Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Lady Gaga’s teacup auctioned in Japan for $50,000 and rising

The Tokyo Times
A teacup that was used by pop star Lady Gaga
is being auctioned in Japan at a charity action, with a price offered so far of over $50,000 and continuing to rise.The china cup and saucer that are on sale have been used by the artist at a press conference in Tokyo, last year, three months after the natural disasters which struck Japan.Lady Gaga told journalists at the time that the cup, marked with her lipstick and the message “We pray for Japan”, would be later auctioned. The cup was put on “Yahoo! Japan Auctions” on Monday, with the starting price of one yen. The auction will close on Sunday afternoon. Lady Gaga has been in Japan twice after the March 2011 disasters and she called on tourists to return to the Asian country. She is expected in Japan next week, as part of her current Asian tour.

Russia accuses Syrian rebels of intending to ruin peace plan

Russia has accused armed groups in Syria of conducting a large-scale campaign to cause Kofi Annan’s peace plan to fail by violating the UN-brokered ceasefire. Blaming terrorist groups for the recent surge in violence in Syria, Russian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday accused armed groups fighting against the Damascus government of attempting to ruin Annan’s plan in order to pave the way for foreign military intervention in the country. The attacks "in essence unleashed a large-scale campaign to destabilize the situation and disrupt ... Annan's plan," the foreign ministry said in a statement referring to an attack on Syria's central bank and triple bomb explosions in Idlib on Monday, which left at least 20 people dead. Russia also urged the international community not to let Annan's plan fail. "We believe it is the international community's task not to allow the disruption of implementation of the UN-Arab League envoy's plan. For our part, we will do everything that depends on us to (ensure) violence in Syria ends as soon as possible." According to a Security Council diplomat, if the UN-brokered truce fails, Russia and China, who have so far vetoed two anti-Syria resolutions, will have some responsibility to accept stronger measures, including tighter sanctions and an arms embargo, since they have vocally supported Annan's peace plan and backed it in Security Council votes. The diplomat said that could mean action under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which empowers the Security Council to impose sanctions or authorize military means to enforce its will.

Veena Malik meets Fiji’s attorney general

Daily Times
Bollywood star Veena Malik has become an eye candy for the world. She has immense paparazzi and fan following not only in India and Pakistan, but also in Australia. In the list of her fan following, Fiji’s Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed Khiayum also has his name. Aiyaz Sayed Khiayum went to meet Veena on her on location shoot, which was taking place in Fiji. Veena Malik feels happy about it and said, “It was a great moment when the attorney general of Fiji came to meet me. We shared a good experience. It was great knowing about Fiji from him.” Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum said, “Veena Malik is a very glamorous actress. I have seen her acting and performance. She portrays herself in very good manner which is her usp.” “Fiji is a beautiful place with beautiful people,” Veena added. staff report

Malik seeks contempt trial against Nawaz Sharif

Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Wednesday urged the Supreme Court to summon Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif and others in storming of the court case as the contempt of court proceedings are still pending against him. Speaking to media representatives outside the Parliament House, he said the Supreme Court of Pakistan in its detailed judgment issued on October 10, 2000 had ordered that contempt of court proceedings should be initiated against Nawaz Sharif and others, who were involved in invading the apex court building. The court had also directed the concerned to complete the investigations and report within a period of four months but regrettably the investigations are still pending before Islamabad Police, he added. He said that the contempt of court proceedings still exists against the former prime minister, adding that he should appear before the court and which should issue a verdict over the issue. He said that the opposition should wait for the detailed judgment, adding that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has the right to appeal. The minister said that more evidences against the Sharifs are in the pipeline and he will soon reveal them before the media.

Pakistan: Corruption in Ministry of Water and Power, WAPDA unearthed

At least 448 employees of Ministry of Water and Power and WAPDA embezzled millions of rupees. According to documents obtained by Dunya News, 448 employees of Ministry of Water and Power and WAPDA from Grade 20 to Grade 2 were found involved in corruption and embezzled millions of rupees during the past three years. Most of the employees were involved in fraud, theft of meter, bogus meter reading and installing meter after taking bribe. Sevral of the employees were also involved in electricity theft case. Those who found irregularities included three 20 grade officers, five 19 grade officers, 11 officers of 18 grade and eight officers of 17 grade.

Sarkozy fails to down Hollande in French vote duel

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Francois Hollande clashed repeatedly in their only television debate but the conservative incumbent failed to land a knockout blow to shake his challenger's lead for Sunday's runoff.
Hollande, ahead in opinion polls by six to 10 points, seemed calm and unflappable during the nearly three-hour debate on Wednesday while Sarkozy, struggling to catch up with the moderate social democrat, was often agitated and tense. Political commentators said the confrontation was no game-changer and probably only reinforced voters' opinions of their two champions in a contest that has been as much about style and personality as substance. "This debate should not shift things and as Francois Hollande is in the position of favorite, he's the one that should benefit," said analyst Jerome Fourquet at pollster Ifop. French television commentators concluded that Sarkozy had performed "like a boxer" and Hollande "like a judo fighter", using touches of wit and interjections to unbalance his adversary. Hollande, 57, was confident and relaxed in early exchanges, saying he aimed to be "the president of justice", "the president of revival" and "the president of unity". He said Sarkozy, also 57 and in office since 2007, had divided the French people for too long and was using the global economic crisis as an excuse for broken promises. "With you it's very simple: it's never your fault," Hollande said. Sarkozy, fighting for his political life, repeatedly accused his opponent of lying about economic figures and reeled off reams of statistics in an attempt to unbalance his rival. "Mr Hollande. When you lie so shamelessly, do I have to accept it?" he asked when his opponent said the president was always happy with his record. The two sparred over Europe, which has become one of the biggest issues of the election race, along with the sickly economy, rife unemployment, nuclear power and immigration. "The example I want to follow is Germany and not Spain or Greece," Sarkozy said, declaring that he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had saved Greece from an economic wipeout and avoided the collapse of the euro currency. "Europe has got over it," Sarkozy said of the crisis. Hollande shot back: "Europe has not got over it. Europe is today facing a possible resurgence of the crisis with generalized austerity, and that's what I don't want." Hollande, who vowed to push for a new focus on growth to allow the euro zone to convalesce, said people across Europe were watching the election in the hope it would change the bloc's economic direction for the better. BARBED EXCHANGES The conservative head of state and his centre-left rival have dueled at a distance for months, with Sarkozy accusing Hollande of being incompetent and a liar, and Hollande branding the incumbent a "failed president" and "a nasty piece of work". Sarkozy, being punished for rife unemployment and a brash manner, is the most unpopular president to run for re-election. He was the first in recent history to lose a first-round vote, with Hollande benefitting from the anti-incumbent sentiment that has swept 11 euro zone leaders from office since 2009. Wednesday's duel was carried live on channels that reach roughly half France's 44.5 million voters. The streets of Paris were unusually deserted with many people staying home to watch. A handful of opinion polls due to land before Friday evening will measure any impact. "It threw into sharper relief the strengths and weaknesses of both candidates: a tough-talking and often condescending Sarkozy determined to pick holes ... and a milder-mannered yet feisty Mr Hollande," said London analyst Nicholas Spiro. "There was no knock-out blow or major slip-up on either side." Sarkozy suffered a setback on Tuesday when far-right leader Marine Le Pen - whose 17.9 percent score was the surprise of the first round - refused to endorse him. She vowed at a Paris rally to cast a blank vote and told her supporters to make their own choice, focusing most of her attacks on Sarkozy. The issue of how to deal with the anti-immigration crusader and her supporters has tormented Sarkozy's UMP party all week, as a TNS Sofres opinion poll found a third of voters agreed with the National Front's positions. The candidates tangled on immigration in the debate, with Sarkozy attacking Hollande's proposal to give long-term, non-European foreign residents the right to vote in local elections. Sarkozy began campaigning weeks after the more plodding Hollande, vowing to boost industrial competitiveness, hold referendums on contentious policies, crack down on tax exiles and make the unemployed retrain as a condition for receiving benefits. More recently, seeking to court the 6.4 million National Front voters, he has vowed to cut immigration and threatened to pull out of Europe's Schengen zone of passport-free travel unless the European Union's external borders are strengthened. Recent polls show Hollande with a slightly tighter but still comfortable lead. A BVA survey on Wednesday put the gap 1 point narrower at 7 points, with the rivals at 53.5 and 46.5 percent. (1 = 0.7603 euros)

