Friday, August 31, 2012

Pakistan: NAB demoralized over SC verdict

Apex court’s verdict barring National Accountability Bureau from investigating Chief Justice’s son Arsalan Iftikhar has left the premier investigation agency of the country as demoralized with its entire staff perturbed. “Two of our former Chairmen falling prey to the apex court’s orders had already dented the morale of the essential accountability organization,” well-placed sources told Online on condition of anonymity. The sources were referring to the resignation of former Chairman NAB Naveed Ahsan and eviction of his successor Justice (retired) Deedar Hussain Shah both due to the apex court’s disliking. “Now the withdrawal of the Arsalan Iftikhar inquiry, which the Supreme Court itself had assigned to the NAB through the Attorney General, has left its entire hierarchy as stunned,” the sources added. “It appears that the special bench of the Supreme Court has passed this order not only to give relief to Chief Justice’s son but also to deject the NAB, the accountability arm of the federal government,” the sources said. “It has no precedent in the practice of law that an accused is given investigator of choice,” they observed. Legal experts were of view that it would open up a new Pandora Box and would ruin the credibility of the prime institutions like the NAB. According to sources, Dr Shoaib Suddle has no mandate or executive authority to probe anyone, notwithstanding his professional competence and credence. An outstanding officer of the Police Service of Pakistan who has also served as Director General Intelligence Bureau, Dr Suddle is the incumbent Federal Tax Ombudsman. Earlier the NAB sources told Online that Dr Arsalan appeared just once before the NAB authorities but never volunteered to answer the investigators’ questions. “During his single appearance at NAB, he claimed that he would go back to the apex court seeking relief against NAB inquiry,” the sources added. At the same time, Registrar Supreme Court Faqir Hussain never bothered to appear before the NAB.

The Pen By Which King Amanullah Signed Documents

President Hamid Karzai
considered this pen very historic asset by which King Amanullah Khan Ghazi had signed the documents pertaining to the independence of Afghanistan. President Karzai has delivered this pen to Omara Khan Masoudi head of the national museum at a ceremony held at Presidential Palace. This pen has been presented by the grandson of King Amanullah Khan to the people of Afghanistan at the presence of Princess Hindia daughter of Amanullah Khan and it was delivered to the national museum by President Karzai as a spiritual asset of the country. In order to preserve this big national asset that has spiritual value for the country, president Karzai instructed the head of the national museum to register this valuable pen and preserve it as an important national asset at the national museum. President Karzai added that this pen is an important national asset through which King Amanullah signed the documents of Afghanistan’s independence. President Karzai thanked the grandson of King Amanullah Khan for delivering this valuable pen to the people of Afghanistan. President Karzai said that the people of Afghanistan are desirous and certain that this pen will be duly preserved at the national museum and the future generations will see it and our sons will realize the value of independence of the country and they will strive for preservation of their homeland to progress as independent state, its people stand on their feet, enjoy a good life and make their future through the democratic governments. Princess Hindia the daughter of Amanullah Khan in a speech appreciated the president on her and her brother behalf Ehsanullah who has transferred the pen to Afghanistan and expressed the hope that other valuable works worth historic values are also transferred to the country. Mohammad Karim Khalili second vice-president and members of the cabinet were also present at the ceremony.

Bilawal hints at double standards of judiciary

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has hinted at the double standards of judiciary in Arsalan Iftikhar case Chairman PPP Bilawal tweeted on his personal twitter account that National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was the one which led the witchunt against Benazir Bhutto when she was alive but when it comes to Arsalan Iftikhar (Chief Justice of Pakistan’s son) NAB is stopped to proceed. He tweeted the following comment on his twitter account: “NAB led witchhunt vs SMBB when alive NAB told 2 begin proceedings vs SMBB’s grave. When it comes to Arsalan NAB is stopped.#doublestandards”

Did the NAM summit backfire on Iran?

Al Jazeera
The 120-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) had gathered this week in Tehran for a two-day summit. On the agenda are the Syrian crisis, human rights and nuclear disarmament. Iran hopes the high-profile event will prove that attempts by the West to punish it economically for its disputed nuclear programme have failed.But there is already discord over Syria when Mohamed Morsi, the Egyptian president, called for "solidarity with the struggle of the Syrian people" against what he called Bashar al-Assad's "oppressive regime". Iran is a key backer of the Syrian government, and Morsi's speech prompted the Syrian delegation to walk out of the meeting in protest. The US and Israel have tried to discourage members of the NAM from attending the event in the Iranian capital. The NAM summit, held for nations not allied to any major power bloc – is seen as a tool to advance the interests of developing nations. Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, outlining clearly what was at stake in the Syrian conflict, called on all states to stop supplying weapons to all sides in the Syrian conflict, saying: "Now we face the grim risk of civil war, destroying Syria's rich tapestry of communities. Those who provide arms to either side in Syria are contributing to the misery. Further militarisation is not the answer." On Wednesday Ban met Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, and expressed concerns about Iran's human rights record and urged Khamenei to take concrete steps to prove Iran's nuclear work is peaceful.Khamenei who also spoke at the summit, accused the UN Security Council of being outmoded and controlled by the US, and reiterated Iran's rights to a peaceful nuclear energy programme. He said: "I repeat that [Iran] is not developing capabilities for nuclear weapons, but also will not overlook the rights of its people and their need for access to peaceful nuclear energy. Our motto is nuclear energy for all and nuclear weapons is for none. We stand by both of these mottos, and we know that breaking the bias views that some foreign countries hold about the production of nuclear energy and the underlying fundamentals is to the benefit of all nations." In this episode Inside Story asks: How will the NAM summit boost Iran's image? Joining presenter Veronica Pedrosa for the discussion are guests: Sadegh Zibakalam, a political analyst and professor of political science at the University of Tehran; Mustafa Alani, the director of security and defence at the Gulf Research Centre; and Mehdi Khalaji, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a scholar of Islamic studies. "We are not talking about Iran's isolation, economic or domestic problems. We're talking about the NAM being held in Iran. Obviously any third world regime would have made propaganda…whether or not the NAM has a role to play today has nothing to do with Iran." Sadegh Zibakalam, a political science professor, the University of Tehran

