Thursday, September 6, 2012

Obama Makes Case for 2nd Term: ‘Harder’ Path to ‘Better Place’

President Obama on Thursday night accepted the Democratic nomination for a second term, making a forceful argument that he had rescued the economy from disaster and ushered in a recovery that would be imperiled by a return to Republican stewardship. Defining his fight for re-election as a bald “choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future,” Mr. Obama conceded the country’s continuing difficulties while pleading for more time to solve them. He laid out a long-term blueprint for revival in an era obsessed with short-term expectations. “I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick or easy,” Mr. Obama said. “You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades.” He added: “But know this, America: Our problems can be solved. Our challenges can be met. The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place. And I’m asking you to choose that future.” Mr. Obama’s speech before 20,000 enthusiastic Democratic leaders and supporters punctuated back-to-back political conventions in which the two parties, if nothing else, delivered radically different visions for how to end the economic malaise that has afflicted the country since 2008. A week after Mitt Romney sought to appeal to American disappointment with Mr. Obama, the president pressed his case that the Republican candidate is so disconnected from the struggles of the middle class that he has no clue how to address them. In sharp language, he planned to link Mr. Romney and his running mate, Paul D. Ryan, to what he long described as failed trickle-down economic policies that favor the wealthy, reflecting what has become a central theme of his campaign. “On every issue, the choice you face won’t just be between two candidates or two parties,” Mr. Obama said. “When all is said and done, when you pick up that ballot to vote, you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation.” Mr. Obama sought to cast his own economic prescriptions in historical terms. Fixing the economy, Mr. Obama said, “will require common effort, shared responsibility, and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one.” Appealing to moderate voters, he added: “And by the way, those of us who carry on his party’s legacy should remember that not every problem can be remedied with another government program or dictate from Washington.” The Romney campaign released a reaction to the president’s speech before it was even delivered, assailing Mr. Obama as having failed to create enough jobs, cut the deficit in half or increase incomes. “This is a time not for him to start restating new promises, but to report on the promises he made,” Mr. Romney said in the taped statement. “I think he wants a promises reset. We want a report on the promises he made.” Introducing Mr. Obama on Thursday night was Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who offered testimony to the president’s leadership on everything from the economy to the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Mr. Biden also fired some of the evening’s tougher shots at Mr. Romney. “I found it fascinating last week when Governor Romney said that as president, he’d take a jobs tour,” he said. “Well, with all his support for outsourcing, it’s going to have to be a foreign trip.” Mr. Biden’s nomination for a second term as vice president was approved by the convention by acclamation after his son Beau, the attorney general of Delaware, formally put his name up for consideration in a speech that left the vice president teary-eyed for the second consecutive night.The emotion in the packed hall crested early, when former Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, her step faltering, walked tentatively onto the stage in a surprise appearance to lead the pledge of allegiance. Mrs. Giffords, who was shot in the head by a would-be assassin in Tucson, is still recovering, and she stumbled over the word “indivisible.” But she got through the pledge in her first real public speaking since the shooting, and blew kisses to the crowd, which surged to its feet in ovation, chanting “Gabby! Gabby!” Given that Mr. Romney did not spend much time on foreign policy during his acceptance speech last week, it was a foregone conclusion that Mr. Obama would devote time to national security, an area where Democrats believe they have carved out a surprising advantage. Even before Mr. Obama appeared on stage, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the party’s presidential nominee in 2004, recited a list of foreign policy achievements of the Obama administration, from ending the Iraq war to the killing of Osama bin Laden. “Ask Osama bin Laden if he is better off now than he was four years ago,” Mr. Kerry said, turning a Republican line critical of the president into an argument for his re-election. Heading into the conventions, the two candidates were locked in a statistical tie and neither side was sure whether that would change coming out of Charlotte. While other presidential races have seen wild swings of support over the months leading up to the vote, this one has been remarkably static since it began taking shape in the spring. The two campaigns now have a month until a series of four televised debates, three between Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney and one between Mr. Biden and Mr. Ryan, that will frame the final choice heading to the Nov. 6 election. The president’s speech culminated a three-day convention that, like its Republican equivalent last week, did not always go according to script. In what was widely viewed as correcting an unforced error, party leaders in Charlotte, at the behest of Mr. Obama, pushed through a vote to change language in their platform affirming Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The reference had been in the 2008 platform but dropped this year, prompting criticism from Republicans and pro-Israel groups, and Mr. Obama bowed to the pressure. Just as distracting was the move Thursday night to the Time Warner Cable Arena from the Bank of America Stadium, where Mr. Obama’s campaign had hoped to put the president before 85,000 supporters in a bid to re-create some of the magic of his 2008 run. Instead, with thunder, lightning and rain forecast — conventiongoers huddled under plastic sheets as they darted between sites — organizers were forced to cancel the big outdoor stadium event. That left a substantial segment of some 65,000 supporters — many of them traveling from all over the country — without the chance to see the president in person. In a teleconference call Thursday afternoon, he expressed his regrets. “The problem was a safety issue,” Mr. Obama said. “You guys can imagine, with all the nagging that goes on and the security issues involved, getting 70,000 people into a place is tough; getting them out of there is even tougher. And if we had started seeing severe thunderstorms and lightning, in particular, it would have been a problem.” But if the weather did not cooperate, the challenge of recapturing the excitement of the past went beyond meteorology. Mr. Obama’s task was harder than in 2004, when his keynote convention address rocketed him to stardom, or in 2008, when he claimed leadership of the party on the back of a popular wave of support and distaste for the opposition. If eight years ago he came to fame by deploring the divisions of a red America and a blue America, he arrived at this moment governing a country seemingly even more divided than before. If four years ago he represented promise, a word he used 32 times in that speech as he insisted that the party then in power “own their failure,” he now argues that he has kept that promise and disclaims ownership of the failure his critics see. The president’s aides understood they could never re-create the power of the past but hoped to convince voters that more has been done than commonly recognized. The “promises kept” theme was intended to address the same swing voters Mr. Romney sought last week to win over. In his speech, Mr. Obama laid out several specific promises for the next four years. He vowed to cut deficit spending by $4 trillion over the next decade, to double exports by the end of 2014 and create one million new manufacturing jobs by the end of a second term.

Bahrain security forces attack pro-democracy protesters

Saudi-backed Bahraini forces have attacked demonstrators protesting against the Al Khalifa regime across the Persian Gulf country. The regime forces on Wednesday used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the protesters in the capital, Manama, the northeastern island of Sitra, the northern village of Tubli and the western village of Sadad, Press TV reported. The demonstrators also expressed solidarity with leading opposition figures and condemned the recent verdicts against them. The protests came after a Bahraini civilian court on Tuesday upheld jail sentences against at least 13 opposition leaders. The jail terms, seven of them life sentences, were previously issued by a military court. Human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and opposition leader Hassan Mushaimaa are among those sentenced to life in prison. On August 23, a Bahraini appeals court upheld a three-year prison term for prominent rights activist Nabeel Rajab over taking part in “unauthorized protests.” Since mid-February 2011, thousands of anti-government protesters have been staging regular demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded the country to assist the Bahraini government in its crackdown on the peaceful protesters. According to local sources, scores of people have been killed and hundreds arrested in the crackdown. Physicians for Human Rights says doctors and nurses have been detained, tortured, or disappeared because they have "evidence of atrocities committed by the authorities, security forces, and riot police" in the crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Pakistan: Bomb attack on Christian family by Islamists in Nusrat Bhutto colony

