Saturday, June 30, 2012

Veena Malik: I want to be a singer

Bollywood starlet and controversy queen Veena Malik, says she aspires to be a singer. The actor was in the city to attend a press conference for her latest film, Daal Mein Kuch Kaala Hai. Veena, who has been in the news for a string of controversies of late, says she’s ready for a fresh beginning.Talking about her new flick, the Pakistani actor says, “The film is not a low-budget film, contrary to reports. I think it is has a good budget as it includes so many stars such as Shakti Kapoor, Jackie Shroff and many other big names.” Talking about her item songs — Madam Malai and Mumbai Money Hai in the movie — Veena says, “Madam Malai is not an item song, it’s part of the story. Madam Malai is the character’s name in the film. So, I won’t consider calling Madam Malai an item song. In fact, none of the songs are item songs in the movie.” The film has been made by Aanand Balraj. When asked about her future assignments, Veena says she wants to be a singer. “I wish I could predict my future, as it has been very unpredictable. This movie is not the ultimate goal for me. I want to become a singer ultimately,” she says. Veena speaks... On the film Though Daal Mein Kuch Kaala Hai s a comedy, there is lot of drama and also a message in the film On her item song Madam Malai is not an item song, it’s part of the story. Madam Malai is the character’s name in the film On future roles I can’t predict the future, as it has been very unpredictable. My ultimate goal is to become a singer.

Pakistan's Swiss letter: PM defends Zardari immunity

The Express Tribune
Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf defended President Asif Ali Zardari’s immunity on Satuday, saying it would end the day after he leaves office. His comments came after the Supreme Court on Wednesday gave the new prime minister two weeks to indicate whether he would write a letter to the Swiss authorities, asking them to reopen corruption cases against the Zardari, the incumbent president. The issue precipitated in the removal of Ashraf’s predecessor, Yousaf Raza Gilani from office as prime minister on June 19 after the court convicted him for contempt in April, refusing to reopen the multi-million-dollar cases. “He (Asif Ali Zardari) is the democratically elected President of Pakistan and as per law he enjoys the immunity as long as he holds the office,” Ashraf told reporters in Lahore. When the new prime minister was asked what the government’s stance would be at the next Supreme Court hearing on July 12, Ashraf reiterated the presidential immunity. “All the legal experts have given us the same opinion… So we will see the matter from the same angle,” he said. Analysts say the latest notice by the Supreme Court indicate the judiciary is unwilling to end a showdown with the government that could force elections before the stipulated dates for February 2013, when the administration would become the first in Pakistan to complete a full five-year mandate.

Ali Azmat’s song ‘Bum Phatta’ to feature in ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’

Ali Azmat has long been hailed as our personal Pakistani rock star with an attitude to match, evident from his new single, “Bum Phata”, a satirical take on the deplorable conditions been faced by the people of Pakistan amid a worrisome lack of everyday essentials such as water, electricity and food. Already being hailed as the political statement of the year, “Bum Phata” has made headlines not only for the palette tickling video directed by Jami, but also for the international notice it is receiving. The single has now been handpicked to feature in Mira Nair’s highly anticipated movie ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ based on the bestselling book by Mohsin Hamid of the same name. Since first being published in 2007, ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ has become perhaps one of the most defining books of the last decade. It follows a young ambitious Pakistani man, Changez working at Wall Street, who aspires to live the quintessential American life, but becomes deeply troubled after the 9/11 attacks.

No stupid, banning Indian films will not help Pakistani films

Ayub Khan first banned Indian films in Pakistan in 1965. While it was a developing industry, the protectionist policy had a nationalist undertone rather than a solid economic rationale that would benefit filmmakers. Obscured by a political and nationalistic dimension, the long-term health of Pakistani cinema was ultimately hindered. Today, the debate regarding the ban on Indian films is prevalent amongst the film community. The idea is that through a protectionist policy one can adequately control competition, thus giving an edge to Pakistani films at the box office. The debate has been dominated by hardline filmmakers who insist that they can not only protect the country from cultural imperialism, but also economically revive the industry simultaneously. Protectionist policies have always been a double-edged sword since they are merely a lever towards a more comprehensive solution for the revival of cinema. There is no doubt that economic protectionism can effectively allow an industry to grow economically — but on a limited level. For Pakistan, protectionism has had a limited impact due to censorship codes and legislation. Culture, as a result, has been defined according to government dictates ignoring the shared cultural processes that were prevalent across both India and Pakistan. Pre-1965, the cinema had a prevalence of themes that dealt with the shared heritage of India and Pakistan. In essence, the shared cultural heritage between India and Pakistan fuelled the demand for Indian films in the first place. As the industry grew to support the conception of the state, films became increasingly formula-based and assimilating in nature. The more adventurous themes in the 1960s attracted disdain from politicians while the popular government of the 1970s opened the door to regional cinema and reflected the social philosophy of “roti, kapra aur makaan”. The national psyche was subsequently reflected in movies like Maula Jatt. The eventual ban on Indian cinema meant that art and filmmaking became limited. It is, therefore, imperative that one does not resort to nationalist and political compulsions when considering the long-term growth of cinema, in order to pander to the popular ego.

