Monday, July 2, 2012

Shahbaz Sharif failure: Calling army doctors is admitting failure

Deputy Prime Minister Pervaiz Elahi has said calling army doctors at public hospitals is an admission of failure by the Shahbaz Sharif government while Governor Latif Khosa has advised the chief minister to ‘shun his ego’ and hold direct talks with young medics. Speaking at a reception given by PML-Q parliamentary leader Chaudhry Zaheeruddin at a local hotel on Monday, Mr Elahi said Shahbaz was responsible for administrative failure and economic mess in the province. He said irony of the matter was that patients were dying, doctors were languishing in jails and the chief minister was spending days in his tent office and nights in Murree. He said Shahbaz had closed all mega projects, including the mass transit rail project launched by the PML-Q government, which was unfortunate. The former chief minister said most parts of the Ring Road were completed in his tenure while the bridges the Shahbaz government was constructing in ‘record time’ were also collapsing in record time. He said the PML-Q had asked the president and the prime minister to solve the issues of energy and unrest in Balochistan before the next elections. Meanwhile, Governor Khosa, talking to a group of journalists at the Governor’s House on Monday, said Shahbaz should hold direct talks with young doctors and accept their just demands. “Shahbazs should shun his ego and give respect to the doctors,” he said. He said the Punjab government was facing such problems because Shahbaz had retained most of the portfolios. He pointed out there had been no full-fledged health minister in the province. He said Shahbaz was also responsible for the worst law and order situation in the province. PPP Punjab information secretary Raja Amir said Shahbaz was responsible for the deaths in hospitals. Flanked by Usman Salim Malik and Mani Pehalwan, he told a news conference that had the Punjab government accepted the ‘just demands’ of doctors they would not have gone on strike. He also condemned the attitude of the doctors.

Punjab Docs:HRCP’s concern at doctors-govt standoff

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has noted with concern the suffering heaped on the people by the prolonged strike of doctors in Punjab and the provincial government’s failure to amicably resolve the matter so far, and called upon both sides to stop their wrangling for the sake of the people. HRCP said in a statement on Monday, “Protests and strikes and doctors are not unheard of in Pakistan but they had never led to suspension of emergency care. That has changed since last year. HRCP believes that doctors abandoning their life-saving vows to press for their demands is utterly indefensible and has contributed to the loss of sympathy for them among the people. “Some of the protesting doctors’ demands may be justified, but the ongoing wrangling is symptomatic of the anarchy of thought and practice in the country where neither side is willing to abandon its stance for the sake of an amicable settlement. Both sides have shown no inclination to budge and have sought to achieve a stronger bargaining position by resorting to threats. “HRCP also does not support the coercive tactics by the Punjab government aimed at finding a solution. Who can disagree with the need for discipline in service, but the government’s ham-handed methods to deal with protests have lowered its credit. The grievances of the doctors have accumulated over time and that too is for the government to make sure that that does not happen. “The matter must be resolved at the earliest. The medical profession was the first one in Pakistan to be regulated by a professional body. The prevailing stalemate is also a reflection on the performance of that body. How the role and representative character of Pakistan Medical and Dental Council has been eroded also deserves to be examined. “Ultimately, it is imperative that a high-powered commission is established to examine the affairs of public healthcare in Pakistan, including the skill and knowledge of the doctors who are allowed to treat patients, especially those who have studied abroad or in private colleges, to ensure that the practice of learning on the job comes to an end in the country’s hospitals.

