Monday, September 17, 2012

US should introspect root cause of 'Benghazi tragedy'

U.S. ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and another three diplomats were killed in an anti-U.S. protest in Benghazi, Libya on the night of Sept. 11. This is the first U.S. ambassador who has been killed on duty since 1979. The violent act against diplomatic personnel evoked strongest condemnation from international community. The direct cause of the violent attack is a U.S. anti-Islamic film which insults the Prophet Muhammad. Egypt and other Islamic countries also join the anti-U.S. protests. Obviously, the violent attack reveals the drawbacks of U.S. policy in the Middle East. More than one year ago, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members insisted on using military attacks to promote the regime change in Libya. Many analysts warned that as the complex internal conflicts in Libya has existed for a long time, the external military intervention might lead to a chaotic situation in the country. Now, the death of U.S. diplomatic personnel in Benghazi highlights the fragile security situation and severe internal conflicts in Libya. Many "liberated" Libyans do not have any gratitude to the United States as expected.In fact, the condition generally exists in the Middle East. The biased, two-sided and contradictory U.S. policy in the Middle East has sowed seeds of calamity. After the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government have taken all kinds of measures, including implementation of "Greater Middle East Initiative" by means of war. However, the people in Middle East believe that the United States attempts to maintain its strategic interests and influence in the region. The anti-U.S. protests and incidence of violence show that the U.S. military intervention policy will bring huge negative effects. The U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have brought great pains to the people of the two countries. Currently, the United States and some other countries are trying to enforce regime change in Syria, providing support to Syrian oppositions and appealing to more direct military intervention. However, what consequences will the external military intervention bring? The tragedy in Benghazi is thought-provoking. The death of the U.S. diplomat deserves strongest condemnation, but it is equally and even more important for the United States to self-examine the root cause of the tragedy.

Suicide bombing in Afghan capital, leaving casualties

A suicide car bomb went off in early Tuesday morning in Afghan capital of Kabul, leaving casualties, the police said. "A suicide bomber targeted a minibus carrying foreign nationals along a main road from Kabul airport to Kabul inter- continental hotel, leaving at least nine foreigners dead," a police official told Xinhua anonymously. The blast occurred at around 6:45 a.m. local time Tuesday morning. Meantime, a local TV channel Tolo News also reported that nine foreigners were killed in the suicide bombing that went off near an Afghan intelligence agency building in airport road. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack so far.

Obama's lead over Romney narrows to 5 points

President Barack Obama's lead over Republican Mitt Romney narrowed to 5 percentage points in a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Monday, from a high of seven points in the week after the Democratic National Convention. With just 50 days before the November 6 election, Obama led the former Massachusetts governor by 48 percent to 43 percent among likely voters in the online poll conducted September 12-17. In a similar poll last Thursday, he led by 48 percent to 41 percent. "My takeaway is that it's pretty decent news for Obama that his bump is sustaining so long and he may be turning the post-convention bump into a lead," said Ipsos pollster Julia Clark. In a shift in recent days, Americans also gave a small edge to Obama on the crucial topics of jobs and the economy, as they feel less nervous about economic conditions. Thirty-seven percent of registered voters thought Obama had a better plan for the economy, compared with 34 percent who favored Romney on the issue. Obama led 36 percent to 35 percent on the issue in a poll released last Thursday. Forty percent backed Obama on jobs and employment, compared with 36 percent who favored Romney. "This is a bit of a shift," Clark said. The two candidates had been tied or Romney was slightly ahead on the economy since May, but that has changed to give Obama a small edge in the wake of the convention. "People are not really quite as nervous about the economy as they were a couple of months ago," Clark said. However, more of the registered voters surveyed picked Romney as the candidate who would best deal with the federal government's budget deficit, at 34 percent, to 29 percent for Obama. They gave Obama large leads when asked who would handle issues including healthcare (12 percentage points) and taxes (13 points), as well as Medicare (16 points) and Social Security (13 points. 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 4.1 percentage points for all respondents. For the 591 likely voters surveyed, it was 4.8 percentage points.

