Monday, July 9, 2012

Punjab has no electricity because its govt is lazy

The PPP government is working to find a permanent solution to the energy crisis in the country as 22 small dams are in their final phase while work on Bhasha, Neelum Jhelum and other big projects is also in progress. This was stated by Coordinator to the President of Pakistan, Naveed Chaudhry on Sunday. “The government is working not only to overcome the energy shortage but the real issue before it is to produce power at lower rates,” he added. He said the previous PPP government had made Pakistan a power-surplus country in 1996 by introducing independent power producers (IPPs) but inherited the energy crisis when it came to power in 2008. “The government also empowered the provinces to set up power projects up to 50MW but the Punjab government took no action and in a bid to conceal its failure and inefficiency, tried to exploit the energy crisis for publicity and defame the federal government,” he added. “All provinces are being treated equally by the federal government and no province is being granted any special favours in this regard. Punjab is receiving more electricity than any other province in accordance to its population,” he added. He said the Punjab chief minister had diverted funds towards Sasti Roti, Ashiana, laptops and other projects to open floodgates of corruption and did not spend a single rupee for electricity generation. “The Punjab government also failed to implement recommendations of the energy conference, avoided granting two holidays a week and adopted a course of confrontation with the federal government,” he added.

Annan meets Assad in Damascus, heads on to Iran

Kofi Annan said he had constructive talks in Damascus on Monday with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who said the U.N. peace envoy's plan to end 16 months of bloodshed was being undermined by U.S. political support for "terrorists". Within hours, Annan was due to head for Iran for talks with Syria's main ally in the region. "I just had a positive and constructive discussion with President Assad," the United Nations special envoy said. "We agreed an approach which I will share with the opposition," he told reporters. Once again, Annan stressed the important of halting violence and promoting political dialogue -- the key points of the plan he put forward in April. Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said in a Twitter message: "In both meetings we reassured Annan of Syria's commitment to implement the 6-points Plan and hoped other side is mutually committed." In a television interview aired on Sunday, Assad accused Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, as well as the United States, of supplying arms and logistical support to the rebels trying to overthrow him. "We know that (Annan) is coming up against countless obstacles but his plan should not be allowed to fail, it is a very good plan," he told Germany's ARD network. "The main obstacle (is) that many countries don't want (it) to succeed. So they offer political support and they still send armaments and send money to terrorists in Syria," Assad said, according to a transcript of the interview, held in English. SECTARIAN LINES Syria, led by members of a sect related to Shi'ite Islam, has alleged that the Sunni-led Gulf monarchies are supporting unrest among its Sunni majority as a way to check rising Shi'ite influence in the region, most notably that of Shi'ite Iran. Anti-Assad activists in Syria reported army shelling and clashes with rebels on Monday in Deir Ezzor, Deraa, Homs, Aleppo and a neighborhood of Damascus. Residents also reported the sound of gunfire in the capital. An activist website said over 100 Syrians had been killed on Sunday, most of them civilians. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Sunday that Syrian opposition forces were growing more effective and the sooner the violence ended, the better the chances of sparing Syria's government a "catastrophic assault" by rebel fighters were. While Assad has faced sanctions and international condemnation over his crackdown on dissent, major Western and Arab powers have shied away from direct military action. Turkey has reinforced its border and scrambled fighter aircraft several times since Syria shot down a Turkish reconnaissance jet on June 22 over what Damascus said were Syrian territorial waters in the Mediterranean. Ankara said the incident occurred in international air space. "SAND RUNNING OUT" "The sooner there can be an end to the violence and a beginning of a political transition process, not only will fewer people die, but there is a chance to save the Syrian state from a catastrophic assault that would be very dangerous not only to Syria but to the region," Clinton told a Tokyo news conference. She appeared to be referring to the possibility of Syrian rebels launching such an assault on state institutions rather than to any outside intervention. "There is no doubt that the opposition is getting more effective in their defense of themselves and in going on the offence against the Syrian military and the Syrian government's militias. So, the future ... should be abundantly clear to those who support the Assad regime," Clinton added. "The sand is running out of the hour glass." Syria's navy fired live missiles from ships and helicopters over the weekend, in an exercise aimed at demonstrating its ability to "defend Syria's shores against any possible aggression", state media said. Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said residents of al-Sharifa in the wider Deir Ezzor province on Sunday reported that rebels had captured a working tank for the first time and were using it to attack army positions. The rebels have gained confidence in recent weeks, staging bolder attacks, holding pockets of territory across the country and clashing with troops only a few miles from the presidential palace in Damascus.

