Thursday, June 14, 2012

China open to political proposals on Syrian conflict

China is open to proposals on convening an international conference on Syria or establishing a contact group on Syria, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said here Thursday. Spokesman Liu Weimin made the remarks at a regular press conference when asked to comment on proposals raised by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Kofi Annan, the joint UN and Arab League special envoy for Syria. As killings have been reported almost every day in Syria, Lavrov proposed an international conference on Syria last Saturday. He said the international conference on Syria should become the "only framework" toward resolving the crisis in Syria and the only platform to implement the UN Security Council resolutions on Syria. Also last week, Annan proposed an international contact group to bring together key world countries to bring an early end to the Syrian conflict. "China advocates the international community adhering to the general direction of seeking a political resolution to the Syrian conflict," said Liu. He called on the international community to provide full support for Annan's mediation efforts and promote the implementation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions as well as Annan's six-point plan. "China is willing to maintain contact with all relevant parties on the above proposals," he said. China has repeatedly said that it has no intention of siding with any Syrian party, and the Syrian people have the right to decide Syria's development path and political system, Liu said. As long as consensus is made among different parties in Syria through political dialogue and can be accepted by all Syrian parties and the international community, China will be open to it, he noted. On one hand, China hopes Annan's mediation efforts will make more progress as soon as possible. On the other hand, China calls for patience and international solidarity, given the complicated situation in Syria, said the spokesman. He reiterated that international actions on Syria should be conducive to easing tensions in the country, promoting a political resolution to the issue and maintaining peace and stability in the Middle East region. He again urged all Syrian parties to cooperate with the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), put an end to all forms of violence and protect civilians, so as to defuse tensions at an early date. "China disapproves of one-sided sanctions or pressure in the settlement of the Syrian conflict," he added.