Obama promises 110,000 new summer jobs for youth

The White House pledged on Wednesday to help lower-income youth find summer jobs in a move likely to appeal to younger voters crucial to President Barack Obama's re-election campaign. The initiative is in partnership with the cities of Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco and is meant to add 110,000 jobs, internships and mentorships to the 180,000 summer work opportunities for 16-24 year olds that Obama has promised to create for 2012. Under the new program, companies such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, Johnson & Johnson, and UBS, as well as non-profits and federal agencies such as the Department of Education will offer paying jobs as well as mentorships and other training programs. Every year from April to July, the size of the youth labor force swells as high school and college students nationwide look for summer jobs. But summer employment for young job seekers has hit record lows in recent years as more of them are unable to find work, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "There's no replacement for the dignity that comes with earning your first paycheck," said Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis in a statement. The initiative, which does not require congressional approval, comes on the heels of Obama's multi-state visit to college campuses where the president stressed his effort to get Congress to extend low interest rates on college loans to more than 7.4 million students. Obama won a strong majority of the youth vote in his 2008 presidential election and is trying to do so again but a key question is whether many young people will turn out to vote. The White House said the city of Chicago would provide 973 jobs through a partnership with Chicago Public Schools where nearly half of the opportunities would be offered to students at risk of academic failure. In 2011, the number of young people looking for but unable to find summer work increased by 745,000 to 4.1 million in July, which is typically the peak of youth employment. Last summer also marked the lowest rate of youth employment for the month of July since 1948, according to the labor bureau.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 105 terror attacks killed 97 in 3mths

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa cabinet on Wednesday informed that 97 persons were killed in 105 terrorist attacks during the first three months of the current year. This was told by Provincial Minister for Information, Mian Ifitkhar Hussain while briefing newsmen regarding cabinet decisions here. He said that the victims include 25 policemen, 1 FC personnel and 71 civilians while 331 got injured. Similarly, 14 police and three other vehicles besides four police buildings, 21 schools, two bridges, four electric towers and 10 shops have been damaged during this year terrorist attacks. Whereas 32 civilians and 9 policemen were eliminated in nine suicide attacks in first three months of the current year.

Obama’s winning strategy on foreign policy

By E.J. Dionne Jr.
We expect some hypocrisy in politics, but it was still jaw-dropping to behold Republicans accusing President Obama of politicizing the anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden. Wasn’t it just eight years ago that the GOP organized an entire presidential campaign — including the choreography of its 2004 national convention — around the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and George W. Bush’s response to them? Obama’s opponents don’t just think we have short attention spans. They imagine we have no memories whatsoever. Yet very quickly, Mitt Romney and the rest of his party began slinking away from their offensive. It’s true, of course, that Obama played the ultimate presidential trump card. He visited our troops in Afghanistan on Tuesday, the anniversary of the bin Laden raid, and, with military vehicles serving as a rough-hewn backdrop, addressed the nation from the scene of our longest war. But the GOP retreat reflected something else as well. For the first time since the early 1960s, the Republican Party enters a presidential campaign at a decided disadvantage on foreign policy. Republicans find it hard to get accustomed to the fact that when they pull their favorite political levers — accusations that Democrats are “weak” or Romney’s persistent and false claims that Obama “apologizes” for America — nothing happens. The polls could hardly be clearer. In early April, a Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 53 percent of Americans trusted Obama over Romney to handle international affairs. Only 36 percent trusted Romney more. On a list of 12 matters that a president would deal with, Obama enjoyed a larger advantage on only one other question, the handling of women’s issues. And on coping with terrorism, the topic on which Republicans once enjoyed a near-monopoly, Obama led Romney by seven points.

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How did this happen? The primary reason, to borrow a term from science, is negative signaling: By the end of Bush’s second term, the Republicans’ approach to foreign policy was discredited in the eyes of a majority of Americans. The war in Iraq turned out (and this is being quite charitable) much differently than the Bush administration had predicted. It is always worth recalling Vice President Cheney’s interview with Tim Russert on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on March 16, 2003. Among other things, Cheney famously declared that “I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators.” And when Russert asked whether “we would have to have several hundred thousand troops there” in Iraq “for several years in order to maintain stability,” Cheney replied, “I disagree,” insisting: “That’s an overstatement.” It was not an overstatement. More generally, Americans came to see that the war in Iraq had nothing to do with what they cared most about, which was protecting the United States against another terrorist attack. Indeed, the war in Afghanistan, which was a direct response to 9/11, was pushed aside as a priority. At one point, Bush declared of bin Laden: “I don’t know where he is. You know, I just don’t spend that much time on him . . . to be honest with you.” And this is where negative signaling turns into a positive assessment of Obama. He understood the importance of bin Laden. He addressed the broad and sensible public desire to get our troops out of Iraq. He focused on how to get a moderately satisfactory result in Afghanistan — which is probably the very best that the United States can do now. The Afghan policy Obama announced Tuesday reflected the president’s innate caution. He wants to withdraw our troops but not so fast as to increase the level of chaos in the country. He imagines a longer engagement with Afghanistan because he does not want to repeat the West’s mistake of disengaging too quickly after U.S. arms helped the mujahedeen defeat the Soviet Union there in the 1980s. Public opinion is on the side of getting out sooner. But most Americans are likely to accept the underlying rationale for Obama’s policy because it is built not on grand plans to remake a region but on the narrower and more realistic goal of preventing terror groups from regaining a foothold in the country. And that’s why Republicans finally seem to realize that driving foreign policy out of the campaign altogether is their best option. After a decade of war, Americans prefer prudence over bluster and careful claims over expansive promises. On foreign policy, Obama has kept his 2008 promise to turn history’s page. The nation is in no mood to turn it back.

Obama on bin Laden raid: ‘Single most important day’ of my presidency
President Barack Obama
calls the killing of Osama bin Laden "the most important single day" of his time in the White House--and the daring Navy SEAL raid that ended the al-Qaida chief's life "the longest 40 minutes of my life." "I did choose the risk," Obama said in an exclusive interview with NBC News' Brian Williams, to be broadcast late Wednesday. "The reason I was willing to make that decision of sending in our SEALs to try to capture or kill bin Laden rather than to take some other options was ultimately because I had 100 percent faith in the Navy SEALs themselves," the president told the "Rock Center" anchor. Obama emphasized that plans for the raid—dubbed "Operation Neptune's Spear"—had to be a closely guarded secret to avoid tipping off bin Laden — code-named "Geronimo." "Even a breath of this in the press could have chased bin Laden away," Obama said. "We didn't know at that point whether there might be underground tunnels coming out of that compound that would allow him to escape."Huddled in the White House's high-tech "Situation Room," Obama and his top national security aides watched the first part of the raid and gasped when one of the helicopters carrying the elite commandos crashed over the compound's stone wall. "That helicopter didn't make it to the right spot and everyone went, like, 'Whoa,'" Vice President Joe Biden told NBC. "The only thing that I was thinking about throughout this entire enterprise was, 'I really want to get those guys back home safe,'" said Obama. "I want to make sure that the decision I've made has not resulted in them putting their lives at risk in vain, and if I got that part of it right, if I could look myself in the mirror and say as commander in chief I made a good call." Obama, who has refused to release photographs of the slain al-Qaida leader, said, "it's wrong to say that I did a high-five" when he first saw them. "You have a picture of a dead body and, you know, there's I think regardless of who it is, you always have to be sober about death. But understanding the satisfaction for the American people, what it would mean for 9/11 families, what it would mean for the children of folks who died in the Twin Towers who never got to know their parents, I think there was a deep-seated satisfaction for the country at that moment," he said. Meeting a few days later with the SEALs who carried out the raid, Obama gave the pilot of the crashed helicopter "a pretty good hug." "They presented me with the flag that had gone on that mission, signed by all of them on the back and I think it's fair to say that will probably be the most important possession that I leave with from this presidency," he said.