Pakistan civilian deaths from US drones 'lowest since 2008'

Fewer civilians have died in US drone strikes in Pakistan so far this year than at any other time in the last four years, a report said Monday. Three to 24 civilians were reported killed by American CIA drones in Pakistan from January to June, according to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Reported civilian casualty rates have not been so low since the first half of 2008, when 12-21 civilians reportedly died under former US president George W Bush, it said. It was also a marked decline on the 62-103 civilians reported killed by drone strikes in Pakistan in the first six months of 2011, the bureau added. US drones target Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters in Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal belt on the Afghan border, where journalists and aid workers do not have independent access. The programme is covert, but US officials have defended the attacks as a vital weapon in the war on terror, despite concerns from rights activists over civilian casualties. The decline in casualties correlates to a decline in attacks as relations between Islamabad and Washington deteriorated since Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan in May 2011 and after US air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last November. According to an AFP tally, 101 US drone strikes were reported in Pakistan in 2010, 64 in 2011 and only 24 so far this year. Pakistan has also becoming increasingly vocal in its public opposition to the strikes. It stopped NATO supplies travelling overland into Afghanistan after its soldiers were killed in November. It has yet to reopen the route, demanding a formal apology for the deaths. According to the bureau, between 2,496 and 3,202 people have been reported killed by drones in Pakistan since 2004. Among them are 482-832 civilians, 175 of them children. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay last month called for a UN investigation into US drone strikes, questioning their legality and saying they kill innocent civilians.

Cases against Sharifs as per to law: NAB

NAB chief said that proceeding of cases against
Sharif brothers was under process according to law. Talking to Dunya News, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Fasih Bukhari on Monday said that proceedings on cases against the Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif were under process as per provisions of National Accountability Ordinance 1999. He said Sharif brothers moved the honourable Lahore High Court through a writ petition in October 2011, seeking quashment of references against them. The court granted stay order in favour of the Sharif brothers. He further clarified that it has not closed even a single case against the Sharif brothers. Three references including case of Willful Loan Default, Hudaibia Paper Mills, and Assets beyond known sources of income, are pending in the Accountability Court. NAB had filed an application to reopen these cases but the
court refused to accept NAB’s point of view and adjourned the case sine-die. NAB again in 2010 moved an application for recommencement of these cases but the court rejected NAB’s plea.

Afghanistan, Pakistan clash over border violence

Pakistani officials accused up to 60 Afghan soldiers on Monday of crossing into Pakistani territory and sparking clashes that killed two tribesman. It was the latest in a series of escalating cross-border attacks reported in Afghanistan and Pakistan that are inflaming tensions along the porous border as NATO prepares to end its combat mission against the Taliban in 2014. Both countries blame each other for harbouring Taliban fighters active on both sides of their 2,400 kilometre (1,500 mile) border, fanning distrust between Kabul and Islamabad, and complicating a peace process in Afghanistan. Kabul threatened to report Islamabad to the UN Security Council over what it alleges is the shelling of villages, while Islamabad said it would protest formally to Kabul against the latest incursion. "If our bilateral discussions regarding this issue brings no result, we will refer this issue to the United Nations Security Council," Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Faramarz Tamana told AFP. In Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal belt, security officials said two tribesmen were killed in Upper Kurram district in clashes with 60 Afghan army soldiers. Another tribesman was also wounded "after they traded fire with Afghan army soldiers on seeing them inside Pakistani territory," a senior official told AFP on condition of anonymity. The clashes lasted for more than 90 minutes after which security forces were sent to the area on the Afghan border, he said. Local residents said the Afghans were pursuing attackers fleeing Shehar-e-Nau village in Paktia province. Afghan defence officials denied the alleged incursion. "We are not aware of such an operation by ANA (Afghan National Army) in that area," Daulat Wazir spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said. Colonel Ahmad Jan, spokesman for army corps 203 in southeastern Afghanistan said: "It is not true, our forces have not entered Pakistan. We have not had any operations near the border recently." A spokesman for Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security intelligence agency said cross-border fire had killed four people, including a woman and a child, and wounded six others, in the last week. Afghans and Americans blame Pakistan for not doing more to eliminate havens on its soil, which are used as launch pads for attacks across the border. Last month, the US commander of NATO in Afghanistan blamed the Pakistan-based Haqqani network for a siege on a lakeside hotel in Kabul that killed 18 people. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also warned last month that Washington was running out of patience with Pakistan over militant havens. But in Pakistan, border attacks have raised fresh concerns that Pakistani Taliban, who fled a 2009 army offensive, have regrouped and again pose a threat. Officials said dozens of militants based in Afghanistan on Sunday attacked a checkpost in Upper Dir, a district in the government-controlled part of Pakistan, for the second time in eight days. They said six militants were killed after crossing into Sabir Killey village in the Soni Darr area of Upper Dir. One official told AFP the "firefight continued late into the night". Another official said there were reports "hundreds of militants" were gathering in Afghanistan's eastern province of Kunar. "Authorities have alerted local lashkars (tribal militia) amid fears of a bigger clash," he told AFP on condition of anonymity. Intelligence officials say the attackers are loyalists of Pakistani cleric Maulana Fazlullah, who fled into Afghanistan when the army recaptured the Swat valley after a two-year Taliban insurgency ended in 2009. Swat neighbours Upper Dir, which is a key transit route between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The valley was once a popular tourism destination and unlike the semi-autonomous tribal belt on the Afghan border, lies just 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the capital Islamabad. The Taliban released a video showing severed heads of 17 Pakistani soldiers who they said were killed in a similar cross-border attack on a check post in Soni Darr on June 24. A senior official confirmed that all 17 in the video were security personnel. Islamabad lodged a strong protest with Kabul over the June 24 attack.