MEHDI HASSAN:Mujhey tum kabhi bhi bhula na sako ge

Legendary classical singer Mehdi Hassan, who captivated millions of fans across the world, passed away on Wednesday after a long illness. Mehdi, also known as Shahenshah-e-Ghazal (King of Ghazal Singing), died in a private hospital. He had been suffering from multiple lung, chest and urinary tract conditions. Mehdi Hassan had been under treatment at hospitals for a while and there had also been reports of shifting him to India. He was admitted at the Aga Khan Hospital for the past couple of weeks after he had developed a chest infection and other related problems. He passed away after he was shifted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Mehdi Hassan was born in a well-known family of musicians at Luna village, India, in 1927. His family migrated to Pakistan after 1947. He had been awarded Tamgha-e-Imtiaz, Pride of Performance and Hilal-e-Imtiaz by the Pakistani government. Talking to the media outside the Aga Khan Hospital, Asif Mehdi, a son of Mehdi Hassan, said his father had a number of complications and had been admitted for treatment for a month. He said keeping in mind the age factor, his father was getting weak and suffering from a number of health problems, including with lungs and chest. Stating the arrangements for the funeral were to be finalised soon, Asif said his brothers would reach Karachi shortly. President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani paid glowing tribute to the legendary singer. The president said Mehdi Hassan was an institution in himself and would always remain a beacon for the young artistes to learn from his mastery of singing. Prime Minister Gilani said, “Mehdi Hassan is an icon, who mesmerised the music lovers not only in Pakistan but also in the Subcontinent for many decades.” Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan and Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah have also offered condolences to the bereaved family. MQM chief Altaf Hussain Altaf Hussain said the void created by his departure would never be filled and the nation had lost a great asset. He said Mehdi Hassan was the most towering personality in the field of ghazal singing in the world and he strengthened brotherly relations between the people of Pakistan and India with his unmatched singing. PTI Chairman Imran Khan, Khyber Pk Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti, ANP Sindh President Senator Shahi Syed, Sindh Minister for Social Welfare Begum Nargis ND Khan, Advisor to Chief Minister Haleem Adil Shaikh and people belonging to different walks of life expressed grief over the death of Mehdi Hassan and offered condolences to the bereaved family. Expressing his sorrow, film star Nadeem Baig said Mehdi Hassan’s demise was a big loss, adding that a voice like his might never be heard again. “I had been humming one of Hassan’s songs in the morning today and it was later that I had heard about his demise,” the renowned actor said. He added that he was blessed to have had the opportunity to perform on his songs in films. Nadeem also recalled that the maestro had encouraged him to sing and promised to teach him. Ghazal singer Tina Sani said Mehdi was a legend even during his lifetime. “I have no words except for God bless him,” said Sani. She said the Shahenshah-e-Ghazal had given the world a legacy and he was a ‘passport’ for the people like her when they went abroad to perform. Shahenshah-e-Ghazal Mehdi Hasan, also known as Khan Sahib, was quite possibly the most prolific ghazal singer the country and the sub-continent ever had. The maestro’s voice was as legendary as it was magical. He was the recipient of the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz by General Ayub Khan, Pride of Performance by General Ziaul Haq in 1985 and the Hilal-e-Imtiaz by General Pervez Musharraf. In 1979, he was awarded the Saigal Award in India and the Ghorka Dakshan Bahu Award by Nepal in 1983. He had collected innumerable accolades and awards over the course of his career, which also includes nine Nigar awards, six of which were won in a row and also the Lifetime Achievement Award from the PTV Karachi in 2001. Khan Sahib was especially known for his clarity of pronunciation and his absolute command over Urdu lyrics and the finesse, with which he delivered them, was unlike any other. His smooth and rich vocals had cast a very strong and very important influence on the popularity and development of ghazal in the subcontinent. Mehdi Hasan was equally popular in Pakistan, India and Nepal. The former Indian prime minister AtaI Bihari Vajpayee was among his ardent admirers and had especially invited him over to sing at his residence in 1978. Once during the course of a performance in the court of Nepalese King, Khan Sahib forgot the lyrics, but the King Shah Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev paid him tribute by prompting the lyrics for him. Born in Luna, India, in 1927, his family ancestry consisted of proficient classical musicians since fifteen generations hailing from Kalawant. His father Ustad Azeem Khan tutored him on his initial music lessons based on the style intricacies of dhrupad, khayal, thumri and dadra. His father and uncle, Ustad Ismail Khan, were accomplished classical singers and his uncle had also had a profound impact on his musical training. Mehdi Hassan’s talent wasn’t unnoticed for he had given his first solo performance at the age of five at Mahraja Barodi’s palace and had also been appreciated by the Maharaja of Jaipur. Mehdi Hasan and his family have seen their fair share of struggles. When 20, Mehdi and his family migrated to Pakistan. The family was hard-pressed financially and Mehdi Hasan took up job as a mechanic in Khushab for livelihood. It was in 1952, after the family had moved to Karachi, that Mehdi got his first break on Radio Pakistan with debut ghazal was “Gulon mein rang bharay baad e nau bahar chalay”, composed by his elder brother Ghulam Qadir. He had initially sung thumris on radio, which inevitably got the attention of music personalities. Rafiq Anwar and ZA Bukhari played a great role in kick-starting his career by providing him with opportunities to sing on the radio. “Mujhey tum kabhi bhi bhula na sako ge”, “Ranjish hi sahi”, “Hum chaley iss jahan sey”, “Ko baku phel gaye baat shanasai ki” and others are among his famous songs and ghazals. Parallel to his thumri renditions, Mehdi Hasan tried his hand at ghazals spurred by his passion for Urdu poetry. During this time, names such as Begum Akhtar, Ustad Barkat Au Khan and Mukhtar Begum were well established in the ghazal arena. Over the years, the Pakistani film industry had benefitted from innumerable hits during his career as a playback singing through 1960s to late 1980s. Mehdi Hasan was a truly gifted artist. The late Parvez Mehdi and Talat Aziz were his famous students who learnt from the great maestro. Over the time, Mehdi Hasan had made the poetry of Ghalib, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Qateel Shifai, Ahmed Faraz, Daagh, Parveen Shakir, Mir Taqi Mir, Saleem Kauser, Bahadur Shah Zafar and others come alive with his unique vocals. Khan Sahib performed all across the globe. But in 1980s, he began to wane his playback singing and performances due to ailing health. General Pervez Musharraf had declared that all the expenses for his treatment would be incurred by the government. He had even been invited to India by Atal Bihar Vajpayee for treatment. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting was also willing to pay all medical expenses for the treatment of Ghazal maestro, but in 2004 his sons Asif and Arif claimed that they received no grants save for the amount given by Pervez Musharraf that was stolen soon after. They also said that they were not the beneficiary of the concerts held in their father’s honour to raise funds for his treatment. The sad demise of Mehdi Hasan brings to close a golden chapter in the music history of the subcontinent.