Nawaz Sharif’s narcotics connections—by Shiraz Paracha

Source:Let Us Build Shiraz Paracha
In the 1990 elections Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif knowing or unknowingly awarded party tickets to people who were associated with drug mafia. As result some drug traffickers entered Pakistan’s national and provincial assemblies. Mr. Sharif not only introduced horse-trading in 1989, he also brought drug mafia to politics. In 1989, Mothermma Benazir Bhutto’s government had announced a war on drug mafia. At that time, I was working at the Narcotics Control Division in Islamabad and we had arrested big drag lords such as Mirza Iqbal Baig, Anwar Khattak and many others. The PPP government’s campaign against drug mafia caused fear among powerful circles that were connected with narcotics business. General Aslam Bag, General Hamid Gul and the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) operatives, who had connections with drug mafia since the days of General Zia’s Afghan Jihad, did everything to remove Benazir Bhutto’s government. Drug money was allegedly used to back the 1989 No-Confidence Motion against Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s government. After the failure of the No-Confidence Motion, drug barons continued their support to Benazir’s opposition. Eventually, on 6 August 1990, generals succeeded in removing the Benazir government on a false charge sheet. The caretaker government of Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi organized general elections on 24 October 1990 in which Nawaz Sharif’s led Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) won a two third majority with the full backing of the military and ISI. Three weeks after the 1990 elections, I was sitting at the office of a colleague who was a Deputy Inspector General of police but was heading our intelligence unit. He had a file on his table and he told me that the file contained information about the drug mafia members who had been elected to the Parliament. He was upset that the drug control agency was asked not to take any action against the drug traffickers who were elected to the Parliament in the 1990 elections. The next morning, my assistant brought a pile of files and as I looked through the papers, I found a file that was marked ‘confidential’. Out of curiosity, I opened the file and started reading it. The file contained explosive information that was gathered by the intelligence branch of the Narcotics Control Division. It listed names of 12 newly elected members of the national and provincial assemblies who were actively involved in narcotics business. Most of them belonged to the IJI and some were close associates of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and even had drug warrants outstanding against them. Two narcotics traffickers from tribal areas were also elected to the National Assembly in 1990. It was for the first time that drug traffickers had reached to the Pakistani Parliament, thanks to Nawaz Sharif and the ISI. The file also contained names of another 300 people connected to drug business. The file belonged to our intelligence department but had turned on my table by a mistake. I sent back the file to the intelligence department but after learning that the drug mafia had reached into our Parliament and that our department couldn’t do anything about it. I decided to resign. That evening, I went to the MNA hostel where Benazir Bhutto was staying as the new opposition leader. On that day, her spouse Asif Ali Zardari was also brought from jail to attend the assembly session. Asif had won a national assembly seat in the 1990 elections while he was in jail. I wanted to meet Benazir but she was busy due to Asif’s arrival. She sent a senior PPP leader to meet me. I told him what I had found, he went back to Benazir and informed her about the nature of information that I wanted to share with her. She directed the PPP leader to take me to Farooq Leghari (who became the President of Pakistan in 1993) and discuss with him the matter carefully. We went to Mr. Leghari’s home in Islamabad where the PPP leader introduced me to Mr. Leghari and gave him Benazir’s message. I sat with Mr. Leghari and slowly told him that it was bad for democracy and Pakistan that narcotics dealers had reached to the Parliament. Mr. Leghari became excited. He said that he would make the information public about the IJI involvement in narcotics business. While sitting at Farooq Leghari’s home, I had a bad feeling about the man. I found him rude and arrogant. Mr. Leghari treated his servants badly as if they were not human beings. He was an artificial man and had fake manners. After an hour’s discussion, it was decided that the next day Mr. Leghari would give a press conference and I would sit next to him and would announce resignation from my job at the Narcotics Control Division in the national interest and to expose criminals. I returned home and with the help of some friends invited members of the national and international press to the next day’s press conference. The following day, government agencies were alert and security agents had surrounded the guesthouse in F8 Islamabad where the press conference was to be held. I received several threatening messages including one which said that my ministry would file a criminal case if I provided official secrets to the media and public. By 3:00PM a number of journalists had arrived at the guesthouse and were asking me about the nature and content of the press conference. I was deflecting their questions by saying please wait for Mr. Leghari. We waited for about an hour but Mr. Leghari never came and I had to cancel the press conference. I was very offended and nervous. Once the journalists had left, I learnt that Mr. Leghari was at Air Marshal Asghar Khan’s house attending a People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) meeting. I went to Asghar Khan’s house along with my journalist friend Mohammed Ismail. We met Mr. Leghari and asked him why he didn’t come to the press conference? “Don’t worry, we will defend you on the floor of the National Assembly but we can’t do more than that”, he said to me in a very cold and indifferent way. I was very disappointed by his response and cursed Mr. Leghari in front of people present and left the venue. In the very early hours of the following morning, someone knocked at my home door. It was a senior ISI officer. The ISI colonel who came to my home in the darkness knew me for sometime. He was friendly and asked me to accompany him. A black car with tinted glass windows was waiting for us. The 20-minute journey ended in a fortified office. I was offered a coffee and then a polite demand for the file began. I was told that my name was on the Prime Minister’s table and that I was in the ISI custody while the matter was under investigation. My ordeal that had started in the winter of 1990 ended in the spring of 1991 when I was allowed to leave Islamabad on the condition—never to come back…! Of course, I violated the ban. Shiraz Paracha is a journalist and analyst.

Pakistan a blink away from anarchy?

Pakistani authorities are going through difficult times: Prime Minister Yusuf Reza Gilani was convicted of disrespect of court for his refusal to reopen the case of corruption against Asif Ali Zardari, widower of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. As a punishment, on April 26 the Supreme Court took Gilani into custody - although only for 30 seconds. Zardari's alleged money laundering took place back in the 1990s, for which he had already served two years. In 2007, the then military leader Pervez Musharraf signed a decree on general amnesty, which "cleared" Zardari and thousands of other criminals, but two years later the Supreme Court of Pakistan declared the decree unconstitutional, and in 2010 ordered Gilani to address the Swiss authorities with a request to resume the investigation of corruption against Zardari. Then the Prime Minister refused to do say, saying that, according to the Constitution, the president has immunity from prosecution. The sentence was purely symbolic: the action of the punishment lasted for as long as it took the judges to leave the courtroom. However, despite the fact that the judge spared the Prime Minister, clouds have thickened over Gilani's personal political horizon. He may at any time be not only impeached, but imprisoned for six months. The fellow party members of the Minister from the ruling Pakistan People's Party are dissatisfied with the outcome of the case. "This is a black day in the history of the country," the former Minister of Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan told reporters gathered outside the courthouse. The political crisis in Pakistan has overshadowed even the traditionally main theme of the day - the U.S. efforts to restore diplomatic relations with this country that got seriously complicated when on November 2011 American warplanes accidentally bombed two Pakistani border outposts, killing 24 servicemen. Gilani's retention of power right now, experts say, will ensure the relative stability of the country, which should contribute to the rapid restoration of Pakistani-US cooperation in the fight against terrorism - the U.S. has already hinted to Pakistan that it would be nice to open the border for NATO convoys supplying U.S. forces in Afghanistan. However, analysts disagree on the fact what the court had in mind taking out his sentence - perhaps the fact that Gilani should give up his seat in Parliament and his position? In any case the outcome is close. Gilani has been on his post as the Prime Minister longer than anyone else in the entire 64-year history of the country - he has been heading the government since 2008. The politician has yet another achievement - he became the first minister to be sentenced: half of his predecessors were charged, but until now a court decision has not been reached. Gilani, however, did not lose his confidence. After the punishment he had held a special meeting of the Cabinet where he displayed optimism, saying that in politics there were a lot of rises but also plenty of failures. If the court finds that Gilani would have to go to jail, he will not equivocate, stated the Prime Minister. This prospect raises fears for the fate of the fragile Pakistani democracy - it can suddenly collapse, and Islamist insurgents will happily dance on its ruins. "Frankly, we will soon come to anarchy, very soon," shook his head Senator Safdar Abbasi, a member of the Pakistan People's Party. "The government must put an end to this crisis. It's like playing with a loaded gun." Gilani and Zardari have never been particularly close, so the risk that the Prime Minister is taking shielding the President seems to many not noble, but rather stupid. However, it is believed that the 59-year-old prime minister did not want to be humble any longer and decided to show off. "He's probably thinking that he has already made history and the Supreme Court can do whatever it wants," said journalist and broadcaster Nusrat Javid. According to another theory, Gilani wants to act as a sneaky political martyr, a vassal, wholly devoted to his master. In any case, the ruling party will not take any action if Gilani is forced to resign, although the politicians acknowledge that there is no adequate replacement for him.

