Wednesday, September 5, 2012

China, U.S. divided over Syria, sea dispute, but vow goodwill

China and the United States were divided on Wednesday over how to end the bloodshed in Syria and defuse tension in the South China Sea and other global troublespots, but stressed hope for steady ties as they navigate political transitions at home. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi vowed goodwill after talks which had been preceded by criticism from Beijing of Clinton's calls for a multilateral solution to the territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. Clinton told reporters that such disagreements did not have to hobble cooperation. "I'm very proud of the strength and resilience that we have built into our relationship," she said after talks with Yang in the cavernous Great Hall of the People in Beijing. "It makes it possible for us to talk about anything, and to find ways to tackle issues frankly and forthrightly," Clinton said, adding that the two sides would not see eye-to-eye on all the issues that are part of their vast relationship. Yang also cast relations in a positive light, saying both sides could work together as long as "mutual respect for each other's core interests and major concerns" continues. "History and facts have repeatedly proven that China and the United States have interwoven interests," said Yang. The remarks underscored efforts by both sides to contain quarrels, especially as they focus on domestic politics. China's Communist Party is preoccupied with a once-in-a-decade leadership over coming months, while U.S. President Barack Obama is focused on a re-election fight culminating in November. U.S. officials canceled an evening press briefing shortly after Chinese state media said a Chinese official who fled to a U.S. consulate in China in February had been charged with defection and taking bribes. Wang Lijun had been the former police chief in the city of Chongqing when China's biggest political uproar in decades felled then Party Secretary of the city, Bo Xilai, after his wife was connected with the murder of a British citizen. Clinton praised China for helping to apply pressure on Iran over its nuclear activities, and Yang sounded a moderating note on Syria by balancing opposition to outside intervention with support for a "political transition". "China is willing to maintain and strengthen dialogue, communication and coordination with the U.S.," Chinese President Hu Jintao told Clinton, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry's website. "Maintaining stable development of Sino-U.S. economic and trade ties has an important impact on the two countries, as well as the revival and growth of the world economy." Neither side gave ground on the South China Sea disputes, which have emerged as a persistent irritant. China's claims over much of the South China Sea, including the Spratly and Paracel islands, have put it at loggerheads with Vietnam, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations. A similar dispute has set China against Japan in the East China Sea. China has been especially irked by the U.S.-backed proposals for a multilateral approach to resolving such disputes, preferring to negotiate separately with each of the far less powerful Asian claimants. A U.S. official told travelling reporters Vice President Xi Jinping, who is overwhelmingly likely to succeed Hu as president, had to cancel his meeting with Clinton. Xi canceled an earlier meeting with Singapore's prime minister, a sign his absence was not a snub at Clinton. "We hope people will not make unnecessary speculation," Yang said of Xi's absence. "FISHING FOR ADVANTAGE" The overseas edition of state mouthpiece the People's Daily laid out China's concerns ahead of Clinton's meetings, suggesting the United States was seeking to gain leverage from China's tensions with Japan and Southeast Asian countries. "The United States' recent conduct concerning the Diaoyu islands and South China Sea issues cannot but create the suspicion that it is attempting to sow discord in order to fish for advantage," said a front-page commentary in the paper, which broadly reflects official thinking. China and Japan have rival claims to the uninhabited Diaoyu islands -- called Senkaku in Japan -- and surrounding fishing areas and potentially rich gas deposits. "Regarding the South China Sea, the position of the Chinese government has been consistent and clear cut. China has sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and their adjacent waters," Yang, the foreign minister, told reporters. "Nowhere else do China and the United States share more converging interests and interact more frequently than in the Asia-Pacific region," he said. Clinton repeated that the United States took no position on the contending claims but wanted China and Southeast Asian states to agree on a code of conduct to avoid flare-ups. The Obama administration also wants greater Chinese cooperation on other international problems, including reining in the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs and finding a solution to the Syria crisis. China backs a "political transition" in Syria to end worsening bloodshed after 18 months of unrest, Foreign Minister Yang said while repeating Beijing's opposition to forceful foreign intervention in the crisis. Clinton said it was "no secret" the U.S. government was disappointed by the positions of China and Russia on Syria, and she reiterated that the best course of action remained tough U.N. Security Council action. Yang also said his government opposed the efforts of any country, including Iran, to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran denies having such ambitions. "We believe the parties should continue to exercise calm and remain committed to diplomatic negotiations," said Yang. Washington has been turning up pressure on Tehran by expanding unilateral sanctions, an approach that Beijing opposes. But Clinton suggested the Chinese government had given some concessions on its energy and trade flows with Iran. She praised efforts with China and other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, which she said had brought "unprecedented pressure" on Tehran.

Haqqani network a lethal threat: ISAF commander

The Deputy Commander of US forces in Afghanistan has termed Haqqani network a 'lethal threat'. While briefing the reporters in Pentagon via live link from Kabul, Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. James Terry, Commander, ISAF Joint Command and Deputy Commander of US forces in Afghanistan, he said that Haqqani network was a lethal threat but "our forces remain engaged to neutralize that". He recalled that Haqqani network had carried-out some attacks in Kabul recently but suggested that "their ability to attack outside Kabul had been greatly reduced". He, however, refused to clearly attribute recent skirmishes on the Af-Pak border to the activities of Haqqani network. "My area of operation is more inside Afghanistan, so I can t say whether the tension on Af-Pak border is also because of Haqqani network", he said. It must be noted here that the US has been pushing Pakistan for action against Haqqani network and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton is set to present a report in Congress on September 9th as to why the Haqqani network should not be designated as a foreign terrorist organization. On the recent tension at Af-Pak border and allegations of cross border attacks from both sides on each other, Lt. Gen. Terry ruled out the possibility of this resulting into a full-scale conflict. "I do not anticipate any war breaking out between Pakistan and Afghanistan because of recent cross-border attacks", he said in response to a question. He said that discussions between ISAF and Pakistani military had improved relations since the Salala attack last November. "We are trying to make sure with Pakistan that we talk to each other instead of fighting", he maintained adding that this had helped improve border coordination mechanism in recent months. "We are engaged in military-military talks with Pakistan very frequently", he explained and believed that this could provide a basis for better security relations with Pakistan. He emphasized that the US and ISAF forces were determined to learn from the event in the past to forge better relations with Pakistan for peace and stability in the region. On the increasing number of insider attacks on ISAF forces in Afghanistan, he conceded that this was a cause of concern. "Insider attacks by Afghan forces are a threat and in full focus of the ISAF forces and Afghan government. ISAF commander, Gen. Allen has talked directly to President Karzai about it and we are commited to taking steps for stopping these attacks", he pointed out. Explaining the steps that had recently been taken to check this trend, he said ISAF and Afghan government had started to re-look at a number of individuals and start a vetting process of all 352,000 members of ANSF. "We are looking at the role of religious and cultural advisors who work closely with Afghan forces besides a number of other factors that are likely to be involved", he said. Lt. Gen. Terry, who is serving his third term in Afghanistan, revealed that almost 25 percent of insider attacks were believed to be insurgent-related "but we don t know the cause of remaining attacks". He regretted that insurgents were killing and intimidating Afghan population at an alarming rate. "Insurgents were still a threat but their capability to carry-out attacks is eroding", he added. He appreciated the progress made in Afghanistan despite the on-ground challenges. "We have made tremendous progress in capability and number of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), who are now taking the lead in security operations in 75 percent of provinces in Afghanistan", he informed. Regarding the 11th anniversary of 9/11 attacks approaching next week, he said that this was an occasion to remind everybody why the US and ISAF forces were present in Afghanistan. "Our aim is to create a more stable Afghanistan, with the chance to develop institutions. We want to make sure that Afghanistan will never again be a safe heaven for terrorists even after the drawdown in 2014", he stressed.

Murder spotlights Pakistan's "heroin kingpin"