China's car makers cut corners to success

China keeps getting better at making cars. One reason: It's getting better at cutting corners. Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co, one of China's biggest car makers, conducted 20 to 25 crash tests when it developed its popular Panda model, engineers involved in developing the car told Reuters. Global car makers typically conduct 125 to 150 crash tests for each new model. By relying more on computer simulations, Geely saved at least 200 million yuan ($31.57 million) and two years in development time on the Panda, the engineers said. Paring back on crash tests, skimping on frills, simplifying designs, using cheaper materials and, in a departure for the industry, outsourcing most of their design and engineering are having a profound effect on the cost bases of China's dozens of car makers. Some are now able to sell cheap and cheerful small cars for about 40,000 yuan ($6,350) - less than half the price of a plain vanilla Toyota. Ten years ago, no discerning Chinese consumer would have bought China-designed cars. Not only were such vehicles accused of being illegal counterfeits of foreign models, but their quality and safety were also mistrusted. Now, despite their homely looks, some indigenous models are striking a balance between no-frills affordability and acceptable quality. In China, it is the age of the good-enough car - and that has potentially significant implications for the world auto industry. Models such as the Panda and the Great Wall Haval H3 are becoming popular not only in China but increasingly so in emerging markets, from Indonesia to Egypt and Ukraine. They are driving China's auto exports to record levels, even as growth in China's auto market slows down. GETTING TRACTION ABROAD Exports of Chinese-produced vehicles are forecast by China's auto association to hit one million vehicles this year from 849,500 vehicles last year. Some automotive analysts are predicting a 50 percent increase to 1.25 million vehicles. Some executives at big foreign manufacturers say China's new model of creating good-enough cars poses a serious challenge to the way the international industry operates. "This is a warning shot to the established engineers who have told their management time and time and again that this is the minimum cost they can achieve with their existing design and production methodology," says Shiro Nakamura, a top Nissan Motor Co. executive and the company's chief designer. "Now the Chinese are saying they can cut another 30, 40 percent of the cost." It normally takes four to five years for established players like General Motors Co and Toyota Motor Corp to come up with a new car from the ground up. Chinese manufacturers can now do so in just two and half years by deploying an abbreviated design process. "Perhaps the Chinese achieve their low cost by sacrificing quality standards," says Nakamura. "But in many ways their way also points to ‘over quality' or ‘waste' we have built into our conventional design process over the years." THE COPY CATS The Chinese approach is a product of the extraordinarily fast rise of its auto industry. As the country opened up to the West, car makers were faced with relatively poor customers at home and sophisticated products made abroad. Global automakers could sell their pricey cars to rich Chinese, but local Chinese automakers had to come up with cheap cars for the masses. Rapid growth in the economy spurred the creation of more than 100 registered automakers across China by the early 2000s - but they lacked expertise. Their solution in coming up with affordable cars was simple: copy the designs of foreign makers. "Around 2000, China began embracing an approach it described as ‘reverse-engineering.' It was essentially a fancy word for copying," says Dai Ming, a senior engineer at CH-Auto Technology Corp, an independent design and engineering company based in Beijing. "The problem with those copied cars was that the Chinese were able to emulate the shape of a foreign car, but not its soul." Chinese car makers tended to sift through a foreign vehicle to identify expensive, non-critical features and functions to skimp on or eliminate, such as a door that closes with a proper "thump," as well as power windows and passenger-airbags. The result was often dubious quality and durability. After a few years of use, bumpers and door handles would start falling off. Dai says of the typical cheap knock-off model: "It didn't drive well like the foreign car, either, and in some cases it was a safety hazard on the road." OUTSOURCING DESIGN A clutch of design firms is driving the advances in affordability and quality in the industry, including CH-Auto, where Dai works; IAT Automobile Technology Co. of Beijing; and TJ Innova Engineering & Technology Co. of Shanghai. China's indigenous automakers are so new many have not had time to groom their own engineers, and their best engineers are usually occupied more with manufacturing than design. Companies thus often outsource product design and development to outside engineering houses filled with Chinese engineers trained overseas. Automotive analysts say these houses are responsible for helping engineer seven to eight out of every 10 cars China's indigenous car makers sell here. By using the same few design and engineering firms, Chinese car makers have effectively created a shared pool of home-grown automotive technology. CH-Auto, for instance, has helped design an array of cars over the past decade, each time gaining fresh expertise, which it deploys for its next project - in most cases for a different company. CH-Auto was established in 2003 by a small group of jobless Chinese engineers who had trained with Beijing Jeep, a now-defunct joint venture set up initially by Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co. and American Motors Corp. CH-Auto and its rivals say they have moved beyond aping foreign designs. Instead of copying the shape of a component or an entire foreign car, they try to match its performance as well - often successfully - even as they improvise and simplify the original design to cut costs. The aim is to make cars affordable to China's emerging middle class, people who are earning 50,000 to 60,000 yuan a year ($7,900-$9,500). "It's not copying. It's not that simple anymore," said Wang Kejian, president of CH-Auto, a former Beijing Jeep engineer who was trained for a time in Detroit by Chrysler. "Since Chinese car makers have no accumulated vehicle design technology or know-how, we have to develop our own by studying foreign cars and use local