Saturday, May 5, 2012

Hollande favorite as French prepare for Sunday vote

Overseas voters cast early ballots on the eve of an election expected to make Francois Hollande
France's first Socialist leader in two decades, despite polls showing President Nicolas Sarkozy clawing back some ground. Sunday's election, which coincides with parliamentary polls in Greece, may prove decisive for Europe as Hollande has pledged to temper a German-led austerity drive and reorient the recession-stricken euro zone towards growth. A limited number of voters cast ballots in advance of Sunday in places far from the French mainland, including Brazil, Canada and North America in addition to the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique. Sarkozy, who became the first sitting president of modern times to finish second in a presidential first-round vote, must overcome high disapproval rates of his abrasive style.
If he did win, it would be a political sensation after a whirlwind campaign by the man many voters blame for stubbornly high unemployment, running at a 12-year high of nearly 10 percent, and a stagnant economy. Sarkozy spent most of Saturday at home in Paris with his wife, former supermodel Carla Bruni, while Hollande visited a market in Tulle, a town in the central French Correze department that has been his political fiefdom for a quarter of a century. "I am nervous, anxious for victory," Hollande told a Reuters television reporter, as he shook hands with stall holders and kissed female well-wishers. "The inhabitants of Tulle won't miss me ... They will be reassured to have me as president." Sarkozy
made an impassioned final plea to France's 46 million voters on Friday, saying the election's outcome was balanced on a "razor's edge". He warned that a Socialist victory could send the euro zone's second-largest economy spiraling into rising deficits and debt like Greece. Final polls before a mandatory media blackout on campaigning from midnight on Friday showed the 57-year-old conservative leader, an aggressive campaigner, cutting Hollande's lead to just four points from around 10 a few weeks ago. "On Sunday, anything is possible" left-leaning Liberation said on its front page, noting that while Hollande remained the clear favorite, Sarkozy was catching up fast. The election campaign was knocked sideways by a shock performance by National Front candidate Marine Le Pen, who came third in the April 22 first round with 18 percent of votes, prompting Sarkozy to shift his campaign rhetoric to the right. The president received a double setback this week when Le Pen refused to endorse him, saying she preferred to cast a blank vote, and centrist candidate Francois Bayrou, who came fifth in the first round with 9 percent, said he would vote for Hollande. In a scathing personal attack, Bayrou accused Sarkozy of betraying the principles of the Republic by courting the far right with anti-European and anti-immigrant rhetoric. On the quiet streets of Paris, passersby on Saturday said the vote was likely to be much closer than many had expected. "Unfortunately, Sarkozy still has a chance of winning," said Amandine, a young woman shopping in central Paris. "There are a lot of people who are still undecided. They haven't made up their minds, so it could be him." NOT A BEAUTY CONTEST Right-wing Le Figaro newspaper contrasted Sarkozy's steady reduction of France's deficit in recent years with what it said were Hollande's plans to raise taxes and spending. "The election of the president of the Republic is not a beauty contest to find the nicest candidate," it said in an editorial. "You choose a president for his ability to wield power, not his conviviality." Hollande silenced many critics - who had questioned his character and lack of ministerial experience - with a strong performance in the only presidential debate on Wednesday. While most commentators had expected the aggressive Sarkozy to win, several polls showed viewers found Hollande more convincing. Campaigning in the heartlands of the National Front, in Moselle in northeast France, Hollande criticized what he said were Sarkozy's divisive tactics and warned his supporters against complacency. "I want a large victory," he told RTL radio on Friday. "The French must give the winner the means to act. Do not leave a hobbled victor who will have problems from the day after the vote." Voting began on Saturday in the north Atlantic islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, just off the coast of Canada, and was due to begin later in the day in several other French overseas territories. Polls in mainland France were due to open on Sunday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (0600 to 1600 GMT), with voting stations in big cities remaining open two hours longer. The first official results will be released after the last voting booths close at 8 p.m. The prospect of a victory for Hollande - who would be the first Socialist head of state since Francois Mitterrand left office in 1995 - has alarmed some investors. He has pledged to raise taxes on big companies and the rich and to temper a German-inspired drive for austerity in Europe. But French 10-year bond yields slipped below 2.9 percent on Friday - their lowest level since October - suggesting there is no panic about Hollande. He has recently stressed he would quickly pass laws to balance the budget by 2017 if elected. Merkel's government has appeared increasingly relaxed at the prospect of a Hollande victory since he made it plain he would not seek to change the essence of a German-backed budget discipline pact signed by 25 EU leaders last month. "We will work closely together with France no matter what happens in the election," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Friday. If elected, Hollande would seek to lay the foundations of a new Franco-German consensus on growth and smooth bilateral relations on his first trip to Berlin, his campaign manager Pierre Moscovici has said.

