Sunday, September 9, 2012

PAKISTAN: ‘Polio campaign postponed in Sindh’

Almost 2 million children across Sindh would be affected from polio after Sindh government decided to postpone polio vaccination campaign across the province due to the heavy rainfall which could affect millions across the Sindh. According to World Health Oraganisation (WHO) sources, the polio campaign, which had to commence on Monday (today) in the province, has been postponed by the provincial government. In 2010, the campaign was also postponed across Sindh due to the floods which affected larger part of the province. The decision had raised concerns regarding the increase of polio cases in Sindh as the rainy season helps polio virus to spread rapidly. “Except Gaddap and Sohrab Goth, the campaign would continue in Karachi,” they said adding that four districts of Punjab were also affected due to flood situation. It is to be mentioned here that there increased numbers of polio cases in Pakistan, instead of regular campaigns of vaccinations across country.

Unrest threatens Bangladesh's key garment export

Bangladesh's $19 billion garments industry attracts some of the world's biggest clothing brands because of low costs, but many retailers say unrest over pay and delayed shipping schedules are eroding that advantage. The killing of a labor activist and increasing publicity of unsanitary and unsafe working conditions at the country's 4,500 garment factories is also making some retailers worried about their reputation. Bangladeshi factories make clothes for brands including Tesco, Wal-Mart, JC Penney, H&M, Marks & Spencer, Kohl's and Carrefour. Wages are as low as $37 a month for some workers. In June, more than 300 factories near the capital Dhaka were shut for almost a week until the government and factory owners promised to consider pay demands and persuaded them to return to work. "Unrest in the readymade garment sector is a major concern for us," said a country manager of a large international wholesale customer, primarily located in the United States. "We have calculated that a two-week work disruption in factories producing 1.5 million units of garments daily would lead up to $8 million losses," the manager said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media. The garments manufacturing sector earned $19 billion in the year to June 2012, one of the impoverished nation's biggest industries. Bangladesh is the world's biggest exporter of clothing after China. Readymade garments make up 80 percent of the country's $24 billion in annual exports. Consultancy firm McKinsey & Company has said Bangladesh can double its garments exports in the next 10 years. But conditions in the industry are below standard. Besides scanty pay, working conditions and safety standards are poor, employees and some analysts say. Nazma Begum, a worker at a factory at Ashulia, near Dhaka, said the main cause of unrest was low pay, which barely covered family costs. "Now I get 4,200 taka ($51) per month which should be raised to at least 6,000 taka," she said. "I spend almost one-third of my wage for hiring a one room shelter while the prices of all daily necessaries are going gone up. Unless our pay is raised accordingly, there will be more unrest." Salma Begum, 35, added: "I have three children and my husband is a rickshaw puller. Together we earn about 6,500 taka ($80) a month but still we are in debt, often borrowing from friends." Bangladesh's 4 million garment workers are mostly women, who work 10-15 hours a day, six days a week. THUGS Some factory owners employ thugs to put down protests. In April, labor activist Aminul Islam was found murdered and his body bore signs of torture. No one has been arrested. Human Rights Watch said the killing raised the possibility of government involvement because Islam had been detained and tortured by security officials in the past. Officials dismissed the suggestion. "If anyone blames the government for his death, it is unfortunate. Why should the government do it?" said Kamal Uddin Ahmed, additional secretary in the ministry of home affairs. "However, we understand that until we could find the culprits, it might have some negative impact on readymade garment exports." The U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh, Dan Mozena, said Islam's killing was "an issue of considerable concern". "Many companies' representatives told me about their concerns about buying from Bangladesh," he told reporters in July, adding that their reputations were at stake because of concerns over workplace safety and a crackdown on labor activism. "They told me they want to buy more from Bangladesh. But...these companies will not risk their reputation," the envoy said. Swedish budget fashion firm Hennes & Mauritz, which calls Bangladesh an important purchasing market, said it was worried but would not comment directly on the likelihood of pulling out of the country. "We take the unrest seriously and continue to work to strengthen textile workers' rights," said Helena Helmerson at H&M's corporate social responsibility department in an e-mail. "We believe trade contributes to social and economic development and that our presence in the country is positive." The company said chief executive Karl-Johan Persson met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina this week and called for increasing the minimum wage and also for annual wage reviews for workers in the country's textile industry. "We want to see a stable market in which people are treated with respect, and where the workers are properly compensated by their employers," Persson later told reporters. NOT YET While no major garments retailer or wholesale manufacturer has moved out of Bangladesh, some may be inclined in that direction. "We don't like violence, we want peace to carry out our business here," said Nam Ho Cho, managing director of Bangladesh-Korea joint venture company, Hyun Apparel Limited, which sells its products to the United States. "Every time there is violence, buyers phone me and I have to cool them down by saying 'Don't worry, we will manage. Shipment schedules will be met.'" A country manager for an international brand added: "If we shift our order elsewhere, like China or Sri Lanka, then we have to pay 25 cents more for per unit of bottom denim (pants). "But if we consider the ultimate consequences of such unrest in Bangladesh, then the cost is higher than 25 cents. In that case we will look for other options, instead of Bangladesh." Wages are fixed by factory owners, the government and unions. However, many factories do not keep to stipulated wages. Despite calls to adjust wages in line with inflation, the government has said it had no immediate plan to review the wage structure -- rather it will make available cheaper food to the workers. Zaidi Sattar, chairman of the Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh, a leading think tank, said although garment factories had been successful in Bangladesh, there was a danger of buyers looking elsewhere. "Wages have to rise, commensurate with productivity and inflation. There is also much to be done on improving working conditions. This is improving slowly, as more and more factories reach compliance standards," said Sattar.

Pak-India Gift diplomacy: Of shawls, carpets and mangoes

When it comes to courtesies and gifts, New Delhi wants to put Pakistan foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar and US secretary of state Hillary Clinton on an equal footing. There is at least one reason to believe this. External affairs minister SM Krishna gifted both of them — to Khar on this visit and to Clinton during her recent visit to India — the same kind of pashmina shawl. Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari might not know of the 'pashmina shawl diplomacy', he lost no time in pointing out the "close" working relationship between Khar and Krishna. On noticing a red band on Krishna's hand, the president asked Krishna if Khar had tied a rakhi to him? The foreign minister also received several gifts. The Pakistan president had also sent four boxes of mangoes to welcome Krishna to Pakistan and when they met, Krishna thanked the president for the gesture and two leaders agreed the two countries have a "lot of good things to share" and need to put the relationship on a strong pedestal. Pakistan interior minister Rehman Khan presented a carpet to Krishna. He has interacted with leaders of all major political parties in Pakistan during the three-day visit. “It is my earnest desire and the desire of Manmohan Singh, and the people of India that we would like to see a stable, peaceful, progressive Pakistan as our neighbour because that will mean quite a bit to the entire region," he said in Lahore on Sunday. The minister also visited monuments like Minar-e-Pakistan, Dera Sahab gurdwara and Data Darbar sufi shrine. "I am happy to visit Pakistan. I wish the people of Pakistan peace and progress. India would like to see a stable and prosperous Pakistan. I believe that the two sovereign countries — India and Pakistan — can and need to live respectfully and in peace, as good neighbours,” Krishna wrote in the visitor’s book at Minar-e-Pakistan.