Karzai urges more international support for Afghanistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai called Thursday for greater international cooperation to stabilise his war-torn country and defeat Islamist militants, during the latest round of talks on the future of Afghanistan. Representatives from 29 countries gathered in Kabul for the day-long conference, just weeks after NATO agreed at a summit in Chicago to stick to plans to withdraw the bulk of 130,000 foreign combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. The conflict in Syria is also expected to feature prominently in meetings between foreign ministers on Thursday -- including those from Britain and Russia. The Taliban militia leading a 10-year insurgency against Karzai's government have begun this year's annual fighting season with a series of attacks which saw US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta admit last week that violence was rising. Karzai said the help of neighbouring countries and international powers was vital to economic growth and peace in his impoverished country. He also called on Pakistan, one of the historic sponsors of the Taliban, directly to support nascent efforts to end the 10-year war in Afghanistan. "Support from these global powers and our neighbours is very important to Afghanistan and to the continued progress of Afghanistan towards stability and economic development," Karzai told delegates. "Cooperation of all of us countries in the region, the neighbours, and our allies and NATO that will bring stability not only to Afghanistan but the much-needed relief from terrorism and radicalism and violence." He also sought to reassure neighbours, Iran in particular, that strategic partnership deals signed by Kabul with several Western powers, particularly the United States, to govern relations beyond 2014, would not damage ties. But Iran, a sworn enemy of the United States that welcomes NATO's departure from its eastern border, alluded to the Kabul-Washington pact by saying it adds to security concerns among Afghanistan's neighbouring countries. Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said the deal and efforts to establish foreign military bases in Afghanistan ran counter to peace efforts and "could turn this country once again into scene of security rivalries". Karzai is keen to broker a peace deal with the Taliban, but the militants publicly refuse to talk to his government. Earlier this year, it also announced that it had pulled the plug on nascent contacts with the Americans in Qatar. The president said the head of the Afghan High Peace Council would soon visit Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, but gave no dates, and urged Islamabad to support peace efforts. Afghanistan's relations with Pakistan have been clouded by mutual blame for Islamist violence plaguing both countries. Karzai has consistently called on Pakistan to demolish terror sanctuaries in its semi-autonomous tribal belt. Last week, Panetta also warned that the United States was running out of patience with Pakistan for not eliminating safe-havens of the Pakistan-based Haqqani network and other militants who attack US troops. Islamabad denies any support for Haqqani activities and says it is doing everything possible to fight terrorism, saying no country has suffered more. British Foreign Minister William Hague said he would use talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the conference to press Moscow to use its influence to rein in the Syrian regime. Monitors say more than 14,100 people have been killed in the 15-month uprising against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Moscow, long an ally of Damascus, has refused to halt weapons sales. A row blew up Wednesday between Washington and Moscow over arming the rivals in the Syrian conflict after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she had information that Russia was sending attack helicopters to Assad's regime. Lavrov insisted Russia was supplying "anti-air defence systems" to Damascus and accused the United States of supplying arms to the Syrian opposition. The next talks on Afghanistan will be in Tokyo next month and will focus on ways to ensure social progress -- governance, economic prospects, health and education.

