Saturday, July 21, 2012

Karachi: Six killed in the very start of Ramazan

Bloodshed could not be halted in Ramazan as five more were killed in different mishaps of violence. Following killing of three people, police started targeted operation in Sohrab Goth against miscreants. On the other hand, angry people commenced firing on police and SP office. In Patail Parha, a DSP and his gunman were injured by miscreants who hit the police van. On the other hand, police have arrested four extortionists during an operation. As per details, two people including Shah Faisal, Mirza and Abdur Rasool were killed by firing of unidentified men while two of them sustained injuries. According to police, the mishap occurred after clash between two rival groups who targeted each other with sophisticated weapons. Following the incident, police started targeted operation in the area, conducted raids on different houses and arrested two accused allegedly involved in different kinds of criminal activities. During operation, angry people started firing and piled stones on police. The irritate mob also targeted the SP office while showing their anger. During operation, panic gripped the area and people enclosed themselves in their houses. On the other hand, heirs to the victims put the bodies on road and held a protest demonstration, blocking the flow of traffic for some time. In the same way, a woman named Arbia was killed by firing of unidentified people. Apart from this, a disfigured body has been found out of Baldia Town Sector 17. Moreover, a man was gunned down in Gulistan e Johar in Karachi. In another incident, DSP Israr Awan and his gunman got hurt when their car was targeted by miscreants when he was leaving his residence. DSP received two bullets in his body but his condition is reportedly out of any danger; however, his gunman is suffering from critical situation. On the other hand, police conducted raid on a Truck Stand at Mari Pur and arrested four extortionists belonging to Lyari gang war. They include Qasim, Asif, Abdur Rehman and Rasheed. Heavy amount of arms and ammunition also has been recovered out of them.

People defeated unholy alliance of PML-N, PTI

Newly elected Member of the National Assembly Abdul Qadir Gilani said on Saturday that in spite of negative propagandas and baseless allegations by different political parties, the people of Multan had proved that they were always with the PPP. Talking to the state’s Television, he said his opposite contester was not independent but he had favour from PML-N, PTI and other political parties. He said thirty thousand names of PPP voters were not in the electoral list and added that the PML-N leader Ishaq Bacha quit the contest in favour of him, and his name was also not in the voters’ list. He vowed that his father had started the Seraiki province movement and he would take it to its end.

Hillary Clinton breaks travel record

If diplomatic achievements were measured by the number of countries visited, Hillary Rodham Clinton
would be the most accomplished secretary of state in history. While historians will debate and eventually rate her tenure as America's top diplomat, Clinton is already assured of a place in the State Department record book. When her plane touched down Tuesday morning at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, the former first lady completed an epic 13-day journey of 27,000 miles — about 2,000 miles more than the circumference of the Earth — through Europe to Asia and then doubling back to the Middle East. One well-traveled Clinton staffer described the France-Afghanistan-Japan-Mongolia-Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia-Egypt-Israel itinerary as "especially absurd, even for us." Despite the mind- and body-numbing time zone hopping, Clinton joked she was ready for more. "I appreciate being here, I am only sorry that I have to leave," she told reporters on her last stop — Monday, in Israel. "My traveling team is anxious to get home. I'd like to be hanging out in Jerusalem, but, you know, I have to do my duty," she said with a sigh. Since becoming secretary of state in 2009, Clinton has logged 351 days on the road, traveled to 102 countries and flown a whopping 843,839 miles, according to the State Department. While some previous secretaries may have flown more miles — mainly due to shuttling back and forth to the Mideast on peace missions — none has visited more nations. Clinton broke that record last month, eclipsing Madeleine Albright's 98, when she traveled to Finland for number 99 and then hit the 100 mark in Latvia. Not content, she tacked on another two countries — Mongolia and Laos, where she was the first secretary of state to visit in 57 years — on her latest trip. And she has another six months to go before she reaches her self-imposed deadline to step down and take a breather. Even with a bed on the plane and her uncanny ability to sleep midflight, the grueling schedule can take its toll. Clinton suffered a rare coughing fit as she finished a speech before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Hanoi. And while she insisted that she would have preferred to stay all day as birds sang in Kabul's presidential place, she rushed away when Afghan President Hamid Karzai suggested taking additional questions. Arriving in Egypt this weekend after a flight from Cambodia, Clinton and her staff literally didn't know what time it was. BlackBerrys automatically reset their times to what should have been Cairo time, except it wasn't, so the staff set their clocks to Sarajevo time. Several hours later, the reason for the discrepancy was discovered: Egypt opted out of daylight saving time this year. Clinton says she won't stay on if President Barack Obama wins a second term — not surprising, given only one secretary of state has served more than four years since the 1970s. And after a bruising fight with Obama for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, she likes to say she won't be returning to the political stage. But with her popularity at an all-time high and the Democrats in likely need of a 2016 candidate regardless of whether Obama is reelected, there is widespread speculation that she would find a second stab at becoming first female president irresistible. First, though, she'll need a nap.