parts suppliers to approximate the components and the cars." HALF THE COST Geely Automobile, which owns Swedish carmaker Volvo, turned to CH-Auto around 2005 for help on a project that led to the Panda, now one of China's most popular small cars. CH-Auto was responsible for the exterior styling and engineering the underpinnings. The rest was handled by Geely, according to the two companies. CH-Auto and Geely made a clear departure from copying with the Panda. To be sure, they still selected a car to emulate or bench-mark - in this case, the Aygo, a "city car" that Toyota produces in Czech Republic and has been selling in Europe since 2005. But instead of simply producing a fake Aygo, engineers at CH-Auto first studied and tested the Aygo and its components - often with the help of three-dimensional digital scanners - to collect data on their design and performance. Then they tried to manufacture components by adapting parts made in China to match desired functions and performance. If suitable local parts weren't available, they worked with suppliers to create new ones by simplifying the scanned Aygo designs. The purpose was "not to copy but approximate the Aygo," Dai said. PANDA'S UNDERPINNINGS One example is the Panda's chassis. The under-body carriage, which the suspension and wheels are attached to, is key to how a vehicle handles corners on the road. The Aygo, which starts at 6,462 pounds (about $10,000) in Britain, has a relatively sophisticated under-body structure formed in a single piece by using a process called "hydroforming," in which pressurized water is used to shape metal. For the Chinese this was a problem. CH-Auto and its chassis suppliers have no proven know-how in hydroforming. And the light-weight steel that Toyota uses for the Aygo's under-body carriage was too pricey for Geely to use in a car to be sold in China. Geely and CH-Auto's solution was to use cheap "everyday" steel commonly available in China, Dai said. Geely and CH-Auto divided the Panda's chassis frame into two pieces - upper and lower units - to simplify their structure so they could be easily stamped rather than using the more expensive hydroforming method. Then Geely welded those two pieces to create a chassis frame for the car. "The problem was our solution compromised the Panda's NVH," Dai says, using the acronym for noise, vibration and harshness, the key attributes of drive feel. Dai's engineers tweaked the Panda's suspension, adjusting the so-called rubber bushes, or isolators, to make them softer to better absorb shocks and vibrations. Despite using cheaper materials and processes, Geely and CH-Auto were able to largely match the performance of the Aygo's platform in terms of the vehicle handling and NVH, which Dai says was confirmed by a third-party testing company. More important, by tweaking the design and using cheaper materials and manufacturing processes, Geely and CH-Auto were able to produce a platform for the Panda with "roughly half" the Aygo's cost, according to Dai. ELIMINATING "MAJOR RISKS" Despite the advances in design, safety standards in Chinese-made cars still lag those of U.S. and European manufacturers, in part because its government doesn't impose as stringent a body of safety requirements. What's more, Chinese car makers ignore what they consider minor, non-critical risks, such as using far fewer crash tests with dummies. "If the client only gives me two-and-a-half years to design a car, then I can only eliminate major risks. And the smaller risks, well, there's nothing we can do," says CH-Auto's president Wang. China does have vehicle safety standards, and any automaker launching a new car needs to meet them. But there is no required number of crash tests. Geely and CH-Auto do not want to do as much crash-testing as global automakers because creating prototype cars costs up to 2 million yuan a car ($316,000), CH-Auto's Wang said. A Geely spokesman, Victor Yang, would not say how many crash tests Geely conducted on the Panda. But Yang noted that the Hangzhou-based automaker conducted "more than what's typically performed in China." For cars being developed today, it routinely conducts more than 70 crash tests, Yang says. By contrast, an established global player such as Toyota routinely tests a new car by crashing it a "minimum 120 to 150 times," according to a Toyota chief engineer who spoke on condition of anonymity. If the car is sold in many different markets around the world, Toyota crashes even more cars, he said. THE ROAD AHEAD Nevertheless, the Panda is a watershed product for both Geely and CH-Auto. The car's stylized exterior - featuring a Panda-eyed grill and tail lamps in the shape of paws - was considered cute and timely when launched in 2008 to coincide with the Beijing Olympics. The exterior contrasted with the car's highly utilitarian interior, including exposed screws and a plasticky dashboard. The 1.3-liter, 86-horsepower motor pulls the Panda from a standstill to 100 kilometers an hour in an unthrilling 13.1 seconds. Nor is the Panda, like other no-frills Chinese cars, ready to meet the stringent safety regulations of Europe and America. But there is one very eye-catching thing about the car: its price. A new Panda starts around 40,000 yuan ($6,400) in China and about 5,000 euros ($7,400) abroad. After the Panda, CH-Auto's business began booming. It developed or helped develop a slew of cars and sport-utility vehicles for Changfeng, an automaker affiliated with Japan's Mitsubishi Motors. The Changfeng projects then led to deals with Jiangling Motors Co. and Chongqing Changan Automobile Co., as well as Beijing Auto. One of CH-Auto's upcoming models is a Beijing Auto vehicle based on technology the company purchased from the now defunct Saab of Sweden. CH-Auto also has a major contract from Dongfeng Motor Co. — the 50-50 joint venture between Nissan and Dongfeng Motor Group Co. The team will develop a subcompact car based on the Nissan March (known as the Micra in Europe) to buttress a new "indigenous" brand called Venucia launched in China earlier this year. The advent of the good-enough car is emboldening Chinese automakers to build up their own product development capabilities to rely less on CH-Auto and other independent engineering houses. Geely, one of China's top indigenous car makers, is expected to sell about 370,000 cars in China and 90,000 abroad this year. By 2016 the company forecasts its export volume will hit as high as 300,000 or possibly 400,000. "My vision," said Geely Chairman Li Shufu, "is to sell outside China the same number of cars we sell within China."