Video: Taliban shoot woman 9 times

A shot rings out, but the burqa-clad woman sitting on the rocky ground does not respond. The man pointing a rifle at her from a few feet away lets loose another round, but still there is no reaction. He fires a third shot, and finally the woman slumps backwards. But the man fires another shot. And another. And another.Nine shots in all. Around him, dozens of men on a hillside cheer: "God is great!" Officials in Afghanistan, where the amateur video was filmed, believe the woman was executed because two Taliban commanders had a dispute over her, according to the governor of the province where the killing took place. Both apparently had some kind of relationship with the woman, said Parwan province governor Abdul Basir Salangi. "In order to save face," they accused her of adultery, Salangi said. Then they "faked a court to decide about the fate of this woman and in one hour, they executed the woman," he added. Both Taliban commanders were subsequently killed by a third Taliban commander, Salangi said. "We went there to investigate and we are still looking for people who were involved in this brutal act," he said. It is not clear from the video when it was filmed. The killing took place in the village of Qimchok, not far north of the capital Kabul. Lawmaker Fawzia Koofi called it a huge backward step for women's issues in Afghanistan. "I think we will have to do something serious about this, we will have to do something as women, but also as human beings," she said. "She didn't even say one word to defend herself." Koofi wept on Saturday as she watched the video of the execution. The United States condemned the killing "in the strongest possible terms," calling it a "cold-blooded murder." "The protection of women's rights is critical around the world, but especially in Afghanistan, where such rights were ignored, attacked and eroded under Taliban rule," the American embassy said in a statement on Sunday. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan also condemned the execution. "Let's be clear, this wasn't justice, this was murder, and an atrocity of unspeakable cruelty," ISAF commander Gen. John Allen said in a statement Sunday. "The Taliban's continued brutality toward innocent civilians, particularly women, must be condemned in the strongest terms. There has been too much progress made by too many brave Afghans, especially on the part of women, for this kind of criminal behavior to be tolerated." The public execution is the latest and among the most shocking examples of violence against women in Afghanistan, but it is far from an isolated case. The Taliban also does not have a monopoly on the violence, cautioned Christine Fair, with the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University. "It's really important to not see this exclusively in terms of the Taliban, but this is a set of practices that actually have existed and continue to exist throughout Afghanistan," she said. Nearly nine out of 10 women suffer physical, sexual, or psychological violence or forced marriage at least once in their lifetimes, Human Rights Watch said in its 2012 annual report. The country has 14 shelters for abused women, a number which the campaign group says "does not meet even a small fraction of the need." Hundreds of students and teachers at girls' schools in the country have been hospitalized with suspected poisoning this year alone. Girls were forbidden to go to school when the Taliban ruled the country from 1996 to 2001. Salangi, the provincial governor, spoke to CNN about the killing on Sunday, the same day that representatives of more than 80 nations and organizations met to consider pouring billions more aid dollars into the country. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged delegates including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton not to demand complex reforms in exchange for the money. "Afghan institutions are still in their nascent stages," he said. "The very programs which offer the best hope of sustainability of Afghan institutions should not be held hostage to complex preconditions." Clinton said donors at the conference pledged about $16 billion for Afghanistan over four years. That amount did not include money from the United States because any foreign aid must be approved by Congress. Under a security pact with Afghanistan, nearly all U.S.-led NATO troops will withdraw from the country by the end of 2014. "We can ask the question what will happen when we leave, but let's remember that this is actually happening while we're still there," said Fair, with Georgetown.