Pakistan ends weeks of fighting; over 100 dead

Associated Press
Pakistani security forces pushed Taliban militants who came from Afghanistan back across the border after more than two weeks of fighting in a mountainous tribal region, spokesmen for both sides said Sunday. The government says over 100 people were killed in the offensive. The violence in the northwestern Bajur area highlighted the growing problem of Taliban militants using sanctuaries in Afghanistan to attack Pakistan. The frequency of the raids has increased, and this was the first instance in which Pakistani Taliban militants coming from Afghanistan seized and held territory in Pakistan for a significant amount of time. Pakistan has called on Afghan and NATO forces to do more to stop militants from crossing into the country. Kabul and the international coalition have acknowledged the problem, but also want Pakistan to do more to stop militants holed up on its territory from launching attacks into Afghanistan. Security forces finally managed to push the militants back from the Salarzai region of Bajur on Saturday, said Jehangir Azam Wazir, the top political official in the area. "Unexpectedly, the militants showed tough resistance this time, but finally our security forces along with volunteers of the Salarzai militia succeeded in eliminating them," said Wazir. The dead included at least 80 militants, 18 civilians, 12 anti-Taliban militiamen and eight soldiers, he said. An additional 13 soldiers are missing and are believed to be in the hands of the Taliban. Hundreds of people who were trapped by the fighting in a string of villages along the border were finally able to leave Saturday. They had been confined to their homes, and many were running low on food. "Those days were very difficult and passed with a lot of hardship," said Hikmat Jan, who had been stranded with his family in Gambat village. "We were unable to go out and were tense, fearing the militants would come kidnap us or we would be killed by shelling or starve to death because we were running out of food." Jan said the dead were strewn across the village. "I saw many bodies in the fields and streets," said Jan. "I don't know whether they were militants, volunteers or fellow villagers." Gul Mohammed, who was caught outside his home in Batwar village by the fighting, said he was finally able to reunite with his relatives after weeks of separation. "I had no hope I would be able to see my family and my children alive again," said Mohammed. "Nothing gives me more happiness than seeing my family back safe and alive." Thousands of others who managed to flee before the fighting ended have been provided food by the government, said the top political official in Bajur, Syed Abdul Jabbar Shah. Security forces are searching the villages that were cleared of militants to make sure they did not plant any bombs, said Wazir, the official in Salarzai. People will be allowed to return to their villages once the search is complete, he said. Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan confirmed the militants retreated but said they would regroup and attack again. He claimed they brought back the bodies of 14 soldiers they killed. "We will attack this area again soon with much increased strength," Ahsan told The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location. The militants who attacked the Salarzai area came from the neighboring Afghan province of Kunar. They have also staged attacks from the adjacent Afghan province of Nuristan. Many Pakistani Taliban fighters fled to these areas following army operations in Pakistan's tribal region, taking advantage of the fact that the U.S. pulled out most of its forces from these Afghan provinces in recent years. The Pakistani Taliban are allied with the Afghan Taliban, but they have focused their attacks in different areas. The Pakistani Taliban have waged war on the Pakistani government, while the Afghan Taliban have battled Afghan and NATO forces inside Afghanistan. It's unclear whether the recent militant incursion into Salarzai was retaliation for the death of the head of the Pakistani Taliban in Bajur, Mullah Dadullah, in a NATO airstrike in Kunar on Aug. 24.

Romney says he won’t cut taxes on wealthy Americans
Mitt Romney rejected claims by President Barack Obama that he would sign off on more tax breaks for the wealthy if elected president, but again declined to offer specifics on how exactly he would accomplish his goal of lowering taxes for other Americans while also balancing the budget. In an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press," Romney said he would offset his proposed 20 percent tax cut for all Americans by eliminating loopholes and deductions for high-income earners. He argued that his plan would in effect lower taxes for middle class Americans while keeping tax rates the same for wealthy Americans. "People at the high end, high income taxpayers, are going to have fewer deductions and exemptions. Those numbers are going to come down. Otherwise they'd get a tax break," Romney told NBC. "And I want to make sure people understand, despite what the Democrats said at their convention, I am not reducing taxes on high income taxpayers."

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Romney argued that limiting deductions and exceptions would keep government revenues up and "encourage more hiring" and "encourage growth" in the economy. He said he wants to "makes sure we don't put any bigger burden on middle income people." But asked about "the specifics of how you get into this math," Romney declined to offer any additional details, suggesting the "principals" of his plan should be enough for Americans to judge his tax proposals. "The specifics are these which is those principles I described are the heart of my policy," Romney said. "And I've indicated as well that contrary to what the Democrats are saying I'm not going to increase the tax burden on middle-income families. It would absolutely be wrong to do that." The Republican presidential nominee criticized GOP lawmakers in Congress—a group that includes his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan-- for backing automatic budget cuts during debt negotiations last year. Under the agreement signed by the White House and the Republican Congress, the automatic cuts, known in Washington as "sequestration," will automatically remove $1.2 trillion from the budget unless lawmakers can find other cuts to replace them. At least half the cuts are coming in defense spending, which Romney called an "extraordinary miscalculation" on Obama's part and a "big mistake" for Republicans to agree to it." "I thought it was a mistake on the part of the White House to propose it. I think it was a mistake for Republicans to go along with it," Romney said. Asked if he would be willing to "cut a deal" in order to keep the country away from a "fiscal cliff," Romney indicated it's "critical to get the country back on track" but did not say how far he would go in working with Democrats. "There's nothing wrong with the term compromise, but there is something very wrong with the term abandoning one's principles," Romney said. "And I'm going to stand by my principles. And those are I am not going to raise taxes on the American people. Our problem in our country is not that we're not paying enough taxes. It's that we're spending too much money and the economy is not growing as it could and should." On Obama's health care law, Romney reiterated that he would repeal the law, if elected, but would replace it with his own measure that would include some of the elements from Obama's law, including coverage for those with "pre-existing conditions." He also said he also would keep rules allow young people to stay on their parents health care plans. "I say we're going to replace Obamacare. And I'm replacing it with my own plan. And even in Massachusetts when I was governor, our plan there deals with pre-existing conditions and with young people," Romney said. "I'm not getting rid of all of healthcare reform. Of course there are a number of things that I like in healthcare reform that I'm going to put in place." While polls show he received no "bounce" in the aftermath of the Republican National Convention, Romney still argued that he's in a "better spot" since voters were able to become more aware of his personal story and his policies. "I think we're making real progress," Romney said. "People go to see Ann and hear our story. And the result of that is I'm better known, for better or for worse. And that allows me to continue to hammer away on what I do to get America on the right track. And I have really two months to be able to convince people I can do a better job than the incumbent. I think I can do that. So I'm in a better spot than I was before the convention." Romney seized on Friday's disappointing jobs report as proof that he has a good chance of defeating Obama in November. "I think it's tough to beat an incumbent if the incumbent's record is good," Romney said. "I think this incumbent has a very challenged record…This president has not been able to deliver on his promises. People are dissatisfied with where he's taken the country. And that gives me an opportunity which might not have been available had he done what he said he would do." Asked if he would be willing to "endanger yourself politically to the point that you were a one-term president," Romney said he "could not care less about his political prospects." "I want to become president of the United States to get this country on the right track again. America is at a critical crossroads," the GOP candidate said. "We've got to put Americans back to work. And politics, whether I'm highly favored, not highly favored, just doesn't enter into the equation."

Pakistan: International Literacy Day: Little to celebrate, lot to worry about

Little to celebrate and a lot to worry about. Like every year International Literacy Day, that was held across the globe on Saturday, served as a grim reminder that not much is being done to make education accessible for all and sundry in the country. To raise awareness about this issue and highlight the importance of sending children to schools, a walk was held at the Pakistan Sports Complex. The participants walked a few hundred yards in the rain, carrying banners and placards inscribed with the importance of literacy in socio-economic development and promoting peace. The slogans were in consonance with the theme of this year’s literacy day, “Literacy and Peace”. Students and teachers from public and private schools, boy scouts, civil society members and officials of the education ministry took part in the walk. A majority of Pakistan’s children remain deprived of education. Based on the data available on the National Commission of Human Development (NCHD) website, only 12 per cent of 19 million primary school age children study beyond fifth grade. In other words, 22 out of every 25 primary school-age children are expected to fail or drop out of school before fifth grade. Every Pakistani child should attend school as peace and progress in the country cannot be achieved without literacy and education, said Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Shahnaz Wazir Ali, addressing the participants. “We have gathered here to send out a message to our leaders and our citizens to send all our children to school,” Ali said, during a literacy walk that was organised by the NCHD. Ali added, “Through Article 25(a) of the 18th amendment, elected representatives have endorsed the idea that every child between the ages of 5 and 16 years should be provided quality education by the state.” Sadly, apart from the legislation there is little on-ground work that has been done in this regard, added another participant, on condition of anonymity. After the walk, Iqbalur Rehman Sharif, director of education at NCHD, said 57 districts across the country had been selected as part of a new project to improve the literacy rate by 10 per cent in the next three years. NCHD is running its universal primary education programme in 134 districts nationwide, establishing feeder schools in areas with no schools within a two-kilometre of their radius. Campaign to enrol children launched The second phase of a campaign to solicit signatures from one million out-of-school children was also launched to coincide with International Literacy Day at the National Press Club. In a country that has the highest number of out-of-school children in South Asia, totalling 25 million, the One Million Signature Campaign for Right to Education aims to enrol the same number of out-of-school children by the end of the second phase of the campaign. Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) launched phase-II of the campaign so that it can ask the government to implement Article 25-A, which guarantees education as a fundamental right of every child aged five to 16. Though the article was made part of the constitution after the 18th amendment in 2010, its implementation remains a far cry. “Phase-I garnered signatures from citizens from various occupations, ages and classes and now the phase II aims at getting one million signatures from only out-of-school children,” shared ITA representative, Aisha Bilal at the event. Chief guest Rubina Qaimkhani, secretary Parliamentary Commission for Child Protection, regretted that Pakistan has little to celebrate on International Literacy Day. “While providing education to every child is the government’s duty, given the dire state of the country, everybody should pitch in to promote education in any way they can.” Qaimkhani shared she would present a resolution in the parliament to demand all university graduates to serve one to two months educating children in rural areas. “The education should not only be free, it should be of quality,” said Union of Journalists General Secretary Bilal Dar. Some 80 out-of-school children from the twin cities inaugurated phase II of the campaign with Qaimkhani and recited a dua to pray the government delivers on its commitment. Phase-I of the programme was launch on 6th March 2012 by ITA.