Rimsha case: Court reserves verdict on delay in challan

The court of the additional sessions judge in Islamabad reserved its judgment over Monday’s hearing in the blasphemy case against Rimsha Masih. A ruling over today’s hearing was to be issued later. Senior civil judge Amir Aziz issued an order for the investigation to be conducted by an officer of the superintendent of police (SP) rank. The investigating officer (IO) on the case told the court that the police’ s inspector general (IG) had constituted an investigative team headed by a senior superintendent of police (SSP) and that the case’s investigation had been completed. The IO asked the court for more time to submit the charge sheet in the case. Rao Abdul Rahim, the counsel for the accuser, reminded the court that the police had already asked for more time to submit the challan and that the court had directed for an incomplete challan to be submitted during its previous hearing. Another lawyer for petitioner told the court that his client, Hammad Malik, was being threatened by the IG and other officers at the police station. The lawyer requested the court to restrain the police from harassing his client again and again and also requested for the bail of blasphemy-accused Christian girl to be cancelled. The complainant’s counsel alleged that the police had not constituted an investigating team yet and demanded the names of the officers constituting the team to be disclosed. The prosecutor presented the court with the names of the officers included in the investigating team upon request.

‘US will think twice before supporting Islamic radicals’

The recent outbreak of violent anti-American protests in the Muslim world will make US politicians think twice before supporting Islamic radicals, political analyst and ex-jihadist Tawfik Hamid said in an interview with RT. The US has funded Islamists groups throughout the world for decades, and the death of the American ambassador to Libya is just one more example of how militants backed by radical Islamic ideology will eventually turn their weapons against their patrons in Washington. In this light, Hamid believes that the idea of toppling Syria’s President Bashar Assad and replacing him with rebels known to have connections to Al-Qaeda should no longer seem like such a winning idea to the West. RT: What do you think of the events in the Arab world right now? Tawfik Hamid: I see an expression of radicalism in the form of attacking embassies and killing ambassadors, and expressing this violence in the radical ways of thinking that proliferated in the last few decades in the Muslim world. It is expressing itself in this form as it also expressed itself in Afghanistan in beheading people. But that is a different kind of violence. It is based on the same thinking of accepting the use of violence to suppress others, and preventing them from saying their opinion or preventing them from saying things that you perceive as insulting. RT: Do you think it is happening especially in the countries that have gone or are still going through transition? TH: The general underlying cause is religious principles, that whoever says a bad word against the Prophet Muhammad must be killed, which is not in the Koran but it is one of the mainstream beliefs in some Islamic books. Also, the excess of love for Prophet Muhammad makes Muslims feel that [in case of] any insult towards him, they have the responsibility to defend him. Especially according to Islamic traditional teaching that sinners go to hell, and that the Prophet Muhammad is the one who will intercede to bring them from hell to paradise. It is not gold that will do this, it is the Prophet Muhammad’s intercession. So, there is an excessive emotional feeling toward the Prophet Muhammad because of this. This is an underlying factor. But there are local reasons as well, in Egypt for example. In Egypt, you have the role model of Essam Sharaf, one of the former Prime Ministers after the revolution, who actually celebrated the young man who took the flag of the Israeli embassy and burned it while a mob surrounded the embassy. Instead of punishing him and considering him a criminal for such an act, for attacking the Israeli embassy, [Essam Sharaf] actually celebrated him in the media. This is providing a very bad role model. In Libya, the situation is different: You have many well-trained radicals who have military power in their hands, who can make the decision to attack the embassy based on the movie [the US-made anti-Islamic movie ‘Innocence of Muslims’], or based on a prior arrangement. RT: A lot of people, even US officials, are saying that this was a pre-planned attack and that the film may have nothing to do with this. Do you agree to this? TH: It is a possibility, I cannot deny that it is one of the possibilities. But also, there is the possibility that this movie incited excessive hatred and a desire to use violence against the US. And [an attack] could then be easily implemented, because there are well-trained fighters with weapons, even artillery. So, it is not that difficult, if you have been fighting Gaddafi for more than a year, to take weapons and go attack the embassy. Both possibilities are valid. RT: The groups that attacked the US embassy were funded and trained by the US – in some cases – during the revolution in Libya. Do you think that the US did not see this coming? Especially after what happened in Afghanistan back in 1970s to 1980s, and now we see the results with the Taliban? TH: I think people do not learn from history very well. It is one of the problems of humans: They don’t learn from history and they follow advice without really going into enough depth of understanding of culture and mindset, the religious things. Some of these [Libyan] radicals who were probably supported by NATO may have access to such weapons, because when Gaddafi’s government and the whole system collapsed they had easy access. Really, there is a big problem in dealing with Middle East issues. RT: Do you think the US expected the democracy that they were promising to Libyans and Egyptians and other nations in the Arab world, that this will be the result of the democracy they were promising? TH: Obviously not. You see [US Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton, for example, clearly saying that ‘how can this happen in the country that we helped to get freedom?’ They are really shocked. The Americans and NATO helped them expecting that they will reciprocate by at least showing some liberties and respect for others, at least for America. But they underestimated the threat of radical Islam – as they did in Iraq. And the main factor in this threat is ideology. If you don’t deal with this ideology, you cannot win this game. If you focus on two things, democracy and military power, it is like if someone who knows how to change a tire of a car thinks that fixing a complex electronic component of the car can be done by changing tires. No, it will not. You need to go to a completely different dimension here. That is to deal with religious ideology, whether you admit it or not – you have to deal with it. RT: Especially because a lot of people were telling the US [the militants] are with Al Qaeda. In your articles you do talk about this. TH: I’m one of the people who clearly stated that if you want to implement a democracy – avoid the ‘sudden democracy’ syndrome. It will bring the Islamists to power, and we will suffer RT: Would you say that the US simply does not understand the nature of the Arab world? The fact is, the democracy they wanted to impose is a complete failure right now. TH: There are [American] people who understand, and people who do not understand, and it depends on the balance of powers in certain times in history when the decisions are being taken. Unfortunately I don’t think the decisions taken here are very correct. RT: Do you think the US will change its strategy in the Arab world and the countries going through transitions, in light of what is going on? TH: Yes, absolutely. For example, there will be many voices that will start questioning if removing [Syrian President Bashar] Al-Assad is a good idea or not. Supporting the rebels can ultimately bring extreme radicals [to power in Syria], who will become enemies to America and attack it. It doesn’t work the way people think. The Libyan example of the killing of the ambassador in such a way, and the spread of the reaction in several Islamic societies, will make many people think twice before supporting rebels against Al-Assad. I cannot say it will be a game change in this respect, but I can say it will make many people think twice about the issue of supporting the rebels against Al-Assad. RT: But will they actually make decisions that are different from those made before? Will they reconsider their strategy? TH: It is likely; there is a 60 percent possibility that decisions may have some changes or modifications, especially now that the Syrian issue is hot. I know it was a policy to remove Al-Assad but I think with the Libyan issue it will make the voices of the people, who were against Assad’s removal, more prominent and better heard. But it is very hard to guarantee an outcome, because it depends on different powers and ultimate intentions; it is not something where you can easily say ‘it will change’. RT: How do you see relations between the US and the countries that are going through transition, Libya and Egypt in particular, especially after the latest protests? TH: It will certainly create a new way of thinking in relations with these people. I think it might affect [American] donations that go to Egypt. The [US] Congress is supposed to allow $1 billion donations to support Egypt. I believe many people in Congress will think twice whether this is appropriate, without having guarantees from [current President of Egypt Mohamed] Morsi that he will really respect the values of democracy. The problem is that many societies understand democracy as just a ballot, while the West understands democracy as transparency, freedom of speech and respect for minorities. There are two completely different understandings of the same word. In the West, it is understood as these values, but elsewhere in the world it is understood as the majority suppressing the minority and dominating everything. RT: If Congress is going to reconsider its aid to Egypt for preconditions – isn’t that another form of conditions the Arab world is sick and tired of, and the reason for the protests? TH: I think if you’re giving donations, you have a full right to put conditions on it, because it is extremely unwise to give someone donations and at the end they will promote an ideology of hatred to you that can ultimately cause you damage. So, when the US is giving someone donations on that high level, it is fair to insist on certain conditions. RT: Would you say the US will start working on its relations with the Arab world, with the peoples instead of governments? TH: I think they will become more aware of fighting radical ideology, they cannot just ignore it. It is not simply a military solution, or using democracy to solve the problem.