Obama criticizes Romney's tax cut plan

France's Sarkozy headed for election defeat

Nicolas Sarkozy was headed for an election defeat on Sunday that could make him the 11th European leader to be swept from office by the economic crisis and crown Francois Hollande as France's first Socialist president in 17 years. Buoyed by a tide of anger over Sarkozy's inability to rein in rampant unemployment during his five-year term, Hollande was between four and eight points ahead in final opinion polls for a vote that could mean a shift in direction for Europe. Despite shaving a couple of points off Hollande's lead in the last days of a frenetic campaign, the conservative's own aides privately admitted it would require a miracle for him to turn the odds in his favor and clinch a second term. "He's like a runner - he won't consider it's over until the very end, but I'd say he has one chance in six," a member of Sarkozy's inner circle told Reuters on condition of anonymity shortly before campaigning drew to a halt on Friday. "Uncertainty about the outcome of the vote has fallen to an extremely low level," said BNP Paribas economist Dominique Barbet. Hollande, a mild-mannered and popular career politician, has held a steady lead for weeks after outlining a comprehensive program in January based on raising taxes, especially on high earners, to finance spending and keep the public deficit capped. As much as his own program, he is benefiting from a tide of anti-Sarkozy sentiment due in part to the incumbent's showy and occasionally arrogant personal style and in part to anger over the same economic gloom that has felled leaders from Britain to Portugal. The vote coincides with a Greek election where voters are also expected to punish major parties for economic misery. "Clearly the voting public is getting fed up with failed policies," Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman told Reuters TV in New York. Sarkozy, sometimes called the hare in the race and his rival the tortoise, launched his campaign late and unveiled proposals one by one in high-energy speeches that swerved hard to the right as he sought to win back low-income voters polls show have ditched him for either the radical left or extreme right. His aggressive rallies and pledges to rein in immigrant numbers, hold policy referendums, crack down on tax exiles and make the unemployed retrain as a condition of getting benefits did not reduce Hollande's lead. He surprised many by failing to land a knockout punch on his rival in a televised debate. In two further blows in the last days of the race, both far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who came third in an April first-round vote with 17.9 percent, and centrist Francois Bayrou, who came fifth with 9.1 percent, refused to endorse Sarkozy. While Sarkozy spent Saturday in the privacy of his home in Paris with former supermodel wife Carla Bruni, Hollande and his journalist partner Valerie Trierweiler were out shaking hands with supporters, signing autographs and sampling cheese and strawberries in rural France. ECONOMIC CREDENTIALS Polling stations will be open from 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) on Sunday to 6 p.m. (1600 GMT), and two hours later in big cities. Reliable projections of the result based on a partial vote count will be published as soon as the last polling stations close. Media that publish exit polls or partial results before that risking fines and legal action. The election comes at a crucial time for the convalescent euro zone, as France, Europe's No. 2 economy, is a vital partner for Berlin in safeguarding the single currency bloc's future. If Hollande is elected, joining a small minority of left-wing governments in Europe, he wants to challenge Berlin's focus on austerity policies with a demand for pro-growth elements to be tacked on to the euro zone's budget responsibility pact. The Socialist plans to visit centre-right Chancellor Angela Merkel within days of the election to discuss his ideas. German relations aside, France is grappling with feeble growth and 10 percent unemployment, a gaping trade deficit and over-high state spending that is straining public finances and was a factor in Standard & Poor's cutting of its triple-A credit rating. While financial markets are coming around to Hollande's pro-growth ideas, given growing support for them elsewhere in Europe, Hollande would need to reassure them quickly about his economic plans as fears resurface over the euro zone's debt woes. While economists want him to trim over-optimistic official growth forecasts and compensate for that with spending cuts, political analysts fear that would be difficult with no mandate and with left-wing voters hoping instead that he will raise the minimum wage and reverse a recent sales-tax hike. French 10-year bond yields fell to 2.87 percent on Friday, a level not seen since early October, as initial jitters over a Hollande victory abated. Yet French debt would remain vulnerable to selling pressure if he wins, as markets and credit rating agencies wait to be convinced of his fiscal credentials. Little known outside France, Hollande would also have his diplomatic skills put to the test fast if he wins, with a Chicago NATO summit looming in late May and a Group of 20 summit in Mexico in late June.

Turkey: Domestic violence on the rise, data reveals

Incidents of domestic violence
in Turkey increased from approximately 48,000 cases in 2008 to over 80,000 in 2011, representing an increase of nearly 70 percent, according to information gathered from the nation’s law enforcement agencies. The northwestern province of Bilecik reported the most incidents of domestic violence with 3.3 percent of reported cases, while the central-western province of Isparta trailed a close second with 2.8 percent. The provinces of Karaman, Kayseri, Denizli and Bartın shared third place with 2 percent each. Governor’s offices across Turkey sent Parliament’s Human Rights Commission data collected from police and gendarmerie station commands pertaining to domestic violence cases during the period between 2008 and 2011. Istanbul, Turkey’s most crowded province with a recorded population of over 13 million people, ranked 65th in the list in terms of the absolute numbers of cases referred to law enforcement agencies, with over 10,000 reported incidents. Turkey’s second biggest city Ankara came in 46th place with nearly 5,000 reported incidents, while the Aegean province of Izmir, the country’s third biggest city, came in 17th place with around 5,900 reported cases. The southeastern province of Batman ranked at the bottom of the list with 1 percent, closely followed by the southeastern provinces of Hakkari, Şırnak, Van, Bitlis, Bingöl, Mardin and the Black Sea province of Trabzon in reported cases of domestic violence in 2011.

Ahmadinejad's support crumbles in Iran runoff
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's support in Iran's parliament crumbled as final results released Saturday showed conservative rivals consolidating their hold on the legislative body in a runoff vote. Iran has touted a robust turnout for Friday's vote as a show of support for the country's religious leadership in its confrontation with the West over the Islamic Republic's controversial nuclear program. The result is also a new humiliation for Ahmadinejad, whose political decline started last year with his bold but failed challenge of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei over the choice of intelligence chief. While usually in agreement with the conservatives on foreign policy and many other issues, he had tried to change the rules of the political game in Iran, where the president and legislature are subordinate to religious figures like Khamenei. Ahmadinejad's opponents had already won an outright majority in the 290-member legislature in the first round of voting in March. Of 65 seats up for grabs in Friday's runoff election, Ahmadinejad's opponents won 41 while the president's supporters got only 13 seats. Independents won 11, according to final results reported Saturday by state media. There were no claims of irregularities — which touched off the huge protests in 2009 after accusations the results were rigged. But the ruling system vets the candidates in advance which eliminates the harshest critics. Iran's major reformist parties, which oppose both Ahmadinejad and the conservatives, mostly did not field candidates. The president's supporters had their best showing in the capital Tehran. Ahmadinejad's conservatives critics won 16 seats while his supporters took nine. The new parliament will begin its sessions in late May. It has no direct control over key foreign and security policy matters like Iran's nuclear program, but it can influence those issues and economic policies as well as the run-up to the election of Ahmadinejad's successor. Ahmadinejad is constitutionally barred from seeking a third consecutive four-year term. The results suggest Ahmadinejad will face a more belligerent parliament in the remaining time of his second four-year term in office that ends August 2013. His allies are likely to be ousted from key posts, and his plan to cut economic subsidies challenged. No final figures were released, but Iran's media has claimed that the turnout Saturday matched that of the initial round of voting on March 2, when 64 percent of voters reportedly cast ballots. "Mass turnout in runoff parliamentary elections," declared a front-page headline in the government-run Iran Daily. Iranian leaders have showcased the high voter turnout as a sign of trust in the clerical-led system and rejection of Western pressure over the nuclear issue. The West suspects Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons and is demanding that Iran stop uranium enrichment. Iran has refused, saying its program is aimed at power generation and cancer treatment. "The vote is support for the ruling system as it faces the U.S. and its allies over the nuclear program ... The vote also means that tensions will increase between Ahmadinejad and his opponents in the incoming parliament," political analyst Ali Reza Khamesian said. Khamesian said Ahmadinejad was gradually fading from Iran's political scene but could still stir up conflict with parliament. "Ahmadinejad is the losing party. So, he will try to create tensions in the hope of getting concessions," he said. The outgoing parliament and Ahmadinejad are at loggerheads over how quickly to slash food and energy subsidies. The president favors dramatic cuts to boost Iran's ailing economy by reducing the massive drain on the state budget from the subsidies. The government implemented a first phase of slashing subsidies in December 2010. Gasoline prices quadrupled and bread prices tripled after the cuts came into effect. Prices have also increased in recent months, partly as a result of sanctions over Iran's nuclear program, as well as news that the government is considering ending subsidies altogether. Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, one of Ahmadinejad's opponents, said the parliament won't allow him to quickly end the remaining subsidies because it would cause wild inflation and public dissatisfaction.

