Thursday, September 20, 2012

iPhone 5: The wait is over

For the most devoted Apple aficionados, it's been a long week. But as Thursday night becomes Friday morning around the world, some of those diehards who spent hours waiting in line were being greeted with open doors at Apple stores and other retailers selling the new iPhone 5. Announced September 12, the iPhone 5 features a bigger screen, lighter and slimmer frame, faster processor and, for the first time, 4G LTE wireless connections. If a handful of tech writers were unimpressed with the specs, that didn't translate into lack of consumer interest. Apple took 2 million pre-orders for the phone in the first 24 hours they were available last week, and some analysts think it could sell more than 10 million by Monday. That first-day total was double the number of iPhone 4S pre-orders the company took last year, and an initial Friday shipping date was quickly pushed back. People who pre-order the phone now, or did so in the past few days, could be waiting more than three weeks for their phones to ship. For those who opted to get personal, the doors at Apple retail stores open at 8 a.m. local time Friday in the United States, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and the UK. The phone will roll out to 22 more countries on September 28. The most popular single smartphone since the existence of such a device, the iPhone has sold more than 244 million units around the world since then-CEO Steve Jobs unveiled it six years ago. According to research firm IDC, the iPhone and its iOS operating system make up 16.9% of the worldwide smartphone market, coming in behind the cluster of phones running the Android operating system, which account for 68.1% of the world's smartphones. The iPhone 5 is 18% thinner and 20% lighter than the current version, the iPhone 4S. It has a 4-inch screen, measured diagonally, compared with a 3.5-inch screen on previous versions of the phone. It is the same width as the iPhone 4S but taller, and the iPhone 5 is made entirely of glass and aluminum.

US spends $70,000 on Pakistan ad denouncing anti-Muslim film
The U.S. has bought $70,000 worth of air time on seven Pakistani television channels to air an ad showing President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denouncing the anti-Islamic video that has sparked violent protests in the Middle East and North Africa.In the 30-second ad that began running Thursday, Obama says, "Since our founding the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate religious beliefs of others."

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Clinton appears after Obama and says, "Let me state very clearly that the United States has absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its contents. America's commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation."The ad is subtitled in Urdu, the main Pakistani language.A U.S. seal is also displayed in the video. The comments by Obama and Clinton are from previous public statements and were not taped specifically for the ad. "It is common and traditional to have to buy air time on Pakistan TV for public service announcements," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

Enforced disappearances can't be justified under any circumstance: UN group

Pointing that no nature of national emergency could be used to justify enforced disappearances, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on Thursday pressed the government and the judiciary to fulfill their duty to thoroughly investigate the enforced disappearances and bring the perpetrators to justice. The group, addressing a press conference on concluding its 10-day trip said that there was a “declared will” of government in Pakistan to tackle issue of enforced disappearances but what it termed, “serious challenges remain.” The Working Group’s head Olivier de Frouville, and Member, Osman El-Hajj acknowledged security challenges being faced by Pakistan. However, the experts said according to the 1992 Declaration for Protection of All Persons Against Enforced Disappearances, no circumstances whatsoever, whether a threat of war, a state of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked to justify enforced disappearances. Frouville pointed out that there is acknowledgement that enforced disappearances have occurred and still occur in the country. He said during the visit, the Group received information on cases of enforced disappearances and studied the measures adopted by State to prevent and eradicate enforced disappearances, including issues related to truth, justice and reparation for the victims of enforced disappearances. “We note that cases continue to be reported to national authorities, but there are controversies both on figures and on the nature of practice of enforced disappearances,” he observed. To date, the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances still has more than 500 cases in its docket in the entire Pakistan. They added that some sources in Balochistan gave them a figure of 14000, while the government maintains the figure of missing persons is below hundred. They noted that the number of officially registered allegations may not be reflective of the real situation, rather is an indication of the existence of the phenomenon. Frouville though welcomed the role played by the judiciary to shed light on the phenomenon of enforced disappearances in Pakistan and to trace missing persons. He said the relatives of disappeared persons have right to know the truth about fate and whereabouts of their loved ones and added it is responsibility and duty of the State to thoroughly investigate all allegations of enforced disappearances and bring the perpetrators to justice. The US Expert underlined the need to reinforce the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, as well as to ensure the oversight and accountability of law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and to provide protection for victims and witnesses. Suggesting a solution, Frouville said that one important challenge that Pakistan needs to overcome is the absence of a provision qualifying enforced disappearances as an autonomous crime, and lack of subsequent reparation measures and social assistance programmes for relatives of the disappeared. The two members of the Working Group had held meetings with state authorities, civil society organisations and relatives of disappeared persons in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar during their ten day visit. However, a number of Pakistan officials refused to meet them including the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the IG FC in Balochistan. He said Working Group also welcomes the ratification by Pakistan of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and of the Convention against Torture. It calls on the government to ratify the Convention for the protection of all persons against enforced disappearances. Answering a question, he said the Group undertook its visits in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation which aims at formulating constructive recommendations. The UN Expert said the analysis of the information received during and prior to the visit will be considered in the preparation of the report which will be presented to Human Rights Council at a session in 2013.

