away all the wealth and power they have accumulated over the past few years in some quixotic nuclear strike against Israel. Instead they may use such weapons as cover for an intervention in the neighboring island kingdom.
Why on earth would they do such a thing?
It is a big 'what if' but is certainly not an implausible scenario. The Iranian regime often employs a 'siege mentality' through its propaganda outlets in a bid to make people fearful of outsiders and make them rally around it. Iran is the only major Shia country in the world, the majority of Bahrainis are Shia, and they're oppressed by a Sunni minority regime which is directly backed by Saudi Arabia in its efforts to keep them down. The Iranian regime could play the brotherhood and humanitarian card all at once. When -- if they are in fact pursuing such weaponry that is -- they have the bomb the regime could rally and stir up much needed patriotic fervor within the country (all the while quietly rooting out dissidents and doing away with them as they had previously done under the cover of the Iran Iraq War) and go on a moral crusade to free their oppressed brothers and sisters from the clutches of their Sunni oppressors and deter any rapid military response on the part of the western powers with their newly developed weapons.
Bahrain was historically part of a much greater Persian Empire, however it was conquered by the Arabs and had remained under the control of the same family ever since. It is still seen by many conservative hard liners in Tehran as being rightfully Iran's as Saddam Hussein claimed Kuwait was rightfully part of Iraq. Saddam had also stated that his one mistake in invading Kuwait when he did was that he did it too soon, he saw in hindsight he should have held back marching into Kuwait until after he had gotten the bomb.
This shows how potentially dangerous the situation in Bahrain is and how it has the clear potential to lethally affect the wider region. The present suppression therefore needs to be officially condemned by the west and not conveniently ignored and slyly prohibited.

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Bahrain crackdown: ‘Opposition in dire need of media spotlight’

Bahraini demonstrators throw Molotov cocktails at a police water cannon vehicle after clashes erupted during a protest calling for the release of a jailed activist in the village of Jidhafs, west of Manama, on April 6, 2012.

Bahrain security forces have again clamped down on protesters, as thousands marched in support of a human rights activist facing a life sentence. The regime, under increasing international pressure over the issue, has promised to review his case.
The Bahraini Supreme Judicial Council is currently studying an appeal to transfer Abdulhadi al-Khawaja to Denmark, the official Bahrain News Agency reported on Saturday. However, the report gave no possible timetable for the decision.
Al-Khawaja, along with seven other top opposition figures, was arrested last year and sentenced to life for anti-state crimes. Nearly two months ago he started a hunger strike, which has given more momentum to the movement and brought thousands to the streets, as well as putting Bahrain in the media spotlight again.

On Friday, as thousands marched in support of Al-Khawaja in the capital Manama, Bahraini security forces used tear-gas, water cannon and stun grenades to disperse the crowd.
An uprising against the Saudi-backed Al Khalifa regime in Bahrain began some 14 month ago, and since then the protests have faced violent crackdowns by Bahraini security forces. The UN estimates that 13 people have been killed as a result of police brutality during anti-regime protests since the beginning of this year.
Despite the current “silent western stance” on the situation, Middle East expert Ali Rizk believes Bahrain will increasingly come under scrutiny.
“More and more such acts, I think, will further expose the true nature or the true tactics which the regime is using,” Rizk said. “It also puts more pressure on certain Western powers or certain European countries in order to change their stance vis-à-vis the regime in Bahrain.”
The Bahraini opposition is in dire need of the media spotlight, believes Rizk, because this could contribute much to achieving their goals and help them gain “some of the rights that they are demanding.”
Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are the US’s two closest allies in the region. The US Fifth Fleet is stationed in Bahrain and would be vital for the US in the event of a military campaign against Iran. And Rizk believes that is one of the main reasons the US media is attacking Iran’s ally, Syria, while remaining absolutely silent about the situation in Bahrain.
The view is shared by journalist and anti-war activist Don DeBar who says that maintaining the Fifth Fleet is the only interest of the US in Bahrain. “The Bahraini people are nothing but people that are supposed to service that base and keep their mouths shut while they do it.”
Rizk believes that Saudi Arabia’s desire to keep “quiet on the situation” contributes to the West’s silent stance.
“When we speak about a blackout being put on Bahrain I think first and foremost this is a Saudi Arabian wish, because Saudi Arabians also fear that there might be a domino effect which could happen in the Persian Gulf, beginning from Bahrain and then spreading to Saudi Arabia,” Rizk explained.
The United States is taking a hypocritical stance in this situation, believes DeBar. “They’ve been claiming that they are in Syria over human rights, that they are in Libya over human rights and yet they are suppressing human rights in Bahrain. It shows that President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are hypocrites, they are liars.”