UN Alarmed Over Sharp Rise in Grain Prices
20-percent spike in maize and wheat
prices in just the past three weeks is raising concerns with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). FAO economist Shukri Ahmed said the increase in price was sharp and sudden. He said that until May, experts were hoping for a huge increase in worldwide maize production. The FAO Global Information and Early Warning System issued a bulletin Friday saying that drought in the United States is helping push up prices, while hot, dry weather in the Black Sea region is affecting wheat. Ahmed says the price increase will put pressure on national budgets in countries that depend on imports for their domestic food needs. "Northern African countries, Middle Eastern countries, some countries even in Asia and Africa, who actually depend for more than 30 to 70 percent of their consumption needs on imports," said Ahmed. Add the threat of rising food prices to the list of troubles in Syria. "Near Eastern countries, whether it is Iraq or Syria or others, actually import from the international market. So, if these prices persist as they are, it will have implications on the countries that import much," said Ahmed. Ahmed said that price increases will strain national budgets in countries that depend on imported grain, forcing them to make difficult choices.

President Obama addresses Colorado shooting

President Barack Obama addresses the Colorado shooting during a campaign visit Friday to the Harborside Event Center in Fort Myers. Video by Kinfay Moroti/

What might be hiding in Romney's tax returns?

Mitt Romney tried again on Thursday to shift the campaign conversation away from his refusal to disclose more of his tax returns, raising questions about what may be in them. While Romney accused President Barack Obama of demonizing business success by hounding the Republican challenger over the issue, tax experts were speculating about what might be in Romney's undisclosed returns. So far he has released only his 2010 return and a draft of his 2011 return. He has pledged to release the full 2011 return when it is ready. He has also made disclosures to election officials that shed some light on his personal finances. Formerly governor of Massachusetts, Romney co-founded private-equity firm Bain Capital, a highly successful investment house, and is one of the wealthiest individuals ever to run for the White House. Presidential candidates are not required to disclose their tax returns, but it has become common practice. Romney's father released 12 years of returns when he ran for president in 1968. Obama, whom Romney presumably will challenge in November, has released returns back to 2000. DID HE PAY LOW TAXES IN 2009? Could it be that Romney paid very little in taxes in 2009 or earlier? Romney's tax return information released in January showed he paid a 13.9-percent effective tax rate in 2010 and expected to pay a 15.4-percent effective rate on his 2011 income. Those rates are far below the 35-percent top tax rate for wages, chiefly because Romney gets most of his income from investment gains, which are taxed at a rate of 15 percent. The 2008 financial crisis hammered many wealthy investors. Some tax experts speculate the crisis may have generated large capital losses for Romney that, carried forward into 2009, might have sharply reduced his tax bill for that year. Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said on Thursday that there has been no year in which Romney paid zero taxes. Romney might have had other types of income in 2009 and earlier that could not be offset by capital losses, other experts said. "The number everyone is focused on is, of course, the effective tax rate," said University of Notre Dame accounting professor Brad Badertscher. Obama reported paying effective tax rates of about 26 percent in 2010 and about 20.5 percent in 2011. WHAT ABOUT THAT MASSIVE IRA? Romney's individual retirement account, or IRA, holds as much as $101 million, despite an annual contribution limit of about $6,000. How could it have gotten so large? Some tax experts suggest its value has been bloated by stock acquired by Bain at rock-bottom prices. The IRA holds some of Romney's most lucrative investments, according to a financial disclosure form filed with election officials last August. Pre-2010 tax returns might reveal little about the IRA, however, since personal returns only show contributions and withdrawals in a given year, and would not show, for example, the values of partnership interests. WIFE'S SWISS BANK ACCOUNT Ann Romney, the candidate's wife, held a trust with a $3 million bank account at UBS AG, the Swiss banking giant that in 2009 agreed to settle U.S. charges that it helped Americans evade taxes. The account was closed in 2010, the Romney campaign said. University of Southern California Professor Edward Kleinbard wondered if the Swiss account generated income for the Romneys in ways they would rather not disclose, perhaps for instance by investing in foreign currencies against the U.S. dollar. "Most presidential candidates don't think it appropriate to bet that the U.S. dollar will lose value by speculating in Swiss francs, which is basically the rationale offered by the trustee of Romney's 'blind' trust for opening this account," Kleinbard wrote in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece on Wednesday. The trustee in charge of the Swiss account said it was an attempt to diversify investments. CARRIED INTEREST Romney earned about $13 million in income over the past two years from "carried interest," a form of earnings available to private-equity firm partners and taxed at the 15 percent investment tax rate, rather than the higher rate on ordinary income, according to the campaign. The carried interest provision of the U.S. tax code has repeatedly been targeted for elimination by Democrats who call it unfair, but the private-equity industry has fought repeal. WHAT ABOUT OFFSHORE INVESTMENTS? In 2010, Romney and his family had substantial income from private equity, venture capital and other funds, according to disclosures in August to the Federal Election Commission. Much of this income came from funds organized by Bain Capital. Some of the funds and affiliates are in tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and the U.S. state of Delaware. "The so-called offshore account in the Cayman Islands, for instance, is an account established by a U.S. firm to allow foreign investors to invest in U.S. enterprises and not be subject to taxes outside of their own jurisdiction," Romney said in a recent interview in National Review magazine. The tax returns released thus far also show investments in places such as Luxembourg and Switzerland. No one is claiming these investments were illegal, but the use of offshore tax havens could hurt Romney in the campaign.