1.6m Pakistanis suffer from psychiatric disorders
Over 1.6 million population of the country is suffering from different kinds of psychiatric disorders and it is high time that the government should consider the fact with utmost concern and ensure appointment of trained psychiatrists and nurses in each public and private hospital in order to address the issue. Talking to APP on Friday eminent psychiatrists Dr Darya Khan Leghari said that the Pakistan has been rated as number 12 in the world where the people are suffering different psychological and mental disorders and by providing due attention, these affected people could be brought back to normal life. He said that the major psychiatric disorder in which patients lose touch with reality is called psychosis. The psychiatric disorders are complicated with changing nature, he said and added that severity of symptoms may vary with time and with the impact of an individual's life stresses. Dr. Darya Khan Leaghari said that mental and psychological disorders particularly schizophrenia are chronic recurrent ailments that require a comprehensive and long-term medical care.

Kabul rocks

Afghani's jam as rock and roll gains popularity.

The Saudi woman who dared to drive

Manal Sharif has been jailed, insulted and threatened. Her enemies faked her death, in a hamhanded bid to make an example of her. This year, she says, she was forced out of her job. Her life has been turned upside down by a crime that isn’t even a crime -- driving in her country, Saudi Arabia. "There’s a famous saying in Arabic: When you oppress people, you make them heroes," she said. "I couldn’t understand why I was in jail. But that’s what created all this." Driving isn’t actually illegal for women in Saudi Arabia, as Sharif is quick to point out. But because Muslim clerics have declared it forbidden, the traffic department refuses to grant women licenses. Sharif is among a group of women who have contested the ban. Last year, after millions of people viewed an online video of her driving, Sharif was detained twice by police who insisted that she stop and demanded to know who was behind the campaign. She was released after an outcry but continued to face death threats and other attacks. The furor also made her famous, feted as one of the most influential people in the world by Time magazine and awarded a prize in Oslo for "creative dissent" -- a prize that ultimately cost Sharif her job when her employer told her she couldn’t leave the country to accept it, she said. She did anyway, leaving her jobless after her trip to Europe this spring. But there is plenty for Sharif to do: The campaign that began as a plea to allow women to drive has expanded to contest all kinds of sexism in Saudi Arabia, where women must obtain permission from men to work, travel or study. Activists are pushing for women to drive again Friday; an earlier driving protest was delayed after the death of the Saudi crown prince. The Times talked to Sharif about her quest in the year since she and her fellow activists urged Saudi women to get behind the wheel. Why do you think driving has been so sensitive in Saudi Arabia, even more so than women voting? There are people who will fight back because it's a financial loss for them. If you want to get a driver, you have to go to an office and give them money to bring you a driver from India or Indonesia. It's a business for them. We’ve been told they get 800 million riyals every year. So businessmen will do all kinds of campaigns to discredit us and say bad things about us. It's like a war. Then there are the religious people. If they lose their grip on controlling women, they lose the grip on the whole society. We believe these smaller subjects are used to make people not discuss the more important thing, which is the male guardianship system for women. Being treated as a second-class citizen. All of this is the tip of the iceberg. There are children, 10 years old, and they drive because their moms or sisters cannot drive! A woman has to have her driver go with her to the office, go home, come pick her up, go home. This means more crowded streets and more pollution.
Do women defy the ban in their daily lives?
Sometimes it's really urgent and a woman has to drive, like the kid is dying. But usually the women do not know how. It's a very foreign act. My friend, her dad died in front of her waiting for the ambulance because she couldn’t drive. She said, "If I could drive I would have saved my father." Even if a woman wants to do it and knows how, your neighbors see you driving and call the religious police.
What has happened since the protests last year?
We’ve been talking to officials, writing articles, campaigning, trying to teach women to drive. I filed the first lawsuit against the traffic police for not issuing me a license. We believe the driving campaign rocked the boat. People talk about it now. The taboo has opened. There’s also been so much international attention. I never understood it, why people are so interested in women driving. But when I met Kathryn Cameron Porter, president of the Leadership Council for Human Rights, in the United States, she said, "Manal, you find women who didn’t care because we take everything for granted, and when they see this, they say, 'What? This woman can’t drive because she’s a woman?'" It is the power of a single story. Now anywhere you go, if they know one thing about Saudi Arabia, they know women cannot drive there. That means the government will be pressured to do something.
Do you believe this will change soon?
I believe if women want to change their reality, it will change. If women are silent, I don’t think anything will change. Rights are never given. Rights are taken. We’re also hoping for some new and young blood (in the Saudi government). Sixty percent of us in this country are under 25, but the people in power are double our age. This creates a huge gap between us.

Anti-regime shouts fill streets in Bahrain again

A large number of Bahraini people have poured out in several villages, reiterating their calls for the ouster of Al Khalifa regime, Press TV reports.
The protests took place on Friday although the Saudi-backed regime forces attacked the demonstrators with tear gas and rubber bullets. Protesters called on the ruling family to relinquish power and let a democratically-elected government rule the country. Outraged by reports of torturing prisoners, the demonstrators demanded that all political inmates be released. The protesters said the prisoners are only sick and tired of social and religious discrimination in the kingdom. Scores of people have been killed and thousands more put behind bars since the beginning of the popular anti-regime revolution in February 2011. Bahraini demonstrators hold King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa responsible for the killing of protesters during the uprising.