Protests are as mindless as anti-Islam film

To say that I am upset by the copycat violent protests spreading around the Arab and Muslim world would be an understatement. I want to protest against the protesters. The mindless and criminal actions of a few in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and elsewhere, which have already led to the deaths of innocents, threaten to do a great deal of harm and seem never to make a sensible point. Like many other Muslims, I suspect, I have wrestled with the most appropriate response to that 14-minute trailer of trash produced by extremist, criminal -- yes, the "producer" apparently has a criminal record -- filmmakers in California. I have come down on the side of sanity.For sure, as a Muslim, I am offended by those who recklessly and purposely denigrate my faith and those who share my faith. Certainly, some of the protesters represent the unemployed, the abused and the just plain forgotten in Arab and Islamic states that have been ruled by autocrats enjoying the patronage of Western governments. It is also an obvious point for anyone living in this part of the world that virulent anti-Americanism is a driving force for what is happening today. U.S. policy in the region has bequeathed a fatal breakdown in trust between successive American administrations and Arabs and Muslims. An unjust and illegal Iraq war, a "war on terror" that spawned a whole new drone industry, Washington's double standards in promoting human rights in the region and its unflagging support for Israel in spite of an expanding occupation in Palestine have all contributed to that legacy. As Arab states undergo a historic transformation, this breakdown in trust is having a devastating effect as the Obama administration wrestles with the right thing to do. Arabs, with the notable exception of most Libyans, give the U.S. very little credit for what it is doing and complain, as in Syria and Bahrain, about what it is not. But absolutely none of the above should justify the violent protests sweeping the globe. Instead, the violence of the protests has undermined our legitimate pain in the eyes of billions across the globe. The protests have reinforced those who seek to portray Muslims as wide-eyed extremists and Islam as an inherently intolerant, violent faith.Worse still, they have detracted the attention of the world from the continuing slaughter in Syria. Last month was reportedly the most violent on record in all the Middle East's recent conflicts -- more so even than Iraq at the height of its civil war. Many Syrians on social media and elsewhere are asking themselves, rightfully, where are the protesters when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime continue to kill more than 150 men, women and children a day? And when his supporters continue to chant "There is no God but Bashar"? If we are not careful, these protests could encourage the world to forget the so-called Arab Spring and turn away from the struggle for dignity, justice and opportunity that has driven people to demand change. Surely, that is the hope of their biggest supporters -- a mix of former regime elements, al Qaeda offshoots, other jihadists and Salafi political parties. It is no coincidence that the protests first took root in weakened states, such as Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, which are in the early stages of democratic transitions. While not all the protesters may know it, their actions are helping those who want to derail those transitions. That is why new governments in these countries must show zero tolerance for the violent challenge posed by these protesters. As they must surely know, they are engaged in a battle for the soul of their societies. There must be no hesitation, no equivocation and no nuance in dealing with such violent aggression. In particular, President Mohamed Morsy of Egypt, an Islamist leader from the Muslim Brotherhood party, has to demonstrate the clear moral leadership that is required to steer his country to calmer waters. For many, his response to date and that of the Muslim Brotherhood has been troubling, illustrating both a lack of understanding of the United States and a desire to appease the demonstrators. It has shown a lack of confidence. Morsy must realize that he is the president of Egypt, not simply a leader of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party -- from which he actually resigned on taking office just a few months ago. The economy and international reputation of his country is suffering great damage, which he must urgently reverse. Although opinions about him are sharply divided, Morsy has the legitimacy to rally his people. He has the responsibility to insist on safeguarding the rule of law, without restricting new democratic freedoms.The protesters must realize that we cannot continue to go through this kind of turmoil every time an ill-meaning hate-peddler decides to mock our faith. The idiocy and recklessness of the people behind "Innocence of Muslims" are without question. Sadly, those who continue to protest violently against them are acting just as stupidly.

Raw Video: Deadly Pakistan Protest

Pakistan: anti-film ads feature Obama, Clinton

New advertisements on Pakistani television that show the U.S. Embassy seal are condemning an anti-Islam video that was produced in the United States and triggered protests and riots in many countries. The television ads feature clips of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during press appearances in Washington in which they condemned the video. Their words were subtitled in Urdu. A caption on the ad reads: "Paid Content." The advertisements, which appeared Thursday, end with the seal of the American Embassy in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. An embassy spokeswoman declined comment. Also Thursday, hundreds of protesters angry about the movie clashed with security officials in Islamabad.

State Department warns Americans not to travel to Pakistan

U.S. citizens should avoid travel to Pakistan, the State Department said on Thursday in a fresh warning that follows numerous protests, demonstrations and rallies in Pakistan that U.S. officials said are likely to continue. The department advised Americans to put off any non-essential travel to the country and "strongly urged" those who are already there to avoid protests and large gatherings. "The presence of al-Qaida, Taliban elements, and indigenous militant sectarian groups poses a potential danger to U.S. citizens throughout Pakistan," the State Department said in a statement.