Bahrain: Shouting in the dark

The story of the Arab revolution that was abandoned by the Arabs, forsaken by the West and forgotten by the world.

Bahrain: An island kingdom in the Arabian Gulf where the Shia Muslim majority are ruled by a family from the Sunni minority. Where people fighting for democratic rights broke the barriers of fear, only to find themselves alone and crushed.

This is their story and Al Jazeera is their witness - the only TV journalists who remained to follow their journey of hope to the carnage that followed.

This is the Arab revolution that was abandoned by the Arabs, forsaken by the West and forgotten by the world.

Power and petrol offer awaits Asif Ali Zardari

India is expected to offer power and petroleum products to boost Pakistan's energy-starved industry and dwindling economy when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Asif Zardari meet in New Delhi on Sunday. The opening of the second gate at the Wagah-Attari border on April 13 expected to at least double trade with India.
Government sources said that while the one-on-one talks between the two leaders will touch upon several aspects of bilateral ties, New Delhi is expected to offer 500MW (megawatts) of power daily through the Indian northern grid to help Pakistan tackle its energy crisis in the run-up to the national assembly elections next year.

The power ministries of both countries have been discussing the issue for the past five months and New Delhi is willing to supply power by linking up the two Punjab states through the Wagah corridor.

If Pakistan agrees, then a link-up transmission line between the two nations could be established soon.

The Prime Minister is also expected to offer all help to Zardari and son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to boost Pakistan's economy and revive its sick textile and light engineering industry, which is facing power outages.As Pakistan needs diesel and petroleum products to overcome the crisis, India is likely to export petroleum products to Islamabad through the Wagah border from the Bathinda refinery in Punjab.

The issue was discussed during the Indian petroleum secretary's visit to Pakistan recently.

Trade between the two neighbours will also get a boost from April 13, when the second gate at the Wagah border is opened, dedicated to unrestricted commercial movement.

Right now, land trade is restricted through the one gate at Wagah, which sees elaborate ritualistic opening and closing ceremonies.

New Delhi, by helping out Islamabad in times of economic crisis, wants to remove the trust deficit between the two countries.

It will also hope that Islamabad shows some action on terrorist groups targeting India.

It could also translate into the Zardari government wiping out the negative trade item list totally towards 2012-end and even allowing India to supply food to Afghanistan through the Wagah-Torkham land route.

Many Afghans Have No Access to Health Facilities

Afghan Public Health Minister Suraya Dalil said the despite positive sign of a major decrease in mother and child mortality rates, many Afghan citizens still have no access to basic health facilities.

Speaking at a ceremony at the Ministry of Public Health to mark World Health Day, Dalil stressed that while maternity death rates have tremendously decreased compared to last year, the efforts to improve health care should not diminish as with other sectors of society.

"We have to be concerned about health care, economy, and all social and cultural dimensions," Dalil said at the ceremony on Saturday.

She said providing quality health services for the elderly of Afghanistan is one the Ministry's top priorities.

"We should know that elderly citizens are a valuable section of our society," she said.

World Health Organisation (WHO) representative Dr Ahmad Shoudul also emphasised the importance of providing better health care for Afghanistan's senior citizens in his speech.

"As we see more mothers surviving, we see families thriving. Where we see strong families with formidable Afghan values we see elders in honorable positions, respected, and well taken care of. So we want to provide better health care service for Afghans to live longer," he said at the ceremony.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Public Health called on government and international community to continue to support better health care services throughout Afghanistan, especially to reach those who have no access to health facilities.

World Health Day is observed every year on April 7, under the sponsorship of WHO.

335 wanted people surrender themselves in northern Syria

As many as 335 wanted people turned themselves in to authorities in the northern province of Idlib Saturday amid renewed violence reported in other parts of Syria, state-run SANA news agency reported.

