Saturday, May 19, 2012

President Obama welcomes G8 leaders to summit at Camp David.

NAB and the Sharifs

All of us, or almost all of us, know what Pakistan needs most of all. It needs accountability, and an end to the corruption which has drained it of so many resources and so much energy. It is shameful that the Islamic Republic of Pakistan should rank again and again on the list of the most corrupt countries in the world. One reason for this failure has been the inability to put in place a body that can carry out accountability fairly, honestly and with complete impartiality. Accusations of political victimisation have risen again and again. This time round things look no different. The decision of the National Accountability Bureau to re-open cases against the Sharifs comes at a rather unfortunate time. Tensions between the ruling PPP and Mian Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N are high, and for reasons that are all too apparent, questions will be asked about the timing. The cases, stemming from a petition moved by Interior Minister Rehman Malik, pertain essentially to money laundering worth millions of dollars carried out in the 1990s. A spokesman for NAB has stated that the cases were not brought up earlier because of an order by the Lahore High Court after the Sharifs returned from exile from Saudi Arabia. Essentially that order still holds. NAB’s explanation is not a convincing one, and will raise all kinds of questions. Indeed the threat of still greater political acrimony looms even higher, and this is not something we need. Accusations of accountability bodies being guilty of foul play have arisen before. It now seems almost inevitable this will happen again. The omens are not good, and the question of why cases targeting the Sharifs have been brought up now will linger in many minds. There are also other delicate issues at play. For one, NAB spokesman says Rs2 billion has already been recovered from RPPs. This is the first time we are hearing of this. If this has happened it is indeed good news, but there seems to be no transparency in the matter. There is also some hidden provision that NAB will get a cut in all the recoveries. If this is true millions will go to NAB officials. Why? The question of the NLC scam is also being taken up. Many sensitivities are involved. The matter of how NAB handles them will be a test case for an organisation that seems suddenly to have moved into a phase of hyper-activity and for its chairman, Admiral (r) Fasih Bukhari who in the past has been accused of being too soft on a government which has set many new records as far as corruption goes.

Marking the end of a war in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka marks the third anniversary of the end of the nearly three decade war against Tamil Tiger rebels with a military march

NATO and Afghanistan

In advance of the NATO summit meeting on Afghanistan, American officials are claiming real progress in the fight against the Taliban. “Every day we’re gaining traction,” Gen. John Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan, told reporters last week. There is improvement, but we are skeptical that the situation is that encouraging. The Taliban continue to strike with impunity. Central and local governments are riddled with corruption — and still driving Afghans back toward the extremists. According to The Times’s Alissa Rubin, ethnically based militias are reorganizing, raising fears the country could devolve into civil war once NATO forces leave. While the Chicago summit meeting, which starts on Sunday, is supposed to focus on the alliance’s long-term commitment to Afghanistan, there is an enormous amount that must be done in the 31 months before all NATO combat troops withdraw. An improved Afghan National Security Force is expected to soon reach a peak of 352,000 troops. Afghans lead nearly half of the operations with NATO partners; night raids, with Afghans now fully in the lead, have taken many skilled insurgents off the battlefield. And, as American officials have eagerly noted, some 260 of 403 districts — covering 65 percent of the population — are now secured primarily by Afghan forces or in transition to Afghan control. But Kandahar and Helmand Provinces, the Taliban base and main focus of the 2010 surge, remain heavily contested. A recent Pentagon report said that enemy attacks in Kandahar rose 13 percent in the most recent October-March time period versus the same period a year earlier. NATO must keep pummeling the Taliban. But it will also take a lot more effort to get the Afghans ready to continue this fight on their own. Right now they are dependent on NATO for planning, management, air support, intelligence and logistics. Thousands of officer slots are empty because of problems finding literate, qualified candidates. The training program, led by an American three-star, needs to expand to prepare Afghans with specialized skills. It must find and train more officers. Afghans are gradually taking over the training duties for basic recruits. But talk of shortening the five-week course for trainers seems foolhardy. More work needs to be done to ensure that the forces are drawn from all ethnic groups. There is little chance that France’s new president, François Hollande, will reverse his ill-considered pledge to pull out all French combat troops by the end of this year. But American officials are hoping to persuade him to commit significant numbers to the training program. The alliance must also look beyond 2014. A new strategic partnership with Washington has sent an important message to the Afghans — and the region — that the United States is not abandoning them. Washington has promised to provide trainers and advisers after 2014 and to pay $2.3 billion of the projected $4.1 billion annual costs for Afghan security forces through 2024. Kabul’s share would be about $500,000. At the summit meeting, the allies — and Saudi Arabia and Qatar — need to agree to pick up the remaining $1.3 billion price tag for the Afghan forces. President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan will be in Chicago. NATO leaders need to use the meeting to press him hard to finally rein in corruption and to start preparing for a fair presidential election in 2014. President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan will also be there. President Obama is close to persuading his government to reopen supply lines. Mr. Obama has yet to figure out how to get Pakistan’s military to cut ties to the extremists. Until that happens, even a competent Afghan force will have a hard time maintaining stability. The cost for Pakistan’s fragile democracy could be even higher.