Will more money solve Afghanistan's problems?
Donors at a conference on Afghanistan have pledged to give it $16bn in civilian aid over four years, in an attempt to safeguard its future after foreign forces leave in 2014.The pledge came as Afghanistan agreed to new conditions to deal with endemic corruption. The Afghan economy relies heavily on international development and military assistance, becoming particularly dependent on foreign donations since the US invasion in 2001. It is one of the world's 10 poorest countries and has received nearly $60bn in civilian aid since 2002. According to the World Bank, foreign aid makes up to 97 per cent of the country's gross domestic product. And 90 per cent of the Afghan government's funding comes from foreign sources - which as the World Bank has warned - makes it particularly vulnerable to economic collapse if international donors pull funding too fast. According to the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the US is by far the largest donor with official development assistance reaching nearly $3bn between 2009 and 2010. Japan, the second-largest donor, gave over half a billion dollars to Afghanistan during the same period, and is expected to provide up to $3bn by 2016. Germany and Britain come next as major donors - they said they will maintain aid funding levels to Afghanistan. Its neighbouring countries are also among the 70 countries and organisations attending the donors' conference. It is hard to verify figures but Iran said, in 2010, it provided $500m for reconstruction projects such as religious schools. And Pakistan announced in May this year that it gave $20m to help the country 'build itself and fight against the militants', this money was used to support Afghan security forces. As for India, it recently pledged $500m in aid - a move likely to raise Pakistani fears about Indian influence in Afghanistan. So, why does the world continue to be so generous with Afghanistan despite past blunders? Inside Story, with presenter Sohail Rahman, discusses with guests: Janan Mosazai, the spokesman for the Afghan foreign ministry; Waheed Omer, a political commentator and former spokesman for the Afghan president Hamid Karzai; and Omar Samad, from the the think tank, US Institute of Peace, also a former spokesman for the Afghan foreign ministry and a former Afghan ambassador to Canada and France. "Just as we met in Chicago three months ago to safeguard Afghanistan's security future, today we have chartered a way forward for Afghanistan's economic requirements. I believe we have made a good committment to putting Afghanistan on a path to economic self-sufficiency. As Afghanistan's capacity and revenues increase, our contributions can decline."Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state.