Pakistani PM seeking spiritual advice
It is "no surprise" that Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has sought spiritual advice on political matters, said a leading daily which pointed out that neighbouring India too "evolves into one huge crystal ball" during election time. An editorial in the Dawn on Thursday said that "spiritual advice sought by our prime minister on matters presumably political should come as no surprise". "Not only is Raja Pervez Ashraf following in the footsteps of his predecessors and political contemporaries, the example of world leaders like Ronald Reagan, whose wife is known to have regularly consulted an astrologer on her husband's public activities, is also before him," it said. The daily added: "Indian politicians too are deeply influenced by the pronouncements of these gurus, and come election time, the whole country evolves into one huge crystal ball." It noted that in Pakistan leaders from Benazir Bhutto to "lesser political mortals like Imran Khan are reported to have consulted pirs and spiritual gurus on their life choices and strategies...." "Black goats, astrologers, numerologists, holy men have all figured in the lives of our leaders. "But at the end, we are left with that niggling thought: How would Pakistan have fared without the occult intervening every now and then in our national life," it wondered. Admitting that the realities of politics are harsh in Pakistan, it said: "The Machiavellian games of rivals, the ever-hovering shadow of an external player, etc don't make matters easy for the wavering politicians". "However, that uncertainty might be quelled if political leaders were to place their faith in the institutions of democracy as firmly as they do in their spiritual gurus." It went on to say that over the years, "it is institutions such as parliament and judiciary all over the world that have weathered the storm of wars, rivalries, dissent and external threats to emerge more powerful than any soothsayer". "In Pakistan, these institutions are still at a nascent stage, but believing in them would not only strengthen the pillars of state, they would also impart some measure of confidence to an insecure public," the daily added.

Pakistan Army called in for security of Diplomatic Enclave in Islamabad

Army called in for security of Diplomatic Enclave in Islamabad The step has taken after demonstrators protesting against anti Islam film tried to force their way into the diplomatic enclave in the federal capital Army has been called in for the security of the diplomatic enclave in Islamabad. The step was taken after demonstrators protesting against anti Islam film tried to force their way into the diplomatic enclave in the federal capital and clashed with police. Police used teargas and batons to try to keep demonstrators away from restricted enclave that houses government offices and embassies. The government lined up containers to cordon off the enclave. Police say most of the demonstrators are students who are trying to make their way to the American embassy‚ but police were holding them back. Protesters also set on fire police check posts near a five star hotel in Islamabad. Protest against the blasphemous film continues across the country. Students of Dow University of Engineering held a rally in Karachi against the film maker. Violent protesters in Quetta‚ set on fire a cinema house. Rallies were also taken out in Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa and FATA. Various religious‚ political‚ trade and students organisations held protest demonstrations in front of Press club and US consulate in Peshawar. PPPP organised a public rally which started from Hashtnagri and culminated at Qissa Khawani Bazaar. Addressing the rally‚ speakers strongly condemned the blasphemous movie and demanded to the government to evolve a joint strategy with other Muslim countries to raise the issue at the United Nations.

Pakistani protesters clash with police over film

Hundreds of Pakistanis angry at an anti-Islam film that denigrates the religion's prophet clashed with police in the Pakistani capital Thursday, the most violent show of anger in a day that saw smaller demonstrations in Indonesia, Iran and Afghanistan. The vulgar depiction of Islam's Prophet Muhammad in an American-made movie has angered Muslims across the world, with many taking to the streets to rally against the film. In recent days, the decision by a French satirical magazine to release cartoons crudely depicting the prophet has added to the tension. In Pakistan, a crowd of more than 1,000 people tried to make their way to the U.S. Embassy inside a guarded enclave that houses embassies and government offices. Riot police used tear gas and batons to keep stone-throwing demonstrators away from the enclave, and hundreds of shipping containers were lined up to cordon off the area. Some protesters were students affiliated with the Islamist hardline Jamaat-e-Islami party. The demonstrations are expected to grow in Pakistan on Friday, the traditional day of prayer in the Muslim world. The Pakistani government has called a national holiday for Friday so that people could come out and demonstrate peacefully against the film. That decision drew rare words of praise from the Pakistani Taliban, which is usually at war with the government. A spokesman for the militant group said it welcomed the decision but also thought the government should expel all American diplomats. Violence over the amateurish movie, which portrays the prophet as a fraud, womanizer and child molester, has left at least 30 people in seven countries dead, including the American ambassador to Libya. Two people have died in protests in Pakistan. In Indonesia, the U.S. consulate in the country's third-largest city of Medan shut its doors Thursday for a second day because of demonstrations. About 50 students from an Islamic university gathered in Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi province in Indonesia. They burned tires and forced a McDonald's restaurant to close. The door was later covered with a sign saying, "This must be closed as a symbol of our protest of the 'Innocence of Muslims' made in the U.S.," referring to the title of the film. In Iran, hundreds of students and clerics gathered outside the French embassy in Tehran to protest the publication of the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in the French weekly. Protesters chanted "Death to France" and "Down with the U.S." and burned the flags of the United States and Israel. The demonstration ended after two hours. In Kabul, a few hundred people demonstrated in the downtown area against the film, chanting ant-American slogans before dispersing peacefully.