Afghanistan’s Economic Challenges

As American and coalition forces prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the Afghan government faces a challenge as daunting as the need to take over the fight against the Taliban: assuming responsibility for an economy that has been almost exclusively dependent on outside assistance for more than a decade. The numbers are staggering. According to the World Bank, an estimated 97 percent of Afghanistan’s roughly $15.7 billion gross domestic product comes from international military and development aid and spending in the country by foreign troops. The economy is already contracting as troops leave, and future growth will be slower, especially in urban areas and areas of conflict. To increase the odds for a more gradual and manageable transition, the United States and other major donors pledged $16 billion in development aid through 2015 at a conference in Tokyo last week. It was an important and necessary commitment. Now they have to deliver. The United States and other nations have promised that they will not abandon Afghanistan, which happened in 1989 after the Soviet Union was pushed out. The World Bank has warned that an abrupt aid cutoff could provoke a collapse of political authority, civil war and a greater reliance on opium profits. The major donors, however, are mired in financial crisis, and they are tired of war and with the corruption and ineptness of President Hamid Karzai’s government, which has failed to build a stable and viable country despite the loss of thousands of lives and billions of dollars of assistance. Not all the money has been wasted. Since 2001, many more Afghans have access to health care, schooling and even cellphones. But the country is still one of the world’s poorest and lacks reliable basic services like electricity. The government has been unable to generate enough revenue to cover more than a fraction of its budget. Billions of dollars have been transferred to Dubai and elsewhere as Afghans with huge caches of cash bet against their country’s future and sabotage its ability to grow. Transparency International, a watchdog group, says Afghanistan is among the world’s most corrupt countries and getting worse. The group says at least $1 billion donated over the past eight years has been siphoned off. The Tokyo conference tried to address this issue by requiring, for the first time, the Afghan government to reduce corruption before receiving all of the newly promised aid. Mr. Karzai gave all the right assurances, but he has done that before. If he is serious now, he is fast running out of time. Just days after the conference, seven top members resigned from the government agency that promotes investment in Afghanistan over what they said was rampant corruption and mismanagement. If Mr. Karzai fails to enact serious reforms and prosecute lawbreakers, the United States and other donors will lose all credibility if they don’t withhold at least some aid. Now is also the time for Afghans and the international community to work to guarantee free and fair elections so a new president can be chosen as called for, in the constitution, in 2014. Eventually, Afghanistan has to wean itself from its donors. Indigenous businesses are growing, and there is even greater potential. The country has significant mineral deposits. Exxon Mobil has hinted at interest in exploring for oil. A recent conference organized by India drew investors from more than 40 countries. These opportunities will have much better prospects with a transparent, honest, competent and law-based government.