$16 Billion in Civilian Aid Pledged to Afghanistan, With Conditions

An international donor’s conference on Sunday pledged $16 billion for the economic development of Afghanistan in the next four years, but for the first time made it a condition that the Afghan government reduce corruption before receiving all of the money. The agreement, called the Tokyo Framework of Mutual Accountability, says that foreign governments will assure Afghanistan a steady stream of financing in exchange for stronger anticorruption measures and the establishment of the rule of law. Up to 20 percent of the money would depend on the government meeting governance standards, according to the document, which was released here on Sunday. The money pledge, along with the plans for the Afghan security forces laid out at a NATO summit meeting in May in Chicago, represent a diplomatic success for American officials, who have lobbied for long-term international support for Afghanistan. There had been concerns that the economic crunch in the West and donor fatigue would leave President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and his American backers scrambling to come up with the money needed to run and secure Afghanistan, where the government’s expenses far outstrip its revenues. Addressing the conference here in Tokyo, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the lives of all Afghan civilians needed to improve after a decade of war. To accomplish that goal, a number of steps were needed, she said. “That must include fighting corruption, improving governance, strengthening the rule of law, increasing access to economic opportunity for all Afghans, especially for women,” she said. Mr. Karzai, who is under increasing pressure from international donors to fight corruption, including within his extended family, acknowledged in his own speech to the conference that corruption had undermined the legitimacy of his government. But Afghans were not the only ones responsible for corruption, he said: “We will fight corruption with strong resolve where it occurs and ask the same of our international partners.” Representatives of more than 70 countries attended the conference. Mrs. Clinton did not specify how much the United States would contribute to the $16 billion, saying that Washington would maintain its level of financing. The Obama administration request to Congress for Afghan civilian assistance for 2013 was $2.5 billion, slightly more than the $2.2 billion that lawmakers approved for 2012. Congress, given budget constraints and public weariness with the war in Afghanistan, would almost certainly appropriate less than the $2.5 billion requested, American analysts said. The United States is the biggest donor to Afghanistan’s economic development programs. Japan, the host of the conference, announced a pledge of $5 billion over five years. Germany, another large contributor, would give an estimated $550 million for the next four years, said Dirk Niebel, the minister for economic cooperation and development. Diplomats at the conference said they were pleased with the pledge of $16 billion. The Japanese government said international donors had spent $35 billion on economic development in Afghanistan in the past decade, about twice that committed on Sunday for the next four years. With recession in Europe and war fatigue in the United States, the possibility of cutbacks in aid for infrastructure projects, schools and health clinics seemed real, several diplomats said. Before the Tokyo conference, the Afghan government trimmed estimates of what it said it needed in order to fit the outcome on Sunday. The governor of the Afghan Central Bank said several weeks ago that up to $7 billion annually would be needed to accelerate economic development. Last week, Mr. Karzai said $4 billion would be sufficient, and the World Bank estimated that Afghanistan needed $3.9 billion a year through 2024 to boost development. Money for the Afghan Army and police forces is separate from that raised in Tokyo. Financing for the Afghan security forces after 2014 is expected to total about $4.1 billion a year. Beyond the $16 billion, other financing that has been pumped into the Afghan economy through the decade of war would be reduced as countries withdraw military and diplomatic personnel in the next few years, said Brian Katulis, a senior fellow for national security at the Center for American Progress in Washington. “With many countries heading for the exits and drawing down both military and diplomatic personnel in the next few years, the Afghan government is going to see a reduction in the amount of money it gets from the international community in any case,” Mr. Katulis said. If the Afghan authorities fail to do a better job curbing corruption, “then the whole framework for international support could collapse,” he said. After addressing the conference Mrs. Clinton met with the Pakistani foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, for a one-on-one discussion, their first meeting since Pakistan, seven months ago, closed down the route that the United States military uses to transport supplies to Afghanistan. Last week, the route was reopened after Mrs. Clinton issued a statement saying that the United States was “sorry” for the deaths of two dozen Pakistani soldiers in American airstrikes last November. The route’s closing forced Washington to redirect supplies at a cost of more than $1 billion, and threatened to hurt the United States’ counterterrorism efforts. In the meeting with Ms. Khar, and at a later session with Ms. Khar and the Afghan foreign minister, Zalmai Rassoul, Mrs. Clinton emphasized again the need for Pakistan to shut down the Haqqani terrorist network that has mounted attacks in Afghanistan against American and NATO targets, a senior State Department official said.