All bilateral issues to be discussed in Hina-Clinton meet

State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland has said Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Secretary Clinton are likely to discuss a full range of bilateral issues in their forthcoming meeting while declining to comment as to how important the issue of Haqqani network will be during these discussions. “Well, I’m not going to rack and stack the issues. They’re all important, but you know that we’ve been very intensively focused on our concerns about the Haqqani network. We’ve been continuing to encourage further squeezing by the Government of Pakistan on the Haqqani network, and we have now made a full designation, as the Secretary announced a week ago”, she said while referring to the designation of Haqqani network as a foreign terrorist organization. The spokesperson, however, acknowledged that the overall security cooperation was coming back to normal after a tense period. “I’m expecting that the full range of issues we have with Pakistan – bilateral, regional, etc – will be covered, including our continuing effort to get our counterterrorism activities back up and running fully”, she maintained. When asked about Ambassador Grossman’ s recent visit to Pakistan, she said that he covered the full range of issues in his meetings with Pakistani leadership and reported the same to Secretary Clinton. “We’ll try to build on that conversation going forward. Let me just remind that the Secretary and Foreign Minister Khar have had a very strong relationship ever since Foreign Minister Khar took office”, she recalled.On the expectations from the next round of meetings of both dignitaries, she said that this was an effort to revive the relationship. “They have both rolled up their sleeves to try to stabilize and strengthen the relationship, and I think this is a good opportunity, obviously, for them to take stock of where we are and continue to try to move forward”, she stressed. She also declined to offer any details whether there was any plan in the pipeline to revive Pak-US strategic dialogue on the sidelines of the forthcoming UN General Assembly session. When asked about the closure of US Consulates in Pakistan after protests broke out in response to a religiously sensitive video targeting Muslims, she conceded that the US Consulates General in Lahore, Karachi, and Peshawar were closed Tuesday for public services. “But the Embassy in Islamabad is open, although we suspended visa services. Again, we do that to keep crowds down around the mission”, she added. “We did see protests throughout the country, and despite violence in some cities, they have now been dispersed. All of our official American personnel in Pakistan are safe and accounted for. And we are continuing to work with the Government of Pakistan on the security”, the spokesman said adding that they were not concerned about the security as such.

Pakistan: Medicine shortage due to ephedrine scam

This winter, the country would have to brace itself for shortages in cold and cough medications as the delay in allocation of ephedrine has hit the manufacturing side. The federal government on Wednesday told Dawn that the lingering high-profile ephedrine scam had affected the timely quota allocation of the drug to local and multinational companies. The ephedrine scam is one of the biggest political scandals in recent times and involves a son of former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and then federal health minister Makhdoom Shahbuddin. “The government has finally released the much-needed ephedrine quota to national and multinational companies, so they can manufacture the necessary medications to cure winter illnesses,” a senior ranking official who was part of the meeting on the issue told Dawn. According to the official, the ephedrine quota was released after scrutiny by the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF). “Earlier, the Ministry of Regulations and Services would look after quotas, but now the ANF is issuing the quota,” said Federal Minister Firdaus Ashiq Awan. The minister observed: “The companies were using the ephedrine quota before as well but with the delay in allocations, the entire chain of production has been affected. Import of material will take at least two to three months, and the shortage of flu and cough medications is a concern for us.” Minister Awan was of the view that ideally the ephedrine quota should have been issued in January this year to give companies time to meet the production of deadlines. An industry expert said that ephedrine is a controlled chemical manufactured with the approval of the government, and is used in popularly prescribed brands such as Coughcole, Triaminic, Panadol, Sincos, Arenic and Telfast during winter. When enquired about the quantity of ephedrine released by the government, the expert replied: “I have no clue about the quantity released to the companies.” Meanwhile, when Dawn contacted ANF spokesman Col Akhtar Abbas, he said: “The quota has been issued as per the approval of a committee headed by the secretary of the Ministry of Narcotics Control.” The members of the committee working for allocation of ephedrine quota are none other than representative of director-general of the ANF, joint secretary of the Ministry of Narcotics Control, joint secretary of Regulations and Services Division, and the chief executive officer of the Drug Regulatory Agency of Pakistan (DRAP). “This time the quota has been allocated on merit after complete scrutiny by the ANF. Previously, the director general health of the defunct health ministry would allocate the quota without any monitoring which led to ephedrine scam,” he maintained. The spokesman claimed that ANF’s job is to only allocate the quota since the head of the DRAP is the technical advisor to the committee. “Our job is to scrutinise quota allocation and have complete observations as to how much and who is using it. The DRAP’s job is to give us a list of companies to whom we issued ephedrine on merit,” said Col Abbas.