President Obama's weekly address

Obama Visits Wildfire-Ravaged Areas

President Barack Obama
has promised federal aid for Colorado after the most destructive wildfire in the state's history killed at least two people, destroyed hundreds of homes and forced more than 35,000 to be evacuated.
The US leader said it was a "major disaster" as he saw for himself the damage caused by the huge blaze that has raged since Tuesday near the base of the Pikes Peak mountaintop. During a three-hour visit to Colorado Springs, he first witnessed the devastation from the air on board Air Force One and then toured neighbourhoods ravaged by the so-called Waldo Canyon Fire. He met firefighters and local officials and visited an emergency shelter operated by the American Red Cross, where he told volunteers "you guys are making us proud". As he walked along a street full of burned-out houses, the president told reporters: "This has been a devastating early fire season for Colorado. This community, obviously, is heartbroken by the loss of homes." Mr Obama announced that federal money would be made available to local agencies and individuals affected by the fire.Speaking at a fire station, he said: "We have been putting everything we have into trying to deal with what is one of the worst fires we've seen here in Colorado." But he added: "We've still got a lot more work to do." The inferno has so far incinerated at least 347 homes. "Our minds just started sifting through all the memories of that house that we lost that can't be replaced," said Colorado Springs resident Rebekah Largent. The city's police chief Peter Carey said a body was found in the debris of one burned-out home. Mr Carey added that authorities were trying to locate up to 10 people who are unaccounted for. The FBI is investigating whether any of the wildfires were started by criminal activity, but the cause remains unknown. Lighter winds have helped more than 1,000 firefighters gain new ground against the inferno, which had roared unchecked this week through communities in the city's northwest and threatened the US Air Force Academy campus. Large, uncontained fires are being fought in 10 western states - Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, South Dakota, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and even Hawaii, according to the National Interagency Fire Centre. Colorado Springs is home to the US Olympic training centre and the Air Force Space Command, which operates military satellites. They were not threatened by the wildfire. The cost of fighting the blaze has already reached £1.8m. From above, the destruction is painfully clear. Rows and rows of houses were now just smouldering ashes, while neighbouring homes survived largely intact. On one street, all but three houses had burned to their foundations, said Ryan Schneider, whose home is still standing in a neighbourhood where 51 others were destroyed. "I was real happy at first. My wife was happy," he said. "The emotion of seeing the other homes, though, was instant sadness." The aerial photos showing the scope of one of the worst fires to hit the American West in decades did little to help ease the concerns of many residents who still did not know the fate of homes. Scorching temperatures have been recorded across much of the US recently, and forecasters have predicted a long, dry summer - which could mean more fires.