Oakland police may face sanctions over handling of Occupy protests

A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the city of Oakland and its police department to submit a plan within a week to address a backlog of complaints stemming from their handling of Occupy protests, threatening sanctions if they fail to do so.
The mandate by District Judge Thelton Henderson follows the release of a report by an outside monitor that said Oakland police used "an overwhelming military-type response" to the demonstrations. The report also confirmed, for the first time from an official source, that an Oakland police SWAT team member fired a beanbag round at an Iraq war veteran during clashes in October. Former U.S. Marine Scott Olsen was critically wounded by what protesters said at the time was a tear gas canister fired by police. Olsen's case reinvigorated the Occupy movement against economic inequality, and the confrontations with police in subsequent protests turned Oakland into a focal point for the movement as demonstrators rallied against what they described as police brutality. Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Oakland on Tuesday as part a nationwide movement against economic inequality. Demonstrators clashed with police, who fired multiple rounds of tear gas and flash bang grenades. At least nine people were arrested. The Oakland Police Department has been subject to court-ordered external monitoring and review since the 2003 settlement of what was known as the Riders case, in which four officers were accused of planting evidence, fabricating police reports and using unlawful force, according to the Oakland police. "It would be problematic enough if, as seems inevitable, (Oakland police's) compliance levels were to backslide as a result of their failure to address the Occupy Oakland complaints in a timely fashion," Henderson wrote in his three-page written order. "Such failures would be further indication that, despite the changed leadership at the City of Oakland and its police department, (Oakland police) might still lack the will, capacity, or both to complete the reforms to which they so long ago agreed," he wrote. Henderson said that if officials fail to submit the plan by next week and implement it by May 14, "the court will consider appropriate sanctions, including the imposition of daily or weekly monetary sanctions, until compliance is achieved." Oakland police officials announced last week that the department was making significant changes to how it trains officers to control large crowds following criticism over its practices during Occupy Oakland protests that sometimes turned violent. It received more than 1,000 misconduct complaints during those protests.

Canadian Naser Al-Raas who says he was tortured in Bahrain
A Canadian man, who says he was jailed and tortured in Bahrain for taking part in pro-democracy protests, has arrived in Montreal, his wife told Postmedia News late Tuesday evening. “I have talked to two of Naser’s sisters [who] confirmed that Naser has arrived home. I didn’t talk to him yet. He is out now. I’m waiting for his call,” Zainab Ahmed said in an email. Naser Al-Raas was freed in February after lobbying from the Canadian Consulate and various international rights agencies. The Kuwaiti-born Canadian citizen says he was then stranded in the country after Bahraini authorities refused to return any of his ID or belongings and the company charged with delivering a new passport to him lost it. He left Egypt on Sunday and flew out of Amsterdam early Tuesday morning.Al-Raas had been convicted of breaking Bahrain’s illegal-assembly laws after taking part in pro-democracy protests and was facing a five-year prison sentence. His detention began on March 20, 2011, when Bahraini authorities arrested him at the airport. Al-Raas, 29, described his detention as a “continuous horror dream, where you cannot wake up.” “I was electrocuted six or seven times, but I was beaten every day. … Those were the worst days of my life,’” he told Postmedia News in a previous interview. Al-Raas also has an underlying heart condition — a chronic pulmonary embolism — according to a report from his doctor. His case drew international attention, with supporters using social media and online campaigns to call for his release. Amnesty International also took up his cause. Ahmed, who married Al-Raas after he was released from prison on Feb. 6, said she and Al-Raas are trying to keep their attitude positive, but are distraught that Ahmed had to remain in Egypt because the couple doesn’t have a marriage certificate. “My situation is complicated. I am in Egypt now and Naser will be in Canada in hours,” Ahmed said in an email earlier in the day. “I can’t go back to Bahrain; it’s too dangerous for me now and I can’t enter Canada. It will take a long time before I can join my husband,” Ahmed said. “I feel like all the doors are closed in my face. Our last hope was to have a marriage certificate from Egypt, but the Bahraini Embassy refused to give me the permission to marry Naser. So, we couldn’t make it. Wherever I go, I will need that permission from them. I feel like I’m restricted. I can’t do anything.” Still, Ahmed said, she’s hoping for the best, and will remain in Egypt until she’s able to come to Canada to be with Al-Raas.

Egypt deploys army to quell deadly clashes

Clashes have erupted between assailants and supporters of Egypt's Islamist political parties who had gathered near the defence ministry in Cairo, leaving 11 people dead and nearly 50 wounded, security and hospital officials said. The violence on Wednesday is the latest episode in more than a year of turmoil in Egypt following the toppling of longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak and will likely fuel more tensions just three weeks ahead of presidential elections. The military generals who took over from Mubarak in February last year have promised to hand over power to a civilian administration by July 1, but that has not stopped rallies demanding the generals leave immediately. The security officials said the clashes broke out at dawn when the assailants set upon several hundred protesters who had camped out in the area since early Saturday to press their demand for the military to go. Hospital officials said nine of the 11 died of gunshot wounds to the head while two people were stabbed to death. The health ministry only confirmed nine were killed and 49 were injured.

Child labor in sugar harvest

Afghanistan:A Visit Well Timed to Future Uncertainties in Afghanistan

The moment that President Obama chose to visit Afghanistan for the first time in 17 months was a rare chance for him to make the most of a brief window when relations between the two governments are improving after months of crisis, and when the likely fallout of the coming NATO withdrawal is still months away. In the background, however, lurk a host of concerns about how things could go once the bulk of American troops leave and the pipeline of foreign aid slows to a trickle, which is expected to happen by the end of 2014. Both will increase the country’s already deep sense of precariousness. And there is concern, too, about whether what once were cornerstone American goals in Afghanistan — establishing reliable security forces, hobbling the insurgency, curbing endemic corruption, securing enduring rights for women and minorities — are now unrealistic given the looming deadline. “None of the tensions between the United States and the Karzai government have gone away,” said Anthony H. Cordesman, a strategic analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, in an essay published Tuesday on the center’s Web site. “The broader problems with Afghan governance and corruption are not diminishing. Progress in creating effective Afghan forces is increasingly questionable, the insurgents are clearly committed to going on with the fight, and relations with Pakistan seem to take two steps backward for every apparent step forward.” Mr. Cordesman continued, “As for American domestic politics, there seems to be growing, tacit, bipartisan agreement to drift toward an exit strategy without really admitting it.” Even now, months before any substantial drawdown, there are growing concerns about whether the Haqqani militant network, fresh off a blitz of attacks that paralyzed the capital for a day last month, poses a growing long-term threat. And mainstream Taliban leaders have yet to embrace talks, seemingly willing to bet that they can secure both influence and territory on their own terms. The American military drawdown is scheduled to come as Afghanistan turns to electing a new president, compounding fears that there will not be a peaceful transition of power. In its absence, there could be “a political meltdown,” wrote Haroun Mir, the director of Afghanistan’s Center for Research and Policy Studies, in a recent Op-Ed article in The New York Times. On at least one front, however, the trip communicated something of vital importance to the Afghans: reassurance that the United States is not in an all-out scramble to get away. Trust has been in short supply between the countries this year, reeling from crises including the burning of Korans at Bagram Air Base in February and the murder of 16 men, women and children purportedly by an American sergeant in southern Afghanistan in March. Meanwhile, the number of killings of Westerners by rogue Afghan security forces and Taliban infiltrators is rising sharply, now accounting for 20 percent of all NATO casualties this year. So it was not a minor point for the Afghans that Mr. Obama came here to celebrate the completion of a 10-year Strategic Partnership Agreement between the two countries, which guaranteed America’s continued economic and development aid as well as the promise of a future security arrangement. “His trip shows that the United States will stay in the region and will not repeat the mistake that the Americans made after communist regime was toppled in Afghanistan,” said Mirdad Nejrab, the chairman of the Afghan Parliament’s Internal Security Committee. “It is a good answer to our neighbors and regional countries, which thought that the Americans were leaving the region.” The moment was one when President Hamid Karzai, often a harsh critic of the United States, was feeling generous, having reached three agreements with the Americans that he could present to his country as the re-emergence of a sovereign Afghanistan. The two other deals recently signed by the countries gave the Afghan government authority over detentions and transferred primary authority over special operations raids, including the night raids that have outraged both Mr. Karzai and the Afghan public. “It’s a very good time for him to come here, there’s not too much controversial news right now and he can project some level of stability and smoothness in the relations,” said Waheed Omar, a former spokesman for Mr. Karzai, adding that the visit allows Mr. Obama to go to the May 20 NATO meeting in Chicago on Afghanistan in a strong position. That narrative could be far harder to sustain six months from now as 23,000 American troops withdraw. The jury is out on whether Afghan forces will be able stave off the Taliban, keep warlords and their militias under control and play a neutral role as political forces struggle for power in the next election.