Despite pressure, Zardari talks trade with Iran

The Express Tribune
Defying the increasing international pressure to isolate Iran, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari talked trade, investment and energy with his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, on the sidelines of the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
Presidents Zardari and Ahmadinejad reaffirmed their commitment to complete work on several joint projects, including the multi-billion dollar Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, electricity transmission lines and road links.
The U.S. has been persistently trying to convince Islamabad to abandon the IP gas pipeline project, and sweetening the offer with various other gas projects originating from Central Asian states and passing through Afghanistan.
Islamabad, until now, has appeared to defy the pressure. The president noted that the current volume of trade between the two countries is far below the existing potential and said there is a need to remove tariff and non-tariff barriers and identify alternative arrangements to expand the bilateral trade. The two sides also reviewed progress on the mega projects, including the IP gas pipeline, the 1,000MW Taftan-Quetta power transmission line, the 100MW Gwadar power supply project, construction of Noshki-Dalbandin section of Quetta-Taftan Highway and up-gradation of the Quetta-Taftan railway track. The leadership also discussed issues related to visa facilitation and opening of the new border posts to connect Karachi and Gawadar with Chah Bahar and Bandar Abbas through the coastal highway. The two sides also agreed in principle to operate new flights between Islamabad and Tehran, Peshawar and Mashhad, and Quetta and Gilgit to Mashhad. The regional situation especially that of Afghanistan and Syria also came under discussion. Pakistan desires an immediate end to the bloodshed in Syria and will continue advocating principles of non intervention and non interference in the internal affairs of states, the president said. President Zardari also expressed condolences over the losses that Iran suffered due to the recent earthquake and offered all possible assistance.

President Zardari proposes ad-hoc working group for NAM

Radio Pakistan
Addressing the NAM summit in Tehran‚ the President has proposed the establishment of an Ad-hoc Working Group to forge a common vision to identify new challenges and the role of NAM in the 21st Century.President Asif Ali Zardari has proposed the establishment of an Ad Hoc Working Group to forge a common vision of new challenges and the role of NAM in the 21st Century.
Addressing the 16th Non Aligned Summit in Teheran on Friday‚ he said the NAM Chair‚ in consultation with other members of Troika‚ may chart out a strategy for this purpose. The President said Pakistan would be happy to actively contribute towards the strengthening of the Movement. He said solutions to complex problems must be based on dialogue and consensus. He said the more we cooperate the more the space for unilateral action is reduced. He said Pakistan is a peace loving country and seeks a peaceful‚ stable and prosperous neighborhood. He said we seek it through enhanced economic cooperation and peaceful resolution of outstanding disputes. The President said Pakistan is engaged in a comprehensive dialogue with India. We look forward to finding peaceful solutions to all outstanding issues‚ including Jammu and Kashmir. He said destinies of Pakistan and Afghanistan are interconnected and both have suffered from prolonged conflict in Afghanistan for the past three decades. He said Pakistan is fully committed to promoting durable peace and stability in Afghanistan. It will continue to support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process in Afghanistan. The President said Pakistan hopes the international community‚ while planning withdrawal from Afghanistan‚ would also take into account repatriation of Afghan refugees to their homeland. He said Pakistan is deeply concerned on the continued bloodshed in Syria. Death and destruction in Syria must stop immediately. Democratic aspirations of the Syrian people must be respected. He said Pakistan fully supports the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people. The establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state is critical to peace. About terrorism‚ the President said it is a global threat but no country has suffered so much from it as Pakistan.President Zardari also mentioned the close relationship Pakistan enjoys with the African states and appreciated the role of the leaders in meeting the challenges. He said Pakistan continued to support the UN peace efforts by contributing to the peace-keeping programmes.

Pakistani christens PROTEST IN NEW YORK

Two weeks shy of the world leaders' summit at United Nations, Pakistani Christians from NYC (PCA) & Philadelphia (PACA, CLOP, PACF) join in protest against the daily atrocities committed against minorities of Pakistan

Peshawar: 12 killed in Matni Bazaar blast

12 people died while many others were injured in bomb blast at Matni bazaar in Peshawar. Miscreants installed explosive technique with a double cabin van which had been parked at a place full of crowd of the area people. Having information about the blast, rescue teams and law enforcing institutions reached the site of occurrence and shifted the bodies and injured ones to the nearby hospital. According to sources, number of casualties may increase with the passage of time. Police have cordoned off the area and commenced search operation.