U.S. : Returning Congress faces big tasks, likely to do little

One of the most unpopular and unproductive Congresses in modern history returns on Monday from a five-week recess, facing a crush of big tasks, few of which will likely get done. Lawmakers are expected to be in Washington for only about two weeks between now and the November 6 election, making their return to the capital little more than a pit stop. "Everyone wants to get out of town -- fast," said a top Senate aide, voicing the sentiment on both sides of the political aisle. Quickie sessions are the rule rather than the exception in election years, and lawmakers may be around just long enough to approve a must-pass spending bill to keep the government running before racing home to campaign for their seats. This year they do will so as voters seem more frustrated than ever with their partisan gridlock. Unfinished business on Capitol Hill includes bills to overhaul the massive farm law, improve cyber security for the nation's critical infrastructure, downsize the ailing postal service, and normalize trade with Russia. The most urgent item -- making sure Congress does not trigger a recession early next year -- is by all accounts on hold until after the election, when lawmakers will attempt to head off trouble of their own making: tax increases and automatic spending cuts that threaten to send the United States over what's been called "a fiscal cliff." Corporate leaders say the uncertainty surrounding this single issue is already weighing on business decisions, particularly in the defense industry. A preventable recession, induced by a forewarned Congress, would be a first. Most still believe lawmakers will avoid going over the cliff, some how, some way. "My faith in Congress is pretty minimal," said Dan Ripp of Bradley Woods, a New York-based public policy research firm. "But members of Congress are excellent at self-preservation and that is why I think they will do something to avoid 'the cliff' and voter backlash," Ripp said. Nevertheless, any progress may depend on how party leaders analyze the results of the election contest between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Lawmakers will calculate whether they have something to gain -- or lose -- by waiting until the convening of a new Congress in January to deal with tax and spending issues. LEGISLATIVE GRIDLOCK Thus a pre-election paralysis has taken hold on top of the gridlock that has afflicted Washington since the 2010 election, when Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives and government became officially divided along party lines. Just 61 bills have become law in 2012, the fewest in a year in more than 60 years, according to records compiled by the House clerk's office. In 2011, 90 bills became law, down from 258 the year before, when Democrats controlled both chambers and the White House. "The metaphor for congressional ineptitude is its inability to even reform the postal service," said Greg Valliere of the Potomac Research Group, a private firm that tracks Washington for institutional investors. "Members in both parties talk tough about reducing deficits, but they are scared to close a local post office because they will get angry letters from constituents," Valliere said. "If you can't reform the post office, how are you ever going to reform entitlements" like the Social Security retirement program and Medicare health program, he said. Amid budget battles last year, Congress pushed the government to the brink of a shutdown and an unprecedented default, generating plenty of public disgust, anger and fear. During the past year or so, Congress's approval ratings have been in or at single digits, the lowest numbers ever. Even so, most lawmakers seem certain to win another term, largely because of the advantages of incumbency, such as name recognition and the ability to raise money. Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics said voters were puzzled as to why lawmakers cannot be more productive. "Most people just don't understand why Democrats and Republicans can't get together and split at least some of their differences," Sabato said. Members of Congress certainly have plenty of time to clear their heads, stretch their legs and literally find common ground outside of Washington. While the average American worker has a median household income of about $50,000 and gets 13 days of annual paid vacation, lawmakers command salaries of $174,000 and will have recesses this year totaling more than four months. Lawmakers do not thought call their recesses vacation. Instead, they refer to many of them as "district work periods" used to meet with constituents. Democrats and Republicans spent some of their recent recess at their political parties' respective national conventions. However, with Congress in such low esteem, lawmakers maintained low profiles at the nationally broadcast events, which featured prime-time speeches by Obama and Romney. On a recent rainy day, out-of-town visitors to the U.S. Capitol voiced frustrations. "I want to have faith in them, I really do, but it is hard," said Ronda Rieves, a Florida pastor, accompanied by her husband, Franklin, a construction worker. "The only time we hear from them is every two years, on a recording that says, 'Vote for me,'" she said. Edward Harrison, a Colorado chemist, said: "We have the government we deserve. They represent who we are -- partisan and unwilling to compromise for personal or ideological reasons." Despite this, Harrison said he remained "pragmatically optimistic." "Congress made it through the Civil War," he said. "They can make it through this."

Zardari took Sarabjit's case seriously: Karishna

Indian FM S.M Karishna has said President Asif Ali Zardari has taken Sarbajit Singh issue seriously. Krishna raised 49-year-old Sarabjit s case with Zardari during a meeting here on Friday. "The President has taken it very seriously and he instructed his office to look into the details," Krishna told Indian reporters during an interaction here last evening. "Our approach is on a humanitarian basis, especially the fact that he has spent almost 20 years in a Pakistani jail," he said. The Pakistan government will have to consider factors like Sarabjit s age and health while deciding on the issue, Krishna said. Sarabjit was convicted for alleged involvement in a string of bombings in 1990 that killed 14 people. His family says he is a farmer and the victim of mistaken identity. Sarabjit s relatives said he strayed into Pakistan in an inebriated state three months after the bombings. Following the intervention of the Pakistan People s Party-led government, Sarabjit s execution was put off indefinitely. He is currently being held at Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore and recently submitted a fresh mercy petition to President Zardari.
Indian FM S M Krishna has said his govt and people want to see a stable and prosperous Pakistan. The foreign minister, who was in Pakistan for a three-day official visit departed back for India on Sunday.

Hina Rabbani Khar steals off-colour Krishna's thunder

External Affairs minister S M Krishna on Saturday abandoned the Prime Minister’s carefully crafted strategy on Pakistan as he fumbled to match his Pakistani counterpart, Hina Rabbani Khar and her exquisite articulation of Pakistan’s position of all issues at the joint press briefing in Islamabad here on Saturday, saying that “there were no conditions” to Manmohan Singh’s visit to Pakistan. Seconds later Krishna was changing his own remarks, pointing out that “something worthwhile” would need to emerge before the prime minister would decide on a visit. He reneged for a third time in the same breath saying he “had never said that progress on (issues like Siachen, Sir Creek and Kashmir) will be dependent on Mumbai.”Then he added : “The prime minister’s schedule is settled months in advance,” giving the impression that a visit to Pakistan was not in the offing, at least in the near future. Krishna’s flip-flop contrasted powerfully with the passionately argued 20-odd minute remarks by Khar at the beginning of the evening, whose transformation from a glamorous photo-op during her visit to Delhi last year to a woman of conviction was more than apparent through the briefing. She argued that both sides “should not be held hostage to history”, but look to the future, building on convergences that unite us. She insisted that the Pakistan People’s Party looked at India with a completely different mindset, a manifestation of which was the abandonment of its 40-year-long position on delinking movement on trade with movement on the “core dispute,” Kashmir. She pointed out that Pakistan’s president’s gesture on the occasion of Krishna’s visit to Pakistan, of releasing all 271 Indian fishermen in custody whether or not they had completed their prison term, was indicative of Pakistan’s determination to break away from the “hostile narrative” that both sides had conducted for the last 65 years. In fact, she even twice rescued a bewildered Krishna from pesky Pakistani journalists persisting on whether the PM would visit Pakistan by adding, “ I am sure he will give a positive assessment of his visit to the Indian prime minister.” In short, Hina Rabbani Khar stole the show. Krishna, on the other hand, seemed both stumped and off-colour. It was certainly not his best day. Krishna attempted to salvage some of the damage in a late evening briefing to Indian journalists, when he agreed that while the word “terror” was not mentioned during the entire course of the press conference, “what matters for me is the joint statement.” The statement reads : The Minister noted the commitment given by Pakistan during the Interior/Home Secretary talks in May 2012 to bring all the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks to justice expeditiously in accordance with the due process of law. Officials agreed on the condition of anonymity, that there was certainly a sea-change in the atmospherics in Pakistan’s handling of the Krishna visit, for example giving nearly 75 visas to Indian journalists, including a last-minute one to this reporter. They implied, however, that they didn’t see incredible commitment to investigating the Mumbai attacks inside Pakistan or bringing its perpetrators to book. Earlier in the evening, Krishna and Pakistan’s special adviser on internal security Rehman Malik signed a new visa agreement that replaces the old 1974 regime in which 9 categories are listed, the main ones relating to two different kinds of business visas – with and without police reporting, depending upon the amount of profit displayed on your income tax documents – as well as a group tourist visa, visa on arrival for Wagah/Attari for people 65 years and older as well as pilgrim visas (primarily to the Sikh shrines within Pakistan and for Pakistani Muslims to visit Ajmer Sharif). The Indian side seemed happy about the signature on the visa agreement, especially as it had been delayed for about a year because of Malik’s whimsical insistence that it be signed only between the two home ministers. And although Malik tried hard to steal the thunder from Hina Rabbani Khar by not letting her to sign the visa agreement with her counterpart, Krishna, her grace and elan ended up also putting him in the shade. Khar, in fact, so totally dominated the press briefing this evening that she ended up setting the agenda. She told Krisha from the lectern next to him that Pakistan had “abandoned” its 40-year-old positions by agreeing to open up trade with India and therefore to consolidate progress and momentum, Pakistan looked for “simultaneous progress” on all fronts. She then proceeded to spell out those items : The core issue of Jammu & Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek. Moreover, Khar said, the aspiration of the Kashmiri people needed to be accommodated one way or another. “It is important to do so. We must be able to disarm the naysayers and those who continue to divide us,” she said. Krishna’s answer to the Pakistani gesture on releasing all Indian fishermen was : “I hope you will send back their boats and trawlers with them.”