Obama: US Remains Committed to Afghanistan as War Winds Down

U.S. President Barack Obama
has marked the one year anniversary of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden's death with a quick trip to Afghanistan, signing a strategic pact with Kabul and delivering an election-year message to the American people that the Afghan war is winding down. In televised remarks broadcast to Americans late Tuesday from Bagram Airbase, Mr. Obama reaffirmed the transition in Afghanistan — with U.S. combat troops completing their withdrawal and Afghans taking full security control of their country by 2014. The president said the United States will continue to support counterterrorism and training efforts in Afghanistan, but “will not build permanent bases” in the country. Hours earlier, Mr. Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a strategic partnership agreement outlining the U.S. role in Afghanistan beyond 2014. In his speech Tuesday, President Obama made clear, “our goal is not to build a country in America's image, or to eradicate every vestige of the Taliban,” objectives that would “require many more years, many more dollars and many more American lives.” The U.S. leader said the goal is to destroy al-Qaida. The U.S.-Afghan strategic agreement does not commit the United States to any specific troop presence but pledges American aid for Afghanistan for at least a decade after the withdrawal of the last U.S. troops. Around 90,000 U.S. troops currently serve in Afghanistan. Some 33,000 American forces will have pulled out of Afghanistan by September of this year, with Afghans in control of Senior U.S. officials told VOA the pact is part of a larger strategy to stabilize Afghanistan and defeat extremist forces in the region. They said the plan includes transitioning to an Afghan-led security force expected to peak at 352,000 Afghan troops this year. Another key element of the strategy involves Afghan-led reconciliation with the Taliban, which the officials said can move forward if the group breaks its ties with al-Qaida. President Obama for the first time publicly acknowledged that his administration has been in direct discussions with the Taliban in pursuit of a “negotiated peace.” He said many insurgent leaders and fighters have shown an interest in reconciliation, but that they must cut ties with al-Qaida, renounce violence, and abide by Afghan laws in order to take part in the peace process. Nearly 3,000 U.S. and NATO soldiers have died during the Afghan war since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 and the ousting of the Taliban-led government. The Taliban at the time had refused to handover Osama bin Laden, who had been living in Afghanistan. After years evading capture, bin Laden was found to be living in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, where he was killed one year ago by U.S. special forces in a raid authorized by President Obama. Scholar Nazif Shahrani of Indiana University-Bloomington tells VOA Mr. Obama has not dealt with Afghanistan's need for honest government. He says instituting political reform in the next two years will make the difference between peace and continued war.

Obama, Karzai sign U.S.-Afghan strategic pact

Suicide bombers kill 7 after Obama leaves Afghan capital

Suicide bombers attacked a compound housing Westerners in Kabul on Wednesday hours after U.S. President Barack Obama signed a security pact during a short visit to a city that remains vulnerable to a resilient insurgency. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack which involved a car bomb and insurgents disguised as women on the eastern outskirts of the capital, killing seven people, a Gurkha guard and six passers-by, and wounding 17. The Taliban said it was in response to Obama's visit and to the strategic partnership deal he signed with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a pact that sets out a long-term U.S. role after most foreign combat troops leave by the end of 2014. The insurgency also claimed their spring offensive, which began two weeks ago with attacks in Kabul, would be renewed on Thursday, despite a security clamp-down in the capital. Obama's visit came a year after U.S. special forces troops killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the architect of the September 11, 2001, attacks, in a raid in neighboring Pakistan. In a televised address to the American people from a base north of Kabul, he said the war in Afghanistan was winding down. "As we emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home, it's time to renew America," Obama said, speaking against a backdrop of armored vehicles and a U.S. flag. "This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end. Nearly 3,000 U.S. and NATO soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since the Taliban rulers were ousted in 2001. The Taliban, overthrown by U.S.-backed Afghan forces for harboring bin Laden and other militants, were quick to take credit for Wednesday's attack at Green Village, one of several compounds for Westerners on a main road out of the capital. "This attack was to make clear our reaction to Obama's trip to Afghanistan. The message was that instead of signing a strategic partnership deal with Afghanistan, he should think about taking his troops out from Afghanistan and leave it to Afghans to rebuild their country," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location. But America's Kabul ambassador, Ryan Crocker, said involvement of the Haqqani network - which Washington believes is based in Pakistan's North Waziristan region and which it blames for high-profile attacks in Kabul in April - could not be ruled out. On the anniversary of bin Laden's killing, Crocker said he did not believe there would be a sole turning point in the war. "Al Qaeda is still there. We do feel we are prevailing in this with our Afghan partners," he said. "We cannot be in a position of taking on ourselves bringing perfection to Afghanistan. That has to be left to Afghans." But Crocker said there would be no repeat of the 1990s when a withdrawal of Western backers in the wake of the Soviet withdrawal unleashed a vicious civil war out of which the Taliban and al Qaeda support bases arose. BLOOD STAINS Hundreds of police and intelligence agency troops surrounded the area around Green Village after the attack. Ruined cars were seen in front of the compound gates but officials said no attackers made it inside the heavily-guarded complex. "I was going to the office when the car in front of me blew up. I got on my bicycle and fled," 40-year-old Farid Ahmad Mohammad told Reuters near the scene of the explosion. A worker at the compound, Jamrod, said at a hospital where the wounded had been taken that he had been showing his identity card at the compound's main gate when the vehicle exploded. "I heard a bang and then I slammed into the wall," Jamrod, still clad in blood-stained jeans, told Reuters. Wednesday's attack was the latest in a recent surge of violence after the Taliban announced they had begun their usual "spring offensive", and since they suspended tentative steps towards peace talks with the United States. Such incidents raise troubling questions about the readiness of Afghan forces to take over when militants remain able to stage high-profile attacks, even when already tight security had been beefed up even further for Obama's visit. Insurgents staged coordinated attacks in Kabul last month, paralyzing the city's centre and diplomatic area for 18 hours. The Taliban also claimed responsibility for those attacks, but U.S. and Afghan officials blamed the militant, al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network. ELECTION YEAR Obama's visit was clearly an election-year event. He spoke to U.S. troops during a stay in Afghanistan of roughly six hours and emphasized bin Laden's demise, an event his re-election campaign has touted as one of his most important achievements in office. "Not only were we able to drive al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, but slowly and systematically we have been able to decimate the ranks of al Qaeda, and a year ago we were able to finally bring Osama bin Laden to justice," Obama said to cheers. But even as he asserted in his speech that there was a "clear path" to fulfilling the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and made his strongest claim yet that the defeat of al Qaeda was "within reach", he warned of further hardship ahead. "I recognize that many Americans are tired of war ... But we must finish the job we started in Afghanistan and end this war responsibly," he said at Bagram airbase, where only months ago thousands of Afghans rioted after U.S. troops accidentally burned copies of the Koran, the Muslim holy book. That incident, and the killing of 17 Afghan civilians by a rogue U.S. soldier weeks later, plunged already tense relations to their lowest point in years. While speaking in broad terms of "difficult days ahead", Obama did not address some of the thorniest challenges. These include corruption in Karzai's government, the unsteadiness of Afghan forces in the face of a resilient Taliban insurgency, and Washington's strained ties with Pakistan, where U.S. officials see selective cooperation in cracking down on militants fuelling cross-border violence. Earlier, Obama met Karzai at his walled garden palace in Kabul, where they signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement. "By signing this document, we close the last 10 years and open a new season of equal relations," Karzai said after the meeting. The agreement does not specify whether a reduced number of U.S. troops, possibly special forces, and advisers will remain after NATO's 2014 withdrawal deadline. That will be dealt with in a separate status-of-forces agreement still being worked out.