Police: 3 terror suspects at NATO summit were plotting to hit Obama's campaign HQs

Three men charged with conspiring to commit domestic terrorism during the NATO summit were plotting to attack President Obama's Chicago campaign headquarters, the Chicago mayor's home and police stations, authorities said Saturday. A police investigation that began early this month revealed that the three suspects are "self-proclaimed anarchists" and members of the "Black Bloc" group who traveled together from Florida to Chicago to commit violence as a protest against the NATO summit, authorities said in a statement.

Afghanistan: Interior Ministry Defends Local Police Against Accusations of Human Rights Violations

The Afghan Local Police (ALP) are violating human rights in several areas of the country, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said in a report released Saturday. AIHRC chief Sima Samar released the report saying that the local police have sometimes created more unrest in the areas under their control. "Some powerful figures sought the creation of the local police, but they have violated human rights in some districts," Samar said. Samar said that in some areas, the ALP were as troublesome as illegally armed groups. "You can't distinguish the ALP from other illegally armed groups," she said. Samar questioned the need for the largely local and illiterate force at all. "What is the need of a local police force if we have more than 250,000 in the army and a police force beyond 2014. Their [ALP] role for after 2014 should be clarified," she said. Afghanistan's Ministry of Interior (MOI), which oversees the ALP, rejected the claims saying that while the local police had been involved in 13 known human rights violations last year, all of these cases were prosecuted. "The local police have only been involved in 13 cases of human rights violations in some parts of the country, for which the perpetrators were prosecuted," MOI spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said. "Local police have been effective in bringing security to the districts under their control. They are a threat to insurgents." Around 13,000 local police have been assigned in 66 districts, and have found to be effective in fighting insurgents, he added. Their number is rise to 30,000 at the end of 2014 when the Nato-led combat troops are set to leave Afghanistan, according to the MOI.

Hollande seeks G8 backing against Merkel's austerity

“An alliance for growth” was French daily newspaper Le Monde's depiction of the historic first meeting between new president François Hollande and his American counterpart Barack Obama. Echoed by many other French media outlets, Le Monde's Saturday edition headline reflected the gaining momentum of Hollande‘s call to move away from austerity in tackling the ever-worsening eurozone crisis. He was buoyed by the backing he received from Obama calling for a "strong growth agenda in Europe" as the two heads of state met for the first time at the White House on Friday. "Even if the wording was general, it was important for Hollande," Le Monde said. "The head of state now has a heavyweight ally in his condemnation of austerity policies." The new alliance, forged in a meeting lasting little over an hour, is a happy beginning for Hollande heading into this weekend’s G8 summit meeting of the world’s most powerful leaders at Camp David.World leaders echo Hollande's call France's new president has long insisted the gloom hanging over Europe’s economies can only be lifted if harsh belt-tightening policies demanded by Germany are complimented by measures to kick-start the eurozone’s ailing economies. Following Obama’s ringing endorsement of Hollande’s ideas, British Prime Minister David Cameron, who met with Hollande for the first time on Friday evening, was the next to align himself with the French president, suggesting the two shared the same views on growth. "There is no conflict between austerity and growth," Cameron told reporters. "You need to have a strong deficit reduction program in order to get growth. President Hollande believes that, and I believe that." Cameron did, however, set up a future clash with Hollande over the Frenchman’s promise to introduce a Tobin Tax on financial transactions, saying he would not support the move. European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso also echoed Hollande’s call for more job-creating measures to help Europe out of the mire. "We need to take action for growth while staying the course in terms of putting our public finances in order. Stability and growth go together. They are two sides of the same coin," he said. Italy’s prime minister Mario Monti has already come out in support of growth measures to tackle a crisis that appears to be reaching a breaking point, with Greece heading toward an election that could throw its eurozone membership into question. Merkel in danger of being isolated When Hollande made a pre-election promise to tear up the European Union's fiscal pact, of which his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy was so proud, it set the Socialist on course for a clash with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She insisted Europe must continue to take the poison when it comes to austerity.But the sands now appear to be shifting in Hollande’s favour. Instead of the Frenchman looking like he's in over his head, it is his German counterpart who appears more likely to cut a lonely figure at Camp David. "Germany is absolutely isolated," said Domenico Lombardi, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank, in an interview with Reuters news agency. Lombardi said the dire situation of Greece has shifted the focus of the debate and heightened the need for a different solution to the crisis. Even Obama sensed the growing pressure on Merkel, commenting she must have "things on her mind" after she responded to his greeting with a resigned shrug of her shoulders. Hervé Favre, in an editorial for French paper La Voix du Nord, said with Obama’s backing Hollande could now “pile the pressure on Angela Merkel”. After Camp David, Hollande’s crash course in diplomacy will continue at a two day NATO summit on Sunday and Monday where Afghanistan, Syria and Iran will all be on the agenda. The French president then returns to Europe, where he will once again come face to face with Merkel at a European Summit in Brussels on May 23. After this weekend, it's possible he'll go into that meeting with his head held high.