India, Pakistan foreign ministers dine over ghazals by Ghulam Ali

Over 'ghazals' by maestro Ghulam Ali, Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan dined at the end of their hectic deliberations on various bilateral issues. Ali sang 'dil mein ek leher si uthi hai abhi, koi taza hawa chali hai abhi' among his other popular numbers, which enthralled the audience at the dinner hosted by Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar for her visiting Indian counterpart S M Krishna on Saturday night. The lyrics of the ghazal seemed to have captured the essence of the current Indo-Pak relations. Other ghazals crooned by Ali included 'chupke, chupke raat din'. The dinner was hosted at the Marriott Hotel, the scene of a major terror attack in September 2008 which had killed 54 people. The dinner was also attended by members of the respective delegations of the two Foreign Ministers. It came after talks between Krishna and Khar during which they reviewed the last round of parleys on all bilateral issues, including terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir and Siachen, and chalked out the roadmap for future round of discussions. The two countries on Saturday finally made progress on people-to-people contact by inking pacts on a new visa regime and cultural exchanges, but there was no headway on New Delhi's concerns on the Mumbai terror attacks case, with Islamabad only assuring that it will bring to book the perpetrators as per its law.

Hamza Sharif stressed protection of justice, his ‘wife’ was outside begging for it

Aisha Malik, wife of MNA Hamza Shahbaz Sharif was barred from entering AL-Hamra hall by police and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz workers on Saturday. Hamza was awarding medals in a ceremony arranged in honor of the position holders of Intermediate examination. Aisha was refused entry into Al-Hamra by official and party staff members and she waited for her husband’s motorcade for hours on the road side. PML-N women workers encircled Aisha Malik soon after reports about her arrival and they tried to subject her to violence. Aisha Malik rushed to her car and locked its doors. She tried to stop the vehicle of Hamza Shahbaz as it sped out after conclusion of ceremony but guards stopped her again and Hamza sped away. Talking to reporters Aisha said that she had come to seek justice from Hamza Shahbaz complaining that no family member of her husband was willing to negotiate with her. Meanwhile, addressing the ceremony, Hamza Shahbaz stressed the need for a change in the outdated system and for the youth to come forward to ensure ‘justice and supremacy of law’.

Pakistan: Govt OKs Rs4.65/ltr cut in petrol price

The government has approved a reduction in petrol price by Rs4.65 per litre. A private news channel quoting sources in the Ministry of Petroleum reported Sunday that the new prices are likely to take effect from Monday by 12:00am. A notification in this regard would set the new price of petrol down at Rs99.90 from Rs 104.55.

ASEAN 'must not take sides in disputes'

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations should adopt a "neutral and forward-looking" position on South China Sea disputes and encourage parties involved to solve the issue through peaceful means, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday. Lee made the remarks while addressing senior officials at the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China during a six-day official visit. Observers said the Singaporean leader's speech highlights the country balancing itself as a bridge between the East and the West. Calling for a responsible and peaceful solution, Lee said ASEAN should not take sides but should address the problem otherwise the organization's influence will be damaged. Song Yinghui, a specialist on Singaporean studies with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said Lee expressed his country's consistent position. "Singapore's development depends on Southeast Asia, therefore it values ASEAN's influence within the region." Lee stressed his nation's critical interests in the region. "First, it is in Singapore's interests to see international disputes settled in accordance with international laws and in particular, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Second, navigational freedom is another fundamental interest since trade and waterways are a lifeline for Singapore." He also emphasized ASEAN should be united to exert its influence on the international stage regardless of how the issue is resolved. "If ASEAN is weakened by escalating maritime tensions, Singapore's security and influence will be hurt," he added. Song emphasized Singapore shares China's goals. "Of course Singapore's position is due to its own considerations. But it is concerned about regional peace and stability and that means it has the same goals and shares common interests with China." Lee noted that many countries are paying close attention to both China and ASEAN. "They want to find out how China settles difficult problems with its neighbors and what role a rising China can play for the rest of the world. They are also watching how ASEAN deals with the issues." He indicated ASEAN also needed to find "a new foothold" for its own development with a rapidly growing China. "Both islands, and resources under the sea, are important, but what is more important is the long-term international standing of the region," Lee said. Song said China should view such "close attention" positively because it is inevitable that some countries will view its economic expansion differently than others. "Such close attention will help neighboring countries realize China is willing to maintain peace and prosperity," she added. Speaking of China and the US, the Singaporean Prime Minister said his nation expects a sound development of relations between the two countries. "We don't want to see ties between China and the US worsen or even have to pick one against the other. Singapore is willing to help foster good development of Sino-US relations," Lee said. Zhang Jiuhuan, former Chinese ambassador to Singapore, said Singapore has maintained close contact with both the East and the West, and views itself as "a bridge" between the two. Lee pointed out wisdom is required from both Beijing and Washington to develop trust since their ties are the most important in the world. Former ambassador Zhang said that China was not against the US in the region. "Beijing also hopes Washington to be a stabilizing factor in the region. The key point is it must be truly positive and constructive. But what it has done within the region is quite the opposite. Its strategic shift back to Asia has actually increased suspicion among Asian countries," Zhang argued. Lee met Premier Wen Jiabao later on Thursday and both leaders vowed to advance China-Singapore cooperation and cooperation between China and ASEAN. "The development of China-Singapore relationship benefits people in both countries, and has a broad and positive influence in East Asia," Wen said, urging more cooperation in areas including investment, finance and the green economy. China hopes Singapore continues to play an important role in uniting China and ASEAN and deepening cooperation, Wen said. "China's development is good for both Asia and the world," Lee said. Lee began his third visit to China since taking office in 2004 from Chengdu in Southwest China's Sichuan province on Sunday afternoon, and carried on to Tianjin, where the Sino-Singapore Eco-city is located. Trade between Singapore and China has surged after the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1990. Singapore is China's third-largest trading partner among ASEAN member states. Trade in 2011 reached $63.48 billion, up 11.2 percent.