Today, at about 10:30 am a home-made bomb blast took place at the house of Yousuf Aziz by the religious extremists with a result that a Christian girl by the name Ms. Sonia Yousuf aged 18 years and her brother Irfan After receiving this information the D. I. G. West and SHO Peerabad Police Station visited the house of Yousuf Aziz along with few policemen. In the meanwhile a bomb disposal team of two persons was also visited and examined the explosive and declared that it is a homemade bomb. Immediately the Chairperson of Global Human Rights Alliance Ms. Jacqueline Sultan along with her team also visited the house of Yousuf Aziz and consoled injured and inmates of the house. Mr. Saleem Khursheed Khokhar, Member Provincial Assembly Sindh, Chairman Standing Committee on Minority Affairs Sindh Assembly and President All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) Sindh also was present there and consoled and condemned this act of terrorism in the Christian Colony. Mr. Saleem Khursheed Khokhar Member of Parliament & Chairperson of Global Human Rights Alliance Ms. Jacqueline Sultan jointly condemned and assured the area Christians for their support. Ms. Jacqueline Sultan also assured their free legal aid for the victims as and when required. Mr. Saleem Khursheed Khokhar stressed that since last week young Christian by the name of Faisal Mughal was shot dead by indiscriminate firing at Christian Colony by the name of Essa Nagri and again on 4-9-2012 in Street No. 10, Azam Basti, Mehmoodabad indiscriminate firing took place in the Christian Area which is a matter of concern. In this respect, Mr. Saleem Khursheed Khokhar and the Chairperson of Global Human Rights Alliance appealed the Chief Minister Sindh for security and protection of Christian Colony / Dwellings in Karachi and arrest the culprits.

Pakistan and Germany commit to strategic dialogue

Germany's foreign minister has said Afghanistan will not be forgotten after 2014 and that Pakistan was a crucial ally. He met his Pakistani counterpart in Berlin to set up a road map for closer political cooperation. As NATO troops prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the question of how to stabilize the war-torn country and build up a democracy is increasingly pressing. The international community particularly wants to prevent the country from once again becoming a base for terrorism. And Pakistan is crucial, as German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle pointed out in talks with his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar on Tuesday in Berlin. "Pakistan has a decisive role to play in the stability of the whole region," Westerwelle said. "We both know that without Pakistan, there will be no solution in Afghanistan and a stable Afghanistan is an objective that we both share." Germany and Pakistan have now drawn up a "road map" for future meetings as part of their strategic dialogue. Indispensable partner With extremist groups operating on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border, Pakistan is considered an indispensable partner in the fight against terrorism.However, relations between Islamabad and the international community have been fraught in recent years. It is an open secret that Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) has maintained close ties with Islamist groups. Moreover, US drone attacks on terrorist targets in Pakistan have exacerbated the tension. For a long time, Islamabad sought "strategic depth" in Afghanistan against a potential conflict with its arch-rival India. It also supported the Taliban as part of its security doctrine to acquire a long-term influence on Afghan foreign policy. However, there seems to have been a change of strategy, says South Asia expert Christian Wagner from the German Institute for Security and Foreign Affairs in Berlin. "People are beginning to realize that Pakistan, too, is suffering acutely from the conflict in Afghanistan," he told DW. "A number of Pakistani Taliban groups have emerged which are carrying out attacks in Pakistan. There has been a kind of foreign policy reality check in recent months." The strategic depth approach has been replaced by more interest in a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. Khar highlighted this during her meeting with the German foreign minister, saying it was in Pakistan's national interest to have "a pacified, prosperous and stable Afghanistan." 'No hidden agenda' Khar also insisted that Pakistan had no hidden agenda regarding Afghanistan, which was a sovereign, independent state. She said that there had to be an "Afghan solution" to the conflict, without interference from other countries. "We recognize German support for a peace process that will be driven forward and controlled by the Afghan side," she added, saying that Pakistan valued Germany's "deep understanding" and leading role.Although observers agree that Germany's role is limited, they welcome the move towards more strategic cooperation. "Pakistan receives a great deal of German development aid already but this is about strengthening political talks and having a long-term 'road map' to decide how relations should be shaped in future," said Wagner. He also pointed out that this was not only about Afghanistan but also about the role Pakistan would adopt with regard to its relations with Germany.

Why is South China Sea such a bone of contention?

The tension in the South China Sea has escalated since the start of the 21st century, as neighboring states vie to protect their strategic and economic interests, but what are they really fighting for?
Its geopolitical location, an abundance of fish and huge gas and oil reserves make the South China Sea particularly attractive to the 10 states that all lay claim to parts of it - China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Cambodia. There are also hundreds of islands and reefs in the South China Sea, which the Vietnamese call the East Sea. The Paracel Islands (known as the Xisha in China and the Hoang Sa in Vietnam), the Spratly Islands (known as the Nansha Qundao in China, the Truong Sa in Vietnam and the Kapuluan ng Kalayaan in the Philippines) are the most important disputed island groups. The sea is also important to the rest of the world as it connects Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South Asia with East Asia and at least one third of global shipping transits through its waters.Almost all of China's oil exports arrive via the South China Sea and nearly all of China's exports to Europe and Africa go in the opposite direction. "In strategic and military terms, the South China Sea is in a key position that enables control not only over South East Asia but over the wider realm of South and East Asia too," Gerhard Will from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin told DW. Fish in abundance The South China Sea is also home to an abundance of fish. According to the International Crisis Group, 10 percent of the annual global fish yield hails from this huge body of water. However, the fisheries are at risk from over-fishing and pollution. More and more, fishermen are being forced out into deeper waters to make a living but here they sometimes clash with maritime patrol forces protecting their national interests. Fishermen have been arrested, their nets damaged and their boats confiscated by the security forces of other countries. Such incidents have increased in recent years.Not only is fish an important source of protein for the population, it is often an important branch of the economy. In 2010, the fishing industry made up 7 percent of Vietnam's GDP. In the Philippines, some 1.5 million people earn their living from fishing. Rich in gas and oil However, it is the unknown riches of gas and oil that are creating most of the tension over the South China Sea, especially as the energy needs of China and Southeast Asian nations grow as their economies boom. "The deep waters have not yet been explored. Companies are reluctant because of the border disputes," Hans Georg Babies from the German Mineral Resources Agency told DW. Estimates for the amount of oil range from four to 30 billion tons. The latter figure would be equivalent to all of Saudi Arabia's oil reserves. However, Babies warned against making such wild guesses. He said that certain explorations made by the US in the 1990s in certain parts of the South China Sea had only been able to confirm the existence of about two billion tons of oil. Gerhard Will explained that wild speculation was one of the main reasons for the current spats in the region. He said it was problematic that the estimates were so “imprecise” and the expectations so "high.""If there were clarity about how many resources there actually are in the region, a joint resource management program could be developed," he said. In view of the current climate, observers do not think a joint solution will be agreed upon in the near future. The rival states have been boosting their navies. China has built an underground submarine base on the southernmost tip of Hainan island, whereas Vietnam has been buying frigates and gunboats from Russia, and the Philippines plan to buy submarines from South Korea. Nonetheless, despite such activity and the aggressive rhetoric, analysts do not believe the tension over the South China Sea will lead to serious military conflict as the wider implications would be too severe.

