Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pakistan: Infected Australian sheep

The Express Tribune
A lot of people should lose their jobs for allowing over 21,000 Australian sheep infected with salmonella and actinomyces to be imported into Pakistan, even though the sheep were previously rejected by Bahrain for being diseased. The first person to go should be the Sindh livestock and fisheries secretary, who lashed out at the media for printing test reports which showed that the sheep were infected. The executive director of the company which imported the sheep should also be shamed into resignation, not only because he was willing to release the animals into the market but also because he denounced the media for indulging in “fake” propaganda. Punishment must also be accompanied by introspection. This incident was a clear case of Pakistan willing to let itself be used as a dumping ground for products that would be outright rejected by rich countries. As strongly as we should protest to Australia for assuming it could unload the animals in our country, the government also needs to avoid instantly taking a defensive posture when such public health scandals are brought to light. Now that the sheep have been confirmed as infectious, the government needs to ensure that they are culled in a safe and speedy manner and that there is no possibility of a single sheep making its way to our market. Pakistan also needs to set safety standards for imports that match those that other countries have placed on us. Countries such as the US, Japan, South Korea and Jordan all banned the import of Pakistani mangoes for over a decade until we recently changed our vapour treatment of mangoes to mandate hot water treatment. It is time for us to be similarly careful about what food items and animals we allow into our country. Doing any differently would confirm that our government is hungry only for the almighty dollar. There is no way we should countenance boosting our foreign exchange reserves on the back of our health and safety.

US, Pak to discuss 'full range of issues' during upcoming meeting

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar will cover the entire range of issues concerning the two countries, and will look to build upon the recent high-level contacts between both countries during their upcoming meet on Friday, the State Department has said. "I am expecting that the full range of issues we have with Pakistan, bilateral and regional, will be covered including our continuing effort to get our counterterrorism activities back up and running fully," The Express Tribune quoted State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, as saying. The Friday meeting between the two diplomats will be their fourth, having previously met in Pakistan, Tokyo and on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York last year. "They have a working relationship together. They have both rolled up their sleeves to try to stabilise and strengthen the relationship. I think this is going to be a good opportunity for them to take stock of where we are, and continue to try to move forward," Nuland said.

Pakistani accused by film protesters of blasphemy

Associated Press
Demonstrators 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. ___

3 in 4 Americans feel little or no personal connection to Romney

Three 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 Zardari appeases Zulfiqar Mirza

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.

Pakistan: Corrupt & biased Supreme Court

Corrupt & biased SC has kept the whole nation focused on a non-issue. There are no 60 million dollars and they are not coming. There are many issues which we need to sort out. During Restoration of Judiciary Movement, we were told that an independent judiciary which delivers justice is the key to all our national problems. Unfortunately, what we got is a highly politicized, vindictive and biased judiciary. Judges and their families are busy enjoying perks at the cost of tax payers' money great foreign vacations paid for by litigants in the most expensive hotels of most expensive cities. In such circumstances, what will happen to the dream of justice for the common man? The SC has neither taken account of presidential immunity under Article 248, nor, except in passing remarks about those seeking immunity having to apply to the court for it, attempted an interpretation of this Article. The government side has seemingly been reluctant to be drawn into an argument over Article 248, probably because it is its perception that it will not receive a sympathetic hearing from the SC, rather the reverse. The court’s insistence has begun to invite criticism of its approach, not the least from former Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president Ms Asma Jahangir, whose words reflect the mounting anger against the judiciary in some legal circles. She has squarely accused the judiciary of delivering political rather than judicial verdicts. Her statement is lent at least partial support by the present SCBA president Yasin Azad, who has suggested to the court that perhaps the best solution to the conundrum is for the court to set up a commission to write the by now infamous letter. He has also pointed to the political and economic instability being caused by the air of uncertainty this standoff is producing in and around the country. Perhaps the middle way is not only the best, but also the only way out of this impasse.CJ is playing politics and hell bent to destroy PPP. But, let me assure you Mr. Chief Justice, you do not know ABC of politics. Zardari is a shrewd politician and he knows what George Bernard Shaw had quoted in Arms and the Man: “Soldiering, dear madam, is an art to remain safe when the opponent is strong and attack mercilessly when the opponent is weak”. Mr. Zardari is playing a safe game until any future time, when you lose the Establishment support, and your right hand (PML-N) and left hand (PTI) are gone weak due to their hornlocks. Zardari is waiting for that time.It seems so evident that the judiciary is lined up with the religious parties and Defense of Pakistan council of Gen (R) Hameed Gul. The parliament has all the right to amend constitution and make laws, judges cannot make laws. Not a single terrorist is hanged or punished but the judiciary continues to maneuver the political government. The chief justice, Iftiqar Choudry continues to make public statements and acts as if he is a political leader. This is unprecedented in the recent history of the world. The politicians must join hands in the parliament and impeach these radical judges. Say NO to judicial activism, NO to judicial political party, NO to judicial dictatorship. People say justice is blind, but in Pakistan the justice is ‘Kani’ (one eyed justice) meaning unfair, politically motivated.

