Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ghazala Javed: A nightingale plunged into silence

When Pashto singer Ghazala Javed walked onto any stage in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it was always to the whistling of adolescent boys. The girls were also admirers, as they dreamed to dress and sing like her. The K-P belt swooned when she hummed songs of love and passion. Sadly, this feeling of romantic indulgence came to a screeching halt when the news of her death spread. Javed, a combination of beauty and brilliance, was shot dead on Monday by unidentified gunmen outside a beauty parlour in Peshawar. “Her death is a great loss to Pashto music. She was an inspiration for the fresh batch of singers coming into the Pashto music industry,” a well-known Pashto singer, Bakhtiar Khattak, tells The Express Tribune. He adds that her tragic murder will serve as a warning sign to younger artists from the region, who will now be reluctant to enter into the local music industry; family pressure and security concerns will overshadow talent and the Pashto music industry will eventually suffer. Female musicians are so deeply affected by the threats received from conservative groups, that they refused to comment on the news of Javed’s death, for fear of a backlash. Javed hailed from the Banrr village in Swat, which was considered the hub of musicians before the wave of militancy hit the province. “Ghazala Javed was a complete package. She had a beautiful voice and an equally charming personality. I’m shocked to hear about her murder,” says Rahim Khan, a prominent Pashto singer. “Ghazala was a gifted person and we should have honoured her for contributing immensely to the Pashto music industry,” he adds. The mystery hangs in the air Although the reason behind her murder is still unclear, like other musicians of that area, Khan blames conservative groups that condemn the profession of art and culture for Javed’s demise. He supports his accusation by citing the murder of yet another versatile female singer, Aiman Udas, who was shot dead in 2009 by unknown assailants. “The new generation will hardly dare to come into this field now, because all they see is death waiting for them with open arms. The actors, singers and musicians should be provided security and protection if we want our Pashto culture to flourish,” says Khan. Remembering Javed A true promoter of modern Pashto music, Javed’s voice resonated from Peshawar to Ningerhar. She was something of a national sweetheart and having a picture of her in your mobile phone was not uncommon for young men of that area. Javed’s sad end reminds one of the brief yet impactful career of Nazia Hassan who, just like the Pashto singer, departed at a very young age leaving her admirer mourning her death. In the short span of eight years, Javed had managed to release six albums, all of which were a hit in the market. She has performed 10 international concerts in cities like Dubai, Kabul and Kuala Lumpur. Like most female celebs, she lost a major chunk of followers in April 2010, when she tied the knot with Peshawar-based businessman Jahangir Khan. She remained disconnected with the local music scene for two years until her marriage was on the rocks. After her divorce was finalised, she returned to music, her first love. “She gave stalwarts like Nazia Iqbal tough competition,” the owner of Musafir CD house told The Express Tribune. “She was the one who kept song alive even when K-P was going through its darkest period,” he said. According to him, her albums sold like hot cakes, and it wasn’t just because she was a pretty face garnering popularity because of her looks. A proud winner of the Khyber Award amongst many others accolades, Javed was a true artist at heart and gave her life in the line of duty. She was heading out for a show from the parlour when unidentified gunmen opened fire on her. The same evening she had recorded her latest song, titled “A zamung kali ta rasha, za ba zan darta pagal kram, tol jehan ba rata gori, za qadamona ba di khqul kram” (The news of your arrival is driving me crazy, the whole village will witness me bow down and kiss your feet). Now, the city mourns Javed’s death, and will bury with her any dreams of watching her perform again.