Russia's Putin defiant on Syria, says Romney "mistaken"
President Vladimir Putin
signaled in an interview aired on Thursday that Russia was not ready to shift its stance on Syria, and suggested Western nations were relying on groups such as al Qaeda to help drive President Bashar al-Assad from power. Putin held out hope for an end to a dispute with Washington on missile defense if President Barack Obama were re-elected in November, telling Russia's RT television he was "an honest person who really wants to change much for the better". Putin took aim at Obama's Republican rival Mitt Romney, calling his criticism of Russia "mistaken" campaign rhetoric and suggesting a Romney presidency would widen the rift over the anti-missile shield the United States is deploying in Europe. In some of his most extensive public comments since he started a six-year term in May, Putin dismissed Western criticism on issues ranging from Syria to the conviction of three anti-government protesters from the punk band Pussy Riot. Putin was asked whether Moscow should rethink its stance on Syria after vetoing three Western-backed U.N. Security Council resolutions designed to pressure Assad to end violence that has killed 20,000 people. "Why should only Russia re-evaluate its position?" he said. "Maybe our partners in the negotiation process should re-evaluate their position." Without naming any country, he hinted the United States was looking to militants to help topple Assad and would regret it, drawing a parallel with U.S. support for the mujahideen who fought Soviet forces in Afghanistan during the Cold War. "Today somebody is using al Qaeda fighters or people from other organizations with the same extreme views to achieve their goals in Syria," Putin said. "This is a very dangerous and short-sighted policy." He noted that the United States had imprisoned many alleged Islamic militants at Guantanamo Bay and said it might as well "open the gates to Guantanamo and let all the Guantanamo inmates into Syria, let them fight. It's the same thing". PUSSY RIOT Putin has signed laws in his new term that critics say are part of a campaign to suppress dissent after the biggest protests of his 12 years in power. Putin said he acted to instill order and that he had taken steps to improve democracy. "What is 'tightening the screws'?" he said. "If this means the demand that everyone, including representatives of the opposition, obey the law, then yes, this demand will be consistently implemented." Putin declined to comment on the sentences handed down to three women from punk band Pussy Riot jailed for two years for performing a raucous anti-Putin song inside a Moscow cathedral. "I know what is going on with Pussy Riot, but I am staying out of it completely", he told the channel. But he suggested the band's notoriety had forced its "indecent" name into public discourse, reinforcing the point by prodding his interviewer to translate the word "pussy". "I want to direct your attention to the moral side of the issue," he added, describing a previous group-sex stunt that included at least one of the convicted women and adding a off-color joke of his own about group sex. Putin said abuses committed against the Russian Orthodox Church and other faiths during the Soviet era made the Pussy Riot protest particularly offensive and meant "the state is obliged to protect the feelings of believers". Kremlin opponents and defense lawyers accused Putin of influencing last month's trial and sentence, which the United States and European nations branded disproportionate. "IMAGE OF AN ENEMY" Putin condemned British and U.S. efforts to bar Russians linked to the 2009 death in jail of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was arrested by the same law enforcement officers he accused of a multi-million dollar fraud. He said Russia would respond in kind if the United States adopted a law requiring the government to deny visas and freeze assets to Russians linked to Magnitsky's death. Relations between Moscow and Washington improved after Obama moved to "reset" ties, but have been strained by disputes over issues ranging from global security to human rights. Putin said Russia would continue to talk with Washington about missile defense but "protect itself and preserve the strategic balance" if the United States pushed ahead with an anti-missile shield Moscow sees as a threat. Russia's suspicions that the shield is aimed to weaken it would only deepen if Romney were elected and pushed ahead with it because the Republican "considers us enemy No.1", Putin said. Romney once called Russia "without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe", and has promised "less flexibility and more backbone" in policy on Russia if he wins the November 6 election. "As for Mr. Romney's position, we understand that it is in part...campaign rhetoric, but I think it is, of course, without a doubt mistaken," Putin said. "Because to conduct oneself like that in the international arena is the same as using the instruments of nationalism and segregation in the domestic politics of your own country."

