Monday, July 9, 2012
http://www.aljazeera.comDonors 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.
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.
http://www.therightperspective.orgSaudi 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.”
The Express TribuneMilitants 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.
EDITORIAL: DAILY TIMESThe 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.
EDITORIALCHIEF 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?