U.S., Pakistan expected to strike deal soon on Afghan supply routes

The United States and Pakistan are expected to soon reach an agreement to reopen ground routes key for supplying NATO troops in Afghanistan, a Pakistani official said on Monday, in a move that could ease a seven-month crisis in the two countries' ties. A senior Pakistani security official said that a deal was expected to be announced soon. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides departed Islamabad on Monday following discussions with Pakistani officials, the U.S. State Department said. Senior Pakistani government and defense officials are expected to meet on Tuesday in Islamabad to discuss the latest negotiations with American officials.

Shahbaz's tenting

What brownie points does Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab, think he is culling with his tenting device? At least, the people are not impressed. Nowhere on the street are they found lined up with bouquets in hands to garland him. Instead, his tenting show is being pooh-poohed far and wide as a cheap self-projection ploy. And generally it is being derided disdainfully as sheer political gimmickry as was his joining of the people's power protests earlier. But who is he befooling? Does he think that our people are such simpletons that they would be easily taken in by such a blatant buffoonery? Does he think they know not after spending a few hours in a commodious tent he would retire to his luxurious Raiwind palace offering every comfort on the earth that fabulous wealth he is in possession of can buy? Had indeed he been a bit real, he would have spent a few nights in the tent and would have known feelingly what it means in living with power load-shedding. And had he been street smart, instead of mounting this funny tenting show he would have set about redressing the people's grievances that stem forth from intermittent power outages. There is public outcry that prolonged power interruptions have adversely affected the functioning of tube-wells, resulting into disruptions of water supplies. Even the provincial metropolis of Lahore is resonating with this public uproar. The predicament of other cities of the province, whether big or small, can be well imagined from this. Had he sat down in his office, thought out an innovative way to meet the people's water scarcity and mobilised his administrative leviathan to fructify it, he would have gained something both by way of earning the citizens' goodwill and reaping in consequence quite a bit of political harvest also. But such things come to the minds of leaders who are real, no pretenders or chicaners as indeed is he. What has he got by tenting, if not the people's derision and ridicule only? There has been no diminishing in the load-shedding nor has there been any alleviation of the people's lot. They are going through the gruelling times as tortuously and as groaningly as before his tenting ploy. The people need no tenting by anyone or joining their protest by anyone to bring home to the rulers their agony the cruel man-made adversity of power load-shedding has inflicted on them in mountains. They themselves are out in the street to this end. What they need as an end to this callous catastrophe. And had Shahbaz been any sincere and honest, he would have floated creative ideas and ingenious thoughts to finish off this disastrous painful calamity. The PPP-led federal hierarchs have demonstrated conclusively their incapability to tide over this power crisis. They appear even to know not what actually has precipitated this critical situation and are simply groping in the dark to cope with it, albeit failingly. Shahbaz could have marked even one-upmanship over them with innovative ideas to cut off the power outages. But with his tenting, he has established beyond a shred of doubt that he too is as incapable intellectually as well as administratively as are the federal hierarchs. Rather, with his tenting artifice, he has painted himself uglier than they. He has sought to make political mileage out of the pains and miseries of the people. This is decidedly despicable, to say the least. Still, not all is lost. He can still recoup somewhat his losses. He must wind up his tent, go back to his office and task his subordinate bureaucrats to think out ways and means for coping with outages and their aftermath. He has, of course, packed up the subordinate bureaucracy with his loyalists, lackeys and yes-men whose sole distinction is their fealty to him. But there are still talented people in his bureaucratic leviathan. They can think creatively and conceive of innovations. They can guide him. Nevertheless, the billion-dollar question is if he wants to be guided for the people's weal and welfare or wants to be driven solely by his political impulsions and designs. His tenting has, anyway, not stemmed the tide of the younger generation walking away as a whole block to the tent of the new rising political star. Even the grown-ups are leaving him, his elder brother and their party in battalions. And that's that.

