Monday, May 7, 2012

Putin sworn in as Russian president

Russia’s newly sworn-in President Vladimir Putin on Monday proposed his Kremlin predecessor Dmitry Medvedev as the country’s new prime minister under a job swap agreement that sparked protests last year. The lower house of parliament’s speaker Sergei Naryshkin said Putin submitted Medvedev’s name for confirmation shortly after taking the oath of office for a third Kremlin term. Putin was expected to personally present Medvedev’s candidacy when the State Duma holds a special session that may include an official vote on Tuesday. The Duma is all but certain to approve the candidacy after both the ruling United Russia party and the LDPR group of the veteran populist Vladimir Zhirinovsky promised to support Putin’s choice. Medvedev now has the support of about 290 lawmakers in the 450-seat chamber while needing only a simply 226 vote majority to become Putin’s premier. Putin had served as Medvedev’s prime minister after ceding his Kremlin seat to his close ally upon completing his constitutionally-mandated first two terms as president between 2000 and 2008.

Attack on education: Two more schools destroyed in FATA

The Express Tribune
Two more schools were destroyed in Mohmand and South Waziristan agencies on Sunday, bringing the number of destroyed schools in Mohmand Agency alone to 95. The blast took place in the early hours of Sunday. According to an official, militants had planted the explosives near a middle school for boys in Nasapai area of Haleemzai tehsil. “The education department intends to rebuild all the destroyed schools in the Mohmand Agency,” he added. At present, due to lack of resources, classes were being conducted in makeshift tents. Meanwhile, in another incident, a middle school for girls was blown up in Kari Kot village of Wana in South Waziristan. There were no casualties. According to the owner of the school, Malik Noor Muhammad, there are around 300 pupils enrolled in the school.

Conference in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa : Int’l moot discusses intolerance in society

The Express Tribune
Intolerance is a universal phenomenon that exists even in western countries, said Clive Straford Smith, Director Charity Reprieve. He was speaking at a 10 day international conference on intolerance in society titled “Face Off”, jointly organised by Directorate of Culture, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and Hunarkada College of Visual and Performing Arts. The conference, attended by prominent artists representing literature, visual and performing mediums of art as well as media and journalism is aimed at sensitising society to the growing intolerance. Rejecting western portrayal of Pakhtun society as extremist and terrorist, Clive Smith said “Guantanamo Bay, where 51 per cent detainees were declared innocent, demonstrates how a so-called civilized society can also be intolerant as detainees are still struggling through life every day.” Smith emphasised that he felt no fear in Peshawar and proposed building a fully funded memorial for all innocent victims of US drone strikes. Expressing his anguish at the negative image of the province, K-P Provincial Minister for Information Mian Iftikhar Hussain noted that Pakhtun’s were a peace loving people who have been demonized by foreign elements as extremists. “Unless the world awakens to our plight and hears our point of view, situation in the region will not normalise,” Hussain added. Other prominent participants at the workshop were US Consul General in Peshawar Marie Richards, Rahimullah Yusafzai, Jamal Shah, Zeba Bakhtiar, Saad Muhammad, and Prathab Chatterjee.

