The Express Tribune
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Associated PressDemonstrators angry over an anti-Islam film accused a local businessman in southern Pakistan of blasphemy, forcing the police to open a case and driving him and his family into hiding, following an argument that broke out when he refused to join their protest, officials said Wednesday. The incident demonstrates the potential for abuse of the country's strict blasphemy laws as well as the intense feelings the film, which denigrates Islam's Prophet Muhammed, has unleashed in Pakistan. At least two people have died in protests against the film, which has generated widespread animosity across the Muslim world. The incident in the city of Hyderabad began when hundreds of protesters rallied Saturday. Some protesters demanded that businessman Haji Nasrullah Khan shut his roughly 120 shops in solidarity, said police officer Munir Abbasi. When Khan refused, one of his tenants said his decision supported the film, the officer said. The protesters claimed Khan insulted the Prophet while arguing with them, said city police chief Fareed Jan. But he said there was no evidence to suggest the insults really occurred and that police only opened a blasphemy case because they were pressured by the mob. Opening such a case doesn't mean the person is necessarily charged with the crime but that police are investigating him or her. Protesters ransacked Khan's house, and surrounded a police station, refusing to go away until officials opened a blasphemy case, Abbasi said. The situation became even more inflamed when religious leaders from one of the biggest mosques in the city issued an edict calling for Khan's death and announced from the mosque's loudspeakers that he should be killed, Abbasi said. The police officer said Khan and his family members had gone into hiding in fear for their lives. Under Pakistan's blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of defiling the holy book, or Quran, or insulting Islam's Prophet Muhammad can face life in prison or death. Critics say the laws are often abused to harass non-Muslims or to settle personal rivalries. Radical Islamist groups have also been behind some of the blasphemy accusations. In this case, Abbasi said, police suspect some of the complaints against Khan by other shopkeepers may have been sparked more by his desire to evict some of them for late payment as opposed to any actual insults. Abbasi said a prominent pro-Taliban religious party, Jamiat-e-Ulema Pakistan, and an al-Qaida linked militant group, Sipah-e-Sahaba, had been advocating against the shopkeeper. Despite the potential for abuse, efforts to amend or repeal the blasphemy laws have failed in the past. Last year, a minister and a governor were assassinated when they spoke out about misuse of the laws and suggested changing them. The governor was shot and killed by his own guard. Rights activists and critics of the laws had hoped that the recent case of a 14-year-old girl charged with insulting the Quran would help bring about changes in the laws, or at least help curb abuse. The case gained widespread attention and sympathy both in Pakistan and internationally due to her young age and questions about her mental capacity. She was granted bail after a religious cleric was accused of planting evidence to incriminate her, and her lawyers have said they will move to throw the case out entirely. But a blasphemy accusation, even an unproven one, can be a death sentence in Pakistan. A report by the Islamabad-based Center for Research and Security Studies said that since 1990, 52 people have been killed by vigilantes after being implicated in blasphemy cases. Earlier this summer a mob in one Pakistani city dragged an accused blasphemer from a police building, beat him to death and burned the body. ___
YAHOO NEWSThree in four Americans feel they have little or nothing in common with Mitt Romney, while nearly 60 percent feel the same way about President Barack Obama, according to an Esquire/Yahoo! News poll. In the wake of Romney's remarks dismissing nearly half of Americans as self-identified victims who are dependent on government—videotaped at a donor event earlier this year and posted online this week by Mother Jones magazine—these new numbers are more bad news for a candidate struggling to connect with ordinary Americans. The margin of error for the survey, conducted shortly after the two national political conventions, is plus or minus 4 percentage points. Further complicating the Republican ticket's image problem is that a Romney presidency is viewed as significantly more beneficial to wealthy Americans than a second Obama term would be. Sixty-two percent of those surveyed said the wealthy would be better off under Romney than Obama. That split reverses when Americans were asked who would benefit the poor: 57 percent say Obama, 30 say Romney.
President Asif Zardari met Dr Zulfiqar Mirza in Karachi and removed all the feeling of resentment. According to Dunya News, the president is on his two-day visit to Karachi. Suddenly, he came out of the back door of Balawal House and met Dr Zulfiqar Miraza and his wife Speaker National Assembly Dr Fahmida Mirza at their residence at Defence-phase 5 and exchanged ideas on current issues for half an hour. The sources also claimed that the president had gone there in order to look after Dr Fehmida Mirza.
