Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Balochistan: Alarming Increase in the Killing of Journalists

The Baloch Hal
The International Federation of Journalists (I.F.J.) and its affiliate Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (P.F.U.J.) have strongly condemned the murder of television journalist Abdul Haq Baloch on September 29 in Khuzdar District. Journalists had been receiving threats from unknown sources and were being targeted with impunity, according to the P.F.U.J. “We condemn brutal killing of Abdul Haq in what appears to be a targeted attack, and extend our condolences to his family and colleagues. We also join the P.F.U.J. in calling for an immediate investigation into his brutal killing,” I.F.J. Asia Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said. Haq is survived by his wife and two sons. Pakistan is ranked as the world’s most dangerous country to work as a journalist, and at least five journalists have been killed in Khuzdar alone in the last few years. The I.F.J. said there had been an alarming increase in the targeted killing of journalists in Balochistan in particular, in recent years.

Turkey's Erdogan unleashing war dogs that may return and bite Turkey

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyeb Erdogan is ‘unleashing dogs’ by his aggressive stance against Syria but these ‘dogs’ may return and bite Turkey from behind, an analyst says. “When you unleash the dogs of war you never know if you or your enemy is going to be bitten. And I think what Mr. Erdogan is doing is unleashing dogs that may come back to bite him in the behind,” Ken Stone from Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War told Press TV in an exclusive interview on Monday. Stone added that Erdogan is participating in a war crime against the national sovereignty of Syria and the Charter of the United Nations. “He is participating in a war crime. A crime against the national sovereignty of Syria; a crime against the United Nations Charter… and he should stop at once supporting the insurgency in Syria, if not for his own country then he should do it on behalf of international law and justice,” he said The Turkish premier is providing arms, equipments and bases to insurgents and encouraging and arming refugees, who have fled the fighting in Syria to go back into Syria and fight against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, he said. Erdogan is already enmeshed with Kurdish insurgency of his own and his interference in the affairs of a sovereign country like Syria does undermine the stability of his country, stone added. The Turkish premier declared on Sunday that Ankara will stand firm by foreign-backed insurgents fighting the Syrian government and will keep providing them logistical support. Western countries, including the United States, Britain, France and Canada are undermining the UN peace plan to resolve the crisis in Syria through inserting armed mercenaries into Syria," he opined. “What they (Western countries) need to do is stop the insurgency and start working towards the implementation of the plan through peaceful dialogue, diplomacy and negotiation,” Stone went on to say. Stone touched upon the West’s “hypocrisy and double standards”, saying “In the West they talk about humanitarian intervention, but they are selective about where they want to intervene and they want to intervene in Syria.” “These countries need to start abiding by international law and they need to help implement the United Nations six point peace plan,” he concluded. Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011. Damascus says outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorists are the driving factor behind the unrest and deadly violence while the opposition accuses the security forces of being behind the killings. The Syrian government says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the armed militants are foreign nationals, mostly from Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan.

Bahrain arrests five medics after losing appeal bid

The masked men threw a black cloth bag over his head and led him from his wife and children to an interrogation room at Bahrain International Airport in March 2011. Dr. Ghassan Dhaif didn’t know what was happening. The men, he said in a first-hand account published on the Doctors in Chains website, beat him in the face, chest and legs. He screamed for them to stop. “I asked them about reason for detention and they replied you will know when you die,” he wrote. “I was screaming from pain and I kept shouting I will die but they showed no mercy.” Dhaif and at least four other medics were arrested Tuesday after a Bahraini court rejected their appeal to overturn a court decision that would send them to jail for crimes they never committed. The medics were part of a group of 20 doctors and nurses who worked at Salmaniya Medical Complex in the Bahraini capital of Manama during the Arab uprising against the kingdom's ruling Sunni dynasty in February 2011. Many of the medics endured five months of torture for their alleged role in protests that culminated with convictions in September last year. The nine medics who appealed the convictions were released soon after the verdict and earlier this year had their sentences reduced, some from 15 years to five years. However, the court decided Monday they wouldn’t escape jail time, leading to an international outcry. READ MORE: Bahrain doctor sentenced for aiding protesters goes on hunger strike In the hours after their arrests, international human rights groups lashed out at the Bahraini government, specifically King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah, and demanded the doctors be released. The fact the medics were arrested shows the Bahraini government isn’t committed to delivering “true justice for victims of human rights violations,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa deputy program director. “They have been jailed solely for peacefully exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly and therefore they should be immediately and unconditionally released.” In a speech to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, set up months after the protests to offer recommendations to prevent a reoccurrence in the future, last November, Al Khalifah said his government would amend laws to give more protection to “the valuable right of free speech” and to expand the definition of torture to put Bahraini laws “in full conformity with international human rights standards.” However, rights groups say the arrest of the medics proves the government isn’t ready to move forward with protecting human rights. READ MORE: Bahrain convicts nine medics of protest links; nine others freed In pre-dawn raids, at least five of nine medics who appealed the convictions were taken back into custody after being out on bail since September 2011 fighting the decision. The Associated Press reports two medics are on the run and Amnesty International wrote on its website that a sixth medic had been arrested. The sentences they face range from six months to five years. Two other medics, Ahmed Almushatat and Hassan Matooq, have been in prison serving two- and three-year sentences, respectively, since 2011. Ahmed Sameer Alhaddad, spokesperson for European Bahraini Organization for Human Rights, told the Star the medics were doing their “first duty” as doctors by helping injured protesters, and the government has done little to improve the human rights situation in the Middle Eastern country. “The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, the official panel which studied last year's uprisings, rejected many of the government's claims as no evidence showed that any of them used or advocated violence,” Alhaddad wrote in an email. The arrest of the doctors is a systematic attack on the health care system in Bahrain, according to the deputy director of Physicians for Human Rights. “How long will it take for the Bahraini regime to recognize that its stated commitment to true justice and political reform rings hollow as long as it continues to imprison medical professionals who were simply carrying out their ethical duties to treat all injured people?” Richard Sollom wrote in an issued statement.