Bahrain king opposes reforms, people demands

Bahraini security forces have arrested a human rights activist in the country
Nabeel Rajab with the interior ministry giving no particular reason for the act. Rajab is head of Bahrain’s Human Rights Organization which the government has already announced as illegal and is currently restricting its activities. He was arrested immediately after his return from Beirut and two hours after a joint televised interview with the WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange. Abdulhadi al-Khawaja,
another human rights activist, has been on a hunger strike for three months in protest at his life sentence. Bahraini King was obliged to order a retrial for al-Khawaja and a number of other convicts. They had previously been convicted by a military court and this time they are supposed to be given trial at a civil court. Al-Khawaja’s daughter has also been arrested several times. Al-Khawaja’s supporters say his retrial would not be acceptable and call for his release as well as the country’s other political prisoners’ freedom. Al-Khawaja is also a citizen of Denmark but the Bahraini government does not agree with his transfer to this country. The Bahraini government’s pressure on human rights activists is among its weak points in confronting the popular uprising in the country which has claimed the lives of more than 60 people over the past 14 months. The government in Manama hopes to establish order in cooperation with Saudi soldiers and the United Arab Emirates police.
The Bahraini King has recently changed certain articles of the country’s constitution to control the situation and put an end to protests. Demonstrations staged immediately after the King’s decision in Bahrain showed that such amendments failed to win the public opinion. According to these changes, the Council of Representatives is given greater authority to impeach and withdraw its vote of confidence in the government. But ultimately, it is the king which has the right to retain or remove the prime minister. The king should also consult the heads of the Council of Representatives and the Shura Council before dissolving the parliament. Thus, the Bahraini king is still at the center of power and he has only granted permission that the representatives be consulted to a limited extent in cases related to the government. The chief demand of the Bahraini people is the establishment of a conditional kingdom where the king has no responsibilities and all the power is vested in the representatives of the people and the government. The head of the board of government should also be elected by the majority in the parliament and not be appointed by the king.
There are two councils in Bahrain, each of which has 40 members. The members of the Council of the Representatives are chosen by the people in elections and the members of the Shura Council are appointed by the king. Every law should be ratified by both councils. If only a small number of the members of the Council of Representatives were allies of the king, then he could pass any law that he wanted. Despite the new changes to the constitution, the prime minister is still appointed by the king and not the Council of Representatives. Bahrain has only had one prime minister, the king’s uncle, since it separated from Iran and he intends to remain in the post as long as he lives. In the 14 months that has passed since the start of the uprising in Bahrain, the opposition has called for free elections that are based on the correct delineation of the constituencies. The opposition says the election laws in Bahrain do not allow for a just ratio between the constitution and the number of representatives. New changes in Bahrain’s constitutions ignore all these demands. In order for new changes to be legitimate, the lower and upper houses of Bahraini parliament have passed them. The opposition, however, says neither houses of the parliament are legitimate, and none of them represent the people, especially after all opposition representatives resigned and were replaced by new ones close to the royal court. Aided by the Western companies, the government of Bahrain held the fourth stage of the Formula 1 car races in late April to show that the situation in the country is normal. International attention to this sports event, however, increased focus on developments in Bahrain and added more heat to street protests. Bahrain’s popular uprising has not received due attention from foreign news agencies as well as regional news networks. This is partly a result of the Bahraini government’s decision to prevent entry of foreign correspondents and their free movement in the country. To a larger part, however, it is due to reluctance of powerful regional news networks owned by Saudi Arabia and Qatar for reflecting the situation in Bahrain. The United States and the West do not care about Bahrain either. The US Fifth Fleet is stationed in Bahrain. The West is concerned that any change in Manama may get it close to Tehran and help Iran find another ally in the Arab world and the Persian Gulf after Iraq. If the West had given to Bahrain only one-hundredth of the attention it is paying to Syria, the Bahraini king would have had to give more concessions to people. Comparing double standards applied by Western states and the US to crises in Syria and Bahrain will show that their main priority is to protect their own interests, not to help people, promote democracy, and protect the human rights in the Arab world.

Austerity now dirty word in Europe, but what next?