Twelve people have been killed and 22 injured in a bomb blast near Scheme Chowk at Kohat Road. According to sources a PAF van was targeted by the terrorists.The van was completely destroyed and three PAF staffers were shifted to CMH. Women and children were among the injured. A passenger coach and six shops were also damaged by the blast. Police say the explosive material was planted in a car already parked at the site of blast. Police officials, bomb disposal squad and rescue workers reached the site and injured were shifted to Lady Redding Hospital.
Pakistan's blasphemy laws are facing scrutiny after the recent arrest of a young Christian girl accused of burning pages from the Quran. The laws, which were first formalised in 1860 during the British rule, carry a death sentence for anyone convicted of insulting Islam. Critics say they are being exploited to target religious minorities. Al Jazeera's Imtiaz Tyab looks at the harsh effects of the law in this report from Islamabad.
RADIO PAKDefence Minister Syed Naveed Qamar has said that Pakistan has received one point four Billion dollars under the Coalition Support Fund. Talking to media in Islamabad he said that we have to receive two billion dollars more. He demanded that the damages caused to Pakistan in the war on terrorism should be fulfilled. He said we are near to have drone technology. He said Pakistan would be able to overcome on the food shortage problem and we are improving the agriculture and irrigation system. He said government wants to promote space technology in future.
DAWN.COMInitial investigations of Tuesday’s North Nazimabad blast revealed that around five to eight kilograms of explosive material was used in the blast, Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) special unit claimed. At least seven people, including a three-month-old baby, a 12-year-old girl and a woman, were killed and 22 others injured — the victims predominantly belonging to the Dawoodi Bohra community — when twin blasts rocked a neighbourhood in North Nazimabad on Tuesday evening. “The explosive material contained around 500-800 ball bearing,” FIA’s investigation unit added. Police detained two brothers of one of the suspects involved in the blast. According to police’s initial investigation, Laskar-i-Jhangvi’s (LeJ) Shuja Haider group was involved in the attack. Police claimed that LeJ’s members Mohammad Shaqib Farooqi, Murtaza alias Shakil,Arab Miskeen, Murad Shah and several others were involved in Tuesday’s blast in North Nazimabad. The suspected LeJ members were also involved in three blasts in 2009, the blast Orangi town blast on Muharram 8, Paposh Nagar Chandni chowk blast on Muharram 9 and Light House blast on Muharram 10. The suspects were arrested from Maripur road in 2010 but they escaped from the city courts afterwards attacking the police with hand grenades. Talking to media representatives, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Karachi West Naeem Akram said that Tuesday’s North Nazimabad blast had similarities with the Chinese Consulate blast on July 23, 2012. The blasts came a day after the visit of Syedi Mufaddal Bhaisaheb Saifuddin, designated successor of Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin. An improvised explosive device (IED) weighing around 25kg had been found at the same place on Aug 13 and defused by police.
Editorial:THE FRONTIER POST
Import of sick sheep
The Express TribuneThe government appears to have consolidated its fiscal position during the first two months of the current fiscal year, having brought down the national budget deficit to 0.8% – or Rs191 billion. The gap between national income and expenditures during the July-August period is Rs36.3 billion – or 0.2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – lower than the corresponding period of the last fiscal year, according to finance ministry officials. The provisional results seem somewhat encouraging, especially after the Pakistan Peoples Party-led coalition government closed the last fiscal year with a highest-ever budget deficit of Rs1.77 trillion, or nearly 8.53% of GDP. “Net federal revenues, excluding provinces’ share, were Rs182 billion against total expenditures of Rs419 billion: a shortfall of Rs237 billion, or 1% of GDP,” said Rana Assad Amin, advisor to the finance ministry. “The federal government transferred an amount of Rs 186 billion to the four provinces under the divisible pool, out of which the federating units saved a sum of Rs46 billion,” he added. “The provincial savings led to the overall budget deficit coming down to 0.8% of GDP,” said Amin. However, a detailed review of income and expenditures shows that the US’ decision to reimburse $1.19 billion under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) in one tranche helped economic managers save some face. The release of funds covered a shortfall which had surfaced due to a decline in tax revenues. A finance ministry official said the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has bagged Rs216 billion during the first two months of fiscal 2013. The figure is Rs16.8 billion, or 7.2%, less than revenues generated in the same period during the previous fiscal year. Non-tax collection, including CSF reimbursements, remained at Rs152 billion. FBR sources say that the appointment of FBR Chairman Ali Arshad Hakeem, and re-employment of Member Inland Revenue-Policy Asrar Raouf on a one-year contract, has created ripples in the FBR bureaucracy. They added that there was resentment within the machinery, and that Raouf’s allegedly dubious past has sent wrong signals to field