Saudi's 'Barbie' princess makes shock UK asylum bid

A Saudi princess, the granddaughter of the nation's founder, is seeking asylum in Britain over fears she could be persecuted by members of her family at home, the Sunday Telegraph reported. Princess Sara bint Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, also known as the "Barbie" princess due to her pampered upbringing, said she had also applied to Britain's Home Office for political asylum for her four daughters, according to the report. The ministry said it would not comment on individual cases. "With deep regret, and as I have been left with no other choice, I have written to the UK Home Office to indicate that I, and my children, wish to be granted political asylum," she said in a statement. "My reputation has been besmirched in the media by a baseless and malicious smear campaign. "For years I have endured all this in silence, while trying to resolve my situation with dignity through the normal channels, without fanfare or publicity." The divorced princess currently lives in London after moving to Britain in 2007 following a falling-out with her 80-year-old father prince Talal bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud. It is the first time such a claim has been made by a senior member of the ruling family. Sara, 38, believes senior Saudi officials plotted to have her kidnapped and brought back to Riyadh and claims they subjected her to a "well orchestrated and malicious campaign of persecution". "I've been physically abused," she told the newspaper. "They've accused me of being in opposition (to them) with Iran. I am very scared right now." Her passport expired two years after arriving in Britain, and she is now facing deportation as her visa has also run out. Britain has to decide if her claims are valid and risk sparking a diplomatic spat by accepting her request. Tensions are currently high within the Saudi royal family due to the illness of King Abdullah and the recent death of Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud. The deceased prince supported Sara as he was also opposed to her father, and it was reported that his recent death may have sparked the asylum request. A Saudi embassy diplomat confirmed the embassy had been involved in visa negotiations. "This matter is of a personal nature so there is only so much the government can do," the diplomat told the paper. "It's not a political matter."

Saudi Princess Seeks UK Asylum
Saudi Arabia’s Princess Sara bint Talal bin Abdulaziz is seeking asylum in the UK for herself and her children over fears they will not be safe back home. In applying for asylum, the divorced mother-of-four says she faces persecution by members of her family and also some of Saudi Arabia’s authorities. “My reputation has been besmirched in the media by a baseless and malicious smear campaign,” the princess said in press statement. “For years I have endured all this in silence, while trying to resolve my situation with dignity through the normal channels, without fanfare or publicity. But my pleas to the Saudi authorities in the Kingdom have been obstructed and denied, and the Saudi embassy in London has turned its back on me.”Princess Sara went on to say that she has “nothing but respect for my uncle King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and the people of Saudi Arabia”. “All I have ever sought is my legitimate rights, so that my children and I can resume our lives with dignity and I can resume my civil society and development work.” According to the Sunday Telegraph, a Saudi embassy diplomat said: “The embassy has been involved in settling her visa issue and residency issue in the UK. We have tried to settle this issue. “This matter is of a personal nature so there is only so much the government can do. It’s not a political matter.”

Saudi regime forces kill two demonstrators

Security forces in Saudi Arabia have killed two demonstrators in the country’s Eastern Province, which has been a major scene of anti-regime protests over the past months. The Riyadh regime forces opened fire on a demonstration in the Qatif region of the province on Sunday. The victims were identified as Akbar Hassan Shakhouri and Mohammedredha Felfel, who were among the protesters demonstrating against the detention of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nemr al-Nemr, who was attacked in his car upon arrest earlier in the day. Several other protesters were also injured in the deadly incident. Since February 2011, protesters have held demonstrations on an almost regular basis in Saudi Arabia, mainly in Qatif and the town of Awamiyah in the Eastern Province, calling for the release of all political prisoners, freedom of expression and assembly, and an end to widespread discrimination. However, the demonstrations have turned into protests against the Al Saud regime, especially since November 2011, when Saudi security forces killed five protesters and injured many others in the Eastern Province. Similar demonstrations have also been held in the capital, Riyadh, and the holy city of Medina over the past few weeks. The Saudi Interior Ministry issued a statement on March 5, 2011, prohibiting “all forms of demonstrations, marches or protests, and calls for them.” According to the Human Rights Watch, the Saudi regime “routinely represses expression critical of the government.”