Pakistan People's Party force majeure پی پی پی کا الميه

How to commit blasphemy in Pakistan

BY:Mohammed Hanif
Fourteen years ago, around the time young Rimsha Masih, now in jail under Pakistan's blasphemy law, was born, a Roman Catholic bishop walked into a courthouse in Sahiwal, quite close to my hometown in Central Punjab. The Right Rev John Joseph was no ordinary clergyman; he was the first native bishop in Pakistan and the first ever Punjabi bishop anywhere in the world. He was also a brilliant and celebrated community organiser, the kind of man oppressed communities look up to as a role model. Joseph walked in alone, asking a junior priest to wait outside the courthouse. Inside the court, he took out a handgun and shot himself in the head. The bullet in his head was his protest against the court's decision to sentence a fellow Christian, Ayub Masih, to death for committing blasphemy. Masih had been charged with arguing with a Muslim co-worker over religious matters. The exact content of the conversation cannot be repeated here because that would be blasphemous. The bishop had campaigned long and hard to get the blasphemy law repealed without any luck. He wrote prior to his death: "I shall count myself extremely fortunate if in this mission of breaking the barriers, our Lord accepts the sacrifice of my blood for the benefit of his people." Joseph had been pursuing another case, in which an 11-year-old, Salamat Masih, along with his father and uncle, was accused of scribbling something blasphemous on the wall of the mosque. We don't really know what he wrote, because reproducing it, here or in court, would constitute blasphemy. The boy's uncle, Manzoor Masih, was shot dead during the trial. The Masih case went to the high court, where a judge, Arif Bhatti, applied common sense and released him. A year later the judge was murdered in his own chambers, and his killers claimed that the judge had committed blasphemy by freeing those accused in the blasphemy case. Frustrated and in a fit of rage, the bishop meditated and reached the conclusion that he should kill himself publicly to make his point. You could argue that Joseph should have organised candlelight vigils, gone on a hunger strike, hired better lawyers. But he had tried everything and realised that a bullet in the head in the middle of a court was his only way to draw attention to this colossal absurdity called blasphemy law. He was wrong. The law stayed. Many more Christians were killed. There are situations though, where confronted with the prospect of a 14-year-old being sentenced to death, as a celebrated community leader you can't do anything but take a gun to your head. And hope for the best. How to commit blasphemy in Pakistan- A young girl carrying trash in a plastic bag in a slum in the capital of Pakistan is not likely to arouse much curiosity. Not unless the girl is a Christian. Not unless there is a Muslim boy who wants to inspect the contents of her bag. Then this certain young man, Hammad, takes the trash bag to the local mosque to show it to the imam, Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti (also known as Maulana Jadoon), who decides that the contents of the bag are, indeed, blasphemous but wonders if they are blasphemous enough. So he inserts some pages of the Qur'an in the trash bag. What the girl was carrying was a book of alphabets, taught to children, may or may not have had a verse from the Qur'an in it. Reproducing an image of the contents of this trash bag would be blasphemous, so we are never likely to know. We discover the imam's role in sexing up the blasphemous contents two weeks later when one of the imam's deputies cracks up. By then Rimsha has been arrested, refused bail, sent to jail and a medical board constituted to ascertain her age and mental health. We are still not sure if she is 11 or 14, we don't know if she has Down's Syndrome as was originally claimed. In the initial days of the case, human-rights workers pinned their hopes on Rimsha's mental condition. As if those who demanded her arrest, those who arrested her, those who denied her bail and put her in jail were all mentally "normal". Her family has gone into hiding; another 300 Christian families have been forced to leave their homes and are struggling to find shelter in one of the Islamabad forests. So what can constitute blasphemy under the blasphemy law, which has killed dozens in the past decade, made thousands homeless and millions live in permanent fear about what might be found in their trashcan. It's up to the lawyers to argue over how to avoid: "Whoever by words, either spoken or written or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles …" but here are some of the everyday situations that can turn you into a blasphemer: 1. Transporting ashes in a plastic bag to a rubbish dump, as has happened in Masih's case. 2. Discussing conjugal rights according to Islam with fellow Muslims if you disagree with them. You might think you are with a fellow Muslim, around a water pump and relatively safe. That is what a schoolteacher in Chakwal thought. And got into an argument. He has been in jail for the past 10 months. His 14-year-old daughter told the daily newspaper Dawn last week that kids won't talk to her because her father is a blasphemer. 3. Not minding your spellings. Last year a teacher checking exam papers called in the police after he found blasphemous material in an answer sheet. The police wouldn't reveal the exact material because that, you know, would be blasphemous. Later it transpired that it was a case of bad spelling. 4. Writing a novel called Blasphemy. Last year there were calls to put an author on trial because she had been disrespectful to religious scholars and spiritual saints. Last I heard she was fine but not writing any more novels with any other name. 5. Writing a children's poem with a lion as its central character. Pakistan's most famous social activist, Akhtar Hameed Khan, who spent his life helping people in Asia's largest slum, tried his hand at a poem like that and spent his last years in courts facing blasphemy charges. 6. Refusing someone a drink of water. Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, who among other blasphemous things (which can't be repeated for reasons by now obvious to the readers of this article) refused her co-workers a drink of water. The local imam accused her of blasphemy. The then governor, Salman Taseer, came out in her support, talked about changing the law, and was killed by his own police bodyguard. The policeman's picture adorns many shops and businesses in Pakistan. Taseer's name has become synonymous with "going too far". And nobody, really nobody, wants to mention Bibi's name in a discussion about blasphemy law. 7. Throwing away a visiting card. A doctor in Hyderabad did that to a pestering pharmaceutical salesman and found himself in serious trouble. The salesman had Muhammad as part of his name. Blasphemy: a children's story- An academic subject called Islamic Studies was made compulsory for all students in the early 80s. As a student you were taught a story about the prophet Muhammad's life. It was part of Muslim folklore, repeated over and over again in Friday sermons, and told to little kids as a bedtime story. When the prophet started preaching in Mecca, there was a lot of hostility towards him. People pelted him with stones, made fun of him and his new upstart God and his teachings. There was one woman in his Mecca neighbourhood who was particularly nasty to him. As he left his house every day, she would be waiting for him with a basket of garbage that she would empty over him. It happened day after day but he never rebuked the woman, nor changed his path. Then one day he walked the street and no garbage was thrown at him. He turned back and went looking for his tormentor and discovered that the woman was ill and bedridden. He inquired about her health and told her that since she hadn't come out to insult him like she did every day, he was worried about her. The woman, impressed by his generosity, converted to Islam. There is another story that kids are taught these days. This story has almost become the new folklore, repeated endlessly on social networking sites and narrated in graphic detail by the supporters of the blasphemy law. According to this story when prophet Muhammad conquered Mecca he announced a general amnesty except for those who had committed blasphemy against his person. He ordered them to be beheaded. One blasphemer was killed even when he tried to take shelter in the Khana Qaba in Mecca, the most sacred place for Muslims, where it is strictly forbidden to kill anyone. A common Muslim might be puzzled over how both these stories could be true? But before puzzlement starts to border on blasphemy, one must seek the guidance of Pakistani Islamic scholars, who tell us that Islam is the most humane of religions, that there is nothing wrong with the blasphemy law, that it is the implementation which is problematic. Before the current law came into existence, in 60 years there were six reported cases of blasphemy. Since the current law was constituted there have been more than four thousand. But the law has such power that even pleading the statistics is considered blasphemous. When Governor Taseer challenged it, they killed him, and then many of the same Islamic scholars refused to say his funeral prayers. The fear of Allah v the fear of mullah- Not too long ago, the role of the clergy in a neighbourhood was confined to birth and deaths, funeral and special religious occasions. You went to the mosque to offer your prayers, you prayed for better crops, for the rains to start or stop; travellers could expect to find shelter for the night. A mosque is no more just that. Equipped with a powerful public-address system and controlled by sectarian religious groups, it's become a little battle headquarter for the neighbourhood. The continuous Shia massacres across Pakistan are not hatched in some far-off land, by enemies of Pakistan or enemies of Islam as Pakistan's maulanas pretend; they are preached, planned and executed from local mosques. People listen to religious scholars.- "If she is innocent, she should be released," thundered a dozen maulanas on TV screens after Rimsha was arrested. "And if she is guilty, the law must take its course." They completely ignored the fact that an illiterate child is not likely to even know what constitutes blasphemy. And the law they want to be implemented has led to a situation that even when the accused is found innocent, they are condemned for life. All you need to do to condemn someone for life is to switch on a mosque loudspeaker and make the allegation. Before Chishti was caught in his own trap in the Rimsha case, no accuser had ever been arrested or tried. The laws against hate speech are weak, and almost never implemented. And how can it be considered hate speech when all they are doing is expressing their faith that might include demanding death for all Shias and Ahmedis, and an occasional Christian who may or may not have crossed the line. There are enough sectarian organisations in Pakistan to wage perpetual war. There are enough factions within these organisations that will shoot down every argument, every appeal to rationality. You can't reason with Allah, so you mustn't reason with a mullah, because that too might be blasphemous. A few days before it was found that Chishti had planted evidence against Rimsha, he was interviewed on TV. He was asked if he had been campaigning to expel Christians from his neighbourhood. He seemed puzzled for a moment, then rebuked: "This is a Muslim country, Allah has given it to us. If these Christians make noise at the time of our prayers, then they should be asked to leave." I am certain that even when Chishti was stuffing pages from the Qur'an in the poor girl's trash bag, he believed he was doing Allah's work. The Christian work- There is a well-off Christian businessman in Karachi who fusses over the trash basket in his office, handles his work file carefully, because, you never know, a stray scrap of paper can ruin you, your family, your business. Christians make up less than 2% of Pakistanis, the majority of them very poor. Many of them are converts from low caste Hindus, who embraced Christianity in the hope of better status, but most end up sweeping the streets and cleaning clogged up gutters. Because of rampant unemployment the sanitary profession is not exclusive to Christians any more – there are thousands of Muslims, mostly migrants from rural areas, who sweep the streets and haul the trash but because of old prejudices, it's still considered a profession beneath Muslims. The Christian businessman in Karachi was hiring a cleaning person for his office and inquired about his background. The candidate told him: my family comes from farming but because of bad times we are forced to do this Christian work. My father, the blasphemer- My father was as devout and zealous a Muslim as I have ever seen. Never missed a prayer, built a huge mosque in his village and always preferred the stricter, literalist version of religion. He also had a mysterious stomach ailment and the only cure was a verse from the Qur'an recited by the only Christian gentleman in the neighbourhood. This accidental healer was also the neighbourhood sweeper. When I think of these two old men huddled in a room, reciting verses from the Qur'an to cure a minor ailment, I wonder if they were committing blasphemy? Rimsha's future- For the first time since the Right Rev John Joseph shot himself, there is some public support for a blasphemy victim. Some religious scholars have come out in Rimsha's support, an odd politician or two have talked about this case becoming a tipping point in the blasphemy debate. But let's not have any illusions: no political party has the courage to rewrite a single word in the law let alone repeal it. The 11-year-old Salamat Masih who Joseph had fought for was sentenced to death. A higher court later overturned the decision but it was obvious the boy would never be safe in the country. A Christian charity helped him find asylum in Europe. Rimsha (if found not guilty) has been offered sanctuary by one of the country's largest seminaries, Jamia Banuria, in Karachi. Banuria is also a staunch supporter of the blasphemy law. Rimsha probably doesn't know that she might end up spending the rest of her life in a Muslim seminary or be left at the mercy of a Christian charity. In Joseph's hometown in Faisalabad, in a Muslim seminary called Jamia Rehmania, they made a monument to his sacrifice. Jamia Rehmania also supports the blasphemy law. The memorial, called Bishop John Joseph Memorial Hall is the only monument in Pakistan dedicated to a blasphemer. Christian girl hailed as 'daughter of nation' by senior Pakistani cleric Chairman of All Pakistan Ulema Council vows to guarantee girl accused of blasphemy safety if she is released from prison Pakistani mullah accused of trying to frame girl in blasphemy case Pakistani mullah arrested for 'framing' Christian girl accused of blasphemy - video Bail hopes dashed of Christian girl in Pakistan blasphemy case Pakistan blasphemy case: 'Muslims could take law into their own hands' Pakistani girl charged with blasphemy faces delay in securing bail Pakistani girl accused of Qur'an burning is a minor, say medics William Dalrymple: The tyranny of blasphemy still has Pakistan in its grip