Over 400 killed in Balochistan sectarian violence: Report

The Express Tribune
The government seems to be at a loss to explain the escalating sectarian strife in Balochistan, which has claimed more than 400 lives in more than 200 incidents of ethnic and sectarian violence in the past four years. The decade-long insurgency recently turned into a battleground for politically motivated attacks on religious sects with banned outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi allegedly targeting the Shia and Hazara communities throughout the embattled province. The provincial home department said in an official report last week that cross-border influence, among other factors, was fuelling the sectarian violence. The official report which covers a period of four years states that over 400 Shias and Hazaras, who account for nearly a fifth of the country’s 170 million population lost their lives as a result of the aggression. Around 100 pilgrims have been killed in just the first half of the current year. Another 450 people were injured in over 110 sectarian attacks from 2008 to 2011. The increasing trend of violence is alarming. Over 120 members of the Shia and Hazara communities were gunned down last year while close to a 100 sustained injuries, compared to 81 fatalities and 200 casualties in 2010. In 2009, 39 members of the Shia community were killed and 20 injured in over 30 incidents of ethnic violence, while only 15 were killed and 10 injured in 2008. The police have arrested alleged terrorist Sher Dil, also known as Babu, for his reported ties with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in a bid to curb the violence. Others who have been arrested include Hafiz Muhammad Usman alias Abbas, Dawood Badeeni, Jalil Ababkki and Shafiq Rind. However, some suspects such as Usman Saifullah and Ziaul Haq still remain at large. Alleged terrorists Khalid Bungulzai and Majeed Langove are said to have been killed in police encounters and the government has constituted a high-level inquiry committee headed by the home minister of Balochistan to further probe the incident. The provincial government has decided to refer the investigation of “sensitive cases” to the Crime Investigation Department and called for a review of the regulations pertaining to the movement of pilgrims under the Travel Agency Act, 1976. The provincial home secretary also held meetings with the Iranian consul general. Both sides agreed to beef-up security arrangements from Quetta to Taftan and discussed possible arrangements for facilitating the movement of members of the Hazara community between Marriabad to Hazara Town and Hazar Ganji.