Why Pakistan Is on the Brink

The Baloch Hal
By Malik Siraj Akbar
For three decades, peace in Afghanistan has been interlinked with Pakistan’s policy toward its landlocked western neighbor. The debate has recently shifted with the change in the dynamics of regional politics and security. The state of peace in the post-2014 Afghanistan hinges on the future of Pakistan, which has reached the highest level of failure and fragility since 1947 when the Muslim state was founded. Bob Woodward quoted President Obama saying that ‘poison’ (the war in Afghanistan) had actually shifted to Pakistan. While Pakistan continues to regularly feature on the top of the world’s Failed States Index, Newsweek called it the “most dangerous place on the earth.”
What eminent Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid shares in his latest book Pakistan on the Brink is too obvious but very alarming. Pakistan is currently in deep internal trouble economically and politically but it is also a deeply troubling state for its neighbors and the United States. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently said the United States was fast running out of patience with Pakistan (considering its unwillingness to cooperate in the war on terror). Rashid, whose book Taliban became a New York Times bestseller, admits that Pakistan faces even a “much more dangerous situation” than Afghanistan. While Islamabad pretends to cooperate with the United States in fighting radical groups, it also retains not-so-secret contacts with Taliban’s Haqqani Network that killed American soldiers and attacked the U.S. embassy in Kabul. Pakistan on the Brink begins with the details of the Abbottabad raid which killed Osama Bin Laden. According to Rashid’s research, the manhunt for the Al-Qaeda chief firstly began in 1990s following the killing of U.S. troops in Somalia in 1993 and Saudi Arabia in 1996 but the Saudi dissident became America’s most wanted man after the 9/11 attacks. The CIA made the first major breakthrough in 2010 by tracking down Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, a Pakistani born in Kuwait with intimate ties with the Al-Qaeda don. The compound in which bin Laden was found had been custom-built by Ahmed and his brother in 2005. The CIA rented a nearby house and expedited surveillance of the compound. It also conducted a fake polio campaign to sneak into the house. Pakistan eventually terminated and imprisoned Dr. Shakil Afridi, a local physician who had assisted the C.I.A conduct the campaign, on sedition charges. Bin Laden’s killing should have ideally come as the most successful accomplishment in the decade-long war on terror, but it instead caused an unprecedented diplomatic row between the two countries The United States asked whether Pakistan was incompetent to trace the world’s most wanted terrorist or it was simply complicit in providing him protection in Abbottabad, a well-guarded garrison town. Pakistan’s overreaction to Bin Laden’s killing highlighted a worrisome trend that has gradually engulfed the country. “Pakistan has become an abnormal state that uses Islamic militants — Jihad groups, nonstate actors — in addition to diplomacy and trade to pursue its defense and foreign policies,” Rashid writes. While Islamabad created and patronized the Afghan Taliban in 1990s, it lost control over them as they went under the mentorship of Bin Laden. Within Pakistan, an indigenous Taliban group known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (T.T.P) emerged in the tribal region bordering Afghanistan. The T.T.P aspires to overthrow Pakistan’s current government and replace it with an Islamic emirate. The Pakistani Taliban are more dangerous and brutal than their Afghan counterparts. They have killed thousands of civilians in hundreds of suicide bombings at public places besides attacking official installations. Operations against the Pakistani Taliban have failed because everyone in Pakistan’s army is not motivated enough to fight what they view as “America’s war” against ‘our fellow Muslim brothers.’ Besides security issues, Pakistan faces a separatist insurgency in its largest province of Balochistan while Karachi, the largest city that serves as the engine of the nation’s economy, has witnessed a resurgence in ethnic violence and economic breakdown. The economy is in a shambles and political leadership is unusually corrupt. So, who can help Pakistan normalize? Rashid explores a list of options to see whether or not Pakistan’s traditional friends can help it become a normal state. This is no longer an easy, if not impossible, option. Pakistan has also lost the support of several friendly nations in the wake of its continued support for Islamic radical groups that have stirred trouble inside their frontiers. For instance, China, largely regarded in Pakistan as “our best friend,” is now as deeply concerned as the United States is about Pakistan’s failures and the growth of extremism there. According to Rashid, China believes that Uighur Islamic groups are based in Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas (FATA). On the eastern border, India blames the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyba (LeT) terrorist group for masterminding the Mumbai attacks in 2008. Iran, Pakistan’s western neighbor, complains about Islamabad’s alleged support for Sunni militant groups, Jundullah and anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Lastly, Rashid argues, Pakistan can look at Turkey as a success model to emulate in order to strike a balance between military and civil rule and to define the role of religion in the country’s politics. While Pakistan on the Brink thoroughly outlines the country’s domestic woes, the book convincingly subscribes to Pakistan’s official narrative of victimhood. Rashid blames President Obama for not taking ample interest in Afghanistan. He keeps switching hats between reporting and opinion. At one point, he writes of Obama, “When it came to his handling of Afghanistan, I was deeply disappointed.” Readers generally do not like reporters who voluntarily place themselves on commanding positions and then express ‘personal disappointment’ with heads of states and governments. Rashid’s frequent first-person insertions about his meetings with President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel replace objective reporting with chest-thumping. Unlike Rashid’s previous books, Pakistan on the Brink depicts a positive and optimistic image of the Taliban. He looks at the Talban as a people who have learned lessons from their past mistakes and now Rashid hopes that they will become more civilized administrators if provided the opportunity to rule Afghanistan. While Rashid formerly advocated the deployment of more troops in Afghanistan, his views about Taliban have drastically evolved as he views international forces’ exit from Afghanistan as the most urgent option to normalize the war-torn country. He proposes deradicalization measures to integrate the “reconcilable Taliban”. The future of Pakistan, nonetheless, remains murky considering the growing perception among its rulers and intellectuals that their country is a victim of American policies. Engulfed in a persistent state of denial, Pakistan must bury the burden of its history and get out of the victimhood mode for a better future. (Courtesy: The Huffington Post)

Pak-US at least discussing NATO supply

"They too have been the victim of terrorism," US Defence Secretary said. In frank remarks Friday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the fact that discussions are even taking place to reopen Pakistan s supply routes into Afghanistan is a good sign. "We continue to have a line of communication with the Pakistanis to try to see if we can take steps to reopen the (Ground Lines of Communication)," Panetta said. "And the good news is that there continues to be those discussions." The remarks were made during a news conference with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey. Pakistan shut down the key supply routes, stretching from Afghanistan through the lawless western tribal regions of Pakistan and down to the southern port of Karachi, in November after dozens of its troops were killed in a mistaken U.S. airstrike. The routes offer a shorter and more direct path than the one NATO has been using since, which goes through Russia and other nations, avoiding Pakistan altogether. It has cost the U.S. $100 million more a month to use the alternative northern routes. This month, Panetta expressed frustration with Pakistan s failure to go after militant safe havens within its borders, particularly those of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network. Gen. John Allen, the U.S. military s top commander in Afghanistan, met with Pakistan s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, this week. Panetta said Kayani was receptive to Allen s concerns over the threat from the Haqqani network. "They too have been the victim of terrorism," Panetta said. "They lost 17 Pakistanis on a patrol to the (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan), and so every day, they too are the victims of terrorism. So we have a common enemy. It would make sense if we could work together to confront that common enemy."

