Monday, July 23, 2012

Arslan Iftikhar Chaudhry was summoned by NAB

Arslan Iftikhar Chaudhry was summoned by NAB for personal appearance on Monday to record statement; he however, failed to appear before the Inquiry Team. Notice under section 19 was being again issued for his appearance before JIT on July 26. Notice has also been issued to Dr Faqir Hussain, Registrar Supreme Court for personal appearance on 25-07-2012. It may be mentioned that Salman Ahmed, son in law of Malik Riaz Hussain and Ahmed Khalil who were summoned today also did not show up. Salman Ahmed in a fax message sent from UK mentioned that he was receiving life threats and it was not possible for him to travel to Pakistan for this case. Salman Ahmed has however agreed to record his statement outside the country. Ahmed Khalil in his letter has informed the JIT that he was undergoing medical treatment in a hospital in Germany.

Probe initiated in passports, Olympic visas scam

Rehman Malik has formed a team to probe fake passports and visas scandal. Interior advisor Rehman Malik has formed an investigation team headed by Director General FIA to probe the fake passport and visa scandal. The team has been directed to complete their investigation within three days and arrest those responsible.
The team consists of officials from NADRA, ISI and IB. Earlier, UK paper The Sun had claimed to unearth a fake Pakistani passports and visas scam in Pakistan. A major visa scam had been unearthed by a leading UK based tabloid, involving a ring of corrupt Pakistani officials and politicians which could give potential terrorists the chance to enter Britain with Pakistan’s Olympic team. The investigation was centred on the Lahore-based Dreamland travel agency prosecuted nine years ago for human trafficking. “We infiltrated a crime ring offering false passports, visas and access to London 2012 as bogus support staff. We uncovered a ring of corrupt Pakistani officials and travel staff conspiring with a prominent politician to bypass stringent security,” The Sun, which exposed this scam, said. The paper’s undercover investigator was first provided with a genuine Pakistani passport in a false name. Then leading Lahore politician Abid Chaudhry spelled out how for around 7,000 pounds he could get our man a two-month visa and smuggle him into London 2012 as part of Pakistan’s Olympic squad. The Sun secretly filmed Chaudhry as he explained how easy it was to get into the Olympic Village by masquerading as a member of the athletes support team. “We were told we could even take part in Friday’s opening ceremony. At no point did any of the corrupt officials question our reason for wanting to sneak into Britain. “An investigation was underway yesterday after we alerted MI6, the Home Office, the UK Border Agency and the British High Commission in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad,” the paper reports.

