Monday, July 16, 2012

Obama 'Won't Be Apologizing' for Bain Attacks on Romney
Republicans continue to call on President Obama and his campaign to give an apology for questioning Mitt Romney's role at Bain Capital. They won't be getting one. "No, we won't be apologizing," the president said in an interview aired today. "Sometimes these games are played during political campaigns. Understand what the issues are here: Mr Romney claims he's Mr. Fix-it for the economy because of his business experience, so I think voters entirely legitimately want to know what is exactly his business experience."

One-on-one with President Obama:

Speaking to NBC's Richmond, Va., affiliate station, WAVY-TV, Obama invoked a past White House occupant in an argument he has used for days on the campaign trail. "Harry Truman said 'the buck stops with me,' and I think understandably people are going to be interested in are you in fact responsible for this company you say is one of your primary calling cards for your wanting to be President," he said. On Thursday an Obama campaign manager upped the ante on Romney's final days at Bain Capital by suggesting the Republican candidate had either lied to the public or misrepresented "his position at Bain to the SEC, which is a felony," by saying he had left the company in 1999. Romney gave five network interviews to defend himself, stating the Obama campaign had gone "out of control."

One-on-one with President Obama:

That spokeswoman doubled down on the attack today by stating there was no point in "arguing the semantics" of whether he was officially active at the firm during the time. "If you're signing an SEC document with your own signature that you're the president, C.E.O., chairman of the board and 100 percent owner of a company, in what world are you living in that you're not in charge?" Stephanie Cutter said on CBS. On ABC's "This Week," former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel put it another way: "As president of the United States you can't have a sign on your desk that says, 'Gone fishing,'" the Chicago mayor said. Emanuel and Cutter had come to represent the Democratic side in the row at the heart of the issue: Whether Romney could be held responsible for layoffs and outsourcing at Bain properties after he supposedly left to manage the U.S. Olympic Committee. On the other side of the table: Romney adviser Kevin Madden. "The reason there is a document in 2002 that had his signature is, during that transition from 1999 to 2002 where there was transfer of ownership to the new partners of Bain, that there was a duty to sign those documents," Madden said. "Even a bipartisan commission indicated Governor Romney left Bain in 1999." It is a fact that Romney remained at the company until at least 2002, according to SEC filings obtained by the Boston Globe. But some independent fact checking organizations have criticized the reporting of Romney's role at the time, stating there was no evidence to say he took part in any decision-making processes. Republicans have seized on those articles, demanding an apology from the Obama campaign. Madden repeated the call, but Cutter maintained it was out of the question. "Instead of whining about what the Obama campaign is saying, just put the facts out there and let people decide, rather than trying to hide them," she said. Cutter and Emanuel both referenced Romney's refusal to release any tax returns dating before 2010, which would shed light onto the nature of overseas holdings the candidate possessed. "You've learned in just one year about the Caymans, about the Bahamas, about Luxembourg, and about Switzerland, all where his tax and different accounts are," Emanuel said. "His tax - his tax filing looks more like the Olympic Village than it does like a middle-class family." Madden said Romney had "gone above and beyond" financial disclosure laws required of candidates, releasing "hundreds and hundreds of pages of financial disclosures with the FEC." On CNN, another Romney surrogate, Ed Gillepsie, said the candidate's departure for the Olympics was originally planned as a "leave of absence." "He ended up not going back at all and retired retroactively to February of 1999 as a result," Gillepsie said. The statement has set the liberal blogosphere ablaze, "Ed Gillepsie" and "#retroactively" holding positions in the top 10 U.S. Twitter trends as of press time.

95 %Pakistanis see themselves in trouble

Ninety five per cent Pakistanis believe they are in financial trouble and blame their government for the same, says a US survey. About 10 per cent blame banks and financial institutions, 32 per cent blame the world’s biggest scapegoat, the United States, while two per cent also blame the European Union. A large minority, 33 per cent, blame themselves for the situation they are in. The survey, by Washington’s Pew Research Institute, shows that 70 per cent Pakistanis in 2008 believed they were in “good personal economic situation.” It reduced to 51 per cent 2012, a 19 per cent decline in four years. In 2008, 41 per cent Pakistanis believed their country was in a “good national economic situation.” It reduced to nine per cent in 2012, registering 32 per cent decline in four years. Despite the problems they are facing, most Pakistanis continue to believe that they are better off in free market economy. In 2002, 50 per cent Pakistan believed in the free market, 60 per cent in 2007, 65 per cent in 2009, 64 per cent in 2010, and 48 per cent in 2012. But the figures do show a 12 per cent decline in their trust in the free market. In 2002, 49 per cent had little satisfaction with the country’s economic direction, which reduced to 29 per cent in 2003 but improved to 54 per cent in 2004. In 2005, it reduced to 57 per cent, and in 2006 to 35 per cent. It slightly improved to 39 per cent in 2007 but reduced to 25 per cent in 2008. The biggest fall came in 2009 when the Pakistanis’ confidence in their economic direction reduced to just nine per cent. In 2010, it improved to 14 per cent but again fell to six per cent in 2011 and improved to 12 per cent in 2012. Pakistanis who see their national economic condition as good have been reduced from 59 to nine per cent in less than five years. In 2002, 49 per cent said they had confidence in their national economic condition. In 2007 it improved to 59 per cent, but in 2008, it reduced to 41 per cent, in 2009 to 22 per cent, in 2010 to 18, in 2011 to 12. And in 2012 it hit the rock bottom with only nine per cent saying they see their national economic condition as good. Only 26 per cent Pakistanis believe the situation will improve. Twenty-three per cent say it will remain the same while 43 per cent say it will worsen. Only nine per cent Pakistani say their personal economic condition is better than the country’s. Asked how were they doing now compared to five years ago, 23 per cent Pakistanis said they were financially better off, 17 per cent said they were about the same and 57 per cent said they were worse off. Asked how was their standard of living as compared to their parents at the same age, 38 per cent said better, 16 per cent said about the same and 42 per cent said it was worse. Despite the hardships they face, an overwhelming number of Pakistanis, 81 per cent, believe hard work is the key to success. Only15 per cent say it is not.