Bahraini forces break up demo, one protester injured

Saudi-backed Bahraini forces have clashed with anti-regime demonstrators in the north of the country and injured at least one protester, Press TV reports. The clashes broke out on Friday after Bahraini security forces fired tear gas and birdshot to disperse protesters who were holding a demonstration against the government’s plan to ban all political marches. Demonstrations were held in the villages of Diraz, Bilad al-Qadeem, and Musalla. In Diraz, the protesters called for the ouster of the Al Khalifa royal family. At least one protester was injured by birdshot fired by regime forces in Musalla. Since mid-February 2011, thousands of anti-government protesters have been staging regular demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded the country to assist the Bahraini government in its crackdown on the peaceful protesters. According to local sources, scores of people have been killed and hundreds arrested in the crackdown. Physicians for Human Rights says doctors and nurses have been detained, tortured, or disappeared because they have "evidence of atrocities committed by the authorities, security forces, and riot police" in the crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Any Syria measure outside UNSC inefficient: Russia

Russia has strongly warned against any unilateral action on Syria that fails to get the authorization of the UN Security Council. “In the Russian president’s opinion, any attempt to act without the [UN] Security Council’s approval will be inefficient and will undermine the authority of this international organization,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday. Russia and China on Thursday vetoed a Western-backed UN Security Council draft resolution against Syria, which called for new sanctions against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. It is the third time that the two world powers block an anti-Damascus resolution since the beginning of unrest in Syria last year. Following the veto, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice threatened that Washington and its partners would look to partnerships and actions outside the auspices of the UN council. Syria has been the scene of deadly unrest since mid-March, 2011 and many people, including large numbers of army and security personnel, have been killed in the violence. Four Syrian military and security officials were killed in a terrorist bombing at the headquarters of the Syrian National Security in the capital on Wednesday. The West and the Syrian opposition accuse the government of killing protesters. But Damascus blames ''outlaws, saboteurs and armed terrorist groups'' for the unrest, insisting that it is being orchestrated from abroad.

A tale of two Kabul schools

Walking towards the house in Karteh Sakhi that serves as a school and training centre for at-risk youth, Mustafa Sahibzada is greeted enthusiastically by a group of schoolboys. The 250 children currently enrolled at the three-year-old Support Children and Afghan Women in Need Organisation (SCAWNO), once spent their days on the streets of the Afghan capital. "They used to wash cars, work as shop assistants, collect trash. Anything to make money and pass the time," says Sahibzada, the organisation's deputy director. For the children at SCAWNO, their time as some of the 60,000-70,000 Afghan youths on Kabul's streets has meant they have fallen behind in theireducation. "We find the kids who douse cars with incense or wash tyres all day and ask their parents to enroll them in our programmes so they can one day return to school, rather than begging all day," says Ahmmad Shikib Masoudi, SCAWNO director. "One month we have the money and the next we don't. Many times a lack of funds has made us consider closing the doors, but then we look at the children's faces," says Sahibzada, a doctor by trade. Many of the central Asian nation's 6,000 public schools are based in rented property. The $600 per month lease on its building near Kabul University is SCAWNO's "greatest single financial difficulty", says Sahibzada. So difficult was this burden, that Arif Sultani, the former director of SCAWNO, who recently lost his battle to cancer, would use his medication money to pay the rent. SCAWNO receives little by way of foreign aid, but the organisation's struggle to meet its monthly budget needs of $4,400 resonates with warnings issued by major donors and aid organisations ahead of this month's conference in Tokyo. Prior to the meeting in the Japanese capital, where donors pledged an additional $16b in civilian aid through 2015, donors and aid organisations said the advances made in education and health in the past ten years were at great risk without coninued financial commitments. Parnian Nazary, programme officer for the Afghanistan Regional Project (ARP) at the Centre on International Co-operation (CIC) at New York University, says a commitment to organisations such as SCAWNO and the Afghan Institute of Lear ing - beyond the projected 2014 international troop withdrawal - are important because "investing in education is one of the key factors in brining peace and stability to Afghanistan in the long run". Like many other local NGOs, however, SCAWNO officials say they have seen little of the nearly $1.9bn earmarked for education in the past decade. "We are creating a future for these children so they don't become thieves or addicts, yet our greatest concern remains money", says Masoudi. Sakena Yacoobi, executive director of the Afghan Institute of Learning, another non-state education programme, says civil society organisations, "didn't get the billions" that were promised. End.