Political upheaval across Europe highlights rising voter discontent with budget tightening. France's new president Francois Hollande
won by denouncing austerity, while weary Greek voters practically shouted "no more" after two years of cutbacks demanded in return for bailout loans. Austerity, however, isn't going anywhere just yet. Strained government financies mean even Hollande lacks money to spend on stimulus. He and other European leaders might finally seek more ways to soften its deadening impact on growth and jobs. But there aren't many obvious options. More ominously, Greece faces turbulent and uncertain days. The prospect that voter rejection of the tough terms of its bailout by a deeply polarized electorate could lead to another debt default — or even abandoning the euro. Uncertainty over how Europe will handle its government debt crisis in the weeks and months ahead left stock markets volatile on Monday. They fell sharply in the morning but recovered in some countries by the close. The sharpest selloff was in Greece, where the main stock index plunged almost 7 percent. The euro briefly spiraled to a three-month low against the dollar, hitting $1.2972. More turmoil in the eurozone would affect markets and the global economy. A financial disaster such as a government default or bank failure could spread quickly to banks around the world, while American exporters would face headwinds if sagging confidence in Europe shrinks the value of the euro against the dollar. Exports have been one of the U.S. economy's few strengths since the recession ended three years ago. Hollande, France's first Socialist president in more than a decade, campaigned for "change now" and promised higher taxes on the rich and more government spending to stimulate the economy. "Austerity can no longer be inevitable!" he shouted in his first speech after Nicolas Sarkozy conceded Sunday night. The question remains whether Germany — which is Europe's powerhouse driving the austerity agenda — will allow at least some countries in the eurozone to spend more freely in the face of a recession that is spreading across the continent. And any loosening of spending risks provoking trouble from bond markets and ratings agencies. One agency has already stripped France of its coveted AAA rating. The most nerve-wracking development occurred in Greece, where political parties that backed two bailouts lost their majority in Parliament. That opens up the possibility that Greece's new leaders could renege on commitments made to secure the country's massive rescue loans — or even decide to leave the euro. The conservatives got the first try but failed — leaving a new left-wing, party to take its turn to try. If no party can assemble a majority coalition, that would usher in another month of financial chaos before new elections, probably in June. Merkel pressed Greek leaders to stay the course. "Of course the most important thing is that the programs we agreed with Greece are continued," she said Monday. The European commission called for the "full and timely" implementation of agreed cuts. Those include €11.5 billion in new cutbacks that must be found in June in order for Greece to keep getting money under the terms of its second, €130 billion bailout. Economist Christoph Weil at Commerzbank said that if aid is cut off Greece would be unable to pay its debts by autumn, leading to a second default following a writedown of €107 billion in March. European leaders may cut a bit more slack on the terms — as they have in the past. "There is certainly room for negotations that could save face for both sides," said Weill. But "patience is wearing thin" with Greece and that "if I were Greek I would not count on this happening." Greece isn't the only problem. The 17 countries that use the euro — and 9 other European countries — agreed in March to a fiscal compact that seeks to make countries balance their budgets. But as Europe's economy gets weaker, the public and politicians are growing weary of the budget-cutting that is required to make this fiscal compact work. Eight of the 17 eurozone nations are already in recession and unemployment across the bloc rose to 10.9 percent in March — its highest ever. Over the past two years, France and Germany have steered Europe through the debt crisis — though not always well — and declared an end to the flouting of deficit limits that led Europe into the debt crisis. But the crackdown could not have come at a worse time — with the world economy slowing — and propelled Europe into a vicious austerity spiral. Cutting spending — which meant laying off state employees and ending stimulus programs — further slowed nations' economies and produced less tax revenue, which meant more cuts were needed to meet deficit targets. Now a backlash has begun and for many, Hollande is its leader. The new French leader has promised to end the negative loop, demanding that the fiscal compact that targeted spending be re-negotiated to include measures to promote growth. Many economists have long advocated for a greater emphasis on growth, but that idea seemed to gather steam among European policymakers only as Hollande promoted it. "At the moment that the (French vote) result was proclaimed, I am sure that in many European countries, there was relief, hope," he told supporters in his central hometown of Tulle. Other officials have been taking notice. European Central Bank President Mario Draghi called for a "growth compact," while not relenting on his calls for balancing budgets. The Dutch government, long a supporter of such discipline, fell over the issue of too much austerity and too little growth. And even Germany, the primary architect of austerity, has said a growth pact should be drawn up. Still, concrete proposals for stimulating short-term growth have been few. European officials have talked about boosting funding for the European Investment Bank, and economists have urged making more targeted and aggressive use of EU structural funds for infrastructure projects such as roads. Yet with a budget only around 1 percent of EU gross domestic product, the EU's prospects for large-scale spending are limited. Merkel and Sarkozy were so close they were known as "Merkozy" — and the big question now is if there will be a "Merkollande" in Europe's future. "There can be some short-term friction when they have to adjust to each other," said Laurence Boone, chief European economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. "But it doesn't seem to me that there is an alternative, because Spain and Italy are not strong enough." Hollande's plans to jump-start the French economy by investing in infrastructure and buoying small businesses will determine how bumpy the road ahead is. He has promised to keep the deficit in check by also raising taxes on the wealthy and closing some corporate loopholes — but some investors say that will kill the very growth he hopes to foster. If he does start wildly increasing spending, France will no doubt see its borrowing costs rise — which could make his policies untenable and prompt a shift back to austerity. It was those rising borrowing costs that eventually forced fellow eurozone nations Greece, Ireland and Portugal to seek bailouts. Some are hoping that Hollande will turn out to be more pragmatic.