Pashto Songs: Nan Pekhawar Jaregee...PESHAWAR CRYING

Peshawar: 12 killed in Kohat Road blast

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 blasphemy laws face scrutiny

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.

Pakistan has received 1.4 bln dollars under Coalition Support Fund

Defence 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.

Lawyers in Pakistan rally against anti-Islam film

Associated Press
Several hundred lawyers protesting an anti-Islam video forced their way into an area in Pakistan's capital that houses the U.S. Embassy and other foreign missions on Wednesday, and the United States temporarily closed its consulate in an Indonesian city because of similar demonstrations. The lawyers who protested in Islamabad shouted anti-U.S. slogans and burned an American flag after they pushed through a gate, gaining access to the diplomatic enclave before police stopped them. They called for the U.S. ambassador to be expelled from the country, and then peacefully dispersed. The demonstration followed three days of violent protests against the film in Pakistan in which two people were killed. At least 28 other people have died in violence linked to the film in seven countries, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans killed in a Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Much of the anger over the film, which denigrates Islam's Prophet Muhammad, has been directed at the U.S. government even though the film was privately produced in the United States and American officials have criticized it. The U.S. Embassy in Indonesia sent a text message to U.S. citizens saying that the consulate in Medan, the country's third-largest city, has been closed temporarily because of demonstrations over the film, "Innocence of Muslims." About 300 members of Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, a pan-Islamic movement, rallied peacefully on Wednesday in front of the consulate in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra province. Later, about 50 Muslim students also protested there. Both groups called on Washington to punish the makers of the film. It was the third consecutive day of protests in Medan. On Monday, protesters hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails outside the embassy in Jakarta, the capital. In France, the government has barred a planned protest by people angry over the anti-Islam film, but defended a newspaper's right to publish caricatures of the prophet. France's foreign minister said security is being stepped up at some French embassies amid tensions in France and elsewhere around the film. French authorities and Muslim leaders urged calm in the country, which has the largest Muslim population in western Europe. Riot police took up positions outside the Paris offices of a satirical French weekly that published crude caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad on Wednesday that ridicule the film and the furor surrounding it. The provocative weekly, Charlie Hebdo, was firebombed last year after it released a special edition that portrayed the Prophet Muhammad as a "guest editor" and took aim at radical Islam. The investigation into that attack is still under way. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault of France said organizers of a planned demonstration Saturday against the film won't receive police authorization. Ayrault told French radio RTL that "there's no reason for us to let a conflict that doesn't concern France come into our country. We are a republic that has no intention of being intimidated by anyone." On Tuesday, Islamic militants sought to capitalize on anger over the film, saying a suicide bombing that killed 12 people in Afghanistan was revenge for the video and calling for attacks on U.S. diplomats and facilities in North Africa.

Chief justice should appear as witness in Malik Riaz case

Attorney general said he will only write what constitution allows in the Swiss letter. Addressing media outside Supreme Court, Attorney General Irfan Qadir said that the Supreme Court has accepted the immunity being enjoyed by president Zardari under constitution, adding that it would be mentioned in the letter too. In response to question regarding the earlier comments of Irfan Qadir calling the Swiss letter an illegal act, he defended himself by saying that the letter would be written in light of the constitution of Pakistan. Referring to Malik Riaz case, Irfan Qadir said that chief justice of Pakistan should appear before the bench as a witness, adding that a judge of Indian Supreme Court also appeared in the court of a magistrate.

Lashkar-i-Jhangvi’s faction involved in Karachi blast

Initial 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.


TV anchor persons are always hunting people for their programme and former President of Pakistan, General ® Pervez Musharraf, was one of them who are readily available to remain on the political scene though he had no views and vision on political and constitutional issues. If he was competent, he would not have been removed from the post of COAS and later on as President of Pakistan. He was removed merely because he had become irrelevant in politics and running the affairs of the country. For this specific reason, he was given a proper send off with dignity and honour so that he should not return back to Pakistan. Since he is a naïve man and unable to understand that a warm send off with due protocol meant that he should dare to come back and face the cases against him. When he became sure that he will be arrested on his return home, he cancelled his scheduled return to Pakistan. He may not return in foreseeable future for political reasons. During his TV interviews off and on, Musharraf saying novel things which did not fit-in Pakistani politics. He has no supporters, no followers and most of his trusted people are joining other parties for better political prospects. In case of Balochistan, he is a wanted man in the Nawab Bugti Murder Case and Government had approached the Interpol for his arrest and repatriation back to Pakistan to murder trial. In Shaheed Benazir Bhutto case, he is also wanted and a court of law had already attached his personal property for not appearing before the court.