Ghazala Javed: Police conducting raids to arrest killers

Ghazala Javed recorded four songs for her new album and was planning to sing two duets with Rahim Shah after returning from beauty parlour when she was ambushed by armed men in Dabgari, said the family of the slain popular singer who was shot dead along with her father on Monday night. The police are conducting raids at various places after lodging the first information report (FIR) against her former husband of Ghazala Javed, Jehangir Khan, and his two accomplices Naseer Khan and Salam Khan. The popular artiste and her father, Javed, were laid to rest at Tahirabad, Mingora in Swat. Thousands of fans of Ghazala Javed, in her 20s, are still in shock. They were anxiously waiting for her new album but they got the news of her sudden death at the hands of the killers.The social media forums, Facebook and Twitter, are abuzz with condolence messages for the singer, who has recently emerged on the music screen and had earned extraordinary popularity in a short span of time. “I have four sons and as many daughters but I would not allow any of my daughters to sing anymore,” said the mother of the slain singer.The mother said Ghazala just recorded four songs for her new album, the first one after her re-entry into the world of music, and was planning for two more songs when she was targetted. “She requested her father to allow her to stay for two more days in Peshawar as she was so much attached to the city,” recalled her mother while sitting with the body of her spouse and daughter. Farhat, the younger sister of Ghazala, remained unharmed as armed men opened fire at the good-looking vocalist in Dabgari, once a popular market for musicians. “She told me that she is feeling suffocated after quitting singing. Her former spouse was after our family and used to threaten us,” said Farhat. Ghazala Javed, belonging to Swat, shot to fame when she shifted along with her family to Peshawar at a time when militancy was at peak in her district. Once an ordinary dancer, she got a sudden boost due to her pretty looks when she appeared on different television channels in Peshawar. Later a local from Peshawar Jehangir Khan tied the knot with Ghazala Javed but the wedding didn’t prove successful. She was allegedly forced by her in-laws not to sing. However, Ghazala and her father were more interested in the field of music. In April 2009, another popular female singer Ayman Udas was killed allegedly by her family on the Dilazak Road. The family was not happy with her singing career. In November 2009, a popular Pashto singer from Quetta, Yasmin Gul, was found dead inside her house in a mysterious condition. A dancer, Naheed, was killed by robbers while returning from a concert a couple of years ago.

Asian immigrants to U.S. surpass Hispanics for first time
Asians have surpassed Hispanics as the largest group of new immigrants to the United States, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center. The study, called "The Rise of Asian Americans" and released on Tuesday, reveals that Asian-Americans also have the highest income, are the best educated and are the fastest-growing racial group in America. About 430,000 Asians—or 36 percent of all new immigrants—arrived in the United States in 2010, according to U.S. census data. About 370,000, or 31 percent, were Hispanic.The wave of incoming Asians pushed the total number of Asian-Americans to a record 18.2 million, or 5.8 percent of the total U.S. population, according to census data. By comparison, non-Hispanic whites (197.5 million) account for 63.3 of the U.S. population, while Hispanics (52 million) and non-Hispanic blacks (38.3 million) account for 16.7 percent and 12.3 percent, respectively. The influx of Asians reflects "a slowdown in illegal immigration while American employers increase their demand for high-skilled workers," the Associated Press said."The educational credentials of these recent [Asian] arrivals are striking," the report said. Sixty-one percent of 25-to-64-year-old Asian immigrants come with at least a bachelor's degree—more than double non-Asian immigrants, making the recent Asian arrivals "the most highly educated cohort of immigrants in U.S. history."The study also found that Asian-Americans are "more satisfied than the general public with their lives, finances and the direction of the country, and they place a greater value on marriage, parenthood, hard work and career success." Last month, data released by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that there were more minority children born in the United States than whites for the first time in history—signaling what the Washington Post called "the dawn of an era in which whites no longer will be in the majority." According to the census report, 50.4 percent of children born in a 12-month period that ended July 2011 were Hispanic, black, Asian-American or from other minority groups, while non-Hispanic whites accounted for 49.6 percent of all births in that span. In 2010, minority babies accounted for 49.5 percent of all births.