Kabul to decide troops’ withdrawal: US envoy

The United States’ outgoing ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Clark Crocker, has made it clear that no decision has yet been made for total withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan by end 2014. He added the decision in this connection would be taken by the Afghan administration with a new president in place then and in consultations with the international partner countries currently providing assistance to Afghanistan, but the verdict of the Afghan government would prevail. Ryan Clark said that the security of entire Afghanistan would be handed over to the Afghan national forces by end of 2014. “The process of withdrawal is already underway, and no deadline has been set for its completion,” the US envoy said here in an exclusive chat with The News the other day in a banquet Afghan President Hamid Karzai hosted in the honour of visiting Prime Minister of Pakistan Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. The ISAF’s American commander, General Allen, was also present. The feast was also attended by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief, Lt General Zaheerul Islam, and a number of other dignitaries. Meanwhile, General Zaheerul Islam is leaving for Washington, and he will be meeting his US counterpart General David Petraeus in August. It is believed that his meeting with the US CIA chief General Petraeus could prove as a make or break event since the thorny issue of sharing intelligence on terror with regard to use of drones would prominently figure in the meeting besides a number of other ticklish issues. General Zaheer is undertaking the visit on the invitation of General Petraeus. Ryan C Crocker, who has opted to proceed on retirement, would be engaged in his new business in Texas.To a question, Ryan Crocker said that the presidential elections in Afghanistan next year would be very interesting when the incumbent wouldn’t be contesting, but “it wouldn’t provide an opportunity to Mullah Omer or Taliban reign as they will have to renounce terrorism, detach with al-Qaida, accept the Afghan constitution and secure the support of the masses.” He added: “I don’t think the people in Afghanistan would like the return of the Taliban since they have resorted to tyranny and killed scores of innocent people. The democratic government of Afghanistan has embraced the country with unimaginable economic growth that is surpassing the figure of 11 percent. The facilities in education, health, infrastructure and all spheres of life have been indicating a remarkable improvement. I am leaving a much transformed Afghanistan.” To a question, the US ambassador claimed that his country had no blue-eyed for the next presidential polls in Afghanistan. He was of the view that Taliban activities were confined to a very limited area, and the people of Afghanistan would never let them close to the authority again. “The elimination of extremism across the globe is the agenda of every sane person who is keen to see peace and prosperity of human-beings.” He said that Pakistan’s decision on the restoration of ground lines of communication (G-LOC) for the Nato forces from its soil should be appreciated. Talking about the visit of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, he said it was a good move as both the countries must enhance their mutual cooperation for the sake of their people and peace.

9 people killed in suicide blast in Kurram Agency

Nine people were killed while 16 others were injured in a suicide blast in Kurram Agency. A suicide bomber attacked militant commander s compound in Spintal area of Kurram Agency, killing at least nine people and injuring sixteen other people. The suicide attacker crashed the explosive-laden vehicle into the compound. Five children are also among the nine people killed in the blast. According to the details, the compound was of militant commander Maulana Nabi Hanfi, located in the town of Spin Tal near the Afghan border.

Next elections: Zardari tells opposition to wait ‘eight more months’