Dr Afridi not safe in Peshawar central jail
Minister for Information Mian Iftikhar Hussain Friday once again urged the federal government to shift detained Dr. Shakil Afridi to any other province owing to security threats to his life in Peshawar central jail, reports APP. Talking to newsmen here, the provincial minister said that the federal government should shift its prisoner from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as Bannu jail like attacks could occur on other jails of the province. He said that there is a serious threat of attack on Peshawar jail due to presence of Shakil Afridi. The minister expressed grave concern over militants' attacks on Pakistan security forces from Afghanistan. He said that the allied forces have failed to eliminate the militants in Afghanistan. He said that now the militants were targeting the local peace lashkars in various parts of the province, reports APP. The government is finalising arrangements to move Dr Shakil Afridi, jailed for helping the US authorities trace slain al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, from Peshawar central prison to a detention facility close to Islamabad. According to the Express News, despite pressure from some members of Dr Afridi’s family against shifting him from Peshawar, the government has directed the interior ministry to finalise arrangements for moving him to Islamabad. Dr Afridi will be detained in a rest house near Simly Dam. The facility has previously been used as a detention centre for various high-profile personalities and politicians. Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif was detained there with his family following Pervez Musharraf’s coup in 1999. An official stationed at the dam’s vicinity revealed that “the staff serving the rest house has been alerted to make arrangements and declare the area ‘prohibited’ for routine visitors immediately, without informing them of the reason to ensure Dr Afridi’s security.” An Intelligence Bureau official in Islamabad told The Express News that “the decision might be unacceptable for Dr Afridi’s family but is truly aimed at securing Peshawar from incidents like the Bannu jailbreak.” Despite many attempts, the Minister for Prisons and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Inspector General (IG) did not confirm Dr Afridi’s transfer to Islamabad. Simly Dam is located 30km from Bhara Kahu and a 10-15 minutes drive from the Islamabad Convention Centre. One of the family members of Afridi, requesting anonymity, said that although Peshawar cell possesses adequate security facilities, they have agreed that he should be shifted wherever his security is duly accounted for. “We want him to be safe. His security is our top priority,” the family member added. “Although the K-P government is publicly saying that Afridi’s security is not a problem, it is trying to shift him, citing it as a matter of the federation,” the family member pointed out. K-P government has also conveyed a request to Sindh and Punjab to take in Afridi. However, according to sources, the request has been turned down by both the provincial governments.

Peshawar City to have 4 garbage recycling units

The News
The provincial metropolis would soon have four garbage recycling units with a purpose to make it useful besides improving the living standards of the people and the environment as well. Managing Director of the Project Tahir Mehmood Friday informed Deputy Speaker Provincial Assembly Khushdil Khan Advocate in a meeting held here with elders of a village where one of the units has been established. He said that under the project as many as 600 youth would be trained and with employment opportunities, adding that it would help reduce unemployment and making the garbage useful.

The President Zardari's dual office

There is no specific provision in the Constitution barring President Zardari from holding dual-office as the Head of State and the head of his party, though a number of constitutional provisions expect of him to stay neutral, impartial and maintain, at least, a fair distance from politics. That the framers of the 18th Constitutional Amendment, who otherwise worked hard and rewrote a vast number of Articles, particularly with a view to disrobing his office of the autocratic power, as was available before under the infamous 58 2(b), overlooked this possibility of having a dual office holder president is interesting if not intriguing. Perhaps, given the fact that President Zardari was (and is) the Head of State as well as the co-head of the majority party in the parliament the framers thought it expedient to remain silent on this issue. But now that the issue of dual-office presidency is under the limelight with the Lahore High Court order of May 2011 verdict against it holding the field, the need to look at the issue more closely is also in order. Quintessentially, there are two clashing perspectives: one tends to look at the issue in light of constitution while the other invites attention to look at this imbroglio in its historical frame of reference, as to how the present situation has come about, and what's its history. One cannot dispute the court's observation that the duties and functions (essentially ceremonial in nature) of the office of President of Pakistan are to be discharged with complete neutrality, impartiality and aloofness from any partisan political interest. But with President Zardari holding the office of co-chairman of the PPP he seems to have failed to observe that kind of aloofness; he calls all the shots as the prime ministers, Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf, look up to him for guidance and pulling their chestnuts out of the fire. He has carved out the ruling coalition and it is he who has kept it intact with his deft handling of partners. Apparently, the court too was conscious of the fact that there are no specific limitations against the President meeting the politicians or the officials of the government, but carrying out such activities in the presidency, the court observed, 'breached the sanctity, dignity, neutrality and lofty status of a highly revered state property. Such public property should only be used for the purpose of state and not for partisan activities'. President Zardari will, hopefully, act upon the court's verdict and separate the two offices much before the expiry of the stipulated September 5, 2012 deadline. The party appears to be thinking along those lines, as evident from Information Minister Kaira's remark that the 'slot of co-chairman (held by President Zardari) was transient in nature'. Historically, in Pakistan, the presidency has been the fulcrum of state power, and at time the centre of political wheeling and dealing. In not too distant a past, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, a quintessential bureaucrat, who as President had set up a political cell that used the intelligence services in what was billed as 'national interest' and compelled a nationalised bank to dole out a substantial sum of the depositors' money to fund political parties and groups of the president's liking. So, what we have today in the form of a dual-office presidency is a de jure depiction of a de-facto situation. Even if president Zardari does give up the party office, he would still remain the centre of gravity of the PPP and there is no article of the constitution that bars the PPP parliamentarians looking towards him in the discharge of their responsibilities. It's essentially a situation with a historical background and should be viewed in this perspective. After all constitutions keep evolving in order to remain relevant to the times and requirements of the people. That everything which appears to be conflicting with the spirit if not the letter of the constitution should be taken to court is to deny the fact that ultimate custodians of law and constitution are the people, who can obtain a perfect lawful polity even without a written constitution - as they have in Britain, although that country is now moving towards getting a full written constitution with a view to bringing its people in line with the most progressive democracies around the world.