Zardari to meet Karzai, Nato chief on summit sidelines

President Asif Ali Zardari arrived here on Saturday to attend the Nato summit and hold meetings with world leaders on bilateral and regional issues, especially peace and security in Afghanistan and the region. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani are part of the delegation, which will assist the president during the summit. Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman is already in Chicago, spearheading diplomatic efforts ahead of the summit. President Zardari will meet Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who had extended an unconditional invitation to him to attend the summit. The bilateral engagements on the margins of the May 20-21 summit, scheduled so far, also include President Zardari’s meetings with his Turkish and Afghan counterparts, and the Prime Minister of Australia. The White House had earlier said that so far there was no plan for a separate bilateral meeting between US President Barack Obama and President Zardari, our correspondent in Washington reported. Briefing journalists on the two-day conference, US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon had noted that leaders from 61 countries would attend the summit and President Obama could not have bilateral meetings with all of them. “There’s not a plan at this point to have a separate bilateral meeting with President Zardari, but President Obama will see him during the course of the sessions that we have in Chicago,” he said. President Zardari will brief world leaders about Pakistan’s position on peace and security efforts in the region. On the eve of the summit, Ambassador Sherry Rehman spelled out Islamabad’s position on various issues, including the November 26, 2011 cross-border strikes. In an interview with CNN she said Pakistan has always had a role in the region and the alliance’s summit presented an opportunity to redefine it. “This unconditional invitation to Pakistan is a very positive development. We don’t want interference in Afghanistan, but want to support peaceful security transition, which can also bring stability in Pakistan”, she said. Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, while giving details of the summit to the press, said that future capabilities and strengthening partnerships would be at the top of the agenda of the Chicago Summit. He said that the summit would be an important meeting for the alliance. “This will be a summit of commitment to complete transition in Afghanistan and to support Afghans achieve a stable future”. Besides US President Obama, the summit is being attended by important world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron. The summit is expected to set the course for the alliance’s future engagement in Afghanistan and the participants will discuss the role of International Security Assistance Force’s (Isaf) mission.

Obama hosts G8, NATO leaders

U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are set to address a host of pressing economic and military security issues this weekend as the United States hosts a high stakes Group of Eight summit outside Washington and a NATO summit in Chicago.

Education important for progress, prosperity: Gilani

Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Saturday highlighting the importance of educational facilities for the people, said education, especially in the fields of science and technology, was very important for the progress and prosperity of the country and the welfare of the nation. Addressing the third Convocation of Virtual University here, Prime Minister Gilani said, "The 21st Century is a century of knowledge, creativity and innovation and only those nations will call the shots on political and economic landscape that will be leaders in the field of knowledge and education." The Prime Minister announced the establishment of 30 more campuses of Virtual University throughout the country, including the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan. He also announced "IT Awards" of Rs 20 million to help the talented students from the remotest and backward areas of the country. The Prime Minister said broadband centres would be established at all the union councils of the country to provide 30,000 jobs to the students this year. He said the Federal Government had already spent 22 billion rupees on the development of IT infrastructure and broadband connectivity. He also announced an allocation of Rs 17 billion more for strengthening broadband connectivity in other unserved areas of the country. Gilani said PAK-SAT would provide one hour free transmission facility to the Virtual University. He also directed for provision of land for the construction of Central Campus of the Virtual University in Islamabad and ordered the Capital Development Authority to submit a report in that regard within two weeks. The Prime Minister also directed the Minister for IT to expedite the matter of 3G technology. He said that technology would not only bring about a revolution, but also create employment opportunities and ensure more development. He said he had already directed the Finance Minister to create 100,000 jobs in the coming budget 2012-13. The Prime Minister said the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) had not come to power through backdoor and it was governing the country with the support of people. He said some forces were bent upon obstructing the PPP's successful development programmes and removing the Prime Minister through unconstitutional means. "However, they will fail in their unfair and unconstitutional drive as we have come to power through a public mandate and will continue to serve the masses," he added.