‘Jihadists’ recruit and raise funds openly in Rawalpindi

The Express Tribune
Militants fighting Indian rule in Kashmir and US-led foreign forces in Afghanistan are brazenly raising funds and recruiting potential fighters in cities and towns of Pakistan. Al-Badr Mujahideen, a breakaway faction of Hizbul Mujahideen group, organised a two-day ‘Shuada Conference’ in the Swan Adda area of Rawalpindi on Sunday to seek recruits and raise funds. The group’s chief Bakht Zameen Khan told 1,000-plus supporters at the conference that his commanders have sought resources to keep the ‘jihad’ going in Kashmir and Afghanistan. “Our commanders in Kashmir and Afghanistan say they will carry out big attacks if they are provided with resources. They have the spirit but they are facing a shortage of supplies.” The group’s supporters from Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Jammu and Kashmir attended the conference where Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) and Al Badar Mujahideen had set up stalls to sell propaganda CDs and ‘jihadi’ literature. Entry for journalists was restricted. Mid-level leaders from Hizbul Mujhiadeen, HIA, Jamaatud Dawa and other militant groups spoke at the conference. Bakht Zameen condemned the reopening of Nato transit routes. “We were very happy when the routes were closed. But the rulers gave in to the US pressure,” he claimed. “The government should not side with infidels because it will create anarchy in the country,” he added. He quashed the impression that ‘jihadi outfits’ were doing the bidding of Pakistan’s security establishment. “We should quell such propaganda. Our financiers have withdrawn their support following harassment. But still we have sympathisers,” he added. The terrorist label Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin told the conference that Pakistan has been encircled by the United States and its Nato allies. “Pakistan is the target of the US-Israeli nexus. Our fighters are defending Pakistan at a time when its geographical boundaries, its security and Islamic identity are at risk,” he said. Salahuddin condemned the killing of innocent civilians in terrorist attacks. “We are fighting in Kashmir. It doesn’t matter to us if we are labelled terrorists. We are proud to be called terrorists for fighting the US and its allies in Afghanistan,” he added.

Pakistan's Chief Justice's ''‘New’ political theory''

The Supreme Court (SC) in its detailed judgement on Yousaf Raza Gilani’s contempt of court case has enunciated a ‘new’ political theory that the constitution is supreme, even over parliament. This theory has been reiterated by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry while addressing a ceremony in Karachi. The theory rests on the notion that the concept of parliament’s supremacy is ‘outdated’. The CJP has gone so far as to claim that even the highest court in the UK has declared that the idea of parliament’s supremacy is not in consonance with the times. Perhaps, but has that view led to the abandonment of parliament’s supremacy in the UK? The British constitution is unwritten, its polity relying on conventions that are so deeply ingrained that anyone trying to violate them suffers adverse consequences at the hands of the people. In the UK, the aphorism is often quoted that parliament can declare a woman a man and it cannot be challenged. That light hearted explanation of the unfettered supremacy of parliament stands unchallenged in the oldest democracy in the world, as well as all other later democracies. The constitution is framed by the elected representatives of the people (parliament) and its author is empowered to amend it. Such amendments usually flow from new developments and evolution based on the experience of democratic societies. Can the author, and the institution with the inherent power to amend it, be subject or inferior to its own creation? This is standing logic on its head. The ‘will of the people’, which the SC and the CJP are fond of quoting as something that only the superior judiciary, in its undeniable wisdom, is qualified to define, is reflected in the representatives the people send to the assemblies. There can be no two interpretations of this fact, especially not a ‘mythical’ will of the people that only the superior judiciary is privy to, and may be contradictory to the people’s political expression through democratic elections. It must not be forgotten that despite its position as the final interpreter of the constitution, the judiciary is not an elected institution. If it were to be conceded that the constitution is supreme, over and above even parliament, and given that the judiciary is the sole interpreter of that constitution, this would open the door to judicial dictation. As to the constitution as it stands, there is considerable room for dissatisfaction with many of its features. For example, Article 63, which the SC relied on to convict Gilani, is one of the remaining hangovers of General Ziaul Haq’s amendments, which arguably distorted its character from what the original framers of the basic law intended or put down. So-called ‘Islamic’ provisions, including Articles 62 and 63 that lay down moral (religious?) criteria for the qualification and disqualification of members of parliament respectively, have led, amongst other factors, to an intolerant society relying on narrow interpretations of religious injunctions. Even the 18th Amendment was unable to do away with these Zia-added provisions because those of a mindset close to the late dictator refused to go along. A close examination of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnh’s ideas shows that the constitution as it stands, with its religious connotations, bares little resemblance to the tolerant and inclusive vision he had. The ideas expressed in the detailed judgement of the SC in Gilani’s contempt case and the reiteration of these views by the CJP may be well intentioned, an underlining of the need to adhere to the provisions of the constitution as it stands, but they run the risk of setting up the creation over and above the creator, and opening the door to the judiciary being actually superior to all other institutions as the final arbiter of the basic law of the land. That way lies judicial tyranny, a scary prospect at any time, but especially worrying in the present context, when the restored judiciary has been criticised for being ‘overactive’ and stepping onto the turf of the executive and parliament, two institutions of state that enjoy their own purview under the doctrine of the separation of powers in a democratic polity. The worst part is that these newfound doctrines of the superior judiciary may have less to do with high constitutional principles and more to do with the immediate state of confrontation between the government and the judiciary. Such expedient conceptualisation must be avoided in favour of solid precedent and established principles that have guided democratic polities since they emerged in human history.