Democratic convention: Bill Clinton makes speech that Obama needed most

At the Democratic national convention, the hugely popular former president gave an address aimed squarely at fixing Barack Obama's blind spot with middle America
Say what you want about Bill Clinton – and people do – but he gives good convention. And so he should. The last time he didn't address a convention was 1984. He knows which delegates' buttons to press because he sewed so many of them on himself. Last night, in a long, always spirited and occasionally rambling performance, he reminded the country not just who the good guy is but where the bad times came from. "In Tampa the Republican argument against Obama's re-election was pretty simple, pretty snappy: 'We left him a total mess, he hasn't finished cleaning it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in.' I like the argument for President Obama's re-election a whole lot better. He inherited a deeply damaged economy, put a floor under the crash, began the long hard road to recovery and laid the foundation for a modern, more well-balanced economy." It was a full-throated, at times light-hearted, rousing endorsement of the man who beat his wife in a bitter primary four years ago. Bill Clinton sauntered on stage to his 1992 campaign song: "Don't stop thinking about tomorrow." But the convention hall – clinging to him like a cross-generational comfort blanket – were thinking about two decades ago, a reassuring reminder of what seems like a bygone era when jobs were many, you could get on a plane without first taking off your shoes and white southern Democrats weren't virtually extinct. His appearance in a primetime slot usually reserved for vice-presidents says more about Obama's vulnerabilities than it does about Clinton's strengths. And those weaknesses have been clear during this convention. While there is far more enthusiasm in Charlotte than there was among Republicans in Tampa last week, that exuberance among Democrats is far less focused. Republicans trained their sights on the economy, deceptively at times but relentlessly throughout. The Democratic rhetorical fire, however, is dispersed among many targets. Women's rights, union rights, equality of opportunity, healthcare reform, gay marriage, student debt – all get shout outs, all get cheers. There is a theme – fairness – but there isn't a coherent message beyond the threat that under Mitt Romney the country will be less fair. This is where Clinton comes in. For the problem is not that Barack Obama does not have a record. It's that the record he has does not include the single most important achievement he could hope for: improving the lot of the broad swathe of middle America. It's the one area where voters trust Romney more than him and by far the most important issue in the election. Clinton bears the imprimatur of economic success. Long after the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Don't Ask Don't Tell, the North American Free Trade Agreement, welfare reform, the repeal of the Glass-Steagall act and the defence of marriage act are forgotten, the memory of a strong economy and a budget surplus on his watch will remain. When the speech was over, Obama came on stage and hugged him as though he were a life raft.

Pakistan evicts Save the Children foreign staff

Associated Press
A spokesman for Save the Children in Pakistan says the government has ordered its foreign staff members to leave the country. Ghulam Qadri said on Thursday that the order from the Ministry of Interior for the organization's six expatriate staffers to leave came earlier this week. He said the ministry gave no reason for the expulsion. The group has come under Pakistani government scrutiny recently because of reports that it helped facilitate meetings between the U.S. and a doctor who helped hunt down Osama bin Laden. The group has vehemently denied any such role. Qadri says Save the Children has about 2,000 Pakistani employees across the country, and that the expulsion will not hinder its work. The expulsion was first reported by the British newspaper The Guardian.

Watch: Veena Malik turns singer

Veena Malik has always been a 'drama queen', but her singing debut, an album by the same name is all set to flutter quite a few juke boxes! Yes, Pakistani import Veena Malik has just turned singer, courtesy her collaboration with renowned British Asian music producer Bups Saggu. The video of her debut single called 'Drama Queen' showcases Veena in a rather sexy cat woman avatar and has her setting the dance floor on fire. It also has Veena doing what she does the best- wooing men. The album, which is set to release in early 2013, is said to have music producers from all across the world and first look at it really makes us think that Veena might just be able to churn out a chart-buster with this one!