Pakistan ranks 13th in failed states index

Pakistan has been ranked 13th in the latest ranking of failed states. The unique ranking compiled by the prestigious Foreign Policy magazine is topped by African countries Somalia , Congo, Sudan, Chad and Zimbabwe. Afghanistan with 106 points is ranked at number 6, followed by Haiti, Yemen, Iraq and Central African Republic. Pakistan with 101.6 points, the magazine said, is ranked 13, a slight improvement from the previous two years. In 2011 it was ranked 12th in the list of failed states, while in 2010 and 2009 it was ranked 10th. “The absence of the state makes for 20-hour daily electricity blackouts and an almost non-existent education system in many areas”.

LAHORE:PIC tragedy: Four months on, spurious drugs case remains in cold storage

The Express Tribune
Four months have passed since spurious medicines at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) claimed the lives of 165 patients and affected another 700 in Lahore – yet not a single person has been indicted in what was arguably the greatest medical tragedy in the country’s history. Data available with The Express Tribune shows that the compensation process is still pending. While compensation cheques for Rs500,000 were distributed to the relatives of 116 deceased patients, cases of 38 patients are still being verified, and the addresses of the remaining 11 are said to be incomplete. The unofficial death toll is said to be around 200; and more than 1,500 patients are said to have been affected by the faulty medicines distributed free of cost by PIC to poor patients. In January 2012, heart patients approached different hospitals with similar symptoms of low platelet count, darkening complexion and bleeding. Health authorities tried to downplay the matter at first, but the issue later escalated to a major health crisis. Preliminary investigations showed that a drug named Isotab, contaminated with anti-malarial chemical Pyrimethamine, had caused the deaths. However, authorities have little to show in way of preventive measures taken to avert any such crisis in the future. A senior doctor at the PIC admits that “it seems everybody has forgotten about the PIC drug-related deaths.” Of efforts taken in wake of the incident, the doctor, requesting anonymity, says: “A lot has changed since then, but only on paper. The on-ground situation remains the same. The judicial inquiry report is yet to be released and no mechanism has been put in place to check that medicines are not contaminated with hazardous chemicals.” PIC’s chief executive Dr Bilal Zakaria, who was appointed after the drug fiasco, claims to have taken some precautionary steps. “It is now mandatory for PIC to purchase medicines only from pharmacies that have at least three branches in a city. We have also asked the companies to submit a report of all the non-active ingredients in the medicines.” Dr Zakaria maintains that a Drug Regulatory Authority (DRA) has a major role to play in keeping a check on pharmaceutical companies. However, though the president has issued an ordinance in this regard, a regulatory authority is yet to be established. PIC’s former head Dr Muhammad Azhar, who was removed from his post after the tragedy, differs in opinion from Dr Zakaria. Dr Azhar feels the conditions at PIC have deteriorated further. “If the government cannot make a unique system, it should copy the mechanisms put in place by the USA and the UK.” “In Pakistan, there are above 55,000 registered medicines while in the USA there are just 5,000 and in the UK only 2,200. The government should just copy their lists to avoid any such catastrophe in the future.” Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturer’s Association (PPMA) Chairman Dr Riaz Ahmad said the issue of giving licenses to manufacturers will now be decided by the DRA after the passage of the 18th Amendment. The Punjab chief minister’s special assistant on health Khwaja Salman Rafique is quick to evade the blame. He says the provincial administration has given its consent and it is now up to the federal government to make the DRA functional. A senior official at the health department expressed his dissatisfaction over the inaction against Efroze Chemical Industries, the company that manufactured Isotab. “The company has been sealed but hasn’t paid any damages to the families of those who died due to the faulty drug.” Advocate Azhar Siddiq, who filed a petition in the Lahore High Court regarding the case, said: “The report of the judicial inquiry is expected soon. I am hopeful that the inquiry, headed by Justice Ijazul Ahsan, will hold the perpetrators responsible.” A young boy who lost his father due to the faulty medicine doesn’t know who to blame. “If the culprits in this case are not brought to justice, I will believe the government killed my father.”