PML-N workers clash with Punjab CM’s security guards

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) workers on Saturday clashed with the security guards of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif during his visit here. The clash broke out when police stopped local MNA Abid Sher Ali from boarding a newly opened CNG bus. Shahbaz Sharif and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah were already present in the bus. Angry PML-N workers stood in front of the bus in protest against stopping Abid Sher Ali from riding the bus. However, as the situation became tense, the chief minister left the bus. Earlier, Shahbaz reached Faisalabad to open a new CNG bus service in the city.

Nawaz supporting Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, says Malik

Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif’s sympathy for the banned Peoples Aman Committee had vindicated that the Punjab government was supporting the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. “I am surprised at Nawaz Sharif’s sympathy with the people of Lyari. He openly supports the banned group,” Malik said. He also welcomed the restoration of normal life in Lyari, where police battled with suspected gangsters for seven consecutive days. The police have been repositioned to facilitate public, he said, adding that the government could not put the people into trouble due to criminal’s activities.

French ponder Sunday poll choice

French President
Nicolas Sarkozy and his challenger Francois Hollande
are observing a mandatory election silence ahead of Sunday's run-off vote. Mr Sarkozy is spending the day with his family, while Mr Hollande visited a market in the central town of Tulle, his political stronghold. National Front leader Marine Le Pen, who came third in the first round, says she is not endorsing either candidate. But Mr Hollande has secured the backing of the fourth and fifth candidates. A day before the election, media in France are obliged to refrain from any reporting which might prejudice the ballot until the close of polls on Sunday evening.'Long overdue' Mr Sarkozy, the conservative incumbent, said on Friday that he would spend the day with his wife, Carla Bruni, and their daughter. "Minimum public - and maximum private - service, frankly, they deserve it," he told Europe 1 radio.His Socialist challenger, Mr Hollande shook hands with supporters at the market in Tulle and embraced well-wishers. One of the stall-holders at the market told him he was ready to become the official supplier of chicken to the Elysee palace. If Mr Sarkozy loses, he will become the first French president since Valery Giscard d'Estaing in 1981 not to win a second term. Both the president and Mr Hollande have reached out to voters who backed the far-right National Front (FN) and its leader Ms Le Pen. She has already said she will be leaving her ballot blank rather than vote for Mr Sarkozy or his rival.Ms Le Pen attracted 6.4 million votes in the first round. The party currently has no seats in the French National Assembly, which is dominated by Mr Sarkozy's conservative UMP party. Mr Sarkozy and Mr Hollande engaged in a heated televised debate on Wednesday night, watched by an estimated 17.9 million people.

Pakistan a failed state: US lawmaker

Influential American Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has told Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani that his country is a failed state and no amount of US aid money will ever change that. "It is becoming increasingly clear to Members of the US Congress that Pakistan is a failed state and no amount of US aid money will ever change that," Rohrabacher wrote in a letter to Gilani.
In his letter, Rohrabacher condemned a recent police action that resulted in the death of four Baluchi men. "Pakistan's future will remain bleak and marred by political violence as long as the Pakistani government and military continue to deny ethnic groups within Pakistan a right to self-determination," he wrote. "American aid money for Pakistan will dry up. It is clear that the Pakistani military and intelligence services have for years diverted money intended to help the people of Balochistan, and the other provinces of Pakistan, into funding terrorism and buying weapons to repress their own people," Rohrabacher said. Rohrabacher is Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. He along with Congressman Steve King and Louie Gohmert, introduced legislation on February 17, 2012 expressing the sense of Congress that the people of Balochistan have a "right to self-determination and to their own sovereign country."

PPP allies ask Nawaz to behave responsibly

Daily Times
Coalition partners of the PPP said the PML-N’s announcement of holding a long march was an “irresponsible decision” in the present political situation. Speaking to the media, PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain said on Saturday PML-N President Nawaz Sharif should get rid of his confusion about the politics of long march and avoid destabilising the democratic process. He said Nawaz Sharif should wait for the detailed judgement of the Supreme Court in the contempt of court case against Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. MQM leader Haidar Abbas also said the prime minister still had the right to appeal in the case. Rizvi told a private news channel that democracy gave every political party the right to protest to highlight its stance, but responsibilities should be taken into consideration and assembly sessions should not be halted. Slamming the PML-N’s decision of holding a long march, the ANP’s Afrasiab Khattak told a news channel that if any party was considering a change in the country, it should be brought through a democratic and constitutional way.

Mubashir Luqman versus PML-N showdown begins!

A showdown has begun between the Punjab government and the renowned TV host Mubashir Luqman over the distribution of laptops that is taking place in the province. Luqman, who revealed multiple discrepancies in the laptop distribution in a show, filed a writ petition in Lahore High Court against alleged embezzlement in the procurement and unlawful distribution of laptops by the Punjab government. Luqman pleaded that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz was misusing public money of Punjab government for its political purpose and the policy of merit had been violated in the laptop scheme. He alleged that the laptops had been distributed among the workers of Muslim Student Federation that was the secondary organisation of PML-N. The application, which was filed under the article 199 of the constitution, stated that purchase process of these laptops computers was not transparent since they had been procured without a tender which was open violation of Public Procurement Rules 2004. Luqman alleged that the contract was given to a firm Enex Technologies which was the subsidiary company of a business group Dawar Group of Karachi, adding that the Transparency International had also objected the purchase of laptops. He alleged that the laptops were purchased 70 percent in excess of the original market value of the machine and they had no warranty period. The application said the laptops also had fake software, which was objectionable on international level. It further stated that the computers were distributed by PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Safdar, who had nothing to do with the Punjab government. The applicant pleaded the court to take all the record of the scheme into custody and declare it illegitimate. Separately, the Punjab government decided to sue Luqman over his programme on the laptop scheme. According to an official handout, Nawaz and chief minister had asked the Special Assistant on Education to chief minister Zaeem Qadri to send a legal notice to Luqman. The legal notice was sent for damages of Rs1 billion to Luqman for levelling allegations in a programme against the scheme without any proof. Qadri said Lucman had levelled baseless, unfounded and misleading allegations against the transparent procedure of the distribution programme, and did not bother to take the Punjab government’s point of view, which he said was against journalistic values.