One night in March, police found a body slumped in the back of a black Toyota parked in an affluent district of Karachi, Pakistan's commercial capital. The man, a prominent public servant named Abdul Rehman Dashti, had been shot in the face. His watch, ring and money were gone. Not far away, servants scrubbed blood from the driveway of an imposing house belonging to Imam Bheel, a businessman from the southwestern province of Baluchistan. Camera crews rushed to the scene, and Deputy Inspector-General Shaukat Ali Shah named the suspected killer: Bheel himself. The allegation cracked a wall of silence around a man who Washington says is a key gatekeeper in a heroin supply chain stretching from poppy fields in Afghanistan to street corners in the West. Three years earlier, President Barack Obama had designated Bheel an international narcotics "kingpin" - ranking him with drug lords from Venezuela, Colombia and Mexico. The announcement drew scant attention in the Pakistani media and he continued to live quietly in Karachi, untroubled by police. Pakistan faced a deluge of questions last year when Osama bin Laden was killed in a U.S. raid near a military academy outside Islamabad. Few in Pakistan or abroad know the country is home to a suspected major player in a $68 billion global opiates industry that has claimed far more lives than attacks by al-Qaeda. The lack of action over the murder and Bheel's links with politicians raise new questions over the extent of official tolerance for heroin smuggling in Pakistan and its corrosive influence on the volatile, nuclear-armed state. SHROUD OF SILENCE The Dashti case is remarkable not simply because of the sensational accusation: the suspected head of a heroin cartel invited a well-known administrator to his home and then shot him dead. The silence that greeted Dashti's death among Pakistani officials is also striking. Bheel's name is virtually unknown among diplomats in Islamabad, and only a small circle of agents are familiar with his alleged role in narcotics. "He's been on the radar of law enforcement for a long time," said a Western official. "Has anybody ever got close to touching him? No." Bheel is a friend to senators and his eldest son is a member of the national assembly. Bheel himself once campaigned on behalf of a politician aligned with the powerful military. After the murder, Bheel returned to his home area in Makran, a coastal strip along Baluchistan's Arabian seacoast, Baluch sources say. Far from placing pressure on Bheel, the case has underscored his growing confidence, a Pakistani intelligence official who has served in Baluchistan told Reuters. "He's the tycoon over there, the don," he said. The most serious threat Bheel seems to face is not from law enforcement, but from insurgents fighting for an independent Baluchistan. The guerrillas, who have killed other suspected heroin traffickers, accuse Bheel of tipping off intelligence agencies they say are waging a campaign to abduct, torture and kill suspected separatists. The military denies that. "HE KILLED OUR BROTHER" Bheel did not respond to requests made through his family for comment. Yaqoob Bizenjo, Bheel's eldest son, denies his father is a drug trafficker and says the United States has provided no evidence to support its claim. "He's only a businessman. He's not rich," said Yaqoob, 30, who is a member of the national assembly. Dashti's relatives have launched a public call for justice, their anger sharpened by the fact Dashti had known Bheel for 25 years. They came from the same part of Makran. People thought they were friends. "For us, he crossed the limit - he killed our brother," said Fida Dashti, a slight man with a salt-and-pepper beard who spoke publicly about his brother's murder for the first time to Reuters. "He can kill anyone he wants. We cannot sit quiet like other people, we have to raise our voice." While the murder has outraged Dashti's extended family, Bheel's suspected role in the drug trade has provoked scant comment in Makran, a smuggler's paradise where lines between criminality and commerce blur. The US government's decision to list Bheel under the 1999 Kingpin Act, which aims to bar suspected "significant foreign narcotics traffickers" and their business partners from using U.S. banks, caused hardly a ripple. "Everybody knows that he's involved in drugs," said Hasil Khan Bizenjo, a senator who knows Bheel, in comments that seemed to reflect the quotidian nature of the heroin industry in Baluchistan. "He admitted it to close friends." Police have declined requests for comment since the murder. The Dashtis filed an application to the Supreme Court in May demanding an inquiry. Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry denied the request after reviewing a police report, a court official told Reuters. The judge is not obliged to explain his reasoning. MANPOWER AND CONTACTS Western security concerns about Pakistan focus on its history of supporting Afghanistan's Taliban and the safety of its nuclear warheads. The murder case opens a window into an insidious threat to Pakistan itself: a flood of drug money that taints politics, corrupts officials and swells a vast illicit economy. In Afghanistan, poppy production has surged since the Taliban's ouster in 2001. Pakistan, by contrast, has sharply reduced cultivation of the crimson flower from which opium and heroin are derived. But Pakistani cartel bosses remain central to the heroin trade, and convicting them has proved much harder than eradicating poppies. From the opium fields of southern Afghanistan to the tidal creeks of Baluchistan's Makran shore, traffickers haul a slice of the global heroin supply worth roughly $20 billion a year, according to U.N. estimates. Manufacturers stamp their bags of product with signature symbols of scorpions, lions or snakes. Some $1 billion to $1.5 billion of the revenue is retained by trans-shippers in Pakistan, the United Nations says. Much of the rest enriches middlemen ferrying the narcotics to Asia, Africa, Europe and Russia. "We are a victim of this drug," Rehman Malik, Pakistan's interior minister, said in an interview. "We are worried that drugs, arms and ammunition and terrorists are coming across the border." About 100,000 people across the world die each year from taking Afghan opium, the United Nations says, far more than those killed by Islamist militants. Taliban and other insurgents are believed to earn at least $125 million a year from the drugs trade. With opium prices near record highs and NATO troops scaling back in poppy-growing areas ahead of a handover to Afghan forces in 2014, the industry's prospects look bright. THE TRANSPORTER Bheel is not the only alleged trafficker in Baluchistan, but he is said to be among the biggest. "Imam Bheel is a transporter. If people want a large chunk of stuff moved, he's the man that can do it," said the Western official familiar with Pakistan's drug trade. "He provides the networks, the manpower and the contacts." Bheel's own life was shaped by another murder, his father's. His family comes from Baluchistan, an alkaline moonscape of ash-colored hills and isolated towns wedged between Iran and Afghanistan. Covering almost half of Pakistan but home to less than 5 percent of the population, the province has a distinct identity dating back centuries. Baluch nationalists have launched repeated rebellions since the territory became part of Pakistan in 1948, accusing Islamabad of exploiting their natural gas, copper and gold while denying them a fair share of power. Today, a new generation of separatists is waging an uprising overshadowed by the U.S.-backed army's separate battle with Taliban militants along the Afghanistan border. "THE STAMMERER" Nicknamed "the Stammerer" for his speech impediment, Bheel's father was a trader with a reputation for padding his camel trains with boot-legged whiskey. His career ended abruptly in 1980 when a policeman shot him dead at a roadside restaurant, accusing him of killing his wife and son years earlier. His father's death thrust Imam Bheel to the helm of the family business at a time when Afghan opium producers were seeking connections to global markets. Heavily armed convoys of four-by-fours began speeding across Baluchistan's desert before veering into Iran or offloading drugs onto Dhows plying the Arabian sea. Bheel, believed to be in his 60s, caught the attention of authorities in 1998 when investigators named him the suspected mastermind of a plane hijacking in Makran. When General Pervez Musharraf ousted Pakistan's government the following year, the smuggler's son saw a chance to wipe his slate clean. Bheel pledged to back Zubaida Jalal, a pro-Musharraf candidate running for a national assembly seat in Makran in 2002 elections, in return for her help to clear his name. Jalal, who had been Musharraf's education minister, said she accepted Bheel's support after he had assured her he was no longer involved in trafficking. "He said that he left that business behind many years back," Jalal told Reuters. "I challenged him. I told him he should use his money to support welfare projects for the people. He never delivered." After she won the seat, a court dropped the hijacking case against Bheel due to a lack of evidence, Jalal said. To many in Baluchistan, the episode reinforced a perception the authorities would tolerate suspected heroin smugglers provided they supported the military's political allies. "The army establishment is turning a blind eye to the drug business in return for their help to influence politics," said Akhtar Mengal, a former chief minister of the province. "Imam Bheel is an example." TALIBAN DRUG MONEY Bheel's star rose again when Pakistan returned to civilian rule at elections in February 2008 and his son won his national assembly seat. In October, Bheel got an even bigger break. Haji Juma Khan, who U.S. officials believed was then the world's biggest heroin exporter, was lured to Jakarta and arrested in a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration operation. Ed Follis, a former DEA agent who orchestrated the Afghan's arrest, said field reports suggested Bheel and other smugglers had jockeyed for market share in the resulting vacuum. "Imam Bheel played a key role in facilitating Haji Juma Khan's trafficking activities," said Follis, now working with the consultancy, 5 Stones intelligence. "With Khan out the way, Bheel seized the chance to expand." Khan is awaiting trial in New York on charges of channeling drug money to the Taliban. His lawyer said he believes the case will be resolved and he will eventually be released. Bheel's son, Yaqoob Bizenjo, said he doubted his father shot Dashti, or was a heroin trafficker. "If he's a drug dealer, why do people give me 61,000 votes?" said Bizenjo, speaking in one of the apartments allocated to law-makers visiting Islamabad, whose languid suburbs are a world apart from Baluch bandit country. Obama took a different view. In May 2009, the White House added Bheel's name to a list of suspected narcotics "kingpins" subject to U.S. sanctions. The U.S. government does not publish the evidence it uses to support such decisions. The Department of Justice in Washington and the U.S. embassy in Islamabad declined to comment on Bheel. A WORLD APART The White House designation aims to prevent the biggest suspected drug smugglers from exploiting the U.S. financial system by imposing fines or jail terms on their business associates. After learning of the announcement in a newspaper, Bheel called Hasil Khan Bizenjo to ask what his "kingpin" status meant. Bizenzjo, a former member of Pakistan's Senate committee on narcotics control, consulted the Internet. "I told him: ‘You can't travel on American airlines, you can't do any business with American banks'. At first he didn't understand." Then, he said, Bheel replied: "It's okay, I don't do any business with the U.S." The designation did little to dent Bheel's career. In 2010, he publicly pledged allegiance to the National Party, a small party whose stronghold is in Makran. Its leaders, who include senator Hasil Khan Bizenjo, want greater rights for Baluchistan within Pakistan. Separatists see them as stooges of the military. While Bheel was making inroads with politicians, Abdul Rehman Dashti spent years in the backwaters of Baluchistan. He eventually became the top official in Gwadar district, which covers much of the Makran coast, a major exit route for heroin shipments. Relatives remember a stern but good-hearted patriarch who exhorted his nephews to ‘love the pen, not the gun.' Dashti and Bheel crossed paths in elite Baluch circles. With the close-cropped beard, flowing shirt and baggy trousers worn by many in Baluchistan, Bheel was at ease among senior Baluch officials who attended a wedding feast for his son Yaqoob in 2006. Dashti was among the guests. "He has influence," Fida Dashti said. "It's obvious to a blind man." WHAT THE DRIVER SAW The Dashtis' frustration is compounded by a belief they have a solid case. The theory among police that Bheel was the killer hinges on the testimony of Dashti's long-serving driver. According to the driver's account, as relayed by Dashti's relatives, Bheel called Dashti on his mobile phone and summoned him to his home at 30-B Khayaban-e-Tanzeem street in Karachi's well-heeled Defense district on the evening of March 5. The two had a heated discussion on the phone before Dashti reached his compound. Bheel arrived a few minutes later. Dashti asked Bheel what was wrong while the two men were still standing in the car porch. Bheel did not reply. Instead, he raised a gun and shot him in the forehead, according to the Dashtis' retelling of the driver's account. The driver slipped away in a motorized rickshaw that took him to Dashti's relatives. Investigators suspect Bheel's men stripped Dashti's body of valuables, bundled it into his car, then drove it 200 meters away, according to a police source familiar with the case. The sight of servants washing blood from Bheel's driveway heightened their suspicions. Badly shaken by the episode, the driver has since fled Karachi for Baluchistan. Shah, the deputy-inspector who first investigated the case, confirmed to Reuters the driver told police he saw Bheel shoot Dashti. Police went to Makran about a week later to arrest Bheel but could not trace him, Shah added. "The situation in Baluchistan is very tense as far as law and order is concerned," said Shah, who retired in June. Police named Bheel the suspect in their initial report of the murder, seen by Reuters, but have offered no official theory for a motive. Officers have wondered whether the pair may have fallen out over a business deal, possibly involving drugs. The Dashtis say such speculation is baseless, but are at a loss to explain why the head of their family was killed. REBELS VS NARCO-LORDS Bheel may have less to fear from police than from guerrillas in Baluchistan who have declared war on drug traffickers. Baluch insurgents accuse him of using his network to help Pakistan security agencies kidnap, torture and murder suspected separatists. "He's an asset of the Pakistani agencies," said Allah Nazar Baloch, the leader of the Baluchistan Liberation Front, which has stepped up insurgency operations in Makran. The BLF says its suspicions are based on testimony from villagers who say Bheel's followers have visited their homes to inquire about individuals who have later disappeared. The bodies of hundreds of the missing have been strewn across Baluchistan in recent years in what human rights groups call a policy of "kill-and-dump". New York-based Human Rights Watch said in May 300 corpses had been found in the province since early 2011. The military denies reports security forces abduct separatists and says insurgents themselves receive drug money. "I do not maintain any links with criminals," said Major-General Obaidullah Khan, head of the Frontier Corps in Baluchistan, the main force in the province. "Allah Nazar is operating on the money that is provided by these smugglers," Khan told Reuters in his headquarters in Quetta, the provincial capital. "Where is he getting these weapons?" The Pakistani intelligence officer said he doubted Bheel personally supplied tips to security agencies, even if he was in broad alignment with them. "Every other guy is willing to sell this information," he said. "Why would I be talking to Bheel?" What does seem certain is that Bheel is on a rebel hit list. In 2009, the BLF sent a parcel bomb to Bheel's son Yaqoob, wounding him and several others. Last year, their fighters killed a man reputed to be a significant member of Bheel's syndicate. Six months after Abdul Rehman Dashti's murder, his family say they are resisting pressure from their community to seek revenge the old-fashioned way: a tit-for-tat killing. Instead, they nurse a hope the Supreme Court might reconsider their petition. "We have given our personal cell numbers," Fida Dashti said. "No one has taken the trouble to call us."