formations. The government must overhaul the FBR bureaucracy to avoid disaster, they added. The fiscal consolidation is likely to help economic managers during the first round of dialogues with the International Monetary Fund, scheduled to start in Dubai from next Tuesday. Bumpy road ahead While the provisional results for the first two months are in line with the annual overall budget deficit target of 4.7%, sustaining the trend seems to be a daunting task. The government has barely managed to keep the budget deficit below 1% of GDP on the back of the CSF reimbursements and the provincial surplus of Rs46 billion. The government has now received in one tranche whatever it had expected to receive from the CSF for the whole fiscal year. Sources said there is a strong probability that the FBR will miss the annual target of Rs2.38 trillion by a wide margin. Although the provinces have saved Rs46 billion in just two months, which is a commendable 58% of the annual projection of Rs80 billion, the trend is unlikely to continue. Provincial governments are likely to jack up spending due to the upcoming elections, which will strain their budgets. The biggest drain on resources over the past three years has been power subsidies. The Water and Power Ministry has not been able to crack down on corruption and pilferage in the sector, and the government may end up paying electricity subsidies more than the budgeted amount. Meanwhile, Finance Secretary Wajid Rana is struggling to limit subsidies only to the extent of the price differential, while refusing to pay for less recoveries and line losses.
BY JONATHAN MANTHORPE, VANCOUVER SUNA clash between Pakistan’s government and the Supreme Court, which has threatened the country’s political stability for seven years, is heading for a compromise. But at the heart of the deal is an acknowledgment that as both central figures in the confrontation — President Asif Ali Zardari on one side and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudry on the other — are tainted by corruption allegations, it is better to close the book and move on. So there is now the hope that, after years of strident activism by Chaudry’s court, a proper relationship will be restored between political and judicial authorities ahead of elections that must be held by April next year. Chaudry began challenging political authority and establishing his court as an alternative centre of power in Pakistan soon after he was appointed Chief Justice in 2005. In a move that quickly established him as a champion of the people, Chaudry confronted then-president Pervez Musharraf, the head of the army who had seized power in a 1999 coup. Chaudry ruled it unconstitutional for Musharraf to be both president and head of the army. In March 2007, Musharraf responded by removing Chaudry from the Supreme Court and placing him under house arrest. But this led to weeks of mass protest in which 27 people were killed. It also led to a cascade of events which saw elections in December 2007, Musharraf hounded from office, and his escape into exile in Britain in August 2008. The elections brought Zardari — the husband of assassinated leader of the Pakistan People’s Party Benazir Bhutto — to the presidency. But Zardari did not like or trust Chaudry, and Chaudry appears to have reciprocated the sentiments. Zardari did not want to reappoint Chaudry as Chief Justice. As part of a deal between Musharraf and Bhutto to prepare for the 2007 elections and a return to civilian rule — a deal demanded by Britain and the United States — Zardari was released from prison where he was being held on corruption charges. Zardari feared that if he reinstated Chaudry as Chief Justice, one of his first acts would be to rule illegal the new president’s release from prison. But the pressure from all sides to reinstate Chaudry was unstoppable and in March 2009, Zardari relented. His fears about Chaudry’s activism, however, were well-founded. Back on the bench and with the veneration of large numbers of Pakistanis sustaining him, Chaudry took on all comers. His first victim was former prime minister and head of the opposition Muslim League, Nawaz Sharif. In 2009, Chaudry disqualified Sharif from holding public office. Then in late 2011, he turned his attention to the much-feared military secret police, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI). Chaudry’s court ordered the ISI to produce seven suspected militants it had been holding without charge since 2010 and to explain the deaths of four people while in custody. Chaudry then moved on to confront Zardari. When Bhutto was prime minister in the late 1980s, Zardari became known as “Mister Ten Percent” for his alleged demand for payoffs to fix government contracts. His reputation for corruption led to the fall of Bhutto’s government, and Zardari was imprisoned on kidnapping and extortion charges. When Bhutto was re-elected in 1993, Zardari, now free, is alleged to have upped his price for fixing contracts and became known as “Mister Thirty Percent.” About $12 million in alleged kickbacks involved Swiss companies, and these transactions were being investigated by the Swiss authorities. But in 2008, the Pakistan government of then-Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani wrote a letter to the Swiss authorities asking them to halt the investigation because Zardari, as president, was immune from prosecution. Chaudry took aim at this letter, and early this year demanded that Gillani write to the Swiss government rescinding the 2008 request and, in effect, reopen the case against Zardari. Gillani refused and