The Idlib province has emerged as one of the main battlegrounds between rebel forces and government troops. The clashes in Idlib, which is on the borders with Turkey, have sent thousands of people fleeing for their lives to neighboring Turkey.

Government troops have managed to dislodge most of the rebels in Idlib but are still quashing remnants of those fighters in the northern area, a well informed source told Xinhua recently.

Last week, Syria announced its approval of a six-point plan aimed at a cease-fire by Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League joint envoy to Syria. However, the government has also requested a written guarantee that the armed groups will respond in line with the government's pledge.

Annan's six-point plan calls for the withdrawal of heavy weapons and troops from populated areas, a daily halt of fighting for the delivery of humanitarian aid and treatment of the wounded, and talks between the government and opposition.

On Saturday, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his country will wait "patiently" to see if Syria abides by its pledges to cease fire on the April 10 deadline, warning that Turkey may undertake certain "steps" if violence persists after the deadline.

Erdogan didn't spell details on what his "steps" might be, however, his government has been reportedly discussing the possibility of imposing a buffer zone along its borders with Syria.

In a report issued Saturday, the pan-Arab al-Arabiya TV cited an opposition activist Bahiya Mardini as saying that Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has promised to impose a buffer zone on the borders if Syria fails to abide by the UN deadline.

Mardini said Davutoglu made the remarks during a recent meeting with the Syrian opposition abroad.

Meanwhile, SANA said that competent authorities raided Saturday many armed groups' hideouts in the Douma suburb of the capital Damascus, adding that the raid resulted in confiscating large amounts of weapons and ammunition in addition to communication devices.

Unidentified number of gunmen were killed during the raid, SANA said, adding that government forces also arrested a number of the most dangerous wanted people.

In central Homs province, engineering units dismantled Saturday five explosive devices weighing between 10 to 40 kilograms that were planted in different areas at the Deir Baalabeh neighborhood.

Opposition activists said that Deir Baalabeh district and the Douma suburb were under a large-scale military operation over the past days.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government troops stormed the village of al-Latamneh in central Hama province Saturday, killing at least 40 people.

Activists also reported heavy clashes with rebels in restive areas of Homs such as Rastan, Deir Baalabeh and Qusair.

The activists group reportedly put the overall death toll on Saturday at 87, while another opposition group the Local Coordination Committees put the toll as high as 121.

The opposition report couldn't be independently checked.

The UN estimated that more than 9,000 people have so far been killed in the Syrian conflict, including at least 500 children, while Syria says 6,044 have died, including 2,566 soldiers and police

Isn't it "marvelous?" Obama seeks to define Romney for voters

When President Barack Obama

criticized Mitt Romney by name this week for embracing a controversial Republican budget proposal, he worded his attack carefully and with bite.
"(Romney) said that he's 'very supportive' of this new budget, and he even called it 'marvelous' -- which is a word you don't often hear when it comes to describing a budget," Obama said during a speech on Tuesday, before adding:
"It's a word you don't often hear generally."
The desired effect was clear: tie Romney directly to mostly unpopular plans for budget cuts and emphasize that the former executive is out of touch by lampooning his use of a seemingly out of date adjective.
After watching quietly while Republican candidates fought each other, Obama is now trying to define his likely opponent in November as an out-of-touch multi-millionaire who would cut social programs for the elderly and the middle class while promoting policies to help the rich.
Obama's riff on Romney's use of the word "marvelous" to describe Representative Paul Ryan's budget plans carried a subtle message.
"It's a word you kind of associate with the upper class, and I think that the intention was to tweak Romney for being wealthy and, you know, sort of brought up in the kinds of circles where they would say ‘marvelous,'" said Kenneth Sherrill, a political science expert at New York's Hunter College.