Che Guevara's daughter fights to preserve his image as idealistic revolutionary

Forty-five years after Che Guevara's death, his daughter, Aleida, talks about growing up in the shadow of a world-famed leader
She has the eyes of her father, a gaze that became an emblem for the 20th century. She also has his deep sense of social injustice, but Dr Aleida Guevara has always had to share her "papi" with the world.
While she doesn't mind the posters, the flags, the postcards, graffiti paintings and T-shirts, Dr Guevara and her family are trying to clamp down on "disrespectful" uses of her father's famous photo, taken by Alberto Korda in 1960. Not easy when it is the most reproduced image in the world. "It's not so easy, we do not want to control the image or make money from it, but it is hard when it's exploited," Dr Guevara smiles. "Sometimes people know what he stands for, sometimes not. Mostly I think it is used well, as a symbol for resistance, against repression." Che on a bikini was one they couldn't stop, but Che, a teetotaller, on a vodka bottle was a battle won for the family with the help of the UK Cuba Solidarity Campaign. Next month marks the 45th anniversary of the killing of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, the guerrilla who helped lead the Cuban revolution and became an icon of rebellion. This year is also the 50th anniversary of the US "blockade", the ongoing commercial, trade and travel embargo which has stifled Cuba's economy. The cold war era-style standoff still sees America spend millions beaming propaganda radio and TV stations into Cuba. Cubans remain the only immigrants the US encourages in with automatic citizenship.
An underdeveloped country offering world-class education and healthcare for all, Cuba maintains anti-dissident policies, imprisoning journalists and anti-government activists. Despite a mass prison release of dissidents in 2011, Cuban authorities, says Amnesty International, "do not tolerate any criticism of state policies outside the official mechanisms established under government control. Laws on 'public disorder', 'dangerousness' and 'aggression' are used to prosecute government opponents. No political or human rights organisations are allowed to obtain legal status." Dr Guevara is in the UK for another anniversary, the 14th year since the Miami Five – spies entrusted with infiltrating anti-Castro terrorist groups operating from Florida – were jailed by the US. The 51-year-old Havana paedriatician will lead a vigil in London outside the US embassy on Tuesday evening. "I'm not political," she insists, "but I care about injustice." Aleida was seven when Che was killed in a remote Bolivian hamlet by a group of Bolivian soldiers and CIA operatives. With only shadowy memories of her father, she has got to know him through his diaries and the reminiscences of others, including the man she calls "Uncle" – Fidel Castro. "Fidel has told me many beautiful stories about my father, but I cannot ask him too much, he still gets very emotional at the thought of Che. For example, my father had terrible handwriting, so my mother was asked to transcribe his diaries. When Raúl Castro came to our house to collect the manuscript, my mother knew that Raúl and Fidel also kept diaries, so she said 'if there are accounts in the diaries that differ then you must go with Che's, because he is not here to defend himself'. Raúl got very angry and said 'No, while Fidel and I are alive, Che is alive. He is always with us.' They were crying then. "If Che hadn't died in Bolivia, he would have died in Argentina trying to change things there," she says. "Maybe it would be a different continent today. My mother always says that if my father had lived we would all have been better human beings." Che was a medical student in Argentina when, on a motorcycle tour around Latin America in 1952, he became incensed by the poverty he saw. He took up political theorising and then arms, joining the revolution that overthrew Cuba's vicious Batista regime. It was then, as the middle class and wealthy fled Cuba for Miami, that a bitter chasm opened between the two nations, and it has deepened from president to president. The promise of President Obama to tackle the Cuban issue has come to nothing so far. "We had great hopes, but we are disappointed in Obama, maybe things have even got worse for us," Dr Guevara says. Revolution, she believes, simmers on in Latin America, where the gulf between rich and poor is escalating and she blames, as Che did, creeping American-led industrialisation. "This economic crisis is even more dangerous than any before for Latin America. It's not only about oil now, the US want water too. Brazil is destroying its rainforest to mine out iron, Mexico is a dumping ground for unwanted waste. This time the land is being destroyed as well." Critics of Che claim the photogenic young man in battle fatigues who wrote poetry overshadows the brutality of his revolution. Guevara showed no qualms about killing. "It was a revolution," says his daughter. "Of course, I would rather there was no bloodshed but that is the nature of revolution. In a true revolution you have to get what you want by force. An enemy who doesn't want to give you what you want? Maybe you have to take it. My father knew the risk he took with his own life. "I was angry, of course, growing up without a dad, but my mother always says, love your father for who he was, a man who had to do what he did. My father died defending his ideals. Up to the last minute he was true to what he believed in. This is what I admire." But she says she would like to have been able to argue with him. "When I was six he sent me a letter. In it he said I should be good and help my mother with household chores. I was angry because my brother's letter said 'I will take you to the moon' and my other brother's read 'We will go and fight imperialism together'. I was annoyed – I wanted to go to the moon, why couldn't I fight imperialism?" Dr Guevara is the eldest of Che's four children with his second wife, Aleida. "We didn't have privileges growing up as Che's children. My colleagues didn't know who I was until I first talked on Cuban TV in 1996. But it's important not to keep silent, because there is injustice being wrought."

Pakistan visit fruitful, says SM Krishna
External affairs minister SM Krishna on Sunday described his three-day visit to Pakistan as "fruitful". Talking to the media after arriving at Allama Iqbal International Airport for a day-long visit to Lahore, Krishna said that he and his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar had signed pacts on visa liberalization and cultural promotion, which would help promote bilateral ties. He arrived in this capital of the Punjab province in the last leg of his visit that began on Friday. Krishna said that dialogue between the Indian and Pakistani leadership would be fruitful as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the people of India wanted peaceful relations with Pakistan, reported Geo News. He said that peaceful ties between between the neighbouring countries would be helpful for the prosperity of the region. Indian High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal was present. The minister arrived in Lahore from Islamabad where he met his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar on Saturday. An agreement on a liberalised visa regima was signed by him and interior minister Rehman Malik.

Nation must salute political sagacity of Zardari

Munir Ahmad Khan
Being a man of vision, he has tackled all the challenges coming his way and fought his political rivals with such a sagacity, deep insight, broad vision and unwavering resolve so far that even his opponents are compelled to admit that he has proved himself to be the true successor of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto and one of the best politicians of Pakistan. The most effective weapon through which he has conquered his political opponents during the last four years is his politics of reconciliation. Of course, I am talking about the President of Pakistan and the Co-Chairperson of the Pakistan People’s Party - Asif Ali Zardari. On September 6, 2012, Asif Ali Zardari elected and successfully completed his four years as the Head of the State. As he is going to complete his five-year constitutional term the next year as the president, it is time to evaluate his performance as the president of Pakistan, as well as the party co-chairperson. In these four years as head of the state and four and half years of PPP government, there are no scandals and corruption allegations against the President Zardari. To make it simple, we will look at his achievements, one by one on different fronts, including constitutional, parliamentary, war against terrorism, political, economic, foreign and domestic, etc. I remember when in 2007 I travelled with him from New York to Washington; he talked about the future of Pakistan. Asif Zardari was of the view that Pakistan can only progress as vibrant state if we start forgiving each other and resort to the politics of reconciliation. As General Pervez Musharraf had ruled the country before the PPP formed a coalition government after the 2008 general elections, the Constitution of Pakistan existed in a subverted form. Having assumed presidency, President Zardari willingly abdicated his authority and powers to the parliament and the prime minister of Pakistan. Every succeeding leader in Pakistan has been in pursuit of more and more authority and powers. But President Zardari should be credited for relinquishing his powers and restoring the Constitution to its original form. The 18th Amendment was made to give long-sought autonomy to the provinces and the 19th Amendment was carried out to accommodate the observations of the judiciary on the mode of appointment of judges, prescribed in the 18th Amendment and the 20th Amendment to ensure independence of the Election Commission of Pakistan and the mode of appointment of a caretaker set-up to oversee elections. Judiciary, one of the most important pillars of the state, was not only restored but also given complete independence through the constitutional amendments, brought about with the full support of the president of Pakistan. After delegation of its true powers by President Zardari, the parliament played a very active role in strengthening democracy and establishing constitutional and democratic norms in the country. Very effective and meaningful amendments were introduced to the Constitution after thorough discussions in the both houses of the parliament. Various ministries and departments were devolved to the provinces on the recommendations of the parliamentary committees. The Centre and the federating units had serious differences over the distribution of resources out of the federal divisible pool. The issue was resolved in the parliament through unanimous adoption of the 7th NFC Award, giving the provinces increased share in the federal divisible pool. One of the critical challenges the PPP-led coalition government inherited was Pakistan’s frontline role in the war against terrorism. Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis had been displaced due to armed forces’ action against extremists and terrorists in Swat, Malakand and some other tribal areas of the country. However, due to an appropriate action on the part of the armed forces, under the supervision of the president of Pakistan, all the internally displaced persons were rehabilitated and sent back to their natives areas. President Zardari, through a series of talks with the leaders of the US and other countries, made them realized the sacrifices Pakistan has offered in the war against terrorism. President Zardari took a bold stance on Nato supplies, drone attacks and action against extremists, allegedly hiding in Waziristan. The US was forced last month to release $1.1 billion in Coalition Support Funds (CSF) Pakistan has already spent on the fight against militants. One front on which President Zardari fought very sensibly and bravely is domestic politics. His weapons were his political insight and sincere efforts for reconciliation with all political forces of the country. It was regrettable that as soon as the PPP-led coalition government was formed and Asif Ali Zardari was elected as the president, anti-democratic forces launched an unremitting campaign of character-assassination against him. The political opponents of the PPP also joined hands with such elements. A section of the media offered itself to be used against the democratically elected government, and launched a campaign against the president based on unsubstantiated allegations of mismanagement. These forces, with the help of the unscrupulous section of the media, time and again invited the so-called third force to take over the country again. Even a big media organization kept giving deadlines about the collapse of the system and the bowing out of Asif Ali Zardari as the President of Pakistan. But all these conspiracies failed and all those predictions died their own death. President Zardari not only successfully completed his four years in the presidency but also steered the lurching boat of democracy out of troubled waters. The consistent pro-democracy role of the president has proved to the people of Pakistan that he is the real friend of democracy and all those waging a campaign against him are enemies of democracy in Pakistan. It is really heartening to see an elected government completing its constitutional term, only because of political wisdom of Asif Zardari. The province of Balochistan has always been a centre of machinations of the enemies of Pakistan due to its strategic location. The successive governments also neglected this underdeveloped region of the country, creating a sense of deprivation among the people of Balochistan. However, President Zardari, soon after assuming his office, paid special attention to this province. He personally visited the Baloch leaders in their hometown, publicly offered apology in February 2008 on behalf of the whole nation for the excesses committed against the Baloch during the past regimes. He took a number of landmark initiatives towards bringing Balochistan into the mainstream and neutralizing the sense of marginalisation among the Baloch people. The Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package approved by a joint sitting of Parliament in 2009 recommending 61 constitutional, administrative, economic and political reforms was a step forward. An inherited problem that has kept haunting the incumbent government throughout the past four years is electricity and gas shortage in the country. Under the special instructions of President Zardari, the government is making all-out efforts to resolve this issue at the earliest. The government has been able to add 3500-MW of electricity to the national grid during the past four years. Thirty-nine projects having a cumulative capacity of 10,211 megawatts will be completed till 2017. The president is taking personal interest in an early resolution of the issue, and it is expected that during the next five-year term of the Pakistan People’s Party government, the energy shortage would be overcome once and for all. President Zardari is committed to early completion of the Diamer-Bhasha Dam, which can generate 4,500MW of cheap hydel electricity and provide over six million acre feet of water for agriculture. He believes the project of Basha Dam is critical to overcome energy requirements and irrigation of vast aired land of country. The president is of the clear views that the project is gateway to nation’s progress and prosperity because it will bring revolution in agriculture as well as agro based industries offering tens of thousands job opportunities. This dam would be completed with or without foreign funding. Precisely for this reason, the PPP had the project approved from the ECNEC in 2009. This is the major mega project after Pakistan Steel Mill in which the cost of project is $12 billion in the last 25 years. The Steel Mill was also built by PPP government. This is a big proof and shows the seriousness of President Zardari towards energy sector. On the social welfare front, the performance of the PPP-led coalition government has been commendable. To alleviate poverty, schemes like Benazir Income Support Programme, under which more than Rs85 billion has been disbursed among four million poor families, Waseela-e-Haq initiative, the Benazir Employees Stock Option Scheme giving 12% share of the state-owned industrial enterprises and Benazir Green Tractor Scheme for small farmers, are under way. Also, the government has taken tough decisions to rectify the faults afflicting the economy. The imposition of the Reformed General Sales Tax and expanding the tax net by shifting focus on direct taxes with a view to protecting the poorer sections of society from the adverse effects of spiralling prices, represent a healthy paradigm shift in the management of the economy that could rightly be described as a pioneering initiative towards self-reliance and sustainable growth. President Zardari also issued special directives for enhancing wheat support price to give farmers their due right. By and large the past four years of Asif Zardari as the President of Pakistan were full of trials and tribulations. But he has well spent his tenure so far in taming anti-democratic forces and strengthening the civilian rule. He became the First President of Pakistan who addressed the Parliament in its full term, withdraw his powers and transferred to the parliament. Keeping in view his accomplishments, Asif Ali Zardari can be described as one of the best heads of the state the country has ever had since independence.