Afghan president: Civilian deaths threaten US pact

Afghan President Hamid Karzai
summoned the NATO commander and the US ambassador on Monday to warn that civilian casualties in military operations threatened a strategic pact he has signed with the US. Tens of civilians -- including women and children -- had been killed in NATO bombardments in four provinces since Saturday, a statement from Karzai's office charged. The president warned that if Afghan lives were not protected the Strategic Partnership Agreement he signed with US President Barack Obama last week would "lose its meaning", the statement said. "The Afghan president this evening summoned NATO Commander General John Allen and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker for an emergency meeting at the Presidential Palace," the president's office said. He "expressed his concerns about the civilian casualties incurred by our people in four provinces" -- Logar and Helmand in the south, Kapisa in the east and Badghis in the northwest. The president said civilian casualties always hurt Afghan-American relations, adding that Afghanistan had signed the strategic pact with the US to prevent such incidents and safeguard the lives of Afghans. "If the lives of Afghans are not protected, the strategic partnership will lose its meaning," the statement quoted the president as saying. The pact covers relations between the two countries when US-led NATO forces helping Karzai's government fight a Taliban insurgency pull out in 2014. Allen said after the meeting that he assumed personal responsibility for incidents in which civilians were killed and expressed condolences to the families involved, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) told AFP. "He said he will fully investigate these incidents and report back to President Karzai," the spokesman said. "We don't have all the facts right now." A NATO airstrike targeting militants in Badghis province on Saturday night killed fifteen civilians, including women and children in Joikar village, Bala Murghab district, provincial member of parliament Qazi Abdul Rahim told AFP. An ISAF spokesman said earlier, ahead of the meeting with Karzai, that an airstrike killed three insurgents in an attack in the area, but reports indicated no civilians were involved. In a separate incident, in the volatile Helmand province in southern Afghanistan on Friday, six civilians were killed in a NATO airstrike, an Afghan official said. "Six people -- a woman, two boys and three girls -- were killed in a foreign forces airstrike on Friday in Sangin district," provincial spokesman Daud Ahmadi told AFP. ISAF said they were aware of the allegation and "an investigation is under way". Civilian casualties have always been a sensitive issue in the US-led war against a Taliban insurgency and have often been the cause of tense relations between Kabul and Washington. The number of civilians killed has risen steadily each year for the past five years, reaching a record of 3,021 in 2011, the great majority caused by militants, according to UN statistics.

Afghan government slams Taliban spring offensive

The Afghan government on Monday condemned the recent Taliban announcement of the start of their annual "spring offensive," calling it cowardly and un-Islamic and pledging the country's forces would thwart any attacks. The offensive begins every year as snows melt and the weather warms across Afghanistan, making both travel and fighting easier. It normally leads to a surge of militant attacks throughout the country as the Taliban attempt to retake lost territory and intimidate the government. Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul acknowledged a two-year, rarely used program to release detainees from a military prison run by the American military near the capital, saying it was meant to bolster reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The Taliban announcement last week was another sign of the difficulty of reconciling with a group that has been fighting the U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces for more than a decade. The Taliban said they would target anyone — from government workers to tribal leaders — who works against them and helps foreigners in their "occupation" of Afghanistan. On Monday, the Interior Ministry said that "while again declaring war against the Afghan people, their government and constitution, the Taliban insurgents also abuse their religious values in the name of a cause opposed to the basic Islamic principles of peace, education and kindness." The ministry statement said the Taliban use propaganda and "twist holy religious values to justify their criminal activities," which have killed thousands of innocent people. Last year was the deadliest on record for civilians in the Afghan war, with 3,021 killed, according to the United Nations. Taliban-affiliated militants were responsible for more than three-quarters of those deaths. The Taliban have launched several large-scale attacks in recent weeks, including coordinated attacks on Kabul and three other cities that left 47 people dead, including 36 insurgents, and a strike on a compound used by foreigners in the Afghan capital that killed seven. The uptick in violence comes as NATO gears up to hand over security to local forces ahead of a 2014 deadline for the withdrawal of foreign combat troops. Some have questioned if local forces will be up to the task. The U.S.-led coalition has also started its own campaign aimed at insurgents and is thought to have launched a number of operations in the eastern part of Afghanistan near the Pakistani border. The operations, in provinces such as Ghazni, are also aimed at chocking the insurgents' ability to reach Kabul. On Monday, a bomb killed three NATO service members in the east, the coalition said. It did not provide details about the attack nor the nationality of those killed. NATO usually waits for member nations to provide details about troop deaths. So far this year, 142 coalition members have died in Afghanistan. The Washington Post reported Monday that the U.S. military has been secretly releasing high-level detainees from the Parwan detention center near Kabul to help with the reconciliation process. Many high-level Taliban detainees are held at the facility, which is run by the U.S. military but will be handed over to the Afghans within six months under a recently signed agreement. U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker told the newspaper that many times the United States had acted on information that "might strengthen the reconciliation process." "Ambassador Crocker was referencing a two-year old, rarely used program in which senior military officials, together with their Afghan counterparts, weigh the benefits of releasing certain individuals who are being detained at the Parwan Detention Facility and who are willing to denounce violence and engage in the process of reconciliation," U.S. Embassy spokesman Gavin Sundwall told The Associated Press. Sundwall said fewer than 20 detainees have ever been released under the program and that the decision takes into account whether they pose any further security threat. In the latest violence, four gunmen took over a tall building in the eastern province of Paktika late Sunday and started shooting down into surrounding government compounds, wounding one civilian. A spokesman for the governor, Mokhlis Afghan, said police surrounded the building in the provincial capital and killed the attackers after several hours. NATO and Afghan soldiers provided support. Also Monday, the governor of southern Helmand province condemned a NATO airstrike last week that he said killed six civilians — a woman, three girls and two boys. Gulab Mangal said Friday's strike was aimed at insurgents attacking NATO and Afghan forces in the province's Sangin district. He said "a civilian house was also targeted by the airstrike unintentionally." Mangal said U.S.-led NATO forces confirmed the recent event and apologized, saying it would help the remaining members of the family. In the north, a large roadside bomb killed three people Monday in Kunduz province's Imam Sahib district — including a high-ranking national border police commander, said Amanullah Qurishi, the district chief.