How Karzai Could Make Himself a Hero

EVERY four years Americans are reminded that presidential politics is raw, nasty and rough-and-tumble. We yearn for the time to pass quickly, for the votes to be cast, for the sniping to end, for life to return to normal. For Afghans, things are starkly and sadly different. During my latest visit to Afghanistan, a few weeks ago, I spoke with government officials, tribal leaders, intellectuals and ordinary citizens. Nearly all worried that too little time remained to properly prepare for a presidential election by the spring of 2014, and they feared that if the election is seen as illegitimate, it could start a civil war. Their fears are rooted in Afghanistan’s history, and they make sense today. Afghanistan is still a fractured country, divided principally among four main ethnic groups, each of which speaks a different language; in addition, it is split among urban and rural interests, modernizing and traditional attitudes, and various political groups that churn these differences. President Hamid Karzai was re-elected in a flawed election in 2009, as was the current Parliament in 2010. A peaceful, democratic transfer of power would be a first for a modern Afghan chief executive: six were deposed between 1973 and 1992, and of those, five were killed. Yet there are reasons to hope for a viable election, if election preparations accelerate immediately. Despite the significant electoral fraud in past elections, Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission is gaining experience and showing increasing competence. With assistance from the international community, and if politicians allow it to do its job, it can do the technical work required to deliver fair elections. But only one politician can truly assure the commission’s independence and success: Hamid Karzai. He is a courageous man with whom I have met several times, although not on this last trip. He cannot seek re-election, and so he stands in a perfect position now to secure his place in Afghan history by insuring that future elections will be more fair and credible than past ones have been. The decisions Mr. Karzai makes now, including his appointments of electoral commissioners and his deference to the commission’s work, will be the last and truest test of his statesmanship. As a politician and a citizen, he will have every right to campaign for his preferred candidate. But as the country’s chief executive, he has a duty to act now to ensure a fair election whose results are broadly accepted. So he should consult with opposition figures on the naming of the next electoral commissioners, and appoint a commission that is widely perceived to be balanced and impartial. That would show an early and decisive commitment to a truly democratic election. As for the United States, its current policy is, correctly, to insist on a fair electoral process without taking sides in the contest. But that goal must be pursued more urgently. The Afghans I spoke to felt strongly that the United States should already be pressing the government and the international community for a final plan for fair elections; it should also provide the necessary support to guarantee its execution. The Afghans I spoke to acknowledged that strong American pressure might be denounced as interference with Afghanistan’s sovereign rights. But for the vast majority of Afghans, they argued, anything less than forceful, visible American leadership would be viewed as tacit United States support for an electoral process that gives unfair advantages to some ethnic groups or individuals. “Existential stakes trump niceties,” said one Afghan political activist, noting that the United States and its allies are currently responsible for the major part of Afghanistan’s security and economy. The options facing Afghanistan and its allies are stark. Unless a credible election legitimizes a successor to Mr. Karzai, Afghanistan’s fragile political order will most likely implode, followed by the disintegration of its security forces, a renewal of harsh civil war and the resurgence of Taliban forces. These threats explain why both the Strategic Partnership Agreement signed by the Afghan and United States governments in May and the Mutual Accountability Framework agreed upon by Afghanistan and numerous donors in Tokyo in July made clear that future aid for Afghanistan will depend upon successful elections and improved democratic governance. Under those agreements, rigging the elections or failing to hold them would almost certainly lead to sharp reductions in foreign aid, which could in turn wreak havoc with Afghanistan’s economy and add to political instability and armed conflict. A great deal of technical work will have to be done, in not much time, to correct serious problems with the voter registry and to assure both security and a level political playing field. Mostly, what Afghans need now is forceful leadership from their president to let them fairly choose his successor. Given Afghanistan’s history, such an achievement would be heroic. Mr. Karzai should be that hero.