Two Afghan children beheaded in separate incidents
An adolescent boy and a young girl have been beheaded in two separate incidents in Afghanistan, local officials and police said on Friday, in the latest brazen attacks that have raised fresh questions about a splintering Taliban. A 12-year-old boy was kidnapped and killed in southern Kandahar province on Wednesday, his severed head placed near his body to send a warning to police, said provincial governor spokesman Jawid Faisal. The brother of the boy, neither of whom were named by officials, was a member of the Afghan Local Police (ALP), a U.S.-trained militia charged with making Afghans in Taliban strongholds, like Kandahar, feel more secure, Faisal said. "It's a Taliban warning to the ALP and to others who support the government," Faisal said of the killing, which happened in Kandahar's Panjwai district. Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf denied the group was involved. Separately, a 6-year-old girl was beheaded in eastern Kapisa province on Thursday, said provincial police chief Abdul Hamed. "We are not sure if she was beheaded by her family or the Taliban, but we know the Taliban control the area," Hamed said of the killing in Jalukhil village. He added that he could not send investigators to the area out of fears for their safety. The murders follow the shooting or beheading of 17 young revelers attending a party in southern Helmand province this week, which officials said was the work of the Taliban, a charge the group also denied. That massacre raised fresh concerns about Taliban leaders' grip on their scattered fighters, amid on-again, off-again peace moves by the group with the Afghan government. It also suggested that there are grassroots insurgent fighters who are not in a mood for compromise. "What we're seeing could be a new tactic by the Taliban to behead civilians to intimidate the population," said Faisal. In Kandahar's Zhari district, officials also said on Friday that a 16-year-old boy accused by the Taliban of spying for the government was beheaded and skinned in late July. Such incidents highlight the difficulty that Taliban leaders have in enforcing discipline across an estimated 20,000 fighters spread from Afghanistan to Pakistan. The central Taliban leadership is trying to improve the group's image in case it wants to push forward tentative reconciliation steps and perhaps even enter mainstream politics. But some militant units are hard to control, roaming the countryside and attacking those deemed immoral. NATO will withdraw most of its combat troops by the end of 2014, leaving Afghan forces in the lead security role.

Mr. Romney Reinvents History

Mitt Romney wrapped the most important speech of his life, for Thursday night’s session of his convention, around an extraordinary reinvention of history — that his party rallied behind President Obama when he won in 2008, hoping that he would succeed. “That president was not the choice of our party,” he said. “We are a good and generous people who are united by so much more than divides us.” The truth, rarely heard this week in Tampa, Fla., is that the Republicans charted a course of denial and obstruction from the day Mr. Obama was inaugurated, determined to deny him a second term by denying him any achievement, no matter the cost to the economy or American security — even if it meant holding the nation’s credit rating hostage to a narrow partisan agenda. Mr. Romney’s big speech, delivered in a treacly tone with a strange misty smile on his face suggesting he was always about to burst into tears, was of a piece with the rest of the convention. Republicans have offered precious little of substance but a lot of bromides (“A free world is a more peaceful world!”) meant to convey profundity and take passive-aggressive digs at President Obama. But no subjects have received less attention, or been treated with less honesty, than foreign affairs and national security — and Mr. Romney’s banal speech was no exception. It’s easy to understand why the Republicans have steered clear of these areas. While President Obama is vulnerable on some domestic issues, the Republicans have no purchase on foreign and security policy. In a television interview on Wednesday, Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, could not name an area in which Mr. Obama had failed on foreign policy. For decades, the Republicans were able to present themselves as the tougher party on foreign and military policy. Mr. Obama has robbed them of that by being aggressive on counterterrorism and by flexing military and diplomatic muscle repeatedly and effectively. Mitt Romney has tried to sound tough, but it’s hard to see how he would act differently from Mr. Obama except in ways that are scary — like attacking Iran, or overspending on defense in ways that would not provide extra safety but would hurt the economy. Before Thursday night, the big foreign policy speeches were delivered by Senator John McCain and Ms. Rice. Mr. McCain was specific on one thing: Mr. Obama’s plan to start pulling out of Afghanistan at the end of 2014 is too rapid. While he does not speak for Mr. Romney, his other ideas were unnerving, like suggesting that the United States should intervene in Syria. Mr. Romney reportedly considered Ms. Rice as a running mate, and she seems to have real influence. But Ms. Rice is a reminder of the colossal errors and deceptions of George W. Bush’s administration. She was a central player in the decision to invade Iraq and the peddling of fantasies about weapons of mass destruction. She barely mentioned Iraq in her speech and spoke not at all about Afghanistan. She was particularly ludicrous when she talked about keeping America strong at home so it could be strong globally, since she was part of the team that fought two wars off the books and entirely on borrowed money. Ms. Rice said the United States has lost its “exceptionalism,” but she never gave the slightest clue what she meant by that — a return to President Bush’s policy of preventive and unnecessary war? She and Mr. McCain both invoked the idea of “peace through strength,” but one of the few concrete proposals Mr. Romney has made — spending 4 percent of G.D.P. on defense — would weaken the economy severely. Mr. McCain was not telling the truth when he said Mr. Obama wants to cut another $500 billion from military spending. That amount was imposed by the Republicans as part of the extortion they demanded to raise the debt ceiling. Ms. Rice said American allies need to know where the United States stands and that alliances are vitally important. But the truth is that Mr. Obama has repaired those alliances and restored allies’ confidence in America’s position after Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice spent years tearing them apart and ruining America’s reputation in the world. The one alliance on which there is real debate between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama is with Israel. But it is not, as Mr. Romney and his supporters want Americans to believe, about whether Mr. Obama is a supporter of Israel. Every modern president has been, including Mr. Obama. Apart from outsourcing his policy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on settlements, it’s not clear what Mr. Romney would do differently. But after watching the Republicans for three days in Florida, that comes as no surprise.

Daddy’s jihadi Supreme Court to the rescue as judiciary thwarts corruption investigations – again!