Iranian, Pakistani presidents discuss Syria

During a telephone conversation on Sunday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari held talks on bilateral cooperation and regional issues, including the Syrian crisis. Ahmadinejad said that a group should be established to contact the Syrian government and the opposition in order to help restore calm and peace in the crisis-hit country. In reference to the 16th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which was held in Tehran from August 26 to 31, the Iranian president said that NAM is an independent movement and has enormous potential. He added, “But the organization and bodies needed to pursue and implement agreements have not been formed.” He also underlined the need for making the preparations necessary to implement the agreements made during the NAM summit in Tehran and hold a consultative meeting between the member states of the movement on the sidelines of the 67th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, which will open at the UN Headquarters in New York on September 18. The Pakistani president also called for the establishment of a group to contact the conflicting sides in Syria. Elsewhere in his remarks, Zardari praised Iran for its successful hosting of the NAM summit and called for the establishment of executive structures for the movement.

Balochistan’s Duty

BALOCHISTAN has historically held the centre wholly responsible for the province’s underdevelopment and economic backwardness. But now the province cannot absolve itself of responsibility, as it has received unprecedented funds under the seventh National Finance Commission (NFC) award and more autonomy after the passage of the 18th Amendment. What it still lacks, however, is political will. The 18th Amendment and the NFC award empowered the provinces and altered the flow of funds to them. Balochistan got increased fiscal space and powers to improve its socio-economic condition. It is now largely responsible for the delivery of goods and services and it should be held accountable for its poor performance in this regard. Under the seventh NFC award, Balochistan’s share in the divisible pool increased to 9.1 per cent from the earlier 5.1 per cent; the province received Rs83bn in 2010-11 compared to Rs29bn in 2009-10. It also won Rs120bn in gas development surcharge arrears outstanding since 1954, to be paid in annual instalments of Rs12bn. The increase in funds from the divisible pool, the retrospective increase in the well-head gas price and the reimbursement of gas arrears helped raise revenue receipts by 95 per cent to Rs116bn in 2010-11. In addition, the 18th Amendment fulfilled Balochistan’s long-standing demand for provincial autonomy. It devolved 17 ministries and shifted several subjects to the domain of joint decision-making between the provinces and the federation. But how has Balochistan handled these additional responsibilities? There is still a big question mark against the performance and capacity of the Balochistan government, as there has been no improvement in the delivery of goods and services to the people. With the increased revenue, the provincial government seems to have done little more than purchase a new aeroplane and increase discretionary funds to Rs300m this year for each legislator to spend in his constituency. Meanwhile, the province’s economic potential remains untapped. For economic planners, it represents a bonanza in the shape of its natural endowments and geostrategic location. What have the economic managers in Quetta done to tap the huge development potential of key sectors including agriculture, mining and fisheries? Setting priorities for budgetary allocations for different sectors is the key area where prudence and foresight are needed. For instance, the water-starved province badly needs a mega development plan for water resources as its groundwater table is persistently declining. Similarly, the gas reserves at Sui, the country’s single largest gas-producing field, are falling by five per cent each year and may be exhausted by 2022. Gas revenue is the major source of the province’s income, and discovery of new gas wells should be the top priority of the provincial government, which it does not seem to be. The province did give higher priority to education in the previous and current years’ budgets. Yet the bulk of the education budget was allocated for the release of salaries for teachers and for building schools to benefit the construction mafia. How many technical training centres and quality educational institutions has the provincial government planned or set up? The province will remain in the underdevelopment trap until and unless its human resources are developed and its institutional capacity improved. The province’s own revenue generation is currently estimated at only around Rs5bn, of which only a paltry amount comes from taxes. The government has not yet taken any new measures to broaden the province’s revenue base, which could reduce its dependence on the centre. It has no money, for example, to bear the financial costs of its legal fight against international miners over the Reko Diq copper and gold deposits. For this it is again looking to the federal government, which has refused to pay the Rs450m fees for legal experts to fight the international arbitration case filed by Tethyan Copper Company. How will the Balochistan government pay damages if the international court rules against it when it is unable to pay even the fees for legal experts? At the same time, what we have also witnessed in the last two years is an unprecedented increase in the size of the province’s budget. The Rs152bn budgetary outlay for 2010-11 was almost double that of 2009-10. The Rs172bn budget for the current fiscal includes development expenditures of Rs36bn and non-development expenditures of Rs144bn. But Balochistan’s remote rural areas still appear to be stuck in the Middle Ages, with residents using donkey-run fans in the hot summer in Naseerabad and Dera Murad Jamali, travelling on camels in Jhal Magsi, and burning wood and coal for fire during the chilling cold in the northern areas of the province. This under-utilisation of the development budget reflects poor fiscal planning and management due to lack of institutional and human capacity. Fiscal and physical targets do not match. The province lacks a strong, efficient and well-coordinated institutional framework for its development. A key issue is the law and order situation, which is also the responsibility of the provincial government. Had it taken effective measures, the security situation would not have worsened to the level it now is in the province. And it was the failure and inaction of the provincial government that gave the military establishment a chance to interfere in the Balochistan situation. With its increased fiscal space the province should be able to meet its development needs adequately, but efficient management of resources is badly needed. The government needs to mobilise all its energies to improve the law and order situation and then utilise resources to speed up the industrialisation process in the province in order to cope with its economic problems.

Zardari convenes allied parties meeting today

President Asif Ali Zardari has convened allied parties meeting in Islamabad today. President Asif Ali Zardari will chair the meeting of allied parties which will be held at the Aiwan-e-Sadr today. The meeting will review present political situation in the country, Sindh Local Government Act, 2012 and the upcoming general election and setting up of caretaker government. ANP will attend the meeting while Pir Pagara has decided not to participate in the meeting. President Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday held telephonic conversation with Pir Pagara. Both the leaders discussed political situation of the country.

PPP not afraid of elections

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira said on Sunday that PPP was a political force and such like forces do not afraid from elections. While talking to media, Kaira said that election was not a play of dolls that should be held on anybody’s desire. Elections would be held on time. Regarding sacrilegious movie, Kaira said that the whole world should protest on the blasphemous film. He said that protest was the right of Muslims and this should be peaceful. Speaking on the occasion, PPP Punjab president Imtiaz Safdar Warraich said that the constitution of Pakistan does not allow to write a foreign court for the trial of the President of Pakistan as President was enjoying immunity under article 248, he added. Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Khurshid Ahmed Shah said that opposition had been demanding elections for the last four years but it would not be held on its demand. To a question, he said that consultation would be made with opposition leader and other political parties on caretaker setup.