US poverty on track to rise to highest since 1960s

By HOPE YEN | Associated Press
The ranks of America's poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century, erasing gains from the war on poverty in the 1960s amid a weak economy and fraying government safety net. Census figures for 2011 will be released this fall in the critical weeks ahead of the November elections. The Associated Press surveyed more than a dozen economists, think tanks and academics, both nonpartisan and those with known liberal or conservative leanings, and found a broad consensus: The official poverty rate will rise from 15.1 percent in 2010, climbing as high as 15.7 percent. Several predicted a more modest gain, but even a 0.1 percentage point increase would put poverty at the highest level since 1965. Poverty is spreading at record levels across many groups, from underemployed workers and suburban families to the poorest poor. More discouraged workers are giving up on the job market, leaving them vulnerable as unemployment aid begins to run out. Suburbs are seeing increases in poverty, including in such political battlegrounds as Colorado, Florida and Nevada, where voters are coping with a new norm of living hand to mouth. "I grew up going to Hawaii every summer. Now I'm here, applying for assistance because it's hard to make ends meet. It's very hard to adjust," said Laura Fritz, 27, of Wheat Ridge, Colo., describing her slide from rich to poor as she filled out aid forms at a county center. Since 2000, large swaths of Jefferson County just outside Denver have seen poverty nearly double. Fritz says she grew up wealthy in the Denver suburb of Highlands Ranch, but fortunes turned after her parents lost a significant amount of money in the housing bust. Stuck in a half-million dollar house, her parents began living off food stamps and Fritz's college money evaporated. She tried joining the Army but was injured during basic training. Now she's living on disability, with an infant daughter and a boyfriend, Garrett Goudeseune, 25, who can't find work as a landscaper. They are struggling to pay their $650 rent on his unemployment checks and don't know how they would get by without the extra help as they hope for the job market to improve. In an election year dominated by discussion of the middle class, Fritz's case highlights a dim reality for the growing group in poverty. Millions could fall through the cracks as government aid from unemployment insurance, Medicaid, welfare and food stamps diminishes. "The issues aren't just with public benefits. We have some deep problems in the economy," said Peter Edelman, director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy. He pointed to the recent recession but also longer-term changes in the economy such as globalization, automation, outsourcing, immigration, and less unionization that have pushed median household income lower. Even after strong economic growth in the 1990s, poverty never fell below a 1973 low of 11.1 percent. That low point came after President Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty, launched in 1964, that created Medicaid, Medicare and other social welfare programs. "I'm reluctant to say that we've gone back to where we were in the 1960s. The programs we enacted make a big difference. The problem is that the tidal wave of low-wage jobs is dragging us down and the wage problem is not going to go away anytime soon," Edelman said. Stacey Mazer of the National Association of State Budget Officers said states will be watching for poverty increases when figures are released in September as they make decisions about the Medicaid expansion. Most states generally assume poverty levels will hold mostly steady and they will hesitate if the findings show otherwise. "It's a constant tension in the budget," she said. The predictions for 2011 are based on separate AP interviews, supplemented with research on suburban poverty from Alan Berube of the Brookings Institution and an analysis of federal spending by the Congressional Research Service and Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute. The analysts' estimates suggest that some 47 million people in the U.S., or 1 in 6, were poor last year. An increase of one-tenth of a percentage point to 15.2 percent would tie the 1983 rate, the highest since 1965. The highest level on record was 22.4 percent in 1959, when the government began calculating poverty figures. Poverty is closely tied to joblessness. While the unemployment rate improved from 9.6 percent in 2010 to 