in April Chaudry’s court found the prime minister guilty of contempt. In June, Chaudry ruled that as a convicted felon Gillani was ineligible to be prime minister, and he was forced to resign. On Tuesday, the new prime minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf, appeared in the Supreme Court to face the same demand that he write to the Swiss government to rescind the 2008 letter. To the surprise of some, Ashraf agreed. But things have changed since June. After a recent visit to Switzerland by a senior Pakistani legal official, there are reports that the chances of the Swiss pursuing the allegations against Zardari are slim. And Chaudry’s reputation has suffered greatly. He is no longer the champion of the underdog who controls the moral high ground. A real estate developer, Malik Riaz Hussain, alleges that he paid Chaudry’s son, Arsalan Iftikhar, $3.6 million in cash and provided lavish holidays in return for favourable court judgments. He has produced bundles of receipts. The Supreme Court’s response has been to charge Hussain with contempt. Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Manthorpe+clean+hands+clash+between+Pakistan+government+court/7262949/story.html#ixzz26tVTkBWh
editorial: daily timesThe NRO implementation case before the Supreme Court (SC) has held the country in thrall for months now. Every hearing arouses intense speculation, expectations, drama. Yesterday’s hearing, at which Prime Minister (PM) Raja Pervez Ashraf appeared, however, probably could be considered a top contender for a prize. What happened in court came as a complete surprise to just about everyone. All the reports and analyses in the media preceding the hearing regarding the likely course to be adopted by the government turned out to be misplaced. Most of these centred round the strong opinion within the PPP’s top ranks of not writing the letter to the Swiss authorities, in line with the stance adopted by former PM Yousaf Raza Gilani, which led to his departure from office. As it turned out however, the government agreed before the court to write a letter to the Swiss Attorney General (AG) withdrawing the withdrawal letter written by then Pakistan’s AG Justice (retd) Malik Abdul Qayyum. This surprising turn of events perhaps owes a great deal to the change towards flexibility and finding a way out of the impasse by both the court as well as the government at the last hearing or two. PM Raja Pervez Ashraf’s request to the court for one month’s time for consultations was denied by the court on the ground that enough ‘consultation’ had already taken place and it was now time to implement the court’s judgement. The SC ordered Federal Law Minister Farooq Naek to draft the letter and submit it to the court. The hearing was postponed till September 25. The SC exempted the PM from further appearances. The head of the SC bench, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, underlined that the court was not inclined to dictate the wording of the letter and was at the same time cognizant of the respect of the country and its sitting president. The question in everyone’s mind obviously is that if this was to be the eventual denouement, why did the government drag the affair for so long and in the process sacrifice its unanimously elected PM who still enjoyed a majority in parliament? The dismissal of an incumbent PM by the judiciary on a charge of contempt of court was in itself a first for our jurisprudence, or arguably jurisprudence anywhere. So what were the considerations of the government for this seeming u-turn? Without letting the imagination run away, what seems reasonable is as follows. The government wanted to end the air of uncertainty destabilising the polity (with negative effects on the economy and all else) in the run up to the coming elections. It wanted to deliver a telling blow to all those forces hoping to see the back of the government by using the judiciary as a battering ram. This was reiterated in Federal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira’s remarks to the media after the hearing. Part of the government’s calculations may also have relied on the case becoming time-barred under Swiss law, as has been speculated in our media over time, although some legal luminaries do not agree with this contention, arguing that there is no such statute of limitations in a case of this kind under Swiss law. Before the present turn of events, one argument doing the rounds was that the Swiss judicial authorities had said on record that under international, Swiss and Pakistani law, a sitting president enjoys immunity so long as he holds office. Second, that without substantive new evidence, it was unlikely the Swiss authorities would reopen the case. Of course these arguments and considerations will now have to be weighed in the light of the government’s concession to writing a letter. Depending on what it says, including the possibility that the president’s immunity may be part of its wording, the ball then would squarely lie in the court of the Swiss AG and judicial authorities. Whatever happens in Switzerland after the letter is written, there is little doubt that those who were extremely concerned about the deleterious effects of the stand-off between the government and judiciary and its possible impact on our future, would have heaved a sigh of relief. How permanent that feeling of relief may be remains to be seen. For the moment at least, a debilitating confrontation between two pillars of the state has been seemingly defused, an outcome welcomed by all who hold the interests of the country paramount.