Pakistan: ''Lessons in judicial restraint''

In a democracy, the remedy for a malfunctioning legislature and executive must come from the people, not the judiciary It is evident that the Pakistan Supreme Court has embarked on a perilous path of confrontation with the political authorities, which can only have disastrous consequences for the country. Recently its Chief Justice said that the Constitution, not Parliament, is supreme. This is undoubtedly settled law since the historical decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Marbury vs. Madison (1803). The grave problem, however, that courts are often faced with is this: on the one hand, the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and, on the other hand, in the garb of interpreting the Constitution, the court must not seek an unnecessary confrontation with the legislature, particularly since the legislature consists of representatives democratically elected by the people. The solution was provided in the classical essay “The Origin and Scope of the American Doctrine of Constitutional Law” published in 1893 in the Harvard Law Review by James Bradley Thayer, Professor of Law at Harvard University. It elaborately discusses the doctrine of judicial restraint. Justices Holmes, Brandeis, and Frankfurter of the U.S. Supreme Court were followers of Prof. Thayer’s philosophy of judicial restraint. Justice Frankfurter referred to Thayer as “the great master of Constitutional Law,” and in a lecture at the Harvard Law School said: “If I were to name one piece of writing on American Constitutional Law, I would pick Thayer's once famous essay, because it is a great guide for judges, and therefore the great guide for understanding by non-judges of what the place of the judiciary is in relation to constitutional questions.” The court certainly has power to decide constitutional issues. However, as pointed out by Justice Frankfurter in West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette 319 U.S. 624 (1943), since this great power can prevent the full play of the democratic process, it is vital that it should be exercised with rigorous self restraint. SEPARATION OF POWERS: The philosophy behind the doctrine of judicial restraint is that there is broad separation of powers under the Constitution, and the three organs of the State, the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary, must respect each other, and must not ordinarily encroach into each other's domain, otherwise the system cannot function properly. Also, the judiciary must realise that the legislature is a democratically elected body, which expresses the will of the people (however imperfectly) and in a democracy this will is not to be lightly frustrated or thwarted. Apart from the above, as pointed out by Prof. Thayer, judicial over-activism deprives the people of “the political experience and the moral education and stimulus that comes from fighting the problems in the ordinary way, and correcting their own errors”. In Asif Hameed vs. The State of J&K, AIR 1989 S.C. 1899 (paragraphs 17 to 19), the Indian Supreme Court observed: “Although the doctrine of separation of powers has not been recognised under the Constitution in its absolute rigidity, the Constitution makers have meticulously defined the functions of various organs of the State. The legislature, executive, and judiciary have to function within their own spheres demarcated in the Constitution. No organ can usurp the function of another. -- While exercise of powers by the legislature and executive is subject to judicial restraint, the only check on our own exercise of power is the self imposed discipline of judicial restraint.” Judicial restraint is particularly important for the Supreme Court for two reasons: (1) Of the three organs of the state, only one, the judiciary, is empowered to declare the limits of jurisdiction of all three organs. This great power must therefore be exercised by the judiciary with the utmost humility and self restraint. (2) The errors of the lower courts can be corrected by the higher courts, but there is none above the Supreme Court to correct its errors. Some people justify judicial activism by saying that the legislature and executive are not properly performing their functions. The reply to this argument is that the same charge is often levelled against the judiciary. Should the legislature or the executive then take over judicial functions? If the legislature and the executive do not perform their functions properly, it is for the people to correct them by exercising their franchise properly, or by peaceful and lawful public meetings and demonstrations, and/or by public criticism through the media and by other lawful means. The remedy is not in the judiciary taking over these functions, because the judiciary has neither the expertise nor the resources to perform these functions. In this connection I may quote from an article by Wallace Mendelson published in 31 Vanderbilt Law Review 71 (1978): “If, then, the Thayer tradition of judicial modesty is outmoded, if judicial aggression is to be the rule, as in the 1930s, some basic issues remain: “First, how legitimate is government by Judges? Is anything beyond their reach? Will anything be left for ultimate resolution by the democratic process, for, what Thayer called ‘that wide margin of considerations which address themselves only to the practical judgment of a legislative body representing (as Courts do not) a wide range of mundane needs and aspirations?’ “Second, if the Supreme Court is to be the ultimate policy making body without accountability, how is it to avoid the corrupting effects of raw power? Also, can the Court satisfy the expectations it has aroused? “Third, can nine men [the Supreme Court Judges] master the complexities of every phase of American life? Are any nine men wise enough and good enough to wield such power over the lives of millions? Are Courts institutionally equipped for such burdens? Unlike legislatures, they are not representative bodies reflecting a wide range of social interest. Lacking a professional staff of trained investigators, they must rely for data almost exclusively upon the partisan advocates who appear before them. Inadequate or misleading information invites unsound decisions. “Finally, what kind of citizens will such a system of judicial activism produce, a system that trains us to look not to ourselves for the solution of our problems, but to the most elite among elites: nine Judges governing our lives without political or judicial accountability? Surely this is neither democracy nor the rule of law.” In Marbury vs. Madison (1803), Chief Justice Marshal, while avoiding confrontation with the government of President Jefferson, upheld the supremacy of the Constitution. Another example is the very recent judgment of U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts in the Affordable Healthcare Act case, in which he basically followed the doctrine of judicial restraint. In Divisional Manager, Aravali Golf Course vs. Chander Haas (2006) the Indian Supreme Court observed: “Judges must know their limits and not try to run the government. They must have modesty and humility and not behave like Emperors. There is broad separation of powers under the Constitution, and each of the organs of the state must have respect for the others and must not encroach into each other’s domain.” A similar view was taken in Government of Andhra Pradesh vs. P. Laxmi Devi. NEW DEAL LEGISLATION: A reference may usefully be made to the well known episode in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court when it dealt with the New Deal legislation initiated by President Franklin Roosevelt soon after he assumed office in 1933. When the overactive court kept striking down this legislation, President Roosevelt proposed to pack the court with six of his nominees. The threat was enough, and it was not necessary to carry it out. In 1937, the court changed its confrontationist attitude and started upholding the legislation (see West Coast Hotel Vs. Parrish). “Economic due process” met with a sudden demise. The moral of this story is that if the judiciary does not maintain restraint and crosses its limits there will be a reaction which may do great damage to the judiciary, its independence, and its respect in society. It is not my opinion that a judge should never be activist, but such activism should be done only in exceptional and rare cases, and ordinarily judges should exercise self restraint. In Dennis vs. U.S. (1950), Justice Frankfurter observed: “Courts are not representative bodies. They are not designed to be a good reflex of a democratic society. Their essential quality is detachment, founded on independence. History teaches that the independence of the judiciary is jeopardised when Courts become embroiled in the passions of the day, and assume primary responsibility in choosing between competing political, economic, and social pressures”. The Pakistan Supreme Court would be well advised to heed these words of wisdom, even at such a late stage. (Justice Markandey Katju is chairman of the Press Council of India.)