Differences deepen in PTI Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Differences came to the fore in Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as rival groups in the party chanted slogans against each other on the arrival of its Chairman Imran Khan here on Sunday. Supporters of Asad Qaiser and Pervez Khattak chanted slogans against each other at the residence of the local PTI leader Haji Saleem Khan.Sources said that both Asad Qaiser and Pervez Khattak were present on the occasion but they didn’t try to calm down their supporters. The two PTI leaders are contesting election for the provincial president of the party. Asad Qaiser represents the old guard in the PTI and was its former provincial president while Pervez Khattak is a newcomer in the party. There are other candidates also for the office of the provincial president. Imran Khan, who was invited to attend a luncheon arranged by Haji Saleem Khan, appeared uneasy on the occasion, but he didn’t say anything publicly. The PTI chief attended the luncheon and left the venue without addressing the gathering.

PESHAWAR in filth: Sewerage, garbage collection remains dysfunctional

Only one-third of the 90 tonnes of garbage produced in Peshawar is disposed every day, while the rest accumulates in 140 dumps around the city, spreading fumes and increasing disease. Residents of Peshawar are facing awful civic conditions due to a lack of water and a proper sanitation system. Urban areas also lack the necessary mechanism of disposing waste material. The situation worsens when it rains, clogging the faulty sewerage and turning roads into rivers. Peshawar is administratively divided into 92 union councils and four towns. Officials complained about insufficient funding, understaffing and outdated machinery. Corruption within the staff also contributes to the lack of cleanliness in the city. Some of the worse affected areas where garbage and sanitation issues exist includes Shaikabad, Gulbhar, Ganggate, Kohati, Bhanamari, Kakshal, Tehkal and Charsadda road. The Express Tribune found in its investigation that the state of corruption in the civic body, often referred to as Dabba Mulazimeen or proxy attendance, is widespread. The practice involves the clerk or the municipal inspector registering a staffer’s attendance, allowing the employee to collect a salary without actually showing up for work. In return, the clerk or the inspector gets a share of the employee’s salary. The district coordination officer froze the salaries of 189 staffers because of their absence from work. However, hundreds of other employees engaged in the practice remain on the government payroll. The previous government had imported machinery from China but they remain out of service due to lack of maintenance. The situation is worst in Town-I, which covers the walled city and the adjacent low-lying areas. The town consists of 25 union councils and is the most populated area. More than 3,000 employees, including 758 cleaners, 215 sewerage line workers, and more than 46 garbage collectors work in the town. It also suffers from corruption due to high absentee rates among staffers. Out of the 85 dumps installed, 15 are broken while the rest lack maintenance. Large piles of filth remain there for weeks, and residents add to the garbage by disposing it in public spaces. Government position The provincial government claims it is pursuing multimillion projects to resolve sanitation issues, including the Municipal Service Delivery Project with the assistance of USAID. An official familiar with the matter said that USAID has provided $86 million. Sutra Juwand (clean life), another similar project, also awaits for final approval by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chief minister. Sources said that the commissioner of Peshawar, Tariq Jamil, would be the acting managing director of the project. However, little has been done in the past four and half years by the Awami National Party-led government.

Pakistan: Ban is not enough
A press report points out that as many as 45 organisations, a large majority of them sectarian outfits, have been banned since 2001. Anyone familiar with the activities of extremist groups spewing hate propaganda and killing innocent people knows that the actual number of those engaged in the activity is much smaller - not more than a handful. After every ban, the same people reinvented their identities under new names. Which explains why there is such a large list of organisations proscribed during the last 11 years; and also the reason violence perpetrated by sectarian extremists has continued to increase rather than decrease during this time. Such bans clearly are useless unless accompanied by effective curbs on the concerned organisations' activities and freezing of their assets. So far there is no evidence of that happening. In fact, in some instances provincial and federal government leaders have been accusing one another of hobnobbing with sectarian extremists. The truth of the matter is that the big mainstream parties have been reluctant to take on these elements choosing instead, in some instances, to elicit their support to make electoral gains. The consequences have been disastrous vis-a-vis peace and security of ordinary citizens. No one is safe in any part of the country. It is about time federal and provincial governments put their heads together to formulate a joint strategy aimed at banishing the menace of sectarian terrorism. The present report makes it abundantly clear that merely banning a militant organisation will not help; it must be backed by a well thought-out policy to eliminate the sources that nourish violent extremism.

Australian sheep infected with harmful bacteria sent to Pakistan

Cull 21,000 infected sheep: official
To cull housands of Australian sheep after they were found to be infected with harmful bacteria, the city's top administration official said on Sunday. "The provincial live stock ministry ordered 21,268 sheep which arrived from Bahrain to be culled after laboratory tests showed bacterial presence of salmonella and actinomyces in them," Roshan Shaikh told AFP. The animals arrived some 10 days from the Gulf state, which had in turn imported them from Australia and refused to accept them after finding they were infected, Haleem Adil Shaikh, an advisor to provincial chief minister said. "A importer brought these sheep to Pakistan but we also ordered them to be culled after receiving report based on laboratory tests," he added. Five years ago, Pakistan culled thousands of chickens after they were found infected with H5N1 (birdflu) virus.