Inspectors Certified Pakistani Factory as Safe Before Disaster

A prominent factory monitoring group heavily financed by industry gave a clean bill of health to a Pakistani apparel plant last month, just weeks before a fire engulfed the premises and killed nearly 300 workers, many of them trapped behind locked exit doors.In August, two inspectors who visited the factory, Ali Enterprises in Karachi, to examine working conditions gave it a prestigious SA8000 certification, meaning it had met international standards in nine areas, including health and safety, child labor and minimum wages. The two inspectors were working on behalf of Social Accountability International, a nonprofit monitoring group based in New York that obtains much of its financing from corporations and relies on 21 affiliates around the world to do most of its inspections. Weeks later, a fire swept the plant on Sept. 12, trapping hundreds of workers in a building with barred windows and just one open exit, resulting in one of the worst industrial disasters in history — one that killed nearly twice as many workers as the landmark Triangle shirtwaist factory fire of 1911 in New York. The Karachi tragedy is a huge embarrassment to the factory monitoring system, in which many Western garment and electronics companies rely on auditing groups to provide a coveted seal of approval to their low-cost suppliers in the developing world. As the blaze spread — much as the Triangle fire did a century earlier — some workers were forced to leap from upper-floor windows, suffering serious injuries; many more died of smoke inhalation and from searing temperatures inside the building. A German discount textile chain has said its jeans were being manufactured in the plant at the time. The calamity has led to bitter recriminations in Pakistan, where textile exports play a vital role in a faltering economy. For international rights campaigners, the fact that the factory had been certified by a respected Western organization made clear the failings of a controversial 15-year-old industry initiative. “The whole system is flawed,” said Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, a monitoring group based in Washington that is financed by American universities. “This demonstrates, more clearly than ever, that corporate-funded monitoring systems like S.A.I. cannot and will not protect workers.” Social Accountability International said it had suspended work in Pakistan with the RINA Group, an Italian company that carried out the Ali Enterprises audit on its behalf. It added that it was engaged in a broad review of its entire certification process. “We’re trying to find out what went wrong,” Eileen Kohl Kaufman, executive director of Social Accountability International, said in an interview. “It’s unimaginably horrible. The only thing we can hope for is clear answers so as to show how to take preventive action.” The three owners of the Ali Enterprises factory, who fled Karachi in the hours after the fire broke out, appeared this week at a courthouse in Larkana, 200 miles to the northeast. The State Bank of Pakistan has frozen the owners’ bank accounts, which hold more than $5 million, according to news media reports. Their passports have been confiscated, and they may face criminal charges. On Monday, a two-person government commission of inquiry started investigating the circumstances around the fire. It has already uncovered evidence of gross failings in Pakistan’s regulatory system, which is riddled with corruption, political interference and poor management. During a hearing on Tuesday, electrical safety inspectors struggled to define the rules and regulations of their own department. One said they had formally stopped doing factory inspections in 2003. Records showed that the Ali Enterprises factory had officially registered just 250 workers even though in reality as many as 1,000 people worked there, said Mirza Ikhtiar Baig, senior adviser on textiles to the prime minister. “There is an urgent need to review our safety features,” he said. But the disaster has also revived scrutiny of the procurement policies of the Western companies that have their clothes made in factories like Ali Enterprises. In a statement about the fire, Social Accountability International said, “The enormity of this tragedy points to endemic issues in the apparel industry for decent working conditions.” The SA8000 certification, which was begun in 1997, is central to the work of Social Accountability International, whose stated mission is “to advance the human rights of workers around the world,” and which is supported by companies like Gap; Gucci, in Italy; and Groupe Carrefour, in France, as well as representatives of some labor rights groups. Based on International Labor Organization and United Nations standards, the group says on its Web site that the certification has “improved the lives of over 1.8 million workers in over 3,000 factories, across 65 countries and 66 industrial sectors.” But Richard M. Locke, a professor of political science at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management who has written extensively about monitoring, said the Ali Enterprises fire suggested that such claims were exaggerated.“Even after a decade or more of such private monitoring efforts, these programs — no matter how well funded or designed or how well trained their auditors are — simply do not in and of themselves produce sustained and significant improvements in labor standards in most supply chain factories,” Professor Locke said. The RINA Group, which carried out the Ali Enterprises audit, has performed 540 factory certifications for Social Accountability International, according to the the international organization’s Web site, including nearly 100 in Pakistan. Although Ali Enterprises was a well-established textiles plant, largely in the supply of denim products, so far just one of its Western customers has come forward publicly: the German textile discount chain KiK, which operates 3,200 stores in Germany, Austria and six Eastern European countries. KiK — an acronym for Kunde ist König, which means the customer is king — has previously faced criticism for its supply-chain practices in Bangladesh. In an e-mail, a company spokeswoman told European labor rights activists that it had obtained three independent audits of Ali Enterprises. The factory failed to meet fire safety standards during a 2007 check, but those problems were remedied by the time of a subsequent check in December 2011, she said. KiK said it had started a relief fund for the families of the dead and injured workers in conjunction with other Western producers that use the plant. But the identities of those producers remain a mystery. One reporter found a pair of jeans bearing the Diesel brand on the factory’s premises after the fire, but Diesel has denied any links to the plant. In recent years, many factory monitors have come under criticism. For instance, various audits of Foxconn, which assembles iPhones and iPads for Apple in China, have been heavily criticized for failing to stop child labor, illegal amounts of overtime and dangerous conditions. Ms. Kaufman of Social Accountability International said the two inspectors spent four days at the Karachi plant. She noted that because this was an initial audit for certification, the plant’s managers had been warned of the visit. She said future inspections would have been without advance notice. Tessel Pauli, coordinator for the Clean Clothes Campaign, a European antisweatshop group, criticized the audit process. “Workers are often told what to tell the auditor,” she said. “The inspections are announced, and there is time to do things like open exit doors that other times are locked.” After the Ali Enterprises fire, some surviving workers said they had been warned of a visit by inspectors and coached to lie about their working conditions, under threat of dismissal.