HRW pushes Pakistan to 'urgently' protect Shias

The Pakistani government should urgently act to protect the minority Shia Muslim community in Pakistan from sectarian attacks by Sunni militant groups, Human Rights Watch said today. The government should hold accountable those responsible for ordering and participating in deadly attacks targeting Shia. While sectarian violence is a longstanding problem in Pakistan, attacks against ordinary Shia have increased dramatically in recent years, Human Rights Watch said. In 2012, at least 320 members of the Shia population have been killed in targeted attacks. Over 100 have been killed in Balochistan province, the majority from the Hazara community. "Deadly attacks on Shia communities across Pakistan are escalating," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The government's persistent failure to apprehend attackers or prosecute the extremist groups organizing the attacks suggests that it is indifferent to this carnage." In the most recent violence, in two separate attacks on September 1, 2012, gunmen attacked and killed eight Hazara Shia in Quetta, Balochistan's capital. In the first attack, witnesses told Human Rights Watch that four armed men riding on two motorbikes shot dead five Hazaras at a bus stop in the Hazar Ganji area of the city. The victims, all vegetable sellers, were returning from the vegetable market. Within two hours of the attack, gunmen riding a motorbike attacked a nearby bus stop, killing two people from the Hazara community. An eighth victim, also a Hazara Shia, died in the hospital on September 2. On August 30, gunmen riding a motorbike shot dead Zulfiqar Naqvi, a Shia judge, his driver, Essa Khan, and a police bodyguard, Abdul Shakoor, as Naqvi headed to work in Quetta. On August 16, four buses passing through the Babusar Top area of Mansehra district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (formerly the North-West Frontier Province) were ambushed by gunmen who made all the passengers disembark. The attackers checked the national identity cards of each passenger and summarily executed 22 passengers identified as belonging to the Shia community. A spokesman for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the killings. Similar attacks targeting the Shia population have taken place repeatedly over the last year in Balochistan, the port city of Karachi, predominantly Shia populated areas of Gilgit Baltistan in the northern areas, and in Pakistan's tribal areas, Human Rights Watch said. Sunni militant groups such as the ostensibly banned Lashkar-e Jhangvi have operated with widespread impunity across Pakistan while law enforcement officials have effectively turned a blind eye on attacks against Shia communities. Some Sunni extremist groups are known to be allies of the Pakistani military, its intelligence agencies, and affiliated paramilitaries, such as the Frontier Corps, Human Rights Watch said. While authorities claim to have arrested dozens of suspects in attacks against Shia since 2008, only a handful have been charged, and no one has been held accountable for these attacks. The August 31 arrest of Malik Ishaq, the leader of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, in Lahore in a case filed against him for inciting violence against the Shia community on August 9 is an important development, coming after repeated failed attempts to bring him to justice, Human Rights Watch said. Despite being the accused in some 44 cases, involving the killing of some 70 people, mostly from the Shia community, Ishaq has previously been acquitted by Pakistani courts in 34 cases and granted bail in the other 10. The government recently detained him under provisions of the Maintenance of Public Order Act as it deemed him to be a threat to public security. A review board of the Lahore High Court ordered his release in January 2012 on the grounds that Ishaq's continued detention was unjustified because he had been granted bail in all cases pending against him. "The arrest of Malik Ishaq, who has been implicated in dozens of killings, is an important test for Pakistan's criminal justice system," Adams said. "Sectarian violence won't end until those responsible are brought to trial and justice." Human Rights Watch urged Pakistan's federal government and relevant provincial governments to make all possible efforts to promptly apprehend and prosecute those responsible for recent attacks and other crimes targeting the Shia population. The government should direct civilian agencies and the military responsible for security to actively protect those facing attack from extremist groups, and to address the growing perception, particularly in Balochistan and Pakistan's tribal areas, that state authorities look the other way when Shia are attacked. It should increase the number of security personnel in Shia majority areas and enclaves at high risk of attack, particularly the Hazara community in Quetta. The government should also actively investigate allegations of collusion between Sunni militant groups and military intelligence and paramilitary forces and hold accountable personnel found to be involved in criminal acts. "Pakistan's government cannot play the role of unconcerned bystander as the Shia across Pakistan are slaughtered," Adams said. "Pakistan's political leaders, law enforcement agencies, judiciary, and military need to take this as seriously as they take other security threats to the state."

Khosa accuses Shahbaz of hoarding Rs 300 billion in secret funds for election campaign

Punjab Governor Latif Khosa has said that no political elements would be allowed to enter into the interim government setup and a consensus on a caretaker prime minister is hoped soon. Talking to media persons here on Wednesday, Latif Khosa said that the local bodies’ election, if held, would not affect general elections, but delaying tactics in this regard were being used. The Governor said that the consultation for a caretaker setup was underway, but it would include only impartial people. He blamed Punjab’s Chief Minister for hording Rs 300 billion in secret funds, which were feared to be used for his election campaign. An Auditor General has been informed to probe this case, he added. He said that the Punjab government had adopted a discriminatory attitude towards the doctors’ fraternity, who were demanding their constitutional rights.


The federal cabinet on Wednesday considered and accorded approval to the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2012, concerning terrorism financing and also considered “Investigation for Fair Trial Bill, 2012 besides approving draft Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2012 and Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill. The Anti-Terrorism (Amendment Bill, 2012, provides for addressing shortcomings relating to the terrorism financing provisions in the Anti-terrorism Act, 1997. In particular, the Bill strengthens the provisions creating the offence of terrorism financing; covering all aspects of the offence in the light of international standards and provides for more effective measures for law enforcement agencies to investigate the offence. The provisions on freezing, seizing and forfeiture of property involved in the terrorism financing offence have been strengthened to ensure that the funding of the terrorism financing offence is detected and seized after due process of law. The Cabinet also considered the “Investigation for Fair Trial Bill, 2012″ and gave its approval with certain amendments. The bill provides for investigation for collection of evidence by means of modern techniques and devices to prevent and effectively deal with scheduled offence and to regulate the powers of the law enforcement and intelligence agencies and to prevent law enforcement and intelligence agencies from using their powers arbitrarily. It was felt necessary to regulate the said powers and provide for their permissible and fair uses in accordance with law and under proper executive and judicial oversight keeping in view Article 10A of the Constitution. It will also provide for admissibility and use of the material collected during investigation under the present law in judicial proceedings and all other legal proceedings or processes to ensure fair trial. The Cabinet also approved a bill on “Offenses and Penalties relating to Electricity Amendments in the PPC, CrPC and Electricity Act 1910.” It may be mentioned that the Ministry of Water & Power is faced with the situation whereby the recoveries affected by the distribution companies from the consumers are insufficient and inadequate to meet the cost of generated electricity. As a result, the Government of Pakistan has to provide subsidy especially to those distribution companies where leakages, pilferage and theft are rampant. Primarily, this phenomenon emanates from fragile legal and enforcement structure. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2012 enumerates offence of dishonest abstraction, illegal interference or tampering with transmission and distribution power systems with penalty of rigorous imprisonment which may extend to three years and fine which may extend to ten million rupees for transmission offence and two years and three million rupees, respectively for distribution offence. Similarly, offence against improper use, interference or tampering with electric meters by domestic, industrial, commercial and agricultural consumers have been included. The penalties for such offence may extend to one year or fine which may extend to, one million rupees or both in case of domestic consumers, and three years or fine which may extend to six million rupees or both in case of industrial, commercial and agricultural consumers. Moreover, offence for damaging, destroying or destructing the transmission lines, distribution lines or electric meters have been specified with punishment of up to seven years imprisonment and with fine which shall not be less than three million rupees. The Cabinet also approved to start negotiations on bilateral MoU on Disaster Management between Republic of Turkey and National Disaster Management Authority, Government of Pakistan. Approval was also accorded by the Cabinet to start negotiation on MoU on disaster management between government of Sri Lanka and National Disaster Management Authority, Government of Pakistan. The Cabinet considered the report of the committee examining the issue of seats of non-Muslims in the legislature. A number of proposals were made by the members of the Cabinet and it was decided that the Committee would present its final report to the Cabinet in the light of the recommendations made by members of the Cabinet. In his opening remarks at the cabinet meeting Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf reiterated the Government’s resolve to confront the challenges of energy shortage and the scourge of terrorism with all available resources of the State. The Prime Minister said he would like to convey the strong resolve of the government to overcome the challenges being faced by the people of Pakistan. The Prime Minister strongly condemned the recent wave of terrorism in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan and said, Government sympathized with all the bereaved families and prayed for early recovery of those injured in these cowardly acts of terrorism. He said that such acts could never deter the Government’s resolve to fight the menace of terrorism and culprits of these terrorist acts would be brought to the book. He directed that the law enforcement agencies must beef up security and urged the provincial governments to keep a vigilant eye on any suspicious activity and evolve mechanism to counter any such terrorist act with iron hands. The Prime Minister also asked the provincial government of Balochistan to implement Supreme Court’s verdict in order to improve law and order situation in the province. He assured that the federal government would extend all out assistance to the Balochistan government and all possible measures would be taken for improvement in law and order situation, not only in Balochistan but throughout the country. The Prime Minister reiterated that the Government was committed to resolve all issues including the energy crisis and sincere efforts were being made to enhance capacity of the power generation plants which would help in meeting future energy demand. The Prime Minister said that the credit for present independent judiciary also goes to Pakistan Peoples Party as it participated side by side with the Lawyers Community in the movement for restoration of an Independent Judiciary in 2007 when Musharraf regime forcibly removed the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. He said that he appeared personally before the Supreme Court in the contempt case for allegedly not implementing apex court’s decision in the NRO case. His appearance in the court is a testimony to respect for the courts, he said. The Government, its coalition partners, and the Supreme Court jointly want to resolve the issue pertaining to non-implementation of apex court’s verdict in NRO case, according to the law and the Constitution, the Prime Minister said. The Cabinet was informed that power generation and demand- supply position is improving gradually. The Cabinet directed the Ministry of Water & Power to make a detailed presentation and apprise the members of the Cabinet about the steps taken to eliminate load shedding in the short-term and long-term. The Prime Minister declared unequivocally that the government would take all possible measures to overcome the difficulties of the people on account of power shortage. It was decided to convene a Cabinet meeting shortly with a single item agenda to take stock of the measures taken by the government so far and recommend proposals for further improving the power situation.