صدر ذرداری چار سال ZARDARI'S FOUR YEARS

Obama widens lead over Romney

President Barack Obama, picking up support following the Democratic National Convention, widened his narrow lead over Republican U.S. presidential challenger Mitt Romney in a new Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Saturday. The latest daily tracking poll showed Obama, a Democrat, with a lead of 4 percentage points over Romney. Forty-seven percent of 1,457 likely voters surveyed online over the previous four days said they would vote for Obama if the November 6 elections were held today, compared with 43 percent for Romney. "The bump is actually happening. I know there was some debate whether it would happen... but it's here," said Ipsos pollster Julia Clark, referring to the "bounce" in support that many presidential candidates enjoy after nominating conventions. Obama had leapfrogged Romney in the daily tracking poll on Friday with a lead of 46 percent to 44 percent. The president's lead comes despite a mixed reaction to his convention speech on Thursday night in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Friday's government data showing that jobs growth slowed sharply last month. Obama's lead over Romney is comparable to Romney's former lead over the president after the Republican National Convention finished last week, Clark said. "We don't have another convention now to turn our attention to, so (Obama's bounce) may maintain," Clark said. "How big it'll be and how long it will last remains to be seen." Obama increased his lead over Romney in certain favorable characteristics. Asked who was more "eloquent," 50 percent of the 1,720 registered voters questioned in the poll favored Obama, compared to 25 percent for Romney. Asked about being "smart enough for the job," 46 percent sided with Obama compared to 37 percent for Romney. In fact, Obama led Romney in a dozen such favorable characteristics, such as "represents America" or "has the right values." The only such category in which Romney had an advantage was being "a man of faith," as 44 percent picked Romney, who is Mormon, compared to 31 percent for Obama, who is Christian. The Democratic National Convention itself received a rather muted response in the poll. Of those registered voters who had heard, seen or read at least something about it, 41 percent rated it as "average" and 29 percent as "good." The Republican National Convention that wrapped up August 30 in Tampa, Florida similarly was rated "average" by 38 percent and "good" by 27 percent in Saturday's polling results. The precision of the Reuters/Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

Shahbaz suffers from Zardari phobia

Pakistan Today
Punjab Governor Sardar Latif Khosa, while speaking at an inauguration ceremony at the Lahore Expo Center, said that Punjab Chief Minister (CM) Shahbaz Sharif has suffered long from Zardari phobia. Khosa said that the CM was unaware of the rule that the federation or the president were not bound to arrange for the general bodies elections; rather it was the duty of the provincial governments to make the arrangements in this regard. The Punjab governor also said that the Punjab government was bound to make arrangements for the general bodies elections within 365 days, adding that the deadline had already expired. He said that now the provincial government was using tactics to bring a new bill in the assembly to avail 180 more days to prepare for the elections, while stating that as the governor of the province he would stand against the bill. Furthering his statement, he said that the local bodies system which was implemented in the Punjab at present was illegal and unconstitutional. Khosa claimed that the rulers in Punjab were scared that the general bodies elections would expose their popularity. He said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was opposing the process of local elections due to the fear of defeat. He added that his party would continue consultations with their allies on Local Bodies Ordinance in Sindh. While referring to the Indian Minister for External Affairs S. M. Krishna’s visit to Pakistan‚ he said the relaxation in the visa regime and trade was in the interests of both the neighboring countries.

Imran Khan, Play Boy Or a Jahadi?

Let Us Build Pakistan
by Ahsan Abbas
I have no idea how much the newly launched” Dunya” News Paper has offered to the Leftist Nazir Naji, Pessimist Hassan Nisar and “Dervaish” Haroon Rasheed to detach from the Jang Group and join them. However, hopefully the new entry would be able to isolate a number of readers from Jang. In his Column of September 8, Mr Naji has exposed the “Play Boy” going back to his “Original” style in his 400 Kanal House. Where he was found Swimming with an English Lady. A visitor Mr Malik was described to be the witness who came to the Swimming Pool directed by a Domestic Servant. In reply to Naji, Mr Haroon Rasheed in his Column (9 September) has defended the “Kaptaan” just like a loving Mum defends her naughty Son. Or a most loving Daddy like “My Lord” covers up the Corruptions of his son and goes beyond limits for it. According to Mr Dervaish, the English lady was the wife of Imran’s friend and he called her home for the purpose of “Interior Decoration” “When Malik went to the Swimming Pool, the lady was alone and Khan was saying his prayers at verge of Swimming Pool” says Mr Haroon OK Mr Haroon . I can believe what you say that the “Gori” was not brought there for any Sinful or illegal activity and just for the said purpose, could I most respectfully ask you some questions? Just few days ago in a programme with Hamid Mir at Geo, Kaptaan was claiming “As soon as I become the Prime Minister, Bulldozers would be ready and they would smash every luxurious Governor House”. Well Mr Khan! You are employing an English lady for the decoration of your 400 Kanal House, does it match any way with what you say in your interviews? Could not you find a single Interior Decorator (Man or Woman) in a country having the best skilled workers in the world? Even with a best Scientific Microscope, I could not find any reflection of your speeches about “Self Reliance” and “National Pride” in your personal actions. It is exactly similar to the situation that you could not find a single spouse in 180 Million Pakistanis and married a Zionist lady, the daughter of Sir Gold Smith (the title “Sir” being given for his esteemed financial support to Israel) Khan announces to be representing “Pashtoon” Culture. OK, but Roaming with a wife divorced on the allegations of Sexual Corruption, does it match any way the Pashtoon Culture? It is miles away from the Ego of a true Pathan, I believe. You run Tehreek e “Insaaf” and on the same hand, stand shoulder to shoulder with Mr Iftikhar Chaudhry, the most Corrupt and Nepotist Judge ever in the history of Pakistan. Mr Haroon further compares Khan with Emperor Jehangir, General Jilani (Zia’s Governor) and Turk Leaders (Who claim to Champonize Islam but are sitting with America and Israel to destroy the Islamic Countries, most recently Syria). I fully agree Sir, at least to this comparison. I believe the IK was a Play Boy and still he is. This face of him is much more acceptable to me as compared to being a “Jihadi” and Patronising Taliban. But the problem is that his “Father” Mr Hameed Gul is still practically heading the Right Wing of Military Establishment and they created “Kaptaan” to support the Taliban, which they consider as “Our Strategic Assets” So Khan is between the 2 Extremes now He calls Ibrar ul Haq in his processions to attract moderate voter and says his prayers “In Camera” to prove he is an “Islamist” as well Sends Flowers for Bait Ullah Mehsood, the most merciless Taliban Butcher and also sheds tears on Shia Killings Condemns prevailing Terrorism but opposes Waziristan Operation just like he opposed Swat Operation Supports DPC and extends hand to Majlis Wahadat ul Muslimeen (MWM) as well. The situation had turned into a “Drama” when after having a meeting and joint Press Conference with MWM, Khan declared that MWM had a “Merger” with PTI. Where as MWM very strictly negated any such news and declared it even beyond thinking. Would this “Dual Play” be able to draw votes from sentimental Teenagers who are shown Sweet Dreams of “Self Reliance”, “Simplicity”, “Ego”, “Change” and a “Revolution” going to come in 90 days after election of IK as the PM? The coming elections (If they happen) would decide it