Khyber Pukhtunkhwa's National level tennis event after 15 years

Khyber Pukhtunkhwa is to organise a national level tennis tournament
after more than 15 years, from May 14-20 with a prize money of Rs0.5 million, which will make it another ‘alive’ unit of the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF). President Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Tennis Association (KPTA) Dr Mohammad Tahir, who is a plastic surgeon by profession, told ‘The News’ that they would make it a regular event from. Asked why this unit of PTF had suddenly risen from slumber after decades, he said it had happened because of strong support from the Chief Minister of the province and their sports directorate. “Besides the CM, we are getting full support from Aqil Shah of our provincial sports directorate, and support means total financial commitment,” he added. He further said that this tournament would have competitions of singles, U14 and U18 doubles, and veterans. However, there will be no women events because of the conservative culture in KP. “We have requested the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) to send their girls team because we have not received direct entries from girls of our province,” said Mohammad Tahir. “We are focusing on grooming our players of under-14 and under-18 categories, and we have been providing them with playing opportunities besides arranging regular camps the whole year,” said the president who got elected in December 2010. He further said that his association would build six courts (three hard and three grass) at Pakistan Tennis Club, which is the only club in Pakistan that was inaugurated by the founder of the country Mohammad Ali Jinnah in 1948. “This is again to be done with the help of the provincial sports directorate because it involves huge finances, above Rs 10 million. This will be completed in different phases,” he added. The president KPTA said that they would erect a covered court for ladies there, and since it was a public place they would also build 30 rooms. “The construction work will be started before June this year,” he said. It may be noted here that out of 14 units of PTF some 10 have been dormant for a long time, so this initiative of KPTA is highly encouraging as this will not only provide their players with national exposure but also help them represent the country at international levels in near future.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa artists ,performers are our valued assets

Frontier Post
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Government will allocate 4 percent of GDP for education sector in the next budget which in the past, has never exceeded two percent. This was stated by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Culture and Information, Mian Iftikhar Hussain while addressing the cheque distribution ceremony amongst the local artists at Nishtar Hall Peshawar, the other day. Secretary Culture Azmat Hanif Orakzai was also present on the occasion. Those who received cheques of Rs. One lac each was Abdul Wahab Dasti, Mumtaz Ali Shah, Salahuddin, and Widow of Rafiqe Shanwari Safia Rani, Noshaba and Maazullah Nigar. The minister said that all our artists were highly respectable for us and they were our precious assets. The government would do all its best to ameliorate their lot, he added. He said that they love their artists from the core of their heart and the money so provided to them was nothing but a token of recognition of their service. He regretted, in the past, our artists were humiliated and they were compelled to flee the country adding that even some decided to abandon their jobs. Mian Iftikhar continued, after coming into power, the government not only revived cultural activities but also give Rs. One million to Pushto legend singer Khial Muhammad with a view to convey a message that we love our artists and no one could harm our culture. He furthered that they have arranged special programs in honour of their living, passed and legendary people of this region. He said that they were conducting cultural programs to encourage the people and discourage the terrorists. The minister mainted that Islam is the only relgion of the world that accept modernism and not a hurdle in the way of the culture. That is why it rapidly spread and continue to spread in the world, he concluded.