Kayani, Allen agree on better coordination, border security
Pakistan and ISAF have agreed to improve Pak-Afghan border security and coordination, ISPR said on Friday.
According to a joint statement released by ISPR, ISAF commander General John Allen called on Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and discussed matters of mutual interests. The two sides expressed the willingness to achieve the joint targets of combating extremism and tarnishing militant safe havens set in the trilateral military conference, held in Afghanistan last month. "This visit helped advance our efforts to achieve the regional stability. Additionally, the meeting provided us perfect opportunity to refocus our attention on our continuing efforts to eliminate the corrosive effects of extremists operating on both sides of the border" Allen was quoted as saying in the release.

Licences for private TV and radio channels in FATA demanded

The Express Tribune
The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) should have independent local media. This will create an enabling environment for political participation in the region ahead of the next general elections, said mainstream political parties and elected officials from the region here on Thursday. The parties and MNAs demanded that President Asif Ali Zardari urgently issue an executive order or an ordinance extending the jurisdiction of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to FATA so it may start issuing licenses for local radio stations and TV channels. The demand came in the form of a special declaration at a roundtable discussion, “Can There Be Political Reforms in FATA without Media Reforms?”, conducted by Intermedia Pakistan, a national media advocacy organisation. Currently, local media in the region is catering to more than five million people through only three state-owned FM radio stations. “Under current laws there cannot be local independent radio stations, TV channels or print media in FATA, which hampers the exercise of constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression and the right to have access to information,” Intermedia Executive Director Adnan Rehmat told the participants, whom included MNAs, senators and other politicians from the PPP, ANP, PML-Q and PML-N. The participants said they “wholeheartedly” endorse the demand for media reforms made in three preceding roundtables on the theme held in Nov 2011 and June 2012 by the same organiser. “In view of the upcoming elections, we emphasise the need for steps to optimise the opportunity for FATA residents to vote for their representatives through a facilitative and enabling open and local media environment,” said a declaration passed at the conclusion of the discussion. “We, the political parties of Pakistan, and elected representatives of FATA, collectively emphasise that the residents of FATA have the same constitutional and political rights as citizens in the rest of Pakistan,” said the declaration. The roundtable also endorsed a draft notification prepared by legal experts and members of bar associations from across Pakistan at the third roundtable for the president, which can form the basis for urgent media reforms for FATA. Copies of the declaration will be sent to the president, members of parliament and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor.

SHIA Hazara attack

THE story is not new. But with each attack, the targeting of the Shia Hazara community becomes a more firmly entrenched feature of life in Balochistan today. Thursday’s bomb attack on a bus of pilgrims returning from Iran was only the latest in a string of incidents that have taken the lives of at least 60 Hazaras this year alone, including students and people from the community simply going about their daily business. Easily identifiable because of their physical features, neighbourhoods and the routes they take for routine pilgrimages, Balochistan’s Hazaras are now sitting ducks, victims of a relentless campaign that can only be compared to ethnic cleansing in its laser-like focus and its desire to kill as many members of the community as possible. Given this focus and the pattern of attacks that has been established, the inability of the Balochistan government and paramilitary troops to protect the community can only be the result of extreme incompetence or a lack of commitment. Many of the attacks take place along the set routes that buses take when transporting pilgrims to and from Iran. Policing along these routes has reportedly been stepped up, but surely they can be monitored in a way that is better able to identify suspicious activity or prevent attackers from planting bombs. As for police escorts to accompany pilgrims, these have clearly not been adequate; if Balochistan’s politicians can be provided with extensive and expensive security arrangements, why is the same level of protection not being provided at least to Hazara pilgrims? The more effective method, of course, would be to tackle this problem at its roots, going after the militants and dismantling their infrastructure rather than trying to prevent already planned attacks at the eleventh hour. Balochistan’s anti-Shia militancy has morphed into a force in its own right, with its own motivations, operational bases and centres of propaganda. For this, too, there are clues: the locations of madressahs propagating anti-Shia views and some of the bases of the Balochistan arm of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi have been identified, and include the chief minister’s own base of Mastung. In the face of such a predictable pattern of attacks and available information about those behind them, the failure to prevent them has only fuelled speculation that Balochistan’s civilian and security establishments are deliberately not taking action against sectarian militancy. These theories reflect the lack of trust in the provincial set-up, which is seen as being focused on clamping down on separatists instead. Whatever the thinking among state actors, the continued targeting of the Hazaras is increasingly becoming a massive abdication of responsibility on their part.