CJ’s remarks

CHIEF Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry on Saturday fired the latest salvo in the perceived escalating fight between the superior judiciary and the PPP-led federal government. The Supreme Court, according to Justice Chaudhry, can strike down any legislation that is incompatible with the fundamental rights guaranteed under the constitution. While this is a well-established principle, the timing of Justice Chaudhry’s comments is impossible to ignore: the chief justice’s dilation on the ins and outs of the constitution came in a week that the government proposed legislation to protect its constitutional office-holders from suffering the same fate as former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani suffered recently. Unfortunate as it is that the past judicial practice of justices speaking only from the bench and through their judgments has been discarded in recent years, the comments by the chief justice come very close to pre-empting the legislative process. Astonishingly, however, the chief justice did not just stop there: he indicated that the supremacy of parliament was ‘out of place in the modern era’, the constitution itself enjoying pre-eminence over the will of parliament. This is explosive, particularly given the backdrop of the judiciary-government battles. Start with the claim that the constitution, not parliament, is supreme, add the corollary that the SC is the final and unquestioned interpreter of what the constitution does or does not permit — and suddenly Pakistan is in the realm of a supreme judiciary, an unelected institution dictating the contract by which state and society interact. This would be a fundamental shift in the way Pakistan’s constitutional arrangement is imagined and it is quite extraordinary that a serving chief justice would see fit to make such a pronouncement outside a judicial forum. In the SC, the chief justice is the administrative head but his vote is equal to that wielded by any other justice in any given case. Surely, then, at the very least, this is a matter to be decided before a full court, if and when the matter comes before the court. But returning to the issue of fundamental rights guaranteed in the constitution, why is it that the court keeps invoking fundamental rights when it comes to engaging with the government instead of concentrating on securing the fundamental rights of the people? Why not focus on the broken judicial system in which the average complainant has virtually no hope of ever getting justice, and none of getting it on time? Why not focus on the abysmally low rate of successful prosecution that allows criminals to walk free? Must the court be so obviously selective?