8.9 percent in 2011, the employment-population ratio remained largely unchanged, meaning many discouraged workers simply stopped looking for work. Food stamp rolls, another indicator of poverty, also grew. Demographers also say: —Poverty will remain above the pre-recession level of 12.5 percent for many more years. Several predicted that peak poverty levels — 15 percent to 16 percent — will last at least until 2014, due to expiring unemployment benefits, a jobless rate persistently above 6 percent and weak wage growth. —Suburban poverty, already at a record level of 11.8 percent, will increase again in 2011. —Part-time or underemployed workers, who saw a record 15 percent poverty in 2010, will rise to a new high. —Poverty among people 65 and older will remain at historically low levels, buoyed by Social Security cash payments. —Child poverty will increase from its 22 percent level in 2010. Analysts also believe that the poorest poor, defined as those at 50 percent or less of the poverty level, will remain near its peak level of 6.7 percent. "I've always been the guy who could find a job. Now I'm not," said Dale Szymanski, 56, a Teamsters Union forklift operator and convention hand who lives outside Las Vegas in Clark County. In a state where unemployment ranks highest in the nation, the Las Vegas suburbs have seen a particularly rapid increase in poverty from 9.7 percent in 2007 to 14.7 percent. Szymanski, who moved from Wisconsin in 2000, said he used to make a decent living of more than $40,000 a year but now doesn't work enough hours to qualify for union health care. He changed apartments several months ago and sold his aging 2001 Chrysler Sebring in April to pay expenses. "You keep thinking it's going to turn around. But I'm stuck," he said. The 2010 poverty level was $22,314 for a family of four, and $11,139 for an individual, based on an official government calculation that includes only cash income, before tax deductions. It excludes capital gains or accumulated wealth, such as home ownership, as well as noncash aid such as food stamps and tax credits, which were expanded substantially under President Barack Obama's stimulus package. An additional 9 million people in 2010 would have been counted above the poverty line if food stamps and tax credits were taken into account. Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, believes the social safety net has worked and it is now time to cut back. He worries that advocates may use a rising poverty rate to justify additional spending on the poor, when in fact, he says, many live in decent-size homes, drive cars and own wide-screen TVs. A new census measure accounts for noncash aid, but that supplemental poverty figure isn't expected to be released until after the November election. Since that measure is relatively new, the official rate remains the best gauge of year-to-year changes in poverty dating back to 1959. Few people advocate cuts in anti-poverty programs. Roughly 79 percent of Americans think the gap between rich and poor has grown in the past two decades, according to a Public Religion Research Institute/RNS Religion News survey from November 2011. The same poll found that about 67 percent oppose "cutting federal funding for social programs that help the poor" to help reduce the budget deficit. Outside of Medicaid, federal spending on major low-income assistance programs such as food stamps, disability aid and tax credits have been mostly flat at roughly 1.5 percent of the gross domestic product from 1975 to the 1990s. Spending spiked higher to 2.3 percent of GDP after Obama's stimulus program in 2009 temporarily expanded unemployment insurance and tax credits for the poor. The U.S. safety net may soon offer little comfort to people such as Jose Gorrin, 52, who lives in the western Miami suburb of Hialeah Gardens. Arriving from Cuba in 1980, he was able to earn a decent living as a plumber for years, providing for his children and ex-wife. But things turned sour in 2007 and in the past two years he has barely worked, surviving on the occasional odd job. His unemployment aid has run out, and he's too young to draw Social Security. Holding a paper bag of still-warm bread he'd just bought for lunch, Gorrin said he hasn't decided whom he'll vote for in November, expressing little confidence the presidential candidates can solve the nation's economic problems. "They all promise to help when they're candidates," Gorrin said, adding, "I hope things turn around. I already left Cuba. I don't know where else I can go."