"That's trying to get under his skin a little bit."
The attack - which Obama repeated at a fundraiser on Thursday night - is a sign of things to come.
Obama's campaign has worked steadily to construct an image of an insensitive and patrician Romney even before he wins the Republican nomination, hoping to create a caricature that sticks with voters once the election officially becomes a two-man race.
Romney has made similar efforts to define Obama, portraying him as unprepared and unable to handle the country's economic challenges. And he began the process earlier, deliberately focusing his critiques on the president rather than the other Republican challengers.
The back and forth is a foreshadowing of what is likely to be a very nasty campaign. Hunter College's Sherrill said both candidates were likely to get very negative.
"This will be a spectacularly aggressive and negative campaign in the general election," he said. "I think that the principals - the candidates themselves - are going to go after one another pretty strongly."
Yet former constitutional law lecturer Obama can only go so far with charges that Romney is an elitist.
"It looks to me like what Obama's trying to do is two things: one is run on class warfare ... and (two) just demonize his opponent," said Charlie Black, a former adviser to 2008 Republican nominee John McCain who is now advising Romney.
"A president who's also wealthy and went to Harvard is not going to win on class warfare."
Obama's campaign is already drawing contrasts in areas where it perceives Republicans to be weak. Obama regularly brings up his support for immigration reform at political fundraisers, a dig at Romney's hard line against illegal immigration.
Hispanics, who could provide the swing votes needed to win battleground states such as Colorado and Nevada, largely back Obama in polls.
His campaign is also targeting women, another critical voting bloc that Democrats want in their column.
Obama spoke at a conveniently timed forum on women and the economy at the White House on Friday, making reference to influential women in his life as well as his appointment of two women to the Supreme Court.
This line seems to be working. Polls show support for Obama among women is increasing, while Republicans have lost ground due to conservative stances on birth control.
On healthcare, Obama advisers gleefully describe the president's 2010 reform law as modeled on Romney's own effort in Massachusetts, reminding conservative Republicans of the candidate's moderate past
Obama will also bring renewed attention on Tuesday to the "Buffett rule," a measure to raise taxes on the wealthy, which Republicans oppose.
"Obama's smart enough to know ... (that) many people in the public are perceiving Romney as an elitist who does not have sympathy for workers or the poor," said Mark Rom, an associate professor of government at Georgetown University.
"Anything he can do to reinforce that image, he'll take the opportunity to do."
But with unemployment still high and job creation advancing only slowly, Republicans see an opening, no matter how much Obama defines himself as a middle class champion.
"Middle class voters want to see economic growth and more jobs. They're anxious about the future of our economy," said Romney adviser Kevin Madden.
"Middle-class Americans have lost faith in President Obama because his basic message in this economic slowdown is that 8 percent unemployment is the new normal, and other rising cost pressures like high gas prices and rising health care costs are all someone else's fault."



The security climate had improved a little bit following stormy hearing of some cases by the treasury Bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in Quetta. This improvement in the climate was confirmed when relatives of the missing persons ended their boycott of the court proceeding and started appearing before the prime Bench exposing the propaganda campaign of the State functionaries that they are angels and not involved in extra-judicial arrest of people from the political front. A few female relatives appeared before the Supreme Court and directly accused the State functionaries of extrajudicial kidnapping and arrest using so many official vehicles and hundreds of people of the neighbourhood witnessing the drama during the day and night. A spokesman of the Voice of Missing Persons informed that his organization would produce all the close relatives of thousands of missing persons from all parts of Balochistan if the Chief Justice ensured regular and constant hearing of their cases in Quetta. It may be mentioned here that the security establishment and its spokesman Rehman Malik always spoke with one voice that there are only 47 missing persons. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan claimed that over 172 cases are registered with the HRCP alone. When female relatives of the missing persons appeared before the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the court ordered their production following specific charges that who had kidnapped them and from where. It is hoped that all the missing persons in the official custody will be recovered ending this sad chapter of our bitter history and the State will restrain its disorderly functionaries from illegal arrests, detentions and killing in custody.
The guns of the Supreme Court had been targeted on the police, a civilian agency, that remained helpless when score of vehicles from other security agencies had whisked away the wanted persons publicly and in front of hundreds of neighbours and onlookers. Other functionaries primarily responsible for strategic reasons had been spared for good and in the interest of better political and security climate. It is an understandable fact of the case.
In any case, it is good development and the Voice of Missing Persons also took a wise decision to appear before the Supreme Court exposing the lies and slanders by producing relatives of all the missing persons from all parts of Balochistan.
Finally, it is hoped that the Supreme Court proceedings will end the miseries of the close relatives of all the missing persons and the State functionaries will release all of them before the Supreme Court holds yet another stormy hearing in Quetta or in Islamabad. It should improve the political climate which should move towards the process of political reconciliation in Balochistan resolving all the constitutional and political issues through dialogue. We will appreciate peaceful resolution of the Baloch conflict in the interest of national sovereignty and integrity so that lasting and durable peace in Balochistan forcing the hawks in the establishment to take the back seat in the interest of Pakistan and its solidarity. The chosen representatives of the people at the Centre and in the province should come on the driving seat and handle the situation and regain the confidence of the people, mainly close relatives of the missing persons, so that the issue is resolved for ever and its facts are buried in the history books only.
The security environment around Pakistan demands sanity among the rulers making a correct analysis of the dangerous security situation when Pakistan is trapped in a serious regional conflict and the international forces are playing a key role. Pakistan should not provide any chance to outside forces to interfere in the internal affairs of Pakistan, mainly Balochistan, so that the world powers should advance their interests in this region. Balochistan is in the forefront of the conflict and all eyes of the regional powers are set on Balochistan watching developments keenly and closely. The Supreme Court proceeding will hopefully defuse the situation and reverse the process ensuring regional security and stability when there is peace and tranquility in Balochistan.