Pakistan: Dashed dreams: Turkey was to sends old, left-hand drive buses

The much-awaited gift of a 100 buses announced by the Mayor of Istanbul, Dr Kadir Tobpas, for the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) early this year, will only remain a dream, as the Punjab government found out that the buses are outdated and left-hand-drive, Pakistan Today has learnt. Sources on good authority revealed that not only are the buses of the 1990 model, left-hand drive, but also that the Turkish government has asked the Punjab government to bear the alteration cost before bringing them here. Dr Tobpas had announced a gift of 100 buses during a luncheon held by the Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in honour of the Turkish delegation in March this year. The mayor had reportedly promised not only buses, but also after sales service and spare parts facility for the citizens of Lahore as well. The chief minister had arranged a series of functions to welcome the Turks, while ‘unprecedented’ protocol was extended by the Punjab government to the delegation. A round-about was also named after the mayor, arrangements for cultural festivals were made and an honorary degree was given to him. A senior official, on conditions of anonymity, said, “The government had sent two senior officers to receive him [Tobpas] at the Karachi Airport followed by exemplary hospitality. The mayor was so overwhelmed that he held a meeting with his delegation and announced a gift of buses to return the hospitality.” This was considered a high-time in friendly ties between the Punjab and Turkish governments while Lahore and Istanbul were declared twin cities. Another senior official who wishes to remain anonymous said that it was all fanfare which is over now. “They have demonstrated that there are no free lunches anywhere in the world. The governments responsible to the people cannot materialize such whimsical decisions and keep public interest in mind,” he said, adding that the government has now signed another pact with another private Turkish firm for buses for the BRTS. Higher-ups have kept mum over the issue after it transpired the buses are outdated and the Turks have asked them to bear the alteration cost for shifting them to right-hand transmission. Talking to Pakistan Today, advisor to CM Khwaja Hassan said that the buses announced by Dr Tobpas were not meant for the BRTS. “The BRTS requires articulated buses which are purpose built,” he said. To a question, he said it is against the dignity of the government higher-ups to inquire of the Turkish government about a ‘gift’. The fact should be appreciated that our Turkish friends are bringing in foreign investment when none of our local businessmen showed any interest in the project.

Australia exported 21,000 sick sheep to Pakistan

Import of sick sheep
Who could have imagined that a first world country like Australia would export some 21,000 sick sheep to Pakistan? True that Australians private sector is free in trading its commodities and its government does not interfere in its activity, but what about a host of laws that govern its foreign trade? Why the whole legal regime in fair business did not apply on sending defaulted consignments to the third world countries like Pakistan? This seems a deliberate attempt of fraud because Australians have also tried to export sick livestock to other countries. International media reports suggest that Bahrain imported 22,000 sheep from this Australian company, the Wellard Rural Exports. But after feeling suspicion that the sheep were afflicted by a lethal disease like skim mouth, Bahrain did not allow to offload those sheep at its port. Later, the Australian company tried to sell those sheep to many other countries including Kuwait but none bought them. Finally those sheep were imported by a private Pakistani firm, the PK Livestock and Meat Company and kept the herd at its farm at Razzaqabad, Malir, Karachi. About a month ago, another Pakistani company imported over 20 thousand Australian cows and it was later known that the animals were sick when the world media, including that of Australia, reported facts about the diseased livestock. Ironically, the Sindh Livestock Department collected samples of imported sheep and sent to the National Veterinary Laboratory for examination and the premier veterinary institute gave the local firm and its herd a clean bill of health although it was later found that the sheep were suffering from foot-and-mouth disease and were also inflicted by some dangerous virus as well. During this waiting period, rumors continued airing that Australian sheep were not healthy. But the importing firm, after the media cry, was still caught in two minds in deciding whether the stock should be sent back or stealthily sold in the local market. The Australian High Commission in Pakistan said that the sheep were disease-free but the international media exposed its claim that animals were suffering from a lethal disease. After the scandal became known the world over and Sindh government had also ordered the culling of the sick sheep, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has also ordered an inquiry into the import of thousands of diseased sheep with a direction to the Sindh government to hold an inquiry into the whole affair seeking report within one week to identify those responsible for the illegal act. Simultaneously, the importing company and government functionaries started the culling process at the Sindh Vaccine Poultry Centre and Tando Jam Central Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and the latest report says some 700 of the sheep have so far been slaughtered and their waste disposed off. Holding an inquiry should be welcomed but such investigation by the government will not be above suspicion particularly after Sindh Livestock Department giving clearance to the consignment soon after its arrival from Australia and before media pointed out its accusing finger on the fishy deal. If a genuine report is required and the government really wants truth to emerge, a judicial investigation is a must. This process will have a popular acknowledgment, too. The inquiry should not only be held about the whole scandalous affair of involving the livestock importing company but also drag in the Sindh Livestock Department and the National Veterinary Laboratory for giving their declaration of the diseased animals as healthy. It is also pertinent to expose the Australian company in the fray, the Australian government and its high commission in Pakistan. The world should know that the state that claims clean administration, rule of the law and fair trade, has been engaged in illegal and unhealthy practices, not only now but also in the past. For this examples of Bahrain and Kuwait seem sufficient. Perhaps, the so-called economically developed countries think they have the right to hoodwink and deceive countries which have fewer industrial development.