After long, the Awami National Party made an attempt to strengthen the on-going political process by organizing a public meeting in Kuchlak to mobilize public opinion ahead of the election process. Since it was a democratic party and got the right to approach the people to win over their support for its political programme. Enemies of the democratic forces and democratic polity obstructed this political process by attacking the public meeting with a time device killing nine people and injuring 22 others, including the Provincial ANP President and his wife, also a known political activist. A least known militant outfit claiming to be Lashkar Mujahideen-i-Islam had carried out the bomb attack killing and wounding score of political workers and activists. ANP had been the victim of terrorism in KPK and a serious suicide attack was made on party President only for not being a fanatic or not believing in fascist ideology. A strong section of Pakistani establishment hates the politics of liberalism, Baloch, Pakhtun and Sindhi nationalism, or Pakistani nationalism or patriotism and support the fascists and fanatic elements who are given a free hand to hold huge public rallies, public meetings in any part of Pakistan. The DPC meetings and rallies in all parts of Pakistan are a proved that the establishment is still supporting Jihadi elements and allowing Tsunami Khan to hold meetings and rallies anywhere in Pakistan as their politics suits the establishment and opposed to PPP, ANP and PML-N. All those political forces not supporting the Afghan Jihad are subject to terrorist attacks. It is the clear message conveyed to the political forces by bombing the ANP meeting. We believe that the bomb attack on the ANP public meeting is nothing but a terrorist attack on the political process in Balochistan and elsewhere disallowing the liberal and nationalist forces to play their destined role in Balochistan. On the contrary, religious, fanatics and obscurantist elements are allowed to do politics, retain their national and provincial assembly seats for more than a decade and others are not allowed to contact their own political constituents as it was disapproved by the establishment for strategic reasons. Such a policy will harm Pakistan, not benefit the country, it is our considered opinion and there must be a change in state policy by allowing the political forces to take the driving seat in the Pakistani administration and sending all the anti-democratic forces to take the back seat. Let’s politicians or men from representative democracy rule this country. The public servants merely should obey the orders from elected representatives governing Pakistan.

Pakistan:Power generation by provinces, private sector

According to a Business Recorder exclusive report, the federal government is considering ending the constitutional restriction of not allowing provinces and private sector to generate more than 50 MW without federal approval with the objective of enhancing generation capacity. This, according to informed sources, is being labeled as an out of the box solution to the ongoing crippling energy problem in the country. It is evident that this out of the box solution has not been well thought out at all. While granted that the provinces and the private sector should be allowed to produce electricity without a maximum limit but the power is to be distributed through the national grid which is under the control of the federal government. In other words work is required to draft agreements, after discussions with all stakeholders required to ensure the success of such a proposal. In the absence of such a policy this proposal is not so much an out of the box as out of the realm of possibility in the near future solution. Be that as it may, assuming that a draft is agreed the critical question is whether this alone would be able to resolve the crisis? The third-party audit on rental power projects undertaken by the Asian Development Bank concluded that the major problem with the energy sector is not one of generation, though total capacity generation was acknowledged to be lower than demand. However, it was argued that the shortfall should not have resulted in more than a couple of hours of loadshedding per day, but that of inability to operate at capacity. And this is due to the massive rise of circular debt premised on a 70 to 80 percent monthly utility bills collections with the federal and provincial governments the main defaulters, followed by influential private individuals as well as Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Circular debt thus continues to compromise the liquidity in the power sector thereby disabling Pakistan State Oil (PSO) from paying for the needed fuel imports. At present, five Independent Power Producers are in court seeking their due amounts from federal government entities. Additionally, massive distribution and transmission losses as well as theft of electricity also add to the woes of this sector. The power sector also complains that the price set for electricity is way below the cost of producing electricity - a cost that is rising commensurate with the rise in fuel in the international marketplace. Additionally, our energy mix is steadily tilting in favour of thermal generation (as a percentage of total energy produced) over other cheaper sources of fuel resulting in cost of production of electricity rising at a fast clip. Given this background the multilaterals led by the World Bank proposed a set of power sector reforms considered critical to resolving the energy crisis in 2008 under the Stand-By Arrangement with the International Monetary Fund, that Pakistan's government agreed to in writing in its Letter of Intent. The reforms included eliminating subsidies notably inter-disco tariff differential that is in effect a subsidy to the poorly performing discos, a conditionality that a political government, as expected, has been unable to meet. Ensuring 100 percent collections of utility bills could have been implemented but the government seems to have shied away from implementing this as well. The Sindh government as the single largest defaulter owes in excess of 50 billion rupees and federal minister Khurshid Shah who hails from Sindh was charged with the responsibility to discuss the issue with the Sindh Chief Minister. However, a meeting between the two has yet to take place on the matter. Distribution and transmission losses due to old equipment or deliberate theft in which the linesmen are complicit have also not been dealt with proactively with many in the power sector complaining that when they proceed to disconnect defaulters they are ruthlessly beaten up and no protection provided to them. Thus the power issue is serious but a large part can be dealt with through ensuring that the circular debt is eliminated through improved policing and discussions with large defaulters.