22 Balochistan journalists killed in four years

A workshop on ‘Media and Civil Society in Balochistan’ was informed on Sunday that the media in Balochistan was not free and journalists on professional duty often faced harassment at the hands of influential elements and different pressure groups active in the province. According to figures presented at the workshop, at least 22 journalists have been killed in the province during the past four years. The Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) had organised the workshop in collaboration with the Association for Integrated Development. CRSS executive director Imtiaz Gul said journalists faced challenges and difficulties in reporting and it was the duty of the state and non-state forces to spare the media from their rivalries and not to subject them to intimidation. He praised the media for working in difficult circumstances and paid homage to media people who lost their lives while performing their duty. Addressing the workshop, Quetta Press Club general secretary Abdul Khaliq Rind said the entire province had become a battleground. “You cannot look at media’s work in isolation. You cannot write about any group. It is very difficult for all of us,” he said. He said that decades of discrimination had resulted in intellectual and economic backwardness of the province. Khalil Ahmed of DawnNews said: “We don’t have access to information. We cannot even report corruption cases.”Journalists, he said, had been sandwiched between corrupt officials and extremist groups because they faced threats from both if they reported about their wrongdoings. He said that because of the geographical importance of the region international and regional powers were active in Balochistan to protect their interests. Irfan Rana of the Express Group said: “Whenever journalists report something, pressure groups ask them to amend it and warn them of dire consequences if their ‘orders’ are not obeyed.” Irshad Mastoi of Online news agency said: “All resistance movements approach us for coverage and political parties and some institutions consider the media as a resistance group.” He accused political leaders of forcing reporters to cover their ‘press releases’. Shahid Rind of ARY TV said the media faced pressures from powerful institutions, political leaders, militants and criminals. “We get diktat from all stakeholders, so we cannot follow journalistic rules and face threats and censure,” he said, adding “there are red lines and we cannot dare to be objective in reporting”. Abdullah Baloch of WASH TV said objective reporting was the biggest challenge as all forces put pressure and journalists could not report objectively. Even NGOs and trade unions put pressure on journalists to file reports in accordance with their instructions, he said, adding that no journalist was secure in Balochistan. Akbar Sheikh said if jobs were given to thousands of unemployed graduates in Balochistan it would help make society tolerant. Dr Ishaq Baloch of the National Party, senior journalist Shehzada Zulfiqar, Liaquat Ali, Aslam Baloch, Arshad Jan and Hammad Sanjrani also spoke.

Pakistan’s New Prime Minister Faces Widespread Scorn

Poor Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.
Anywhere else, the prime minister would have been praised for resolving months of deadlock with an ally as important as the United States. But last week, Ashraf was met with nothing but scorn when Pakistan agreed to reopen key supply routes to Afghanistan following a U.S. apology for a NATO airstrike last November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.The announcement couldn’t have come at a worse time for the 61-year-old newly elected prime minister. According to recent polls, some 74 percent of Pakistanis now view the U.S. as an enemy, while some 40 percent say American aid has had a “mostly negative” impact on their country. Capitalizing on this sentiment, several opposition parties have already criticized the government’s decision to make amends with America. And Ashraf, an amiable two-term member of Parliament, has become the convenient recipient of this wrath—despite widespread speculation that no decision on reopening the supply routes could have been made without the Army’s permission. This is hardly the first time that Ashraf has served as a scapegoat for Pakistan’s problems. Although he is widely supported by the government’s ruling coalition, Ashraf is Pakistan’s former federal water and power minister, and has long been hated by average Pakistanis for his inability to curb the country’s crippling power outages. These chronic, nationwide blackouts have resulted in mass protests and serve as daily reminders of the government’s failure to deliver on its most basic commitments. The reaction to Ashraf can be so virulent at times that many believe his Pakistan Peoples Party may be forced to call early elections and subsequently lose influence. What ultimately may doom Ashraf, however, is an intensifying quarrel between the government and Pakistan’s Supreme Court. As it stands, members of the court seem to dislike him. In March they declared that all power projects implemented on his watch were illegal. And because of Ashraf’s perceived loyalty to President Asif Ali Zardari, his election last month—he won 70 percent of the vote in the National Assembly—was seen by the court as a provocation, according to analysts.The court has long wanted the government to request that Swiss authorities reopen money-laundering charges against Zardari. Last month, the justices sacked Ashraf’s predecessor, Yousaf Raza Gilani, for allegedly refusing to take such action. The court has never charged Ashraf with any crimes, but that could change on July 12 when he must formally inform the judiciary whether he intends to let the Swiss investigate the president. Meanwhile, the Lahore High Court has asked Zardari to either relinquish his post as president or give up his party’s leadership to maintain the neutrality of his office. No matter what he decides, Ashraf, the country’s 25th prime minister, could become a casualty in the process. And the government may soon be looking for prime minister No. 26.