U.S. Abandoning Hopes for Taliban Peace Deal

With the surge of American troops over and the Taliban still a potent threat, American generals and civilian officials acknowledge that they have all but written off what was once one of the cornerstones of their strategy to end the war here: battering the Taliban into a peace deal. The once ambitious American plans for ending the war are now being replaced by the far more modest goal of setting the stage for the Afghans to work out a deal among themselves in the years after most Western forces depart, and to ensure Pakistan is on board with any eventual settlement. Military and diplomatic officials here and in Washington said that despite attempts to engage directly with Taliban leaders this year, they now expect that any significant progress will come only after 2014, once the bulk of NATO troops have left. “I don’t see it happening in the next couple years,” said a senior coalition officer. He and a number of other officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the effort to open talks. “It’s a very resilient enemy, and I’m not going to tell you it’s not,” the officer said. “It will be a constant battle, and it will be for years.” The failure to broker meaningful talks with the Taliban underscores the fragility of the gains claimed during the surge of American troops ordered by President Obama in 2009. The 30,000 extra troops won back territory held by the Taliban, but by nearly all estimates failed to deal a crippling blow. Critics of the Obama administration say the United States also weakened its own hand by agreeing to the 2014 deadline for its own involvement in combat operations, voluntarily ceding the prize the Taliban has been seeking for over a decade. The Obama administration defends the deadline as crucial to persuading the Afghan government and military to assume full responsibility for the country, and politically necessary for Americans weary of what has already become the country’s longest war. Among America’s commanding generals here, from Stanley A. McChrystal and David H. Petraeus to today’s John R. Allen, it has been an oft-repeated mantra that the United States is not going to kill its way out of Afghanistan. They said that the Afghanistan war, like most insurgencies, could only end with a negotiation. Now American officials say they have reduced their goals further — to patiently laying the groundwork for eventual peace talks after they leave. American officials say they hope that the Taliban will find the Afghan Army a more formidable adversary than they expect and be compelled, in the years after NATO withdraws, to come to terms with what they now dismiss as a “puppet” government. The United States has not given up on talks before that time. It agreed last month to set up a committee with Pakistan that would vet potential new Taliban interlocutors, and the Obama administration is considering whether to revive a proposed prisoner swap with the insurgents that would, officials hope, reopen preliminary discussions that collapsed in March, current and former American officials said. Those are both seen as long-term efforts, however. With the end of this year’s fighting season, the Taliban have weathered the biggest push the American-led coalition is going to make against them. A third of all American forces left by this month, and more of the 68,000 remaining may leave next year, with the goal that only a residual force of trainers and special operations troops will remain by the end of 2014. Bringing Pakistan into the search for Taliban contacts is also an uncertain strategy, American officials said. The details of the new vetting committee have yet to be worked out, and “if we are depending on Pakistan, it comes with an asterisk,” one of the officials said. “We never know whether they will see it through.” The American shift toward a more peripheral role in peace efforts represents another retreat from Washington’s once broad designs for Afghanistan, where the surge, along with a sharp escalation of nighttime raids by Special Operations Forces against Taliban field commanders, were partly aimed at forcing the Taliban into negotiations, making a Western withdrawal more feasible. For a brief moment, the strategy appeared to be working: preliminary talks, painstakingly set up throughout 2011, opened early this year in Qatar, in the Persian Gulf. The effort fell apart when the Obama administration, faced with bipartisan opposition in Washington, could not make good on a proposed prisoner swap, in which five Taliban leaders held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, would have been exchanged for the sole American soldier held by the insurgents, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. The trade was to be an initial confidence-building measure that would lead to more serious talks. If it is revived by the Obama administration, it would come after the presidential election, most likely leaving too little time to reach a deal before 2014, some current and former American officials said. In Washington, “the tone of the whole discussion has shifted to a less U.S.-led approach and toward a more Afghan-led approach, but one that will be over a longer term,” said Shamila N. Chaudhary, a South Asia analyst at the Eurasia Group who served as the director for Pakistan and Afghanistan at the National Security Council. The Americans still hope to play a behind-the-scenes role, she said, but what shape that would take is “not clear.” “It’s too far in the future,” Ms. Chaudhary added. Divisions between the Taliban’s political wing and its military commanders represent another obstacle to serious talks. When the discussions first became public, “the military wing of the Taliban was very critical,” said Syed Muhammad Akbar Agha, a former Taliban military commander who lives in Kabul. They were angry to have learned of the talks through President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, who was the first official to speak of them publicly. The Taliban have long derided Mr. Karzai as an American puppet, and they have steadfastly refused to talk with his government. Then the Americans failed to make good on the prisoner swap, leaving the negotiators feeling betrayed, said Mr. Agha, who has played a tangential role in separate Afghan government efforts to open talks. The senior coalition officer said the insurgents who supported the Qatar process “didn’t do a good I.O. campaign to sell it to their people.” I.O. is military jargon for Information Operations. When the Karzai government brought it out into the open and the hard-liners balked, “we got they were backpedaling hard,” the officer said. Mr. Agha was adamant that talks were dead. “Peace is not a subject any longer,” he said. But the Qataris remain willing to host the talks, and one of the Taliban negotiators still in Qatar said the talks could restart if the prisoner swap took place and the insurgents were allowed to open an office in Qatar, as the Americans had agreed to allow. If those two steps “are implemented and practical steps are taken by the United States of America, talks will resume. There is no other obstruction,” said Sohail Shaheen, the Taliban negotiator, in an interview last month with Japan’s NHK World TV. The prospects for direct negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban are even murkier. Mualavi Qalanmudin, a former Taliban minister who now sits on the High Peace Council, the Karzai administration’s separate peace effort, dismissed the notion that the Taliban will never talk to the Afghan government. “They will continue saying that until the day they sit at the negotiating table,” said Mr. Qalanmudin, who once ran the Taliban’s notorious Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. Mr. Agha, however, said he had been asked by the High Peace Council to carry proposals for direct talks to the Taliban and was rebuffed. “They said, ‘Reconcile with this corrupt government? Reconcile with this?’ I had no answer.”