'Nawaz Sharif did not want Nuclear Test'

Space weather expert has ominous forecast
By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Time
Mike Hapgood, who studies solar events, says the world isn't prepared for a truly damaging storm. And one could happen soon.
A stream of highly charged particles from the sun is headed straight toward Earth, threatening to plunge cities around the world into darkness and bring the global economy screeching to a halt. This isn't the premise of the latest doomsday thriller. Massive solar storms have happened before — and another one is likely to occur soon, according to Mike Hapgood, a space weather scientist at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford, England. Much of the planet's electronic equipment, as well as orbiting satellites, have been built to withstand these periodic geomagnetic storms. But the world is still not prepared for a truly damaging solar storm, Hapgood argues in a recent commentary published in the journal Nature. Hapgood talked with The Times about the potential effects of such a storm and how the world should prepare for it. What exactly is a solar storm?
I find that's hard to answer. The term "solar storm" has crept into our usage, but nobody has defined what it means. Whether a "solar storm" is happening on the sun or is referring to the effect on the Earth depends on who's talking. I prefer "space weather," because it focuses our attention on the phenomena in space that travel from the sun to the Earth. People often talk about solar flares and solar storms in the same breath. What's the difference? Solar flares mainly emit X-rays — we also get radio waves from these things, and white light in the brightest of flares. They all travel at the same speed as light, so it takes eight minutes to arrive. There are some effects from flares, such as radio interference from the radio bursts. But that's a pretty small-beer thing. The big thing is the geomagnetic storms [on Earth] that affect the power grid, and that's caused by the coronal mass ejections [from the sun]. Coronal mass ejections are caused when the magnetic field in the sun's atmosphere gets disrupted and then the plasma, the sun's hot ionized gas, erupts and send charged particles into space. Think of it like a hurricane — is it headed toward us or not headed toward us? If we're lucky, it misses us. How are solar flares and coronal mass ejections related? There's an association between flares and coronal mass ejections, but it's a relationship we don't quite understand scientifically. Sometimes the CME launches before the flare occurs, and vice versa. What happens when those particles reach Earth? There can be a whole range of effects. The classic one everyone quotes is the effect on the power grid. A big geomagnetic storm can essentially put extra electric currents into the grid. If it gets bad enough, you can have a complete failure of the power grid — it happened in Quebec back in 1989. If you've got that, then you've just got to get it back on again. But you could also damage the transformers, which would make it much harder to get the electric power back. How else could people be affected? You get big disturbances in the Earth's upper atmosphere — what we call the ionosphere — and that could be very disruptive to things like GPS [the network of global positioning system satellites]. Given the extent we use GPS in everyday life [including for cellphone networks, shipping safety and financial transaction records], that's a big issue. The storms can also disrupt communications on transoceanic flights. Sometimes when that happens, they will either divert or cancel flights. So that would be the like the disruption we had in Europe from the volcano two years ago, where they had to close down airspace for safety reasons. What went wrong in the 1989 storm? In the U.K., there were two damaged transformers that had to be repaired. But no power cuts. The worst thing is what happened in Quebec. In Quebec, the power system went from normal operation to failure in 90 seconds. It affected around 6 million people. The impact was reckoned to be $2 billion Canadian in 1989 prices. We had lots of disruption to communications to spacecraft operations. The North American Aerospace Defense Command has big radars tracking everything in space, and as they describe it, they lost 1,600 space objects. They found them again, but for a few days they didn't know where they were. Is that the biggest geomagnetic storm on record? We always describe the storm in 1859 as the biggest space weather event. We know there were huge impacts on the telegraph, which suggests there would be similarly severe impacts on modern power grids. It's hard to compare it to the 1989 event because of the changes in our technology. Many systems have been built to withstand a storm as big as the 1989 event. Is that good enough? A serious concern would be whole regions losing electrical power for some significant time. Here in the U.K., the official assessment is that we could lose one or two regions where the power might be out for several months. What would the consequences be? In the modern world, we use electricity for so many things. We require electrical power to pump water into people's houses and to pump the sewage away. [You can imagine] what could happen if the sewage systems aren't pumping stuff away. If you don't have power, you can't pump fuel into vehicles. If you don't have any fuel, traffic could come to a standstill. Could the economy function? Most of the time you're using credit cards, debit cards or you'll be getting money out of an ATM. If you've lost the power, the computers in the bank that keep track of our money will have back-up power, but not the ATMs or the machines in the shops. So if you had a big power outage, it wouldn't be long before we'd be trying to find cash. What are the chances that something like this will happen soon? A recent paper [published in February in the journal Space Weather] tried to estimate the chance of having a repeat of 1859 and came up with a value of a 12% chance of it happening in the next 10 years. That's quite a high risk. What can be done? The biggest step is to make more and more people aware of the issue, so they're thinking about it in the way they design things. That's the most critical part. I think it's also getting a better picture of these very violent past events. We'd like to find out more about the scope of those events. We have a lot of old data from past events that's on paper — in newspapers and so on — and we're busy trying to find ways to turn it into digital. We had a recent flare-up of publicity in March thanks to a solar storm that didn't really amount to much. Is this sort of coverage a good thing or a bad thing? It makes such a good scare story, and it's entertaining. It was a mildly interesting event, certainly, but not at all big-league stuff. It makes people think, "Oh it's nothing really," so experts like myself are in danger of being in the crying-wolf situation. That's something that is a concern to me, personally.

Pres. Obama touts military milestones

Obama kicks off bid for second term

US president, seeking re-election in November, says he will win the "old-fashioned way" by campaigning "door to door". Barack Obama
has launched his re-election campaign in Columbus, Ohio, a major swing state that could be key to his hopes of winning November's election. The US president said on Saturday that Democrats would win the election the "old-fashioned way" and that his team would campaign "door by door, block by block, neighbourhood by neighbourhood". Obama will likely be challenged by Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts who is on track to gain the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination. The president used his first political rally to attack Romney for learning the "wrong lessons" as a CEO and promised to move the US economy forward if he wins a second term. Ohio and Virginia, where Obama was scheduled to campaign next, could be pivotal states in the November 6 election. With his wife Michelle at his side, Obama said: "He has run a large financial firm and he has run a state, but I think he has drawn the wrong lessons from those experiences." "He sincerely believes that if CEOs and wealthy investors like him make money the rest of us will automatically prosper as well," Obama, dressed in a button-down shirt without a tie or a jacket, told the crowd estimated to be more than 18000.He said Romney and his fellow Republicans would take the country back to the policies that led to the recession. "We were there, we remember, and we are not going back - we are moving this country forward," Obama said. A video highlighting Obama's political life was shown to jazz up the crowd. It included a clip of 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, followed by a shot of Obama brushing something off of his shoulder. The crowd roared. "Forward" is the Obama campaign's latest slogan, and people in the crowd held signs with that word above their heads. Romney cites his experience as a business executive as a strength and accuses Obama of not doing enough to turn around the economy. Obama formally launched his Chicago-based re-election effort last year, but his official political events have been confined to fundraisers since then. Earlier in his weekly address, Obama called for renewed focus on "nation-building here at home" after a decade of US-led war in Afghanistan. Obama recapped his trip earlier to the central Asian nation, where he signed a strategic partnership agreement with his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, and marked the anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden. "The tide of war has turned in Afghanistan. We have broken the Taliban's momentum. We've built strong Afghan security forces. We have devastated al-Qaeda's leadership," Obama said. "After more than a decade of war, it is time to focus on nation building here at home," he said, highlighting his vision of an economy that offers a "fair shot" to everyone - especially US troops heading home from Afghanistan. "What kind of country will they come back to? Will it be a country where a shrinking number of Americans do really well while a growing number barely get by?" Obama asked.