Tightening terrorism financing laws

International community will brook no flow of funds for financing of terrorist activities. According to reliable sources, Pakistan government after making some efforts which were not fully acceptable to the concerned watchdog abroad, has finally decided to enact laws relating to terrorism financing more stringently, fearing that any delay in this regard could lead to financial sanctions on the country. Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which is an apex body that sets and monitors the international standards on Anti Money Laundering (AML) and Counter Financing of Terrorism (CFT) has already blacklisted Pakistan because of certain lacunae in terrorist financing laws. It may be recalled that Pakistan's regime on AML and CFT was jointly evaluated by the World Bank and the Asia Pacific Group in 2009, and in view of their recommendations Pakistan had taken a number of steps to make the relevant laws more effective. This was done because earlier in February, 2008 Pakistan was placed by FATF in its Public Statement (commonly known as "black list") due to inadequate progress towards addressing AML/CFT deficiencies. In June, 2011, Pakistan made a commitment with FATF to address AML/CFT deficiencies and as a consequence Pakistan was removed from the Public Statement. However, FATF reviewed Pakistan's progress in February this year and placed it again on the Public Statement because of deficiencies in the system. In order to comply with the international standards, Pakistan government finally decided to constitute a working group to draft the required amendments in the relevant laws which has now prepared Anti-Terrorism (Amendment Bill) 2012. The draft of the bill is also reported to have been vetted by the Ministry of Law and Justice. As expected, the latest Bill is reported to aim at addressing shortcomings relating to terrorism financing provisions in the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997. In particular, the bill would seek to strengthen the provisions relating to the offence of terrorism financing; covering all aspects of the offence in the light of international standards and providing for more effective measures for law enforcement agencies to investigate the offence. The provisions on freezing, seizing and forfeiture of property have been strengthened to ensure that the funding of terrorism financing offence is detected in time and seized after due process of law. The Ministry of Interior would submit the Bill alongwith a comparative matrix of old and new provisions of Anti-Terrorism Act to the Federal Cabinet for approval. There could possibly be no argument against tightening of the AML and CFT laws with a view to ensuring that the scourge of terrorism and money laundering is eliminated altogether or at least reduced to the minimum and the laws of the country are firmly in accordance with the stipulations of FATF so that Pakistan is not placed on the Public Statement again or faces the risk of financial sanctions or censure. The need for tightening the laws relevant in Pakistan is all the more greater and urgent because of a higher degree of threat from the menace to the survival of the state and the way of living of its citizens. Against such a background, it was of vital importance to ensure that the funding of terrorism financing and money laundering was detected in time and seized after due process of law. Hopefully, new provisions on freezing, seizing and forfeiting property and other forms of punishments to offenders stipulated under the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2012 would discourage the unscrupulous elements involved in such heinous activities and at the same time satisfy the world opinion that Pakistan is doing enough to check the growing evil across the globe. However, while we fully agree with the need and thrust of the envisaged provisions of the Bill, care must be taken to avoid certain pitfalls which are peculiar to the current situation in Pakistan and could be very costly to economy of the country. For instance, undue interference in the flow of home remittances under the rubric of AML/CFT could jeopardize the increasing flow of such remittances to the country through banking channels and force the majority of expatriates once again to resort to informal channels of sending money back home. In fact, even the reversal of present policy of "no questions asked" and immunity from tax laws in this connection could reduce the free flow of home remittances which has lately emerged as a great support to country's external sector. Similarly, an invasive probing of bank accounts of various categories of people, most of whom have a track record by now of receiving remittances from abroad, could also adversely affect banking sector's deposit mobilisation. Such a risk is very much real because of growing perception in Pakistan that the government bureaucracy assigned to undertake such functions is corrupt and would even try to find faults where there are none. In a situation like this, the level of investment and the prospects of the economy could be greatly impaired if the government is unable to separate the wheat from the chaff and fails to strike a delicate balance between application of these laws to curb money laundering for terror financing and abuse thereof to ensure facilitation of a transition to a vibrant economy.

Zardari vows to thwart anti-Pakistan designs

President Asif Ali Zardari has said the dark forces of extremism, militancy and sectarianism are posing a serious challenge to the integrity of the nation, but no one would be allowed to endanger the country’s existence. In a message on the Defense Day of Pakistan, the president said Pakistan was a moderate, tolerant and peaceful nation where political choices were made through the ballot. “Let us, therefore, pledge that we will never allow anyone to endanger our existence as a moderate, tolerant and peaceful nation,” he said. Stressing an urgent need for clarity of purpose and national unity to confront the challenges, the president said the demonstration of unprecedented cohesion among the people, singularity of purpose at the national level and valor of the armed forces made September 6 a memorable day in the national calendar. He said on this day in 1965, people from all over Pakistan and representing all shades of opinion joined hands in standing behind the valiant armed forces in thwarting aggression. “The commemoration of September 6 revives our spirits and strengthens our resolve to defend the country against all kinds of threats and to be always prepared for any sacrifice for its integrity and honor.” In his message on Defence Day, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said September 6 is a day which represents the nation’s unwavering commitment to unify in the face of grave challenges. “We need the same zeal and commitment today as we exhibited in 1965 to defeat the forces of terrorism, extremism and sectarianism,” he said.