Pennsylvania judge halts voter ID law for November 6 election

A judge on Tuesday blocked Pennsylvania from requiring voters to show identification in November's U.S. election, a decision that could influence turnout in a top electoral prize in the presidential race. Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson issued a partial preliminary injunction that halts the requirement that people show either a state driver's license, government employee ID or a state non-driver ID card in order to vote on November 6. The ruling comes exactly five weeks before the presidential election pitting President Barack Obama, a Democrat, against Republican contender Mitt Romney. Simpson, on orders from the state's highest court to revisit his August ruling upholding the law, indicated the law could be implemented for future elections. He set a hearing for December 13 to schedule further proceedings in the case. "This is a victory for the petitioners and people who will be able to vote on Election Day," said Marian Schneider, one of the attorneys for the groups challenging the law. National attention has been focused on the court fight over the law requiring voters to show a photo ID. The Republican-led Pennsylvania legislature passed it in March without a single Democratic vote. Supporters say it is aimed at ensuring only those legally eligible to vote cast ballots. Critics say it is designed to keep minority voters, who typically vote Democratic, away from the polls. Similar laws have generated controversy in other states. The state of Pennsylvania has acknowledged that there has never been a case of in-person voter fraud, according to court testimony. Simpson upheld the law in a ruling issued in mid-August. Last month, following an appeal of that decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered him to re-hear arguments about whether the administration of Governor Tom Corbett was doing enough to ensure voters had "liberal access" to obtain picture ID cards needed to vote in November. Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, League of Women Voters, Latino Justice, and SeniorLAW Center have argued that Pennsylvania's voter ID requirements make it impractical or nearly impossible for senior citizens, minorities and the poor to get the special voting card. Simpson heard testimony last week from a dozen people who recalled the hurdles they had to overcome to get state-issued ID, including hourslong waits, multiple trips and misinformation. One of the witnesses, who included a person who walked with a cane and another in a wheelchair, described her experience as maddening and said she nearly gave up after several days' quest for the card. Pennsylvania is one of the top prizes in the election, bringing the winner there 20 votes in the Electoral College, tying it with Illinois for fifth in the ranks of electors by state. Only California, Texas, New York and Florida bring more. To win the White House, either Obama or Romney must capture at least 270 of the Electoral College's 538 available votes. A CNN poll released last week showed Obama with a 9 percentage point margin over Romney among likely voters in the state, leading 49 percent to 40 percent. A raft of recently enacted voter ID laws are being challenged, and several have suffered setbacks in court this year. Earlier this year, two judges in Wisconsin found that state's voter ID law violated the state's constitution, and last week the Wisconsin Supreme Court denied a fast-track appeal. Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen conceded the law was unlikely to go into effect before the election. In August, a federal three-judge panel blocked a Texas law requiring voters to show identification. The U.S. Department of Justice had opposed the law, arguing it violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlaws voting procedures that discriminate against minorities. The Department of Justice is also contesting South Carolina's voter ID law in federal court. Last week, a lawyer for South Carolina argued the law would not have a discriminatory effect and urged a panel of judges to let the law go into effect. But he did not insist a ruling come in time for the November 6 election.