کوئی عدالت صدر کوطلب نہیں کرسکتی :مجیب الرحمان شامی

معروف تجزیہ نگار اورسینئر صحافی مجیب الرحمن شامی نے کہا ہے کہ صدرآصف علی زرداری کے دو
عہدوں سے متعلق درخواست کی سماعت کے دوران وفاقی حکومت کی جانب سے کبھی کوئی پیش ہوا اور کبھی نہیں ہوا صدر کو براہ راست نوٹس نہیں بھیجا جا سکتا اور نہ ہی کوئی عدالت انہیں طلب کر نے کا حق رکھتی ہے۔پارلیمانی نظام میں صدر کا ہر کام وزیر اعظم کے مشورے پر ہوتا ہے اس لیے عدالت صدر کے بارے میں بات نہیں کرسکتی۔دنیا نیوز کے پر وگرام” نقطہ نظر“میں گفتگو کر تے ہوئے مجیب الرحمن شامی نے کہا کہ عدالت نے فیصلہ دیا تھا کہ صدر کو دو عہدے رکھنے کا آئینی اختیار نہیں ہے وہ سر بر اہ نہیں رہ سکتے اور ایوا ن صدر میں پارٹی کی سیاست نہیں ہو سکتی کیونکہ صدر وفاق کی علامت ہوتا ہے اس لیے صدر کوپارٹی کی سیاست سے با لا رہنا چاہیے۔ عدالت نے اس کیس میں 29جون کو اپنے فیصلے میں کہا کہ صدر پر لازم ہے اور اس پر پوری قوت سے عمل ہوگا۔پانچ ستمبر تک عدالت کے فیصلے پر عملدرآمد نہیں ہوا تو عدالت میں فل بنچ بیٹھ گیا۔آج کی سماعت میں وفاقی حکومت کی جانب سے وسیم سجاد نے کہا ہے وہ جواب داخل کریں گے جس کہ بعد اس کی سماعت 14ستمبر تک ملتوی ہوگئی ہے۔مجیب الرحمن شامی نے کہاصدر کے دو عہدوں کے خلاف سماعت میں سب سے پہلا نقطہ یہ ہوگا کے یہ کیس قابل سماعت ہے یا نہیں۔وسیم سجاد کا مﺅقف ہو گا کہ یہ کیس قابل سماعت نہیں ہے۔کیو نکہ آئینی طور پر عدالت کو یہ حق نہیں ہے کہ وہ صدر کو نو ٹس جاری کر ے یاصدر کو طلب کر ے۔صدر کے خلاف کاروائی کر نے کا حق صرف پارلیمنٹ کو ہے ۔ انہوں نے کہا کہ صدر کے دو عہدوں کے خلاف فیصلے کے بعد سندھ اسمبلی اسی فیصلے کے خلاف قرارد اد منظور ہوئی جس میں کہا گیا تھا کہ صدر کی سر گر میاں جمہوریت اور مفاہمت کو مضبوط کرنے کے لیے ہیں ۔اس لیے ان پر اعترا ض نہیں کیا جا سکتاجبکہ اس وقت جمہوریت کو صدر آصف علی زرداری کے اس رویے کی ضرورت ہے۔ اس قرارداد کو جب سندھ اسمبلی میں لایا گیا تو مسلم لیگ ق ،مسلم لیگ فنکشنل اور ایم کیو ایم کے ارکان واک آﺅٹ کر گئے ۔اے این پی اور پیپلز پارٹی نے اس فیصلے کو مستر د کر دیا۔صدر آصف علی زرداری نے اس فیصلے پر عمل نہیں کیااور نہ ہی نوٹس لیا۔ہائی کورٹ صدر مملکت کے معاملے میں بے اختیار ہے۔یہ اختیار ہے پارلیمنٹ کے پاس ہے ۔اگر صدر آصف علی زرداری پارٹی کے شریک چیئر مین ہو ں یا نہ ہو ں۔ان کے اختیارات وہ رہیں گے۔صدر آصف علی زرداری کی طاقت کو چھینا نہیںجا سکتااور نہ ہی ان کی طاقت عہدے کی مرہو ن منت ہے۔مجیب الرحمن شامی نے کہا کہ یہ وہ سیاسی حقیقتیں ہیں جو ہمیں سمجھنی چاہیں۔ صوبوں کی تقسیم سے متعلق ایک سوال پرانہوں نے کہا کہ مسلم لیگ ن کا مﺅقف ہے کہ صوبوں کی تشکیل سے متعلق کمیشن کے سر بر اہ سپریم کورٹ کے ایک ریٹائرڈ جج کو بننا چاہیے۔اس وقت سینیٹر فرحت اللہ بابر اس کمیشن کے چیئر مین بن گئے ہیں۔اب سوال یہ ہے کہ کسی سیاسی کارکن کے بجائے کسی جج کو کمیشن کا چیئر مین لگانے کا کیا فائد ہ ہوگا۔چیئر مین کے پاس ویٹو پاور نہیں ہے جو ارکان کی اکثریت فیصلہ کرے گی وہ ہی فیصلہ حتمی ہوگا۔مسلم لیگ ن کا کہنا ہے کہ اس کمیشن میں ہماری نمائندگی بڑھائی جائے جس میں وزن ہے کیو نکہ مسلم لیگ ن ایک بڑی جماعت ہے اس لیے ان کی نمائندگی بڑھائی جا سکتی ہے اور وزیر قانون نے بھی ن لیگ کو یقین دہائی کرائی ہے کہ وہ اس بارے میں بات چیت کر نے کو تیار ہیں۔مجیب الرحمن شامی نے کہا کہ جب پنجاب اسمبلی نے صوبے کو دو صوبوں میں تقسیم کر نے کے لیے قرار داد منظور کی تھی تواس کی وجہ سے مسلم لیگ ن اور پنجاب میں رہنے والوں کے لیے پیچیدہ صورتحال پیدا ہوگئی جبکہ یہ قرار داد اپنے ہاتھ کاٹ کر وفاق کے سامنے پیش کر نے کے مترادف ہے کیونکہ آئین کا آرٹیکل 239 صوبائی اسمبلی کی دو تہائی اکثریت کو ایسے کاموںکی اجازت دیتاہے۔ صوبوں کی تقسیم سے متعلق قرار دا دقومی اسمبلی اورسینٹ سے پنجاب اسمبلی میں واپس بھی آسکتی ہے لیکن اگر وفاقی حکومت شرارت کرنا چاہے تو وہ قانونی طور پر ایسا کر سکتی ہے۔وفاقی حکومت کہہ سکتی ہے کہ پنجاب حکومت نے قرار داد منظور کی ہوئی ہے۔لیکن صوبے شرارت کی بنیا د پر نہیں بلکہ مفاہمت کی بنیاد پر ہو نے چاہیے۔ایک سوال پر انہوںنے کہا کہ کرپشن ایک خفیہ ٹیکس ہے جس کو ادا کر نا پڑتاہے۔کرپشن پراجیکٹ کی قیمت بڑھا دیتی ہے۔ملک میں ایک سال کا خسارہ سترہ سو انسٹھ ارب روپے سالانہ خسارہ ہے۔اگر معیشت کا یہی حال رہا تو یہ گاڑی کتنے دن چلے گی۔حکومتوں کی پالیسیاں تبدیل کر نے سے بھی معیشت کو خسارہ ہوتاہے۔چوہدری پرویز الہی کے پروجیکٹس آج بندپڑے ہیں۔اگر خدانخواستہ حکومت بدل جائے تو اس وقت جار ی پراجیکٹس کا کیا حال ہوگا۔تمام ترقیاتی منصوبے صوبائی پلاننگ کمیشن کی اجازت سے بننے چاہیے اورسیاسی جماعتوں میں اتنا تدبر ہو ناچاہیے کہ وہ ایک دوسرے کے پر اجیکٹس بند نہ کریں۔