Pakistan: Govt controls deficit, thanks to CSF payments

The Express Tribune
The 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.

No clean hands in clash between Pakistan’s government, court

A 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:

NRO implementation case: solution, finally?

editorial: daily times
The 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.

Pakistani Government Relents in Judicial Standoff Over Zardari Corruption Case

After months of legal battles, Pakistan’s government relented on Tuesday to judicial demands that it agree to write a letter to the authorities in Switzerland regarding corruption charges against President Asif Ali Zardari. The decision, announced in court by Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, appeared to offer a potential way out of a bruising standoff with the Supreme Court that has threatened to upset Pakistan’s fragile democratic order. Mr. Ashraf said the law minister was in principle ready to draft a letter to the Swiss authorities that could theoretically revive corruption cases against Mr. Zardari in Switzerland dating back to the 1990s. After deliberations among fellow judges, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who led the five-member bench, gave Mr. Ashraf until Sept. 25 to make good on his promise. If he follows through, the letter would effectively mean that Pakistan would no longer refuse to participate in the Swiss cases. The move represented a reversal for Mr. Zardari’s government, which had previously rebuffed court orders to write the Swiss letter, as it has become known, citing presidential immunity from prosecution. But analysts cautioned that the controversy would be resolved only after both sides agreed to the wording of the letter — a potentially fraught process that could reopen divisions. Even if the letter is written, it does not necessarily mean that Mr. Zardari will face prosecution anytime soon. Swiss officials have given little indication of whether they intend to reopen the issue, which relates to at least $12 million in kickbacks. Swiss legal experts say that for a variety of reasons, including the recent expiration of a statute of limitation on the charges in Switzerland and Mr. Zardari’s presidential immunity, the chances of a new prosecution are slim, at least while Mr. Zardari remains in office. One Pakistani newspaper recently reported that the law minister, Farooq H. Naek, visited Switzerland, ostensibly with a view to exploring the implications for Mr. Zardari of acceding to the court’s demands. Tuesday’s court hearing proceeded in a conciliatory tone, contrasting with the tense, impatient mood of earlier hearings. For almost two years, the Supreme Court has ordered the government to write the letter in a continuing confrontation that culminated in the dismissal of the previous prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, in June. The court, headed by Mr. Zardari’s rival, Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, argued that nobody in Pakistan should be above the law. The government accused Justice Chaudhry of abusing judicial powers to engage in a political grudge match. The tenor of the courtroom tussle sharpened dramatically this year, alarming senior lawyers and politicians. In January, it even excited rumors of a possible military coup. But over the past month, both sides have adopted a more diplomatic approach. After the hearing on Tuesday, Justice Khosa joked that he hoped the prime minister’s court appearance would be as successful as his recent visit to China. Later, Mr. Ashraf said that he was seeking a resolution of the controversy that “upholds the honor and sanctity of the court but also the honor of the office of the president.” The developments surprised the local news media, which had widely predicted in Tuesday’s newspapers that the government would stick to its guns. At the very least, it has saved Mr. Ashraf from the threat of the contempt charges that led to his predecessor’s dismissal and bought his government more time to deal with the problem. On Tuesday, the court excused Mr. Ashraf from further appearances in court on the issue. Speaking to reporters outside the court, Qamar Zaman Kaira, the information minister, said Mr. Naek, the law minister, would draft the letter. “We do not want any confrontation between institutions. We do not want to fight with the court. We have tried to find a way to resolve the issue,” Mr. Kaira said. “The air of uncertainty will now end.” Political considerations most likely played a major role in the latest effort to end the crisis. As Mr. Zardari’s coalition government nears the end of its five-year term in March, it has become clear that, regardless of the corruption cases, it is likely to stumble on. Analysts said the prospect of the Supreme Court dismissing a second prime minister for failing to follow its orders in the case could have badly damaged its authority among the public. Mr. Kaira said that general elections would take place as scheduled after March 2013 and “not earlier.” In a separate development, bombs tore through a market in Karachi, killing at least six people in a city with a history of violent attacks, news agencies reported.