Veena Malik: I’m on a career high

The Pakistani starlet Veena Malik is in India for the past couple of years and she is pretty happy with her stay in the country. The 28-year-old recently had an interview with the Daily Times, in which she discussed about her various passions and journey in the Bollywood industry. While speaking on her inclusion, the actress insisted she is having a great time in the industry and she is pretty happy with her career because she has three major Bollywood releases this year, Navin Batra’s ‘Supermodel’, Madhur Bhandarkar’s ‘Mumbai 125 Km’ and ‘Zindagi 50-50’. Veena said, “I’m on a career high. I have three major Bollywood releases this year and the next.” Veena believes the characters she has played in the movies have helped her learn a lot. She remarked, “If you talk about naming a favourite character or a least favourite, I cannot really put my finger on one. I believe every role that I have played, good or bad, helped me learn a lot and eventually brought out the actress in me.” Apart from the movie, Veena Malik is also in the news since she is about to launch her first single. She is known as the drama queen in the Hindi Cinema as she has always stayed in the news for wrong reasons and this is a reason why she has chosen ‘Drama Queen’ as the title of her song. While sharing thoughts about her upcoming song Veena admitted she is a drama queen but on the same note the actress said there is a drama queen in almost every girl out there. She told Daily Times, “I believe there is a drama queen in every girl and I’m no different. My definition of a drama queen is someone who loves having her way, loves getting attention and being showered with affection and care all the time.” She added, “I wouldn’t say I am entirely like that, but yes I do have my “drama queen” moments. So the song is specifically written for those ladies who may deny it or not, but know in their hearts what big drama queens they are.”

World T20: Pakistan face Australia today

Pakistan will take on Australia in do or die encounter today for a place in World T20 semi-finals. Pakistan in dire need to beat Australia in their last match of Super Eights stage and that too with a big margin to make sure a place in the semi-finals of the mega event. Pakistan team participated in a net practice session in Colombo on the eve of the crucial match. Pakistan captain is optimistic about his team’s victory in today’s match. He said that the team has learnt from their mistakes during match against India and will not repeat these mistakes. On the other hand, Australian captain, George Bailey has said that his team will maintain its unbeaten record in the World T20.

FC can be withdraw if Nawaz ensures peace in Balochistan

Federal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira says the constitutional course will be pursued for establishment of new provinces including South Punjab. Talking to the media persons in Lahore on Tuesday‚ he said the commission on new provinces was established on the demand of the PML (N) to develop consensus on the matter. Rejecting reservations of the PML (N) ‚ he said the commission will continue the work and present its report. Welcoming the talks of PML (N) Chief Nawaz Sharif with Baloch leaders including Talal Bugti and Akhtar Mengal‚ he said Nawaz Sharif being a national leader however should avoid giving irresponsible statements. We are ready to withdraw FC from Balochistan if Nawaz Sharif gives the guarantee that this move will not further deteriorate the situation in the province. He said Pakistan People's Party has worked to improve the situation in Balochistan and we have welcomed the visit of Baloch leader Akhtar Mengal to Islamabad.


The President, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, paid a visit to the United States where he addressed the UN General Assembly highlighting the issues of the religion, the strong reaction of the Muslim world over the anti-Islam video. UN had its own importance for world peace and security and the President had explained Pakistan’s stand on world peace and security seeking a solution to the Afghanistan issue for which Pakistan is playing a positive role. Stable and peaceful Afghanistan is in the interest of the whole region with disturbed Afghanistan, there will be no peace and stability in the whole region. There is a marked difference between the stand of Government of Pakistan and certain individuals known as militants disturbing the peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Government is not supporting the banned militant outfits and Jihadis on most of the regional issues, including Afghanistan and Islamabad is ready to work with the international community in retaining peace in the whole region. There are different perceptions between Pakistan and the United States on certain issues and there is no difference in retaining peace in Afghanistan defeating militancy both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The world community should find a comprehensive solution to the regional peace and security by involving some other neighbouring countries in the peace process isolating the militants and banned religious outfits out to implement their own narrow agenda both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The most important issue the President of Pakistan raised at the UN and during his visit to the United States was the repatriation of all Afghanistan, both refugees and illegal immigrants as Pakistan Government is not extending the amnesty for the Afghans to stay back in Pakistan after December 31 this year. It is the most vital question for Pakistan and its people as millions of Afghanistan, including refugees, are a serious burden on the national economy in this crisis and Pakistan is unable to feed them. There was a proposal from the former Prime Minister, Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, to settle all the Afghans inside Afghanistan in barbed wire camps till their return to their homes with honour and dignity. The International Community should finance all the expenses of the Afghan refugees inside Afghanistan till their return to their homes. They should not be allowed to stay back in Pakistan for any reason as they are a serious economic burden. The Government should take stern action against the illegal Afghan immigrants and round them up and hand them over to the Afghan authorities at the borders forfeiting their property and assets, if any. They should not be allowed to carry out any business, drive push carts or donkey carts or undertake manual work in any part of Pakistan as it is the first right of Pakistani citizens and not the Afghans. First of all two major cities—Quetta and Peshawar should be vacated followed by Karachi sending all the Afghans with valid UNHCR papers to their camps in faraway places. In the second phase the Afghans from the refugee camps should be handed over to the Afghan/world community for their settlement inside Afghanistan. There should be no more concessions to the Afghans under the UN pressure and they should be sent back voluntarily or involuntarily back to their country. Pakistan Government can create millions of jobs for its citizens once Afghans are sent back home and there will be no economic burden on the Pakistani economy once the Afghans leave Pakistan once for all. There should be no pick and choose policy and all Afghans with no valid travel documents should be sent back. Only the Afghans possessing valid travel documents should be allowed to stay back. We hope that the President of Pakistan had passed on the message in categorical terms to the UN and the whole world that Afghans should leave Pakistan as they are no more political refugees. They are economic refugees by all means and are they are here for better economic prospects and at the cost of the Pakistani citizens.