Let Us Build Pakistan
In a move that should come as no surprise given its past antecedents, the Supreme Court snatched away the investigative authority from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the corruption cases against the son of the Chief Justice, Arsalan Iftikhar. “ISLAMABAD: Taking away investigative authority from National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the financial impropriety case against Dr Arsalan Iftikhar, the Supreme Court on Thursday directed former police official Shoaib Suddle to probe into the scandal as a one-man commission, Express News reported. Once directives are released, the commission will have to complete the investigation within a period of 30 days. According to the Supreme Court’s ruling, Suddle will be given the power of a judge and will also be able to take assistance from lawyers.” Source How convinient! Inspite of the best efforts of Pakistan’s media, there is significant evidence that implicates not only Arsalan Iftikhar but also his daddy and uncle judges of the PCO Court also known as the Supreme Court of Pakistan. This includes but is not limited to: - Recieving financial benefits from real estate tycoons after blackmailing them - Using public property such as the Chief Justice Residence as an office address - Mis- declaration on Tax Returns - Misusing house Building loans for the lavish wedding celebrations of Arsalan Iftikhar - Misusing State priveleges for getting Official passports - Abusing the power of the Court to build a multi-billion ruppee business in the space of 4 years with a poor academic and professional background - Misusing the Supreme Court premises for registering a Charitable Foundation and misusing tax payer monies by saving millions on utilities, taxes etc for said charity. The list goes on and on and for this, the Pakistani public is deeply indebted to the journalist research of Senator Faisal Raza Abidi of the Pakistan People’s Party. For full details on the efforts of Senator Faisal Raza Abidi, we recommend the Facebook Page Faisal Leaks for a complete list relevant video clips. Pakistan’s Supreme Court has covered itself in disgrace and this sad story of sellout and corrupt judges (barring a few honourable exceptions) is as old as Pakistan itself. They have repeatedly failed the public and have failed to provide justice and closure to over 2.3 million pending cases. Aside from providing legal cover to various military dictators – a stigma that also taints this sorry lot of bureaucrats with a God complex, Pakistan’s Supreme Court has sent one PPP Prime Minister to the gallows and illegally disqualified another PPP PM - both on trumped up charges. With its repeated interference in the domain of the Parliament (legislature) and the Executive, the Supreme Court has conducted witch hunts against the Pakistan People’s Party and its government. When it suited their whims, this judiciary has forced the investigative authorities to concoct and invent evidence against elected representatives like Abdul Qadir Gillani, Ali Musa Gillani and Hamid Saeed Kazmi. On the other hand, when it comes to the son of the Chief Justice and mass murdering Jihadis like Malik Ishaq and Hafiz Saeed, evidence gathered by the Prosecution is either obstructed or deemed insufficient. This PCO judiciary is supported by the Islamist-right wing coalition of Jamaat-e-Islami, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (Imran Khan Group). It also has powerful cheer leaders amongst Pakistan’s chattering elites (who like to think of themselves as ”civil society”) and a Corporate media that has taken propaganda to record levels. The main apologists for this corrupt judiciary include Hamid Mir, Kashif Abbasi, Ayesha Tammy Haq, Samad Khurram, Kamran Shahid, Haider Waheed, Talat Hussain along with other similar characters. In Pakistan today, if you are a relative of these PCO judges like Rana Sanaullah, Law Minister of the Punjab Provincial Government (PML N) or better yet, the son of the Chief Justice, life is good. There is no such thing as moral, ethical or financial accountability for such people and for the leaders of PML N and PTI. Similarly, life has never been so good for mass murderers like Malik Ishaq and Hafiz Saeed – two of the many Jihadi beneficiaries of this Supreme Court who clearly had to face a different standard of investigation than say Moonis Elahi or Hamid Saeed Kazmi (PPP). This judiciary is the best friend for a Pro Taliban corporate media and their quest to avoid paying any tax. Similarly, the Pakistan Army will forever be indebted to their fellow public employees in this Supreme Court for removing Hussain Haqqani. GHQ will also appreciate #IftikharPCO and his merry band for its cosmetic treatment and stalling of the Missing Person’s Case and Asghar Khan Petition. This Petition has been filed since nearly two decades and details ISI’s financial efforts in derailing democracy and the elected government of Late Benazir Bhutto during the last century. Cheap Justice Galore!

Pakistan's atlas shows Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as Indian land

A new school atlas published by the government of Pakistan's Punjab province has shown Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the Gilgit-Baltistan region as Indian territories. The education authorities rushed to recall the atlas from all elementary and high school libraries of Punjab. The government of chief minister Shahbaz Sharif has had to face criticism from academicians. Over 15,000 copies of the atlas had been delivered to school libraries so far. The education department said it would take action against all those responsible for printing, approving and distributing the atlas.

Traces of polio virus found in Hyderabad sewage lines

The Express Tribune
The district administration has declared a polio emergency in Hyderabad after discovering traces of the virus in sewage lines of some parts of the city. The alarming announcement was made by health officials at a meeting chaired by the deputy commissioner, Agha Shahnawaz Babur, on Thursday. They added that samples collected from some sewage pumping stations showed presence of the virus. “The samples collected from the area of Tulsi Das pumping station tested positive,” said the district health officer, Aslam Pecheho. Babur criticised health officials in the meeting, asking why over 120 vaccination drives had failed to win the city the recognition of being polio free. “This is an alarming situation for the citizens. We can’t expose our children to this crippling disease,” he said. The revelation comes amid international warnings of stringent checks on Pakistanis travelling abroad and the World Health Organisation’s public disapproval about the progress of an anti-polio drive. An earlier report by the WHO stated that the virus reemerged in Sohrab Goth, Badin, Gadap Town, Hyderabad city and Sukkur, which raises questions about the outbreak of the disease beyond Karachi. Hyderabad has so far added one polio case to the national tally of over two dozen cases this year. The upcoming three-day vaccination drive in the city will start from September 10. According to Pecheho, 829 polio teams will vaccinate 288,564 children up till the age of 5. Nationwide As reported by The Express Tribune on August 6, a total of 27 polio cases have been reported in Pakistan so far this year, with 13 of them from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, six from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, three each from Sindh and Punjab and two from Balochistan. These cases were reported from 15 different districts in the country. Apart from Sindh, sewerage water from Lahore, Rawalpindi and Peshawar also contained traces of the virus Karachi seems to have regained its status of being one of three high-transmission polio zones in the country. Sewage samples from multiple localities in the city continued to present traces of the virus in lab tests till 2011. However, the efforts of polio teams appeared to have paid off when later samples appeared devoid of the virus, allowing the city be stripped off its high-transmission status for a short period of time. The resurgence of the virus in the city’s sewerage system has been blamed on the failure of the latest nationwide polio campaign in July to reach thousands of children in Karachi and other trouble spots in the country. But one of the greatest challenges is the migration from rural areas to cities as people flee fighting in the north.