Punjab govt instigating violent protests

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Central Information Secretary Shafqat Mahmood said on Tuesday that the Punjab government was responsible for the loss of lives during the violent protests against load shedding. In a press statement, he said that protests against load shedding were justified but it was the responsibility of the provincial administration to ensure that they remained peaceful. Three people have died as a result of violent protests in Kamalia and Chichawatni. He added that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is actively instigating violent protests as several leaders of the party have led a number of such protests. He claimed that the protesters have often been directed to attack political opponents and PTI supporters amongst others have been victims of such violent attacks in Vehari and Faisalabad. He questioned the partisan role of law enforcement agencies in facilitating such attacks on political opponents as no arrests have been made in any of the incidents. Media footage has shown law enforcers standing as silent spectators while violent protesters have looted and destroyed banks, CNG stations, shops, cars and other private and public property, he added.

Shahbaz should be booked for loss of life, property

Pakistan Muslim League Quaid (PML-Q) President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain has said that PML-N and Shahbaz Sharif were engaged in politics in the name of load shedding protests and a FIR should be lodged against them for the loss of human life and property during demonstrations. He was talking to reporters after meeting former Khanewal nazim Ahmad Yar Heraj and his brother Muhammad Yar Heraj following an attack on their house in Khanewal on Tuesday. Shujaat said the attacks on the houses of Ahmad Yar Heraj and Riaz Fatiana had been carried out at the instance of the provincial government and Shahbaz Sharif and it did not suit the chief minister to “supervise” such destructive activities in the province. The PML president said whatever Shahbaz Sharif was doing under the garb of load shedding protests in Punjab did not merit his office and position. He said the registration of an FIR against Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, the provincial government and local administration was essential for the loss of human lives and public properties. Shujaat said the chief minister was issuing instructions to the administration and police that people indulging in violence and destructive activities should not be stopped, adding that if any officer tried to control the protest and riots locally, he was admonished by the chief minister. Shujaat said arson of trains, looting and attacks on petrol stations indicated that all these activities were the result of connivance between the government and local administration. He said the PML-Q would expose the “achievements” of PML-N in the provincial assembly. Meanwhile, PML-Q senior leader and Senior Minister Parvaiz Elahi had a telephonic conversation from London with Ahmad Yar Heraj and condemned the attack on his house. He said an FIR for looting and plundering, setting ablaze of public property and loss of precious life in Punjab would be gotten registered against the so-called chief of the province Shahbaz Sharif.

Pakistan: A judicial coup?

Editorial:The Express Tribune
The Supreme Court, in claiming to represent the will of the people, has removed from power the people’s representative, saying that he stood disqualified from being a member of parliament and hence the office of the prime minister since April 26 — the day he was found guilty of contempt. Support for the decision may not be unanimous mainly because of recent developments, especially where the Honourable Court was dragged into the Arsalan Iftikhar matter and how it chose to — itself — remove it from the allegations citing that Malik Riaz had himself admitted that he had never received any favours from the court. The procedure to remove a prime minister from office is clear: he can be voted out by parliament or the speaker of the National Assembly can send a reference to the Election Commission. So the view, that with this verdict, the apex court has played the role of judiciary, legislature and executive, may find some takers. Also, one must wonder why didn’t the seven-member bench that ruled in the contempt case in April not make matters clear, and that if the intention was to leave the matter to parliament then why wasn’t the speaker’s ruling left unscrutinised. The passage of almost two months since that verdict and Tuesday’s decision may well give ammunition to some people who may claim that the Honourable Court is perhaps trying to deflect attention from the Arsalan Iftikhar case. Furthermore, there will be people, and not entirely from within the PPP, who may consider whether yesterday’s verdict is, in effect, a judicial coup. Of course, all of this is not to say that Yousaf Raza Gilani or the PPP is without blame. The crisis could have been avoided by simply writing to the Swiss authorities or he could have resigned on April 26. Of course, the other view is that the apex court could have let the matter rest after being told by the government that under the Constitution, the president enjoyed immunity. Of course, it has to be said, with the utmost of deference and respect, that often times, the apex court has not shown the same assertiveness to military dictators that it has shown to elected civilians/governments. Perhaps this is now changing, with the court’s renewed interest in the missing persons’ case and Asghar Khan’s petition. But one would like this interest to be sustained in order to show tangible results.