64th birth anniversary of Waheed Murad observed

Renowned Pakistani film industry hero Waheed Murad 64th birth anniversary was observed Tuesday. Waheed Murad was born on October 2, 1938 in Karachi. He acted in 123 feature films and earned 32 awards for his unmatchable performance. Wahid Murad started his film career by producing a film named "Insan Badalta Hey". As an actor he started his film career from SM Yousaf's film "Aulad". Then came "Daman" in which he played second hero opposite Neelo with Sabiha and Santosh in the main lead. He appeared as lead hero in a Heera Aur Pathar opposite Zeba. He also gave some memorable performances in Punjabi films such as Mastana Mahi, Ishq Mera Naan, Sayyo Ni Mera Mahi, Akh Lari Badobadi and Jogi. Waheed Murad got married to Salma, daughter of a Karachi-based industrialist on 17 September 1964. Murad's famous films included "Mamta", "Saaz Aur Awaz", "Honhar", "Jaag Utha Insaan", Dewar Bhabi, Insaniyat, Phir Subha Hogi, Maan Baap, Jan-e-Arzoo, Samandar, Dil Mera Dharkan Teri, Jahan Tum Wahan Hum, Ishara, Saalgira. He died on November, 23, 1983 and his death left many eyes brimming with tears. His death created such a vacuum in the Pakistani film industry that is not still filled.

Pakistan: Cunning charade

This charade must come to an end. For long, it has been played rather cunningly. The politicos across the spectrum contend that the agencies interfere in politics. And their tirade is endorsed variously by segments of the chattering classes and the commentariat. And as the upcoming general election is coming closer, this cacophony is getting louder with the day. But since the insinuation comes straight from the horses’ mouths, there must be a lot of grain of truth to it. But are the politicos as innocent as they pretend to be? Are they not an equal complicit in the political games that the agencies play? Had not some political grandees fallen to the ISI’s bait to become part of its political engineering works, would have been an IJI conglomeration there? It would have been not, irrefutably. Had not a Muslim League faction, Jamaat-e-Islami and late Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan’s political formation teamed up to make up a civilian cabinet of Gen. Ziaul Haq, would that military ruler have been able to give a political face to his most brutal and repressive dictatorship in the country’s history? Certainly, not. And had not some politicos been willing to become part of a political caboodle going under the banner of Pakistan Muslim League (Q), wouldn’t military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf been left bereft of a king’s party to give spurious political props to his autocracy? He would have been. There indeed is a very dexterous skullduggery to this whole prattle of the agencies’ interference in politics. It skips over the role of the politicos in this venture. Surely, they are no toddlers that a nanny can lead with a finger in hand to wherever she wants. Nor are they sitting ducks, upon whom the agencies pounce and poach the way they want. They are grown up people, masters of their wills, and their own decision makers. If the agencies succeed in recruiting from amongst the politicos for their political projects, that clearly means that the political class has shoals of willing recruits in its folds. It has in its ranks people with the avarice for savouring the plums of office and the bounties of power. And they are the ones ready to sell their souls to satiate their lust. What else could it that in the daytime they assail the establishment for political interference and in the dead darkness of night schmooze with the men in uniform? And hasn’t the nation been a witness to the spectacle that when an elected government was shown the door unconstitutionally, its political foes celebrated its ouster? Weren’t sweets distributed on the streets by the adversaries every time a civilian government was sacked in the infamous decade of 1990s? And wasn’t the ouster of a government of heavy mandate in a putsch greeted with fireworks by the rival politicos, both mainstream and regional? The unspoken truth of this interference drama is indeed bitterer, more contemptible — and more condemnable. Yet even the chattering classes and the commentariat give a clean chit to the politicos in this theatre, and play along uncritically with the political class which itself gives this chit to it. The plain truth is that the politicians are as much culpable as are the agencies. Wasn’t it a politician who had ordered the opening of the much-derided political cell in the ISI? And don’t the political governments still use the agencies and various official arms for political objectives and to political ends? Yes, the interference of the establishment and the agencies should end in politics, which is none of their business. But how can it happen if the other party, the politicos, are not censured and condemned for their own willing role in this malaise? Of course, there is a snag here. The world over, agencies are not unknown for dirty tricks. But their role in politics in the established democracies is extinct, simply because the political forces there have their roots in the masses, who are the real determiners of their rise and fall. Here, in our elitist political culture, the political parties are not known for their roots in the masses but by their dynasties, patriarchies and pedigrees. With very shallow links with the mass of the people, their governments are very vulnerable to the vagaries of the hidden hands. They are very brittle and fragile, incapable of withstanding the furies of inimical forces. The inherent strength they can acquire only by becoming democratic internally with deep links amongst the masses. But that is a long haul. Until then, the abominable role of politicians themselves in the agencies’ political games must be talked about loudly and exposed fully to put paid to the establishment’s interference in political matters. Otherwise, the theatre would keep on.