Arsalan’s petition verdict part of Judicial Marshal Law

Provincial Information Minister Sindh Sharjeel Inam Memon has said that verdict on Arsalan Iftekhar's review petition is a part of judicial marshal law and Chaudhary Nisar should be ashamed for putting blame on media. Talking to media after attending seminar held at private university here on Thursday, the minister said that Prime Minister of Pakistan faces the trial but Judiciary doesn't show their accounts. PML-N and Chaudhary Nisar are leveling baseless allegations, said Sharjeel Memon. He said that foreign hands are involved in hatching conspiracy against the country, adding that the conspirators don’t come here but use their regional agents.

Pakistan: Politics of provinces

The Frontier Post
It is all politics, both the creation of the parliamentary commission on new provinces in Punjab and its rejection by the Punjab Assembly. Bluntly, both the PPP and the PML (N) are flirting playfully with something very serious. Creation of new provinces is a very serious matter which has to be taken in all the earnestness that the issue imperatively demands. But the two parties are just belittling it with their patently politically-motivated shenanigans. The PPP originally mooted the proposal of a Seraiki province. And the pundits screamed that it was sheer politics, and a bland electoral politics at that. The PML (N) first countered the move with the idea of a Bahawalpur province and now with the call for a Potohar province. And this too the pundits term as sheer politics. Whatever it is, with their politics of provinces the two parties are smiting into oblivion some of the very legitimate and pressing demands for a province. As for one, the popular demand of the tribal people for giving the status of a province to their Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). By every reckoning, theirs is an eminently justifiable aspiration and a rightful expectation. Not only they qualify to have a province of their own, be the criterion administrative, linguistic, ethnic, geographical, demographic or resources. For the present, their long-denied induction into the national mainstream has nevertheless been rendered an indispensable requisite no lesser for the supreme objective of preserving and strengthening the national security, stability and solidarity. Yet the long-cherished demand of our tribal compatriots has plainly drowned in the bottom of the din of the two parties’ politics of provinces. It should have been occupying the place of primacy. But cudgeled into such an insignificance has it been in the ongoing bout over the provinces in Punjab between the PPP and the PNL (N) that nobody talks even in passing of a FATA province. Then, it is not in Punjab alone that calls are coming out for carving it up into more provinces. Such calls are being heard in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan as well. And not all those demands can be shot down all like that. Some make an eminent sense and must be put to a very serious thought and scrutiny. Furthermore, smaller federating units with greater devolution of power demonstrably make for far more wellbeing of the citizens and the strengthening of the federation. In neigbouring India, they have gone for a massive exercise of craving out new provinces over the years, and are still continuing with this drill. And we too stand in urgent need of a similar reconfiguration of our land in the greater national interests. But this task palpably cannot be undertaken wisely and efficaciously by the political eminences, simply because their politics will inevitably enter into the task in a big way. Some nonpartisan people have to be involved decisively, as creation of new provinces doesn’t mean simply declaring a part of the land as a province. Intricate issues like its sustainability as a province administratively and financially, and getting a fair share of the resources from the mother province are involved. Hence, if the two parties are any serious about the creation of new provinces, they must agree, in concurrence with all the other political formations and groups, the establishment of a blue-ribbon commission to study and examine the various demands being voiced in the country for new provinces and put up its recommendations to the parliament for perusal and approval. It must be an independent commission comprising nonpartisan prominent public figures and experts. But if the two parties are only after politics, they may keep up with their funfair of establishing politically-inspired commissions, rejecting those commissions and calling for new political commissions. After all, supreme national interests come home to them only sparingly, if at all. They may have their abominable politics of provinces to the fill. The people give two hoots to their theatrics.