Pakistan journalists' choice: Face death, or jail

Associated Press
The telephone call to local journalists generally comes in the late evening. The voice on the other end is harsh. He has a statement he wants printed, and he prefaces it with a terse order: "Report our messages without making any changes or we will kill you." The messages they deliver warn of upcoming violence or assassinations, sometimes naming an intended victim, or claim responsibility for atrocities already committed. The calls come from Sunni militants notorious for violence against minority Shiites or members of secessionist groups that routinely blow up police stations and attack government facilities in the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan. But the late-night calls put the journalists in a bind. If they don't print the messages, they could be killed. If they do print them, they could face three years in prison under Pakistan's anti-terrorism laws. It's no surprise which risk they'd rather run. At least 20 journalists have been killed in Baluchistan the past six years, their bullet-ridden bodies sometimes found stuffed into sacks. "If you are a journalist here in Baluchistan you have a choice: Either a bullet in the head or a jail sentence," said Ashiq Butt, a stocky bureau chief with the News Network International (NNI), a Pakistani news agency that feeds its reports to newspapers. But authorities are putting pressure from their side as well, trying to stem spiraling violence in the province. Last month, the Baluchistan provincial government for the first time charged 21 news organizations, their owners and several journalists under the anti-terrorist law, which provides for three years in jail if convicted of carrying messages, reports or information supplied by outlawed militant groups. The charge sheet filed by the government accused the news organizations of "spreading panic." Pakistan is one of the most dangerous places in the world to work as a journalist, according to the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists. In the last six years 41 journalists have died violently in Pakistan, although 12 of those deaths are still under investigation to determine whether their deaths were linked to their jobs as journalists, according to the CPJ site. Many of the multiple militant groups and armed factions in Pakistan — such as Lashkar-e-Janghvi, behind many slayings of Shiites — operate with impunity, with police too weak to take much direct action against them. So they are only emboldened to threaten journalists into being their mouthpieces. "If I want to live in this city I have to write what they say," Butt said. The statements can often be cruel and explicit, detailing those who have been killed, he said. Sunni militants' messages are laced with vitriolic attacks against the minority Shiite Muslims they revile as heretics. Just last week, he was called by a member of the violent Baluchistan Liberation Army, a self-declared secessionist group fighting for an independent state for ethnic Baluchis against what they see as domination from ethnic Punjabis. The group has already claimed responsibility for the deaths of three journalists. The caller had a message and added, use it verbatim or die. Butt did exactly that, publishing the statement, "The Punjabis have captured our lands and we will kill the Frontier Corps and Police . . . We will continue our struggle until Baluchistan is liberated from Pakistan." Aryan Khan, another journalist in the Baluchistan capital Quetta, said Lashkar-e-Janghvi militants even dictate the language newspapers and broadcasters should use in their normal news reports whenever they report on the death of a Shiite, whether in an attack or from natural causes. Rather than the respectful, euphemistic terms usually used by Urdu-language press for a person's death, "they say we should use the same word we use if an animal dies," he said. In recent years Pakistan's Baluchistan province has been shattered by relentless bloodletting by the separatists and by Sunni militant killings and suicide bombings against Shiites. Human rights activists and international aid workers operating in Baluchistan have also been attacked. The international Red Cross suspended its operations in May after one of its workers was killed in Quetta. "For us Baluchistan has become a source of great concern," said Bob Dietz, Asia Program Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists. "The situation in Baluchistan looks set to continue for a long time — the issues are deep seated and don't lend themselves to easy solutions. For media support groups, the region has emerged as a new front line." Escalating violence is making vast parts of Baluchistan inaccessible, said Dietz. That, he contended, seems to suit the government. "The government seems to be quite happy that there is little or no independent monitoring of the situation," he said. He also criticized the Baluchistan provincial government for laying charges against journalists and news organizations covering both sides in the conflicts ravaging the region. In an interview in Quetta, provincial police chief Omar Ibne Khitab justified the charges, saying the anti-terror law was clear. He also said his force does not have the equipment to trace the threatening telephone calls to journalists and locate the culprits. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan issued a report last month criticizing the government for inaction on what? as well as national media outlets for neglecting coverage of events in Baluchistan. The report said local journalists feel threatened from all sides and neglected by the government. "Journalists in the field felt threatened from the security forces, militants and insurgents," said the report released Aug. 30. "If they said one thing they were traitors to one side and if they did not they were traitors to the other side. From within the HRCP's heavily guarded office, Shamsul Mulk said rights workers risked their lives investigating the killings of journalists as well as the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of scores of people, many linked to the separatist movement. Many rights workers have left the organization out of fear for their lives. "I wouldn't be here if there wasn't a guard outside the door," he said. "People are afraid. They are not even attending our meetings anymore."