'Gilani's disqualification linked to CJ's son case'

Leaders of the ruling Pakistan People's Party believe that the allegations of corruption levelled against Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry's son have some link to the Supreme Court's decision to disqualify Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. Leaders of the ruling Pakistan People's Party believe that the allegations of corruption levelled against Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry's son have some link to the Supreme Court's decision to disqualify Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. Arsalan Iftikhar, the son of the Chief Justice, has been accused of receiving payments of over Rs. 342 million from property tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain to influence cases in the apex court. The tycoon has acknowledged making the payments in a statement submitted to the Supreme Court, which directed authorities to take action against Iftikhar and Hussain. "Since the Chief Justice's son case surfaced, the case to disqualify the Prime Minister was suddenly taken up by the Supreme Court and we had the decision regarding Gilani’s disqualification," senior PPP leader Usman Salim Malik told PTI. A three-judge bench headed by the Chief Justice yesterday disqualified Gilani as a member of parliament due to his conviction of contempt for refusing to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. The apex court also overruled the National Assembly Speaker's decision not to disqualify Gilani following his conviction in April. Malik said after the corruption case involving the Chief Justice's son, it seemed as if the apex court was in a hurry to "punish" Gilani. "As the Speaker's ruling cannot be challenged at any forum, the court's decision leaves several questions unanswered. Only time will reveal the real motive behind the decision of the bench led by the Chief Justice in Gilani’s case," he said. "It is a biased decision as the courts have always targeted PPP governments. We reject this verdict and the masses will give a befitting reply to it in the next election," Malik said. PPP secretary general Jehangir Badar said it was not the first time that such a decision had been given against a PPP leader by the judiciary. He said since the corruption allegations against Iftikhar came to the limelight, the PPP was expecting something "unusual". Badar said: "And the inevitable happened." He added: "Conspiracies had been hatched against the PPP since it came to power in 2008. PPP workers are dejected and disappointed over the apex court's decision but they will continue their struggle to strengthen democracy." Badar said the PPP could organise countrywide protests against the "unfair and biased" verdict but it would show restraint for the sake of democracy. "We do not want a clash of institutions," he said. Malik contended that the judiciary had given nine years to military ruler Pervez Musharraf, who violated the constitution, but never allowed PPP governments to complete their terms. "There are different standards of justice for the Sharif brothers (PML-N leaders Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif) and the Bhuttos. The judiciary in the past restored the Sharifs while it sent the PPP Prime Minister packing," said another PPP leader who did not want to be named. Gilani's special assistant Chaudhry Aslam Gill said the apex court had already made up its mind to send the premier home. "No legal arguments have any value when a judge has already made up his mind in a case," he said.

Prime Minister's disqualification

IN disqualifying a sitting, democratically elected prime minister, the Supreme Court has taken an extraordinary — and unfortunate — step. This whole story could have played out very differently, in ways much less disruptive to the nascent democracy this country is trying to build, if the SC had steered clear of a course of action that has now brought the judiciary, parliament and the executive in direct confrontation with each other. At a number of junctures the court could have avoided pursuing the contempt of court case as doggedly as it did, especially considering that the larger issue — corruption — was a matter involving the president, not the prime minister. Legally there might have been a case against the prime minister, but it was best for the supreme judiciary not to have waded so deep into such obviously political waters. Even at a later stage, it could have let the speaker’s ruling — which has the backing of a parliamentary resolution — stand. If that was not possible, it could have declared her ruling unacceptable and referred the matter to the Election Commission rather than simply asking that body to issue a denotification. Even if the outcome had ultimately been the same, at least the court would not have taken on the role of directly disqualifying an elected prime minister. By doing so, it has both disrupted an existing democratic set-up and set a worrying precedent for the future. But the damage has been done. And the PPP has an important choice to make. The party should now take the high moral ground and focus on the system rather than the individual. There are disruptive options: refusing to accept the order, for example, or delaying the matter by using the constitution to argue that the president can ask the prime minister to continue in office until a new one is appointed. For the sake of preserving the system, if the party has reservations against the judgment it should express these, perhaps even through a strongly worded parliamentary resolution, have Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani step aside and parliament elect a new prime minister as soon as possible. Indications are that the ruling coalition has already embarked on this course. But it is still deeply unfortunate that matters have come to this stage; completing the five-year tenure of both an elected government and its chief executive would have been a much-needed win for Pakistan. What is critical now is that elections are held, whether early or on time and as free and fair as possible, so that the final judgment can be left to the people’s court.