Pakistan’s minorities: the bigger issue

Farahnaz Ispahani
For a little unlettered girl to be investigated under any law at all for the crime of allegedly unwittingly burning the pages of the Holy Quran is intolerable As international and domestic outrage increases against the constant harassment of religious minorities in Pakistan, those who do not want to fundamentally change Pakistan away from intolerance appear to have developed their own strategy. They seem willing to resolve individual cases that get negative international attention or generate domestic outrage, without wanting to tackle any of the fundamental issues. The fundamental issue today is that Pakistan is continuing to become an intolerant society. When Rimsha Masih, an 11-year old poor Christian child reportedly suffering from Down’s syndrome was charged with blasphemy, it was part of a pattern of abuse of religious minorities. To treat it as an individual case or to make it into a child’s rights and mental illness issue is to take the heat away from the real problem. The real problem continues to be the day-to-day persecution, harassment and murder of Christians, Ahmadis and Hindus under Pakistan’s laws. Much of the legal paraphernalia of discrimination and oppression on religious grounds, including the blasphemy laws, are merely more extreme versions of laws introduced by the British. As Myra McDonald of Reuters has said, “Ironic, backers of blasphemy law defending a British law, inspired by the Old Testament.” The Associated Press reported on Monday that the All Pakistan Ulema Council, an organisation of Muslim clerics, held a joint news conference with the Pakistan Interfaith League. The Interfaith League has said that 600 Christian families have fled their homes and is campaigning to restore them to their abodes. In a separate story AP quoted Maulana Tahir-ul-Ashrafi of the All Pakistan Ulema Council as saying, “We demand an impartial and thorough investigation into the [Rimsha Masih] case. Strict action shouldbe taken against all those accusing the girl if she is found innocent,” he said. Mr Ashrafi also declared, “The government should make this case an example so that nobody will dare misuse the blasphemy law in future.” Therein lies the rub. Mr Ashrafi and his colleagues want this case to be used to end discussion about the need to reform the Blasphemy Laws. They want Rimsha Masih’s case to be investigated and decided under a law that has been so massively abused that it needs fundamental review. But they would rather get mercy for Rimsha without challenging the structure and process that makes oppression of religious minorities possible. For a little unlettered girl to be investigated under any law at all for the crime of allegedly unwittingly burning the pages of the Holy Quran is intolerable. But what is even worse for those who understand what Pakistan has become, especially those who belong to minority communities themselves or are citizens who have spent a lifetime fighting injustices with their pens as activists, as human rights lawyers, and as thinkers, is to exploit this case as mere eyewash. What makes this case of young Rimsha so different from other instances of false or unjustified cases filed under blasphemy laws? Why was there no joint platform before, why the focus on this one case alone? Because, as the Maulana remarked (as reported by AP), “At the news conference, the head of the clerics’ council, Maulana Tahir-ul-Ashrafi, told the outside world not to interfere, saying Pakistan would provide justice for the girl and her community.” Even after Rimsha has been freed, which we hope she will, the laws opposed by most of the civilised world will still stand. Why did the Maulana feel he had the right to speak for ‘Pakistan’? Perhaps because he was asked to do so by some in the state apparatus who do not want the case of Rimsha Masih hanging over efforts to ‘re-set’, yet again, Pakistan-US ties or around the forthcoming United Nations General Assembly meeting. But the deep-rooted problem of oppression and intolerance of religious minorities, to which one may add the ongoing organised killings (which some plausibly call genocide) of Shias, needs greater resolve than the temporary solution of solving an individual case within the framework of flawed existing laws. If our establishment showed the resolve to put Pakistan and the lives of Pakistani citizens, including those from religious minorities, before those of strategic depth and other such outdated concepts, then perhaps they could get on with the business of dismantling the jihadi groups that are often behind the mobs baying for blood in blasphemy cases. We cannot afford more courageous and crucial voices standing alone and being cut down like Shaheed Salmaan Taseer and Shaheed Shahbaz Bhatti. The larger issue has to be dealt with by the real powerbrokers in Pakistan, not just the case of a handicapped poor Christian Pakistan child. The writer is a suspended Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan who serves on the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Rights

Girl accused of blasphemy to be held in prison

A Pakistani court ordered a Christian girl accused of blasphemy to be held in prison for two more weeks as police finalise charges.Her lawyer, Tahir Naveed Chausdhury said the court's decision was procedural, since her initial detention ended a day earlier. He said he hopes to have her freed on bail tomorrow. Footage broadcast on Pakistan's Express News showed the girl in court covered in a white sheet to protect her identity.

Pakistani crop-pickers exposed to hazardous pesticides

Thousands of crop-pickers across Pakistan face serious health risks by being exposed to residues of pesticides, research carried out in the rural areas of the country has revealed. Harmful remains of pesticides have been traced in fruits, vegetables, crops and, indeed, in the entire agricultural Eco-system, making Pakistan one of the few countries in the world where such alarming levels go unnoticed by government authorities. In Pakistan’s case, there is a complete lack of regulation or monitoring on the use of pesticides and their affects on the men and women involved in the filed. Dr Tahir Anwar, who serves as the Principal Research Officer and in charge at Pakistan Agriculture Research Council’s (PARC) Pesticides Research Institute at the at University of Karachi has been investigating local pesticides and their use. His thesis, titled “Pesticide residues in water, soil, fruits and vegetables in cotton growing areas of Sindh and lower Punjab” was focussed on the soil, water, fruits and vegetable samples obtained from cotton-growing areas of Nawabshah, Bahawalpur and Lodhran districts of southern Punjab. The author’s survey included people involved in the use of pesticides in the field and covered topics such as pesticide awareness, possible health hazards and handling of the chemicals. According to the research findings, besides contamination in the crop, the top layers of soil were also found contaminated. Harmful remains of pesticides were noticed in 87.5 per cent of the fruits, while 28 per cent of the samples exceeded the Maximum Acceptable Concentrate (MAC) for any single pesticide. In addition, all (100 per cent )vegetables were found contaminated and 37 per cent samples were above the MAC. The study also found majority of the water samples contaminated with pesticide residues. Malpractices and lack of care for the crop-pickers and their families were among the major startling revelations of Dr Awan’s study, which highlighted the indiscriminate use of pesticides in Pakistan and their potential threats to livestock and wildlife. Pesticide classification Currently, three major groups of pesticides, including Organophosphate, Pyrethroid and Organochlorine are being widely used in Pakistan. Additionally, 108 types of insecticides, 30 kinds of fungicides, 39 types weedicides and six different types of rodenticides are being used in the agricultural sector of the country. Despite the widespread use of pesticides, almost 80 per cent of the spray never reaches the plant and is left in the soil and eco-systems, where it remains there for a very long time and then the harmful chemicals move further through wind and water. Major health hazards “The use of cough-related medicines was seen to have increased during pesticide spray season in all cotton-growing areas,” Dr Awan told Cotton, being a major cash crop of Pakistan, consumes more than 70 per cent pesticides being used in the country and at least a dozen spray sessions are recorded during a single harvesting season (which starts in September and runs up to November) of cotton. “When I asked around 100 cotton sprayers about their families, majority of them (at least 60 per cent) said that they were childless,” Dr Awan revealed, adding that still birth was also observed among women involved in cotton farming. According to Dr Awan, the alarming rate of infertility among cotton-farmers and pesticide-sprayers could be down to the fact that even a single molecule of pesticide could disturb hormone levels in the human body. He said that tiredness, dizziness and headaches were commonly observed among farmers after spray sessions, but recovery was observed following baths or showers. Dr Anwar stressed the need to record medical histories of all the farmers, especially those involved in spraying pesticides in cotton-growing areas and called for the introduction of government-backed health awareness programs for cotton-growing farmers in order to highlight the precautions and hazards related to the handling, mixing and spraying of pesticides. Pesticides have also been harming women, who often bring their babies and toddlers to the fields during spraying sessions. Women were also reported to have fainted during spraying sessions and developed skin diseases on their hands. In some cases, women also picked the woody parts of the cotton plants and used it as cooking fuel. Due to lack of awareness, farmers have also been also using cotton pesticides on other plants, including fruits and vegetables. For instance, okra (also known as lady’s fingers) is biologically close to cotton and is thus affected by similar insects in the field, prompting farmers to use cotton pesticides on the vegetable. Alarmingly, there is a complete lack of pesticide-residue regulation and monitoring in Pakistan. This leads to several malpractices, including pesticide adulteration as suppliers are known to mix cheap but more dangerous chemicals in sealed pesticide containers via syringes and other methods. Apart from this, banned substance DDT is being smuggled from neighbouring countries, including India, and being used in Pakistan, where it is commonly mixed with other pesticides. The researcher urged the authorities to monitor pesticide-spraying practices and check for residues on crops, fruits and vegetables by implementing a centralised laboratory system to save the lives of the farming families, who form a vital part of the country and its economy.