Bahrain arrests main human rights activist Nabeel Rajab
Bahraini authorities have arrested Nabeel Rajab, the rights activist and foremost critic of the Al Khalifa regime. It comes as the country’s military continues its brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters. Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights was detained at Bahrain’s international airport on his return from Lebanon. The authorities have not commented on the reasons behind the arrest. Rajab has played a significant role in anti-regime demonstrations over the past months. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights has been focused on attracting attention to the crackdowns on demonstrators and abuses by Bahraini security forces. Rajab also was affiliated with international groups such as Human Rights Watch. For fourteen months Al Khalifa forces have been using stun grenades, tear-gas and pepper-spray on protesters, though this was not enough to draw the attention of Western media. It only came into the spotlight because of the protests surrounding the prestigious F1 Grand Prix event. To say the least, the events in Bahrain have received way less coverage than other Arab protests. Some point out the main reason for this is that the country hosts the US Fifth Fleet. On Tuesday RT will broadcast Julian Assange’s show “The World Tomorrow” featuring Nabeel Rajab. Strikingly, the activist told Assange he has already been detained, kidnapped and beaten due to his sharp criticism of the regime. “I was just detained for almost half a day and then before that I was beaten up in the street. A few months ago, I was kidnapped from my home by masked security persons and taken to an unknown place. After being blindfolded and handcuffed I was tortured, then I was thrown back home,” he told RT earlier this week. The program was recorded last week. During the interview Rajab said that on the same day he announced his intention to appear on RT his house was surrounded by almost 100 policemen armed with machine guns – but luckily he was not there. One of Rajab’s aims is to attract international attention to the situation in Bahrain. “This is something the whole world has to speak out [about] and to condemn what happened, but we've seen the invasion of Saudis to my country with complete silence. The same governments [were] sending troops to Libya to fight the regime and now they are against the Syrian Assad. But when it comes to Bahrain they were [keeping] complete silence,” he told Assange. The activist has criticized the US many times for arming the Bahrain authorities and turning a blind eye on the violence. “They [the US] want Bahrain stable as the Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain. They want Bahrain to be very quiet and stable,” he said. All the more outrageous then, Rajab says, that the US is assuring everyone that the situation in Bahrain is improving. “America’s representative in the Human Rights Council is saying 'We will not talk about Bahrain this session because Bahrain is improving itself and it is doing better' when people are dying on a daily basis.” The anti-regime protests in Bahrain began in February 2011. Official reports say around 85 civilians have been killed during the 14 months of the crackdown, but activists claim that the figure exceeds this number many times.

Vladimir Putin returns to presidency in a changed Russia

Vladimir Putin's return to the presidency on Monday will technically give him greater powers than he wielded as prime minister. The irony is that his position will be arguably weaker than at any time since he first came to power more than 12 years ago. In part because of the heavy-handed way in which he reclaimed the presidency, Putin finds himself the leader of a changed country, where a growing portion of society is no longer willing to silently tolerate a government that denies its citizens a political voice. How Putin responds to the calls for free elections and accountable government will help define his next six years in office and to a great extent determine the future of Russia itself. The pressure on Putin began to build in the months ahead of the March presidential election as a series of protests drew tens of thousands onto the streets of Moscow. Although the number of protesters has dwindled since the vote and expectations were low for an opposition rally tomorrow, the protest movement has led to real change in Russia. In response to the demonstrations, the Kremlin has agreed to allow more political competition in future elections. National television channels have slightly opened up, expanding beyond their role as a Kremlin propaganda arm. Even some members of the Kremlin-controlled parliament have become more willing to challenge Kremlin legislation. Equally significant, the protests have roused a new generation of Russians out of their political apathy and brought forth a civic awakening that already has led to greater involvement in local politics. During the past four years, the presence of the younger and seemingly more liberal President Dmitry Medvedev allowed people to hope that change was possible, even though everyone understood that Putin was still in charge as prime minister. Medvedev promised to fight corruption, make the courts more independent and modernize the economy, but in the end nothing really improved. His empty words only made the problems more obvious and fed social dissatisfaction. When Medvedev announced in September that he was stepping aside to allow Putin to take back the presidency, many Russians were offended by the implication that their votes were considered just a formality.

Obama's campaign blames Romney of outsourcing US jobs to India

Obama: Time to shift attention from wars to home
President Barack Obama says his goal of defeating al-Qaida is within reach and that it’s time to turn the country’s attention to domestic concerns. Just four days after his trip to Afghanistan, Obama said that money saved from ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan should help pay down the national debt and go to health care, education and infrastructure."After more than a decade of war, it is time to focus on nation-building here at home," he said in his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday. The president took note of the agreement he signed with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday that shifts security to the Afghan people. He reminded the American public, once again, of the military raid that killed Osama bin Laden a year ago. But he said the nation now should concentrate on economic issues such as tax disparities and government spending. Without mentioning Republicans, he cast the GOP view as one that promotes more tax cuts for millionaires while cutting spending "that built a strong middle class." "That’s why I’ve called on Congress to take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt and use the other half to rebuild America," he said. The partisan subtext of the address was clear. Obama is portraying Republicans as the party of the wealthy as he seeks to demonstrate action in the face of a slow economic recovery. The address came as he went out on his first official campaign trip Saturday, visiting college campuses in Ohio and Virginia. In the Republican address, Sen. Bob Corker accused the administration and the Senate’s Democratic leadership of fiscal mismanagement, saying they have put off difficult decisions that would tame government spending. "The president punts on almost every tough decision," Corker said. The Senate’s failure to adopt a budget has helped create an atmosphere of uncertainty that is hurting businesses and impeding job creation, the Tennessee Republican said. He called for an overhaul of the tax code that eliminates most of the $1.2 trillion in loopholes and tax breaks, and lowers rates and broadens the tax base.

About 60% of people in rural India live on 70 US cents a day

Nuclear capability, long range missiles, space missions and spy satellites, India has many modern achievements to show off, but when it comes to improving the lives of its people it has failed miserably. About 60 per cent of the people in rural India live on 70US cents a day, while in cities the figure is US$ 1.30. Significantly more than half of all their income is spent on food as their average monthly consumption cereals, the basic indicator of measuring poverty in India, is only around 10 kilograms. The latest statistics released by India’s National Sample Survey Organisation revel that despite many new public welfare schemes launched by the central and state governments the poverty eradication is still a long way off. Although in March, India’s Planning Commission said that only 29.8 per cent of the population or 355 million people live below the poverty line, which showed a significant decline from the 2005 figure of 37.2 per cent or 407 million people, the definition of poverty line itself has been disputed. The new figure is based on counting the poor people who live on US Cents 40 in the villages and US Cent 60 in the cities, which is considered as too low by many economists and social workers. The Survey, which was carried out between July 2009 and June 2010 also reveals that 10 per cent of the population, or 120 million people live under absolute poverty with only 30 to 40 US cents a day. The survey also reveals that there has been no change in the demographics and the social character of the poor people. Mostly they are still the village farm workers, casual labours in cities, tribal people, lower caste Hindus and Muslims. While some states may be a bit better off than the others analysts say despite all talk of growth and prosperity of a shining India, things are not as rosy as there are massive public distribution issues, bureaucratic red tape, corruption at every level and reports of pilferage and losses due to carelessness of government staff and political interference at various stages as the poor and the needy fight for their survival. Observers say it is time something is seriously done ,as on the one hand a majority of Indian's still live in absolute poverty while on the other there are reports of Indian's illegally stashing away millions of dollars in foreign banks and continue to evade taxes.