Troika takes up president’s visit to India

PM Gilani and Army Chief called on President Zardari at Governor House in Lahore.
They discussed different aspects of the president’s visit to India.
President Zardari is to leave for India on Sunday and would visit the monument of grand mystic Khwaja Moeenuddin Chaishti. He will also have a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
In the meeting at the Governor House, different aspects of the President’s visit to India were discussed in detail.
According to presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar, Prime Minister and Army Chief also met separately and discussed the rescue operation undergoing for the soldiers buried under an avalanche at Siachen.

Zardari: Was told to leave Pakistan with plane ready, but did not

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari today said that he was asked to leave the country but he had refused to do so.

"I was told to leave the country and that a plane was ready but I refused as I am not a weak-hearted man like others," Zardari said while talking to a group of journalists and lawyers at the Governor's House.

He did not say who had asked him to leave the country or when the demand was made.

"I told them that I would instead get an FIR registered against such elements," he said.

In an apparent dig at PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif, who had gone into self-exile after the PML-N government was deposed in a military coup, Zardari said only weak-hearted people left Pakistan as they could not bear the pressure.

He said his government would complete its term despite conspiracies being hatched against it.

Responding to a question, he said: "Bearing pain is the secret of my success".

He further said: "I honoured Nawaz Sharif as my elder brother but he did not come up to my expectations. He kept me in jail but I made friends with him".

Over the past few days, Zardari has repeatedly attacked the PML-N's top leadership.

Referring to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif's remarks about hanging Zardari upside down at the historic Bhatti Gate in Lahore, the President said three politicians had earlier spoken about hanging him in Karachi but were unable to do anything.

Zardari said he had no fight with the Supreme Court and had only sought justice by seeking a review of the death sentence awarded to Pakistan People's Party founder and former premier Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

"The apex court has been choosy in taking up cases. There are thousands of cases pending in the courts but only the political ones are being picked," he said.

The easy and speedy dispensation of justice to ordinary citizens remains the prime objective of the government, he added.

In recent months, the apex court has pressured the government to reopen cases of alleged money laundering against Zardari in Switzerland.

The court initiated contempt proceedings against Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani after he refused to act, saying the President enjoyed immunity in Pakistan and abroad.

Zardari said all the accused linked to the assassination of his wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, had either been arrested or killed.

"(Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief) Baitullah Mehsud was also involved in the murder. But our fight is with the mindset that had killed Benazir Bhutto and it will continue," he said.

Referring to the country's foreign policy, he said world powers had used Pakistan in the past and put "rotten eggs" in the country's basket.

Zardari said the government had successfully waded through difficulties despite various challenges and hurdles and achieved significant achievements on many fronts.

The President listed the 18th, 19th and 20th constitutional amendments, the award of the National Finance Commission, provincial autonomy, a development package for Balochistan and poverty alleviation as the major achievement of his government.

"The PPP led government would continue its march on the path to progress and development despite challenges on various fronts," he said.