Malik Riaz’s tirade

A virtual storm has overtaken the country as a result of the tirade launched by property tycoon Malik Riaz in his press conference following his appearance before the Supreme Court (SC) in the Arsalan Iftikhar case. Although Malik Riaz’s written statement submitted before the SC had levelled serious charges of being blackmailed by Arsalan Iftikhar out of millions of rupees in cash and other benefits, his demeanour before the court gave no hint of what was to follow. In his press conference, Malik Riaz shifted his line of attack from the son to the father, from Arsalan to the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. Malik Riaz posed three questions directly to the CJP. First, he asked the CJP to tell the nation how many times he had met him in the darkness of the night? Second, was Arsalan not present in these meetings? Third, how many times had the CJP met Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani at Malik Riaz’s partner Ahmed Khalil’s residence, where the sitting registrar of the SC was also present? According to Malik Riaz, a sitting judge of the SC also used to participate in these meetings. Why did the CJP not take suo motu notice then, and only after the media broke the news, asked Malik Riaz. When did the CJP come to know of Arsalan’s wrongdoings, he asked? (Aitzaz Ahsan has stated that he had informed the CJP of the rumours swirling about Arsalan’s business dealings six months ago.) Malik Riaz says a mutual friend of his and the CJP told the latter about the blackmailing of his son but the CJP refuted this and labelled Malik Riaz himself a blackmailer. These statements are startling enough, but Malik Riaz then descended to some wild and incredible assertions. He said the CJP should not have taken up cases against him, implying that since he was being blackmailed by his son, justice would be compromised. He claims the FIA was ordered to implicate him in a murder case, without clarifying who might be interested in such a step. The FIA is controlled by the federal government, the top leaders of the ruling party, President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani being Malik Riaz’s friends, according to his own admission. Who then could have so ordered the FIA? In the next breath Malik Riaz exonerates by implication both the PPP-led federal government and the military from any responsibility for this ‘tsunami’ by declaring there is no ‘third party’ behind the controversy. Though he claims he did not bribe anyone, but was blackmailed, in the next breath he admits his son-in-law did pay bribes! Last but not least, and possibly the piece de resistance, he asserts that the judiciary is not free but being run by a ‘don’, i.e. Arsalan Iftikhar! He ends by promising more startling revelations “in due time”. In response to the diatribe of Malik Riaz, the CJP has taken suo motu notice of the press conference, set up a three-member bench to charge Riaz with contempt, and called a full court meeting of the SC on June 15. No one is in a position presently to ascertain the truth or otherwise of Malik Riaz’s charges, but the fact remains that a distinction needs to be made between what appear prima facie to be serious allegations against the CJP and his son, and wild statements that do not stand up to logic or scrutiny. Both serious allegations and wild statements however have dragged the judiciary into the mud. Whatever the CJP and the SC do in their defence and in defence of the respect and dignity of the judiciary, the taint of accusation will be difficult to jettison or wash clean. It would be in the interests of justice, the respect and dignity of the judiciary, and the country if the CJP were to contemplate stepping aside or at the very least going on leave until the whole matter is cleared up. The charges are too serious and the personage being attacked, the CJP, too important to allow the affair to be expediently dealt with. The truth must be brought out without fear or favour, and all those involved receive their just desserts according to their guilt or innocence as determined by a thorough investigation and final pronouncement by the apex court to salvage something of its battered image. *

Lahore: Girl allegedly gang raped by police

A court bailiff raided the Factory Area police station and recovered the girl. As per details, the girl along with her brother was going to Walton in a rickshaw when they were stopped by police personnel at a check post on the pretext of checking. Police reportedly misbehaved with them. Later, the officials took them to police station and asked them to deposit Rs 50,000 bribe. Over refusal to pay, the girl was allegedly raped by four police personnel identified as Maqsood, Shehzad, Amin and Munawar. A court bailiff – upon complaint filed by victim s brother - raided Fatory Area police station and recovered the girl. A case has been registered against the policemen, however, no arrest has been made.