Fourteen people were killed and another 30 injured, some of them seriously, in a suicide attack on a bus of the Zaireen coming from Ziarat in Iran. First, some of the officials claimed that a rocket was lobbed on the passing bus of the Iranian Zaireen, mostly Shias from Pakistan. Later on the CCPO Quetta and the Provincial Home Secretary confirmed that it was a suicide attack and the bombers presumably used another vehicle that rammed into the bus of the Zaireen killing fourteen people on the spot and injuring 30 others, some of them seriously. So far no organization had claimed the suicide attack on the bus of the Zaireen in the outskirts of Quetta city. In fact, there were two buses full of Zaireen coming from Taftan to Quetta city. They were escorted by two police mobile vans when the first bus came under suicide attack killing 14 people, including two policemen on security duty. The bus and two mobile vans of the Police force were also destroyed. According to Bomb Disposal Squad, around fifty kilograms of explosive substances were used in carrying out the suicide attack ensuring massive death and destruction. It is believed that sectarian terrorists are involved in the suicide attack and they had yet to make a formal claim of killing the innocent people. However, they had again selected a suitable place to carry out the suicide attack. It is Hazar Ganji area where most of the past attacks were carried out by the sectarian outfits. Only in one encounter, Ali Sher Hyderi, the self style chief of the Lashkar-Jhangvi, local chapter, was killed with another accomplice. Otherwise, they remained scot-free after carrying out killing of Shia in Quetta. Some senior police officers who tried to chase them were terrified and attacks were carried out art their residences making their children target also. A few of the police officials were ambushed and killed. After these incidents of target killing of police officials, mostly police officials avoid chasing the activists of the banned LJ outfit in Quetta.

Pakistan's Shia:In the slaughterhouse

How many Hazarganji has this beleaguered nation been left out to witness? And for how long? Now for months together, the Hazara community in Balochistan has its head in the crusher of sectarian slaughter. Its pilgrims are massacred while travelling on buses and vans for pilgrimage. Its religious congregations are fatally attacked with terrorist bombs and blasts. Its community members are mowed down in targeted shootings. Its mayhem continues right inside and outside the metropolis of Quetta. And no end is anywhere in sight to its carnage as yet. Then where are the enforcers of law? Have they lapsed into a swoon or a stupor? Why are they not doing something to stop this holocaust of this community? Why are they not nabbing the masterminds, financiers and perpetrators of this brutal slaughter? Surly, the shady characters wreaking this horrific bloodbath on the Shia community of Hazaras do not descend from the skies. They are very much present on the ground. They have their sleeper cells in the province and in the metropolis of Quetta. They plot their vile acts there. Their money bags sit there. Their handlers are ensconced there. Their slayers fatten in their own stables. Why then are not their lairs being sought out and they being smoked out? Where are the intelligence hounds of the provincial security apparatus? Haven't they been tasked to bust the hideouts of sectarian monsters and dismantle their terror networks? And why federal agencies are not going after these vile characters when terrorism, sectarian or otherwise, is no region specific but a countrywide vine, spreading all over the land in an interlinked manner. Terror groups are no longer monolith monstrosities, either. Quite perceptibly, terrorists of various hues and stripes have ganged up together, helping and assisting one another in their sinful criminality. And even those wearing the masks of spurious religiosity have linked up with criminal gangs of the underworld. This is a very vicious combination that indeed has transformed the entire land veritably into a slaughterhouse. No place is immune from the wickedness of this vile terrorist-criminal axis. Every province, every region, every niche of the land is in the eye of the storm. Terrorists and criminals kill and maim wherever and whenever they want. And every time, they just go scot-free. After every strike, the law enforcers are very prompt in telling the weight of the explosives used. But what they conveniently tell not unabashedly why had they failed so scornfully in preventing the use of these explosives. After all, they are not there to tell the explosives' weight. They are paid not to allow anyone to murder with those explosives. But no heads ever roll. No questions are even asked; no explanations demanded. It seems the top echelons have taken that so long as they are safe and secure, it hardly matters if the commoners are killed and maimed in terrorist assaults. No extraordinary concern is perceptible in their echelons even as the country has become a sprawling abattoir of terrorists and their criminal accomplices. It really is disconcertingly shocking that stray ideas and plans the top echelons had condescended to take up to beat out the terrorists are lying undone unattended for these top echelons' disinterest. Almost four years down the road, a contemplated nodal agency, national counter-terrorism authority, is nowhere near formation. The plan is lying stuck up some in the official labyrinths forgetfully. A proposed amendment to tighten up the anti-terrorism law is gathering dust in the Senate chamber for more than three years. For long, one is hearing of plugging up the holes in the evidence act but nothing has as yet come of it. This disinterest of the top echelons is self-hurting. They must understand. Terrorists will not keep confined to killing and goring the commoners. They will get the top echelons too. Already, a few of them have come under their attack. But if these echelons keep up with their disinterest, it will not be Hazaras alone to suffer fatally at the terrorism monsters' hands. Their vile hands will reach up to higher throats more frequently. The state security apparatus perforce needs to get out of its hibernation and move out systematically, methodically and powerfully against the terrorist thugs before they pull down the fa�ade of the state structure with their thuggery.