Carnage of Shia Muslims in Pakistan

With thousands of Shia Muslims killed over the past few years in Pakistan and over 400 murdered in recent months, the killings have practically amounted to genocide, raising more-than-sectarian alarm bells not only in Pakistan but also across the Muslim world. In fact, there has been a marked escalation in mass murders and target killings of the Shia minority in Pakistan, increasing global fear and consternation over the brutal bloodbath. According to World Minority Rights Report (2011), Pakistan ranks as the 6th worst country in terms of violence against and persecution of the Shia Muslims and minorities. That the Shia mass murders have continued over the years with no legal and judiciary source or law enforcement agencies having sought to put an end to these brutalities indicates that these acts are but to be considered as part of a systematic and organized plot prodigiously funded and ingeniously engineered by internal and external forces with the express intention of making the pillars of Pakistani society fall to smithereens, shattering the very fabric of the Shia community and distorting the image of Pakistan and depicting it as a religiously intolerant nation. The targets which were basically focused on any ordinary person with Shia belief has now come to include those Shia Muslims who belong to the educated and elite class of the Pakistani society. At least four people have been shot down in Karachi, the largest city of Pakistan since Tuesday morning. A recent incident occurred at Kashmir Road near Jail Chowrangi where Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) Ali Mohsin, 42, was shot three times in the head by assassins. Two more people were also shot dead in Pirabad area of the city. In another assassination, Shia Doctor Syed Naimatullah s/o Syed Sarwar was killed in Quetta in broad daylight at his clinic at Kirni Road. Doctor Syed Naimatullah is the 419th victim of targeted killings since January 2012. In another instance of elite killings, unidentified gunmen shot dead a Shia Muslim judge Zulfiqar Naqvi along with his driver and police bodyguard on August 30 in Quetta, southwestern Pakistan. Apart from the target killings, other cases of Shia killings have been committed in the most grisly forms. A gruesome video recently circulated online by the Wahhabi Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) shows the beheading of two Shia Muslims. An offshoot of al-Qaeda, the terrorist group first posted the video titled “Revenge” on August 23 on the Wahhabi terrorist Seminary Jamia Hafsa Urdu forum and then distributed it on other Wahhabi-Nasabi jihadist forums. Four masked men accompany the victims Haseeb Zaidi and Maulana Nooruddin with their hands tied behind their backs and decapitate them in cold blood. The extensively networked terrorist group is widely believed to be behind the Shia killings in the country. The gruesome nature of the murders helps disclose the identity of the perpetrators. The act of beheading victims is typically characteristic of Taliban extremists who also carry out similar atrocities against Shia Muslims in Afghanistan. The history of violence against the Shia community in Pakistan goes back to the time of military dictator Zia ul-Haq who made it a state policy to fund and arm Wahhabi groups in the 1980s. It was during those years when he technically institutionalized violence by unleashing Sipah-e Sahaba fundamentalists on Shia-populated regions, ushering in a new age of violence and mayhem. In 1988, Zia ul-Haq dispatched a huge army of 80,000 extremists to Shia-populated Gilgit region to annihilate the Shias. Adjacent villages such as Jalalabad, Bonji, Darot, Jaglot, Pari, and Manawar were razed to the ground and over 700 Shia Muslims were massacred. According to a Herald report “In May 1988, low-intensity political rivalry and sectarian tension ignited into full-scale carnage as thousands of armed tribesmen from outside Gilgit district invaded Gilgit along the Karakoram Highway. Nobody stopped them. They destroyed crops and houses, lynched and burnt people to death in the villages around Gilgit town. The number of dead and injured was put in the hundreds. But numbers alone tell nothing of the savagery of the invading hordes and the chilling impact it has left on these peaceful valleys.” Simultaneously, Zia ul-Haq tasked Pakistan intelligence agency ISI with monitoring the activities of Shia organizations all over the country lest the Shia Muslims would be empowered in the wake of the advent of the Iranian Revolution in 1979. In order to avoid international blame for stoking sectarian violence in the country, Zia al-Haq decided to legitimize the anti-Shia activities of Wahhabi fundamentalists such as Sipah-e Sahaba to carry out this task for the government. Privy to the carnage of the Shia Muslims at the hands of the Wahhabi fundamentalists, the ISI refrained from stopping the genocide of the Shias. Worst of all, they even facilitated and financed the massacre on the secret orders of Zia ul-Haq. What is now happening to the Shia Muslims in Pakistani regions such as Gilgit, Baltistan, Parachinar, Kurram agency, Quetta and other areas is indeed the continued legacy of violence initiated by Zia ul-Haq and financed by Saudi Wahhabis in an effort to limit the influence of the Shia Muslims in the country.

Afghanistan: Hundreds Of Soldiers Detained, Fired For Insurgent Links

The Afghan army has detained or sacked hundreds of soldiers for having links to insurgents, the Defence Ministry said on Wednesday, as it tries to stem an alarming number of so-called insider attacks eroding trust between Afghans and their allies. NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen has expressed strong concern over the attacks, in which Afghan servicemen have killed at least 45 NATO-force troops this year, including 15 in August, compared with 35 for all of last year.

"Hundreds were sacked or detained after showing links with insurgents. In some cases we had evidence against them, in others we were simply suspicious," Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi told reporters in Kabul. "Using an army uniform against foreign forces is a serious point of concern not only for the Defence Ministry but for the whole Afghan government," Azimi said, adding that President Hamid Karzai had ordered Afghan forces to devise ways to stop insider attacks. Azimi declined to say whether the detained and fired soldiers were from the Taliban stronghold areas of the south and east. They were from all over the country, he said. He said his Ministry started an investigation into the attacks, which are also called green-on-blue attacks, within the 195,000-strong Afghan army six months ago. Rasmussen, in an interview with Reuters this week, said NATO, which trains the army and police, had strengthened vetting procedures to try to exclude suspect recruits and was ready to take further steps if necessary, though he gave no details. He dismissed any suggestion that the rogue attacks would lead to more members of the NATO-led force pulling out early from an increasingly unpopular and costly war that has dragged on with few obvious signs of success since the Taliban were ousted in 2001. But tension is simmering. The shooting dead of three Australian troops by an Afghan army sergeant in the south last week prompted a deadly raid to find the rogue soldier, causing a war of words between Canberra and Kabul. The approximately 150,000-strong Afghan National Police, whose members have also carried out rogue attacks, operates separately from the army under the Ministry of Interior. U.S. forces said on Sunday they had suspended training new recruits to the 16,000-strong Afghan Local Police, a militia separate from the police, following the spike in insider attacks.

Hillary Clinton’s China visit: To make or solve troubles?

On Sept. 4, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began a visit to China and it is said that U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will also pay a visit to China. The United States should bear a big responsibility in the sustained tense situation in East Asia on the territorial dispute and is the key country to constantly carry out military exercises in the Pacific region. Then, what is the purpose of Clinton and other officials’ China visit at this time? U.S. action damaged the mutual trust:
One of the reasons for Clinton's visit to China is the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting about to be held in Russia this weekend. There is a convention between China and the United States, namely the senior officials of both sides will communicate and understand each other before an important multilateral meeting, said Wu Chunsi, executive director with the Institute for International Strategic Studies under Shanghai Institute of International Studies. At present, the development of APEC is at a critical point, which makes the China-U.S. communication more necessary. In addition, Clinton came to China not all for APEC. According to Wu Xinbo, with Fudan University, first, the United States has a decline in its interests in APEC; second, Russia is the host country of the meeting and so it will gain praise if the meeting makes substantive results, which the United States is not willing to see. Therefore, the main intention of Clinton is to put pressure on China about the international and regional issues, which mainly include the disputes over the Diaoyu Islands and South China Sea, as well as Iranian and Syrian issues. China-U.S. relations maintain an overall stability A series of tense situation in East Asia in 2012 were caused by the "eastward of the strategic center" of the United States. Executive director of the Strategic Research Center of China Institute of International Research Foundation Wang Yusheng pointed out that the United States claimed to realize "rebalance" in the Asia-Pacific region due to the rise of China's "anti-intervention strength." The "rebalance" refers to the one under the domination of the United States. All the Asian countries including China must submit to the United States to maintain a flourishing "order." Otherwise, the United States will use various methods to punish the "order challengers." Clinton's visit to China this time just goes through the motions. 2012 is the election year in the United States and so it is unlikely that both sides will reach substantive and constructive results. In Wu’s opinion, there will be a new U.S. government after the election. Therefore, the realistic diplomacy against China will be the main direction, no matter which party holds power. Both China and the United States benefited from the currently close relationship, which is the fundamental driving force to push a smooth bilateral relationship forward.

Chinese president meets U.S. Secretary of State

President Hu Jintao met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Great Hall of the People on Wednesday morning, stressing that China will strengthen dialogue and coordination with the U.S to ensure that the development of bilateral ties heads in the right direction.
Hu recalled Clinton's last seven visits to China as the U.S. Secretary of State, including four visits for the China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) and another three for the High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchanges. He commended Clinton's efforts in promoting the construction of the U.S. Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo and the program for U.S. students to study in China. The president appreciated Clinton's efforts to push forward relations between the two countries. "The China-U.S. relations have great strategic significance and global influence, and this is worth cherishing and protecting," said Hu. He said China is willing to maintain and strengthen dialogue, communication and coordination with the U.S., and eliminate any disturbance in order to ensure that bilateral ties will forge ahead in the right direction. Clinton said that over the past three and a half years, there has been a great deal of cooperation and consultation between the two countries, including a meeting between President Hu Jintao and President Barack Obama at the G20 summit in Mexico. "We appreciate the in-depth involvement that the S&ED has achieved," she said. Both countries have been able to explore areas of agreement and disagreement in an open manner, which demonstrated the maturity of the relationship, she added. On China-U.S. economic and trade relations, Hu hoped the two countries would make full use of the complementary advantages, explore cooperation potential, push forward cooperation of trade and investment and continuously lift the quality and level of bilateral trade cooperation. He called on both sides to properly handle the frictions and divergences in bilateral economic ties, and avoid any politicization of economic and trade issues. The president hoped the U.S. would firmly resist trade protectionism, ease restrictions on high-tech exports to China and provide a fair environment of competition for Chinese enterprises that invest in the U.S. Clinton said the U.S. is committed to surpassing differences and enhancing cooperation with China, jointly facing global challenges to prove in an unprecedented way that an established power and a rising power can create a bright future for their own people and contribute to world peace and stability. She said the U.S. is ready to work with China on infrastructure construction, new energy, environment protection and to expand trade and investment. Clinton is currently on her second China trip of the year. She attended the fourth round of the China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue as special representative of President Barack Obama in Beijing last May. The visit is also part of Clinton's ongoing six-nation tour starting Aug. 30, which also takes her to the Cook Islands, Indonesia, East Timor, Brunei and Russia.