Pakistan: Crackdown on the LeJ

Editorial:Daily Times
The interior ministry has finally decided to move against the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), according to reports of a meeting to review law and order and security chaired by Interior Minister Rehman Malik. The federal government has asked the Punjab government to crack down on the LeJ without further delay, as most cases of sectarian violence have been claimed by the banned organisation. This news would normally be cause for satisfaction, but there are certain troubling questions that linger. For one thing, why the focus on Punjab alone? Most of the atrocities the LeJ has proudly boasted of recently occurred in Balochistan, principally Quetta. Granted, Punjab has been and perhaps remains the headquarters and main base of the LeJ. Reports say one of two former Harkat-ul-Ansar terrorists supervising the killings of Shias, Asmat Muawia, is operating from upper and central Punjab. But this still does not answer the question why the Balochistan government has been ignored in the request to crack down on the LeJ. It is bad enough that it took so long for the authorities to arrest Malik Ishaq, the LeJ chief, but to now focus exclusively on Punjab defies logic and leads to the suspicion that this issue too, like so much else, has become a victim of politicking. Also, those familiar with Balochistan and its political cross-currents would no doubt be surprised at the interior minister’s lumping together of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), LeJ and the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA). Whereas the TTP and LeJ pride themselves on their militant extremist credentials, especially butchery of helpless, unarmed minorities, the BLA is a secular nationalist movement, a very different variety from the other two, to say the least. No doubt Islamabad is well aware of what is really at play in the sectarian killing fields of Balochistan and beyond. For it to put out a misleading narrative implies either confusion or more troubling times ahead because of the lack of nuanced focus. It bears noting though that the government had little option but to finally overcome its paralysis on the LeJ issue. For far too long the LeJ’s fanatics have been targeting the Shia minority with reckless abandon, especially Balochistan’s quiet Hazara community. Even though most times the LeJ blatantly boasted of carrying out what has arguably grown into genocide, the government remained silent as Malik Ishaq played to the far-right gallery, adorning the Difa-e-Pakistan Council stage on occasion. Now, when this belated official pronouncement has come, it does not inspire the confidence it should because of the layers of confusion about the scope of actions against the LeJ being confined to Punjab alone and the failure to distinguish between the TTP and LeJ on the one hand, and the BLA on the other. Reading between the lines, it remains to be seen whether the LeJ will continue to receive behind-the-scenes patronage from sections of the security establishment, while the official machinery will continue to be brought to weigh heavily on the BLA. That we might end up as a result with a province brimming with sectarian mercenaries while the secular-nationalist lobby is driven into the ground, seems to disturb few in government. It is clear that Pakistan’s frightening pace of disintegration has failed to register in popular political circles. If the government has remained confined to ritual denunciations of Shia killings, the opposition parties are not much better. It seems everybody is simply afraid of associating with targeted minorities, especially the Shia, for fear of swift and violent blowback from groups like the LeJ. No government can be excused for turning a blind eye to sectarian ‘cleansing’. The media too stands accused of inadequately putting the sectarian menace in proper perspective. Its coverage of the issue betrays how little it understands the political and sectarian abyss Pakistan has fallen into. Somewhere amidst the noise, the notion that all citizens of the land must be protected is drowned in oblivion.

Veena Malik in Finland to support women’s rights

Daily Times
First time Bollywood starlet Veena Malik showed her interest in arts as she went to Finland to collaborate with Finnish renowned visual artist Vesa Kivinen. Together they will create five varied art pieces that focus into finding common ground and beauty over the usually promoted differences between the East and the West. It is the first collaborated painting of Vesa Kevinen and Veena which will be the first and the last of its kind. “I feel very glad that Finnish renowned visual artist Vesa Kivinen called me to work with him. I didn’t come here just for the love of art but the main motive behind is to support women rights.” Veena and Vesa’s collaborated art profits will go towards a charitable organisation promoting women’s rights in Pakistan. Veena has always come forward to support different charitable trusts including WHO. Vesa Kivinen is best known in Finland for his collaboration with Leif Segerstam’s “Völvan” symphony, and his charity project with Miss Finland Noora Hautakangas.

VIDEO: Bill Clinton full DNC Speech 2012

Clinton says Obama offers a better path forward for America

President Barack Obama offers a better path forward for the country that will promote united values rather than the winner-takes-all mentality of Republicans, former President Bill Clinton told the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night. In a highly anticipated speech before Obama was formally nominated for re-election, Clinton framed the November vote as a choice of what kind of country Americans want. "If you want a winner-take-all, you're-on-your-own society, you should support the Republican ticket," Clinton said. "If you want a country of shared prosperity and shared responsibility -- a we're-all-in-this-together society -- you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden." Democratic delegates greeted Clinton as a rock star, interrupting his 48- minute speech with more than a dozen standing ovations. Vice President Joe Biden watched the speech in person from a Time Warner Cable Arena box while Obama joined Clinton afterward on stage,
embracing him as Clinton’s presidential theme song, Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop,” played to a thunderous ovation. But this was Clinton’s night to bask in his new dual role as as his party’s elder statesman and biggest success story. Listening to a message that was part policy wonk lecture and part folksy state fair stem-winder, the audience sat rapt as Clinton rattled off Medicare statistics and laughed when he debunked false Republican campaign claims. “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry sometimes,” he said. Frequently ad-libbing from his prepared text, Clinton answered the question that Republicans posed to voters at their convention last week in Tampa: Are you better off than you were four years ago? “Area we want to be ? No. Is the President satisfied? Are we better off than we were when he took office, with an economy in free fall, losing 750,000 jobs a month. The answer is yes.” Clinton said. “I understand the challenge we face. I know many Americans are still angry and frustrated with the economy,” Clinton said, saying it reminded him of 1994 and 1995 during his presidency, when he knew “our policies were working and the economy was growing but most people didn’t feel it yet.” Obama inherited a much “weaker economy than I did,” Clinton said. “No president – not me or any of, my predecessors could have repaired all the damage I just four years.” He barely mentioned GOP nominee Mitt Romney, but dissected his policies, predicting that they would bring a return of trickle-down economics. In one ad lib, he chided GOP Vice President nominee Rep. Paul Ryan for saying that Obama “raided Medicare” of $716 billion. Many nonpartisan fact-checkers have noted that Ryan uses the same amount of Medicare savings in his budget. “It takes some brass to attack a guy for what you did,” Clinton said. In an unusual twist, Republicans praised Clinton in rebutting his speech. “From 20 million new jobs to historic welfare reforms, President Clinton has a record President Obama simply can’t match. Americans deserve a president willing to run on his own accomplishments, and not the record of a predecessor” said Romney spokesperson Amanda Henneberg. A dozen years ago, Clinton was a party pariah in the wake of his sex scandal with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. His Vice President’s Al Gore barely used him as a campaign weapon in Gore’s losing 2000 campaign. Also forgotten are the comments Clinton made during the 2008 Democratic primary between Obama and his wife, Secretary of State , Hillary Clinton. At one point, a frustrated Bill Clinton referred to Obama’s surging campaign as a “fairy tale.”

China, US should avoid dialogue of deaf

U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is making her second China trip this year in Beijing. On Wednesday, Clinton met with Chinese President Hu Jintao and then held a joint press conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. "It’s a positive pattern to enhance the high-level dialogue between China and the United States,” said Sun Zhe, director of Center for China-U.S. Relations of China’s Tsinghua University. "The most urgent task for both sides is how to realize C2 (Coordination & Cooperation) from G2, in other words, is how to promote effective communication between Beijing and Washington,” Sun said. From Sun’s prospective, Clinton’s major task this time is to reassert U.S. stance, express U.S. concerns as well as demand China’s cooperation and self-control over the prolonged disputes. The United States keeps saying that it will not take sides over the Diaoyu Islands issue. Against this is US assurance and favoritism to Japan by holding joint military drill and publicly declaring that the islands are under the coverage of the U.S.-Japan defense treaty. Japan is making waves over the Diaoyu Islands, and “the conflicts will deteriorate if the United States cannot force Japan to show self-restraint,” said Sun.It will be in nobody’s favor if the dispute over the islands drags China-US relations into a downward spiral. Therefore, Beijing and Washington have to stick to negotiation and keep talking. How to make talk more effective? Sun said both sides should “upgrade” the content and substance of negotiation and address the concerns. For example, China needs to explain more on Chinese military’s transparency. As return, the United States should use action, rather than lip service, to reassure China on the motives behind U.S. return to Asia and Pacific. Both China and the United States have to look at issues from the perspective of the other side and avoid the futile dialogue of the deaf.