Bahraini protesters demand release of prisoners

Bahraini anti-regime protesters have held demonstrations in the northeastern island of Sitra and the western village of Karzakan to demand the release of prisoners. The demonstrators on Sunday also called for the downfall of the Al Khalifa regime. In Sitra, the Saudi-backed regime forces used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters. Similar demonstrations were also held in Manama on Sunday. Anti-regime protests in Bahrain continue despite the heavy-handed crackdown by the regime forces. Bahraini demonstrators hold King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa responsible for the killing of the protesters during the uprising that began in February 2011.

Saudi Wahhabis Call for the Destruction of Shia Shrine in Syria
Amid an escalation of the terrorist attacks on citizens and government buildings in the Syrian capital Damascus, the extremist Wahhabi clerics in Saudi Arabia have called for the destruction of holy shrine of Lady Zaynab.
The shrine is located in the neighborhood of Sayyida Zainab, which has seen rise of violence and terrorist attacks over the past few days. On Saturday, youths armed with sticks and knives, formed committees to protect the holy shrine of Lady Zaynab, Press TV reported. According to the Arabic website of Al-Alam TV, the move is designed to encourage sectarianism inside Syria and pave the way for a full-scale civil war in the country. Lady Zaynab is the daughter of first Imam Ali (PBUH) and granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). She is regarded as a very noble figure by Shias around the world. Syrian troops on Saturday regained control of most parts of the neighborhood after government forces launched an all-out offensive against the armed rebels across the capital. Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011, with the Syrian government saying outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorists are the engine behind the violence.

Saudi women send letter to Muslim clerics for release of prisoners

On Sunday, 543 Saudi women urged the clerics in the Muslim world to make efforts for the release of all political prisoners who are held in jails of the Al Saud regime without trial or a clear charge. The women also pointed out in the letter that there are around 30,000 prisoners held in the Saudi jails. The letter comes a few days after two people were killed in clashes between inmates supporting and opposing the Saudi regime at the al-Hayer prison on the outskirts of the capital, Riyadh, on July 14. Since February 2011, protesters have held demonstrations on an almost regular basis in Saudi Arabia, mainly in the Qatif region and the town of Awamiyah in Eastern Province, primarily 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 Eastern Province.