May Day in KP, FATA observed with pledge to protect rights of working class

Like other parts of the country, the Labour Day was observed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA with full enthusiasm on Tuesday where labourers paid tribute to the martyrs of Chicago and vowed to protect rights of working class through enhanced working relationships for achievement of desired objectives. The day dawned with special prayers in mosque for progress and prosperity of Pakistan, liberation of occupied Muslims territories, martyrs and well being of labour community. Different labour unions and organization have organized special programmes and taken out rallies to highlight the significance of the day. In this connection, Pakistan Workers Federation Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chapter has also organized a special programme that was addressed by PML-Q President Senator Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain as chief guest here at Nishtar Hall. Speaking on the occasion, he said that May Day reminds us the supreme sacrifices of the Martyrs of Chicago, who sacrificed their lives for fundamental rights of their fellow workers. He said the government has taken a number of steps for the benefits of the workers and their families through the Ministry of Human Resources Development including setting up of the Shahara Insurance Company, which is providing group insurance facilities to the overseas Pakistanis. Shujat Hussain announced to give one month basic salary to all EOBI employees on the basis of their performance. On behalf of the Federal Minister for Human Resource Development, Ch Shujat Hussain announced an increase of 20 percent in the pension of more than 300,000 pensioners of the EOBI, free insurance and other monetary benefits retrospectively from January 2012. He also assured full cooperation in construction of Labour Hall in Peshawar. In his message, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Barrister Masood Kausar has appealed to the labourers and the entrepreneurs to be more conscious towards ensuring best utilization of the available resources as well as maintain unity and amicable working relationships in making the output of the work of the working class and the investments of the desired standards. Likewise, Pakistan Workers Federation Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chapter, Peoples Labour Forum, Rickshaws Association, Pakistan Railways Workers Union, different trade organizations and unions took out peaceful labour rallies and demanded better social security and wages for workers, restoration of labour laws, and end to privatization. The rally taken out from different areas of the City gathered at Press Club and chanted slogans in favour of their demands and expressed solidarity with Chicago victims. The speakers said that like all over the world, labours and working class are united in Pakistan for their rights. They called on the government to take further steps for implementation of labours laws and to solve problems of daily-wages workers. They also demanded to increase minimum salary level of workers according to inflation. The speakers also appreciated Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani's announcement for an increase in minimum wages of labourers to Rs 8000 and 20 percent increase in their pension. They said PPP Government had restored thousands of workers on their jobs and regularized thousands of workers of different national building departments, while it also fixed job quota for disabled in various departments besides increasing minimum wages to Rs.8000 that was highly praised worthy. Speakers at seminar said capitalism has failed as compared to socialism, they urged the labors and workers to get united to snatch their rights from the capitalists. Speaking at a seminar titled “Blood of Chicago laborers in 1886 will bring fruits” in connection with World Labor Day, arranged by National Party-Pakhtunkhwa Wahdat (NP-PW) here at press club on Tuesday, they said unless the failed system of capitalism was ended, lives of the labourers will never become better. Those spoke on the occasion including Mukhtar Bacha, provincial president of NP-PW, Nazeef Khan General Secretary, information secretary Idrees Kamal, Gul Rahman president Muttahida Labour Federation (MLF) and vice president of the party, Gohar Taj president Pakistan Wapda Electric Centre Labor Union, Ahsan and Hashim Raza Advocate. Paying rich tribute to the Chicago labors, they said dictators had been occupying the reign of the country while politicians were least bothered about the rights of the workers. They said though Pakistan is like a paradise bestowed with natural resources yet unfortunately the poor becoming the poorest while the rich accumulating wealth with their both hands and becoming richer day by day. The labors, they said had been kept unaware about their rights, which were deliberately being usurped but those who raised voice for the rights were forced to gage. “Military dictators are the main hurdles in improvement of the workers,” they claimed. Later, the speakers demanded that minimum salaries should be raised to 1,5000 rupees, pension should be raised 1,000, reopen all the closed factories in the country and the province and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa be declared industrial zone, compensation must be paid to the children of those laborers who were killed in a wave of terrorism.

India, Pakistan use 'trade diplomacy' to improve ties

India and Pakistan, still at loggerheads on Kashmir and no closer to a full peace deal, are channelling their efforts into increasing trade in the hope that business can bring them together. Thirty-one-year-old Karachi food trader Kashif Gul Memom is among those eager to seize the opportunities offered by easier links between the estranged neighbours, which have fought three wars since independence in 1947. "This is a change for the good. It's an exciting time," said Memom, one of the generation born after the painful partition of the subcontinent that gave birth to India and the Islamic republic of Pakistan. "My generation of business people is putting the past behind us. We're looking to the future, India is such a huge market for us," Memom told AFP while at the largest ever Pakistani trade fair held in India. The improved relations between the nuclear-armed rivals stem from Pakistan's decision to grant India "Most Favoured Nation (MFN)" status by year end, meaning Indian exports will be treated the same as those from other nations. In further progress, the neighbours opened a second trading gate in April along their heavily militarised border, boosting the number of trucks able to cross daily to 600 from 150. India now also says it is ready to end a ban on investment from Pakistan and the countries are planning to allow multiple-entry business visas to spur exchanges -- a key demand by company executives. The warming commercial ties underline the new relevance of the private sector in the peace process, with prospects still low for any swift settlement of the "core issue" of the nations' competing claims to Kashmir. The divided Himalayan territory has been the trigger of two of their three wars since independence. Indian and Pakistani officials have been looking at the so-called "China option" as a model, with deepening economic engagement seen by experts as crucial to establishing lasting peace in the troubled region. Beijing and New Delhi have been pursuing stronger economic ties while resolving outstanding political issues, such as a festering border dispute that erupted into a brief, bloody war in the 1960s. "There is no other option but economic partnership between India and Pakistan -- this leads on to other partnerships," Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said at the April trade fair in Delhi, a follow-on to a similar venture in Lahore earlier in the year. "We have to recognise our true trade potential and leave our children with a legacy that ensures prosperity, harmony and peace." Some Pakistani businesses have protested against the trade opening, fearing they may be swamped by cheaper Indian goods, especially in drugs, auto parts and consumer goods. But others eye the possibilities India's market offers. "India with 1.2 billion people gives us great potential," Mian Ahad, one of Pakistan's leading furniture designers, told AFP. Indian businessmen are equally enthusiastic, saying there is an opportunity for trade in areas from agriculture, information technology, pharmaceuticals, engineering to chemicals. Official bilateral trade between India and Pakistan is just $2.7 billion and heavily tilted in New Delhi's favour. But Indian business chamber Assocham estimates up to $10 billion worth of goods are routed illicitly -- carried by donkeys through Afghanistan or shipped by container from Singapore and the Gulf. Indian commerce secretary Rahul Khullar told AFP that Pakistan's decision to grant India MFN status by the end of the year was "the game-changer." MFN status will mean India can export 6,800 items to Pakistan, up from around 2,000 at present, and the countries aim to boost bilateral trade to $6 billion within three years. "I'm cautiously optimistic. Commerce is an excellent way to bring countries together," Indian strategic analyst Uday Bhaskar told AFP. "Once you institutionalise trade, it becomes hard to slow the momentum for cross-border exchanges. People say if there are onions or cement or sugar available next door, why can't I have them? And why can't I travel there too?"