The Express Tribune
While speculation on early elections is rife, President Asif Ali Zardari
has asked leaders of opposition political parties to wait eight more months. The president claimed that the government was under no threat and would complete its tenure, which ends in March 2013. “I will request my impassioned friends to wait eight more months,” sources quoted President Zardari as saying in his address to Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) ministers and senior party leaders at Bilawal House on Friday. During the meeting, the concerns of the coalition partners and Lyari were discussed. The president is also said to have resolved that the incumbent government would set a new precedent by holding free and fair elections in the country, adding that the PPP had always avoided politics of confrontation. Sources privy to proceedings of the meeting told The Express Tribune that the president, while referring to the complaints of coalition partners MQM and PML-F, told party leaders that “[PPP] have to jointly contest the elections and make a coalition government in the upcoming set. You have to resolve their issues.” MNA Abdul Qadir Patel, who is also president of PPP Karachi division, briefed President Zardari about the growing resentment among the people of Lyari as well as a huge public gathering organised by Awami Tehreek along with leaders of the defunct Peoples Amn Committee (PAC). The president is said to have asked party leaders to woo the enraged people of the area. “An operation is not the solution; you have to negotiate with the enraged people. The issue of Lyari is political and it cannot be resolved administratively,” President Zardari was quoted as saying. Informed that the people of Lyari wanted cases against PAC leaders, including Uzair Baloch, withdrawn, the president asked Patel to initiate negotiations in this regard. Party leaders were also instructed to organise a public gathering in Lyari soon after Eidul Fitr. “Lyari is PPP’s fort and we cannot lose it at any cost,” President Zardari told the meeting. He is also said to have asked PPP leaders to expedite the process to establish a local government system. A meeting regarding development work on the shrine of Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, was also held. The president expressed his reservation over the slow pace of work and directed the concerned officials to compete the work within three months. “Every time I come here and get a briefing on it and listen to you people saying the work will be completed soon,” he added.


The Prime Minister of Pakistan addressed the National Defence University Seminar on Balochistan in which prominent personalities of the province also participated. In his key note speech, the Prime Minister talked tough warning to deal with Balochistan situation firmly otherwise such problems will arise in other parts of Pakistan. He thought that insurgency is localized and confined to a small area of Balochistan. He said the Government is ready to address the grievances of the people and invited the Baloch militants to come to negotiation table and all their legitimate grievances will be addressed accordingly. Almost all the Government leaders are addressing the militant leaders, rightly or wrongly, ignoring the rest of the people on the political and democratic fronts. The Government is encouraging the law enforcing agencies to take action against the people from the political and democratic front as most of the missing persons were not militants and they never fought against the State, to say it precisely. Like others, they had their own political opinion on constitutional, political and economic issues. The entire action had been directed against the peaceful political activists since 2004 when General Pervez Musharraf took the decision to punish all the Baloch people, particularly their leaders, for their non conformist views. Thus the views of the Government are generally directed from the biased opinion of state functionaries in the establishment asking for mass killing of Baloch people to resolve the Baloch problem, once for all. Former President General Pervez Musharraf recently addressed a select gathering of former army officers in Sindh Club and proposed a full fledged military operation be launched to wipe out all forms of resistance in Balochistan. ‘Stop appeasing the Balochs,’ he ordered the Government from exile. The hawkish views are still dominating in the important sections of the Pakistani State. The military mindset is visibly prevailing on the minds of political leaders of Pakistan at the top and they are saying the same as the hawks used to say during the regime of General Pervez Musharraf. The issue of Balochistan is political in nature and it should be handled politically. There were high hopes when Mr. Asif Zardari was elected as President of Pakistan. He knew the people, the political activists and leaders and got the capacity and capability to convince all those involved in militancy to a peaceful political process. He was pushed on the sideline by the hawks in the administration forced the Government to continue the policies of General Pervez Musharraf in a more harsh manner. Now the Prime Minister is proposing harsher action against the people in Balochistan. This is a wrong policy and a misjudgement on the prevailing political situation in Balochistan. Such actions will definitely lead to a complete disaster as Pakistan can ill afford when it is isolated in the whole world and not a single brotherly country is coming to its aid at this difficult juncture. We are again proposing that the Government should create proper and suitable environment before luring the militants to come to the negotiation table finding an amicable solution of Balochistan within the framework of one Pakistan. For this, there should be an end to fighting at once, all combat forces, both troops and Para-military forces, should go back to barrack or to peace time position as suggested by the Supreme Court Bar Association in its recent conference, release all the prisoners, including missing persons in official custody and stop misleading the public opinion by telling lies on all forum. Balochs are Pakistanis and citizens of this country and enjoy equal rights and they should be treated equally as citizens of Pakistan. Any ill treatment to the Balochs, mainly the non combatants and men from the political and democratic front, will bring a bad name for our country. The Government should take all those steps suggested by the SCBA seminar in Islamabad for creating a congenial environment for holding talks with all the sections of Baloch society. Without such measures, the entire process is doomed and it will lack support of the Baloch people who are master of their own destiny. Overwhelming majority of the Baloch people, including leaders of the political and democratic front, will support such a move from the Government that could lead to meaningful talks on all relevant issues.