Tabloid claims busting visa scam by Pakistani officials, politician

The Express Tribune News Network.
Daily tabloid The Sun on Monday claimed to have busted a visa scam by a Lahore-based politician and Pakistani officials, which could have given a chance to “potential terrorists” to sneak into the United Kingdom along with Pakistan’s Olympic squad. The UK-based daily says that it broke into the crime ring of Pakistani officials and travel staff which were offering fake passports, visas and entry into the London 2012. The Sun further claims a Lahore-based politician named Abid Chodhary was also part of the ring. The tabloid claims its investigator obtained a Pakistani passport with a false name. The investigator was told by Chodhary that they could get him a two-month visa and smuggle him into the London games as part of Pakistan’s Olympic squad in the athletes’ support team for £7,000. The Sun also secretly filmed Chodhary while he explained the entire process to the investigator and told him that he could also get him into the opening ceremony. MI6, UK’s Home Office, the UK Border Agency and the British High Commission in Pakistan were alerted about the scam and an investigation was initiated subsequently. When the British High Commission was contacted by The Express Tribune, they said that the report by The Sun is “self-explanatory” and that nothing in detail could be told at the moment as it was “too early to say anything.” British High Commission Spokesperson Imran Rana said, “We thank The Sun for highlighting this attempted deal and will be handling the evidence over to the Pakistani authorities.”

Peshawar H.C. orders protection for Afghan couple

Frontier Post
A court on Monday ordered police to protect an Afghan couple
who eloped and fear being murdered by the bride’s relatives. Hewad, 22, and Mariyam Marjman fled Kabul last month to marry for love in the leafy town of Abbottabad in northwest Pakistan. Marjman, also 22, told AFP her parents had wanted her to wed the ageing husband of her sister, who had recently died, instead. She says that if taken back to Afghanistan she would probably be murdered for marrying a man of her own choice. The high court in Peshawar took up the case after being moved by reports of the couple’s plight. “The couple should be provided proper accommodation in Peshawar and foolproof security because of threats to their lives,” said judge Dost Muhammad Khan. The pair, whom Pakistani authorities had previously housed separately, were accompanied in court by an armed police escort, an AFP reporter said. The judges called another hearing next week to check their orders had been implemented. The young couple escaped their conservative families’ clutches with the help of a Pakistani friend — taking the dead sister’s two-year-old daughter with them — but say relatives of the bride have since travelled to Pakistan in a bid to force them back. Hewad, who uses only one name, told AFP: “I have serious threats to my life from Mariyam’s relatives, from her parents and her brothers. “I am sure they can harm me here and if we are sent back to Afghanistan, they will simply shoot us.” Despite progress in recent years and improved legal protection, women suffer chronic rights abuses in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Afghan refugees

According to The Guardian, Pakistan is planning to repatriate the Afghan refugees numbering three million back to Afghanistan this year. The newspaper has opined that sending the Afghans back will add to the problems of the country since it is already grappling with militancy. When the Afghan-Soviet war broke out millions more had crossed over from Afghanistan into Pakistan that greeted them with hospitality almost as if it was their second home. These refugees were given security, shelter as well as allowed to make a living for themselves in every sense of the word, something that arguably no other nation could have done for them. Unfortunately, in return for this altruism, we were faced with repercussions that continue to hit us to this day, ranging from Kalashnikov culture, drug trafficking to militancy. While it has been our economy largely that has shouldered the burden, help from the international community in a manner that ought to have come has been lacking. It is very rare that a country would welcome displaced persons with open arms like Pakistan did and that too when there are such numbers of them. But as this report indicates, it seems there are not many quarters willing to praise us for our generosity. It is now in the interest of both Pakistan and Afghanistan if this displaced population is repatriated.