Pakistan: A beleaguered government

Prime Minister (PM) Raja Pervez Ashraf delivered a sobering message while inaugurating the Khan Khawar Hydropower Project in Bisham the other day. The PM pointed to the anomaly in our history that military dictators had remained in power for ten years at a time but no one stopped them from their unconstitutional actions, while the present elected government has been unnecessarily targeted. He asked the opposition parties to come forward for holding free, fair and transparent elections, this being the only process through which politicians could come to power. No effort should be made to destabilise the government, the PM argued, as there was a crying need for collective efforts to steer the country out of crisis. That is why, the PM continued, a consensus Chief Election Commissioner has been appointed because “we do not want any hanky panky in the polling process”. He then went on to discuss the energy crisis, arguing that increased hydropower generation promised the best solution for the country’s energy deficit. He reminded his audience that late prime minister Benazir Bhutto was criticised when she initiated the Independent Power Producers (IPPs) concept in her second term, a policy that clearly has proved its worth with the passage of time and prevented an even worse energy crisis by now. Apart from the Neelum-Jehlum, Dober, Kohala and Dasu hydropower projects, the government has also started work on Thar coal, the PM revealed. It must be conceded that the past four and a half years of an elected PPP-led coalition government have been some of the toughest for any elected government in our history. Not only has the government been under pressure if not siege from the cast of usual suspects, including the military and an overly assertive judiciary, the opposition has blown hot and cold in terms of cooperation with, and also stubborn resistance to, the present dispensation. The challenges faced by any government taking over after the traumatic assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the depredations left behind as a legacy by the Musharraf dictatorship would have tested the most resolute of political leaderships. The PM referred to the constant predictions of the fall of the government every other day, prognoses that were proved wrong over time. While this offers temptation to the government to play the ‘victim card’, and there may be weight in that contention, ultimately any government’s tenure is judged on the basis of its performance and delivery. While there is dissatisfaction on that count in the public, particularly over energy, the thrust of the right wing opposition inside and outside parliament has focused almost exclusively on the alleged corruption of the government and its leaders. No substantive evidence has been produced to back up this barrage of accusations, the public being primed by the media and opposition to believe the worst about this government and offer it no slack. Corruption is a red herring since no one can claim the moral high ground across the board in our present polity. Therefore the focus on corruption almost exclusively, is unlikely to yield any positive outcome, except for retaliatory accusations against each other, reducing the credibility of the political class as a whole with no solution. Arguably, those desirous of rooting out corruption from our system, if they are not indulging n mere point scoring and are sincere, should realise that only continuity of the democratic system can offer any hope of improvement of a cancer that has afflicted the sinews of state and society in every nook and cranny. Only persisting with democracy offers hope of betterment, cleansing of these Augean stables of corruption, and evolving in the direction of a better leadership. The speculation about an August 14 announcement of early elections in November, provided it carries the consensus of the parties across the board, may be a welcome relief from the present state of tension and crisis. Given Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s warning that the disqualification of another PM may derail democracy, perhaps sit is time for the Supreme Court to stay its hand and leave the fate of this government in the hands of the people through the ballot box.

Pakistan: Bannu old city police station attacked

Unknown armed men have attacked the old city police station in Bannu Monday morning, Geo News reported. According to police, miscreants have attacked the old city police station with hand grenades and firing while five gunmen have also entered the police station building. The area is of high importance as the investigating officers and their offices are situated in the same area. Police have cordoned off the area and Army help has been sought. Firing continued until the last report was filed.