Rehman Malik once again among disqualified MPs

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that members of the parliament (MPs) holding dual nationalities were not eligible to hold any public office and declared all such lawmakers as disqualified. A three-member bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry announced the verdict. The bench announced that 11 MPs including Senator Rehman Malik, PML-N MNA Muhammad Jamil Malik, PPP MPA Dr Amna Buttar, MNA Zahid Iqbal, MNA Farah Naz Ispahani, MPA Muhammad Akhlaq and MPA Dr Ahmad Ali Shah have been found ineligible from being members of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) and Provincial Assemblies because of their disqualification under Article 63(1)(c) of the Constitution. All the Members of the Parliament/Provincial Assemblies noted above had made false declarations before the Election Commission while filing their nomination papers and as such appear to be guilty of corrupt practice in terms, the bench stated. The court remarked that Rehman Malik is directed to refund all monetary benefits drawn by him upto 11.7.2012 for the period during which he occupied the public office in the same manner as directed in the case of other Parliamentarians noted above. The Election Commission was directed to initiate legal proceedings against the lawmakers who had violated their oaths. The apex court directed the ECP to examine the cases of the Parliamentarians and the members of Provincial Assemblies, individually, by obtaining fresh declaration on oath from all of them.

New sacrilegious cartoons: France braces for backlash

The Express Tribune
A French magazine added fuel to the fire on Wednesday by publishing sacrilegious cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as France stepped up security at its embassies and banned demonstrations on its own soil. The French government, which had urged the satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo, not to print the cartoons, said it was shutting embassies and schools in 20 countries as a precaution on Friday, fearing protests after Friday prayers. However, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said anyone offended by the cartoons could take the matter to the courts but made it clear there would be no action against the weekly. “We are in a country where freedom of expression is guaranteed, including the freedom to caricature,” he said. Leaders of the Muslim community in France – the largest in western Europe – said an appeal for calm would be read out in mosques across the country on Friday but also condemned the magazine for publishing ‘insulting’ images. The Vatican’s official daily Osservatore Romano said that the images could throw ‘fuel on the fire’. Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby called the caricatures outrageous but said those who were offended by them should “use peaceful means to express their firm rejection.” Similarly, Tunisia’s ruling religious party, Ennahda, condemned what it called an act of “aggression” against the Prophet (PBUH) but urged Muslims not to fall into a trap intended to “derail the Arab Spring and turn it into a conflict with the West”. Charlie Hebdo’s defence On the other hand, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius criticised the publication of the cartoons as a provocation. “We saw what happened last week in Libya and in other countries such as Afghanistan,” Fabius told a regular news conference. “We have to call on all to behave responsibly.” But Charlie Hebdo’s editor, Stephane Charbonnier rejected the criticism. “We have the impression that it’s officially allowed for Charlie Hebdo to attack the Catholic far-right but we cannot poke fun at fundamental Islamists,” he said. “It shows the climate. Everyone is driven by fear, and that is exactly what this small handful of extremists who do not represent anyone want: to make everyone afraid, to shut us all in a cave,” he told Reuters. YouTube extends film curb to Saudi Arabia Meanwhile, YouTube said on Wednesday it extended its restrictions on a video sparking unrest in the Islamic world to Saudi Arabia, saying it is among countries where the film is considered illegal. YouTube parent Google said in a statement that the “Innocence of Muslims” film would be restricted “in countries where it is considered illegal by local authorities; that is, to date, India, Indonesia. Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.” YouTube last week restricted access to the film in Egypt and Libya after unrest in those countries, and has been adding countries to the list. Some others, including Pakistan and Sudan, have blocked access themselves. Wednesday’s announcement came a day after Saudi Arabia threatened to block YouTube in the kingdom if Google did not respond to a request to deny access to the video.