Afghan couple flee to Pakistan, fearing persecution

An Afghan couple who fled the war-torn country to marry in Pakistan are being held in protective custody amid fears the bride's angry relatives will kill them, officials said on Sunday. Hewad, 22, who is known by only one name, wed 18-year-old Mariyam Marjman in the town of Abbottabad, around 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Islamabad, last month after escaping Kabul with the help of a Pakistani friend. Marjman told officials a jirga or assembly of her relatives had travelled to Abbottabad with the aim of taking her back to Afghanistan, where she would probably be murdered for marrying a person of her own choice. "Mariyam declared that Hewad is her husband and both of them were in love before they got married," senior local administration official Imtiaz Shah said, adding that the bride's parents wanted her to marry her dead elder sister's husband. He said that the couple had brought the two-year-old daughter of Marjman's dead sister with them to Pakistan. Top local administration official Khan Omarzai told AFP that arrangements have been made to produce both Hewad and Marjman at the high court in Peshawar on Monday. "The couple is being provided full protection as per court's order," he added. Marjman was moved to an orphanage with the two-year-old while Hewad was moved to a prison in the northwestern city of Mansehra with officials in Abbottabad saying "this has been done to provide them full protection". "We will accept and implement whatever is the court's decision tomorrow," Shah said. "If the court orders us to give custody of the couple to the jirga, we will do that and if the court decides to keep the custody of the couple, we will implement that verdict too." Progress has been made on women's rights since the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but many fear those gains are under threat as NATO troops leave and Kabul seeks peace with Islamist insurgents. Earlier this month a video emerged of the public execution of a woman accused of adultery in Afghanistan, who was gunned down as dozens of men cheered.

US Afghan withdrawal halfway done

This year's pullout of 23,000 American troops from Afghanistan is at the halfway mark, U.S. Gen. John Allen, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces, said Sunday in an interview with The Associated Press. It's a kind of milestone toward wrapping up the U.S. and NATO combat role after a decade in the war-torn nation — but Allen cautioned against putting too much emphasis on the U.S. troop drawdown, because the U.S.-led coalition's campaign is continuing. Still, Allen said that he knows the clock is ticking on the NATO coalition's combat mission, which is to end at the close of 2014 — just 29 months from now. In a wide-ranging interview in his office at NATO headquarters in Kabul, Allen also said that while Afghan security forces were increasingly taking the lead, more work needs to be done to shore up their confidence in planning and executing operations. He said this summer's coalition operations were aimed at pushing insurgents farther from population centers, expanding the security zone around the capital, Kabul, and getting more Afghan forces into the lead in the east, which borders Pakistan. The Afghan army and police force are battling low levels of literacy, corruption within their ranks and lack of equipment and experience, but Allen said they were showing themselves to be increasingly capable on the battlefield. Getting them into the lead is an essential goal of the next 29 months, he said. "We haven't even recruited the whole Afghan national security force. That's not going to happen for another couple months, but by Oct. 1, we hope to be at 352,000," he said. "We don't finish completely fielding the Afghan forces until December 2013. So just at that level alone there is significant work remaining to be done." About 90 percent of coalition operations now are partnered with Afghan forces, and Afghan forces are in the lead more than 40 percent of the time, he said. "We want to get that number higher, and that will come from battalion and higher units being able to take the lead with respect to planning," he said. "Planning is really the hallmark of any large military formation, and it's typically a weakness in new formations and new armies. So we are putting a lot of effort into teaching them how to plan, execute, recover from the mission and then re-cock and go back out again." By the end of this year and into next year, Allen would like to see 5,500 personnel working in police and army advisory teams, but now the mission has 20 percent fewer advisers than it seeks. "I don't know if we will make up all of that," he said, "but it's an ongoing request and I don't miss an opportunity to emphasize that we really do need these folks." As the Afghan forces gear up, the exit of foreign troops continues. The drawdown of 23,000 U.S. troops this year, now slightly more than half completed, will accelerate in the coming few months, he said. "August will be the heaviest month," Allen said. "A lot is coming out now and a great deal will come out in August and early September. We'll be done probably around mid-September or so." President Barack Obama pulled out 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan last year and ordered another 23,000 to be withdrawn by Sept. 30. That will leave roughly 68,000 American troops still in the country. By Oct. 1, 40,000 NATO forces will also still be fighting. Up to one half of the 23,000 troops being pulled out this year are combat forces, he said. Small numbers are being pulled from the relatively stable northern and western parts of the country. Some will be withdrawn from the east and the south "and a good bit in the southwest," he said. Helmand province in the southwest and Kandahar province in the south are areas where the Taliban has its strongest roots. Tens of thousands of U.S. troops and their NATO and Afghan partners have worked the past two years to rout insurgents from their strongholds in the two provinces. Insurgents today are trying to reclaim their influence there. The NATO mission has concentrated on population centers, and this summer, it is focusing on going after insurgents outside the cities. "If you look at the 10 most violent districts, almost all of them are in the south or the southwest," he said. "But it constitutes a relatively small part of the population of Afghanistan overall, " he added. "We want to continue to push the insurgency increasingly out of the population centers into areas where they can be isolated, where they can be disrupted, where they can be rendered irrelevant," he said. "And that's the nature of the operations that are under way now." U.S., NATO and Afghan forces also are working in the east to stop the infiltration of insurgents crossing the border from Pakistan to Afghanistan, expand the security zone around Kabul in Wardak and Logar provinces, just south of the capital, and improving security along highways extending southward from the capital. In the northeast, coalition and Afghan forces are conducting extensive operations in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces — areas where al-Qaida and other transnational militants are active. Unneeded military equipment also has started making its way home. "The intent, ultimately, is to have the excess out of the theater about the time the mission would be completed in 29 months," he said. "And it will take all of that time, actually, to move that excess out — either a shipping container or a vehicle about every seven minutes between now until then." Even so, he said it would be a mistake to focus too much on the exit of U.S. troops and equipment. "It's not just about the drawdown and it's not just about America," he said. "There are 50 states in this coalition. There is also a significant Afghan national security force presence and that number is getting bigger by the day and they are getting more capable by the day." He emphasized that work in Afghanistan will not end with the NATO combat mission in 2014. "We're probably going to see some post-2014 military presence — some U.S. presence and a NATO presence — and while we've got much work to do in the next 29 months, we'll have additional time later for the continued professionalization of the Afghan security forces," he said, adding that the post-2014 NATO mission is still in the planning stage.