Pakistani journalists face threats from Islamists

Deutsche Welle
Religious extremists and security forces continue to intimidate progressive journalists in Pakistan. In a recent incident, a Karachi-based journalist was beaten by fanatics for listening to music in his house. A few days ago, Zainul Abedin, who works at Pakistan's English-language The News daily, was dragged out of his house in the middle of the night and beaten up by four bearded men. Then he was warned that if he watched TV in his house and listened to music, he would be killed. Abedin went to the police station to report the incident, but was met with resistance. This all happened in the heart of Karachi - a relatively liberal city with a population of more than 15 million - and not in one of the restive, semi-governed northwestern tribal areas of Pakistan on the border with Afghanistan."As they (the fanatics) delivered more kicks, slaps and blows, they kept saying: ‘We will not let you go unless you repent,'" Abedin wrote in an email that he sent to the city's journalists' unions. "They went away shouting abuse and threats such as: 'Next time it will be worse. Do not turn on your TV and no songs and qawwalis (mystical songs) here. You will not live if it happens again. You and this house will be no more. We will not break the windows, we will shoot you, kill you.'"
Commenting on the harassment of Abedin, Dr. Riaz Ahmed, a political activist and professor at Karachi University, told DW that it was not merely about music and TV but was an organized attempt by the Islamists to intimidate journalists. Ahmed also criticized media owners for compromising with Pakistan’s right-wing groups. He pointed out that Abedin's own newspaper had not taken any notice of the incident for several days. "The message being conveyed by the media owners to journalists like Abedin is: 'If the mullahs beat you up, you should not protest," he said, adding that commercial interests of the Pakistani media and religious groups were closely linked. Ghazi Salahuddin, a senior journalist at the Jang Group of Publication, which also owns The News, told DW that Pakistani journalists had to work under very difficult circumstances. "Many journalists feel scared and threatened. Pakistani politics has been criminalized. It has become very difficult for journalists to perform their tasks freely," he said, adding that journalists' unions should ensure that the rights and lives of people working in the media were protected. Ahmed's point of view was that the journalists' unions were either intimidated themselves or too corrupt to stand up against the media owners.
Observers say that progressive sections of Pakistani society are being systematically intimidated by Islamists. Pakistan's liberals are extremely worried about the growing influence of right-wing groups in their country, and they feel that their freedom is at risk in the Islamic Republic. Pakistani rights activists also complain that the Islamists enjoy state patronage, whereas liberal and progressive voices often have to face the wrath of the country's security agencies. They say that if a progressive journalist working for a big newspaper such as The News is unsafe in Karachi, then the risks faced by journalists in the conflict zones of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the western Balochistan provinces are easily imaginable.
A 2012 UNESCO report ranks Pakistan "the second most dangerous country for journalists the world over" after Mexico. According to the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA), 17 journalists were killed in South Asia in 2011, 12 of them in Pakistan. Terrorism and Islamism are the most dangerous issues for Pakistani journalists to report on, SAFMA said. Nasir Tufail of Geo TV told DW that the local and foreign media rely on only a few journalists for information about the restive northwestern tribal areas. “Most journalists can’t even enter these areas,” he said. "Therefore, it's impossible to get reliable news about the Taliban and the 'war on terror.'" He added that most journalists would not even think of venturing into "most parts of Balochisan, where the military is operating against separatists. How can you expect independent reporting?" Imtiaz Alam, the secretary general of SAFMA, blamed both state and non-state elements for the situation. "So many journalists in Pakistan have been killed. Yet nobody has ever been brought to justice for their murders."

Safe passage for Taliban discussed in Pakistan

Associated Press
Officials say Pakistan, Afghanistan and the U.S. have held discussions about providing Taliban leaders safe passage to participate in peace negotiations. Pakistan's Foreign Ministry says representatives from the three governments held the inaugural meeting of the Safe Passage Working Group in Islamabad on Wednesday. They agreed to form the group in April. A U.S. official says the group is focused on choosing which Taliban leaders should be provided safe passage, guaranteeing their security and dealing with logistics like visas. The official described the meeting as positive. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the meeting with reporters. Many Taliban leaders are believed to be based in Pakistan. Islamabad is seen as key to peace talks because of its historical ties to the Taliban.

Shahbaz’s buffoonery

One knows not if to laugh or cry, so hilarious but so deceitful is this buffoonery of Shahbaz Sharif, Punjab’s chief minister. Not an hour goes by when he decries “the rulers” of doing this or doing that, as if he himself is no ruler but just the manager of a college canteen. He may be thinking with this buffoonery he is deflecting the public attention from his own poor show of governance in the country’s most populous province. But who will tell this eminence that in the popular estimation he sits very much in the league of the incompetents like Zardaris, Gilanis, Hotis and Riasanis, not in the club of Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of the Indian state of Bihar, and Narenrda Modi, his counterpart of India’s Gujarat state.
Kumar has transformed a chronically lawless backward state into a prospering place, for which the electorate has rewarded him with a fresh mandate for another five years. And Modi has turned a long laggard state of Gujarat into a flourishing economic powerhouse, for which even his staunchest critics, who are unforgiving of him for his diabolical role in Muslim massacres, acknowledge him, even though gingerly, as an excellent development administrator. So much so, both are being viewed by the political pundits as the possible next prime minister of India. But not even the most generous political observers are visualising Shahbaz as the putative candidate for this top job of the country, such an utter failure has he proved in governing the Punjab province and delivering its residents their wants and needs. It is a colluding media that is so lenient on him. But the people’s estimation of him is quite devastating. He may be dancing in the good graces of the flattering bureaucrats and party lackeys who he pampers and patronises. But the citizens’ take on him is very damning. They know him for his abysmal collapses, not for his self-touted successes.
They attribute their riddance from the deadly dengue epidemic to the mercies of the divine powers, not to his any effort as would he have it believed. And they still remember him for the contaminated medication that took scores of lives at a Lahore cardiology medical facility. And they know him not for any daanish schools, but for the wholesale ruination of the state-run schooling he has presided over in Punjab so nonchalantly. There indeed is hardly a spectacular accomplishment for the people weal and wellbeing that he can rightfully boast of.
His every morsel of pork barrel has run into infamy; his every show of populism has raised a storm of disrepute. His sasti roti contrivance turned out a huge hoax and earned him the stinking repute of blowing away billions of the taxpayer’s precious money on feeding the well-off, not the poor, the penniless and the impoverished. His laptop enterprise has drawn flake from across the segments of the polity. The huge moolah that he has expended so recklessly on this patently personal image-building venture, say the well-meaning critics, he should have spent on real educational pursuits like the promotion of science education in schools and colleges. And it is guffaws that his tenting expedition is presently eliciting from every nook and cranny of the province. Shahbaz in fact has nothing grand on his platter to show for performance. Be it governance or development, be it agricultural advancement or industrial progress, be it promotion of trade or commerce, be it law and order or combating crime, indeed be it any walk of public life, he has come a cropper abysmally. And his self-serving prattle is impressing no people at all. They need not him to tell, as he does perennially, how meanly have the Zardari & Co. run an inept, incompetent and corrupt administration. They know it all from their first-hand experiences and observations, of which Shahbaz indeed could have had no taste at all even in his wildest dreams in his tent offices and his palatial residential mansion. But if he thinks that with this telling he is winning the people’s hearts and minds, he is badly mistaken.

Pakistan 124th among 144 economies on Global Competitiveness Ranking

Pakistan has been ranked among bottom 20 of the 144 economies around the world in The Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013, released Wednesday by the World Economic Forum. According to the Global Competitiveness Report (GCR) 2012-13, Pakistan lacks a long-term view of competitiveness. The level of corruption and poor governance are some of the factors slowing down Pakistan’s economic growth, therefore ranking Pakistan at 124 among 144 other countries on the index. The World Economic Forum ranks countries on more than 100 economic indicators comparing 144 countries. “Persisting divides in competitiveness across regions and within regions, particularly in Europe, are at the origin of the turbulence we are experiencing today, and this is jeopardizing our future prosperity.” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum. “We urge governments to act decisively by adopting long-term measures to enhance competitiveness and return the world to a sustainable growth path.” Pakistan’s secured ranking on 12 pillars: institutions (115), infrastructure (116), macroeconomic environment (139), Health and Primary Education (117) Higher Education and Training (124), Goods Market Efficiency (97), Labor Market Efficiency (130) Financial Market Development (73), Technological Readiness (118), Market Size (30), Business Sophistication (78) and Innovation (77). ‘Pakistan has lost its competitive advantage almost on all the pillars of the competitiveness index except for in Health, Primary Education and Labor market Efficiency’ says Amir Jahangir Chief Executive Officer Mishal Pakistan, country partner for the Center of Global Competitiveness and Performance at the World Economic Forum. Further adding, although Pakistan showed good performance on the innovation and sophistication pillars, but on the factors for basic requirements and efficiency enhancer pillars Pakistan continues to show poor performance. The Pakistani business community has identified Corruption as the most problematic factor for doing business in the country. The report indicates that Pakistan has failed to come up with effective regulations on intellectual property protection, where the country lost its position of 93 to 108 from 2011 to 2012 respectively. Poor governance in terms of favoritism in decision-making (129) and wastefulness of government spending (96) have also shown significant decline in rankings. The Efficiency of Legal Framework in Challenging Regulations has also impacted the competiveness of Pakistan’s economy as it has declined from 79 in 2011 to 97 in 2012. The law and order situation has been a serious threat to the economic activities, with war on terror and other target killing issues impacting throughout the year, the Reliability of Police Service has gone to 127 in the current year as compared to 116 in the last year. On the Macroeconomic Pillar the government’s performance has been weak with the budget balance ranking (% of GDP) deteriorating from 108 to 125 from 2011 to 2012 respectively. The general government debt has also seen poor performance as it has lost 11 points from last year, by being ranked at 107 in the current year. Although Pakistan ranked 41 in 2011 on the Tax Collection Efficiency index, however the economy has lost its competitive advantage due to decline in 2012 by ranking to 59, limitations on the ease of access to loans and venture capital availability, where Pakistan stands at 65 and 55 respectively. Nonetheless, Pakistan has also shown some positive indicators on improving its competitiveness, where the burden of government regulation has improved from 76 in 2011 to 62 this year, similarly the transparency of government policy making has also been improved from ranking of 119 to 109. The country credit rating index has also improved from 123 this year to 116 compared to last year.