Imran Talib Khan: Politics of power

Editorial: By Najam Sethi
Politics of power
Is Imran Khan's tsunami "full of sound and fury signifying nothing", as Shakespeare would say? Imran claims his party's "card holding" membership has crossed the 10 million mark, no mean achievement. He insists PTI will hold transparent and genuine internal elections soon, which is not to be scoffed at. Now he has unfurled a blueprint to transform Pakistan from a dependent and failing state into a "Khudmukhtar" and prosperous one in five years, which would be an extraordinary accomplishment even if half its stated goals could come true. The Reform Agenda is the handiwork of Asad Umar and Jehangir Tareen. Mr Umar is a dynamic corporate manager who would like to run Pakistan like the MD of a well-oiled, growth-oriented company wedded to the principles of managerial capitalism. His problem is that he lacks the political experience to understand why Pakistan, which is being pulled apart by various gravitational centres of power, cannot be run like a command-company from one vantage point. At least three military dictators, who styled themselves as Chief Executives, have tried and failed to set a self-sustaining course for Pakistan precisely because of such complex factors. Mr Tareen is an agri-business tycoon who has hopped Muslim Leagues and was flirting with the idea of forming his own Mr Clean Party before Imran trumped him with his populist charisma. He is a solid establishment-man who often looks uncomfortable in the company of "revolutionary" types in the PTI. The blueprint is hamstrung by unrealistic assumptions about the nature of Pakistan's political economy. Consider. Its central idea is based on doubling revenues and pruning expenditures so that fiscal space is created for welfare measures and dependency on foreign handouts is reduced. This is not a novel idea. It is also easier said than done. The revenue measures proposed - whitener schemes, universal taxes, repressive measures, tax incentives and regulatory disincentives - are also not new. The whitener schemes are marginal, one-off injections into the economy. The repressive measures make good media headlines but encourage flight of capital abroad. Indeed, bringing back capital stashed away abroad in safe havens via foreign forensic expert companies is notoriously difficult, expensive and time consuming. The tax proposals look good on paper but the political will to legislate them is restricted by the composition of vested interests in and out of parliament. It may be recalled that Mr Khan was the first to succumb to populism when he opposed the present government's effort to impose a value-added tax last year and his party is banking on the very "electable" politicians to win the elections that have always been the biggest obstacles to good governance in every regime. The tax-collecting agency, CBR, is so riddled with corruption, incompetence and bureaucratic lethargy that it has consistently defied the exhortations of every prime minister to deliver the targets. Many strong and good CBR chairmen have come and gone without success. The judicial process is geared to stonewalling appeals down the line and the prosecution is untrained, administratively feeble and motivationally disinterested. Expenditures, too, are notoriously difficult to control. How will subsidies to loss-making public sector corporations be significantly reduced without turning them into lean and mean machines by firing hundreds of thousands of people and raising a political storm on the street and roadblocks in the courts? How will defense expenditures be controlled in the face of myriad imagined and real threats to the "ideology and sovereignty" of Pakistan"? How will tje new PM in Islamabad control the purse strings of the provinces that lay claim to over three quarters of national revenues unless he also has them equally in his grasp, an assumption that is heroic, to say the least, in Sindh and Balochistan? Transforming Governors' Houses etc into public museums and sports complexes is substituting illusion for reality. There are many such institutional and practical holes in the PTI's economic reform agenda. But the greater tragedy is that the "real" issues of political economy and power facing the country have been woefully ignored or wrongly analyzed. For instance, Imran says there will be one national education policy. But the ideological content of educational policy that has promoted religious extremism, social intolerance, political rage and international isolation for the last four decades - all anti-nation-state ingredients - is not even discussed. Economic reliance is placed on socialist China that neither lends nor grants money nor invests it in Pakistan (it is happy to sell goods and services, of course) while the source of capitalist trade and investment, the West, is degraded and even shunned. Any discussion of the role and security policies of the military that bear critically on the safety and welfare of Pakistanis is deliberately avoided. Regional policy statements are mired in contradictions. In other words, as Imran Khan reaches out to grab power, he confuses it with office by showing an alarming ignorance of how power has been wielded in Pakistan and how and why it needs to be radically changed.