Blast near Chinese Consulate in Karachi

At least two people were injured in an explosion in Clifton area of Karachi on Monday.Two people, including a paramilitary personnel, were injured on Monday in a low-intensity blast near the Chinese consulate in Karachi.Police officials told the media that a bomb was planted on a motorcycle parked near a building adjacent to the consulate in Clifton area of Karachi.A car and two motorcycles were damaged by the blast, however, there were no reports of casualties or damage within the consulate.

Thirsty South Asia's river rifts threaten "water wars"

As the silver waters of the Kishanganga rush through this north Kashmir valley, Indian laborers are hard at work on a hydropower project that will dam the river just before it flows across one of the world's most heavily militarized borders into Pakistan. The hum of excavators echoes through the pine-covered valley, clearing masses of soil and boulders, while army trucks crawl through the steep Himalayan mountain passes. The 330-MW dam is a symbol of India's growing focus on hydropower but also highlights how water is a growing source of tension with downstream Pakistan, which depends on the snow-fed Himalayan rivers for everything from drinking water to agriculture. Islamabad has complained to an international court that the dam in the Gurez valley, one of dozens planned by India, will affect river flows and is illegal. The court has halted any permanent work on the river for the moment, although India can still continue tunneling and other associated projects. In the years since their partition from British India in 1947, land disputes have led the two nuclear-armed neighbors to two of their three wars. Water could well be the next flashpoint. "There is definitely potential for conflict based on water, particularly if we are looking to the year 2050, when there could be considerable water scarcity in India and Pakistan," says Michael Kugelman, South Asia Associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. "Populations will continue to grow. There will be more pressure on supply. Factor in climate change and faster glacial melt ... That means much more will be at stake. So you could have a perfect storm which conceivably could be some sort of trigger." It's not just South Asia -- water disputes are a global phenomenon, sparked by growing populations, rapid urbanization, increased irrigation and a rising demand for alternative power such as hydroelectricity. Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq quarrel over the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates. The Jordan river divides Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and the West Bank. Ten African countries begrudgingly share the Nile. In Southeast Asia, China and Laos are building dams over the mighty Mekong, raising tensions with downstream nations. A U.S. intelligence report in February warned fresh water supplies are unlikely to keep up with global demand by 2040, increasing political instability, hobbling economic growth and endangering world food markets. A "water war" is unlikely in the next decade, it said, but beyond that rising demand and scarcities due to climate change and poor management will increase the risk of conflict. MAJOR THREAT That threat is possibly nowhere more apparent than in South Asia, home to a fifth of humanity and rife with historical tensions, mistrust and regional rivalries. The region's three major river systems - the Indus, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra - sustain India and Pakistan's breadbasket states and many of their major cities including New Delhi and Islamabad, as well as Bangladesh. "South Asia is symbolic of what we are seeing in terms of water stress and tensions across the world," says B.G. Verghese, author and analyst at New Delhi's Centre for Policy Research. The region is one of the world's most water-stressed, yet the population is adding an extra 25 million people a year - South Asia's per capita water availability has dropped by 70 percent since 1950, says the Asian Development Bank. The effect of climate change on glaciers and rainfall patterns may be crucial. "Most of the water that is used in Pakistan comes from glacial melt or the monsoon," says Rafay Alam, an environmental lawyer and coordinator of the water program at Lahore University of Management Sciences. The dry months of June-July offer a snapshot of the extreme water crisis in the region. Hospitals in New Delhi this year cancelled surgeries because they had no water to sterilize instruments, clean operating theatres or even wash hands. Swanky malls selling luxury brands were forced to switch off air conditioners and shut toilets. In Pakistan, the port town of Gwadar ran out of water entirely, forcing the government to send two naval water tankers. Some government flats in the garrison city of Rawalpindi have not had water for weeks, said the local press. India, as both an upper and lower riparian nation, finds itself at the centre of water disputes with its eastern and western downstream neighbors -- Bangladesh and Pakistan -- which accuse New Delhi of monopolizing water flows. To the north and northeast, India fears the same of upstream China, with which it fought a brief border war in 1962. Beijing plans a series of dams over the Tsangpo river, called the Brahmaputra as it flows into eastern India. DAM DISPUTES For India, damming its Himalayan rivers is key to generating electricity, as well as managing irrigation and flood control. Hydropower is a critical part of India's energy security strategy and New Delhi plans to use part of it to reach about 40 percent of people who are currently off the grid. A severe power shortage is hitting factory output and rolling outages are routine, further stifling an economy which is growing at its slowest in years. India's plans have riled Bangladesh, which it helped gain freedom from Pakistan in 1971. Relations cooled partly over the construction of the Farakka Barrage (dam) on the Ganges River which Dhaka complained to the United Nations about in 1976. The issue remains a sore point even now. More recently, Bangladesh has opposed India's plans to dam the Teesta and Barak rivers in its remote northeast. But India's hydropower plans are most worrying for Pakistan. Water has long been a source of stress between the two countries. The line that divided them in 1947 also cleaved the province of Punjab, literally the land of five rivers - the Sutlej, Beas, Ravi, Chenab and Jhelum, all tributaries of the Indus - breaking up millenniums-old irrigation systems. India's latest hydro plans have fanned new tensions. "Pakistan is extremely worried that India is planning to build a whole sequence of projects on both the Chenab and Jhelum rivers ... and the extent to which India then becomes capable of controlling water flows," says Feisal Naqvi, a lawyer who works on water issues. In recent years, political rhetoric over water has been on the rise in Islamabad, and militant groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba have sought to use the issue to whip up anti-India sentiments - accusing New Delhi of "stealing water". India brushes off such fears as paranoia and argues the dams won't consume or store water but just delay flows, in line with a 1960 treaty that governs the sharing of Indus waters between the two countries. SINK OR SWIM South Asia's water woes may have little to do with cross-border disputes, however. Shortages appear to be rooted in wasteful and inefficient water management practices, with India and Pakistan the worst culprits, experts say. "All these countries are badly managing their water resources, yet they are experts in blaming other countries outside," says Sundeep Waslekar, president of Strategic Foresight Group, a Mumbai-based think-tank. "It would be more constructive if they looked at what they are doing at home, than across their borders." Their water infrastructure systems, such as canals and pipes used to irrigate farm lands, are falling apart from neglect. Millions of gallons of water are lost to leakages every day. The strain on groundwater is the most disturbing. In India, more than 60 percent of irrigated agriculture and 85 percent of drinking water depend on it, says the World Bank. Yet in 20 years, most of its aquifers will be in a critical condition. Countries must improve water management, say experts, and share information such as river flows as well as joint ventures on dam projects such as those India is doing with Bhutan. "Populations are growing, demand is increasing, climate change is taking its toll and we are getting into deeper and deeper waters," says Verghese, author of 'Waters of Hope: Himalayan-Ganga cooperation for a billion people'. "You can't wait and watch. You have to get savvy and do something about it. Why get locked into rhetoric? We need to cooperate. Unless you learn to swim, you are dead." (This story is part of a special multimedia report on water produced by AlertNet, a global humanitarian news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation. Visit