Balochistan After Bugti

The Baloch Hal
Balochistan plunged into a frightening crisis after the cold-blooded murder of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. On August 26, 2006, the Pakistani flag was raised at the Bugti fort with the proclamation of a new dawn for Balochistan. Nonetheless, in 2012, six years later, Balochistan is deeply engulfed in dusk and darkness. Let’s look at the situation in Dera Bugti, which is no longer a liveable place. The Bugti fort, the Baloch Nawab’s residence, which used to be a place of Baloch hospitality, has been turned into a Gulag where Baloch activists and government opponents are detained and tortured. The government’s proclaimed “Operation Freedom” brought new multilayer enslavement for the Bugtis. Along with a brutal security apparatus, countless criminals have popped up in the area. The resource-rich but terrifically impoverished district has been virtually divided into many sub-states controlled by government-backed criminals and armed groups. This policy of criminalisation is extended to the entire province. Islamabad has failed to win the sympathy of the courageous Baloch masses against its ruthless policies as government agencies have extended their support to petty criminals and devastated the very social and harmonious fabric of Baloch society. Since the start of the military operation in 2002, around 10,000 people have been killed, a quarter million people have been displaced, 4,000 are missing and 600 have been killed extrajudicially. According to a recent official report of the interior ministry, at least 868 people have been killed, 619 kidnapped and 2,390 have gone missing from the province since 2010. Furthermore, 600 bodies of Baloch activists have been found in different parts of Balochistan. Prior to full-fledged military offensives, Balochistan’s poverty incidence stood at 48 per cent in 2001-02, which was an exceptional 15 percentage points higher than the national average. By 2005-06 poverty incidence stood at 50.9 per cent, compared with a national average of 2.3 per cent. After Islamabad’s ‘development and civilisation’ mission in Balochistan, the poverty incidence now stands at 63 per cent, three times higher than the national average. After limited economic opportunities, severe floods and restrictions on international relief organisations, the caloric poverty in Balochistan was recorded around 74 per cent in 2011, compared with 49.7 per cent in 2001-02. Impoverished Balochistan is also famous for establishment-backed filthy corrupt politicians. Given that the government fully relies on criminals, gangsters and religious elements, including morally shattered chieftains, corruption has been institutionalised in the last 10 years as an incentive for the followers of Islamabad’s dirty policies. During the last six years, abduction has become a big business in the province. Gangsters choose individuals without any fear. Most of these criminals claim to have links with the government. According to the Balochistan government’s official figures, between June 2011 and February 2012, 170 people were abducted, out of which 142 were released after paying heavy ransoms. During the last four years, 50 Hindus were abducted in different parts of Balochistan. Ever since government agencies were preoccupied with abducting and intimidating the moderate political stratum of the Baloch society, criminals are having a luxurious time creating their desired level of chaos and lawlessness. Islamabad’s failure to address the mounting dissatisfaction in Balochistan and deal with political unrest through political means led to the killings of hundreds of innocent Baloch, Punjabis and Hazaras. Sectarian killings have taken a new toll; many extremist groups are taking advantage of the political vacuum created after the ruthless operation. Over 700 Baloch Hazaras have been killed in cold blood. The last 10 years of defective re-engineering of the social, political and economic fabric of the Baloch society has proved destructive. Unfortunately, the establishment in Islamabad is ignorant of this fact and continues to pursue the unchanged policy of denial and negligence towards Balochistan.

Pakistan: Corruption in polio programme

In order to minimise corruption in the anti-polio campaign the World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced to directly pay the vaccinators in 10 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during the upcoming Sub-National Immunisation Days (SNIDs), officials said. The sources said that after a briefing about district level corruption in polio programme, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf had approved direct payment to the field workers and even suggested its privatisation to rid Pakistan of the crippling disease. “The so-called Direct Disbursement Mechanism (DDM) is part of the efforts to better reward and motivate the vaccinators and other field workers who face challenging circumstances to administer polio drops to every child,” a senior official of the Health Department told The News on Saturday. He said all field workers taking part in the anti-polio drive from September 10-12 would be paid directly and would not wait for months. This mechanism was started three years ago in Nigeria. The WHO pays Rs1,000 to every vaccinator for the three-day campaign in Pakistan. Pleading anonymity, a health manager said the DDM was set up to ensure that workers involved in polio immunisation have quick and easy access to their payments upon completion of vaccination rounds. The decision was made after vaccinators, area in-charges and union council medical workers expressed frustration over inordinate delays in receiving the payments. “It is very painful and shocking when you risk your life and visit each and every household to vaccinate kids and then wait for months to receive the payment. The donors’ main priority is to reward those who are really delivering,” an official from a donor agency said. Requesting anonymity, he said with the successful execution of DDM in the July campaign when more than 85 percent polio workers were paid on time, the WHO decided to expand the practice nationwide. In September, the official said, 8,966 vaccinators, 852 area in-charges and 204 union council medical officers from Vehari, Hyderabad, Charsadda, Kohat and Nowshera, Pishin and Qilla Abdullah and the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) would receive their payments directly. The donor agencies are also endeavouring to ensure that under-age people don’t take part in the anti-polio drive. “Besides direct payments to the polio workers, the DDM would allow the government and stakeholders to closely monitor the progress during the anti-polio campaigns, including full information about the age of the monitors, the number of trainings undertaken and the days of active participation in the campaign. This accountability is a key element of the emergency strategies currently in place to eradicate polio from Pakistan and rest of the world,” a Health Department official explained. He said the donors had also been informed about the ghost teams and under-age vaccinators. He said usually the Executive District Officers (Health) were involved in such practices. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, over 2.5 million children below the age of five are supposed to be vaccinated against polio in the 12 high-risk districts in the upcoming campaign. The vaccinators are facing tough time in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as around 19,000 parents refused to get the children vaccinated during the recent three-day NIDs campaign. Dr Janbaz Afridi, deputy director EPI Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said the anti-polio drive would be carried out in Peshawar, Charsadda, Nowshera, Mardan, Kohat, Hangu, Lakki Marwat, Bannu, Tank, Dera Ismail Khan, Upper Dir and Lower Dir by more than 7,500 teams.

Zardari resists US pressure to expand Fata operations

In a letter to Barack Obama, President Asif Ali Zardari has turned down the US request for expanding Pakistani military operations in Fata, according to The Washington Post. Mr Zardari also urged the US president to speed up American military assistance to Pakistan and to intervene more forcefully with India for resolving bilateral disputes. He wrote the letter in response to a letter Mr Obama sent last month, urging Islamabad to step up operations against militants. Mr Zardari wrote that his government was determined to take action against Al Qaeda, the Taliban and allied insurgent groups attacking US forces in Afghanistan from the border areas in Pakistan. But, he said, Pakistan`s efforts would be based on its own timeline and operational needs. The newspaper said on Wednesday that Pakistan`s military chief, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, reinforced this message on Monday when he told Gen David H. Petraeus, the head of the US Central Command, that the United States should not expect “a major operation in North Waziristan” in the coming months. “The letters between the two leaders, while couched in diplomatic niceties and pledging mutual respect and increased cooperation against insurgents, reflect ongoing strains in a relationship that is crucial to both,” the Post observed. The newspaper noted that Mr Zardari, with a weakening hold on power and under strong military and political pressure, was anxious not to be seen as kowtowing to US pressure. The Post noted that both the military and the civilian government publicly deny cooperation with US attacks on insurgent targets inside Pakistan, launched from CIA-operated unmanned aircraft, and the US military`s use of two Pakistani air bases — Shamsi in Balochistan and Shahbaz in Sindh. The report said that Mr Zardari did not mention India by name in his three-page letter to Mr Obama, but he made repeated reference to Pakistan`s core interests, unresolved historical conflicts and conventional imbalances. He called on Mr Obama to push Pakistan`s neighbours towards diplomatic rapprochement with Islamabad. Pakistan`s counterterrorism efforts, Mr Zardari said, were based on the country`s own threat assessment and timetable. He noted that military operations in the Swat Valley alone had cost Pakistan $2.5 billion and said that Pakistan expected the United States to provide increased material support. The daily noted that the long-term success of Mr Obama`s new Afghanistan strategy depended on Pakistan moving forcefully against “Taliban havens in Fata and Balochistan” as Islamabad did not allow US ground troops to operate inside the country. The newspaper reported that in return for a three-fold increase in US assistance to Pakistan, Washington wanted Islamabad to launch an offensive against the Haqqani network of militants which the Americans said operated from North Waziristan. Officials who discussed Gen Petraeus`s meeting with Gen Kayani in Islamabad told the Post that the US general expressed some irritation at Pakistan`s complaints against the United States but accepted what one US official called Gen Kayani`s explanation of “the limits of their forces in terms of capacity”. Another US defence official told the newspaper that Pakistan was “already doing an extraordinary amount”. They were “a sovereign nation”, he said, and “all we can do is keep encouraging them to keep it up”. Gen Kayani, the official said, expressed concern that stepped-up US operations in Afghanistan were pushing insurgents into Pakistan. He said that the military had begun raids into North Waziristan and was working with tribes in the area to expel Uzbek and Arab insurgents.