POLIO IN PAKISTAN: Travel ban likely...

The Express Tribune
A ban may be imposed on Pakistanis travelling abroad if polio is not eradicated by 2013, Senate’s standing committee on inter-provincial coordination revealed on Friday. During a meeting of the committee chaired by Senator Farah Aqil, Senator Dr Kareem Khwaja said that, “Keeping in view the perils of polio and the impediments faced by Pakistan to eradicate the disease, the international community is seriously thinking of imposing a lifelong ban on Pakistani travellers if polio was not eliminated by 2013.” Khwaja further revealed that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has also indicated that if polio inflictions were not curbed by 2013, a travel ban could be placed on Pakistanis. Commuting citizens may have to sport a ‘No Objection Certificate’ along with a polio vaccination certificate to transcend Pakistani borders. When contacted by The Express Tribune to comment on this development, a WHO spokesperson revealed that there was a proposal in the pipeline to make a polio vaccination certificate issued by the WHO necessary for Pakistanis. However, the spokesperson added that as of yet the proposal had not been processed. Devolution The standing committee made a detailed review of the devolution process, particularly regarding issues of the health department. Awami National Party (ANP)’s Zahid Khan said that the devolution of powers to the provinces, which was initiated under the 18th Amendment stands the risk of being derailed. Khan, joined by other ANP and MQM members of the committee, said that issues pertaining to health and medicines were getting complicated. He cited an example of the Drug Regulatory Agency, which was initially approved by the special parliamentary committee but was later modified by then health secretary Nargis Sethi without bringing the modification to the committee’s information. Another issue which was taken up at the meeting was the launch of some vertical programmes including nationwide ones on malaria, tuberculosis, AIDs and hepatitis. The authorities concerned explained that this step was taken after a request by donor and international partners to place a federal mechanism that ensured the continuity of presently approved grant funds in the future.

Pakistan's Ghost schools

If Pakistan had as many schools in reality as it does on paper there would be no crisis in the education sector, and we might be able to fulfill our constitutional commitment to free education for all. From the point of the 1947 Partition education has never been prioritised and it still is not, with education budgets actually shrinking rather than expanding to match the growth in population. And now we see the return of ‘ghost schools’ in the context of a federal government education project – the Basic Education Community Schools (BECS). Ghost schools exist on paper and never operate, but they have ‘staff’ and sometimes buildings. The fictitious ‘staff’ are paper creatures and only live on a balance sheet, their wages disappearing into an assortment of corrupt pockets. Some ‘staff’ have fake CNIC numbers. Vehicles have been misused and large sums of money illegally taken from bank accounts associated with the programme. The Planning Commission and the National Education Foundation (NEF) have alleged that there are more than 8,000 ghost schools in the BECS project and they are spread right across the country, including in the federal capital. The project is large, over 8 billion rupees, but funding has now been stopped in the current fiscal year as the irregularities and corruption has come to light. There is some dispute about the actual number of ghosts in our midst, but no dispute that the BECS programme has serious problems. There are 13,094 schools under the BECS umbrella and more than half may be bogus. The NEF has to outsource administrative checking of schools under BECS to local NGOs, who are themselves a part of the problem rather than part of the solution, as they generated their own administrative costs and were as prone to corruption as any government agency. The thinking behind the BECS scheme was good – small community schools that are home-based serving a minimum of thirty students and with teachers who were matriculate, intermediate or graduate. Some schools have been successful and have students up to class 3, and in general terms the model is satisfactory. But the devil is in the detail, and for the scheme to have achieved its full potential rigorous monitoring was necessary from the outset. It appears that the capacity to monitor adequately was either missing or below par, and the BECS schools are yet another good idea that foundered on the reefs of corruption and ineptitude. Yet again many of the allegations of corruption centre on a political appointee, and the reticence of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to pursue the case may well be because of its ‘sensitivity’ in that powerful members of the ruling PPP would come under scrutiny. There is a genuine and continuing emergency in our education system. Some opine that it is ‘too broke to fix’ and there is no disagreement that education at every level is in need of a major overhaul. Getting the BECS project back on track would be a significant step in the right direction.