Imran Khan’s castle in the air
Blindspots PTI’s economic policy
By:Aziz-ud-Din Ahmad
One had expected the PTI chief not to make unrealistic promises as is the general practice among politicians before the elections. The nation has had enough of roti, kapra, makan type of gimmickry. It badly needs a way out of the cul-de-sac where the ruling elite, both civil and military, has landed it. Most of all it needs realistic programs rather than pies in the sky. To start with, Imran Khan has promised to turn Pakistan into a “modern welfare state where the fruits of development are shared by the entire nation and not just the elite”. A welfare state ensures a social protective system that includes a national health service, safety standards, labor rights and human rights in general. It has been described as a structure built to protect the individual "from the cradle to the grave". One would need little convincing that a welfare state needs to be kept in view as an ideal. To promise it as an achievable goal within an elected tenure when the wherewithal for the system is nowhere in view amounts to using the slogan as election stunt. A welfare state requires huge financial investment by the government in social sector. A prior requirement for this is a vibrant economy, a maximum employment of productive forces and high tax-to-GDP ratio. As things stand Pakistan is a-cash starved country and has to depend on foreign assistance to continue to function. It has a vast reservoir of unemployed labor which cannot be mobilized because of internal and external reasons. The former includes lack of education and training and the later absence of employment opportunities in the country. The tax-to-GDP ratio is among the lowest in the region. The five-pillar emergency reforms program drafted by PTI ignores vital issues that need resolution before Pakistan can take the first step towards the miles long journey on way to a “modern welfare state”. The country suffers from abysmal poverty caused in the main by the skewed land propriety system. Most Asian countries on high growth trajectory had undertaken genuine and thorough going land reforms at an initial stage. In Pakistan, the two half-hearted attempts in the direction failed to produce the desired result as they were no more than eyewash. This has led to a situation where nearly 67 percent of Pakistan’s rural households are landless. This is in contrast to the decline in India’s rural poverty levels between 1987 and 2000 on account of far reaching land reforms. The PTI talks about revolution. There are, however, no radical measures in its program. Thanks the powerful landed interest enjoying dominant position in the party, the PTI feels no need for land reforms. Hence the curse of landlessness will continue to give birth to widespread rural poverty. Distribution of land through agrarian reforms can provide jobs to millions of people. What is more it can create a large market for local industry and promote trade. Big landlords use their huge earnings on foreign goods like fleets of cars, costly luxury items, travels abroad and villas constructed in Europe and US. The money earned in Pakistan creates jobs abroad while it breeds poverty at home. The small farmer who gets land will buy shoes, clothes and things of daily use and educate his children, thus promoting local production and helping raise literacy rate. The enhanced economic activity would boost state revenues. The PTI has promised to increase spending on education from 2% of GDP to 5% in five years. This is more than doubling the present expenditure. Similarly, spending on health will be increased from 0.86% of the GDP to 2.6% in a span five years. Primary health care to the poor people of Pakistan has also been promised. This is yet another unrealistic claim. Where are the funds for achieving the much desired goals? This year the government will spend Rs1.1 trillion – or more than one third of its total budget outlay – on servicing both the domestic and foreign debt. This segment of the budget has in any case to be paid under law. The next big item is defence expenditure. There is no details in the PTI program regarding how to cut down military budget. Unless this is done the promise to raise education and health spending at the proposed scale would remain moonshine. The official allocation for defence in 2012-2013 stands at Rs 545 billion which is highly misleading. Some independent estimates put the actual budget at Rs 800-900 billion, almost double the allocated amount. This is because the estimated budget does not include internal security expenditures, military pensions, debt on military loans, arms purchases, etc. A part of the defence budget diverted to education and health can do wonders. But who will bell the cat? And what does PTI VP Asad Umar mean when he says, “We want one education system for one nation.” Does he mean there will be a uniform curriculum and a single examination system? There are currently three parallel educational systems in the country. First, there are madrassahs or seminaries. In July this year, Wifaq-ul-Madaris Al-Arabia Pakistan declared that the number of students appearing in the examination was 212,490 of which 111,909 were girls and remaining 100,581 were boys. Will PTI make the curriculum of these madrassahs the standard for all students? As for as the madrassahs are concerned, they would resist any move to amalgamate them in either of the two other systems. Second, there is a government school system preparing students for Matriculation examination. Students from low income group go to these schools. The system has its own courses of study and examinations. Before Partition, the system produced outstanding students including two Nobel Laureates in Punjab. Now the system is in shambles. While it needs to be revitalized, it will take at least a decade before it is turned around. Third, there is a private school system preparing students for O and A levels. It is highly costly and only students belonging to the upper class can afford to join these schools. Should Imran Khan try to run government schools on the lines of the private schools, the expenses for the state would be unbearable. So only Imran knows what is meant by “one education system for one nation”. When it comes to improving the supply of energy, Imran Khan counts his chickens before they are hatched. At PTI’s seminar on electricity held in late February, Imran promised to halve the current power shortage and improve gas supply within two years and completely do away with gas and electricity load shedding by the completion of his five-year tenure. Many look at the promise as they do at Imran’s vow of halving the corruption within 9 days of coming to power. He has spelled out two ways to achieve self-sufficiency in power. First a “big bang governance” that would require putting all energy-related matters under a single ministry. Second, generating some 4,500MW through cheaper imported coal instead of furnace oil and achieve a total savings of Rs475 billion in the bargain. He sounds simplistic when says “right now work on Bhasha dam has been taken in hand”. Did nobody tell him that the sole work taken in hand on the Bhashja dam is a foundation stone laid by Yusuf Raza Gilani in December 2011? The World Bank continues to deny funding for the project raising the legal objection that the site of the dam is located in an area disputed between India and Pakistan. As long as Pak-India ties remain strained, there is little hope of any international financing agency or foreign bank putting its money in the project. Few believe that Pak-US relations during Imran’s tenure are likely to turn into a honeymoon. The writer is a former academic and a political analyst.