Hollande says Sarkozy has damaged France’s image

Hollande and Sarkozy trade final barbs as campaigning draws to a close

Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande took the gloves off for the last major rallies of their ferocious battle for the French presidency, three days before their final run-off. The tone for the last days of campaigning was set by a fierce television debate on Wednesday, in which the right-wing incumbent Sarkozy and Socialist challenger Hollande traded insults without either landing a knock-out blow. Hollande remains the pollsters' favourite to win on Sunday, but Sarkozy refused to cede any ground, appearing at a huge rally in the southern city of Toulon on Thursday to denounce his opponent as a threat to French values.When you want to give immigrants without French citizenship voting rights, that's not the republic," he declared, referring to Hollande's pledge to allow French residents from outside Europe to vote in municipal elections. "When there are urban ghettos where the law is not respected, that's not the republic. When you wipe out borders, when you don't even dare speak of national identity, that's not the republic," he thundered, to loud applause. "The left is destroying the republic with its habit of regarding all things as having equal value," he said. "It's time for a national burst of energy." Hollande was just as determined, in front of a similar huge crowd in another southern city, Toulouse, where he denounced Sarkozy's record in office and predicted a Socialist victory, while cautioning against complacency. "You will hunt for victory, you will conquer it, tear it from the hands of the right," he declared, his voice hoarse after a long campaign and dozens of stump speeches and television appearances, including Wednesday's debate. Even as Hollande was speaking, he received a boost from one of the defeated first-round candidates, centrist Francois Bayrou, who revealed he would vote for Hollande despite concerns about his commitment to deficit-reduction.While Bayrou said he would not instruct the nine percent of the electorate who voted for him in the first round to vote one way or another, he said he had been offended by Sarkozy's lurch to the right since the first round. "I, personally, will vote for Francois Hollande," he said, expressing regret that the incumbent was pursuing the support of the 18 percent of the electorate that backed the far-right's Marine Le Pen. Bayrou noted in particular that he had been shocked by a Sarkozy television spot in which his campaign juxtaposed his promise to cut immigration with images of crowds of migrants and a customs post sign with an Arabic inscription. Bayrou's belated declaration was not expected to change the electoral map. Polls have long forecast that Hollande will win Sunday's run-off by around 54 percent to 46, and they show no signs of shifting before polling day. Following his second-place finish in the first round, Sarkozy reached out to the 6.5 million voters who had backed Le Pen's far-right anti-immigrant ticket, toughening his rhetoric on national borders and social issues. Most observers now expect a Hollande victory, after Wednesday's debate proved indecisive, despite fierce exchanges. Sarkozy had hoped to dominate, but instead Hollande belied his image as a soft consensus-builder by repeatedly attacking the incumbent. Sarkozy has trailed in opinion polls for more than six months and in the debate the clearly frustrated president called Hollande a "liar" and "arrogant" several times. Hollande's response was sometimes mocking, accusing Sarkozy of refusing to take responsibility for his record -- and of self-satisfaction in a period of grim economic crisis for many voters. "Francois Hollande's only weakness compared to Nicolas Sarkozy, that he's viewed as soft and blurry, was overcome last night," said Gael Sliman of the BVA opinion poll institute. A total of 17.79 million people watched the almost three-hour duel, audience monitor Mediametrie said, fewer than the 20.4 million who watched Hollande's former partner, Socialist Segolene Royal, take on Sarkozy in 2007. An LH2-Yahoo poll said 45 percent of those who watched the debate found Hollande more convincing, 41 preferred Sarkozy and 14 percent had no opinion. Sarkozy meanwhile dismissed reports that Moamer Kadhafi's regime had funded his 2007 election campaign. French news website Mediapart on Saturday published a 2006 document it said showed Libyan backing. On Thursday in Tunisia, lawyers for Libya's former premier, Baghdadi al-Mahmudi, said the Kadhafi regime had backed Sarkozy to the tune of 50 million euros ($65 million). Mahmudi is currently fighting extradition from Tunisia to Libya. But Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC), successors of Kadhafi's ousted regime, said Thursday they thought the note was a fake. Khadafi's former intelligence chief and foreign minister Mussa Kussa, allegedly involved in the transaction, has also dismissed the document as forged. Sarkozy has denounced the affair as a bid to disrupt his re-election campaign and is suing the Mediapart website.

President Zardari assents to another bill

President Asif Ali Zardari
, on the advice of the Prime Minister, has assented to the Delimitation of Constituencies (Amendment) Bill, 2012 and the Pakistan Trade Control of Wild Fauna and Flora Bill, 2012. The Delimitation of Constituencies (Amendment) Bill, 2012 seeks to bring the provisions of the Delimitation of Constituencies Act, 1974, in conformity with Articles 51, 106 and 218 of the Constitution as amended by the Constitution (Eighteenth Amendment) Act, 2010. The Bill was passed by the Senate on the 3rd November 2011 and transmitted to the National Assembly. The National Assembly passed it on the 4th January 2012 with amendment and returned to the Senate. The Senate passed it again on the 8th March 2012 with amendment. The said Bill has been passed by the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) under clause (3) of the Article 70 of the Constitution in joint sitting held on 30th March 2012. The Pakistan Trade Control of Wild Fauna and Flora Bill, 2012 seeks to give effect to the United Convention on International Trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora. This Bill was passed by the National Assembly on the 29th December 2010. Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), in its joint sitting held on 5th April 2012, passed this Bill under clause (3) of the Article 70 of the Constitution.

Representative Lawyers Organizations reject PMLN standpoint on Premier’s resign
The Representative Lawyers Organizations rejected the standpoint of Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) in the premier’s resignation. Talking to the media Pakistan Bar’s vice-chairman Akhtar Hussain said that the stance of PML-N was delusive on the Supreme Court’s verdict against Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani. He is the constitutional prime minister of the country, he added. He said that the president with consultation of the prime minister can appoint add hoc judges in the Supreme Court. It may create a deadlock between judiciary and executive if these appointments are made in the apex court. He further said that the Pakistan Bar Council opposes the appointments of add hoc judges in the Supreme Court, terming it contrary to the independency of judiciary. If the prime minister appeals in Supreme Court, the eight-member bench would conduct his hearing and there is no need of appointing adds hoc judges. All the institutions should function in its bounds, he said. Chairman legal advisory committee of the Pakistan Bar Council, Ramzan Chaudhary on the occasion said that ‘until a detailed decision does not come from the apex court, the premier’s appeal is not expelled as well as his disqualification process according to the constitution is not determined. Gilani is the prime minister of the country and it will be unconstitutional to demand for his resignation, he asserted.