Pakistan’s role in Afghan peace

A trilateral meeting of the leaders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the UK in Kabul has reiterated the need for an Afghan-led solution to the conflict, with Pakistan playing a crucial role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table. Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf extended his cooperation to iron out the differences amongst warring factions for ultimate peace in Afghanistan, something that the US has been working on with little success so far. Underscoring the need to combat militant forces working to destroy both Afghanistan and Pakistan, British Prime Minister David Cameron has said that Pakistan and Afghanistan face a common enemy, which calls for a united front between all stakeholders opposed to terrorism. Lately, Pakistan has been experiencing cross-border attacks from Afghan territory that have killed a number of its soldiers. The responsibility for these attacks has been claimed by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, which has been largely driven out of Pakistan in the 2009 military operation and has since gathered strength and support by aligning with its mentors, the Afghan Haqqani network. There are fears that once the US and NATO withdraw from the region, the Afghan Taliban, including the Haqqani network, may make a bid to regain power in Kabul. Though the US and NATO have attempted to allay these fears by ruling out a return of the Afghan Taliban to power, given the discordant history of Afghanistan, ruling out this scenario or a protracted civil war is not possible. After four decades of continuous warfare, and with neither side in a position to win a complete victory, the only way forward is a negotiated political solution. Pakistan too has lost thousands of its soldiers and civilians in a war that spilled over and has by now the whole country in its grip, an unintended consequence of our interventions in Afghanistan stretching back over four decades. Coming back to the conciliatory tone adopted by Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, can the Pakistani leadership, civilian and military, measure up to the expectations of our allies across the border? Does the political leadership have the will and clout to persuade the military establishment for a shift from a proxy war strategy to a negotiated peaceful solution to Afghanistan? Or will the prime minister, like his predecessor, be found wanting despite his sweet words in Kabul? Pakistan has been long held responsible for not wanting peace in Afghanistan and supporting a reimposition of Taliban rule in Kabul by force. Time and again there have been allegations of Pakistan’s involvement in shoring up the Haqqani network to carry out high profile attacks in Afghanistan. Even the cessation of intelligence sharing with Pakistan on drone attacks can be traced back to the alleged tipping off of targets before the drones arrived. This proxy war strategy is bound to produce even greater blowback for Pakistan than the recent series of attacks on Pakistan’s security forces and key installations from across the border. This is the common enemy that Cameron referred to, signifying an understanding of the internal nexus between the so-called ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban. In this background, a political solution implies the Afghan Taliban being persuaded to trade the language of weapons for the weapon of language, a development that may lead to the reconciled Afghan Taliban being able to lean on their Pakistani counterparts to desist from their violent ways. Needless to say, unless Afghanistan settles down and Pakistan benefits from such a peace dividend, both countries and the whole region will suffer in terms of development and progress.

Where’s the law in Punjab?

The Supreme Court on Friday severely criticised Punjab chief minister and inspector general of police for their indifference to the stoning of a married woman in Khanewal district. A three-member bench of Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry conducted suo motu hearing in the case of killing of a woman in the Kachcha Khu area of Khanewal. The chief justice asked what Punjab Police IG was up to for the last three days. He inquired whether the IGP was capable of being appointed anywhere else in the country. The CJ warned that if the remaining accused were not arrested, the court would recommend the IGP’s suspension, adding that how could the IGP have no knowledge of the murder of a mother of five. He also questioned why the Punjab chief minister was unaware of the incident. The Punjab advocate general told the court that the conflict aroused when the stoned woman, Maryam, cut grass from an area. He said the punchayat or local council had called her to resolve the controversy, not to kill her. The AG said the husband of the deceased woman disappeared from the scene, but had now been recovered, while three people involved in the killing had also been arrested. The chief justice said the woman’s husband had only been recovered after the court raised the issue. The AG told the court that the Punjab chief minister had taken notice of the matter and had ordered the arrest of the accused within 48 hours. Justice Jawad S Khwaja remarked that if the poor people’s grievances could not be taken up, they better be eliminated once for all. “No one hears the plight of the poor sitting in air-conditioned rooms”, he maintained. The chief justice said witness of the stoning incident, Sarfaraz, was also kidnapped to cover the crime. He said Punjab was a big province but its law and order was pitiable. The court also directed the authorities to present a detailed report about the crime-rate in Punjab.