Gilani's security staff, Punjab Police scuffle in Lahore

The Express Tribune News Network.
The Government of Punjab after withdrawing the protocol of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has now started to create issues on his security as well. A scuffle between Gilani’s staff and Punjab Police personnel is said to be the first move on the part of the provincial government to convey a message to the centre: ‘You cannot move without getting approval from the Punjab government’. A brawl between the security staff and police personnel erupted over the issue of access to the stage where the prime minister was seated as chief guest. Gilani was attending the convocation of Virtual University at Expo Center in Johar Town, where he distributed certificates among the participants. SP Sadar Police Division Athar Waheed said that Station House Officer (SHO) of PS Mustafa Town, Muneer had been stopped by a constable part of the prime minister’s security team. He said that he was also not allowed to go near the stage, claiming that both he and the SHO were insulted by the security team and harsh words had been exchanged. A member of the Punjab police and the security team scuffled inside for 15 minutes after Gilani left the venue, and were joined by their colleagues later. The man from the prime minister’s security team was identified as Talat. SP Waheed said he had offered that Talat apologise to the SHO and local police, but he had refused and had instead suggested that he be taken to the police station. The SP then ordered the policemen to take Talat to the police station, adding that an FIR will be lodged against him if he does not apologise. The SP said that he is the one responsible for security of the venue and the whole system would be destroyed if he is not respected. SP Athar Waheed is a renowned police officer who has openly expressed his inclination with Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N). During the Long March, Waheed – who was posted as SP Gujranwala – had refused to crackdown against PML-N workers. Later, he had resigned in protest. PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had openly applauded Waheed’s action and had vowed that he would be honoured once they were in power. Security parameters According to security protocol, the premier has been given P2 security under the Blue Book. P2 (Pakistan) is the highest level security in which three cordons are made. Before the arrival of the prime minister, local police under supervision of the SP or DPO searched the venue and area through the Special Branch, Bomb Disposal Squad, metal and explosive detectors and sniffer dogs. After the police checked the venue, security staff of the prime minster had arrived and declared the venue clear. The Chief Security Officer of the prime minister belongs to the Army and is equal to a Major. However, it is the local SP or DPO who are responsible of overall security affairs of the prime minister. Three cordons The prime minister is provided with three security cordons – inner, middle and outer. The inner cordon comprises of the prime minister’s security, middle is provided by the Special Branch and the outer is handled by local police. The incident took place between the inner and outer cordons, as the security staff insisted that the police was not allowed to enter the inner cordon, while SP Waheed said that he had the right to visit all cordons. Tit for tat? Sources in PML-N said that during Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Sindh on May 15 and 16, the provincial government had withdrawn bullet proof vehicles and security, and that the PML-N media office had also issued a protest statement. The second action from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) coalition government came when Interior Minister Rehman Malik had ordered SSP Islamabad to issues notices to the Sharif brothers for an inquiry into an ‘attack on the Supreme Court’ in 1998. Sources have claimed that SP Waheed’s move was very calculated. Governor Punjab orders SP’s transfer Governor Punjab Sardar Latif Khosa, taking notice of the incident, directed the transfer of SP Waheed to Balochistan. However, Police spokesperson Nabeela Ghazanfar said that Inspector General (IG) Police Haji Habibur Rehman has transferred Waheed to Provincial Headquarter Office. Sources said that the IG on the directives of Shahbaz Sharif had refused to surrender Waheed’s services to the federal government or to relieve him. ‘No transfers’ Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan said that the Punjab government cannot transfer officers on the wishes of others, adding that the incident had accidently occurred between the security and police officers. He said the security staff should have obeyed the orders of SP Waheed as he was in charge of security in the whole area. Sanaullah suggested that the matter should not be given a political angle, adding that no official would be transferred to Balochistan. DIG Operation Rai Muhammad Tahir said that the matter had been resolved, and added that Punjab Police was investigation the matter.