Laptop Scandal & Writ of Mubasher Luqman

US drone strike 'kills 10 militants' in Pakistan

A US drone attack targeting a militant compound killed at least 10 insurgents in a troubled Pakistani tribal district along the Afghan border early on Saturday, security officials said. The Pakistani officials said two missiles hit and destroyed the compound in Shawal area, some 70 kilometres (45 miles) west of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan. Waziristan is the most notorious militant stronghold in Pakistan's semi-autonomous northwestern tribal belt. Washington considers it the main hub for Taliban and Al-Qaeda to plot attacks on the West and in Afghanistan. "The death toll in the US drone strike has risen to 10. The drone fired two missiles at the compound," a security official in the northwestern city of Peshawar told AFP. Officials had earlier put the death toll at six. Saturday's attack was the second strike since Pakistan's parliament in March approved new guidelines on relations with the United States, which included a call for an end to drone attacks on Pakistani territory. Two security officials in Miranshah confirmed the strike and death toll and added that militants were using the compound as a training centre. They said the mud compound was completely destroyed. The identity of those killed in the strike was yet not known and officials said they were trying to collect more information from the far-flung mountainous area. Pakistan says the drone strikes are counter productive and undermine government efforts to separate tribes from militants, violate Pakistan's sovereignty, kill civilians and fuel anti-US sentiment. Pakistan's foreign ministry condemned the latest strike, reiterating that such "illegal attacks are a violation of (our) sovereignty and territorial integrity, and are in contravention of international law". "It is our considered view that the strategic disadvantages of such attacks far outweigh their tactical advantages, and are therefore, totally counter productive," it added. Pakistan raised the issue of drone attacks with Marc Grossman, the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, when he visited Islamabad last month amid efforts to mend fractured relations. The uneasy allies are currently taking tentative steps to repair a serious crisis in relations over last year's covert American raid that killed Osama bin Laden and US air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. The frequency of the strikes has diminished in recent months, but US officials are believed to consider them too useful to stop them altogether. US President Barack Obama in January confirmed for the first time that US drones target militants on Pakistani soil, but American officials do not discuss details of the covert programme. According to an AFP tally, 45 US missile strikes were reported in Pakistan's tribal belt in 2009, the year Obama took office, 101 in 2010 and 64 in 2011. The New America Foundation think-tank in Washington says drone strikes have killed between 1,715 and 2,680 people in Pakistan in the past eight years.

Clinton arrives on Bangladesh mission

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived on Saturday for a brief but difficult mission in Bangladesh, where violence and a crackdown on the opposition threaten new instability. Clinton, set to sign a new partnership agreement, is the first US secretary of state to visit Bangladesh since Colin Powell in 2003, amid political infighting in the world's third-largest Muslim-majority country. She touched down in the capital Dhaka fresh from a tricky trip to China that was overshadowed by a row over blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who fled to the US embassy last week, igniting a major diplomatic crisis. In unusually large crowds even for Clinton, thousands of Bangladeshis lined the streets for a glimpse of her motorcade. One well-wisher held a sign, "Heartiest welcome to Forgain (sic) Minister Clinton." Police stood guard at every few metres as they sealed off Dhaka's normally chaotic streets. In the last few weeks Bangladesh has seen rallies and strikes over the disappearance of regional opposition figure Ilias Ali in April. Supporters say that he was seized by security forces. Four people have died in the unrest. Following a rally in the capital last weekend and a series of explosions at a government building complex, police charged and arrested a number of senior figures from the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). A US official said that Clinton would meet Saturday with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and BNP leader Khaleda Zia, who have dominated Bangladesh's politics for decades and whose mutual dislike is as intense as it is personal. The official said Clinton would promote democracy and good governance and look to broader interests with Bangladesh, a US partner in counter-terrorism efforts and the world's largest contributor to UN peacekeeping. "Secretary Clinton's trip is an opportunity to take the bilateral relationship to a new level with this moderate, tolerant, democratic, Muslim-majority nation that offers a viable alternative to violent extremism," the State Department official said on customary condition of anonymity. Bangladesh is "a voice for regional stability in a troubled region," the official said. Analyst Manzur Hasan, a professor of Brac University in Dhaka, believes Clinton will press Hasina over governance problems in the notoriously corrupt and politically unstable country. "She is arriving at an awkward moment in a situation of political turmoil when the country is facing some serious issues and difficulties because of the return of the confrontational politics and street protests," he told AFP. Recent problems for Muhammad Yunus, Bangladesh's only Nobel peace prize winner and a personal friend of Clinton and her husband Bill, will be another thorny issue for the secretary of state to address in her meetings. Yunus was forced out of his ground-breaking micro-credit bank last year and has since claimed he is the victim of a vendetta that will result in the government seizing his empire of social businesses aimed at alleviating poverty. Clinton will meet Yunus on Sunday, the US official said. In Dhaka, the government has talked up Clinton's visit as an event that will take ties to "a new height". "It will be a new beginning of bilateral relations between the two countries," Foreign Minister Dipu Moni said on Thursday. "Her visit is extremely important for Bangladesh." Moni told reporters Dhaka would press for lower tariffs on its exports to the US, its largest market, and the two nations were in the final stage of signing an agreement to boost economic ties. Gowher Rizvi, international affairs adviser to the Bangladeshi prime minister, told AFP the partnership dialogue would be "similar to the ones the US have with India and China". Clinton will be hoping for a less taxing time than she endured in China. US officials said Friday that Beijing had agreed to let the activist Chen leave for the United States, after a controversial initial deal under which he left US protection with promises for his safety inside China. Clinton is due to leave Dhaka on Sunday for the eastern Indian city of Kolkata and then proceed to New Delhi for talks on expanding an alliance that has grown in its importance but is widely seen as having failed to blossom.