PPP cares about the Baloch

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira on Monday said that his party has no objection over the meeting between Nawaz Sharif and Talal Bugti, adding PPP fully understands the demands of Baloch people. Talking to the media at Lahore Airport, Zaman said that the PPP government has always given top priority to solving the problems in Balochistan, adding that his party had initiated Aghaz-e-Huqooq Balochistan package aimed at bringing the living standards of people of the province at par with other provinces. Responding to a question, Kaira confirmed that the general elections would be held on time and added that nothing concrete has emerged as a result of talks with the opposition parties regarding name of caretaker prime minister. Responding to another question, he said that the issue of writing the letter to Swiss authorities will be resolved amicably. Furthermore, he said that the PPP does not want any confrontation with the judiciary and is taking steps to make national institutions stronger.

Nawaz using state money for politics

Pakistan Today
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Information Secretary Shafqat Mahmood has urged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to take notice of misappropriation of state resources by Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) Nawaz Sharif for political purposes. He elaborated that Sharif distributed cheques of Rs 200,000 each to victims of Gayari landslide and announced Rs 200,000 for the flood victims in Tehsil Jaffarabad, Balochistan. “While no one can object to relief being provided to affected families, a question does arise regarding the money Sharif is distributing. Is it his personal money? Is he parting with a miniscule part of the vast Sharif fortune? Or is this PML-N money?” he questioned. “On any of these counts no one can object,” said Mahmood, “but if Mr Sharif is distributing my money - because Punjab government’s money belongs to me too as a citizen of the province – he has no right to do so and I strongly object. He has no position in the Punjab government and by law is not authorised to go around doling out state money.” The secretary also said if Sharif really was using Punjab government’s money for politics, it amounted to pre-election rigging and it was unacceptable. Mahmood requested the chief election commissioner to take notice of political parties in government that were using state resources for political expediency.

Russia sends out top diplomat to placate Pakistan

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Viktorovich Lavrov will travel to Pakistan this week in what appears to be a ‘damage control’ exercise after President Vladimir Putin postponed his scheduled trip to Islamabad recently. Foreign ministry spokesperson Moazzam Ali Khan told The Express Tribune that the Russian foreign minister will be visiting Islamabad for “bilateral consultations” from October 3-4. “He is visiting Pakistan on the invitation of Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, extended during her last visit to Moscow in February this year,” the spokesman said. Official sources said this visit by the top Russian diplomat was aimed at dispelling impressions that efforts by the two sides to reset their otherwise troubled ties might get stalled after President Putin put off his maiden trip to Pakistan. While the Russian foreign minister will be holding broad-based discussions with the Pakistani leadership in Islamabad, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani would be in Moscow at the same time for discussions with his counterpart. Gen Kayani is due to leave for Russia on October 3 for a three-day trip as part of the new efforts launched by the former cold war rivals to open a new chapter in their ties. The Afghan endgame is believed to be a major factor behind the apparent rapprochement between Islamabad and Moscow. “Pakistan and Russia are increasingly concerned about the future of Afghanistan. And that is why they intend to expand their cooperation,” commented Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed, a Jinnah fellow at the Oxford University. According to Ishtiaq, Islamabad appears to be reaching out to countries like Russia in an effort to seek a regional solution to the Afghan conflict instead of the one the US is trying to impose. A statement issued by the foreign ministry also hinted at this assessment by suggesting that Pakistan and Russia “share the common objective of peace and stability” in the region. “We attach importance to regional connectivity both in terms of trade and energy cooperation,” the statement added. Recently, the two countries also held their second Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC) on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation in Islamabad and discussed concrete proposals on various areas of cooperation including energy, industries and production, bilateral trade and investment, scientific and technical cooperation, agriculture, etc. The foreign ministry spokesperson said that the forthcoming visit of Foreign Minister Lavrov would provide an opportunity to further expand and intensify the existing mutually-beneficial bilateral ties. During his stay in Islamabad, besides holding bilateral consultations, Foreign Minister Lavrov is also scheduled to call on President Asif Ali Zardari and the prime minister.