For the last five days, the biased media dominated by the corporate media, had been distorting the facts about Lyari and its people and claiming that the operations going on against criminals and gang war personalities and not the law abiding citizens of this country. It is a fact that it was not targeted the criminals. Police is firing at the residences of the local people. Round the clock, TV reporters are distorting the facts and condemning the police force for not making any advance in any locality or killing all the political dissidents of the Government of the day. Almost every channel and TV network is toeing the same line that the criminals are resisting the police onslaught and they have no human and constitutional right to resist or to save their lives and protect from state terrorism that is supported by the powerful section of the ruling elite. On the day one, two persons were killed in police custody. Police claimed that they were criminals. Agonies of the local residents had been ignored and more emphasis is laid why the police are unable to eliminate the resistance from some parts of Lyari. The people are under complete siege. Police had blocked all entry and exit points of Lyari. There is water and food shortage. There is no electricity for the past one week and the media is not asking the authorities concerned to ensure availability of the basic amenities and services to the local residents trapped in exchange of fire. The biased media is also surprised over the strong reaction on Lyari operations all over Pakistan, mainly in interior parts of Sindh and Balochistan. Yet another aspect is that from where the local residents had brought weapons resisting the police force and why they are objecting to violation of sanctity of homes of the Pakistani citizens. It is the most ridiculous assertion on the part of Corporate Media. One of the former PPP leaders told a TV interviewer that they got weapons from the PPP Government and they were given licences to keep weapons for self-defence. We are using in our self-defence. Israel or any other enemy country had not provided them weapons, it is simple, he claimed. It should be added that the weapons is available and thanks to Army Generals of Zia Era who sold the weapons of Afghan Jihad in the cities and townships of Pakistan. Gun running is the biggest and lucrative business and the gunrunners must be enjoying the patronage and support of the power sections of the society simply to earn quick billions. Why they had not raised the same question to the MQM who it was holding entire Karachi hostage and at gunpoint by amassing weapons that had no example in our history. Dozens of truck laden with ammunition took rounds of the city and provided ammunition to MQM people. There were reports in the media that the Americans had provided many containers of US weapons to MQM and those containers in hundreds are missing from the Karachi Port and the MQM Minister for Ports and Shipping is said to be involved in the racket. The people had not forgotten the May 12 incidents in which MQM gunmen fired millions of rounds of ammunition in each and every streets of Karachi just to bar the Chief Justice of Pakistan making a visit to Karachi. It is on record and from where millions of rounds were fired and trucks carrying ammunition seen was on stand by providing ammunition to MQM gangsters. It is the MQM that is accused of killing tens of thousands of innocent people, all passers-by, during the Karachi troubles for the past quarter of a century. Each and every terrorist caught by the law enforcing agencies had confessed that each of them killed more than 100 innocent people. More than 90 percent target killers and terrorists caught by the security agencies and police had strong and close affiliations with the MQM and its top leadership. The share of rest of population is less than 10 percent. There is no other option for the Sindh Government to stop the Lyari Operation that it had started just to appease the MQM. The police force should be withdrawn immediately and people are allowed free movement. There should be no restrictions on supplying food and other essential commodities of daily use. It is the right of the people to choose their party for support and the people should not be intimidated by the State, its organs and the other fascist groups. PPP had lost its political constituency of Lyari by committing blunders and playing at the hands of MQM for petty political interest. No other person or group should be blamed for it.

Peshawar losing its lustre

Once the capital of great land of Gandhara, Peshawar was known as 'city of artisans' because of its geographical importance and housing various arts and artisans, but now it is fast losing its glory as majority of arts for which the city was famous are either dying or vanished due to various reasons. The word 'Peshawar' is derived from the word 'Peh Shawar' meaning 'City of artisans or skilled men' because the city provided livelihood to the artisans of different arts. In olden times, professionals from different countries used to visit Peshawar - the gateway to South Asia and present their products at 'Melas' (exhibitions), a regular feature of the city at that time.
Arts and artisans were in so abundance in Peshawar that majority of the bazaars of the ancient city are named after different skills like Misgran (copper Bazaar), Reti bazaar (Ironsmith), Bazgaran (Steel utensils), Bazaar-e-Kalan, Sarafa Bazaar (Goldsmith), Battair Bazan (Birds market) etc. The historic Qissa Khawani bazaar, the commercial hub of the city, was not only famous for story-telling to the 'Qehwa' (green tea) sipping travellers, who arrived from different regions for trade, but also for availability of all kind of handmade daily use utensils.
The visit of almost every foreigner, even the dignitary, to the' Peshawar Pottery' in Shah Wali Qatal area was part of their itinerary to Peshawar for purchasing brilliantly tinted decoration pieces of baked special white clay. But a drop in their visits to the region in the wake of September 11 incident in the US ensued in closure of Peshawar pottery, thus resulting in death of 150-year old art passing through three generations. Gone are the days when people, while passing through the historic Misgaran bazaar, heard rhythmical hammering strokes because of copper engraving, an ancient art of decorating copper or brass utensils. The centuries old Bazaar-e-Misgran (Coppersmith Bazaar) no more looks like a market of copper and brass merchants as most of the craftsmen have switched over to other businesses due to falling sales. "The art of copper engraving is vanishing rapidly due to change in people's lifestyle," observed Khawaja Safar Ali, an engraver who inherited the profession from his forefathers . "Our family has been engaged in copper engraving profession for the last four generations. But my children are reluctant to carry on with this art due to economic hardships in the business," said Khawaja Safar Ali Safar, the younger brother of Khawaja Akhtar Ali, the winner of civil Awards in 1980 and 1986 for his unique work in copper engraving. About causes of plummeting business, Khawaja Safar Ali said people had started avoiding use of copper pans due to high price. Earlier, people used to give copper crockery to their daughters in dowry, but now they have stopped buying this expensive metal. "Another reason behind the change in choice of people is that copper pots are now considered as outdated and old-fashioned," he opined.

Pakistan: Nation's saddest times

What great sin is it that the 180 million, mostly deprived, denied and downtrodden, people of this unfortunate nation have committed that their miniscule motley crowd of fat bellies and nouveaux riches posing to be their political leaders are so insanely out to punish them for so vengefully? What indeed is the harm that these wretched people have done them that they are so madly hell-bent on throwing them on the saddest times of their lives? Couldn't the prime minister spare them a constitutional crisis when his watch has been such an era of endless turbulence and turmoil for them? Instead of hairsplitting, he could have exercised high moral choice, stood down and sought legal remedies to his court conviction on contempt. That indeed would have lent him a bit of respectability to his otherwise deeply tarnished repute. Yet he preferred hanging on to his job, even as his incumbency had become so compellingly untenable, morally if not legally. But what glorious track record for respect to judiciary does Mian Nawaz Sharif carry that he is striking such strident postures of piety, accosting Yousuf Raza Gilani either to quit or face the fury of his street agitation? Although till now he has deluded himself into believing, no lesser helped in this self-centred conceit by the coteries of fawning party acolytes and fondling media lackeys, that it was his long march that had resulted into the dysfunctional judiciary's restoration, the bland fact is that he has been living on borrowed laurels. That feat had actually come about from the dysfunctional judges' own unflinching steadfastness and the unrelenting campaign of the corps of Black Coats. Together, the judges and the lawyers had braved, unbendingly, the atrocious strike of a haughty willful despot, determined to cow down an independent judiciary and subjugate it into his handmaiden. They won; he lost. And MNS was nowhere on the scene when the lawyers and the judges threw the challenge to the despot. He was then cooling his heels in the cool climes of his London redoubt, cobbling up such contrivances as the All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) with other politicians like him in political wilderness, all of whom he later betrayed remorselessly, ditching them to participate in the 2008 election under the dictator, contrary to the vow of his own London-convened conclave. He had only conveniently hopped on to the bandwagon of the campaigning true champions of independent judiciary. This was, anyway, when he was not in power. The real test for his new professions of being an ardent reinvented believer in the independence of judiciary is still to come. For, when in power he had had the singular honour of commandeering a squad of party storm-troopers to invade and ransack the nation's highest seat of judicial power, the Supreme Court of Pakistan, to set a record which one fervently hopes and prays would go unbroken in all times to come. But both Gilani and Nawaz can do a favour to the deeply-distressed nation and mercifully save it the atrocity of a confrontation that it would do without. Already, it is going through the worst-ever harrowing times of its lifetime. With a sagging economy showing no sign of reviving and throwing no jobs, no opportunities and no livelihoods over these past four years, they have virtually been consigned to a perpetual state of abject poverty and penury, utter want and squalor, and rampant hunger and malnutrition. Terribly, the bulk of the 180 million people stay wholly deprived of basic needs like healthcare, education, drinking waters, sanitation and public services, unrelievedly. And living amid unremittingly-prowling extremism, terrorism and criminality, they have lost all their sense of safety and security. Worse, the nation's cohesion, solidarity and unity are under the dire battering assailments of a variety of vicious inimical forces. Yet none of this is coming perturbedly to Gilani or Nawaz; indeed, for that matter, to any of the eminences strutting on the nation's political landscape, flaunting themselves up as its political leaders. Undistracted, they stay engrossed in their self-centred petty politics. Indeed, the way things are going on in the country is coming gleefully to this nation's inveterate enemies. They are gloating that their sinister job is being done very well for them by these insane politicos. And this nation's well-wishers are horrified with creeping fears that with their shenanigans these senseless politicos are dragging the country on to a perilous precipice dangerously. Yet those who should be deeply concerned over this are least pushed about it: our politicos across the spectrum. Coming uppermost to them is not the nation's and the country's well being but their own dirty politics. At least now, both Gilani and Nawaz must take mercy on the nation and spare it from their stridencies. Pull back they must. Gilani must bow down humbly to the apex court's verdict. And Nawaz must put off his pretences of love for judiciary for some better times. The nation would be well off without their stupid battles. After all, this country is nobody's political battlefield; and its people are not the playthings of anybody.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: Police accused of extorting money from IDPs