Afghanistan: Potential for a Mining Boom Splits Factions

If there is a road to a happy ending in Afghanistan, much of the path may run underground: in the trillion-dollar reservoir of natural resources — oil, gold, iron ore, copper, lithium and other minerals — that has brought hopes of a more self-sufficient country, if only the wealth can be wrested from blood-soaked soil. But the wealth has inspired darker dreams as well. Officials and industry experts say the potential resource boom seems increasingly imperiled by corruption, violence and intrigue, and has put the Afghan government’s vulnerabilities on display. It all comes at what is already a critically uncertain time here, with the impending departure of NATO troops in 2014 and old regional and ethnic rivalries resurfacing, raising concerns that the mineral wealth could become the fuel for civil conflict. Powerful regional warlords and militant leaders are jockeying to widen their turf to include areas with mineral wealth, and the Taliban have begun to make murderous incursions into territory where development is planned. In the capital, Kabul, factional maneuvering is in full swing, including disputes over lucrative side contracts awarded to relatives of President Hamid Karzai. Further, a proposed mining law vital to attracting foreign investment is up in the air, with the delay threatening several projects. The cabinet rejected it this summer, saying it was too generous to Western commercial interests. But some Western officials fear other motives are at work, too, including an internal fight for spoils, and perhaps an effort by some neighboring countries to sway sympathetic officials to keep Indian and Chinese state mining companies out. “If you were to pick a country that involves high risk in developing a new mining sector, Afghanistan is it,” said Eleanor Nichol, campaign leader at Global Witness, a group that tries to break the link between natural resources, corruption and conflict. “But the genie is out of the bottle.” Already this summer, the China National Petroleum Corporation, in partnership with a company controlled by relatives of President Karzai, began pumping oil from the Amu Darya field in the north. An investment consortium arranged by JPMorgan Chase is mining gold. Another Chinese company is trying to develop a huge copper mine. Four copper and gold contracts are being tendered, and contracts for rare earth metals could be offered soon. The Ministry of Mines has also requested bids for a richer oil concession in the Afghan-Tajik basin, and American officials are optimistic it could come online soon. And in the shadow of the Black Mountain, here in the Kalu Valley in remote Bamian Province, villagers hope that Indian and Canadian mining operations can turn buried iron ore into new lives for struggling families, breaking a cycle of poverty in this high place cut off by snow for six months of the year. When the digging begins, Abbas Ali, a 30-year-old farmer here, will have to give up the four-acre potato field his family has worked for generations. He is more than ready. “Our life will change 180 degrees,” Mr. Ali said this summer, staring up with fervent brown eyes at the bowed wooden roof beams in the white-walled madrasa where he teaches for extra income. “We support any effort to make it happen quickly.” That hope, and the prospect of more self-sufficiency as international aid ebbs, is driving Afghan officials like the minister of mines, Wahidullah Shahrani, as he tries to get more projects going. The World Bank estimates that if things go very well, mining and agriculture together could raise annual growth rates by 3 to 4 percentage points between now and 2025. But Mr. Shahrani is concerned about striking the right balance between generating revenue for the Afghan government and drawing in international investors, saying that getting contracts wrong would jeopardize critical development timelines. “This is all about the credibility of the country,” he said. There are other concerns, too. Some officials are worried about a swath of small mines — for gemstones, marble, chromite and other resources — that are out of the state’s control and might be fueling the insurgency. A recent Defense Department analysis said criminal mining syndicates were smuggling chromite over the border, paying protection money to the Pakistani Taliban and the Haqqani insurgent network. In the border province of Khost, the director of mines, Laiq Muhammad, said more than half the chromite there had been extracted illegally and smuggled to Pakistan, with no benefit to Afghanistan. “Not even one afghani has been added to national income from chromite mining,” he said. Senior Pentagon officials say they are trying hard to bring the mines into the legitimate economy by finding international buyers for the chromite. In Bamian, up on the mountain above Abbas Ali’s home, 12 new wooden and brick security huts march across the hillsides of the 230-square-mile concession area, a sign of intent — maybe — that the soil will soon be broken and the mine’s promise fulfilled. But they are also a nod to the possibly more violent times ahead. Bamian’s chief geologist Mohammad Amin, 27, was striding through the boulders scattered on the hillside. “If the Taliban are able to make it to this part of the country, this project will be halted and nobody will be able to work,” he said. There are signs, in fact, that is happening in this part of Bamian, which until the past year had been considered relatively secure. Now, the road to Kabul is no longer safe for foreigners, and there has been a string of attacks on government officials and security forces. Beyond the concerns about security, there is the matter of creating the mines themselves. The prospecting project here — named Hajigak, after one of the treeless mountain ridges — has long been marked by yellow stripes. They are Soviet survey ditches, testament to efforts decades ago to tap Bamian’s iron ore that never panned out. Before mining can actually begin, there is a need for a power plant, a smelter, and a road to bring the ore down the pristine red-rock ravines of the Kalu Valley. There are also plans for a major railroad — a first on a large scale for Afghanistan — to take the iron ore out, perhaps west to an Iranian port or to join up with a rail route promised by the Chinese from the Mes Aynak copper mine east to Pakistan or north to Turkmenistan. The Mes Aynak mine, in Logar Province, is another trove of potential Afghan wealth awarded to the Chinese in 2007. It is already behind schedule, and no work has begun on a railroad yet. Mr. Shahrani is adamant mining will start in two years and blames the discovery of Buddhist ruins and artifacts, as well as Soviet-era mines that had to be cleared, for the delay. But in a country where the future always seems to be put off, the delays may also reflect an unwillingness, say officials who work closely with the mining industry, by international investors to put in hundreds of millions of dollars they could lose if Afghanistan again descends into turmoil. “Everyone is hesitant to plan beyond 2014,” said a Western official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “They have dragged their feet. The government might change and you have built your new roads and new power plants. It might all be gone.” Doubts about the government’s role in any resource boom loom large for the Afghan public, too, where there is deep skepticism that the weak state and notoriously kleptocratic ministries can build a functioning mining economy that will help ordinary people. Some outsiders fear that the recent delay in the new mining law represented, in the messy world of Afghan politics, an attempt to discredit Mr. Shahrani and win control of the mining ministry, one of the government’s most lucrative power bases. Already, there are examples of how resource riches can spark conflict. At the Amu Darya oil field in June, President Karzai’s government accused a rival, the warlord Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, of putting pressure on the Chinese oil company to make illegal payoffs. General Dostum’s party said he wanted the Chinese only to hire more local labor. And at Mes Aynak, where the government says nine villages were displaced, the mining project has caused tensions among locals contending for compensation for their land. As the details of the Hajigak contract are negotiated, the people of Bamian are clear about what they want in return for opening their lands to mining: paved roads, a gymnasium, a conference hall, a technical college, and guaranteed work for locals among the 50,000 jobs some say the mine could generate. Hoping to avoid the frictions that have arisen at other sites, they have formed a 114-member commission to work on issues like compensation and jobs and provide a mechanism for airing grievances. Some of the people of Bamian — most of whom are Hazaras, wearily familiar with years of ethnic oppression by those in power in Kabul — remain dubious that wealth will automatically come their way. But there is still hope in the valley of the Black Mountain, in Abbas Ali’s village. At a store in the dusty bazaar, Shir Ali, 38, a gangly man who drives a minibus, says that with a job as a day laborer or security guard or driver, he could buy uniforms and textbooks to send all of his 12 children to school. Sitting at the counter behind open sacks of rice and beans, the storekeeper, Daoud, 38, cracks his bronzed face with a smile, sharing the optimism but also the trepidation about whether at last his country can really make something of itself. “If the mine doesn’t come, we will be like those people who live on treasure,” he said, “but they cannot use it.”