Pakistan: Postponement of Putin visit

by Shiraz Paracha
The postponement of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Pakistan is a tragedy and conspiracy against President Asif Ali Zardari and the PPP government. This conspiracy is similar to the one that was hatched in 1951 when the then Pakistani Prime Minister was advised not to accept the Soviet invitation. Instead of visiting the Soviet Union Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan went to the United States. Pakistan is still paying the price of Liaqat Ali Khan’s that political and strategic blunder. Sixty one years later, the visit of Vladimir Putin, the first by any Russian President, could be a turning point in Pakistan’s foreign policy. Political and economic benefits of such a shift would be significant for Pakistan. Pakistan could become a key transit country for the east-ward flow of energy from Russia and Central Asia. Russia is interested in investing in Pakistan’s energy and infrastructure sectors. Several long-term agreements were to be signed during the Putin’s visit. For defense purchases Pakistan is dependent on the West. The United States can cripple Pakistan’s defense capabilities anytime. President Putin visit would also open doors for multi-dimensional cooperation between Russia and Pakistan in defense sector. Russia is opposed to NATO presence in Afghanistan and Russian leadership is extremely concerned that under NATO nose there has been big surge in narcotics production in Afghanistan. Russians are aware that the 1980s’ Afghan Jihad was funded by drug money that came from drug production in Afghanistan. They are also links between terrorism and drug trafficking. Russia fears that extremist and insurgents operating in different parts of Russia and Central Asia get financial support from Afghanistan. President Putin considers Pakistan a major player in Afghanistan and wants to develop a strategic partnership with Pakistan with regards to Afghanistan. Since 2000, strong, shrewd and stubborn Putin has posed a challenge to Western designs in the region. In the West Putin is portrayed as an autocrat and oppressor, who is enemy of freedom and democracy. In Russia, however, President Putin is extremely popular. People in other former Soviet States also like him and his policies. To a large majority of the Russian public Putin has brought prosperity and stability. He is seen as a symbol of Russian pride. Some consider Putin a true successor of Peter the Great, the father of modern Russia. Vladimir Putin entered mainstream Russian politics in 1999 and became the first elected President of the country in 2000. Since then he is in-charge of Russia. The Russian strongman can stay in the office until 2024 (if he wins 2018 presidential elections). This possibility is West’s worst nightmare. Putin’s use of energy and natural resources as foreign policy tool, his opposition to NATO eastward expansion and U.S hegemony, and his support for countries such as Iran and Syria has made him a villain in the eyes of Western leaders and the Western media. Some Arab countries also feel uncomfortable that Russia is emerging as a new leader of world energy supplies. Russian support for Iran and Syria is a source of tension between Moscow and Arabs rulers. Since the Cold War era Russia has uneasy relations with Saudi Arabia and some Arab Sates. A section of the Russian security establishment believes that there is an Arab link behind the increase of extremism in former Soviet States. Under Putin the Russian government has brought peace in Chechnya and has dealt with extremists with iron hand. In Pakistan, President Asif Ali Zardari has introduced a gradual shift in his country’s foreign policy. He is focusing on building relations with Russia and Central Asian states and has taken Pakistan’s relations with China to a new level of understanding. President Zardari has also adopted a new approach towards India. Interestingly, Pakistan’s military appears to be supporting the new direction of the country’s foreign policy. New confidence building efforts between Pakistan and Russia are the most important change in both countries’ foreign policies. It is a monumental development that will have long-lasting positive effects on the entire region, Nevertheless, this new path is full of dangers. The surprise postponement of President Putin’s already scheduled visit to Pakistan shows that building bridges between Russia and Pakistan is not easy. The delay in Putin’s visit has certainly damaged President Asif Zardari’s plans to sign key agreements with Russia before the elections and make history. But the postponement of the visit is bad for Pakistan, too. The next Pakistani government may not be enthusiastic in improving relations with Russia. Leading Pakistani politicians such as Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan and leadership of Islamic political parties support the Saudi camp. President Zardari, on the other hand, came with a new vision of bringing Pakistan closer to Russia, Iran and Central Asia. President Putin decision to delay his visit is based on intelligence reports that the Russian leader could be target of an attack because his foreign enemies have influence and access in Pakistan. Such intelligence reports could be a conspiracy to sabotage Russia-Pakistan relations and deprive President Zardari of a historic opportunity. But the loss is bigger than that. A golden opportunity may have been missed to steer Pakistan out of its disastrous dependence on Western and Saudi camp.