FATA Secretariat to develop energy policy
Additional Chief Secretary (ACS) FATA Dr. Tashfeen Khan said FATA Secretariat was intending to develop energy policy for FATA which would be based on utilising alternate sources like solar penals and wind mills etc. He said this while approving scheme of installation of solar street lights in Khar, Bajaur Agency under TARUCCI project. ACS FATA also approved the scheme to revamp existing Government Technical Institutes in FATA. He emphasised the need for synchronising projects/schemes with master plans and strategies; which ought to be developed for every major and wide-ranging infrastructural initiative such as revamping of institutes. In addition to ACS FATA Dr. Tashfeen Khan, Deputy Secretary SAFRON Zahid Naeem Saddiqi, Chief Devolution & Area Development P&D Syed Farooq Ahmad, Secretary L&O FATA Secretariat Nasir Jamal, Secretary AI&C FATA Secretariat Munir Azam, Secretary FIFA Arshid Munir, Secretarity Social Sector Dr. Aftab Akbar Durrani, Secretary Production Farrukh Sair, Chief Economist Yousaf Rahim, DG Monitoring Sajjad Ahmad and Directors of the FATA directorates/departments were also present in the meeting. Development schemes amounting to Rs3085.997 million were approved with advice for few schemes to review the costs. Schemes fulfilling anti-polio initiatives of FATA Secretariat; previously pledged and committed to be materialised, were given a go-ahead. These approved schemes would ensure salary to 174 field officers (rationing anti-polio drops) and purchase of 100 solar refrigerators (for storing vaccines) in addition to other necessities. Consent was also granted to infrastructure schemes in South Waziristan Agency, valuing Rs.1022.3 million, constituting widening & improvement of subsections of Wana Shakai, Makeen Road, SWA FATA and construction of flood protection bund and new irrigation channels (600 meters). Similarly, schemes to widen & improve sub sections of Bannu-Miramshah, Ghulam Khan Road, NWA FATA, with the cost of Rs1255.4 million, was endorsed for implementation. On the occasion, Secretary FIFA Arshid Munir briefed ACS FATA about the natural resources available in FATA and the need for developing a legal and financial institutional framework for the people of FATA to utilise and benefit from these resources. A proposal for the establishment of Regional Investment Bank in FATA was approved by the ACS FATA.

UAE visa restrictions

The UAE has announced that visitors from South Asian countries that export labour to the country will from now on require a university degree to get a tourist visa. The UAE has imposed this restriction in order to fight an illegal influx of people who arrive on tourist visas and then stay on to seek employment. Categories of blue-collar workers from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Philippines affected by the new rule include electricians, pipe fitters, masons, farmers, drivers, tailors and cleaners. These categories comprise the core of labour immigration into the Gulf state. A UAE official explained that the measure would reduce the risk that individuals engaged in organised crime or the trafficking of persons could gain entry to the country. Tourist visas are usually arranged through hotels, airlines or travel agents. Tourism has grown rapidly in the UAE, especially the shopping paradise called Dubai, where the number of tourists increased to 9.3 million in 2011, up 10 percent on the previous year, despite the economic woes that the Gulf states suffered along with much of the rest of the world as a result of the global economic recession. Tourism aside, the UAE hosts millions of foreign workers, mostly from South Asian countries. Western expatriates on the other hand have dwindled in the aftermath of the recession. Nevertheless, the expatriate population dominates the UAE, comprising 8.2 million or 88.53 percent of the total population in 2010. When the UAE first emerged onto the world stage in the 1970s, the building boom drew in millions of construction and ancillary trades workers. Service providers followed in their wake. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto initiated the policy of loosening the procedure for obtaining a passport and finding employment in the booming Gulf. While the UAE benefitted from this influx of workers, Pakistan soon found itself short on skilled tradesmen. The expatriate workers’ remittances bolstered Pakistan’s balance of payments and brought relative prosperity to millions of families back home. Of course those good times are long gone, but even the residual opportunities in the Gulf are a tempting prize for Pakistani and South Asian workers. The availability of work visas naturally decreased as the economic boom slowed and then went into decline, if not crisis. The UAE’s latest announcement indicates a growing problem of those seeking employment gaining entry on tourist visas and then staying on illegally to search for jobs. With the latest restrictions, the apprehension is that just as happened with so many elected representatives when Musharraf’s regime imposed the condition of a graduate degree to run for elections, and which gave rise to a veritable industry churning out fake degrees, this roadblock to entry to the UAE may be circumvented by some unscrupulous elements through fake degrees. If the UAE’s checks reveal any such occurrence, it will sully the name of Pakistan and bring further ignominy on our heads.

Karachi: A new target

KARACHI was already on edge before Tuesday’s twin bombings struck a predominantly Dawoodi Bohra neighbourhood in the North Nazimabad area. The city was in the grip of protests against an anti-Islam film and targeted killings continued unabated. Elsewhere, in Balochistan’s Mastung district — the same area where pilgrims were pulled out of a bus and killed last year — a car bomb targeted a bus carrying Shia pilgrims returning from Iran. However, in the Karachi killing, the perpetrators targeted, perhaps for the first time, the Bohras, a peaceful, industrious, mercantile community. The perpetrators knew what they were doing: the site of the blasts is close to the city’s main Bohra mosque, while community members usually gather in the bustling commercial-cum-residential area after evening prayers, which is when the bombings occurred. The blasts came only a day after Mufaddal Bhaisaheb, son and designated successor of the current Bohra leader, was in the metropolis. Last month, a bomb had been discovered and defused in the same spot. The bombings add a new dimension to the bloodshed, pulling the apolitical Bohra community into the vortex of violence. The authorities still need to confirm whether the attack was purely sectarian in nature, or if it was motivated by the desire to extract protection money from the community. All angles need to be examined. Nevertheless, what the blasts prove beyond any doubt is that nobody is safe in Karachi: if a peaceful community such as the Bohras can be targeted, anyone is vulnerable. Aside from spreading fear, such attacks also undermine the city’s economy. The Bohras constitute one of the city’s oldest and more financially stable business communities. But if people’s lives, properties and businesses are not safe from terrorist violence, who will want to invest in Karachi? Even as other motivations for the killing are investigated, police have pointed to the possible involvement of a faction of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi believed to be one of the most active militant groups in Karachi, while its acts of terror in Balochistan are already established. Hence, instead of making half-hearted claims about investigating the attacks, the state needs to crush Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, as the outfit is fast becoming the primary source of terrorism in this country. Such action is needed against all terrorist groups as there are reports that members of smaller sects within Islam in Karachi are also being threatened. By not taking decisive steps to curb militancy so far, the security establishment has only facilitated the killers. Until the extremists’ infrastructure is dismantled and their operatives and planners tried and punished, there is little chance of the bloodshed abating.