PML-N’s impatience

At a rally in Taxila the other day, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif announced the launch of his party’s movement to topple the government of the PPP-led coalition. He issued a call to the people to get ready for a long march for the purpose. There then followed the litany of usual criticisms of the government for its faults and failures, spiced up by rude remarks about Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani being a “puppet” and “pawn” of President Asif Ali Zardari. He went on to raise the accusation once again of the president’s alleged ill-gotten money stashed in Swiss banks, which Nawaz vowed would be returned to their rightful owners, the people of Pakistan. By raising this bogey once again, Nawaz Sharif risks, and is in fact being accosted with, tit-for-tat accusations and allegations by the PPP, Interior Minister Rehman Malik in particular, about his own past transgressions of various types. Whether this kind of exchange will lead anywhere is anyone’s guess. Nawaz Sharif also exposed his frustration with the president, accusing him of misusing the agreement he had made with the late Benazir Bhutto (the reference is to the Charter of Democracy). Although he did not explicate the broken promises he accused the president of, one can surmise that the breach in trust between the two began over the issue of the restoration of the judiciary, which the president agreed to early in the life of the government when the PML-N was still a coalition partner of the PPP, but which did not get implemented until Nawaz Sharif launched his long march for the purpose, with some help, it is reported, from COAS General Kayani. It has been downhill ever since in the relationship between the two erstwhile partners. Meanwhile the PPP’s coalition partners, the PML-Q, the MQM and the ANP have called upon Nawaz Sharif to behave responsibly and not contemplate destabilising the democratic system. Instead, they advised him to adopt a democratic and constitutional path even if he wanted to see the back of the government. What is intriguing is why Nawaz Sharif has abandoned his policy of restraint vis-à-vis the PPP-led government, a restraint informed by the bitter experience of the military taking advantage of the politicians’ falling out to intervene and pack up the democratic system altogether. The restraint shown by Nawaz Sharif over the past four years may have earned him the sarcastic jibe of acting like a ‘friendly’ opposition, but it now appears he has allowed himself to be persuaded by the hawks in his party (led by Chaudhry Nisar and backed up by younger brother Shahbaz Sharif) to go all out against the government. The timing of the change is also intriguing, given that the country is in the run up to general elections. The opportunity for the turn has been presented by the contempt conviction of the prime minister by the Supreme Court but the PML-N has displayed its impatience with the legal and political process to be gone through before the verdict can take effect. Nevertheless, the argument that a street agitation may destabilise democracy, if not provide once again an opportunity to anti-democratic forces to wrap up the system per se has not lost its validity, historically or at the present conjuncture. The other, more practical argument against the launching of such a move at this point is that the PML-N seems to be embarking on a solo flight, given that none of the opposition parties, inside or outside parliament, have come on board. This reluctance permeates the stance of the PTI, JUI, JI, et al. Certainly there is much ammunition available to pillory the incumbents, but it must be clarified that the problems facing the country are grave and complex, even if it is conceded that the government has failed to tackle them effectively and may therefore have to answer to the charge of ineptness. The PML-N and its leadership needs to remind itself of the risks and dangers of an all out confrontation between the two mainstream parties on the streets, especially since the aggressive stance of the PML-N has invoked an equally aggressive reaction from the PPP. Mutual criticism within the parameters of a democratic system are inherent in the process of politics, but taking such differences to the level of a confrontation between the workers and supporters of each side is playing with fire. All sides must realise that it in their own mutual interests not to let politics descend once more to the level of an irredeemable enmity, whose advantage can only go to the anti-democratic camp. Democracy has its discontents, but dictatorship is far worse, as Pakistan’s history has witnessed.