Imran Khan as Pakistan’s saviour?

BY:S P Seth
At times it would appear that Pakistan is being torn apart by internal warfare. And its most disturbing manifestation is a string of attacks on military installations to avenge the killings of Osama bin Laden and other terrorist icons for which the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has often claimed responsibility. The most recent target was the Kamra airbase off Islamabad. The ease with which such attacks have been mounted on some of the most secure military installations would suggest some internal help from extremist elements within the forces. Indeed, there were reports of this when Mehran naval base in Karachi was attacked in May last year. If the Taliban have infiltrated the armed forces, directly or indirectly, the country is in a lot of trouble. In that case, the extremists would have succeeded in capturing the state from within. Pakistan’s other institutions like the government of the day and the judiciary will hardly be able to stem the slide into a Taliban-dominated state. The only other example of this is Afghanistan under Taliban rule, hardly a shining example. It might be worse in Pakistan, which is a large country of an estimated 180 million people. And if a Taliban-run state in Pakistan were to use or allow the country to be used for al Qaeda kind of activities, as the Taliban did in Afghanistan, the world would be a very scary place, with a tremendous destructive potential for Pakistan and its people. Another highly disturbing development is the regularity with which the Shias are being targeted and killed in different parts of the country, with the state apparently unable or unwilling to do much about it, for all sorts of reasons. How much of a nexus there is between extremist Sunni groups and the Taliban behind these killings is not all that clear but it is all part of the culture of violence that is permeating the country. This kind of pattern of killings tends to reinforce the view that the state is almost ceasing to exist in a climate of mindless violence. It is against this backdrop that Imran Khan (and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) has staked his claim as the country’s possible saviour. Judging from the attendance at his rallies around the country, Khan appears to be Pakistan’s most popular political leader. There have to be some plausible reasons for this. One reason, of course, is that the country is in such a parlous state that people are desperately looking for a saviour. With their self-serving politicking, Pakistan’s political leaders are compounding the situation. No wonder the Taliban and other extremist elements are growing stronger.
And here comes Imran Khan with his simple message, which is that he will be able to reconcile all competing, contending and conflicting forces in the country by simply opening a dialogue with them, particularly with the Taliban. Though Khan says that he does not approve of the Taliban violence, he however understands it as a reactive response to the army’s anti-terror strategy that targets them.
And why is the Taliban being targeted? Here Khan taps into the widespread anti-American rage in Pakistan across the spectrum that has become even more entrenched after the killing of Osama bin Laden in a US raid. As Khan told Steve Coll of The New Yorker, “The so-called ‘liberals’ [in Pakistan] treat the Taliban as if there were only one way to deal with them — through the military.” He added, “They are cut off from the rest of Pakistan. They look at Pakistan through Western lenses. They actually don’t know what Pakistan is.” This is an extraordinary statement to make that tends to absolve the Taliban of any responsibility for the virtual orgy of terrorist violence enveloping the country. And he promises to end terrorism in Pakistan through negotiations with the Taliban within 90 days. By keeping his message simple and hopeful, Imran Khan is either being terribly naïve or politically smart to bank on his people’s desperation to vote him into power as a messiah waving a magic wand. We know that there is no such thing as a magic wand, even with Khan as the magician. His naivety is on display when asked how he would deal with the Pakistani military that is used to running the country directly or indirectly. He answered that he would discipline them the way he did his cricket team as their captain. They simply will have to fall in line like every other institution in the country, if he were to become the prime minister. In his own words, “...You have to tell them, ‘Look, this is the way it’s going to run now’.” One wonders why nobody else in Pakistan thought of such a simple and straightforward solution. While Khan talks of running the army like his cricket team, there is considerable speculation in Pakistan that Khan himself, as a politician, is a creation of the ISI. In other words, it remains an open question if Khan will do the military’s bidding or the other way around.
And in the larger scheme of the country’s economic development, it is even a bigger challenge of raising enough, indeed huge, resources, but Imran Khan does not see it that way. His solution is again very simple. He will simply ensure that the rich will pay their taxes. Even if it were feasible to make the rich and everyone else into an honest citizen (though it has not happened anywhere else in the world), Pakistan will still need massive resources to make a credible start in lifting the country’s economy. This will require considerable foreign aid and investment that is unlikely to materialise on the scale required without relative peace and stability in Pakistan. But Khan is already set against any US aid regarding it as a “curse”, causing dependency. He might therefore be thinking of tapping into aid and investments from Saudi Arabia and other rich Middle Eastern countries, as well as China, but that still will be exchanging one dependency for another. The point is that Imran Khan has no blueprint on any of the issues facing his country. What he has is a list of simple and pious wishes that will somehow be translated into action as he did with his cricket team, or in his charity work. But a country as complex as Pakistan, with its continuing terrorist violence and an overlay of sectarian and ethnic conflicts, cannot be equated with a cricket team or a charity event. May be Khan will surprise everyone, if he becomes Pakistan’s prime minister in the next election, beyond the reach of human experience!
The writer is a senior journalist and academic based in Sydney, Australia.

When will Rimsha be released?

The Express Tribune
A 12-year-old daughter of Pakistan, Rimsha Masih, is in jail without bail for burning pages of Quranic verses even after the police found she was victimised through a trumped-up charge by a local cleric determined to oust the Christian community from the village of Mehrabad, near Islamabad. She suffers from Downs’s syndrome and may not understand why she is being maltreated. Even after the discovery that the cleric was indulging in a criminal plot against the Christian community, she has not been allowed to return home on bail. A crowd was organised to oust the Christian community upon appeals from mosque loudspeakers. The mob went to the house of Rimsha and started kicking the door asking the parents to hand her over. They finally entered the house and gave a beating to the little girl and her mother. Following this, the police were informed, who immediately took the girl away and put her in jail under the ‘non-bailable’ black law. The Capital Development Authority has reassured those who were evacuated that they will be returned to their homes and their tormentors will be forced under law to relent. The displaced families were made to move to another place where the local inhabitants refused to let them stay temporarily because they feared ‘incidence of crime due to their presence’. The shock administered by this case of blasphemy has been felt inside Pakistan. It has deepened the despair the outside world feels about our country; and the Christian Church is once again appealing to do something about a law that, as now proved beyond all doubt, is causing harm to Pakistan and its reputation. This happened on August 16, on the 27th of Ramazan, thus further raising suspicions as to when Rimsha was put in confinement. A few days ago, even after a witness alerted the authorities that the cleric had cooked up the story of burning the Holy Quran by putting scarred pages in a bag that Rimsha was carrying, the police have still not released her. The judiciary is silent so far but the Supreme Court should take suo-motu notice and get the girl placed in a better environment which her age, her health and her innocence deserve. What people have always said about the law and are still saying is this: “In blasphemy cases, the state institutions just try to defuse the pressure of accusers by registering a case against the accused”. Both the police and the judiciary take the side of the accuser. During the last two decades or so, more than 1,000 cases of blasphemy have been registered and it is believed that a vast majority of these cases were fake. Not even a single accuser in these fake cases has been convicted, implying that the state patronises the accusers at some level. Laws are usually made after criminal acts are observed in society. In this case, criminal acts have followed the enforcement of the law. The victimisation follows a familiar pattern. In February 1997, the twin villages of Shantinagar-Tibba Colony, 12 kilometres east of Khanewal, in Multan division, were looted and burnt by 20,000 Muslim citizens and 500 policemen. The police first evacuated the Christian population of 15,000, then helped the raiders use battlefield explosives to blow up their houses and property. In November 2005, the Christian community of Sangla Hill in Nankana district in Punjab experienced a most hair-raising day of violence and vandalism. Three churches, a missionary-run school, two hostels and several houses belonging to the Christian community were destroyed by an enraged mob of some 3,000 people. The Supreme Court must act to save Rimsha Masih and, thereafter, declare the blatant misuse and abuse of the blasphemy law against the spirit of Islam and against the ‘grundnorm’ of the Constitution. Or, is it true that like the politicians, the institutions of the state are too scared to act?