Political and social organisations of Bara tehsil of Khyber Agency have taken strong exception to unlawful detention of internally displaced families of Bara by Peshawar police for extortion and warned of a protest demonstration in front of the Chief Minister’s Secretariat in Peshawar if the practice is not stopped. In separate statements of condemnation, the Khyber Agency chapter of Jamaat-i-Islami, Khyber Union and Kamarkhel Khidmat-i-Khalq Committee accused the Peshawar police deputed at Sarband ploice station of unlawfully detaining innocent displaced persons and later releasing them on payment of bribes. Shah Faisal Afridi, Bara JI amir, claimed in his statement that innocent residents were implicated in false cases when they refused to pay bribe to Sarband police. He alleged that migrating women, children and elderly people were forced to wait on road for hours when they could not pay the illegal money to police officials. Haris Afridi, Khyber Union president, said that a deliberate attempt was being made by Peshawar police to provoke the innocent Bara residents into violence and then apprehend them on false charges. He said that the matter had been brought repeatedly into the notice of Peshawar police high-ups, but no action was taken against the corrupt officials. Khayal Matshah Afridi, chairman of the Khidmat-i-Khalq Committee, accused the Awami National Party’s top leadership of hatching a conspiracy against the law-abiding tribesmen and punishing them in the name of fight against terrorism.

Shabnam:Lahore’s sleepy studios sadden Shabnam

Legendary film actress Shabnam and her musician husband Robin Ghosh are visiting Lahore after 12 years or so. The once-a-hub-of-film industry city has impressed the duo because of its improved road infrastructure and lush green sideways. At the same time, the duo is dejected at the closure of film studios and production houses where Shabnam ruled for almost three decades (1960 to 1990). “I am really sad to know that the most of the film studios in Lahore now wear a deserted look and even one of them is now a godown,” said Shabnam during an interview to Dawn at the Deplix in Defence on Tuesday. “During my stay in Lahore, I will definitely visit the studios. I have many memories attached to the complex.” The couple will remain in Lahore for a week. Shabnam, who reigned supreme the Pakistani silver screen in the past, also appealed to the Pakistanis to pray for her health. Shabnam is visiting Pakistan on the invitation of the Pakistan Television (PTV) Network. The PTV held a classical tribute evening for the couple at the Governor’s House on Saturday in which Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani gave the Lifetime Achievement Award to both Shabnam and Ghosh for their contribution to the film industry. She was moved by the reception the PTV held for her and warm welcome by the public wherever she went in Karachi and Lahore. She thanked the PTV, her fans, media and people of Pakistan for the love they extended to the couple. She said her friend Mussarat Misbah was the moving spirit behind her visit. “Misbah contacted and informed me that the PTV wanted to hold a tribute evening for us. In fact she has a great contribution in making this visit possible,” said Shabnam. About the measures to improve the situation of Pakistan film industry, Shabnam said a coordinated effort by both the film industry and the government could revive it. “In Bangladesh, the government has been very supportive of the film industry. When asked would she accept any offer if floated from Pakistan film directors to act in any film, the actress said it would largely depend on the script, director and producer. She, however, said that she had quit the industry and was leading more a life of a housewife than that of an actress. She opposed the screening of Indian films in Pakistan, saying that the measure would further add to the woes of the industry already going through a slump. She said that recently in Bangladesh a move was made to screen Indian movies but the entire film industry vehemently opposed the idea and took out demonstrations against it. “Pakistan has great talent in film making but things have to be streamlined from both the film industry and the government,” she said. Mr Ghosh said Pakistan had a lot of good singers but the musicians needed to improve. He said he was hopeful the Lollywood would again rise and blossom. Ghosh, who has composed several timeless songs, says he was inspired by music composer Nushad. He said some film producers had asked him to compose their film music. “I would love to work with them but film making is a team work; it’s a collage of a good writer, director, producer and so many other things.”

Pakistan: Petition against PM’s removal dismissed as withdrawn

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday dismissed a petition seeking removal of Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani from his office as chief executive of the country and dissolution of the federal cabinet in the wake of Supreme Court’s order of April 26 in contempt issue.The single-Judge bench of Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui in its order observed that the petition was premature as it could not proceed without a detailed judgment of the Supreme Court. “The petition is premature, wait for the detailed verdict,” observed Justice Siddiqui.During proceedings, advocate GM Chaudhry contended that under the provisions of Section (g) of clause (1) of Article 63 of the constitution, the PM stood disqualified from being a member of the National Assembly after the apex Court’s orders in the contempt issue.

PML-N no more reliable: Imran

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Tuesday said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was not a reliable party as Nawaz Sharif cheated the nation three times in the past. Addressing a press conference, Imran said that Nawaz also betrayed the PTI on several occasions and backed off from the All Parties Democratic Movement's stance not to contest general elections 2008. Bringing flexibility to his stance, he said the PTI would walk with the PML-N only if its members resigned from assemblies. Imran urged the government to announce general elections immediately. He also said only free and fair polls could bring the country out of the present crisis. He said the PTI did not consider Yousaf Raza Gilani as the prime minister after the Supreme Court convicted him in contempt of court case. Imran, however, acknowledged that Gilani had the right to appeal against the court's verdict, adding that the PTI would respond once all legal process was completed against the premier. "We will wait until the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) completes the process of Gilani's disqualification," Imran hinted. Flanked by Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, Hamid Ali Khan and Javed Iqbal, the PTI chairman said the party would organise a march on May 6 in Islamabad to express solidarity with the SC, adding that a protest march would also be held if the premier failed in implementing the court's orders. Imran also asked the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to resign from assemblies to hold dialogue with his party for alliance against the PPP-led government. The party's doors were open only for those who were not sitting on treasury benches, he added. Imran announced that a three-member committee, consisting of PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi, President Javed Hashmi and Secretary-General Dr Arif Alvi, has been formed to hold talks with political parties regarding future course of action against the government. The PTI chairman said that the Pakistan People's Party was trying to destroy the SC in the name of democracy. "The drama is being created to hide corruption," he added. To a question, he said the party would launch Pakistan's largest protest against Gilani if he refused to accept his disqualification. Separately, the PTI decided to file a reference in the Supreme Court against Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's eligibility, PTI sources said on Tuesday. The decision was taken during a meeting of the PTI Central Working Committee. Imran Khan chaired the meeting. On Monday, Nawaz Sharif while announcing his party's protest movement against the government said he was willing to join hands with the PTI and other opposition parties.