Pakistan media link 'judicial coup' to CJ's son's case

The Supreme Court's decision to disqualify the Prime Minister has pitted state institutions against each other at a time when the country is grappling with several challenges and raised questions about a "judicial coup" overseen by the top judge, the Pakistani media said today. Sections of the media questioned the apex court's ruling that declared Yousuf Raza Gilani ineligible for the post of premier, with commentators asking why the judiciary had acted almost two months after the Prime Minister was convicted of contempt for refusing to revive graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. The news of Gilani's ouster dominated the front pages of Pakistani dailies, with The News headlining its report, "Out you go Mr PM". The headline in the influential Dawn newspaper read, "Prime minister is sent packing". In an editorial titled 'A judicial coup?', The Express Tribune questioned the timing and the reasoning behind the Supreme Court's decision. The daily said, "The view, that with this verdict, the apex court has played the role of judiciary, legislature and executive, may find some takers". The Tribune cautioned that there would be people, and "not entirely from within the (ruling Pakistan People's Pary), who may consider whether yesterday's verdict is, in effect, a judicial coup". A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry yesterday disqualified Gilani in response to several petitions that had challenged National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza's decision not to disqualify the premier following his conviction of contempt. The court ruled that the post of premier had been vacant since April 26, when another seven-judge bench had convicted Gilani of contempt for refusing to reopen graft cases in Switzerland against Zardari. However, commentators noted that the Supreme Court had acted days after real estate tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain, known for his ties with political parties and the military, had acknowledged that he paid over Rs 342 million to the Chief Justice's son Arsalan Iftikhar to influence cases in the apex court. Some commentators contended the apex court was trying to divert attention from the allegations against the top judge's son. "Support for the decision may not be unanimous mainly because of recent developments, especially where the Honourable Court was dragged into the Arsalan Iftikhar matter and how it chose to – itself – remove it from the allegations citing that Malik Riaz had himself admitted that he had never received any favours from the court," the editorial in the Tribune said. The passage of almost two months since Gilani's conviction and his disqualification "may well give ammunition to some people who may claim that the Honourable Court is perhaps trying to deflect attention from the Arsalan Iftikhar case", the editorial added. The Dawn, in an editorial titled "PM's disqualification", said the Supreme Court had taken "an extraordinary -- and unfortunate -- step". The apex court's action had "brought the judiciary, parliament and the executive in direct confrontation with each other". "Legally there might have been a case against the prime minister, but it was best for the supreme judiciary not to have waded so deep into such obviously political waters," the editorial cautioned. The apex court could have declared the Speaker's decision not to disqualify the premier unacceptable and referred the matter to the Election Commission, it said. The News daily, which has backed the Chief Justice in his standoff with the government, said in its editorial that the Supreme Court's ruling was "inevitable". It added, "Contrary to the claims by many, the ouster of the prime minister and his cabinet has not shaken the democratic system". The media further said the ruling-PPP now had to make some tough decisions to ensure that political, economic, strategic and security policies are not affected at a time when the country is grappling with an economic downturn and strained ties with the US. The News called for "extreme restraint and political maturity and vision" on the part of all players while the Dawn said the PPP "should now take the high moral ground and focus on the system rather than the individual". The Express Tribune pointed out that the apex court "has not shown the same assertiveness to military dictators that it has shown to elected civilians (and) governments".