U.S. targets informal banks for alleged aid to Taliban

The Obama administration imposed sanctions on a pair of informal money-exchange networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan on Friday in what officials described as the first use of the tactic to attack the financial underpinnings of Taliban militants who rely on the system to fund their insurgency. The sanctions announced by the Treasury Department were coordinated with similar measures adopted by the United Nations as part of a broad effort to slow the flow of cash used by the Taliban to pay salaries and purchase weapons for attacks in Afghanistan. These informal cash networks — commonly known as hawalas — have long been used by Taliban commanders and other militants to move funds back and forth across the Afghan-Pakistani border, according to administration officials who helped prepare the legal case against the two institutions. The two hawalas were identified as the Haji Khairullah Haji Sattar Money Exchange and the Roshan Money Exchange. Both were described as large networks that operate in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with most transactions occurring in border provinces. Treasury Department documents allege that Afghan Taliban commanders maintained accounts in both networks and regularly withdrew thousands of dollars to pay off Taliban-backed “shadow” governors, buy weapons and pay fighters’ salaries. The documents say much of the cash deposited in the accounts appears to have come from narcotics trafficking, a multibillion-dollar business in Afghanistan that helps finance the insurgency. While U.S. officials in the past have targeted Afghan hawalas used by drug traffickers, the new sanctions are the first specifically aimed at disrupting the Taliban’s finances, said a senior administration official, who insisted on anonymity in discussing an ongoing investigation. On Friday, U.N. officials added the names of the same two institutions and their principal backers to a list of groups officially associated with Taliban militancy, meaning they will be subject to international sanctions as well. The U.S. and U.N. measures together are likely to severely restrict the network’s ability to conduct business with overseas banks or tap into international cash flows of legitimate hawalas, the senior official said. “We have every reason to believe that the designation will be quite disruptive to their activities,” he said. Hawalas exist throughout the Muslim world as a routine way of banking, particularly for immigrant workers and people too poor to have a bank account. But they are also “an important cog in the terrorist financing machinery,” said the senior official. “Whether it’s al-Qaeda, the Taliban or other extremist groups, we are keenly aware that all of them have long made use of the informal sector.” He asserted that the two networks targeted by sanctions had knowingly supplied cash to the Taliban for years. “This is not an instance where an otherwise unwitting financial conduit is being used by bad actors,” he said. “These guys have set up shop in part to support the Taliban.”

Observers: resumption of NATO supplies a matter of days

Report by:Deutsche Welle
Pakistani defense experts say signs of a thaw in relations between Washington and Islamabad are emerging as the two countries are making final attempts to strike a deal on resuming the NATO supply line. Pakistan's foreign ministry officials said on Monday that there had been progress on the issue of resuming a key NATO supply line to Afghanistan. Islamabad had blocked the supply route in retaliation for the NATO airstrike near the Afghan border last November that resulted in the death of 24 of its soldiers. US-Pakistani ties have been at their lowest level ever since. Separate probes by the Pentagon and NATO into the lethal strike revealed that inadequate coordination and a lack of "fundamental trust" had led to the tragedy. No apology was handed over to Islamabad. For its part, the Pakistani government rejected the findings and demanded that the US and NATO apologize. ''Desperate measures'' On Sunday, Thomas Nides, the US Deputy Secretary of State; General John Allen, commander of the US forces in Afghanistan; and Cameron Munter, the US Ambassador to Pakistan held high-level talks with the Pakistani civilian and military officials in Islamabad. Pakistani defense experts said the fact that General Allen has visited Pakistan twice in four days was proof that Washington and Islamabad were desperately trying to find a mutually beneficial solution to this issue. Government officials in Islamabad said that a decision on the resumption of the supply route was likely to be made after Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari returned from his UK tour. ''Domestic pressure on government'' The Zardari-led Pakistan People's Party government faces immense political pressure from opposition parties, including hard-line Islamist groups, on the issue of NATO supply route. Ayaz Amir, a Pakistani legislator, told DW that it would not be easy for the Pakistani government to resume NATO supplies. "Islamist groups have warned the government of dire consequences if it tried to reopen the NATO supply line to Afghanistan. The government will have to take people into confidence before opening the supply route." Naseer Bhatta, member of Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's opposition Pakistan Muslim League, told DW that if the government wanted to take a decision on this matter, it had to get an approval from parliament. "It would be unfortunate if NATO supplies were reopened without the consent of the people. They should not be resumed until NATO tenders an apology to Pakistan," he said. However, Najam Rafique, Director of the Institute of Strategic Studies, an Islamabad-based think tank, told DW that the protests against possible supply reopening would eventually die down.