Pakistan: Constitution states only elected people will govern

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has said that only chosen representatives of the people can govern the country and exercise state authority, as mentioned in the Objectives Resolution, which is part of the constitution. Talking to Law Minister Farooq H Naek on Sunday, the PM said that the government believed in the supremacy of law, and governing the country according to the dictates of the constitution, wherein a clear role had been assigned to the legislature, executive and the judiciary. He said that he believed in the independence of the judiciary as well as an independent judicial system. The meeting comes ahead of a week in which the Supreme Court will determine his fate in the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) implementation case. The prime minister conducted brainstorming on Sunday to defend the government’s position in the contempt of court bill and the NRO implementation cases in Supreme Court. He discussed with Naek the strategy adopted for the hearing of the two cases. Naek discussed the legal issues and the pending court cases, and apprised the PM of the initiatives taken to introduce local government system in FATA with a view to ensure people’s effective representation in the planning and execution of local development projects, including the reconciliation mechanism to settle local issues. The minister said that progress on the anti-terrorism law was satisfactorily and it would ensure the conviction of terrorists, adding that the conviction rate was presently embarrassingly low due to the defects in the existing law, and the criminals take full advantage of it. The evidence presented in the court by prosecutors does not stand the defence on legal and technical grounds; resultantly hardcore terrorists get free, he said. The minister said that the law to control theft of electricity, gas and other utilities and services was being undertaken on a fast-track basis. He said that instructions had been given to vigorously pursue the cases and get court stays vacated at the earliest, as “these have stuck WAPDA’s Rs 1.3 billion”. The law minister said that the government was bringing amendment in the existing law to provide inexpensive and speedy justice to the people, especially those who were poor and involved in minor offences. It is pertinent to mention here that the week begins today (Monday) with the hearing of a case regarding the contempt of court bill passed by parliament and challenged in the Supreme Court, followed by the NRO implementation case on Wednesday that sent former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani packing, and now haunts Raja Ashraf.

Obama to Colo. victims: 'We think about them every day'
President Obama
emerged from University Hospital here Sunday evening with a story of survival which he said should inspire everyone to focus on the miracles from Friday's mass shooting at a movie theater. After three hours of private visits with the shooting victims and their families, Obama said his last stop in the hospital was with Alley Jones, a 19-year-old woman who had been shot in the neck. She survived the attack because her 21-year-old friend, Stephanie Davies, laid by her side and applied pressure to her wound while the gunman continued his rampage. "Allie told Stephanie she needed to run. Stephanie refused to go--instead, actually, with her other hand, called 911 on her cell phone," the president said. "Because of Stephanie's timely actions, I just had a conversation with Allie downstairs, and she is going to be fine." He lauded their courage. "As tragic as the circumstances of what we've seen today are, as heartbreaking as it is for the families, it's worth us spending most of our time reflecting on young Americans like Allie and Stephanie, because they represent what's best in us, and they assure us that out of this darkness a brighter day is going to come," Obama said.Obama said many hugs were shared and tears shed on Sunday. "I come to them not so much as president but as a father and a husband," Obama said. "I confessed to them that words are always inadequate in these kinds of situations, but that my main task was to serve as a representative of the entire country and let them know that we are thinking about them at this moment and will continue to think about them each and every day." He said he encouraged the people he met on Sunday not to dwell on the evil caused by suspected gunman James Holmes. "In the end, after he has felt the full force of our justice system, what will be remembered are the good people who were impacted by this tragedy," Obama said. The President said he encouraged the people he met on Sunday not to dwell on the evil caused by suspected gunman James Holmes. "In the end, after he has felt the full force of our justice system, what will be remembered are the good people who were impacted by this tragedy," Obama said.