Pakistani Politics: The return of 1990s

Is that repulsive era of the 1990s staging its loathsome comeback, when the PPP and the PML (N) were perpetually at loggerheads like two sworn enemies to the great consternation and revulsion of the masses? Evidently, yes, it is. Like then, both are flying at each other's throat rashly and recklessly, with no-holds-barred. Wildly are they trading accusations of sleaze and corruption. Point-scoring of every sort is at its peak. Stridency is being matched with stridency equally. Notorious witch-hunts of yore too seemingly are not far off. Worse, the filthy shows of rowdyism and scuffles on the parliamentary floors have ensued. More worryingly, street agitation against each other is being planned by both that could potentially plunge the country into chaos and turmoil. And this is what the nation can least afford at this point in time. By every consideration, the country is in far worse condition in every manner than what it was in the 1990s. Then, at least it was not so direly placed economically. Nor was it so challengingly positioned internationally. It was not in the vortex of alien conspiracies either to harm it so viciously as is it now. Furthermore, its national cohesion, solidarity and stability were not so tattered as are they now. Nor was it then being battered woefully by stalking terrorism, militancy or low-intensity insurgency as now. The country was for the most part at peace, which at present it is not so visibly. A confrontation between the two could thus hurt the nation and the country irreparably. And the worst victims will again be none else but the masses whose woes and problems would now go doubly unaddressed and unattended. There indeed is no cause for the two to get into a brawl. The prime minister's continued incumbency is certainly problematic. Had he laid down the baton after his court conviction for contempt, he would have gained morally. But he has a legitimate right to legal remedies, which the PML (N) should not grudge him. It should let him exercise that right and wait for the outcome. By trying to force him out with street action, the PML (N) is in effect going after setting a precedent which could potentially boomerang on it some day. In any case, this country is no wrestling ring of the PPP and the PML (N) to test their muscle powers nor is it their personal property. It belongs to its 180 million people who actually own it and want it to be run exclusively for their wellbeing and betterment. It was with abhorrence that they viewed their self-centred political fracas when they were battling like two fighting cocks all through the 1990s for political supremacy and one-upmanship. And, again, they are looking with disdain at their antics to do down each other. The media or civil society may be partisans, but the people certainly are no part of their fracas or confrontation. Too overwhelmed as they are by the untold grief both have inflicted on them in their respective domains, the people have no heart whatsoever to be on the either's side. Both may rent crowds for their marches and rallies, but the real people's participation definitely will not be there. So, even now both may do well to give way to sanity, sobriety and sense, and pull back. If for their madness and stupidity, the country does hit a rock, which in all probability it would, the nation will never forgive them. And both will stand condemned in the eye of the posterity for good. Their cheerleaders in the media, civil society and chattering classes also must take rest. The enterprise they are so blindly embarked upon is too dangerous. They too must understand this. The baneful consequences of the confrontations of the PPP and the PML (N) of the 1990s still haunt this nation one way or the other. They all must bear this in mind.

After the floods: Two years on, upper Swat still virtually cut off from rest of the world

The Express Tribune
The far-flung hamlets across the Swat River are in dire need of bridges to connect them with the rest of the valley. While lower Swat has somewhat recovered from the havoc wrecked by the 2010 floods, the upper parts of the valley seem to be awaiting a miracle for restoration of lost infrastructure. The floods washed away more than 45 major bridges in addition to hundreds of small ones, leaving hundreds of thousands of people stranded. Although a few makeshift bridges and cable cars have been installed, most hamlets remain cut off from the rest of the world. “We have knocked at every door seeking help in installing a bridge to our hamlet but all our requests fell on deaf ears,” said Gul Nabi, who belongs to a remote village in Mankyal valley. Due to absence of a bridge, he has to cover a distance of 10 kilometres to get things of daily use. At many places, local businessmen have installed manually-run cable cars to cross the Swat River. These rides have their own risks, with almost no safety measures. “The cable cars have solved our problem to a great extent but the ride is certainly unsafe and many people have fallen in the river in darkness,” said Attaur Rehman, a resident of Kalam. In addition, manual operation doesn’t allow cable cars to be used for transportation of goods, which specially affects rural women. Zareena, 55, said, “The biggest problem is taking goods to the other side of the river. I have no men at home so I have to ask other people for help. “If there was a bridge instead, it would be much easier for people to conduct their businesses and I wouldn’t be dependent on others.” Moreover, the unreliability of cable cars poses a serious risk in dealing with an emergency situation. “Every time an emergency occurs it feels as if we are dealing with a disaster. Taking patients on the cable car isn’t possible and we have to take a four-hour route to get to the other side of the river,” said Subhan Ali, a resident of a village near Kalam. The people also appealed to the non-governmental organisations working in the area to provide assistance in installing small bridges to bring an end to their miseries.

Legal Notice:LAPTOP SCANDAL: Punjab govt to sue Mubashir Lucman

The Express Tribune
The Punjab government has decided to sue Dunya News anchor Mubashir Lucman over his programme on the provincial government’s laptop distribution scheme. According to an official handout, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif have asked the Special Assistant on Education to Punjab chief minister Zaeem Qadri, to send a legal notice to Lucman. The legal notice was sent for damages of Rs1 billion to Lucman for leveling allegations in a programme against the scheme without any proof. Qadri said that Lucman had levelled baseless, unfounded and misleading allegations against the transparent procedure of the distribution programme, and did not bother to take the Punjab government’s point of view, which he said was against journalistic values.

‘SC, speaker, CEC never gave adverse ruling against Gilani’

Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Farooq H Naik on Friday told protesting PML-N legislators that Yousaf Raza Gilani was still a member of the parliament, as neither the Supreme Court, NA speaker nor the Chief Election Commissioner had given any adverse ruling against him, warning them that if the PML-N’s protest led to the derailment of democracy, they would be held responsible for it. However, the opposition members responded to the stance of the law minister with chants of “no, no, no”. Speaking on a point of order in the House, Naik observed that the PML-N protest in the House was in violation of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business. “This rowdy stance is against parliamentary traditions,” he added. Naik further said the government would move another resolution for the creation of Hazara Province, but after evolving a consensus amongst other political parties. National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza also called the PML-N protest unfair. “The opposition has a right to protest but within the parliamentary norms… There is a way. Don’t adopt the manners of a dictator,” she advised the PML-N members who continued protest for the fourth day. “Here ends your show, Go Gilani Go,” they shouted in response to the speaker’s advice. Torn copies of the questions flew in the air as the opposition members intensified their protest over the issue of the prime minister’s conviction in the contempt case. Minister for Finance, Revenue and Planning and Development, Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, told the House in a written reply that the government during the last four years borrowed from the State Bank of Pakistan Rs 688.7 billion, Rs 114 billion, Rs 41.9 billion and Rs 16.9 billion in 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11, respectively.

Lawyers dismisses PML-N demand to sack Gilani

The lawyers have dismissed the demand of PML-N to sack PM Gilani from his post. Addressing media after a session in Lahore, vice chairman of Pakistan Bar Akhtar Hussain said that Gilani still enjoys the position under the constitution.He said appointment of adhoc judges in Supreme Court is in contrast to the freedom of judiciary.Akhtar Hussain further explained that the appointment of adhoc judges in Supreme Court can only be made after a consultation with Prime Ministerthe and approval of president. The vice chairman Akhtar Hussian said that an eight-member bench can hear the case if PM Gilani appeals in court against the verdict.