No amendments in blasphemy law despite recommendations

Recommendations by the Council of Islamic Ideology of Pakistan (CIIP) on the country’s most discussed blasphemy law which have been presented to parliament await the government’s response for the last several years. Apparently the government is reluctant to give a final nod due to unknown reasons. Some believe that clerics are pressing the government not to consider these recommendations. The CIIP has made these recommendations on a reference sent by the federal government in the wake of increasing complaints about the misuse of the law. According to religious scholars, the misuse of the blasphemy law was tantamount to blasphemy, and therefore a person who was guilty of misuse of this law should be punished under the same law. The council has recommended death penalty for anybody misusing the blasphemy law. “The incorrect complainant and witnesses in a blasphemy case should be handed similar punishment (capital punishment) as a guilty person,” the recommendations read. “The government should not allow anyone to misuse the blasphemy law and it should take all appropriate measures whether administrative, procedural or legislative to stop incidents of mishandling the blasphemy law.” It has also recommended only the judges of the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) hold proceedings in blasphemy cases (The FSC consists of five permanent judges and three renowned Islamic scholars). The council has recommended that police should investigate the complaint systematically before registering a case. It is also proposed that the complainant should produce concrete evidence to substantiate charges while lodging a first information report (FIR), adding that the accused should be given the right to defend himself or herself through a legal adviser. It also adds that a first-class magistrate should supervise the police investigations prior to the registration of the case. However, the council strongly opposed any amendment in the blasphemy law, particularly in Section 295-C, a far as the penalties are concerned. The proposals also authenticate the capital punishment in the light of the holy Quran and Sunnah for blasphemy. Sources said the CIIP had given several reminders to the Interior and Religious Affairs ministries in this regard, but the successive governments had not even cited reason (s) for delaying the recommendations. The National Assembly sources said the recommendations consisted of volumes of books and the lawmakers usually did not have enough time to read these books in detail. CIIP Secretary Ilyas Khan said the recommendations were always in detail, as these could only be understood in “their reference to context”. “The court judges pen down a detailed verdict to justify their decisions even on a simple matter, these are valuable proposals related to prestige of Islam and the legislators should spare some time for them,” he remarked. Talking about the validity of the proposals, he said recommendations would remain valid until and unless they were rejected by parliament. He said the recommendations were tabled in 2001 when religious scholars Dr SM Zaman, Rafi Usmani and Mufti Munibur Rehman were in the council. The council also enjoyed the support of religious scholars of all schools of thought at that time, he added. Some people, however, have different opinion and they say it is the most sensitive issue that has claimed several lives, including two top political figures. The international community was pressing the government to bring reforms in the law, but the PPP-led government seemed careful due to threats by religious parties and upcoming general elections, they added.

Interfaith harmony: Waziristan’s lesser known tale

In the public imagination, South Waziristan is at the heart of a battle against Taliban militants. But Wana, the largest town in the tribal agency, has another, lesser-known story to tell. Manga Masih, a 99-year-old Christian resident of Wana recalls pre-partition times when, “apart from Christians, there were Hindu and Sikh families in Wana. The Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India during partition, but it was of their own free will. A jirga of the local Ahmadzai tribe had requested them to stay, and assured them of protection of their life, honour and property.” While both communities chose to decline the invitation, many Christians decided to remain in the place they called home. “Khan Chand, a Hindu hakim, had a treatment centre at the Kari Kot village in Wana and was highly respected by the locals. Although the Hindus and Sikhs migrated, Khan Chand and many others maintained contact with their friends back home via letters. God bless them, all these people must be dead now,” Manga says nostalgically. The-99-year-old resident was born in 1913 in Sail Kot, Punjab and came to Wana in 1935. He now lives in Wana Scouts Camp with the rest of his family. Malik Sardar Khan, another elderly resident, points out that when the Hindus and Sikhs migrated, local tribesmen paid them for the land they left behind. According to statistics collected by Al-Khidmath Christian Welfare Society Wana, there are 1,200 Christians living in Wana – most of them live either in the Scouts camp or in the tehsil building. While many do low-end janitorial jobs, others have now set up small businesses in Wana Bazaar. Contrary to what one might think, the minority community feels completely safe in their homes. Jawad Masih, a tailor in the bazaar says, “There is no interference from the local Taliban in my business.” He adds that over the years, he has trained many young men of the Ahmadzai tribe in tailoring. Jawad says, “I often go on the invitation of my pupils to their homes and we participate in each other’s religious rituals.” Danish Masih, 17, is a medical student at the Wana Government Degree College. Praising his fellow students, Danish says, “The other tribal students sometime fight with each other, but since my school days, no one has ever fought with me … There is no hatred on the basis of religion.” The flip side President of the Al-Khidmath Christian Welfare Society Wana Jehanzeb Masih told The Express Tribune: “The local Taliban take our complaints seriously and address them but the local political administration is a big hurdle in our progress. Political Administration officials are denying us our basic civil and political rights. Christian boys and girls cannot get education after Matriculation because a domicile is required for admission. We appealed time and again, but the local political administration won’t give us domiciles.” Jehanzeb added that Danish was admitted to the Wana Government Degree College on the condition that he eventually provides the college with a domicile, since he cannot appear in board exams without it. The college principal admitted him on goodwill alone. “I myself was put in jail by the political administration,” he adds. Jehanzeb explains he was imprisoned after demanding funds that the Political Administration received specifically for the Christian community but which they never distributed. He adds that while the Christian community voted for a Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) candidate in the 2008 elections, their concerns about domiciles were never addressed. Jehanzeb also made an appeal to the late minority affairs minister, Shahbaz Bhatti. The assistant political agent of Wana, Shoaib Khan, told The Express Tribune that the domicile issue is under consideration, but did not explain why the domiciles were being denied in the first place. Interestingly, the spokesperson of the Mullah Nazir Taliban Group, Lala Wazir, told The Express Tribune: “Christians have been living in Wana for centuries. They are the people of this land and free in their religious activities, but the domicile issue is between them and the government.” Regardless of the administration’s discrimination, it appears that the Christian community in Wana may be safer than the locals: Both the tribesmen and the Taliban are their guardians.

Balochistan: LOCALS DENIED JOBS.. Ministers selling Jobs?

Jobless and educated youth had staged a noisy demonstration outside the Gwadar Press Club accusing the Ministers and officials of various department of auctioning all jobs to highest bidders, all non locals and none of them was from Gwadar as the people are poor and no money to buy a job. All Government jobs were sold in public knowing that no one dares to take action against the Ministers and officials. The protesters specifically blamed the Provincial Forest Department where Minister was accused of directly selling the Government jobs to highest bidders. The Second Department is the Industrial Estates of Gwadar where more than 200 people were recruited and all sold to the highest bidders to given to their close relatives and political constituents. It is a serious allegation against the Government Ministers and their Department for indulging in massive corruption. On the one hand top Government leaders, from President of Pakistan to the Prime Minister, had assured the educated youth of Balochistan of suitable jobs. But on the contrary, all the jobs were sold and auctioned with complete impunity as the Government lacked the courage to take action against its strategic political allies at the time of election year. The protesters were carrying banners and posters condemning the corrupt Ministers and officials for their dare-devil corruption in public violating all rules and laws of the Government. For the past many years, were demanding that the powers of the Ministers should be curtailed drastically reducing their chances of massive corruption, including sale of Government jobs. The Cabinet should only oversee the performance of the Government and not dictate orders. It is true in case of Government spending on development so that there is no massive leakage of public money or public exchequer plundered by various means.

FBI investigating Peshawar suicide blast: Ventrell

US condemned suicide attack in Peshawar and expressed his deep grief and sorrow over the incident. During a daily press briefing, US State Department’s spokesperson Patrick Ventrell said on Tuesday that Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was leading the probe of the suicide blast that occurred in Peshawar at a vehicle of US consulate. Ventrell said that whenever US personnel are involved in the attacks US does their own investigation and it is collaborating with its Pakistani partners. He also thanked Pakistani government and law enforcement agencies, saying “we commend the Pakistani security officials who saved lives, including the lives of our two personnel.” The spokesperson said that no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack and US is not going to speculate on who may be responsible. FBI is probing the matter.

Quotes from Michelle Obama's convention speech
Quotes from first lady Michelle Obama’s speech Tuesday to the Democratic National Convention: ____ ‘‘Our life before moving to Washington was filled with simple joys. Saturdays at soccer games, Sundays at grandma’s house and a date night for Barack and me was either dinner or a movie, because as an exhausted mom, I couldn’t stay awake for both. And the truth is, I loved the life we had built for our girls and I deeply loved the man I had built that life with and I didn’t want that to change if he became president. I loved Barack just the way he was.’’ ____ ‘‘You see, even though back then Barack was a senator and a presidential candidate, to me, he was still the guy who'd picked me up for our dates in a car that was so rusted out, I could actually see the pavement going by in a hole in the passenger side door. He was the guy whose proudest possession was a coffee table he'd found in a dumpster, and whose only pair of decent shoes was half a size too small.’’ ____ ‘‘Well, today, after so many struggles and triumphs and moments that have tested my husband in ways I never could have imagined, I have seen firsthand that being president doesn’t change who you are. No, it reveals who you are.’’ ____ ‘‘And as president, you are going to get all kinds of advice from all kinds of people. But at the end of the day, when it comes time to make that decision, as president, all you have to guide you are your values, and your vision, and the life experiences that make you who you are.’’ ____ ‘‘When it comes to the health of our families, Barack refused to listen to all those folks who told him to leave health reform for another day, another president. He didn’t care whether it was the easy thing to do politically. No, that’s not how he was raised — he cared that it was the right thing to do.’’ ____ ‘‘And believe it or not, when we were first married, our combined monthly student loan bill was actually higher than our mortgage. We were so young, so in love, and so in debt. That’s why Barack has fought so hard to increase student aid and keep interest rates down, because he wants every young person to fulfill their promise and be able to attend college without a mountain of debt.’’ ____ ‘‘Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it, and he wants everyone in this country to have the same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like, or who we love.’’ ____ ‘‘So when people ask me whether being in the White House has changed my husband, I can honestly say that when it comes to his character, and his convictions, and his heart, Barack Obama is still the same man I fell in love with all those years ago.’’ ____ ‘‘For Barack, success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the differences you make in people’s lives.’’ ____ ‘‘He’s the same man who, when our girls were first born, would anxiously check their cribs every few minutes to ensure they were still breathing, proudly showing them off to everyone we knew. You see, that’s the man who sits down with me and our girls for dinner nearly every night, patiently answering questions about issues in the news, strategizing about middle school friendships.’’ ____ ‘‘And I didn’t think that it was possible, but let me tell you today, I love my husband even more than I did four years ago, even more than I did 23 years ago, when we first met.’’