Pakistan: Belated but objective decision

Although the decision Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf announced before the Supreme Court on Tuesday is belated, the commitment given to the country’s apex court that the government will write the letter to Swiss authorities is a welcome move. This letter would revoke the previous letter in which the government had rescinded its claim on money in some Swiss bank accounts. The common belief is that the letter can cause the authorities in that country to re-open the money laundering case against President Asif Ali Zardari. It appears to be the best course, the government could take to avoid a host of complexities, including a conflict between state institutions. As Raja assured the SC that his government would withdraw the letter which the former attorney-general Malik Mohammad Qayyum had written to Switzerland judicial authorities in 2007 about the fall-out of the National Reconciliation Order (NRO) that gave blanket immunity to the commission of offences by some 8,000 persons, including President Zardrari, other politicians, bureaucrats and well-to-do individuals, it means that Swiss courts can now take up the case involving the president. As a consequence of the assurance, the SC adjourned the case of show-cause notice issued against the prime minister on contempt of court charges till Sept 25th with the concession that prime minister is exempted from personal appearance. The PM nominated Law Minister Farooq.H.Naek to appear on his behalf in the court and submit the draft of the much talked about letter. Whether the draft meets the approval of the Court is yet to be seen, but the government has succeeded in buying time that it wanted. The stalemate between the government and court was jamming the activities of other institutions in the country. Some call the government move a tactical retreat and some say the Raja government has taken a U-turn from its earlier stance. Both the notions seem well-founded but the former seems more plausible. However, the government delayed the decision to write the letter by several months and as a result the former Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Galani stood disqualified and had to go home. He not only lost the office of the country’s chief executive but also faces a bleak political future after his disqualification for 5 years. Most probably the government gave an afterthought to its earlier stance with next parliamentary elections in sight. It did not want to enter the electioneering process with the stigma of being a party of contemnors; the opposition would have had an opportunity to exploit the situation. The government also appears mindful of the fact that the SC case may linger on for months and the caretaker administration, that seems would be put in place, at the most, by the end of this year, might not stick to the PPP government’s stance of not writing to Swiss authorities. Nevertheless, the government’s allies in the coalition may receive the new development as a sorry affair only because they were not taken on board. But the Awami National Party may be angrier with the government than the other allies, including the PML-Q and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, which have so far remained unclear in their mind, as to what the government’s response to the SC insistence should be like. Even otherwise, prima facie on the political horizon, most of the coalition allies may not for sure carry on with the Pakistan People’s Party when the next general elections are held. No doubt, Tuesday’s development is a step forward and the government must be thinking in terms of utilizing the time it has bought to concentrate on problems facing the nation and try to solve these so that it can face the voters with a cleaner slate. For example, the government has to give its attention to the worsening economic situation by minimizing the impact of power load-shedding and reforming the tax structure to rope in all who have the ability to pay taxes. Above all, this is a rare opportunity. Our first democratically elected government is just a stone throw away from handing over the reigns of the government to another democratically elected administration. This is the tradition which we have to set, and have been unable to, since the creation of this country. In fact the PPP government must be eying this opportunity which can be a momentous distinction any political party could achieve in the present circumstances.

Zardari pays tribute to Mir Murtaza Bhutto

President and Co-Chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Asif Ali Zardari Wednesday said that Mir Murtaza Bhutto
Shaheed endured the rigors of exile, the assassination of his father and the tribulations of life but never gave up his opposition to the dictatorship. President said this in a message on the 16th death anniversary of Mir Murtaza Bhutto on Thursday. “The PPP has always believed that Mir Murtaza was gunned down on September 20 in 1996 in a conspiracy to overthrow the PPP government. Mir Murtaza was a man of courage who lived a turbulent life and would be remembered for tenaciously fighting dictatorship”, he said in his message. He also prayed for eternal rest to the soul of Mir Murtaza and a high place in heaven for his and the souls of those killed with him. “May Allah grant patience to their heirs to bear this heavy loss”, he maintained.He said that the killers of Mir Murtaza would never escape retribution and will be punished.