killing of Hazara Shias

EDITORIAL:Daily Times:The culture of impunity
Someone has to be held responsible for the brutality unleashed on the Hazaras in Balochistan. The chief of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Malik Ishaq, should be taken into custody and inquiries conducted about his party’s blatant involvement in the killing of Hazara Shias. The law enforcement agencies have to answer about their lax and inefficient security measures that are letting the Hazaras be killed like flies. The Balochistan government owes a response for its failure to ensure the right of life to its people, especially the Shias belonging to the Hazara community. These are the questions that need answering by the self-admitted perpetrators of these atrocities as well as those whose responsibility it is to ensure law and order in the province. The suicide attack on a bus carrying 50 pilgrims back to their homes in Quetta from Taftan, Iran, on Thursday, resulting in 14 deaths and 30 injured, is one more link in this continuing horror story. It was yet another attack on innocent people, whose only fault was their ethnic identity and religious beliefs. Not so long ago, a school bus was hit by an explosion, killing innocent Hazara students. We also had the Mastung bus carnage, not once but twice, when the passengers were lined up and shot at close range in front of their relatives. The killers are not just interested in snuffing out lives but inflicting the worst possible forms of butchery, not sparing even children, as part of their heinous sectarian agenda. Bomb disposal officials seem convinced the 50 kg of explosive material used in the suicide attack on the pilgrims’ bus was meant to create a bigger fallout. The fear factor sought to be created has so far eluded the authorities, who appear to be sitting ducks while ironically pampering the likes of Malik Ishaq, who openly struts his stuff from the platform of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council. The inept and callously indifferent approach of the authorities to what has now emerged as the latest woe in a long litany of unending sorrows seems doubly tragic when the killers have no qualms in publicly claiming responsibility. It is incomprehensible why the admitted killers and their leaders are left free to wreak their havoc on a peace-loving and inoffensive community. The shameful inaction of the government in exposing and bringing to justice the elements behind the killings reflects its callous lack of seriousness in bringing peace to our terror-stricken society, particularly in Balochistan. Even our society’s well known penchant for conspiracy theories struggles to explain what is going on and why and who is ‘protecting’ these barbarians. According to the new security protocol adopted after the pilgrims’ route to Iran became a killing field, every bus carrying pilgrims is supposed to get security clearance before entering the city. The ill fated bus that exploded in Hazarganji did not follow the protocol. This latest atrocity is a ghastly reminder of how unsafe the Hazara community of Balochistan has been rendered. The incessant security lapses have come to be seen, especially by the Hazaras, as a systematic genocide of their community. Recently the UN Human Rights head, Navi Pillay, has raised concerns over the gravity of the situation in the province, particularly for the minorities. Some voices on the social media go so far as to accuse the judiciary of suffering from paralysis in bringing the culprits to book following the Lahore High Court’s acquittal of LeJ chief Malik Ishaq. Some others are asking the UN to step in more vigorously. Since 1999, 700 Hazaras have been killed in Balochistan. The incidence of violence against the community has risen sharply, with clear indications of a further intensification in the near future. From 2008 to date, almost 20,000 have left the country for safety abroad. It is time to untangle the venomous web that Ziaul Haq had woven around this country in the misused and abused name of Islam. To go about this tough chore, especially when a large swathe of the country is ensnarled in it, may not be easy. But there is no escape from the task of exposing and bringing to justice the elements making blood cheaper than water.

Punjab govt borrowing like there’s no tomorrow

‘Breaking the bowl’, so goes the slogan of the Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif. In public he sermonizes about “ridding the province of foreign aid and loans”. He harangues the federal government for sloshing too much through borrowing too much. But under him the province is said to have acquired loans to the tune of Rs 80 billion – and this is not overdraft from the federal government, it is just the foreign borrowings. And it too squanders them on populist measures. A case in point: The World Bank’s fund meant to support the poor get primary education was diverted to distribute laptops to college and university students – most of these to the relatively well-heeled. There is another anomaly. The province has been unable to fully utilize development funds owing to gross inefficiency. Since the incumbent dispensation took the reins, every year, year after year, tens of billions of rupees have lapsed owing to remaining unutilized. This borrowing binge while the available funds remain unused is indeed is a contradiction that both the finance managers and their political masters would find hard to explain. Sources privy to the goings-on divulged to Pakistan Today that politicians have scant understanding of complicated financial matters, leaving the finance managers to rule the roost. But even this sorry excuse cannot absolve the politicians for not being on top of complex financial matters for which eventually the people suffer.